Saturday-Sunday, June 04-05, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Freedom of Speech in America

Today's Picture of the Day is a photograph that appeared on Reuters News web site last week, the accompanying text stated:

"Police detain a demonstrator after disrupting a speech by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club, in San Francisco, Friday, May 27, 2005. Shortly after Rice started speaking, at least two protesters stood wearing black robes and black hoods, an apparent reference to U.S. abuse of detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. The crowd applauded as the protesters were taken from the hall."

Just for the record; there is no freedom of speech or expression in the US, that much is clear. It has effectively been abolished by the Bush administration. The protestors at Rice's speech were simply making a statement, and one that many attendees, and indeed many Americans in general, seem to agree with - that the war in Iraq was waged on a lie, and thousands of innocent people have suffered needlessly as a result. Such simple, peaceful and conscientious dissent however, is not tolerated by the Bush administration (or should we say regime?). As George so infamously said in November 2001: "You're either with us or against us," or in other words, support our murderous policies against the innocent, or you'll be next.

Bush, The Spoiled Man-Child. What causes the fall of empires? Why, stubborn leaders who speak like toddlers and never admit mistakes
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, June 3, 2005

Know what real men do? They admit their mistakes. Know what real people do in times of great stress and strife and economic downturn? They seek help, understand they don't know all the answers, realize they might not've been asking the right questions in the first place.

Know what great leaders, great nations do at times of war and fracture and massive bludgeoning debt? All of the above, all the time, with great intelligence and humility and grace and awareness and shared humanity. Or they die.

But not BushCo. This is the hilarious thing. This is the appalling thing, still. How can this man remain so blindly, staggeringly resolute? How can he be so appallingly ignorant of fact, of truth, of evidence, of deep thought? In short, what the hell is wrong with George W. Bush?

Here it is, another bumbling, barely articulate press conference by Dubya, one of few he ever gives because he clearly hates the things and is deeply troubled by them, hates reporters who ask complicated questions and hates people who dare doubt his simple mindset, his effectiveness, his policies, his lopsided myopic one-way black/white good/evil worldview.

Bush hates press conferences because he can't speak extemporaneously and can't form a complete sentence without mashing up the language like a five-year-old and can't express a complex idea to save his life and somewhere deep down, he knows it, and he knows we know it, and it makes him mumble and stutter and wish he could be somewhere else, anywhere else, like sittin' on the back porch in Texas eatin' ribs and dreamin' 'bout baseball. Ahhh, there now. That's better.

But here he is, instead, stuck like a pinned bug in the Rose Garden, struggling to answer tricky, multisyllabic questions from the godforsaken press. Go ahead, read the Q&A, linked above. It's sort of staggering. It's also very impressive, in a soul-stabbing, nauseating way.

Bush is, to be sure and in a word, unyielding. Determined. Immovable. Also, deeply confused. Myopic as hell. Frighteningly narrow minded. Weirdly random. Childish in a way that would make any good parent seriously question whether it might be time to get their child some Ritalin and an emetic.

Unlike you or me or any human anywhere who happens to be in possession of humility or subtlety of mind, Bush, to this day, admits zero mistakes. He refuses help, rejects suggestions that everything is not dandy and swell. He is confounded by questions that dare suggest he might be somewhat inept, or failing. And he absolutely insists that America exists in some sort of bizarre utopian vacuum, isolated and virtuous and towering like a mad hobbled king over our enemies and allies alike.

He is, in other words, our downfall.

Iraq? Going smoothly, Bush says, happy with the progress there, despite huge surges in insurgent violence and endless uptick of the U.S. death toll and the utter wasteland we've made of that poor, shredded nation.

Iran, North Korea and Egypt? Just dandy. No serious problems at all. Gotta talk more with that "North Korean" guy though, sort out the "nukuler" problem. Sneering thug John Bolton for U.N. ambassador? You betcha, still on track, a good man, despite what everybody -- and I do mean everybody -- says.

Overhaul Social Security, despite an enormous lack of support from Dems and Repubs and the vast majority of the American people? "Just a matter of time," Bush mutters, completely blinded to the fact that it's an enormous mistake. His deeply hypocritical stance on stem-cell research that kow-tows to the deeply ignorant Christian Right? No real answer there. Doesn't compute. Just shrug that sucker right off.

Notice, when you read: There is no eloquent, deeply felt defense of ideas. There is no intellectual breakdown of opinion, no multifaceted explanation, no passionate clarification. And there is certainly no reference to outside ideas, a confession that we might need help, input, wisdom from our neighbors, from science, from the wise and the experienced.

It's a fact we've known all along but which keeps hammering at us like a drunk gorilla hammers at a dead mouse: Bush is able to speak only at one level, to one level. The level of a child. The level of a simpleton. The level of a sweet, bumbling, small-town mayor, addressing a PTA meeting, everyone in soft plaids and everyone drinking light beer and everyone wondering about just what the heck to do about the rusty swing sets and the busted stoplight.

Bush is, of course, not talking to you or me or anyone with a remotely active imagination when he speaks at press conferences, or at his staged, pre-screened, sycophant-rich "town hall" meetings, so full of plain, everyday folk hand-selected for their blind love of Shrub and lack of ability to ask hard questions (read this transcript of a recent town hall on Social Security, and come away stupefied at the man's shocking ability to appear just exactly as gullible and uneducated as his questioners).

He is not even speaking to conservative Democrats or moderate Republicans. He's certainly not speaking to highly educated people who harbor a sincere curiousity for and tenuous understanding of the complexities of the world.

Bush is, of course, speaking to children. He is speaking to babies. It is a decidedly shallow and hollow and oddly deflated type of language that offers not a single nutritious or substantive thought to the political or cultural dialogue, other than to expand his staggering collection of embarrassing Bushisms.

It's all merely a crayon drawing, an intellectual wading pool, a big messy cartoon world populated by manly white good guys and fanged dark evil guys and we are good and They are evil and that's all there is to it so please stop asking weird tricky polysyllabic questions.

Maybe this is appropriate. Maybe this is as it should be. After all, we are, by and large, a nation that refuses to grow up, refuses to take responsibility for our gluttony and its global effects, refuses to see the world as it is now, a mad tangle of interconnected humanity, a global marketplace, a hodgepodge of variegated religions all stemming from the same source and which therefore all require a nimble and nuanced and deeply intelligent leadership, to navigate. Qualities which our current leadership has, well, not at all.

The U.S. still behaves, when all is said and done, like one of those scared wild monkeys, clinging desperately to a shiny object despite the trap closing in all around us, unable to let go of this old, silly, faux-cowboy mentality of boom boom kill kill God is your daddy now sit down and shut up.

What causes the downfall of empires? What causes the implosion of leadership, the slide of great nations into the deep muck of recession and war and mediocrity and numb irrelevance? That's easy. Stagnation. Refusal to change. Refusal to adapt, to progress. Refusal to grow the hell up, to take responsibility for our shortcomings and failures, as well as our successes.

Indeed, George W. Bush would make a great small-town mayor, somewhere deep in a dusty, forgotten part of Texas. His still-appalling inability to speak with any depth or resonance, coupled with his brand of personable, aww-shucks, none-too-bright simpleton worldview is perfect for some cute, redneck, tiny burg. It really is.

But for a major world power caught in the throes of a desperate need to change and grow and evolve, he is, of course, imminent death, leading us deeper into a regressive ideological tar pit from which we may never emerge.

Comment: Modern day American and Nazi Germany have a lot in common. While Germany had the emotionally-charged speeches of Hitler to manipulate Germans into the "regressive ideological tar pit" that cost the world 65 million lives, the US has no such orator for a President. "Luckily" however, 9/11 seems to have done the job nicely. Coincidence? Unlikely.

