Friday, February 18, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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John Pilger finds our children learning lies
John Pilger
New Statesman
February 17, 2005

In our schools, children learn that the US fought the Vietnam war against a "communist threat" to "us". Is it any wonder that so many don't understand the truth about Iraq?

How does thought control work in societies that call themselves free? Why are famous journalists so eager, almost as a reflex, to minimise the culpability of a prime minister who shares responsibility for the unprovoked attack on a defenceless people, for laying waste to their land and for killing at least 100,000 people, most of them civilians, having sought to justify this epic crime with demonstrable lies? What made the BBC's Mark Mardell describe the invasion of Iraq as "a vindication for him"? Why have broadcasters never associated the British or American state with terrorism? Why have such privileged communicators, with unlimited access to the facts, lined up to describe an unobserved, unverified, illegitimate, cynically manipulated election, held under a brutal occupation, as "democratic", with the pristine aim of being "free and fair"? That quotation belongs to Helen Boaden, the director of BBC News.

Have she and the others read no history? Or is the history they know, or choose to know, subject to such amnesia and omission that it produces a world-view as seen only through a one-way moral mirror? There is no suggestion of conspiracy. This one-way mirror ensures that most of humanity is regarded in terms of its usefulness to "us", its desirability or expendability, its worthiness or unworthiness: for example, the notion of "good" Kurds in Iraq and "bad" Kurds in Turkey. The unerring assumption is that "we" in the dominant west have moral standards superior to "theirs". One of "their" dictators (often a former client of ours, such as Saddam Hussein) kills thousands of people and he is declared a monster, a second Hitler. When one of our leaders does the same he is viewed, at worst, like Blair, in Shakespearean terms. Those who kill people with car bombs are "terrorists"; those who kill far more people with cluster bombs are the noble occupants of a "quagmire".

Historical amnesia can spread quickly. Only ten years after the Vietnam war, which I reported, an opinion poll in the United States found that a third of Americans could not remember which side their government had supported. This demonstrated the insidious power of the dominant propaganda, that the war was essentially a conflict of "good" Vietnamese against "bad" Vietnamese, in which the Americans became "involved", bringing democracy to the people of southern Vietnam faced with a "communist threat". Such a false and dishonest assumption permeated the media coverage, with honourable exceptions. The truth is that the longest war of the 20th century was a war waged against Vietnam, north and south, communist and non-communist, by America. It was an unprovoked invasion of the people's homeland and their lives, just like the invasion of Iraq. Amnesia ensures that, while the relatively few deaths of the invaders are constantly acknowledged, the deaths of up to five million Vietnamese are consigned to oblivion.

What are the roots of this? Certainly, "popular culture", especially Hollywood movies, can decide what and how little we remember. Selective education at a tender age performs the same task. I have been sent a widely used revision guide for GCSE modern world history, on Vietnam and the cold war. This is learned by 14- to-16-year-olds in our schools. It informs their understanding of a pivotal period in history, which must influence how they make sense of today's news from Iraq and elsewhere.

It is shocking. It says that under the 1954 Geneva Accord: "Vietnam was partitioned into communist north and democratic south." In one sentence, truth is despatched. The final declaration of the Geneva conference divided Vietnam "temporarily" until free national elections were held on 26 July 1956. There was little doubt that Ho Chi Minh would win and form Vietnam's first democratically elected government. Certainly, President Eisenhower was in no doubt of this. "I have never talked with a person knowledgeable in Indo-Chinese affairs," he wrote, "who did not agree that . . . 80 per cent of the population would have voted for the communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader."

Not only did the United States refuse to allow the UN to administer the agreed elections two years later, but the "democratic" regime in the south was an invention. One of the inventors, the CIA official Ralph McGehee, describes in his masterly book Deadly Deceits how a brutal expatriate mandarin, Ngo Dinh Diem, was imported from New Jersey to be "president" and a fake government was put in place. "The CIA," he wrote, "was ordered to sustain that illusion through propaganda [placed in the media]."

Phoney elections were arranged, hailed in the west as "free and fair", with American officials fabricating "an 83 per cent turnout despite Vietcong terror". The GCSE guide alludes to none of this, nor that "the terrorists", whom the Americans called the Vietcong, were also southern Vietnamese defending their homeland against the American invasion and whose resistance was popular.

For Vietnam, read Iraq.

The tone of this tract is from the point of view of "us". There is no sense that a national liberation movement existed in Vietnam, merely "a communist threat", merely the propaganda that "the USA was terrified that many other countries might become communist and help the USSR - they didn't want to be outnumbered", merely that President Lyndon B Johnson "was determined to keep South Vietnam communist-free" (emphasis as in the original). This proceeds quickly to the Tet Offensive of 1968, which "ended in the loss of thousands of American lives - 14,000 in 1969 - most were young men". There is no mention of the millions of Vietnamese lives also lost in the offensive. And America merely began "a bombing campaign": there is no mention of the greatest tonnage of bombs dropped in the history of warfare, of a military strategy that was deliberately designed to force millions of people to abandon their homes, and of chemicals used in a manner that profoundly changed the environment and the genetic order, leaving a once-bountiful land all but ruined.

This guide is from a private publisher, but its bias and omissions reflect that of the official syllabuses, such as the syllabus from Oxford and Cambridge, whose cold war section refers to Soviet "expansionism" and the "spread" of communism; there is not a word about the "spread" of rapacious America. One of its "key questions" is: "How effectively did the USA contain the spread of communism?" Good versus evil for untutored minds.

"Phew, loads for you to learn here . . ." say the authors of the revision guide, "so get it learned right now." Phew, the British empire did not happen; there is nothing about the atrocious colonial wars that were models for the successor power, America, in Indonesia, Vietnam, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, to name but a few along modern history's imperial trail of blood of which Iraq is the latest.

And now Iran? The drumbeat has already begun. How many more innocent people have to die before those who filter the past and the present wake up to their moral responsibility to protect our memory and the lives of human beings?

Comment: If those who filter the past and present will not wake up to their responsibility to present the truth - and there is no indication that this will happen anytime soon - then it is up to each of us to seek the truth for ourselves, and attempt to detect the filters that have been programmed into each of us.

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Company pulls out of contract to track students
Thursday, February 17, 2005

SUTTER, California -- A grade school that required students to wear radio frequency identification badges that can track their every move has ended the program because the company that developed the technology pulled out.

"I'm disappointed. That's about all I can say at this point," Earnie Graham, the superintendent and principal of Brittan Elementary School in Sutter, said Tuesday night. "I think I let my staff down. Nobody on this campus knows every student."

The badges, developed by Sutter-based technology company InCom Corp., were introduced January 18. The school board was set to talk about the policy Tuesday night but tabled the discussion after InCom announced it was terminating its agreement.

School district lawyer Paul Nicholas Boylan said InCom cited the intense media attention and concern the badges were being damaged by families opposed to them. "They can go someplace where they wouldn't have any risk of vandalism," he said.

"I'm not convinced it's over," parent Dawn Cantrall, who filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the (Marysville) Appeal-Democrat. "I'm happy for now that kids are not being tagged, but I'm still fighting to keep it out of our school system. It has to stop here."

The system was imposed, without parental input, by the school as a way to simplify attendance-taking, and potentially reduce vandalism and improve student safety. Brittan appeared to be the first U.S. school district to embrace such a monitoring system.

While many parents criticized the badges for violating privacy and possibly endangering children's health, some parents favored the plan.

"Any kind of new technology has the potential for misuse, but I feel confident the school is not going to misuse it," parent Mary Brower told the newspaper before the meeting.

Students were required to wear an identification card around their necks with their picture, name and grade and a wireless transmitter that beamed their ID number to a teacher's handheld computer when the child passed under an antenna posted above a classroom door.

The school had already disabled the scanners above classroom doors and was not disciplining students who didn't wear the badges.

Comment: Don't worry, with the new national ID card coming soon, schools won't have to worrying about implementing their own RFID systems to tag their cattle - er, students.

