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©2005 Pierre-Paul Feyte

Stumbling Over The Truth
Signs of the Times Editorial

Mention it to anyone and they'll already have heard it; that crazy conspiracy theory that claims that members of the Bush administration deliberately conspired to deceive the world into believing that Saddam had WMDs and thereby provide justification for an illegal invasion of Iraq. But all right-thinking people know better than to allow themselves to be suckered into believing such claptrap. All 'sane' individuals KNOW that Saddam posed a clear threat to the US and the American people and that he was 'in' with Osama bin Laden, the evil mastermind of the September 11th attacks. And how do they know this? Why, because we were TOLD as much by our elected representatives. There is, of course, only one problem with this belief and it centers around last week's testimony of the British Attorney General which is only now being reported in the US mainstream press.

As we reported at the time, the British Attorney General stated quite categorically that the head of British foreign intelligence reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair that President Bush wanted to topple Saddam Hussein by military action and warned that in Washington intelligence was, in his own words, "being fixed around the policy." Which is simply another way of saying that Bush and Co were LYING about the threat from Saddam.

Taken in isolation, this fact, while shocking to those members of the world public who have always believed that their leaders would never lie about something of such import, is not really surprising to those of us who have long ago understood and accepted the corrupting nature of politics and power. Bubbling below the surface of this duplicitous chapter in the history of American foreign and domestic policies however, is a matter of much more gravity.

The fact is, the Iraq invasion and the reasons for it, which have now been revealed as outright lies, cannot be divorced from the overall "war on terror" and that which gave rise to it - the 9/11 attacks. We are told by the British Attorney General that members of the Bush administration were brewing the lies that would lead to the Iraq invasion in the Spring of 2002. Yet documents posted on the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) web site make it clear that the plan for an Iraq invasion was first conceived of by leading NeoCons as far back as 1997, four years before the events of 9/11 that provided the casus belli for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

While no one can now reasonably dispute the fact that the Bush administration knowingly lead America to war on false pretences, many will still argue that, while they may have lied about the threat from Saddam, the NeoCons simply took the opportunity to capitalise on the "freak event" that was 9/11. As Winston Curchill said, "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened".

Given the fact that the Iraq war was planned up to 6 years before it actually occurred and four years before 9/11, and the fact that it has now been categorically proven that the Bush administration lied to the entire world about the existence of Saddam's WMD threat to America, it seems logical to us to at least consider the possibility that members of the Bush administration also played a part in stage managing the 9/11 attacks which created the essential atmosphere of a terrorist threat - the breeding ground in which the lies about Saddam's WMDs could take root?

Few will deny that, regardless of who the real perpetrators are, the 9/11 attacks generated the public appetite for revenge and war that was instrumental in facilitating the Iraq invasion. Considering that the Washington NeoCons had been planning an attack on Iraq for 6 years prior to 9/11, and remembering that it has now been proven that these same people lied to the world about Saddam's WMDs, is it not reasonable to suggest that the official story of how and why 9/11 happened is simply more NeoCon lies and that the perpetrators of the WTC and Pentagon attacks and the architects of the phony claims that lead to the Iraq war are one and the same?

To answer our own question. It is indeed an eminently logical supposition and one that has nothing to do with crazy conspiracy theories but rather very real evidence of a very real conspiracy to con the world's population into accepting a "Novus Ordo Seclorum"

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British Intelligence Warned of Iraq War

Blair Was Told of White House's Determination to Use Military Against Hussein
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 13, 2005; Page A18

Seven months before the invasion of Iraq, the head of British foreign intelligence reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair that President Bush wanted to topple Saddam Hussein by military action and warned that in Washington intelligence was "being fixed around the policy," according to notes of a July 23, 2002, meeting with Blair at No. 10 Downing Street.

"Military action was now seen as inevitable," said the notes, summarizing a report by Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6, British intelligence, who had just returned from consultations in Washington along with other senior British officials. Dearlove went on, "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

"The case was thin," summarized the notes taken by a British national security aide at the meeting. "Saddam was not threatening his neighbours and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."

The notes were first disclosed last week by the Sunday Times of London, triggering criticism of Blair on the eve of the May 5 British parliamentary elections that he had decided to support an invasion of Iraq well before informing the public of his views.

The notes of the Blair meeting, attended by the prime minister's senior national security team, also disclose for the first time that Britain's intelligence boss believed that Bush had decided to go to war in mid-2002, and that he believed U.S. policymakers were trying to use the limited intelligence they had to make the Iraqi leader appear to be a bigger threat than was supported by known facts.

Although critics of the Iraq war have accused Bush and his top aides of misusing what has since been shown as limited intelligence in the prewar period, Bush's critics have been unsuccessful in getting an investigation of that matter.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has dropped its previous plan to review how U.S. policymakers used Iraq intelligence, and the president's commission on intelligence did not look into the subject because it was not authorized to do so by its charter, Laurence H. Silberman, the co-chairman, told reporters last month.

The British Butler Commission, which last year reviewed that country's intelligence performance on Iraq, also studied how that material was used by the Blair government. The panel concluded that Blair's speeches and a published dossier on Iraq used language that left "the impression that there was fuller and firmer intelligence than was the case," according to the Butler report.

It described the July 23 meeting as coming at a "key stage" in preparation for taking action against Iraq but described it primarily as a session at which Blair favored reengagement of U.N. inspectors against a background of intelligence that Hussein would not accept them unless "the threat of military action were real."

During the July 2002 time frame, Bush was working to build support in the United States for a war against Hussein, while a U.S. base in Qatar was being expanded and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz was trying to get Turkey to assist in potential military action against the Iraqi leader.

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Washington said he would not comment on the substance of the document.

Blair's senior advisers at the July 2002 session decided they would prepare an "ultimatum" for Iraq to permit U.N. inspectors to return, despite being told that Bush's National Security Council, then headed by Condoleezza Rice, "had no patience with the U.N. route," according to the notes. "The prime minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the U.N. inspectors."

Although Dearlove reported that the NSC had "no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record," the Blair team soon set in motion preparation of the public dossier on Iraq, which was published in late September 2002.

Another piece of the British memo has relevance now, as the United States battles an insurgency that some say was exacerbated by faulty planning for the post-invasion period. "There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action," the notes say, without attributing that directly to Dearlove.

The "U.S. has already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime," the British defense secretary reported, according to the notes. Although no final decision had been made, "he thought the most likely timing in U.S. minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the U.S. congressional elections."

As it finally worked out, the Bush administration's public campaign for supporting a possible invasion of Iraq began the next month, in late August, with speeches by Vice President Cheney, followed by a late October vote in Congress to grant the president authority to use force if necessary. Later in October, the British and the Americans introduced their resolution on Iraq in the U.N. Security Council and it passed in early November, shortly after the Nov. 2 elections.

Comment: In a truly heroic piece of journalism, the Washington Post finally covered the Blair memo story, burying it on page A18 of Friday's edition. Not important enough for the front page?

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Indignation Grows in U.S. Over British Prewar Documents
May 12, 2005
By John Daniszewski, Times Staff Writer

Critics of Bush call them proof that he and Blair never saw diplomacy as an option with Hussein.

LONDON — Reports in the British press this month based on documents indicating that President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair had conditionally agreed by July 2002 to invade Iraq appear to have blown over quickly in Britain. [...]

The leaked minutes sum up the July 23 meeting, at which Blair, top security advisors and his attorney general discussed Britain's role in Washington's plan to oust Hussein. The minutes, written by Matthew Rycroft, a foreign policy aide, indicate general thoughts among the participants about how to create a political and legal basis for war. The case for military action at the time was "thin," Foreign Minister Jack Straw was characterized as saying, and Hussein's government posed little threat.

Labeled "secret and strictly personal — U.K. eyes only," the minutes begin with the head of the British intelligence service, MI6, who is identified as "C," saying he had returned from Washington, where there had been a "perceptible shift in attitude. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy."

Straw agreed that Bush seemed determined to act militarily, although the timing was not certain.

"But the case was thin," the minutes say. "Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capacity was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran." [...]

Excerpts from the paper, which Smith provided to the Los Angeles Times, said Blair had listed conditions for war, including that "efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine crisis was quiescent," and options to "eliminate Iraq's WMD through the U.N. weapons inspectors" had been exhausted.

The briefing paper said the British government should get the U.S. to put its military plans in a "political framework."

"This is particularly important for the U.K. because it is necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support military action," it says.

In a letter to Bush last week, 89 House Democrats expressed shock over the documents. They asked if the papers were authentic and, if so, whether they proved that the White House had agreed to invade Iraq months before seeking Congress' OK.

"If the disclosure is accurate, it raises troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of our own administration," the letter says.

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Finally A Single Truth Amid The Firestorm Of Lies
By Kirwan

This was a long time coming, but apparently it could not be proven until another "incident" occurred. So thanks to two completely incompetent "pilots" who strayed into the no-fly zone over the White House two days ago - it is now official! According to the White House spokesman, the president was not notified of the potential "threat" because "The situation didn't require a presidential decision." That - it turns out is a true statement!

The duties of the Commander in Chief were modified on June 1, 2001 internally, by traitors, who sought to undercut the chain of command and remove Bush from any responsibility whatsoever - in the event of an attack of this kind upon this nation.

"Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction CJCSI 3610.01A (dated 1 June 2001) was issued to provide "guidance to the Deputy Director for Operations (DDO), National Military Command Center (NMCC), and operational commanders in the event of an aircraft piracy (hijacking) or request for destruction of derelict airborne objects." This new instruction superseded CJCSI 3610.01 of 31 July 1997."

This means that the president of the United States of America, from that day forward, was no longer responsible for attacks of this nature - upon the USA. Executive decisions, in this regard are now to be made by Donald Rumsfeld the US Secretary of Defense. The AWOL pretender in the White House has no real responsibility now - for protecting this country from attacks like 911 - and he did not have that responsibility on September eleventh 2001. All that has happened since those attacks has been nothing but the continuation of a massively criminal act. Bush was never intended to be allowed to be the man who could make decisions - so he was removed from the loop - thereby rendering his position as the president: Meaningless!

These actions further underscore the Bush administrations more recent efforts to remove the president from all executive responsibility for national intelligence as well: in his request for, and the congressional compliance that he got, to create the office of National Intelligence Director (NID). That responsibility has always belonged only to the President of the United States. That was made clear when Harry S. Truman made the wartime office of the OSS into the CIA. Part of Truman's justification for this intrusion into the lives of Americans was that the office of the president would always have the final word on whatever intteligence information came to his desk. "The Buck Stops Here" probably refers to that "presidential" responsibility.

On June 1, 2001 - all of that changed. This "president" is nothing but an imposter, in title, as well as in his pretensions to leadership: because without authority or responsibility he is nothing but a mask for all "official" treachery committed by this administration from 911 to this moment.

Perhaps the most egregious crime of all was that none of this was remotely considered in the any of the 911 "investigations." That omission had to be purposeful, and it was compliant with the takeover of the government begun by the Supreme Court decision of 12-12-2000 - the decision that in effect appointed George W. Bush as the President of the United States!

When you see the fake cowboy with the prancing stride or whenever you are subjected to the torture of his grinning snear, you'll know what he knows: that the joke is on us, because what he's saying to the world is "Hey - I got away with it!"

This charge should be taken seriously and followed up - but those responsible for bringing the charges that should be leveled now - were and are still part of all of everything. Only outrage from the public can now force them to act.

I was an air traffic controller, who worked with ground control intercepts for four long years in the Air Force, both in NORAD and in PACAF, back in the fifties. The taxpayers of the USA have spent tens of trillions on the air defense system that was to protect this nation from something like 911, and it would have, if these Pirates hadn't changed the chain of command and eliminated the office of the president from any responsibility for the decisions that they knew (months before 911) would have to be made on that day of imfamy.

This was PLANNED, and carried out by traitors to this country. We know this now because of two imbecilic "pilots" in a private plane that were completely inattentive when they violated the no-fly zone over Washington D.C. just the other day. That folly, created a panic that led to the evacuation of government buildings. When the public finally demanded answers from the White House about the whereabouts of Bush and why he was NOT TOLD - that forced the simple truth that brought all this to light.

The country has waited overlong for this accidental test - an accidental proof of all that really happened - when we allowed traitors to take this country from its people. By constitutional design the people were to be the rightful owners of the government, but "the people" haven't cared enough to question anything. So we have lost control of this rabid and feral beast that now runs roughshod over the planet - creating chaos with their every move.

The irony of ironies in this is that amid this administrations firestorm of unending lies: when they actually tell the truth - JUST ONCE - what was revealed by the White House press secretary could hang them all!

Maybe now there will be hearings, maybe even demonstrations - but that will only happened when people finally come to see what really happened to us - when we allowed this nightmare to take complete control of everything we say we cared about!

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UK film at Cannes says terror fears exaggerated
Sat May 14, 2005
By Erik Kirschbaum

CANNES, France (Reuters) - A British documentary arguing U.S. neo-conservatives have exaggerated the terror threat is set to rock the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday, the way "Fahrenheit 9/11" stirred emotions here a year ago.

"The Power of Nightmares" re-injected politics into the festival that seemed eager to steer clear of controversy this year after American Michael Moore won top honors in 2004 for his film deriding President Bush's response to terror.

At a screening late on Friday ahead of its gala on Saturday, "The Power of Nightmares" by filmmaker and senior BBC producer Adam Curtis kept an audience of journalists and film buyers glued to their seats and taking notes for a full 2-1/2 hours.

The film, a non-competition entry, argues that the fear of terrorism has come to pervade politics in the United States and Britain even though much of that angst is based on carefully nurtured illusions.

It says Bush and U.S. neo-conservatives, as well as British Prime Minister Tony Blair, are exaggerating the terror threat in a manner similar to the way earlier generations of leaders inflated the danger of communism and the Soviet Union.

It also draws especially controversial symmetries between the history of the U.S. movement that led to the neo-cons and the roots of the ideas that led to radical Islamism -- two conservative movements that have shaped geopolitics since 1945.

Curtis's film portrays neo-cons Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Donald Rumsfeld as counterparts to Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri in the two respective movements.

"During the Cold War conservatives exaggerated the threat of the Soviet Union," the narrator says. "In reality it was collapsing from within. Now they're doing the same with Islamic extremists because it fits the American vision of an epic battle."


In his film, Curtis argues that Bush and Blair have used what he says is the largely illusory fear of terror and hidden webs of organized evil following the September 11, 2001, attacks to reinforce their authority and rally their nations.

In Bush's government, those underlings who put forth the darkest scenarios of the phantom threat have the most influence, says Curtis, who also devotes segments of his film to criticize unquestioning media and zealous security agencies.

He says al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has a far less powerful organization than feared. But he is careful to avoid suggestions that terror attacks won't happen again. Included are experts who dismiss fears of a "dirty bomb" as exaggerated.

"It was an attempt at historical explanation for September 11," Curtis said, describing his film in the Guardian newspaper recently. "Up to this point, nobody had done a proper history of the ideas and groups that have created our modern world."

But Curtis said there were worlds of difference between his film and Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," which won the "Golden Palm" and gave the festival a charged political atmosphere that prompted this year's return to a more conservative program.

"Moore is a political agitprop filmmaker," he said. "I am not. You'd be hard pushed to tell my politics from watching it."

"The Power of Nightmares" was a three-part documentary aired in Britain and won a British film and television industry award (Bafta) this year.

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By Ted Rall Tue May 10 2005

Lies Run Big, Facts Small in U.S. Media

NEW YORK--One year ago the American media was pushing the Pat Tillman story with the heavy rotation normally reserved for living celebs like Michael Jackson. Tillman, the former NFL player who turned down a multi-million dollar football contract to fight in
Iraq and Afghanistan, became a centerpiece of the right's Hamas-style death cult when he lost his life in the mountains of southeastern Afghanistan. To supporters of the wars and to many football fans, Tillman embodied ideals of self-sacrifice and post-9/11 butt-kicking in a hard-bodied shell of chisel-chinned masculinity on steroids.

Tillman's quintessential nobility, we were told, was borne out by the story of his death--a tale that earned him a posthumous Silver Star. Whether you were for or against Bush's wars, Americans were told, Tillman's valor showed why you should support the troops. Young men were encouraged to emulate his praiseworthy example.

Several thousand mourners gathered at Tillman's May 3, 2004 memorial service to hear marquee names including Arizona Senator John McCain called upon all Americans to "be worthy of the sacrifices made on our behalf." "Tillman died trying to save fellow members of the 75th Ranger Regiment caught in a crush of enemy fire," the Arizona Republic quoted a fellow soldier addressing the crowd. Tillman, said his friend and comrade-at-arms, had told his fellow soldiers "to seize the tactical high ground from the enemy" to draw enemy fire away from another U.S. platoon trapped in an ambush. "He directly saved their lives with those moves. Pat sacrificed his life so that others could live." It was, as the Washington Post wrote, a "storybook personal narrative"--one recounted on hundreds of front pages and network newscasts.

It was also a lie.

As sharp-eyed readers learned a few months ago from single-paragraph articles buried deep inside their newspapers, Pat Tillman died pointlessly, a hapless victim of "friendly fire" who never got the chance to choose between bravery and cowardice. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Washington Post now reports that
Pentagon and White House officials knew the truth "within days" after his April 22, 2004 shooting by fellow Army Rangers but "decided not to inform Tillman's family or the public until weeks after" the nationally televised martyr-a-thon.

It gets worse. So desperate were the military brass to carry off their propaganda coup that they lied to Tillman's brother, a fellow soldier who arrived on the scene shortly after the incident, about how he died. Writing in an army report, Brigadier General Gary Jones admits that the official cover-up even included "the destruction of evidence": the army burned Tillman's Ranger uniform and body armor to hide the fact that he had died in a hail of American bullets, fired by troops who had "lost situational awareness to the point they had no idea where they were."

"We didn't want the world finding out what actually happened," one soldier told Jones. A perfect summary of the war on terrorism.

The weapons of mass destruction turned out to be a figment of Donald Rumsfeld's imagination. The Thanksgiving turkey Bush presented to the troops turned out to be plastic, as much of a staged photo op as the gloriously iconic and phony toppling of Saddam's statue in Baghdad by jubilant Iraqi civilians--well, actually a few dozen marines and CIA-financed operatives. So many of the Administration's "triumphs" have been exposed as frauds that one has to wonder whether that was really Saddam in the spider hole.

We shouldn't blame the White House for producing lies; that's what politicians do. But we expect better from the media who disseminate them.

Case study: the Washington Post's dutiful transcription of the Jessica Lynch hoax. Played up on page one and running on for thousands of words, the fanciful Pentagon version had the pilot from West Virginia emptying her clip before finally succumbing to a gunshot wound (and possible rape) by evil Iraqi ambushers, then freed from her tormentors at a heavily-guarded POW hospital.

Like the Pat Tillman story, it was pure fiction. Private Lynch, neither shot nor sexually violated, said she was injured when her vehicle crashed. She never got off a shot because her gun jammed. As she told reporters who were willing to listen, her Iraqi doctors and nurses had given her excellent care. She credited them for saving her life. In a weird sort of prequel to the shooting of an Italian journalist, they had even attempted to turn her over at a U.S. checkpoint but were forced to flee when American troops fired at them.

In all of these examples, editors and producers played corrective follow-up stories with far less fanfare than the original, incorrect ones. To paraphrase "X-Files" character Fox Mulder, the truth is in there--in the paper, on TV. It's just really, really hard to find.

Readers of the American press and viewers of American radio and television are likelier to see and believe loudly repeated lies over occasionally whispered truths told once or twice. As a result of the reverse imbalance between fact and fiction, the propaganda versions of the Tillman and Lynch stories, the staged Saddam statue footage, and the claim that Iraq had WMDs are all believed by a misled citizenry that votes accordingly.

For journalists supposedly dedicated to uncovering the truth and informing the public, this is exactly the opposite of how things ought to be. Corrections and exposés should always run bigger, longer and more often than initial, discredited stories.

FOLLOW-UP: Readers who contacted their elected representatives in response to my column two weeks ago about the two 16-year-old Muslim girls detained by Homeland Security because one wrote an essay about suicide bombings (she was against them) have gotten results. Such pressure has prompted the feds to release the girl from Guinea, who has returned to her high school in New York City. But Bush Administration officials have decided to orphan her by deporting her father. The other girl, from Bangladesh, is also being released from prison but HomeSec plans to deport her along with her entire family. While the two girls' release obviously belies the government's claims that they are "an imminent threat to the security of the United States," your letters and phone calls to your Congressperson and/or Senator could help reverse these continuing acts of injustice.

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$50 billion more asked for Iraq, Afghan wars
By Jim Wolf
Fri May 13, 2:50 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The Senate Armed Services Committee has recommended a further $50 billion be set aside to fund U.S. military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the U.S.-declared global war on terrorism.

The proposed new war spending for fiscal 2006, which starts Oct. 1, would push the cost of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and its aftermath toward $250 billion, far ahead of initial expectations voiced by the Bush administration.

Officials advocating the invasion played down the financial cost. Then White House budget director Mitch Daniels predicted Iraq would be "an affordable endeavor."

The recommendation for fresh emergency spending was sent to the full Senate on Thursday night as part of a bill that also would authorize $441.6 billion in regular defense spending in fiscal 2006, a 3.1 percent real increase over last year's authorized sum.

Three days ago Congress gave final approval for an $82 billion emergency war-spending bill, of which about $76 billion would go to war-fighting.

Even with such a large, emergency funding measure, the
Pentagon has said more money would be needed as early as October. By 2010, war costs could top $500 billion, some experts have projected.

Comment: So now the Pentagon is planning on staying in Iraq for at least another five years??

The White House Office of Management and Budget did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The additional $50 billion for war spending had bipartisan support on the committee.

"I am particularly pleased that the bill will authorize $50 billion to support the day-to-day military operations of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq," Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the panel's top Democrat, said in a statement. [...]

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Italy sent troops to Iraq to secure $300 Billion oil deal: report

13 May 2005

ROME - Italian troops were sent to Iraq to secure oil deals worth 300 billion dollars, and not just for post-war humanitarian purposes, an Italian television report by RAI claimed on Friday.

The 20-minute report, broadcast by RAI News 24, the all-news channel of the Italian state-owned network, is based on interviews and official government documents.

In it, the Silvio Berlusconi administration is accused of picking the Nasiriyah area to safeguard a 1997 deal signed by Italy’s largest energy producer, ENI, and former dictator Saddam Hussein.

A government report compiled months before the war broke out recommends that Italy, in case of conflict, should secure the region of Nasiriyah and the nearby area of Halfaya, south of Baghdad, so as to secure “a deal worth 300 billion dollars”.

Both areas are known for its vast oil fields.

According to Benito Livigni, a former manager of ENI and the United States’ Gulf Oil Company, Iraqi’s oil reserves are estimated at 400 billion barrels, far more than the known figure of 116 billion.

If true, this would make Iraq the largest oil producer in the world, ahead of Saudi Arabia, the report says.

Images shown on the report by Sigfrido Ranucci and called “In the name of oil”, show previously unreleased footage of Italian soldiers busy protecting a refinery and a local pipeline in Nasiriyah.

The Italian government has always insisted that it chose to send 3,000 troops to Iraq for purely humanitarian reasons.

A total of 19 Italians, most of them soldiers, died in November 2003 in a suicide bombing against Italy’s base in Nasiriyah.

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Four U.S. Marines killed in ferocious battle in Iraq
Big News Saturday 14th May, 2005

Another four U.S. Marines have died in action in Iraq during fierce battles being waged on the Syrian border.

The military announced the deaths Saturday. The four died Friday after their assault amphibian in which they were traveling struck an improvised explosive device. The bombing took place during 'Operation Matador' a major assault by U.S. forces on insurgents west of the country in Karabilah, near the Euphrates Valley town of al-Qaim.

