Signs Supplement: The Suicide Bombing Cycle
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
of the Day
The Willful Sojourn
In a situation whereby
you have told the truth only to be disbelieved and treated like
a liar, the complete and utter frustration that is felt typically
brings about one of two reactions; either a continued effort to
convince the disbeliever of the facts surrounding the situation
in question, or a confounded retreat. Both reactions are quite often
regarded as signs that you should be disbelieved. In the end only
corroboration of the facts, by another, or others, can vindicate
your assertions of the truth. But is that always the case?
There are those who will disregard factual information because
facts do not agree with their own personal agenda, or, perhaps they
cling to a belief system that even if challenged with logic might
negate the illusion of a long held perspective of themselves and
the world around them. There are others for whom truth is such a
rare commodity in their own lives, that they simply cannot view
truth as a concept to even be taken seriously. There is also one
more possibility. They simply just don’t care, and that may
be the most insidious of all.
Throughout human history there have been countless examples of
people following their leaders into an abyss of catastrophe. Sometimes
for reasons and philosophies they agreed with, but quite often their
indifferent complacency emboldened their megalomaniacal leaders
to embark on a journey of calamitous folly.
The reasons for followers and their complacency are many, but satisfaction
with the status quo is most probably the ultimate population tranquilizer.
Give them bread and circuses. A full belly and trivial diversions
will often sedate the masses into believing that all is well and
therefore deflect attention away from the true intentions of it’s
leaders. This, and an ongoing barrage of disinformation has always
been the recipe for swaying the masses into the desired direction
of its leaders wishes.
The challenge that awaits us all is not so much the machinations
from exterior forces or entities as much as it is the struggle inside
ourselves to decide whether or not we choose to follow complacency,
subjectivity or objectivity.
Quite often the willful sojourn into objectivity becomes as arduous
as it is enlightening, and the decision to remain steadfast in that
journey will be constantly tested. The outer façade that
masks the inner truth that objectivity reveals will almost simultaneously
tempt you, and fill you with revulsion. The lure of following the
path of least resistance will, at times, challenge your resolve.
For those who persevere, the reward will not be so much as to where
you will be further on in the future, but where you are now, inside
Ultimately, those who seek out and cling to the ideal of objective
reality will save themselves from the ultimate descent into an abyss
conjured up by self-serving pseudo-messianic leaders.
Complacency and subjectivity are a one way ticket into it.
The Israeli government does not
intend to honour the US-backed road map to peace in the Middle East
once it has completed a planned pullout from Gaza, an Israeli newspaper
Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, told the Yediot Ahronot
daily that there might not be any troop pullbacks after Israel had
carried out its so-called unilateral "disengagement" from
the Palestinians - withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four small
West Bank settlements - in 2005.
"It is very possible that, after the evacuation, there will
be a long period when nothing else happens," Mr Sharon said.
He told the paper it was impossible to say whether this could signal
decades of stalemate.
Mr Sharon said that, as long as there was no significant shift
in the Palestinian leadership and policy, Israel would "continue
its war on terrorism, and will stay in the territories [of the West
Bank] that will remain after the implementation of disengagement".
The road map to peace was launched last year, envisaging a Palestinian
state by 2005. The plan did not specify the borders of that state,
but senior US officials said Israel's occupation of the West Bank
and Gaza had to come to an end.
The US president, George Bush, has since said it would be "unrealistic"
to expect Israel to remove large West Bank settlements - a statement
interpreted by Mr Sharon as backing for his plan to keep large settlement
blocs in any future deal with the Palestinians.
In the Yediot interview, Mr Sharon was asked how his disengagement
plan differed from a proposal by the former Israeli opposition leader
Amram Mitzna. Mr Mitzna last year said Israel should restart peace
talks with the Palestinians by withdrawing from the Gaza Strip,
including the isolated settlement of Netzarim.
"Mitzna suggested something different, to start the Netzarim
evacuation and to continue dismantling settlements, based on the
road map," Mr Sharon said. "This would have brought Israel
to a most difficult situation. I didn't agree to this. Today, we
are also not following the road map. I am not ready for this."
Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian cabinet minister, said Mr Sharon's comments
had confirmed Palestinian fears that the disengagement plan was
a ploy to cement Israel's control over large areas of the West Bank.
US and EU officials have assured the Palestinians they only back
the disengagement plan as part of the road map.
"I think that those who saw the Gaza disengagement as an opportunity,
because they counted that it would be part of the road map, should
really understand that their good intentions are one thing and that
Sharon's good intentions are another," Mr Erekat told the Associated
"Sharon's intention is to destroy the road map and to dictate
his long-term interim solution of Gaza as a prison and 40% of the
West Bank within walls."
He today urged US and EU leaders to take action against Israel's
continued building in the West Bank, arguing that years of US and
European condemnation of illegal Isreali settlements had resulted
only in more being built.
· Israeli soldiers today killed five Palestinian fugitives,
including a militant leader, during a fierce gunbattle in the West
Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.
The army surrounded a building in which wanted militants were holed
up and a battle erupted, Palestinian witnesses said. Palestinian
security officials said five militants from the al-Aqsa Martyrs
Brigades were killed, and a sixth man injured.
The dead included Nader Aswad, a local leader who was on Israel's
most-wanted list. Al-Aqsa is loosely linked to the Palestinian leader
Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. Military sources said five wanted
Palestinians had been killed, but gave no further details.
has threatened that Yasser Arafat will meet the same fate as Hamas
leaders who were assassinated earlier this year by the Israeli military.
In ambiguous comments to Israeli newspapers to mark the Jewish
new year, the prime minister said he intends to force the Palestinian
leader into exile. But he also hinted that
Mr Arafat might be killed.
Speaking to Ma'ariv newspaper, Mr Sharon made direct reference
to the Hamas spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated
by a missile in Gaza in March, and his successor as the Islamic
resistance movement's leader, Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, who was killed
by the Israelis the following month.
"We operated against Ahmed Yassin and
Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi when we thought the time was suitable. On
the matter of Arafat we'll operate in the same way, when we find
the convenient and suitable time. One needs to find the time and
to do what has to be done," said Mr Sharon.
However, the prime minister told other newspapers that he would
send Mr Arafat into exile. Sheikh Yassin and Mr al-Rantissi were
both exiled from the occupied territories at one time.
A prominent Palestinian minister, Saeb Erekat, said Mr Sharon's
comments show that he intends "to kill President Arafat and
to push the Palestinian people toward chaos".
But the Israeli prime minister's son, Omri, a member of parliament,
said that the possibility of assassination "does not exist"
and that Israel should leave Mr Arafat "stuck" in his
battered Ramallah compound.
"If we do this foolishness and hit him, will an [alternative
Palestinian leader] arise? No, he will be seen as your collaborator,"
Omri Sharon told members of the ruling Likud's central committee.
In April, Mr Sharon backed away from a personal pledge to President
Bush not to harm the Palestinian leader by saying that whoever kills
Jews or orders their deaths "is a marked man".
However, it is thought unlikely the prime minister intends to move
against Mr Arafat in the near future. The threat may be timed to
try to reassure critics on the far right that the government's plan
to pull 7,500 Jews out of the Gaza strip, and a small number from
a part of the West Bank, does not represent a weakening of its resolve
to confront the Palestinian leadership.
Mr Sharon's security cabinet yesterday approved steps to begin
the Gaza pullout, including compensation payments to Jewish settlers
of up to £280,000. The government is offering bonuses to settlers
who agree to leave of their own accord in the hope of defusing resistance
to the pullout.
The government expects to spend £350m compensating settlers
and a similar amount moving military installations and other infrastructure.
Mr Sharon also rebuffed pressure from his finance minister and
chief political rival, Binyamin Netanyahu, for a referendum on the
Mr Netanyahu argues that a ballot would lend legitimacy to the
"disengagement plan" and weaken claims by the settlers
and the far right that Mr Sharon is acting undemocratically by ignoring
a poll within his Likud party that rejected the pullout.
Mr Netanyahu said that without a vote there could be an "explosion"
of resistance by the settlers and their supporters. But the prime
minister accused him of siding with the settlers.
"The real intention is to delay implementation," said
Mr Sharon. "If a minister thinks that we are facing an explosion,
he needs to act with all his might to make sure that there is no
explosion, so that no one might even contemplate that by means of
threats of explosion a cabinet decision can be changed. Instead
of stamping a seal of approval on those threats and capitulating
to them, I would expect from him and the other ministers to express
in the strongest terms possible their opposition to threats."
The police said they were investigating death threats against Mr
Sharon and officials responsible for implementing disengagement.
