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Picture of the Day

Adolf Hitler. Time Magazine's "Man of the Year" 1938
George Bush. Time Magazine's "Man of the Year" 2004


First They Came For The Arabs...

SOTT Analysis

Continuing the Time-honored tradition of picking the person who has had the most "influence on the world" during the course of the year - and thereby manufacturing a certain status for the person in question in the minds of the general public, whether merited or not - Time magazine has, for the year 2004, nominated George W Bush as their "Man of the Year". In a eulogy to make your stomach churn, filled as it is with nauseating platitudes and obsequious psychophantic panderings, Time said they had chosen Bush for the second time in four years for:

"sticking to his guns (literally and figuratively), for reshaping the rules of politics to fit his ten-gallon-hat leadership style and for persuading a majority of voters this time around that he deserved to be in the White House for another four years. For sharpening the debate until the choices bled, for reframing reality to match his design, for gambling his fortunes - and ours - on his faith in the power of leadership."

High praise indeed. Unfortunately none of Time's reasons have any basis in reality. Indeed, Bush resorted to "reshaping the rules", specifically the rules of international law on the soverignty of other nations and the use of torture on civilians. He sharpened (read obsfuscated) the debate until the choices bled, and as a result caused massive and unwarranted bloodletting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What merit can there be in "literally sticking to your guns" when it involves the massacring of thousands of innocent civilians in a war to pillage the resources of other countries? Bush certainly persuaded American voters that he deserved another 4 years, but sadly this "persuasion" took the form of ditching the troublesome and unpredictable democratic process and installing himself as Fuhrer by way of vote rigging.

Yes indeed, Bush fits the mold of previous Time magazine "men of the year" very well. In fact, the parallels between Bush and the current state of the US and another notable "man of the year" exactly 66 years ago are startling.

Those of us alive today who look back at the events of WWII, could be mistaken for thinking that Hitler was very obviously a madman and was perceived as such by world public opinion of the day. Nothing could be further from the truth however.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain greets the Fuhrer in Germany 1938 British Prime Minister Tony Blair greets the Fuhrer in 2004

Long after Hitler had installed himself as an outright dictator, built the concentration camps and imposed an overt police state (albeit with the tacit consent of a majority of the population who welcomed his promises of a "reshaping of the rules" and a "sharpening of the debate") he was still entertaining British and American dignitaries at his Austrian chateau and receiving favorable write-ups in the international press. For example, in the November 1938 edition of "Homes and Gardens" a three page spread was dedicated to, among other things, the tastes in home decor of the man who, in just a few short years, would be condemned as a genocidal maniac. Like the tone of many commentaries on the German ruler at that time, there was absolutely nothing to suggest to the wider public that Hitler was planning to initiate a war that would leave 65 million people dead. The "Homes and Gardens" issue states:

"The Furher is his own decorator designer and furnisher as well as architect. He is constantly enlarging the place building new guest annexes and arranging in these his favorite antiques. It is a mistake to suppose that week-end guests are all, or even mainly, state officials. Hitler delights in the society of brilliant foreigners, especially painters, singers and musicians. As host he is a droll raconteur; we all know how surprised were Mr. Lloyd-George and his party when they accepted an invitation to Haus Wachenfeld (earlier in 1938).

All visitors are shown their host's model kennels where he breeds magnificent Alsatians. Some of his pedigree pets are allowed the run of the house especially on days when Herr Hitler gives a "fun fair" to the local children. On such a day when state affairs are over the squire himself, attended by some of his guests, will stroll into hamlets above and below. This is the only home in which Hitler can laugh and take his ease - or even "conduct tours" by means of the tripod telescope which he himself operates on the terrace for his visitors. "This place is mine" he says. "I built it with the money that I earned." Then he takes you into his library where you note that quite half the books are on history, painting, architecture and music."

Despite all of the warning signs, Hitler, like Bush today, continued to be lauded by the international press as a "revolutionary" for his extremely agressive and opressive foreign and domestic policies. The German people themselves, having to contend with the effects of homespun Nazi propaganda as well as internatioal approval of their leader, had considerably less chance of seeing the reality of the situation.

Absolute dictator-in-waiting with dog Absolute dictator-in-waiting with dog

In his book "Backing Hitler" Robert Gellately has this to say about the prevailing sentiment among Germans at the time:

Hitler's appointment as Chancellor on 30 Jan 1933 was followed the next day by the dissolution of the Reichstag. Herman Goering took immediate steps to introduce emergency police measures. Over the next few weeks the Nazis did not need to use the massive violence associated with modern takeovers like the Russian revolution. There was little or no opposition and the historian Golo Mann said of those times that "it was the feeling that Hitler was historically right that made a large part of the nation ignore the horrors of the Nazi takeover...people were ready for it." To the extent that terror was used it was selective and it was initially aimed mainly at communists and other (loosely defined) opposition individuals who were portrayed as "enemies of the people".

[Prior to the passing of the enabling law] Hitler gave a government declaration in which he signaled that he had a social and political agenda that went beyond suppressing Communism, getting back to work and restoring Germany's position in Europe. His stated goals now included "creating a real community of the people" and he alluded to the need for "the moral purification of the body politic".

Citizens were asked to express themselves on 19 August 1934 in a plebiscite on the issue of uniting the offices of head of state and that of the head of government (Chancellor Hitler). around 90 percent supported Hitler. These results disappointed opponents who kept waiting for the people to see the light. The Nazis were clear in their own minds about their popular backing, and Hitler was fond of saying that henceforth the struggle was for the support of the remaining 10 percent. According to the Reichstag elections held on 29 March 1936 the Nazis were well on their way to getting that support, because they received no less than 99.99% of the vote. Certainly by then the elections were heavily tilted in favor of the government which counted spoiled ballots or those left blank as a "yes".

On the night of 27 February 1933 a lone arsonist tried to burn down the Reichstag. Even though Marinus Van der Lubbe, a Dutchman with no particular ties to Communism was caught, Hitler immediately blamed all Communists [...] and insisted on the "Presidential decree for the protection of the people and the state". The decree suspended "until further notice" the constitutional guarantees of personal liberty; made it possible for police to arrest and detain anyone they saw fit; and to impose restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and association. Police were allowed to exceed all previous legal limits on house searches and could intercept mail and tap telephones.

Most Germans, especially anyone close to the Nazi party, accepted the official version of events about the attempted Communist insurrection and the need to take radical measures. Ian Kershaw concludes that the violence and repression that took place, far from damaging Hitler's reputation "were widely popular". More than 200 telegrams were sent to the Ministry of Justice demanding the death penalty for the culprit who burnt down the Reichstag, and many volunteered for the position of executioner.

The German government insisted that it was responding to a revolutionary threat that called for emergency measures on short-term basis. It kept reassuring the public that, once the crisis passed, Germany's rule of law and freedoms would be restored. It was obvious, however, even at the time when such vague promises were made, that the innovations introduced were going to be permanent features of Hitler's dictatorship. [...] The combination of the Reichstag fire and the Enabling Act gave the Nazi revolution a veneer of legality and made it easier for the citizens to accept the dictatorship.

Presenting the right image to the masses Presenting the right image to the masses

Almost every single aspect of the controls put in place by the Nazi party as related by Gellately in the above excerpt has a direct correlation to the facts on the ground in modern day America, including the attitude of the citizens to those controls. It should be noted that, as regards the burning of the Reichstag, most historians now believe that van der Lubbe was actually duped by the Nazis into setting the fire and probably was even assisted by them, without his realizing it.

Of course, like the Nazis, with each stricture put in place, the Bush government will attempt to assuage any public concern by issuing denials and justifications for their actions. Yet the evidence is all there and indeed has been there for quite some time.

For example, almost 15 years ago, Don McGillivray writing in the Vancouver Sun recognised the ideological links between modern day America and Nazi Germany:

Like Bush, Hitler Also Offered a New World Order of Peace

Don McGillivray
Vancouver Sun
Monday, January 21, 1991

Transcribed from archived image file.

Ottawa - The Gulf War is being fought for a bright and shining Utopia.

People who back it as a necessary war believe victory for the U.S. over Iraq would usher in a golden age called the New world Order.

U.S. President George Bush, addressing a joint session of Congress on Sept. 11, said the Persian Gulf crisis "offers a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation.

"A New World Order can emerge freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice and more secure in the quest for peace."

Bush seems to have picked up the New world Order idea from Mikhail Gorbachev. And Prime Minister Brian Mulroney picked it up from Bush.

But Sunday's New York Times said the phrase is "unfortunate... reminiscent of Nazi sloganeering."

It's not only reminiscent, it is borrowed directly from Adolf Hitler.

Almost exactly 50 years ago, on Jan. 30, 1941, Hitler gave a long rant in the Berlin Sportpalast.

"I'm convinced that 1941 will be the crucial year of a Great New Order in Europe," Hitler said. "The World shall open up for everyone. Privileges for individuals, the tyranny of certain nations and their financial rulers shall fall. And last of all, this year will help to provide the foundations of a real understanding among peoples, and with it the certainty of conciliation among nations."

Hitler's New Order was a continuing theme. A speech collection published in 1941 as a sequel to Mein Kampf was titled "My New Order."

It was, of course, a mad tyrant's cruel hoax on a world groaning under his war machine.

But Hitler's description of the promised Utopia is not much different from today's promises. Note, especially, that he claimed nations would settle their disputes peacefully by conciliation. That's one of the key claims for the New World Order.

Once Saddam Hussein has been disposed of, others of his sort will know that they must settle disputes peacefully, or the United Nations, using the US as its policeman, will deal with them as well. This is the war-to-end-wars illusion.

In 1967, Walter Lippmann, the US political commentator, noted: "The historical record is quite plain... each of the wars to end wars has set the stage for the next war."

Politicians have learned they invite cynicism if they claim that the latest war will end all wars. But they imply it anyway.

Joe Clark said Tuesday in the Commons that "if there is a war in the Gulf it will not be the war to end all wars." But he went on to talk about "hope to deter aggression," to "keep the peace," and "to make it (peace) cooperatively" which would be lost if the US, Canada, and other countries were not prepared to use force against Iraq.

One of the worst things about the Utopian illusion is that it makes dreadful deeds seem permissible because the stakes are so high

You can carpet bomb an enemy back into the Stone Age if you're doing it in the name of a New World Order of permanent peace and happiness.

Comment: Few people will argue with the fact that the German people were manipulated by the Nazis, but equally few seem prepared to allow for the possibility that they could be vulnerable to the same deception.

Why is this?