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US anti-terror act sparks credit card cutoff in distant Marshall Islands
Thursday February 17, 3:48 PM

Tourists and residents were unable to use their credit cards at many businesses in the Marshall Islands after links between the central Pacific nation's main bank and a key partner bank were cut because of the US Patriot Act.

The break, effective Tuesday, between the Bank of Marshall Islands and the US-registered Citizens Security Bank of Guam cut off the electronic verification system which had underpinned the use of credit cards here.

Since Wednesday, many hotels and businesses have been refusing to accept credit card payments because they cannot verify the validity of the cards, said Phil Marshall, an official with Robert Reimers Enterprises which owns a number of businesses in the US.

"This is a big problem for the tourist industry," Marshall told AFP Thurday.

The Citizens Security Bank (CSB) was forced to cut off the credit card verification and other services to the Bank of Marshall Islands or face millions of dollars in fines under the Patriot Act.

The act, introduced in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by US President George Bush, is designed to boost the ability of US intelligence and law enforcement agencies to disrupt terrorist funding and activities.

It notably imposes tight restrictions on links between banks registered with the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and foreign banks.

Although the Marshall Islands is a close ally of Washington and its national budget is about 60 percent funded by the US government, the Bank of Marshall Islands is not a US bank and does not have FDIC status. [...]

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Rumsfeld refuses to estimate size of insurgency in Iraq
Thursday, February 17, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld steadfastly declined Thursday to give Congress a public estimate of the size of the Iraqi insurgency.

Under persistent question from Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, Rumsfeld said the disorganized nature of the insurgency makes it difficult to pin down a reliable, specific estimate.

"They're not static. The numbers change," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "They're made up of different elements: criminals, Baathists, the former regime elements, the Zarqawi network and jihadists. Even though the jihadists are the smallest portion of them, they appear to us to be the most lethal."

Still, McCain pressed for numbers.

"Shouldn't the American people also know the size and shape and nature of the enemy that we're facing, since it's their sons and daughters who are going to serve?" he asked. Rumsfeld said it was not his place to declassify the estimates provided to him by intelligence services.

The defense secretary had refused Wednesday to give such an estimate to a House committee. [...]

Comment: What a great plan... The war on terror is so absurdly vague that none of us know anything about our alleged enemy.

What countries are they in? Well, the Axis of Evil countries, of course, but also everywhere else - maybe.

What groups constitute "al-Qaeda"? A good rule of thumb is that if Bush and the neocons want to demonize or murder a certain group, then they are part of al-Qaeda.

What about terrorist cells in the US? Well, yes there probably are... no, there aren't... well, because we have no evidence that they are in the US, they must be there and ready to strike.

What size force is America battling in Iraq? There are estimates, but the numbers are constantly changing anyway, so the government wasted Americans' money in coming up with the estimate in the first place.

If it wasn't for the murder of countless thousands of men, women, and children, the war on terror would actually be hilarious.

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Anti-War Display a "Hate Crime"?
Associated Press
Tue Feb 15, 9:34 PM ET

A display showing an American soldier's uniform with the slogan 'Bush Lied I Died' is seen on a home in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 13, 2005.

Since Stephen and Virginia Pearcy put up the effigy, it has been vandalized twice and put up again. Police are investigating the vandalism reports as well as a claim by a military mother that the display should be investigated as a hate crime.

Comment: Most Americans seem to have forgotten the original reason for the invasion of Iraq, but that doesn't change the fact that Bush lied about Saddam's WMD's. Also indisputable is the fact that many US soldiers are still being killed each day, with many more horribly maimed and injured.

Apparently, telling the truth is considered a hate crime in the US.

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City again turns down plan for anti-war march
Published February 17, 2005

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Department of Transportation has denied a second permit application filed by anti-war activists who want to march on Michigan Avenue on March 19, the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, a department spokesman said Wednesday.

A city hearing officer earlier this month upheld a department denial of an application filed by the Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism. The group last week filed a revised application, still seeking to march on Michigan but eliminating plans to march on State Street on the way to Federal Plaza in the Loop.

The revised plan, which called for a route on Michigan from Walton Street to Adams Street, then to Federal Plaza, still would have disrupted too much traffic, department spokesman Brian Steele said.

Comment: Land of the free indeed! These days, Americans' beloved first amendment seems to apply only to those groups who wholeheartedly agree with or support the fascist policies of the Bush Reich. For everyone else, it's outright denial of expression - or in some special cases, confinement inside wired cages paradoxically called "free speech zones". At least they're not rounding up and arresting dissenters and confining them indefinitely to be tortured on some island in the Caribbean. Not yet, anyway.

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Scum Also Rises
The Bloody Career of John Negroponte
February 18, 2005

The nomination by President George Bush of John Negroponte for the new post of director of national intelligence, in charge of overseeing all the burgeoning intelligence operations of the United States, is both obscene and predictable.

Negroponte, currently the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and, unofficially, the head of the U.S. occupation of that country, is a career foreign service officer on paper, but in fact a veteran CIA operative responsible for some of the blackest crimes of murder and torture in Central America during that region's dark days of civil war, revolution and counter-revolution in the late 20th Century.

As U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85, Negroponte played a key role in organizing the military repression in that poorest of Latin American countries, and in creating and running the so-called Contra's, the U.S-organized military operation to undermine and overthrow the elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

What makes Negroponte the perfect candidate to be America's KGB chief is his refined cover. He has the Republicans on the Republican-dominated Intelligence Committee in his pocket anyhow, and as a career diplomat, urbane and fluent in five languages, he also appeals to the mushy national security state Democrats like John Rockefeller (D-W. VA), Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), who will be asked to join in rubber-stamping his nomination.

If his appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, during hearings on his nomination for the post of ambassador to Iraq is any indication, he will breeze through this next "test." Democratic Senators Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) and Joseph Biden (D-Del.) gushed over him at those earlier hearings, and didn't ask anything about his role in promoting death squad activities or in covering up human rights abuses in Central America, which included the murders of several dozen priests and nuns.

Americans concerned about our vanishing civil liberties, and about the expanded use of official state terrorism against American citizens and resident aliens should be concerned about this appointment, however. The new intelligence chief will be responsible for overseeing the nation's vast $100-billion spying operation and its ballooning, largely secret budget.

This man's record is not encouraging.

Negroponte deliberately falsified State Department human rights reports every year of his ambassadorship in Honduras. According to the Maryknoll Order, many U.S. missionaries and other religious activists were murdered in that country in the 1970s and especially the early 1980s by CIA-trained Honduran soldiers of the so-called Battalion 3-16, whose operations they claim Negroponte oversaw, or "at best overlooked."

Even The New York Times credits Negroponte with "carrying out the covert strategy of the Reagan administration to crush the Sandinista government in Nicaragua"-an effort which the paper fails to note was illegal, and which ultimately included the trading of guns for drugs on CIA-financed aircraft. Negroponte helped with this massively corrupt and illegal war effort of the Reagan administration even after it had been expressly banned by the U.S. Congress.

One would think that kind of insult to the Congress would elicit at least some opposition to Negroponte's appointment, but not a word about it came up during his ambassadorship hearings (Sen. Dodd actually said, "I happen to feel he's a very fine Foreign Service officer and has done a tremendous job in many places."), and it seems unlikely he'll be asked about it this time around.

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Detainee Coerced Into Dropping Charges of Abuse Before Release
February 18, 2005


U.S. Soldiers Posed in Photos of Mock Executions of Detainees; More Cases of Abuse Revealed in Newly Released Documents

NEW YORK--The American Civil Liberties Union today released files obtained from the Army revealing previously undisclosed allegations of abuse by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the documents are reports that a detainee who was beaten and seriously injured was forced to drop his claims in order to be released from custody.

"The torture of detainees is too widespread and systemic to be dismissed as the rogue actions of a few misguided individuals," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "The American public deserves to know which high-level government officials are ultimately responsible for the torture conducted in our name."

The release of these documents follows a federal court order that directed the Defense Department and other government agencies to comply with a year-old request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filed by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The New York Civil Liberties Union is co-counsel in the case.