A large contingent of U.S. forces are involved in heavy fighting in the area to seek out supporters of Al-Zarqawi. The operation involves helicopters and warplanes which have been bombing selected targets.

Frightened residents retreated indoors as a large convoy of mainly Marines, backed by tanks redeployed several miles from Rommana to Obeidi, on the northern bank, according to The Associated Press.

"Shelling began several hours later, damaging a house in the old part of this village and wounding five people," said Obeidi hospital doctor Saadallah Anad. He said he did not know if U.S. weapons fire hit the house but said helicopters were hovering over the area.

"We are living in a catastrophic situation. We don't have medicines or equipment and we are worried that when our ambulances go out the Americans could strike at them," he told Associated Press.

The number of U.S. troops killed since the announcement of Iraq's government a little more than two weeks ago, on April 28, is now approaching fifty.

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South Americans, Arabs Meet in Challenge to USA
Washington Times
May 11, 2005

BRASILIA, Brazil -- South American and Arab leaders opened an unprecedented summit yesterday to usher in new cooperation aimed at undercutting the international influence of the United States.

With 9,000 soldiers posted around the city and helicopters overhead, 16 heads of state and top officials from 34 South American, Middle Eastern and North African nations gathered for the first Summit of South American-Arab Countries.

"Today, we are facing a historic opportunity to build the foundation for a bridge of solid cooperation between South America and the Arab world," said Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

He said the leaders must band together to ensure that free trade helps the developing world's masses, instead of only rich countries and multinational corporations.

He singled out agricultural subsidies developed nations give their farmers, saying they must be slashed to ensure "poor countries receive the benefits of globalization."

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who heads the Arab League, said the two regions, while far apart, have a combined population of more than half a billion people and share strong cultural links. About 10 million South Americans are of Arab descent.

"More than 600 million people are looking with hope to the summit of hope, the Brasilia summit," he said.

The summit started with the biggest show of security in the Brazilian capital since Mr. da Silva was sworn into office two and a half years ago as the first elected leftist leader of Latin America's largest country.

Police said four pistols were confiscated from U.S. security guards for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani ahead of the summit because paperwork had not been filled out for them to carry the weapons.

The leaders will hold two days of talks, and are expected to join forces by signing a "Declaration of Brasilia."

In the draft declaration, the leaders pledge to support sweeping political and economic efforts to tighten links between their regions.

The stronger ties to counter U.S. dominance in the global political arena reflect a key policy goal of Mr. da Silva, who proposed the summit during a 2003 trip to the Middle East. The gathering comes at a time when Washington is pressuring Arab nations to relax their mostly authoritarian systems of government.

The draft summit declaration also condemns Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory and denounces terrorism but asserts the right of people to resist foreign occupation, according to the document approved by foreign ministers Monday.

In the statement, the two regions demand that Israel, whose biggest ally is the United States, disband settlements in Palestinian areas, including "those in East Jerusalem," and retreat to its borders before the 1967 Middle East war.

They also lash out at U.S. economic sanctions against Syria and denounce terrorism. But they assert the right of people "to resist foreign occupation in accordance with the principles of international legality and in compliance with international humanitarian law."

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Brazil to U.S.: Keep Your Money
By Kelly Hearn
May 10, 2005

Brazil has become the first country to reject AIDS funding from the U.S., citing its unwillingness to play by Washington's ideological rules.

Brazil has rejected $40 million in U.S. funds for fighting AIDS because of demands that it condemn prostitution, a key participant in its flagship AIDS program. The move is seen by some observers as a rejection of Washington's head-in-the-sand linkage of neo-con morality and foreign aid.

''Biblical principles [are] their guide, not science," Pedro Chequer, director of Brazil's AIDS program told media outlets on Wednesday. "This premise is inadequate because it hurts our autonomous national policy."

Acting in accordance with a 2003 federal law, U.S. Congress demanded that Brazil publicly condemn prostitution before accepting the funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. Prostitution is a legal industry in Brazil and a key civic player in fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The Leadership Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003 refuses government aid to organizations that do not explicitly oppose sex trafficking and prostitution. But bowing to those demands, say experts like Jodi Jacobson of the U.S.-based Center for Health and Gender Equity, would mean contradicting crucial civic cooperation undergirding Brazil's AIDS program, considered a model by international health organizations.

Jacobson said Brazil's sex industry plays a crucial role in the battle against AIDS in part through its role in helping the government review donation assistance. Sex workers are also a key target for the government's AIDS education effort.

"Brazil has taken cutting practical approaches and they were not going to adopt an approach based on ideology," Jacobson said in an interview on Friday.

The U.S. government globally seeds its conservative ideology with tools such as the so-called global gag rule, a measure that blocks U.S. family planning assistance to foreign NGOs that perform abortions in cases other than a threat to the woman's life, rape or incest.

But Jacobson says that unlike the the global gag rule, the demands relating to prostitution appear to be applicable to domestic organizations, such as U.S.-based charities with international operations.

And Washington's response?

A USAID spokesperson referred questions to a statement made by U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

"We think it is fully consistent with the purposes that we're working on together, and that's to save people from AIDS and to slow down the spread of AIDS or stop the spread of AIDS among a population that's very vulnerable," said Boucher during a press briefing on Wednesday. "We don't dictate in what manner they have to implement this commitment or this policy. We don't specify how they have to express this in action. We just want to know that they're as committed as we are to fighting AIDS, but also to fighting prostitution and stopping prostitution and sex trafficking, which had been part of the spread of AIDS."

Brazil, which claims a third of Latin America's HIV cases, has reaped international praise for its two-pronged approach of providing free condoms to citizens and free medication cocktails to impoverished AIDS sufferers. The Ministry of Health distributes 20 million free condoms each month, according to the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington-based research group.

Brazil also recognizes a constitutionally based right of each citizen to receive AIDS medication despite their ability to pay. That recognition has driven officials in Brasilia, the capital, to go toe-to-toe with drug firms seeking to charge poor countries brand-name prices for AIDS medications.

Over the years the Brazilian government has effectively negotiated price cuts for some drugs using a negotiation strategy based on tiered or differentiated pricing. It has also funded domestic national laboratories that produce generic versions of other drugs. And in March, government officials threatened to use a World Trade Organization agreement on intellectual property as legal justification to break four antiretroviral drug patents.

Observers say another key to Brazil's success has been its willingness to nurture and include civic groups in the AIDS fight. Non-profit groups, including associations of sex workers, have flourished over the last decade, from 120 registered groups in 1992 to 500 in 1998, according to the World Bank. Moreover, NGOs have been granted high level involvement in government policy, specifically the right to serve on Brazil's National AIDS Council, which oversees the nation's AIDS policies.

That robust civic network has been used to funnel money to the grassroots. Between 1993 and 1997, just over $18 million in World Bank money to combat AIDS flowed through 175 implementing organizations to fund 427 NGO activities, according to the World Bank.

The funds led to the distribution of more than 1 million condoms and educational materials to more than 500,000 people. It also provided "specialized orientation to more than 200,000, and trained 2,000 community health agents," according to the World Bank.

But Brazilian officials have stressed that Brazil's government has borne the majority of costs. From 1997 to 2001, only 10 percent of the total investment in STD and AIDS programs originated from external financial sources such as the World Bank.

Kelly Hearn is a former UPI staff writer who lives in Washington D.C. and Latin America. His work has appeared in several U.S. publications and web sites including the Christian Science Monitor, American Prospect and High Country News.

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White House Re-Imposes Quotas on China
AP Economics Writer
Fri May 13,10:59 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is re-imposing quotas on three categories of clothing imports from China, responding to complaints from domestic producers that a surge of Chinese imports was threatening thousands of U.S. jobs.

The administration action will impose limits on the amount of cotton trousers, cotton knit shirts and underwear that China can ship to this country. American retailers say that will drive up prices for U.S. consumers.

In announcing the decision Friday, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said a government investigation had found that a surge in shipments from China since global quotas were eliminated on Jan. 1 was disrupting the domestic market.

The decision was made by the Committee for the Implementation of Textile Agreements, an interagency group led by the
Commerce Department.

"Today's action by CITA demonstrates this administration's commitment to leveling the playing field for U.S. industry by enforcing our trade agreements," Gutierrez said in a statement.

Comment: It was US industry in the first place that, with the help of friendly politicians, outsourced so many jobs to countries like China. The damage has already been done. Sure, a few jobs might be saved due to the quotas, but the beneficial effects will be far outweighed by increasing product prices that most Americans simply can't afford. Thus, the new quotas not only worsen the US economic situation, but they also place the blame for America's economic woes on China.

The action will mean that shipments in the three categories will be permitted to increase this year by just 7.5 percent, compared with shipments over a 12-month base period.

U.S. retailers had fought against the re-imposition of quotas on China, arguing that it will mean higher costs for American consumers.

Laura Jones, executive director of the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, said the administration was going ahead with the action even though the latest trade data showed that clothing and textile imports from China actually declined in March after surging in January and February. She said the administration chose to ignore all the comments filed by U.S. retailers arguing against the action.

"Clearly, the government did not consider the facts," she said. "To make a decision affecting billions of dollars in business less than four days after a public comment period closes only shows how little regard there is for our business."

Comment: Note that while businesses will suffer, the Bush gang is ensuring that there is more than enough money for the continuing operation in Iraq and for highly paid mercenaries to help conduct the war on terror.

In its announcement, the administration said four other petitions the industry filed last year seeking re-imposition of quotas in other clothing categories could be acted upon soon because the public comment period has now ended in those cases.

Jones predicted the administration will quickly process all the cases it has pending, including several cases the industry filed last month. She said the domestic industry was "trying to recreate the quota system."

But domestic textile and clothing makers argued that they faced the prospect of losing thousands of jobs unless something was done to stem the flow of products from China. [...]

Comment: Again, many industries have already lost thousands of jobs due to the outsourcing of jobs - especially textile and clothing makers.

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Global Eye

Miami Vice: The Sleazy World of Jeb Bush
By Chris Floyd
Published: May 13, 2005

The next president of the United States was on the road last week, throwing red meat about "moral issues" to a baying crowd of Bushist Party faithful while simultaneously trying to cut off medical support for a six-year-old girl his agents had previously tried to kill.

Yes, it was Jeb Bush, governor of the ruling family's Florida dominions, pounding the pulpit, er, podium at a Republican conclave in Georgia. Jeb told the flock that the party must stand for "absolute truth" something previously associated with religious cults if they want to maintain their "ascendancy" over the nation, Associated Press reports. "There is such a thing as right and wrong," he declared. Whipped into a frenzy by this blazing revelation, the crowd responded with cries for Bush to ascend to his brother's throne in 2008.

But even as Jeb basked in the bootlicking adulation, his peculiar sense of "right and wrong" was on vivid display in a Florida courtroom. There, his minions are fighting to stop state aid for young Marissa Amora four years after they sought a court order to let her die following a savage beating, the Palm Beach Post reports. What's more, these same minions the Department of Children and Families could have prevented the beating, which left Marissa permanently disabled.

In late 2000, as Jeb was ensuring the "ascendancy" of his brother by among many other tricks deliberately slashing thousands of eligible African-American voters from the rolls, Marissa was hospitalized for a month. Doctors and nurses saw telltale signs of past beatings and witnessed her neglectful mother abusing her in the hospital. They pleaded for DCF to intervene. But the agency perhaps mindful of Jeb's fierce public championing of "family values" declined to step in.

Then came the inevitable: a few weeks later, Marissa was back in the hospital, beaten nearly to death, with severe injuries to her brain and liver and several broken bones. Now the DCF took an interest: they rushed to court to obtain a "Do Not Resuscitate" order for the mangled two-year-old. For God's sake, don't let her live, the DCF told Marisa's doctors, because she might "potentially" be left "in a vegetative state."

But the doctors disagreed with the Bushists' expert diagnosis. And so Marissa is still alive today brain-damaged, crippled, fed through a stomach tube, but alert, talkative, happy, with a new foster mother. Indeed, she would seem to be a shining example of the "culture of life" that we hear so much about these days from certain pulpit-pounding politicians. But to Jeb and the DCF, she's just a "useless eater," a budgetary burden, a mistake to be flushed away. Without state aid, her new family will sink beneath the staggering cost of Marissa's treatment and the decent life that she's clawed back from the hellhole Jeb left her in years ago will wither on the vine.

'Tis passing strange. After all, this is the same agency the same governor that just fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep the long brain-dead Teri Schiavo existing in a very real "vegetative state." Jeb even found himself lauded on the front page of the New York Times for "cementing his political stature" in the case, with his maneuvers "rooted" in a "deeply-held" religious faith "rather than in political posturing." Yet he was perfectly willing even eager to pull the plug on Marissa Amora, and is still trying to destroy her life.

How can this be? For one who lives solely by the "absolute truth," what could possibly be the difference between a crippled, abused, neglected little black girl with no money or connections, and a nice white woman whose case was promoted world-wide by the maniacal, filthy-rich extremist factions that form the base of his brother's "ascendancy"? Since we know from the highest authority that Jeb would never stoop to mere "political posturing," the apparent hideous hypocrisy in his behavior must forever remain an ineffable mystery, like the Trinity, or the 2000 Florida election results.

But then, Jeb has always been the most mysterious of the Kennebunkport Klan. Like the two Georges, he trawled murky waters indeed to make his fortune. One of his business partners, Camilo Padrera, was indicted for drug-dealing, gun-running and embezzlement; but the charges were dropped when the Bush family firm the CIA told the FBI that Padrera was their man, fronting covert ops. Padrera then worked Jeb's Washington contacts to steal millions of federal dollars intended to provide housing for the poor. He was convicted of fraud in 1989.

Jeb then hooked up with Miguel Recarey, an associate of Miami mob boss Santo Trafficante Jr., Mother Jones reports. Federal investigators called Recarey's company, IMC, "a criminal enterprise interlaced with intelligence operations." It was in fact yet another front, this time for the Reagan-Bush gang's illegal terrorist war in Nicaragua. Recarey also milked Jeb's Washington connections, diverting millions of Medicare dollars intended for needy patients into the IMF-CIA slush fund. Recarey later fled the country to avoid fraud charges.

In yet another scam, Jeb and a partner used a frontman to wangle a $4.5 million federal loan to buy an office building. When their shill went belly-up, Daddy's federal government obligingly revalued the prime Miami real estate at $500,000. Jeb and pal coughed up that chump change --and kept the building for themselves: $4 million of pure gravy.

Now with just one more step, this mobbed-up, money-grubbing absolutist will have the whole world in his hands. "Right and wrong" mean nothing to such big-time operators; power is their only truth, their only god.

Chris Floyd is a columnist for The Moscow Times and a regular contributor to CounterPunch. His new blog of political news and commentary can be found at Empire Burlesque.

Comment: It is hard for an honest person to really grasp the mind set of criminals such as the President and his family. The idea that other human beings are simply tools to be used to further one's ambitions cuts against everything that we are told and have learned. The criminal and the psychopath, however, understand that these moral guidelines are just words, words that have no meaning. They see the world as a jungle where one must fight to survive; if they don't do the killing, they will be killed. If they don't do the conning, they will be conned. The good-hearted, trusting character of their victims reinforces the idea that others are fools waiting to be taken.

What the Bush's have succeeded in doing is wrapping their larceny in the warm woolens of fundamentalist Christianity, having learned from a long line of American hawkers, preachers, and snake-oil salesmen down through history. The multi-million dollar, if not billion dollar, empires of the leading US televangelists is seen as proof-positive of their close relations with the Almighty, not as the fruits of graft, chicanery, lying, and the manipulation of the gullible. They do His Will and are amply rewarded for their efforts. The gullible then believe that they, too, can attain riches through their ardent belief and holy works.

The case of Marissa Amora contrasts with that of Terri Schiavo, but meshes perfectly with the law brought in under the Bush reign in Texas where life and death decisions over patients depended more on their ability to pay than on the sacred character of Life. Life is for those who believe in the Bush's God; the rest of us are dead in all but name.

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The Bush in the bubble
By Tom Engelhardt

I once visited the "map room" of Philip II, King of Spain, and ruler of the (more or less known) world in the second half of the 16th century. Wandering this large chamber filled with maps from Philip's time in his grim, crusader palace-monastery, El Escorial, I found myself trying to imagine how he might have conceived of the New World his soldiers had claimed for him. Somewhere, thousands of miles beyond his sight, beyond what could possibly be imaginable in a 16th century Spanish castle, untold numbers of the Indian inhabitants of his New World realms were dying the grimmest of deaths - and this, not so long after Catholic thinkers had been arguing over whether such beings even had souls capable of conversion from heathenism. Mine was, of course, an impossible exercise, but the rulership of that one man, of that one mind locked within those stone walls and his limited universe, must even then have been an exercise in fiction, no matter that the results were painfully real.

Perhaps in a way all rulership has to be a kind of fiction. The difference is that Philip's equivalent today, the head of the globe's "lone superpower", is at the center of a vast machine for the creation of fiction, a kind of ever-growing assembly line for its production. I suppose the truth is that the human ego - whether that of the man who "runs" America (and desires to run much of the [known] world) or the chief executive officer of any globe-spanning transnational corporation - only has so much expandability. Even a single megalomanic ego, an ego stretched to the limits, would have no way of taking in, no less governing, such a world. Not really. Perhaps this is why, increasingly, the president of the United States has himself become a kind of fiction.

Though we elect a single being to govern us, who, in a never-ending political campaign, pretends to hold certain beliefs and policies sacrosanct, and though a man named George W Bush now inhabits the White House, sleeps in a bed there, watches TV there, entertains foreign dignitaries or Republican funders there, and does myriad other things, including traveling the globe and nervously driving a 1956 vintage Volga beside Vladimir Putin for the cameras in Moscow, "he" and "his" acts and policies are, in fact, a curious creation.

Of course, we read in the paper or hear on TV every day that the president does endless newsworthy things. Just the other day, for instance, there was a little note at the bottom of the front page of my hometown paper announcing that "Bush Gives a Lecture to Putin". The piece inside, "Bush Tells Putin Not to Interfere With Democracy in Former Soviet Republics" by Times White House reporter Elisabeth Bumiller, began: "President Bush used the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat to warn President Vladimir V Putin of Russia on Saturday that 'no good purpose is served by stirring up fears and exploiting old rivalries' in the former Soviet republics on his borders." Just as Bumiller's piece the day before had begun: "President Bush stepped into the middle of an escalating feud between Russia and the Baltic nations on Friday night as he arrived here in the capital of Latvia at the start of a five-day trip to Europe." Just as, in fact, a thousand other pieces in papers or on radio and TV news programs would begin almost any day of the year.

The president "does" this or that. It is, I suspect, a strangely comforting thought. Only the other night, I spent a couple of minutes listening to two experts discuss "the president's" strategy in his meetings with Putin on Charlie Rose. Would he rebuke the Russian president in their private meeting - and do so in a serious way - for his undemocratic rule? Would he follow the State Department "points" prepared for him, or would he just say a word or two about democracy and move on? And either way, would the meeting between the two men be a "success" as both their PR staffs promptly rushed to announce? And yet George Bush's "rebuke" of Putin was, as we all also know, written by someone else. Essentially, while George spends his life enacting his presidency, he just about never speaks his own, unadulterated words. To shape them, after all, he has Karl Rove, a bevy of pollsters, and a staff of advisers, speechwriters, spinners, and quipsters hired to do the job.

It was, for instance, then-speechwriter David Frum who took credit for one of the president's signature phrases, that "axis of evil" line in his 2002 State of the Union speech. ("States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.") Or rather, it seems that Frum's wife claimed credit for him; then Frum claimed that he had only come up with the line "axis of hate", amended to "axis of evil" possibly by then-White House chief speechwriter Michael Gerson. Later yet, Frum suddenly recalled that the president himself had scratched out "hate" and scribbled in "evil", which was probably a polite lie. If he actually did so, that would be strange indeed. After all, just about nothing the president says is really "his".

In fact, the president is surrounded by a vast coterie of handlers, speech writers, advisers, gag writers, freelancers, pollsters, public relations experts, spinmeisters, strategists, footmen, front men, guards, and valets of every sort, along with, as we all know, Rove, who more or less created his world - and continues to have a large hand in creating him for the world. Whatever Bush himself may be, he is significantly an actor whose role of a lifetime is ... to play a sometimes shifting collage of traits, policies, and beliefs called George Bush. He is firm before Evil. He rebukes Putin and lectures or hectors the world. He exudes optimism under pressure. He chops wood on his ranch in front of the cameras, being a westerner; or, being a warrior, he dons a specially created military jacket with "commander in chief" stitched across his heart in front of thousands of troops roaring "hoo-ah"; or, being a regular guy, he hits his lines just folksy enough at a rally for his followers to know that he is indeed the real man they believe he is, the sort of character any of them might like to sit down and have a beer with; or, as commander-in-chief of a victorious war, he lands dramatically on the deck of an aircraft carrier all togged out as a flier against a banner saying "Mission Accomplished"; or ... well, you can fill in most of this.

If some of this wasn't "him", he probably couldn't do it so well. And in none of this is he a simple alien in presidential history. Such a fictional universe has been a long time in coming, but the Bush people have pushed it to a post-September 11 extreme. The president notoriously lives and campaigns in a bubble world where everything - from his informal words to the make-up of any crowd at any rally or "town meeting" - is smoothed and polished, vetted and reformatted for ... well, certainly political advantage and comfort and ease, but that doesn't quite cover the matter, does it?
As with his life and domestic travels, so in the president's international travels, he and his entourage - including, as in a previous European trip, American escort vehicles as well as the president's official car (known to insiders as "the beast"), 200 secret service agents, 15 sniffer dogs, a Black Hawk helicopter, snipers, five cooks, 50 White House "aides", and the vast press corps that reports on "him" - move inside an enormous bubble, a kind of dream world. All around him the central cities of the planet he's passing through are swept clear of life in order to create a Potemkin Earth just for his pleasure and safety. For Bush & Co, all life is increasingly lived inside that bubble, carefully wiped clean of any traces of recalcitrant, unpredictable, roiling humanity, of anything that might throw the dream world into question. In a sense, George's world has been well stocked with James Guckert clones. (Guckert is, of course, the "journalist" who, using the alias Jeff Gannon, regularly attended presidential news conferences and lobbed softball questions the president's way.) And George himself, whoever he may be (or may once have been), is a kind of Gannon, when you think about it. A character. A creation.

I'm not normally much on post-modern tropes, but this figure we think of, and the media insistently reports on, as an individual (even while we're all fascinated by endless tales about ways in which everything around him is managed) is a kind of composite being, a recombinant man, who travels the planet and lives "his" life not just in a bubble of delusion but as a kind of bubble of delusion. He's a shape-shifting, fictional "individual" imposed on and meant to harness the vastness and complexity of reality. It's a phenomenon so strange that there are, in a sense, no words to describe it.

Laura softens the president's image, reinvents herself

A small incident involving the president's wife brought this home to me recently. On the night of April 30 - as no one in the world cannot know by now - Laura Bush "interrupted" her husband, took the mike in front of a crowd of reporters and celebs at a dim and dreary annual Washington event, the White House Correspondents' Association dinner ("crab hush puppies, steak, asparagus, warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and berries"), and in a well-scripted and rehearsed routine roasted her husband, his family, Dick and Lynne Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and assorted others. "She" was promptly hailed for her sense of humor, her timing, her ribald jokes, and her political savvy, or as the ubiquitous Elisabeth Bumiller put it: "[T]he popular first lady accomplished two things. She brought down a very tough house, and she humanized her husband, whose sagging poll numbers are no match for her own." (No match, in fact, by nearly 40 percentage points.) Bumiller added that "her zingers showed how much the White House relies on her to soften her husband's rough edges at critical moments, much as she did with her extensive travels and fund-raising in the 2004 campaign". (Indeed, Laura is a monster fundraiser. Just a couple of days earlier, between West coast drop-ins on Jay Leno and a center for reformed gang-bangers, she scarfed up US$400,000 for the Party with an hour's stay at an "intimate" little Republican National Committee do.)

