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©2004 Pierre-Paul Feyte

An Interview with Dov Weisglass, Sharon's Lawyer
He Talks to Condi Rice Every Day

October 11, 2004

[...] So that over the years the rural commander developed a growing dependence on his Tel Aviv lawyer who became a personal advocate, a family advocate, a policy advocate. The advocate who for the past 30 months has represented Ariel Sharon vis-a-vis the American mega-authority, the advocate who in the past 30 months, in his official capacity as a senior adviser to the Prime Minister , has almost single-handedly conducted the delicate relationship between the White House and Sycamore Ranch. Which is to say, between the United States of America and the State of Israel.

Is it Dov Weisglass who brought about Sharon's reversal of policy? Is he the eminence grise who imposed on the emperor of the settlements the decision to evacuate settlements? The settlers themselves are convinced that he is. They are certain that Weisglass is a devious Rasputin who found some dark way to make the czar do things that the czar himself, by himself, would never do.

However, Weisglass himself shrugs off these contentions. He doesn't deny that he supported the disengagement from the start. He doesn't hide the fact that he placed the facts on Sharon's desk. The political problem, the economic problem, the problem of refusenik soldiers. And he made it clear to the boss that the international community will never let up. That the Americans will not be able to support us for all time. But in the end I wasn't the one who made the decision, Weisglass says. The prime minister made the decision. While he, the bureau chief, was simply there at his side. He, the faithful advocate, simply sat with his client in the room throughout the entire process.

Weisglass was born in October 1946, in Tel Aviv. He grew up and was educated in 1950s Ramat Gan, in a family that moved quickly from poverty to affluence. At age 19, draft age, he was already studying law. At age 24, he was working in the Moritz-Margolis law firm. Thirteen years later he (along with his partner, Ami Almagor) bought the practice from its founders and made it one of the country's leading law firms. In 1980 he represented Yitzhak Rabin against the French magazine L'Express. In 1983 he represented Sharon against the Kahan Commission of Inquiry, which investigated the Sabra-Chatila massacre. In 1985-86 he represented Sharon in his suit against Time magazine (Sharon sued the magazine over a report implicating him in the massacre). At first he specialized in representing security personnel who testified before commissions of inquiry (Yossi Ginossar, Shaul Mofaz, Hezi Callo, Alik Ron). He then also specialized in representing ministerial directors-general accused of corruption (Shimon Sheves, Moshe Leon, Avigdor Lieberman). Also among his clients: Ehud Yatom, Rafi Eitan and Avigdor Kahalani. And the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad espionage agency. Not to mention the kibbutz movement.

Weisglass's critics claim he is not a distinguished lawyer, that he's messy, superficial, shoots from the hip, lacks an aura of dignity, is without a moral center of gravity. Others, though, note his common sense, his humane understanding. And no one doubts his ability to charm people he considers important. Or his ability to conclude a deal, tie up loose ends, make the right call to the right person. Because the lawyer with a thousand hats is not only a very cordial fellow, he is also very well-connected, across the length and breadth of the Israeli establishment.

We begin our conversation at a Tel Aviv cafe and then go on to his run-down office on Lilienblum Street. Dressed in gray trousers and a white shirt topped by a shiny bald pate, he looks older than his age. Quickly, though, he floods me with his historical knowledge and musical education. He is in total control, and one can accept that or not, but it can't be ignored, because it is now shaping the reality we are living.

Daily call to Rice

Tell me about Condoleezza Rice. What sort of woman is she?

"She is an amazing woman. Intelligent, smart, very fair. Both educated and extraordinarily pleasant. But beneath that deep courtesy and culture, she can also be very firm. She can be decisive."

Does she ever raise her voice at you, yell at you?

"What do you mean, raise her voice? I'm older than she is, you know. The Americans don't talk like we do here."

Tell me about the dynamics of the relationship between you, and whether it's an unusual relationship.

"I am in ongoing and continuous contact with Rice. In complex times it could be every day, by phone. In less complex times it's a phone call a week. On average, I meet with her once a month. Since May 2002 I have met with her more than 20 times. And every meeting is a meeting. The shortest one was an hour and a half."

What does she call you?


What do you call her?


And how does it work between you?

"The channel between Rice and me has two main purposes. One is to advance processes that are initiated, to examine our ideas and their ideas. The road map, for example, or the disengagement plan. But there is an equally important function, which is troubleshooting. If something happens - an unusual military operation, a hitch, a targeted assassination that succeeded or one that didn't succeed - before it becomes an imbroglio, she calls me and says, `We saw so-and-so on CNN. What's going on?' And I say, `Condy, the usual 10 minutes?' She laughs and we hang up. Ten minutes later, after I find out what happened, I get back to her and tell her the whole truth. The whole truth. I tell her and she takes it down: this is what we intended, this is how it came out. She doesn't get worked up. She believes us. The continuation is damage control."

Rice looks like a tough cookie. Can you really talk to her freely? Can you tell her the jokes that you like to tell so much?

"We are always joking. Always. Whenever I come to Washington, I tell her stories about what's going on in Israel. I speak freely. Almost the way I'm talking to you. There is no awe, no honor. Each of us cuts into the other. I wouldn't say we are pals, but our working relationship is very friendly."

Would you say that the Weisglass-Rice channel is a strategic asset? Has it made Dov Weisglass indispensable?

"As you know, the cemeteries are full of indispensable people. I don't want to boast. But the importance of this relationship is that it enables the president to speak with the prime minister and the prime minister to speak with the president without their speaking to one another. You have to understand that presidents and prime ministers don't prattle every day. For the president to phone the prime minister is an event. It is an act of state significance. So those conversations are very heavy. In large measure they are constrained. Whereas in this channel everything is more direct. Immediate.

"For the Americans, it's convenient. They know they have someone who is ensconced not in the jaws of the lion but in the very gullet of the lion. It's also convenient for us. It makes it possible for us to talk to them in real time, informally. When my conversation with Rice ends, she knows that I walk six steps to Sharon's desk and I know that she walks twelve steps to Bush's desk. That creates an intimate relationship between the two bureaus and prevents a thousand entanglements."

Have you become one of the family at the White House?

"Look, the first time you enter the White House your heart skips a beat. Anyone who tells you different is not being truthful. After all, that's where the world's chief executive sits. But today, after 20 visits, I walk about pretty freely there. They know me well, from the Marine who stands at the entrance to the secretaries and the girls. And that makes my job at lot easier. When you are in awe, like a lawyer making his first appearance before a court, you stammer and you forget the remarks you prepared. After a time, when you feel free and relaxed, that is a tremendous advantage. We speak totally freely. I tell her that something is right or that it's not so. Completely freely." [...]

[Regarding Sharon's much touted "withdrawal" from Gaza]

So you have carried out the maneuver of the century? And all of it with authority and permission?

"When you say 'maneuver,' it doesn't sound nice. It sounds like you said one thing and something else came out. But that's the whole point. After all, what have I been shouting for the past year? That I found a device, in cooperation with the management of the world, to ensure that there will be no stopwatch here. That there will be no timetable to implement the settlers' nightmare. I have postponed that nightmare indefinitely. Because what I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did. The significance is the freezing of the political process. And when you freeze that process you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed from our agenda indefinitely. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress. What more could have been anticipated? What more could have been given to the settlers?"

Comment: This interview describes the close relationship that exists between the office of Sharon and the White House. We see that the interests of the two men are close to identical and that there are continual contacts between the two, and that "The continuation is damage control".

How nice for the two of them; how disastrous for the rest of the world.

The interview also allows us into the mindset of Sharon and his close advisors. Dov Weisglass goes into great detail about the so-called "disengagement plan" and what it actually means: the indefinite freezing of the political peace process. He also describes how the Israelis manipulated Bush into turning against Arafat, although it is not said in so many words:

"I will not tell you anything that has not been published. But according to what has been published, two things happened. The first was the `Karine A' weapons ship. The second was a certain piece of intelligence that I sent them that shows clearly Arafat's full awareness of financial aspects of the perpetration of terrorist acts. When those things became clear about a person who swore 16,000 times to the Americans that he would make every effort to fight terrorism, he was erased. From that moment he was as good as dead."

Keep in mind that it was also Israeli "intelligence" that was responsible for the reports of Saddam's stockpile of WMD, and that it is also Israeli "intelligence" that is fueling the current drive to war against Iran.