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Code Red
By Chris Floyd
Published: June 3, 2005

Last month, we reported here about Jeb Bush's courtroom efforts to crush the life of an abused, poverty-stricken 6-year-old girl in his gubernatorial satrapy of Florida. Later, against all odds, a jury of ordinary citizens thwarted the dynast's brutal will. But as befits a scion of the ruling family, Bush is now brushing aside this interference from the rabble and pressing ahead with his plans to strip the little girl of all public assistance.

Bush's minions went to court earlier this year in a bid to cut off medical aid to Marissa Amora, who, at the age of 2, had been abandoned by Jeb's "Department of Children and Families" despite overwhelming evidence of horrific past abuse -- and the imminent danger of more to come. More came. Within weeks, she was beaten almost to death; then Jeb's agents tried to stop her medical treatment and let her die. She survived their malign intervention and is now thriving with a new family -- but still suffers from permanent, catastrophic damage caused by the entirely predictable beating she received after the DCF cast her aside.

But late last month, the jury in the case issued a stern rebuke to these perverted Bush Family values: They awarded Marissa $35 million in damages for institutional neglect and for her future medical care, with the DCF ordered to pay the bulk of the costs. So, a happy ending, right?

Don't be silly -- we're dealing with the Bush-Walker gang here. And for almost 100 years, from their ammo-dealing days in World War I to their heavy investments in Nazi Germany to their profitable hook-ups with Arab oil tyrants to their back-door buttressing of Saddam Hussein to their present-day bonanza of blood money gushing from the slaughter in Iraq, this clan of wingtipped thugs has always built its fortune on the backs -- and the bones -- of the poor. And no self-respecting Bush clansman would ever let some uppity little black girl and her foster mother make him look bad, no matter how egregious his failures.

Jeb had three choices after the verdict. He could have simply accepted responsibility for his agency's horrible neglect and paid the full amount. Or he could have accepted responsibility but asked that the large award be reduced, as often happens in such cases, which would still leave Marissa with enough money to afford the extensive and costly health care she will need for the rest of her life. The first course would have been just and honorable; the second, pragmatic yet not inherently cruel. But honor, justice and responsibility have no place in the Bush clan's ruthless operations. So Jeb picked the third choice, the "nuclear option." He asked an appeals court to throw out the entire award -- even the damages levied against other, non-state parties in the case -- leaving Marissa with absolutely nothing, The Palm Beach Post reports.

Filing for dismissal, Bush's lawyers blasted the jury for being too stupid to process the complex documentation of the case and acting instead on "prejudice and sympathy." While any "prejudice" in the case would seem to lie with the lily-white governor's attempt to grind a black child under his heel, it's true that the jury probably did have some measure of sympathy for a 6-year-old girl who will have to be kept alive through a feeding tube for the rest of her days because Bush's bureaucrats failed to protect her from well-documented abuse. But sympathy is for "girlie-men" in the demented moral universe of the Bushist faction. Or as one of the Bush Family's old business partners once said, just before he launched an unprovoked war of aggression against Poland based on lies, propaganda and manipulated intelligence about a bogus threat to the nation: "Close your hearts to pity. The stronger man is right. Be steeled against all signs of compassion." Power is everything, people are nothing, and the weakest go to the wall -- that's the Kennebunkport Code.

But of course you have to dress up your blood-and-iron philosophy with the prevailing pieties of the day if you want to snow the hoi polloi and weasel your way into power. And Jeb is one of the great whited sepulchres of our time, a master of the hypocritical arts, ever eager to hog the nearest camera and blubber teary platitudes about the "culture of life" -- even as he feverishly signs death warrants in an apparent bid to surpass his older brother's record as the most bloodthirsty executioner in modern U.S. history. If Marissa were, say, a nice white woman in a vegetative state whose case had been taken up by powerful interest groups and ballyhooed into a national media carnival, then doubtless Jeb would even now be dabbing his eyes as he knelt for a photo-op at her bedside.

But because Marissa is "nobody" -- one of the poor, the powerless, the "insulted and injured," in Dostoevsky's phrase -- she can be flushed down the toilet and no one will notice. For the aim of Bush's legal maneuvering is clear: He wants to "run out the clock" on Marissa, litigating the case quite literally to death, until her family sinks beneath the overwhelming financial and physical burden of keeping her alive and her makeshift, overstrained support system eventually suffers the inevitable breakdown.

It's a despicable strategy, a wicked strategy, but entirely in keeping with the Ruling Family's ethos, which has given the world a terror-spawning quagmire of murder and atrocity in Iraq -- 10,000 Marissa Amoras, dead, mangled, orphaned, abandoned, abused, forgotten. And for what? For power. For money. For the Code.

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It's a Pentagon World and Welcome to It
By Tom Engelhardt
June 3, 2005

A plan to reorganize military bases at home is just one piece of a larger puzzle that involves the projection of American power into the distant lands that most concern us.

The last few weeks have been base-heavy ones in the news. The Pentagon's provisional Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list, the first in a decade, was published to domestic screams of pain. It represents, according to the Washington Post, "a sweeping plan to close or reduce forces at 62 major bases and nearly 800 minor facilities" in the United States. The military is to be reorganized at home around huge, multi-force "hub bases" from which the Pentagon, in the fashion of a corporate conglomerate, hopes to "reap economies of scale."

This was front page news for days as politicians and communities from Connecticut (the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Groton) and New Jersey (Fort Monmouth) to South Dakota (Ellsworth Air Force Base) cried bloody murder over the potential loss of jobs and threatened to fight to the death to prevent their specific base or set of bases (but not anyone else's) from closing -- after all, those workers had been the most productive and patriotic around.

These closings -- and their potentially devastating after-effects on communities -- were a reminder (though seldom dealt with that way in the media) of just how deeply the Pentagon has dug itself into the infrastructure of our nation. With over 6,000 military bases in the U.S., we are in some ways a vast military camp.

But while politicians screamed locally, Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon never thinks less than globally; and, if you throw in the militarization of space, sometimes even the global has proven too small a framework for its presiding officials. For them, the BRAC plans are just one piece of a larger puzzle that involves the projection of American power into the distant lands that most concern us.

After all, as Chalmers Johnson has calculated in his book, "The Sorrows of Empire," our global Baseworld already consists of at least 700 military and intelligence bases; possibly -- depending on how you count them up -- many more. Under Rumsfeld's organizational eye, such bases have been pushed ever further into the previously off-limits "near abroad" of the former Soviet Union (where we now probably have more bases than the Russians do) and ever deeper into the Middle Eastern and Caspian oil heartlands of the planet.

The Bush administration's fierce focus on and interest in reconfigured, stripped down, ever more forward systems of bases and an ever more powerfully poised military "footprint" stands in inverse proportion to press coverage of it. To the present occupants of the Pentagon, bases are the equivalent of imperial America's lifeblood and yet basing policy abroad has, in recent years, been of next to no interest to the mainstream media.

Strategic Ally

Just in recent weeks, however, starting with the uproar over the economic pain BRAC will impose (along with the economic gain for those "hubs"), bases have returned to public consciousness in at least a modest way. This month, for instance, the Overseas Basing Commission released a report to the President and Congress on the "reconfiguration of the American military overseas basing structure in the post-Cold War and post-September 11 era." The report created a minor flap by criticizing the Pentagon for its overly ambitious global redeployment plans at a time when "[s]ervice budgets are not robust enough to execute the repositioning of forces, build the facilities necessary to accommodate the forces, [and] build the expanding facilities at new locations..."

In other words, the global ambitions of the Pentagon -- and the soaring budgets that go with those ambitions -- are beyond our means (not that that means much to the Bush administration). The report's criticism evidently irritated Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and so the report, already posted at a government website, was promptly taken down after the Defense Department claimed it contained classified information, especially "a reference to ongoing negotiations over U.S. bases in Bulgaria and Romania." (As it happened, the Federation of American Scientists had posted the report at its own site, where it remains available to all, according to Secrecy News.)