The press raves on her brief comic performance came pouring in, repetitively so. She had undergone a "metamorphosis", claimed James Gordon Meek of the New York Daily News. Via her comedy routine and by "entertaining more frequently and ha[ving] hired a new chief of staff, new social secretary and new press secretary, she has emerged," wrote Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times, "as a more svelte, more fashionable incarnation of herself." She was in the process of undergoing "an extreme makeover", commented William Douglas of Knight Ridder; while "super-pundit" John McLaughlin was quoted in the New York Post as calling her routine "the best material he'd heard at the dinner in 30 years, and predicted it will help soften her husband's image".

In some ways, "her" carefully choreographed performance, previously rehearsed in the "White House Theater", was certainly an expression of White House dismay over the course of second-term events and the weakening, if not unraveling, of presidential support in the opinion polls. The second team was essentially being called in - and a team it distinctly was. If the immediate media consensus was that Laura had "softened" and "humanized" George, in almost every article her press secretary Susan Whitson was also quoted thusly on her boss' sense of humor: "This was the first opportunity that she's had to show the press corps and the rest of the world that side of her."

That side of her. Her zingers. And Democrats chimed in: "Mrs. Bush 'was just brilliant - the whole thing,' said Senator Charles Schumer." Her brilliance. Her performance was even assessed in the press by her "peers". "She paced herself. She didn't rush any of her jokes. She let 'em land," commented Cedric the Entertainer, the professional comic who was to follow her on the night's program; and of all the enthusiastic comments about the first lady and her night of success, only Cedric's seemed on the mark. It was, after all, her performance, and she had done it well.

It was, in fact, such a "success" that in the Rose Garden the next day George and Laura repeated the act, "In the best traditions of George Burns and Gracie Allen, they traded quips during a ceremony Monday honoring historic preservation efforts," wrote Ken Herman of Cox News Service. The president even referred to his wife as "Laura 'Leno' Bush."

New York Times columnist Frank Rich has already written with his usual eloquence on the subject of this "pageant of obsequiousness and TV Land glitz" and on the way the "Washington press corps' eagerness to facilitate and serve as dress extras in what amounts to an administration promotional video can now be seen as a metaphor for just how much the legitimate press has been co-opted by all manner of fakery in the Bush years. Yes, Mrs Bush was funny, but the mere sight of her 'interrupting' her husband in an obviously scripted routine prompted a ballroom full of reporters to leap to their feet and erupt in a roar of sycophancy like partisan hacks at a political convention. The same throng's morning-after rave reviews acknowledged that the entire exercise was at some level PR but nonetheless bought into the artifice." Or as Margaret Carlson wrote sardonically for Bloomberg news service: "The reporters you saw in the East Room at last Thursday's press conference, preening for the cameras with multipart questions, were the same ones aching to be in on the joke Saturday night."

But beyond the skilled fakery that passes for reality (at which Bush administration handlers are so able), there are stranger depths here. So let's take a moment to consider Laura Bush's performance.

As a start, the "first lady's" portrait of the president and his men was a composite one - in this case, a collage of images that would be commonplace not among his supporters but among his critics: he mangles the language ("I'm introverted, he's extroverted, I can pronounce nuclear ... "); by temperament, he's a destroyer of the environment, or just a destroyer plain and simple ("George's answer to any problem at the ranch is to cut it down with a chainsaw - which I think is why he and Cheney and Rumsfeld get along so well"); he's a fake rancher and fake westerner ("George didn't know much about ranches when we bought the place. Andover and Yale don't have a real strong ranching program. But I'm proud of George. He's learned a lot about ranching since that first year when he tried to milk the horse. What's worse, it was a male horse."); his family is a mafia-like dynastic clan ("People often wonder what my mother-in-law's really like. People think she's a sweet, grandmotherly, Aunt Bea type. She's actually more like, mmm, Don Corleone."); and so on.

In this - playing against type - lurks a theory of presidential humor that goes thusly: "Since public perceptions cannot be denied, playing to them shows that the speaker doesn't lack self-confidence." As it happens, though it was Laura Bush's lips that were moving, it's not her theory, or George's either. It was laid out way back in 1987 in an interview with Los Angeles Times reporter Donnie Radcliffe ("Writer Helps Politicians Beef Up Images With a Few Choice Words", September 13, 1987) and it belongs to a man Washington insiders have known for a quarter of a century but whom, until this second, almost no one outside the Beltway has paid much attention to.

His name is Landon Parvin and he wrote Laura's words, just as he wrote Nancy Reagan's smash "second hand clothes" routine for the Gridiron dinner in 1982, which was also meant to play against type and "humanize" her ("Second-hand clothes, I give my second-hand clothes to museum collections and traveling shows. I never wear a frock more than just once: Calvin Klein, Adolfo, Ralph Lauren and Bill Blass, Ronald Reagan's Mama's going strictly first class"); just as he wrote the speech that contained her husband's not-at-all-funny partial mea culpa for the Iran-Contra scandal. ("People close to the president give Parvin a large share of the credit for bringing Reagan as close as he has come to acknowledging error on the Iran-contra arms sales," reported Radcliffe. The key lines in Parvin's speech: "A few months ago I told the American people that I did not trade arms for hostages, my heart and my best intentions still tell me that is true, but the facts and evidence tell me it is not.")

In fact, over the years he's written speeches, gags, and comedy routines for politicos ranging from Clinton pal Vernon Jordan and former National Democratic chairman Robert Strauss to former secretary of state James Baker, Barbara Bush, and George H W Bush. For the present president, he produces "four speeches ... every year, including the Gridiron Club bash and White House Correspondents' Association Dinner taken over by the First Lady on Saturday".

Parvin's had a perfect career for a man destined to put words in other people's mouths. He was, briefly, a Hollywood gag-writer, then a PR man for Hill & Knowlton's Washington office, a columnist, an official White House speechwriter, an executive assistant to the American ambassador in London, a freelance speechwriter for the corporate and political high and mighty, and, on the side, a comedy writer for all and sundry in need of "humanizing". He's been a word wrangler for as long as anyone can remember, and his list of customers, the people whose lips moved convincingly as they spoke his words, is nothing short of a composite portrait of power from 1980 to the present, the years in which the Republicans took full control of Washington.

Though he claims to hate Hollywood, he brought the TV sitcom's mildly corrosive forms of humor to the town with him - the self-deprecating joke and the basic putdown - to which, with Laura Bush, he finally added a third crucial element of TV comedy success, the dirty joke. It had been a staple of the sitcom for a couple of decades but previously a public no-no in the capital. In fact, his version of this for Laura - the horse masturbation joke - would have made the "family-friendly" right go nuts, had the moving lips been those of a Democratic first lady. (She would have been labeled the inside-the-Beltway Janet Jackson.)

Parvin may be a pro's pro when it comes to wielding the basic vocabulary of television comedy in Washington, but it hasn't always worked for him. He bombed last year in a Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner routine he wrote for Bush on the theme of the missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. However, if those "zingers" on April 30th were anyone's they were Parvin's; if "Laura" was "brilliant," thank Parvin; if "she" softened the president's image and humanized him, give Parvin a lot of the credit; if she slayed them, the missiles were his. If the Friars Club, famed for its roasts, offered her an honorary membership, "which permits her to enjoy the middling cuisine at the East Side clubhouse or just hang out at the bar," trading quips with her "fellow comics," she better take Parvin with her.

But here's the perhaps-less-than-surprising thing: In her part of the political world, Laura Bush seems almost as much a composite creation as her husband. Her hair is at present the property of Toka Salon owner Nuri Yurt of Georgetown, who is now said to be "managing the first lady's softer-looking coif"; her jewelry, "the handiwork of Georgetown jewelry designer Ann Hand", who created the necklace and earring set she wore for the roast "from different sizes of Swarovski crystals", and so on through her look. As Abcarian of the LA Times wrote of a recent trip she took to California: "At every stop, she looked impeccable, not a hair out of place. (Although she does her own makeup, she travels with a hair stylist from a Washington salon.) She wore expensive, tailored pantsuits the entire trip, usually with a Hermes-style scarf around her shoulders. And she is indeed much slimmer than she was at the beginning of the first term."

The events at the various classrooms and small discussion groups she was scheduled to drop-in on (as with those reformed gang members in Los Angeles) were "choreographed for cameras and reporters". And yet, Abcarian reports with a note of surprise, there were "rare, unscripted moments that revealed something of her old-fashioned sensibility". But on Leno's show, at the media dinner, in classrooms, or fund-raising for the Republican National Committee (as the President's "most effective campaign surrogate"), she mostly remained "on message", even as the message was constantly being re-scripted around her, sometimes with her help.

Laura Bush is then a fiction. She may even be, in part, Laura Bush's fiction. There's no way for an outsider to know. In fact, I have no idea what George and Laura Bush are actually like. She may in private be brilliant and hilarious just as her supporters recently claimed, or she may be the eerily disconnected creature Tony Kushner caught in his article "Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy". At this point, for all we know, the Bushes may not themselves know who they are. In private, they may be dopes or canny operators, superficial or thoughtful, but what they certainly are is actors in a drama too large for any individual to really take in, one being imperfectly scripted and stage-managed by teams of others - and, of course, by history, by the press of reality and of the past. Atop an oversized imperial bureaucracy, a vast military machine, a sprawling party structure, global corporate interests galore, and who knows what else (including all of us), even the president turns out to be a midget.

Perhaps the return of the great man theory of history in recent years as part of our fierce domestic culture wars (along with so many Founding Father best-selling biographies), and the insistence of the right on the historical primacy of the individual, is actually a response to the strange anonymity of our over-populated, over-heated present, of a presidency that has a distinctly puppet-like quality to it. And perhaps the urge to vote for George Bush, whether he is for or against "nation-building" or anything else, reflects that same desire to go for the "humanized" being.

Ancestral fictions

We know that presidents have long been actors and that they have not always written their own speeches. After all, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton played crucial roles in drafting George Washington's Farewell Address in 1796; while Abraham Lincoln was, as Garry Wills tells us in his superb book, Lincoln at Gettysburg, "an actor, an expert raconteur and mimic, and one who spent hours reading speeches out of Shakespeare to any willing (and some unwilling) audiences". Having been invited to deliver "a few appropriate remarks" at the dedication of that cemetery in Gettysburg, Abe wrote those ever memorable 272 words himself (though not in a moment and not evidently on the back of an envelop). He did not, however, always write his own speeches. Wills, for instance, gives us stirring examples of how he edited passages from secretary of state William Seward's suggested conclusion to his inaugural address. This is undoubtedly the preeminent example of presidential editing (possibly of any editing) of which an example is:

Seward: "The mystic chords which, proceeding from so many battle-fields and so many patriot graves, pass through all the hearts and all the hearths in this broad continent of ours, will yet harmonize in their ancient music when breathed upon by the guardian angels of the nation."

Lincoln's revision: "The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely as they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

The first official speechwriter to inhabit the White House, Judson Welliver, only arrived on March 4, 1921 to serve as "literary clerk" to President Warren Harding. But over the years, the number of pages of presidential speeches written by others has soared, more than doubling, for instance, between the Eisenhower White House of the 1950s and the Bill Clinton White House of the 1990s. According to the American presidency website, "The contemporary White House is, in fact, a high-speed prose factory."

That "literary clerk" soon enough began to multiply and presidents came ever more commonly to speak other people's words, even ones with which they would forever be identified. The authorship of John F Kennedy's most famous line in his inaugural address - "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country" - remains, for instance, in question. (Of course, Kennedy was a man who published a ghostwritten book under his own name - and won the Pulitzer Prize for it!) Richard Nixon reputedly relied heavily on speechwriters and yet he also insisted on writing some of his most important speeches himself, while Gerald Ford had a "comedy advisor" named Don Penny.

But the Republican revolution and the arrival of Ronald Reagan in the White House clearly marked a change in the nature of the presidency and of the president. While Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter had all been uncomfortable with (and on) television - that crucial medium of the modern presidency - Reagan was a professional actor who had made his career in overlapping worlds of mass-produced fiction (including an early radio job broadcasting baseball games that arrived over the telegraph wires, and which he reported as if he were on the spot).

What was most striking about Reagan's much praised (and criticized) actorly "ease" - even his ease of error - was the level of effort, planning, and outright strain that surrounded it. Layers of publicists, handlers, pollsters, and managers worked to script his every step and word. By his second term he had five full-time speech writers on hand, and that didn't even include freelancers like Parvin or the joke writers who were already becoming as much a part of Washington as they were of Hollywood.

Reagan seemed never to move from his bedroom (where he relaxed in a world of fiction, watching old movies) without the media frame that public relations could construct around him. As the memoirs of those who surrounded him attest, he was not just a passive but a largely absent personality. It was not hard for him to believe anything about himself; that, for instance, he had been away at war during World War II (when he had never strayed far from Hollywood) or that he had photographed the liberation of a Nazi death camp. As a man who had trouble keeping track of his own story, his context had to be constantly manufactured for him.

It became a cliche of the Reagan-Bush years to note that never had so many political handlers and "spin doctors" been so concerned to control the presidential image of the moment as presented in the media. For the first time, in the 1980s, the various spin-doctors and handlers - the Roves of that moment - became, if not the story, then a kind of parallel story framing the presidential one. The men who were creating the fiction of the Reagan presidency were also gaining a certain news parity with the man who was president without somehow destroying the idea of the President himself.

The media began to offer regular glimpses of the framework of control for the stories they were reporting - with Reagan, for instance, the marks carefully chalked out by aides to indicate where the president should stand for the perfect photo opportunity. Similarly, in election coverage, "spin doctors" began to appear on TV as experts to analyze the spin they had just put on an event, while reporters for the first time discussed with a certain enthusiasm the process of being spun. In this period - thank you, Landon Parvin - sitcom Hollywood entered the mix and instead of the president being mocked by his enemies, he began, disarmingly, to mock himself. ("It's true hard work never killed anybody," went a typical Parvin-written Reagan line, "but I figure, why take the chance?")

Though the coverage of the presidential handlers and spin doctors sometimes passed for expose, how the public was being controlled was less emphasized than how their leaders and attendant publicists were in control, how firm was their grasp on the technology of presentation. At the same time that an ever more elaborate market-research and publicity apparatus had to be mobilized to organize and sanitize what was on screen, the presidential story, with life sucked out of it, had to be bolstered by ever more elaborate special effects. Think, to jump a couple of decades, of George Bush's Top-Gun landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln. This was the way the deadness lying at the heart of the screen could be given a look of life.

And yet, even Ronald Reagan could, from time to time, take the word-reins in his hands as when, in 1983, he tacked several paragraphs onto a speech calling for greater defense spending against a renewed Soviet threat. He challenged the nation and the "scientific community" ("those who gave us nuclear weapons") to undertake a vast research and development effort to create an "impermeable" anti-missile shield in space that would render nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete". Thus, our first "fictional" president took actual control of events just long enough to create the purest fantasy of defense - his Strategic Defense Initiative or Star Wars anti-missile system - into which we have ever since poured fruitless multi-billions of perfectly real dollars.

In the meantime, vice presidents had gotten their own speechwriting staffs (as the elder Bush did - including Parvin from time to time - when he was Reagan's VP); and so, for the first time, did presidential wives. The first lady has emerged as a political factor - and political fiction - only in our own time. According to historian of first-ladydom Lewis Gould, "It was not until Lady Bird Johnson - and her mission to beautify America - came along that the first lady had a structured work environment, with a chief of staff, press secretary and policy advisors." Now, it's more or less a necessity for any first lady to have such a mission and a burgeoning staff of handlers, advisors, speechwriters and the like to go with it. "Betty Ford is identified with the fight against breast cancer and her support of the Equal Rights Amendment. Rosalynn Carter chose mental health as her issue. Nancy Reagan will be remembered for her anti-drug crusade and Barbara Bush for literary efforts." Laura Bush is now establishing herself as the first lady responsible for helping young men out of gangs. It's all, of course, a kind of serial fiction.

On being "humanized"

"Speechwriters are to the man in the Oval Office what screenwriters are to characters in a film. They're the ones who write the lines - in the appropriate voice, of course. After all, it's important to stay true to character or the words just won't sound right" - so writes Catherine Donaldson-Evans for, appropriately enough, Fox News. And though she concludes that, in the end, the speech is the president's, not his speechwriter's, in certain ways it may belong to neither of them.

Once upon a presidential time, before radio and television, presidents simply didn't give that many speeches (or, for instance, annual State of the Union addresses). Now any "president" produces thousands of pages of words a year, far more than a single literary clerk could have written. Daily at any passing event, on formal occasions with Congress, in regular radio talks, at state dinners and roasts, at national and local disasters and celebrations, on the never-ending campaign trail and in news conferences, the president opens his mouth and words simply pour out - even from someone like George Bush who is known for his relative inarticulateness. And then the president cranks himself up, or is cranked up, and "he" does things, all of which represent the globe's "lone superpower".

This is, almost by definition, inhuman activity. It bears little relation to what any individual anywhere else would do. Acting this way, the president could easily seem like an animatronic device and so he constantly needs to be "humanized" - at which point Laura is wheeled in. All of this - replete with Hollywood-style putdowns and special effects - has become second nature to us, the audience. We have all become used to our fictional political world without, largely, having come to grips with it - least of all has the media that supposedly reports to us in an unvarnished way on how it all works.

But if George and Laura Bush would under any circumstances be fictions of a sort (as well as living, breathing human beings), the nature of this presidency has clearly been pushed to inhumanly fictional extremes. This president, for instance, hardly has an unscripted public moment. If there is one, as the other day in Georgia when he stayed out an hour late for an unscripted dinner with the Georgian president and his wife - a (possibly scripted) "spontaneous moment" - there was much press discussion of this. After all, he normally never meets an unexpected person with something challenging or unexpected to say or does something outside the bubble. He lives in a strangely inhuman way inside that bubble, even as it is constantly being maintained for "him". His is an extreme form of fiction, one then imposed on the world. It's an altogether uncanny, not to say unnerving, phenomenon that is now the essence of our lives.

Comment: This week's "incident" with a small plane flying over the capital illustrates what a figurehead the president really is. He was out cycling and didn't find out the country had been on red alert until after the event. When questioned repeatedly by journalists as to whether or not Bush was upset at not having been notified, White House spokesman Scott McClellan continually referred to the fact that all the "protocols" had been followed and that therefore Bush was not upset.

Bush would only get upset if it were in the script. The rest of the time the button is "off".

Political life is an illusion built on archetypal figures. The strong President fighting against Evil, keeping the heathens from our doors being the model of choice for the Bush Administration. It plays well in the red states. While Bush's approval rating is much, much lower than his predecessor, the archetype works in maintaining his image of being the religious fighter who is battered and hated for sticking to his hard, moral choices. Of course he is hated by Liberals; they are Godless communists. Reporting from Iraq ignores the realities of increased insurgency as Iraqis grow stronger in their resistance to American occupation. Iraqis fighting for their country are easily dismissed back in the US as "fanatics" and "terrorists". They are part of Satan's army.

The Blair memo has been headlines in Britain and blogs since the Times published it a week ago. Only now is it timidly being brought up in the Washington Post. It confirms what we had long known, that the Bush crew was faking the facts to justify a decision taken long before. But even if the truth, that Iraq was in large part a war for Israel, would come out in the US mainstream media, it, too, fits in the archetype: the Armageddon archetype. Israel must be protected at all costs.

Our reality is completely manipulated. Everything is an illusion. The history we learn in school reflects the values and needs of the victors. The news we see and read reflects the current power-mongers. The dreams we hold of having a house, a new car, and a plot of suburbia are those manufactured by ad agencies to fuel corporate greed. Even many of our own thoughts may be the product of technology of which we have only suspicions, beamed at us to keep us fenced in.

For decades we have read stories of this manipulation. For longer than that we have told ourselves that you can't believe anything you read in the papers. What difference does it make? We still believe the lies. We still believe the President speaks his own words and is a heroic figure battling evil in our name.

If we didn't, things would be different.

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A Chronology of US War Crimes & Torture, 1975-2005
The Crimes of Empire
May 13, 2005

I. BACKGROUND, 1975-1989

April 30, 1975

South Vietnam falls. The end of a massive US campaign of imperial aggression, including the systematic use of torture, dating back to 1962. At the time, a low point in US international prestige. The last several years of direct US military involvement featured widespread mutiny in the military, troops killing their officers, and intense social conflicts at home between the government and militant peace and civil rights movements. Beginning of the "Vietnam Syndrome," in which US leaders hesitate to unleash mass murder on the world, for fear of such domestic political repercussions.


President Jimmy Carter rhetorically supports human rights,
and calls for energy conservation programs that are "the moral equivalent of war," partly to deal with US reliance on unstable and unjust regimes in the oil-rich Middle East, long recognized by US strategic planners as one of the greatest material prizes in world history, and therefore targeted for US influence, control and dominance. Carter's energy programs fail.


Iranian revolution against the US-supported Shah. 52 US hostages held at the embassy in Tehran until January 20, 1981. Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and massive US CIA support for the Afghan mujahadeen resistance, also involving Pakistani and Saudi intelligence agencies. These same Islamic resistance fighters would later organize the international Islamic terror network symbolized by Al-Qaeda.


President Ronald Reagan includes in his administration many of the same foreign and military policy appointees who would return to the Bush II administration 20 years later. Declares a "war on terrorism." Terrorizes people and popular organizations throughout Latin America, and supports apartheid and terrorism in Africa. Escapes impeachment in the "Iran/Contra Affair," for selling missiles to Iran and using the proceeds to illegally fund contra terrorists in Nicaragua.


Invasion of tiny Caribbean island nation of Grenada begins to counter the "Vietnam Syndrome."


Invasion of longstanding US client state Panama continues to counter the "Vietnam Syndrome."



Iraq under Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait on August 2.


Fall of the Soviet Union. End of the "Cold War." Operations "Desert Shield" and "Desert Storm" drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. US President George H.W. Bush publicly calls on Iraqi Shia and Kurds to rise up against Saddam's Sunni-based tyranny, then abandons them to be massacred when they do. The "Vietnam Syndrome" is largely forgotten, and there has been no significant evidence of an effective political left in the US since that time. Deadly economic "sanctions of mass destruction" are imposed on the Iraqi people, strengthening Saddam's dictatorial power over their impoverished nation.


Under President Bill Clinton, the US continues sanctions against Iraq, estimated to kill more than 500,000 children and about a million people total. US missiles strike Baghdad in 1996. US and UK develop and implement the doctrine of "humanitarian warfare" against former Yugoslavia in 1999. Corporate globalization policies in the form of "free trade" agreements, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and other institutional organs of global corporate power and governance systematically maintain and extend US imperial power. US Corporate globalization policies aim to conquer the entire world through market economics. Project for a New American Century (including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and other subsequent architects of the post-9/11 "war on terror") calls for invading Iraq to overthrow Saddam and control Iraqi oil.


September 11, 2001

Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC kill more than 3,000 people and provide a pretext for US aggression. As a direct result of this deadly "blowback" from the CIA's anti-Soviet operations in Afghanistan 20 years before, "everything changed." That is, previously established political checks and balances on the President's imperial powers were systematically cast aside, to facilitate US military and corporate power projection into the strategic energy producing regions of the Middle East. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and other powerful Bush administration policy makers immediately counsel war against Iraq. Bush reportedly states: "I don't care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass."

