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Thursday, August 5, 2004
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False Flag Operations Department
Thursday 05 August 2004
Car bomb explosions hit five churches in Baghdad and Mosul
Three Islamic groups have denied any role behind the recent church bombings in Iraq that killed at least 11 people.
In a statement posted on websites on Wednesday, the groups instead accused Iraq's national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie of involvement in the blasts.
"Any attempt to use these foolish explosions to attack the Mujahideen is doomed to fail," said the statement signed by the Mujahideen Information Centre.
"The level of these operations was much lower than those of the Mujahideen. If the Mujahideen had decided to attack these churches…would a single person walk out alive?" it said.
The centre said it spoke on behalf of three groups – Jihad Squadrons, Islamic Army Brigades and the Jihad Consultative Council.
It blamed al-Rubaie of involvement in the blasts with "the help of the Zionists and Americans."
The statement also said Islamic fighters would only attack Christians who helped occupiers or were proven to have committed treason, or spread corruption or proselytized.
In apparent coordinated attacks timed to coincide with evening prayers, car bombs exploded outside at least five churches on Sunday.
While four blasts hit churches in Baghdad, two hit churches in the northern city of Mosul.
FLASHBACK - Yesterday:
By Sam Hamod
Having discussed the matter in detail with other experts on the Middle East, Christianity in Iraq and on Islam in Iraq, we have all concluded this is not the work of any Muslim group. There has never been any animosity between the Christian and Muslim communities in Iraq, in fact, they have stood toe-to-toe against the American occupation and they have resisted efforts by the Israeli office in Baghdad to become allied with Israel.
With these matters in mind, it appears as if this new "attack on the Christian churches" is just another attempt either by the American CIA or its operatives, or the Mossad of Israel, to paint Islam with terrorism and to split the Muslim and Christian communities in Iraq.
They tried to do the same thing in Palestine, but the Palestinians wouldn't buy it. You may remember the Israelis shelled the holy churches of the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher –both events were condemned by Christian and Muslim alike. Even today in Iraq, all Iraqis interviewed said they knew no Iraqi or Muslim would do such a thing. But, in America, where we are fed the news as it is planned by Bush and by Zionist influence, the story plays big to the evangelical group and to Christians who believe the U.S. propaganda media.
This is another sad chapter in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Since the early days of the war, the Iraqis complained about the treatment of prisoners taken by the Americans. We all know the truth at this point; but, for over a year the American media and the U.S. government ignored these pleas to look into the torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Unfortunately, no one would listen to the Iraqis or those of us who reported these atrocities. So, once again, we have to report to you, this is another American cover-up to create more chaos in Iraq, just as America did in Viet Nam to keep us in that war.
In this case, it is to rally the Christians of America against Iraq and to justify more attacks on Muslims groups in Iraq. The U.S. also wants to justify the continued and immoral and unjust shelling of Fallujah to allegedly kill Zarqawi. The townspeople keep saying, "There is no Zarqawi here, and there never was" yet our U.S. military keeps lying in order to justify the bombings of civilians in order to punish the Fallujahns for having kept the American forces out.
At this point, there is no telling what the U.S. or the Israeli Mossad will do in Iraq in order to foment civil war among the Iraqis and to justify the continuation of an American occupation in Iraq. Some of you may remember that JFK felt he had to go into Viet Nam in order to protect the Christian Catholic leadership in the south—we have a replay of this today in Iraq.
As for me, I've just about given up on believing anything the Bush administration or the major American media tells us—there have been too many lies.
Five car bombs exploded outside Christian churches in Baghdad and Mosul. Although there are conflicting reports, at least some of these attacks are said to have been set off by suicide bombers. These attacks were immediately blamed on Iraqi insurgents although there is no evidence of who is responsible (even more ridiculously, they were blamed on Zarqawi, who must be the busiest dead man in Iraq). As has already been pointed out, it makes absolutely no sense for these attacks to be the work of Islamic militants.
Although Christians have been targeted by fundamentalists, it is for what the fundos see as the sin of selling alcohol, and not for being Christian. There is no history of Islamic violence against Christians in Iraq, who have after all been there for thousands of years. The most important Islamic cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, has condemned the attacks. It is also completely unclear what the point would be for insurgents to attack a minority group of Iraqis when their clear goal is to drive the Americans out of the country.
This kind of attack is very expensive in terms of resources used, and even more costly if suicide bombers are wasted, and makes absolutely no sense in the context of the real goal of the insurgents. The insurgency has very cleverly been targeting nationals of various members of the pathetic 'coalition', those countries that are so deeply corrupted that they are involved in sending their own people to die in Iraq in place of the Americans who ought to be dying there. The countries who have pulled out to protect the lives of their own citizens ought to be congratulated, and those who have not are the most pathetic group of loser countries in the world.
The insurgents obviously plan to peel off each member of the coalition, leaving the final battle against Americans. The main technique will be the taking of large groups of hostages, and it wouldn't surprise me if that started to happen soon, so as to have an effect on the American election (little do they know that Americans are too stupid to vote in their own self interest!). For the insurgents to waste valuable resources attacking Christian churches is senseless, given their real priorities. There is only one country which benefits from this kind of inter-ethnic conflict in Iraq, and that country is Israel. Israel is afraid that a united Iraq run by Islamic fundamentalists will be more of a danger to it than Iraq run by Saddam. We already know that Israel is operating in Kurdistan to cause problems there, to the extent that it has permanently alienated its increasingly important ally Turkey.
Why would we not accept the fact that the same logic that places Israel in Kurdistan would also place it in the rest of the country? Most of the bombing attacks against innocent Iraqis also make no sense from the point of view of the insurgents, whose only real enemy is the Americans and those countries pathetic enough to support them. Why kill their own people?
The only group with motive, means and opportunity are the Israelis and the American neo-con stooges who work for the Israelis. All common sense says that it is these people who should be first in line to be suspects in the attacks against the Christian churches, and in most of the mass bombing attacks we have recently seen.
There are two parallel wars going on in Iraq: one is the Islamic insurgents trying to free their country of the brutal American occupation, and the other is the war of the Israelis and the neo-cons trying to permanently destabilize and shatter the country so it will never pose a threat to Israel. It is the second war which leads me to believe, despite good will and family ties between Shi'ites and Sunnis that have thus far led to relative peace, that Iraq is doomed to enter into an enormously costly and destructive civil war caused by Israeli and American agents provocateurs.
This will not be in the interest of Iraq or the true interests of Americans (imagine the price of oil!), but will be in the interests of only one small group of people in the Middle East.
Comment: And also in the interests of one large-cranium'd, ketchup-loving American war criminal...who also just happens to really, really admire that small nation in the Middle East. In his own words:
"I will never forget a moment on top of Masada, when I stood on that great plateau where the oath of new soldiers used to be sworn against the desert backdrop and the test of history. I had spent several hours with Yadin Roman debating whether or not Josephus Flavius was correct in his account of the siege - whether these really were the last Jews fighting for survival - whether they had escaped since no remains were ever found.
"After our journey through history - which we resolved with a vote in favor of history as recorded - we stood as a group at the end of the cliff and altogether we shouted across the chasm - across the desert - Am Yisrael Chai. And across the silence we listened as voices came back - faintly we heard the echo of the souls of those who perished - Am Yisrael Chai. The State of Israel lives. The people of Israel live."
By Omar Al-Faris, JUS
calling itself the "Planning and Follow-up Committee in Iraq"
claimed responsible for the attacks on a website registered to an US host
on Monday. The authenticity of the claim could not be verified.
I spoke with locals following the blast at one of the Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad on Monday. "This is not Muslims – this is the Americans and the Jew people" said Jassem Ali Ahmad, a local merchant. "The Muslims and the Christians have always lived in peace in Iraq. We would not hurt them. This is the American dogs trying to stir up trouble so they can keep their troops here to steal our oil and keep us living under their occupation" he said. "First Saddam and now the Americans. The Americans are worse. They will do anything to our people. They don't care about Iraqis." he added.
Iraqi Sunni and Shiite religious leaders Monday denounced the bombing as criminal acts aimed at undermining Iraqi unity.
"We condemn these attacks regardless of the party standing behind them," said Mohammed Bashar al-Faidi, spokesman for the Muslim Ulemas in Iraq which is the highest Sunni religious authority.
Al-Faidi denied allegations the church bombings might be linked to attempts by American and European missionaries to preach Christianity in Iraq.
