Friday, March 18, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Redefining Compassion and Decency


Britney Spears, and a whole host of other simple Americans may believe that we should just "trust the President in every decision", but the task is becoming more difficult by the day. Bush justified his nomination of Wolfowitz to head the "world bank" (a scary concept in itself), with the claim that Wolfowitz is: "a compassionate, decent man who will do a fine job". We have no doubt that Wolfowitz will do a "fine job" as head of an institution that was created to mercilessly squeeze the wealth - and ultimately life - out of the world's poorest and most marginalised and into the coffers of multinational corporations. Our problem is with the claim that Wolfowitz is a "compassionate and decent man".

It is no secret that Wolfowitz was instrumental in laying the plans for the invasion of Iraq which included lying to the world about the existence of Saddam's WMDs. That little premeditated deception led to the deaths of over 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians who would be alive today if it were not for Wolfowitz bestowing his particular brand of "decency and compassion" on them.

Reuters opines that Wolfowitz's nomination:

"coming on the heels of the appointment of hawk John Bolton as United Nations ambassador, highlighted White House contempt for international diplomacy"

but over the past few years the US has made painfully clear its contempt for international diplomacy, the appointment of Wolfowitz to the world's major financial institution simply adds the US' contempt for the world's poor to the equation. Not, of course, that we weren't already aware of US policy towards the poor, but at least now it's official.

The real question however is why has a defence department veteran and war hawk like Wolfowitz been given control of the world's purse strings? Up until now, the economic warfare waged by outgoing World Bank chief Wolfensohn, was kept separate from the conventional war waged by people like Wolfowitz, even if they shared the same goals. Over the past ten years and on the orders of his masters in Washington, Wolfensohn used his position to undermine Russia's attempts to rejoin the world's clique of "superpowers" after the "fall of Communism", as John Helmer writing in the Russia Journal states:

President James Wolfensohn was one of the many instruments the US, as the World Bank’s dominant shareholder, used to destroy the economic foundations of its rival superpower; pay stipends to Russian quislings; and oblige the Russian government to incur sizeable debts for the privilege of being advised to dismantle its systems of command and control, and transfer the nation’s most valuable resources into the hands of a dozen individuals eager to betray their country for personal profit. Not without reason was Wolfensohn’s favourite Russian counterparty, Victor Chernomyrdin, the prime minister who enriched himself through creating Russia’s largest company, Gazprom. Wolfensohn was waging war by other means; Chernomyrdin was his collaborator; and the Russian treasury paid in full, principal and interest, for its defeat.

International reaction to Wolfowitz's nomination has been muted to say the least, the most favorable comments being something along the lines of "oh". Nobel Prize-winning director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and adviser to Kofi Annan Professor Jeffrey Sachs summed up the 'official' objections to Wolfowitz's nomination:

"We need someone with professional experience in helping people to escape from poverty, which Mr Wolfowitz does not have."

Of course, the real purpose of the World Bank was never to help people escape poverty, but rather to pry open developing countries’ economies and resources with the lure of loans in order to satisfy the insatiable appetites of mainly U.S. corporations, all at the expense of the indigenous population. The subsequent pillaging of resources and exporting of profits by Western corporations ensures that such countries remain indefinitely in debt to the World Bank and Western corporations. It is nothing less than an economic version of 'divide and conquer'.

For example, most "humanitarian" and "relief" projects funded by the World Bank are little more than cover operations that consistently fail to achieve their stated goals. For example, the UK Times tells us that:

an audit last year (2004) of the UN Millennium Development Goals Project, an ambitions plan launched in 2000 that called for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, uncovered a disturbing lack of progress. Not one part of the scheme was judged to be "on track" in sub-Saharan Africa. In some areas the situation had worsened. The number of Africans suffering from tuberculosis, for example, had actually increased since the scheme's launch.

As we have been reporting, all the signs point to the fact that the US is facing an imminent economic collapse. If Bush's war on terror is to be taken to the next level, the ruling Neocon elite in Washington are going to need more than fabricated intelligence and military might to continue to effect "regime change" in the Middle East and beyond. Up until now the World Bank has been reluctant to finance corporate American projects in Iraq. With Wolfowitz at the helm however, the Neocons will in a much better position to divert funds towards 'helping' in the 'reconstruction' of those countries that have been 'liberated' in the 'war on terror'.

Of course, Israel could hardly contain it's joy at the nomination. In the understatement of the year, the Jerusalem Post stated:

"Wolfowitz is considered a friend of Israel and as World Bank chief is expected to supervise the implementation of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects to rebuild Gaza. Wolfowitz would also likely ensure that the Palestinians fulfill strict conditions regarding reform and democratization in order to get the money."

If the strict conditions are in any way similar to the conditions for 'peace' laid down by Sharon then there is little chance of the Palestinians ever seeing any World Bank money, or peace.

The World Bank is also the body that will oversee the channeling of millions of dollars into the Galilee and Negev for development of these regions as well. Of course, there will be no "reform and democratization" (read "stopping of the killing of innocent Palestinians and occupation their land) demanded of Israel as a precondition for receiving World Bank funds.

Whichever way you look at it, the nomination of Wolfowitz to the World Bank does not auger well for any of us. It foretells further, and no doubt more flagrant, lies and deception, leading to more fabricated "war on terror" and the further exploitation of the people and resources of those countries lucky enough to be "liberated".

In all of the political and economic intrigue surrounding Wolfowitz's nomination, we should not forget the human factor, specifically the American people who cannot avoid the suffering that must come as a result of their persistent belief in lies and illusion. If Bush can get away with presenting a heartless, bloodthirsty bureaucrat like Wolfowitz as a "compassionate and decent man " and have most people continue to "trust him in every decision", we shudder to think just how bad it has to get before the American people wake up to the true nature and intentions of their "elected" representatives. The sad fact however is that, if such a day ever arrives, it will most likely come much, much too late, if indeed the "revolt by" date has not already expired.

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Wolfowitz to Rule the World (Bank)

By David Corn, The Nation. Posted March 16, 2005.

First George W. Bush picks U.N.-basher John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations. Then he nominates Karen Hughes, a champion spinner who has little foreign policy experience, to be under secretary of state in charge of enhancing the United States' image abroad. Next, Bush taps Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to run the World Bank.

The Wolfowitz nomination is a win for the Pentagon but a loss for the world. Wolfowitz's achievements as a warmonger may say little about his views on international development, but his record on Iraq is one of miscalculation and exaggeration. And the poor of the world deserve a World Bank president with better judgment.

A leading neocon, Wolfowitz was a chief cheerleader for the war in Iraq – even before 9/11. In the first months of the Bush administration, Wolfowitz advocated toppling Saddam Hussein by sending in U.S. troops to seize Iraq's oil fields and establish a foothold. Then, according to Wolfowitz, the rest of the country would rise up against Hussein. As Bob Woodward reported, then-Secreatry of State Colin Powell called this idea "lunacy."

Right after the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, Wolfowitz again called for attacking Iraq. He argued that Iraq would be a much easier target than Afghanistan. So much for his strategic sense. And before the invasion of Iraq he was a key pitchman for the phony case that Saddam Hussein presented a direct WMD threat to the United States. For example, on Dec. 2, 2002, he said, "[Bush's] determination to use force if necessary is because of the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction." At a subsequent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, Wolfowitz claimed the WMD case for war was "very convincing." (After the invasion, WMD hunters David Kay and Charles Duelfer concluded there had been no WMDs. And a Senate intelligence committee report noted that the pre-war intelligence had been flawed – that is, not all that convincing.)

Shortly after the start of the war, Wolfowitz declared there had been "no oversell" of the WMD threat. No "oversell"? He said there were WMDs; there were no WMDs. Isn't that, by definition, overselling? Wolfowitz did tell Vanity Fair that the WMD argument had been quite convenient: "For bureaucratic reasons. we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on." It just happened to be the only reason deployed by Bush and Wolfowitz that made the immediate safety of the country the paramount issue. But with the WMDs clearly missing in action, Wolfowitz tried to pivot. Appearing before Congress, he explained that intelligence is "an art not a science" and that the absence of WMDs did not mean "that anybody misled anybody." Yet before the war he had depicted the intelligence not as art" but as hard-and-fast and "very convincing" material.

When the Bush White House was pushing – or manipulating – the case for war, Wolfowitz sided with the administration hawks who believed Hussein's regime had a significant connection to al Qaeda, despite the absence of credible evidence. He pressed the CIA and FBI to find proof of the unconfirmed report that 9/11 ringleader Mohamad Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague – even after the two intelligence agencies had already investigated the matter and had found nothing to corroborate the allegation.

While selling the war to come, Wolfowitz told Congress the conflict in Iraq and the subsequent reconstruction would be financed by oil sales. That, too, was wrong. And Wolfowitz shares responsibility for the administration's inadequate planning for the post-invasion challenges in Iraq. Gen. Tommy Franks, who commanded the Iraq invasion, told Woodward that he had urged Wolfowitz and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to prepare for the aftermath, but the pair did not do so. When Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki suggested that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to get the job done in Iraq, Wolfowitz scoffed at him and said Shinseki was "wildly off the mark." Misreading the task ahead, he also naively remarked, "Like the people of France in the 1940s, [the Iraqis] view us as their hoped-for liberators." Was that not another "oversell"?

Perhaps developments in Iraq and the Middle East will move toward Wolfowitz's grand neocon vision. The elections in Iraq were a positive and encouraging event. But the war is not over, and all the consequences of the war are not yet realized or recognized – even though some direct (and still-mounting) costs are clear: 1,500 dead Americans, tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians (perhaps over 100,000), $200 billion in taxpayer funds, a dramatic drop in the United States' standing abroad, the creation (according to the National Intelligence Council) of a new breeding ground for anti-American terrorists), and the uncontrolled dispersal of equipment that could be used to produce unconventional weapons. This war, as of yet, is no slam-dunk.

So what's Wolfowitz's reward for his various misjudgments and exaggerations? The fellow who is co-culpable for diminishing U.S. credibility overseas and who symbolizes arrogance and hubris in policymaking is handed a plum position. (Outgoing World Bank president James Wolfensohn got to play cello with Yo-Yo Ma.) What signal does it send to the rest of the world, particularly those troubled nations that need effective assistance from the World Bank? It seems the White House doesn't care. After the Bolton appointment, why worry about this one? The G8 nations, the Europeans will roll over. It's good to be king in a unipolar world

In 1967, Robert McNamara, the captain of the Vietnam tragedy, left his post as secretary of defense to become president of the World Bank. So Bush is establishing a bipartisan tradition: you screw up a war, you get to run the World Bank. With this announcement, the impoverished of the world have less reason for hope.