Perhaps in part because of BRAC and the Commission report, numerous bits and pieces of Pentagon basing plans -- even for normally invisible Romania and Bulgaria -- could be spied in (or at the edge of) the news. For instance, last week our man in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai, came calling on Washington, amid some grim disputes between "friends."

On the eve of his departure, reacting to a New York Times' article about a U.S. Army report on the torture, abuse and murder of Afghan prisoners in American hands, he essentially demanded that the Bush administration turn over Afghan prisoners, both in-country and in Guantánamo, to his government, and give it greater say in U.S. military operations in his country. For anyone who has followed the Bush administration, these are not just policy no-no's but matters verging on faith-based obsession. Having with dogged determination bucked the International Criminal Court, an institution backed by powerful allies, Bush officials were not about to stand for such demands from a near non-nation we had "liberated" and then stocked with military bases, holding areas, detention camps, and prisons of every sort.

Not long after Karzai made this demand, "an American official alarmed at the slow pace of poppy eradication" leaked to the New York Times a cable written from our Kabul embassy to Secretary of State Rice on May 13 indicating that his weak leadership -- previously he had only been lauded by administration officials -- was responsible for Afghanistan's rise to preeminence as the model drug-lord-state of the planet. ("Although President Karzai has been well aware of the difficulty in trying to implement an effective ground [poppy] eradication program, he has been unwilling to assert strong leadership, even in his own province of Kandahar.") And then, of course, State Department officials publicly came to his defense. On arrival in the U.S., he found himself refuting this charge rather than on the offensive demanding the rectification of American wrongs in his country.

At a White House welcoming ceremony, our President promptly publicly denied Karzai the Afghan prisoners and any further control over American military actions in his country. As in Iraq, the Bush administration's working definition of "sovereignty" for others is: Stay out of our way. ("As I explained to [President Karzai], that our policy is one where we want the people to be sent home [from Guantánamo], but, two, we've got to make sure the facilities are there -- facilities where these people can be housed and fed and guarded.")

But the Afghan president was granted something so much more valuable -- this was, after all, the essence of his trek to the U.S. -- a "strategic partnership" with the United States which he "requested." (The actual language: "Afghanistan proposed that the United States join in a strategic partnership and establish close cooperation.") Great idea, Hamid! And quite an original one.

Of course, the term is ours, not Karzai's, and we already have such "partnerships" with numerous nations including Japan, Germany, and Greece. But Afghanistan is none of the above. The "partners" in this relationship are the country that likes to think of itself as the planet's "sole superpower" -- its global "sheriff," the "new Rome," the new imperial "Britain" (Britain itself now being a distinctly junior partner providing a few of the "native" troops so necessary for our Iraqi adventure) -- and the country that, in the UN's Human Development Report 2004, was ranked the sixth worst off on Earth, perched just above five absolute basket-case nations in sub-Saharan Africa. This is the equivalent of declaring a business partnership between a Rockefeller and the local beggar.

In the somewhat vague, four-page Joint Declaration of the United States-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership issued by the two partners while Karzai was in Washington, along with the usual verbiage about spreading democracy and promoting human -- perhaps a typo for "inhuman" -- rights in Afghanistan and throughout the Central Asian region, there were these brief lines:

"It is understood that in order to achieve the objectives contained herein, U.S. military forces operating in Afghanistan will continue to have access to Bagram Air Base and its facilities, and facilities at other locations as may be mutually determined and that the U.S. and Coalition forces are to continue to have the freedom of action required to conduct appropriate military operations based on consultations and pre-agreed procedures."

The Afghans may get no prisoners and not an extra inch of control over U.S. military movements -- note that "continue to have the freedom of action required... based on... pre-agreed procedures" -- but they do get to give, which is such an ennobling feeling. What they are offering up is that "access" to Bagram Air Base "and facilities at other locations." (The language is charming. You would think that the Americans were at the gates of the old Soviet air base waiting to be let in, not that it was already fully occupied and a major American military facility.) Nothing "permanent," of course, especially since Afghan students in recent protests over mistreated Korans at Guantánamo were also complaining about American bases in their country; and no future treaties, since Karzai might have a tough time with parliament over that one. Afghans tend to be irrationally touchy, not to say mean-spirited, on national sovereignty issues. (Think of the Soviet occupation.) Just a simple, honestly offered "request" and a "joint declaration" -- somebody must have been smoking one -- that quietly extends our rights to base troops in Afghanistan until some undefined moment beyond the end of time.

Spanning the World

Base news has been trickling in from the 'stans of Central Asia -- formerly SSRs of the old Soviet Union -- as well. After the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, for instance, we rushed an official into the country -- no, not the Secretary of State to celebrate the spread of democracy, but our globe-trotting Secretary of Defense, who hustled into that otherwise obscure land just to make sure that Ganci Air Base (named not for some Kyrgyzstani hero, but for Peter Ganci, the New York City fire chief killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks) in the capital of Bishkek was still ours to use (as it is).

In the Uzbekistan of grim, authoritarian Islam Karimov, our ally in the war on terror (who received his third visit from Rumsfeld in 2004), the Bush administration, we're told, is wrestling with a most difficult problem in the wake of a government massacre of demonstrators: bases versus values (John Hall, "U.S. wrestles with bases vs. values in Uzbekistan," Richmond Times-dispatch, May 29).

After all, while the White House values the spread of democracy, the Pentagon considers Camp Stronghold Freedom, the former Soviet base we now occupy there -- "The air-conditioned tents at the base... are laid out on a grid, along streets named for the thoroughfares of New York: Fifth Avenue, Long Island Expressway, Wall Street." -- to be valuable indeed. And then there's that handy matter of stowing away prisoners. Uzbekistan is one of the places where the U.S. has reportedly been practicing "extraordinary rendition" -- the kidnapping of terrorist subjects and the dispatching of them to countries happy to torture them for us. Here's a guess: whether Karimov (to whom the Chinese leadership gave a giant smooch last week) remains in office or not, in the modern "Great Game" in Central Asia expect us to remain in the aptly named Camp Stronghold Freedom. (I'd like to see someone try to pry us out.)

In Africa this last week, there was news too. The Bush administration was promising to pour ever more "soldiers and money into its anti-terrorism campaign [there], including in Algeria and chaotic Nigeria, both oil-rich nations where radical Islam has a following." ("Oil-rich" is the key phrase in that sentence, in case you missed it.) "The new campaign," writes Edward Harris of AP, "will target nine north and west African nations and seek to bolster regional cooperation."

American officials, calling for a "budgetary increase" for anti-terror military aid to the area, are now evidently comparing the vast "ungoverned" desert expanses of the Sahara "to Afghanistan during Taliban rule, when Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror group thrived." Talk about ambition. Quick, someone report them to the Overseas Basing Commission before anything else happens!

While the Pentagon is planning to shut-down bases all over the U.S., it's like a shopaholic. It just can't help itself abroad. Rumors of future base openings are multiplying fast -- base workers from Connecticut, New Jersey, and South Dakota take note for future travel planning -- in the impoverished former Warsaw Pact lands of Southeastern Europe, which are also conveniently nearer to the oil heartlands of the planet than our old Cold War bases in places like Germany.

UPI, for instance, reported last week that the Pentagon was eyeing bases on Romania's scenic Black Sea coast and that the Romanians (whose plans for a world class, Disney-style Dracula theme park seem to have fallen through) were eager to be of well-paid service in the war on terror. Then a Romanian general confirmed that base negotiations were indeed well along: "General Valeriu Nicut, head of the strategic planning division for the Romanian general staff, said on Wednesday after an international military conference on security issues that the U.S. would set up two military bases in Romania within one year." He was promptly demoted for his efforts. (Perhaps it was as a result of Rumsfeld's pique.) No one on either side is denying, however, that base negotiations are underway.