Jerusalem's chief of police, Ilan Franco, said: "We have opened
an intensive investigation regarding threats that have been received
in recent days. The threats were to murder the prime minister and
officials in the administration."
The Israeli news service, YNet, quoted officials from the Shin
Bet security service as saying they feared for Mr Sharon's safety
and "would prefer for the prime minister to avoid leaving his
· Masked gunmen shot dead an accused rapist on his way to
court in the West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday.
The shooting marked the second fatal attack in less than two months
on detainees in the custody of Palestinian security forces.
Palestinians have faced internal strife recently, stirred by militants
complaining of corruption in the Palestinian security forces. The
gunmen attacked the car in which Ramy Yaghmour and other detainees
were travelling from the Palestinian special forces headquarters.
Lying amid the debris strewn
near Al-Karkh police station was the photo of a young man in a blue
T-shirt. The passport snap had been part of his application to join
Iraq's police force.
Yesterday, however, he and dozens of other recruits queueing outside
the station in central Baghdad were blown to pieces by a car bomb.
Near the photo, someone had heaped the shoes of the dead and injured
into a neat pile.
The destruction from the suspected suicide blast which killed 47
people and injured 114 was everywhere: bits of metal, glass, a broken
billiard table, a dead bird and pools of blood.
There was nothing left of the recruit in the photo.
"The bomb went off at 10am. A lot of people were queueing
up to join the police," said Allah Hamas, 31, who owns Allah's
Famous Falafel Stand, next to the police station.
"I handed a customer a sandwich. Suddenly there was an explosion
and a piece of metal ripped off the top of his head.
"After that I ran out to help. We covered the dead with blankets.
I saw at least 30 bodies. Thirteen of them were burnt completely.
Some people were scattered into pieces. We found them among their
files and photos."
It was the deadliest single incident in the Iraqi capital for six
months, but there was nothing unique about the explosion; it took
place a few hundred metres from Haifa Street, a well-known centre
of resistance to the American occupation and the scene of heavy
fighting on Sunday. It was embarrassingly close to the green zone
and the US embassy.
But it reveals a grim truth about the nature of Iraq's evolving
insurgency: Iraqis are killing Iraqis.
In recent months, and especially since the handover of "power"
to the unelected interim government, Iraq's resistance has concentrated
its efforts on killing those who collaborate with the Americans
- the police officers, would-be police officers, translators, governors
and government officials.
It is beginning to look like, and feel like, civil
In another incident yesterday, gunmen ambushed a minibus full of
policeman in Baquba, north-west of Baghdad, killing 11 of them and
a civilian. They were on their way home to their base.
In Ramadi, clashes between US troops and insurgents left eight
dead and 18 wounded.
Responsibility for the attacks in Baghdad and Baquba was claimed
yesterday by Tawhid and Jihad, Iraq's shadowy and fastest-growing
militant group, which is allegedly linked to the Jordanian al-Qaida
ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
In reality, though, the real identities of the insurgents remain
opaque. They undoubtedly include a handful of foreign fighters,
but the majority are Iraqi nationalists violently opposed to the
continuing occupation of their country.
"What happened here has really got nothing to do with Islam,"
said Rafid Ahmed, whose shop in Al-Karkh was destroyed.
Mr Ahmed said his two neighbours in the next-door barber's shop
were killed. He survived only because he opened up late.
"Why are these people targeting Iraqi police recruits? They
just want to get a salary because they are unemployed," he
said. "The people who did this are terrorists."
What would he do now? "Wait and see," he said. "This
store provided an income for a whole family."
In the row of ruined neighbouring shops there were bloodstains
on the ceilings. A few metres away, beyond a pavement strewn with
rubble and bits of tree, the explosion had dug a large crater. The
blackened engine of the car had landed 30 metres away.
Mingled with the smell of incinerated metal was something else:
Another witness, Raad Tawfiq, 40, contradicted the claims of Tawhid
and Jihad. "It wasn't a suicide bomb," he said. "They
blew the car up by remote control. People in the restaurant spotted
them leaving, but it was too late.
"This was a massacre," he said.
In the run-up to the January elections, Iraq's pro-US interim prime
minister, Ayad Allawi, faces some stark choices. He and the US military
can try to reoccupy the towns they have abandoned, or accept that
there is little prospect of the polls taking place in much of Iraq's
Sunni Muslim heartland.
Some Sunni groups have dismissed the elections as a "fake",
and no one quite knows whether the insurgency will fizzle out after
January or, as seems more likely, become more intense.
The interim president, Ghazi al-Yawar, said yesterday that the
elections should go ahead. "Unless the UN says it is impossible
to hold it, we're going to hold it at that time," he said.
As we drove away from Haifa Street yesterday, gunfire rang out
from the nearby houses. Two green US helicopters circled menacingly.
At the weekend a helicopter opened fire on unarmed demonstrators
dancing round a burning Bradley armoured vehicle. Thirteen were
killed, including a TV journalist working for the Arab station Al-Arabiya.
Those wounded in Baghdad yesterday were being treated in Al-Karkh
hospital, a short walk from the market where the bomb exploded.
American tanks and armoured vehicles had parked nearby, before moving
off and leaving behind whirling clouds of dust.
Mr Hamas, the falafel shop owner, said he only survived yesterday
by the grace of God. But he added: "I'm dead. I already feel
| An Eau Claire man working in Iraq
says the presidential candidates are not taking the war in Iraq seriously
and the media is letting that slide. Former Eau Claire City Council
President Wallace Rogers says that's the impression he got while home
on leave. Rogers is back in the Middle East. He says what is going
on there is very different from the picture painted by the American
media. He says, while he was in Eau Claire, he heard that the U.S.
is winning the war and that we are making progress in establishing
a democracy. Rogers says that is not what he sees. He says: "I
am surprised and disturbed by what's been happening in Iraq that I
didn't see or read about during the fifteen days I was just home.
Iraq – Baghdad in particular this time – has spiraled
into a state of anarchy: important Iraqi government officials are
assassinated every other day; American soldiers and marines have been
killed at a rate of more than three a day since I've left."
TWO months ago,
amid the kind of secrecy more normally associated with Saddam’s
illicit arms deals, the US authorities in Baghdad formally handed
over power to the fledgling Iraqi government.
The ceremony, amid the formidable security of the Green Zone, was
done two days ahead of schedule in a bid to wrongfoot insurgents
- for whom, it was claimed, it would provide the key rallying moment
for a final, last-gasp offensive.
Today, with both Ayad Allawi's new government and its coalition
backers losing control of the country, it is hard to imagine why
anybody bothered with such constitutional conjuring.
No force ever attacks when its foes expect it to: instead, as yesterday’s
carnage and that of recent weeks shows, the
real post-hand-over violence is only truly under way now.
The fact remains that this is now the second time,
after April’s initial insurrection, that Iraq has listed towards
total anarchy. Indeed, a two-month-on, two-month-off pattern of
violence was predicted by some coalition commanders long ago.
Back in July, I met Col Dana Pittard, one of the US Army’s
more highly regarded leaders, whose men had just quelled a major
attempt to take over the northern Iraqi town of Baquba.
He was proud of his soldiers’ efforts - in which they suffered
fatalities - but under no illusions: "They’ll try it
on again in a couple of months," he warned. "Just give
them time to regroup."
Worse still, even with what now seem to be periodic lulls and highs,
the scale of armed resistance seems to grow.
The fact that US troops regularly give the enemy an easy hiding
- killing scores, sometimes hundreds at a time - is no comfort.
It merely shows that no matter how high the casualty rates, there
is a seemingly bottomless supply of newcomers coming in.
And all the time, as occupying armies have known for centuries,
the resistance is learning from its mistakes.
To see how the situation has deteriorated one only needs to be
reminded of the bullish confidence of coalition commanders in Iraq
a year ago. Back then reporters were admonished if they talked of
"no-go zones": the coalition presence, and with it the
rule of law, extended to every corner of the country.
Nowadays, by comparison, even British troops in
the relatively quiet southern sector have all but conceded certain
The prospect of a "super rogue state",
as raised in recent days by Iraq’s new UN ambassador Samir
Sum-aida'ie, is no longer a distant nightmare but an approaching
Alas, it is no use expecting "ordinary Iraqis" - the
God-fearing, Saddam-hating, violence-abhorring majority to whom
the coalition constantly appeals - to rally round to stop the worst-case
As the falls of Fallujah, Najaf and Samarrah have shown, Iraqis’
popular support - explicit, tacit or otherwise - tends to go to
whoever wields the biggest sticks in town.
For the first year after the fall of Saddam, that pretty much meant
the United States Army.
