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Control, Thought Control, World Control
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of the Day
flying low in a Snowstorm
Iraq elections were a "resounding success"
| One of the biggest changes in politics
in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has
come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office
and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology
hold a monopoly of power in Washington.
Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues
hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is
generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple,
their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And
there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to
Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary
of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging
Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress
that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the
imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after
the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."
Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was
talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots
out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible
is literally true -- one-third of the American electorate, if a
recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million
good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture
That's right -- the rapture index. Google it and you will find
that the best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes
of the "Left Behind" series written by the Christian fundamentalist
and religious-right warrior Timothy LaHaye. These true believers
subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century
by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from
the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the
imagination of millions of Americans.
Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George
Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted
to him for adding to my own understanding): Once Israel has occupied
the rest of its "biblical lands," legions of the antichrist will
attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon.
As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah
will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of
their clothes and transported to Heaven, where, seated next to the
right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious
opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during
the several years of tribulation that follow.
I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature.
I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas
to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell
you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment
of biblical prophecy. That's why they have declared solidarity with
Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with
money and volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was
a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations where four angels
"which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to
slay the third part of man." A war with Islam in the Middle East
is not something to be feared but welcomed -- an essential conflagration
on the road to redemption. The last time I Googled it, the rapture
index stood at 144 -- just one point below the critical threshold
when the whole thing will blow, the son of God will return, the
righteous will enter Heaven and sinners will be condemned to eternal
So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? Go
to Grist to read a remarkable work of reporting by the journalist
Glenn Scherer -- "The Road to Environmental Apocalypse." Read it
and you will see how millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe
that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but
actually welcomed -- even hastened -- as a sign of the coming apocalypse.
As Grist makes clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe
lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half
the U.S. Congress before the recent election - 231 legislators in
total and more since the election - are backed by the religious
Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th Congress earned
80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential
Christian right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader
Bill Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference
Chair Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona,
House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only
Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian coalition was Sen.
Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book
of Amos on the Senate floor: "The days will come, sayeth the Lord
God, that I will send a famine in the land." He seemed to be relishing
And why not? There's a constituency for it. A 2002 Time-CNN poll
found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found
in the book of Revelations are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter
think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive across the country
with your radio tuned to the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations,
or in the motel turn on some of the 250 Christian TV stations, and
you can hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come to
understand why people under the spell of such potent prophecies
cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry about the environment.
Why care about the earth, when the droughts, floods, famine and
pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse
foretold in the Bible? Why care about global climate change when
you and yours will be rescued in the rapture? And why care about
converting from oil to solar when the same God who performed the
miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few billion barrels
of light crude with a word?"
Because these people believe that until Christ does return, the
Lord will provide. One of their texts is a high school history book,
"America's Providential History." You'll find there these words:
"The secular or socialist has a limited-resource mentality and views
the world as a pie ... that needs to be cut up so everyone can get
a piece." However, "[t]he Christian knows that the potential in
God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God's
earth ... while many secularists view the world as overpopulated,
Christians know that God has made the earth sufficiently large with
plenty of resources to accommodate all of the people."
No wonder Karl Rove goes around the White House whistling that
militant hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers." He turned out millions
of the foot soldiers on Nov. 2, including many who have made the
apocalypse a powerful driving force in modern American politics.
It is hard for the journalist to report a story like this with
any credibility. So let me put it on a personal level. I myself
don't know how to be in this world without expecting a confident
future and getting up every morning to do what I can to bring it
about. So I have always been an optimist. Now, however, I think
of my friend on Wall Street whom I once asked: "What do you think
of the market? "I'm optimistic," he answered. "Then why do you look
so worried?" And he answered: "Because I am not sure my optimism
I'm not, either. Once upon a time I agreed with Eric Chivian and
the Center for Health and the Global Environment that people will
protect the natural environment when they realize its importance
to their health and to the health and lives of their children. Now
I am not so sure. It's not that I don't want to believe that - it's
just that I read the news and connect the dots.
I read that the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency has declared the election a mandate for President Bush on
the environment. This for an administration:
a.. That wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act
and the Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and animal
species and their habitats, as well as the National Environmental
Policy Act, which requires the government to judge beforehand whether
actions might damage natural resources. b.. That wants to relax
pollution limits for ozone; eliminate vehicle tailpipe inspections,
and ease pollution standards for cars, sport-utility vehicles and
diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment. c.. That wants a
new international audit law to allow corporations to keep certain
information about environmental problems secret from the public.
d.. That wants to drop all its new-source review suits against polluting,
coal-fired power plants and weaken consent decrees reached earlier
with coal companies. e.. That wants to open the Arctic [National]
Wildlife Refuge to drilling and increase drilling in Padre Island
National Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island
in the world and the last great coastal wild land in America.
I read the news just this week and learned how the Environmental
Protection Agency had planned to spend $9 million - $2 million of
it from the administration's friends at the American Chemistry Council
- to pay poor families to continue to use pesticides in their homes.
These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children,
but instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and
the industry were going to offer the families $970 each, as well
as a camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs
for the study.
I read all this in the news.
I read the news just last night and learned that the administration's
friends at the International Policy Network, which is supported
by Exxon Mobil and others of like mind, have issued a new report
that climate change is "a myth, sea levels are not rising" [and]
scientists who believe catastrophe is possible are "an embarrassment."
I not only read the news but the fine print of the recent appropriations
bill passed by Congress, with the obscure (and obscene) riders attached
to it: a clause removing all endangered species protections from
pesticides; language prohibiting judicial review for a forest in
Oregon; a waiver of environmental review for grazing permits on
public lands; a rider pressed by developers to weaken protection
for crucial habitats in California.
I read all this and look up at the pictures on my desk, next to
the computer - pictures of my grandchildren. I see the future looking
back at me from those photographs and I say, "Father, forgive us,
for we know not what we do." And then I am stopped short by the
thought: "That's not right. We do know what we are doing. We are
stealing their future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world."
And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we
are greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability
to sustain indignation at injustice?
What has happened to our moral imagination?
On the heath Lear asks Gloucester: "How do you see the world?"
And Gloucester, who is blind, answers: "I see it feelingly.'"
I see it feelingly.
The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as
a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The
news can be the truth that sets us free - not only to feel but to
fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote
to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces
looking back at me from those photographs on my desk. What we need
is what the ancient Israelites called hochma - the science of the
heart ... the capacity to see, to feel and then to act as if the
future depended on you.
Believe me, it does.
Bill Moyers was host until recently of the weekly public affairs
series "NOW with Bill Moyers" on PBS. This article is adapted from
AlterNet, where it first appeared. The text is taken from Moyers'
remarks upon receiving the Global Environmental Citizen Award from
the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical
WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has asked for the restoration of a research
program designed to create a new type of nuclear weapons capable
of destroying hardened underground targets, a Pentagon official
The request came in a letter Rumsfeld sent to then-Energy Secretary
Spencer Abraham on January 10, in which he insisted that funds for
studying the feasibility of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator
be restored. [...]
But military experts said they were expecting a new attempt by
the administration of President George W. Bush to revive the "bunker
buster" nuclear weapons program that was shelved by Congress late
last year under growing international and domestic criticism.
Republican Representative David Hobson, who chairs an appropriations
subcommittee in the House of Representatives, quietly removed 27.5
million dollars earmarked for the bomb study from a mammoth spending
bill that was being rushed through Congress.
The White House apparently made an election-year decision not to
hold up the whole budget because of one contentious item, and let
But now, according to Swiergosz, the Pentagon wants the money back
because the bomb could be useful against underground enemy weapons
depots and command posts.
"I think we should request funds in FY06 and FY07 (fiscal years
2006 and 2007) to complete the study," Rumsfeld wrote to Abraham,
according to published excerpts of the letter, whose accuracy was
confirmed by the spokesman. "Our staffs have spoken about funding
the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) study to support its
completion by April 2007."
Rumsfeld also assured Abraham and his successor, Samuel Bodman,
that they could count on his support for "your efforts to revitalize
the nuclear weapons infrastructure and to complete the RNEP study."
The program, involving leading US nuclear weapons laboratories
such as Los Alamos and Livermore, sought to find the possibility
of converting into "bunker busters" two existing warheads - the
B61 and B83, according to administration officials.
The B61 is a tactical thermonuclear gravity bomb that can be delivered
by strategic as well as tactical aircraft -- from B-52 and B-2 bombers
to F-16 fighter jets.
The B83 is designed for precision delivery from very low altitudes,
most likely by B-2 stealth bombers, military experts said.
Prior to the program's suspension, scientists were working on finding
ways to harden the bombs' shells so they can survive penetration
through layers of rock, steel and concrete before detonating, the
"Bunker busters" are seen by some experts as important tools for
waging preventive wars against enemies that are secretly building
arsenals of weapons of mass destruction.
According to the Defense Intelligence Agency, at least 10,000 bunkers
currently exist in over 70 countries around the world.
More than 1,400 of them are used as strategic storage sites for
weapons of mass destruction, concealed launch pads for ballistic
missiles as well as leadership or top-echelon command and control
posts, the DIA estimates.
However, International Atomic Energy Agency director, Mohamed ElBaradei,
warned this week that the "bunker buster" program was sending "the
wrong message" and could hinder international non-proliferation
"You can't tell everyone 'don't touch nuclear weapons' while continuing
to build them," ElBaradei said in an interview with The Washington
Post newspaper and Newsweek magazine.
Responding to intense pressure
from Congress, the military and the general public, the Pentagon
announced a large increase yesterday in death benefits for US soldiers
killed in combat zones, doubling the total compensation paid to
relatives to $500,000 (£266,000).
Under the proposals, outlined in testimony by senior defence officials
on Capitol Hill on the eve of President Bush's first State of the
Union address of his second term, the tax-free "death gratuity"
will go up from $12,420 to $100,000.
At the same time, maximum life insurance coverage will increase
to $400,000 from the current $250,000, with the extra premium to
be paid by the Pentagon. Both changes will be retroactive to October
2001, to cover troops who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Thus far, 1,415 troops have died in the Iraq war alone, and almost
100 more in Afghanistan, and the total cost of the measure could
reach $450m. But congressional and Pentagon leaders consider that
a small price to pay given the strains placed on the military, in
Iraq in particular. These strains are already depressing recruitment.
Democrats argued yesterday that the improved benefits should apply
to all soldiers who die in the course of duty, not merely in specific
combat zones designated by the Pentagon.
It has also been pointed out that even the higher benefits pale
beside the average $2.1m paid to families of victims of the 9/11
attacks. Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee described
the existing gratuity as "derisory" and "paltry". US troops are
being killed almost daily in Iraq - last Wednesday was the single
deadliest day of the war, with 37 deaths.
These developments are all likely to be discussed by Mr Bush in
his address to Congress tonight, in which Iraq, alongside domestic
proposals including social security and tort law reform, will be
a central topic. Though he will stress that Iraq is only part-way
along the road to democracy, his officials are not concealing their
sense of vindication that the elections went off relatively smoothly.
The security of military flights
in Iraq was under urgent review last night after Islamic militants
claimed they had shot down a British transport plane carrying special
forces with a ground-to-air missile.
It looked increasingly likely that the 10 servicemen on board the
Hercules C-130 were killed by insurgents, butdetails of the crash
were shrouded in mystery as ministers faced questions about the
plane's mission. The escalation in the insurgents' threat, if confirmed
by crash investigators at the site, will cause alarm. The Hercules
aircraft are the workhorses of British and US forces. They are regularly
used to ferry special forces and their equipment, and even VIPs
on visits to Baghdad and Basra, where British troops are based.
Allied troops had feared that a missile attack would bring down
one of the slow transport planes and there was concern that counter-measures
fitted to them appeared to have failed.
Questions were also being asked as to why 10 British servicemen
were being flown to a US base in northern Iraq. The nine members
of the RAF on board belonged to a squadron that works with the Special
Air Service and Special Boat Service. The other soldier who was
killed is believed to have been a member of the SAS.
They were heading for a huge US base in Balad, which is used as
an outpost for the SAS. Labour MPs speculated that the men who were
killed were engaged in operations along the Iranian border.
Wreckage was strewn across the crash site 20 miles north of Baghdad,
suggesting a mid-air explosion had occurred. British ground troops
searching for the bodies yesterday were trying to secure the area,
which is in hostile territory.
Footage on al-Jazeera television appeared to support the insurgents'
claims. It showed a remote-controlled mechanism apparently firing
two missiles at a plane, although the authenticity of the film could
not be verified. There was also footage of parts of a burning plane
spread over a wide area, including a large section of an engine.
The flat, featureless wilderness gives no clues as to where the
video was shot. One short sequence, appearing to show the fireball
as the wreckage landed, is filmed from a distance through palm trees.
The video was issued by the "1920 Revolution Brigade". Another
Islamist group, Ansar al-Sunna, had earlier claimed responsibility
for bringing down the plane. British officers in Iraq said little
could be deduced from the footage.
Insurgents had threatened a "spectacular" attack and senior MPs
said the timing, coinciding with the elections, suggested strongly
that the aircraft was brought down by a missile. One senior Liberal
Democrat figure said: "The US flooded Afghanistan with Stinger missiles
and there are plenty of them around. It is highly likely that the
plane was brought down by one of their missiles."
The attack is likely to increase pressure on the allied forces.
Most roads in the country, especially in the Sunni area of central
Iraq, are highly vulnerable to insurgent attacks, and convoys are
regularly ambushed. This has forced US and British forces to rely
on aircraft for moving troops and supplies.
Senior military sources in Iraq described the gravity of the situation.
One officer said: "If we lose freedom of air movement it will be
a massive problem. The investigation will conclude what exactly
happened, but at the moment it looks more and more like enemy action.
The C-130 has anti-missile defences, so this is quite puzzling.
We are taking the precaution of carrying out a security review because
this is Iraq and you cannot take chances."
A senior MoD official said: "It was a routine operational flight
from Baghdad international airport to Balad. They were transporting
people. We don't comment on special forces operations normally but
this was a routine operational sortie."
Peter Felstead, editor of Jane's Defence Weekly, said: "If the
al-Jazeera footage is genuine, it shows that an aircraft flying
at altitude has been shot down by what looks like some sort of spliced-together
weapons system. This would be an unprecedented and catastrophic
event. Hitherto we have not seen the insurgents capable of launching
such an attack."
One of the victims was identified as Paul Pardoel, a 35-year-old
navigator. Flt Lt Pardoel, who was born in Melbourne, Australia,
had been living with his family near the base at RAF Lyneham. He
had been with the RAF's 47 Squadron, a unit known for working with
special forces. His father, John, 78, said: "He was the nearest
thing you find to an ideal child."
The Government rejected demands for British troops to be withdrawn
from Iraq when their mandate from the United Nations expires at
the end of this year. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said it
would be "utterly irresponsible" to set such a deadline.
Although he predicted that Sunday's elections would reduce terrorism
in Iraq, he expected the security situation to remain difficult
for "quite a period". He told the Commons that the Iraqi government
"may well" request that the UN mandate be extended.
* The 10 service personnel killed when an RAF Hercules crashed
in central Iraq were today named by the Ministry of Defence as Squadron
Leader Patrick Marshall, Flight Lieutenant David Stead, Flight Lieutenant
Andrew Smith, Flight Lieutenant Paul Pardoel, Master Engineer Gary
Nicholson, Chief Technician Richard Brown, Flight Sergeant Mark
Gibson, Sergeant Robert O'Connor, Corporal David Williams and Acting
Lance Corporal Steven Jones.
The finger hovers for a moment
over a small white metal box set on stony ground before pressing
a black button with the Arabic numeral four beside it.
Under the leaden skies of the desert, two streaks of fire race
into the air, apparently destined for the cigar-shaped silhouette
of an aircraft in the far distance. Then the aftermath: first a
plume of black smoke, followed by an indistinct mass of burning
wreckage merges first into the remains of an engine, then a large
section of fuselage with two aircraft wheels behind it.
Everywhere there is flame.
If the images are to be believed, then they show the last moments
of the Royal Air Force cargo plane that crashed into the Iraqi desert
on Sunday afternoon. Caution was being sounded last night by military
experts who said it could instead be a slick montage of previous
attacks designed to maximise publicity. [...]
Flying at between 12,000ft and 15,000ft some 20 minutes after take-off,
the plane with its nine RAF crew and unspecified army passenger,
thought to be a member of the SAS, should have been in the safest
A British military source said last night: "Take-off and landing
are the times of maximum danger. Our experience in Iraq is that
aircraft, even something as relatively slow as a Hercules, do not
get blown out of the sky."
Shortly after 4.35pm local time (1.35pm GMT) on Sunday, it seems
that changed. The chilling images broadcast around the world yesterday
afternoon were presented by Iraqi militants as evidence of their
ability to shoot down planes, then ensure maximum publicity with
20 seconds of footage purporting to show the deed.