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Europe cool, aid groups dismayed over World Bank role for Wolfowitz
Friday March 18, 2:31 AM
European capitals reacted coolly to the nomination of US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to be the next head of the World Bank, but aid groups voiced dismay and some puzzlement.

Reaction to the surprise nomination ranged from the outright hostile -- "a disaster," one critic said -- to the tepid, with diplomats cautious in their language.

In London, a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said Britain would hold "consultations" about any appointment.

"It's for the Bank's board to take the decision on the appointment of the president of the Bank, and we are not going to get into a commentary on that selection process," he added.

Britain's finance minister Gordon Brown earlier hailed Wolfowitz as "a very distinguished person" but avoided other comment.

However, Britain's former international development secretary Clare Short denounced the nomination of an arch-conservative seen as a key architect of the US-led war on Iraq. US President George W. Bush's choice to name Wolfowitz was akin to showing "two fingers to the world," she said, referring to a vulgar British gesture.

"This is really shocking. It's as though they (the Americans) are trying to wreck our international systems," she told Channel 4 news.

In Brussels, a European Commission spokeswoman said it hoped the next World Bank chief would "put development at the centre" when current president James Wolfensohn stands down later this year.

She dodged a question on whether European nations, deeply divided over the Iraq war, would try to scupper Wolfowitz's appointment, pointing out that the commission -- the executive arm of the 25-member European Union -- "is not on the board" of the Bank.

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier called the nomination a "proposal" which would be examined.

Germany's Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul noted that "the enthusiasm in old Europe is not exactly overwhelming."

"I doubt the Europeans will be able to block it as (US President) George W. Bush probably cleared it among European leaders: Tony Blair and possibly even Jacques Chirac," Fraser Cameron, director of studies at the European Policy Center in Brussels, told AFP.

"It appears to be a done deal," Jerome Sgard, of the Paris-based International Information and Prospective Studies Center, concurred.

The head of the French branch of the anti-globalization group Attac, Jacques Nikonoff, said the selection of Wolfowitz confirmed "the determination of the United States to maintain its control of the World Bank, not to develop its original mission, which is to promote development, but to integrate it into its political-military strategy."

"I think this will trigger many negative reactions, both from Western countries and from poor countries," he told AFP.

Some critics called for an overhaul of the "gentleman's agreement" process under which the World Bank chief is generally nominated by Washington and the head of the International Monetary Fund by Europeans.

"Governments should abolish the unspoken 'gentleman's agreement'," said Bernice Romero, advocacy director of the British charity Oxfam International.

"The administration in power will put people in charge who fit their world view," said Matt Phillips, head of public affairs at Save the Children UK. "So clearly the Bush administration is going to put a Bush appointee into its little fiefdom at the World Bank."

Peter Hardstaff of the World Development Movement called Wolfowitz's "a truly terrifying appointment," and the environmental group Greenpeace International saw him as "a disaster for sustainable development, as we fear Wolfowitz will serve US interests first."

In London, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development said it was surprised by Bush's choice and viewed it with "apprehension."

"If you look at Africa, for instance, his main concern has been the war on terrorism," CAFOD's public policy head George Gelber said. "As far as development is concerned, he is an unknown quantity."

Some public support was forthcoming. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, a Bush ally, thought the appointment was "fine" and would have backing from the Tokyo government.

And in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said that "Whoever will become the next president of the World Bank, we will work with him as a president of the World Bank."

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said Wolfowitz should be allowed time to prove himself.

"It is true this nomination has come as a surprise to some in Europe," his spokeswoman said. Wolfowitz "should be allowed to define himself before anyone else defines him. We should wait and see."

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Bush's 'shocking' choice of Wolfowitz for World Bank provokes outrage
By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
18 March 2005
President George Bush's nomination of Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank has triggered reactions ranging from polite acceptance to outright hostility among foreign governments and aid groups.

Some believe he is unqualified for the job while others fear he will be all too effective in using the post to expand America's global dominance.

Although his nomination is almost certain to be accepted by the World Bank's board of directors and participating states, both the European Union and the French government made a point of saying that his assumption of the presidency is not a foregone conclusion.

The French Foreign Minister, Michel Barnier, pointedly described the nomination as a "proposal", while Jacques Chirac, the French President, was said to have "taken note" of the nomination. A European Union spokeswoman, Claude Veron-Reville, said she anticipated a round of talks to discuss Mr Wolfowitz's candidacy before any formal moves to endorse it. "A period of consultations with stakeholders is now starting," she told reporters.

Peter Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, was quoted as saying the nomination "came as a surprise to some in Europe". In Britain, Gordon Brown's office described Mr Wolfowitz, currently Deputy Secretary of Defence, as a "very distinguished person" but said the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not had time to consider his nomination because of his preoccupation with the Budget.

Clare Short, the former international development secretary, described the nomination of the Bush administration's leading neoconservative hawk as the equivalent of sticking up "two fingers to the world". "This is really shocking," she told Channel 4 News. "It's as though they are trying to wreck our international systems."

Caroline Lucas, a British Green and member of the European Parliament, described the nomination as "an insult to the world's poor". "As a leader of the neoconservative movement," she added, "[Wolfowitz's] belief in unfettered free markets and a philosophy that what is in the US's interest is thereby in the interest of the entire world spells disaster for many countries in the developing world."

Much of the criticism of Mr Wolfowitz is focused on his lack of direct experience of the financial sector and his limited exposure to development issues - for much of his life he has been an academic and a diplomat focussed on military and strategic questions. Many experts and government officials also found it troubling that the Bush administration, in nominating someone for a job dependent on consensus-building, would pick someone who has become a symbol of US resistance to that very consensus.

Not only did Mr Wolfowitz push harder than anyone for the invasion of Iraq two years ago - with or without the approval of the rest of the world - he also has a long track record of advocacy of a strong America acting as it sees fit, pre-emptively if necessary, to protect its global interests.

"This appointment signals to developing countries that the US is just as serious about imposing its will on borrowers from the World Bank as on the countries of the Middle East," said Njoki Njoroge Njehu, a director of the US-based 50 Years is Enough Network, an outspoken critic of the World Bank.

Some governments expressed cautious satisfaction with Mr Wolfowitz's nomination, among them Japan, which called the appointment "fine", and China, which said it would be willing work with Mr Wolfowitz in the hope of maintaining what it called "a sustainable and balanced development of the world economy".

But in Europe, such accommodating language was sparse. Many observers questioned the sincerity of President Bush's recent charm offensive in Europe especially since Mr Wolfowitz's nomination followed hot on the heels of the appointment of John Bolton, a harsh critic of the United Nations, as US ambassador to the organisation. "Bolton followed by Wolfowitz sounds like a declaration of war," the French commentator Nicole Bacharan told Reuters, "and if not that, a declaration of contempt."

Comment: And the reaction? Well, look at the following...

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Putin to hold Paris talks with Chirac, Schroeder, Zapatero
Friday March 18, 3:49 PM
President Vladimir Putin of Russia was due in Paris for talks with a trio of European leaders -- Jacques Chirac of France, Gerhard Schroeder of Germany and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain -- whose aim is to bolster ties between Moscow and the EU.

The first encounter of its kind between the four leaders, it was to conclude with a dinner at Chirac's residence, the Elysee palace.

Earlier Chirac was to hold bilateral talks with Putin, host a meeting with Russian writers who are attending the Paris book fair, and accompany the Russian president on a visit to an air force base outside the capital.

According to Chirac's office, the purpose of the informal talks is to "hold out the hand of friendship to Putin to encourage him down the road of political and economic reforms."

However the meeting risked raising hackles elsewhere in Europe -- notably Poland and the Baltics -- where any Franco-German effort to dominate EU relations with Russia would be strongly opposed.

The Elysee palace said other countries -- and the European Commission in Brussels -- should not take umbrage, as it was important all kinds of links with Moscow be encouraged.

The pretext of the encounter is to further the three-way alliance between Putin, Chirac and Schroeder that was triggered by their opposition to the Iraq war two years ago. Zapatero was added to the group at the invitation of Chirac, who sees the Spanish prime minister as a new ally in the European Union.

With Putin increasingly accused of flouting democratic norms in his handling of the press, business and the war in Chechnya, Chirac was expected to favour a more discreet approach to the Russian leader than US President George W. Bush, commentators said.

Last month Bush was publicly critical of Russia's democratic shortcomings at a meeting with Putin in Bratislava, indicating that the US-Russian relationship has entered a period of strain.

The French president regularly states that the EU has a strategic interest in developing a "strong, stable, balanced and trusting" relationship with Russia, aides said.

For France, that means the EU should conclude talks with Russia on the so-called four "common spaces" meant to guide bilateral ties until 2007 -- economy, justice and internal security, external security, and education and culture.

The Kremlin -- which considers France, Germany and Spain as the driving force behind the EU -- says it also wants to move forward on the "common spaces" in Paris, ahead of the EU-Russia summit set for May 10 in Moscow.

A spokesman for Zapatero said the three European leaders could raise the thorny issue of Chechnya with Putin, in the wake of the killing earlier this month of rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov by Russian forces.

But any mention of the conflict in the breakaway republic would be made in a discreet way, with Chirac's office simply restating that France has always urged a political solution to the fighting.

Iran could also be on the agenda for the summit. Britain, France and Germany are trying to secure guarantees that Tehran will not use its atomic energy programme -- which Russia is helping to develop -- to acquire nuclear weapons.

Comment: Might one of the subjects up for discussion be dealing with Bonnie King Georgie across the Atlantic? After the one-two knock-out punch of Bolton to the UN and Wolfie to the World Bank, the Europeans will need to regroup and think through their strategy. A leisurely supper at the Elysée might be just the ticket.

The Bushkreig unleashed since the beginning of the second term has hit hard: the illusion of elections in the midst of an occupying army and national resistence movement in Iraq; the murder of Hariri by "forces unknown" in order to destablise Lebanon and get Syrian troops out of the country so that it can have "free elections"; more pressure on the government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela; the appointments of hard-core neo-cons to important positions with international scope; along with a smoke and mirrors visit through Europe to sow confusion.

With most Americans believing that Iraq is free and better off than under Saddam, and the stench of praise for Bush for succeeding in opening up the Middle East to "democracy" after killing Hariri and blaming it on Syria appearing even in the European press, the lies are flying fast and thick.

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Secret US plans for Iraq's oil

By Greg Palast
Reporting for Newsnight
BBC News
Thursday, 17 March, 2005, 15:41 GMT

The Bush administration made plans for war and for Iraq's oil before the 9/11 attacks, sparking a policy battle between neo-cons and Big Oil, BBC's Newsnight has revealed.