"The aim of the church bombings is strictly political, not religious, and like similar bombings that targeted mosques, they are meant to instigate sectarian and confessional strife among the one Iraqi people," he said.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the powerful Shiite cleric who has pointed his finger at US incitement previously also condemned the first ever coordinated attacks on the minority Christian community's churches. Al-Sistani in a statement urged Iraqis to close ranks and reject attempts to draw create divisions and sectarian strife.
US "black ops" is widely suspected in many of the attacks that pit Muslim against Muslim and fall outside the laws of Islam. With Israel's Mossad known to be active inside the country, and with the US elections approaching, the need to keep "terrorism" front and centre is mission critical. America and Israel are the ones who benefit from incidents like Sundays bombings. [...]
by Mark Bruzonsky
John Kerry's Middle East policies have already been heavily mortgaged, if not downright sold, to those who have the greatest interest and power in controlling what the U.S. does in the crucial Middle East region and in determining where American arms, monies, and covert actions flow in the future -- powerful American Jews closely associated with Israel.
True today's Republican party is also heavily mortgaged when it comes to the Middle East -- but to different groups and persons. The Republicans are mortgaged to the Christian evangelical community and to the hard-line Jewish Zionist neocon lobby which has managed as never before to place so many of its key operatives in leading positions at the Pentagon, the CIA, the State Department, and the National Security Council as well as important media connections. To name a few names: Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams, Perle, Libby, Zakheim, Frum, Kristol, Krauthammer, Altman, Podhoretz, and many others.
Today's Democratic party is similarly mortgaged but to competing groups comprised of Jewish Zionist 'liberals' long associated with the Israeli Labor party and what use to be seriously called 'the peace process'. To name a few names: Ross, Indyk, Berger, Spielberg, Saban, Albright, Rubin, Grossman, Laipson, Lieberman, Streisand, Miller and many others.
The Washington game being played today is among many of the same operatives who have been around for decades now, and they all know instinctively at this point how the game of political musical power chairs is played when the other party comes to power. Those who have been waiting in the wings at various holding operations including foundations, think-tanks, universities, and law firms simply exchange places with those who in effect then form another new shadow government when out of power politely awaiting again their next turn.
With the various right and left arms of the Israeli-Jewish lobby firmly in control of both political parties in the U.S. when it comes to Middle East policies, the lobby is assured that the key positions at the White House, Congress, the Pentagon, Foggy Bottom, and CIA will always be held by approved members of their club, albeit some more 'liberal' (Democrats) and some more 'conservative' (Republicans). Maybe even more importantly to the Israelis, no one unacceptable to them can ever get a top policy job in today's Washington the way things have been arranged and organized by the big money men coupled to their large assortment of policy professionals and de facto as well as de jure lobbyists and 'journalists'.
In the case of Kerry, fully a third at least of his top funders (the so-called 'vice-chairs') and well over half of his top Middle East policy advisers (the officials-in-waiting) are Jewish and all are closely connected with the Israelis and acceptible to them. If Kerry is elected and the Democrats take back executive power in Washington it will be a return to the old Carter-Clinton policies when it comes to the Middle East. It's all very reminiscent of how the extended Israeli-Jewish lobby infiltrated the Clinton campaign a decade ago, and the Carter campaign long before that, making sure that whomever resides in the White House is controlled (or if need be checkmated) by them, as well as by Congress, no matter what other pressures for independent policies there might be.
One of the major players now out of the closet is the man who has probably given the most money to the Kerry campaign and to the Democratic party in recent years. In addition to his long-time Israeli connections he's even got an Israeli name, Haim Saban. Add to that this is the same Saban who a few years ago essentially purchased a part of the Brookings Institution in downtown Washington, long known as a bastion for Democratic party players waiting for their next turn at power. His money in fact got a whole new think-tank within Brookings named after him; and here Saban installed non-other-than Martin Indyk, former head of the original Israeli-Jewish Lobby Think Tank -- the Near East Institute now headed by his sidekick Dennis Ross -- to be head of the new Saban Institute.
Add to this sordid Washington brew additional American society realities with regard to the extraordinary concentration of media ownership and information control in what now has to be thought of as a carefully managed pseudo-democracy nearly totally dominated by big money and pressure groups. Here too powerful wealthy American Jews and those they can hire to work for them -- nearly all with long and close associations with Israel -- predominant in an overwhelming manner. To name a few names: Zuckerman, Bronfman, Sultzberger, Redstone, Levin, Koppel, King, Blitzer, Kondrache, Kristol, Crystal, Peretz, Eisner, Chernin, and many others.
The reality is that the much-touted American 'two-party system' is in actuality closer to a single large corporate establishment party with two intermingling branches; so much so in fact that sometimes key players are confused which party they belong to and even change sides in midstream. To name just a few names: Eisenhower, Reagan, Powell, Clark, Kerry and many others.
is because of this now deeply-entrenched situation that 'liberal' Democrat
John Kerry's first choice for Vice-President was 'conservative' Republican
John McCain; that neocon Democrat Joe Lieberman recently teamed up with
flag-waving Republican Senator Jon Kyl to reconstitute the 'Committee
on the Present Danger'; and that long-time billionairess Republican wife
Teresa 'Heinz Kerry' now wants to be First Lady of the Democrats.
To sum up... At this point in history one can think of the basic political alignment in the U.S. and the Middle East as follows:
Republicans - tied to the Likud in Israel, the evangelical right and the neocons at home, the super wealthy 'client regimes' in the region, and now masquerading with the 'democracy' theme that hardly anyone beyond American shores takes seriously.
Democrats - tied to the Labor party and remnants in Israel, the pro-Israel labor movement and Jewish 'liberals' at home (small in numbers but extremely important in the media, money, and power circles), many of the 'client regimes' in the region (even if now trying to find alternative strongman regimes), and masquerading with the 'peace process' theme that hardly anyone anymore really finds credible beyond American and some European shores.
MORE than 100,000 Sudanese marched on the United Nations headquarters in the capital Khartoum yesterday in a state-organised protest against Western intervention to end the crisis in Darfur.
Demonstrators warned that Sudan could become a battlefield comparable to Afghanistan or Iraq if foreign military forces entered the African country to try to end the 17-month Darfur conflict.
"Targeting Sudan means you will fall into a third swamp, after Afghanistan and Iraq," said Mohammed Ali Abdullah, a senior member of the ruling party.
"There are lions here in Sudan who would like to confront the Americans."
While no Western government has threatened to invade Sudan, such intervention has been discussed since it became clear that the Khartoum government was failing to curb the perpetrators of most of the violence in Darfur.
The UN Security Council last week passed a resolution giving Sudan 30 days to stop Arab militia violence in Darfur or face economic and diplomatic penalties.
The protesters, many chanting "No to America and its followers", delivered a memorandum to the UN envoy's office in Khartoum demanding that the secretary general, Kofi Annan, retract his "misleading" remarks about the Darfur situation, or resign.
Comment: It is rather strange that, all of sudden, Sudan is under the spotlight. Why should this be so? Why now? War and "ethnic strife" has been a mainstay of Sudanese life for the past 20 years, with over 2 million people dead, yet until now, most westerners had no idea were Darfur was. Now, at this late stage, the UN sees fit to declare that the situation in Sudan is the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world today".
What of Rwanda, when western governments sat back and watched over 1 millions civilians be slaughtered? What of the war in the Congo, which has been called the "deadliest since WWII". Why no mention in the international press of the 3 million dead since 1998? Why no UN sanctions? Why no aid? Well, Congo, you see, has little in the way of precious oil. Sure it is used as a clearing house for Africa's illegal diamond trade, but it is not necessary for western governments to invade to secure the lion's share of that particular resource. It is enough for western governments and their intelligence agencies to foment "ethnic strife" in most African nations by way of support for fanatical dictators, in order to keep them subdued.
Oil is different story however. It is not enough, it seems, for western "democracies" to simply have access to oil reserves around the world. For some reason, now more so than ever before, they must own them, lock stock and barrel.
For this reason then, we are currently seeing a ramping up of publicity and emotional propaganda that will provide public backing for yet another oil grab, and it is not insignificant that the Jewish lobby in the US is right there in the thick of it, calling up "memories of the holocaust" to, once again, manipulate the masses...
Those were the words expressed by the world after the Holocaust.
They reflected a belated awareness that too many nations had done nothing to help the Jews in the face of genocide.