Starting with the finger pressing the launch button, the video
cuts to show rockets streaking into the air towards the indistinct
blob of an aircraft. After jerky footage of buildings and palm trees,
it shows a towering plume of smoke before finishing with a lingering
pan of the supposed wreckage, fuselage, loading bay, burning metal
and plastics as two men pick their way through it.
Military experts said the white control box was not a common control
system for missiles used in Iraq. But they warned that if true,
it showed a new and frightening level of military sophistication
by the militants beyond their more rudimentary shoulder-launched
weapons. Robert Hewson, an air weapons expert for the Jane's publishing
group, said: "What appears to going on is a lot more sophisticated
than the shoulder-launched systems.
An investigation into the crash
of an RAF Hercules in Iraq on Sunday in which 10 servicemen died
is focusing on the possibility that the plane was destroyed because
explosives in its cargo were triggered.
The explosives were to be delivered to the Balad airbase north
of Baghdad in a routine 20-minute flight. The aircraft burst into
flames and wreckage was scattered over a wide area.
The disintegration of the Hercules had led military officials to
believe that there was a large-scale detonation on board. One theory
was that a bomb was hidden on board, but it is believed that the
blast may have been caused by accident.
The RAF C-130K transport exploded in a fireball 20 miles north
of Baghdad, killing nine RAF special services officers and one soldier
believed to be attached to the SAS. Defence experts told The Independent
that wreckage at the crash site pointed to an accident on board
the plane, or a bomb planted by insurgents, rather than an incoming
A former defence minister said it was "highly unlikely" that insurgents
could have breached tight security to smuggle a bomb on board, but
it was not being ruled out. A suicide bomber recently penetrated
security at a US base.
Insurgents would have needed a highly sophisticated missile to
bring down the plane at 15,000 to 25,000 feet. Missiles that could
bring down planes at that height could also target passenger planes,
said the former minister. [....]
The day of blood and elections
has passed, and the blaring trumpets of corporate media hailing
it as a successful show of "democracy" have subsided to a dull roar.
After a day which left 50 people dead in Iraq,
both civilians and soldiers, the death toll was hailed as a figure
that was "lower than expected." Thus…acceptable, by Bush Administration/corporate
media standards. After all, only of them was an American, the rest
were Iraqis civilians and British soldiers.
The gamble of using the polling day in Iraq to justify the ongoing
failed occupation of Iraq has apparently paid off, if you watch
only mainstream media.
"Higher than expected turnout," US mainstream television media
blared, some citing a figure of 72%, others 60%.
What they didn't tell you was that this figure was provided by
Farid Ayar, the spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission
for Iraq (IECI) before the polls had even closed.
When asked about the accuracy of the estimate of voter turnout
during a press conference, Ayar backtracked on his earlier figure,
saying that a closer estimate was lower than his initial estimate
and would be more like 60% of registered voters.
The IECI spokesman said his previous figure of 72% was "only guessing"
and "was just an estimate," which was based on "very rough, word-of
mouth estimates gathered informally from the field. It will take
some time for the IECI to issue accurate figures on turnout."
Referencing both figures, Ayar then added, "Percentages and numbers
come only after counting and will be announced when it's over ...
It's too soon to say that those were the official numbers."
But this isn't the most important misrepresentation the mainstream
What they also didn't tell you was that of those
who voted, whether they be 35% or even 60% of registered voters,
were not voting in support of an ongoing US occupation of their
In fact, they were voting for precisely the
opposite reason. Every Iraqi I have spoken with who voted explained
that they believe the National Assembly which will be formed soon
will signal an end to the occupation.
And they expect the call for a withdrawing of foreign forces in
their country to come sooner rather than later.
This causes one to view the footage of cheering, jubilant Iraqis
in a different light now, doesn't it?
But then, most folks in the US watching CNN, FOX,
or any of the major networks won't see it that way. Instead, they
will hear what Mr. Bush said, "The world is hearing the voice of
freedom from the center of the Middle East," and take it as fact
because most of the major media outlets aren't scratching beneath
film clips of joyous Iraqi voters over here in the land of daily
chaos and violence, no jobs, no electricity, little running water
and no gasoline (for the Iraqis anyhow).
And Bush is portrayed by the media as the bringer of democracy
to Iraq by the simple fact that this so-called election took place,
botched as it may have been. Appearances suggest that the majority
Shia in Iraq now finally get their proportional representation in
a "government." Looks good on paper.
But as you continue reading, the seemingly altruistic reasons for
this election as portrayed by the Bush Administration and trumpeted
by most mainstream media are anything but.
And Iraqis who voted are hearing other trumpets that are blaring
an end to the occupation.
Now the question remains, what happens when the National Assembly
is formed and over 100,000 US soldiers remain on the ground in Iraq
with the Bush Administration continuing in its refusal to provide
a timetable for their removal?
What happens when Iraqis see that while there are already four
permanent US military bases in their country, rather than beginning
to disassemble them, more bases are being constructed, as they are,
by Cheney's old company Halliburton, right now?[...]
Even as the explosions thundered
over Baghdad, the people came in their hundreds and then in their
thousands. Entire families, crippled old men supported by their
sons, children beside them, babies in the arms of their mothers,
sisters and aunts and cousins.
That is how the Shia Muslims of Baghdad voted yesterday. They walked
quietly to the Martyr Mohamed Bakr Hakim School in Jadriya, without
talking, through the car-less streets, the air pressure changing
around them as mortars rained down on the US and British embassy
compounds and the first of the day's suicide bombers immolated himself
and his victims - most of them Shias - two miles away.
The Kurds voted, too, in their tens of thousands, but the Sunnis
- 20 per cent of Iraq's population, whose insurgency was the principal
reason for this election - boycotted or were intimidated from the
The turnout - estimated at 60 per cent of Iraq's 15 million registered
voters - represented victory and tragedy. For while the Shias voted
in their millions with immense courage, the Sunni voice of Iraq
remained silent, casting into semi-illegitimacy the national assembly
whose existence is supposed to provide America with a political
excuse to extricate itself from its "little Vietnam" in the Middle
And yes, of course, there was the violence we all expected. There
were to be nine suicide bombers in Baghdad - the largest number
on a single day anywhere in the Middle East.
An American mercenary and a US soldier were among the first to
die in Baghdad when mortars exploded, then more than 20 voters -
four slaughtered beside a polling station in Sadr City - were cut
down; before dusk came news that an RAF C-130 Hercules transport
aircraft had crashed 25 miles north-west of Baghdad, en route to
the largely insurgent-held city of Balad, the site of a big US airbase.
In all, almost 50 men and women were killed across Iraq.
But how many were killed on the RAF aircraft? Tony Blair's strangely
fearful statement about the election last night acknowledged some
dead, but would give no other details. Why not? Were there three
British crew dead? Or five? Or many, many more? And were there US
passengers? President Bush also referred to US dead, as if it included
more than the two killed in the morning. Was there something that
might be revealed today, when the "success" of the elections had
been polished without a tragedy to tarnish it?
Of course, it was the sight of thousands of Shias, the women in
black "hijab" covering, the men in leather jackets or long robes,
the children toddling beside them, that took the breath away. If
Osama bin Laden had called these elections an apostasy, many did
not heed his Wahabi threats. They came to claim their rightful power
in the land - that is why Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the grand marja
of the Shias of Iraq, told them to vote - and woe betide the US
and British if they do not get it.
For if this election produces a parliamentary coalition that splits
the Shias and turns their largest party into the opposition, then
the Sunni insurgency will become a national uprising.
"I came here," a man told me in Jadriya, "because our grand marja
told us voting today was more important than prayer and fasting."
Even the local election agent was close to tears. Taleb Ibrahim
admitted to me that he had participated in Saddam's one-man elections
but this day marked the moment when the Shias - after refusing to
take revenge on their Baathist oppressors - would show magnanimity.
Even if the Sunnis were boycotting the poll, he said, "there is
an old saying that 'if the father becomes angry, we will have no
problems with his sons'. We will make sure that these sons, the
Sunnis, have equal rights with us." At one polling station, I asked
the first of the young Iraqi soldiers who were to check us - all,
I should add, wore black woollen face masks so that they could never
be identified - if he was frightened. "It doesn't matter," he said
very firmly. "I am ready to die for this day. We have got to vote."
Seven hours later, I talked to him again and now he, too, had the
indelible ink on his forefinger. "It's like you can change your
future or your faith," he said. "We only had military coups and
revolutions before. We voted 'yes' or 'yes'. Now we vote for ourselves."
It was easy to be maudlin about such words, to imbibe the false
optimism of the Western television networks and the nonsense about
Iraq's "historic" day - for it will only have been historic if it
changes this country, and many fear it will not.
No one I met yesterday believes the insurgency will end. Many thought
it would grow more ferocious and the Shias in the polling stations
said with one voice that they were also voting to rid Iraq of the
Americans, not to legitimise their presence.
On the streets yesterday, the Americans deployed thousands of troops,
most of them trying to show some respect for the people. A certain
Captain Buchanan from Arkansas even ventured a political thought.
"It's a pity the Sunnis aren't voting - it's their loss," he said.
But of course it is also Iraq's loss and, in a direct way, the Shias'
loss too - and possibly America's. For without that vital minority
component, who will believe in the new parliament or the constitution
it is supposed to produce or the next government it is supposed
I asked a Sunni Muslim security guard yesterday what he thought
would be the future of his country. He had not voted, of course
- in many Sunni cities, only a third of the polling stations opened
- but he had thought a lot about the question.
"You cannot give us 'democracy' just like this," he said. "That
is one of your Western, foreign dreams. Before, we had Saddam and
he was a cruel man and he treated us cruelly. But what will happen
after this election is that you will give us lots of little Saddams."
| The media in chorus decided that
voter turnout was high.
Western governments and the international community confirmed that
the turnout was high, based on contradictory official figures and
"a high turnout in today's election" (BBC, 30 Jan).
"polling stations witnessed an unexpectedly high turnout, demonstrating
the Iraqi people's eagerness for liberty and democracy, which is
exactly the outcome that the United States wishes for the Iraqis"
"The French government hailed Iraq's first free elections in half
a century as a "great success for the international community" and
called the surprisingly high voter turnout "good news".
"The initial figures included surprisingly high voter numbers around
central Iraq where the rebels have carried out attack after attack."
The turnout figure was first put at 72 percent quoting official
sources, at least two hours before the closing of the polls.
"Early figures on the turnout exceeded even the most optimistic
forecasts - 72 per cent of voters."
"Correspondent's report from Baghdad says turnout unexpected. Cites
Election Commission officials as saying 95 per cent of Baghdadis
voted. He says overall percentage is 72 per cent. Heavy security
measures in Baghdad. Praises organization of elections and employees
"Polling places across Iraq have just closed. And despite some
terror attacks, an Iraqi election official says 72 percent of eligible
voters have gone to the polls, but that has not been confirmed."
(Fox New, (9.00 EST, 14.00 GMT)
Where was this 72 percent figure taken? On what was it based? How
was it derived?
By the time this figure started circulating in the global news
chain, voting booths had not yet closed.
The 72 percent turnout figure, which was on the lips of journalists
and network TV talk shows was based on an interview with the Minister
of Planning in the interim government, on the 30th at 11.45 GMT,
more than two hours before the closing of the polls:
"although a 72 per cent turnout was expected, it appears that the
participation level will only reach 50 per cent." (1145 gmt, Al-Iraqiyah
live satellite interview with Planning Minister Mahdi al-Hafiz,
from the Conference Centre in Baghdad, BBC Monitoring, 30 Jan 2005)
In fact, the 72 percent figure, quoted by journalists was not based
on anything concrete.
An hour later, a senior official of the Independent Electoral Commission
in Iraq (IECI), Adil al-Lami, repeated the same 72 percent figure.
at a news conference at 12.24 GMT in which Adil al-Lami, and Safwat,
another IECI official, provided very precise figures on voter turnout
for the 18 governates (see Table below).
At this news conference, overall voter turnout was placed at 72
per cent and in some areas 90 per cent.
After the polls had closed and another news conference was held,
the same senior IECI official stated that he expected the voter
turnout to be 60 per cent.
How was this last figure arrived at, without the counting of the
Why was it 72 per cent and then, two hours later it was revised
to 60 percent?
With shattered communications systems, how did the information
get transmitted so quickly to the IECI for release at a News conference
at 14.00 GMT?
When questioned, a senior IECI official was evasive regarding the
source and methodology underlying his figures (see complete interview
"These estimates are what they (the offices) have seen, their observations
and their feelings," Lami said. "These estimates are based on human
flow at their polling stations."
On what did the percentages that were announced at the news conference
depend? Were they based on the flow of people only?
(Ayyar) Yes, on the basis of the flow of people and the expectations
in front of the polling centres at many places throughout Iraq and
also some contacts with the presiding officers of these centres,
whether in the north, the south or the centre. The person who announced
these figures did not say that they were final figures. So far,
we have no results for the elections. The counting is taking place
right now. I heard that Al-Sharqiyah knows some things, which we
do not know.(Iraqi Al-Sharqiyah TV, 30 January)
Observations and feelings?
And a few hours later, the news reports start shifting. First its
72 percent, then its 60 percent, then its down to 50 percent.
...this election appears, based on everything that we know right
now, to have been a tremendous and even surprising success, particularly
if the turnout to be as high as 60 percent, despite the participation
or lack of it by the Sunnis.... 8 million Iraqis went to the polls,
about 60 percent of the electorate. That turnout, in some areas
as high as 95 percent. The mood in Baghdad tonight has been described
as exuberant. (CNN, 30 Jan, 6 PM EST)
From 60 percent to 50 percent.
Iraqi officials hope for a turnout of at least 50 per cent to lend
legitimacy to the outcome. Even if turnout is lower, the election
is expected to receive the international stamp of approval. (Australian
If the turnout is finally reckoned to be 50 per cent, or anything
like it, and the deaths attributable to the insurgency are less
than a total bloodbath, that will be considered a step forward.
Early reports from polling stations show that the turnout in Iraq's
election yesterday could reach or exceed 50 per cent, political
party officials said.
"The reports we are receiving indicate that the turnout will hit
more than 50 per cent. Iraqis are looking at these elections as
an issue of dignity," Hafedh said. (China Daily 31 Jan)
Now the word is that a 30 per cent overall turnout would be satisfactory(New
Statesman, 31 Jan )
Related Facts regarding Voter Turnout, which contradict the official
figures and statements:
1. In five out of 18 governates, according to a Russian parliamentary
observer, the elections were either cancelled due to the lack of
security or were marked by a very low turnout. (Novosti, 30 Jan).
This statement contradicts the figures presented by the IECI at
the Press Conference, which indicate voter turnout of 50 per cent
or more in all the governates. (including Sunni regions where there
was a boycott, as confirmed by several press reports). (See Table
2. According to Xinhua (5 hours before the close of polling stations):
"The turnout was very low during the past few hours in Tikrit, Dujail,
Balad and Tuz, much lower than expected," a source in the electoral
body told Xinhua. "In addition, no voters showed up in Baiji, Samarra
and Dour," said the source, who declined to be identified. The cities
of Dujail and Balad have mixed population of Shiites and Sunnis,
while Tuz has a mosaic of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. In Tikrit, some
170 km north of Baghdad, 75 percent of the voting stations have
not been visited till now. (Xinhua, 30 Jan 2005, 9 AM GMT)
3. Several cities in Iraq did not receive electoral materials,
"In the city of Mosul, the deputy governor said that four towns
did not receive the election process materials. How do you justify
this? These towns are Bashqa, Bartillah, Al-Hamdaniyah and Jihan.
They did not receive the material for the election process." (Iraqi
Al-Sharqiyah TV, 30 Jan) The Centre for Research on Globalization
(CRG) at www.globalresearch.ca grants permission to cross-post original
Global Research articles in their entirety, or any portions thereof,
on community internet sites, as long as the text & title are not
modified. The source must be acknowledged and an active URL hyperlink
address of the original CRG article must be indicated. The author's
copyright note must be displayed.
BAGHDAD, Jan 31 (IPS) - Voting
in Baghdad was linked with receipt of food rations, several voters
said after the Sunday poll.
Many Iraqis said Monday that their names were marked on a list
provided by the government agency that provides monthly food rations
before they were allowed to vote.
"I went to the voting centre and gave my name and district where
I lived to a man," said Wassif Hamsa, a 32-year-old journalist who
lives in the predominantly Shia area Janila in Baghdad. "This man
then sent me to the person who distributed my monthly food ration."
Mohammed Ra'ad, an engineering student who lives in the Baya'a
district of the capital city reported a similar experience.
Ra'ad, 23, said he saw the man who distributed monthly food rations
in his district at his polling station. "The food dealer, who I
know personally of course, took my name and those of my family who
were voting," he said. "Only then did I get my ballot and was allowed
"Two of the food dealers I know told me personally that our food
rations would be withheld if we did not vote," said Saeed Jodhet,
a 21-year-old engineering student who voted in the Hay al-Jihad
district of Baghdad.
There has been no official indication that Iraqis who did not vote
would not receive their monthly food rations.