Two years ago today - when President George Bush announced US, British and Allied forces would begin to bomb Baghdad - protesters claimed the US had a secret plan for Iraq's oil once Saddam had been conquered.

In fact there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of "Big Oil" executives and US State Department "pragmatists".

"Big Oil" appears to have won. The latest plan, obtained by Newsnight from the US State Department was, we learned, drafted with the help of American oil industry consultants.

Insiders told Newsnight that planning began "within weeks" of Bush's first taking office in 2001, long before the September 11th attack on the US.

An Iraqi-born oil industry consultant, Falah Aljibury, says he took part in the secret meetings in California, Washington and the Middle East. He described a State Department plan for a forced coup d'etat.

Mr Aljibury himself told Newsnight that he interviewed potential successors to Saddam Hussein on behalf of the Bush administration.

Secret sell-off plan

The industry-favoured plan was pushed aside by a secret plan, drafted just before the invasion in 2003, which called for the sell-off of all of Iraq's oil fields. The new plan was crafted by neo-conservatives intent on using Iraq's oil to destroy the Opec cartel through massive increases in production above Opec quotas.

The sell-off was given the green light in a secret meeting in London headed by Ahmed Chalabi shortly after the US entered Baghdad, according to Robert Ebel.

Mr Ebel, a former Energy and CIA oil analyst, now a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told Newsnight he flew to the London meeting at the request of the State Department.

Mr Aljibury, once Ronald Reagan's "back-channel" to Saddam, claims that plans to sell off Iraq's oil, pushed by the US-installed Governing Council in 2003, helped instigate the insurgency and attacks on US and British occupying forces.

"Insurgents used this, saying, 'Look, you're losing your country, you're losing your resources to a bunch of wealthy billionaires who want to take you over and make your life miserable,'" said Mr Aljibury from his home near San Francisco.

"We saw an increase in the bombing of oil facilities, pipelines, built on the premise that privatisation is coming."

Privatisation blocked by industry

Philip Carroll, the former CEO of Shell Oil USA who took control of Iraq's oil production for the US Government a month after the invasion, stalled the sell-off scheme.

Mr Carroll told us he made it clear to Paul Bremer, the US occupation chief who arrived in Iraq in May 2003, that: "There was to be no privatisation of Iraqi oil resources or facilities while I was involved."

Ariel Cohen, of the neo-conservative Heritage Foundation, told Newsnight that an opportunity had been missed to privatise Iraq's oil fields.

He advocated the plan as a means to help the US defeat Opec, and said America should have gone ahead with what he called a "no-brainer" decision.

Mr Carroll hit back, telling Newsnight, "I would agree with that statement. To privatize would be a no-brainer. It would only be thought about by someone with no brain."

New plans, obtained from the State Department by Newsnight and Harper's Magazine under the US Freedom of Information Act, called for creation of a state-owned oil company favoured by the US oil industry. It was completed in January 2004 under the guidance of Amy Jaffe of the James Baker Institute in Texas.

Formerly US Secretary of State, Baker is now an attorney representing Exxon-Mobil and the Saudi Arabian government

Questioned by Newsnight, Ms Jaffe said the oil industry prefers state control of Iraq's oil over a sell-off because it fears a repeat of Russia's energy privatisation. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, US oil companies were barred from bidding for the reserves.

Ms Jaffe says US oil companies are not warm to any plan that would undermine Opec and the current high oil price: "I'm not sure that if I'm the chair of an American company, and you put me on a lie detector test, I would say high oil prices are bad for me or my company."

The former Shell oil boss agrees. In Houston, he told Newsnight: "Many neo conservatives are people who have certain ideological beliefs about markets, about democracy, about this, that and the other. International oil companies, without exception, are very pragmatic commercial organizations. They don't have a theology."

Comment: And here we sit, the little people, stuck between a rock and a very hard place. We have two immoral pathological bullies fighting over the spoils of planet earth. On the one hand we have big business represented by the oil companies that are very "pragmatic" in their approach to destroying and plundering the planet. On the other hand we have the Neocons, a group of crazed "ideologues", who have commandeered the US military machine and who think that the entire Middle East should be forcibly "democratized" for the benefit of "special" and "chosen" Israel.

Does anyone else want OFF this rock? Should we all just leave them to it? Anyone know when the next intergalactic bus leaves?

Of course, the fact that the Bush administration made plans for war and for Iraq's oil before the 9/11 attacks carries with it serious implications for the official version of events on 9/11 and who was really behind that little False Flag operation. As always, look to who benefits.

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Israeli ambassador: Relationship with U.S. never better

March 14, 2005

Israel's chief diplomat in U.S. speaks at Jewish Federation of Collier County event

A decade of history packed into three years.

Daniel Ayalon, Israel's ambassador to the United States, used that term Sunday to describe events since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to 160 members and guests of the Jewish Federation of Collier County.

Many incidents and consequences have happened since then, and many more are expected in the near future, Ayalon said. He was the guest speaker at the federation's luncheon at the Hideaway Beach Club on Marco Island.

Sunday's luncheon and program were held to benefit the Jewish community on Marco Island, said David Willens, the federation's executive director.

Now, Ayalon said, all eyes are on the changing political landscape and the terrorists in the Middle East to see if they'll follow orders from their leaders or continue their trademark violence and attacks — and especially on how their actions will affect Israel and its relationship with the United States.

That relationship is one of the key factors in the Middle East, he said, and it is more important than ever.

"I feel very privileged to serve as Israel's ambassador during a very challenging time," Ayalon said. "This is a very historic time because the number of events that normally would be spread over a decade have been compressed into the past three years. The relationship between the U.S. and Israel is better than ever before, and Israel is the United States' largest trading partner in the Middle East, despite its small size compared to America."

Ayalon, who became ambassador in July 2002 after serving as chief foreign policy adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, referred often to the cease-fire agreement signed Feb. 8 in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, by Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, succeeded Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat after Arafat's death in November.

Ayalon also mentioned frequently the Roadmap for Peace, developed by the United States in cooperation with Russia, the European Union and the United Nations and presented to Israel and the Palestinian Authority on April 30, 2003. The Roadmap is a plan based on performance and goals with clear phases, timelines and benchmarks. Its ultimate objective is a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The Roadmap's goals can be reached, Ayalon said, but only if the cease-fire agreed upon is honored by the ranks within. Whether it will happen, he said, remains to be seen.

"Terrorists don't have any concept of democracy," Ayalon said. "They are driven by ideological zealots who call for a very fundamentalist Islamic rule. The strategy should be to isolate them, because they do not represent the true sense of Islam."

The recent Iraqi elections have given great hope to the people of the Middle East, despite what's being reported in some media, Ayalon said. And Abbas as the new Palestinian leader has given very encouraging indications that he wants — and is determined to have — peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

"The people of the Middle East must be courageous enough to shape their future by their own hands," he said. "The Palestinian elections were pivotal, but the Palestinians have difficulty struggling with the term 'democracy.' I believe it is natural for all people to aspire to be free. That's just human nature." [...]

Comment: It's always heartwarming to hear such blatantly racist comments issuing from the mouth of one who would claim be a "diplomat". It reassures us that we are not mistaken in our beliefs. It is even more reassuring when it comes from someone who makes great use of the suffering of Jews under the Nazis and who regularly calls for the world to ensure that the racist and fascist acts of the Nazi regime never reoccur.

The fact is that Ayalon's comments represent the general consensus of opinion among Israeli politicians and their Neocon counterparts in Washington. If you ever wondered how Israel can treat the Palestinians with such utter contempt, and how the US government can continue to fund the slaughter in Palestine, just remember that Bush, Sharon and their 'advisors' fully believe that, on the evolutionary scale, Arabs are somewhere around the level of dogs.

And these are the guys we have entrusted with our welfare.

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Plowing Iraq for Profits

By Christopher D. Cook, In These Times. Posted March 14, 2005.

American agribusiness isn't wasting any time exploiting Iraq's fragile food sector, battered by decades of war and sanctions.

Iraq's Fertile Crescent, the fabled birthplace of ancient grains and agricultural civilization, is emerging as a new market opportunity for American agribusiness. Even as U.S. officials tout gracious shipments of food aid and technical assistance to thankful Iraqi farmers, the agenda articulated by government agencies and industry groups is clear – Iraq's fragile food sector, battered by decades of war and sanctions, is open for business.

U.S. exports of wheat, rice, soybean products and poultry to Iraq all ballooned in 2003 after sanctions were lifted. Freshly minted contracts show American wheat exporters are expanding sales (albeit still small) to Iraq, and congressional testimony by industry groups shows their keen interest in recapturing what was once, through the late '80s, a profitable destination for U.S. crops.

And the American project extends beyond prying this revived market away from Australia and other nations that did agricultural business with Saddam Hussein during the sanction decade. The broader agricultural plan includes privatizing state-run food companies, phasing out farm subsidies, boosting food prices and, possibly, introducing genetically altered seeds that are patented and not reusable – all moves that dovetail with an overall neoliberal strategy to open up and deregulate Iraq's markets.

This broader push for privatization is reflected in the language of Order 81, one of among 100 legal orders left behind by U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer's departed regime. This order, which covers patents and copyrights, including "protected plant varieties," calls for a "transition from a non-transparent centrally planned economy to a free-market economy."

Comment: "Free market economy" sounds so positive, doesn't it? It's just a pity that the only "freedom" involves the freedom of large mulitnational compaies to exploit Iraq and its resources at the expense of the population.

Patenting the future

Order 81 paves the way for genetically modified crops (GMOs), stating: "Farmers shall be prohibited from reusing seeds of protected varieties." The order, exposed by Focus on the Global South and GRAIN in an October 2004 report, does not require Iraqi farmers to use GMOs. But it etches into Iraqi law WTO-style patent protections for genetically engineered crops – assuring U.S. GMO-producing firms a legally protected niche in the country's future.

Deborah James, global economy director at Global Exchange, calls seed-saving prohibitions like Order 81 "one of the biggest assaults on food security." Farmers, she explains, would be forced "to buy from multinational corporations like Monsanto, instead of doing what farmers have done throughout the millennia: guaranteeing food security by saving seed varieties."

Despite Monsanto's assurances, James cautions, "corporations never announce their plans to flood markets with genetically-modified food." Under NAFTA, "there wasn't supposed to be genetically modified corn coming to Mexico," yet GMO corn from the United States was discovered there in 2001. This February, a coalition of 70 groups from six Central American and Caribbean countries announced that GMOs – specifically, the infamous StarLink maize not authorized for human consumption – had been detected in U.N. food aid and commercial imports from the United States.