In one file released today, an Iraqi detainee claimed that Americans in civilian clothing beat him in the head and stomach, dislocated his arms, "stepped on [his] nose until it [broke]," stuck an unloaded pistol in his mouth and fired the trigger, choked him with a rope and beat his leg with a baseball bat. Medical reports corroborated the detainee's account, stating that the detainee had a broken nose, fractured leg, and scars on his stomach. In addition, soldiers confirmed that Task Force 20 interrogators wearing civilian clothing had interrogated the detainee. However, after initially reporting the abuse, the detainee said that he was forced by an American soldier to sign a statement denouncing the claims or else be kept in detention indefinitely. He agreed.

An investigator who reviewed the signed statement concluded that "[t]his statement, alone, is a prima facie indication of threats." However, despite the medical report and testimony from other soldiers, the criminal file was ultimately closed on the grounds that the investigation had "failed to prove or disprove" the offenses.

Another file released today reports that U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan posed for photographs of mock executions with hooded and bound detainees, and that some of these photographs were intentionally destroyed after the Abu Ghraib scandal to avoid "another public outrage."

The file concerns an investigation into the discovery of a CD during an office clean-up in Afghanistan in July 2004. The CD contained digital images of what appeared to be abuse and maltreatment of detainees in and around Fire Base Tycze in southern Afghanistan. The pictures showed uniformed soldiers pointing pistols and M-4 rifles at the heads and backs of bound and hooded detainees, and other abuses such as holding a detainee's head against the wall of a cage. One sergeant stated that he had also seen pictures on Army computers of detainees being kicked, hit or inhumanely treated while in U.S. custody. An Army Specialist and team leader with four soldiers assigned under him admitted that similar photographs had been destroyed after images of torture at Abu Ghraib prison were leaked to the media.

"These files provide more evidence, if any were needed, that abuse was not limited to Abu Ghraib," said ACLU staff attorney Jameel Jaffer. "Unfortunately, it's now clear that the government failed to investigate many of these abuses until the Abu Ghraib photographs came to light."

Other photos discovered during the investigation showed bound U.S. soldiers in what is described as "an activity called PUC'ing (Person Under Control) a ritualistic activity done on birthdays, re-enlistments, and similar events, by fellow platoon members." The photographs showed hooded soldiers lying on the ground in the dirt with their hands and feet bound, while other soldiers poured water on them. The act apparently simulated the treatment of detainees who were designated as needing extra "control."

Additional cases of abuse revealed in the investigative files released today include:

* Senior Psychological Operations (PsyOps) officers in Afghanistan reported witnessing indiscriminate assaults by Special Forces on civilians during raids in May 2004 in the villages of Gurjay and Sukhagen. Abuses included hitting and kicking villagers in the head, chest, back and stomach, and threatening to shoot them. An investigation into the allegations was closed, citing failure to "prove or disprove" the offenses because the victims and villagers could not be interviewed.

* In Iraq, an investigation found probable cause that two U.S. soldiers committed the offense of assault when they punched and kicked a civilian whom they picked up at a roadblock, while a sergeant took pictures and videotaped part of the abuse. The soldiers then transported the man to an Iraqi prison, where they watched Iraqi police further abuse the detainee and kick him in the ribs before they left him there. A commander's report was pending in September 2004, and no punishment was recorded in the file. [...]

The ACLU's Romero urged Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Tuesday to appoint a special counsel to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute civilians for their involvement in the torture of detainees.

Comment: Yeah, right...

In related news, a federal judge earlier this month rejected an attempt by the Central Intelligence Agency to indefinitely delay the processing and release of critical documents pertaining to torture. The CIA has indicated that it will appeal this decision. According to news reports, the CIA is currently seeking to scale back its role in detaining and interrogating suspected terrorists who are being held abroad.

Comment: What is the one reason why the CIA would want to indefinitely delay the release of documents pertaining to torture? Take your time...

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Mossad, the CIA and Lebanon
The assassination of Rafiq Hariri: who benefited?
By Bill Van Auken
17 February 2005

The US media has responded predictably to the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, echoing the bellicose threats of the Bush administration against Syria and amplifying unsubstantiated charges that the regime in Damascus was the author of the killing.

Leading the pack was the Washington Post, which editorialized on Wednesday that "The despicable murder of Mr. Hariri benefits no one outside the rogue regime in Damascus-and the world should respond accordingly."

The editorial acknowledged that the "crudeness of the killing and the denials by the government of Bashar Assad will cause some to wonder whether it has been framed for a crime it may have desired but did not commit." But the Post hastened to assure its readers that the assassination was "the panicked act of a cornered tyrant," terrified by the forced march to democracy which Washington has supposedly initiated in the Middle East with the recent elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories.

"Crude" is the appropriate designation for the Post's arguments, which amount to nothing more than war propaganda. The newspaper's charges are both unsupported and nonsensical. Their transparent purpose-much like the stories about Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction"-is to promote the policy of aggression which the Bush administration is pursuing in the Middle East.

The Post's brief against Damascus is based on the well-known detective's maxim: to discover who committed a crime, ask the question, "Who benefits?" Washington's newspaper of record asks the question in order to supply its predetermined answer: "the rogue regime in Damascus."

But precisely how has Syria benefited from the murder? Its immediate concrete consequences are mass demonstrations organized by anti-Syrian political forces in Lebanon demanding that Damascus withdraw its troops from the country, a ratcheting up of Washington's threats of anti-Syrian military aggression, and the prospect of Lebanon descending into civil war.

That the assassination of Hariri would produce such consequences-all of them extremely threatening to the Syrian government of Bashar Assad-was hardly unforeseeable. Whatever else may be said about the Baathist regime in Damascus, it is committed to its own survival and its leaders are not insane.

What of the acknowledged doubt-summarily dismissed by the Post-that the Syrian regime is being "framed" for a crime it did not commit? Curiously, the newspaper gives no indication of who might be responsible for such a frame-up. Here, however, the question of "who benefits" is definitely worth pursuing.

The powers that most clearly stood to advance their strategic aims by having Hariri assassinated and blaming the crime on Syria are the US and Israel. Among those who play the game of speculating who organized the car bombing in Beirut, the smart money is undoubtedly on Washington and Tel Aviv.

Under pressure from Washington, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1559 last September, demanding that Syria withdraw its troops from Lebanon. This political fact sheds light on the decision of the White House, before the blood on Beirut's streets had dried on Tuesday, to issue a statement blaming Damascus. This entirely unsupported charge was followed by instructions to Washington's ambassador to slap the Syrian regime with a demarche and leave the country.

In the midst of Washington's provocative moves against Syria, for which the killing of Hariri supposedly provided justification, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared, with consummate cynicism, that the US was making no presumptions as to the authors of the crime. "We're not laying blame," she said, "It has to be investigated."

The US media went beyond adopting an uncritical attitude to the US response, treating the bellicose statements of the Bush administration as though they constituted, in and of themselves, some kind of proof of Syrian culpability. "US Seems Sure of the Hand of Syria," read the headline in the New York Times. NBC's Middle East correspondent wrote that the recall of the US ambassador represented "the first indication that the US knows something about Syrian involvement in the assassination attempt."

It indicated nothing of the kind. Rather, it suggested that Washington was prepared in advance to seize upon Hariri's death as a pretext for escalating its threats against Damascus.

The Bush administration has in place extensive plans for military action against Syria. Unable to crush the resistance in Iraq-and unwilling to acknowledge that it is a manifestation of popular hostility to the US occupation-the Pentagon has long accused the Syrian regime of harboring a "command-and-control" center of Iraqi Baathists that is supposedly masterminding the attacks on US forces. The logic of the US colonial venture in Iraq, far from Bush's fanciful talk of burgeoning democracy throughout the Middle East, leads to new wars of conquest against any and all regimes that fail to collaborate with Washington.

Various Middle East "security" experts have been quoted in the media describing Syria as "low-hanging fruit" in Washington's military pursuit of hegemony in the region. The regime is viewed as isolated and vulnerable.

Washington also hopes to use the assassination to pursue French support for US strategic aims in the Middle East. France, the former colonial power in Lebanon, has its own fish to fry, and joined the US in supporting the UN resolution demanding a Syrian troop withdrawal. Secretary of State Rice urged closer collaboration in her visit to Paris earlier this month, calling for an end to the divisions provoked by the US war in Iraq.