Meanwhile in neighboring Bulgaria, the Defense minister was claiming that the U.S. would soon occupy three bases in that land and the Deputy Defense Minister, chairing the talks none of us knew were going on between the two countries, "told journalists that Washington is also interested in placing storehouses," assumedly to be filled with pre-positioned military supplies, there too. Earlier in the year, the U.S. head of NATO forces had spoken of the possibility of our occupying five bases in Bulgaria -- and all of them (so far) are hanging onto their jobs.

To the Southeast, there were yet more basing rumors in a volatile area where, last week, a massive 1,700 kilometer-long pipeline bringing Caspian oil from Baku in the former SSR of Azerbaijan to Ceyhan in Turkey via the former SSR of Georgia, was officially opened for business. The pipeline, as Pepe Escobar of Asia Times pointed out, is little short of a "sovereign state"; its route, carefully constructed to cut both Russia and Iran out of the Caspian oil loop, ends "right next door to the massive American airbase at Incirlik" in Turkey. The presidents of all three countries attended the opening ceremonies in Baku, while an Azerbaijan newspaper reported that the "U.S. and Azerbaijani governments on April 12 agreed on the deployment of U.S. military bases... Under the agreement, the U.S. forces will be deployed in Kurdamir, Nasosnaya and Guyullah. Various types of aircraft will be deployed at all the three bases, which have runways modernized for U.S. military needs." The report was promptly denied by the Azerbaijani defense ministry, which under the circumstances probably means little.

In neighboring Georgia, our goals have been somewhat more modest. With U.S. military trainers already in and out of the country to help bring Georgian forces up to speed in the war in terror, and -- thanks to the Rose Revolution -- a friendly government in place (the salaries of whose top officials are now "supplemented" by a fund set up by George Soros), a push had been on to rid the country of its last two Russian military bases. This week an agreement to vacate them by 2008 was announced.

Bases in Iraq: 2003-2005

And mind you, all of the above was just the minor basing news of the week. The biggest news had to do with Iraq. Bradley Graham of the Washington Post published a rare piece in our press on American bases in that country (Commanders Plan Eventual Consolidation of U.S. Bases in Iraq). As a start, he revealed that, at the moment, the "coalition" has a staggering 106 bases in the country, none with less than 500 troops on hand, and that figure doesn't even include "four detention facilities and several convoy support centers for servicing the long daily truck runs from Kuwait into Iraq."

With just over 160,000 coalition troops on hand in Iraq that would mean an average of about 1,600 to a base. Of course, some of these bases also house Iraqi troops, various Iraqis needed by U.S. forces -- translators, for instance, who, when living outside such bases, are being killed off by insurgents at what seems to be a ferocious rate -- and some of the hordes of contractors "reconstructing" the country, including the thousands and thousands of hired guns who have flooded in and are constantly at risk. Some American bases like Camp Anaconda, spread over 15 square miles near Balad (with two swimming pools, a first-run movie theater, and a fitness gym) or Camp Victory at the Baghdad International Airport, are vast Vietnam-style encampments, elaborate enough to be "permanent" indeed.

It is, by the way, a mystery of compelling proportions that American journalists, more or less trapped in their hotels when it comes to reporting on Iraqi Iraq (given the dangers of the situation), have seemed no less trapped when it comes to reporting on important aspects of American Iraq. We know, for instance, that even a year and a half ago the American base construction program was already in "the several billion dollar range," and such bases had long been at the heart of Bush administration dreams for the region; yet since April 2003 there have been only a few very partial descriptions of American bases in Iraq in the press -- and those are largely to be found in non-mainstream places or on-line.

Given what's generally available to be read (or seen on the TV news), there is simply no way most Americans could grasp just how deeply we have been digging into Iraq. Take, for instance, this description of Camp Victory offered by Joshua Hammer in a Mother Jones magazine piece:

"Over the past year, KBR contractors have built a small American city where about 14,000 troops are living, many hunkered down inside sturdy, wooden, air-conditioned bungalows called SEA (for Southeast Asia) huts, replicas of those used by troops in Vietnam. There's a Burger King, a gym, the country's biggest PX -- and, of course, a separate compound for KBR workers, who handle both construction and logistical support. Although Camp Victory North remains a work in progress today, when complete, the complex will be twice the size of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo -- currently one of the largest overseas posts built since the Vietnam War."

There has not, to my knowledge, been a single descriptive article in a major American paper during our two-year occupation of Iraq that has focused on any one of the American bases in that country and I don't believe that the American public has any idea -- I certainly didn't -- that there were at least 106 of them; or, for that matter, that some of them already have such a permanent feel to them; that they are, in essence, facts-on-the-ground long before any negotiations about them might begin with a "sovereign" Iraqi government.

In any case, Graham reports that, according to the latest Pentagon plans, we would focus our Iraqi bases -- once called "enduring camps," now referred to as "contingency operating bases" (but never, never use the word "permanent") -- into four "hubs" ("BRAC for Iraq"), none too close to major population centers -- "the four are Tallil in the south, Al Asad in the west, Balad in the center and either Irbil or Qayyarah in the north."

"Several officers involved in drafting the consolidation plan said it entailed the construction of longer-lasting facilities at the sites, including barracks and office structures made of concrete block instead of the metal trailers and tin-sheathed buildings that have become the norm at bigger U.S. bases in Iraq.

"The new, sturdier buildings will give the bases a more permanent character, the officers acknowledged. But they said the consolidation plan was not meant to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq... The new buildings are being designed to withstand direct mortar strikes, according to a senior military engineer."

This plan is being presented -- hilariously enough -- as part of a "withdrawal" strategy. It seems we are (over what will have to be interminable years) planning to turn the other 100 or so bases over to the Iraqi military (itself a bit of a problematic concept). For this, of course, "no timetable exists." Once the massive bulk of bases are let go, only those 4 (or -- see below -- possibly 5) bases will remain to be dealt with; and, in that distant future, while maintaining "access" to our former Iraqi strongholds, we will withdraw to our bases in Kuwait from which we will practice what one colonel interviewed by Graham termed "strategic overwatch." (Given the intensifying insurgency in Iraq, this seems like nothing short of a Pentagon pipe dream.)

The future of a fifth base, the Camp Victory complex, headquarters of the U.S. military in Iraq, remains "unresolved." After all, who wouldn't want to keep a massive complex on the edge of the Iraqi capital, though the military has proven incapable thus far of securing even the road that runs from Camp Victory (and Baghdad International Airport) into downtown Baghdad and the Green Zone. Today, it is the "deadliest road in Iraq," perhaps the most dangerous stretch of highway on the planet, which of course says something symbolic about the limits of the Pentagon's plans to garrison the globe.

Naturally, these four (or five) bases aren't "permanent," even if they are about to be built up to withstand anything short of an atomic blast and have the distinct look of permanency. The problem is, as Maj. Noelle Briand, who heads a basing working group on the U.S. command staff, commented to Graham, "Four is as far as we've gone down in our planning."

The word "permanent" cannot be spoken in part because all of the above decisions have undoubtedly been taken without significant consultation with the supposedly sovereign government of Iraq with whom the Pentagon is undoubtedly just dying to have one of those strategic partnerships as well as a "status of forces agreement" or SOFA. The SOFA is considered a future necessity since it would essentially give American troops extraterritoriality in Iraq, protecting them from prosecution for crimes committed and offering them impunity in terms of actions taken. No Iraqi government, however, could at present negotiate such an agreement without losing its last shred of popularity.

Still, congratulations to Graham for giving us an important, if somewhat encoded, version of the Bush administration's latest basing plans for Iraq. But here's the catch, these "latest" Pentagon plans look suspiciously like some rather well-worn plans, now over two years old. Unfortunately, our media has just about no institutional memory.

As it happens, though, I remember -- and what I remember specifically is a New York Times front-page piece, Pentagon Expects Long-Term Access to Four Key Bases in Iraq, by Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt that was published on April 19, 2003, just as the Bush administration's Iraq War seemed to be successfully winding down. Since next to nothing else of significance on the subject was written until Graham's piece came out last week, it remains a remarkable document as well as a fine piece of reporting. It began:

"The United States is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region, senior Bush administration officials say.