Should it be trusted? Yesterday we looked at some examples of Israeli false-flag operations, that is, operations carried about by Israeli intelligence that were made to look like Arab attacks on Western targets. What is a little lying "intelligence" to people who are willing to stoke a religious war against Islam?

Having gotten the point of view of one of Sharon's closest advisors, now read the following AP article...

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Sharon rejects settler demands for vote on Gaza withdrawal, escalating crisis
08:06 AM EDT Oct 18
JERUSALEM (AP) - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday rejected calls from Jewish settlers to hold a countrywide referendum on his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, escalating an increasingly bitter dispute with former allies who now accuse him of leading Israel toward civil war.

Sunday's stormy meeting left the two sides deeply at odds as Sharon prepares to present his plan for a parliamentary vote. Sharon, who spent the first three decades of his political career building settlements, now wants to pull out of the entire Gaza Strip and uproot four West Bank settlements next year.

Sharon says his plan will increase Israel's security after four years of fighting the Palestinians and will help consolidate control over large chunks of the West Bank. Palestinians charge that the real purpose of Sharon's plan is a West Bank land grab.

The settlers, once Sharon's most ardent supporters, accuse him of caving in to Palestinian violence and maintain that any dismantling of settlements is a dangerous precedent.

Comment: In the US, the two parties have moved to far to the right in the last few years that it is a joke when we see the Democrats claiming to be the "left", or as Bush said of Kerry, "on the far left bank". A similar situation seems to be occurring in Israel with the war criminal Sharon. The settlers, who won't be happy until all of the occupied territories are part of Greater Israel and the Palestinians are killed off, are upset because Sharon isn't going quickly enough. Sharon is content to continue the daily raids and murder as it is, slowly annihilating the Palestinians....and he is becoming the "voice of reason"!

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France mends fences with Israel
BBC News

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, on a state visit to Israel, has said France will do all it can to fight a growing anti-Semitism in his country.

At a memorial for French Jews killed during the Holocaust, he said France would "never compromise" on the issue.

In July, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon angered French officials by urging French Jews to move to Israel in the wake of several attacks.

The French minister is due to meet Mr Sharon on Monday.

"We will not compromise, we will never compromise," Mr Barnier said during the ceremony, the first stop on his three-day visit.

"The government of France, of which I am a part, has expressed again its determination to struggle against anti-Semitism."

Comment: Keep in mind when hearing the horror stories about "anti-Semitism" in France that some of the most highly publicised of these "anti-Semitic" attacks turned out to be false, including a number by Jews upon other Jews or even faked in order to gain sympathy.

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Without a Doubt
The New York Times
October 17, 2004

Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush, told me recently that ''if Bush wins, there will be a civil war in the Republican Party starting on Nov. 3.'' The nature of that conflict, as Bartlett sees it? Essentially, the same as the one raging across much of the world: a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion.

''Just in the past few months,'' Bartlett said, ''I think a light has gone off for people who've spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do.'' Bartlett, a 53-year-old columnist and self-described libertarian Republican who has lately been a champion for traditional Republicans concerned about Bush's governance, went on to say: ''This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them. . . .

''This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,'' Bartlett went on to say. ''He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.'' Bartlett paused, then said, ''But you can't run the world on faith.''

Forty democratic senators were gathered for a lunch in March just off the Senate floor. I was there as a guest speaker. Joe Biden was telling a story, a story about the president. ''I was in the Oval Office a few months after we swept into Baghdad,'' he began, ''and I was telling the president of my many concerns'' -- concerns about growing problems winning the peace, the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and problems securing the oil fields. Bush, Biden recalled, just looked at him, unflappably sure that the United States was on the right course and that all was well. '''Mr. President,' I finally said, 'How can you be so sure when you know you don't know the facts?'''

Biden said that Bush stood up and put his hand on the senator's shoulder. ''My instincts,'' he said. ''My instincts.''

Biden paused and shook his head, recalling it all as the room grew quiet. ''I said, 'Mr. President, your instincts aren't good enough!'''

The democrat Biden and the Republican Bartlett are trying to make sense of the same thing -- a president who has been an extraordinary blend of forcefulness and inscrutability, opacity and action.

But lately, words and deeds are beginning to connect.

The Delaware senator was, in fact, hearing what Bush's top deputies -- from cabinet members like Paul O'Neill, Christine Todd Whitman and Colin Powell to generals fighting in Iraq -- have been told for years when they requested explanations for many of the president's decisions, policies that often seemed to collide with accepted facts. The president would say that he relied on his ''gut'' or his ''instinct'' to guide the ship of state, and then he ''prayed over it.''

The old pro Bartlett, a deliberative, fact-based wonk, is finally hearing a tune that has been hummed quietly by evangelicals (so as not to trouble the secular) for years as they gazed upon President George W. Bush. This evangelical group -- the core of the energetic ''base'' that may well usher Bush to victory -- believes that their leader is a messenger from God. And in the first presidential debate, many Americans heard the discursive John Kerry succinctly raise, for the first time, the issue of Bush's certainty -- the issue being, as Kerry put it, that ''you can be certain and be wrong.'' [...]

The disdainful smirks and grimaces that many viewers were surprised to see in the first presidential debate are familiar expressions to those in the administration or in Congress who have simply asked the president to explain his positions. Since 9/11, those requests have grown scarce; Bush's intolerance of doubters has, if anything, increased, and few dare to question him now. A writ of infallibility -- a premise beneath the powerful Bushian certainty that has, in many ways, moved mountains -- is not just for public consumption: it has guided the inner life of the White House.

As Whitman told me on the day in May 2003 that she announced her resignation as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency: ''In meetings, I'd ask if there were any facts to support our case. And for that, I was accused of disloyalty!'' (Whitman, whose faith in Bush has since been renewed, denies making these remarks and is now a leader of the president's re-election effort in New Jersey.)

The nation's founders, smarting still from the punitive pieties of Europe's state religions, were adamant about erecting a wall between organized religion and political authority. But suddenly, that seems like a long time ago. George W. Bush -- both captive and creator of this moment -- has steadily, inexorably, changed the office itself. He has created the faith-based presidency.

The faith-based presidency is a with-us-or-against-us model that has been enormously effective at, among other things, keeping the workings and temperament of the Bush White House a kind of state secret. The dome of silence cracked a bit in the late winter and spring, with revelations from the former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke and also, in my book, from the former Bush treasury secretary Paul O'Neill. When I quoted O'Neill saying that Bush was like ''a blind man in a room full of deaf people,'' this did not endear me to the White House. But my phone did begin to ring, with Democrats and Republicans calling with similar impressions and anecdotes about Bush's faith and certainty. These are among the sources I relied upon for this article.

Few were willing to talk on the record. Some were willing to talk because they said they thought George W. Bush might lose; others, out of fear of what might transpire if he wins. In either case, there seems to be a growing silence fatigue -- public servants, some with vast experience, who feel they have spent years being treated like Victorian-era children, seen but not heard, and are tired of it. But silence still reigns in the highest reaches of the White House. After many requests, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, said in a letter that the president and those around him would not be cooperating with this article in any way. [...]

But with a country crying out for intrepid leadership, does a president have time to entertain doubters? In a speech in Alaska two weeks later, Bush again referred to the war on terror as a ''crusade.''

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

Who besides guys like me are part of the reality-based community? Many of the other elected officials in Washington, it would seem. A group of Democratic and Republican members of Congress were called in to discuss Iraq sometime before the October 2002 vote authorizing Bush to move forward. A Republican senator recently told Time Magazine that the president walked in and said: ''Look, I want your vote. I'm not going to debate it with you.'' When one of the senators began to ask a question, Bush snapped, ''Look, I'm not going to debate it with you.''

The 9/11 commission did not directly address the question of whether Bush exerted influence over the intelligence community about the existence of weapons of mass destruction. That question will be investigated after the election, but if no tangible evidence of undue pressure is found, few officials or alumni of the administration whom I spoke to are likely to be surprised.

''If you operate in a certain way -- by saying this is how I want to justify what I've already decided to do, and I don't care how you pull it off -- you guarantee that you'll get faulty, one-sided information,'' Paul O'Neill, who was asked to resign his post of treasury secretary in December 2002, said when we had dinner a few weeks ago. ''You don't have to issue an edict, or twist arms, or be overt.'' [...]

Comment: It appears that the Bush administration doesn't concern itself with bothersome facts - instead, the leadership of America is convinced that it can create its own reality. In other words, to Bush and his crew, reality is not defined by science, reason, or verifiable data, but rather by emotion: "I want, and I will make it real because I have the power to do so".