Now, however, as the half-way point of year two approaches, it
is a role that is increasingly up for grabs.
BAGHDAD (AFP) - US troops found three bodies
and their severed heads north of Baghdad while 13 people died in
clashes in Ramadi, two more in a car bomb attack and two Iraqis
employed by the US Army were shot in the north.
More than 350 people have been killed so far this month alone,
spurring the US authorities to switch more than three billion dollars
into boosting security at the expense of earmarked reconstruction
The headless, decomposing corpses, thought to be of Iraqi civilians,
were discovered on a roadside with inscriptions
carved into them, before their remains were put in bags and
taken to Balad, police and the US military said.
Authorities believe they had been dead for about five days. [...]
[...] Witnesses described
the kidnapping as "extremely professional" and said a
well-dressed man wearing a suit and tie had led the operation.
"Four cars pulled up outside our house. About 20 guys suddenly
burst inside. They made us sit on the ground and started beating
us," one eyewitness Haider Muhammad Ali, 26, said.
"They kidnapped the Italian women and an Iraqi girl. The women
didn't scream. They just went quietly with the kidnappers. We were
completely terrified. We were 100% convinced we would all die."
Around 15 people were inside the house at the time. The kidnappers
took five hostages - but one man, an Iraqi, escaped in the confusion.
None of the guards at the house had weapons, Mr Ali said.
"We are a humanitarian organisation and we don't believe in
The chief of the Italian intelligence service, SISMI, Nicolo Pollari,
recently warned that hostage-takers might target women for extra
Abu Bakar Bashir,
the jailed alleged spiritual head of the terrorist group Jemaah
Islamiah, said he suspected Australia and
the US were behind last week's embassy bombing in Jakarta.
Bashir, jailed for conspiracy over last year's Marriott hotel
bombings in Jakarta, said Australia's "mistake" had been
to support the US, which he accused of wanting to destroy Islam.
In an interview with The Bulletin, he said he did not know who
was behind the Australian embassy bombing, "whether it has
been done by those who hate Australia, or Australia itself which
has done this for their particular political purpose".
He suspected it might have been the US or Australia
for two reasons. "The US issued a travel warning before the
bombing. It means they already knew in advance," he said, and
"the bomb was intentionally exploded in front of the embassy
gates, making victims of ordinary Muslim people. It means it was
aimed at pushing Islam into a corner."
Bashir said he disagreed with bombing in a "peaceful country
like Indonesia", but appreciated "the will and the purpose
of those who fight those who make war on Islam".
Indonesian and Australian police believe JI is behind last week's
bombing, with two key members of the group, Azahari Husin and Noordin
Mohammed Top, named as suspects.
Bashir said Australia and Indonesia could co-exist peacefully
"as long as Australia understands it should not fight a war
He said he hoped the Labor leader, Mark Latham,
would "fix" the Prime Minister, John Howard, who was "on
the slide because he has been cheated and lied to by George Bush".
Iraq is far away -- on this the Bush administration
counts. If your child or spouse or friend has not died there or
your friends or relatives aren't billeted there, the war in Iraq
is an abstraction and American deaths in Baghdad or Baquba or Najaf
at best tiny, abstract tragedies like those "walls" of
faces of the dead in periodic newspaper memorials, each no bigger
than your littlest fingernail.
To make that war just a little less abstract, for a moment, let's
imagine our troops not in Iraq but at the top of some vast tower
of a skyscraper from which, every day, two, or three, or four of
them are forced in full view to leap to their deaths, as in fact
many workers in the Twin Towers did on that fateful day exactly
three years ago. Imagine further that the pile of those who have
leaped and died, young soldiers, male and female, sent to fight
our President's "war on terror" on the battlefields of
Iraq, has slowly risen until by the third cycle through the first
11 days of September, this September 33rd you might say, it has
already passed the thousand-body height, only several hundred short
of the halfway mark to the total of those who died in the Twin Towers
and the Pentagon that terrible morning.
With our generals and pundits talking about a 5 to 10 year stay
in Iraq, with our President unwilling even to put a date on our
departure because he considers us in a near eternal war with evil,
with his opponent only hoping to pull our troops out by the end
of a first term in office (leaving, of course, the young men and
women of other lands to fight in their place), imagine further that
by September 44th, given the present rising casualty rate, that
pile of young bodies may be at, or close to, or just beyond the
height of the one created on that very first September morning.
Imagine then, on the fourth cycle from now, September 77th, or for
that matter on the tenth cycle, September 110th, how high that pile
If you find this a disturbing image, then welcome to the world
of September 33rd.
On that initial September 11th, thousands of people from many
countries, all in three buildings, went to their deaths. By this
September 33rd, three years later, in addition to those 1000-plus
young Americans dead in Iraq; and another 132 in Afghanistan, and
many thousands of Afghan civilians dead in our initial bombings
and in the chaos as well as civil and guerrilla warfare that followed,
the latest guesstimates on Iraqi civilian deaths go as high as 30,000
or more, not counting the thousands of Iraqi soldiers, often conscripts,
who died in our several-week long invasion of the country. In the
meantime, deaths worldwide from acts of terror, slaughters on trains
in Spain, or in banks, hotels, and temples in Turkey, or in buses
in Israel, or in the streets and clubs of Indonesia, or on the streets
and in mosques in Pakistan, or in a classroom in Beslan -- often
thanks to disparate movements, causes, reasons -- are significantly
on the rise. And can there be any question that they feed upon one
another, each new act of terror since September 11th, making others
imaginable, possible, plausible. For all of the victims of these
acts (and for the victims, whether in Chechnya, in the Palestinian
occupied territories, or elsewhere of acts that made these acts
conceivable), and especially for those who suffer directly because
of the decisions of the Bush administration, we would have to commandeer
many towers from which streams of horrified and often utterly innocent
people, young and old, whose main attribute, it often seems, is
simply that they are not Americans, would have to leap. [...]
MADRID (AFP) - A row erupted in Spain as members
of the parliamentary inquiry into the March 11 Madrid train bombings
voted to call former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar as
Inquiry chairman Paulino Rivero said 13 other people would appear,
including experts in Islamic terrorism and senior police figures
from the northern Asturias region, the origin of the explosives
used in the blasts.
No exact date has been set for Aznar's appearance.
Rivero said the inquiry team had unanimously decided Aznar should
testify after fringe parties canvassed the ruling Socialist Party
(PSOE) and Aznar's rightwing Popular Party (PP).
The PP lost a general election three days after the bombings, which
killed 191 and injured 1,900 in Spain's worst terrorist attack.
Wednesday's decision met with a furious reaction from PP spokesman
Eduardo Zaplana, who emerged to denounce "a scandal without
precedent for a democratic country."
Zaplana slammed the whole affair as "a pantomime" and
It swiftly emerged that the PP had asked at the
last minute for Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero also
to be called but the proposal was rejected.
Rivero said that was because the request had not been formally
made but Zaplana said it was proof the hearing did not want to cast
its investigative net as wide as possible.
Zaplana accused the commission of "wanting to investigate
nothing. It's ridiculous.
"They don't want people to know the truth.
It's a joke and a lie," he stormed. "There is an agreement
among the committee not to know the truth."
He accused the panel of routinely turning down PP requests on who
should appear, including Zapatero, adding acceptance of such requests
was "essential and fundamental" to the inquiry outcome.
"It's incomprehensible that they are afraid
of knowing the truth. It's illogical," Zaplana stormed.
PSOE spokesman Alvaro Cuesta said Wednesday's decision was in itself
proof that the inquiry enjoyed a remit "without limits,"
noting it was under Aznar that "Spain suffered the worst attack
in its history."
But Mariano Rajoy, who led the PP to defeat on March 14 having
taken over the party leadership from Aznar last year, insisted Zapatero
should now himself appear.
Zapatero should "stop hiding himself away," Rajoy told
reporters, adding if he did not people would conclude that "the
government has something to hide."
The PSOE and the PP had previously said they believed Aznar's appearance
was not necessary, having heard from former members of his government,
including a marathon, day-long appearance by former interior minister
On Monday, however, Zapatero said he was "favourable"
to Aznar being called and was himself prepared to appear.
In the days following the bombings the PP and Aznar insisted Basque
extremists were responsible, even as evidence emerged pointing the
finger at Islamic extremists.
Of 20 suspects now in custody in connection with the attacks, most
A link to Islamic extremism would have been dangerous
for the PP as it would have suggested to Spanish voters that the
bombings were in revenge for Aznar's strong support for US policy
Before the blasts, the PP was favoured to win the
election but some voters suspected the government was trying to
mislead them by pinning the blame on Basque extremists even as they
cast their ballots.