Many Iraqis had expressed fears before the election that their
monthly food rations would be cut if they did not vote. They said
they had to sign voter registration forms in order to pick up their
Their experiences on the day of polling have underscored many of
their concerns about questionable methods used by the U.S.-backed
Iraqi interim government to increase voter turnout.
Just days before the election, 52 year-old Amin Hajar who owns
an auto garage in central Baghdad had said: "I'll vote because I
can't afford to have my food ration cut...if that happened, me and
my family would starve to death."
Hajar told IPS that when he picked up his monthly food ration recently,
he was forced to sign a form stating that he had picked up his voter
registration. He had feared that the government would use this information
to track those who did not vote.
Calls to the Independent Electoral Commission for Iraq (IECI) and
to the Ministry of Trade, which is responsible for the distribution
of the monthly food ration, were not returned.
Other questions have arisen over methods to persuade people to
vote. U.S. troops tried to coax voters in Ramadi, capital city of
the al-Anbar province west of Baghdad to come out to vote, AP reported.
IECI officials have meanwhile 'downgraded' their earlier estimate
of voter turnout.
IECI spokesman Farid Ayar had declared a 72 percent turnout earlier,
a figure given also by the Bush Administration.
But at a press conference Ayar backtracked on his earlier figure,
saying the turnout would be nearer 60 percent of registered voters.
The earlier figure of 72 percent, he said, was "only guessing"
and "just an estimate" that had been based on "very rough, word
of mouth estimates gathered informally from the field." He added
that it will be some time before the IECI can issue accurate figures
on the turnout.
"Percentages and numbers come only after counting and will be announced
when it's over," he said. "It is too soon to say that those were
the official numbers."
Where there was a large turnout, the motivation behind the voting
and the processes both appeared questionable. The Kurds up north
were voting for autonomy, if not independence. In the south and
elsewhere Shias were competing with Kurds for a bigger say in the
275-member national assembly.
In some places like Mosul the turnout was heavier than expected.
But many of the voters came from outside, and identity checks on
voters appeared lax. Others spoke of vote-buying bids.
The Bush Administration has lauded the success of the Iraq election,
but doubtful voting practices and claims about voter turnout are
both mired in controversy.
Election violence too was being seen differently across the political
More than 30 Iraqis, a U.S. soldier, and at least 10 British troops
died Sunday. Hundreds of Iraqis were also wounded in attacks across
Baghdad, in Baquba 50km northeast of the capital as well as in the
northern cities Mosul and Kirkuk.
The British troops were on board a C-130 transport plane that crashed
near Balad city just northwest of Baghdad. The British military
has yet to reveal the cause of the crash.
Despite unprecedented security measures in which 300,000 U.S. and
Iraqi security forces were brought in to curb the violence, nine
suicide bombers and frequent mortar attacks took a heavy toll in
the capital city, while strings of attacks were reported around
the rest of the country.
As U..S. President George W. Bush saw it, "some Iraqis were killed
while exercising their rights as citizens."
"United States officials
were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South
Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign
to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 percent
of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday.
Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong. A successful
election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's
policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in
- Peter Grose, in a page 2 New York Times article
titled, 'U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote,' September 4, 1967.
January 30, 2005
In all the media hoopla over Sunday's "election" in Iraq, a few
details got missed.
The powerful and influential Association of Muslim Scholars is
not buying the idea that there was some great democratic breakthrough
with this vote. AMS spokesman Muhammad al-Kubaysi responded to the
election by saying, "The elections are not
a solution to the Iraqi problem, because this problem is not an
internal dispute to be resolved through accords and elections. It
lies in the presence of a foreign power that occupies this country
and refuses even the mere scheduling of the withdrawal of its forces
"We have consistently argued," continued al-Kubaysi, "that elections
can only occur in a democracy that enjoys sovereignty. Our sovereignty
is incomplete. Our sovereignty is usurped by foreign forces that
have occupied our land and hurt our dignity. These elections...
are a means of establishing the foreign forces in Iraq and keeping
Iraq under the yoke of occupation. They should have been postponed."
Al-Kubaysi likewise raised grave concerns about low turnout in
Sunni areas such as Baghdad, Baquba and Samarra, and stated flatly
that the deep secrecy that shrouded the candidates themselves invalidated
the process. "The voter goes to the polling stations not knowing
who he is voting for in the first place," he said. "There are more
than 7,700 candidates, and I challenge any Iraqi voter to name more
than half a dozen. Their names have not been announced but have
been kept secret. Elections should never have been held under these
The American media is painting these newly-minted Iraqi voters
as flush with the thrill of casting a ballot. In truth, however,
some other more pressing motivations lay behind their rush to the
polling places. Dahr Jamail, writing for Inter Press Service, reported
that "Many Iraqis had expressed fears before the election that their
monthly food rations would be cut if they did not vote. They said
they had to sign voter registration forms in order to pick up their
food supplies. Just days before the election, 52 year-old Amin Hajar,
who owns an auto garage in central Baghdad, had said, 'I'll vote
because I can't afford to have my food ration cut. If that happened,
me and my family would starve to death.'"
'Will Vote For Food' is not a spectacular billboard for the export
"Where there was a large turnout," continued Jamail, "the motivation
behind the voting and the processes both appeared questionable.
The Kurds up north were voting for autonomy, if not independence.
In the south and elsewhere Shias were competing with Kurds for a
bigger say in the 275-member national assembly. In some places like
Mosul the turnout was heavier than expected. But many of the voters
came from outside, and identity checks on voters appeared lax. Others
spoke of vote-buying bids. More than 30 Iraqis, a U.S. soldier,
and at least 10 British troops died Sunday. Hundreds of Iraqis were
also wounded in attacks across Baghdad, in Baquba 50km northeast
of the capital as well as in the northern cities Mosul and Kirkuk."
Perhaps the most glaring indication that this "election" did little
to settle the bloody reality in Iraq came three days before the
ballots were cast. In a letter to congress dated January 28, the
neoconservative think-tank/power broker known as The Project for
the New American Century (PNAC) essentially called for a draft without
actually using the 'D' word.
Project Censored, the organization that tracks important yet wildly
under-reported stories, declared the existence, motivations and
influence of PNAC to be the #1 censored media story for 2002-2003.
Most t r u t h o u t readers are familiar with PNAC, but for those
who missed this story, a quick refresher is required.
The first vital fact about PNAC has to do with its membership
roll call: Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States, former
CEO of Halliburton; Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense; Paul
Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense; Elliot Abrams, National
Security Council; John Bolton, Undersecretary for Arms Control and
International Security; I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's top National Security
assistant. This list goes on.
These people didn't enjoy those fancy titles in 2000, when the
PNAC manifesto 'Rebuilding America's Defenses' was first published.
Before 2000, these men were just a bunch of power players who got
shoved out of government in 1993. In the time that passed between
Clinton and those hanging chads, these people got together in PNAC
and laid out a blueprint. 'Rebuilding America's Defenses' was the
ultimate result. 2000 became 2001, and the PNAC boys suddenly had
the fancy titles and a chance to swing some weight.
'Rebuilding America's Defenses' became the roadmap for foreign
policy decisions made in the White House and the Pentagon; PNAC
had the Vice President's office in one building, and the Defense
Secretary's office in the other. Attacking Iraq was central to that
roadmap from the beginning. When former Counterterrorism czar Richard
Clarke accused the Bush administration of focusing on Iraq to the
detriment of addressing legitimate threats, he was essentially denouncing
them for using the attacks of September 11 as an excuse to execute
the PNAC blueprint.
The goals codified in 'Rebuilding America's Defenses,' the manifesto,
can be boiled down to a few sentences: The invasion and occupation
of Iraq, for reasons that had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein.
The building of several permanent military bases in Iraq, the purpose
of which are to telegraph force throughout the region. The takeover
by Western petroleum corporations of Iraq's nationalized oil industry.
The ultimate destabilization and overthrow of a variety of regimes
in the Middle East, friend and foe alike, by military or economic
means, or both.
"Indeed," it is written on page 14 of 'Rebuilding America's Defenses,'
"the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent
role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with
Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial
American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the
regime of Saddam Hussein."
In the last three years, PNAC has gotten every single thing it
placed on its wish list back in 2000. This is why their letter to
congress last week is so disturbing. The letter reads in part:
The United States military is too small for the responsibilities
we are asking it to assume. Those responsibilities are real and
important. They are not going away. The United States will not
and should not become less engaged in the world in the years to
come. But our national security, global peace and stability, and
the defense and promotion of freedom in the post-9/11 world require
a larger military force than we have today. The administration
has unfortunately resisted increasing our ground forces to the
size needed to meet today's (and tomorrow's) missions and challenges.
So we write to ask you and your colleagues in the legislative
branch to take the steps necessary to increase substantially the
size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps. While estimates
vary about just how large an increase is required, and Congress
will make its own determination as to size and structure, it is
our judgment that we should aim for an increase in the active
duty Army and Marine Corps, together, of at least 25,000 troops
each year over the next several years.
Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution places the power and
the duty to raise and support the military forces of the United
States in the hands of the Congress. That is why we, the undersigned,
a bipartisan group with diverse policy views, have come together
to call upon you to act. You will be serving your country well
if you insist on providing the military manpower we need to meet
America's obligations, and to help ensure success in carrying
out our foreign policy objectives in a dangerous, but also hopeful,
Brush aside the patriotic language, and you have the ideological
architects of this disastrous Iraq invasion stating flatly that
the American military is being bled dry, and that the ranks must
be replenished before that military can be used to push into Iran,
Syria and the other targeted nations. The 'D' word is not in this
letter, but it screams out from between the lines. All the lip service
paid to the Iraq elections by these people does not contrast well
with their cry for more warm bodies to feed into the meat grinder.
Lyndon Johnson was excited about voter turnout in Vietnam in September
1967. Eight years, three Presidents and millions of dead people
later, that excitement proved to have been wretchedly illusory.
There is no reason, no reason whatsoever, to believe that the Iraq
election we witnessed this weekend will bring anything other than
death and violence to the people of that nation and our soldiers
who move among them. History repeats itself only when we are stupid
enough to miss the lessons learned in past failures. The wheel is
coming around again.
Author's Note | The fascinating New York Times article on the
Vietnam election in 1967 was first located and published by patachon
on the DailyKos blog forum.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling
author of two books - 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want
You to Know' and 'The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.'
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, determined
to confront the diplomatic tensions of President Bush's first term
head-on, has chosen Paris as the venue for the main policy speech
of her first foreign trip, the State Department said yesterday.
The Feb. 8 address will try to explain to the
Europeans the Bush administration's plans for the next four years,
emphasizing that any actions it takes will be motivated not by imperial
ambitions but by causes and values Europe itself holds dear, such
as freedom and democracy, officials said.
Miss Rice's trip, which begins Thursday, includes other countries
that opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq such as Germany and Belgium,
but she chose France. French President Jacques Chirac has been promoting
the concept of a "multipolar world" to replace the existing
"unipolar" system of U.S. dominance.
"She wanted to do it in Paris because she felt Paris was one
of the places where there is a lot of debate and discussion about
the U.S., about Europe, about common goals, about how we achieve
our agenda," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told
"She wanted to be part of that discussion and put her ideas
into the mix," he said.
Diplomats in Europe said the top officials Miss Rice will meet
there look forward to welcoming her and having substantive and frank
But Mr. Boucher said he did not anticipate the
countries that opposed the war and refused to contribute substantially
to the reconstruction effort in Iraq to change their policies, even
after Sunday's elections.
"I don't think any of us expect to see
a radical shift in the kind of activity that various European governments
are involved in, but many of them have been very supportive
of this process," Mr. Boucher said.
"We would certainly hope that everybody would recognize what
a step forward the Iraqi people made [by voting] and how important
it is for all of us to encourage and support those steps,"
Miss Rice will begin her weeklong trip in London, whose help in
the Iraq war she and Mr. Bush value greatly. She will visit two
more Iraq coalition partners, Italy and Poland, as well as Luxembourg
During a stop in the Middle East on Sunday and
Monday, she is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Yesterday, Miss Rice held talks at the State Department
with Dov Weisglass, one of Mr. Sharon's closest advisers with whom
she met regularly during her four years as Mr. Bush's national security
During the unannounced meeting, which also was attended by Israeli
military officials, Mr. Weisglass updated Miss Rice on Israel's
plan to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, officials
Earlier, Miss Rice told State Department employees there cannot
be peace in the Middle East unless the Palestinians have their own
"I don't think any of us doubt that without a Palestinian
state that is viable, that can meet the aspirations of the Palestinian
people, that there really isn't going to be a peace for either the
Palestinian people or the Israelis," she said.
Iraq - Iraqi militants claimed in a Web statement Tuesday to have
taken an American soldier hostage and threatened to behead him in
72 hours unless the Americans release Iraqi prisoners. The U.S.
military said it was investigating, but the claim's authenticity
could not be immediately confirmed.
The posting, on a Web site that frequently carried
militants' statements, included a photo of what that statement said
was an American soldier, wearing desert fatigues and seated on a
concrete floor with his hands tied behind his back. The figure in
the photo appeared stiff and expressionless, and the photo's authenticity
could not be confirmed.
A gun barrel was pointed at his head, and behind him on the wall
is a black banner emblazoned with the Islamic profession of faith,
"There is no god but God and Muhammad is His prophet."
A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Marine Sgt. Salju K. Thomas,
said he had no information on the claim but "we are currently
looking into it."
A statement posted with the picture suggested the group was holding
"Our mujahadeen heroes of Iraq's Jihadi Battalion were able
to capture American military man John Adam after killing a number
of his comrades and capturing the rest," said the statement,
signed by the "Mujahedeen Brigades."
"God willing, we will behead him if our female and male prisoners
are not released from U.S. prisons within the maximum period of
72 hours from the time this statement has been released," the
The posting did not show any ID card for the alleged captive and
no organization's name was written on the black banner, as have
appeared in some past claims of kidnappings. The man's uniform had
no U.S. insignia or names visible.
The Mujahedeen Brigades have claimed responsibility for two kidnappings
in the past - the abduction in April of three Japanese who were
released and that of a Brazilian engineer who went missing after
an ambush that the Brigades claimed to have carried out along with
the Ansar al-Sunnah Army.
More than 180 foreigners have been kidnapped in
the past year. At least 10 of them, including three American civilians,
remain in the hands of their kidnappers.
The only American soldier known to have been taken hostage is Pfc.
Keith M. Maupin, 20, of Batavia, Ohio, who was shown in a video
in April being held by militants. Another video aired in June showed
what purported to be Maupin's slaying, but the picture was too unclear
to confirm it was him and the military still lists him as missing.
Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun went missing in Iraq in June and
later photos surfaced on Arab television showing him blindfolded
with a sword to his head. In July he made his way to the U.S. Embassy
in Beirut. Back in the United States, he said he had been captured,
but in December he was charged with desertion for the incident.
BAGHDAD - The posting, on a Web site that
frequently carries militants' statements, included a photo of what
that statement said was an American soldier, wearing desert fatigues
and seated on a concrete floor with his hands tied behind his back.
But the authenticity of the statement and photo could not be verified,
and Liam Cusack, of the toy manufacturer
Dragon Models USA, Inc., said the image of the soldier portrayed
in the photo bore a striking resemblance to the African-American
version of its "Cody" military action figure.
"It is our doll ... to me it definitely looks like it is,"
Cusack said. "Everything the guy is wearing is exactly what
comes with our figure."
He said the figures were ordered by the U.S. military
in Kuwait for sale in their bases, "so they would have been
In Baghdad, Staff Sgt. Nick Minecci of the U.S. military's press
office in Baghdad said "no units have reported anyone missing."
The figure in the photo appeared stiff and expressionless.
In the photo, a gun barrel was pointed at the head of the man's
figure, and behind him on the wall was a black banner emblazoned
with the Islamic profession of faith, "There is no god but
God and Muhammad is His prophet."
A statement posted with the picture suggested the group was holding
"Our mujahedeen heroes of Iraq's Jihadi Battalion were able
to capture American military man John Adam after killing a number
of his comrades and capturing the rest," said the statement,
signed by the "Mujahedeen Brigades."
The posting did not show any ID card for the alleged captive and
no organization's name was written on the black banner, as have
appeared in some past claims of kidnappings. The
man's uniform had no U.S. insignia or names visible. [...]
| Virginia Military Institute has
asked a student governing body to investigate and recommend discipline
against cadets who attended a Halloween party wearing costumes that
parodied Nazis, Africans and homosexuals.
In a statement posted yesterday on VMI's Web site, school officials
said they were "disappointed" in the behavior and judgment of the
"Civility and respect for others is something VMI is trying to
inculcate in the cadets," said Stewart MacInnis, a spokesman for
the state-supported school, which has about 1,300 students enrolled
this year. "When I look at the pictures, I don't see anything mean-spirited.
What I see are college kids who are trying to use humor, and they
missed. They really missed. It wasn't the right thing to do."
In one photo posted on a public Web site, three young men wearing
black shirts pose as Nazis with their right arms extended in a stiff-armed
salute. One appears to have a straight, stiff mustache resembling
Another picture shows a man painted black from head to toe, his
white skin visible at the edges of a loincloth.