Comment: Eh... Is it just us or is the above basically stating the big corporations openly lie about their intentions?

Liberation – for U.S. commodities

Meanwhile, the $100 million agricultural reconstruction project undertaken by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) aims to get the government out of food production. "The idea is to make this completely a free market," says Doug Pool, agriculture irrigation and environment specialist with the USAID's office of Iraq Reconstruction.

The USAID goal – mirroring U.S. and WTO policies – is to help the new government phase out farm subsidies. "The Minister of Agriculture has been quite good in doing that," says Pool. State enterprises, such as the Mesopotamia Seed Co., "need to be spun off and privatized," he said.

Other USAID efforts include an "agricultural mechanization program," deploying U.S. companies such as Case New Holland to rehabilitate Iraq's dilapidated farm machinery. While this may seem like a goodwill gesture, it has its payoffs. "Of course, the companies themselves will eventually sell replacement machinery and parts," adds Pool, "so it will be a good deal for them."

Indeed, while Pool emphasizes USAID's project to expand and revitalize Iraq's farm sector, U.S. commodity exporters are hungrily eyeing renewed market opportunities – which could undercut Iraq's farmers. "Iraq was once a significant commercial market for U.S. farm products, with sales approaching $1 billion in the 1980s," former agriculture secretary Ann Veneman told a conference of farm broadcasters in 2003. "It has the potential, once again, to be a significant commercial market." [...]

History's lessons

Critics of American agribusiness warn that this confluence of privatization policies, GMO-friendly patent protections and U.S. exports is a volatile mix that could further destabilize war-ravaged Iraqi farmers while producing few benefits for their American counterparts.

"Any profit that's made will go to the companies that export it to Iraq, not to farmers," says George Naylor, Iowa farmer and president of the National Family Farm Coalition. Foisting Iraqi growers into a privatized free market will "destroy" small family farms there, just as similar policies have done in the United States, Naylor insists.

Mark Ritchie, president of the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, argues that the U.S.-led overhaul of Iraq's agriculture is a "completely ideological" endeavor that ignores historic lessons. Well-recorded failings of large-scale industrial agriculture in the former Soviet Union and in the United States, he says, "haven't deterred people who ideologically think that's the way to go, so we're going to repeat the mistakes again if we have a chance."

Ultimately, Ritchie says, American taxpayers may also pay a stiff price for any wartime export bubble. He points to the Vietnam War, during which the American rice industry was temporarily enriched by huge exports. Then the postwar market evaporated, and the industry was propped up with big subsidy payments. "The U.S. can create a giant export flow for underpriced commodities, and taxpayers can just pay through the nose," Ritchie warns. "The dangers to producers there are real, and the dangers to American taxpayers are equally real, and Vietnam has shown us how devastating this is."

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Billions in tsunami aid 'at risk from fraudsters'

Wed 16 Mar 2005

BILLIONS of pounds pledged to help reconstruction in countries struck by the Indian Ocean tsunami are at risk of fraud, a report warned today.

The report’s authors claim that international aid - including the £300 million collected by one British appeal alone - is vulnerable because of lack of governmental scrutiny and an often endemic system of bribery.

Transparency International’s annual Global Corruption Report calls for increased accountability and for open and competitive bidding for rebuilding contracts to ensure money is not lost to criminals.

Peter Eigen, the group’s chairman, said: "When the size of a bribe takes precedence over value for money, the results are shoddy construction and poor infrastructure management."

The report claims corrupt contracting processes leave developing countries with substandard infrastructure and excessive debt.

It cites evidence of countries where damage caused by natural disasters has been magnified because buildings have been poorly constructed. A spokeswoman said: "Often, it isn’t the disaster that kills someone, but problems with surrounding buildings that easily fall down."

Mr Eigen said the report also focused on fraud in Iraq, claiming the scandal over the United Nations’ oil-for-food programme demonstrates the need for more accountability.

The report claims rebuilding in the country has the potential to "become the biggest corruption scandal in history".

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The Bankruptcy Bill: A Tutorial in Greed

By Robert Scheer, AlterNet. Posted March 15, 2005.

Lesson No. 1: Campaign cash is worth more than family values.

Because they keep revamping and expanding the SAT, I'll propose a new economics puzzler for the test makers' consideration.

Question: What is the difference between a loan shark and a banker?

Answer: Not much. The former uses hired thugs to enforce repayment from the debtors; the latter employs the feds as paid muscle.

Even better would be to make the fast-tracked bankruptcy bill – already passed by the Senate and expected to be approved soon by the House and signed by president – the subject of one of the test's new critical-thinking essays. Teens could trace the correlation between the massive campaign contributions of credit card companies and banks and the imminent passage of legislation making it much more difficult for the hopelessly indebted to find the kind of relief offered by enlightened societies for millenniums.

Of course, not many high school students have been taught the central place of class warfare in modern American politics, but the bill would provide an excellent classroom case study in the political economy of greed. Consider it an updating of that old staple of government classes, "How a bill becomes a law." It would accurately place the role of corporate money in clear ascendance over the interests of regular people.

This subject is not an academic one for young Americans, because after high school they will become prime targets for predatory lenders, plastic-peddlers who just love to offer easy lines of credit to kids without jobs or even degrees. Once a student has that first shopping spree at the college bookstore, he or she is often off and running in a cycle of unsecured debt that can last a lifetime.

This exploitation of the naive extends to many Americans who are plagued by seductive credit card offers, despite low or uncertain sources of income and other major risk factors. There is no cap on interest rates; the card companies simply harvest risky debtors, slam 'em with outrageous fees and rates and keep them for decades in indentured servitude because they can't afford to dent the principal.

Yet for the banks, the inevitable surge in bankruptcies caused by these immoral business strategies hasn't slowed this fantastically profitable industry a whit. For all of the whining about deadbeats ripping off the system, credit card companies' annual pretax profits have soared two-and-a-half times in the last decade, and last year was their most profitable in more than 15 years.

So why gut the bankruptcy law now? Greed, pure and simple. And, pathetically, this bankers' dream is becoming a reality through the support of Republicans who have decided, as they often do with social issues, to selectively pick and choose when to follow the teachings of the Bible.

A key sponsor of the bill, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), actively opposes abortion and same-sex marriage on biblical grounds yet believes the Good Book's clear definition and condemnation of usury is irrelevant. The Old Testament, revered by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, mandates debt forgiveness after seven years, as was pointed out earlier this month by an organization of Christian lawyers in a letter to Grassley.

"I can't listen to Christian lawyers," said the senator, "because I would be imposing the Bible on a diverse population."

Sadly, when it comes to serving the prerogatives of banks, you can forget about those family values that folks such as Grassley prattle on about. The bill he wrote placed mothers and their children behind credit card companies in the line for a bankrupt ex-husband's paycheck, for example, which is positively Dickensian. Expected to sail through the House and onto the president's desk in the next few weeks, the bill turns the federal government into a guardian angel of an industry gone mad, placing no significant restriction on soaring interest rates and proliferating fees.

One extremely modest amendment that was rejected by the Senate would have blocked creditors from recovering debts from military personnel if the loans had annual rates higher than 36 percent. Also killed were sensible amendments designed to protect those ruined by a medical emergency, identity theft, dependent-caregiver expenses or loss of income due to being called to full-time military duty through the National Guard or the Reserve.

In the end, these individuals are simply not powerful enough to earn the protection of our by-the-powerful, for-the-powerful government. Creditors can scam consumers, Enron can burn California, Halliburton can gouge the Pentagon, the rich can enjoy obscene tax cuts, our "conservative" president can run up the deficit like a drunken sailor – and none of it seems to faze our elected leaders. For them, "fiscal responsibility" is just a high-minded prescription appropriate only for the commoners.

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Did the BBC Broadcast Fake News Reports?

By David Miller — March 14, 2005

A Spinwatch investigation has revealed that journalists working for the Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC) have been commissioned to provide news reports to the BBC. The BBC has been using these reports as if they were genuine news. In fact, the SSVC is entirely funded by the Ministry of Defence as a propaganda operation, which according to its own website makes a 'considerable contribution' to the 'morale' of the armed forces.

In the US, Washington has been rocked by the scandal of fake journalists. The Bush administration has been paying actors to produce news, paying journalists to write propaganda, and paying Republican party members to pose as journalists. In the UK this has been reported with our customary shake of the head at the bizarre nature of US politics and media. Implicitly we are relieved that, however bad things are here, at least we are not as bad as they are.

But Spinwatch can reveal that we have our very own fake journalists operating in the UK. The government pays for their wages and they provide news as if they were normal journalists rather than paid propagandists. Normally they work in a little known outfit with the acronym BFBS, which stands for British Forces Broadcasting Service. BFBS exists to 'entertain and inform' British armed forces around the world and is entirely funded by the British Ministry of Defence. BFBS is run by the SSVC. But on this occasion no mention of Ministry of defence funding was made. She was introduced simply as a reporter 'from the British Forces Broadcasting Service' who 'has been embedded with the Scots Guards'. As one wag inside the BBC puts it, this suggests a process of 'double embedding', first working for the MoD and second embedding with a regiment. The report began:

'Route 6 is the main road North out of Basra. It runs through the badlands of Iraq's marsh Arabs They make a living from crime - carjackings, smuggling and murder are common place. It's also the scene of an age old feud between two warring tribes.' (25 November 2004)

Naturally enough, we are told that the regiment in which the reporter is 'embedded' has resolved these tribal problems by negotiating 'a ceasefire' following which ' the two tribes had had their first nights sleep in several months'.

The British Army view of the Iraqi people can be less than sympathetic. The army crackdown on looting early in the occupation was codenamed 'Operation Ali Baba' after the folk tale 'Ali Baba and the forty thieves'. Issuing orders for Operation Ali Baba the commanding officer gave what the Army now acknowledges was an illegal order to 'work them hard'. This led predictably to torture, only discovered when some brave soul in a photo developing shop reported the resulting record of abuse to the police. The view of the Iraq population as thieves is evidently shared by both torturers and propagandists.

There were interviews with five separate British soldiers including one with a 'master sniper' brought in to counter resistance attacks on the Iraqi police. But there are no interviews with any Iraqis. The report concludes with a straight forward piece of propaganda for the occupation: 'While the Scots Guards remain the ceasefire is likely to hold strong. There's been little trouble in the area since the peace was brokered and the ceasefire has been extended to December the first. But the Iraqi police and national guard still lack confidence and credibility to keep the peace on their own and should the fighting resume, the governor of Basra has given the go ahead for the Scots Guards to use more force to make route 6 safe again.' Even although the report has itself hinted that the fighting is targetting the occupation, we are left with the extraordinary statement that the army in illegal ocupation of Iraq is actually a 'peacekeeping' force.