There is, of course, one little problem with this mode of being: Considering the scope of our reality, and the apparent vast size and complexity of the universe, wouldn't it require an almost infinite amount of power to make all conform to one's desires? And why would anyone, even the head of the most powerful military on Earth, assume that in a hierarchical structure, he is at the top of the pyramid? Hubris, perhaps?

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Suskind on Bush: "I can Fly!"
Juan Cole

Ron Suskind's profile of George W. Bush reminded me eerily of Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. Suskind portrays Bush as filled with unwarranted certainty, sure that God is speaking and working through him, and convinced that decisive action shapes reality in ways that make it unnecessary to first study reality.

This approach to policy-making, it seems to me, should be called Right Maoism. The History Learning Site reminds us that in 1958 Mao initiated what he called the "Great Leap Forward" with the aim of boosting both Chinese industry and agriculture, through the reorganization of China into over 25,000 communes.

' Mao had introduced the Great Leap Forward with the phrase "it is possible to accomplish any task whatsoever." By the end of 1958, it seemed as if his claim was true . . . However, in 1959, things started to go wrong. Political decisions/beliefs took precedence over commonsense and communes faced the task of doing things which they were incapable of achieving. Party officials would order the impossible and commune leaders, who knew what their commune was capable of doing or not, could be charged with being a "bourgeois reactionary" if he complained. Such a charge would lead to prison.

Quickly produced farm machinery produced in factories fell to pieces when used. Many thousands of workers were injured after working long hours and falling asleep at their jobs. Steel produced by the backyard furnaces was frequently too weak to be of any use and could not be used in construction – it’s original purpose. Buildings constructed by this substandard steel did not last long.

Also the backyard production method had taken many workers away from their fields – so desperately needed food was not being harvested. Ironically, one of the key factors in food production in China was the weather and 1958 had particularly good weather for growing food. Party leaders claimed that the harvest for 1958 was a record 260 million tons – which was not true. '

In 1960 alone, as a result of Mao's faith-based initiative, 9 million persons starved to death. The total toll from famine, hunger, and illness in 1959-1962 was around 20 million dead.

The above description of the way in which China fell apart under Mao sounds eerily like contemporary Iraq under Bush, since both situations were produced by the same mantra. Reality doesn't matter. Power creates reality. Suskind says that a senior Bush official told him, "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." This official may as well have been quoting Mao's Little Red Book: ""it is possible to accomplish any task whatsoever."

Comment: The reality gap. Comparing Bush to Mao. A fair comparison given they are or were both driven by ideological concerns and a "higher truth" given by Jesus or Marx.

In the Bush White House, we have the imperialist and Zionist version of the New Age disinfo about "You create your own reality". Notice the explicit denunciation of the process of "judiciously studying reality", the very method we do our best to follow on these pages.

Trouble is, if you aren't doing the work to weed out your own wishful thinking and subjectivity, you will not be able to accurately see the reality within which you live.

Another problem is the media, who are all too quick to buy into the latest Bush "reality". Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show at Comedy Central, appeared recently on Crossfire, (read the transcript here) a CNN show that claims to be a debate between "left" and "right". As Stewart so remarked, Crossfire is not debate, it is theatre. He went on to confront the two hosts, claiming they were "disingenuous" and "political hacks" for presenting such spectacle as political debate, allowing how the show fit into the strategy of the political parties. When the voice from the "right" started to get huffy because Stewart was raising serious issues and not staying in his place as a comic, Stewart very pointedly replied "I am not going to be your monkey".

It is frightening when the host of a comedy show has to deliver such a serious message to his colleagues in the news media, a fact not lost on Stewart himself.

However, when you consider how much of the lie Stewart buys into himself, the momentary jubilation of seeing a moment of Truth on TV quickly passes. When will Jon Stewart start to ask the hard questions about 911?

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Once sceptical Israelis want four more years for Bush
Sun Oct 17, 2004 11:11 PM ET

JERUSALEM - Delighted by his wholehearted backing for their government, a majority of Israelis are keeping their fingers crossed that George W. Bush will be returned to the White House next month.

While Bush may be the ultimate bete noire in large parts of the Middle East, a recent poll conducted by Tel Aviv University showed that 55 percent of Israelis want him to win the November 2 US presidential election while only 45 percent want a victory for Democratic challenger John Kerry.

According to the university's Professor Eitan Gilboa, the results are more than merely academic as some 80,000 Israeli residents have the right to vote in next month's ballot.

The situation is a far cry from the race for the White House four years ago when many Israelis ironically feared that Bush's close links to the oil industry would lead him to pursue a pro-Arab policy.

His Democratic rival Al Gore won 80 percent of votes cast by Jews in 2000 against just 20 percent for Bush.

This time round, the polls are showing that Bush is on course to win 35 percent of the Jewish vote, the Republican party's biggest share since Ronald Reagan's 1980 election victory.

One of the key factors behind the transformation were the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington after which Palestinian militant factions found themselves on the wrong side of Bush's "war on terror".

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the most frequent of all foreign visitors to the White House during Bill Clinton's presidency, has been completely ostracised by Bush who has accused him of failing his people.

In contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been one of the most frequent guests at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, racking up eight invitations since he came to power in 2001.

The hawkish Sharon is one of the few people who would give Bush a run for his money in a Middle East unpopularity contest but the two men have worked increasingly closely, even if their relationship is more professional than warm.

Bush, who raised hackles when he described Sharon as "a man of peace", gave the premier a major boost in April when he enthusiastically endorsed his so-called disengagement plan which will see Israel pull out of the Gaza Strip next year.

The plan also envisages a strengthened Israeli control of larger West Bank settlements, an idea backed by Bush when he said it was "unrealistic" to expect Israel to leave every part of the occupied West Bank which is now home to nearly a quarter of a million Jewish settlers.

But while Bush may have gained brownie points with the Israelis, Palestinians have never felt so alienated from the leadership of the world's only remaning superpower.

Bush's backing for the disengagement plan dismayed Palestinians, who recognised that it effectively consigned the US-backed roadmap peace plan to the dustbin.

The roadmap, sponsored by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, and endorsed by Israel and the Palestinians last year, had aimed for the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

But the Bush administration has overseen a freeze in the peace process that the Palestinians have come to feel can only be thawed with a change at the top.

At the moment, the desire for a change among the Palestinians seems more founded on hope rather than expectation as Kerry has given few indications of a radical change of policy in the Middle East conflict.

He has already made clear that he will not meet with Arafat and has defended Israel's construction of the controversial separation barrier in the West Bank.

And he has also branded the main Palestinian armed factions such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as terrorist organisations.

For Israelis, Kerry also remains a largely unknown entity.

Few have been impressed by his suggestions that former president Jimmy Carter or one-time secretary of state James Baker could help kickstart the peace process as both have upset previous Israeli governments.

The United States' strategic support for Israel is so deeply entrenched that any change in administration is unlikely to lead to a radical realignment in policy.

Washington, under presidents of all hues, has been Israel's biggest source of aid and has consistently used its veto power to thwart anti-Israeli resolutions brought before the United Nations Security Council.

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Vote and Be Damned
Published: October 17, 2004

First Dick Cheney said that supporting John Kerry could lead to another terrorist attack.

Then Dennis Hastert said Al Qaeda would be more successful under a Kerry presidency than under President Bush.

Now the Catholic bishops have upped the ante, indicating that voting for a candidate with Mr. Kerry's policies could lead to eternal damnation.

Conservative bishops and conservative Republicans are working hard to spread the gospel that anyone who supports the Catholic candidate and onetime Boston altar boy who carries a rosary and a Bible with him on the trail is aligned with the forces of evil.

In an interview with The Times's David Kirkpatrick, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver said a knowing vote for a candidate like Mr. Kerry who supports abortion rights or embryonic stem cell research would be a sin that would have to be confessed before receiving communion. "If you vote this way, are you cooperating in evil?" the archbishop asked. "Now, if you know you are cooperating in evil, should you go to confession? The answer is yes."

As Mr. Kirkpatrick and Laurie Goodstein wrote, Catholics make up about a quarter of the electorate, many concentrated in swing states. These bishops and like-minded Catholic groups are organizing voter registration and blanketing churches with voter guides that often ignore traditional Catholic concerns about the death penalty and war - the pope opposed the invasion of Iraq - while calling abortion, gay marriage and the stem cell debate "nonnegotiable."

"Never before have so many bishops so explicitly warned Catholics so close to an election that to vote a certain way was to commit a sin," the Times article said.