Two photos mock homosexuals. In one, two men are dressed as fairies,
complete with tiaras, wands, wings, pink briefs and T-shirts with
the words "I [love] a man in uniform." In another, a youth dressed
in a sailor's uniform is bent over to display a target taped to
his buttocks, while a shirtless cadet sidles up behind him.
Hoping to turn the incident into a lesson for the student body,
the school has asked the General Committee to investigate and recommend
action. The committee is composed of three cadet officers, one each
from the sophomore, junior and senior classes. They are generally
charged with enforcing standards of conduct among the cadet corps.
Fact-finding will be conducted by another group of cadets, called
the Officer of the Guard Association. Members will report to the
General Committee, which will send its recommendations to the administration.
"We want to take advantage of an opportunity to provide a teaching
point here -- that offensiveness shouldn't be tolerated," said MacInnis,
predicting that the report would take at least two weeks to complete.
It is unclear whether the students broke any rules. Cadets can
be disciplined for "conduct unbecoming" that brings disrespect to
the institution. The school had allowed use of the barracks for
the Halloween party under the condition that all costumes be appropriate.
The photographs were taken by a student at the party, which was
held on campus and attended by 300 to 400 cadets, MacInnis said.
The party was supervised by adult staff and at least two student
officers, he said. It is not clear how many people who attended
saw the partygoers wearing the costumes.
The photos were among 26 from the party that initially were posted
on a Web site featuring snapshots taken by amateur photographers
-- primarily sunsets, wildlife and travel pictures. They gained
a wider audience when an independent media Web site, Richmond.indymedia.org,
posted the pictures Wednesday and noted: "These are, after all,
the men who are supposed to one day graduate to their own posts
at Gitmos and Abu Ghraibs around the world."
At least some of the eight cadets who posed for the photos have
been identified and questioned about their costumes, MacInnis said.
The school is not releasing the names of the students.
Robert O'Neil, a University of Virginia law professor and director
of the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression, said courts
have ruled that civilian colleges can do little to sanction student
expressions of free speech, however offensive. As a public school,
VMI probably would be held to the same standard, despite its military
character and mission.
One possible exception, he noted, might be related to the inappropriate
display of military uniforms in the photograph of the two men dressed
in Navy whites with bull's-eyes on the pant seats.
Word of the incident was beginning to spread on the campus of VMI
yesterday, said Paul Bryan, a senior, first classman, from Lexington,
Va. Bryan attended the party but said he did not see the costumes.
"VMI strives very hard to present the best image of young men and
women," he said. "The fact that some of it can be taken away by
the actions of a few is disappointing."
Andy Hollinger, a spokesman for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum,
noted that VMI quickly denounced the cadets' behavior. He said he
hoped the cadets learn something about the genocide of the Nazis.
"Hopefully this will be taken as an opportunity by the participants
and others to educate themselves about the Holocaust and gain a
deeper understanding of why so many people, particularly survivors
and their families, find this offensive and are still deeply hurt
by the swastika and what it represents," he said.
Can Happen Here
Bankruptcy is for other countries, not the United States of America
| By Robert Kuttner
| "How did you go bankrupt?"
ways. Gradually, and then suddenly." Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also
Countries go broke gradually, by borrowing so much money that creditors
lose confidence in their ability to pay the debt back. Then, they
go broke suddenly as creditors stop lending.
This has happened to more than a dozen third-world nations, who
had the additional misfortune of having to borrow in dollars. As
their own currency lost the confidence of world markets, they lost
value against the dollar. This only increased their real debt burden.
The optimists say, ''It can't happen here."
First, we're the people who print dollars. So if the dollar is
losing value, it just means the money that we owe the rest of the
world is getting cheaper. Lucky us.
Second, we enjoy a codependency with our creditors. For instance,
China, which keeps lending us money to finance our deficits, may
be accumulating dollar credits that are losing their real worth.
But China needs us to keep absorbing their products, so China will
go right on lending.
And third, the United States remains the anchor of the world economy.
So even though other nations may not like America's immense trade
and budget deficits, nobody is going to risk pushing the world into
depression by crashing the dollar.
That, as I say, is the optimistic view. Well, dream on.
Yesterday, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), possibly
the last intellectually honest government agency in George W. Bush's
Washington, reported that our fiscal situation is even worse than
According to the CBO's latest ''Budget and Economic Outlook," the
projected deficit for 2005 will be about $400 billion. The CBO declares,
politely but unmistakably, that it doesn't buy the Bush administration's
budgetary gimmickry of trying to keep anticipated military outlays
out of the official budget.
''The absence of further appropriations for activities in Iraq
and Afghanistan," CBO states, ''masks a further deterioration in
budget projections over the [next] ten years."
Specifically, the deficit for the next decade is $504 billion worse
than anticipated in CBO's previous estimate last September.
The agency goes on to warn that other challenges not currently
itemized in official administration projections, such as Medicare,
Medicaid, and Social Security, will only increase future deficits.
And, of course, if the Bush administration succeeds either in making
permanent his major tax reductions (most of which sunset after 10
years), or in adding $2 trillion of borrowing to privatize Social
Security, the fiscal situation would go from merely disastrous to
But back to our story, ''It Can't Happen Here." America's deteriorating
fiscal situation, unfortunately, is not lost either on world money
markets or on the Federal Reserve. Although no world leader would
willfully plunge the world into depression, that's not how markets
work. Markets are purely self-interested.
Lately, markets, with good reason, have been betting against the
dollar. As the U.S. trade deficit approaches a staggering 7 percent,
it's not clear how much longer foreign investors will keep investing
in dollars and dollar-securities, such as corporate stocks and government
As for the Chinese, Clyde Prestowitz of the Economic Strategy Institute,
formerly a senior trade negotiator in the Reagan administration,
offers the following scenario: In a future crisis involving the
tense China-Taiwan relationship, the Chinese ambassador suggests
to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that maybe the United States
would like to move its warships 500 miles away from Taiwan. Rice
demurs. The next day, the Bank of China sells a few -- just a very
few to get our attention -- U.S. Treasury securities. Money markets
Would the Chinese play such a risky game? They have their own interests,
geopolitical as well as economic. They are certainly not an American
pawn, less so with every passing year. Miscalculations have happened
in world economic relations before, and with calamitous results.
The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, is increasingly worried about inflation,
largely of the imported variety due to the weak dollar. The Fed
is steadily raising interest rates. With every quarter-point hike,
consumers pay more for mortgage and credit card loans, investors
in stocks become more wary, and the air goes out of the economy.
Alan Greenspan kept rates very low long enough to get George W.
Bush reelected. Now he is reverting to type.
The Bush administration is putting itself, and America's economic
future, in grave jeopardy. The only good news is that all this bad
news makes Social Security privatization, or permanent tax cuts
for the wealthy, less than an even bet.
Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect. This column
originally appeared in The Boston Globe.
Jan. 28 (Bloomberg) -- [...]``The
U.S. dollar is no longer, in our opinion is no longer, (seen) as
a stable currency and is devaluating all the time, and that's putting
troubles all the time,'' Fan said, speaking in English, at the World
Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. ``So the real issue is how
to change the regime from a U.S. dollar pegging to a more manageable
reference, say euros, yen, dollars -- those kind of more diversified
Paul Donovan, London-based senior global economist at UBS AG, seemed
to speak for many traders and investors when he said: ``This in
fact is a scenario we consider to be highly likely.'' Certainly
more likely than, say, China letting the yuan trade freely. [...]
Central banks here don't buy U.S. debt out of altruism. Hoarding
dollars is necessary to hold down currencies to boost Asian growth.
Yet dumping dollars would result in stronger Asian currencies and,
by extension, Asian gross domestic product.
Smaller economies like Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand may be able
to trim dollar holdings without undermining their own economies.
The same can't be said of Japan and China; combined, they own $906
billion of the roughly $1.1 trillion of U.S. Treasuries held overseas.
Still, the day of financial reckoning that investors fear may be
getting closer. [...]
The U.S. finds itself in a be-careful-what-you-wish-for situation
here. If China tomorrow announced it was letting the yuan float,
as the U.S. wants, its central bank wouldn't need anything near
the $191 billion of U.S. debt it holds. Massive dollar selling could
Asian central banks like China's have become America's bankers,
financing its excesses through good times and bad. It's now up to
Asia to decide whether to extend the U.S.'s line of credit. The
U.S. should be warned that the odds are moving less and less in
Excuse me while I put on my flak
jacket. For many the touting of democracy as the best system of
governance - indeed, the only form - has become almost a religion.
Democracy, they say, means freedom, choice, justice and prosperity.
It's the cure of all ills; a political holy grail, an ideal to which
we should all aspire. George Bush says the US has never been threatened
by a democracy, so that's all right then.
Sounds good, doesn't it? There is just one slight problem, though.
Does a "by the people, for the people" utopia actually exist? [...]
There is a lot more to democracy than the ballot including a free
press, an independent judiciary, the sanctity of human rights and
civil liberties, backed up by stable institutions. Iraq currently
possesses none of these prerequisites.
The same can be said for Palestine and its much-vaunted democracy.
The Palestinians may have voted for Mahmoud Abbas as their leader
but can he deliver a sovereign state? Can he deliver free passage,
free trade, or security?
The Palestinians have no rights over their seas or their air space.
They don't even have an airport. Their "democratically-elected"
government cannot prevent their lands being grabbed or their homes
demolished. They are living, nay subsisting, under a particularly
nasty occupation. This is the ugly reality so don't let's dress
up occupation by labeling it with a fancy word.
As for the occupying countries, which call themselves democracies,
are they really?
Take Britain, for example. During the build up to war with Iraq,
some80 percent of the British people were against the invasion.
A whopping two million took to the streets to say as much. But this
didn't even give a "for the people, by the people" government pause
for thought. As it turned out the people's instincts were spot on.
It is true that Britons will have the chance next spring to vote
out the party, which flagrantly ignored their wishes but what options
are on the table? The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats both
voted for the war in Parliament and both are likely to put the trans-Atlantic
alliance before the feelings of their constituents.
America, eager to export democracy to the far corners of the planet,
should put its own house in order first. Just imagine in a country
of 350 million educated people a son adopts the presidential mantle
of his father. Isn't it coincidental that George W. just happened
to be the very best person for the job, while his younger brother,
governor of Florida, waits in the wings? Is it something in the
There, it isn't the people who collectively design their nation's
direction but industry, big business, banks and self-interested
politicians assisted by the media. The US has its ruling dynasties
- Bush and Kennedy - just like so many of those nations it is out
to forcibly reform. There is one difference though.
Americans are indoctrinated to believe they have choices. Again,
Kerry, the only serious contender during the last race, was a pro-war
senator. The others either didn't have enough funds or were discredited
by a media, which we now know the government is not averse to bribing.
Indeed, the administration has recently reluctantly admitted paying
three conservative commentators to sway public opinion in favor
of its policies.
We should not forget, too, that in 2000 , the loser Al Gore was
the recipient of the popular vote prompting complaints about the
Electoral College approach and the panel of mostly Republican judges,
which was given the final say.
As for that fine democracy called Israel, this is a place where
people espousing a particular religion can call home, while those
carrying rusting keys to their actual homes built by their grandfathers
are shut out. This is a state, which fears a "one person, one vote"
system more than anything as long as Arab-Israeli couples have six
children as opposed to an average of two Jewish newborns. Arab Israelis
are treated as second-class citizens and yet, Israel is touted as
the only democracy in the region.
The question is this: Is Western-style democracy the only way or
are there viable alternatives? Let's take a look at the United Arab
Just 35 years ago, the Emirates boasted little except a few paved
roads, a hospital or two, a couple of schools and hardly any five-star
hotels. Today, the country is booming. Its per capita GDP is $24,000,
while Dubai is growing at the rate of14 percent per annum. It has
a crime rate most Western countries would die for.
It may not be a democracy but so what? Emiratis are free to do
just about anything and number among the most widely traveled on
What is more, they genuinely respect their leaders who made the
desert bloom...and how! There are no bag ladies here. There are
no druggies bedding down in shop doorways. There are no people clamoring
to emigrate. On the contrary, many are clamoring to get in.
Any system of government, which provides its citizens with all
that they need and which keeps law and order while respecting human
rights should be admired.
Worshiping democracy may be fashionable but democracy is only a
means to an end and not a be all and end all. At the end of the
day, the only relevancies are the cash in people's pockets, the
freedom to enjoy it, and the smiles on their faces.
- Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs.
January 28, 2005-The evidence
that certain elements of the government intentionally allowed and
caused the 9-11 tragedy appears to be extremely strong. See, for
example, Painful Questions by Eric Hufschmid, Synthetic
Terror by Webster Tarpley, and The New Pearl Harbor
and The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions
by David Ray Griffin.
After failing to obtain any competent investigation or tangible
results from the 9/11 Commission, the White House, or Congress (many
of the governmental personnel responsible for preventing an attack
on the U.S. have actually been promoted since 9-11), many Americans
are asking whether justice may be obtained through the courts. The
answer is complicated, and it would be impossible for a brief article
such as this to do anything other than scratch the surface concerning
Instead of being the final word on 9-11 legal issues, this article
is intended to be an introduction to strategy regarding 9-11 lawsuits,
and a practical discussion of how to avoid some of the landmines
present on the path to the courtroom battlefield which could knock
the unwary out of the game before they even get started.
Can We Win a 9-11 Lawsuit?
Legally, I believe we should win in court. If the facts surrounding
the 9-11attacks were applied to the elements of the law in a vacuum,
then I believe that many of the real 9-11 perpetrators and accomplices
would end up behind bars. There is strong evidence from numerous
sources that the 9-11 attacks could not have occurred without the
assistance of people in our government. Under theories of murder,
criminal negligence, conspiracy, treason and other doctrines, the
perpetrators should be found guilty and brought to justice.
However, in any 9-11 lawsuit, the government and its employees
would claim that they are protected by sovereign immunity defenses
(meaning, in essence, "I'm the king, so you can't sue me"). This
area of law is too complicated to discuss here, but I believe we
might be able to overcome sovereign immunity defenses for at least
some claims, since acts of murderous treason should not be considered
within the normal scope of government employment. However, as discussed
below, sovereign immunity has already been used to dismiss one 9-11
case, and it is an issue which must be taken very seriously by anyone
filing a 9-11 lawsuit.
Moreover, it is unlikely that a court would allow high-level officials
such as a sitting president or vice president to be tried until
they leave office after the end of their designated term or through
impeachment and removal. This is because the constitutional "separation
of powers" doctrine provides that one branch of government, such
as the judiciary, cannot unduly interfere with the workings of another
branch, such as the executive branch. It is clear that, pursuant
to federal statutes, a sitting president cannot be tried criminally,
although it has not been decided whether the president can be indicted
(the first step in the criminal process) while in office or whether
the vice president has the same protections as the president. Thus,
even if a court did not dismiss a lawsuit outright on sovereign
immunity grounds, it would almost certainly stay (i.e. pause) any
lawsuit against the president and vice president.
Finally, the government would argue in defense to a 9-11 lawsuit
that everything that happened on 9-11 involves a "political question"
or "national security interests" of the United States which supersede
other considerations. Believe it or not, the government would likely
argue that the executive branch is responsible for making war and
protecting the country, and that the courts cannot question what
the White House and Pentagon do in the realm of defense and military
action. While this may sound odd, and while it would obviously be
absurd for the government to argue that the 9-11 attack itself was
in the national security interest, the courts tend to defer to the
executive branch on military and defense issues. Judges' brains
often shut off when confronted by a claim by the military that something
was necessary for national security or military purposes. Thus,
a 9-11 lawsuit should argue that only rogue elements in the U.S.
government and military participated in the 9-11 attacks, and that
such actions were against the national security interests of the
United States and have weakened our country.
What Should a 9-11 Complaint Include?
Sometimes, less is more. Some of the complaints in 9-11 lawsuits
have included claims that the Iraq war is illegal, that the USA
PATRIOT Act and related laws are fascist, that President Bush was
elected through vote fraud, and a host of other claims. I personally
agree that 9-11 was probably committed as a new Pearl Harbor type
event in order to justify imperial ambitions.
However, the vast majority of judges will immediately write off
as bogus any complaint which contains too many different conspiracy
claims. The reason is that every judge has reviewed a complaint
written by someone who is literally psychotic which claims that
everyone is out to get them and everyone has hurt them in some way.
When I worked for a court of appeal judge, I read complaints written
by defendants in cocaine possession cases who tried to blame everything
on everyone else, and, ungrounded in any real facts, alleged that
everyone was out to get them. Understandably, after seeing a couple
complaints like this, judges tend to automatically close their minds
to any lawsuit alleging too many conspiracies or conspirators. Therefore,
any 9-11 suit which attempts to weave in too many different crimes,
such as an unlawful war, unlawful seizure of centralized power by
the government, voting rights fraud, etc., will probably fail.