September 14, 2001

Congress grants Bush the power "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determined planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11."

September 25, 2001

Justice Department lawyer John Yoo directs a 15 page memo to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez, arguing that there are effectively "no limits" on Bush's powers to respond to the 9/11 attacks, by attacking "pre-emptively" any countries that harbor terrorists, "whether or not they can be linked to the specific terror incidents of Sept. 11." This is significantly broader than the authority granted by Congress on September 14. Bush's decisions "are for him alone and are unreviewable."

November 2001

A Justice Department memo written for the CIA puts forth an extremely narrow interpretation of the international anti-terror convention, allowing sleep deprivation and other "stress and duress" techniques. Bush announces that any non-US citizens he deems to be "terrorists" can be tried by secret military tribunals, rather than in conventional criminal trials. Ordinary evidence rules would not apply, a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt would not be required, and no appellate relief beyond Bush would be available. He reserved the right to keep the defendants in prison, even if they were acquitted by the tribunal. After the surrender of the Kunduz fortress in Afghanistan, hundreds of Taliban prisoners (as well as American John Walker Lindh) are taken prisoner. Hundreds of these prisoners die by suffocation in container trucks or by outright execution, with American forces working intimately with the Afghan perpetrators of the massacre.

December 28, 2001

Justice Dept. Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion argues that US courts lack jurisdiction to review the treatment of foreign prisoners at Guantanamo.

January 2002

Rumsfeld approves the use of aggressive interrogation methods, including dogs, to intimidate prisoners at Guantanamo.

January 9, 2002

OLC's John Yoo co-authors a 42 page memo concluding that neither the Geneva Conventions nor any of the laws of war apply to the war in Afghanistan.

Mid-January 2002

First plane load of prisoners lands at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo.

January 25, 2002

Gonzalez advises Bush that the Geneva Convention does not apply to detainees in the "war on terrorism" at Guantanamo. Gonzalez describes provisions of the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" and "obsolete." In fact, the Geneva Convention provides comprehensive protection for all persons in all armed conflicts, and no one has the lawful power to suspend its provisions. Gonzalez says he is concerned that without this conclusion US officials could be subject to prosecution for war crimes.

February 7, 2002

Over State Dept. objections, Bush issues a Memorandum adopting the essence of Gonzalez' legal position that detainees at Guantanamo are not Prisoners of War entitled to the protection of the Geneva Conventions. This is an attempt to shield US officials from responsibility for torture. Soon thereafter Bush signs a secret order granting new powers to the CIA to set up a series of secret detention facilities outside the US, and to interrogate detainees there harshly. The administration increases the "rendering" of suspects in a secret CIA jet to other governments to be tortured.

August 1, 2002

A Justice Department Memo ("The Torture Memo") requested by Gonzalez narrowly defines "torture" under US law and the Geneva Convention, as limited to practices causing physical pain "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." Specific practices like "water boarding" are discussed and approved. The memo opined that laws prohibiting torture "do not apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants," because he is Commander-in-Chief of the US military. The author, Jay Bybee, has subsequently been appointed to a lifetime position as a federal appellate judge.

September 2002

The Bush administration adopts its National Security Strategy, announcing the doctrine of "pre-emptive war" wherever and whenever they choose. Cofer Black, head of CIA Countertorrorist Center, testifies at a joint hearing of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee: "This is a highly classified area, but I have to say that all you need to know: There was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves came off."

November 14, 2002

Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, one of the Bush government's leading neocons, addresses the Federalist Society, a right wing legal organization that promotes judicial candidates for the Bush administration. Bolton denounces the International Criminal Court, and says that an alternative to international war crimes prosecutions "is for the parties themselves to try their own alleged war criminals. Indeed, there are substantial arguments that the fullest cathartic impact of the prosecutorial approach to war crimes occurs when the responsible population itself comes to grips with its past and administers appropriate justice."

December 2002

Rumsfeld approves initial list of 16 interrogation methods for Guantanamo, in addition to the 17 traditionally approved methods in the Army Field Manual. The new techniques clearly violate the Geneva Convention and US anti-torture laws.

March 6, 2003

Defense Department "Working Group Report on Detainee Interrogations in the Global War on Terrorism" (the "Pentagon Torture Manual") requested by Rumsfeld, adopts the Yoo/Gonzalez legal analyses of torture. "In order to respect the President's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign, [the statutory prohibition against torture] must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority. Congress lacks authority under Article I to set the terms and conditions under which the President may exercise his authority as Commander-in-Chief to control the conduct of operations during a war. [NOTE: In fact, Art. I, Sec. 8 of the US Constitution expressly states that "The Congress shall have Power to declare War and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water"]

March 20, 2003

US military forces invade Iraq without authorization by the United Nations Security Council, in violation of international law.

April 2003

Rumsfeld issues a final policy approving 24 special interrogation techniques, some of which need his permission to be used.

May 2003

A group of military lawyers disclose the administration's legal approval of torture and abuse to the Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the City Bar Association in New York. They repeat their request that the Bar Association take action in October 2003.

June 26, 2003

Amnesty International raises concerns about allegations of inhuman treatment in US detention camps in Iraq in a letter to Ambassador Paul Bremer

July 23, 2003

Amnesty International releases report, "Iraq: memorandum on concerns relating to law and order," warning of allegations of torture and abuse in US prisons, including Abu Ghraib: "Regrettably, testimonies from recently released detainees held at Camp Cropper and Abu Ghraib Prison do not suggest that conditions of detention have improved" since AI's June 26 letter to Bremer There are "a number of reports of cases of detainees who have died in custody, mostly as a result of shooting by members of the Coalition forces." A Saudi national "alleged that he was subjected to beatings and electric shocks."

August 18-26, 2003

Nearly two dozen prisoners at Guantanamo Bay ­ "Gitmo" ­ try to hang or strangle themselves, including ten simultaneous attempts in a single day, to protest conditions there. They were among 350 "self-harm" incidents recorded in 2003, including 120 "hanging gestures" at the prison, according to a Gitmo spokesman. "The 2003 protests came after Maj. Gen Geoffrey Miller took command with a mandate to get more information from the prisoners"

August -September 2003

In the face of intensifying resistance to US military occupation of Iraq, including bombings of the Jordanian embassy, UN headquarters, and police headquarters in Baghdad, General Miller, Guantanamo Prison Commander, visits Iraq to "Gitmoize" detention operations in US prisons there. Miller is acting under orders from fundamentalist US General Boykin and Rumsfeld's deputy Stephen Cambone. He recommends that military police be used by military intelligence and CIA interrogators to "set the conditions" for interrogation of Iraqi detainees. That is, he recommends that US personnel torture Iraqis. His recommendations are accepted and implemented. Furthermore, Rumsfeld and Cambone expand the scope of their top-secret "special access plan" ("Copper Green") and apply it to detained prisoners at Abu Ghraib, treating male prisoners there roughly and exposing them to sexual humiliation.

October 2003

Delegate from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visit Abu Ghraib prison, and witness "the practice of keeping persons deprived of their liberty [NOTE: without any charges, trial, or right to counsel or any other contact with the outside world] completely naked in totally empty concrete cells and in total darkness" for days. A military intelligence officer tells the ICRC that this practice was "part of the process." The ICRC reports that this "went beyond exceptional cases" and was "in some cases tantamount to torture." ICRC complains directly to top US authorities. National Lawyers Guild Convention resolves that Bush and other officials responsible for the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in violation of the UN Charter, the Nuremberg Principles, and other international instruments and treaties, and without a formal declaration of war as required by the US Constitution, should be impeached.

November 2003

An internal report by the Army's chief law enforcement officer criticizes the practice of involving Military Police officers in the process of "softening up prisoners for interrogation."

December 2003

An FBI e-mail describes methods used by Defense Department interrogators, posing as FBI agents, as "torture techniques." The FBI document says no "intelligence of a threat neutralization nature" was garnered by this torture.

January 13, 2004

Military policeman Joseph Darby reports the abuses at Abu Ghraib to the Army Criminal Investigations Division, and turns over a CD full of photographs. Within three days, a report made its way to Rumsfeld, who informed Bush. They begin developing the cover story "that some kids got out of control."

February 2004

Secret internal report of General Antonio Taguba regarding abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq states that General Miller of Guantanamo urged military commanders in Baghdad to put military intelligence in charge of the prison, and recommended that "detention operations must act as an enabler for interrogation." Taguba found that between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" at Abu Ghraib. There was a policy of holding "ghost detainees" in secret, hiding their presence from the Red Cross.

March 19, 2004

A Justice Department memo, reportedly written at the request of Gonzalez, authorizes the CIA to transfer detainees from Iraq to other countries for interrogation, in violation of international law. The memo apparently sanctioned a CIA policy of "rendering" detainees to countries with known records of grave human rights violations, including torture.

March 31, 2004

The Peacerights organization in the UK issues a detailed report calling on the International Criminal Court Prosecutor to investigate members of the UK government, a signatory to the Treaty of Rome ICC Statute, for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Iraq in 2003, as part of a "Joint Criminal Enterprise" with the USA.

April 2004

Committee on International Human Rights of the City Bar Association of New York, prompted by senior military lawyer whistle blowers, issues a report on interrogation of detainees. The Committee criticizes exclusion of military lawyers from supervising interrogations.

April 20-28, 2004

US Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Guantanamo (Rasul) and US (Hamdi and Padilla) "enemy combatants" cases. CBS "60 Minutes II" broadcasts the first infamous photos from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. One of the pictures depicts a hooded figure standing on a box attached to wires in a stress position known in the intelligence community as the "Vietnam" technique.

May 2004

The Wall Street Journal publicly discloses the contents of the ICRC's October 2003 report on torture.

May 5, 2004

A US Army summary of deaths and mistreatment of prisoners in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan shows a widespread pattern of abuse, involving more military units than previously known, and at least 37 deaths in US custody.

May 7, 2004

Amnesty International sends an open letter to Bush, saying that abuses committed by US agents in Abu Ghraib prison were war crimes, and calling on the administration to fully investigate these abuses and ensure there is no impunity for anyone found responsible, regardless of position or rank.

May 10, 2004

Bush publicly reiterates his complete support of Rumsfeld, in the aftermath of public release of the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Seymour Hersh publishes his first New Yorker piece on the torture at Abu Ghraib.

May 11, 2004

The Washington Post reports that the policy of denying due process, kidnapping and transporting foreigners to foreign governments to be tortured, "has been developed by military or CIA lawyers, vetted by Justice Department's office of legal counsel and, depending on the particular issue, approved by White House general counsel's office or the president himself."

May 15, 2004

Seymour Hersh reports in The New Yorker on the Pentagon's top-secret "Copper Green Special Access Plan,", which "encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq." "The rules are 'Grab whom you must. Do what you want.'" A confidential Pentagon consultant involved with such programs says: "The issue is that, since 9/11, we've changed the rules on how we deal with terrorism, and created conditions where the ends justify the means. You don't keep prisoners naked in their cell and then let them get bitten by dogs. This is sick." The New Zealand Herald reports that "Almost 10,000 prisoner's from President George W. Bush's so-called war on terror are being held around the world in secretive American-run jails and interrogation centres similar to the notorious Abu Ghraib Prison."

May 16, 2004

The British Observer reports that "Dozens of videotapes of American guards allegedly engaged in brutal attacks on Guantanamo Bay detainees have been stored and catalogued at the camp [If the allegations are proven] they will provide final proof that brutality against detainees has become an insitutionalised feature of America's war on terror"

May 19, 2004

US military spokesmen in Kabul, Afghanistan said they would keep their network of "around 20" secret detention facilities in that country shut to the outside world, after reported deaths there. European Philosophy Professor John Gray writes: "[T]he United States is facing an historic defeat in Iraq ­ a blow to American power more damaging than it suffered in Vietnam, and far larger in its global implications. The inescapable implication of currently available evidence is that the use of torture by US forces was not an aberration, but a practice sanctioned at the highest levels. Abuse on the scale suggested by the Red Cross report cannot be accounted for by any mere lapse in discipline or the trailer-park mentality of some American recruits. It was inherent in the American approach to war."

May 20, 2004

US officials admit that unspecified "harsher" interrogation techniques on some detainees at Guantanamo went beyond accepted military practice, and were "non-doctrinal." "The military lawyers believed some of those techniques went too far, other officials said." The fourteen Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee write to Attorney General John Ashcroft "to request that you appoint a special counsel to investigate whether high ranking officials within the Bush Administration violated the War Crimes Act by approving the use of torture techniques banned by international law."

May 21, 2004

US Govt. seeks to renew immunity from war crimes prosecutions previously granted in 2002 to American peacekeepers, with a new resolution before the UN Security Council, but in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal there is growing international opposition to such an extension.

May 24, 2004

Bush gives a speech in which he describes the incidents at Abu Ghraib as acts "by a few American troops who disregarded our country and disregarded our values."

June 2004

An FBI "Urgent Report" to the Director of the FBI raises concerns that abuse of detainees is being covered up. An FBI agent reported witnessing "numerous physical abuse incidents of Iraqi civilian detainees," including "strangulation, beatings, placement of lit cigarettes into the detainees ear openings."

June 8, 2004

Ashcroft tells the Senate Judiciary Committee that the international ban against torturing prisoners of war does not necessarily apply to suspects detained in the war on terror. He denies Congress access to memos by Bush administration lawyers who reportedly "concluded the president can legally order interrogators to abuse or even kill terrorist suspects in the interests of national security."

June 9, 2004

A New York Times editorial states: "Each new revelation makes it more clear that the inhumanity at Abu Ghraib grew out of a morally dubious culture of legal expediency and a disregard for normal behavior fostered at the top of this administration."

June 10, 2004

A New York Times op-ed states: "Under the doctrine of command responsibility, officials can be held resoponsible for war crimes committed by their subordinates even if they did not order them ­ so long as they had control over the perpetrators, had reason to know about the crimes, and did not stop them or punish the criminals. Moreover, the abuses seem to have been more than isolated actions. Instead, they now appear to be part of an explicit policy of coercive interrogations conducted around the globe and supported by Justice Department and White House lawyers, who argued in 2002 and 2003 that the Geneva Conventions and other domestic and international bans on torture did not apply in these cases."

June 11, 2004

Knight-Ridder newspapers announces that the US Army is now investigating deaths of 127 prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from 37 in early May. "In a press conference Thursday [June 10], President Bush said his instructions were that 'anything we did would conform to US law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations.' But the administration memos that have become public argued that US laws do not flatly prohibit torture."

June 28, 2004

US Supreme Court issues decisions in the "enemy combatant" cases (Hamdi, Padilla, and Rasul): "We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President" The Court rejects OLC's 12/28/01 opinion exempting such cases from US courts' jurisdiction, after around 600 men and boys were held for more than two years without charges or trial..

July 30, 2004

An FBI agent reports that a detainee at Guantanamo was wrapped in an Israeli flag and bombarded with loud music and strobe lights.

August 2, 2004

An FBI agent reports interrogations at Guantanamo in which detainees were shackled hand and foot in a fetal position on the floor for 18 to 24 hours at a time, and most had urinated or defecated on themselves. One detainee was reportedly left in an unventilated room at a temperature "probably well over a hundred degrees." He was "almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him," apparently having pulled out his own hair through the night.

December 20, 2004

An FBI document dated May 2004, from "On Scene Commander ­ Baghdad," released under court order to the ACLU under a Freedom of Information Act request, states that Bush issued an Executive Order authorizing use of inhumane interrogation methods against detainees in Iraq, including sleep deprivation, stress positions, dogs, hooding, and sensory deprivation. The Bush administration denies the existence of such an Executive Order.

December 30, 2004

US Justice Department releases a rewritten legal memo, disavowing it previous legal opinions regarding torture. "This memorandum supersedes the August 2002 Memorandum [i.e., "The Torture Memo"] in its entirety."

January 2, 2005

Washington Post reports that Bush administration is planning to imprison suspected terrorists indefinitely and without charges or trial.

January 6, 2005

Alberto Gonzalez testifies at hearings of Senate Judiciary Committee on his nomination as US Attorney General, provoking a flood of outraged commentary. For example: "Through a process of redefinition largely overseen by Mr. Gonzalez himself, a practice that was once a clear and abhorrent violation of the law has become in effect the law of the land. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Americans began torturing prisoners, and they have never really stopped. Mr. Gonzalez is unfit because the slow river of litigation is certain to bring before the next attorney general a raft of torture cases that challenge the very policies that he personally helped devise and put into practice. He is unfit because, while the attorney general is charged with upholding the law, the documents show that as White House counsel, Mr. Gonzalez, in the matter of torture, helped his client to concoct strategies to circumvent it. And he is unfit, finally, because he has rightly become the symbol of the United States' fateful departure from a body of settled international law and human rights practice for which the country claims to stand. One does not teach democracy, or freedom, through torture. By using torture, we Americans transform ourselves into the very caricature our enemies have sought to make of us."

January 8, 2005

Newsweek reports that the Pentagon is discussing "the Salvador option" in Iraq: employing death squads for assassination and kidnapping campaigns that echo the "Phoenix" state terrorism program in Vietnam, and Central American death squad crimes in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras throughout the 1980s.

January 13

The New York Times reports that in December 2004 the White House persuaded Congress to drop a new law that would have restricted "extreme interrogation measures." "Among the procedures approved by the document was waterboarding, in which a subject is made to believe he might be drowned. At times, their discussion included an assessment of whether specific measures, on a detainee by detainee basis, would cause such pain as to be considered torture."

January 25, 2005

The Baltimore Sun reports that the US Army investigated dozens of cases of detainee abuse in Iraq over the last two years, "but case after case was closed with US troops facing no charges or only minimal punishment The documents, internal reports from more than 50 criminal investigations, challenge the government's claims last year that photographed abuses at Abu Ghraib were the isolated pranks of a few low-ranking soldiers." The Washington Post reports that Iraqis are still being routinely tortured under the occupation, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

February 6, 2005

The Minneapolis Star Tribune raises the question of command responsibility for war crimes in Iraq: "independent human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and two of America's most respected investigative reporters, Mark Danner and Seymour Hersh, have all concluded, in detailed investigations, that torture of prisoners was authorized at the highest levels of command. [quoting Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch] 'No soldier higher than the rank of sergeant has been charged with a crime. No civilian leader at the Pentagon or the CIA is even being investigated. But the privates and the sergeants are not the ones who cast aside the Geneva Conventions, or who authorized illegal interrogation methods. Unless the higher-level officials who approved or tolerated crimes against detainees are also brought to justice, all the protestations of 'disgust' at the Abu Ghraib photos by President George W. Bush and others will be meaningless.'"

February 18, 2005

The Chicago Tribune reports that an Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning US soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA torture in a position known as "Palestinian hanging," suspended by his wrists with his hands cuffed behind his back. A guard told an interviewer "the prisoner's arms were stretched behind him in a way [the guard] never had seen before," so he was surprised the man's arms "didn't pop out of their sockets." As guards released the man's shackles, "blood gushed from his mouth 'as if a faucet had been turned on.'" Perpetrators "received non-judicial punishment."

March 17, 2005

CIA Director Porter Goss testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee that "I am not able to tell you that" interrogation techniques employed by the CIA in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks were always in compliance with the law. The CIA issued two statements "to clarify his remarks but no official would agree to be named" Goss claimed that "waterboarding" is "an area of what I will call professional interrogation techniques."

March 19, 2005

On the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Veterans For Peace, Inc. sends a letter and statement of violations to the members of the US Congress, calling for the removal of Bush and Cheney from office, because of a war of aggression on Iraq and war crimes and crimes against humanity in the execution of the war.

March 25, 2005

In spite of recommendations by investigators that they be charged, US Army commanders decide not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

April 23, 2005

Human Rights Watch issues a report calling for a special prosecutor to investigate US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA Director George Tenet regarding abuse of prisoners.

April 25, 2005

The Independent (UK) reports that the top UN human rights investigator in Afghanistan was fired "under American pressure just days after he presented a report criticising the US military for detaining suspects without trial and holding them in secret prisons often before being shipped to Guantanamo Bay."

April 28, 2005

The US Army Inspector General, on the one year anniversary of the Abu Ghraib scandal, announces that no senior US military officer will be held accountable; only Brigadier General Janis Karpinski is relieved of her command and reprimanded. The transparent and utterly shameful whitewash provokes an eloquent denunciation by commentator Joe Conason: "In this disgraceful story, accountability diminishes with every ascending link in the chain of command. Miller and Sanchez at least were criticized in official reports, but Rumsfeld, former CIA director George Tenet and Gonzales haven't endured even that degree of discomfort. They haven't even been investigated. Instead, all three have been rewarded and lavishly praised by the president. Tenet got the Medal of Freedom. Gonzales got a promotion from White House counsel to attorney general. And Rumsfeld, despite widespread bipartisan demands for his resignation, got to keep his job. The failure of our "system" in this scandal has not been confined to the White House or the Pentagon, awful as their failures are. Although traditional news organizations such as CBS News, the New Yorker magazine and a few newspapers deserve tremendous credit for their reporting on Abu Ghraib and its sequels, most of the American media has conspicuously hesitated to emphasize this story or to confront the responsible officials. It was remarkable to read the transcript of Rumsfeld's press briefing this week, which reveals the extent of journalistic timidity on this topic. No doubt emboldened by this weakness, Rumsfeld recently placed unprecedented restrictions on the First Amendment freedoms of reporters covering the court-martial of a sergeant at Fort Bragg. On the anniversary of the Abu Ghraib scandal, the only appropriately outraged editorial in any major publication appeared in the Washington Post, a paper whose editorial support for the Iraq war hasn't diminished its desire to see national honor restored. And then there is Congress, which might once have been expected to enforce accountability on rogue officialdom. Not any more. The House of Representatives is entirely useless under its current leadership, except to echo the excuses of the executive branch and perform whatever favors its corporate sponsors have bought."

Tom Stephens is a lawyer in Detroit. He can be reached at: lebensbaum4@earthlink.


I have a very large number of news, investigative and official government reports on file.

I have tried to provide a specific, credible source for each of the events identified in Part III, since 9/11/01. Some of the more notable documents I have used are listed below:

- National Lawyers Guild Practitioner, Vol. 60, No. 4 Fall 2003, special issue
focusing on Unilateral Power vs. International Law, in the context of the Iraq war.

-Articles by Prof. Marjorie Cohn, Prof. Jules Lobel and Michael Ratner, Prof. John Quigley, Prof. Karima Bennoune, Edward J. Flynn, and Staughton Lynd

- National Lawyers Guild Practitioner, Vol. 61, No. 2 Spring 2004, "Atrocity by Frenzy or by Policy? Tracing the Blame up the Chain of Command in the Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal," by Michael S. Bryant

- "Working Group Report on Detainee Interrogations in the Global War on Terrorism: Assessment of Legal, Historical, Policy, and Operational Considerations," March 6, 2003, posted on the web site of the Center for Constitutional Rights

- National Lawyers Guild Resolution Calling for the Impeachment of George W. Bush and Cabinet Officials Responsible for Suppression of Constitutional Rights and Violation of International Law, Which is Part of the Supreme Law of the Land, NLG Convention, Minneapolis, MN, October 2003

- "Report of the Inquiry into the Alleged Commission of War Crimes by
Coalition Forces in the Iraq War During 2003," Peacerights March 31, 2003

- "Chaos in Washington," TomDispatch, 5/17/04, by Tom Englehardt

- "Torture at Abu Ghraib," The New Yorker, 5/10/04, by Seymour Hersh

- "The Gray Zone," The New Yorker, 5/15/04, by Seymour Hersh

- "Abuse at Abu Ghraib, the Psychodynamics of Occupation, and the
Responsibility of Us All," ZNet, 5/1/04, by Stephen Soldz

- "The Roots of Torture," Newsweek, May 18, 2004, by John Barry, Michael Hirsch, and Michael Issikoff

Comment: These techniques are being used on the godless Iraqis now. They'll be used on godless Americans in short order. If you haven't made Jesus your personal saviour, watch out.