But did the words "never again" have any real meaning?
Too little, I'm afraid.
In the 1970s, as many as two million people were killed by a maniacal regime in Cambodia.
The world didn't intervene.
In the 1990s, nearly a million people were slaughtered in Rwanda.
The world didn't act there, either.
And now, another crime against humanity is taking place. This time it's in Sudan.
Arab militias, with Sudanese government support, are carrying out mass murder against black Africans. Experts say this is the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today.
How many black Africans will die or be forced from their homes by the Arab militias before the world takes decisive action?
If the words "never again" are to have any meaning today, then Sudan is the place to prove it.
Comment: Note that the above text is from the American Jewish Committee's "Radio Commercial", which airs regularly every day in the US. Note also the mention of "Arab militias". It appears that there is much more the situation in Darfur that the American and Western media are telling us (are we surprised?). There seems to be a desire to present the conflict in Sudan as a religious/racial war, portraying "Arabs" as the epitome of all evil?
Are we starting to see a pattern here?...
Sudanese officials and an alleged militia leader have poured scorn on international claims about the conflict in western Darfur.
They told Aljazeera that Darfurian rebels, who are widely perceived to be the victims of the conflict, must share the blame for the crisis.
And they say the international media is wrongly portraying events in Darfur as a racial war, when it is really a dispute over land.
The comments come as the Sudanese government is bearing the brunt of world condemnation for the crisis in its western province.
Powerful western nations, as well as the United Nations, human rights groups and Darfurian rebels, say Khartoum is directly responsible for the killing of more than 50,000 people and the displacement of more than a million others.
They accuse the government of training and arming a militia, known as the Janjawid, to wipe out opposition to its rule in the province.
But Sudan has reacted with indignation to the accusations.
Khartoum, which has called the Janjawid "bandits", says the Darfur rebels are prolonging the conflict to force a foreign intervention.
It says Washington is using the crisis to try to topple its government, and that any military intervention may lead to the disintegration of the country.
The Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003 when two rebel groups - the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) - demanded an end to alleged economic marginalisation and sought power-sharing within the Sudanese state.
The movements, which are drawn from members of the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa tribes, also sought government action to end alleged abuses by their rivals - pastoralists who were driven on to farmlands by drought and desertification.
But an Arab tribal chief, who Washington accuses of being the most senior Janjawid leader, told Aljazeera.net his tribe is only defending itself.
Musa Hilal, speaking from house arrest in Khartoum, said: "When the rebellion began last year, the government approached us and armed us. My sons were armed by the government and joined the Border Intelligence.
"Some tribesmen joined the Popular Defence Force. I called my tribe to arms as well. We were caught up in an uprising the rebels began - what should I have done?"
He added: "We had camels stolen and young men murdered - banditry performed by the Zaghawa. When we retaliated, the Zaghawa joined with the Fur. When the tribes retaliated, they called in the world community. Now Zaghawa support the rebels - they are enemies."
Hilal, who denies his tribe has committed any atrocities, said his force will disarm when the Darfurian rebels respect a ceasefire.
He added: "Rebels constantly talk to human rights groups and aid workers as if the Janjawid were some kind of organised army. There is no political or military common policy for the tribes that are fighting rebels for their very existence. They started this war.
"Janjawid means nothing, but it is a word used to encompass all evil. A convenient way for Americans to understand who are the good guys and who are the bad - it is easier to sell policies that way."
A Sudanese official, who refused to be named, told Aljazeera the Darfur crisis is being turned into a race issue by much of the media, which portrays it as "Arab tribes" attacking "black Africans".
But the official said the tribes, which are all Muslim, are of mixed ethnic stock and the conflict is a land issue between nomads and subsistence farmers in the region.
Usman al-Said, Sudan's ambassador to the AU, told reporters last week that western military intervention in its remote western region would risk splitting Africa's largest country and unsettling its neighbours.
"The Americans are targeting the government of Sudan because of its political stance," he said, pointing to Sudan's policies on prominent Arab issues such as Iraq and the Israel/Palestinian dispute.
He added: "As for the US... Bush wants to see a quick end to this problem. He wants to list Sudan as one of his achievements in this election year."
Comment: An astute observation, but don't forget the black gold...what would we do without it - or more to the point, what would "they do without it"? "They" would have to find some other excuse to wage endless wars against humanity...
By Paul Salopek
An oil pipeline fuels the unforgiving heart of a seemingly endless war. It may also be a means to peace.
The oldest civil war in the world is being fought, on one side, by men who wander like demented hospital orderlies across the primordial wastes of Africa.
I follow them one hot morning as they flee a government ambush in the oil fields of southern Sudan. One of their comrades has just been shot dead, his body abandoned on a parched savanna that hides nearly 20 billion dollars' worth of low-sulfur crude. We retreat for hours under a scalding sun, crossing in the process a vast, cauterized plain of cracked mud. I pause a moment to watch them: an ant-like column of rebels dressed in bizarre homemade uniforms of green cotton smocks and white plastic slippers, limping into the heat waves of distance. Five casualties bounce in stretchers. They suffer their bullet wounds in silence. A boy marching in front balances a car battery on his head. He is the radio operator's assistant. Every few hundred yards he puts the battery down and empties blood out of a shoe.
When we finally reach a tree line, the fighters strip off their clothes and jump into a bog. The water stinks. It is infested with larvae of guinea worms, which, once ingested, burrow painfully through the body to the legs, and are extracted by making a small incision; you reel the worm out slowly, day after day, by winding it on a small stick. All around us, half-naked people move feebly through the thorn forest: ethnic Dinka herders displaced from the contested oil fields by fighting between rebels and the central government based in the faraway capital, Khartoum. Their children, stunted and ginger-haired from malnutrition, clamber in the trees. They are collecting leaves to eat. This awful place, I learn, is called Biem—a safe haven, such as it is, of the 40,000-strong Sudan People's Liberation Army.
"You cannot reclaim what is lost," the sweating rebel commander says, squatting in the shade of an acacia, "so you just keep fighting for what little you have left."
He is trying to console himself. But I see little solace for the epic tragedy of Sudan. It is April 2002, and Africa's largest country is lurching into its 19th uninterrupted year of warfare—the latest round of strife that has brutalized Sudan, off and on, for most of the past half century. More than two million Sudanese are dead. We just left the latest fatality sprawling back in the yellow grasses, a bullet through his brain. And thousands of scarecrow civilians stagger through the scrub, starving atop a lucrative sea of petroleum.
Comment: Stop. Stand back. Look at the world as it is today. Among the countries of the world either already embroiled in violence or threatening to be, we have: Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China/Taiwan, Pakistan/India, Israel/Palestine, Eritrea/Ethiopia, Russia/Chechnya, plus violent civil conflicts in Nepal, Congo, Burma, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Columbia, probably others, with Indonesia and Philippines bucking to qualify.
It seems that the PTB has a smorgasbord of conflicts to choose from -- to inflame and/or make converge. Conflicts which, if managed just right could trigger huge changes, a "New World Order" you might say. And Bush, following his daddy's script, seems determined to invest heavily...
August 5, 2004
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush signed a $417.5 billion wartime defense bill Thursday providing an additional $25 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, body armor for troops and reinforced Humvee vehicles.
"With this legislation America's military will know that their country stands behind them as they fight for our freedom and as they spread the peace,'' Bush said.
"No enemy or friend can doubt that America has the resources to prevail,'' he said. "And we will.''
Overwhelmingly approved by a Congress eager to show election-year support for the military, the measure includes money for 39 more Army Black Hawk helicopters, a Virginia-class attack submarine, three guided-missile destroyers and a 3.5 percent pay increase for troops. ``This money is well-earned, well-deserved and well-spent,'' he said of the pay increase. [...]
As author Flannery O'Conner noted, "Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." That means no matter how much defensive spin spews from the White House, the Bush administration cannot escape the documented fact that it was clearly warned before the war that its rationale for invading Iraq was weak.
Top administration officials repeatedly ignored warnings that their assertions about Iraq's supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and connections to al Qaeda were overstated. In some cases, they were told their claims were wholly without merit, yet they went ahead and made them anyway. Even the Senate report admits that the White House "misrepresented" classified intelligence by eliminating references to contradictory assertions.
"The State Department affirmed reports from Energy Department experts who concluded those tubes were ill-suited for any kind of uranium enrichment." [...]