If you lived in Nazi Germany, do you really think that you would have been able to see past the patriot propaganda and the host of economic and social manipulations to which the German people were subjected?

Why is it that Americans today seem to credit themselves with the ability to recognise a massive government lie when just 70 years ago the German people, and indeed much of the population of the rest of the world, were unable to do so?

With the vast increase in mass media communication in the later half of the 20th century, if it chose to do so, today it would be much easier for a government to deceive the people en masse than it was back in the 1930's.

People give lip service to the maxim that "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it", but it appears that they do not take that concept seriously. Why is this?

Hitler and the Nazis showed us all how it was done. They showed the world that through the slow propagation of the "big lie", through diversion and promotion of bogus threats to the lives of the citizenry, an entire people can be completely and unconditionally deceived.

Consider the following text from the "Third Reich Roundtable" website:

"The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway.

Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about - we were decent people - and kept us so busy with continuous changes and "crises" and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the "national enemies", without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?

Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, "regretted," that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these "little measures" that no "patriotic German" could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

Today, the government controls every aspect of the life of the average citizen, whether they know it or not. From the food we put in our mouths to the thoughts we think, there is no facet of life that does not have a government agency assigned to monitor it. This is natural, but is also the crux of the matter.

In the case that a government decided to deceive the population in a wholesale manner, is it really reasonable to be so smug as to assume that we would immediately and easily recognise such a deception? Many of our readers, and most Americans seem to think so.

We are not suggesting that it is impossible for a person to know if their government is lying to them, but if we expect to ever know the truth, we must stop blindly accepting everything that we are told, or fleeing into denial at the first sign that our comfort zone might be disturbed. Objective research and analysis is required, there can be no 'sacred cows', nothing can be taboo, all evidence must be weighed up impartially and given its due without pity for ourselves, others, or our illusions.

But among all the resources available to us in this task, one of the most important is history. By scrutinising the events that make up our world history, we may arm ourselves with the knowledge derived from the hard-won lessons of those that have gone before us. In that respect and in relation to the current US, and global, political and social climate, the experiences of the German people under the Nazis contain some crucially important lessons for us to learn. It behooves us all to learn them, before it is too late - again.

"Once the war began, the government could do anything "necessary" to win it; so it was with the "final solution" of the Jewish problem, which the Nazis always talked about but never dared undertake, not even the Nazis, until war and its "necessities" gave them the knowledge that they could get away with it.

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Flashback: Are Parallels To Nazi Germany Crazy?

Harley Sorensen, Special to SF Gate
Monday, January 26, 2004

The customers always write. I get about 400 e-mails in response to my columns every week, which might explain why I didn't answer yours. Here, slightly edited, is one of the more interesting ones from last week. It's from Herr Moellers in Germany:

"Dear Mr. Sorensen,

"I have many American friends and used to go on business travel to the U.S. a lot (I stopped doing that after even our European governments have given in to Uncle Sam's appetite for information about individuals traveling to God's Own Country), and I am shocked by the deterioration of democracy in a country that I used to love. This administration is a shame and the destabilization they have brought to the world is scaring the s** out of me.

"My father was a Nazi soldier and he realized during the war what he and most of his generation was led into. I have learned from him that a nation can be guilty and that we must stop the arrogance of the powers at the very beginning. To me, America is becoming truly scary and the parallels to the development in Germany of the thirties (although the reason behind it are totally different) are sickening.

"Thank you for writing about this development. The world is waiting for signs of opposition in the Unilateral States of America!"

Herr Moellers' e-mail is typical of a half dozen or so I've received over the past year from people with intimate knowledge of Nazi Germany.

I respect experience, so I'm inclined to believe what these people are telling me. Perhaps their memories help explain the attitude of Germans toward the Bush administration these days.

They've been there, they've done that. They know what a corrupt government smells like.

But are they "over the top"? Are they overreacting to a normal swing of the pendulum in American politics?

To make a comparison between Germany in the 1930s and America now, I relied on a Web site called "A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust." The passages in quotations below are taken from the site.

"With Adolf Hitler's ascendancy to the chancellorship, the Nazi Party quickly consolidated its power. Hitler managed to maintain a posture of legality throughout the Nazification process."

Whether by chance or design, George W. Bush is the most powerful American president in modern history. Not only does he have both houses of Congress beholden to him, but the majority of the Supreme Court is acting like a quintet of Bush lapdogs. And it all appears legal.

"Domestically, during the next six years, Hitler completely transformed Germany into a police state."

Civil libertarians insist that this is happening here now, with the USA Patriot Act in force and Patriot II on the table.

"Hitler engaged in a 'diplomatic revolution' by negotiating with other European countries and publicly expressing his strong desire for peace."

Nobody can accuse Bush of being overly diplomatic, but, like all political leaders, he is an apostle for peace, even while starting two wars during his brief tenure.

In 1933, the Reichstag, Germany's parliament building, was burned to the ground. Nobody knows for sure who set the fire. The Nazis blamed communists. "This incident prompted Hitler[,then Germany's chancellor,] to convince [German President Paul von] Hindenburg to issue a Decree for the Protection of People and State that granted Nazis sweeping power to deal with the so-called emergency."

The Reichstag fire parallels the Sept. 11 attacks here, and Hindenburg's decree parallels our USA Patriot Act.

Soon after Hitler took power, the concentration camp at Dachau was created and "the Nazis began arresting Communists, Socialists and labor leaders ... . Parliamentary democracy ended with the Reichstag passage of the Enabling Act, which allowed the government to issue laws without the Reichstag."

With Bush leading all branches of government around by the nose, there's a question whether parliamentary democracy still exists here. Certainly, concentration camps exist, if we're willing to call the lockup at Guanténamo Bay what it really is. And the USA Patriot Act allows the president to effectively take citizenship rights from any American-born criminal suspect.

"Nazi anti-Semitic legislation and propaganda against 'Non-Aryans' was a thinly disguised attack against anyone who had Jewish parents or grandparents. Jews felt increasingly isolated from the rest of German society."

How comfortable do American-born Arabs feel in the United States today?

While the German concentration camps were being built and Jews were being persecuted, in 1936 Nazi Germany hosted the Olympic Games and put its best face forward to the world. We have the Super Bowl.

In the mid- to late 1930s, Germany was able to annex nearby territories without firing a shot. That was because of the threat of the German military, the strongest in the world at the time. That might be compared with the sudden flexibility of Iran, Pakistan, Syria and Libya, all of whom are aware that Bush will do more than just threaten; he'll do it.

When one is comparing then and now, I think the most interesting factor is that most German Jews remained in Germany until it was too late. They just couldn't believe Hitler was as dangerous as some people said he was. The more prescient Jews (most often those who could afford to do so) got out, however.

Hitler came to power in 1933, but the killing of Jews (and others) didn't begin until five years later, in 1938, with the historic Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") on Nov. 9. On that day, "nearly 1,000 synagogues were set on fire and 76 were destroyed. More than 7,000 Jewish businesses and homes were looted, about 100 Jews were killed, and as many as 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps to be tormented ... ."

We haven't seen anything like that here, nor does it appear to be one the horizon, yet one must wonder about the hundreds shut away in Guanténamo Bay and in other lockups in the United States and throughout the world.

I haven't space here to list all of the apparent comparisons between then and now, but you can see them for yourself by reading the teacher's guide mentioned earlier.

My conclusion is that some comparisons between modern times and Nazi Germany are valid, and some are not. Enough are valid, in my opinion, however, for us to be wary, and as vigilant as humanly possible.

Whatever happens in this year's election, I would hope that Congress, the Supreme Court and the president himself start reeling in the power of the presidency. It has been expanding ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt, if not before, and now it is way out of proportion to what the Founding Fathers had in mind for our system of checks and balances.

Our current president has the power to turn the world into turmoil with a mere stroke of the pen. No man should have that much power, no matter who he is.

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The GOP and the Nazis: There are similarities and, no, I will not apologize

by Wayne Madsen

In a number of columns written after George W. Bush's extra-constitutional seizure of powers post 9-11, I pointed out a number of similarities between Bush's GOP and Hitler's Nazi Party.

The bombast from the usual suspect circles was swift and predictable. Writing in the neoconservative National Review, Byron York bemoaned the fact that "Wayne Madsen wrote that Bush is 'borrowing liberally from Hitler's play book.'" Following the same line, The New York Post's editorial page editor, arch-neocon propagandist John Podhoretz, in his new book, Bush Country, whined that when I wrote about Hitler's oratory skills being light years ahead of Bush's, I was somehow praising Hitler. This is so typical of the right-wing attack dogs: ignore the main point and fire off a broadside of false innuendo. No reasonable historian would deny that Hitler's speechmaking abilities were far ahead of the syllable-challenged Bush's. Contrasting the policies of Bush and Hitler following terrorist attacks in their countries is a legitimate area for historical comparative analysis. Although Hitler was behind the burning of the Reichstag, he and Bush virtually tore up their respective constitutions and began viciously denouncing their political enemies. Both Bush and Hitler failed in every business venture they started, until, of course, they became leaders of their countries in questionable elections.

The neocon spin machine continues to defend Bush against charges that he practices the same sort of reactionary politics embraced by Hitler. On Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, I was asked to defend my comparison.

Guest Co-host Michael Wolff: But you don't see a legitimate distinction between Adolf Hitler and George Bush?

Madsen: Well, look, if you look at some of the policies, preemptive warfare, we know that Hitler did that against Poland. He did it against France; he did it against the Soviet Union. Trashing the United Nations, that's what Hitler did to the League of Nations.

Sean Hannity: Don't you see how you're alienating the majority of the American people with your rhetoric?

Madsen: I don't think so. The way to combat terrorism isn't to take the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights and shred it like Mr. Hitler did after the Reichstag fire.

The exchange on Fox was prompted by two television advertisements likening Bush to Hitler that were submitted in a contest sponsored by Cathy Young, writing an op-ed on behalf of Reason, a so-called libertarian magazine whose motto is Free Minds and Free Markets, said comparisons between Bush and Hitler should be retired. It is interesting that a magazine like Reason would use the phrase "Free Minds and Free Markets." Considering that Reason champions the so-called rights of companies over the Lilliputians of the working class, that motto is not much different from the sign over the main gate of the Auschwitz concentration camp, "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Liberates).