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The Religious Right: An Anti-American Terrorist Movement
Thursday, 12 May 2005, 11:23 am
By Carolyn Baker

When I was in college, I wrote a research paper that changed my life forever. I had grown up in a fundamentalist Christian family living in the buckle of the Bible Belt where I was fed a steady diet of racism and Cold War anti-communism. My grandfather had been a member of the Klan in the 1920s, and as a high school student, I was saving money to join the John Birch Society. Most personally detrimental to me, however, was the denigration by my high-school-educated parents of higher education. "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing," they exhorted from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. And, when I insisted on attending college, they reminded me incessantly that the wisdom of man is foolishness in the eyes of God. However, getting an education from a fundamentalist, Bob Jones University-like institution would be acceptable. I did not attend Bob Jones, but almost miraculously, given the fact that I was attending a similar institution, I started to think critically, and therefore, from their perspective, my parents' caveat that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" was validated.

In the second semester of my freshman year, I chose to write a research paper on race. It was 1964, and that summer, the Congress would pass the Civil Rights Act. Throughout my high school years, Martin Luther King was becoming a household word, and few people in my world held anything but contempt for the "colored communist sympathizer."

As I reflect on my innocence at that age, but more importantly, my thirst for knowledge, I recall the hours of reading and research invested in the topic. Specifically, I set out to discover if African Americans were genuinely equal with whites. Pathetically, I was actually seeking evidence for the humanity of blacks. On the one hand, that I needed to research the topic in order to grasp that African Americans were my brothers and sisters was tragic, but on the other hand, that particular research project at that particular time in my life opened one door and closed another permanently, forever, and there was no turning back. I didn't get an A on the paper, but it launched for me a journey of social justice that I have been on ever since.

Today, as I witness the possibility of losing the last shreds of liberty to a fundamentalist theocracy, I am reminded once again of my college research paper and how "dangerous" research, critical thinking, and asking the right questions can be. All those years ago, I extricated myself from the fundamentalist Christian programming of my family and subculture, and now I am watching it threaten to engulf my entire country.

To even attempt to understand the religious right, which many are now naming "Dominionism", one must grasp the mental duress it holds on its followers. I should know; I was one of them. Axiomatic in the worldview of the f undamentalist, born-again Christian is: "I have the truth, I'm right; you don't have the truth, you're wrong." As a result, critical thinking, research, or intellectual freedom of exploration are not only unnecessary, they are dangerous and potentially heretical. Paul Krugman noted in a recent article that while the religious right bashes academia for its "liberal bias", studies of the political persuasions of college and university professors indicate that persons who prefer academia as a lifelong career tend to be more liberal, just as those who prefer the military as a lifelong career tend to be more conservative.

The halls of academia do not spawn the likes of Tim LaHaye or Pat Robertson. Remember, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

But simply shunning critical thinking does not make one a terrorist. What does, however, is the notion that because one "has the truth" and everyone else who believes differently is "wrong", those individuals will be condemned to spend eternity in hell and must be incessantly reminded of their fate and their "inferior" status in the eyes of God. Moreover, because of one's "superior" spiritual status, one has the so-called "divine authority" to subvert, by whatever means necessary, the very machinery of government in order to establish a theocracy in which one's worldview is predominant.

When sufficiently pressed, Christian fundamentalists intractably argue that people are poor because they have not been born again. Like the Puritans of seventeenth-century America, wealth is a sign that one is following the will of God, and poverty indicates that one is not. People are poor because they are doing something to cause themselves to be poor, and whatever that may be, the underlying cause is that they do not have a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ." Increasingly, one sees many faces of color in fundamentalist congregations, but those individuals are almost without exception, born-again Christians who tow the dominionist line with other people of color.

Dominionism deplores the mental health system. Like those who are poor, the mentally ill would not be so if they were born again Christians. After all, mental illness is a label given by the Dr. Phil's of the world to people whose minds have been devoured by Satan. What they really need is Christian conversion and of course, a great deal of medication from the pharmaceutical lobby. The only valid therapist is Jesus; down with Oprah, God bless Joyce Meyer. Obviously, according to Dominionism, government should not be financing mental health programs.

And what about addictions? In case you haven't caught on to the drill yet, Jesus is the answer to that one as well. Who needs a Twelve-Step program? There's only one step: Accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior as so on as possible, and your addictions will be erased faster than those eighteen minutes on the Richard Nixon tapes. (Remind me to write another article on the religious right AS an addiction.)

Christian fundamentalism in "cafeteria style" has chosen which parts of Jesus' teachings it chooses to honor and which not. Preference is always given to the "I am" passages such as those in the Gospel of John in which Jesus says, " I am the door; the bread of life; the way, the truth, and the life; the light of the world; the living water," and so on, supposedly claiming to be God and commanding his listeners to accept him as the only way to live forever with God in heaven and escape eternity in hell. Little attention is given to the Sermon on the Mount and the many passages where Jesus condemns the wealthy and the religious leaders of his time for their callous, hypocritical, mean-spirited absence of compassion. In fact, theologians who pay much attention to Jesus' teachings on compassion are viewed as bleeding hearts, unorthodox, and not really Christian. For this reason, Pat Robertson stated on his 700 Club Program, January 14, 1991: "You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don' have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist."

Let us not overlook the obvious: Dominionism is about dominion-over women, children, the poor, people of color, alternative sexual orientations, and the earth. It fits so nicely with fascist tyranny.

Christian fundamentalism is fundamentally UN-American. Dominonists clearly desire a revised United States Constitution that will institute a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. As Katherine Yurica has so assiduously reported, the Domionist agenda would shred the Constitution and end the democratic republic our Deist founding fathers hammered out for five grueling months in 1787 in Philadelphia.

In fact, Pat Robertson believes that only Christian people should interpret and benefit from the Constitution. Again, on his 700 Club, December 30, 1981, he stated that "The Constitution of the United States, is a marvelous document for self-government by Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian people and atheistic people they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society." Never mind that most of the founding fathers did not consider themselves Christian and clearly, adamantly, and unequivocally defended the right of everyone in America to believe-or not believe, as he/she chooses.

Replacing this republic would be the Dominionist theocracy which pronounces itself above the rule of law and claims to be directed by the "higher law" of the Bible. In that society, abortion would be illegal, even in cases of rape or incest; capital punishment would be mandatory in every state, and for some Dominionists, it should be extended to anyone with a sexual orientation other than heterosexual; the nation's entire infrastructure and economy would be privatized; public schools would be turned into essentially Dominionist parochial schools, and no social services would exist except those of faith-based charities. The fastest-growing industry in the nation, the prison system, would undoubtedly find itself at the top of the financial markets as hordes of "unbelievers" were incarcerated. However, given the multitudes of fundamentalist Christian organizations now proselytizing in the nation's prisons, the heathen masses would be given "one more chance" to be born again, hence sending them to prison would be doing God's work and society a favor.

Most egregious, and certainly paralleling terrorism's culture of death is the fundamentalist Christian contempt for life-I repeat: contempt for life. As Benedictine Sister, Joan Chittister notes, being "pro-birth" is not the same as being pro-life.

Forcing females to have children without providing what they need financially, emotionally, and educationally is a pro-birth agenda that murders countless bodies and souls. Because they don't think the Sermon on the Mount is really very important, these individuals have an appalling disconnect, fawning over the decaying body of a woman in a permanent vegetative state while praising the demise of over 100,000 innocent Iraqi citizens and touting the patriotism of some 1,600 dead U.S. troops.

The religious right of twenty-first century America is anti-American, inherently violent, and a cruel, tyrannical, punitive, force of death and destruction. In its mindset, adult human lives do not matter because the human condition itself is inherently evil resulting in eternal and everlasting punishment in hell unless its members are redeemed in a prescribed manner by the fundamentalist God/man/savior, Jesus Christ. Moreover, with an embarrassingly adolescent flamboyance, Dominionists shamelessly rape, pillage, and desecrate the earth because in the first place, their Bible has given them authority over all things human and in the second place, their "imminent" apocalyptic rapture, transporting them from the human "veil of tears" to live happily ever after in heaven, entitles them to do so. Meanwhile, we the unredeemed, the unbelievers, the poor, the feminists, the gay and lesbian, the disabled, the homeless, the mentally ill, the addicted, and those who are conscientiously following divergent spiritual paths of their choice, are suffering in the wake of Christian fundamentalism's devastation of the economy, the earth, and the human race. But this is what we deserve for not becoming born-again devotees of their Jesus. And we deserve even worse-to burn in hell for all of eternity. Hence, we are expendable, inconsequential, and a force to be conquered, broken, imprisoned, or killed.

In his article, "Feeling The Hate," in the May, 2005 issue of Harpers Magazine, Chris Hedges conjectures that we may well see a civil war in America between the religious right and everyone else who does not identify as such. I do not know if this will happen, but I do know that the demented logic and circular reasoning of "the Bible says" fundamentalists must be challenged and exposed at every turn for what it is: Intellectual, emotional, and spiritual terrorism-un-American, un-democratic, inhuman. Furthermore, I wouldn't be surprised if some of their children, somewhere, sometime, write research papers that prove to the world that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

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An Interview with David Graeber

Without Cause: Yale Fires An Acclaimed Anarchist Scholar
May 13, 2005

David Graeber, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Yale University, and the author of Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams and Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, among many other scholarly publications. Last week Prof. Graeber was informed that his teaching contract at Yale would not be extended. However, it was not Graeber's scholarship that was ever in question; rather it was his political philosophies that may have played a heavy hand in the administration's unwarranted decision. Graeber, a renowned anarchist scholar, recently spoke with CounterPuncher Joshua Frank about the fiasco. As one of our other favorite anthropologists David Price put it, this "is a ghastly look under the hood at how academic knowledge is manufactured at America's 'finest' institutions."

Joshua Frank: Prof. Graeber, can you talk a little bit about the circumstances leading up to Yale's decision not to renew your teaching contract? How much of their decision do you think was based on your political persuasion and activism?

David Graeber: Well, it's impossible to say anything for certain because no official reasons were given for the decision and I'm not allowed to know what was said in the senior faculty meeting where my case was discussed. In fact, if anyone who attended were to tell me what I was accused of, they would themselves be accused of violating "confidentiality" and they would get in trouble, too. But one thing that was repeatedly stressed to me when I was preparing my material for review is that no one is really taking issue with my scholarship. In fact, it was occasionally hinted to me that if anything I publish too much, have received too much international recognition, and had too many enthusiastic letters of support from students. All that might have actually weighed against me. Again, I have no way of knowing if that's really true, because everything is a secret. But I'd be willing to say this much: What happened to me was extremely irregular - almost unheard of, really. It happened despite the fact that I'm one of best published scholars and most popular teachers in the department. Does it have anything to do with the fact that I'm also one of the only declared anarchist scholars in the academy? I'll leave it to your readers to make up their own minds.

JF: If I am not mistaken, you have been up for review at Yale before, correct? What has changed since those reviews were held?

DG: I had an official third-year review and I had no problems with that, they told me I was doing fine. Then, after that, I started writing essays defending anarchism, and getting involved in big mobilizations against the IMF and G8 as well organizing with the peace movement. When I got back from my sabbatical, everything had changed. Several of the senior profs wouldn't even say hello to me. I was assigned no committee work. When I came up for review in my sixth year for promotion to term associate - normally a rubber stamp - suddenly, several senior faculty virulently opposed my promotion on the grounds that I didn't do any committee work. Not surprising since they refused to give me any. They also produced a whole panoply of petty charges - "he comes late to class," that sort of thing - which, as usual, I was not allowed to know about much less respond to. Of course I was acting exactly as I'd acted for the first three years, too, but suddenly it was a terrible problem. The vote deadlocked so they took it to the Dean who told them they couldn't fire someone without a warning, so I was given a letter telling me I had to do something about my "unreliability" and do more service work. My contract was extended for just two years instead of the usual four, and I was told they would vote at the end of the next year to see if it would be extended (so that I would be able to come up for tenure.) So this year I've been running the colloquium series, doing all sorts of extra teaching - this term for instance, I effectively taught three courses instead of the required two because I had one weekly class with undergraduates who were all taking independent studies with me - taught one of the most popular courses in Yale (Myth and Ritual, with 137 students) ... But on Friday May 6, I was informed that they had voted not to renew my contract anyway and offered no explanation as to why.

JF: I know there is no union you can turn to at Yale for support, as faculty members are not allowed to unionize, but have you reached out to the Graduate Employee and Student Organization (GESO, Yale's graduate student union)? I know they are not recognized as a legitimate union by the university, but have they been an ally in all of this?

DG: To be honest, I actually tried to avoid getting involved in campus activism for many years. I figured we all have to make our little compromises, mine would be: I'd be an activist in New York, and a scholar in New Haven, and that meant avoiding the whole unionization question as much as I could. In the long run, of course, it was impossible. Our department is extremely divided, certain elements in the senior faculty hate GESO with an infinite passion and campaign tirelessly against it, the students are all factionalized; it's a mess. I supported the principle of unionization of course; I was also very critical of what I saw as the top-down organization of the union (after all, I'm an anarchist - my idea of a good union is the IWW); I just tried to be fair to all sides. But in the end I got drawn in. It all came to a head a few months ago, actually, when certain elements in the senior faculty tried to kick out a very brilliant graduate student who also happened to be one of the department's major organizers. As it turned out, I was the only professor on her committee willing to openly stand up for her during the meeting where they tried to terrorize her into leaving the program. She refused to back down, and with the help of some of my colleagues, we managed to get her through her defense successfully, but after that, certain elements in the senior faculty seemed determined to take revenge.

I'm definitely working with some union people now. But almost all of the graduate students, the most pro-GESO and the most anti-GESO, seem to have been shocked and outraged by what happened. In fact, one of the things that has come of this, that's strangely wonderful, is that it's the first thing that really brought both sides together. The students are organizing and they've put together a petition and are already starting to take all sorts of action to try to pressure the university to reverse the decision.

JF: Do you think some of this extreme tension within your department, and the episode with the grad student you defended, played a role in your contract not being renewed? Or was this just an extension of an already contentious relationship? There seems to be a huge divide between some of the senior faculty and yourself. What else, if anything, have they done to show their dislike for your political persuasion - or is it more your activism that gets under their skin?

DG: I don't want to give the impression that the senior faculty are all the same: there are some amazing, wonderful scholars amongst the senior faculty here. We're really just talking about three, maybe four, who are atrocious bullies. I have five colleagues who were just awesome, and who fought as hard as they could to defend me. It's just that the bullies never give up - they're willing to throw all their time and energy into these battles, since after all, most have long since given up on any meaningful intellectual life - and of course since everything's secret, there's no accountability.

They can tell one lie about you, get caught in it, and then next time around just make up another one and eventually the majority of the faculty will say "it doesn't matter whether what they say is true. If they hate this guy so much, then clearly his presence is divisive. Let's just get rid of him."

Comment: Just like the psychopath...

As for the episode with the grad student: absolutely. Again, some of these people have no intellectual life. In most departments there's one or two characters like that, you know. Their power is the only thing they really have. So anyone challenges that power in any way and they react like cornered tigers. That's why they hate the union so much. That's why they go berserk if anyone stands up to them.

One thing that I've learned in academia is no one much cares what your politics are as long as you don't do anything about them. You can espouse the most radical positions imaginable, as long as you're willing to be a hypocrite about them. The moment you give any signs that you might not be a hypocrite, that you might be capable of standing on principle even when it's not politically convenient, then everything's different. And of course anarchism isn't about high theory: it's precisely the willingness to try to live by your principles.

JF: So are academics not supposed to be activists then? I'm thinking of Ward Churchill's recent controversy at the University of Colorado and Joseph Massad's at Columbia. Do you think your case is symptomatic of a larger problem in the US where radical professors are being targeted for their unpopular political views? Or are these just isolated incidents?

DG: If you'd asked me six months ago, I would have probably said "academics can be activists as long as they do nothing to challenge the structure of the university," or anyone's power within it. If you want to make an issue of labor conditions in Soweto, great, you're a wonderful humanitarian; if you want to make an issue of labor conditions for the janitors who clean your office, that's an entirely different story. But I think you're right, something's changing. I mean, I'm sure it's not like there's someone giving orders from above or anything, but there's a climate suddenly where people feel they can get away with this sort of thing, and the Ward Churchill and Massad cases obviously must have something to do with that. I've been hearing a lot of stories, in recent weeks, about radical teachers suddenly being let go for no apparent reason. They don't even have to dig up something offensive you're supposed to have said any more - at least, in my case no one is even suggesting I did or said anything outrageous, in which case, at least there'd be something to argue about.

If I had to get analytical about it, maybe I'd put it this way. We're moving from the neoliberal university to the imperial university. Or at least people are trying to move us there. It used to be as long as you didn't challenge the corporatization of the university, you'd be basically okay. But the neoliberal project - where the politicians would all prattle about "free markets and democracy" and what that would actually mean was that the world would be run by a bunch of unelected trade bureaucrats in the interests of Citibank and Monsanto - that kind of fell apart. And of course the groups I've been working with - People's Global Action, the DANs and ACCs and the like - we had a lot to do with that. It threw the global elites into a panic, and of course the normal reaction of global elites when thrown into a panic is to go and start a war. It doesn't really matter who the war's against. The point is once you've got a war, the rules start changing, all sorts of things you'd never be able to get away with otherwise become possible, whether in Haiti or New Haven. In that kind of climate, nasty people start trying to see what they can get away with. "Fire the anarchist for no particular reason? Maybe that'll work."

That's why I feel we have to fight this. I don't think it would be all that hard for me to find another job. My CV and publications kind of speak for themselves. But if you let something like this stand, it hurts everyone. So when people asked me whether they should start mobilizing for me, I said, go right ahead. And the outpouring of support has been just amazing. We already have 1400 signatures from Argentina to Singapore and the petition has only been up for a couple days now. I hear that the European parliament is about to pass a bill specifically about my case. The teacher's union in the UK is going to consider placing Yale on their "gray list." People are mobilizing all over the world.

You can support Prof. Graeber by signing an online petition:

Prof. Graeber can be reached at

Anyone who would like to send further emails of support of Prof. Graeber, please send them to (President), (Chair), (Director of Graduate Studies), (Dean), (Dean).

Joshua Frank is the author of the forthcoming book, Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, to be published by Common Courage Press. You can pre-order a copy at discounted rate at Josh can be reached at:

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51 House members call on Gonzales to appoint special counsel on alleged U.S. 'war crimes'
Raw Story

Congressman John Conyers will be issuing a letter cosigned by roughly 50 House members calling for a special prosecutor to investigate claims that the U.S. has violated the War Crimes Act at secret detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, RAW STORY has learned.

The following letter will be issued shortly.

May 12, 2005

The Honorable Alberto R. Gonzales
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

We are writing to request that you appoint a special counsel to investigate whether high-ranking officials within the Bush Administration violated the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441, or the Anti-Torture Act, 18 U.S.C. 2340 by allowing the use of torture techniques banned by domestic and international law at recognized and secret detention sites in Iraq, Afghanistan Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

One year and 10 investigations after we first learned about the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib, there has yet to be a comprehensive, neutral and objective investigation with prosecutorial authority of who is ultimately responsible for the abuses there and elsewhere. While more than 130 low-ranking officers and enlisted soldiers have been disciplined or face courts-martial for the abuses that occurred, there have been no criminal charges against high-ranking officials. Yet the pattern of abuse across several countries did not result from the acts of individual soldiers who broke the rules. It resulted from decisions made by senior U.S. officials to bend, ignore, or cast rules aside. If the United States is to wipe away the stain of Abu Ghraib, it needs to investigate those at the top who ordered or condoned torture. As a result, it is in our interest to finally show the world that we are taking these matters seriously and resolving them free of political taint.

Some of us previously asked Attorney General Ashcroft to appoint a special counsel to investigate these abuses on May 20, 2004. Unfortunately, we received no answer to our request. The need for a special counsel is now more important than ever as the Administration and military have repeatedly exonerated high-ranking officials, or declined to even investigate their actions, even as other official investigations linked the policy decisions by these officials to the crimes that occurred at Abu Ghraib. The Administration's haphazard and disjointed approach to these investigations appears to have insulated those in command and prevented a full account of the actions and abuses from being determined.

As you know, under Department of Justice regulations, the Attorney General must appoint a special counsel when (1) a "criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted," (2) the investigation "by a United States Attorney Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department," and (3) "it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter." In the present case, all three requirements have been met.

First, federal criminal laws are clearly implicated. The Anti-Torture Act criminalizes acts of torture - including attempts to commit torture and conspiracy to commit an act of torture - occurring outside the United States' territorial jurisdiction regardless of the citizenship of the perpetrator or victim. The Geneva Conventions generally prohibit "violence to life and persons," "outrages upon personal dignity," and "humiliating and degrading treatment." Violations of the Geneva Conventions also constitute a violation of U.S. federal criminal law under the War Crimes Act. The Administration has acknowledged on several occasions that the United States is bound by the Geneva Conventions with respect to Iraqi and Taliban prisoners, and that a violation of the Conventions would invite prosecution under the War Crimes Act. Numerous investigations have uncovered such violations. The Taguba report found instances of "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses" of prisoners. The Army's Inspector General's report found 94 incidents of detainee abuse at detention sites in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, the Schlesinger report confirmed five instances in which detainees died as a result of abuse by U.S. personnel during interrogations. The repudiation of the August 2002 memorandum you wrote as White House Counsel in December of 2004 suggests even the Administration realizes its policies contributed to actions which violated federal criminal law.

Therefore, given the Administration's concession that the Geneva Conventions apply to Iraqi and Taliban prisoners, given its concession in the Gonzalez memo that a violation of the Conventions would also constitute a violation of federal criminal law, and given the flagrant violations of the Conventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay which have been confirmed by official investigations, it is clear that a prima facie violation of federal criminal law exists. It is also evident that high-ranking Administration officials, including the Defense Secretary, as well as high-ranking military officials, may have authorized these actions and are potentially subject to criminal prosecution as well.

Second, there is an obvious conflict of interest. A special counsel is necessary not only because high-ranking Administration officials, including Cabinet members, are implicated, but also because you personally, and the Department of Justice generally, may have participated in this conspiracy to violate the War Crimes Act. It has been confirmed that the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, and you yourself as White House Counsel, encouraged the president to withhold Geneva Convention protections from Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay detainees. If the conflict of interest provisions in your regulations mean anything, it is that when the Attorney General may have contributed to the abuses that were committed, the Department of Justice has no business conducting the investigation and should instead turn to a special counsel.

Finally, there can be no doubt that the public interest will be served by a broad and independent investigation into both the allegations of abuse at U.S. detention sites as well as the role of high-ranking officials in authorizing and allowing these abuses. To date, a number of investigations into allegations of abuse at United States detention sites have been conducted, including ten official investigations. These investigations concluded that the leadership failure of officers such as Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, formerly the senior commander in Iraq, contributed to the prisoner abuse.