But some 9-11 complaints have gone too far the other way, by failing
to include some of the most important facts related to 9-11. For
example, some of the complaints solely allege that the defendants
were negligent in allowing 9-11 to happen, while completely ignoring
the physical and documentary evidence showing that the 9-11 attacks
could not possibly have happened in the manner that the government
has described and could not have happened without direct assistance
from certain governmental personnel. Failing to mention such evidence
gives a court the easy way out by allowing it to decide that the
government was careless, but not criminally so. This is the "mistakes
were made, but who could have foreseen 9-11?" tack which the 9-11
Commission took, which lets everyone off of the hook without punishment.
Moreover, any complaint which fails to mention Operation Northwoods
and the Reichstag fire might miss an opportunity to provide the
historical background and context which a court probably needs to
fully understand 9-11. In Operation Northwoods, the U.S. Joint Chiefs
of Staff proposed committing terrorist acts against U.S. citizens
in order to blame Cuba and serve as a rationale for invading that
country. In the Reichstag fire, Nazis set fire to the German parliament
building and blamed the Communists, in order to justify Adolph Hitler's
imperial wars against foreign nations.
Criminal law largely focuses on attempting to prove motive for
committing the crime and the means of, and opportunity for, performing
the criminal act. Operation Northwoods and the Reichstag fire are
historically powerful examples of the type of motive which appear
to be behind complicity within certain elements of the U.S. government
in the 9-11 attacks. Specifically, a rationale for the invasion
of Iraq, seizure of middle eastern oil, and a new imperial presidency
may have been some of the motives for the 9-11 attack, and a judge
needs some education on this basic concept.
The bottom line is that mentioning Iraq, voting fraud or oppressive
new laws as additional offenses will likely cause a complaint to
be tossed into the trash can-this is the "everything including the
kitchen sink" type of complaint that a judge will assume is worthless.
But mentioning such facts as part of the motive for why 9-11 was
committed, if explained in a logical and understated fashion, might
be helpful in providing background for the case. In other words,
it might be advisable to tell the judge why the perpetrators committed
the 9-11 attacks, but not to give the judge a catalogue of crimes
that they committed in addition to 9-11.
What's Happened So Far?
Several people have recently submitted a complaint to New York's
attorney general, Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer is a dedicated activist
when it comes to fighting corporate crime. However, he is running
for governor, and political considerations might lessen the chance
that he would pursue a 9-11 case. While fairly well-written, the
Spitzer complaint includes somewhat contradictory theories about
who was behind 9-11. To view the Spitzer complaint and donate to
the groups behind that effort, go to Justice for 9/11.
Ellen Mariani, the widow of a 9-11 victim, filed a case based on
a civil conspiracy theory. After she was removed as administrator
of her late husband's estate, former world trade center employee
and 9-11 hero William Rodriguez stepped in as lead plaintiff in
the suit. While passionate and well-written, the complaint may-as
discussed above-suffer from inclusion of too many conspiracy theories,
such as election fraud. To view the Rodriguez complaint or donate
to the legal effort, go to 911fortheTruth.org.
There are also numerous 9-11 related personal injury and insurance
lawsuits, although they do not appear to directly address who was
actually responsible for the attacks.
To my knowledge, no attorney has yet filed a class action case
based upon 9-11. Not many trial lawyers handle class actions, since
it takes a lot of work to get the plaintiffs certified as a class
and to take the other necessary steps which are not required in
other types of civil lawsuits. Also, class actions take a special
type of expertise which many trial lawyers don't have.
To date, no key insiders in the government have blown the whistle
on the government's role in 9-11. Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds
and others have laid bare the falsity of many of the government's
claims, but no one has stepped forward to reveal what actually happened
on 9-11 (Edmonds is still under a gag order placed on her by the
Department of Justice).
Moreover, no nationally-known, first-tier trial lawyer has yet
filed a 9-11 lawsuit. One of the purposes of this article is to
attract the attention of heavy-hitting trial lawyers to file a 9-11
suit or, at the very least, to persuade a better legal mind than
my own to formulate a successful litigation strategy.
This is not to say that no top-notch lawyers have joined the 9-11
truth movement. In addition to the efforts of the lawyers filing
the Spitzer and Rodriguez complaints, law school professors Peter
Erlinder, Burns H. Weston and Richard Falk, and famed trial attorney
Gerry Spence have all expressed, in writing, support for 9-11 justice.
A Cautionary Tale: the Hilton Lawsuit
On January 3, a San Francisco federal court judge dismissed the
9-11 lawsuit filed by Bob Dole's former chief of staff, attorney
Stanley Hilton. The Hilton lawsuit is a cautionary tale of what
not to do. Hilton's complaint is poorly drafted, throws in too many
unrelated crimes such as the unlawful war in Iraq, and is not carefully
crafted to overcome governmental defenses.
Initially, the court held that Hilton failed to establish that
any of the plaintiffs had "standing" to bring the suit (i.e they
hadn't been directly injured by the government's actions upon which
they sued). The Hilton lawsuit involved several plaintiffs who claimed
that they (1) were fired for anti-war speech, (2) had had anti-war
literature confiscated, or (3) had suffered a reduction in veteran
payments. The court held these injuries were not directly related
to the alleged unlawful governmental actions. Further, the court
found that taxpayers in general do not have standing in this type
of lawsuit. As discussed below, a family member of a victim of 9-11
would be more likely to have standing in a 9-11 lawsuit.
Moreover, the court dismissed the lawsuit because the government
and its employees have sovereign immunity against civil "RICO" (i.e.
conspiracy) claims. This might not bode well for the Rodriguez lawsuit,
which is also a civil RICO suit.
Finally, the court held that Hilton's allegation that the war in
Iraq is illegal and request that the court should stop further expenditures
on that war constitute a "political question" that the courts are
not able to address.
Because Hilton's complaint was so poorly drafted and ill-conceived,
the court never even addressed the factual questions regarding what
happened on 9-11 or who carried out the attacks.
Will a Government Prosecutor Be Our White Knight?
Some 9-11 activists are focused on attempting to convince state
attorneys general to file 9-11 lawsuits. As mentioned above, a complaint
has already been submitted to New York's attorney general. Does
this mean that the NY complaint should be copied and submitted to
the other 49 state attorneys general?
It's tempting to do so. State attorneys general have substantial
resources to investigate, conduct discovery in, and prosecute cases.
They often possess in-house investigators, special discovery powers
(i.e. subpoena powers above and beyond a normal plaintiff in a case),
and the staff needed to see a lawsuit through to the end.
However, it must first be determined whether the attorney general
or another prosecuting agency has jurisdiction over the case. District
attorneys or county attorneys usually have jurisdiction over murder
cases which occur within their geographic district. State attorneys
general can sometimes assist in a murder trial, and often handle
appeals of a verdict in such a trial. Attorneys general also have
the power to prosecute certain other types of cases pursuant to
statute. And the United States Attorney has jurisdiction over crimes
against the United States, which 9-11 probably was.
Therefore, before a complaint is filed with the attorney general,
it must be determined whether that agency, the district attorney
or county counsel, or the United States Attorney or U.S. Department
of Justice is the agency with jurisdiction over the specific types
of crime (such as murder or criminal conspiracy) which are being
alleged. The analysis of which is the proper agency will depend
on the types of crime alleged in the complaint.
Moreover, public prosecutors have wide discretion concerning which
cases they choose to pursue. Unlike a civil lawsuit, which is initiated
at the discretion of a citizen, criminal complaints are prosecuted
by a governmental agency at its discretion. While a prosecutor receives
many complaints, he or she will decide to pursue a small handful
of such cases based on a number of factors, including which cases
fit in with the priorities of that office (for example, corporate
crime and securities fraud are Eliot Spitzer's focus, environmental
laws have been a prime concern for many California attorneys general,
while enforcing anti-sodomy laws and punishing violent criminals
and drug offenders have been the focus of some recent southern attorneys
Whether or not the prosecutor thinks that the case is winnable
is another factor in the decision. Governmental prosecutors, whether
county district attorneys, state attorneys general, or the federal
department of justice, usually don't touch cases they don't think
they have a good chance of winning.
Because no attorney general can pursue a lawsuit unless it can
help right a wrong suffered by citizens of that particular state,
the complaint needs to explain in some detail the physical or economic
injuries which the perpetrators of 9-11 caused to at least one citizen
of that particular state. If any 9-11 victims lived in that state,
that should be pointed out. If any family members of 9-11 victims
reside in the state, that might be good enough. If there are no
victims or family members of victims, then more creative arguments
about economic injury to the state and its citizens can be made.
The same is true of a complaint submitted to a district attorney
or other governmental prosecutor.
Finally, it should be noted that each attorney general has its
own procedure for submission of a complaint. Some states, like New
York, have no specific format requirement. Others, like Michigan,
may only accept a complaint on one of the state's pre-approved forms.
Care must be paid to the practice of the particular prosecutor to
which a complaint is submitted.
The Role of Non-Profits
Non-profit organizations which deal with legal and justice issues
should be lobbied, especially by their own members, to take up the
cause of 9-11 justice. Conservative groups such as Judicial Watch
and liberal groups such as the National Lawyers Guild have the skill
and resources to prosecute a 9-11 lawsuit. They should be persuaded
to take up the cause.
Is It Worth the Effort?
Given the challenges in successfully litigating a 9-11 lawsuit,
it is fair to ask whether it is worth the effort. I strongly feel
that the answer is yes.
Americans are taught in history class that we have a government
of laws, and that our constitution guarantees a separation of powers
between the courts, congress, and the White House. But the principles
underlying the constitution only survive if those in power are forced
to honor and protect its ideals. The power-brokers will only follow
the principles embodied in the constitution to the extent that we
the people demand that they do.
Justice should be considered a verb, not a noun. It is not something
that our forefathers handed down to us in a frame. It is not a thing
which we as Americans own. Justice is in fact a process, which only
will survive to the degree that we fight for it. Indeed, one of
our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, repeatedly warned that
after 200 years, most governments become stale and corrupt. The
saying "vigilance is the price of democracy" may be said of justice
as well. Unless we demand that the high and mighty are subject to
the same laws as the rest of us, than our justice system will wither.
September 11, 2001, appears to be an act as cynical and traitorous
as the Nazi's setting of the Reichstag fire, with many of the same
motives. Nine-eleven has been used by those seeking empire to justify
wars in the Middle East and elsewhere. It has been used to scare
the American people into a state of passivity and subservience,
allowing our constitutional liberties to be taken from us a piece
at a time, through passage of the USA PATRIOT Act and other draconian
legislation. Nine-eleven is a fulcrum of history, a leverage point
in the American story, and the Achilles heel of the drive toward
Nine-eleven is a test for the rule of law and for democracy. If
the perpetrators are allowed to get away with their crimes, then
the justice system will have failed, and the separation of powers
which our founding fathers worked so hard to create will have been
destroyed by the abdication of power by the judiciary to the executive
branch. If, on the other hand, the truth behind the attacks is brought
to light and those responsible punished, then-at least at this one
crucial moment in history-justice will have prevailed over crime,
sanity over chaos, and hope over fear. We will then have a chance
as a nation and a people.
Is that worth fighting for?
Copyright © 2005 D. Alexander Floum. All rights reserved.
D. Alexander Floum is an attorney and former adjunct law school
Jan. 20, 2005 - A lack of intellect
or problem-solving skills in young men may make them more prone
to mental illness and suicide.
Researchers found young men who scored lowest on intelligence tests
were more likely to commit suicide in later years.
In particular, young men who scored the worst on tests of logic
at age 18 were two to three times more likely to commit suicide
during middle age than those with the best scores.
Researchers say the link between intelligence and suicide risk
is unclear. But these results suggest that intellectual capacity
in early adulthood is strongly related to the subsequent risk of
suicide in young men. [...]
Researchers say more studies are needed to investigate the relationship
between intelligence and suicide risk, as previous studies have
had conflicting results.
But they say one possible explanation is that influences in early
childhood may increase a person's susceptibility to mental illness
and, therefore, suicide. Another explanation may be that people
who have a harder time solving problems in times of crisis may be
more prone to suicide than others.
SOURCE: Gunnell, D. British Medical Journal, Jan. 22, 2005; vol
330: pp 167-170.
Methane gas, abundantly trapped
as a half frozen slush in the northern hemisphere's tundra permafrost
regions and at the bottom of the sea may well be a ticking time
bomb, says geologist John Atcheson in an article published by the
Baltimore Sun in December last year. Methane is about twenty times
stronger as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Since arctic warming
seems to procede faster than expected, there is a real danger that
deposits of methane and similar gases trapped in normally frozen
ground, may thaw out and "belch" into the atmosphere, wreaking havoc
with our computer simulations of global warming.
According to Gregory Ryskin, associate professor of chemical engineering
at Northwestern University, "explosive clouds of methane gas, initially
trapped in stagnant bodies of water and suddenly released, could
have killed off the majority of marine life and land animals and
plants at the end of the Permian era" - long before dinosaurs lived
and died. Ruskin believes that methane may have been the driving
force in previous catastrophic changes of the earth's climate, where
95 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land species were
lost in - geologically speaking - the blink of an eye. [...]
So forget rising sea levels, melting ice caps, more intense storms,
more floods, destruction of habitats and the extinction of polar
bears. Forget warnings that global warming might turn some of the
world's major agricultural areas into deserts and increase the range
of tropical diseases, even though this is the stuff we're pretty
sure will happen.
In what might have been an early warning, in 1986, lake Nyos in
Cameroon "burped" an amount of gases killing 1800 people, following
a much smaller scale disaster on neighbouring lake Monoun two years
earlier, which killed 37 people. While carbon dioxide has been fingered
as the main culprit, there seems to have been a "fiery" component
to the eruption indicating possible presence of combustible methane:
"Skin discoloration found on some victims were tentatively interpreted
as burns, but this diagnosis is still controversial. Witnesses on
topographic highs report a loud noise originating from the lake
and, in the case of lake Nyos, flashes of light visible over the
Apparently, three dissolved gasses, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide
and methane come together and indeed, a project to recover the methane
from the waters of Lake Kivu, on Rwanda's north-western border,
is in advanced stage of engineering. A similar project is underway
to de-gas lakes Nyos and Monoun in Cameroon. [...]
There are enormous quantities of naturally occurring greenhouse
gasses trapped in ice-like structures in the cold northern muds
and at the bottom of the seas. These ices, called clathrates, contain
3,000 times as much methane as is in the atmosphere. Methane is
more than 20 times as strong a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.
Now here's the scary part. A temperature increase of merely a
few degrees would cause these gases to volatilize and "burp" into
the atmosphere, which would further raise temperatures, which would
release yet more methane, heating the Earth and seas further, and
so on. There's 400 gigatons of methane locked in the frozen arctic
tundra - enough to start this chain reaction - and the kind of warming
the Arctic Council predicts is sufficient to melt the clathrates
and release these greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Once triggered, this cycle could result in runaway global warming
the likes of which even the most pessimistic doomsayers aren't talking
An apocalyptic fantasy concocted by hysterical environmentalists?
Unfortunately, no. Strong geologic evidence suggests something similar
has happened at least twice before.
The most recent of these catastrophes occurred about 55 million
years ago in what geologists call the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
(PETM), when methane burps caused rapid warming and massive die-offs,
disrupting the climate for more than 100,000 years.
The granddaddy of these catastrophes occurred 251 million years
ago, at the end of the Permian period, when a series of methane
burps came close to wiping out all life on Earth.
More than 94 percent of the marine species present in the fossil
record disappeared suddenly as oxygen levels plummeted and life
teetered on the verge of extinction. Over the ensuing 500,000 years,
a few species struggled to gain a foothold in the hostile environment.
It took 20 million to 30 million years for even rudimentary coral
reefs to re-establish themselves and for forests to regrow. In some
areas, it took more than 100 million years for ecosystems to reach
their former healthy diversity.
Geologist Michael J. Benton lays out the scientific evidence for
this epochal tragedy in a recent book, When Life Nearly Died:
The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time. As with the PETM,
greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide from increased volcanic
activity, warmed the earth and seas enough to release massive amounts
of methane from these sensitive clathrates, setting off a runaway
The cause of all this havoc?
In both cases, a temperature increase of about 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit,
about the upper range for the average global increase today's models
predict can be expected from burning fossil fuels by 2100. But these
models could be the tail wagging the dog since they don't add in
the effect of burps from warming gas hydrates. Worse, as the Arctic
Council found, the highest temperature increases from human greenhouse
gas emissions will occur in the arctic regions - an area rich in
these unstable clathrates.
If we trigger this runaway release of methane, there's no turning
back. No do-overs. Once it starts, it's likely to play out all the
Humans appear to be capable of emitting carbon dioxide in quantities
comparable to the volcanic activity that started these chain reactions.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, burning fossil fuels releases
more than 150 times the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by volcanoes
- the equivalent of nearly 17,000 additional volcanoes the size
of Hawaii's Kilauea.
And that is the time bomb the Arctic Council ignored.
How likely is it that humans will cause methane burps by burning
fossil fuels? No one knows. But it is somewhere between possible
and likely at this point, and it becomes more likely with each passing
year that we fail to act.