The maneuvers against Syria manifest as well the unprecedented coordination of US and Israeli policy in the region. Damascus is a primary target because it has provided sanctuary to Palestinian groups that have opposed Israel, including the Islamist organization Hamas. It has also failed to curb the growing influence of the Lebanese Shiite movement, Hezbollah, which forced Israeli troops out of southern Lebanon after 20 years of occupation. It is hoped in both Washington and Tel Aviv that either forcing Syrian troops out of Lebanon or carrying out "regime change" in Damascus will undermine Hezbollah's position and open the door for renewed Israeli control on both sides of its northern border.

Tel Aviv calculates that the expulsion of Syria from Lebanon or the toppling of the Baathist regime in Damascus could bring to power a Lebanese government more amenable to Israeli demands. In particular, both want Lebanon to grant citizenship to the estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees inside that country, a move that would effectively abrogate their right-never recognized by Israel-to return to the homes from which they were expelled in the course of the creation and expansion of the Zionist state.

The timing of the assassination, barely a week after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced their truce in Egypt, is noteworthy. It is quite possible that any limited concessions the Israeli regime may agree to make as part of the "peace process" with the Palestinians will be repaid by Washington giving the green light for Israeli provocations and military actions against Syria.

US officials tied to Israel planned attack on Syria

The killing of Hariri has set the stage for the implementation of plans for US aggression against Syria that have long been nurtured by a group within the US administration that is closely tied to Israel and the right-wing Likud bloc, in particular. Prominent among them is David Wurmser, Vice President Dick Cheney's adviser on the Middle East. Wurmser played a leading role in the creation of a Pentagon intelligence unit that sought to fabricate a case for linking the Iraqi regime with Al Qaeda in the months leading up to the US invasion.

In 1996, Wurmser co-authored a report drafted for incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, entitled "A Clean Break: a New Strategy for Securing the Realm." It called for a repudiation of the "land for peace" formula that had served as the basis for Middle East peace negotiations, in favor of a plan to "roll back" regional adversaries. It advocated the overthrow of the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein and recommended Israeli strikes against "Syrian targets in Lebanon" and within Syria itself.

The co-authors of the report included Douglas Feith, the current undersecretary for policy at the US Defense Department, and Richard Perle, the former chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board.

In 2000, Wurmser helped draft a document entitled "Ending Syria's Occupation of Lebanon: the US Role?" It called for a confrontation with the regime in Damascus, which it accused of developing "weapons of mass destruction." Among those signing the document were Feith and Perle, as well as Elliott Abrams, Bush's chief advisor on the Middle East, who was recently appointed deputy national security advisor.

This document urged the use of US military force, claiming that the 1991 Persian Gulf War had proven that Washington "can act to defend its interests and principles without the specter of huge casualties." It continued: "But this opportunity may not wait, for as weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities spread, the risks of such action will rapidly grow. If there is to be decisive action, it will have to be sooner rather than later."

If one asks the question, "Who benefits?" the answer is clear. The destabilization of Lebanon, the mobilization of the US-backed opposition to the pro-Syrian government in Beirut, and the vilification of Damascus all serve to advance US and Israeli strategic plans long in the making.

It is not just a question of motive, however. Israel has a long history of utilizing assassination as an instrument of state policy. The Israeli regime has not infrequently carried out acts of terror and blamed them on its enemies.

Among the more infamous examples was the so-called Lavon Affair, in which the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad organized a covert network inside Egypt which launched a series of bombing attacks in 1953. The targets included US diplomatic facilities, and the attackers left behind phony evidence implicating anti-American Arabs. The aim was to disrupt US ties to Egypt.

In its long history of assassinations of Palestinian leaders, many of them carried out in Beirut, the Israeli regime has routinely attempted to implicate rival Palestinian factions.

Car bomb killings in Beirut are a regular part of Mossad's repertoire. In the 1970s and 1980s, when the Israelis invaded Lebanon, such bombings were a fact of daily life, and many of them were attributed to Israel.

Among the more recent killings is that of Elie Hobeika, an ex-Lebanese cabinet minister and former Christian warlord, in January 2002. He was killed along with three bodyguards by a remote-controlled car bomb on a Beirut street. Hobeika, who participated in the massacre of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in 1976, had announced just days earlier that he was prepared to testify on the role played by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the killings.

Last June, a Lebanese magistrate indicted five Arabs who were said to be working for Mossad in connection with a plot to assassinate Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. At least one of the defendants testified that Mossad had organized the Hobeika assassination.

In May 2002, Mossad carried out the assassination of Mohammed Jihad Jibril, the son of Ahmed Jibril, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer commented cynically at the time, "Not everything that blows up in Beirut has a connection with the State of Israel."

In August 2003, Ali Hassan Saleh, a leader of Hezbollah, was assassinated in Beirut. Israel denied any knowledge of the killing, but it was seen throughout Lebanon as a Mossad operation.

Since 2002, Mossad has been headed by Meir Dagan, who formerly commanded the Israeli occupation zone in Lebanon. Sharon reportedly gave Dagan a mandate to revive the traditional methods of Mossad, including assassinations abroad.

Washington has itself revived the methods of "murder incorporated" that were historically associated with the CIA, boasting of assassinations of alleged Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen and elsewhere.

While the Washington Post and other US media outlets echo the White House in denouncing Syria as a "rogue regime" guilty of the Hariri assassination, the two governments responsible for the great bulk of the killing and political murders in the Middle East are Israel and the United States.

In contrast to the jingoist propaganda of the American press, it is worth noting the editorial comment published Wednesday by the Daily Star, the Beirut English-language daily, dealing with the broader political implications of the assassination.

"The fact that within just hours of the murder five distinct parties were singled out as possible culprits-Israel, Syria, Lebanese regime partisans, mafia-style gangs, and anti-Saudi, anti-US Islamist terrorists-also points to the wider dilemma that disfigures Lebanese and Arab political culture in general: the resort to murderous and destabilizing violence as a chronic option for those who vie for power," the newspaper stated. It continued, "That madness has now been even more deeply institutionalilzed and anchored in the modern history of the region due to the impact of the American-British invasion of Iraq and the new wave of violence it has spurred."

The murder of Rafiq Hariri constitutes a brutal warning that the US war in Iraq is only the beginning of a far broader campaign of military aggression aimed at crushing resistance to US and Israeli domination. This escalating militarism is creating the conditions for a conflagration throughout the region.

Comment: This article from WSWS is an excellent summation of the obvious Israeli and American benefits from the recent assassination of Rafiq Hariri. As the political rhetoric against Syria heats up in Washington and tensions rise between peoples in Lebanon, it is imperative that articles like the one above get spread as far and wide as possible. The truth of Mossad's direct involvement in carrying out this attack needs to become well known, and sites like Signs of the Times and other independent internet media can only go so far. So, if any of our regular readers belong to alternative political chat groups or manage their own blogs, please feel free to distribute links to this story and disseminate this information in as many forms as you can. By networking together, like-minded people who care about the truth can do a lot to make sure that the real perpetrators behind this horrible crime, perhaps this time, won't get away scott free.

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Who killed Rafiq al-Hariri?
2/16/2005 1:00:00 PM  GMT

Who stood to gain the most from the death of Radiq al-Hariri?

The Lebanese stood to lose a lot from his death, as did Syria and the other Arab countries in the regions who viewed him as a strong leader and stabilising figure within Lebanese politics.

However, Israel stands to gain the most from his death as did the U.S.

Both Israel and the U.S. have been trying their hardest to get the political group Hezbollah banned and both have wanted Syria out of Lebanon.

In both cases the Lebanese government has categorically said 'No'; that Hezbollah is a respected part of Lebanese life and that Damascus is there to protect Lebanon from Israeli aggression.

No matter which nook, cranny or corner you look into only Israel and the U.S. stood to gain from Hariri's death as it could very possibly lead to some serious upset in Lebanese politics and death.
"This is the work of an intelligence service, not a small group," said Rime Allaf, Middle East analyst at London's Royal Institute of International Affairs.