For example, the Army Inspector General and former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger found in separate reports that the policies issued by Lt. Gen. Sanchez and his subsequent actions once the abuses at Abu Ghraib were known contributed to the perpetration of these abuses. The Schlesinger investigation also found that other top military officials were responsible, concluding, "There is both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels." Similarly, the Kern-Fay-Jones report concluded that the actions of Sanchez and his most senior deputies, such as Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, "did indirectly contribute" to some abuses. However, these inquiries were not empowered to impose punishments on those it found culpable, and they were not empowered to examine the role of high-ranking officials, including members of the Administration, in the perpetuation of these abuses. And, in spite of these findings, many of the reports refused to hold these high-ranking officials culpable. In fact, we recently learned the Army absolved four top officers, including Lt. Gen. Sanchez, of wrongdoing. To date, only one high-ranking military officer has been punished as a result of these inquiries, and many view her punishment as a mere slap on the wrist. As a result, it is not yet clear to the world that the United States is taking these abuses seriously.

The public interest demands we determine who is ultimately responsible for these abuses. While Private Lynndie England and other low-ranking officers have pled guilty, those who ordered and authorized their actions appear to have been protected by the military and this Administration. Because so many high level officials, including you, have been implicated in these events, the only way to ensure impartiality is through the appointment of a Special Counsel. Indeed, our nation's integrity is at stake. We must reassure the world that we will fairly and independently pursue legal violations wherever they occur.

We await your response on this important matter. At no point during this Administration has a Special Counsel been appointed.15 Please contact us through Perry Apelbaum or Ted Kalo of the Judiciary Staff at 2142 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 if you have any questions about this request.


1. Rep. Tammy Baldwin
2. Rep. Sanford Bishop
3. Rep. Earl Blumenauer
4. Rep. Corrine Brown
5. Rep. Julia Carson
6. Rep. John Conyers
7. Rep. Elijah Cummings
8. Rep. A. Davis
9. Rep. S. Davis
10. Rep. Diana DeGette
11. Rep. Anna Eshoo
12. Rep. Barney Frank
13. Rep. Raul Grijalva
14. Rep. Luis Guitierrez
15. Rep. Maurice Hinchey
16. Rep. Michael Honda
17. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
18. Rep. Ron Kind
19. Rep. Dennis Kucinich
20. Rep. Barbara Lee
21. Rep. Zoe Lofgren
22. Rep. Carolyn Maloney
23. Rep. Betty McCollum
24. Rep. Jim McDermott
25. Rep. James McGovern
26. Rep. Gregory Meeks
27. Rep. James Moran
28. Rep. Jerrold Nadler
29. Rep. James Oberstar
30. Rep. John Olver
31. Rep. Frank Pallone
32. Rep. Donald Payne
33. Rep. Tom Price
34. Rep. Martin Sabo
35. Rep. Linda Sanchez
36. Rep. Bernard Sanders
37. Rep. Janice Schakowsky
38. Rep. Bobby Scott
39. Rep. Jose Serrano
40. Rep. Louise Slaughter
41. Rep. Hilda Solis
42. Rep. Fortney Stark
43. Rep. Ellen Tauscher
44. Rep. Mark Udall
45. Rep. Chris VanHollen
46. Rep. Maxine Waters
47. Rep. Diane Watson
48. Rep. Melvin Watt
49. Rep. Robert Wexler
50. Rep. Lynn Woolsey
51. Rep. David Wu

Comment: We will be sure to bring you news of 51 mysterious plane crashes that may occur in the near future...

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The true purpose of torture

Guantánamo is there to terrorise - both inmates and the wider world
Naomi Klein
The Guardian
Saturday May 14, 2005

I recently caught a glimpse of the effects of torture in action at an event honouring Maher Arar. The Syrian-born Canadian is the world's most famous victim of "rendition", the process by which US officials outsource torture to foreign countries. Arar was switching planes in New York when US interrogators detained him and "rendered" him to Syria, where he was held for 10 months in a cell slightly larger than a grave and taken out periodically for beatings.

Arar was being honoured for his courage by the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, a mainstream advocacy organisation. The audience gave him a heartfelt standing ovation, but there was fear mixed in with the celebration. Many of the prominent community leaders kept their distance from Arar, responding to him only tentatively. Some speakers were unable even to mention the honoured guest by name, as if he had something they could catch. And perhaps they were right: the tenuous "evidence" - later discredited - that landed Arar in a rat-infested cell was guilt by association. And if that could happen to Arar, a successful software engineer and family man, who is safe?

In a rare public speech, Arar addressed this fear directly. He told the audience that an independent commissioner has been trying to gather evidence of law-enforcement officials breaking the rules when investigating Muslim Canadians. The commissioner has heard dozens of stories of threats, harassment and inappropriate home visits. But, Arar said, "not a single person made a public complaint. Fear prevented them from doing so." Fear of being the next Maher Arar.

The fear is even thicker among Muslims in the United States, where the Patriot Act gives police the power to seize the records of any mosque, school, library or community group on mere suspicion of terrorist links. When this intense surveillance is paired with the ever-present threat of torture, the message is clear: you are being watched, your neighbour may be a spy, the government can find out anything about you. If you misstep, you could disappear on to a plane bound for Syria, or into "the deep dark hole that is Guantánamo Bay", to borrow a phrase from Michael Ratner, president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights.

But this fear has to be finely calibrated. The people being intimidated need to know enough to be afraid but not so much that they demand justice. This helps explain why the defence department will release certain kinds of seemingly incriminating information about Guantánamo - pictures of men in cages, for instance - at the same time that it acts to suppress photographs on a par with what escaped from Abu Ghraib. And it might also explain why the Pentagon approved a new book by a former military translator, including the passages about prisoners being sexually humiliated, but prevented him from writing about the widespread use of attack dogs. This strategic leaking of information, combined with official denials, induces a state of mind that Argentinians describe as "knowing/not knowing", a vestige of their "dirty war".

'Obviously, intelligence agents have an incentive to hide the use of unlawful methods," says Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). "On the other hand, when they use rendition and torture as a threat, it's undeniable that they benefit, in some sense, from the fact that people know that intelligence agents are willing to act unlawfully. They benefit from the fact that people understand the threat and believe it to be credible."

And the threats have been received. In an affidavit filed with an ACLU court challenge to section 215 of the Patriot Act, Nazih Hassan, president of the Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor in Michigan, describes this new climate. Membership and attendance are down, donations are way down, board members have resigned - Hassan says his members avoid doing anything that could get their names on lists. One member testified anonymously that he has "stopped speaking out on political and social issues" because he doesn't want to draw attention to himself.

This is torture's true purpose: to terrorise - not only the people in Guantánamo's cages and Syria's isolation cells but also, and more importantly, the broader community that hears about these abuses. Torture is a machine designed to break the will to resist - the individual prisoner's will and the collective will.

This is not a controversial claim. In 2001 the US NGO Physicians for Human Rights published a manual on treating torture survivors that noted: "Perpetrators often attempt to justify their acts of torture and ill-treatment by the need to gather information. Such conceptualisations obscure the purpose of torture ... The aim of torture is to dehumanise the victim, break his/her will, and at the same time set horrific examples for those who come in contact with the victim. In this way, torture can break or damage the will and coherence of entire communities."

Yet despite this body of knowledge, torture continues to be debated in the United States as if it were merely a morally questionable way to extract information, not an instrument of state terror. But there's a problem: no one claims that torture is an effective interrogation tool -least of all the people who practise it. Torture "doesn't work. There are better ways to deal with captives," CIA director Porter Goss told the Senate intelligence committee on February 16. And a recently declassified memo written by an FBI official in Guantánamo states that extreme coercion produced "nothing more than what FBI got using simple investigative techniques". The army's own interrogation field manual states that force "can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear".

And yet the abuses keep on coming - Uzbekistan as the new hotspot for renditions; the "El Salvador model" imported to Iraq. And the only sensible explanation for torture's persistent popularity comes from a most unlikely source. Lynndie England, the fall girl for Abu Ghraib, was asked during her botched trial why she and her colleagues had forced naked prisoners into a human pyramid. "As a way to control them," she replied.

Exactly. As an interrogation tool, torture is a bust. But when it comes to social control, nothing works quite like torture.

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The family released a statement...
by Michael Gillespie
May 13, 2005

"Mass round-ups and detentions of innocent civilians, torture and abuse of prisoners and detainees, America's honor and prestige at the lowest point ever, and investigations that whitewash the president's men and blame it all on the enlisted personnel. Thus the obscene spectacle of the grieving families at funerals forced by the president's dishonesty to defend the honor of their dead even as they mourn: Small wonder that the president, desperately attempting to hide behind a façade of rigid religiosity that glorifies war and false patriotism that exalts the very evils it claims to despise, never attends the funerals of those who have died in the line of duty. How could he?"

If you've been paying attention to the exclusively local media coverage of the funerals of the mostly young American servicemen and security contractors killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, you will have noticed that the families are increasingly finding it necessary to make public statements declaring the goodness and decency of their loved ones who have given their lives in the line of duty or in the service of the corporations that provide manpower to meet the Pentagon's still growing demand for private security contractors.

"He was noble and always carried himself with honor. He was kind and gentle and always gave all he could without hesitation. He was a loving husband and father. [He] believed in his mission in Iraq. He was a strong man and stood up for what he knew was right."

"[He] died serving his country and protecting our freedom. [He was] a loving husband and father, a devoted son and brother. He was the best of the best our country had to offer."

And, in the case of a security contractor, "[He was] a true patriot, a beloved brother, son and friend. . . . It was [his] deep sense of patriotism and his abiding Christian faith that led him to work in Iraq. He wanted to go where good people needed help. He will be dearly missed."

The sentiments expressed by these families reflect some of the most painful and deeply felt of all human emotions, and none can doubt the families' sincerity. Surely very few Americans, perhaps especially those who oppose the war, many because they have personally experienced the horror and terrible grief that accompany war, feel anything other than an empathetic sorrow at these families' grief.

Though few commentators have dared to broach the topic, it is almost impossible not to recognize that there is something else, something other than shock, loss, and grief at work in these public declarations of the goodness, decency, selflessness, and nobility of America's fallen heroes. The public statements now in vogue are irrefutable evidence of the families' evidently felt need to defend the honor and integrity of their loved ones. There can be little doubt why the families of America's war dead find it necessary to issue such statements. They are a response to the ugly, demoralizing truth about America's so-called war on terror.

In the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001, President Bush and his administration over-reacted. The cowboy president and his neoconservative cabal tossed aside the Geneva Conventions and more than half a century of progress in the area of human rights law. They privatized many of the functions of the U.S. military and pressured U.S. intelligence agencies and organizations to provide information favorable to their war plans. Then they and their willingly compliant media operatives used the public airways to stampede the nation into an unnecessary and illegal war in Iraq on the basis of unreliable and falsified intelligence findings.

In the days following September 11, as soon as he regained his typically arrogant bearing, the president, presumably as part of an effort to distract attention from his administration's culpability in the massive intelligence failure that allowed the worst ever attack on the United States to succeed, publicly appealed to a vigilante ethic, the rough justice of the Old West that predates the established rule of law. "I want justice," Bush said. "And there's an old poster out West, I recall, that said, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive.'" [1] On September 17, 2001, the president sounded more like a frontier town marshal getting up a posse or a lynch mob than a president taking the modern world's only superpower nation to war. That, as it turns out, was no accident.

The tone the president set early on, which appears to have been an accurate reflection of his personal convictions, has had a profound influence on his administration's war on terror. It's effects, the unsurprising but nonetheless shocking result of incompetence, malfeasance, haste, and excess in support of questionable ideological goals, can be seen everywhere: A demoralizing torture and abuse scandal of unprecedented proportions that continues to resist all the administration's attempts at whitewash and cover-up; reluctant allies abandoning a bloody, destructive, and enormously expensive occupation gone-wrong in Iraq; and a counter-productive foreign policy driven by a war on terror that produces more terrorists than it eliminates, all with no end in sight.

When the president's publicly stated rationale for the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was revealed as a pack of lies designed to deceive the American people, the occupation and those actively involved in it necessarily became somewhat suspect even though many of them doubtlessly trusted their president and believed the false and misleading statements with which he and his administration and its media operatives took the nation to war.

Photographs of U.S. troops and private contractors engaged in the brutal abuse, torture, and sexual humiliation of Iraqis and others at Abu Ghraib revealed America's ill-conceived foray into Iraq as something other than the noble effort to democratize the Middle East advertised by the Bush administration as the search for weapons of mass destruction proved fruitless. Several subsequent investigations, even as they have sought to absolve higher-ups in the chain of command, have revealed persuasive evidence of systematic, wide-spread abuse and torture as an integral element of the Bush administration's war on terror. [2] By absolving the civilian leadership in the Pentagon of responsibility and rewarding the authors of the policies that led to torture and abuse, including former White House counsel and now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Bush has protected the generals and his loyal political appointees by shifting blame and suspicion to the rank-and-file, those who actually risk their lives day after day in the war zones in behalf of his deeply-flawed policies.

On the face of it, privatized war is an inherently evil and fundamentally un-American enterprise. There is little that is noble about war. Ask any combat veteran. There is even less that is noble about the Bush administration's war-for-profit scheme that has, by some estimates, taken the lives of over 100,000 Iraqis since the 2003 invasion began. Private companies have always been allowed to make a reasonable profit from defense contracts, but the Bush administration has turned war into a get-rich-quick scheme in which "no-bid" [3] and "cost-plus" [4] contracts worth millions and billions of tax dollars go with minimal supervision to corporations such as Blackwater USA, CACI, Custer Battles, and Kellogg, Brown & Root, the engineering arm of Halliburton, which was formerly headed by vice-president Cheney, who is widely reported to have been the driving force behind the neoconservative cabal's determined effort to manufacture intelligence findings favorable to the administration's plans for war. [5]

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has outsourced many military duties to private security firms that offer a wide variety of services, allowing the Bush administration to increase the size and scope of its military operations without resorting to a politically unpopular draft. Private security firms provide highly-skilled and experienced former military personnel for especially risky operations, for which some former U.S. special forces soldiers and officers trained at taxpayer expense reportedly charge as much as $1,500 per day. Many of some 35 private security firms with contracts in Iraq employ foreign nationals, including former members of the apartheid-era South African military and police forces. Blackwater USA, a major private security firm, reportedly employs about 60 ex-commandos trained by the regime of former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, now under indictment for human rights crimes. [6]

In the era of privatization, private security firms, which operate behind a veil of secrecy [7], wield substantial influence in official Washington not least because of the huge sums of money they are able to demand for their services. No less an American hero than Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th president and the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during WWII, so intensely distrusted what is euphemistically called the defense establishment that he offered this prescient warning to Americans as he left the White House:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. [8]

Reliable estimates have put the number of private security contractors employed by the Pentagon in Iraq at about 20,000. Some 5,000 of those are heavily armed, while others engaged in vital military logistical support roles such as driving, maintenance, training, communications, and interrogating prisoners are less heavily armed. All are paid very handsomely for their services. Private security firms have given new meaning to the term "soldier of fortune," and money is typically a very important factor in the contractors' decisions to risk their lives for the Bush administration's plan to democratize Iraq at gun point and secure that country's oil reserves for U.S. oil companies. A Washington Post article reported last month that security contract personnel in Iraq average $500 to $600 per day for their services:

As the Blackwater convoy sped down the airport highway, John "Tool" Freeman, a red-headed ex-Marine, was at the wheel of the lead Mamba, a high-riding, $70,000 armored vehicle designed to withstand antitank mines. Used by the South African military in Angola, the vehicle is Blackwater's primary means of zipping State Department employees and other nations' diplomats to Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. For additional protection, the convoys are shadowed by helicopters with armed guards perched at the open doors scanning for potential attackers. Freeman, of Portsmouth, Va., said he joined Blackwater after seeing some Marines on television during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. "I'd been missing it for a while," he recalled. "I said 'Man, I really need to get back into this.'" But with average pay of $500 to $600 a day, he said, the money was also a big draw for him and his buddies. He said he planned to work for Blackwater for three years to save up cash for retirement – and a sailboat. Most of us have a plan – it's like, make hay while the sun shines," he said. [9]

Saving up cash for retirement and to buy a sailboat are, to put it mildly, not traditional American reasons for going off to fight foreign wars. The lure of high-paying jobs that promise young men more money in six months than they can earn at home in two years is strong. But there is something unsavory – and distinctly un-American – about the very idea of going to war for mercenary motives, and that has not escaped most Americans despite the Bush administration's deceptive, jingoistic sales pitch. That's why, from the beginning, the president and his glib spokespersons adamantly insisted that the invasion of Iraq was all about defending America from Saddam Hussein's deadly – and non-existent – arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, not about gaining exclusive access to and control over Iraq's huge oil reserves. On December 15, 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was asked by CBS's 60 Minutes presenter Steve Croft, "Mr. Secretary, what do you say to people who think this is about oil?" Rumsfeld responded: "Nonsense. It just isn't. There – there – there are certain things like that, myths that are floating around. I'm glad you asked. I – it has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil." [10] Yet, during the invasion and in its aftermath, U.S. troops acted immediately to secure Iraq's oil industry infrastructure and little else. Rumsfeld's army stood passively by as looters ransacked the rest of the country, including arms and munitions storage facilities, with abandon. Later, rather than employ Iraqis desperately in need of work, combat-booted Coalition Provisional Authority honcho Paul Bremer arbitrarily disbanded the Iraqi army and left its soldiers to their own devices in order to provide lucrative jobs for private contractors, a great many of them from the southern U.S. states that form the core of Bush's ideological base. American troops have paid and continue to pay a terrible price in blood for the neoconservative Bush administration's ideologically-inspired mistakes, misjudgments, and miscalculations.

In the 230-year history of our country it has never before been necessary to pay Americans exorbitant salaries to get them to defend their homes, their families, and their country in time of war. Americans have willingly fought and bravely died for little or no pay when the cause was just, freedom was at risk, and war was necessary.

Comment: Has the cause ever been just? Was freedom ever at risk? Was war ever really necessary? How many wars has America fought to actually defend its territory? Take World War II, for example. There is substantial evidence that shows that the Bush family actually had ties to and profited from the Nazi war machine. There is also evidence that indicates FDR knew about Pearl Harbor before it happened, and that he in fact allowed it to occur to pull the US into the war. US history is ripe with similar such examples that are easy to find if one can leave one's prejudices at the door and dig for the facts.

Today, military recruiters are failing to meet their quotas, not because Americans are unpatriotic, cowardly, or lazy, but because Americans increasingly find it difficult to trust a government that threw the rulebook out the window, rushed the country into war with a frenzied media campaign based on lies, sent troops with substandard equipment and no protective gear into combat to fight and to die, and then, when questioned, said, "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time." [11] Consider for a moment how men and women who enlisted in "not the army you might want or wish to have" to serve their country in its time of need might feel when they see private citizens and foreign nationals doing jobs very similar to their own in the war zone for salaries that exceed their own by $100,000 or more per year.

When America goes to war because her elected leaders have no choice but to send troops in harm's way to defend the country against "an imminent threat" [12] to national security, the families of those who make the ultimate sacrifice for home, family, and country feel no need to publicly declare the goodness, decency, nobility, and patriotism of their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, and cousins, because the honor of their cause and the qualities that endear them to us and ensure our survival are never in doubt. But when America goes to war because dishonest and corrupt leaders want to tighten and maintain their hold on power, provide a boost for a sagging economy, and make it possible for their inordinately wealthy friends to reap windfall profits at the expense of the troops and their families, cruelly divisive and demoralizing dynamics obtain. Mass round-ups and detentions of innocent civilians, torture and abuse of prisoners and detainees, America's honor and prestige at the lowest point ever, and investigations that whitewash the president's men and blame it all on the enlisted personnel. Thus the obscene spectacle of the grieving families at funerals forced by the president's dishonesty to defend the honor of their dead even as they mourn: "He was noble and always carried himself with honor." "[He was] a loving husband and father, a devoted son and brother." "He wanted to go where good people needed help." "He will be dearly missed." Small wonder that the president, desperately attempting to hide behind a façade of rigid religiosity that glorifies war [13] and false patriotism that exalts the very evils it claims to despise, never attends the funerals of those who have died in the line of duty. How could he?

As flag-draped coffins continue to stream back to America under cover of darkness and a media blackout, as the funerals for the war dead continue to receive only local news coverage, as voices of dissent are systematically excluded by mainstream media, last week in North Carolina, the state that is home to Blackwater USA, there occurred an obscene spectacle of another sort in a Baptist church when a group of deacons voted to expel church members who don't support President Bush and his policies. [14] Bush supporters in the congregation reportedly stood and applauded as excommunicated Democrats walked out of their church. Bush made no public statement distancing himself from the events in North Carolina. He and his neoconservative cabal seem not to understand or care that theocracy, one-party government in which only those who hold certain religious views are allowed to participate, is antithetical to our form of government and our way of life. In fact, the president's silence signals his support for House Resolution 235, the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act sponsored by Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina. [15] HR 235, which now has 165 co-sponsors, all of whom wish to see religion further politicized, would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow churches and other religious organizations to engage in explicitly partisan political activity, including endorsing favored candidates and demonizing others, while maintaining their tax exempt status. If HR 235 becomes law, the only possible outcome is an America ever more deeply and dangerously divided.

The violence the Bush administration has done and seems to be determined to continue doing to the American body politic, the injury to the intelligence community and to the military, the harm to the ethos of honesty and integrity in government and the rule of law, and, not least, the insult to America's fallen heroes and their families, all of this is as inexcusable and as unforgivable as the chaos, death, and destruction visited upon Iraqis, Afghanis, Palestinians and others as a direct result of the president's counterproductive war on terror and the unfolding disaster that passes for a neoconservative foreign policy. [16]

America desperately needs leaders who are courageous enough to put principles before partisan politics, leaders who can be trusted not to sacrifice the lives and the honor of American civilian and military personnel and private citizens on the altar of corporate greed in wars of conquest and national aggrandizement, leaders who can be trusted to resist the temptation to politicize religion and turn the United States of America into a warrior theocracy bent on world domination or the apocalyptic glory of death and destruction, whichever comes first.

Freelance Investigative Journalist and Commentator Michael Gillespie writes about Politics and Media for Media Monitors Network (MMN). His work also appears frequently in the popular Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

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Chile ex-spy chief reveals abuses

The former head of Chile's secret police, Gen Manuel Contreras, says he has details of the fate of 580 people who disappeared during military rule.

Gen Contreras handed in a document to the Supreme Court which he says contains details of their whereabouts.

He says he made inquiries about the fate of detainees named in the report of Chile's official torture commission.

Chilean human rights groups have so far made no comment and it is unclear how much of the information is new.

The handover of the document comes six months after Chile's National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture published its report - the first-ever major investigation into torture and detention during the 17-year regime.

The study was based on interviews with 35,000 former prisoners.


Gen Contreras was in charge of the secret service, the Dina, during the entire duration of the military government from 1973 to 1990, reporting directly to the country's president, Gen Augusto Pinochet.

Gen Pinochet took power in a coup on 11 September 1973, ousting the democratically-elected socialist President Salvador Allende.

Gen Contreras, who has been convicted twice for human rights abuses, said Gen Pinochet was responsible for the repression of left-wing activists during his period of government.

Last week, the Supreme Court indefinitely suspended a deadline it set earlier this year for an end to investigations into alleged human rights abuses.

The ruling means judges will be given extra time to investigate and charge suspects in more than 150 cases, some of them involving Gen Pinochet.

Comment: It is instructive to look at US client regimes over the past few decades. Many secret service agents in Chile were trained by the US and then sent back to Chile to teach a lesson to those uppity leftists. Allende was murdered defending his government. Kissinger and Nixon were never brought to court.

Torture and disappearing opponents of US-backed regimes have been a staple of the political life of Latin American countries since WWII. When people say that it couldn't happen in the US, they have just to look at the history. To say that it couldn't happen back "home" is to believe that Americans are somehow special, protected. Yet the lies and manipulations of the Bush gang, so typical of psychopaths, is also carried out "at home". The leaders in power have nothing but contempt for "ordinary people". They will stop at nothing to protect their illicit gains and the power they weld. Is not 9/11 proof of that?