Once upon a time, with Al Smith and John Kennedy, the church was proud to see Catholics run for president. The church was as unobtrusive in 1960, trying to help J.F.K., as it is obtrusive now, trying to hurt J.F.K. II.

The conservative bishops, salivating to overturn Roe v. Wade, prefer an evangelical antiabortion president to one of their own who said in Wednesday's debate: "What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith. I believe that choice ... is between a woman, God and her doctor."

Like Mr. Bush, these patriarchal bishops want to turn back the clock to the 50's. They don't want separation of church and state - except in Iraq.

Some of the bishops - the shepherds of a church whose hierarchy bungled the molestation and rape of so many young boys by tolerating it, covering it up, enabling it, excusing it and paying hush money - are still debating whether John Kerry should be allowed to receive communion.

These bishops are embryo-centric; they are not as concerned with the 1,080 kids killed in a war that the Bush administration launched with lies, or about the lives that could be lost thanks to the president's letting the assault weapons ban lapse, or about all the lives that could be saved and improved with stem cell research.

Mr. Bush derives his immutability from his faith. "I believe that God wants everybody to be free," he said in the last debate, adding that this was "part of my foreign policy."

In today's Times Magazine, Ron Suskind writes that Mr. Bush has created a "faith-based presidency" that has riven the Republican Party.

Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a Treasury official for the first President Bush, told Mr. Suskind that some people now look at Mr. Bush and see "this instinct he's always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do." He continued: "This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just like them."

The president's certitude - the idea that he can see into people's souls and that God tells him what is right, then W. tells us if he feels like it - is disturbing. It equates disagreeing with him to disagreeing with Him.

The conservative bishops' certitude - the ide a that you can't be a good Catholic if you diverge from certain church-decreed mandates or if you want to keep your religion and politics separate - is also disturbing.

America is awash in selective piety, situational moralists and cherry-picking absolutists.

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A Little Patriotic Sacrifice
by Bill Moyers
Friday, October 15, 2004

There are moments when you see suddenly crystallized in a particular event, a threat to democracy as ominous as the smoke rising from Mt. St. Helens.

This week it was that enormous payoff to big corporations by their subjects in Congress. I say payoffs advisedly. Business elites provide politicians with the money they need to run for office. The politicians pay them back with a return on their investment so generous it boggles the mind. That legislation enacted this week is worth $137 billion in tax cuts for corporations. One company alone -- General Electric -- will receive over $8 billion, despite earnings last year of over $15 billion. Many companies -- Microsoft, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, Eli Lilly, among others -- have been parking profits overseas rather than bring them back to America where they are taxed. So Congress has now blessed them with a one-time "tax holiday" during which they can bring home the bacon at about one-seventh of the normal tax rates.

These plums are usually couched in such language they would defy a Delphic oracle to interpret them -- all the more to hoodwink us. What's behind those hieroglyphics in Section 713, Subsection A and B, Page 385? Why, a multimillion dollar windfall to Home Depot for importing ceiling fans made by serfs in China. And that little clause written in Sanskrit so tiny it would take a Mount Palomar telescope to read? Nothing less than a $27 million tax present to foreigners who bet at American horse and dog tracks. On and on it goes, the pillaging and plundering by suits with Guccis.

In a time of war, terror, and soaring deficits, you would think the governing class would be asking these corporate aristocrats to make a little patriotic sacrifice like that asked of single mothers or our men and women in Iraq. Instead they're allowed to pass their share of the burden to workers and children not yet born. At the least they ought to be required to remove the flag from their lapels and replace it with the icon they most revere -- the dollar sign.

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The Hypocrite and the Patriot
James Rothenberg

We have a right to defend our country, our life and limb, our home and family. There are few that would not be willing to defend these things. But what made the other side want to attack? They would first have to be convinced that they were defending something. So it is that governments and their subsidiaries come to propagandize their people, to instill in them a proper way of thinking... that of patriotism.

The government uses patriotism for its own ends. They own it, control it, and dole it out as needed. No politician has ever been able to stand up to it. You can accuse a politician of almost anything and they will not blink an eye. But accuse them of being unpatriotic and you come face to face with righteous indignation. What signal would it take for people to free themselves of that Goliath of self-restraint... the urge not to appear unpatriotic? To question the primitiveness of patriotism? Some have:

A. Einstein (plainly): "Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism – how passionately I hate them!"

G. B. Shaw (succinctly): "Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it."

M. Twain (sardonically): "The newspaper-and-politician-manufactured patriot often gags in private over his dose; but he takes it, and keeps it on his stomach the best he can. Blessed are the meek."
(and penetratingly): "A man can seldom – very, very seldom – fight a wining fight against his training; the odds are too heavy. For many a year – perhaps always – the training of [England and America] had been dead against independence in political thought, persistently inhospitable toward patriotism manufactured on a man's own premises, patriotism reasoned out in the man's own head and fire-assayed and tested and proved in his own conscience... The patriot did not know just how or when or where he got his opinions, neither did he care, so long as he was with what seemed the majority – which was the main thing, the safe thing, the comfortable thing."

L. Tolstoy (heroically): "From infancy, by every possible means – class books, church services, sermons, speeches, books, papers, songs, poetry, monuments – the people is stupefied in one direction... . before they look round, there will be no more admirals, presidents, or flags, or music; but only a damp and empty field of battle, cold, hunger and pain; before them a murderous enemy; behind, relentless officers preventing their escape; blood, wounds, putrefying bodies, and senseless, unnecessary death."

E. St. Vincent Millay (eloquently): "I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death."

A grieving Iraqi father asked, near the beginning of the U .S.invasion, "Why didn't the British and American people stop their leaders from doing this?" For those who find themselves unable to answer his question, then or now, even though we live in a democracy, is to hint at the enormous power of the leadership to marshal events in its own way. To eliminate an entire party of opposition, what could have been the anti-war party but for its desire to preserve itself in the comfort of the flag. Salute that flag, stand up for it when it passes, challenge those who would rip and burn it and hymns will be written for you. But who will answer that Iraqi father's question?

What kind of a toll will this take on us as a people? To have acquiesced? The publicity agents called it "Shock and Awe", not intended for a foreign audience but rather a rallying cry to pump up the sheep here at home, to make us feel warm and proud of our coming assault on a country that could launch not a single plane, a single bomb against the greatest technological power ever known to great mankind; that, despite official denials from Washington, was known in advance to be virtually defenseless! The proof? We attacked.

Our patriotism comes at a price, but I'm not thinking of that noble sacrifice that we speak of in hallowed terms on ceremonial occasions. It's the need to rearrange the entire world of thoughts and events to our advantage and its sacrifice is extracted by taking bits and bits of our honor away, our humanity... all to suit this falsification. Preserve freedom by limiting it. Preserve choice by insisting on it. Preserve justice by exacting it. Preserve life by taking it. The hypocrite meets the patriot in the mirror.

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Bush or Kerry: The Atrocity will continue
By Ghali Hassan

On November 02, 2004, the people of the United States of America will "elect" their president for the next four years. Historically, American elections changed nothing. One businessman leaves another takes over. Thousands of miles away from the US, the Iraqi people will continue to suffer and killed in large numbers at the hands of US soldiers. It is America's atrocity in Iraq.

Watching Bush-Kerry debates, I came to the conclusion that the two sides of American politics are actually, one. Bush and Kerry are out-competing on who took part in the atrocities of Vietnam, and on who will kill more Iraqis if elected. Can you "imagine German candidates [campaigning] for the Chancellor of Germany competing on who participated more actively in the Holocaust", wrote the Palestinian political analyst Omar Barghouti in an open letter to the American people. Both Bush and Kerry pledge unconditional support to Israel for its genocidal and illegal occupation of Palestine.

Recent world survey reveals that the majority of people around the world favoured Kerry's win because people reject the Bush doctrine. Overall, Kerry was favoured globally by a 2-to-1 margin. According to Tom Engelhardt, "[e]ven in countries whose governments had contributed troops to Iraq, significant majorities favoured Kerry and believed strongly that U.S. foreign policy was 'on the wrong track'". This gives hope that the majority of people reject violence, and are prepared to live in peace if giving the chance.