Many experts in the Arab and Muslim worlds believe Israeli handiwork was behind the assassination of Hariri.

The U.S. and Israel were first of the block and quick to point the finger of blame at Syria - tantamount to convicting themselves as they're the only two countries that stand to gain from unrest being created in Lebanon.

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Hezbollah, who represent two of the important factions of the Lebanese government, both condemned the bombing and their own experts said the blast had all the earmarks of the bombing that was carried out by Israel against former Palestinian leaders in Beirut in the past.
America and Israel want Syria out of Lebanon, but the majority of Lebanese realize the Syrian presence is an aid to their country that helps stop the Israelis from invading Lebanon. Something which Israel did during the 1980's and then continued to occupy southern Lebanon until they were ousted by the military force of Hezbollah.

Also, by killing Harriri, the Israelis and American can both claim that the area is more unstable and needs more American style "democracy" and occupation.
Harriri was a giant among progressive Arab and Muslim leaders, and during his leadership made sure the church and state were kept separate in Lebanese political decisions.
Furthermore, he was a man beloved by all sides, even his former political foes. They saw him as a man who had helped to bring Lebanon back from the chaos that Israel had caused with their allies in the invasion of the 1980s.
It should also be remembered that the one man who wanted Lebanon destroyed, and who led the attack that Beirut on the brink of destruction was none other than one Ariel Sharon, Israel's current prime minister.
Sharon has set up a special group of dark ops in Israel who are allowed to kill anyone deemed to be a threat to Israel in any land in the world-clearly a violation of International Law. Of course, Sharon, like Bush, has decided that International Law does not govern Israel or America.
Harriri's killing, like so many of those in Iraq, is the work of either the Israeli dark ops or American mercenaries who have been hired out to kill people who are progressive in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
That is why in Lebanon today, people know that it was not some dissident "militant group" who masterminded this assassination; a group that no one has ever heard of, nor does anyone believe actually exists.
But, Professor Rime Allaf is correct, this was the work of an intelligence agency, and it's very obvious which two agencies can carry out such an act as they represent two countries who stand to gain the most: Israel or America.

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From Baghdad to Beirut
By Pepe Escobar
Feb 17, 2005

Blame it on Syria. Blame it on al-Qaeda. Better yet, blame it both on Syria and al-Qaeda. Without a shred of evidence - or perhaps profiting from "intelligence" amassed by the Pentagon, the Israeli Mossad, or both - the Bush administration immediately blamed Syria for the bombing that killed "Mr Beirut", former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. And Washington recalled its ambassador to Damascus, Margaret Scobey.

Taking Baghdad to Beirut may be read for what the denomination implies: the destabilization of Iraq - a key Washington neo-conservative objective - exported to the wider Middle East. What many had feared - the "Lebanonization" of Iraq, bringing back the tragic memories of the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990 - might be forced, with this assassination, to happen in reverse: the Iraqification of Lebanon.

Sectarian tension will most likely be exacerbated - especially when one knows that sectarianism is enshrined in Lebanon: the president has to be a Christian Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni (like Hariri) and the speaker of parliament a Shi'ite (the parallel is inevitable with Shi'ites/Kurds/Sunnis trying to carve up the new Iraqi government).

The Saudi connection

An unknown "Group for Advocacy and Holy War in the Levant" at first assumed responsibility on al-Jazeera television for the bombing, before another unknown group, the "al-Qaeda Organization in the Levant" dismissed on an Islamist website any Salafist/jihadi involvement. "This is clearly an operation that was planned by a state intelligence agency ... and we blame either the Mossad, the Syrian regime or the Lebanese regime," its statement said. The Levant (Bilad as-Sham in Arabic) historically included Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, before the creation of Israel.

As far as "al-Qaeda" is concerned, it is well known in the Middle East that Palestinians working for the Israeli Mossad have been captured before and posed as members of a fake al-Qaeda cell in Gaza - a perfect justification for Israeli intervention there. The only credible al-Qaeda connection might be related to the fact that Hariri was a Sunni, Saudi-Lebanese billionaire involved in all kinds of deals, some of them shady. He remained heavily connected with Saudi Arabia, and still kept his Saudi passport. Thus the assassination might have been an external operation connected to al-Qaeda's internal offensive against the House of Saud.

Who benefits?

Only Israel appears to benefit from Hariri's assassination. Significantly, one of Hariri's consultants, Mustafa al-Naser, told Iranian state news agency IRNA on Monday that "the assassination of Hariri is the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad's job, aimed at creating political tension in Lebanon". An array of Arab Middle East analysts, as well as the Lebanese government, point out that the blast was eerily similar to previous Israeli-orchestrated bombings against former Palestinian leaders.

International public opinion may forget that it was current Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, then a general, who invaded Lebanon in 1982, supported by falangists, practically destroyed Beirut and plunged Lebanon into civil war. Hariri was Sharon's opposite: almost single-handedly he guided Beirut's reconstruction.

Sharon's government may now blame its fierce enemy Syria - as it has already done - for Hariri's assassination. Syria and Israel, technically, remain at war. Moreover, if the accusation sticks, Sharon benefits from public opinion turning to revulsion against Syria in the wider Middle East. The logical progression would lead to a joint Israeli/US attack against the Syrian regime by early 2006 at the latest - which, in conjunction with an attack against Iran's nuclear facilities, compose what is no secret to anyone: the ultimate neo-con dream ticket.

The neo-con agenda - which happens to be Sharon's agenda - is once again pure divide and conquer: the aim is to destabilize what neo-cons see as the emerging "Shi'ite crescent" in the Middle East - Iran, the new Iraq and Lebanon, with Syria as a key transit point. A key component of this strategy is to strike a blow against Hezbollah. It's important to note that the new Shi'ite-dominated government in Iraq will be a keen supporter of Hezbollah.

Hezbollah plays a very important political and social role in Lebanese life. As for the 16,000 or so Syrian troops, they are in Lebanon basically to protect it against another Israeli invasion. Israel occupied part of southern Lebanon until it was thrown out by Hezbollah. The Syrian regime is instrumental in helping Hezbollah, as well as an array of Palestinian armed groups. Hezbollah may be aligned with Iran, but its intelligence, weapons and most of all financing flows from Iran to Lebanon via Syria. The White House and the State Department's key agenda in the current offensive calling for Syria's troops to leave Lebanon is to cut support for Hezbollah - therefore leaving Israel worry-free as far as its northern border is concerned. Washington's interest has nothing to do with "spreading freedom" to Lebanon.

Looking for a smoking gun

Locally, everybody is a loser with Hariri's assassination: the Lebanese; the Syrian government; and other Arab neighbors as well (Hariri was widely respected as a strong leader and a factor of stability).

Syria, with its military stranglehold over Lebanon, may be the usual suspect in the assassination. But the fundamental question - evaded in the Bush administration's drive to blame Syria - is which Syrian faction might have profited from it.

From the point of view of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the suspicion is a public relations disaster because, if proven guilty, there's no way Damascus could get away with it unpunished. On a more street-level perspective, many Syrians are quick to point out that the preferred method for the assassination would not have been a car bombing. Syria has the best snipers in the world - something even the Israelis admit.

Last September, Hariri was called to Damascus by Assad and the head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, General Rostom Ghazale. Hariri had very good relations with Assad. But Damascus had imposed on the Lebanese parliament a constitutional amendment extending for three years the mandate of the current president, the pro-Syrian General Emil Lahoud. Hariri said he was quitting as premier. Damascus pleaded with him not to. Hariri then joined the opposition to Lahoud.
A few days ago, Syrian Foreign Minister Faruk al-Chareh told Terje Roed-Larsen, the special envoy in charge of applying United Nations resolution 1559 - which calls for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon - that the resolution was "en element of tension" in the Middle East.
The official strategy in Damascus may be of a gradual military pullout from Lebanon. But there is much chatter in diplomatic circles and over the Internet that a serious internal power struggle is going on. Hardline military/security service factions, undermining Assad, might in this case have been responsible for the assassination. Assad would never have authorized a target killing with disastrous consequences for Syrian national interests.