Ah, 9/11! But most Americans still do not SEE 9/11. They buy one of the warmed over official stories. On the right they believe it was 19 Arab terrorists. On the left they think that Bush and his cronies "let it happen" or "took advantage of the attack" in order to implement their agenda.

Think again. Wake up. Look at what is going on in your country.

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Missing: the mystery of 300 boys who have disappeared from school

Torso in the Thames case reveals 'scandal' of vanished children as welfare groups urge action
Steven Morris and Rosie Cowan
Saturday May 14, 2005
The Guardian

A "scandalous" number of children as young as four, many of them African, are missing from school rolls in London, it emerged yesterday.

The Metropolitan police revealed that in one two-month period, 300 black boys aged between four and seven vanished from rolls in the capital. Despite extensive investigations, involving police forces across the world, only two of the 300 were traced.

Child welfare groups and education chiefs expressed shock at the figure and warned that some of the missing children might become victims of exploitation.

Some experts estimate that thousands of children vanish from the system each year. Though it is assumed that most come to no harm, there were calls for the government to bring in regulations to force the authorities to do more to trace all missing children.

Comment: And just how can they make such an assumption?

Hilton Dawson, patron of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, said: "It's scandalous. I think the government is hiding from this issue. We need an effective working relationship between schools, social services, the police and immigration. That simply isn't happening."

The depth of the problem was highlighted when police investigated the murder of a young African boy - nicknamed Adam - whose torso was found in the Thames. They asked schools in London to check if any boys aged four to seven had gone missing over the relevant two-month period in 2001. Officers were shocked to be told that 300 had vanished. Of these, 299 had come from Africa.

The Met revealed yesterday that it has managed to trace only two of the 300. Most of those questioned said the boys had returned to Africa - but it has been impossible to verify this in most cases.

Tim Benson, the headteacher of the Nelson primary school in East Ham, east London, said he was "taken aback" by the figure. "We should be concerned," he said.

Kevin Crompton, chairman of the Association of Directors of Education and Children's Services, added: "We need to improve the tracking of children, particularly if they come from abroad."

Education welfare officers try to trace children who have stopped attending school. However, they only inform the police of a pupil's disappearance if they suspect that some harm has befallen the child. If a parent or guardian tells the school that a child has gone abroad, the school tends to believe him or her, again unless there are grounds for suspicion.

The problem of children of west African origin going missing is particularly acute, as there can be a culture of youngsters being passed around an extended family and taking the name of the relative he or she is with at that time.

Some children's organisations - and the Conservative party - have called on the government to do more to regulate this practice, which is known as "private fostering".

The government has estimated that as many as 10,000 children may be cared for in this way.

Barbara Hutchinson, deputy chief executive of the British Association of Adoption and Fostering, said private fostering made it easier for children to be trafficked into the country and sexually exploited or used as servants.

She said: "I am horrified at the figure, but not surprised. Many privately fostered kids get passed on from household to household. They may be moved around to avoid immigration control; they may be exploited. We know some children are being trafficked to be used as domestic servants or for sexual exploitation."

Theresa May, the Conservatives' family spokesperson, said: "This shocking news reinforces what experts in the child protection field have been telling government for many years.

"Children who are not in the care of the parents are disappearing without trace, possibly victims of trafficking, abuse or even murder.The government has failed to listen to pleas for tighter controls."

Chris Beddoe, the director of End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes, said the revelation underlined the lack of joined-up operational procedure for police, immigration, social services and schools.

She said: "In the worst case scenario, some of these children could be dead, or being physically or sexually abused, but the truth is we simply don't know because we don't have enough information, and that's outrageous," she said.

"We heard recently of a 13-year-old girl who told her teachers her parents had gone home and left her on her own in the UK, and some time later she too disappeared. The teachers don't know what happened to her. We are hearing this type of thing all the time."

She suggested that if the 298 missing African boys were still in the UK, some might be used for benefit fraud.

"It's predominant in west African culture for parents to send children to extended family, often quite distant relatives, for a better life," she said. "But traffickers can exploit this practice to get children into the UK, and children can also be passed around various households, which are all claiming benefits for them."

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said the government was "deeply concerned" about any child missing from education. "We have been working hard to ensure that much more robust systems are in place to protect the welfare of children and that information about children is shared by professionals."

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Mexico's Fox toughens talk on U.S. immigration law
May 13, 11:29 PM (ET)

MEXICO CITY - Mexican President Vicente Fox called recent U.S. measures to stem illegal immigration a step back for bilateral relations on Friday and said Mexican migrants do jobs "that not even blacks want to do."

In comments likely to raise the temperature of the immigration debate, Fox defended the role of undocumented Mexican workers in the United States to a group of Texas business people meeting in Mexico.

"There is no doubt that Mexicans, filled with dignity, willingness and ability to work are doing jobs that not even blacks want to do there in the United States," he said in a speech broadcast in part on local radio and reported on newspaper web sites.

Fox said recent, tougher measures against immigrants do not represent "the road we should be building between friends and partners."

Mexico has been seeking an accord with Washington for years to make it easier for millions of illegal Mexican immigrants to live and work in the United States. The country expects to repatriate this year more than 250,000 foreigners, mostly Central Americans headed for the U.S. border.

Mexican hopes were raised early last year when President Bush proposed a temporary worker program but it has become bogged down in Congress.

A key partner in U.S. border security, Mexico is upset at new U.S. controls on foreign-born people, including tougher rules to obtain drivers' licenses.

Congressional Republicans attached the immigration changes to legislation providing $82 billion in emergency funds for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush is expected to sign the legislation into law soon. [...]

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13 May 2005

New York - A former Pentagon official and whistle-blower, Daniel Ellsberg, said this week that Israel could have close to 400 nuclear weapons. "That's more than Britain, China, India and Pakistan, and probably more than France," said Ellsberg speaking at a news conference in New York on Thuirsday. Ellsberg, whose disclosure of secret Pentagon documents about the Vietnam war helped established anti-war sentiment in the United States in the early 1970s, was scheduled to address a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference, at the UN's New York headquarters.

While Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu had revealed in 1986 that Israel had about 200 nuclear weapons, by the same rate of production observed by Vanunu at the Israeli Dimona plant, today Israel would have the capacity to have up to 400 nuclear weapons, Ellsberg said.

Vanunu has served 18 years in prison in Israel for releasing information about Israel's atomic programme to a British newspaper in 1986. He has been barred from leaving the country until April 2006 and went on trial last month for allegedly violating a condition of his 2004 release that banned contacts with foreigners.

Israel neither acknowledges nor denies having a nuclear weapons programme, following a policy of nuclear ambiguity.

Comment: And, unlike countries such as Iraq and North Korea, Israel gets away with its "nuclear ambiguity" thanks to the US...

At Thursday's newsconference, Ellsberg also said Vanunu should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for revealing Israel's nuclear arsenal. The technician, who was kidnapped by Israeli secret agents in Italy and brought to trial in Israel, shoul also be allowed to travel the world to promote the abolition of nuclear weapons, Ellsberg said.

After recently spending five days with Vanunu in Israel, Ellsberg dismissed the Israeli government's claim that Vanunu still had secrets that could endanger national security as 'absurd'.

"It's clearly an attempt to prolong his sentence indefinitely, sending him back to prison for years," Ellsberg said. [...]

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Russia says closely following Uzbekistan unrest 2005-05-14 04:51:30

MOSCOW, May 13 (Xinhuanet) -- Russia said Friday it is closely watching development of the violent protests in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan and condemns use of force by extremists in the protests.

The events in Andijan are "Uzbekistan's internal affairs," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow. Russia is closely watching the development of the situation in the Central Asian country, he said.

"Russia is concerned with the unrest in Andijan, Uzbekistan, with which Russia maintains a strategic partnership, and Russia supports the Uzbek government in its efforts to stabilize the situation there," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said in a statement posted at the ministry's website.

Russia condemns the use of force and unconstitutional means by extremists in Uzbekistan to achieve their political goals, Yakovenko said in the statement.

Thousands of armed protesters plunged the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan into chaos Friday when they freed prisoners from a prison and clashed with security forces. Nine people were killed and 34 wounded in the clashes.

Protesters, who began to rally Wednesday, demanded the release of 23 men on trial for allegedly conducting anti-constitutional activities and forming a criminal and extremist organization.

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee of the State Duma (lower house of parliament), told reporters that Russia should "do all it can" to help Uzbekistan stabilize the situation and bring the parties in conflict to political dialogue.

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Witnesses claim as many as 200 killed in Andijan
May 14, 2005

ANDIJAN, Uzbekistan - Residents in the Uzbek city of Andijan say they have seen as many as 200 people killed in a crackdown by security forces against armed rebels and crowds of protestors.

"I have seen 200 bodies. It's a real war," Abdul-Vakhid Gasurov told AFP.

Another resident, who only gave his first name, Bakhodir, claimed to have seen more than 300 bodies near the mayor's office. "Everything is covered in blood," he said.

The reports could not be independently confirmed and access to the main hospital was blocked by armed guards.

Russia's Interfax news agency quoted the head of an Uzbek human rights group, Apelyatsiya, as saying that the authorities had shipped out large numbers of bodies in trucks.

"This morning at dawn the bodies of the dead were taken out in five vehicles -- three Zil trucks, one Ural and one bus. They were all full with bodies," Saidzhakhon Zainabitdinov said.

An AFP correspondent saw 20 to 30 bodies of men, both young and old, lying near each other outside a cinema in the centre and another 20 bodies covered in sheets on the main square.

Earlier a doctor at Andijan's central hospital told AFP "there are at least 50 dead" and 96 wounded.

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Witness: 200 People Killed in Uzbekistan
Saturday May 14, 2005 10:46 AM

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) - At least 200 people were killed when police fired into a crowd protesters in eastern Uzbekistan, a human rights monitor said Saturday.

Lutfulo Shamsutdinov, head of the Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan, said he saw soldiers loading the bodies onto trucks in Andijan.

The bodies were collected near the square where police on Friday fired on thousands of demonstrators.

There were conflicting reports of the death toll. The government gave no numbers for the dead at the square but said nine people were killed and 34 injured in unrest earlier in the day. Uzbek President Islam Karimov says 10 government troops and ``many more'' protesters killed in recent violence.

An Associated Press reporter in Andijan saw 23 bodies.

One witness, Daniyar Akbarov, 24, said he saw at least 300 dead.

Comment: 200 Uzbek people clamouring for true democracy are gunned down by troops of America's ally in the war on terror. Some things never change.

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Fraud, nepotism and torture mark Karimov's reign
Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow
Saturday May 14, 2005
The Guardian

President Islam Karimov was born in the historic town of Samarkand in 1938, and rose to become first secretary of the Communist party in Uzbekistan and then the country's first president in 1990, writes Nick Paton Walsh . A series of fraudulent elections and referendums have extended his rule.

The country's two key products, cotton and gold, are produced under strict state control, with child labour being used to farm the former. The impoverished sprawl of its capital city, Tashkent, is adorned with huge glass-fronted buildings. Mr Karimov's family and inner circle, it is claimed, dominate most industries.

The Uzbek security services' record has come under renewed scrutiny after Washington declared Tashkent its ally in its "war on terror", after Mr Karimov let the US open a much-needed airbase in Khanabad to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

Human rights groups have documented the regime's torture of dissidents, often those associated with Islamic groups and based in the country's restless eastern Ferghana Valley.

Blame for the current unrest "lies squarely with the desperate Karimov regime", said Imran Waheed of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the London-based Uzbek organisation to which the 23 arrested men were allegedly linked.

The former UK ambassador to Tashkent, Craig Murray, said: "People come to me very often after being tortured. Normally this includes homosexual and heterosexual rape of close relatives in front of the victim; rape with objects such as broken bottles; and use of boiling liquids including complete immersion of the body."

The reclusive Mr Karimov told Uzbek radio, according to BBC Monitoring, that such dissidents "must be shot in the forehead! If necessary, I'll shoot them myself."

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US denies involvement in "velvet revolution" in Belarus 2005-05-14 08:35:33

WASHINGTON, May 13 (Xinhuanet) -- The United States on Friday rejected Russia's charges that US Peace Corps was involved in plans to stage a "velvet revolution" in Belarus.

"We saw a lot of charges yesterday from the Federal Security Service chief, Mr. Patrushev. And I have to say that they're completely false. Most of them are ridiculous," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said at a news briefing.

"In 2003 when Peace Corps was closed in Russia, the Russian government expressed its gratitude for the assistance Peace Corps provided through the work of their volunteers and said their work in Russia's regions throughout the decade had been positive and useful.

"That's what the official Russian government position was, has been, as far as I know, to this day, on Peace Corps," Boucher said.

Russia's security chief said Thursday that foreign intelligence services were plotting a so-called "velvet revolution" in Belarus to topple the government by financing the opposition through non-governmental organizations (NGO).

The International Republican Institute, a non-profit US organization which played a key role in Ukraine's "orange revolution" last year, met officials of the Commonwealth of Independent States last April in Bratislava and "earmarked a budget of 5 million US dollars to finance the Belarus opposition in 2005," Federal Security Service head Nikolai Patrushev told theState Duma, lower house of parliament Thursday.

Comment: Once again, a look at recent history shows that the US has been active in all of the so-called "soft revolutions" in the former Soviet bloc. It is slowly installing governments hostile to Russia and placing its troops in a large circle around the country.

If it were Russia doing the same thing to the US, do you think the US government and its people would sit still?

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Al-Qaida detainee may know about plans to attack UK
Richard Norton-Taylor
Saturday May 14, 2005
The Guardian

A top al-Qaida suspect arrested in Pakistan could have vital information about possible terrorist attacks on Britain, intelligence sources believe.

British security and intelligence officials are seeking information from Abu Faraj al-Libbi, believed to be number three in the al-Qaida leadership, to find out what he knows about any operations planned against Britain or British interests abroad.

Mr Libbi had no direct contact with al-Qaida sympathisers in the UK, officials say. But, as the controller of a number of overseas networks, he would be in a position to know what attacks, if any, were being prepared against Britain and other western targets.

"He masterminded operations and had oversight over funding," an official said, describing him as "top of the [al-Qaida] machinery".

MI5 and MI6 officials have yet to interrogate Mr Libbi, preferring to leave initial questioning to the Pakistani authorities. But British anti-terrorist sources are anxious to find out as soon as possible what he knows about al-Qaida's networks.

The US is also keen to question him.

The New York Times reported yesterday that Mr Libbi, a Libyan, was still in Pakistani custody and would not be handed over to the US quickly.

It quoted the Pakistani foreign minister, Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, as saying: "Until all the issues are cleared, there is no question of him being handed over to anyone else. Anything relevant to American security is being shared."

Mr Libbi is suspected of planning two assassination attempts on Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, and a plot to kill its prime minister, Shaukat Aziz.

A number of arrests followed the seizure of Mr Libbi near Peshawar, the capital of the country's North-West Frontier Province, which was announced 10 days ago. Pakistani officials said the army had stepped up the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Mr Kasuri said Bin Laden was probably continually moving among the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan - and was not with a large group of people, "otherwise he'd be detected".

George Bush described Mr Libbi as "a major facilitator and a chief planner" for Bin Laden and said his arrest removed a "dangerous enemy".

There have been reports from Pakistan that he has not provided significant information during interrogations, during which he came under "physical pressure".

Intelligence officials say Mr Libbi had taken over from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, believed to be a mastermind behind the September 11 attacks in the US, who was arrested in Rawalpindi in March 2003.

Sheikh Mohammed was the head of al-Qaida's "military committee", in charge of operations and recruiting overseas fighters. He is believed to have been behind the kidnap and murder of the US journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002, and a suicide bomb attack on a Tunisian synagogue in which 21 people died.

He is understood to have referred under questioning to two Britons, at least one of whom has been arrested. Officials say he was particularly interested in the UK.

Though officials say Mr Libbi had no known direct link with Britain, given his importance as successor to Sheikh Mohammed they believe he must have significant information to divulge. [...]

Meanwhile, a US soldier convicted of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison told a court martial that he had attached wires to the hands of a prisoner who thought he could be electrocuted as a "joking type of thing".

Comment: Ha ha. What a joke. Give it to Laura Bush for her next public appearance. It'll slay the press core.

As to Mr Libbi, it has already been established that he is not the number three man in al Qaeda. He was confused with another man. He is a flunky whose arrest was trumpeted to give Bush political capital. Yet here is he being dragged out by The Guardian to fan hysteria in the UK.

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Cuban Military Exercises for US Invasion: report
Focus English News
13 May 2005

Havana. There were military trainings of a large scale in Cuba. During them the beating off of a possible attack on the part of the USA has been worked off, RIA Novosti informed. Raul Castro, the Minister of the Armed Forces of Cuba, has been the one to lead the trainings.

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Get married or you're fired, sheriff tells cohabiting employee
Gary Younge in New York
Saturday May 14, 2005
The Guardian

An emergency dispatcher at a North Carolina sheriff's department was presented with an ultimatum after the sheriff discovered that she was living with her boyfriend outside of wedlock: get married, move home or find another job.

Carson Smith, the sheriff of Pender county, told Deborah Hobbs, 40, that her decision to cohabit was a moral and a legal issue.

"This is sort of like a double barrel," he told Star-News Wilmington. "It is a violation of general statute, and it goes against something that I believe - it is a moral issue ... Personally and morally, I think it's best to be married if you're going to be living together."

North Carolina is one of seven states, including Mississippi, Florida, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia and North Dakota, which prohibit cohabitation.

A 200-year-old law which outlaws fornication and adultery for "a man and a woman, not being married together", who live "lewdly and lasciviously" could result in a fine of $1,000 (£539) and up to 60 days in jail. Between 1997 and 2003 35 people were charged under it, of whom seven were convicted.

Ms Hobbs, who has been living with her partner for 12 years, filed a lawsuit in March to get the law changed.

"I don't want this to come off negative to Sheriff Smith," she said after she was fired. "He is a good person. I want my fight to be about this law."

The American Civil Liberties Union has taken up Ms Hobbs' case. North Carolina's law is considered vulnerable after the 2003 supreme court ruling on Texas's anti-sodomy laws, which made it more difficult for states to enforce laws regarding sexual behaviour.

"Certainly the government has no right regulating relationships between consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes," said Jennifer Rudinger, the executive director of North Carolina's ACLU.

"This law is 200 years old and a lot of people are very surprised that we even have it on the books."

Comment: Long live the theocracy.

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Carlyle Quits Russia on Lack of Business
By Alex Fak
Staff Writer
Saturday, May 14, 2005. Issue 3165. Page 5.

Carlyle group, the world's largest equity fund manager whose board once boasted former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has effectively closed its Moscow office and canceled plans for a $300 million Russia investment fund.

The group cited Russia's unappealing "risk profile" in its decision to curtail operations in the country.

Industry players said the group's strategy, which focuses on making large independent investments around the globe, was not suited to the insider-dominated Russian market.

Carlyle manages $25 billion in funds worldwide and has invested heavily in the defense sector, but large enterprises in Russia rely on large parent holdings for funds, while the defense industry is blocked to foreign investment.

This is the third setback in Russia for the group, which has not made a single investment in the country since setting up its latest Moscow office in March 2004.

Private equity is one of the most underdeveloped financial areas in Russia, with just a handful of players competing against each other.

"Carlyle has to deploy capital in huge amounts [to earn good profit relative to its size], which means in general they look at larger targets. I must speculate that was a factor" for its lack of success, said Patricia Cloherty, who manages Moscow-based Delta Private Equity Partners. Delta usually invests between $5 million and $10 million per project, Cloherty said.

Carlyle might have viewed its entry into Russia as somewhat opportunistic, another local fund manager said. "They have such enormous success raising money and investing in the U.S. and Europe that their struggle to raise money for a non-core market like Russia may have increasingly become a distraction."

Carlyle's pioneer office opened in 1998, only to be closed two years later. In 2003, the long-rumored $500 million partnership with Alfa Group's Alfa Capital Partners fell through in the wake of Khodorkovsky arrest. The Pentagon-linked group feared being tarnished in case government prosecution or negative news reached Alfa, said one person familiar with the situation.

However, Katherine Elmore-Jones, a London-based spokeswoman for Carlyle, has played down the fears that political risks may have prompted the U.S. giant's latest pullout.

Khodorkovsky and former Group Menatep executive Platon Lebedev had seats on the Carlyle Energy and the Carlyle Europe boards, respectively.

A source close to the group told The Moscow Times in 2003 that Gibraltar-based Menatep had invested over $300 million in Carlyle Group. The fund would say only that Menatep had placed up to $50 million in various Carlyle funds.

Managing director Andrei Terekhov, who was wooed to Carlyle two years ago from the senior partner position at Baring Vostok Capital Partners, as well as investment strategists Alexander Shkuratov and Dmitri Bulkhukov, will leave Carlyle.

The other managing director, Joshua Larson, who once headed Morgan Stanley's Russia branch, will remain in the office, but it remains unclear what his responsibilities will include.

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Former Yukos chief accused of money laundering 2005-05-14 10:06:57

MOSCOW, May 13 (Xinhuanet) -- Former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is awaiting his verdict on fraud and tax evasion charges, will face new charges of money laundering, the Prosecutor General's Office said Friday.

"The prosecution is planning to bring new charges of money laundering against both Mikhail Khodorkovsky and (his business partner) Platon Lebedev soon," Natalia Vishnyakova, spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General's Office, was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying.

The charges involved money that totaled billions of rubles, Vishnyakova added.

The prosecutor's office planned to bring the charges to court as part of a criminal case against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev opened last December, Vishnyakova said.

Khodorkovsky has already been charged with large-scale fraud and tax evasion and is awaiting his verdict, set be delivered Monday, behind the bars. He has been detained for more than a year and could face a sentence of up to 10 years in jail, as demanded by the prosecution. Khodorkovsky pleaded innocent to all charges against him. [...]

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Michel Aoun comes home to roost
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS - Michel Aoun's return to Lebanon on May 7, after 15 years of exile, is yet to shake the political landscape of Lebanon. To some, it is a great victory, to others, a humiliation and a bitter reminder of civil war memories that many people have been working hard to forget.

Aoun returned to Lebanon on the offensive, hateful of everyone and everything that kept him in exile for so long, promising destruction of the existing order and sweet revenge. The Beirut he entered last week was very different from the war torn one he left behind in 1990. That Beirut did not have a Rafik Harrri hallmark on it. Yet, all the actors of Beirut 1990 are still there.

Former president Amin Gemayel, who appointed Aoun prime minister in 1988, upsetting tradition in Lebanon because Aoun was a Maronite, is still there. Patriarch Man Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, who worked for Aoun's downfall, is also still in religious office. Ex-prime minister Salim al-Hoss, who led a rivaling cabinet in 1989-1990, is there, and so is Samir Gagegea, who Aoun had viciously fought in the eastern districts of Beirut. The general who had been chief-of-staff and who had orchestrated Aoun's exodus from Baabda Palace, stands today in Baabda Palace, the legitimate and internationally recognized president of the Lebanese Republic.

At Beirut Airport, Aoun told the masses, most of whom were too young to remember the civil war, Lebanon will never be governed again by the "political feudalism" and "religious system that dates back to the 19th century". He called for an end to "old fashioned prototypes which represent the old bourgeoisie which persisted without questioning". Aoun has effectively promised to strike back at the entire political establishment of Lebanon. Will he succeed?