Recently, radio shock jock Howard Stern said the real reason why the pro-Bush and Dallas-based Clear Channel dropped his nationally-syndicated morning program from its stations was not because the company was trying to placate the Federal Communications Commission over offensive material on the airwaves, but was in response to his attacking the Nazi and Taliban-like policies of Bush. Stern also suggested that the fundamentalist right-wingers supporting Bush were organized into Nazi-like cells. Stern is just one more in a long list of people who have disagreed with Bush and have faced the wrath of the Bush storm troopers. Let us not forget what the creepy management of Clear Channel did when The Dixie Chicks spoke out against Bush. They banned their songs from their radio stations and sponsored compact disk smashing events in the same manner that Hitler's minions banned books and burned them in huge bonfires around Germany.

John Ashcroft's Gestapo-like Justice Department has engaged in definite selective prosecutions of those who have openly opposed Bush's policies or have contributed money to the Democratic Party's coffers. Take former Illinois Republican Governor George Ryan: Ashcroft's right-wing prosecutors indicted him after he commuted the death sentences of Illinois's death row population. Ryan cited police and prosecutorial misconduct in Chicago and the state capital of Springfield as a major reason for his decision. Ashcroft and Bush, both self-anointed born-again Christians, are in love with the death penalty and championed executions while serving as governors of their states of Missouri and Texas, respectively. In 2002, a Purim sermon at a Washington, DC, synagogue suggested Ashcroft was like Haman, the evil vizier of the Persian King Ahasuerus. Haman, like Hitler, plotted to annihilate the Jews and the two are often compared in Jewish liturgies.

And then there is Martha Stewart, a past generous contributor to Democratic candidates and causes. She was indicted by Ashcroft's New York feds after she lied about dumping her Imclone stock in an insider trading deal. Never mind the fact that Enron's former chairman, Kenneth Lay (affectionately called "Kenny Boy" by Bush) still walks free despite the fact that he ripped off billions of dollars from stockholders and employees. It was hallmark of the Hitler regime to accuse political opponents of the Nazis of committing economic crimes against the state. The Nazis charged a number of non-Nazi business leaders with contributing to Germany's hyper-inflation following World War I. Many were later arrested and had their property seized. The Nazis allowed only a few large corporations to flourish, particularly those that generously contributed to the Nazi cause. Arms manufacturer Gustav Krupp was won over to the Nazi cause in 1933 when the Nazis told him that they would increase defense spending to record levels. For his part, Krupp led an industrial fund called the Adolf Hitler Spende. The fund collected money for Hitler's election coffers in return for special treatment for German industries. Ken Lay, meet Gustav Krupp.

On the subject of Enron, it was Lay and his buddies in Houston who financially raped California in 2001 by conspiring to raise the state's electric utility rates to a usurious degree. Who paid the price when California was plunged into financial ruin? Democratic Governor Gray Davis, who was recalled in a right-wing financed election after having served less than a year of his second term. And who replaced Davis? Self-described Hitler, Nazi, and Kurt Waldheim admirer Arnold Schwarzenegger, the new Republican Governor of California whose congressional soul mate, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, wants to amend the US Constitution to allow an Austrian émigré like Schwarzenegger to run for president. Where before have we seen national laws changed to allow a right-wing Austrian to run for political office in an adopted homeland?

But the neocons still continue to attack those who draw comparisons between Bush and Hitler. Shamefully, the neocons keep silent as Mel Gibson releases a big screen version of the Passion plays that were historically used throughout Europe to fan the flames of anti-Semitism. Many religious experts have pointed out that Gibson's The Passion of the Christ will only further exacerbate tense relations between Christians and non-Christians. Not so, say the evangelical Christians and their neocon allies—especially those affiliated with the Catholic right-wing secret society Opus Dei and the New American Century/American Enterprise Institute crowd. Shamefully, they mimic the capos of Nazi Germany's concentration camps and keep silent as Gibson's movie fans the flames of religious intolerance. Worse, the hallelujah chorus for the extreme right failed to urge Gibson to condemn his father Hutton's historical revisionist comments that Germany could not have killed 6 million Jews. "Do you know what it takes to get rid of a dead body? To cremate it? It takes a liter of petrol and 20 minutes. Now, six million of them? They [the Germans] did not have the gas to do it. That's why they lost the war," the elder Gibson told a New York radio show. He then suggested that many Jewish victims of the Holocaust had actually emigrated to the United States and Australia.

Yet, GOP radio and television mouthpieces like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Rush Limbaugh defend Mel Gibson's movie while, at the same time, deride those who would compare what is happening in the United States now to what occurred in Germany in the early and mid 1930s. They feel we should just ignore Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hutton and Mel Gibson, and the foaming-at-the-mouth racists and xenophobes of evangelical Christendom and right-wing Catholicism. I, for one, will not ignore what are indisputable signs that the right wing in the United States has made a sharp turn into the netherworld of fascism and racial and religious xenophobia.

"Mixing with Blacks was out of the question . . . The Negro problem, indeed the racial problem in general, is viewed differently in the industrialized North than in the more agricultural South, which had drawn a sharp line for centuries between the colored and Whites." That passage could have been written by any number of racist Republicans, from Strom Thurmond, to his number one fan Trent Lott, to Haley Barbour and Sonny Perdue, the neo-Confederate GOP governors of Mississippi and Georgia, respectively. However, this interpretation of race relations in the United States was prepared in 1942 by Hitler's Reichsorganisationsleitung, a Nazi Party propaganda mill headed by Robert Ley. Haley Barbour, meet Robert Ley.

The GOP is also engaged in a national campaign of gay bashing. Using gay marriage as a casus belli, the GOP, fronting for the evangelical Christian Taliban of Ashcroft, Pat Robertson, Bob Jones, and Jerry Falwell, wants to turn the clock back on the civil liberties and equal treatment for gays and lesbians. But the GOP, like the Nazis, is hiding a dark secret. The Nazi youth movement (Wandervogel) was led by a number of homosexuals, including the sadistic Gerhard Rossbach, who would lay the groundwork for the Nazi Brown Shirts as a result of his creation of the post-World War I Freikorps (Free Corps). Rossbach recruited German Army Captain Ernst Roehm, another homosexual, into his movement. Roehm would eventually become the leader of the SA Storm Troopers of the Nazi Party. Many of the early Nazi leaders in Munich re, in fact, gay. Heinrich Himmler began to see Roehm and his associates as dangerous to the party. Even Hitler was suspected of having a homosexual past, especially when he was living the life of an itinerant on the streets of Vienna. Some of Hitler's followers formed a secret occult order called the Ordo Novi Templi (Order of the New Temple).

But even as Roehm and his homosexual colleagues helped extend Nazi rule in Germany, Hitler, after his ascension to power in 1933, banned pornography, homosexual bars and bathhouses, and homosexual rights groups. The Nazi anti-gay laws were only directed against homosexuals who were opposed to the Nazis, not against those who supported Hitler. In June 1934, Hitler and his allies ordered the extermination of Roehm and his SA associates, as well as other political enemies, on the Night of the Long Knives. One of the chief executioners was Reinhard Heydrich, one of Hitler's top advisers, who was also a homosexual.

Fast forward to today. Although Bush and his evangelical allies condemn homosexuality, the ranks of the Bush's brain trust are rife with gays who support the gay bashing agenda of the GOP. It should be pointed out that these ranks do not include the moderate Long Cabin Republicans, a moderate Republican gay advocacy group. From Bush's fraternity Skull and Bones, to Bush "best friend" and fellow Skull and Bonesman Victor Ashe, the former Mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee; to Karl Rove; to Bush's successor as Governor of Texas, Rick Perry; to other Republican politicians in Texas, to some of Bush's top ideological advisers and media cheerleaders, rumors are swirling about homoerotic fraternity initiations, secretive trysts, sudden divorce filings, and tropical island getaways. Skull and Bones, meet the Order of the New Temple.

Germany's Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was often said to be the friendly face of Nazism. A frequent guest at Europe's high society dinner parties, Ribbentrop would brush aside fears about Germany's ambitions, including its imperial designs on its European neighbors. Colin Powell, who has been called the "good cop" in the Bush administration's crowd of "bad cops," permitted his right-wing Latin America assistant, Roger Noriega, a former chief of staff to Sen. Jesse Helms, to strong-arm and hoodwink Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into accepting a peace agreement that the brutish Haitian opposition, armed and supported by the Bush administration, had no intention of signing. Noriega's machination was supported by his predecessor, Otto Reich [sic], who serves as Condoleezza Rice's National Security Council point man for Latin America. After Aristide was napped at his home at gunpoint by U.S. troops accompanied by US Deputy Chief of Mission Luis Moreno and flown on an American plane to house arrest in the Central African Republic, the democratically-elected Haitian president proclaimed that his removal was unconstitutional and had been forced out by Washington. In 1936, beleaguered and exiled Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie appeared before the League of Nations in Switzerland to condemn its inaction over the Italian Fascist invasion of his country. "God and history will remember your judgment," Selassie told the League. Colin Powell, meet Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Yes, there certainly are many comparisons between the policies of Bush and Hitler. More astounding is the fact that Bush's grandfather, Senator Prescott Bush of Connecticut, was an investor in Nazi businesses and industries during World War II. No wonder his son, George H. W. Bush was urged to sign up as the youngest Navy pilot to fight the Japanese in the Pacific! Pursuant to the Trading With the Enemy Act, Prescott Bush had his assets seized during World War II. They included interests in Union Banking Corporation, Holland American Trading Corporation, Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation, and the Silesian-American Corporation (a joint operation between Prescott and his father-in-law George Herbert Walker). Silesian-American would pressgang slave laborers from the Polish town of Oswiecim, the future home of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The similarities between the Bush and Nazi gangs are unmistakable. The list of those who see the similarities grows every day. The latest on the list is Howard Stern. He joins former German Justice Minister Herta Daubler-Gmelin, CBS's Hitler: The Rise of Evil miniseries' director Ed Gernon, financier George Soros, filmmaker Michael Moore, actress and comedienne Janeane Garofolo, German author and TV moderator Franz Alt, playwright Harold Pinter, Cuban President Fidel Castro, former South African President Nelson Mandela, "Boondocks" cartoonist Aaron McGruder, retired Western Michigan University English professor Edward Jayne, columnist Nicholas von Hoffman, author John Pilger, and Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes in comparing Bush's policies and antics to those of Hitler. I am proud to have my views associated with those of such visionary luminaries.

During the 1930s, the famous writer H.G. Wells was rebuked by the conservatives of his day for comparing Hitler to Caesar and suggesting that Hitler was a "certifiable lunatic." Weht on the money. Those of us who see a creeping fascism with Bush and his cronies will, one day, be vindicated by the muses of history.

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Flashback: But Then It Was Too Late

Third Reich Roundtable

"What no one seemed to notice," said a colleague of mine, a philologist, "was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know it doesn't make people close to their government to be told that this is a people's government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing.