What remains is the evidence of Baghdad in Beirut. Asia Times Online has been repeatedly told by sources in Baghdad close to the Sunni Iraqi resistance, as well as by Shi'ite sources in Najaf, that the paramount response of both Sunni and Shi'ite clerics to the wave of "mysterious" car bombings in Iraq has been to call for no revenge. The iron-clad certainty, on both sides, is that these have been perpetrated not by "terrorists" as the US claims, but rather by Israeli black ops or Central Intelligence Agency-connected American mercenaries, with the intent of fueling sectarian tensions and advancing the prospect of civil war. Now if only someone would come up with a Beirut smoking gun.

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Ministers deny link to A-G's daughter
February 18, 2005

FOREIGN Minister Alexander Downer and Attorney-General Philip Ruddock each denied today the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat from Australia had anything to do with his friendship with Mr Ruddock's daughter.

The ministers issued their denials as another Israeli diplomat, allegedly involved in a sex scandal in Brazil five years ago, voluntarily withdrew his candidacy to serve in Canberra.

Expelled Israeli senior consul Amir Laty told Israeli media he believed his expulsion was linked to his contact with Caitlin Ruddock, the attorney-general's 26-year-old daughter who lectures in accountancy at the University of New South Wales.

Mr Laty met Ms Ruddock six years ago, when the two were studying in Beijing, and they renewed their friendship when Mr Laty was posted to Canberra in late 2003, the Australian Jewish News reported.

It has not been publicly explained why Mr Laty was expelled from his position, but the Australian Security Intelligence Organsiation - the domestic spy agency for which Mr Ruddock is responsible - is understood to believe he had been involved in spying.

Mr Lati's alleged relationship with a female Defence Department employee with high-level security access has been proffered as a reason for his explusion.

Mr Ruddock, the key minister in charge of Australia's intelligence agencies, said any relationship his daughter may have had with Mr Laty was not relevant to him leaving.

"I don't believe that it is appropriate to look at whether my daughter had relationships with anybody."

"Any acquaintance she may or may not have had with this particular gentleman was totally irrelevant to his departure from Australia, and his departure is not something we're commenting on."

Mr Ruddock also declined to comment on reports Mr Laty was due to have Christmas dinner at the minister's Sydney house just three days before his expulsion.

"This is an adult daughter, 26, who doesn't live at home, and I'm not commenting on matters relating to her acquaintances," Mr Ruddock said.

"It's totally irrelevant and I think she's entitled to some privacy."

Mr Downer said he made the decision to expel Mr Laty "as a result of information I had".

"I think it's been the right decision but we did say to the Israelis at the time that we wouldn't say anything publicly about it," Mr Downer told Sydney radio 2UE.

"It's nothing that need now cause the public any concern at all. And by the way it has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with Philip Ruddock's daughter."

Ms Ruddock, when approached by The Australian at her office yesterday, declined to comment on the nature of her relationship with Mr Lati, or why he had been expelled from Australia.

"You're only here because of who my father is. I have no comment to make," Ms Ruddock said.

Directing all questions to the office of the Attorney-General, she refused to divulge why Mr Lati had been banned from attending Christmas lunch with the Ruddock family, or whether Mr Lati had also been in a relationship with a female Australian defence official.

"I will happily talk with you about accountancy courses, but nothing else," she said.

Mr Laty reportedly had a reputation for pursuing women in influential places. [...]

Mr Lati was initially thought to have been expelled after visiting two Israeli spies who were imprisoned in New Zealand for trying to obtain false passports.

Officially, he was employed to perform consular duties at the Israeli embassy and his job was to provide assistance to Israeli citizens in trouble. [...]

Comment: In summary: Laty has a reputation for pursuing women in influential places. Ruddock is the head of an Australian spy agency. Laty happens to meet Ruddock's daughter in Beijing several years ago, and then just happens to turn up again nearby in Australia. The very agency that Ruddock directs suspects that Laty was spying for Israel. You do the math.

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Allies Resisting as U.S. Pushes Terror Label for Hezbollah
Published: February 17, 2005

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 - As rising instability in Lebanon increases tensions in the Middle East, the Bush administration is arguing with European governments over whether they should designate the Lebanon-based Shiite group Hezbollah a terrorist organization, American and European officials say.

The United States is already stepping up pressure on Iran and Syria, Hezbollah's main sponsors. The American rift with Syria deepened this week, with suspicions that Syria might have been behind the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister in Beirut on Monday.

The disagreement over Hezbollah presents another challenge for President Bush, who will go to Europe on Sunday on a mission to fix ruptures with Europe over the Iraq war.

In the past two weeks, the officials said, France has rebuffed appeals by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, which would prevent it from raising money in Europe through charity groups. The United States has long called Hezbollah a terrorist organization, but the French, American and European officials said, have opposed doing so, and argue that making such a designation now would be unwise, given the new turbulence in Lebanon.

Israeli and American officials say that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has told them that he, too, regards Hezbollah as a destructive force in the Middle East, one determined to undermine peace talks by supporting militant groups that attack Israelis.

The officials and diplomats interviewed would not give their names, saying they did not want to be seen as worsening tensions between the United States and Europe on the eve of Mr. Bush's trip.

The Europeans are not solidly opposed to listing Hezbollah as a terrorist group, the officials said. The Netherlands, Italy and Poland support the Bush administration's view, several officials said, while Germany and Britain believe the issue is moot unless the French change their minds. One European diplomat said other countries were "hiding behind" France on the issue.

Hezbollah, which is based in the Bekaa region in Lebanon, gets much of its financial support from Syria and Iran, American officials say. But besides carrying out attacks on civilians and opposing Israel, Hezbollah also provides social services to thousands of Lebanese Shiites and has political representatives in Lebanon's Parliament.

"This is a difficult issue because Hezbollah has military operations that we deplore, but Hezbollah is also a political party in Lebanon," said a European official. "Can a political party elected by the Lebanese people be put on a terrorist list? Would that really help deal with terrorism? Now with Lebanon in a fragile state, is this the proper moment to take such a step?"

A European diplomat said the issue of calling Hezbollah a terrorist organization was discussed in Brussels on Wednesday at a meeting of the Clearing House, a unit of the European Union that meets in confidential sessions to review terrorist activities in Europe. The group could reach no consensus, the diplomat said.

"Nothing is going to change on Hezbollah because we don't have an agreement among the member states," the diplomat said. "That doesn't mean we won't get a consensus. I know the Americans are impatient, but the European Union has 25 states, and these things take time."

The Bush administration persuaded the Europeans to list Hamas, the Palestinian militant organization, as a terrorist group in September 2003. But enforcement of a ban on Hamas's fund-raising and financial activities has been left to each country, so the effort has been uneven, European officials say. Most countries have not made serious enforcement efforts, they said.

Now, in a measure of continuing trans-Atlantic disagreement about how to handle the Middle East, some European countries are questioning whether Hamas should remain on the terrorist list, because some of its members won municipal posts in recent Palestinian elections, and Europeans want to encourage Hamas to enter the mainstream of Palestinian politics.

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U.S. may use a proxy to attack Iran - Mahathir
2/17/2005 7:30:00 PM GMT

The former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed says that the United States might use Israel as a proxy to launch an attack against Iran targeting its nuclear facilities, the official Bernama news agency reported.

Dr. Mahathir said he believes that the U.S. would use Israel to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, similar to what happened in Iraq when Israel bombed it before Washington launches its full-scale war.

Commenting on recent developments regarding Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs, Dr. Mahathir told reporters that the "U.S. seems to want other people to fight for them".

He added that Washington would attack Iran because it thought that the latter doesn't possess any weapon of mass destructions although such allegation were made against the Islamic Republic.

"They attacked Iraq because they know Iraq has no weapon of mass destruction," he told reporters here Wednesday.

On the other hand, the U.S. is unlikely to attack North Korea, although it recently declared that it has nuclear weapons, said Dr. Mahathir, a fierce critic of Israeli and U.S. foreign policies who retired in 2003.

"North Korea, the agenda is different. It is not just weapons of mass destruction, there is also this element of hatred against Muslim. There is a religious element in this thing. If it is non-Muslim, the U.S. will not attack," he said.