Comment: Yet we are still expected to believe that Bush and Co are the "victims" of the George Tenet's personal desire to dupe the administration into invading Iraq...
July 30, 2004
Statement from ALA President-Elect Michael Gorman:
Last week, the American Library Association learned that the Department of Justice asked the Government Printing Office Superintendent of Documents to instruct depository libraries to destroy five publications the Department has deemed not "appropriate for external use." The Department of Justice has called for these five these public documents, two of which are texts of federal statutes, to be removed from depository libraries and destroyed, making their content available only to those with access to a law office or law library.
The topics addressed in the named documents include information on how citizens can retrieve items that may have been confiscated by the government during an investigation. The documents to be removed and destroyed include: Civil and Criminal Forfeiture Procedure; Select Criminal Forfeiture Forms; Select Federal Asset Forfeiture Statutes; Asset forfeiture and money laundering resource directory; and Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA).
ALA has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the withdrawn materials in order to obtain an official response from the Department of Justice regarding this unusual action, and why the Department has requested that documents that have been available to the public for as long as four years be removed from depository library collections. ALA is committed to ensuring that public documents remain available to the public and will do its best to bring about a satisfactory resolution of this matter.
Librarians should note that, according to policy 72, written authorization from the Superintendent of Documents is required to remove any documents. To this date no such written authorization in hard copy has been issued.
Comment: Nothing to see here folks. Just because the Germans learned through bitter experience, that doesn't mean we should learn anything from them. After all, maybe some will enjoy repeating history...
Let me get this straight.
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge came barnstorming out on Sunday with a blizzard of warnings about looming terror attacks against targets in New York, New Jersey and Washington DC. Our nifty color-coded alert system was raised to Orange, or High. Headlines from coast to coast blared the bad news, and the stock market began Monday by giving itself a sound beating.
Late Monday night, however, had articles popping up on the Washington Post and the New York Times. This was the Post's midnight take: "Most of the al-Qaeda surveillance of five financial institutions that led to a new terrorism alert Sunday was conducted before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and authorities are not sure whether the casing of the buildings has continued, numerous intelligence and law enforcement officials said yesterday...'There is nothing right now that we're hearing that is new,' said one senior law enforcement official who was briefed on the alert. 'Why did we go to this level? I still don't know that.'"
The data was three years old.
Tom Ridge, in his Sunday remarks, said, "President Bush has told you, and I have reiterated the promise, that when we have specific credible information, that we will share it. Now this afternoon, we do have new and unusually specific information about where al-Qaeda would like to attack."
The data was three years old.
"The quality of this intelligence," said Ridge on Sunday, "based on multiple reporting streams in multiple locations, is rarely seen and it is alarming in both the amount and specificity of the information."
The data was three years old.
"As of now," said Ridge on Sunday, "this is what we know: reports indicate that al-Qaeda is targeting several specific buildings, including the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in the District of Columbia; Prudential Financial in Northern New Jersey; and Citigroup buildings and the New York Stock Exchange in New York."
The data was three years old.
"I certainly realize that this is sobering news," said Ridge on Sunday, "not just about the intent of our enemies, but of their specific plans and a glimpse into their methods."
The data was three years old.
"But we must understand," said Ridge on Sunday, "that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the President's leadership in the war against terror."
The data was three years old.
Furthermore, according to the Washington Post, "Several officials also said that much of the information compiled by terrorist operatives about the buildings in Washington, New York and Newark was obtained through the Internet or other 'open sources' available to the general public, including some floor plans." The data was three years old, gathered on the Internet, and delivered to the American people in tones of doom, as if the hammer were about to fall at any moment.
As reported on the Bloomberg newswire, Laura Bush and the daughters Barbara and Jenna Bush held a photo-op at the Citigroup Center in New York City on Monday, the first day of Ridge's new Orange alert. This was one of the target buildings, according to Ridge. George W. Bush sent his entire family to the very place that was supposedly about to be blown to smithereens?
I don't think so. [...]
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 - Members of Congress often call the Capitol the People's House. But the house is looking more and more like a fortress.
On Tuesday, one day after the Capitol police announced a series of heightened security measures, Capitol Hill resembled a walled city. The ring of concrete barriers encircling the Capitol building since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has now expanded outward to include the adjacent House and Senate office buildings.
Traffic was slowed Tuesday as the authorities inspected vehicles for explosives.
Tourists and lawmakers said they felt safe - or, if not safe, at least comforted. But they also lamented a way of life lost, and spoke wistfully of the days when people from Kentucky or Arkansas or Oklahoma or anywhere else in the United States could march into the symbol of American democracy and ask to see their congressman - no metal detectors, no questions asked.
"It sickens me to see our democracy as it is now," said Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York. "I remember when I used to jog around the Capitol every morning and not be stopped."
Those days, it appears, are gone, at least for the foreseeable future.
"We think this is something that is long overdue," Terrence W. Gainer, chief of the Capitol police, told reporters Monday evening in outlining specific vehicle checkpoints and the closing of the street that runs between the Russell and Dirksen Senate Office Buildings. Chief Gainer said he expected that the new security steps would last indefinitely, despite a cost of $3 million a month.
Lawmakers interviewed Tuesday did not question the expense, although one, Representative John F. Tierney, Democrat of Massachusetts, said he was "surprised to see the Capitol really under intense scrutiny," given that the building was not on the list of Al Qaeda's targets enumerated Sunday by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. [...]
Visitors seemed to believe that the threat was real.
"I'm very pleased that the security is this good," said Agaat Den Hertog of Shelby, N.C., sitting outside the Capitol with her 8-year-old nephew, who was visiting from the Netherlands. Ms. Den Hertog, who is Dutch, is in the process of becoming an American citizen - in time, she hopes, to vote in the Nov. 2 election.
"I would hate to see a building blown up by any terrorist organization," she said. "This is too beautiful a city."
August 05, 2004
LONDON: Britain's Foreign Office said on Wednesday it had not been told of any mistreatment of its nationals at Guantanamo Bay the day after allegations from three former British prisoners surfaced in a newspaper.
Rhuhel Ahmed, Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal said in a dossier obtained by the Guardian newspaper that they were beaten, shackled, and deprived of sleep during their detention at the prison camp in Cuba, and in Afghanistan. But the Foreign Office said it had not been informed of the complaints.
"They have never spoken to HMG (Her Majesty's Government)," a Foreign Office spokesman told AFP. The three former detainees, all from the same town near Birmingham, central England, alleged in the dossier that they were "repeatedly beaten, shackled in painful positions during interrogations, and subjected to strobe lights and sleep deprivation," the Guardian wrote Tuesday.
They were also "photographed naked and subjected to anal searches," the newspaper said, pointing out that similar abuses were carried out by US forces at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. "The account they've given from start to finish of their time in detention is an account of systematic brutality, systematic coerced attempt to obtain confessions," their lawyer, Gareth Peirce, told BBC radio on Wednesday.
It included "interrogation carried out in ways that are banned by the international community, by treaty obligation, enforced isolation induced sense of wholesale desperation, hopelesness, helplessness," she said. Detailing further allegations on Wednedsay the Guardian reported that Ahmed was interrogated by a British soldier while a US comrade in arms pointed a gun to his head and threatened to shoot him. [...]
Comment: How is it that little old us, with our meager resources, can have known for many many months that prisoners at Guantanamo bay were being tortured, yet the UK government, with its close relationship with the US and its extensive worldwide intelligence networks, did not? Is it really reasonable to expect the public to believe the UK government's claims to ignorance? We humbly suggest that it is not. We further propose that, as such, the British foreign office is lying through its teeth.
By JAN M.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark - An army officer ordered home to respond to claims she mistreated Iraqi prisoners at a Danish camp in southern Iraq acknowledged on Wednesday she denied one of them water and forced others to sit on the floor but said the treatment was not torture.
Capt. Annemette Hommel, 37, told the newspaper B.T. that the head of the Danish contingent in Iraq supported her interrogation efforts.
"Suddenly he changed his mind, and I was ordered home," Hommel told the tabloid.
The head of the unit, Col. Henrik Flach, and the commanding officers of the contingent's military police, intelligence and legal teams were all dismissed Tuesday as probe into alleged mistreatment of Iraqi detainees widened.
Defense Minister Soeren Gade cited their "lack of judgment" as a reason for their dismissal.
Denmark's 496 soldiers serve in Basra and nearby Qurnah, 250 miles southeast of Baghdad, and are under British command.