"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if he people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

"This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

"You will understand me when I say that my Middle High German was my life. It was all I cared about. I was a scholar, a specialist. Then, suddenly, I was plunged into all the new activity, as the universe was drawn into the new situation; meetings, conferences, interviews, ceremonies, and, above all, papers to be filled out, reports, bibliographies, lists, questionnaires. And on top of that were the demands in the community, the things in which one had to, was "expected to" participate that had not been there or had not been important before. It was all rigmarole, of course, but it consumed all one's energies, coming on top of the work one really wanted to do. You can see how easy it was, then, not to think about fundamental things. One had no time."

"Those," I said, "are the words of my friend the baker. "One had no time to think. There was so much going on."

"Your friend the baker was right," said my colleague. "The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your "little men", your baker and so on; I speak of my colleagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about - we were decent people - and kept us so busy with continuous changes and "crises" and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the "national enemies", without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?

"To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it - please try to believe me - unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, "regretted," that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these "little measures" that no "patriotic German" could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

"How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice - "Resist the beginnings" and "consider the end." But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have changed here before they went as far as they did; they didn't, but they might have. And everyone counts on that might.

"Your "little men," your Nazi friends, were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better (that would be too much to say) but because we sensed better. Pastor Niemoller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing: and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something - but then it was too late."

"Yes," I said.

"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn't see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for the one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act, or even to talk, alone; you don't want to "go out of your way to make trouble." Why not? - Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, everyone is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there will be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, "It's not so bad" or "You're seeing things" or "You're an alarmist."

"And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can't prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don't know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.

"But your friends are fewer now. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in their work. You no longer see as many as you did at meetings or gatherings. Informal groups become smaller; attendance drops off in little organizations, and the organizations themselves wither. Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further and serves as a further deterrent to – to what? It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait.

"But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That's the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and the smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked – if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in "43" had come immediately after the "German Firm" stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in "33". But of course this isn't the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

"And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying "Jew swine," collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in – your nation, your people – is not the world you were in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.

"You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things that your father, even in Germany, could not have imagined.

"Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven't done ( for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.

"What then? You must then shoot yourself. A few did. Or "adjust" your principles. Many tried, and some, I suppose, succeeded; not I, however. Or learn to live the rest of your life with your shame. This last is the nearest there is, under the circumstances, to heroism: shame. Many Germans became this poor kind of hero, many more, I think, than the world knows or cares to know."

I said nothing. I thought of nothing to say.

"I can tell you," my colleague went on, "of a man in Leipzig, a judge. He was not a Nazi, except nominally, but he certainly wasn't an anti-Nazi. He was just – a judge. In "42" or "43", early "43", I think it was, a Jew was tried before him in a case involving, but only incidentally, relations with an "Aryan" woman. This was "race injury", something the Party was especially anxious to punish. In the case a bar, however, the judge had the power to convict the man of a "nonracial" offense and send him to an ordinary prison for a very long term, thus saving him from Party "processing" which would have meant concentration camp or, more probably, deportation and death. But the man was innocent of the "nonracial" charge, in the judge's opinion, and so, as an honorable judge, he acquitted him. Of course, the Party seized the Jew as soon as he left the courtroom."

"And the judge?"

"Yes, the judge. He could not get the case off his conscience – a case, mind you, in which he had acquitted an innocent man. He thought that he should have convicted him and saved him from the Party, but how could he have convicted an innocent man? The thing preyed on him more and more, and he had to talk about it, first to his family, then to his friends, and then to acquaintances. (That's how I heard about it.) After the "44" Putsch they arrested him. After that, I don't know."

I said nothing.

"Once the war began," my colleague continued, "resistance, protest, criticism, complaint, all carried with them a multiplied likelihood of the greatest punishment. Mere lack of enthusiasm, or failure to show it in public, was "defeatism." You assumed that there were lists of those who would be "dealt with" later, after the victory. Goebbels was very clever here, too. He continually promised a "victory orgy" to "take care of" those who thought that their "treasonable attitude" had escaped notice. And he meant it; that was not just propaganda. And that was enough to put an end to all uncertainty.

"Once the war began, the government could do anything "necessary" to win it; so it was with the "final solution" of the Jewish problem, which the Nazis always talked about but never dared undertake, not even the Nazis, until war and its "necessities" gave them the knowledge that they could get away with it. The people abroad who thought that war against Hitler would help the Jews were wrong. And the people in Germany who, once the war had begun, still thought of complaining, protesting, resisting, were betting on Germany's losing the war. It was a long bet. Not many made it."

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A System Bereft of Justice
by Paul Craig Roberts

"Creators Syndicate" -- While enjoying Christmas, good food and drink with family and friends in the warmth and comfort of your home, take a moment to remember the falsely imprisoned. Think about how your own family would handle the grief, because wrongful imprisonment can happen to you.

In a just published book, Thinking About Crime, Michael Tonry, a distinguished American law professor and director of Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology, reports that the US has the highest percentage of its population in prison of any country on earth. The US incarceration rate is as much as 12 times higher than that of European countries.

Unless you believe that Americans are more criminally inclined than other humans, what can explain the US incarceration rate being so far outside the international mainstream? I can think of the following reasons:

  • In order to prove that they are "tough on crime," politicians have criminalized behavior that is legal elsewhere.
  • Many innocent Americans are in jail.

There is enormous evidence backing up both reasons.

Professor Tonry notes that during the past three decades the number of Americans in prison has increased 700%. Imprisonment has far outstripped the growth in the population. Subtracting children and the elderly, one in eighty Americans of prison eligible age is locked up.

America’s privatized prisons have to be fed with inmates in order to maintain their profitability. Prosecutors need high conviction rates to justify their budgets and to build their careers. Taken together these two facts create powerful incentives to put people away regardless of crime, innocence or guilt.

Consider the case of Charles Thomas Sell as recently told by Carolyn Tuft of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and by Phyllis Schlafly on TownHall (Dec. 13). Mr. Sell, a dentist, has been locked up for almost 8 years without a trial. Allegedly, Sell is guilty of Medicare fraud, but with no evidence or witnesses against him, the virtuous, just, democratic, moral US government tortured Mr. Sell in an effort to make him confess. Now they can’t bring him to trial where he will talk. So Mr. Sell is kept locked up under the pretense that his unwillingness to admit his guilt is evidence that he is mentally incompetent.

Schlafly asks the correct question: "Is there no accountability for this type of government misconduct?" The answer is NO. Mr. Sell might as well be in Stalin’s Gulag or in the hands of the Waffen SS or US captors at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. No one will do anything about the crime that the US government has committed against Mr. Sell.

No one will do anything to help William R. Strong, Jr., another victim of our heartless injustice system. Strong has been in a Virginia prison for a decade on false charges of "wife rape." Mr. Strong has been trying to get a DNA test, confident that the semen in the perk test is not his but that of the lover of his unfaithful wife. But since Strong was convicted prior to the advent of DNA testing, prosecutors argue that he has no right to the evidence.

Another innocent victim of "Virginia justice" is Chris Gaynor, who my investigations indicate was framed by a corrupt prosecutor with the connivance of a corrupt judge, who intimidated Gaynor’s witnesses by jailing one of them. Only liars were permitted on the witness stand. I brought the facts to light in the newspapers at the time, but the Arlington, Virginia, criminal injustice system did not let facts interfere with its show trial.

Government routinely breaks the laws. So says Judge Andrew P. Napolitano in the current issue of Cato Policy Report and in his book, Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks Its Own Laws. Judge Napolitano reports on cases of torture, psychological abuse, and frame-ups of innocents that he discovered as the presiding judge. Any American naïve enough to trust the police and prosecutors should read what Napolitano has to say.

Torture has become routine in American prisons. The goal of the torturers is guilty pleas and false testimony against innocent defendants. The torturers succeed. Napolitano reports that "fewer than 3 percent of federal indictments were tried; virtually all the rest of those charged pled guilty."

Does anyone seriously believe that the police are so efficient that 97 out of 100 people indicted are guilty?!

The cherished code, "you are innocent until proven guilty," no longer holds in America. You are guilty when charged. You will be tortured or abused and threatened with more charges until you agree to a plea bargain.

Diane Lori Kleiman is an attorney who has worked in a district attorney’s office and for the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. She says prosecutors have little concern with real crimes, preferring to target high-profile individuals in order to garner headlines and create a political career for themselves. Martha Stewart is a victim of prosecutorial ambition as was Michael Milken, whose false imprisonment created a political career for Rudy Giuliani.

Kleiman says that prosecutors look for high-profile targets. "It isn’t necessarily an issue of right and wrong. It’s an issue of taking the case to trial and getting the publicity. That makes your career."

The Martha Stewart case, Kleiman says, "is the first time in history where they charged an individual with false statements, without her signing the statement or without a tape recording that she even made the statement. And not under oath." Kleiman is referring to US history, not Soviet or Nazi history, histories that our criminal injustice system now mimics.

The US criminal justice system is bereft of justice and accountability. It only serves the ambitions of prosecutors. In America, criminal "justice" operates like a Stalin-era street sweep in which hapless citizens instantly became "enemies of the people" simply by being arrested.

Dr. Roberts is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, former contributing editor for National Review, and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

Comment: Still find it hard to believe that America is already becoming a police state? The following article is about Charles Thomas Sell, mentioned above.

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Nearly 8 years in prison without a trial
Phyllis Schlafly
December 13, 2004

"I want to go to trial on Monday; I've been locked up for nearly eight years," declared Charles Thomas Sell. "The federal court has no evidence, they have no witnesses. I want my trial one week from today. I am not incompetent in any way, shape or form."

His statements rang true to bystanders attending his hearing on Nov. 22 in the federal courthouse in St. Louis. Whatever happened to the right of an accused to have a speedy trial?

Once a successful dentist in St. Louis County who treated many indigent patients, Sell was accused of Medicaid fraud in 1997. Although he has never hurt anyone, and a federal court held that he poses no danger to those around him, prison officials frequently placed him in solitary confinement for periods that totaled nearly two years.

Prison officials tried to drug Sell, allegedly to make him fit for trial, and lower courts ruled in favor of mandatory drugging of this non-convicted, non-dangerous, nonviolent prisoner. The federal government fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court for the power to forcibly drug Sell and, even though it lost its case there, the government continued to imprison and prevent him from receiving proper medical care.

The forced medication was designed to correct Sell's attitude toward the government. Sell seemed to think the government was out to get him, and the government wanted to drug him to get him to change his mind.

Is this occurring in the United States of America?