"American military officials, in interviews this week, spoke of maintaining perhaps four bases in Iraq that could be used in the future: one at the international airport just outside Baghdad; another at Tallil, near Nasiriya in the south; the third at an isolated airstrip called H-1 in the western desert, along the old oil pipeline that runs to Jordan; and the last at the Bashur air field in the Kurdish north."

Let's just stop there and consider for a moment. In April 2003, the Pentagon was looking for long-term "access" to four bases; at the end of May 2005, it's revealed that the Pentagon is looking for long-term "access" to... four bases. After two years and billions of dollars worth of base construction, the general distribution of these bases remains relatively unchanged. In fact, the base chosen for the Shiite South at Tallil remains the same.

One of the four bases mentioned in the Times' account of 2003, at Baghdad International Airport, now Camp Victory, is the "unresolved" fifth base in the Post's 2005 account; in the West, H-1 has been replaced by Al Asad in the same general area; in the Kurdish North, Bashur (2003) has been replaced by either Qayyarah or Irbil, approximately 50 kilometers to the south; and Balad, north of Baghdad, is assumedly the non-urban version of the 2003 Airport choice. In other words, between 2003 and 2005, the numbers and the general placement of these planned bases seems to have remained more or less the same.

"In Afghanistan, and in Iraq," Shanker and Schmitt wrote, "the American military will do all it can to minimize the size of its deployed forces, and there will probably never be an announcement of permanent stationing of troops. Not permanent basing, but permanent access is all that is required, officials say." This was, of course, at a moment when Bush administration neocons expected to draw down American forces rapidly in a grateful, liberated land.

Shanker and Schmitt then put the prospective Iraqi bases into a larger global context, mentioning in particular access to bases in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Romania, and Bulgaria, and adding:

"[T]here has been a concerted diplomatic and military effort to win permission for United States forces to operate from the formerly Communist nations of Eastern Europe, across the Mediterranean, throughout the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, and across Central Asia, from the periphery of Russia to Pakistan's ports on the Indian Ocean. It is a swath of Western influence not seen for generations."

Three days after the Shanker/Schmitt report was front-paged, Donald Rumsfeld strongly denied it was so at a Pentagon news conference reported in the Washington Post (U.S. Won't Seek Bases in Iraq, Rumsfeld Says) by Bradley Graham. His piece began:

"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday the United States is unlikely to seek any permanent or 'long-term' bases in Iraq because U.S. basing arrangements with other countries in the region are sufficient... 'I have never, that I can recall, heard the subject of a permanent base in Iraq discussed in any meeting,' Rumsfeld said... 'The likelihood of it seems to me to be so low that it does not surprise me that it's never been discussed in my presence -- to my knowledge.'"

And, for the next two years, that was largely that. The Times hasn't seriously revisited the story since, despite the fact that their original front-page piece was groundbreaking. You would think it a subject worth returning to. After all, despite everything that's happened between May 2003 ("Mission Accomplished!") and the present disastrous moment in Iraq, the Pentagon is still planning on those four bases. Coincidence? Who knows, but might it not be worth at least a blip on the inside pages somewhere?

An Empire of Bases

As the Overseas Basing Commission indicated in their recent report, such global basing plans are nothing if not wildly ambitious and sure to be wildly expensive (especially for a military bogged down in fighting a fierce but not exactly superpower-sized enemy in one part of a single Middle Eastern country). When we take the bits and pieces of the global-base puzzle that have sprung up like weeds between the cracks in recent weeks and try to put them together into a map of the Pentagon's globe, it looks rather like the one described by Shanker and Schmitt in 2003.

Begin with those prospective bases in Romania and Bulgaria (and while you're at it, toss in the ones already in existence in the former Yugoslavia); make your way southeastwards past "Pipelineistan," keeping your eye out for our Turkish bases and those possible future ones in Azerbaijan; take in the 4 or 5 bases we'd like to hang onto in the embattled Iraqi heartland of the Middle East (not to speak of the ones we already control in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and elsewhere in the region); take a quick glance at "oil-rich" North Africa for a second, imagining what might someday be nailed down there; then hop over base-less Axis of Evil power Iran and land at Bagram Air Base (don't worry, you have "access") or any of the other unnamed ones in Afghanistan where we now have a long-term foothold; don't forget the nearby Pakistani air bases that Gen. Pervez Musharraf has given us access to (or Diego Garcia, that British "aircraft carrier" island in the Indian Ocean that's all ours); add in our new Central Asian facilities; plot it all out on a map and what you have is a great infertile crescent of American military garrisons extending from the old Soviet-controlled lands of Eastern Europe to the old Soviet SSRs of Central Asia, reaching from Russia's eastern border right up to the border of China. This is, of course, a map that more or less coincides with the Middle Eastern and Caspian oil heartlands of the planet.

Put in historical terms, in the last decade-plus, as the pace of our foreign wars has picked up, we've left behind, after each of them, a new set of bases like the droppings of some giant beast marking the scene with its scent. Bases were dropped into Saudi Arabia and the small Gulf emirates after our first Gulf War in 1991; into the former Yugoslavia after the Kosovo air war of 1999; into Pakistan, Afghanistan, and those former Central Asian SSRs after the Afghan war of 2001; and into Iraq after the invasion of 2003. War in Iraq, in turn, has spawned at least 106 bases of various sizes and shapes; while a low-level but ongoing guerilla conflict in Afghanistan has produced a plethora of fire bases, outposts, air bases, and detention centers of every sort. It's a matter of bases and prisons where there is opposition. Just bases where there isn't. This, it seems, is now the American way in the world.

Most Americans, knowing next to nothing about our global bases or the Pentagon's basing policies, would undoubtedly be surprised to learn that ours is an empire of bases. In fact, our particular version of military empire is perhaps unique: all "gunboats," no colonies. Nothing has been of more concern to the Pentagon-centered Bush administration abroad than bases, or of less concern to our media at home. Despite two years of catastrophic setbacks, the ambitions of the Bush White House and the Pentagon evidently remain remarkably unchanged and wildly ambitious -- and, I suspect, the rule of inverse media interest still holds.

Special research thanks go to Nick Turse.

Tom Engelhardt, editor of, is co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of "The End of Victory Culture."

Comment: The following article is particularly hilarious given the extent to which the US under the Neocons has projected its power in the form of military bases and imperialist policies.

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Rumsfeld says China needlessly projects power
By Carol Giacomo
June 4, 2005

SINGAPORE - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused China on Saturday of enhancing its ability to project power at a time when it faced no threat and said Beijing will have to expand political freedoms to maintain economic growth and influence.

Comment: Well, if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black... The only difference is that the Neocon/Zionist alliance has invented its enemies, whereas the US has made it quite clear that it intends to make an enemy of China. In fact, it seems that the primary threat to every nation on the planet is the US itself.

The Pentagon has been raising alarms over China's military modernization for several years. Rumsfeld's rhetorical assault, in a speech to a conference of regional defense ministers, underscores a growing concern in the United States over China's rising military, economic and diplomatic power.

But facing an audience anxious about a possible U.S.-China confrontation in Asia, Rumsfeld toned down parts of his prepared speech and insisted Washington sought neither to destabilize China nor fan a competition for regional influence.

"China appears to be expanding its missile forces, allowing them to reach targets in many areas of the world, not just the Pacific region, while also expanding its missile capabilities within this region," he told an annual conference hosted by the International Institute of Strategic Studies.

"China also is improving its ability to project power, and developing advanced systems of military technology," he said.

"Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases? Why these continuing robust deployments?"

Comment: We were a little confused at first after reading Rumsfeld's statement. How could he think that no nation threatens China when the US is accusing China of creating America's economic woes and making veiled threats that China shouldn't become too powerful militarily?