The former Malaysian Premier, moreover, said that the U.S. would be more cautious in handling North Korea's nuclear issue, fearing retaliation from a country that has weapons of mass destruction.

Last month, the U.S. President said he wouldn't not rule out using force against Iran it refused to give up its nuclear ambitions.
Mahathir had always charged that the U.S. foreign policy, under the cover of the so-called "war on terrorism", has a strong anti-Muslim bias.

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Iran warns retaliation after blast scare
Thursday 17 February 2005, 14:03 Makka Time, 11:03 GMT

Iran has warned it will respond immediately to any military strike after a blast 150km from a nuclear site sparked fears of an attack, state news agency IRNA says.

"An attack, whatever it is, against any site, whether it be nuclear or not, would produce a very rapid response," Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani said on Thursday.
"The Iranian nation would not yet have even been informed of an attack against a site, nuclear or not, before learning of our decisive reaction."
A big explosion near Iran's Gulf port of Dailam on Wednesday raised speculation of military activity when local Arabic-language channel Al-Alam said witnesses reported seeing a missile being fired from an unidentified plane.
But a senior security official insisted there was no hostile strike, just major earthworks in a largely uninhabited area in the south of the country.
The blast occurred near Dailam, about 150km from Bushehr, where a controversial nuclear power plant is being built with Russian help.
Al-Alam later dropped any reference to a missile strike from its news bulletins.
"Nothing happened in the region" of Bushehr, said Shamkhani, accusing the media of exaggeration.
Financial market shake
Reports of the blast sent a shock through world financial markets.
The US stock market dropped briefly and sent oil prices higher; underscoring world jitters over Iran's nuclear programme, which Washington says conceals an effort to build an atomic bomb.
"This explosion basically sent chills down the spines of futures traders," said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Alaron Trading Corp in Chicago. [...]

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Bush says US will support Israel against Iranian threat
18 February 2005 0602 hrs - AFP

WASHINGTON : President George W. Bush said Thursday that the United States would back Israel if it were threatened by Iran, which Washington suspects wants to build nuclear weapons.

"Iran has made it clear they don't like Israel, to put it bluntly. And the Israelis are concerned about whether or not Iran develops a nuclear weapon, as are we, as should everybody," Bush told a press conference after naming a new national intelligence director.

The US leader said the main aim was to support diplomatic attempts to solve the crisis over Iran's nuclear program.

But he added: "Clearly, if I was the leader of Israel and I'd listened to some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded the security of my country, I'd be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon as well.

"And in that Israel is our ally and in that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is threatened," Bush said. [...]

Earlier this month, Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News that Washington backed the European diplomatic effort but that it had not "eliminated any alternative." He did not elaborate on what the alternatives would be.

In January, Cheney said he worried that Israel might strike to shut down Tehran's nuclear programs.

"One of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked," he told MSNBC in an interview.

"Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards," he said.

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British plant missing 30 kilograms of plutonium
Thursday, February 17, 2005 Updated at 7:40 AM EST
Associated Press

London - A British nuclear-reprocessing plant cannot account for nearly 30 kilograms of plutonium, but authorities believe it is an accounting issue rather than a loss of potential bomb-making material, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority said Thursday.

The amount of material listed as missing at the Sellafield plant in northwestern England was "within international standards of expected measurement accuracies for closing a nuclear material balance at the type of facility concerned," the authority said.

"There is no evidence to suggest that any of the apparent losses reported were real losses of nuclear material," the authority added.

In 2003, the processing plant reported it could not account for 19 kilograms of plutonium. The plant said that was consistent with figures published since the 1970s.

Plutonium accounts for 1 per cent of the nuclear material handled at Sellafield, the rest is uranium.

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Five dead, 40 wounded in worst Thai bombing since start of unrest
18 February 2005 0006 hrs

YALA, Thailand : A car bomb exploded Thursday outside a hotel in southern Thailand, killing five people and injuring up to 40 just two hours after Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra cut short a trip to the restive region, officials and police said.

The blast in the southern border town of Sungai Kolok was the deadliest single bombing in a campaign of violence that has gripped the Muslim-dominated deep south for the past 13 months and claimed about 600 lives.

"The number of dead has risen to five now... and some 40 others are injured," Narathiwat provincial Governor Pracha Taerat said in a live interview with broadcaster iTV.

Police at the scene told AFP the bomb was detonated in a pickup truck outside the Marina Hotel at 7:05 pm (1205 GMT), in an area crowded with open-air beer bars.

"This was a huge car bomb, with almost 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives," the governor said, adding about four shop fronts were destroyed in the blast. [...]

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Two killed in Somalia blast
Thursday 17 February 2005, 14:13 Makka Time, 11:13 GMT

An explosion has killed two people and wounded six in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, diplomats based in neighbouring Kenya said.

According to witnesses, the blast on Thursday was caused by a bomb that exploded near a hotel in southern Mogadishu where an African Union (AU) team was staying.

Witnesses said all the victims were Somali civilians, but Mogadishu governor Abdullahi Ganey told reporters he believed the bomb had been intended for the AU team, which has been looking at security and logistics for the peacekeepers. 

"I assume the bomb was targeting the AU mission, but still we shall investigate who was behind this attack," he said. 

The AU delegation, which left the capital on a previously scheduled visit to the northern town of Jowhar shortly after the explosion, had been due to pass by the site of the bombing. [...]

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Canberra's doomsday plan
By Mike Seccombe
February 18, 2005

The Federal Government last night refused to confirm reports that a secret bunker could be built near Canberra to protect the nation's leaders in the event of a nuclear or terrorist attack.

But the Opposition strongly backed the idea of such "continuity of government" planning, even though it is doubtful whether there would be room for them in the bunker.

The Bulletin magazine quoted unnamed Government and intelligence sources saying that in the event of a terrorist attack, senior ministers, bureaucrats and the governor-general could be taken to a bunker near Canberra.

Sites near the ACT had been considered, among them "a secure, possibly underground, facility at the Australian military's Headquarters Joint Operations facility which is due to open at Bungendore, about 35kilometres outside Canberra, in 2008".

The report said cabinet's national security subcommittee approved "broad elements of the government post-doomsday blueprint" in 2004, and a final "continuity of government" plan was being prepared.

The Prime Minister's office last night declined to comment on the report, beyond answers given on Wednesday to several Opposition questions on notice.

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Hong Kong ferry collides with Chinese cargo boat, 90 hurt
17 February 2005 1204 hrs- AFP
HONG KONG : A passenger ferry collided with a cargo boat amid heavy fog in Hong Kong Thursday, injuring more than 90 people, the government and media said.

The catamaran ferry carrying more than 150 passengers collided with a Chinese cargo vessel off Hong Kong's Tsing Yi Island, throwing passengers on to the deck and leaving four people seriously hurt, a government spokeswoman said.

Another 90 were slightly injured.

They were all taken to hospital for treatment, she said.

Marine police launches and fire service boats rushed to rescue passengers after the collision, which badly damaged the bow of the high-speed catamaran.

In a separate accident, a cruise ship collided with a boat in the east of Hong Kong's harbour resulting in two people being tossed overboard, local media said.

The two were rescued and one taken to hospital, police said.
Heavy fog Thursday morning reduced visibility in Hong Kong's crowded waters to less than 100 metres (yards).

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Eight Die in Plane Crash in Colorado
By ROBERT WELLER Associated Press Writer
Feb 17, 2005

PUEBLO, Colo. - Federal investigators said the pilots of a Circuit City corporate jet were battling poor weather just before the plane crashed a few miles from an airport, killing all eight on board.

Though the cause of the crash wasn't known, Federation Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus said Wednesday the flight crew was relying on the plane's instruments used when weather doesn't permit visual landings.

The National Weather Service reported low clouds, fog and freezing drizzle with visibility of about six miles at Pueblo Airport at the time of the crash. The temperature was 27 degrees.

Aviation analyst John Nance said freezing drizzle is risky because it makes it easy for ice to form on the wings, which adds weight and can affect handling of the plane.

"You can overwhelm almost any airplane, even a 747 if you get into certain types of icing," Nance said.