Psychiatrists were frequently employed by the Soviet Union to cover up atrocities and silence critics, but U.S. veterans who fought against the Communists in Korea and Vietnam never expected such tactics to be used by their own government.

Earlier this year, a government psychologist declared Sell mentally fit for trial. Apparently, that medical opinion was unsatisfactory to Sell's persecutors, and to everyone's surprise that government psychologist reversed his diagnosis without re-examining him, and declared Sell unfit for trial.

An independent psychiatrist then confirmed Sell's own view that he was fit for trial, and the court agreed and scheduled a trial for Nov. 29. But on Nov. 22, lawyers insisted Sell was not ready for trial and persuaded a judge to cancel it.

The lawyers argued that Sell is not competent to stand trial because he insists on talking about the abuse he has suffered in prison, abuse that could be proved by prison videos the government is keeping secret. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons filed a motion for the court to release these tapes, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch also intervened to demand their public release.

But it appears that the government is doing everything it can to prevent a trial of Sell that would expose the record of this case.

In investigative reporting worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, Carolyn Tuft of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed on Nov. 23 some of the evidence on the still-secret videos. She reported that two videotapes of Sell show him being stripped, scalded, humiliated and brutalized in a way that sounds shockingly similar to the abuse of inmates by their U.S. captors at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Is there no accountability for this type of government misconduct? Instead of investigating and punishing the wrongdoers, federal officials are moving heaven and earth to avoid a public trial that could expose the tapes and the fact that a man has been held in prison so long without trial.

The only one in the courtroom making any sense at what should have been the final hearing before trial was Sell himself, who stood up to assert his constitutional rights. His plea was to no avail, as the judge ordered him shipped to North Carolina for yet another examination by a government psychiatrist.

By now Sell knows the game all too well, and he announced in open court that he would not submit to another sham mental evaluation. Nevertheless, he will be transported cross-country to find another government psychiatrist to deliver the desired diagnosis to save officials from public scrutiny.

We've all seen the pictures of Abu Ghraib, so why can't we see pictures of prisoner abuse in the federal prison at Springfield, Mo.? Congress should demand the immediate release of the shocking videos showing the mistreatment of Sell and also order a full accounting of the taxpayers' money spent by the government to keep a man in prison nearly eight years without trial.

Comment: The US police state is not something that is "down the road" - it is happening right now. Recent laws like the Patriot Act and the new Intelligence Reform bill are simply making previously secret practices public and legal.

Given the way that the clampdown has proceeded under Bush, it seems that another Reichstag fire like 9/11 may not be necessary to "convince" the people. A smaller event, coupled with a push or two on the teetering US economy, and the country will be plunged into a crisis that many expect will rival the Great Depression. When conditions get bad enough, and the blame for the crash is placed upon some country or terrorist group, the vast majority of the American people will willingly channel their frustration and anger in the exact way that the PTB intend: they'll join the military.

When faced with the choice of being homeless, hungry, and dirt poor, or with joining the military - or those companies and organizations that support it - millions of Americans will rush to sign up. Bush and the Neocons will have their massive army, their financial interests in defense contractors will skyrocket, and the Empire will easily be able to continue its campaign.

It seems that it is not enough for the PTB to assert control of the US by force; they want the people to join the cause of their own free will.

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Campaign of deception used to push patriotic song up charts
Sunday, 12/19/04

Country singer Chely Wright said yesterday she was dismissing the head of her fan club and shutting down a team of volunteers after The Tennessean learned that some of them posed as members of the military or their families to promote her latest song.

Seventeen members of a handpicked team of fans contacted radio stations around the country asking for more airplay for Wright's pro-military ballad, The Bumper of My SUV. It was all part of an organized campaign by leaders of the fan club who encouraged the team to do such things as ''tell 'em your husband is a marine — whatever it takes.''

After Wright learned that The Tennessean intended to publish an article about the campaign in today's newspaper, she issued a statement saying that she had dismissed Chuck Walter, a longtime friend who has headed her fan club since 1996.

Wright said she was ''shocked, saddened and deeply upset by this unethical behavior.'' She said Walter was ''an unpaid volunteer who acted without my knowledge or direction.'' [...]

The success of Bumper has been a bit unusual compared with the way things generally go in country music.

Last week the song was listed by Billboard magazine as the second fastest-selling single in country music even though Wright no longer has a deal with a major record label. The promotional power of a major label is usually essential in getting sales as well as radio play.

The Bumper of My SUV is being distributed independently and the song has appeared to be getting unusual grass-roots support. Some radio stations have reported lots of calls and e-mails from listeners who want to hear Bumper played — including members of the military and their families.

Last week The Tennessean learned that many of those calls and e-mails were coming from a team of 17 fan club members who were encouraged to pose as either members of the armed forces or their spouses and contact radio stations around the country asking for the song to be played. Increased airplay not only can move a song up the Billboard charts, resulting in publicity, but also can acquaint more people with the song and bring additional record sales. [...]

Contacted Friday in New York where he works on Wall Street, Walter initially said there was no effort to get fans to call radio stations on behalf of The Bumper of My SUV. Later he acknowledged the campaign but said it was ''normal for any song.''

Many record labels mobilize fans to call and e-mail radio stations to request songs. [...]

The Bumper of My SUV, which was written by Wright, tells how she was driving down West End Avenue in Nashville in her SUV when someone saw her bumper sticker supporting the troops and made an obscene gesture. The song calls for support of the troops no matter what a person thinks of the war in Iraq. [...]

John Sebastian, programmer at country station WSM-FM 95.5 in Nashville, said Thursday that Bumper has generated a lot of caller interest in recent weeks. He also said he believed the fan reaction was sincere.

''We had people crying on the phone, saying that it resonated with them,'' he said, adding that listeners told him of ''their brother or their boyfriend or their father or their husband'' in the military.

Hoffpauir said she was given a prepaid calling card and instructions on how to mask calls by hitting a code on her telephone keypad so radio stations wouldn't know she was calling from out of state.

''They also gave us tips on how to be more successful with DJs, so we didn't get caught. If you were calling Seattle, let's say, you'd go to Map Quest, find the address of a Home Depot and tell the DJ you worked there, little tricks,'' Hoffpauir said. [...]

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Army Unveils New, Ultra-Real Simulation
By MATT SLAGLE, AP Technology Writer
Sun Dec 19, 3:00 PM ET

FORT SILL, Okla. - It's a sweltering 90 degrees and soldiers Kevin Messmer and Kroften Owen are hunched in a rubble-strewn apartment. Peering from a window to avoid sniper fire, they see a bustling Iraqi city.

Binoculars pressed to his face, Messmer surveys the view and finds what he's looking for just across the river, an insurgent stronghold near a mosque's towering minarets. He whispers coordinates to Owen, who in turns calls them into a radio.

A crackling streak of artillery fire arrives seconds later, shaking the room as the bomb annihilates the target in a thunderous cloud of thick, black smoke.

The mission is a success. Except the mission doesn't really exist.

2nd Lts. Messmer, 24, and Owen, 23, of the 3rd Battalion, 30th Field Artillery Regiment, are among the first troops to use a new breed of military simulator that's part video game/part Hollywood sound stage with a serious dose of theme park thrill.

The apartment setting is all about creating the illusion of urban warfare — in a way that stimulates the senses.

Littered with chunks of brown plaster and other debris, the room is decorated in a decidedly Middle-Eastern manner. A picture hangs sideways on one wall, the smashed remnants of a small vase lie on a small circular table near the kitchen area. Like a Broadway show, walls and other set pieces can be swapped out as the training merits.

Hidden speakers envelop the set, located in a shopping center-sized building, with sound effects both subtle (barking dogs) and earsplitting (bombs). And the window? It's really an oversized display screen showing an artificial cityscape with high-resolution computer graphics.

The so-called "Urban Terrain Module" where Messmer, of Wabash, Ind., and Owen, of Philadelphia, had their multimedia immersion training is a one-of-a-kind facility, part of the Army's Joint Fires and Effects Trainer System, or JFETS.

Across a darkened hallway is the Outdoor Terrain Module. It's a room with a sandy floor on which a parked Humvee faces an oversized movie screen. Soldiers see a computerized desert landscape. In this environment, too, the training is in how to precisely call in artillery strikes.

Since the center went live in September, more than 300 officers have trained at the compound, whose evolution is key to a larger Defense Department strategy to give future members of all military branches the ability to better synchronize artillery, air support and other weaponry on the battlefield.

The multimillion dollar system's origins go back to 1999, when the Army first partnered with a unique consortium of educators, video game makers and entertainment companies called the Institute for Creative Technologies. The goal: combine the expertise of these seemingly disparate fields to create synthetic environments that mimic actual wartime situations. [...]

Back at the urban-training stage, Rick Bleau directs the action from a control room hidden behind a sliding door.

Sitting at his office chair behind a bank of flat-screen computer monitors, Bleau can tweak environmental factors, such as level of sunlight, wind speed and temperature (between 50 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit).

He can track soldiers' movements (their helmets have built-in motion sensing cameras) and invoke more malevolent commands, too. Anyone who keeps their head in the window for too long can expect to hear the whiz-pop of a sniper's incoming bullet.

"We've had a lot of soldiers coming back from Iraq who say it's too real. The only thing we don't have is the smell," says Bleau, a civilian government subcontractor whose company manages the computer systems. "We're working on that."

They'll certainly have the resources. Last month, the Army extended its contract with the ICT in a five-year deal worth $100 million.

The ICT, located at the University of Southern California in Marina Del Ray, Calif., has collaborated with the Army on other projects. The most well-known is the squad-based training program, "Full Spectrum Warrior."

A commercial version of the program, based on training from the infantry school at Fort Benning, Ga., was released to critical acclaim as a video game for the Xbox console this summer. [...]

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Avnery on Sharon's disengagement fraud

The Mountain and the Mouse

Uri Avnery
December 18, 2004

Ariel Sharon’s speech at the “Herzliya Conference”, an annual gathering of Israel’s financial, political and academic aristocracy, proved again his wondrous ability to conjure up an imaginary world and divert attention away from the real one. Like every successful con-man, he knows that the audience desperately wants to believe good tidings and will be happy to ignore bad ones.

It was an optimistic message, as the bewitched commentators proclaimed. According to him, we are on our way to paradise, 2005 will be a year of tremendous progress in all fields and all our problems will be solved.

Most of the speech was devoted to his fabulous achievements since he launched, at the same conference a year ago, the “Unilateral Disengagement Plan”.