So forget rising sea levels, melting ice caps, more intense storms,
more floods, destruction of habitats and the extinction of polar
bears. Forget warnings that global warming might turn some of the
world's major agricultural areas into deserts and increase the range
of tropical diseases, even though this is the stuff we're pretty
sure will happen. [...]
We can't afford to have the first sign of a failed energy policy
be the mass extinction of life on Earth. We have to act now.
John Atcheson, a geologist, has held a variety of policy positions
in several federal government agencies.
The past couple of months had
been lean for Jorge Herrera, who got laid off from his construction
job in November. He'd been looking for work, he said, but hadn't
found anything. And he had a family to feed.
Raymond Carrizal listened intently from his corner table in the
waiting room of the downtown San Jose Clinic. He handed the man
a food-stamp application and showed him how to fill it out. A family
of four can get as much as $499 a month to supplement their grocery
"If anybody needs it, it's him," said Carrizal, an outreach worker
for the nonprofit Families Under Urban & Social Attack who has spent
the past three years getting hungry families signed up for the Lone
Star Card, the state's electronic food-stamp program.
Such outreach efforts, in addition to a sluggish economy, a growing
population and relaxed eligibility guidelines, have fueled a 75
percent increase in the number of Texans on federally funded food
stamps since 2000.
Yet, despite the jump, fewer people are actually getting food stamps
than a decade ago. Statewide, those receiving food stamps peaked
at nearly 2.8 million in 1994, dropped to nearly 1.4 million in
2000 and has been on the rise again, reaching about 2.4 million
It is really appalling that somebody would intentionally filter
out the emotions of an originally already shocking picture, and
to alter the image in such a way that it only serves one's own cause.
[...]Distorting reality for one's own cause by photoshopping pictures
isn't only extremely unethical, it is also extremely stupid to do
so while the original photograph is widely available on the internet.
In 'Guantanamo: What the World
Should Know,' it's hard to say which is more disgusting, the descriptions
of the torture or the bone-chilling analyses of how the president
gave himself the powers of an absolute military dictator.Under Military
Order No. 1, which the president issued without congressional authority
on November 13, 2001, George W. Bush has ordered people captured
or detained from all over the world, flown to Guantánamo and tortured
in a lawless zone where, the White House asserts, prisoners have
no rights of any kind at all and can be kept forever at his pleasure.
Despite the at-best marginal intervention of the American courts
so far, there is no civilian judicial review, no due process of
any kind. [...]
Ratner notes that 134 of the 147 prisoners later released from
Guantánamo were guilty of absolutely nothing. Only thirteen were
sent on to jail. He believes it is possible that a substantial majority
of the Guantánamo prisoners had nothing to do with any kind of terrorism.
One prisoner released after a year claimed he was somewhere between
ninety and one hundred years old, according to Ratner. Old, frail
and incontinent, he wept constantly, shackled to a walker.
So what did the authorities get from those who survived? We will
never know, but we can guess from at least one incident in this
book. Ratner reports that the Guantánamo interrogators showed some
of his clients' videotapes supposedly depicting them with Osama
bin Laden. At first they denied being in the videos, but they confessed
after prolonged interrogation under harsh conditions. Yet British
intelligence proved to the American government that the men were
actually in the United Kingdom when the tapes were made.
If many of these people who died in custody or were tortured had
committed no crime, there is no doubt that they were all victims
of crime, whether guilty or not. Despite White House arguments to
the contrary, torture is a crime under international and United
States law. [...]
Under United Nations Convention Against Torture, an international
treaty that almost every country in the world, including the United
States, has ratified, torture is an international crime. The United
States has made it a crime even if it occurs abroad.
"The Convention Against Torture also establishes what is called
universal jurisdiction for cases of torture," Ratner explains. "So,
for example, if an American citizen engaged in torture anywhere
in the world and was later found in France, let's say, that person
could be arrested in France and either tried for torture there or
extradited to the place of the torture for trial. To the extent
U.S. officials were or are involved in torture in Guantánamo or
elsewhere, they should be careful about the countries in which they
He continues, "In addition, torture committed by U.S. soldiers
or private contractors acting under U.S. authority is a violation
of federal law, punishable by the death penalty if the death of
a prisoner results from the torture. Even if one argues that al
Qaeda suspects are not governed by the Geneva Conventions, the Convention
Against Torture and other human rights treaties ratified by the
United States prohibit torture as well as other cruel, inhuman,
and degrading treatment.
"The convention is crystal clear: under no circumstances can you
torture people, whatever you call them, whether illegal combatants,
enemy combatants, murderers, killers. You cannot torture anybody
ever; it's an absolute prohibition."
| VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope John Paul
II, rushed to hospital with breathing problems, has revolutionized
the papacy, contributing to the collapse of communism in eastern Europe
but alienating many Roman Catholics with his conservative social views.
The flu-stricken pontiff, who has struggled with the effects of advanced
age and Parkinson's disease, was rushed to the Gemelli hospital in
Rome shortly before 11:00 pm (2200 GMT) Tuesday after suffering spasms
of the larynx.
It is the 84-year-old's severest health crisis since a would-be
assassin's bullet just missed his heart in 1981.
The first non-Italian pope in four-and-a-half centuries, and the
first from eastern Europe, Karol Wojtyla is the 263rd successor
to Saint Peter as Bishop of Rome. [...]
Perhaps his finest hour came when he stood before fellow Poles
in 1979 and said "Do not be afraid", prompting millions to rally
to the cause of Lech Walesa whose "Solidarnosc" movement was fighting
to end communist rule in Poland.
In 1981 the pope was nearly killed in an assassination attempt
by rightwing Turkish fanatic Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot him at close
range in Saint Peter's Square. The pontiff survived after extensive
surgery, but his health was badly affected thereafter.
At the same time, Church reformers, the young, and Third World
congregations in the grip of a devastating AIDS epidemic became
dismayed at his refusal to give ground on contraception and the
use of condoms.
"For the Catholic Church, this pontificate, despite its positive
aspects, has really been a disaster," said Swiss theologian Hans
Kung in an interview in 2003.
"Many women have turned away from the Church because of the pope's
position on contraception and the ordination of women," he added.
In the United States, high-profile scandals involving several pedophile
priests shook the foundations of the Catholic Church until the Vatican
belatedly sanctioned a policy of "zero tolerance" toward such behaviour.
"There is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those
who would harm the young," John Paul said at the height of the scandals.
During two and a half decades as pope, John Paul has met virtually
every significant head of state or government, from US presidents
Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton to Kremlin leaders Mikhail Gorbachev
and Boris Yeltsin, from emperor Hirohito of Japan to Queen Elizabeth
of Britain, from the Israeli leadership to Arab monarchs and presidents.
Under his leadership, the Vatican opened diplomatic relations with
Israel in 1993 and he was the first pope to pray in a synagogue
But Vatican policy-making assumed an increasingly authoritarian
stamp. He issued 13 encyclicals, including three on socio-economic
questions, and wrote several best-selling books.
In the mid-1990s he became increasingly frail, suffering from Parkinson's
disease, arthritis and other ailments.
Despite his infirmities, he continued travelling as widely as possible,
making a historic visits to Cuba and embarking on a gruelling programme
of events for the Church's Jubilee year in 2000.
Given his failing health, however, many felt that his trip to Switzerland
-- his 103rd foreign trip -- in June 2004 would be his last. He
visited Lourdes in August 2004.
His increasing frailty even led senior members of the Church to
break their traditional silence and talk realistically about the
possibility that the pope is approaching death.
WASHINGTON - The U.S. occupation
authority in Iraq was unable to keep track of nearly $9 billion
it transferred to government ministries, which lacked financial
controls, security, communications and adequate staff, an inspector
general has found
The U.S. officials relied on Iraqi audit agencies to account for
the funds but those offices were not even functioning when the funds
were transferred between October 2003 and June 2004, according to
an audit by a special U.S. inspector general.
The findings were released Sunday by Stuart Bowen Jr., special
inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. Bowen issued several
reports on the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the U.S. occupation
government that ruled Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004.
The official who led the CPA, L. Paul Bremer III, submitted a blistering,
written reply to the findings, saying the report had "many
misconceptions and inaccuracies," and lacked professional judgment.
Bremer complained the report "assumes that Western-style budgeting
and accounting procedures could be immediately and fully implemented
in the midst of a war."
The inspector general said the occupying agency disbursed $8.8
billion to Iraqi ministries "without assurance the moneys were
properly accounted for."
U.S. officials, the report said, "did not establish or implement
sufficient managerial, financial and contractural controls."
There was no way to verify that the money was used for its intended
purposes of financing humanitarian needs, economic reconstruction,
repair of facilities, disarmament and civil administration.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Sunday the authority was
hamstrung by "extraordinary conditions" under which it
worked throughout its mission.
"We simply disagree with the audit's conclusion that the CPA
provided less than adequate controls," Whitman said.
Turning over the money "was in keeping with the CPA's responsibility
to transfer these funds and administrative responsibilities to the
Iraqi ministries as an essential part of restoring Iraqi governance."
The inspector general cited an International Monetary Fund assessment
in October, 2003 on the poor state of Iraqi government offices.
The assessment found ministries suffered from staff shortages, poor
security, disruptions in communications, damage and looting of government
buildings, and lack of financial policies.
Some of the transferred funds may have paid "ghost" employees,
the inspector general found.
CPA staff learned that 8,206 guards were on the payroll at one
ministry, but only 602 could be accounted for, the report said.
At another ministry, U.S. officials found 1,417 guards on the payroll
but could only confirm 642.
When staff members of the U.S. occupation government recommended
that payrolls be verified before salary payments, CPA financial
officials "stated the CPA would rather overpay salaries than
risk not paying employees and inciting violence," the inspector
Bremer attacked many of the specific findings. Among his rebuttal
_With more than a million Iraqi families depending on government
salaries, there would have been an increased security threat if
civil servants had not been paid until modern pay records were developed.
_U.S. policy was to build up the Iraqi force guarding government
facilities, and it was better to accept an imperfect payroll system
than "to stop paying armed young men" providing security.
_The report was suggesting the CPA "should have placed hundreds
of CPA auditors" in Iraqi ministries, contrary to United States
and United Nations (news - web sites) policy of giving Iraqi ministers
responsibility for their budgets.
_The CPA established a program review board, an independent judiciary
and inspector generals in each agency to fight corruption.
The inspector general's report rejected Bremer's criticism. It
concluded that despite the war, "We believe the CPA management
of Iraq's national budget process and oversight of Iraqi funds was
burdened by severe inefficiencies and poor management."
|The FBI is concerned about Moscow's
growing number of spies. What secrets are they looking for?
At Los Angeles International Airport two weeks ago, FBI agents arrested
an Irish businessman they had spent a week tailing all over California's
Silicon Valley, from the offices of two electronics manufacturers
in Sunnyvale to a hotel in Mountain View and down a quiet cul-de-sac
to a suburban house in San Jose. The technology exporter, according
to court papers, had purchased sophisticated computer components in
the U.S. to send to Russia through Ireland. He now stands to be charged
in mid-February with "unlawful export of 'defense articles.'"
U.S. officials point to this little-noticed case as one manifestation
of a troubling reality: although the cold war is long over, Russia
is fielding an army of spooks in the U.S. that is at least equal in
number to the one deployed by the old, much larger Soviet Union.
Russia runs more than 100 known spies under official cover in the
U.S., senior U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement officials say.
And those are just the more easily spotted spies working under the
classic guise of diplomat. An unknown number of so-called nocs—who
work under nonofficial cover as businessmen and -women, journalists
or academics—undoubtedly expand the Russian spy force. "They're
baaaaack," says a former senior U.S. intelligence official
who worked against Moscow during the cold war. "They're busy
as hell, but I don't think we've really got what it is that they're
doing." The number of Russian spies in the U.S. is especially
surprising, given that it was less than four years ago that the
Bush Administration expelled 50 of them in retaliation for the humiliating
discovery that FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Hanssen had
been spying for Russia for 21 years.
In a high-level meeting late last year, officials tell TIME, the
National Security Council instructed the FBI, CIA, State Department
and other agencies to get a better handle on the Russian espionage
threat. While the U.S. might like to eject
suspect diplomats to force the Russians to send in their "rookies,"
as a U.S. official put it, Moscow would probably respond in kind,
denting the CIA's corps in Russia.
As the FBI has remade itself in the wake of 9/11 into a counterterrorism
agency, the bureau's long-standing counterintelligence mission has
been bumped down a notch on the priority list. During this time,
Russia has been among the U.S.'s rivals most aggressively exploiting
the opening to build up its spying capabilities. Also, it has been
using liberalized immigration rules for Russians, instituted after
the cold war, to install nocs.
Officials say the Russians are after secrets about American military
technology and hardware, dual-use technology such as the latest
lasers, and the Administration's plans and intentions regarding
the former Soviet states, China, the Middle East and U.S. energy
policy, among other matters. Russia also wants to learn as much
as possible about its biggest strategic worry: the U.S.'s ramped-up
commitment to missile defense, which could eventually threaten Moscow's
nuclear deterrent. Asked about the Russian spy surge, Russian embassy
spokesman Yevgeniy Khorishko replied, "We do not comment on
any of the issues concerning intelligence."
In addition to embassy-based spies, Russia—along with China,
Pakistan, Iran and any number of other countries, including U.S.
allies—relies on many hard-to-trace front companies, often
run through third-party countries, to acquire secrets and dual-use
technology. "We think there are thousands of these companies,"
a senior U.S. official said.
David Szady, the FBI's assistant director for counterintelligence,
who is in charge of keeping tabs on foreign spies on U.S. soil,
told TIME that in the next five years he wants to double the number
of agents chasing spooks. Already, the FBI has placed counterespionage
squads of at least seven agents in all 56 of its field division
offices over the past year. What about the chance that damaging
U.S. moles are helping Russia today? Says one U.S. senior intelligence
official: "There's always evidence of another mole because
there are always unexplained events. There are always unexplained
losses. There are always enough dots that look strange."
TORONTO -- It's official: Politicians
can break campaign promises with impunity.
An Ontario Superior Court judge has absolved Ontario Premier Dalton
McGuinty of breaking an elaborately signed contract promising not
to raise or create new taxes, saying anyone
who believes a campaign promise is naive about the democratic system.
If anyone who voted for a politician based
on a particular promise later were to go to court alleging a breached
contract, "our system of government would be rendered dysfunctional.
This would hinder, if not paralyze, the parliamentary system,"
Mr. Justice Paul Rouleau said.
The judge was ruling on a request from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation
to quash the Liberals' new health premium on the grounds that it
broke an election promise.
"Imposing a duty of care in the circumstances such as exist
in the present case would have a chilling effect and would interfere
with the concept of parliamentary sovereignty," he said. "To
allow claims for negligent representation to be made based on these
would raise the spectre of unlimited liability to an indeterminate
With a broad smile and a much-televised flourish, Mr. McGuinty
signed the written pledge during the 2003 election campaign as he
stood on a podium with the president of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation,
John Williamson, who signed as a witness.
Far from being an off-the-cuff act on the campaign hustings, the
promise at stake was an orchestrated part of the McGuinty campaign.
It committed the province not to raise taxes or implement new ones
"without the explicit consent of Ontario voters." Mr.
McGuinty also promised not to run deficits and to abide by the Taxpayer
Protection and Balanced Budget Act.
However, the McGuinty government's resolve ebbed rapidly once the
Liberals defeated the Progressive Conservative government on Oct.
2, 2003. Citing an unexpected deficit of $5.2-billion, the government
said it was compelled to launch a health premium that would cost
taxpayers who earned more than $20,000 from $60 to $900.
Last fall, the federation asked Judge Rouleau to declare the health
tax invalid and order the return of almost $1-billion collected
since it was implemented last July.
"It is hoped that, if elected, the politicians and their parties
will keep their promises and will follow through with the pledges
given," Judge Rouleau said in the ruling.
"That said, however, few people would consider that all of
the promises made and pledges given constitute legally binding documents
between the candidate and the elector or electors to whom those
promises or pledges were given."
The ruling that politicians can break promises escaped notice when
it came out shortly before Christmas, perhaps as those same politicians
rushed off to their constituencies and as the tax federation contemplated
its legal pounding.
The judge noted that Mr. McGuinty was far from the first politician
to renege on a promise made.
"From the record, it is apparent that upon taking office and
assessing the situation, the government believed that it would be
contrary to the public interest to keep the promise made during
the election," the judge said. "This decision not to keep
the promise does not mean that the promise, when made, was untrue,
inaccurate or negligent."
Judge Rouleau said it is up to voters, not the courts, to punish
governments who fib and fabricate.
Sean Hamilton, a spokesman for Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, welcomed
the ruling and said the tax was necessary.
"We are pleased that the court has confirmed the government's
authority to introduce legislation implementing the Ontario health
premium," Mr. Hamilton said. "The Ontario health premium
. . . will raise essential revenues to support and improve health
care for all Ontarians. The government made a difficult, but necessary,
decision last year that this objective justified amendments to the
Taxpayer Protection Act to allow introduction of implementing legislation."