According to the editor of Good Morning Scotland the piece 'was a bit a of a one-off because she happened to have been embedded with the Royal Scots. Until a few months ago Martha was a correspondent here at BBC Scotland (had been for several years) and is therefore a journalist we know and trust. 'It was quite an unsual commission'. Unusual indeed, but not unique. Further inquiries by Spinwatch have revealed that another item from a different BFBS journalist was broadcast on Radio Scotland on Christmas day 2004. Insiders at BBC Scotland are livid about this, indeed several have contacted Spinwatch to pass on their concerns. One reports that colleagues have remarked on the 'complete lack of balance' of the piece and one described it as 'an audio press release for the Army'.*

But were the BBC right to say that the journalist concerned was one 'we know and trust'? Certainly there has been a significant wave of journalists from the mainstream media signing up to work for the government since the election of the Blair government. Alastair Campbell is only the most famous. BBC journalists too have made the transition to propagandist as in the example of Mark Laity who became a spin doctor at NATO from whom no further work was commissioned..

The BBC editor claimed in defence that 'I should stress too that BFBS is not controlled by the MOD. It is funded by them in much the same way the BBC World Service is funded by the Foreign Office. Their journalists are actually employed by the SSVC, the Services Sound and Vision Corporation, which is a charitable organisation with editorial independence from the MoD.' (email to the author, December 2004)

This is not quite accurate. A quick visit to the website of the Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC) which is the parent of the BFBS reveals that 'Our work makes a considerable contribution to the maintenance of the efficiency and morale of the three Services. Our activities are carried out directly for the Ministry of Defence. Any profits are donated towards Forces' welfare.' Whatever might be said about the World Service relationship with the Foreign Office, it has not ever been accused of donating its profits to the welfare of Britain's diplomats. The notion that the SSVC which is wholly funded by the MoD serves any other purpose than propaganda is fanciful.

The BBC editor also noted: 'Nonetheless we did flag up in the cue that she was embedded for the BFBS.' They did indeed, but very few radio listeners are familiar with what the BFBS is. This is true of the whole network of propaganda agencies in the UK is little known, but anyone with an internet connection can find out about the organisations involved. The Foreign Office runs a network of fake news operations and has done for years. In recently times these have been contracted out to private production companies with the helpful effect that the government funding is further camouflaged. They have also been extended markedly to focus more cetnrally on the middle east since 2001. One such is the London Press Service which is described as follows on the government I-uk site: 'an agency offering the latest British headline news, news round-ups, features and pictures for use by journalists overseas.'

This is a rather coy way to describe a government propaganda service. Click on its website for an admission of the defining feature of this whole network of agencies; that the news on the site 'is for free use by journalists'. Look in vain for an indication of who really funds this service. All you will see is a notice at the bottom of the home page : 'The London Press Service is operated and maintained by Intelfax Ltd.' Intelfax is in turn an independent production company but the London Press Service is funded entirely by the Foreign Office.

Or take the example of British Satellite News (BSN) broadcast for free over the Reuters World News Service. According to its website, BSN 'is a free television news and features service, which provides you with coverage of worldwide topical events and stories from a British perspective. Our dedicated team of experienced television journalists specialise in producing topical stories that inform and entertain a global audience. ' Again not much in the way of a clue that this is a fake news site. BSN is run by a company called World Television which does work for the BBC such as the live coverage of the TUC conference and also works for multinationals such as GSK and Nestle. The Foreign Office helpfully tells us that BSN has 'a particular focus on the Arab/Islamic world.' It also mentions that BSN 's fake news 'is currently used by 35 broadcasters in the Middle East and over 440 worldwide.' The secret of all this material is that it is not only free to use but that it is used as if it was genuine news and not British propaganda.

The UK is awash with fake news, of which the examples here are only a taste, it is just that we don't pay much attention to it. The American scandals over fake news are played out against the background of some pretty clear laws forbidding propaganda with a disguised source within the borders of the US. There are no laws forbidding fake news in the UK. Perhaps we needs some.

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US downplays Italy's troop pullout plan 2005-03-16 08:07:42

WASHINGTON, March 15 -- The United States on Tuesday played down Italy's plan to start reducing in September the number of its troops in Iraq, and said Rome's plan was not connected to a dispute over a slain Italian security agent.

"We certainly appreciate the contributions of the Italians. They have served and sacrificed alongside Iraqis and alongside other coalition forces," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

Italy has 3,000 troops in Iraq, the fourth largest foreign contingent after the United States, Britain and South Korea.

McClellan said Italian troop withdrawal would not affect operations in Iraq, saying that Italy's withdrawal "will be based on the ability and capability of Iraqi forces and the Iraqi government to be able to assume more responsibility."

Comment: So if it's no big deal, why then has Berlusconi suddenly backtracked?

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Berlusconi backtracks on Iraq troop withdrawal

MiddleEast Online

Press says US, British leaders force Italian PM to backtrack on withdrawing his troops from Iraq.

ROME - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was forced by Washington and London Wednesday to backtrack on his surprise announcement that Italian troops would start leaving Iraq in September, the Italian press said Thursday.

"George W. Bush and Tony Blair say 'Stop Berlusconi'," read the headline in the center-left opposition daily La Repubblica.

US President Bush and British Prime Minister Blair Wednesday reacted to Berlusconi's announcement by saying that no troop withdrawal from Iraq has been ordered and that the Italian leader would not act unilaterally.

Berlusconi then qualified his remarks on pulling Italy's 3,300 soldiers out of southern Iraq in about six months, calling it "a wish."

"If it isn't possible, it isn't possible. The disengagement must be co-ordinated with the allies," he said.

The left-wing daily Il Manifesto said Berlusconi had flip-flopped throughout the day, with the final version of his remarks making it clear that for the moment "the start of the troop withdrawal announced with all solemnity on television was only a wish."

The headline in Italy's main newspaper, Corriere della Sera, said the US and British leaders "put the brakes on" Berlusconi. The paper also criticized the Italian leader for changing his mind about a matter as serious as the commitment of troops to a war zone.

"In a serious country the head of government cannot allow himself to make statements so ambiguous when it concerns the life and death of so many human beings," the paper said.

Italian public opinion has been opposed to the country's involvement in Iraq following the US-led invasion in 2003

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Prosecutors: G8 Protesters Were Abused

By Associated Press
March 14, 2005

GENOA, Italy -- About 150 protesters detained at the Group of Eight summit in northern Italy in 2001 were kicked, slapped, tripped, kneed in the groin and dragged by their hair, according to a report.

Prosecutors in Genoa released a 534-page report over the weekend detailing "inhuman" and "degrading" behavior by police officers, corrections officers and doctors at the Bolzaneto police garrison, Italian media reported Sunday. The extent of the brutality has prompted comparisons to the abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

The report denounced what it said was a violation of human rights but stopped short of describing the abuse as torture.

What happens next is unclear: Nearly four years have gone by, and unless the judicial process is put on a fast track the statute of limitations could run out, Milan daily Corriere della Sera reported. The prosecutors themselves, in their report, suggested presenting their findings to Europe's top human rights court.

About 500 people were taken to the garrison following a raid against anti-globalization protesters during the 2001 summit, according to Corriere.

The pre-dawn raid on the Diaz school in Genoa, which housed many protesters, was one of the most controversial episodes of the July 2001 summit. Some protesters said they were attacked as they slept. Police said they were acting on a tip that violent demonstrators were hiding in the school.

The entire summit was marred by violence. A 23-year-old protester was shot dead by police, more than 200 were injured and more than 300 people were arrested. The city was ravaged.

In October, a policeman was convicted of clubbing a teenage demonstrator in the face and ordered to serve 20 months in prison. In December, a judge ordered 28 police officers to stand trial for their alleged brutality in the raid. The start of the trial was set for this April.

But protesters said the abuse wasn't limited to the streets, continuing after they were detained.

Those held at Bolzaneto -- many of them from other European countries and the United States -- said they were physically and mentally abused. They said they were deprived of food, water and medical care.

Foreign detainees said it took days to see their lawyers and consular officials. Some European countries lodged formal protests, and the United States expressed concern.

The report acknowledged finding "grave jeopardy to people's rights" at the hands of 15 police officers, 16 corrections officials, 11 Carabinieri paramilitary police and five doctors, the Corriere and ANSA news agency reported.

The prosecutors found that a "welcoming committee" at the garrison insulted, kicked and pushed the detainees upon arrival.

The prosecutors also said the abuse included shoving people's heads in toilets, forcing at least one detainee on his hands and knees and making him bark like a dog, and the threat of sexual assault, according to ANSA. Female prisoners also were forced to strip in front of male officers.

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Clearing the Way for the American Police State
by Mike Whitney
March 14, 2005

The recent rash of terror warnings shows just how shoddy mainstream journalism has really become. Every major news network in the country ran the very same story of the “alleged” communication between Osama bin Laden and terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al Zarqawi without producing a scintilla of corroborating evidence. They simply flooded the newswires, airwaves and TVs with unsubstantiated, Pentagon-inspired gibberish and left out any supporting facts. The clear intention was to give a boost to Bush’s flagging polling numbers, but the effort fell flat and the media’s credibility took another well-deserved hit.

It’s not enough that American’s are forced to endure a daily infusion of the Crawford Fuehrer; his mangled English blaring on the morning radio, and his mottled visage peering out from the evening news programs. Now, we’re getting a daily dosage of uncorroborated theory, innuendo and conjecture masquerading as news. Promoting the war has become a full time job for America’s media and they’re getting more desperate every day. While Bush’s numbers dither towards the abyss, the press keeps dredging up the overused images of fear and intimidation hoping for some relief. Fortunately, the strategy is failing, which suggests that more aggressive measures may be in the offing. If the media can’t manage public perceptions then Rumsfeld’s “private contractors” will probably lend a hand.

Iraq Fatigue

Recent polls indicate the tenuousness of Bush’s present standing with the American people. In late Feb an AP poll showed that Bush’s approval rating was hovering at 46% compared with 50% just a month earlier. It also showed that his support on the issue of Iraq was down to 40%, the danger zone for politicians.

These findings were confirmed by the latest Zogby poll that showed that only 39% of Americans still believe the war “was worth it.”  What is striking about these results is that in a matter of weeks attitudes have shifted dramatically from 52%, a full 13% margin of difference. “Iraq fatigue” is setting in and the media blather has had little affect on the public’s outlook. All the cheerleading for Bush’s vaunted trip “fence-mending” trip to Europe, and all the hoopla surrounding the Iraqi elections have amounted to nothing. The policy in Iraq is on the ropes.  No one understands these downward trends better than the current poll-driven White House. The ground is being cut out from beneath Bush and he needs to turn things around or chart a different course.