In the event the PSOE carried the day.
Many Spaniards are sceptical as to whether Aznar will prove willing
or able to shed further light on the attacks.
An opinion poll carried out in late July showed
58.1 percent of those questioned thought the inquiry would find
out "little" or "nothing" regarding March 11.
Spanish police have arrested at least 10 suspected
Islamist militants in a series of pre-dawn raids in Barcelona.
Spanish judicial authorities say that most of the detainees are
of Pakistani origin.
Police said they found no arms or explosives in the raids on several
premises, including private homes.
Authorities have dampened suggestions that the
arrests are linked to al-Qaeda or the 11 March train bombings in
Madrid, in which 191 people died.
"An operation was launched against Islamic activists and several
people were detained," a spokesman for Catalonia regional police
told AFP news agency.
The BBC's Katya Adler in Madrid says the operation was ordered
by Ismael Moreno, an investigating judge at the Spanish High Court.
The men are suspected of belonging to a militant Islamist cell
based in Barcelona, a spokesman for the court said.
Barcelona's autonomous police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, raided
a series of properties in the El Raval and Trinitat Vella districts
of the city.
They seized a number of documents now being examined by detectives.
A spokesman for the Mossos d'Esquadra described
those arrested as members of an "organised criminal group"
with possible links to foreign-based Islamists, Spanish radio reports.
The men are not believed to be operating an al-Qaeda
terror cell in Barcelona, the spokesman added.
PARIS (Reuters) - Police have detained five suspected Islamic militants
as part of a French inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks, French judicial
sources said on Wednesday.
The DST domestic intelligence agency arrested the five on Tuesday
in Selestat and Colmar, in the eastern Alsace region, as part of
an investigation led by anti-terrorist judges Jean-Louis Bruguiere
and Jean-Francois Richard, the sources said.
Prosecutors suspect the men of having links with Karim Mehdi, 35,
a Moroccan arrested in June 2003 at Paris's main airport and being
investigated on a terrorism charge.
Under French anti-terrorism laws the men can be held for up to
four days before they must be freed or brought before a judge, who
can order them remanded in custody.
Police say Mehdi was planning a bombing on the French Indian Ocean
island of Reunion. He is being held pending the outcome of an investigation
into whether he should be charged with associating with criminals
engaged in a terrorist enterprise.
Police suspect Mehdi was in contact with the "Hamburg
cell" which included Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah and Marwan al-Shehhi,
three of the Arabs who flew the hijacked airliners in the attacks
three years ago, killing almost 3,000 people.
He has also been linked by the French authorities to Ramzi bin
al-Shaibah, another suspect in the U.S. attacks, who was arrested
in Pakistan in 2002.
Mehdi is believed to have been in contact with Jarrah, a Lebanese
national who piloted the airliner that crashed in a Pennsylvania
field short of its target.
A rift has surfaced
between the United States and the European Union over how to deal
with Iran and its suspected nuclear weapons programme.
Ignoring American suggestions, key members of the EU circulated
their own recommendations to other delegates at a crucial meeting
of the UN atomic energy agency on Tuesday.
The latest development contradicted earlier claims by some diplomats
that the US and the Europeans were making progress in drafting a
common language for an International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA)
resolution that would set a deadline for Iran to dispel fears it
was trying to make nuclear arms.
But the latest draft that circulated informally
mirrored the one that France, Britain and Germany came up with last
week and was already dismissed by the US as not tough enough.
Washington demands that Iran should grant the IAEA inspectors "complete,
immediate and unrestricted access, and provide full information
about past illegal nuclear activities".
It also insists Tehran "suspend immediately and fully uranium
enrichment and related activities, and meet all agency demands to
resolve all outstanding issues nurturing suspicions of possible
Moreover, the US demands the draft should include a 31 October
deadline for Iran to comply.
But the EU draft remained vague on both demands and a time frame,
asking only that IAEA director general Muhammad al-Baradai submit
a comprehensive report before November for evaluation by the agency's
board of governors.
Al-Baradai shrugged off the idea of a deadline.
"We cannot just say there is a magic date for an end to the
agency's Iran probe," he said. He also repeated that his investigation
had not established whether Iran was trying to make nuclear arms,
as the US asserts.
"We haven't seen any concrete proof that there
is a weapons programme," he said.
Revelations of the rift were expected to prove embarrassing to
The Americans "introduced amendments that were beyond what
the market would bear", said one senior western diplomat who
follows the IAEA. "The European draft is right now going to
Berlin — Europe's major powers have
agreed to set a November deadline on Iran to meet demands meant
to banish concerns that it is secretly trying to make nuclear weapons,
in a confidential document made available Saturday to The Associated
The draft resolution was prepared by France, Germany and Britain
for Monday's start of a key meeting of the International Atomic
Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog.
The draft contains a so-called "trigger mechanism,"
warning of possible "further steps" — which diplomats
defined as shorthand for referral of Iran's case to the UN Security
The draft is likely to undergo changes before the three countries
submit it at the board meeting of the IAEA. And it still has to
be approved by two-thirds of the 35 board members.
But it is significant because it puts the three
European countries the closest they have formally been to the United
States on what to do about Iran and activities that Washington insists
show Tehran is trying build the nuclear bomb.
Up to now, the three European countries have resisted U.S. attempts
to have Iran hauled before the Security Council or even hint on
a date for such possible action. Iran says its nuclear program is
solely for energy production.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad
Quraya has condemned Israel's closure of six voter registration
centres in Arab East Jerusalem, accusing Israel of trying to "Judaise"
the holy city.
Palestinians opened the offices earlier in September to register
East Jerusalem voters for a future Palestinian general election,
a step towards meeting international and domestic demands for Palestinian
But Israeli police said they closed the offices on Monday, accusing
Palestinians of "illegal polling activities".
"The Israeli decision constitutes a flagrant violation to
all signed agreements and international law," Quraya said on
Tuesday in a statement issued in the West Bank city of Ram Allah.
"This decision shows Israel's pursuit of its policy to Judaise
(Arab East) Jerusalem and strip its people of their rights,"
he said in reference to the part of the city Israel captured in
the 1967 Middle East war.
Quraya said the Palestinian Authority was determined to carry
out plans to register voters in "all Palestinian territories
that Israel occupied in 1967 starting with holy Jerusalem".
Israel considers all of Jerusalem, including the Arab eastern sector,
as its capital and objects to Palestinian electioneering there.
Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they
seek in Israeli-occupied territories.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it, a move not recognised
Palestinians living in Jerusalem were permitted to take part in
the first Palestinian presidential and legislative elections in
1996, held under interim peace deals with Israel.
Palestinian officials said Israel's refusal this time to allow
Palestinians to register to vote showed it was bent on cementing
its grip on the Arab east of the city.
Palestinians have set up about 1000 registration centres across
the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem for presidential and legislative
elections that are nearly four years overdue. No date has been set
for the elections.
Faced with the most serious crisis of his
presidency, Vladimir Putin has yielded to his darkest instincts.
Russia's stumbling security services clearly need to be revitalized
to fight terrorism. Mr. Putin, however, is
using Beslan's tragedy as an excuse for suffocating the last vestiges
of Yeltsin-era democracy. Yesterday, evoking Russia's long
history of an autocratic concentration of power, Mr. Putin called
for legislation to end the popular election of regional governors
and voting in parliamentary districts in favor of slates selected
by national party leaders, who are more likely to bend to presidential
These chilling proposals have no obvious
relevance to the terrorist attacks. By exploiting the nation's grief,
they merely advance Mr. Putin's antidemocratic agenda. Well
before this crisis began, he had moved to suppress the media, marginalize
opposition parties and bring crushing legal charges against business
leaders who challenged his dominance. The answer to Russia's problems,
including corruption and terrorism, is more democracy, not less.
Independent voices can spotlight issues that leaders prefer to keep
quiet and pressure officials to perform their jobs more effectively.
A country as huge and complex as Russia cannot be run efficiently
or accountably by Kremlin nominees.
It has been clear to Russians for some time that all real power
flows from Mr. Putin. That is why so much of the public outrage
since the slaughter at the Beslan middle school has been directed
at him. Over the years, Mr. Putin has made all the other institutions
answerable to him in the name of reasserting order. Yet at Beslan
there was no order, only the chaos of dysfunctional institutions:
government officials who spouted misinformation, armed checkpoints
that failed to check anyone, border protection forces that failed
to seal borders, elite Army rescue units unable to rescue victims.
Many of the most damaging failures were at the federal level, where
Mr. Putin's responsibility is already supreme.