Then we realised that Rummy probably no longer thinks of the US as a nation. With all her military bases spread all over the world, the widespread use and support of torture, and the efforts to occupy and control Middle Eastern countries under the guise of the "War on Terror", Rumsfeld sees the US for what it has actually become: an empire.

One line dropped from the prepared text said: "One might be concerned that this buildup is putting the delicate military balance in the region at risk -- especially, but not only, with respect to Taiwan."

The United States itself has vastly boosted defense spending since the Sept.11 attacks. Some experts say China's military increases can be expected of a growing power.

During a question and answer session, a Chinese foreign ministry official asked if Rumsfeld really believed China faced no threat and if the United States felt threatened by China.

"I don't know of nations that threaten China," Rumsfeld said, adding: "No, we don't feel threatened by the emergence of China. It strikes me that the emergence of China is perfectly understandable."

Comment: Doesn't Rumsfeld's statement above that the emergence of China is perfectly understandable directly contradict his prior assertion that China is effectively expanding militarily for no good reason?


But he said China's continued economic growth "will require an openness that will put a pressure on a political system that is less free and there will be a tension over time."

When asked whether his comments meant China's rise was replacing the war on terrorism as the top U.S. concern, Rumsfeld said "the struggle against extremism is not over" and that China's rise was an inevitable and largely positive development.

He also said that it was "flat wrong" that America wanted to destabilize China because this would not be good for the Chinese people or the region.

Comment: When has that ever stopped the current or past American governments??

Analysts attending the conference told Reuters the speech was less critical of China than they expected.

"We're still left with a sense that he's clearly worried about China. But he's not saying what the United States is prepared to do about it," said Jonathan Pollack, a professor at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

Rumsfeld spoke as the Pentagon prepared to release its annual assessment of China's military expenditures.

Last year, it reported China expanded its military buildup with more sophisticated missiles, satellite-disrupting lasers and underground facilities, all aimed at winning a possible conflict with Taiwan and exerting power.

It said Beijing had more than 500 short-range ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan and its defense spending of $50 billion to $70 billion is third behind the United States and Russia.

While new Pentagon figures are not yet public, the RAND Corp., a research group that often works for the military, reported that the Defense Department may have overestimated China's total military spending by more than two-thirds.

But CIA Director Porter Goss said recently China's military buildup was tilting the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait.

After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the Bush administration often extolled improving Sino-American relations, triggered in part by anti-terror cooperation.

But increasingly, disputes over China's currency rates, its refusal to lean harder on North Korea to return to six-party nuclear talks and trade issues have come to the fore.

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"It's Our Destiny" - Bush Seeks Military Control of Space
June 3, 2005

The Bush administration is expected to soon announce a new national space policy that will give the Pentagon the green light to move toward deployment of offensive weapons in space.

The new directive could allow deployment of lasers in space; attack vehicles that descend on targets from space; killer satellites, which would disrupt or destroy other nation's satellites; and tungsten rods fired from space platforms that would gather speeds of over 7,000 mph and be able to penetrate underground targets.

In the Air Force Space Command's Strategic Master Plan, FY06 and Beyond, the military said, "Our vision calls for prompt global strike space systems with the capability to apply force from or through space against terrestrial targets. International treaties and laws do not prohibit the use or presence of conventional weapons in space."

There was once a treaty that limited the research, development, testing and deployment of such offensive space systems. It was called the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with Russia. Once in office, George W. Bush withdrew the U.S. from the treaty and moved forward with expanded research and development on offensive space weapons.

The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was largely coordinated from space. Over 70% of the weapons used in the war were guided to their targets by military satellites. Thus the Pentagon maintains that the U.S. must "deny" other nations the use of space in order to maintain "full spectrum dominance."

In order to sell this space warfare program to the American people, the Pentagon has labeled it "missile defense." But in reality the program is all about offensive engagement and was first spelled out in the 1997 Space Command plan, Vision for 2020, that called for U.S. "control and domination" of space.

The Pentagon and its aerospace corporation allies understand that they cannot come to the American people and ask for hundreds of billions of dollars for offensive weapons in space. Thus the claim of "missile defense." The U.S. has to date spent well over $130 billion on Star Wars research and development. The budget for military-related space activity in 2003 was $18 billion and is expected to top $25 billion a year by 2010.

With growing budget deficits in the U.S., Congress will have to drastically cut needed programs like Medicare, Medicaid, education, and environmental clean-up in order to pay the growing cost of space weapons technology.

The world has become reliant on satellites for cell phones, cable TV, ATM bank machines and the like. Space debris is already a problem as space shuttles have had windshields cracked by bits of paint orbiting the Earth at enormous speeds. Imagine what would happen if the U.S. began destroying satellites in space, creating massive amounts of orbiting space junk, that made access to space virtually impossible for everyone.

For the last several years the Space Command, headquartered in Colorado Springs, held a computer simulation space war game set in the year 2017. The game pitted the "Blues" (U.S.) against the "Reds" (China). In the war game the U.S. launched a preemptive first strike attack against China using the military space plane (called Global Strike). Armed with a half-ton of precision-guided munitions the space plane would fly down from orbit and strike anywhere in the world in 45 minutes.

Comment: Sounds like Rummy and gang are indeed concerned about China - or at least about the USA's ability to obliterate China.

It is easy to see why Canada, Russia, and China have repeatedly gone to the United Nations asking the U.S. to join them in negotiating a new global ban on weapons in space. Why not close the door to the barn before the horse gets out? So far the U.S., during both the Clinton and Bush administrations, refuses to even discuss the idea of a new space treaty.

Gen. Lance Lord, head of the Air Force Space Command, recently told Congress, "Space superiority is not our birthright, but it is our destiny."

Comment: Shades of Hitler...

The idea that the U.S. is destined to rule the Earth and space militarily needs to be debated by the citizens of our nation. Not only is this a provocative notion, it is also one that will lead to a massive waste of our hard-earned tax dollars and create a dangerous new arms race. Do we really want war in the heavens?

Bruce K. Gagnon is Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He can be reached at:

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Al Jazeera helps militancy - Rumsfeld
Sat Jun 4, 2005

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Saturday that Arab news channel Al Jazeera was encouraging Islamic militant groups by broadcasting beheadings of foreign hostages in Iraq.

Al Jazeera broadcasts footage from militant groups, often showing hostages being brutally killed by their captors or foreign captives pleading at gunpoint for their governments to withdraw troops from Iraq.

"If anyone lived in the Middle East and watched a network like the Al Jazeera day after day after day, even if he was an American, he would start waking up and asking what's wrong. But America is not wrong. It's the people who are going on television chopping off people's heads, that is wrong," he said.

Comment: My oh my, things are getting a little petty in the crazy world of US foreign policy. Rumsfeld is apparently saying something along the lines of:

"we're not wrong! The BAD guys are wrong! So there!"

If we were to translate that back into intelligent speak, we realise that Rumsfeld is saying that anyone, "even an American", who is exposed to the reality of what is happening in Iraq and the wider Middle East would very soon find themselves wondering what the hell the US military is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Well! It's just as well that the US press is so completely censored then, eh Rummy?!

"And television networks that carry it and promote it and jump on the spark every time there is a terrorist act are promoting the acts," he told a security conference in Singapore.

Comment: See? If you give airtime to the fact that the terrorists are fighting back you are one of them! Remember: "you are either with us or against us."

Al Jazeera's offices in Baghdad and in the Afghan capital, Kabul, have been hit by U.S. fire but Washington said the bombings had been accidental and had not targeted the network. [...]

Comment: Of course, al-Jazeerah had another view on the matter...

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Al Jazeera denies Rumsfeld charge it airs killings
Sat Jun 4, 2005

DUBAI (Reuters) - The Arab TV channel Al Jazeera rejected on Saturday as unfounded Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's accusations that it was encouraging Islamic militant groups by airing beheadings of foreign hostages in Iraq.