This (in my own free translation) is what he said: America is in our pocket. President Bush supports all of Sharon’s positions, including those that are diametrically opposed to Bush’s own former positions. Europe has resigned itself to him. The Great of the World are standing in line to visit us, starting with Tony Blair. Egypt and the other Arab states are cosying up to us. Our international position has improved beyond recognition. The economy is advancing by leaps and bounds, our society is flourishing. Apart from the right-wing lunatic fringe, there is no opposition left. The Labor Party is joining the government and will support all its steps. (He somehow forgot to mention Yossi Beilin’s Yahad party, which, too, has promised him an “iron bridge”.)

Sharon has achieved all this solely by talking. His words have not been accompanied, up to now, by even one single action on the ground. There is no certainty that Sharon really intends to implement the “disengagement” at all. His intentions can be defined as follows:

(1) If it is possible to avoid the implementation of the plan altogether, especially the evacuation of settlements, without losing the sympathy of the world and the Israeli public, fine.

(2) If there is no alternative and implementation must start - everything must be done to drag out the matter, and especially the evacuation of settlements, for as long as possible. Evacuate one settlement and rest. Evacuate another one and rest again. It should take years.

(3) Either way, the disengagement should not change the plans concerning the West Bank.

And in the meantime: In the Gaza Strip, from which Sharon is supposed to “disengage”, the Israeli army is in action every single day and night, killing from three to ten Palestinians every 24 hours. Houses are being destroyed wholesale. Some of the atrocities committed by the army have shocked the Israeli public. Not one single settler has been removed. On the contrary, new settlers have still been arriving.

All this does not point to any real determination to implement the promised disengagement. Sharon’s actions on the West Bank, on the other hand, show a solid determination to implement his plan there.

In the West Bank, the occupation has intensified . The cruel checkpoints continue to prevent any possibility of normal life. The photo showing a Palestinian violinist compelled to play for the soldiers at a roadblock has evoked terrible memories in the minds of many Israelis. The building of the annexation-wall goes on, with a few changes of the route to placate the Israeli court, while disregarding the decision of the International Court. The settlers uproot Palestinian olive groves in order to build new neighborhoods in their place. Settlements are being expanded all over the West Bank, a network of “Jews Only” roads is being built, more “illegal” outposts come into being under army protection and with the tacit help of all relevant ministries. Plenty of money flows into these projects, while pensions are being cut and sick people lie around in the corridors of the hospitals.

Is this how a statesman with a vision of peace acts? He behaves more like a doctor who treats the hand of a patient while sticking a knife into his belly.

All this is happening while the world gives Sharon enthusiastic support, solely on the strength of his talking. As long as he holds forth on the “disengagement”, he can pretty much do on the ground whatever he fancies.

David Ben-Gurion once said: “It is not important what the Gentiles say, what is important is what the Jews do.” Sharon’s version is: “It is not important what we say, what is important is what we do.”

The most important part of the speech was the part that was not there. There was no peace offer to the Palestinians. He did not talk about peace at all.

Throughout the world, the conviction is spreading that there now exists a “window of opportunity”, that this is the time for a new, redeeming peace initiative. Indeed, Sharon mentioned with great satisfaction that Yasser Arafat is dead and that there is now a chance for the emergence of a “moderate Palestinian leadership”. So what did he offer this moderate leadership in his speech?

Not a thing.

He hinted vaguely at “long-term arrangements”. Meaning: more interim agreements on top of the existing interim agreements, whose sole aim is to push a real peace agreement beyond the horizon. It emerges from his speech that Israel will retain forever not only the “large settlement blocks”, but also “areas essential to our security”. Which areas could he mean? This is well-known: the Jordan valley and the other territories designed in the Oslo agreements as “Area C”. The final result of the “Disengagement Plan” will therefore be the annexation of 58% of the West Bank to Israel, as Sharon has wanted all along.

The Palestinians will retain, under this plan, 10-12% of pre-1948 Palestine, including the Gaza Strip (which is a mere 1.5% of the country). Sharon’s “Palestinian State” will consist of a number of enclaves cut off from the world. That is what he means when he talks about “the end of the occupation”, making “very painful concessions” and “our unwillingness to rule over another people”, words that have attracted widespread admiration.

To rule out any doubt, Binyamin Netanyahu, too, outlined in his speech at the conference the future borders between us and the Palestinians: “Not the Green Line and not even close to the Green Line.”

Nobody is offering the new Palestinian leadership peace negotiations. At most, some coordination of the steps leading to the withdrawal from Gaza. What else? The Minister of Defense, Shaul Mofaz, promised in his speech at the conference that the army would leave the Palestinian towns “for 72 hours” for the elections. Between roadblock and checkpoint, between one “targeted liquidation” and the next, Palestinian democracy will flourish for three days.

Sharon boasted that for all practical purposes the army has already vanquished terrorism. That was said a few days after the Palestinians, in a commando action that elicited some silent admiration even from the army, succeeded in destroying an entire army outpost on the “Philadelphi Axis” by detonating a huge amount of explosives in a tunnel dug beneath it and storming the remains. (This did not cause too much excitement in Israel, because all the five soldiers killed were Arabs, mostly Bedouin volunteers from among the state’s Arab citizens.)

For the time being, the number of violent attacks on Israeli citizens has indeed fallen, but mainly because of Abu Mazen’s efforts. This may well continue for some time, as long as the Palestinian public has some hope of seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. As soon as they lose this hope, they will give the green light to a new wave of attacks.

Sharon promises Israelis a wonderful year, a year of security and tranquility, economic growth and social progress. There is no chance of this coming about as long as he is blocking the road to peace and keeps the peace process “in formalin”, as described by his closest advisor.

European leaders talk about making a huge donation to the Palestinian authority after the election of Abu Mazen. This is an illusion as old as Zionism itself: that the Palestinian people – or any other people fighting for its freedom, for that matter - can be bought off and will give up its land and independence for a mess of pottage.

If the money is not accompanied by a massive European intervention for the speedy termination of the occupation and the attainment of a permanent Israeli-Palestinian solution, the mountain (as the ancient saying goes) will give birth to a mouse.

Comment: Seeing what is happening on the ground in the Occupied Territories is a litmus test of one's ability to see the world objectively. It is clear that the intention of the State of Israel is to crush the Palestinians, to wipe them out. Everything else is window dressing, words designed to hide the truth.

You either see it, or you don't.

Zionism attempts to portray the State of Israel as the long-suffering victim when in fact it is the aggressor.

You either see it, or you don't.

This is the groundwork for the new definition of "anti-Semitism": any criticism of Israel whatsoever.

You either see it, or you don't.

Zionism is a political ideology that taps into the notion of a "Chosen People" and a "Promised Land", concepts that are part and parcel of the Jewish religion, giving a religious basis to the idea that Jews are superior to other people.

You either see it, or you don't.

But what an absurdity this is. Look at what it is based upon: the idea that some supposed deity, thousands of years ago, promised a piece of land to a small group of people wandering in the desert! Is this not a completely crazy idea? And is it not completely absurd that modern geopolitics should turn around such an idea? That wars are being fought because of it, that millions of people have died and millions, if not hundreds of millions, more could die? That the entire globe could be caught up in a conflagration, be devastated by ethnic specific weapons, be reduced to the barbarism of the leaders and defenders of the Zionist State?

You either see it, or you don't.

The idea of a "Chosen People" and a "Promised Land" is so powerful, so embedded in Judeo-Christian culture, that it has been resurrected in other times and other places as a tool of manipulation. The "New World" of the Americas, the one taken over from its Native populations by terror, was also seen in this light, with the population of the United States being bathed and bred in its modern equivalent. This idea is at the root of the various forms of "American exceptionalism", the idea that it is the role of the US to protect the world, to serve as the beacon of freedom and democracy. It can also be seen in the communist ideology of the revolutionary vanguard and the proletarian state.

You either see it, or you don't.

But what if the concept of a "Promised Land" and a "Chosen People" has some truth to it, but in a way far from how they are being used as forms of manipulation? Many traditions speak of a former Golden Age, of a Paradise Lost. They speak of regaining this lost paradise, but not through war and mastery over others, but through mastery of the self. What if this paradise is not a piece of land, a small corner of the globe, but is within?

Is there any manipulation older than that of taking something that refers to the spirit and twisting it so that it refers to the material world? Deforming it so that rather than encouraging us to look within towards something greater than ourselves, something towards which we feel within a deep yearning, we are incited to look out at the illusion of permanence we see before us and take it for all there is?

But if one is unable to see the truth of the horror in Palestine, how can one hope to see a far more subtle truth within? If one cannot see that 911 was an inside job, designed to justify the Neocon agenda implemented in the years since, that it parallels the Reichstag fire in Germany in 1933, opening the door to the thorough and radical remaking of the country by Hitler and the National Socialist Party as 9-11 has permitted the Bush Administration to remake the United States, how can one see oneself?

But the inverse is also true, for if we are not working to identify the programmes and emotional influences that affect us, that shape our perceptions of the world, how can we see these forces at work around us?

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US Raises Concerns Over China Arms Sales With Israel: Pentagon
Washington DC (AFP) Dec 16, 2004

The United States has raised concerns about arms sales to China with Israel but has not demanded the resignation of any Israeli official over reported transfers of sensitive weapons or technology to Beijing, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.

The spokesman would not comment specifically on a report by an Israeli television channel that Washington was angered because Israel took back a sensitive weapon system for upgrading that it had sold to China in the mid 1990s.

Israel's Channel Two television said the Pentagon had demanded the dismissal of Israeli Defense Ministry director general Amos Yaron over the deal.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said any differences between the United States and Israel were "based on policy not personalities."

"Any suggestion or accusation that anyone at the US Defense Department demanded the resignation of anybody in the Israeli government would simply be wrong," he told AFP.

"The United States Defense Department is not in a position to dictate to other countries who their officials should be. So that aspect of this story that I have seen is false," he said.

He acknowledged, however, longstanding US concerns about the sale and transfer of weapons systems or certain technologies to China.

"And we continue to raise those concerns with our allies and our friends, and we look for them to take responsible approaches to arms sales to China," he said.

Whitman said the United States had held discussions about its concerns with Israel as well as with the European Union, which is under pressure from France and Germany to lift a 15-year-old embargo on military sales to China.

US concerns center on the threat that China's military modernization program poses to US forces in the Taiwan Straits as well as its efforts to modernize its nuclear arsenal and its growing inventory of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, he said.

He noted Israel's cancelation in 2000 of a planned sale of its Phalcon early warning radar to China after Washington objected.

"We continue to enjoy a strong bilateral relationship and where we have concerns, because our relationship is strong, we are able to express it in a very open and forthright manner," he said.