Mr. Putin is also responsible for Russia's stubborn refusal to
deal with the political dimensions of Chechen separatism, as if
punishing military offensives, puppet governments and fraudulent
elections could somehow make the problem go away. Predictably, it
did not go away. It got worse. Today it is just as easy to see that
further narrowing the scope of Russian democracy will not solve
Russia's real problems. But like all cornered autocrats, Mr. Putin
finds scapegoating easier than change.
Last week, I blogged about some of Vice President
Cheney's more memorable quotes. Now, the Vice President
has given us another incredible quote, even hotter and more controversial
than previous offerings. And today, when I called Republicans on
capitol hill to read them the quote, several of them suggested,
"he (Cheney) couldn't possibly have said that."
Well, we've double checked the transcripts... and he did.
Talking about European nations and the war on terror, Cheney said,
and I quote: "I think some have
hoped that if they kept their heads down and stayed out of the line
of fire, they wouldn't get hit. I think what happened in Russia
now demonstrates pretty conclusively that everybody is a target.
That Russia, of course, didn't support us in Iraq, they didn't get
involved in sending troops there, they've gotten hit anyway."
The first two sentences are not the issue... it's the third sentence
-- the idea that if Russia had only supported us in Iraq, had only
sent troops there, they wouldn't have gotten hit. That is
insane. Russia got hit because of their conflict in Chechnya.
It had nothing to do with whether they did or did not send troops
to Iraq. Every Republican I've spoken with today has expressed
"displeasure" at the vice president's remarks
Furthermore, most of them are feeling awfully "queasy"
about Mr. Cheney using the murder of hundreds of children in Russia
to make an argument about U.S. involvement in Iraq.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin
ordered sweeping changes to Russia's political system on Monday
to help combat terrorism, but immediately
drew accusations of exploiting this month's bloody school siege
to boost his power.
The Kremlin leader, speaking in the wake of the hostage crisis
in Beslan, told top officials he wanted a
new election law to limit the number of political parties and to
have full control over nominating regional leaders.
Putin, 51, said the changes were vital to boost state authority
after the Beslan tragedy, in which children made up half of the
hostages killed when Chechen rebels raided their school in southern
"The fight against terrorism should become a national task,"
Putin told ministers and governors from Russia's 89 regions.
The president later issued a decree giving the government two
weeks to draft proposals to deal with emergencies and a month to
prepare "appropriate measures on foreseeing and preventing
terrorism in any form."
It called for proposals to improve the work of security forces,
whose performance in Beslan has been widely criticized, and to toughen
controls on issuing visas and entering Russia.
Critics said Putin's proposed changes were further
proof that the former KGB spy, who has muzzled major independent
media and turned parliament and government into rubber stamps of
Kremlin policy, was rolling back post-Soviet democracy.
"The last link in the system of checks
and balances, which has prevented an excessive concentration of
power in one pair of hands, is being abolished," the
opposition party Yabloko said in a statement.
Putin, re-elected to the Kremlin by a landslide in March, said
reform was required in view of the threat from terrorism.
KABUL (AFP) - An Afghan court sentenced three
Americans to between eight and 10 years in prison for illegally
running a private jail and torturing suspects in a "private
war on terror".
Co-defendant Edward Caraballo, 42, who claimed to be a freelance
journalist making a documentary on their activities, was handed
an eight-year sentence by the special tribunal in Kabul which has
been hearing the case since mid-August.
The trio were arrested in July for allegedly running a private
prison and counter-terrorism operation in west Kabul and jailing
and torturing at least eight Afghans as part of a "private
war on terror".
Their four Afghan accomplices were sentenced to between one and
five years in prison.
Idema has claimed that he was carrying out genuine
anti-terrorist operations in coordination with the US Defense Department
and Afghan authorities, a claim denied by both governments.
Comment: Well, sure he was!
It was Papa Bush who used mercenaries in Gulf War I, and Junior
was just following his lead. The US government has acknowledged
the use of hired militants - they just don't call them mercenaries,
instead preferring the term "private security contractors".
"I apologize that we saved these people," said Idema,
wearing his beige military-style uniform with a US flag on one sleeve.
"We should have left the f...ing Taliban murder every goddam
one of them - I operated in this country at the highest level,"
he said before being escorted off by men armed with assault rifles.
Lawyers for the Americans immediately said they would appeal.
"I don't know how the appeal is going to play out. We are
in the midst of two different elections, the United States government
as well as the Afghan government," said Idema's attorney John
The Americans "don't want to acknowledge
what they are doing in Afghanistan, perhaps the same way they did
not want to acknowledge what they were doing in Abu Ghraib,"
said Caraballo's lawyer, Robert Fogelnest, referring to the infamous
Iraqi jail where prisoners were abused by US soldiers.
In passing sentence, Judge Abdulbasset Bakhtiari said "they
don't have any connection with the American forces and described
them as a "private group" of "inexperienced people."
International peacekeeping troops deployed in Afghanistan have
confirmed that they assisted Idema on three separate raids, presuming
him to be a member of the US special forces.
The group led by Idema, whom US media described
as a bounty hunter, had also handed over a suspected terrorist to
the US-led coalition in Afghanistan. The man was later released.
The case has illuminated the shadowy world of private security
contractors in Afghanistan and strengthened calls by rights groups
for the US-led military to open its detention centers to independent
The trial had been marked by chaotic scenes and was adjourned several
times, on one occasion last month when the US Federal Bureau of
Investigation handed over key documents to the defence part-way
through a hearing.
The final day in court was marked by the viewing
of tapes presented by defence as proving the group had taken "terrorists"
in for questioning and had links with the Pentagon.
One tape showed the searching of the house of an Afghan supreme
court judge, who was questioned by the group in June. A flag was
shown of the Hezb-i-Islami group of Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar,
whom Washington has declared a wanted terrorist.
On the tape, Idema is accompanied by Afghan police.
Other extracts showed Idema on the telephone.
According to him, one of the speakers, whose voice was not easily
audible in the court room, was a US defence department official.
For its part, the prosecution presented little
in the way of evidence, limiting itself to stating its accusations,
some of which were drawn from newspapers.
One of Idema's victims, respected supreme court
judge Mohammed Sidiq, did not hesitate during the court hearings
to interrupt proceedings to talk with the judge and prosecutor,
while guards brought him tea.
The Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation is designing a
combined lethal and nonlethal weapons system to be fielded to Army
and Marine Corps units in Iraq by summer, 2005, in an experiment called
The concept is to retrofit ground
vehicles already in the services’ inventories with an array
of new lethal and nonlethal systems, giving troops working in urban
terrain more options, especially when deciding how to deal with
potential noncombatants or civilians being used as shields, said
program director and transformation strategist Col. Wade Hall, a
23-year veteran of the Marine Corps.
Like a sheriff, Hall says.
“He’s not there to cause destruction. He’s there
to keep the peace, but has the option to go to destruction status
if he needs it,” Hall said.
The Pentagon hopes to launch the system in Iraq in June or July,
equipping four to six Army and Marine Corps vehicles with a combination
of off-the-shelf technology and systems being developed.
Vehicles under consideration include the Army’s new Stryker
armored personnel carrier or the Armored Security Vehicle, or ASV,
and the Marine Corps’ Light Armored Vehicle, or LAV, already
proven to work well in cities, said Hall.
A goal of the Office of Force Transformation is to cut through
the years and years it used to take the department to introduce
a new system, he said, while assuring that the technology employed
is well-studied and the office is not sacrificing safety for the
sake of speed.
Designers see the systems being used for missions such as armed
reconnaissance, raids, crowd control, security patrol and vehicle
While no decisions have been made on which systems will be used,
managers have narrowed the field to a few for consideration, Hall
Among them is Raytheon Company’s nonlethal Active Denial
System, a counter-personnel directed energy weapon that projects
a speed-of-light millimeter wave of energy that makes skin feel
like it’s on fire.
According to studies done by the Air Force Research Laboratory,
which developed the technology in a joint effort with the Marine
Corps and Raytheon, the invisible beam penetrates the skin to a
depth of less than 1/64 of an inch and produces heat that within
seconds becomes intolerable, said lab spokeswoman Eva Hendren.
The sensation stops when the individual moves out of the beam.
The beam does not cause injury because its penetration is so shallow,
Vehicles also could be equipped with high-powered lights to aid
in searches, and an acoustics system such as the Long Range Acoustic
Device, or LRAD, a high-powered bullhorn of sorts that emits an
Marines in Iraq already are using the LRAD system. No decision
on LRAD has been made, but the office has no alternative if it is
not picked, Hall said. Critics of the LRAD system have said the
ear-piercing noise could cause permanent damage and deafness. He
said the military still is conducting studies.