"Al Jazeera ... has never at any time transmitted pictures of killings or beheadings and ... any talk about this is absolutely unfounded," the television said in a statement.

Al Jazeera, repeatedly accused by Washington of biased reporting on Iraq, has often shown video of hostages pleading at gunpoint for their government to withdraw its troops. But it does not broadcast footage of killings, posted on the Internet by militants.

The channel voiced "deep regret and surprise" over Rumsfeld's remarks.

The channel has angered some Arab governments as well as Washington with its coverage of the war in Iraq, Islamic militancy and interviews with Arab dissidents.

Al Jazeera is forbidden to report from Saudi Arabia, and Iraq's U.S.-backed authorities closed its office there, accusing it of supporting insurgents.

The station, which has interviewed Iraqi government and U.S. officials on Iraq, denies it is helping the militants' cause.

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U.S. criticizes Gulf allies on human trafficking
Fri Jun 3, 2005
By Saul Hudson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States criticized four Gulf Arab allies as some of the world's worst offenders in permitting human trafficking on Friday in a rebuke Washington hopes will promote improved human rights in the Middle East.

The State Department downgraded Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to the lowest level of compliance in the report, which evaluates countries' efforts in fighting the trafficking of thousands of people forced into servitude or the sex trade every year.

Victims in the region were mainly domestic servants and laborers but also included boy camel jockeys, according to the report.

It cited the case of a 17-year-old orphan, Lusa, kidnapped from Uzbekistan and was sold into a slavery ring in UAE. She was eventually "no longer usable" as a prostitute and the emirates' immigration service said she should serve a two-year prison sentence for entering the country illegally.

Officials from the Gulf countries were not immediately available to comment on the one-step downgrade, which ranks them with such countries as Burma, North Korea and Sudan.

"This report shows that in this administration we will not pull our punches even with our friends. We appreciate their cooperation in other areas but they just don't have a good track record fighting this," a State Department official said on condition of anonymity.

Each of the four nations has oil resources vital to Washington and also gave logistical support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The lowest category in the congressionally mandated annual report is called Tier 3, which lists countries that "do not fully comply with the minimum standards (laid down by U.S. law) and are not making significant efforts to do so."


While victims generally come from Asia to work as domestic servants and laborers, the main concern over the UAE is the sexual exploitation of women, according to the report.

In the cases of Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE, the State Department also said boys were trafficked and forced to work as camel jockeys.

In Qatar, the government banned the use of child jockeys in May. Rights groups say several thousand boys, some as young as three, work as jockeys in the Gulf Arab region's lucrative races.

Bolivia, Jamaica, Cambodia and Togo also were downgraded to Tier 3 this year. Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela were already there.

Nations in the lowest category may be subject to sanctions, including the withholding of U.S. aid that is not for humanitarian or trade purposes, if they do not improve their records in three months.

President Bush has the right to waive sanctions, which, even if applied, would not likely have much practical effect on the wealthy Gulf oil exporters.

Bush urged Saudi Arabia this year to be a leader of reform in the Middle East and said he would make rights and democracy a central plank of U.S. relations with countries in the region.

While State Department reports have criticized Arab allies before over rights issues, the trafficking critique is unusual because it put so much focus on the region. In no other region were there as many downgrades to the lowest category.

Many governments, particularly those rebuked in the State Department's annual rights reports, complain the United States has little credibility in criticizing other nations because of scandals in recent years involving U.S. abuse of prisoners.

Comment: Indeed it is rich for the US to point the human rights finger at anyone. It is notable also that, among the Middle Eastern "friends" that the US is outing as being in the worst category for human trafficking, there is no mention of their bestest buddy of all - Israel - a country that has established itself as the hub for worldwide child, drugs and prostitution trafficking.

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Debating Guantanamo

Amnesty's chief goes head-to-head with a White House lawyer about Guantanamo, war crimes, and the word 'gulag.'
By Amy Goodman
Democracy Now!
June 3, 2005

Editor's Note: A week ago Amnesty International accused the Bush administration of being a "leading purveyor and practitioner" of human rights violations. Since then, debate has intensified over the U.S. war on terror. On Tuesday, Bush described the Amnesty report as "absurd." What follows is a debate between Amnesty's William Schulz and attorney David Rivkin, who served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

AMY GOODMAN: At a news conference yesterday, President Bush dismissed the report [she plays excerpt from the news conference].

REPORTER: Mr. President, recently Amnesty International said you have established "a new gulag of prisons around the world beyond the reach of the law and decency." I'd like your reaction to that, and also your assessment of how it came to this, that that is a view not just held by extremists and anti-Americans, but by groups that have allied themselves with the United States government in the past. And what the strategic impact is that in many places of the world, the United States these days under your leadership is no longer seen as the good guy?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd. It's absurd allegation. The United States is a country that is -- promotes freedom around the world. When there's accusations made about certain actions by our people, they're fully investigated in a transparent way. It's just an absurd allegation. In terms of, you know, the detainees, we have had thousands of people detained. We have investigated every single complaint against the detainees. Seemed like to me, they base some of their decisions on the word of -- on the allegations by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that have been trained in some instances to disassemble. That means not tell the truth. So, it's an absurd report. Just is. And you know -- yes, sir.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Bush speaking at a news conference yesterday. Joining us on the phone from New York is the Executive Director of Amnesty International U.S.A, William Schultz. Also in our D.C. Studio, David Rivkin, partner in the Washington office of Baker and Hostetler, also served in a variety of legal and policy positions in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, including stints at the White House counsel's office, office of the Vice President and the Departments of Justice and Energy, was also a visiting fellow at the Nixon Center and a contributing editor of the National Review magazine. Let's begin with William Schultz responding to what President Bush had to say about your report.

WILLIAM SCHULTZ: Well, it's quite interesting that the Vice President doesn't take Amnesty seriously. The President calls us absurd. But, you know, when Amnesty International took on Saddam Hussein 20 years ago, when Donald Rumsfeld was courting him, and even in the run-up to the Iraq war; when Amnesty International was regularly quoted by Mr. Rumsfeld and other officials about Saddam Hussein's brutality - under those circumstances, this administration didn't think we were absurd at all. When we criticize Cuba, when we criticize North Korea, when we criticize China, as we have repeatedly, this administration applauds Amnesty International. But when we criticize the United States, we are suddenly absurd. I think the administration doth protest too much.

Let me clarify one point of your introduction, though, Amy. Amnesty International has urged that the United States undertake these investigations with a high-level commission and the appointment of a special prosecutor. And we have only said that if the United States fails to do its job, then other countries who are party to the Convention Against Torture and other international instrumentalities, have a legal obligation to investigate and, if appropriate, if they find evidence, then, of course, to prosecute.

AMY GOODMAN: David Rivkin, your response.

DAVID RIVKIN: First of all, Amnesty International indeed has a long and illustrious legacy. Amnesty International in the past has been an equal opportunity critic, if you will, bringing spotlight on abuses by many dictatorial and authoritarian regimes, including Cuba, Vietnam, China, North Korea, Iraq, etc., etc.

Having said that, I think Amnesty International has unfortunately gone astray. It is not just the position of this administration. It's interesting that The Washington Post, that's been quite critical of many aspects of the administration's policies, the day after the report, issued a pretty scathing editorial pointing out a couple of things.

First of all, rhetorically -- and it's very important to look at the rhetoric, because we're inundated with news, in a way...the way you cast your observations. In fact, your observations are very important. The Washington Post said that the word "gulag" is offensive. The gulags are outfits where political prisoners, dissidents are holed in, worked to death, starved to death.

The gulags today are in places like North Korea, China, Cuba; in the past, of course, in the Soviet Union. Whenever you think about the administration's policy relative to Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, gulag is the wrong word, number one. Now, in terms of the facts - and by the way, Amnesty International report that goes for hundreds of --

AMY GOODMAN: Let me just let William Schultz respond to that, then we'll take it step by step. William Schultz.