The federation, a non-profit lobby group opposed to taxes and government
waste, argued in court that the premium was illegal on the grounds
that a provincial law required the government to hold a referendum
before it attempted to establish a new tax or raise an existing
Former premier Mike Harris passed the referendum legislation in
1999. However, the McGuinty government passed a bill effectively
exempting the health-care premium.
"If we're told something on the campaign trail, we should
be able to assume it's true," Mr. Williamson told reporters
during the proceeding. "If we accept lies from politicians
and they go on and win elections, they're just going to go on lying
Judge Rouleau concluded that nothing prevents the government from
exempting the health-care premium from the requirement in the 1999
Taxpayer Protection Act for a referendum.
Nor, the judge said, did the requisite "special relationship"
exist between Mr. McGuinty and the federation that would allow its
legal application to succeed.
Tripoli allocates 11 of 15
exploration licences to US companies, leaving European firms out
in the cold.
TRIPOLI - European oil companies, left out in the cold by Libya's
handout of oil exploration permits mainly to US firms at the weekend,
said they hoped this would change this year.
"It was a bad start," one European oil executive told
AFP, after Tripoli allocated 11 of 15 exploration licences, the
first granted to foreigners for 40 years, to US companies.
Indian, Canadian, Algerian, Indonesian and Australian companies
took the others - despite a recent trail of European leaders to
the north African country, including France's President Jacques
Chirac and the British and Italian prime ministers Tony Blair and
European countries which tendered for the permits included the
French firms Total and Gaz de France, Spain's Repsol, Italy's Agip
and Britain's BP.
"The European offers were much meaner than the American offers,"
one Libyan source said.
"The main criterion for success is the amount of production
that the company pledges to give up to the national company,"
he said, adding that the Europeans set their figure "too low"
compared to the Americans. He gave no details.
One Western diplomat, who asked not to be named, said more offers
on the table this year from Libya could correct the imbalance.
"Saturday's bad start could be corrected, despite the symbolic
side" of US firms taking the lion's share, bringing US companies
back in force to Libya after years of repeated political contention
between Tripoli and Washington.
Tripoli is expected to give foreign companies a chance to compete
for two more sets of contracts. The first is planned in a month,
encompassing 40 exploration blocks, while a second batch may go
on offer at the end of the third quarter.
A total of 150 firms took part in bidding for rights to hunt for
oil in the 15 blocks covering 127,000 square kilometres (51,000
square miles) in Libya, which has Africa's largest oil reserves.
The successful companies have to invest a total of 750 million
dollars in oil exploration, with significant spending afterwards
to exploit any finds.
Abdallah Al Badri, head of Libya's national oil company, said "the
choice (of successful bidders) was done in total transparency".
Occidental Petroleum Corp. of the United States picked up five
licenses, and shares rights in four others with the Australian company
Woodside Petroleum Ltd.
ChevronTexaco received a license to explore the Marzouk basin south
of the capital Tripoli. The US company Amerada Hess also won a license.
India Ltd and India Corp. received a license to explore the Syrte
Verenex Energy Inc of Canada, Algeria's Sonatrach, and Medco Energy
International of Indonesia also won licenses.
Occidental pulled out of Libya in 1986 after the United States
imposed sanctions on the country.
Badri attributed the American firm's success in tendering to the
fact "it knows the bloc,s because it had already worked"
Four events were critical to
convincing Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi to get rid of his previously
secret nuclear-weapons program, according to U.S. and British officials,
Western diplomats in Tripoli and a key adviser to Col. Qaddafi.
It was not patient diplomacy, although that helped. Nor was it
a U.S. or British desire to rehabilitate Qaddafi. Instead, it was
a combination of implied threats and U.S. and British actions on
the high seas and in Iraq that convinced Qaddafi he had not a moment
to lose before his government became the next Axis of Evil regime
in U.S. gun sights. The story of how the Bush administration achieved
a bloodless victory in Libya demonstrates how force and the credible
threat of force are needed for the tools of intelligence and diplomacy
"Until Sept. 11, Qaddafi was hoping he could carry on with
a clandestine nuclear-weapons program and get away with it,"
a Western diplomat in Tripoli tells Insight. But when he saw the
response of the Bush administration in Afghanistan, "he realized
he couldn't keep going as before."
After defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan, President George W.
Bush stepped up his war of words against Saddam Hussein, warning
that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of regimes known to
sponsor terror presented an unacceptable threat to the United States.
"Qaddafi heard those words and recognized himself," a
U.S. official said. "He believed the president's words were
aimed at him."
In a September 2002 letter, British Prime Minister Tony Blair hectored
Qaddafi about Libyan support for Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and about
the weapons programs. Two months later, Qaddafi sent an 11-page
reply, "essentially saying, 'Why are you picking on me?'"
a British official says. The established nuclear powers had 30,000
warheads, while Israel had perhaps 80. "Anything Libya might
have would be a drop in the bucket," Qaddafi wrote.
Diplomacy alone was failing to lead Qaddafi to break from the past.
It wasn't until U.S. and British troops crossed into Iraq on March
19, 2003, that Qaddafi detailed Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane
Chalgam to begin talks with British and U.S. officials in London.
"The Iraq war made it clear that the U.S. and the U.K. were
serious about going after countries with WMD [weapons of mass destruction],"
the British official adds. Even so, during the first meeting in
March, "the Libyans were not candid. We had to show them that
we knew more than they thought we knew before they opened up."
Behind the scenes, advisers to Qaddafi were arguing that Libya's
security would be enhanced, not reduced, by giving up the nuclear
program. "We had no delivery system," a top Qaddafi adviser
tells Insight at the Libyan leader's office outside of Sirte. "I
told the guide, 'If Libya were to start a nuclear war, our missiles
won't even reach Malta. If the U.S. starts it, Libya will be erased
from the map.'" He said he told Qaddafi as the meetings with
the United States and the United Kingdom got under way in London
last spring that it was better to get rid of the weapons and redirect
the resources toward improving the economy than to risk an American
Officials involved in the talks acknowledge that the Libyans remained
divided over which course to pursue. "While they carried on
negotiations with us, they continued with their WMD programs,"
a British official said. During the summer of 2003, Libyan nuclear-weapons
scientists rushed to fill outstanding orders for equipment they
needed for their secret bomb program.
In October 2003, with the help of Italian customs, a massive shipment
of centrifuge components from Malaysia was seized in the Mediterranean
en route to Libya. "It was a big shipment - the guts of what
he needed," a U.S. official says. "That seizure broke
the back of his program. Without it, he would have had to go back
to square one."
The centrifuge parts were manufactured at Scomi Precision Engineering
in Malaysia, according to specifications provided by Pakistani nuclear
scientist Abdel Qader Khan. Shipped to Dubai, they were transferred
onto a German-owned freighter, the BBC China, and labeled as "used
Democrats, including Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, have argued
that the Libyan case shows that diplomacy works better in the war
on terror than force. "If diplomacy was so effective,"
a Bush official involved in the interdiction effort tells Insight,
"why did Col. Qaddafi continue to procure equipment at the
same time our diplomats were talking?" After the seizure, the
Libyans began to come clean. Only then were U.S. and British intelligence
teams allowed to visit previously closed nuclear sites and to begin
mapping out the true scope of the Libyan program.
Qaddafi now sought counsel from an unusual source, which Insight
can reveal here for the first time. One month before Qaddafi's historic
announcement on Dec. 19, 2003, he met in Tripoli with visiting Ukrainian
President Leonid Kuchma. "During their private meeting, Qaddafi
asked Kuchma how America had treated him when he gave up his nuclear
weapons after the fall of the Soviet Union," says Weldon, who
heard the story directly from Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn
Hryshchenko. Kuchma suggested that Qaddafi broaden his ties beyond
the administration and work with members of the U.S. Congress, as
The final event that sealed the fate of Qaddafi's nuclear-weapons
program took place in early December 2003 along the borders of the
Tigris River near Tikrit, when U.S. soldiers pulled former Iraqi
dictator Saddam Hussein out of a spider hole."When Qaddafi
watched a U.S. medic probe Saddam's hair for lice and poke around
his mouth, he was stunned," several sources tell Insight. Western
diplomats in Tripoli agree that Saddam's capture "traumatized"
the Libyan leader. "What happened is very clear," an administration
official says. "Things happened, and immediately afterward
the Libyans did things in response."
Until Saddam's capture, "we were still negotiating. Both sides
were sparring back and forth," a British official involved
in the talks says. "Things radically changed course after that."
Just 10 days later, Qaddafi made his official announcement that
Libya was giving up its WMD programs and had invited U.S. and British
experts into the country to verify the dismantling of his weapons
Ultimately, the credit for the dramatic change in direction goes
to Qaddafi, a Western ambassador in Tripoli believes: "He understood
that his revolution could not continue unless he delivered more
prosperity to Libyans, and the only way to do that was by renewing
relations with the West." Now it's up to the United States
to deliver its side of the bargain, he adds, by lifting sanctions
and resuming normal trade with Libya.
|No one said that dying had to be
dull. "Screaming with fear, paralyzed children at a shelter for
the physically disabled and mentally ill in Galle, Sri Lanka, lay
helplessly in their beds as seawater surged around them." The
CNN report read like the screenplay of a horror film. A crippled girl
grows up destitute in a home for the deaf, the blind, the insane,
and, for good measure, the disabled elderly (what more could a kid
wish for?) At the end of a short life spent wondering why no one ever
looked out for her, the child reaches the final punctuation mark of
her blessed existence and drowns glued to a wheelchair.
Tragedy should not be too clever. Mourning embraces the solemnity
of death but recoils at an overzealous script. When fate appears
to cross the thin line between cruelty and sadism, grief turns to
anger. We expect the church organist at the funeral mass to interrupt
Bach in mid-measure, look up to the sky, and shout "Come on!"
Voltaire had his "come on" moment in the wake of the
1755 Lisbon earthquake, suggesting that God's supreme goodness perhaps
was not all it was cracked up to be. Religious irreverence is not
much in fashion these days. But piety was not always so docile.
History has been improbably kind to all sorts of figures who've
had cross words with the Almighty. Think of Job, Jonah, Jeremiah,
and Jesus on the cross—and that's only for the J's. Once or
twice, the dispute even got out of hand: Nietzsche killed God; and
Richard Rubenstein saw in Auschwitz confirmation of his death. Admittedly,
to reconcile the Holocaust with a just and omnipotent god is an
interesting variation on squaring the circle—or, since Miklós
Laczkovich actually succeeded in doing just that , let us say,
merely a reminder that gods may die but theological debates never
My own reaction to the CNN report was not nearly as elevated. "Why
would God behave like Don Rumsfeld?" I wondered. As the crippled
child writhed in agony, I pictured God murmuring "Stuff happens."
Woe unto me. To compare God to Rummy is worse than blasphemous:
It's unfair. After all, God did not cow the media into decorating
our TV screens with the beatific smiles of preening peacocks reassuring
us that smart waves drowned the terrorists, spared the innocent,
amused the children, and provided much needed water to drought-prone
regions. God gets accused of many things, including being dead,
but lying is rarely one of them.
Mendacity, on the other hand, is the reserve currency of this administration.
Its marketing hook: "You give us your votes; we give you our
lies." From the fictitious Saddam-al Qaeda axis to the rosy
updates on the Switzerlandization of Iraq, from the bogus tales
of WMD to the assurance that democracy is the future of the region
(and always will be, would add the cynics), the giving has been,
shall we say, generous.
The taking has been no less effusive. Although the hysterical rantings
of prowar voices rarely exceeded, in dignity, the yapping of a chihuahua
attacking a meatball, they met only the meekest resistance from
an oleaginous mainstream media. The war hawks found powerful enablers
in The New York Times, which was more than happy to echo the delusory
yarn spun by the White House and pimp for Judith Miller's Best Little
Whorehouse in Babylon (where bling bling spells WMD).
Pimping being the fickle business that it is, it won't be long
before the In-Bush-We-Trust media gets in touch with its inner peacenik
and points an accusing finger at the posse of visionary mediocrities
who gave us a nasty case of Iraq syndrome. No doubt some of the
neocons will balk at going to their graves with the word "loser"
carved on a brass coffin plate; so watch for them to pull a McNamara
on us and humbly beg for forgiveness. Being good souls, ie, suckers
for smarmy group hugs, naturally we'll oblige.
Were it so simple.
The abject surrender of the media fed a slew of illusions to the
public, none more craven than the belief that he whom we kill must
be killed. Yeah, yeah, we occasionally obliterate the wrong house
and incinerate its occupants, but that's just "friendly fire."
(A lovely phrase if there's one: Let's hear the surgeon who amputates
the wrong leg inform his patient of his "friendly amputation.")
Minus the friendliness, however, our whiz-bang weapon wizardry never
fails to separate the wheat from the chaff, the nursing mother from
the crazed beheader. So goes the creed, anyway.
The Lancet—that well-known freedom hating rag—begs
to differ. It estimates that our high-IQ, mensa-schmensa bombs have
killed 100,000 civilians . Iraq Body Count, which plays the lowballing
game by shunning projections, reports the deaths of 600 non-combatants
during our latest goodwill tour of Fallujah (by now primed to be
renamed Grozny on the Euphrates) .
And then there is the Iraqi girl, hands soaked in her dead father's
blood, whose little brother does not yet understand that his childhood
has just come to an end. Fearing for their lives, US soldiers killed
the parents in the front seat of the family car. Demons will likely
haunt their nights. Stuff happens. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, bless
their souls, will sleep well tonight.
Wars never fail to produce their share of pithy lines. Tommy Franks
made sure this one would be no exception. "We don't do body
counts," crowed the general, who really meant to say that he
does not do "dark-skinned body counts" (he counts the
others just fine). Lucky for us that he doesn't run a Swedish newspaper,
or it would have splashed the headline: "Tsunami kills 2,000
Swedes—and a few locals." To be fair, Franks remembered
the last time he did body counts, Vietnam, and how well that ended.
But today's tactical thinking packs a wallop of self-righteous denial.
We don't tally the children we kill for the same reason monsters
don't buy mirrors: That's how they go through life thinking they're
We've snuffed out innocent lives in numbers that insurgents and
terrorists could only dream of. But we avert our eyes. We bury our
heads in the sand and turn a blind eye to our moral cowardice, thus
pulling off the amazing feat of being ostriches and chickens all
at once. We owe this marvel of ornithology to the inexorable fragility
of human illusions. To quote James Carroll, "we avert our eyes
because the war is a moral abyss. If we dare to look, as Nietzsche
said, the abyss stares back." George Bush, the philosopher,
has updated Berkeley's riddle: Do Iraqi children scream when the
bombs fall if there is no one in the White House to hear them?
The celebrity of the month, the tsunami victim, has hogged newspaper
headlines nationwide with stomach-churning photo spreads of wailing
mothers and floating cadavers. Like his unsung Iraqi brethren, the
victim has reminded us that calamity always strikes the poor, the
sick, and the helpless first. It's invariably those with the least
to lose who lose the most. At the great banquet of cataclysms, rich
Westerners get served last. Bush would have us believe that we've
suffered so much from terrorism the world owes us undying compassion.
In truth, our induction into the Misery Hall of Fame is still a
long way off. With our sustained assistance, however (coddling Saddam
while he was gassing Iranians, slapping sanctions that killed half
a million children, and fighting two wars in twelve years), Iraq
made it on the first ballot. Who ever said that we didn't have a
Not Condoleezza Rice: "I do agree that the tsunami was a wonderful
opportunity to show not just the US government, but the heart of
the American people, and I think it has paid great dividends for
us" . And I just can't wait for the next one, our top diplomat
might as well have added.
While watching Colin Powell, pocket calculator in hand, add up
the geopolitical benefits of our generosity and tell us how shocked,
shocked he was by the tsunami's devastation, I could almost hear
the Beatitudes from The Gospel According to Dubya: "Blessed
are the children whom the sea swallows, for they shall tug at our
heartstrings. / Cursed are the children whom our bombs blow up,
for they shall roam the dark alleys of our indifference." We've
been Iraq's tsunami. But expect no charity drive, no minute of silence,
no flag at half-staff: nothing that would allow shame to rear its
With Bush's reelection, America now has the president it deserves.
And should you find that Lady Liberty, all dolled up with the latest
in fashion from Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, looks a bit like
a used up hooker, you won't need to ask who hired her pimp: We did.
The liberation of Iraq began with smart flying bombs crashing over
Baghdad. We should have known better. Liberations that start with
a reenactment of 9/11 rarely end well.
| Monday at noon, Israeli soldiers
killed a 10-year-old child, injured another child, in Rafah, in the
southern Gaza Strip, while she was playing in the playground at a
UN administered school in the city.
A medical source in Rafah reported that Nourhan Eid, 10, sustained
a gunshot in her head; another child,
7 years old, was injured in her arm.
A Palestinian security source that a tank based at Rafah-Egypt
borders fired several rounds of live ammunition at an elementary
school in Al-Barazil neighborhood in Rafah, killing Nourhan and
injuring her classmate.