Kerry is not a pacifist or a peace activist. He is pro-war. In addition to his vote for the War on Iraq, Kerry has voted on many of Bush's foreign and domestic measures. Kerry's strategy is not to back off Fallujah and other towns and villages resisting the US Occupation. Kerry will repeat the Vietnam atrocity. He will send B52s to carpet bomb Iraqi towns and villages. Kerry wants the "Vietnamisation" of the War on Iraq by bribing unemployed Iraqis to join the army and police in order to protect the occupation and provide fodder for the grinding stones.

It should be borne in mind that Bill Clinton was a "democrat" president, but Clinton was the most violent president. Sugar-coated wars are the most violent wars and they are hard to stop. Like Clinton's, Kerry's wars will be more sugar-coated and sold to friends and foes.

Overall, Kerry's foreign policy has been very vague and incoherent. He is very supportive of Ariel Sharon's fascist crimes against the Palestinian people. Kerry's policies on the Middle East will not win him many friends. The Bush administration is the most isolated and if Kerry will succeed and changed this, it is not for the advantages of world peace. Isolated America is less feared America than America in alliances with other nations, wrote the historian Gabriel Kolko recently.

With only few weeks to the US election, the Bush administration is on a mission of committing more massacres in many parts of Iraq. There is no safe heaven for the innocent unarmed men, women and children. Mosques, schools, hospitals and even restaurants are the latest killing sites. George Bush wants to win the election by all means, even if the price is killing all Iraqis. Allawi and his gang of criminals are doing just that for him.

Iyad Allawi, the US-appointed spokesman for the Occupation, found a suitable pretext to invade Fallujah. He told his selected gang on Thursday 14 October 2004, "[w]e have asked Fallujah residents to turn over al-Zarqawi and his group. If they don't do it, we are ready for major operations (aka massacres) in Fallujah". The bombardment of the town is continuing, and the people of Fallujah started to flee the town this morning.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the one-leg elusive Jordanian, is the latest lie sold by the US and its allies and quislings. Iraqis are massacred on daily basis because the world is told that al-Zarqawi is somewhere in Fallujah, derailing the elections of Bush and Allawi. If the US mass media can sell the lie of the lost WMD, they can sell the al-Zarqawi phantom. It is another lie for atrocity.

The pro-war US media pundits, led by Christopher Hitchens, think that the Iraq invasion, and the massacres of Iraqis that followed are justified. The Iraqi people should be happy living under US terror, Mr Hitchens said recently. He believes every thing the US is doing in Iraq is justified. Power pundits are in complete denial and unable to deal in reality. Like other power propagandists, Mr. Hitchens finds al-Zarqawi very convenient propaganda to label Muslims as "fascist", let alone the Iraqi Resistance. According to Hitchens' deranged mind, everyone fighting America's terrorism is a fascist. His latest attack on honest and professional people like Naomi Klein proves that Hitchens is not very different from al-Zarqawi.

With the help of Mr Hitchens and the likes of propaganda agents, the Iraqi people are far worse today than before the war, and that the world is less safe and more dangerous place than before the war. According to the Washington's Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Americans failed to deliver decent living conditions, and the aggressive behaviour of US troops damaged their standing with the Iraqi people. There is no drinking water and no electricity. The health system is collapsing and infectious diseases, including typhoid and tuberculosis are on the rise throughout Iraq. Furthermore, since the invasion of Iraq, the US is more despised and terrorism is on the rise.

Many years ago, the German journalist and socialist theorist Rosa Luxemburg wrote from her prison cell, "[t]his madness will not stop, and this bloody nightmare of hell will not cease, until the people... wake up out of their drunken sleep, clasp each others hands in brotherhood and drown the bestial chorus of war agitators and the hoarse cry capitalist hyenas". She paid very dearly for her honesty.

The War on Iraq is unjustifiable act of aggression and in violation of international law. If the US and its "coalition of the willing" respect the law, they should pay reparation and compensate the Iraqi people for their loses.

If Senator Kerry is elected on November 02, 2004, and insists on returning America to the community of civilised nations, Kerry should withdraw US forces from Iraq and put an end to this horrific atrocity.

Ghali Hassan lives in Perth, Western Australia. He can be reached at e-mail:

Comment: And yet, as the author himself notes, there is no reason to believe that either Kerry or Bush will withdraw US forces from Iraq...

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Al-Zarqawi pledges allegiance to al-Qaida
Monday 18 October 2004, 14:57 Makka Time, 11:57 GMT

An Iraq-based insurgent group linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has reportedly pledged allegiance to Usama bin Ladin in a statement posted on a website.

"We announce that al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad, its leader and soldiers have pledged allegiance to Usama bin Ladin," read the statement, the first linking al-Zarqawi to al-Qaida.

However, its authenticity could not be verified.

Both al-Zarqawi and bin Ladin have a $25 million US bounty on their heads.

Since the US invaded Iraq in April 2003, Washington has held al-Zarqawi responsible for attacks against its forces and US-sponsored officials.

The internet statement, however, says: "Shaikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was in contact with the leadership of al-Qaida for eight months. They exchanged points of view and then there was a cut due to fate.

"After contact was restored, the al-Qaida leadership understood our strategy in Iraq," the statement added.

Comment: Is this the same al-Zarqawi who was reported dead in 2003? Funny timing of this announcement, aimed to bolster the diabolical image of al Qaeda, coming a few weeks before the US elections....

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Falluja peace bid called off
Monday 18 October 2004, 12:44 Makka Time, 9:44 GMT

A top Falluja negotiator who has been released from US custody says peace talks with the interim Iraqi government have been called off.

"The people of Falluja have suspended negotiations, despite the fact they had made progress, because of arrests like mine and American policies," Khalid Hamud al-Jumaili said.

Al-Jumaili was released at 2am (2300 GMT) on Monday after his arrest three days ago.

US marines detained him along with Falluja's police chief Sabir al-Janabi and two other police officers while they were taking their families out of the city for safety, on Friday.

Other reports said the chief negotiator had been picked up after he left a mosque following Friday prayers in a village about 15km south of Falluja.

Al-Jumaili said the four men were taken to a marine base outside Falluja and then transported by helicopter to another location - "a very far place".

"Whenever we asked them for the reason for our arrests, they said they were just following orders," al-Jumaili told Aljazeera.

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The making of the terror myth
Andy Beckett, The Guardian
October 15, 2004

Since September 11 Britain has been warned of the 'inevitability' of catastrophic terrorist attack. But has the danger been exaggerated? A major new TV documentary claims that the perceived threat is a politically driven fantasy - and al-Qaida a dark illusion.

Since the attacks on the United States in September 2001, there have been more than a thousand references in British national newspapers, working out at almost one every single day, to the phrase "dirty bomb". There have been articles about how such a device can use ordinary explosives to spread lethal radiation; about how London would be evacuated in the event of such a detonation; about the Home Secretary David Blunkett's statement on terrorism in November 2002 that specifically raised the possibility of a dirty bomb being planted in Britain; and about the arrests of several groups of people, the latest only last month, for allegedly plotting exactly that.

Starting next Wednesday, BBC2 is to broadcast a three-part documentary series that will add further to what could be called the dirty bomb genre. But, as its title suggests, The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear takes a different view of the weapon's potential.

"I don't think it would kill anybody," says Dr Theodore Rockwell, an authority on radiation, in an interview for the series. "You'll have trouble finding a serious report that would claim otherwise." The American department of energy, Rockwell continues, has simulated a dirty bomb explosion, "and they calculated that the most exposed individual would get a fairly high dose [of radiation], not life-threatening." And even this minor threat is open to question. The test assumed that no one fled the explosion for one year.

During the three years in which the "war on terror" has been waged, high-profile challenges to its assumptions have been rare. The sheer number of incidents and warnings connected or attributed to the war has left little room, it seems, for heretical thoughts. In this context, the central theme of The Power of Nightmares is riskily counter-intuitive and provocative. Much of the currently perceived threat from international terrorism, the series argues, "is a fantasy that has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It is a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services, and the international media." The series' explanation for this is even bolder: "In an age when all the grand ideas have lost credibility, fear of a phantom enemy is all the politicians have left to maintain their power."

Adam Curtis, who wrote and produced the series, acknowledges the difficulty of saying such things now. "If a bomb goes off, the fear I have is that everyone will say, 'You're completely wrong,' even if the incident doesn't touch my argument. This shows the way we have all become trapped, the way even I have become trapped by a fear that is completely irrational."