Enter the Terrorists

The reappearance of the terror-duo was intended to send tremors through the country and whip up support for Bush. So far, that hasn’t happened. As a matter of fact, the threatening, unshaved mien of bin Laden is creating less distress than the George W’s plans for social security.

The fairytale collaboration between America’s dark nemesis bin Laden and his newest recruit Zarqawi is pure fluff; and although more than 150 stories appeared on Google covering the topic, not one article provided the name of ANY government official who would attest to the authenticity of the story.

Why should they? No one wants to stake his or her personal credibility on this claptrap. The “anonymous” official that most of the articles refer to is undoubtedly some third-rate fiction writer currently grinding out fantasies for right-wing think tanks.

The bin Laden al-Zarqawi Nexus

First, a little history: After the previous warning which was issued two weeks ago, I examined over 20 of the more than 150 articles dealing with this new and completely unsubstantiated alliance between al Zarqawi and bin Laden. Keep in mind that bin Laden has not been seen since the bombing of Tora Bora more than 3 years ago and, to this day, there has never been a verifiable sighting of al Zarqawi in Iraq (including the time he supposedly spent organizing the resistance in Falluja) Whether al Zarqawi is simply a “black-ops” creation of US Intelligence is simply unknowable. We do know, however, that perpetuating his existence coincides nicely with the Bush strategy to link Iraq to the war on terror. We also know that the Bush team invoked terror alerts 5 times in the run up to the presidential election with John Kerry, causing a sudden up tick in his polling results whenever Homeland security sounded the alarm. The question of whether or not the alerts are used for political purposes is largely a moot point. Most Americans now believe it is so.

The articles (of a bin Laden and al Zarqawi collaboration) are interesting reading for anyone curious about the well-oiled machinery of the state-run propaganda system. None of the articles confirms these basic points:

1) Whether or not bin Laden and al Zarqawi are still alive.

2) Any verification that communication between them in fact took place.

3) Any names of public officials who were willing to stand on record (or offer their names) in support of the allegations.

Without exception the stories read like dime-store murder mysteries; long on fear-producing hyperbole and short on facts.

The flurry of (nearly identical) articles speaks volumes about a media system so far out-of-whack that every bullhorn in the country can be employed to broadcast complete gobbledygook. The networks simply ingest whatever is fed to them from the White House and then regurgitate it verbatim on the evening news. Despite the endless terror warnings, the likelihood of falling prey to Islamic radicals is so slight it hardly bears mentioning. The average citizen is at greater risk crossing a busy street than he is from a terrorist attack.

Paving the way for an attack

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned about the potential for another major attack. Quite the contrary. On February 17, 2005 Bush’s top military and Intelligence officials warned that the terrorists are “regrouping for possible new strikes against the United States.” In a well-choreographed performance before the Senate, Donald Rumsfeld, Porter Goss (CIA) and Robert Mueller (FBI) provided grim testimony about the increased probability of an attack within the country with weapons of mass destruction. New CIA Director Goss added darkly, “It may only be a matter of time before Al Qaida or other groups attempt to use chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons;” a point that met with general approval from his fellow officials. Needless to say, no supporting evidence was provided for any of the group’s disturbing claims.

So, Bush’s comments concerning bin Laden and al Zarqawi have to be considered in view of this build up of terror warnings. It may be that the warnings are genuine (albeit, unspecific) or, of course, it could be something more sinister.

Typically, the Bush PR team prefers to float ideas through the normal channels before taking positive action. They like to use the power of suggestion by alerting the public to some nebulous threat before anything physically takes place. It’s a good way to keep people on edge and, thus, compliant.  In this case, it’s impossible to know whether the current warnings should be taken seriously or are just more of the same fear mongering. Even so, we can see that the various levers of repression have already been put in place; (Homeland Security Bill, Patriot Act, and National Intelligence Reform Act) clearing the path for an American police state whenever the ruling party sees fit. All that’s needed now is a tripwire to activate the new security regime that has been passed by the Congress over the last four years and, Voila, the new world order. The catalyst could be anything from an economic meltdown to a random explosion in a metropolitan area. But whatever the trigger may be, you can bet that the Bush team will be ready for a major crackdown.

Martial law?

Who knows?

But we should consider the comments of Justin Raimondo, author of “A Fascist America: How Close are We?” (Antiwar .com):
“We are not yet in the grip of a fully developed fascist system, and the conservative movement is far from thoroughly neoconized. But we are a single terrorist incident away from all that: a bomb placed in a mall or on the Golden Gate Bridge, or a biological attack of some kind, could sweep away the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and two centuries of legal, political and cultural traditions—all of it wiped out in a single act that would tip the balance and push us into the abyss of post-Constitutional history.”

“A single terrorist incident?”

Liberty hanging by a thread?

Sounds about right to me.

Comment: Indeed, with the passing of Patriot Acts I & II, among other similar legislation, the machinery is now in place for an instantaneous and complete suspension of all the illusory "rights and freedoms" that American citizens take for granted. Whether it be an economic meltdown or major terrorist attack against a soft target, the U.S. is poised to clampdown hard when the opportune moment occurs. This will likely result in a form a martial law, evening curfews, cessation of travel, mass arrests and the closing of all borders indefinitely.

Considering that the last major terrorist attack on U.S. soil was likely perpetrated by elements within the American and Israeli governments against their own people, it seems that with every announcement of a new unspecified threat from al-Qaeda, the PTB within these same governments are openly announcing to the already frightened populace, the many options they have open for their next big false flag operation.

Keep these thoughts in mind while reading the following story, and try to imagine that the people giving the warnings are the very same people who will eventually carry out the attack.

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U.S. Report Lists Possibilities for Terrorist Attacks and Likely Toll
Published: March 16, 2005

WASHINGTON, March 15 - The Department of Homeland Security, trying to focus antiterrorism spending better nationwide, has identified a dozen possible strikes it views as most plausible or devastating, including detonation of a nuclear device in a major city, release of sarin nerve agent in office buildings and a truck bombing of a sports arena.

The document, known simply as the National Planning Scenarios, reads more like a doomsday plan, offering estimates of the probable deaths and economic damage caused by each type of attack.

They include blowing up a chlorine tank, killing 17,500 people and injuring more than 100,000; spreading pneumonic plague in the bathrooms of an airport, sports arena and train station, killing 2,500 and sickening 8,000 worldwide; and infecting cattle with foot-and-mouth disease at several sites, costing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. Specific locations are not named because the events could unfold in many major metropolitan or rural areas, the document says.

The agency's objective is not to scare the public, officials said, and they have no credible intelligence that such attacks are planned. The department did not intend to release the document publicly, but a draft of it was inadvertently posted on a Hawaii state government Web site.

By identifying possible attacks and specifying what government agencies should do to prevent, respond to and recover from them, Homeland Security is trying for the first time to define what "prepared" means, officials said.

That will help decide how billions of federal dollars are distributed in the future. Cities like New York that have targets with economic and symbolic value, or places with hazardous facilities like chemical plants could get a bigger share of agency money than before, while less vulnerable communities could receive less. [...]

The goal of the document's planners was not to identify every type of possible terrorist attack. It does not include an airplane hijacking, for example, because "there are well developed and tested response plans" for such an incident. Planners included the threats they considered the most plausible or devastating, and that represented a range of the calamities that communities might need to prepare for, said Marc Short, a department spokesman. "Each scenario generally reflects suspected terrorist capabilities and known tradecraft," the document says.

To ensure that emergency planning is adequate for most possible hazards, three catastrophic natural events are included: an influenza pandemic, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in a major city and a slow-moving Category 5 hurricane hitting a major East Coast city.

The strike possibilities were used to create a comprehensive list of the capabilities and actions necessary to prevent attacks or handle incidents once they happen, like searching for the injured, treating the surge of victims at hospitals, distributing mass quantities of medicine and collecting the dead.

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Vanunu charged with breaching his parole
March 17, 2005
By Jenny Booth, Times Online

The Israeli state has not finished with Mordechai Vanunu, released last year after serving 18 years for espionage for revealing the existence of Israel's top secret nuclear programme.

Today, Mr Vanunu was charged by a Jerusalem court with 22 breaches of the ultra-strict conditions imposed on his release from prison.

Under the terms of his parole, Mr Vanunu was banned from leaving Israel and from talking to foreigners. The conditions were imposed for a year and were due to be reconsidered next week.

Today, however, he was charged with one count of trying to leave the country, and 21 further counts of violating his parole by speaking to foreign journalists.

An 11-page indictment lists 14 witnesses, mostly police officers, suggesting that he has been kept under close surveillance. The Israeli authorities say that they fear he may have more nuclear secrets to share with the world.

"They charged me for giving interviews to the media and for not respecting the restrictions of my release. They're not charging me with releasing secrets," he told the AFP news agency from his residence in east Jerusalem.

"They want a trial but my lawyers are working on it. I'm not worried." [...]

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Venezuela's 'Anti-Bush' Fears Assassination
By Jefferson Morley Staff Writer
Thursday, March 17, 2005; 9:01 AM

When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez charged last month that the United States was developing plans to assassinate him, the U.S. State Department rejected the accusation as "wild."

Last week, Felix Rodriguez, a former CIA operative and prominent Bush supporter in south Florida, told Channel 22 in Miami that he had information about the administration's plans to "bring about a change" in Venezuela, possibly through "military measures."

A video clip provided by Channel 22 shows host Maria Elvira Salazar pressing Rodriguez to be more specific. He makes clear he thinks the Bush administration will physically eliminate Chavez.

The pro-Chavez media jumped on the story., a leftist Web site, noted that Rodriguez had cited the Reagan administration's 1986 bombing raid on Libya that sought to kill Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi as an example. "If they are going to do it, they are going to do it openly," Rodriguez said.

Salazar denied the Venezuelan government's charge that the station was promoting assassination, according to (in Spanish), the Web site of a Venezuelan radio network. Salazar said the accusation was "propaganda."

Nontheless, Rodriguez's remarks cannot be dismissed as bombast. He is well known in Latin America for his role advising a Bolivian military unit that captured and executed Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara in 1967. He is well-connected with the Bush family. The memory of various White House-approved, CIA-sponsored conspiracies to assassinate Fidel Castro in the 1960s may have faded in Washington but they have not been forgotten in Havana or Caracas.

Yesterday, El Espectador (in Spanish), a leading daily in Colombia, reported that Chavez has beefed up his personal security detail amid "fears for the president's safety."