Comment: And keep in mind Sharon's repeated assertion that "America is in our pocket".

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U.S. Hypocrisy in Ukraine
December 7, 2004

Mr. Chairman: President Bush said last week that, "Any election (in Ukraine), if there is one, ought to be free from any foreign influence." I agree with the president wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, it seems that several US government agencies saw things differently and sent US taxpayer dollars into Ukraine in an attempt to influence the outcome.

We do not know exactly how many millions - or tens of millions - of dollars the United States government spent on the presidential election in Ukraine. We do know that much of that money was targeted to assist one particular candidate, and that through a series of cut-out non-governmental organizations (NGOs) - both American and Ukrainian - millions of dollars ended up in support of the presidential candidate, Viktor Yushchenko.

Let me add that I do not think we should be supporting either of the candidates. While I am certainly no supporter of Viktor Yushchenko, I am not a supporter of his opponent, Viktor Yanukovich, either. Simply, it is none of our business who the Ukrainian people select to be their president. And, if they feel the vote was not fair, it is up to them to work it out.

How did this one-sided US funding in Ukraine come about? While I am afraid we may have seen only the tip of the iceberg, one part that we do know thus far is that the US government, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), granted millions of dollars to the Poland-America-Ukraine Cooperation Initiative (PAUCI), which is administered by the US-based Freedom House.

PAUCI then sent US Government funds to numerous Ukrainian non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This would be bad enough and would in itself constitute meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. But, what is worse is that many of these grantee organizations in Ukraine are blatantly in favor of presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko.

Consider the Ukrainian NGO International Centre for Policy Studies. It is an organization funded by the US Government through PAUCI, but on its website you will find that the front page in the English section features a prominent orange ribbon, the symbol of Yushchenko’s party and movement. Reading further on, we discover that this NGO was founded by George Soros’s Open Society Institute. And further on we can see that Viktor Yushchenko himself sits on the advisory board!

And this NGO is not the only one the US government funds that is openly supportive of Viktor Yushchenko. The Western Ukraine Regional Training Center, as another example, features a prominent USAID logo on one side of its website’s front page and an orange ribbon of the candidate Yushchenko’s party and movement on the other. By their proximity, the message to Ukrainian readers is clear: the US government supports Yushchenko.

The Center for Political and Law Reforms, another Ukrainian NGO funded by the US government, features a link at the top of its website’s front page to Viktor Yushchenko’s personal website. Yushchenko’s picture is at the top of this US government funded website.

This May, the Virginia-based private management consultancy Development Associates, Inc., was awarded $100 million by the US government “for strengthening national legislatures and other deliberative bodies worldwide.” According to the organization’s website, several million dollars from this went to Ukraine in advance of the elections.

As I have said, this may only be the tip of the iceberg. There may be many more such organizations involved in this twisted tale.

It is clear that a significant amount of US taxpayer dollars went to support one candidate in Ukraine. Recall how most of us felt when it became known that the Chinese government was trying to funnel campaign funding to a US presidential campaign. This foreign funding of American elections is rightly illegal. Yet, it appears that that is exactly what we are doing abroad. What we do not know, however, is just how much US government money was spent to influence the outcome of the Ukrainian election.

Dozens of organizations are granted funds under the PAUCI program alone, and this is only one of many programs that funneled dollars into Ukraine. We do not know how many millions of US taxpayer dollars the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) sent to Ukraine through NED’s National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute. Nor do we know how many other efforts, overt or covert, have been made to support one candidate over the other in Ukraine.

That is what I find so disturbing: there are so many cut-out organizations and sub-grantees that we have no idea how much US government money was really spent on Ukraine, and most importantly how it was spent. Perhaps the several examples of blatant partisan support that we have been able to uncover are but an anomaly. I believe Congress and the American taxpayers have a right to know. I believe we urgently need an investigation by the Government Accounting Office into how much US government money was spent in Ukraine and exactly how it was spent. I would hope very much for the support of Chairman Hyde, Chairman Lugar, Deputy Assistant Secretary Tefft, and my colleagues on the Committee in this request.

President Bush is absolutely correct: elections in Ukraine should be free of foreign influence. It is our job here and now to discover just how far we have violated this very important principle, and to cease any funding of political candidates or campaigns henceforth.

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Who's behind the oil-for-food scandal?
By Jude Wanniski
Wednesday 08 December 2004, 14:03 Makka Time, 11:03 GMT
Once it became clear some months ago that Saddam Hussein had been telling the truth about not having weapons of mass destruction or connections to al-Qaida, it should have been an embarrassment to the neo-conservatives who talked President George Bush into war with Iraq.

They were not in the least embarrassed, though, because they had known well before the invasion that Saddam had done everything he could possibly do to assure the world that he was no threat to the region, the US and the world.

Their intent all along was no secret: They wanted "regime change" to fit their plans for an American empire, with a permanent outpost in Baghdad.

To do this, they had to clear out all the obstacles in their path - which meant open assaults on the international institutions that had been developed to prevent war, through diplomacy backed by the threat of sanctions.

This meant demeaning the United Nations, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) inspectors of chemical and biological weapons under Hans Blix, and the International Atomic Energy Agency under Muhammad al-Baradai.

France, Germany, Russia and China had become obstacles to regime change in Baghdad, either at the UN Security Council or at Nato, or both.

To neutralise them with American public opinion, the neo-cons used their contacts in the news media to broadcast the argument that these countries were pursuing selfish interests related to Iraq's oil.

Out of this soup came the "oil-for-food scandal" which now threatens to bring down UN General-Secretary Kofi Annan and besmirch the UN and its affiliated institutions.

A headline in the 4 December New York Times warns: "Annan's post at the UN may be at risk, officials fear."

It's clear enough the neo-cons and the news outlets that do their bidding are behind the "scandal" story.

In the Times account, Richard Holbrooke, the ambassador to the United Nations under president Bill Clinton and an Annan backer, said: "The danger now is that a group of people who want to destroy or paralyse the UN are beginning to pick up support from some of those whose goal is to reform it."

Yes, but what's going on? Where's the scandal?

On the surface, there has yet to be found a single person with his hand in the UN cookie jar. All that has appeared to date are assertions that various people associated with the management of the oil-for-food programme in Iraq and the UN benefited financially through shady transactions.

It is further alleged that UN officials looked the other way as Saddam Hussein arranged kickbacks of billions of dollars that went into foreign bank accounts, with inferences that he was using the cash to finance his military machine and international terrorism, build palaces to aggrandise himself, all the while diverting money from the intended recipients - the poor Iraqi people.

To put all this in perspective, remember that Saddam was the duly constituted head of state in Iraq, his government not only officially recognised by the US during the Iran/Iraq war, but also was given palpable support in the war.

Why he invaded Kuwait in 1990 is another story, but it is now absolutely clear his dispute was only with the emir of Kuwait and not any other country in the Middle East.

It has now also been shown that Iraq had met the conditions of the UN Security Council post-Gulf war resolution which demanded he destroy his unconventional weapons before economic sanctions could be lifted and the Iraqi government could resume the sale of oil.

From this vantage point, it was the UN that took possession of the oil resources of the Iraqi people.

By rough reckoning, I find that if the sanctions had been lifted in 1991 (when they should have been lifted), Iraq would have earned enormous amounts of money from the sale of their oil. At an average of $10 a barrel of oil (bbl) over 14 years, they would have collected $126 billion.

At a more reasonable average over the period of $15 to $20, the Iraqi government would have been able to pay all its creditors and at the same time enable the Iraqi people to return to the high living standards they enjoyed before the Iran-Iraq war (during which, I repeat, the US supported Iraq).

It was because of the UN economic sanctions that persisted because of US/British insistence that the oil-for-food programme came into existence in 1996.

This was partly the result of UN reports that 1.5 million Iraqi civilians had died because of the malnutrition and disease engendered by the sanctions.

More directly, it was because president Clinton bombed Iraq in early September 1996 during his re-election campaign that year, on the information that Baghdad had violated the "no-fly zone" over Iraqi Kurdistan.

It turned out Saddam did not violate the "no-fly zone" but had sent troops on the ground to Kurdistan at the request of the provincial government, which had come under attack by Iranian-backed Kurds.

The reason? Economic distress, with the region suffering from the same malnutrition and disease afflicting all of Iraq.

The Kurds are the friends of the neo-conservatives. They had to be helped out of this distress. Hence, the oil-for-food programme, designed to relieve all Iraqi citizens, but mostly Kurds, who would get the lion's share of the relief from the oil revenues.

I'm not sure about all the details of how the programme was managed in the years since. But when the neo-cons raised the corruption issue at the UN through their friends in the news media, Annan finally saw he had to respond.

He said he would investigate the allegations and persuaded former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker - arguably the most respected, squeaky clean political figure in America - to undertake the investigation and make a report, which is expected sometime next month.

Annan has rejected calls for his resignation coming from a US Republican Senator Norman Coleman of Minnesota.

Without naming him, it was clearly Coleman to whom he referred at a press conference last weekend when he said: "My hope had been that once the independent investigative committee had been set up [under Volcker], we would all wait for them to do their work and then draw our conclusions and make judgments. This has not turned out to be the case."

Why were Annan's hopes dashed by Coleman, a freshman senator who chairs the permanent subcommittee on investigations?

My educated guess is that the neo-cons who continue to have serious influence on the Bush administration through Vice-President Dick Cheney's office, knew full well that if the Volcker commission did its job honestly, it would be able to report that the oil-for-food programme worked pretty much as it was designed to work.

It would have found that nothing criminal or corrupt was done and that even Saddam had done nothing any other head of state in his shoes would not have done under similar circumstances.

It is perfectly obvious that Coleman saw a chance to make a splash with assertions that corruption at the UN was already a known fact.

His "smoking gun" was the news that Kofi Annan's son received payments of $150,000 over several years from a company that was a contractor in the oil-for-food programme.

Where did this news come from? The New York Sun, a tiny newspaper founded by Canadian mogul Conrad Black four years ago as a mouthpiece for the neo-cons.

Richard Perle, the most prominent of the neo-con intellectuals who misled Bush to war with Iraq, has been a long time partner of Conrad Black and a director of the Jerusalem Post, one of Black's many media holdings.

Perle is also the guiding light for Rupert Murdoch's Fox News media empire, plus the National Review, and a galaxy of staff members of both political parties in the US Congress.

Claudia Rosett, who writes for the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, was assigned to take on Volcker and in several articles has practically painted him as a lapdog of Kofi Annan, at the very least a foot-dragger who should already be able to condemn the UN for corruption.