So controversial is the tone of his series, that trailers for it were not broadcast last weekend because of the killing of Kenneth Bigley. At the BBC, Curtis freely admits, there are "anxieties". But there is also enthusiasm for the programmes, in part thanks to his reputation. Over the past dozen years, via similarly ambitious documentary series such as Pandora's Box, The Mayfair Set and The Century of the Self, Curtis has established himself as perhaps the most acclaimed maker of serious television programmes in Britain. His trademarks are long research, the revelatory use of archive footage, telling interviews, and smooth, insistent voiceovers concerned with the unnoticed deeper currents of recent history, narrated by Curtis himself in tones that combine traditional BBC authority with something more modern and sceptical: "I want to try to make people look at things they think they know about in a new way."

The Power of Nightmares seeks to overturn much of what is widely believed about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. The latter, it argues, is not an organised international network. It does not have members or a leader. It does not have "sleeper cells". It does not have an overall strategy. In fact, it barely exists at all, except as an idea about cleansing a corrupt world through religious violence.

Curtis' evidence for these assertions is not easily dismissed. He tells the story of Islamism, or the desire to establish Islam as an unbreakable political framework, as half a century of mostly failed, short-lived revolutions and spectacular but politically ineffective terrorism. Curtis points out that al-Qaida did not even have a name until early 2001, when the American government decided to prosecute Bin Laden in his absence and had to use anti-Mafia laws that required the existence of a named criminal organisation.

Curtis also cites the Home Office's own statistics for arrests and convictions of suspected terrorists since September 11 2001. Of the 664 people detained up to the end of last month, only 17 have been found guilty. Of these, the majority were Irish Republicans, Sikh militants or members of other groups with no connection to Islamist terrorism. Nobody has been convicted who is a proven member of al-Qaida.

In fact, Curtis is not alone in wondering about all this. Quietly but increasingly, other observers of the war on terror have been having similar doubts. "The grand concept of the war has not succeeded," says Jonathan Eyal, director of the British military thinktank the Royal United Services Institute. "In purely military terms, it has been an inconclusive war ... a rather haphazard operation. Al-Qaida managed the most spectacular attack, but clearly it is also being sustained by the way that we rather cavalierly stick the name al-Qaida on Iraq, Indonesia, the Philippines. There is a long tradition that if you divert all your resources to a threat, then you exaggerate it."

Bill Durodie, director of the international centre for security analysis at King's College London, says: "The reality [of the al-Qaida threat to the west] has been essentially a one-off. There has been one incident in the developed world since 9/11 [the Madrid bombings]. There's no real evidence that all these groups are connected." Crispin Black, a senior government intelligence analyst until 2002, is more cautious but admits the terrorist threat presented by politicians and the media is "out of date and too one-dimensional. We think there is a bit of a gulf between the terrorists' ambition and their ability to pull it off."

Terrorism, by definition, depends on an element of bluff. Yet ever since terrorists in the modern sense of the term (the word terrorism was actually coined to describe the strategy of a government, the authoritarian French revolutionary regime of the 1790s) began to assassinate politicians and then members of the public during the 19th century, states have habitually overreacted. Adam Roberts, professor of international relations at Oxford, says that governments often believe struggles with terrorists "to be of absolute cosmic significance", and that therefore "anything goes" when it comes to winning. The historian Linda Colley adds: "States and their rulers expect to monopolise violence, and that is why they react so virulently to terrorism."

Britain may also be particularly sensitive to foreign infiltrators, fifth columnists and related menaces. In spite, or perhaps because of, the absence of an actual invasion for many centuries, British history is marked by frequent panics about the arrival of Spanish raiding parties, French revolutionary agitators, anarchists, bolsheviks and Irish terrorists. "These kind of panics rarely happen without some sort of cause," says Colley. "But politicians make the most of them."

They are not the only ones who find opportunities. "Almost no one questions this myth about al-Qaida because so many people have got an interest in keeping it alive," says Curtis. He cites the suspiciously circular relationship between the security services and much of the media since September 2001: the way in which official briefings about terrorism, often unverified or unverifiable by journalists, have become dramatic press stories which - in a jittery media-driven democracy - have prompted further briefings and further stories. Few of these ominous announcements are retracted if they turn out to be baseless: "There is no fact-checking about al-Qaida."

In one sense, of course, Curtis himself is part of the al-Qaida industry. The Power of Nightmares began as an investigation of something else, the rise of modern American conservatism. Curtis was interested in Leo Strauss, a political philosopher at the university of Chicago in the 50s who rejected the liberalism of postwar America as amoral and who thought that the country could be rescued by a revived belief in America's unique role to battle evil in the world. Strauss's certainty and his emphasis on the use of grand myths as a higher form of political propaganda created a group of influential disciples such as Paul Wolfowitz, now the US deputy defence secretary. They came to prominence by talking up the Russian threat during the cold war and have applied a similar strategy in the war on terror.

As Curtis traced the rise of the "Straussians", he came to a conclusion that would form the basis for The Power of Nightmares. Straussian conservatism had a previously unsuspected amount in common with Islamism: from origins in the 50s, to a formative belief that liberalism was the enemy, to an actual period of Islamist-Straussian collaboration against the Soviet Union during the war in Afghanistan in the 80s (both movements have proved adept at finding new foes to keep them going). Although the Islamists and the Straussians have fallen out since then, as the attacks on America in 2001 graphically demonstrated, they are in another way, Curtis concludes, collaborating still: in sustaining the "fantasy" of the war on terror.

Some may find all this difficult to swallow. But Curtis insists,"There is no way that I'm trying to be controversial just for the sake of it." Neither is he trying to be an anti-conservative polemicist like Michael Moore: "[Moore's] purpose is avowedly political. My hope is that you won't be able to tell what my politics are." For all the dizzying ideas and visual jolts and black jokes in his programmes, Curtis describes his intentions in sober, civic-minded terms. "If you go back into history and plod through it, the myth falls away. You see that these aren't terrifying new monsters. It's drawing the poison of the fear."

But whatever the reception of the series, this fear could be around for a while. It took the British government decades to dismantle the draconian laws it passed against French revolutionary infiltrators; the cold war was sustained for almost half a century without Russia invading the west, or even conclusive evidence that it ever intended to. "The archives have been opened," says the cold war historian David Caute, "but they don't bring evidence to bear on this." And the danger from Islamist terrorists, whatever its scale, is concrete. A sceptical observer of the war on terror in the British security services says: "All they need is a big bomb every 18 months to keep this going."

The war on terror already has a hold on western political culture. "After a 300-year debate between freedom of the individual and protection of society, the protection of society seems to be the only priority," says Eyal. Black agrees: "We are probably moving to a point in the UK where national security becomes the electoral question."

Some critics of this situation see our striking susceptibility during the 90s to other anxieties - the millennium bug, MMR, genetically modified food - as a sort of dress rehearsal for the war on terror. The press became accustomed to publishing scare stories and not retracting them; politicians became accustomed to responding to supposed threats rather than questioning them; the public became accustomed to the idea that some sort of apocalypse might be just around the corner. "Insecurity is the key driving concept of our times," says Durodie. "Politicians have packaged themselves as risk managers. There is also a demand from below for protection." The real reason for this insecurity, he argues, is the decay of the 20th century's political belief systems and social structures: people have been left "disconnected" and "fearful".

Yet the notion that "security politics" is the perfect instrument for every ambitious politician from Blunkett to Wolfowitz also has its weaknesses. The fears of the public, in Britain at least, are actually quite erratic: when the opinion pollsters Mori asked people what they felt was the most important political issue, the figure for "defence and foreign affairs" leapt from 2% to 60% after the attacks of September 2001, yet by January 2002 had fallen back almost to its earlier level. And then there are the twin risks that the terrors politicians warn of will either not materialise or will materialise all too brutally, and in both cases the politicians will be blamed. "This is a very rickety platform from which to build up a political career," says Eyal. He sees the war on terror as a hurried improvisation rather than some grand Straussian strategy: "In democracies, in order to galvanize the public for war, you have to make the enemy bigger, uglier and more menacing."

Afterwards, I look at a website for a well-connected American foreign policy lobbying group called the Committee on the Present Danger. The committee features in The Power of Nightmares as a vehicle for alarmist Straussian propaganda during the cold war. After the Soviet collapse, as the website puts it, "The mission of the committee was considered complete." But then the website goes on: "Today radical Islamists threaten the safety of the American people. Like the cold war, securing our freedom is a long-term struggle. The road to victory begins ... "

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Thousands march through central London to protest war in Iraq
07:55 PM EDT Oct 17

LONDON (AP) - Thousands of anti-war and anti-globalization activists marched through central London and filled Trafalgar Square on Sunday to protest the U.S.-led coalition's presence in Iraq.