“She screamed and fell to the ground, she was bleeding, the
girls started to run everywhere," a witness said.
Paul McCann, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency, who
administers the school, confirmed the shooting;
“This is the fifth incident children in our schools have
been hurt by Israeli military fire, two girls were killed in separate
shootings last fall, they were at their classrooms, a student was
blinded, another was inujred in the throat in recent military shooting”,
An Israeli soldier has been wounded as Palestinian resistance fighters
launched several attacks in response to the killing of a schoolgirl
some 24 hours earlier.
schoolgirls place flowers where Nuran sat
An Israeli military base near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank
was targeted on Tuesday, and Aljazeera has learned that one soldier
was injured in the attack.
Hamas' military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility
for two of the three attacks in which five mortar shells were also
fired at the illegal Neve Dekalim settlement in occupied Gaza Strip.
The National Resistance Brigades, the military wing of the Democratic
Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), has also claimed responsibility
for firing two rockets at the Neve Dekalim colony in response to
the killing of Nuran.
Witnesses said Nuran Did was lining up with classmates to enter
the school when she was shot from the Israeli occupation force's
Termit post, about 900m away. [...]
Fidel Castro accused US President George
W Bush of appearing deranged and said Cubans would much rather
live in the Caribbean island's "heaven" than try and survive in
Bush's corrupt, capitalist "hell".
In comments aired live on state-run television, Castro told
thousands of teachers attending an international pedagogy conference
in Havana he closely watched the inauguration speech of the US
President on January 20, and saw "the face of a deranged person".
"If only it were just the face," he said, to roars of applause.
Castro, wearing his olive green military uniform, criticised
Bush's government, linking it to corruption and torture.
He then defended Cuba's socialist system, which Bush's administration
has openly said should be replaced with a democratic, free-market
"This country is heaven, in the spiritual sense of the word,"
"And I say (to Bush), we prefer to die in heaven than survive
Castro, 78, stood up for much of his hours-long speech.
After he broke his right arm and shattered his left kneecap
in an accidental fall in October, the Cuban leader was in a wheelchair
before he started standing up and walking again in December.
In his speech, Castro also flowered praise on Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez, defending the character and ambitions of his close
friend and ally.
Castro said he laughs every day when he hears "the idiocies"
said about Chavez.
The Cuban leader also underlined Cuba's successes in education,
where the government has focused many of its resources since the
1959 revolution that thrust Castro into power.
"Cuba is doing more for education than UNESCO," he said, referring
to the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and
KATHMANDU - King Gyanendra dismissed Nepal's
coalition government and enforced an indefinite state of emergency,
igniting charges he had staged a coup in the Himalayan outpost battling
a Maoist revolt.
The king announced in a televised nationwide address that he would
head a new government after the previous one had failed to ensure
security in the face of the Maoist rebellion that has claimed more
than 11,000 lives since 1996.
Several political leaders were put under house
arrest, parties said, and security was increased around the capital.
The move was swiftly condemned by the United States, United Nations,
Britain and India as a setback for democracy.
"I have exercised the rights given to the crown under the
present constitution and dissolved the government in the larger
interests of the people," the king said.
"For the larger interest of the Nepalese general public, the
nation and democracy and people's fundamentals rights, we have decided
to form a new government under my own chairmanship," he said.
State-run radio and television announced later that a state of
emergency had been imposed across the country.
King Gyanendra pledged to "restore democracy
and law and order in the country in the next three years."
"Innocent children were found massacred and the government
could not achieve any important and effective results," he
said, referring to the Maoist revolt.
"The crown traditionally is held responsible for the protection
of national sovereignty, democracy and people's right to live peacefully,"
Political leaders accused the king of a coup.
"The king's actions against the all-party government mark
a state of coup against democratic practices," said sacked
education and sports minister Bimalendra Niddhi.
Dismissed prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was also sacked
in 2002, accused the king of "a flagrant violation of the constitution
of Nepal." [...]
Troops and armed police patrolled the streets and surrounded the
palace and other key sites such as government buildings.
Residents of Kathmandu said outgoing landline
telephone and mobile phone links were cut. India and Thailand
meanwhile suspended all flights to Nepal. [...]
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan "views these actions as a
serious setback for the country," UN spokesman Fred Eckhard
said in a statement.
"Steps should be taken immediately to restore democratic freedoms
and institutions," Eckhard said, noting that Annan had called
for "calm and restraint by all parties in the country, so as
to avoid actions that could worsen the situation." [...]
In his half-hour address, the king also accused
political parties of "indulging in factional fighting."
"All the democratic forces and political
leaders should have united to protect the country's democracy,"
he said. [...]
King Gyanendra took the throne in June 2001 after his brother King
Birendra and most of the royal family were shot dead by the former
crown prince, who was high on drink and drugs. The crown prince
also killed himself.
A central Toledo man who died in custody
Monday night had been stunned with a Taser gun nine times by prior
to his death, authorities said today.
Toledo police said Jeffery Turner, 41, of 2115 Collingwood Blvd.,
was shocked five times by its officers
during his arrest. Lucas County sheriff’s department officials
said today that their employees shocked
Mr. Turner another four times during struggles at the Lucas County
Mr. Turner died yesterday at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.
Results of an autopsy are inconclusive as to his cause of death,
the Lucas County coroner said today. Toxicology tests and
further investigation are needed before his cause of death can
Rick Keller, jail corrections administrator, said Mr. Turner
was responsive after he was stunned. He was then placed in handcuffs
and leg restraints. Later, he became unresponsive, a jail nurse
was summoned, and CPR was administered.
The prisoner was transported at 9:18 p.m. to St. Vincent Mercy
Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 9:40. [...]
TOLEDO, Ohio - An inmate at the Lucas County
jail died after being jolted by a stun gun, the second time the
man had been jolted in a few hours, authorities said.
Jail officers used a Taser gun to subdue Jeffrey Turner, 41,
after he banged repeatedly on a security window of a first floor
cell, said Rick Keller, a jail administrator.
Toledo police earlier used a Taser to subdue the man when he
was arrested on charges of loitering, resisting arrest and obstructing
official business, Keller said. Toledo police referred
questions to the county.
Turner was jolted more than two hours after he was brought to
Keller said that after Turner was stunned, he was responsive
and placed in handcuffs and leg restraints. A few minutes later
a jail nurse was called.
Turner was taken to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center where he
was pronounced dead. [...]
A SERIES of moving bright lights were spotted
in the sky off Scarborough – cementing claims that the East Coast
is the UFO capital of Europe.
Pat Glenwright, of Grange Avenue, saw the lights shoot across
the sky at 4.30pm yesterday.
She said: "There were about 14 so it definitely wasn't an aeroplane.
They were flying in a group and it looks from here as though they
were the size of lightbulbs."
A friend added: "They were bright and were very high up. It
was very noticeable.
"They were coming from right and left and looked as though they
were heading towards Whitby."
In December Chris Parr, of the British UFO Hunters group, said
the coastal area between Filey and Scarborough was the British
hotspot for UFO activity.
Filey UFO hunter Russ Kellett said there are more recorded sightings
of UFOs in Filey and along the East Coast than anywhere else in
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Despite what residents
may have seen on television, the state of Connecticut was not ordered
evacuated on Tuesday.
State emergency management officials believe
someone pressed the wrong button, and instead of running
a test of the emergency alert system, midday television viewers
and radio listeners were told that the state was being evacuated.
"There is absolutely no evacuation or state emergency,"
said Kerry Flaherty, of the Office of Emergency Management. "It
was an erroneous message."
The department is investigating how the alert was sent. Officials
said it is manually released to broadcasters.
British scientists have discovered
a new threat to the world which may be a result of global warming.
Researchers from the Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey (BAS)
have discovered that a massive Antarctic ice sheet previously assumed
to be stable may be starting to disintegrate, a conference on climate
change heard yesterday. Its collapse would raise sea levels around
the earth by more than 16 feet.
BAS staff are carrying out urgent measurements of the remote points
in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) where they have found ice
to be flowing into the sea at the enormous rate of 250 cubic kilometres
a year, a discharge alone that is raising global sea levels by a
fifth of a millimetre a year.
Professor Chris Rapley, the BAS director, told the conference at
the UK Meteorological Office in Exeter, which was attended by scientists
from all over the world, that their discovery had reactivated worries
about the ice sheet's collapse.
Only four years ago, in the last report of the UN's Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), worries that the ice sheet was disintegrating
were firmly dismissed.
Professor Rapley said: "The last IPCC report characterised Antarctica
as a slumbering giant in terms of climate change. I would say it
is now an awakened giant. There is real concern."
He added: "The previous view was that WAIS would not collapse before
the year 2100. We now have to revise that judgement. We cannot be
so sanguine." Collapse of the WAIS would be a disaster, putting
enormous chunks of low-lying, desperately poor countries such as
Bangladesh under water - not to mention much of southern England.
The conference has been called by Tony Blair as part of Britain's
efforts to increase the pace of international action on climate
change, in a year when the UK is heading the G8 group of industrialised
nations and the European Union.
Mr Blair has asked it to explore the question of how much climate
change the world can take before the consequences are catastrophic
for human society and ecosystems.
Yesterday, it heard several alarming new warnings of possible climate-related
catastrophic events, including the failure of the Gulf Stream, which
keeps the British Isles warm, and the melting of the ice sheet covering
But it was the revelations of Professor Rapley, head of one of
the world's most respected scientific bodies, which were the most
dramatic, as they reopened a concern many scientists assumed had
been laid to rest.
Antarctica as a whole is a land covered by very thick ice, but
the ice sheet covering the eastern half of the continent is very
stable as it sits on rocks that are well above sea level.
Worries about the ice covering the western half first surfaced
more than 25 years ago when it was realised that the base rocks
are actually well below the level of the sea.
In some circumstances, it was feared, such as a melting of the
edge of the ice sheet from rising temperatures, sea water could
get under it and eventually lead to its collapse.
Yet the 2001 IPCC report, the principal consensus view of the international
community of climate scientists, thought that very unlikely, and
said such a collapse was improbable before the end of the current
century, or even for 1,000 years.
What puts a very big question mark over this, Professor Rapley
said, was the recent discovery of the extremely rapid discharge
of ice into the Amundsen sea from the WAIS at three remote ice streams,
Pine Island, Thwaites, and another unnamed site.
"There is a very dramatic discharge from this region which, five
years ago when the IPCC report was written, we just didn't know
about," he said. "What we have found completely opens up the whole
debate." It had only been recently discovered, he said, because
the area was so remote. But BAS scientists, with US help, had established
a base in the area to investigate. Professor Rapley said there was
some evidence that the discharge was a relatively recent phenomenon
and it might be caused by rising ocean temperatures.
Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, who opened the conference,
added another ominous prediction when she said that major global
warming impacts on the world in the next 20 to 30 years could not
be avoided. Whatever we do, potentially disastrous world temperature
rises will take place because they are already "built into the system,"
Her forecast that we are powerless to prevent major damage from
climate change is accepted by scientists but it is rare for such
a frank admission from a politician. It reflects the concern at
a high level.
It was amplified by senior climate researchers, who said the amount
of future warming to which the world is firmly committed, because
of greenhouse gases that have already been put into the atmosphere,
will be enough to threaten the survival of many ecosystems and wildlife
species such as polar bears and penguins.
"I believe that most of the warming we are expecting over the next
few decades is now virtually inevitable, and even in this time frame
we may expect a significant impact," Mrs Beckett said.
JAKARTA : An earthquake measuring
5.2 on the Richter scale rocked Indonesia's Java island on Wednesday,
causing slight damage but no casualties, seismologists said.
The inland quake occurred at 12:55pm (0555 GMT) 43 kilometres south
of Bandung, the capital of West Java province, the Metereology and
Geophysics Agency said. The temblor left cracks in several houses
in the district of Garut, the agency said.
Elshinta radio said an elementary school building in Bandung collapsed
but no one was injured. Power was out following the quake, the radio
A 9.0-strong earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra island on December
26 produced tsunamis that left about 280,000 people missing or dead
around the Indian Ocean.
On January 24, a 6.2-strong earthquake jolted the town of Palu
on Sulawesi island, damaging dozens of homes and prompting thousands
to flee to higher ground fearing a tsunami.
A powerful mud flow rushed down
the slope of Eurasia's largest Klyuchevskoi volcano on the Kamchatka
Peninsula (Russian Far East).
Talking to RIA Novosti, Alexei Ozerov, a senior research associate
at the Volcanology and Seismology Institute (Far Eastern department
of the Russian Academy of Sciences), noted that a mud flow had rushed
down the Krutenkaya river's water bed, and that it had carried stones
up to three meters in diameter.
According to experts, the mud flowed all the way from the Ehrmann
and Cherny glaciers (that are located on the slopes of the Klyuchevskoi
volcano), subsequently reaching the Kamchatka river six to seven
km from Klyuchi town in the Ust-Kamchatsky district. The mud flow
traveled along a road east of Klyuchi, sweeping away trees that
had been felled by lumberjacks along a dried-up river. Those trees
were to have been carried away by trucks.
The latest mud flow was apparently triggered off by all-out volcanic-bomb
eruptions or a lava flow. By the way, each volcanic bomb measures
five to 15 meters in diameter. More accurate information can be
obtained by studying the immediate volcanic-eruption area. However,
such research now seems impossible because of foul weather and lack
of money, Ozerov added.
In his words, even more powerful mud flows can rush down east of
Klyuchi, which is located 30 km from the foot of the volcano, possibly
damaging roads and threatening human lives.
Dark ashes spewed from the Klyuchevskoi volcano's crater, with
each particle measuring about one millimeter in diameter. A powerful
glow can be seen above the huge volcano's crater at night even in
bad weather. Meanwhile volcanic bombs are hurled some 200-300 meters
into the air.
The top Klyuchevskoi crater, which is located at a 4,822-meter
altitude, may erupt for up to 30 consecutive days or several years
in some cases. Such eruptions threaten domestic and foreignflights
Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Taiwan
was rocked today by an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.2, causing
buildings to sway in Taipei. No casualties were immediately reported.
The epicenter of the temblor, which occurred at 9:59 a.m. local
time, was located 15.5 kilometers (9.7 miles) east of Taiwan and
8.2 kilometers deep, the Central Weather Bureau said.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world's largest made-to-order
chip supplier, probably wasn't affected by the temblor, company
spokesman J.H. Tzeng said in a phone interview.
Taiwan, an island that sits along faults between the Philippine
Sea and Eurasian Continental tectonic plates, gets struck by an
average 200 earthquakes a year, according to the Central Weather
Bureau. Quakes occur as the plates push together. A quake with a
magnitude of 6 can cause severe damage.
On Oct. 15, Taiwan was struck by a magnitude 7 earthquake, the
strongest since a Sept. 21, 1999, temblor that killed 2,500 people
and caused an estimated $9 billion in damage.
| Scores of people have reported sick
on the South Pacific island of Guam because of haze and ash from an
erupting volcano in a neighbouring island in the Northern Marianas.
Dozens of people arrived at Guam's only hospital, the Commonwealth
Health Centre, complaining of respiratory problems and headaches,
while almost 50 of the 700 children at the Kagma elementary school
took the day off.
The Anatahan volcano, north of Saipan, the centre of the Northern
Marianas, erupted for the third time on January 5 and remains active.
The health problems followed a "haze alert" by the Guam
Environmental Protection Agency, warning that aerosol particles
from the volcanic haze may cause headaches, respiratory ailments,
watery eyes, sore throat and flu-like symptoms.
Rudolfo M Pua, director of the regional emergency centre, said
residents should expect hazy conditions for the next few days because
of ash being blown by the wind from the continuously erupting Anatahan.
"As the ash streams east, gravity pulls the ash," he
said. "As a result, the north-east winds blow to the islands
south of Anatahan, as far as Guam.
The centre also warned that the composition of volcanic smog (also
known as "vog") combined with atmospheric moisture may
damage plants and accelerate the rusting process in metal objects,
such as cars.
The particles appear like a hazy film over the sky and can cause
The US Geological Survey said a commercial pilot had reported ash
at 3,000 metres and satellite imagery also showed a plume of ash
and vog trailing 35 to 50 nautical miles downwind.
| Lightning and thunder are being
blamed for earth tremors reported in Melbourne and Victoria's central
and north-west regions overnight.
Seismologists have ruled out an earthquake.
Callers from Melbourne suburbs including Werribee, Caroline Springs,
and Campbellfield told ABC radio they felt the tremor shortly after
Others have reported a mystery rumble in areas around Bendigo and
Gary Gibson, from the Seismology Centre, says instruments did pick
up some activity, but not enough for an earthquake.
"My guess is that the thunder occurred following a lightning
strike somewhere north of Melbourne," he said.
The weather bureau's Terry Ryan says his instruments did not record
"That doesn't mean we didn't have thunder though, there may
have been a few thunder claps that slipped through," he said.
Other explanations forwarded for the tremor include a power pole
that exploded after being hit by lightning at Melton or a meteor
entering low into the earth's atmosphere.
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