The game plan is of course to force Volcker to issue a report that smears the UN and threatens it with a cut-off of US funds unless there is a house cleaning.

But what if Volcker finds that the only "wrong" was committed by the Baghdad government in selling Iraq's own oil to its neighbours, particularly to Turkey and Jordan, and that the revenues were deposited in state bank accounts and used for legitimate state reasons?

We also know the oil that went through the hands of the UN agency set up to make sure the revenues went to the people, not to the Iraqi government, also had to have the cooperation of Baghdad in lifting the oil and delivering it.

A 2.5% "kickback", as it has been termed by Rosett, Coleman and the neo-con press corps, can be more properly be termed a "fee" for facilitating this process.

If these fees were paid into the government, not to numbered bank accounts, the regime would have to be judged clean on that count by Volcker. He is in a tight spot.

What about the damning report of Charles Duelfer and his Iraqi Survey Group, which announced last month that Saddam Hussein destroyed all of his weapons of mass destruction and their programmes in 1991?

In his report, he also brought up the oil-for-food programme, which was never part of his mission when he was appointed by Bush to check further into Iraq's WMD intentions.

Duelfer, who could not pretend to have found WMD when none existed, clearly used the oil-for-food programme to distract attention from his central finding.

The report gratuitously contained the thesis that if Saddam someday wanted to rebuild his WMD capabilities, he could be using the programme to that end, with the complicity of the French, Russians, Chinese, United Nations and major oil companies.

Logic should tell you, though, that the neo-cons have been behind this hoax from the start, that they never intended to lift the sanctions on Iraq even while knowing back in 1991 that Saddam almost certainly had complied with that first UN resolution.

The Iraqis who are in a position to clear all this up and demonstrate that while certain transactions might appear suspicious on the surface, but can be fully explained, are not available for testimony.

The regime is under lock and key and not available to Rosett or Coleman. Volcker presumably has access to them, but is not sharing his findings with the US Congress, which he is not required to do.

His report to the UN will be made public and judgments can then be made. It may be there is no scandal at all. Just another trick of the neo-conservatives to blow away anyone who gets in the way of their plans for a global empire.

Jude Wanniski is a former associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, expert on supply-side economics and founder of Polyconomics, which helps to interpret the impact of political events on financial markets.

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66 killed in car bombs in Iraqi Shiite cities: new toll
December 20, 2004

NAJAF, Iraq - The twin attacks against the holy Iraqi Shiite cities of Najaf and Karbala killed 66 people and wounded over 200, according to the latest toll.

The death toll in Najaf has risen from 48 to 52 and the number of wounded from 90 to 145 in the car bombing on Sunday, Najaf governor Adnan al-Zorfi said.

The bombing in Karbala killed 14 people and left 57 wounded, a toll unchanged from Sunday.

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Rumsfeld faces Iraq letters row
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has pledged to personally sign letters of condolence to the families of American soldiers killed in action.

He spoke shortly after his admission that he had used a machine to sign letters to relatives of more than 1,000 troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Rumsfeld is facing growing criticism from both Democrats and Republicans who are questioning his record in Iraq.

He was given a public grilling from his own troops earlier this month.

During his visit to a US base in Kuwait, American soldiers alleged they had used scrap metal to armour vehicles.

Comment: Rumsfeld is part of a cabal that has perpetrated a war in Iraq based upon lies. Thousands of Iraqis, innocent civilians, have been murdered, their lives disrupted, and the focus here is on Rumsfeld's use of a machine to sign the letters to the families of soldiers he has had killed in Iraq.

While the use of such a machine reveals his lack of concern for the lives of US soldiers, this lack of concern has already been demonstrated in his refusal to provide adequate battle gear for his troops while spending billions for US corporations to either destroy the country (Lockheed Martin) or rebuild it (Halliburton and its subsidiaries).

Many US citizens believe that their country is in Iraq to bring democracy and freedom to the Iraqi people. They believe the myth with which they have been raised and have succumbed to the fear mongering evident in the US media since September 11, 2001. They believe that Bush is protecting them from fanatics who would stop at nothing to destroy the "American" way of life.

But there are no Moslem armies in the US bombing cities and killing civilians. There are small groups of Islamic fundamentalists who wish to see the US out of their own countries. But it is not as simple as that because many of these groups are made up of men who worked with the US to drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. Many of them were shocked to discover afterwards that their financing came from the US via Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. They were not knowingly working with US intelligence and for US interests.

But some of them were.

And some of them continue to do so, stirring up the passions and indignation of a people who have been reduced in the modern world to servitude. Long before the West had rediscovered "civilisation", science, literature, and the arts were far more advanced in the Arab world. The teachings of the Greek philosophers had been lost to the West until the Crusaders rediscovered them in Constantinople and brought them back. Moslem, Christian, and Jew lived together in the Moslem countries in a harmony that has been rare in the West.

But without this knowledge, and it is not from Fox News, CNN, or in US schools that it will be found, how can people in the US have an objective view of the US role in the Middle East?

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration seems bent upon creating a fanatical and intolerant population, crazed by fear, the exact image of the supposed "enemy" in the Moslem world.

The way out? Perhaps if the lives of people in the US deteriorate enough in the next few years, they will begin to question the politics of their "Commander in Chief". However, it looks as though this possibility has been foreseen, and the plans are being laid to blame the future crisis on the rest of the world.

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Bush defends Rumsfeld
Monday December 20, 11:57 PM

US President George W. Bush defended embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying the Pentagon chief is doing "a really fine job."

Bush told a news conference that he was "very pleased" when Rumsfeld agreed to stay on after the president won a second, four-year mandate.

"And I asked him to stay on because I understand the nature of the job ... and I believe he's doing a really fine job," Bush said.

"The secretary of defense is a complex job. It's complex in times of peace. And it's complex even more so in times of war.

"And the secretary has managed this department during two major battles in the war on terror. Afghanistan and Iraq. And at the same time, he's working to transform our military so it functions better. It's lighter."

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Cold snap to hit France after freak storms
PARIS, Dec 19 (AFP) - French police and charity workers mobilised Sunday ahead of a cold snap which is set to plunge much of the country into sub-zero temperatures.

The interior ministry declared a state of alert in 23 departments, including Paris, triggering stepped-up efforts to locate homeless people and take them into shelter.

Temperatures are predicted to fall to below minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of northern France Sunday night, with the freeze spreading southwards. However a thaw is due mid-week.

Meanwhile technicians were working to reconnect around 9,000 homes that remained without electricity Sunday after the freak storm that swept across northern France on Friday, killing six people.

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Analysis: No Doubt Earth's Ice Is Melting
San Francisco CA (UPI) Dec 15, 2004
For nearly 50 years, Greenland's Jakobshavn glacier inched inexorably toward the sea at a stable and non-threatening rate.

During the same time period, glaciers in Alaska, in Patagonia and Antarctica proceeded steadily at well-established rates. The polar ice cap that lay over most of the Arctic Ocean during winter remained essentially unbroken. Snowcaps atop mountain ranges such as Europe's Alps and even Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro stood solid and predictable.

No more. In all these cases, things have begun changing and scientists are becoming more and more worried.

Global warming, despite mounting evidence, remains a contentious political issue, but this is one warming-related phenomenon that has become incontrovertible.

In some instances, the rate of glacial creep has increased up to eightfold. More worrisome, the change has occurred in a breathtakingly short time - since 2000.

This is phenomenal, said Waleed Abdalati, a senior research at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Abdalati and colleagues briefed reporters about their new findings at the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting.

Jakobshavn already was the world's fastest-moving glacier when its pace, during the last half of the 20th century, as about 4 miles (7 kilometers) per year. Now, latest satellite and airborne laser data show its flow has increased - over the last four years - to 10 miles (13 kilometers) per year.

Though less dramatic, similar significant changes have occurred in glaciers all over the world.

The ice-cap situation parallels the changes in the glaciers.

During the late 1990s, for three years in a row the perennial Arctic ice cover dropped to its lowest volumes in recorded history, according to Josefino Comiso, also a senior researcher at Goddard.

The phenomenon is worrisome because it is the type that can fall into a feedback mechanism. As more and more open water appears in the Arctic Ocean, it absorbs more solar heat, which carries over into the winter, leading to an earlier melt the following year and thinner ice during the winter.

In addition, most of the warming is taking place in the western Arctic, Comiso said.

For hundreds of years, explorers and entrepreneurs alike have dreamed about the advantages of a Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean that would allow a much-faster passage between Europe and Asia.

Even as recently as the late 1960s, the only possibility of making that passage - even during summer - was by using massive icebreaking ships.

Exxon even experimented with the Manhattan, an icebreaking supertanker that was supposed to carry oil from Alaska's North Slope to U.S. East Coast ports. After one voyage, the company mothballed the idea as uneconomical and potentially too dangerous.

Comiso said the Northwest Passage soon may be a reality during the summer.

The summer of 1998 was almost ice free, he said.

Perhaps the biggest source of worry is the western Antarctic, however.

There, according to Theodore Scambos, with the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, a major portion of the western Antarctic ice shelf is showing signs of collapsing.

The shelf is already dumping about 60 cubic miles (250 cubic kilometers) of ice into the ocean each year, with only about 40 percent of that volume replaced by snow. Right now, Scambos said, along the Western Antarctic Peninsula, the glaciers are moving at rates three times to eight times faster than normal.

This acceleration - the phrase creeping at a glacial pace might have to be abandoned - is particularly disturbing.

When Arctic ice melts, it affects sea level only in a limited way because the ice already is floating in the ocean. There is some elevation because warmer temperatures cause the water's volume to expand slightly, but generally sea level remains stable regardless of what happens to Arctic sea ice.

Ice dumped into the oceans from glaciers is another story. In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that sea-level rise in this century would average between 0.2 millimeters and 0.4 millimeters per year due to melting.

Over the past four years, however, the glacial acceleration is causing ocean levels to elevate by up to 2 millimeters per year - already several times greater than the IPCC estimate.

Abdalati noted the glaciers have been melting at this relatively furious pace for only a few years, so at this point it is not possible to predict what will happen. He cautioned, however, that where the data on the melting can be compared with long-term climate data, all of these changes seem to be accelerating.

Chief among such correlations, he said, are the links between ice-sheet melting and sea-level rise.

It is happening quicker than we thought - in some cases the responses have been within months, Abdalati said. The data clearly indicate previous estimates (of sea-level rise) are being outpaced.

The aim now, he said, is to increase understanding of the phenomena as quickly as possible and to place a high priority on the research.

Toward that end, he added, we'll hopefully refine (the estimates) in the coming years, but we've got a lot of people working on it.

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