The lethal portion of the projects includes a mounted rapid-fire
gun that will be able to carry a diversity of medium- and small-caliber
machine guns at a high rate of fire. The system under consideration
is called Gunslinger and is under development at the Naval Surface
Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va.
An Active Protection System would place an array of sensors that
could deploy decoys and detect chemical or biological agents.
While the Pentagon is taking the lead in developing Project Sheriff,
other agencies interested in the experiment’s progress include
the Justice, Energy, and State departments and the FBI, Hall said.
In 1935, Sinclair Lewis penned the cautionary
tale, It Can’t Happen Here, chronicling the fictional rise
of Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip, who becomes President against
the protests of Franklin D. Roosevelt and America’s saner
A charismatic Senator who claims to champion the common man, Windrip
is in the pocket of big business (i.e. Corpos), is favored by religious
extremists, and though he talks of freedom and prosperity for all,
he eventually becomes the ultimate crony capitalist. Boosted by
Hearst newspapers (the FOX News of its day), he neuters both Congress
and the Supreme Court, before stripping people of their liberties
and installing a fascist dictatorship.
One might argue, of course, that since It Can’t Happen Here
was written nearly seven decades ago and America has yet to succumb
to fascism, the book is the product of a novelist's runaway imagination,
with an interesting yet less than probable theme. But
then again, the same might have been said of George Orwell's 1984,
before most realized that the book is brilliantly prescient -- and
merely off by a couple decades.
Like 1984's warnings about perpetual war,
doublespeak and Big Brother, It Can’t Happen Here describes
conditions for totalitarianism that exist to this day. There
is the usual ignorance and apathy ("most of the easy-going
descendants of the wise-cracking Benjamin Franklin had not learned
that Patrick Henry’s ‘Give me liberty or give me death’
meant anything more than a high school yell or a cigarette slogan.");
blind faith in American exceptionalism ("Everyone, including
Doremus Jessup, had said in 1935, "If there ever is a Fascist
dictatorship here, American humor and pioneer independence are so
marked that it will be absolutely different from anything in Europe.
. .All that was gone, within a year after the inauguration, and
surprised scientists discovered that whips and handcuffs hurt just
as sorely in the clear American air as in miasmic fogs of Prussia.");
and a sense of the surreal ("It’s not that he was afraid
of the authorities. He simply could not believe that this comic
tyranny could endure. It can’t happen here, said even Doremus
– even now.").
During last spring’s Dixie Chick fiasco, columnist Paul
Krugman drew parallels between Sinclair Lewis’ book burnings
and modern CD smashings. "One of the most striking [vehement
pro-war rallies] took place after Natalie Maines, lead singer for
the Dixie Chicks, criticized President Bush; a crowd gathered in
Louisiana to watch a 33,000-pound tractor smash a collection of
Dixie Chicks CD's, tapes and other paraphernalia," Krugman
explained. "To those familiar with 20th-century European history
it seemed eerily reminiscent of. . . . But as Sinclair Lewis said,
it can't happen here."
And certainly, the hatred towards treasonous "anti-Buzz"
factions could readily be applied to those who believe being "anti-Bush"
is somehow anti-American. "Antibuzz. . . was to be used extensively
by lady patriots as a term expressing such vicious disloyalty to
the State as might call for a firing squad." Lewis wrote. "Today,
at the same time young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq
and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart
and made weaker because of a Democrat's manic obsession to bring
down our commander in chief," Zell Miller ranted -- though
in saner times, a "manic obsession to bring down our commander
in chief" was called a "presidential election."
(For more on Mr. Miller and American fascism, Google "Zell
And though It Can’t Happen Here is out of print, and surprisingly
hard to find, selected quotes remind us that despite its 1935 publication
date and antiquated references, the book remains far too relevant:
• "The D.A.R. [Daughters of the American Revolution].
. . is composed of females who spend one half their waking hours
boasting of being descended from the seditious American colonists
of 1776, and the other more ardent half in attacking all contemporaries
who believe in precisely the principles for which such ancestors
struggled." – page 5
• "Senator Windrip has got an excellent chance to be
elected President, next November, and if he is, probably his gang
of buzzards will get us into some war, just to grease their insane
vanity and show the world that we’re the huskiest nation going."
– page 20
• "Remember our war hysteria, when we called sauerkraut
‘Liberty cabbage’ and somebody actually proposed calling
German measles, ‘Liberty measles?’And wartime censorship
of honest papers?. . . Remember when the hick legislators in certain
states, in obedience to William Jennings Bryan, who learned his
biology from his pious old grandma, set up shop as scientific experts
and made the whole world laugh itself sick by forbidding the teaching
of evolution?" -- page 21
• "[T]he Saturday Evening Post enraged the small shopkeepers
by calling Windrip a demagogue, and the New York Times, once Independent
Democrat, was anti-Windrip. But most of the religious periodicals
announced that with a saint like Bishop Prang for backer, Windrip
must have been called of God." -- page 96
• "For the first time in America, except during the
Civil War and the World War, people were afraid to say whatever
came to their tongues." – page 263
• "December tenth was the birthday of Berzelius Windrip,
though in his earlier days as a politician, before he fruitfully
realized that lies sometimes get printed and unjustly remembered
against you, he had been wont to tell the world that his birthday
was on December twenty-fifth, like one whom he admitted to be an
even greater leader. . ." - page 260
• "The newspapers everywhere might no longer be so
wishily-washily liberal as to print the opinions of non-Corpos;
they might give but little news from those old-fashioned and democratic
countries, Great Britain, France and the Scandinavian states, might
indeed print almost no foreign news, except as regards the triumph
of Italy giving Ethiopia good roads, trains on time, freedom from
beggars and from men of honor, and all the other spiritual benefactions
of Roman civilization." -- Page 342
• "But he saw now that he must remain alone, a "Liberal"
scorned by all the nosier prophets for refusing to be a willing
cat for the busy monkeys of either side. . . 'More and more, as
I think about history,' he pondered, 'I am convinced that everything
that is worth while in the world had been accomplished by the free
inquiring critical spirit and the that preservation of this spirit
is more important than any social system whatsoever. But the men
of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the
men of science and of silencing them forever.'" – page
America is haunted by past sins, to be sure, and Sinclair Lewis
craftily presents a series of them as a primer for what the "land
of the free" is capable of. "Why, there’s no country
in the world that can get more hysterical—yes, or more obsequious!—than
America. Look how Huey Long became absolute monarch over Louisiana.
. . Listen to Bishop Prang and Father Coughlin on the radio—divine
oracles, to millions. Remember how casually most Americans have
accepted Tammany grafting and Chicago gangs and the crookedness
of so many of President Harding’s appointees?. . . Remember
the Kuklux Klan?. . . Remember our Red scares and our Catholic scares.
. .and the Republicans campaigning against Al Smith told the Carolina
mountaineers that if Al won the Pope would illegitimatize their
children?. . .Remember how trainloads of people have gone to enjoy
lynchings? Not happen here? Prohibition—shooting down people
just because they MIGHT be transporting liquor—no, that couldn’t
happen in AMERICA! Where in all history has
there ever been a people so ripe for a dictatorship as ours!"
Yes, the mindset that allowed for slavery and lynchings and the
Scopes monkey trial still produces an unsettling undercurrent, while
radioland demagoguery, crooked Presidential appointees and dishonest
and prejudicial Carolina political smears are hardly things of the
Meanwhile, like "the hick legislators" Lewis described
nearly 70 years ago, the President of the United States advocates
teaching Creationism in public schools and putting the kibosh on
real science. Just as President Windrip told people he was born
on Christmas "like one whom he admitted to be an even greater
leader," George Bush dubbed Jesus Christ his favorite philosopher.
And while all of Lewis' "Corpo Universities were to have the
same curriculum," Mrs. Dick Cheney and stealth Bush appointee
Daniel Pipes actually made "lists" of academics straying
from acceptable parameters of thought.
And it was just three short years ago, you might recall, that
voting one's conscience, speaking one's mind or criticizing G.W.
Bush (regardless how truthful and pointed the criticism), was enough
to get a person fired or bombarded with death threats.
At the start of our recent weirdness, Dave Weissbard, of the Universalist
Unitarian Church in Rockville, IL studied It Can't Happen Here alongside
They Thought They Were Free (Milton Mayer's nonfiction account of
Germans' perceptions during the Third Reich's reign) and related
the themes to contemporary America.
"Sinclair Lewis used racism and jealousy of privilege as
his motivators for the election of a demagogue. I believe it takes
more," he said. "It takes a patriotic frenzy constructed
on fear and on feelings of superiority. That’s why I have
combined Lewis' novel with Mayer’s nonfictional analysis of
the coming of dictatorship. The combination of those two with the
current news causes me some terror."