The point is not that Washington is murderous or that Chavez is paranoid. The talk of assassination, whether idle or not, reflects the reality that the stakes are high in the power struggle between Chavez and the Bush administration. Six Latin American countries are now at odds with Washington politically. As The Washington Post's Kevin Sullivan put it earlier this week, Chavez is positioning himself as the "anti-Bush" of the hemisphere.

The international online media is full of signs that both sides are fortifying themselves for a fight.

"Bush Orders Policy to 'Contain' Chavez," reported the Financial Times (by subscription) on Sunday. Roger Pardo-Maurer, deputy assistant secretary for western hemisphere affairs at the Department of Defense, told the London daily that President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had asked the Pentagon to help develop a strategy to "contain" Chavez.

"Chavez is a problem because he is clearly using his oil money and influence to introduce his conflictive style into the politics of other countries," Mr Pardo-Maurer said. "He's picking on the countries whose social fabric is the weakest. In some cases it's downright subversion." [...]

Comment: Indeed, Chavez's humanitarian style of leadership is labeled as "subversion" and "conflictive" when the ideas of helping the poor with housing, education and health care begin to spread to neighbouring countries, whereas when the U.S. invades sovereign nations, plundering resources and wantonly killing civilians, it is called "spreading democracy".

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Former CIA Agent Affirms Possibility of Chavez’s Assassination in Venezuela
Tuesday, Mar 15, 2005
By: Gregory Wilpert –

Caracas, Venezuela, March 15, 2005—In an interview on Miami’s Spanish-language channel 22, the former CIA agent Felix Rodriguez said that the U.S. government has plans to “bring about a change in Venezuela.” When pressed as to what type of plans these might be, Rodriguez responded that the Bush administration “could do it with a military strike, with a plane.”

The former CIA agent’s comments were made last week, on Thursday, during the talk show of a well-known supporter of the anti-Castro movement, Maria Elvira Salazar. Rodriguez affirmed during the program, “According to information I have about what is happening in Venezuela, it is possible that at some moment they [the Bush administration] will see itself obliged, for national security reasons and because of problems they have in Colombia, to implement a series of measures that will bring about a change in Venezuela.”

The moderator, not satisfied with his vague answer, asked Rodriguez what kind of measures these might be and he responded, “They could be economic measures and at some point they could be military measures.” He then added, “If at some point they are going to do it, they will do it openly.” As an example, Rodriguez gave the Reagan administration’s strike against Khadafi, whose residence was bombed and whose adoptive daughter was killed in the process.

Felix Rodriguez is presumed to have been one of the CIA agents who captured Ernesto “Ché” Guevara in Bolivia and who was involved in his assassination in 1962.

For the past several weeks, President Chavez has been saying that he has evidence that the Bush administration is planning his assassination. Bush spokespersons, such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have dismissed the charge, calling it “absurd.” Chavez and officials from his government, however, have insisted that they have intelligence information about a possible assassination, but that they cannot reveal their sources, as this would ruin their investigations.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez has also pointed out that the U.S. denied for a long time its involvement in the overthrow of the governments of Chile in 1973 or of Guatemala in 1954, but that their involvement was eventually proven.

Yesterday, the British newspaper Financial Times reported that, "Senior US administration officials are working on a policy to 'contain' President Hugo Chavez." the report went on to say, "A strategy aimed at fencing in the Chávez government is being prepared at the behest of President George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, senior US officials say."

The Financial Times quoted Roger Pardo-Maurer, deputy assistant secretary for western hemisphere affairs, as saying that, "Chavez is a problem because he is clearly using his oil money and influence to introduce his conflictive style into the politics of other countries."

Roger Pardo-Mauro became known during the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra scandal, when he was a spokesperson for the Nicaraguan Contras. He is also said to have met with Venezuela's top general, Lucas Rincon Romero, in the weeks prior to the April 2002 coup.

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Venezuelan leader frustrates US
Posted: 17 March 2005 0319 hrs - AFP

WASHINGTON : The United States, frustrated by frequent attacks from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, is looking for ways to support opponents of the leftist leader in elections next year, US officials and analyst said.

President George W. Bush's administration is annoyed by Chavez, but Washington has not settled on a policy to deal with Venezuela, the world's fifth largest oil exporter and the source of 15 percent of US energy needs.

In August, Chavez fought off a referendum seeking his ouster after massive protests and strikes organized by his political opponents. Venezuela will hold a presidential election in 2006.

The former paratrooper has accused Bush of plotting to have him assassinated and of being behind a coup that toppled him for nearly 48 hours in April 2002. [...]

In addition to accusing Washington of plotting to topple him, Chavez has called Bush a "jerk" and the US government a "mafia of assassins."

He also slammed US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as an "illiterate" whom he would not marry, although he said the chief US diplomat dreams of him at night.

"At this point given his rhetoric and given his actions it's very hard to see how we're going to be able to improve the tone of the relationship, because he has a tendency to say whatever comes to mind, and to be very insulting, and that's a strange way to do a rapprochement," the senior US official said.

Washington is concerned by Chavez's decision to buy 100,000 AK-47 rifles from Russia, fearing the weapons could end up in the hands of leftist Colombian rebels or lead to an arms race in the region.

The head of US diplomacy in the region, Roger Noriega, listed Washington's concerns last week in Congress.

"His efforts to concentrate power at home, his suspect relationship with destabilizing forces in the region and his plans for arms purchases are causes of major concern," Noriega said.

"We will support democratic elements in Venezuela so they can fill the political space to which they're entitled," he said, without elaborating on how the US government would help.

But, Diaz said, "the big secret is that the United States cannot do much regarding Venezuela."

Venezuela sells about 1.5 million barrels of oil a day to the United States, which amounts to 60 percent of its production.

"We still depend on its oil, but I think we are in a race to see who can become independent from the other first. This energy divorce has already started," he said.

Comment: The last comment by head U.S. diplomat Roger Noriega is worth noting for it's sinister undertones. Persident Chavez was first voted into office in a fair an open election. He then survived a CIA sponsored coup d'etat and later won another free and fair referendum by the will of the Venezuelan people. That is what "democracy" is supposed to be about. When the diplomat says that the U.S. will "support democratic elements", what he really means is that the CIA will continue to fund and support anti-Chavez opposition groups until he is driven from power or failing that, "taken out" permanently in order to install an American-friendly puppet dictator in his place.

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CIA Classifies Venezuela as Top "Potentially Unstable Country"
Wednesday, Feb 16, 2005 
By: Eva Golinger -

Porter Goss, the Director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) named Venezuela as the leading Latin American nation to be alarmed about in 2005. In testimony before the U.S.
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding “Global Intelligence Challenges 2005: Meeting Long-Term Challenges with a Long-Term Strategy”, Goss classified Venezuela as a “potential area for instability” for this year. Considering Venezuela as a “flashpoint” in 2005, the CIA Director alleged that President Chávez “is consolidating his power by using technically legal tactics to target his opponents and meddling in the region.” Goss also raised alarm that Chávez is “supported by [Fidel] Castro.”

The other four Latin American nations named as areas of concern for 2005 are Colombia, Haiti, Mexico and Cuba, but Venezuela is at the top of the list. The CIA makes specific reference to upcoming elections in Colombia, Haiti and Mexico as the reason for the “potentially unstable” classification. In the case of Cuba, Goss refers to concerns over President Castro’s “declining health and succession scenarios” as the cause of alarm.

Venezuela is the only country referred to in this list of five as a cause of concern because of actions the Government is pursuing. Goss’s choice of the wording “technically legal tactics” evidences the U.S. administration’s push to label Venezuela as an “authoritarian democracy” or an “elected dictatorship.” Various State Department officials and communications media have been fiddling with implementing this change in semantics regarding Venezuela’s “peculiar situation” over the past year. Recently, Miami Herald columnist Andrés Oppenheimer began referring to Venezuela as an “authoritarian democracy” a term contradictory in itself.

Furthermore, the use of the term “technically legal tactics” demonstrates the Bush Administration’s conundrum with Venezuela. While the U.S. Government has on numerous occasions publicly acknowledged that President Chávez has been democratically elected twice and won a transparent recall referendum by a landslide in August 2004, it has also launched a well coordinated campaign to isolate Venezuela internationally, labeling Chávez as a “negative force to the region” and a “threat to democracy.”  The “technically legal” also shows that the CIA is struggling to find a way to justify regime change in Venezuela: “technically” Chávez’s actions are “legal”, but... [fill in the blanks].

Top Secret CIA documents declassified late last year and made public by this author evidence the CIA was involved in the April 2002 coup against President Chávez. The U.S. Government has also given millions in financing to over twenty anti-Chávez groups in Venezuela during the past few years, in an apparent attempt to support Chávez’s ouster. [see].

Over the past few weeks, the U.S. has rigorously augmented its aggression towards Venezuela. Yesterday, Robert Zoellick, the new Deputy Secretary of State, referred to the Venezuelan Government as a “new breed of authoritarianism,” claiming “You win the election, but you do away with your opponents, you do away with the press, you do away with the rule of law, you pack the courts.” He also declared in his confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “Chávez is carrying out anti-democratic activities, in the same way that former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori did in the 1990s.”  In 1992, ex-President Fujimori dissolved the Peruvian congress, purged the judiciary and suspended the Constitution in order to implement his policies authoritatively. He later
was charged with a massive corruption scandal and fled to Japan in self-exile.

Venezuelan President Chávez has not once suspended constitutional guarantees nor infringed on the separation of powers enumerated in the Constitution, despite a coup d’etat that briefly ousted him in April 2002 and a debilitating strike in the oil industry later that same year.

In an interview yesterday with Colombia’s El Tiempo, Marc Gossman, Sub-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, reiterated Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s declarations confirming the Bush Administration considers President Chávez “a negative force in the region” and is a cause of concern. Rice made the exact same statements in January during her confirmation hearings.

Media outlets in the U.S. have been incorporating such sentiments into editorials, opinion pieces and news stories over the past month, evidencing a coordinated campaign between the State Department and the media. FOX News Channel ran a three-part documentary at the beginning of February entitled “The Iron Fist of Hugo Chávez” that portrayed Chávez as a “brutal dictator” who is “threatening U.S. interests.”

This past Saturday, February 12, the Miami Herald ran a front-page story declaring “Chávez Arms for Attack by U.S.” and alarmingly stated on the inside page, “Chávez Arms for War with the U.S.” The Herald story is the first to mention the world “War” regarding the tensions between Washington and Venezuela.

The CIA’s latest classification of Venezuela as a leading cause of concern in Latin America could indicate an escalation of conflict between the two countries. President Chávez and members of his cabinet have made clear on numerous occasions that Venezuela wishes to maintain “respectful” relations with the Bush Administration. Apparently, Washington does not share this desire.