The march marked the culmination of the third European Social Forum - three days of speeches, workshops and debates largely dominated by Iraq and the U.S. presidential election.

Marchers carried signs reading "World's No. 1 Terrorist" over a picture of President George W. Bush. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was also a target, with placards reading "Out with Blair."

Several activists blew loud whistles or joined in political chants as they trudged through the capital on a cold, rainy day. Police estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 people set off from Russell Square around 1 p.m., but organizers announced that 75,000 had reached Trafalgar Square by 3:30 p.m.

While the forum discussed a range of issues concerning privatization and globalization, the march was almost overwhelmingly devoted to opposition to the war in Iraq and the Bush administration.

"I've been coming to every demonstration against Bush I can," said Liz Mawl, a resident of London carrying an "Out with Bush" sign.

"His foreign policy is very destabilizing for the entire international community, and I'm not sure Americans realize that's bad for them as well," she said.

Many of the marchers said they hoped to send a message to American voters ahead of the Nov. 2 U.S. elections through the demonstration.

"I think our message to Americans is simple: Don't vote for Bush," said Emma Jane Berridge, a London resident.

The protest was largely peaceful, apart from a few scuffles around the main stage in Trafalgar Square, where stewards linked arms to hold the crowd back and one man was carried away by police.

One American on the march said taking part was bittersweet.

"Watching this makes me want to cry," said Erin Kiefer, a student from New York carrying an "Out with Bush" sign. "I know it's anti-Bush and not anti-American, but it kills me that he represents our nation so poorly, that he speaks for us as Americans."

The march was organized in conjunction with the forum by the Stop the War Coalition and the Muslim Association of Britain.

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Northwest Plane Evacuated in Fargo, N.D.
October 18, 2004

FARGO, N.D. - A Northwest Airlines plane was evacuated Monday morning at Hector International Airport after a passenger claimed to have overheard someone mention a bomb, police said.

Sgt. Steve Link said the plane's crew was alerted and passengers were told to leave the plane around 5:30 a.m.

The plane was ready to leave for Minneapolis-St. Paul with more than two dozen passengers. They were instead taken to a secure area where they were questioned by local authorities and representatives of the Transportation Security Administration.

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1 dead, 13 hurt in Mexican subway station blast
Oct. 17, 2004, 1:10PM
Associated Press

MONTERREY, Mexico -- A gas leak triggered an explosion in the control room of a subway station in the northern city of Monterrey, killing one person and injuring 13 others, authorities said today.

The incident occurred Saturday evening inside the signal room of the San Bernabe metro station in Monterrey, 435 miles north of Mexico City or about an hour and a half by car from the U.S. border.

Maria Francisca Medina, 68, died at a nearby hospital from head injuries, said Jorge Camacho, director of the public safety department of Nuevo Leon state, which includes Monterrey.

Camacho said two leaks were found in an underground natural gas pipe that runs near the subway station. Camacho said investigators remained at the scene and were still trying to determine what triggered the blast Sunday afternoon.

"We're working to repair that pipe," he said.

The victims were passengers who were standing near the signal room waiting to transfer from a subway to a bus. Five toddlers were among those taken to nearby hospitals for treatment, one of them with a fractured skull.

The explosion was strong enough to damage much of the San Bernabe station and shattered the windows of 12 homes nearby. It prompted officials to close streets and sidewalks for blocks in all directions.

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Firefighters battle Sierra blazes; rain contains Yosemite fire
October 17, 2004

KYBURZ, Calif. Two major blazes continue to burn in the Eldorado National Forest, while steady rain helped put out a 2,000-acre fire ignited by a suspected arsonist in Yosemite National Park.

The Power Fire, which has has spread to 16,800 acres near Highway 88, is now about 50 percent contained.

Heavy rain has helped contain the fire, but it also prevented fire crews from working. Highway 88 has been reopened, but drivers were warned of "extremely hazardous conditions."

The Fred's Fire has burned about 7,700 acres in the Kyburz area of the Eldorado National Forest. It is expected to be fully contained by tonight. Highway 50 remained closed between Pollock Pines and Myers.

Park rangers in Yosemite National Park say they believe a body found yesterday belonged to the arsonist who ignited the 2,000-acre blaze.

Park officials say it appears the person died from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Firefighters had planned to begin suppression efforts today, but steady rain has put out most of the fire.

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Chinese satellite crashes into building
OCT 18, 2004 MON

BEIJING - Part of a Chinese satellite that was returning from orbit crashed into an apartment building, wrecking the top floor but causing no injuries, media reports said yesterday.

The incident was a minor embarrassment for China's space programme, which sent its first astronaut into space in October last year.

The capsule, which is the recoverable section of a probe launched to carry out scientific experiments in space, on Friday crashed into the four-storey building in Penglai, a village in south-western Sichuan province, the Tianfu Morning News reported.

It said a woman who lived there had left five minutes earlier.

The supporting pillars of the roof were knocked to the ground, the Youth Daily reported. But the capsule was undamaged and it has been hauled away.

The satellite had spent 18 days in orbit, according to the Tianfu Morning News.

It was fired from the remote Jiuquan launch centre in north-western Gansu province in the 20th such mission by China.

The rest of the satellite will remain in orbit, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The reports did not give a reason for the accident and tried to play down the significance of the crash-landing.

The Youth Daily, quoting Chinese space experts, said: 'The landing technology of our country's satellites is very mature and the precision of the landing point is among the best in the world.'

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Understanding the universe is no small matter
October 15, 2004 8:28 PM

All matter in the Universe, from stars to human beings, is made up of the same fundamental building blocks (Nasa)

For half a century, particle physicists at Cern, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, have been searching for what constitutes matter.
Their work has already been rewarded with three Nobel prizes, but they are still hunting for infinitely smaller prizes with their huge detectors near Geneva.

"Cern helps understand the universe," said James Gillies, spokesman for the world's biggest particle physics laboratory. "What it's made of, where it comes from, and where it's going."

When Cern was created 50 years ago, understanding of matter did not extend beyond the atomic nucleus. Theoretical physics had already stated there were smaller particles than protons and neutrons, but nobody had been able to detect them.

Particle physicists consider objects so small that even the most powerful microscopes cannot see them. The size of an atom nucleus is typically one thousandth of one billionth of a metre, and Cern is striving to probe deeper than that.
Particles display wavelike behaviour, and like waves, they leave a trace behind, not unlike a high-flying jet.

Scientists at Cern make use of this property, by sending particles – electrons, neutrons or protons – down long vacuum tubes surrounded by electromagnetic fields, which are called particle accelerators.

Once the particle comes close to the speed of light, it is smashed into other particles or a target. The researchers study the tracks left by the crash to try to understand the underlying structure of matter.

But technology developed at the Geneva laboratory for particle accelerators has done more than just study the structure of matter.

In 1968 Georges Charpak designed a detector that eventually led to new forms of medical imaging. Charpak received the 1992 Nobel Physics prize for his work.

Accelerators can also help create particles. Thanks to Einstein's equation where energy equals mass times the speed of light squared, scientists know that matter can be converted into energy and vice versa.

The energy from some collisions is enough to create matter, or in some cases, anti-matter, as experiments at Cern have shown.
Unified theory
Over the years, researchers at the laboratory have had one major goal: to come up with a single theory to unify the four forces that describe all known interactions between objects.

These forces – gravity, electromagnetic, strong and weak – are all well understood in their own right. But scientists would rather have one theory rather than four individual ones.

The unified field theory, as Einstein called it, is often considered the holy grail of physics.

This is not so surprising since it has proven just as elusive. Einstein himself came up short.

Two forces – electromagnetic and weak – were "unified" into a single theory in the 1970s. This theory was verified later in a Nobel prize-winning experiment at Cern.

The weakest and the strongest forces, however, gravity and the strong force, remain poles apart.
Higgs boson
So far, the best theory on what constitutes the fundamental building blocks of matter and how they interact is called the "Standard Model". But this theory has a major stumbling block.

"The model is fine so long as you consider particles have no mass," Gillies told swissinfo. "We now know that they do, but we don't know why."

The answer may lie with the mysterious Higgs boson, an elusive particle whose existence was first advanced by a British physicist.

In an attempt to find the Higgs boson, Cern is investing SFr3.2 billion ($2.57 billion) on a new accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Due to come online in 2007, it will take over from the 27-kilometre-long Large Electron Positron Collider (LEP), which has been running for 16 years.