Chronicling a now familiar list of liberties surrendered and endangered,
along with increased government secrecy and belligerent nationalism,
Weissbard concluded: "The problem, of course, is not in Washington
in the hands of two or three. The problem is in America where there
are people who are frightened and who have a loose commitment to
And so it goes.
On Sunday, the St. Petersburg Times ran an Op-ed entitled, "Americans
in danger are vulnerable to dictatorship," describing the frighteningly
simple conventional wisdom the country now seems to embrace. "The
'man on horseback' mentality, the belief that a leader's strength
is more important than where it leads them, defines a population
that is vulnerable to dictatorship," Martin Dyckman wrote,
before adding (else someone jump down his throat) a disclaimer.
"This is not to call Bush a dictator or suggest that he wants
to be one." (Never mind Bush's thrice-repeated joke about wishing
it were so).
"But let no one believe that it couldn't happen here, as
has happened so often elsewhere," Dyckman concluded, echoing
Lewis' ageless theme.
Of course, now that two wars and two Presidential campaigns are
underway, attention has been diverted. But the unease that rippled
from post-9/11 aftershocks continues. It's just different now. Somehow.
"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of
decreasing as time goes on, it grows," one of Mayor's subjects
confided. "You speak privately to you colleagues, some of whom
certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, "It's
not so bad" or "You're seeing things" or "You're
And it's not so bad. For the moment. Or at least until after the
election and the return of the draft or until after the next major
attack and the triumph of fear over liberty. After all, mainstream
papers are free to discuss Americans' vulnerability to dictatorship,
while citizens are still permitted to read 70-year-old novels describing
conditions that are eerily familiar.
But, still. . .
"Thus had things gone in Germany, exactly thus in Soviet
Russia, in Italy and Hungary and Poland, Spain and Cuba and Japan
and China. Not very different had it been under the blessings of
liberty and fraternity in the French Revolution. All dictators followed
the same routine of torture, as if they had all read the same manual
of sadistic etiquette," Lewis wrote, long before anyone heard
of Abu Ghraib.
Could it happen here? Looking at the past four years, from the
bizarre election to the shadow government to secret detentions and
pre-planned wars, doesn't it seem naive to think we're immune?
The high price of prescription drugs has put
-- and kept -- U.S. pharmaceutical companies in the news recently,
but Dr. Marcia Angell argues that problems with the industry run
even deeper. In her new book, The Truth About Drug Companies: How
They Deceive Us and What to Do About It (reviewed in the current
issue of Mother Jones), the former editor of the New England Journal
of Medicine contends that the industry has become a marketing machine
that produces few innovative drugs and is dependent on monopoly
rights and public-sponsored research.
Angell disputes the industry’s reputation
as an “engine of innovation,” arguing that the top U.S.
drug makers spend 2.5 times as much on marketing and administration
as they do on research. At least a third of the drugs marketed by
industry leaders were discovered by universities or small biotech
companies, writes Angell, but they’re sold to the public at
inflated prices. She cites Taxol, the cancer drug discovered
by the National Institutes of Health, but sold by Bristol-Myers
Squibb for $20,000 a year, reportedly 20 times the manufacturing
cost. The company agreed to pay the NIH only 0.5 percent in royalties
for the drug.
The majority of the new products the industry puts out, says Angell,
are “me-too” drugs, which are almost identical to current
treatments but “no better than drugs already on the market
to treat the same condition.”
Around 75 percent of new drugs approved by
the FDA are me-too drugs. They can be less effective than current
drugs, but as long as they’re more effective than a placebo,
they can get the regulatory green light.
Finally, Angell attacks major pharmaceutical industry -- whose
top ten companies make more in profits than the rest of the Fortune
500 combined -- for using “free market” rhetoric while
opposing competition at all costs. She discusses Prilosec maker
Astra-Zeneca, which filed multiple lawsuits against generic drug
makers to prevent them from entering the market when the company’s
exclusive marketing rights expired. The company “obtained
a patent on the idea of combining Prilosec with antibiotics, then
argued that a generic drug would infringe on that patent because
doctors might prescribe it with an antibiotic.”
Angell, who is a doctor and a lecturer at Harvard Medical School,
wants to see the industry reformed. She recently sat down with MotherJones.com
to talk about how to “ensure that we have access to good drugs
at reasonable prices and that the reality of this industry is finally
brought into line with its rhetoric.” [...]
TOKYO (AP) - Japan has confirmed a 12th case
of mad cow disease, an official said Monday - the third case of
the brain-wasting illness in the country this year.
The five-year-old dairy cow tested positive for the disease formally
known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, on Friday at
a slaughterhouse in Shisui town, in southern Kumamoto prefecture,
about 900 kilometres southwest of Tokyo, prefectural spokesman official
Toshinori Takano said.
More precise tests at a state-run infectious disease research
institute confirmed the finding Monday, Takano said.
The animal's meat and organs had not gone on the market, and its
carcass will be incinerated, he said.
Officials at the agriculture and health ministries said they didn't
know how many other dairy cows were at the farm where the infected
animal came from. [...]
(CP) - New antibiotic-resistant pathogens,
airborne mercury and urban sprawl are threatening the health of
the Great Lakes and millions of people who live around the bodies
of fresh water, a report to the Canadian and U.S. governments concludes.
While there has been a general improvement in water quality over
the past 30 years, the International Joint Commission report released
Monday warns new and emerging threats require urgent attention.
"Without adequate safeguards, our health can be threatened
by pathogens and disease-bearing micro-organisms," the report
"The governments must focus increased attention on protecting
the sources of drinking water supplies."
Dennis Schornack, American co-chairman of the commission, said
the frequent use of antibiotics in livestock and humans is causing
Bacteria can develop immunity to the drugs, then end up in drinking
water and cause illness, he said.
"We've got to become better at monitoring pathogens in the
water and examine whether the waste-water treatment plants that
we have in place are successfully killing the organisms," Schornack
Herb Gray, the commission's Canadian co-chairman, said the best
way to tackle the problem is to curb the use of antibiotics.
The biennial report recommends better management of watersheds
to mitigate the impact of agriculture, development, industry and
urbanization - a daunting task.
"There are a large number of problems still to be dealt with,"
"(They) are large-scale. They'll require large amounts of
money over an extended period of time."
Another threat identified in the report is airborne methyl-mercury,
which ends up in the water. Most comes from regional coal-fired
power generators, but some comes from as far as China.
Other chemicals, such as fire retardants commonly used for furniture,
are posing new threats.
"Chemical contamination continues to endanger human health
and restricts the number of fish we can safely eat," Gray said.
Another area of concern is the ongoing problem posed by alien
species brought in by the ballast water of foreign ships.
Currently, about one new invasive species takes hold every eight
While there have been some successes in controlling their proliferation,
none have ever been eradicated.
Still, Schornack said he believes overall water quality in the
lakes has improved in recent decades.
As an example, he noted Lake Erie is now far healthier than it
was 30 years ago.
However, the emergence of unexplained dead zones in the lake has
raised new worries.
"We're very concerned about Lake Erie, not only for Lake
Erie itself but for what it could be a harbinger of for the other
lakes," Gray said. [...]
NEW YORK, Sept. 13 (Xinhuanet) --Crude oil
rose on Monday in New York as market concerned that the approach
of Hurricane Ivan woulddisrupt production and tankers shipments
in the Gulf of Mexico.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil for October delivery
rose 1.06 dollars to close at 43.87 dollars a barrel. Meanwhile,
the October Brent crude-oil futures contract climbed 86cents to
settle at 41.06 dollars a barrel at London's International Petroleum
On Monday, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Hurricane
Ivan's maximum sustained winds were close to 160 mph (257 kph).
The expected path of the storm had been moving west the past three
days, approaching oil-producing area in the Gulf of Mexico, where
a quarter of US oil and natural gas was pumped. States along the
Gulf also received more than half of US oil imports and were home
to 50 percent of the nation's refining capacity.
Royal Dutch/Shell Group said it planned to evacuate 750 workersfrom
the Gulf of Mexico, which would idle 272,000 barrels of dailyoil
output. ChevronTexaco Corp. and Newfield Exploration Co. had also
ceased some production. Other companies, including BP PLC andAnadarko
Petroleum Corp., had evacuated employees.
Analysts noted that oil tankers had been delayed as a result ofthe
rough weather and that some refineries had shut down as a precaution.