The investigation began after several Danish soldiers complained to superiors about an officer's interrogation methods. Authorities have not confirmed Hommel is the officer being investigated, but she has been identified as such in Danish news reports.
According to B.T., Flach was told of the allegations against Hommel on July 20 when the unit interpreter wrote him a letter detailing the charges. The interpreter later left the military, the daily said. On July 30, Hommel was ordered back to Denmark, two weeks ahead of her scheduled return.
Hommel, who could not immediately be reached for comment, told B.T. that she denied water to a prisoner because "every time he was getting in trouble (during the interrogations) he asked for water to dodge (the questions) and therefore I said no."
Another paper, Ekstra Bladet, said that incident took place June 9. The daily didn't name its source.
Hommel said allegations she forced detainees to sit in uncomfortable positions were untrue.
Instead, she told B.T., she said some detainees were "briefly" forced to sit on the floor while they were questioned.
"It is quite normal that the local people sit on the floor," Hommel was quoted as saying.
Hommel said she interrogated Iraqis suspected of involvement in the insurgency against coalition forces.
"Some of these people we question are directly going after and trying to kill Danish soldiers," Hommel said. "If I don't do my work properly, they will end it by doing it."
Only one Dane has been killed in the nearly 14 months the unit has been in Iraq. Cpl. Preben Pedersen was killed in August 2003, the victim of friendly fire while on patrol.
Capt. Henrik Gram Pedersen, a spokesman for Defense Command Denmark, would not confirm whether Hommel was the officer being investigated.
"As long as the investigation is going on, we will not comment further on the case," Gram Pedersen told The Associated Press.
In Parliament, opposition lawmakers backed the decision to dismiss the top officers.
"We must make sure that there is a civilian leadership of the Danish military," said Niels Helveg Petersen, a former foreign minister and a senior opposition member.
"The case could throw a shadow over Denmark, especially if true, because we tend to tell others to respect human rights," he said.
Comment: Denmark's course of action is quite an interesting contrast to that of the US after the Abu Ghraib story broke.
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Two months before the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq ignited an international scandal, a small group of soldiers tried to stop the assaults but never took the extra step of alerting the military's high command that detainees were being mistreated — a failure that allowed the misconduct to continue.
That account emerged for the first time yesterday in a military preliminary hearing for Army Pfc. Lynndie England, 21, who is facing several criminal charges in connection with the abuse that could send her to prison for nearly 40 years. [...]
Comment: Do the lower ranks in the military report or complain directly to the high command? Of course not. They report to their immediate commanders, and complaints are relayed up the ladder. The US torture of prisoners in the war on terror was not just a case of a few bad apples - otherwise, those GI's who tried to end the abuses would have found someone to listen to their warnings and act to end the horror. It is ridiculous to suggest that a policy that was wholeheartedly endorsed by Donald Rumsfeld was the fault of soldiers who "never took the extra step of alerting the military's high command".
Red Cross says Tipton Three may have case
and Tania Branigan
Repeated abuses allegedly suffered by three British prisoners at the hands of US interrogators and guards in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba could amount to war crimes, the Red Cross said yesterday.
The organisation, which maintains a rigidly neutral stance in public, took the unusual step of voicing its concerns in uncompromising language after the former detainees, known as the Tipton Three, revealed that they had been beaten, shackled, photographed naked and in one incident questioned at gunpoint while in US custody.
Their vivid account of the harrowing conditions at the camp, as told to their lawyers and published for the first time in yesterday's Guardian, has reignited the debate about the treatment of prisoners and the British government's role in their questioning and detention.
Last night the Red Cross was joined by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which argued that if the allegations were true they indicated systematic abuse, amounting to torture. [...]
Comment: Despite all the evidence that is so widely available, the Red Cross will still only suggest that US abuses of prisoners COULD be war crimes. The organization is obviously in America's back pocket. They are also apparently "unaware" of the following article...
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Military intelligence officials at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq ordered military police soldiers to keep several detainees hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross, leaving a coded message on cell doors to indicate which detainees the visitors were not allowed to see or interview, according to court testimony here yesterday.
Staff Sergeant Christopher Ward, a member of the 372d Military Police Company who was in charge of the day shift at Abu Ghraib's most secure cellblock, said that during at least three official visits last fall and winter, he was ordered to steer the Red Cross away from certain detainees whose cells were tagged with signs bearing the words "Article 134." Some of them were kept in a part of the prison's Tier 1A that was obscured by two separate doors.
"I didn't understand it, and I can't tell you what that meant," Ward testified, saying he had no idea what Article 134 was. Military prosecutors here also could not say what the term meant. Ward said military intelligence "put the signs on the door."
The testimony at a preliminary court hearing for Private Frist Class Lynndie R. England, 21 -- who is charged with abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib last fall -- echoes findings of an Army investigation that severely criticized officials there for keeping "ghost detainees," those who were hidden from international humanitarian workers. [...]
Thursday, August 5, 2004 Posted: 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Intelligence shows al Qaeda has plans to blow up shipping in a bid to disrupt world trade, Britain's top Naval officer has said in an interview.
The Royal Navy's First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Alan West, said that Western governments had intelligence that terrorists view shipping as an attractive target and have plans to destroy ships.
"We have got an underlying level of intelligence which shows there is a threat," West told Lloyd's List maritime newspaper.
West warned that terrorism could potentially cripple global trade and have grave knock-on effects on developed economies.
"What we've noticed is that al Qaeda and other organizations have an awareness about maritime trade," he said.
"They've realized how important it is for world trade in general and they understand that significance."
Lloyd's list commented that the terrorist threat to merchant shipping is nothing new for the maritime industry --illustrated in 2002 by the attack on the French tanker Limburg off the coast of Yemen.
[...] "We've seen other plans from intelligence of attacks on merchant shipping," West said.
"I can't give you detail on any of that, clearly, but we are aware that they have plans and they've looked at this."
Comment: Oh, yeah. Remember the "al Qaeda" attack on a French tanker during the period when France was opposing the war talk about Iraq? How convenient was that? Then there was the "terrorist" attack in Moscow when Moscow was opposing the war plans for Iraq, delivered by Chetchen "terrorists" who had been trained by the Pakistani ISI, who had been trained by the CIA....hmmmm.
Last Updated Thu, 05 Aug 2004 09:21:12 EDT
LONDON - Al-Qaeda operatives arrested in Pakistan recently gathered maps and photos of Heathrow airport to prepare for a terrorist attack there, several major British newspapers reported Thursday.
The images of London's main airport showed up in the computer of known al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, who was arrested on July 13 along with other suspects in his home country of Pakistan, sources told the newspapers.
Khan visited Britain at least six times in the past year, the London Times said.
Some of the published reports linked intelligence obtained after Khan's arrest to raids that British police conducted on Tuesday.
The Home Office today denied that there was any specific terrorist threat to Heathrow airport following reports that a suspected al-Qaida computer expert arrested in Pakistan had passed on plans to attack it.
[...]The Home Office, however, said the public should remain "alert but not alarmed" about the reported plan for a terror strike.
"If there is a specific threat, we will let the public know," a spokesman said today, adding that the UK was maintaining a heightened state of security.
A US helicopter has been shot down in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf, wounding two crewmen, the US military says.
The incident occurred as US troops and Iraqi security forces fought fierce battles in Najaf with supporters of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.
Officials say two Iraqis and one US soldier have been killed in the clashes, which started overnight.
In Basra, Sadr supporters reportedly declared a "jihad" on British forces after four comrades were arrested.
8/4/2004 6:00:00 PM GMT
President, Saddam Hussein, wants to be transferred to a Swedish jail to
await his trial, media reports said on Wednesday.
In a similar statement last month, Di Stefano also mentioned Austria and Switzerland as other options.
The puppet so-called "Iraqi ministry of education" has announced that a new Boy Scout system will begin operation in primary and middle schools during the coming school year. A source in the sports department of the "ministry" has said that the US occupation forces named William "Chip" Beck, a former officer in the Central Intelligence Agency, and US government employee, to cooperate with Americans of Iraqi origin in re-constituting the Iraqi Scouting Council and setting up Boy Scout divisions in Iraqi schools.
Although Beck is a former US Naval Intelligence officer and is currently being paid by the US government, according to a 25 July 2004 report in The Dallas Morning News, he claims that his Scouting work "has absolutely no connection to the CIA or any intelligence organization."