The LHC will be the same size, but 70 times more powerful than the LEP, producing bigger collisions.
Dark matter
Cern's researchers won't be just chasing the Higgs boson, though. They will also continue to probe the secrets of anti-matter, and try to shed light on so-called "dark matter".

Scientists believe that the visible universe only contains at most five per cent of all matter. It is thought that huge quantities of invisible matter may explain why the universe is continually expanding.

"Black holes", collapsed stars whose gravity is so strong that not even light can escape from it, are believed to be made up of dark matter.

But these holes cannot account for all invisible matter. Physicists reckon there must be unknown heavy particles scattered throughout the universe that have been around since the beginning of time.

"We hope to have enough energy with the LHC to create some of these particles," said Gillies. "If we do, we can expect to make many more discoveries."

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Night sky holds terrifying memories for alien abductees
Jeff Holubitsky
The Edmonton Journal
Sunday, October 17, 2004

EDMONTON -- The two men didn't want their names used for fear of ridicule, but they had a story to tell.

It haunts their dreams and has forever changed the way they look into the night sky, said the men, who came, as did about two dozen others, to the first conference of the Alberta UFO Study Group on Saturday afternoon.

Around 2 a.m. on April 29, 1997, the two men were driving between Valleyview and Grande Prairie when a bright red light approached them from above, one of the men recalled.

The wind around them picked up, they fell unconscious, and awoke in a space ship, he said. "I remember I was fighting them and I kicked one between the legs, but they didn't have no testicles," one of the men said.

He said he looked at his friend, who had some sort of golden apparatus in his mouth.

"Then they probed me," he said, with tears beginning to well in his eyes.

"I remember it as clear as yesterday."

He said he blacked out and when he regained consciousness he was back in his car, speeding down the same highway in the wrong direction. It took them more than six hours to make a 45-minute trip.

Physically, the former bull rider said he felt as sore as if he'd competed in a rodeo the night before.

"I was quiet for two or three weeks, then I started to remember it," he said. "I still have dreams."

The men came to the rented room at University of Alberta Conference Centre, as others did, with an intense or personal interest in unexplained phenomena. They gathered to share experiences, philosophies, conspiracy theories, even skepticism, at the day-long event organized by Jim Moroney, a health and safety inspector with his own life-changing story to tell.

The executive director of the Alberta Municipal Health and Safety Association says he was driving from Edmonton to Ontario several years ago when he stopped his car near Winnipeg.

Moroney discounts theories that he might have temporarily fallen asleep on his feet. He maintains he was completely awake and standing next to his car to get some fresh air when a UFO appeared -- a big bright object that hovered above him for six or seven seconds before disappearing.

"It was probably about 20 feet above me," he said. " I still get shaky talking about it, but the air underneath it was dead."

He's uncomfortable recounting the story in public. "It would be silly to say that I wouldn't be nervous some people would be prejudiced against me because of my ideas on these phenomena," he said.

But like others at the conference, he believes there needs to be serious study into unexplained stories shared by so many people around the globe.

"We have to invite skepticism into this because it is only through challenging this through scientific means and really being honest about these challenges, that we'll filter out a body of evidence that is irrefutable one way or the other."

Former pilot Ken Burgess, who investigates UFO sightings for the group, isn't about to speculate about the strange object he saw above a plane he was flying. He's angered by tales of little green men, because they damage serious inquiry into the subject. But he knows he saw what he saw.

He has talked to people who have reported all kinds of objects in Alberta's skies. Some sightings have been as recent as last month -- giant flying black triangles above St. Albert.

"I just take the information and try to track it down," he said. "Did they pick it up on radar or did anyone else see it?"

The conference also heard from Fern Belzil, one of the world's top authorities in cattle mutilation. In the past eight years, the 80-year-old rancher from St. Paul has investigated more than 100 cases, the last ones just a few weeks ago.

Since the mad-cow crisis, farmers have generally kept quiet when their cattle or other animals are found with lips, tongues, udders, genitals, noses, eyes and rectums removed with surgical precision.

Showing slide after slide of mutilations, he insists he can instantly see differences between inexplainable injuries and those caused by predators or maggots.

Belzil is not certain what is happening to the animals.

"A lot of arrows point towards aliens," he said. "But we have no proof."

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Quake hits western Iranian town
Monday, October 18, 2004 - ©2004

LONDON, Oct 18 (IranMania) - An earthquake shook the town of Avaj in the western province of Qazvin early Monday. According to Iran's State News Agency (IRNA) it was measuring 4.7 degrees on the open-ended Richter scale.

According to the seismological base of Tehran University`s Geophysics Institute, the tremor occurred at 01:01 hours local time (21:31 GMT on Sunday).

There were no reports of any casualty or damage to property caused by the quake.

Iran is situated on some of the world`s most active seismic faultlines and quakes of varying magnitudes are usual occurrences.


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What is the chance of an asteroid hitting Earth and how do astronomers calculate it?
Perry A. Gerakines, an assistant professor in the department of physics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, explains.
Scientific American
We have extensive evidence that Earth has already been hit by asteroids many times throughout history-the most famous (or infamous) example is probably the asteroid or comet that created the Chicxulub crater in the Gulf of Mexico and may have contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period 65 million years ago. A more recent but less devastating example, called the Tunguska event, occurred in 1908, when a meteor or comet exploded over the wilderness of Siberia, damaging farmland and leveling trees for miles around. Because most of the earth is covered by oceans, there may also be many small impacts that go unnoticed.

There are thousands of small bodies that we call asteroids or meteoroids in orbit around the sun. Many of these objects are called near-Earth asteroids (or NEAs) because they have orbits that repeatedly bring them close to, or intersect with, Earth's orbit.

Although the odds of any one particular asteroid ever impacting Earth are quite low, it is still likely that one day our planet will be hit by another asteroid. At the current rate of impacts, we would expect about one large asteroid to impact Earth every 100 million years or so. For that reason several programs, such as the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have been undertaken around the world to discover and monitor potentially Earth-threatening asteroids.

When a new asteroid is discovered, astronomers analyze it to determine whether its orbit around the sun could bring it close to the Earth. They take successive images of the asteroid over the course of days after its discovery in order to predict its probable orbital path for the near future. The predicted orbit is then compared to the orbit and position of Earth to check for any times when they might pass close to each other.

Although scientists can calculate a most-likely orbit from these early observations, each single observation of the asteroid's position contains some uncertainty. Most asteroids are small objects, a few meters to a few tens of meters across, and even the resolving power of a large telescope cannot determine their positions exactly. The uncertainties in an asteroid's position lead to uncertainties in how well we can determine its speed and direction of travel. As a result, a large number of possible orbits for an asteroid can be predicted within these windows of uncertainty.

Careful computer simulations are used to calculate the future orbital path of the asteroid, with randomly chosen initial positions and velocities that fall within the margin of error of the telescopic observations to date. A large number of these simulations are generated for each asteroid. The probability that any particular one will actually hit Earth is given by the fraction of the extrapolated paths that leads to an impact. For example, if one million different possible orbits are calculated, and one of those leads to an impact, then we say that the odds of the asteroid hitting our world are one million to one.

The uncertainties in an asteroid's orbit are greatest in the hours just after its discovery, and thus the calculated probability of an impact also tends to be the highest at these times. As we monitor an asteroid over the course of the weeks or months that follow, its orbit becomes more and more certain, and we become more knowledgeable about its position at a given date in the future. We can then rule out many possible paths it may take. In most cases, monitoring the asteroid over a few weeks quickly leads to an impact probability of very nearly zero.

Comment: The above article is an answer to a question posed on the web site of the Scientific American. It shows that the awareness of the danger of an asteroid impact is beginning to be felt in the population while at the same time, the population is told to not worry, a major event only happens once every 100 million years.

Unfortunately, as the explosion at Tunguska shows, there is no need for an impact for there to be devastation on Earth. Explosions above the surface of the planet can been catastrophic. The study of tree rings shows the possibility of quite frequent impacts having deleterious effects in local regions, such as the impact in Germany that occurred about 200 BC (that we discussed yesterday) and the one in Europe in about 540 BC that brought on the Dark Ages. So it is misleading to throw out the number "100 million years", as if that means we have nothing to be worried about.

The number of sightings of fireballs has been quite regular in the last couple of years. Some of them may not make it into the press. At the most, they appear in local papers and aren't picked up for national or international syndication. We think there is evidence to show that such visitors are cyclic, and that their return shouldn't be long.

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