Comment: If there was ever any doubt that mainstream American newspapers are nothing more than obediant mouthpieces for government propaganda, this latest example of heated rhetoric aimed towards the thrice-legally elected government of Hugo Chavez is an ominous sign that Bush's war on terror may soon expand beyond the Middle east and into South America. And keep in mind that like Iraq, Venezuela is sitting on a lot of oil, selling about 1.5 million barrels a day to the United States which accounts for 15% of American energy needs. Coincidence? We think not.

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Terror on Tokyo-Moscow flight
March 18, 2005 - 6:29AM

MOSCOW (AP) - A passenger on a Tokyo-Moscow flight was detained Thursday after he tried to get into the cockpit, Russian news agencies reported, with one report saying the man threatened to blow up the plane carrying 214 passengers but suggesting he did not have explosives.

The Aeroflot Boeing-777 was approaching Moscow's Sheremetyevo international airport when the pilot alerted controllers that a passenger had tried to enter the cockpit but was blocked by crew members, the Interfax news agency reported, citing airport spokeswoman Angelina Matrosova.

The ITAR-Tass news agency, citing an unnamed airport spokesman, reported that the unidentified passenger also threatened to blow up the plane, but the report suggested he did not have explosives.

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Archbishop's wife on baby-abduction charge

THREE women, including the wife of an archbishop believed to be in Scotland, appeared in court in Kenya yesterday charged with abducting a child.

Mary Deya, the wife of archbishop Gilbert Deya, appeared alongside Miriam Nyeko, a British national, and Rose Kiserem, a Ugandan.

Mr Deya, who is fighting extradition to Kenya, came to prominence in the UK last year after claiming his prayers could impregnate infertile women.

The three women were arrested last August following raids on two addresses in Nairobi during which 21 babies were recovered.

Police suspect the women were involved in a baby smuggling ring.

They want to question Mr Deya - head of a 40,000-strong congregation - about his claim that he would pray for childless women in the UK, who would then travel to Kenya to give birth in Nairobi’s slum hospitals.

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Biometric buying
Mar. 14, 2005. 06:59 AM
A customer at a Piggly Wiggly supermarket in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., appears overjoyed to surrender her free will to the New World Order by having her finger scanned instead of her debit or credit card swiped.

If you have wallets stockpiled in your closet waiting for the perfect gift-giving moment, make presents of them quickly. The bulging masses could soon be as quaint as hat pins.

The wallet of the future may be nothing more than a fingerprint or a signature. Biometric technology, used in secure areas for some years, is just beginning to be applied to ordinary retail transactions.

To the uninitiated, the use of unique biological characteristics to identify a person conjures uncomfortable feelings of a looming, sinister Big Brother, but in fact, biometric technology has the potential to simplify our lives with less chance of fraud and identity theft than a pocket full of plastic cards.

"Our customers have embraced the new technology and the benefits have become increasingly obvious to all," says Rita Postell, manager of community and employee relations for the U.S. supermarket retailer Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. Inc. "Speed, convenience and security is now offered with the touch of a finger," she says.

Piggly Wiggly Carolina is in the process of rolling out a fingerprint biometric system, Pay By Touch, throughout its network of 114 grocery stores in South Carolina and coastal Georgia. Postell says the company thought the technology would draw new customers to the store, but they've found their regular customers use it the most, with a welcome result: "Our regular customers have increased their purchases by 12 per cent." Although a number of retailers in the United States have been using biometric identification to cash payroll cheques for their customers, Piggly Wiggly is the first retailer in the United States to embrace biometric payment technology chain-wide, according to Pay By Touch marketing director Shannon Riordan.

"A lot of things have converged to make it something that many retailers are very interested in now," Riordan says. [...]

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High school attack foiled: police
Last Updated Thu, 17 Mar 2005 16:20:22 EST
CBC News

SAINT JOHN, N.B. - Three teenage boys have been charged with possession of explosives in what appears to have been a planned attack on Saint John High School.

Police said the students were plotting to take over the school and kill teachers and students.

They said the plot was uncovered after two other students overheard a conversation and told the school's principal.

A 16-year-old Saint John High student and a 17-year-old student from Harbourview High School face charges of possession of an explosive substance. The 16-year-old appeared before provincial court Judge Alfred Brien on Tuesday, and the 17-year-old on Wednesday. Both were released on bail with strict conditions.

A third boy, who is 15 and was attending Saint John High, has also been charged and released with conditions. He is to appear in court later.

Police said the students had what appeared to be black gunpowder and a lead pipe in their possession. The police also found lists of people and things the teens hated.

Police said the students planned their attack for April 20, which is Hitler's birthday – and the date of a deadly shooting by two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. in 1999.

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Five dead, 13 missing as tropical storm hits Philippines
(AFP) Mar 17, 2005

MANILA - At least five people were killed and 13 were missing after a freak storm tore through the central Philippines on Thursday, rescue officials said.

A wooden-hulled ferry and a fishing boat capsized off a pier at the port city of Ormoc on Leyte island in heavy seas caused by Tropical Storm Roke, the civil defense office and coast guard said.

Twenty-five passengers were rescued from the ferry but three drowned and eight were missing, they said. Eleven people were rescued from the fishing boat and five were missing.

Falling trees crushed to death a 72-year-old woman on Bantayan island and a five year-old girl on Cebu island, both west of Leyte.

Dozens of inter-island ferries were confined to port across the central islands because of the storm, leaving more than 3,000 passengers stranded.

Roke's peak winds had weakened to 85 kilometers (53 miles) per hour by noon from about 105 kilometers per hour earlier Thursday.

The eye of the storm was in the north of the Sulu Sea about 100 kilometers southeast of Coron island at 4:00 pm (0800 GMT) and was moving west at 30 kilometers an hour, the weather bureau said.

It should exit into the South China Sea early Friday, they said. [...]

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University experts warn of super volcano threat

EXPERTS from Coventry University have launched an investigation into the havoc a 'super eruption' would wreak in the UK.

Following the broadcast of BBC Television drama Supervolcano this week, experts from the university's Centre for Disaster Management have revealed how such a super eruption would devastate life in Britain.

Supervolcano was a fictional drama of events following a super eruption in Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, USA.

Geologists across the world have warned Governments of the risks of such an eruption, which occur about once in every 100,000 years.

Experts claim a super eruption - the equivalent of a one and half kilometre diameter asteroid hitting the Earth - would result in a 'volcanic winter,' leading to mass starvation and disease.

Geologists have urged Governments to prepare for a super eruption in a similar way to a nuclear war. [...]

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Eight more eagles slaughtered
Last Updated Mar 17 2005 07:28 PM PST
CBC News

VANCOUVER – Conservation officers have recovered the remains of eight bald eagles in North Vancouver. Last month, 40 other eagles were found mutilated and dead.

The latest discovery came about five kilometres west of the area near the Dollarton Highway where some of the other birds were found.

Officials suspect that the feathers, talons and wingtips are being sold on the black market in the U.S.

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Study links 'Passion' to attacks
Thursday 17th March, 2005  (UPI) 

Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is being blamed for an increase in anti-Semitic attacks in Canada, The Hollywood Reporter said Wednesday.

The paper cited a new report by the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith. In its 2004 audit of anti-Semitic attacks in Canada, the organization said media coverage of Gibson's film -- and accusations by some critics of the film that it depicted Jews as Christ killers -- led to a spike in attacks against Jews in Canada.

The report said such attacks are currently running at a record pace.
Whereas only nine incidents in 2003 had religious connotations to the story of Jesus' death, the B'nai Brith study concluded, there were 32 such incidents in 2004, nine of them in February when the movie opened and a further 15 in the three months following its release.

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Sex Doll Sparks Bomb Alert at Postoffice
Wed Mar 16, 2005 10:09 AM ET

BERLIN (Reuters) - A blow-up sex doll sparked a bomb alert in a German post office after it started to vibrate inside a package awaiting delivery, police said Wednesday.

"Workers were unsettled when it began vibrating and made strange noises," a spokesman for police in the eastern city of Chemnitz said. "They were worried the package might be a bomb."

Officers brought the sender to the scene and discovered the source of alarm was an electrical device inside a life-size female sex doll. The man told police he had wanted to return the doll because it kept turning itself on at the wrong moment.

Order was restored after the sender removed the doll's batteries so the defective product could be returned.

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Earthquake jolts western El Salvador 2005-03-18 09:28:46
MEXICO CITY, March 17 (Xinhuanet) -- A quake measuring 5.9 magnitude on the Richter scale jolted western El Salvador on Thursday, but no damage or injuries were reported, according to information from San Salvador.

The earthquake occurred at 7:37 a.m. local time (1337 GMT) and the epicenter was in Guatemala, the National Service for Territorial Studies of the Environment Ministry of El Salvador said Thursday.

But the national service did not give precise information aboutthe area affected.

The depth of the epicenter was 50 km and the quake was felt in San Salvador, capital of El Salvador, with an intensity of 3 magnitude on the Mercalli Scale, according to the information.

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Strong aftershock jolts capital of tsunami-ravaged Aceh
Posted 10:55am (Mla time) Mar 18, 2005
Agence France-Presse

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- A strong aftershock measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale rattled the capital of Indonesia's tsunami-hit Aceh province Friday but there were no casualties or damage, officials said.

The earthquake struck at 6:20 a.m. (2320 GMT Thursday) and was centered under the Indian Ocean floor 91 kilometers (56 miles) west of Banda Aceh, the head of Aceh's meteorology and geophysics office, Syahnan, said.

There were no reports of damage or casualties but the tremor caused some panic, especially since it lasted for almost a minute, an Agence France-Presse reporter said.

Aceh is still recovering from the impact of a magnitude-9.0 earthquake on December 26 that triggered deadly tsunamis.

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Small earthquake hits north of Amarillo
Web-posted Friday, March 18, 2005
Amarillo Globe-News

People in parts of Amarillo picked up some unusual vibrations Thursday when a small earthquake struck north of town.

The magnitude 2.4 temblor occurred at 1:19 p.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo.

The epicenter was about 13 miles north of downtown Amarillo. No damage was reported.

Shortly after the quake, people began calling the National Weather Service office in Amarillo and local law enforcement agencies, with some calls coming from as far southeast as Armstrong County, according to the NWS.

The quake was at least the fourth reported in the Amarillo area since August 2000, when a string of six quakes occurred during a 15-day period with magnitudes ranging from 2.7 to 3.9.

Experts have theorized that many local earthquakes may be linked to fault lines in the Amarillo Mountains, which are underground, buried roughly 100 million years ago by sediment.

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