The Bahraini paper Akhbar al-Khalij, reported that the Iraqi "ministry" source said that Iraqi puppet government agencies are eager to keep the CIA connections of the American supervisor of the Iraqi Scouts a secret. They fear that if Beck's CIA links became known, families would keep their children out of the new Scout organization, regarding it as suspicious and of doubtful character.
Beck told the The Dallas Morning News that there were adult Scouting leaders in each of Iraq's 18 provinces, and that 80 Iraqis had agreed to attend Scout leadership training in Cairo, Egypt, in July.
But Fawzi Farghali, the director of Arab Scouting, which is based in Cairo, visited occupied Iraq in April and met with only 30 prospective adult leaders. He said no Iraqi children are involved in Scouting because of concerns about safety. "The parents did not agree to let the boys go to the camp or go walk in the streets," Farghali said. "We must wait until everything should be quiet."
Despite the clear rejection of the Iraqi people, Washington is determined to push ahead with its supposedly "non-political" Scouting program to indoctrinate Iraqi young people under CIA supervision. American aggressor troops have set aside 40 acres of land for the establishment of a Scout camp and reserved $25,000 for Kurdish Boy Scouts for buying equipment and supplies. The US Agency for Development is expected to provide a grant of $250,000 to support Boy Scout activity in Iraq.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 - The United States Army is pressing into place sweeping changes in its basic training program, introducing rigorous new drills and intensive work on combat skills to prepare recruits for immediate missions to Iraq and Afghanistan.
In what officers describe as the most striking changes to basic training since the Vietnam era, soldiers whose specialties traditionally kept them far from the front - clerks, cooks, truck drivers and communications technicians - will undergo far more stressful training. The new training regimen includes additional time dodging real bullets, more opportunities to fire weapons, including heavy machine guns, and increasing the time spent practicing urban combat and hiking and sleeping in the field during the nine-week courses.
Before Iraq, freshly minted soldiers could expect months, if not years, of additional training in their assigned units before seeing combat.
But with the Army stretched today by long-term deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, a growing percentage of new soldiers are in combat zones within 30 days of being assigned to a unit, Army officials say. Even those whose specialties are not combat arms often face situations where the traditional distinction between hazardous front lines and secure rear areas has vanished.
"Historically, combat support specialists had been in the rear of the battlefield, far from direct contact with the enemy," said Col. Bill Gallagher, commander of the basic combat training brigade at Fort Benning, Ga. "The emphasis in their training was more on the technical side of their specialties, not on the combat side." [...]
Support soldiers are also receiving added training for military operations in urban areas, which includes drills in how to enter a building held by hostile forces and to run convoys through contested territory. They will receive additional practice in how to manage prisoners of war and how to maneuver and fight when civilians are in the line of fire.
"We are teaching quick-fire techniques, moving in an urban environment - things that have not been done in basic training for combat support and combat service support before," said Lt. Col. Fred W. Johnson, commander of a basic training battalion at Fort Jackson, S.C., where the Army conducts its mixed-sex training. [...]
Comment: Obviously, the US is preparing for something big that will require every available body to fight to the death. Once again, there is mention of training for combat in urban environments. The US itself has quite a few large urban areas...
The man overseeing prisoners' appeals at Guantanamo Bay has rejected claims that the process is flawed.
Referring to criticism that inmates have not been allowed lawyers, US Navy Secretary Gordon England insisted the system was "professional" and "fair".
Journalists are being allowed in on Thursday to observe the tribunals.
Five of the eight prisoners reviewed so far have refused to take part in the process, set up to determine whether they are being held legally.
The tribunals, which have been running since Friday, were instigated after the US Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners could challenge their detentions.
'No declared war'
The BBC's correspondent Nick Childs says the Pentagon's decision to go ahead with the hearings comes after heavy pressure on the US Defence Department.
But with a number of detainees refusing to appear it could make it problematic for the military to argue that the tribunals are a valid process, he says.
Mr England told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the system was derived from the Geneva Convention.
"We are allowing the detainees to appear before the hearing and present their case, and we have a person to work with them," he said.
He said the person did not need to be a lawyer, as "this is not a legal proceeding, it's an administrative proceeding".
He said detainees were being treated as enemy combatants, not prisoners of war, because "there's no declared war between countries".
If the tribunals, presided over by three military officers, find that a prisoner does not qualify as an enemy combatant, he may have to be freed.
Mr England conceded this, but said he did not expect "a very large number" to be released.
The South Korean government has imposed a ban on local media reporting on the deployment of 3000 troops to Iraq, citing concerns about the soldiers' safety.
Under plans announced in June, the deployment of mainly non-combatants on a relief and rehabilitation mission was to take place in stages over several weeks beginning in early August.
The government warned it would consider legal action - using a law to protect military secrets - against any media outlet that violated the ban.
"This is a secret military operation. We don't want to give terrorists any information on our troop movements," a Defence Ministry official said, adding that reports ignoring the blackout would be viewed as a serious breach of security.
Defence Minister Yoon Kwang-Ung said "appropriate measures" would be taken against offending media outlets. [...]
A Korean Air jetliner bound for New York City from Korea with about 350 people on board was diverted to Anchorage early Tuesday after authorities received a report there was a bomb on board, the FBI said.
No bomb was discovered on Flight 81, but numerous agencies responded to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in the middle of the night to help search the Boeing 747 and its passengers and cargo.
FBI Special Agent Eric Gonzalez said the episode was fairly uncommon for U.S. airlines. "When there's a diversion, it's often because of an unruly passenger," he said -- not a bomb scare.
According to the FBI, someone called the New York City port authority and said there was a bomb in a woman's purse on board the Korean Air flight. Gonzalez did not release details about the call but said officials were still investigating it.
Authorities contacted Korean Air and a decision was made to divert the plane to Anchorage.
The 747, which was headed for John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, landed in Anchorage around 1:45 a.m., Gonzalez said.
Airport Police and Fire, Anchorage police, the Transportation Security Administration, the FBI, federal customs and immigration officials and bomb-sniffing dogs from Elmendorf Air Force base all responded to the airport.
The passengers were screened, as were their bags, and the plane was searched. No passengers were arrested or detained, Gonzalez said. "Everyone was very cooperative," he said. "Everyone was allowed to re-enter and go on their way."
"There was nothing to the call," Gonzalez said. "The plane was safe, the passengers were safe."
Korean Air could not be reached for comment.
8/5/2004 1:30:00 PM GMT
Israel is planning to build thousands of housing units in the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim in an attempt to link it to Jerusalem, Israeli officials said Thursday.
The plan is apparently meant to ensure a large Jewish majority in Jerusalem to offset a high Arab growth rate.
The Maaleh Adumim settlement is four miles east of Jerusalem.
The project defies an internationally supported peace plan demanding a halt in Israeli settlement activity.
[...] What holds the Palestinian society together, under this extreme destructive constellation of forces, is a sense of decency and duty, the legacy of a centuries' old established social order. It is only this, which defines right from wrong, and decency from thuggery and unfairness. Without this cultural residue, and the challenge to face and beat down the occupation, it is hard to see how this society would have managed to hold together and survive. It has, however, frayed at the edges. When asked what they wanted many replied `relief,' relief from the occupation that is. Their personal finances are mostly in shambles, their savings exhausted, and their living standard has plummeted. The urban refinements, and holding out in front of your peers, makes for a sense of dignity clashing with limited means.
Two thirds of the Palestinian economy is subsidized by foreign aid in one form or the other. In the Gaza district two thirds of the population lives on less than two dollars a day according to the World Bank. NGOs are a major source of employment with an uneven record of performance, some do outstanding work, and others are criticized for lack of effectiveness and for fostering dependency. [...]