The damage induced by Hurricane Ivan would show up in the government's
weekly oil-supply report due on Wednesday.
| JAKARTA, Sept. 15 (Xinhuanet)--
A strong earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale rocked the
Lombok island in the eastern part of Indonesia at around 4:35 pm (local
time) on Wednesday.
The chief of the meteorology and geophysics agency in Denpasar,
Bali, Budi Sunarso told the national news agency ANTARA that the
epicenter of the earthquake was around 80 kilometers deep and about
seven kilometers west of Denpasar, the provincial city of Bali.
The tremor felt in Bali, the neighboring island and just west
of the Lombok.
There had been no reports of damages or casualties up to 18:00
pm on the same day.
A magnitude 4.1 earthquake hit
the region of Ain-Defla, 150 km southwest of Algiers on Monday.
BALI, Indonesia, Sept 15 (Reuters)
- A powerful earthquake rocked Indonesia's premier tourist island
of Bali on Wednesday, killing one person, injuring at least two
and triggering some panic, officials said.
The Meteorological and Geophysics Agency in Jakarta said the earthquake
measured 5.5 on the Richter scale. Officials said the epicentre
was near Denpasar, the island's capital.
"People rushed out of their homes, they panicked. The quake
was very strong and lasted a long time," said Jumadi, head
of the geophysics agency in Denpasar.
He said there had been no reports of any serious damage.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology
and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Wednesday said the alert level 2 on
Mayon Volcano stays as it showed signs of moderate volcanic unrest.
Phivolcs advised the public to strictly observe the 6-kilometer
radius "permanent danger zone," especially within the
southeast sector where volcanic flows, falling and rolling debris
may be triggered by sudden explosions.
An advisory sent to abs-cbnNEWS.com noted that "five low-frequency
volcanic earthquakes and four low-frequency short duration harmonic
tremors were recorded" in the past 24-hour period. It also
said there was an intensity 1 glow in the crater and moderate steaming
| Lava continues to flow from Mount
Etna in Sicily after an eruption that could be seen from miles away.
The eruption sent chunks of lava from a fracture in the mountain
into the air.
The flow is not near any of the residents surrounding the volcano
and was not posing any threat.
TOKYO, Sept. 15 (Xinhuanet)
-- Mt. Asama, a 2,568-meter volcano in east Japan, had five small
eruptions Wednesday following eruptions on Tuesday and Sept. 1,
the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
The volcano had three minor eruptions shortly before noon -- 11:53,
11:56 and 11:58 a.m. (0253, 0256, 0258 GMT), billowing smoke about
1,500 meters high, according to the agency.
The volcano, straddling Gunma and Nagano prefectures, also had
two minor eruptions around 1:05 and 4:50 a.m. (1605, 1950 GMT).
Small amounts of ash were observed.
Mt. Asama is located about 150 km northwest of Tokyo. Its Sept.1
eruption, the first such scale since April 1983, caused forest fires.
No one was injured.
NEW ORLEANS - Some beach towns were deserted
Wednesday and highways leading to higher ground were jammed as Hurricane
Ivan roared toward the Gulf Coast with 140 mph.
Nearly 200 miles wide, Ivan could cause significant damage no matter
where it strikes, as hurricane-force wind extended up to 105 miles
out from the center. Hurricane warnings were posted along a 300-mile
stretch from Grand Isle, La., across coastal Mississippi and Alabama
to Apalachicola, Fla.
"We're leaving today. All this is going under," said
a surfer Chuck Myers who was only taking pictures of the waves Wednesday
morning at Gulf Shores. "We surfed it all day yesterday. It
"This is a bad one and people need to get out," Mobile,
Ala., Mayor Mike Dow said Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning
FLORENCE, Miss. - Fleeing northward from Hurricane
Ivan, Angela Zimmerman and her mother and son, evacuees from Mobile,
Ala., spent the night in their minivan somewhere in the woods of
south Mississippi, then awoke early Wednesday and formed a prayer
"God's going to protect us. We prayed this morning before
we left, so we know that's taken care of," Zimmerman, 33, said
at a gas station about 20 miles south of Jackson.
Northbound U.S. 49 between the Mississippi
Gulf Coast and Jackson was bumper-to-bumper Wednesday with people
who had fled coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and
the Florida Panhandle. Hotels were booked solid as far north as
Memphis, Tenn., nearly 325 miles northwest of Mobile. [...]
NEW ORLEANS - The worst-case scenario for
New Orleans — a direct strike by a full-strength Hurricane
Ivan — could submerge much of this historic city treetop-deep
in a stew of sewage, industrial chemicals and fire ants, and the
inundation could last for weeks, experts say.
If the storm were strong enough, Ivan could drive water over the
tops of the levees that protect the city from the Mississippi River
and vast Lake Pontchartrain. And with the city sitting in a saucer-shaped
depression that dips as much as 9 feet below sea level, there would
be nowhere for all that water to drain.
Even in the best of times, New Orleans depends on a network of
canals and huge pumps to keep water from accumulating inside the
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Tropical Storm Jeanne,
nearing hurricane strength, slammed into Puerto Rico on Wednesday
as rivers rose, roads flowed with torrents of water and frantic
residents evacuated low-lying areas.
Lashing rains and wind blew plants off terraces and felled trees
as the storm's eye made landfall on the southeastern tip of the
island Wednesday afternoon.
"The biggest concern for Puerto Rico is flashflooding and
mudslides," said Hector Guerrero, a meteorologist at the National
Hurricane Center in Miami.
Streets in the tourist hub of colonial Old San Juan were deserted
and most flights had been canceled. The largest mall in the Caribbean
— Plaza las Americas — was also shut and Gov. Sila Calderon
prohibited alcohol sales for the day to keep citizens alert.
The storm's projected path had it potentially
reaching hurricane-weary Florida, Georgia and South Carolina either
Sunday or Monday. [...]
MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Western Mexico was pounded
by heavy rain and strong winds from the outer reaches of Hurricane
Javier, a powerful Category Four system, as the storm hurtling
north across the Pacific Ocean.
At 1400 GMT, Javier was some 375 kilometers south-southwest of
Manzanillo, a port town in the state of Jalisco, moving at seven
kilometers (four miles) per hour with winds of 230 kph (143 mph)
and gusts of 285 kph (177 mph), Mexico's Meteorological Service
"The hurricane is causing rain in Jalisco and the states of
Colima and Nayarit, but, in its current course, it is not expected
to reach land in the next hours," SMN meteorologist Sonia Castellon
Authorities have urged residents in Pacific states to follow news
on the storm's path, since hurricanes are "always unpredictable,"
Castellon said. [...]
BANGKOK (AFP) - Flash floods have killed two
people in northern Thailand, leaving thousands either stranded or
forced to abandon their homes, media reported, as the capital braced
for potential flooding.
Torrential rain in northeastern Chiang Rai province claimed the
lives of a 45-year old policeman and 78-year-old farmer Tuesday,
and forced more than a dozen villages to be evacuated and some schools
closed, said the Nation newspaper.
The daily said flooding had also forced the evacuation of homes
in Chiang Mai and Ubon Ratchathani provinces, and Bangkok officials
have set up a flood operations centre amid concern that parts of
the nation's capital could also be submerged by the deluge.
Forecasters have predicted some of the heaviest
rainfall for Thailand in recorded history with flooding already
having affected more than half a million people in the past few
Adverse weather conditions have caused widespread flooding in much
of East and South Asia since June, the World Meteorological Organization
(WMO) reported last month.
Among the countries worst hit are Bangladesh, where hundreds have
died, China, India, Japan, both Koreas, Nepal, the Philippines and
The WMO said a combination of factors including
abnormal monsoons and tropical cyclones were behind the problems.
BEIJING, Sept. 13 (Xinhuanet) -- Experts attending
the International Symposium on Sand and Dust Storms (SDS) noted
here Monday that the developing trend of the storms is not optimistic,
and that they are likely to affect more places in the world.
Beijing has been tortured by horrible sand and dust storms since
1999. However, the spring was much cleaner and windless in 2003,
and many optimistically thought that the terrible weather phenomenon
would disappear from the capital.
The holders of this opinion may be discouraged by Dr. Tan Jiqing,
Director of the Institution of Meteorological Information and Prediction
of Disaster Events attached to Zhejiang University, who said analysis
and computation on the sand and dust storms should integrate all
factors -- including sand content, area coverage and destruction
-- not simply count occurrences.
Tan added that sand and dust storm often ebb after several strong
years, and last year might have been an example of that.
The severe situation in the northern and northwestern parts of
China this year shows the problem is still there, said the expert.
Actually, sand and dust storms are influencing an increasing number
of places on the globe year by year, said Tan after his research
on the long-term observation results. [...]
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