Article - High Strangeness
Article - The Blair Belief Project
Strike Flash Presentation by a QFS member
of the Day
[...] 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
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
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
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.
"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
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?"
| 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.
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
"The government of France, of which I am a part, has expressed
again its determination to struggle against anti-Semitism."
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
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.'' [...]
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
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."
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
America is awash in selective piety, situational moralists and
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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: G.Hassan@exchange.curtin.edu.au
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
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.
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.
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
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
"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
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
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"
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 ... "
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
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"
"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
The march was organized in conjunction with the forum by the Stop
the War Coalition and the Muslim Association of Britain.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Park rangers in Yosemite National Park say they believe a body
found yesterday belonged to the arsonist who ignited the 2,000-acre
Park officials say it appears the person died from a self-inflicted
Firefighters had planned to begin suppression efforts today, but
steady rain has put out most of the fire.
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
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.'
All matter in the Universe, from stars to
human beings, is made up of the same fundamental building blocks
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
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
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
The energy from some collisions is enough to create matter, or
in some cases, anti-matter, as experiments at Cern have shown.
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.
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
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
The LHC will be the same size, but 70 times more powerful than
the LEP, producing bigger collisions.
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
"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."
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
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
"It was probably about 20 feet above me," he said. "
I still get shaky talking about it, but the air underneath it was
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,"
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
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."
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.
| 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
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.
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