The political house of Palestine is not merely divided. It is fragmented and needs to be built anew. The fault lines between the "Tunisians" and the locals, the old guards and the Young Turks, the corrupt establishment and the reformers, Fatah and everyone else, the ideologues and pragmatists have all been bridged by one man, Yaser Arafat. Arafat has stood for four decades at the center of Palestinian politics. A leader that cajoled, defeated, silenced, intimidated, outmaneuvered and outlasted all competitors to become a legend and a symbol. He is the founder of modern Palestine. Credit for this achievement is forever due to him. No governance or position can be a greater accomplishment than this and it should suffice. He is a master tactician who played the role of the ultimate victim thus capturing the essence of the Palestinian psyche as he claimed a proprietor hold on it. And all others yielded as men do to legends. On his entry to Palestine after the Oslo agreement the Palestinians lifted him and his car as he crossed the bridge from Jordan. He has since held all the strings of power and to him is owed all the credit and blame for the decisions made on behalf of the Palestinians and the consequences of those decisions. As the quality of life deteriorated relentlessly after the second Intifada, with mounting sacrifices endured courageously and honorably by the people who expected deliverance from an oppressive occupation, the unspoken questions started being asked in private, tentatively and defensively in the beginning but ultimately more publicly, assertively, and courageously. Questions arose. Who is responsible for the strategic string of defeats from Black September in Jordan in 1970, to the catastrophic experience and eviction from Lebanon in 1982? Who is to blame for the support of Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War and thereby answers for the attendant expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Kuwait in 1991? Who facilitated the disproportionate power for the PLO "Tunisians" after their return to Palestine following the Oslo agreement and then tolerated unabashed corruption? Who is responsible for the mishandling of the negotiations with Clinton and Barak and the heavy-handed treatment of the political opposition as Sharon worked his iron and brutal will on the lives and property of the Palestinian people? Who allowed violence against civilians to continue after its human, moral and political consequences became so tragic and prohibitive? Whose is the failure to communicate with the public about strategy, or worse, the absence of a strategy?
A lot of these questions would not have been asked by this generation of Palestinians had their prospects for independence under his leadership been within sight, had their fear of defeat and possible historic loss of the dream of a viable state been less real. President Clinton, referring to Arafat's penchant for making decisions only five minutes to midnight, as he accepted Clinton plan fully one year after it was presented to him, wrote that Arafat's watch must be broken. Arafat himself told Prime Minister Qurei last week after their reconciliation that he knows best what the Palestinian people want. If his watch is broken it may be more accurate to say that he knew what they wanted, but what they need now is a leader who understands not only the Palestinian people but also the world around them. A leader who understands the realities of the global power structure and knows how to navigate his way through it. A leader who understands that the only real asset of the Palestinians at this time is their moral and just right to a state of their own. A leader who will categorically reign in all the elements of force in his society and then rightly demand the state of Palestine from the world powers who have pledged to deliver it. A leader who quits giving mixed signals designed to confuse the enemy but resulting in confusing his own people. A leader who tells the truth to his people as to what it means to them to accept UN Resolution 242, what it means to the Right of Return, and to the actual recognition of the existence of the state of Israel and peace with it. A leader who knows how to establish a state, to delegate power and to build accountable and transparent institutions. A leader who abides by the rule of law and accepts the constraints it imposes on the governors and the governed.
The single most striking change in the last several weeks has been the outspoken criticism of Arafat by name, by members of the political establishment, in public. It is possible now to defy the leader in public. Ziad Abu Amr, Gaza MP and a former cabinet minister said: "Yaser Arafat is not concerned with issues of popularity and reform; he cares about control and political survival." Hanan Ashrawi, the well-known MP, said: "We should put this one-man show behind us. Instead of talking about individuals we should at last be talking about institutions and laws." The ex-Speaker of the House, Rafiq Natshe said: "We demand that Arafat carry out promises he has made, or explain why he can't fulfill them." Dr. Ibrahim Hamami, a prominent Palestinian physician, said that Arafat has become a liability to his people: "You treat the Palestinians like a pair of shoes to be worn or kicked outside as the mood strikes. The solution is for you to pack your bags, take your crooked friends and go somewhere else. Get out of here." Mohammad Dahlan, the ex- minister of Interior, a young leader with political aspirations, is quoted as having said that Mr. Arafat "is sitting on the corpses and destruction of the Palestinians at a time when they are desperately in need of a new mentality."
This language, publicly expressed at a time of an insurrection that started in Gaza and is spreading to the West Bank, illustrates the level of descent of the legendary leader to that of a leader forced under pressure to resort to intimidation, and perhaps more, to hold on to his fast-ebbing power. Spreading violence within a Fatah divided between his detractors and supporters; with both sides resorting to abductions, torching buildings, threatening the media and shooting at opposition, is not a climate that a legend can survive. An actual assassination attempt of Nabil Amr, an MP, a former cabinet minister and a Fatah stalwart, that resulted in the amputation of his foreleg is perceived as punishment for his courageous, eloquent, and outspoken criticism of the leadership. In a flagrant and crude show of force over this past weekend a gang of self-declared Arafat supporters fired in the air at a meeting hall where Fatah reformers convened a conference to discuss corruption, and tried to put an end to proceedings.
There is something sad about a seventy-five-year-old man refusing to relinquish power. It is hard for the Western people to understand the phenomenon of one-man rule that plagues the Arab world, but in this case it also must be understood in the context of a fight against occupation, where the leader of Israel has consistently and repeatedly tried to undermine and marginalize Arafat. Rallying around Arafat has become a tool of resistance to occupation. Indeed it is common among Palestinian political opponents to Arafat to say that Sharon keeps propping him up whenever his fortunes sag. Just at the right time, Sharon issues an edict to throw him out, or threaten his life, or send his tanks to poke into his Muqata'a after he reduced most of it to rubble. Indeed, this is one of the most common accusations hurled against Sharon. Israel has failed miserably to allow the Palestinian process to develop in order to have them take care of their own governance.
The question of governance (i.e. Arafat) has become central now because of the upcoming withdrawal from Gaza. The significant thing about this withdrawal is that it is an event in the future that is yet to happen, which means that the Palestinians have a chance to plan for it and get themselves organized. A failed Gaza after the withdrawal, descending into chaos, extremism, or violent confrontations will put an end to the possibility of a West Bank withdrawal in the near future. The extremists in Israel will point to Gaza to explain to the world why Israel should not withdraw from the West Bank. In this case, rather than reacting to a catastrophe or event, the Palestinians can in fact exercise a measure of control over their own destiny by planning seriously for it. It is unfortunate, but true, that there are no Palestinian plans for this withdrawal as I was told unequivocally by one of the most, if not the most, credible Palestinian official. The Arafat reign bodes ill for the people of Gaza in this regard and the insurrection in Gaza needs to be seen in this light. A significant segment of the population and leadership in Gaza see a light at the end of the tunnel in the withdrawal plan and some of them see no constructive role for Arafat in it. They see Arafat negotiating for his own personal freedom and legacy rather than their liberation from occupation and a chance to build a new order. It is not difficult to imagine a link between the reformers, the Young Turks, civic leadership in the West Bank and the insurgents in Gaza to settle for nothing less than a regime change. The neighboring Arab countries which have bet on Arafat, Israel which has consistently helped him out politically by demonizing and threatening him, and the United States, which has declared him persona non grata but negotiated with his proxies, have all to take note.
The Palestinian political fragmentation has resulted from years of a harsh occupation policy of systematic destruction of the security apparatus of the PA, followed by a similar dismantling of the Hamas military operation. Israel, it is to be noted, was much less concerned about disposing of the political leadership of Hamas than that of the PA. A system of closures, checkpoints and settlement building led to physical separation and economic hardship for the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership consistently refused to make clear choices to have total control over security in order to leave all options open. The population including the local and young leadership developed a growing sense of the failure of the national strategy. All these factors combined led to a fragmentation of authority and the emergence of city and village warlords accountable to no one. They might volunteer to pay homage to the Raiis, or might not, with no great fear of retribution. That is preserved for national figures that raise uncomfortable issues. In the meantime Fatah, the vertebral column of Palestinian politics, has also fractured along many fault lines and its security wings are spread at cross-purposes. Hamas is lying low for fear of Israeli retribution leaving all to guess as where they will strike next. A Palestinian civil war, or more accurately wars, is a matter of time if a drastic change in direction and leadership will not take place in the near future. [...]
ATHENS, Greece — A homemade bomb exploded today near an electrical substation outside the Greek capital, causing damage but no injuries, officials said.
Authorities said it was not immediately clear if there was a link between the blast and the Olympics, which open here next week amid unprecedented security.
The device, which police say was made with a cooking gas canister and a triggering fuse, exploded in the bathroom of a building near a substation in the town of Metamorphosi, 9 kilometres north of Athens. No electrical facilities were damaged, a government official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
According to the official, the culprits broke the bathroom window and dropped the device inside. The damage was discovered by an employee of the state power company.
Adequate power for the Olympics became a serious issue after a July 12 blackout that hit the Greek capital and much of southern part of the country.