Before returning to Lebanon, Aoun promised a "tsunami" in Lebanese politics. Aoun's first encounter with the press and well-wishers at Beirut Airport was less than diplomatic. Annoyed at all the commotion, the ex-general barked at those welcoming him, claiming they were noisy. Once a military man, always a military man. Aoun was never a politician and never had direct contact with the Lebanese public. When people started seeing him as a national leader in 1989-1990, he was too busy with his war against Gagegea and Syria to engage in populist politics. The security situation in Lebanon also prevented him from doing that. He never staged rallies during his career in Lebanon, but rather, was always confined to the barracks, living the life of a professional soldier.

The average age of his supporters is 20, an age where young men and women are full of life, and easily enchanted by Aoun's fiery speeches, which he gave from his exile in France. A generation hungry for reform and hope, they supported Aoun as an exiled leader. Now that he has returned to Lebanon, and engaged himself once again in the dirty game of Arab politics, he might lose the aura he had created for himself as a "struggler" from 1990-2005. He also faces the difficulties of a wide generation gap between him and his supporters. Aoun is 70, while his supporters are in their early 20s. If he fails to live up to their expectations, this impatient generation could quickly abandon him and turn to younger, more attractive politicians.

Aoun has said he has his eyes set on the presidency, but by the next time presidential elections take place in Lebanon in 2007, Aoun will be 72. Also, Aoun needs to understand that unlike in the 1980s, the Maronites are no longer the de facto rulers of Lebanon - not because of Syria, but because demographics have changed in the Lebanese Republic. It is the Muslims (or more specifically the Shi'ites) who are the current majority in Lebanon, and any future deal should be cut with the Muslims. Aoun cannot spearhead opposition to traditional Muslim leaders, nor can he completely cozy up to them, in fear of losing support within his own Maronite constituency. While he was in exile, the Maronites created new leaders for themselves who even today would defeat Aoun in the most democratic of elections. The first name that comes to mind is Nasib Lahhoud, a moderate, seasoned, and highly respected Maronite politician. Also, so long as Aoun remains on bad terms with Sfeir, whom he promised to visit soon, he stands a slim chance of becoming the leader he strives to be, since Sfeir is still considered a principal figure and ultimate authority in Christian politics in Lebanon.

History of Michel Aoun

Aoun was born in 1935 into a poor family in Haret Hraik, a Shi'ite neighborhood that currently serves as a stronghold for Hezbollah, the Shi'ite resistance of Lebanon. It acquired this status in the 15-years of Aoun's absence in Paris, and upon his return to Beirut, one of the first questions fired at him by a journalist was whether he intended to visit his native neighborhood, which is swarming with Shi'ite warriors today, and meet with Hezbollah's Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah. He replied affirmatively.

The Haret Hraik that Aoun was born into in 1935 was a mixed Muslim-Christian suburb south of Beirut. Aoun attended Catholic schools, lived with a religious family, but declared years later that he "never differentiated between Ali and Peter, or between Hasan and Michel".

Aoun finished high school in 1955, during the heyday of Christian power in Lebanon under the regime of the Christian "king", president Kamil Sham'un. He enrolled at the Military Academy and graduated in 1958, while a Muslim uprising was raging in Lebanon against Sham'un. Aoun watched attentively as the Lebanese army, which he was entering, remained loyal to its president. When Aoun was 40, his country went to civil war, as the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) of Yasser Arafat fought with the Muslims of Lebanon against the Maronite forces of Pierre Gemayel, who were backed by Syria. By the late 1970s, the Lebanese army had fractured along sectarian lines, yet Aoun, having learned from the 1958 experience, remained loyal to the central government. In the early 1980s, he became head of the "defense brigade" of the Lebanese army, a unit separating East and West Beirut. In 1982, he was involved in fighting against the Israeli army that occupied Beirut.

That same year, Aoun created the 8th brigade, which fought the Syrian army in the Souk al-Gharb pass overlooking Beirut. In June 1984, a reconciliation conference was held for all warring parties in Switzerland (brokered by former prime minister Rafiq al-Harriri). Army commander Ibrahim Tannous was fired and replaced by General Aoun. Aoun complied, but took no part in politics, giving no press interviews in 1984-1988. In September 1988, 15 minutes before the end of his term, president Amin Gemayel appointed Aoun prime minister, thereby breaching the National Pact of 1943, which said that a prime minister had to be a Muslim Sunni, whereas the president's office would be occupied exclusively by a Maronite Christian. Lebanon's Muslim prime minister, Salim al-Hoss, who had taken over after the assassination of prime minister Rashid Karameh, refused to step down, resulting in two Lebanese governments. Aoun's team reigned from Baabda Palace.

When he came to power, Aoun only controlled limited areas of East Beirut. To establish himself as a cross-confessional leader, Aoun began his war on the Lebanese Forces (LF), a Maronite militia headed by Gagegea. He ordered 15,000 of his troops into action and wrestled the port of Beirut from the LF. He shelled entire neighborhoods of East Beirut and infuriated the Christians of Lebanon, who to date, had kept East Beirut quiet and safe. Ghassan Tweini, publisher of the Beirut daily al-Nahhar, said in an interview years later that the Christians will not forgive Aoun for dropping bombs on their heads during what was labeled "the war of cancellation" within the Maronite community. On March 14, 1989, Aoun declared a "war of liberation" against Syria. This war was one of his bloodiest. He ignored the advice of the Arab League, destroyed what remained of West Beirut, and contributed to the exodus of over 1 million people from Beirut. He opened channels with Syria's archenemies, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and PLO chairman Arafat, both of whom supported him with no hesitation.

Aoun finally agreed to a cease-fire by the Arab League in September 1989, but refused to endorse the Taif Accord of Saudi Arabia (October 1989), claiming that it did not call for the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon. He was also opposed to the constitutional changes that emerged at Taif, which stated that the Muslim prime minister would be voted on by parliament and not appointed by the Maronite president. Support for Taif came from both Gagegea and Sfeir, who declared that Aoun's stance was illegal and unconstitutional. Around 100 of Aoun's supporters even invaded the Patriarchal See in Bkirki, physically assaulting Sfeir for his support of Taif. Sfeir complained that Aoun's army, stationed at the gates of Bkirki, had failed to protect him. Aoun's "rebellion" ended rapidly when in August 1990, his friend Saddam invaded Kuwait. The United States, eager to defeat the Iraqi dictator, wanted Arab support in Operation Desert Storm. It found no better way to achieve that than through an alliance with Syria for the liberation of Kuwait. Syria's late president Hafez al-Asad sent his army to the Arabian Desert, and in reward, the US gave him a green light to bring the saga of Michel Aoun to an end.

On the morning of October 13, 1990, the Syrian army launched a massive operation on Baabda Palace and areas of East Beirut controlled by General Aoun. The defeated general fled to the French Embassy in Beirut then moved to Paris when president Francois Mitterrand gave him political asylum. Syria established itself in Lebanon with firm power through Lebanon's new president Elias Hrawi, his prime minister Rafiq al-Harriri, and speaker Nabih Berri, all of whom came to power with the direct backing of Damascus. Meanwhile, a pro-Aoun movement emerged in Beirut, among high school and university students, called the Free Patriotic Movement, which he supported from his Paris-exile. In 2003, Aoun played a leading role in getting the US to pass the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Act, which brought criminal charges against him in Beirut, where many described his alliance with Washington against Damascus as treason. During the early 1990s, it became common in certain Christian neighborhoods to read the phrase: "Aoun will return!"

Aoun has returned

Aoun has returned and finds a political arena fertile for activism. The first issue to erupt in everyone's face is the 2000 election law, which will govern parliamentary elections scheduled to take place for Lebanon's 128-seat chamber on four consecutive Sundays, starting on May 29. This law, drafted by General Ghazi Kenaan, who was Syria's intelligence supreme in Lebanon until 2002, places Christian districts within larger Muslim ones. Bsherri, for example, the birthplace of Gagegea and a strong base for his disbanded LF, is in the same district as Dinniyeh, which has a Muslim majority. With a Muslim majority, the Christians will have to rely on them for the victory of their candidates. Chairman of the Lebanese Socialist Progressive party and opposition leader Walid Jumblatt has allied himself with Sfeir, much to the displeasure of Aoun, and Saad al-Harriri, the political heir and son of Lebanon's slain former prime minister Rafiq al-Harriri. A meeting on Tuesday between Harriri Jr and Aoun raises fears of a Aoun-Harriri alliance in the upcoming elections, much to the displeasure of Jumblatt, who refuses to meet or work with Aoun. Christian opposition members are pressing for a new law with smaller constituencies but many are opposed to any change, fearing that a change would delay the elections, which Prime Minister Najib Mikati has promised to hold on time.

For his part, Aoun is delicately striking his election alliances with former archenemies and foes. Aoun received Strida Gagegea, the wife of arrested warlord Samir Gagegea, and promised to "turn a page on the past". Samir Gagegea, arrested in 1994, will be released from jail soon, but not before the elections take place, since it is in nobody's interest in Lebanon for him to enter the election race, after 11 years of arrest, and turn the tables on Aoun, Lahhoud, Jumblatt and practically everyone else.

More surprisingly, Aoun received Hezbollah representative Ali Ammar, who said that a high-profile meeting was soon to be held between Aoun and Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah, since both men share a parallel vision on political reform. Both imposed themselves on Lebanese politics forcefully, and neither are members of the feudal notability of Lebanese politics that has been in power with no interruptions since the turn of the 20th century. Many fear an electoral alliance between Nasrallah and Aoun, which Ammar hinted at after his meeting with the ex-general. Aoun has also received another traditional foe, the Amal Movement, which is headed by the pro-Syrian Speaker of Parliament Berri.

Aoun has also allied himself with the pro-Syrian ex-minister of interior Sulayman Franjiyyieh, who visited him upon his return to Beirut and said that Aoun's team were "true Christians", claiming that rivalries in the past do not mean an alliance cannot be formed between them today. Aoun also allied himself with Emile Lahhoud Jr, the son of the president who is a deputy in parliament for the Maronite stronghold of al-Metn. An alliance with Lahhoud Jr would also mean an alliance with Lahhoud Jr's brother-in-law Elias al-Murr, another pro-Syrian former minister of interior. Traditionally, the Lahhouds and their in-laws, the Murrs, were the ones to gain the most from the 2000 election law, because due to their alliance with pro-Syrian Muslims, they also secured a majority in parliamentary elections. Today, both the Lahhouds and Murrs fear that Aoun's popularity in al-Metn would ruin their standing among Christian voters in the Maronite district. That is why the president said on Tuesday that the 2000 election law, which he had once relentlessly defended, "does not achieve equality among the Lebanese". If Aoun allies himself with other politicians in al-Metn, like ex-president Gemayel or Nasib Lahhoud, he can easily defeat the Lahhouds and the Murrs. This is why Lahhoud Jr, probably under the guidance of his father, hurried to work with Aoun, although Aoun has been the loudest critic of the Lahhoud regime since its creation in 1998, describing it as a Syrian-creation.

A defeat for Lahhoud in the upcoming elections would be a disaster for the Lebanese president, for he would run a high risk of being voted out of office if an anti-Syrian, or anti-Lahhoud parliament is elected. That is why the Lahhouds, who have been pro-Syria more than Syria itself, need Aoun today (more so than Syria) to survive in Lebanon. Another early-caller on Aoun was Druze leader Talal Arslan, who combats Jumblatt over leadership of the Druze community in Lebanon. He too offered to work with Aoun, to defeat Jumblatt in the Druze-Maronite district of Aley.

Jumblatt would also fear an alliance between Aoun and Hezbollah in Baabda. Jumblatt, fearing Aoun's influence in the elections, was highly critical of Aoun and called on Lahhoud to resign, wanting to get rid of both men. Aoun stood up for the Lebanese president, who he has repeatedly criticized, signaling that he might ally himself with Lahhoud, Syria, and Hezbollah, to defeat Jumblatt and the current leaders of the Lebanese opposition. Once rid of Jumblatt, and in the power struggle of Lebanon, he would turn his attention against Lahhoud, Syria, and Hezbollah. This is a complex and complicated game, even by the standards of Lebanon.

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.

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Class Dissection Of Live Dog Outrages Parents, Students
7:57 am EDT May 13, 2005

A biology class lesson in Gunnison, Utah involving the dissection of a live dog has outraged some parents and students, according to a report.

"I thought that it would be just really a good experience if they could see the digestive system in the living animal," Biology teacher Doug Bierregaard said.

Biology teacher Doug Bjerregaard, who is a substitute teacher at Gunnison Valley High School, wanted his students to see how the digestive system of a dog worked.

Bjerregaard made arrangements for his students to be a part of a dissection of a dog that was still alive.

The dog was still alive, but the teacher said it was sedated before the dissection began.

With the students watching, the sedated dog's digestive system was removed.

"It just makes me sick and I don't think this should go on anywhere and nobody's learning from it," student Sierra Sears said.

The teacher said the lesson would allow students to see the organs actually working.

"I thought that it would be just really a good experience if they could see the digestive system in the living animal," Bierregaard said.

The school's principal, Kirk Anderson, said notifications went to parents explaining the dog was going to be euthanized and that the experiment would be done with the dog's organs still functioning.

The teacher is standing by his decision and calls it the ultimate educational experience.

Principal Anderson said he supports the lesson and it will be allowed to continue because the students are learning.

The dog used in the experiment was going to be euthanized despite the class project.

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Nicotine vaccine is set to stub out smoking
By Sam Lister, Health Correspondent
The Times Online
May 14, 2005

SCIENTISTS will today unveil results from the first large-scale human trial into a vaccine for nicotine which could see people immunised against addictions to smoking within the next five years.

A Swiss pharmaceutical company will reveal the outcome of a six-month vaccine trial of 300 volunteers, all of whom were heavy smokers before receiving injections to counter the habit.

Addiction experts said last night that the closely-guarded results, which are to be set out at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, were likely to be positive and could prove a watershed in the quest to introduce a nicotine vaccine.

Cytos Biotechnology is the first to report back on a large group trial of the drug, but two other firms, including Cambridge-based Xenova Research, are to launch similar studies imminently.

The three trial drugs, which are taken as a course of between four and six injections, work by stimulating the production of antibodies in the blood. These antibodies stop nicotine from entering the brain and producing the addictive sensation craved by smokers.

The body's immune system does not normally react to nicotine, but scientists have combined the chemical with a protein to trigger a "blocking" response. The antibodies which are produced attach themselves to nicotine circulating in the bloodstream, forming a compound that is to big to cross into the brain.

Early trials in mice and small-scale human studies have shown that the vaccine can significantly reduce the euphoric rush of both nicotine and cocaine.

A spokesman for Cytos said that the six-month results, which were finalised this week, would provide proof of concept not only for a nicotine vaccine, but other vaccines for conditions such as asthma and Alzheimer's using similar antibody responses.

Campbell Bunce, an immunologist working for Xenova, said that he expected Cytos's findings for its vaccine to be positive. He said that even if it did not live up to expectations, the vaccine could still prove a very important weapon against smoking used in combination with other anti-addiction treatments such as nicotine patches, gum and antidepression drugs. [...]

Every year in the UK around 114,000 people die as a result of smoking - a fifth of all UK deaths - with lung cancer, coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive lung disease claiming most lives. Around 13 million adults in Britain smoke cigarettes - 28 per cent of men and 26 per cent of women - while one in ten teenagers is categorised as a regular smoker. For both sexes, the proportion of adults who smoke is highest in those aged 20 to 24.

The NHS spent £32.3 million to help smokers to quit in the eight months to December.

"We are making real steps forward," Dr Bunce said. "I am very optimistic about the vaccines. I think they have a very good chance of working. We have seen that smokers who have received the vaccine do report a definite reduced sense of pleasure from cigarettes when on vaccines." [...]

Comment: Don't miss our "Anti-Anti-Smoking" article. The following are two excerpts:

From recent news reports, it has come to our attention that smoking is a vice that "leaders" around the world are determined to stamp out. But why? The official story is that our ever benevolent governments wish to prevent "we the people" from damaging our health, and that of others (if you believe the "second hand smoke" fable. Those of a more cynical disposition claim that the truth has more to do government aims of cutting back on public health expenditure for preventable diseases like lung cancer.

Yet this explanation is relevant only for those few countries where public health care is free and is also contingent on the, as yet, missing evidence that smoking really is the number one cause of cancer, rather than the many other pollutants that we all inhale every day.

Given what we know of the contempt in which The Powers That Be hold most of humanity, and the lack of convincing evidence that even moderate smoking really is a risk to public health, we are forced to look for another reason for the increasingly world-wide witch hunt on smoking and smokers. [...]

Consider first of all the fact that the "anti-smoking" campaign began in the United States, the same United States that thinks it is okay to lie about Weapons of Mass destruction in order to justify killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, the same United States that will not support the Kyoto Protocol to halt Global Warming that may kill billions of people. Has anyone ever wondered if the illnesses that are blamed on smoking might very well be caused by the pollution and toxins in our air, water, and food, and are blamed on smoking so as to maintain the commercial viability of the real causes, while at the same time, creating a nation of law-breakers so that the government can cash in on the guilt as Ayn Rand suggested? [...]

Now, nicotine is a most interesting drug. Nicotine mimics one of the body's most significant neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. This is the neurotransmitter most often associated with cognition in the cerebral cortex. Acetylcholine is the primary carrier of thought and memory in the brain. It is essential to have appropriate levels of acetylcholine to have new memories or recall old memories. [...]

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China, Europe build hexahedral net to observe outer space 2005-05-13 21:03:58

BEIJING, May 13 (Xinhuanet) -- Chinese and European scientists joined hands in observing outer space via a hexahedral network of research satellites, which is primarily aimed at depicting space magnetic storms and ensuring manned space exploration.

The leading scientist of the Double Star Program, Liu Zhenxing, said here Friday at a China-European Union science and technology forum that his program coordinated well with Cluster II, a four-satellite space observation program sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA) that has gathered a huge amount of new data.

In the Double Star Program, one satellite orbits the Earth passing over both poles while the other flies over the equator. One orbiter reaches more than 60,000 kilometers from the Earth, unprecedented for Chinese satellites.

The Cluster mission is currently investigating the small-scale structure of the Earth's plasma environment, such as those involved in the interaction between solar wind and magnetospheric plasma, global magnetotail dynamics, cross-tail currents, and the formation and dynamics of the neutral line and of plasmoids. [...]

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Early humans 'followed coast'

The first humans who left Africa to populate the world headed south along the coast of the Indian Ocean, Science magazine reports.

Scientists had always thought the exodus from Africa around 70,000 years ago took place along a northern route into Europe and Asia.

But according to a genetic study, early modern humans followed the beach, possibly lured by a seafood diet.

They quickly reached Australia but took much longer to settle in Europe.

Dr Martin Richards of the University of Leeds, who took part in the study, says the first humans may have moved south in search of better fishing grounds when stocks in the Red Sea dwindled due to climate change.

"That might have been the push that set them off," he told the BBC News website.

DNA clues

When the first modern humans evolved in Africa, they lived mainly on meat hunted from animals. But by 70,000 years ago, they had switched to a marine diet, largely shellfish.

The new research suggests they moved along the coasts of the Arabian peninsula into India, Indonesia and Australia about 65,000 years ago. An offshoot later led to the settlement of the Middle East and Asia about 30 to 40,000 years ago.

The data comes from studies by two teams of scientists on the DNA of native people living in Malaysia and on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands between India and Burma.

Scientists can estimate how closely related we are by studying the DNA of the energy producing parts of the cell, our mitochondria.

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Volcano Erupts in Galapagos Islands
By VOA News
14 May 2005

A volcano has erupted in the Galapagos Islands, spewing rivers of lava toward the sea and sending columns of vapor and ash seven kilometers into the sky.

There are no human inhabitants on Fernandina Island where the volcano is located, and Ecuadorean officials are monitoring the situation to make sure the volcano does not threaten any rare animals or tourist areas.

Washington Tapia, director of the Galapagos National Park, said he does not think it will be necessary to take any security measures, and authorities will wait for nature to take its course.

The Galapagos Islands, about 1,000 kilometers off Ecuador's Pacific coast, are a popular tourist destination and are home to unique animal species that inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

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Powerful earthquake hits Sumatra
AP[ SATURDAY, MAY 14, 2005 12:00:54 PM ]

JAKARTA: A 6.9 magnitude undersea earthquake rocked Indonesia's Sumatra Island on Saturday, triggering panic across a large swathe of the region. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Budi Waluyo, from the meteorological and geophysical agency, said it was unlikely that the quake would trigger a tsunami given its strength and the fact it occurred relatively close to the earth's surface.

The temblor was centered 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of the city of Padang on west Sumatra, he said. It struck at 12.05 local time (0505 GMT), he said.

Frightened residents ran from their shaking houses in several cities on the island, Waluyo and media reports said,

In December, a magnitude 9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed more than 128,000 people and left a half-million homeless on the northern part of Sumatra Island. Three months later, a second earthquake close to the December temblor left more than 900 dead on the Indonesian island of Nias and some smaller, surrounding islands.

The region has been rocked by countless other, smaller quakes occurring along the same fault line.

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Earthquake Shakes Romania, Bulgaria

An earthquake hit Romania on Saturday morning and was sensed in Bulgaria as well, scientists said.

The epicentre of the 4.5-magnitude quake was at some 390km northeast of Sofia.

Early reports mention no casualties.

The quake struck shortly before 5 a.m. on Saturday, according to the Bulgarian civil defence service.

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Magnitude 5 Quake Strikes Off Hawaii Coast
USGS and Signs Report

An earthquake of approx 4.8 magnitude struck off the coast of Hawaii's 'Big Island' just after midnight on Friday 13th May 2005. The quake was centered on or under the archipelago's newest addition, an island that has not yet surfaced called Lo'ihi, south of the big island of hawaii. Many Islanders are reported to have felt the quake.

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Expert Says East Texas Is Hotbed For UFO Sightings, Has Video To Prove It

For as long as there have been cameras, folks have captured on film what they say might be from another world.

Or, they say the UFOs might be a secret aircraft the government doesn't want us to know about.

Despite the true answer, the fascination with the strange objects in the sky is stronger than ever, mainly because of the internet.

B.J. Booth says it's just a great mystery.

What is this in the East Texas sky?

"We know there are many objects that are seen, photographed, and videotaped by reputable individuals."

Booth speaks for a man in Kaufman County -- a man named Larry who doesn't want the spotlight. He just took these pictures, and video.

"To be honest, I don't even know his name. Just Larry," Booth says.

Over the past few years, Booth says his video shows objects that defy explanation. Like a strange white object moving toward a low flying plane.

"He was picking up some objects in his camera that he wasn't really seeing or didn't notice when he was taking his film."

Some of the video and pictures are just of strange lights in the night sky -- moving quickly. But some of the pictures Larry has sent to Booth's website, are jaw-dropping.

"We haven't been able to supply a lot of answers, and no one has because these objects have not been able to be identified," Booth says.

Take for instance a bronze colored shape. It doesn't look to be a plane.

Neither does a spectacular beacon of light moving within the clouds in the daytime.

"They cannot be explained by anything that we know of, or anything that's flying today in our skies," Booth proclaims.

He says he's never seen a UFO himself, but believes the photos and video from Kaufman County are authentic.

There was something up there.

And he wants an answer from someone.

"There are so many of them that there aren't really the resources or personnel to actually go out and further investigate these things," he says.

There's no shortage of people who might say this activity is military.

Strange reddish lights in a triangular pattern might be some experimental aircraft.

Some others might say they're spacecraft.

Booth says the government is mum about these pictures, that his source, Larry doesn't have a clue, and that he hopes someone has an idea.

"What is it? [Larry's] asking us. I don't have an answer for him," Booth says.

Every day studying these pictures and others from East Texas skies just deepens the mystery.

What might be looking on us from above?

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