Two witnesses told investigators they heard loud popping noises from the twin-jet Cessna Citation C-560 shortly before the crash at about 9 a.m., Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino said.

NTSB spokeswoman Lauren Peduzzi said the agency would talk with the Pueblo Airport tower controllers to see if the pilots indicated any problems before crashing on the prairie five miles east of the airport. [...]

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Three escape harm as plane crash-lands
February 17, 2005

SUTHERLIN, Oregon - Three people escaped injury when the small plane they were in crashed near here Wednesday.

The pilot of the plane, Albert Satterla, 66, of Roseburg, told Douglas County deputies that the engine of his 1981 Mooney failed shortly after takeoff from Roseburg.

Satterla turned around, came through fog and put the plane down in a grassy, hillside pasture about three miles southwest of Sutherlin, investigators said. [...]

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Details revealed in Clearwater plane crash that killed two
The Associated Press
February 17, 2005

(Alabama) - Two men who died when their plane crashed into a residential neighborhood were on a test flight to find out if a problem with the fuel pump had been fixed, a family friend said.

Ralph C. Herrlin, 78, of Clearwater, and Jim Smith, 63, of Palm Harbor, were killed when the four-seat, single-engine Beechcraft Debonaire went down Tuesday just southeast of Clearwater Air Park, police spokesman Wayne Shelor said Wednesday.

No one was hurt on the ground, but the plane sheared off part of a home's roof, narrowly missing a woman and a dog inside.

The crash has stirred criticism of the small air field located in the middle of the city near homes. In the past 18 months, three planes leaving or landing there have crashed into its suburban surroundings, killing five people. [...]

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Two dead, two remain hospitalized following Monday plane crash
Thursday February 17, 2005

LEESBURG, Florida - All four of the victims of the crash of a small airplane at a private landing strip just west of the Leesburg city limits on Monday were identified Tuesday by a spokeswoman for the Lake County Sheriff's Office. [...]

Mysinger said the Federal Aviation Administration and National Traffic Safety Board are expected to handle the investigation into the cause of the crash.

The crash, which occurred shortly after 4 p.m. Monday at Flying Baron Airport, happened as the pilot was maneuvering the aircraft to get in position to land, said Jeff Kennedy, Southeast Regional director of the National Transportation Safety Board.

On Monday, witnesses told Lake County Sheriff's deputies they believed the plane was coming in for a landing at the private airstrip. According to Mysinger, the plane came to rest against a fence at the end of the runway.

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Doctor on staff at county hospital killed in plane crash
Wednesday, February 16, 2005

(Mississippi) - A Meridian doctor on staff at Neshoba County General Hospital who died in a aerobatic plane crash Saturday was remembered as easy going.

The doctor died when the the plane he was piloting crashed and burst into flames near Meridian, officials said.

Dr. George Twente II and a passenger, Andy Bruno, died in the 3:30 p.m., crash just east of U.S. 45 in rural Lauderdale County.

"The pilot and passenger died as a result of the crash," said Maj. Ward Calhoun of the Lauderdale County Sheriffís Department.

FAA officials arrived Sunday morning and according to Calhoun the remains of the plane were removed from the scene after the initial investigation. [...]

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Emergency Landing
February 16, 2005
By KVAL News Staff

Near Roseburg, Idaho - Steady nerves and good pilot skills helped three people survive a crash landing today near Roseburg.

The small plane had just taken off from Roseburg on the way to Lewiston, Idaho. The pilot told Douglas County deputies he experienced engine failure and started looking for a place for an emergency landing.

"When the pilot got down thru the fog, he noticed a grass strip on a ridgeback of a set of mountains west of I-5 and put the plane down, taking off a few trees, bringing it to a safe landing , as safe as could be possible," said Douglas County Deputy Ken Zarbano.

"Very very lucky, and from what I see here in the surrounding area, an extremely professional job of picking a spot to put this plane down," said Zarbano.

Because of the remoteness of the landing site, it took deputies about an hour to find the survivors after they called 9-1-1 on a cell phone. There appears to be quite a bit of damage to the plane.

The pilot, Albert Satterla of Umpqua, and two passengers, David Van Sickle of Roseburg and Chass Thuresson of Junction City, walked away with no injuries.

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Brothers survive plane crash: Vintage aircraft goes down in field near Penn Yan
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Times Staff Writer

MILO, N.Y.- Dale Hallings was inside his Route 14A home talking on the phone yesterday morning when he heard an airplane engine "racing" outside. The sound was much louder than even heís accustomed to, living just a short distance from the Penn Yan-Yates County Airport.

Hallings had started to walk outside when he heard a loud bang, followed by the sight of a small, twin engine airplane on fire up the road. He quickly called 911.

"I definitely knew something was wrong," said Hallings, a Milo town councilman, who lives at 2836 Route 14A.

The plane - a 1939 Grumman Twin Engine Amphibious Aircraft model G21A - crashed around 9:30 a.m. in a field on Route 14A, just south of Milo Center Road and a few miles outside Penn Yan.

State Police Sgt. Steven Neuberger said brothers Paul and Daryl Middlebrook, both of Penn Yan, had just taken off from the local airport on a practice/training run when they apparently experienced some engine trouble while heading south. [...]

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Bird Flu 'Adapting to Mammals'
By Simon Evans, PA
Thu 17 Feb 2005

A four-year-old Vietnamese boy died from a bird flu-related disease despite not displaying breathing problems or other obvious symptoms, Oxford University researchers said today.

This finding has prompted fears that avian influenza, as it is formally known, could be far more prevalent and humans far more susceptible to it than previously realised, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The report concluded that avian flu is "progressively adapting to mammals."

It comes after an investigation was carried out into the boy's death last year and that of his nine-year-old sister following a similar illness.

Last February the siblings, from Vietnam's Dong Thap Province, were brought to hospital suffering with vomiting and diarrhoea and were later said to have died from acute encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Bird flu was not considered to be a causal factor. No post-mortem examinations were carried out.

Apart from the last day of their lives, the two children displayed no respiratory difficulties, the report said.

But the study, led by Menno de Jong, an Oxford University virologist based at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh, found that the boy was heavily infected with the H5N1 avian flu virus.

Samples taken after his death showed bird flu not only in his lungs but in his blood, nose, faeces and in the fluid surrounding his brain.

It was assumed by Mr de Jong that the boy's sister's death two weeks earlier was caused by a similar syndrome, but post-mortem samples were discarded and tests were unable to prove this.

Mr de Jong said: "In both siblings, the clinical diagnosis was acute encephalitis. Neither patient had respiratory symptoms at presentation.

"These cases suggest that the spectrum of influenza H5N1 is wider than previously thought."

During 2004 45 cases of avian influenza were reported in humans, 33 of which were fatal.

The boy Mr de Jong studied died on February 17 last year. His sister died on February 2.

The investigation found that the siblings had not been exposed to ill poultry but that they had bathed regularly in a canal near to their home which contained domestic ducks.

Mr de Jong said: "The reports suggest that avian influenza virus is progressively adapting to mammals."

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Nine missing off Samoa in wake of Cyclone Olaf
18 February 2005 0614 hrs

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa : Fears were held for nine fishermen missing at sea off Samoa and American Samoa two days after Super Cyclone Olaf swept through the region.

Two of the men were on a vessel known to have sunk when pounded by 190 kilometre-an-hour (119 miles per hour) winds and 15-metre (50-foot) seas, and the American owner of another boat with seven people on board said he had not heard from the crew since Wednesday. [...]

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Magnitude 4.9 Earthquake - ALEUTIAN IS., ALASKA
2005 February 18 10:06:18 UTC

A light earthquake occurred at 10:06:18 (UTC) on Friday, February 18, 2005. The magnitude 4.9 event has been located in the ANDREANOF ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN IS., ALASKA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

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Magnitude 5.1 Quake - ALEUTIAN IS., ALASKA
2005 February 18 10:33:39 UTC

A moderate earthquake occurred at 10:33:39 (UTC) on Friday, February 18, 2005. The magnitude 5.1 event has been located in the ANDREANOF ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN IS., ALASKA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

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