Homemade explosive devices are frequently set off by anarchist groups and others in Greece, often targeting banks, businesses and diplomatic vehicles. The attacks are mostly carried out at night and rarely cause injuries.
DENVER, COLORADO – Those twin robots hard at work on Mars have transmitted teasing views that reinforce the prospect that microbial life may exist on the red planet.
Results from NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers are being looked over by a legion of planetary experts, including a scientist who remains steadfast that his experiment in 1976 proved the presence of active microbial life in the topsoil of Mars.
"All factors necessary to constitute a habitat for life as we know it exist on current-day Mars," explained Gilbert Levin, executive officer for science at Spherix Incorporated of Beltsville, Maryland.
Levin made his remarks here Monday at the International Symposium on Optical Science and Technology, the 49th annual meeting of Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE).
Levin has a long-standing interest in time-weathered Mars and the promise of life today on that distant and dusty world.
NASA's 1976 Viking mission to Mars was geared-up to look for possible martian life. And it was Levin's Labeled Release experiment that made a provocative find: The presence of a highly reactive agent in the surface material of Mars.
Levin concluded in 1997 that this activity was triggered by living microorganisms lurking in the martian soil – a judgment he admits has not been generally accepted by the scientific community.
Comment: We can hardly bear it... It's like pulling teeth. Can't they just get on with it? We promise to act really surprised!
By Paul Rincon
Mars appears to have been volcanically active more recently than previously supposed, according to growing evidence from Europe's Mars Express orbiter.
New estimates suggest volcanoes could have been active between one million years ago and 20 million years ago, but more work is needed to refine the dates
Previous spacecraft data suggested that volcanism on Mars ceased some time around 600-500 million years ago.
Some researchers even speculate Mars could be volcanically active today.
Comment: So, essentially, what we are being told is that scientists, at least those who are allowed to speak publicly, can't say anything for sure about volcanic activity on Mars. The working hypotheses range from 600-500 million years ago to "it is still going on"!
A new type of cosmic explosion that occurred late last year could shed light on the death of massive stars, astronomers say.
It was more powerful than supernovae, explosions marking the death of a huge star, but weaker than gamma-ray bursts, the mysterious and most brilliant blasts in the universe.
"I was stunned that my observations ... showed that this event confirmed the existence of a new class of bursts," said Alicia Soderberg, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., who reported the finding in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. "It was like hitting the jackpot."
Scientists had thought all gamma-ray bursts had a standard energy and the same intrinsic brightness until the discovery of the cosmic blast that occurred on Dec. 3, 2003, and is known by its date of birth, GRB 031203.
"With this new event we realize it is not true. There are sub-energetic bursts that are less luminous with fainter emission, which means there is not a standard energy," Soderberg said in an interview. "Perhaps there is some sort of continuum between the two explosions that we didn't realize before."
Astronomers do not know what causes gamma-ray bursts. They are thought to occur when stars collapse possibly to become a black hole, or even when two black holes merge.
Such objects are thought to have a huge gravitational pull from which nothing can escape. But just last month, cosmologist Stephen Hawking said he believes some material oozes out of black holes over billions of years through irregularities on their surface.
NASA's Swift mission, which is due for launch in autumn and will study gamma-ray bursts, could provide more information about the explosions.
"This is an intriguing discovery," said Shrinivas Kulkarni, a professor of astronomy and planetary science at the California Institute of Technology and a co-author of one of the reports.
"I expect a treasure trove of such events to be identified by NASA's Swift mission," he said in a statement. "I am convinced that further discoveries and studies of this new class of hybrid events will forward our understanding of the death of massive stars."
KITCHING, STAFF REPORTER
There's something fishy going on in Manitoba's skies. Unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings in the Keystone Province are nearing an all-time high, according to an independent group that investigates and records reported sightings across Canada.
More than 50 have already been counted so far this year, double the 25 sightings recorded in 2003, said Winnipegger Chris Rutkowski, co-ordinator of Ufology Research of Manitoba. The most sightings in one year in Manitoba was 74 in 1993.
The reason for the increase is just as puzzling as details of some of the sightings, Rutkowski said. In July, two people driving along Highway 6 near Ponton, south of Thompson, saw two bright, orange-coloured lights zoom across the early morning sky.
"The first one rose up out of the bush beside the road and flew in front of them, a second ball of light came across the road and then both flew away," Rutkowski said. "A woman (in the car) said they were very frightened."
Winnipeggers have reported seeing "round patches of light" chasing each other in the sky above the northeast corner of the city, Rutkowski said.
"I suspect it's some sort of (spotlight) advertising mechanism," he said.
That sighting is one of more than 400 that have been reported by Canadians up until the end of last month, a large jump compared with last year's total of 300 during the same period, Rutkowski said.
One of his favourite sightings is from Caraquet, N.B., where odd pairs of lights were spotted in January above a highway.
"One person reported seeing something with two or three lights and some sort of structure attached to it," Rutkowski said. "That area seemed to be quite a UFO hot spot this winter."
Canada is on pace to top last year's total of 670 sightings, the most recorded in one year, he said. Most UFO sightings can be attributed to natural phenomena or human activity.
"There's a small percentage that we simply don't have explanations for. We can't say they're alien spacecrafts because we don't have that proof," Rutkowski said.
"There's probably life out there somewhere but whether it can come all the way here is the big question."
Centuries ago, the idea of tall, blond, fierce women warriors--the Amazons--captivated the Greek historian Herodotus and has fascinated countless generations since.
Now the lives of the real women who inspired the legend are less of a mystery, thanks to scientist Jeannine Davis-Kimball of Ventura, Calif. A new TV documentary chronicles her discovery of a 9-year-old child who can claim lineage to the ancient nomadic people known as the Sarmatians. Davis-Kimball recently found a genetic link between the little blond girl in a western Mongolian village and a DNA sample from an ancient grave site in southern Russia. The 2,500-year-old graves contained women buried in full battle dress, with swords, daggers and arrowheads.
[...] Q. So, to clarify, does this mean the Amazons really did exist?
A. As far as I'm concerned the Amazons are mythological people. ... We don't have any archeological evidence of a race of women living completely isolated from males. The actual women warriors of the Sarmatians probably were the basis for the Amazons.
Q. What were their lives like?
A. Sarmatians were nomadic people. They have no defense walls or massive military forces like we find in Greek and Roman culture or even today's culture. So the children, boys and girls, were taught to ride and had to learn to defend themselves. During that particular time, and in other nomadic cultures as well, the women become warriors and are called upon to defend. I don't think they're out there attacking but rather are in a defensive mode. They're quite capable of shooting a bow and arrow and using a sword ... to protect their families and their herds and their entire lifestyle. ... Over time, that type of lifestyle changes. If you compare the lifestyle of the Sarmatians to the Genghis Khan period of nomads, women were attacking. Women were used as auxiliary forces [in battle] and were quite proficient.
Q. A silly question but I can't resist: Were the Sarmatians giant blonds?
A. These people are not giants but are large-boned, sturdy. Some of the women were 5'6", 7, 8. Tall. They were not runts by any means whatsoever. ... These people are large, robust, healthy, strong individuals. Probably their genetic makeup had a lot to do with it as well as their good diet. They had a very high-protein diet so they had strong bones and good teeth. Were they blond? They probably varied because of the mixture of populations ... we're talking about a vast area of different genetic links.
Q. How did you feel when the link was established with the 9-year-old girl, Meiramgul?
A. I didn't have any idea when we started doing the DNA that we would find this very rare genetic link between the women from the excavation with Meiramgul and her mom. That was a complete surprise for everyone. ... I had known that nomadic people had a great diversity. As they traveled, they encountered other populations and there was bound to be intermarriage. ... I did not expect anything to be so widely dispersed, that was really further than I had anticipated.
FREETOWN (AFP) Aug 05, 2004
Days of torrential rains across Sierra Leone have washed away any doubts about the massive need in Freetown to rebuild the crumbled infrastructure and disrepair plaguing the war-ravaged west African capital.
DHAKA (AFP) Aug 05, 2004
A mild earthquake jolted Bangladesh as floods that have submerged two-thirds of the country over the past month started to recede, officials said Thursday.
The mild tremor was felt Wednesday in northwestern Rangpur district, although lack of monitoring equipment in the region meant the quake's strength could not be measured, Meteorological Office sources told the official news agency BSS.
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