WILLIAM SCHULTZ: Well, I'm simply unwilling to get into an argument about semantics. I can certainly understand why some people feel that the secretary general's metaphor there was over the top. But, I think that it is important to say that whether or not this is a gulag in the Soviet sense, there certainly are some similarities. After all, we have an archipelago of prisons around the world, many of them secret, in which people are being held in incommunicado detention and which they are being severely mistreated in some cases. And that --

DAVID RIVKIN: Forgive me, terms --

WILLIAM SCHULTZ: -- that is the fundamental point.

DAVID RIVKIN: Forgive me, terms -- we're both adults. When you use words like "gulag" and one uses words like "holocaust," they have special responsibility not to cheapen those terms by promiscuous usage. You could have said "brutal prison." I wouldn't disagree with you there. You could have said "horrible prison conditions." To use the word "gulag," you have special responsibility because everybody knows what it means. It's not even close. It's not even in the same universe. And that is utterly irresponsible of Amnesty International.

WILLIAM SCHULTZ: Well, it's very fine, Mr. Rivkin, if you want to focus on that one issue at the expense of the substance of the concerns, which is --

DAVID RIVKIN: I did not choose this moniker, you did, sir.

WILLIAM SCHULTZ: You are welcome to do that, but I'd like to discuss the substance of the concerns here.

DAVID RIVKIN: Okay, but the --

Comment: The simple fact is that the term "gulag" is only inappropriate in the sense that some people may be unfamiliar with it. The fact is that the treatment of "enemy combatants" by the US military is very similar to the way that Gulag prisoners were treated under Stalin. For example, in the Gulags:

Conditions were extremely harsh. Prisoners received inadequate food rations and insufficient clothing, which made it difficult to endure the severe weather and the long working hours; sometimes the inmates were physically abused by camp guards.

Sound familiar? 70,000 detained in Iraq alone, most of them held incommunicado. Of the ones lucky enough to have their mistreatment publicised, it has been reported that:

The Red Cross also says that inmates at the Abu Ghraib jail suffer "prolonged exposure while hooded to the sun over several hours, including during the hottest time of the day when temperatures could reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher

At Abu Ghraib, according to the investigation Major General Antonio M. Taguba carried out on behalf of the U.S. Army, there was "credible" evidence that one inmate suffered forced sodomy "with a chemical light and perhaps a broom handle."

Add to that the documented reports of men, women AND child prisoners:

  • dying from hypothermia after being left outside all night naked
  • dying from having their arms tied to the ceiling and being beaten repeatedly on the legs until they turned to pulp over the course of a number of days
  • being brutally raped by US soldiers
  • being used as punch bags for soldiers to practice their kick boxing

While the prisoners at the Gulags received inadequate food rations, Iraqi prisoners would be happy to endure the starvation that is par for the course in American Gulags, if only they could be sure that they would not be beaten to death on the whim of a red-blooded, freedom-loving American.

AMY GOODMAN: Why don't we talk about the substance of the concerns, William Schultz. A term like that was based on reports that Amnesty International has done. Can you talk about what you see as the most egregious violations at Guantanamo?

WILLIAM SCHULTZ: Well, I think what is important to say here is that Amnesty has been pointing out the systematic nature of what has been going on here, both in terms of denial of certain internationally recognized rights, but also in terms of mistreatment. Now, in a recent National Review online article, Mr. Rivkin claimed that the President had said, "clearly and unequivocally that prisoners should be treated humanely."

But that's not what the President said. The President said in his February 7, 2002, Executive Order that they should be treated in accordance with the conventions, "to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity."

That opened the green light to a whole series of mistreatments, of misbehaviors that were ratified by 27 rules issued by Secretary Rumsfeld. Those included such things as the use of dogs. They allowed up to four hours of stress positions. These were implemented for a period of time, but at the advice of military lawyers, Rumsfeld then withdrew the authority for commanders at Guantanamo to do this kind of thing.

And we know from reports that have been unearthed by the ACLU and others that it was not just groups like Amnesty or the ACLU that was concerned about this. We know that F.B.I. agents raised concern about this. We know that some people in the military community itself raised concerns about the treatment of these prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere.

Let me make the final point and then, of course, Mr. Rivkin can respond. If indeed all of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, some 670 originally, were enemy combatants and not prisoners of war, as Mr. Rivkin and his hard-right allies claim, then what about the more than 100 of them that have been released since they were taken into custody?

If they were released, then one presumes that they were either wrongly detained in the first place or that the war against terror is over and that all should be released. Of course, that is not the administration's position. And that is the fundamental problem with holding people in incommunicado detention and failing to give them an opportunity to answer the charges against them. Because we simply don't know how many of those 670 now remaining -- a little more than 500 -- are in fact in the same category as the more than 100 that have been released.

DAVID RIVKIN: Let me take the last point first. It's ironic, to put it mildly, that the administration's policy of releasing people not because they are innocent, but the vast majority of people who have been released, indeed, are individuals who are enemy combatants, but have basically been released because of the sense that they no longer pose danger, which [is an] inherently difficult and subjective determination.

Comment: Um, wasn't that exactly the point that Schultz was trying to make?

I wonder if Mr. Schultz would like to remind our listeners that at least two-and-a-half dozen individuals who have been released have gone back to combat, including a senior Taliban commander in Afghanistan. How would you like to be a person to tell a family of an American soldier who has been killed by an individual who was released, or civilians whom they have killed because of this revolving door policy?

So, bottom line is we are releasing people because we're humanitarian, we're compassionate, and, frankly, we have been pushed to do so for the rest of the world -- by the rest of the world. I wouldn't deduce anything from it.

But let me give you the bottom line: I would not deny, and I don't think any reasonable person would deny, that some problems have occurred. But the facts, the statistics are very simple. We have close to 70,000 detainees. 70,000 detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. No more than 320 or 330 have alleged problems ranging from serious ones -- there have been some murders, there have been some beatings-- to more minor ones. About 120 have been investigated and found to have merits, and people are being prosecuted. These are better stats than the situation in any civilian penitentiary, Federal or State, anywhere in human history.

The problem is that any time you detain people, any time you put them in captivity, there are going to be some mistakes. There are going to be some problems. There are going to be abuses. It's human nature. But the facts simply do not support the proposition that the wide-scale abuses attributed to government policy.

AMY GOODMAN: William Schultz.

DAVID RIVKIN: The final point. No, no. Let me --

AMY GOODMAN: Ok, go ahead.

DAVID RIVKIN: Okay, just one sec -- Amnesty International and others have said many times, "Charges being brought." There's a fundamental problem here. Amnesty International and others did not understand, but this is war. These people are not criminal suspects who are entitled to speedy trial and adjudication. Even if they were P.O.W.s, which they are not, they would be entitled to be held for a duration of hostilities. They're not entitled to get charges brought against them. They are using the criminal law paradigm, which is the paradigm which came on September 11.

WILLIAM SCHULTZ: Of course, Mr. Rivkin is completely wrong about Amnesty's position on that. But let me just say that there's no way in the world that Mr. Rivkin or anyone else can know whether there are only 300 complaints, because, in fact, many of the thousands of people who are being detained are being detained in secret facilities. They are being detained incommunicado.

There is simply no way for any of us to know exactly how much abuse is going on, because, I assure you, that unlike in the U.S. prison system where there is usually at least some kind of an appeal process or independent authority to whom a prisoner can appeal, including the court system, if they feel that they have been abused in prison, there is no such authority within this archipelago of prisons. So, there's no way that he can make his claim.

Now, with regard to the Guantanamo prisoners who have been released, Amnesty International's position is not that they should just be treated as criminals, though, of course, if they are guilty of crimes, they should be prosecuted. Our position is that we don't know whether they are prisoners of war or whether they are enemy combatants, but under the Geneva Conventions, a competent tribunal is supposed to determine that. And at that tribunal, those who are charged with being enemy combatants are to be given the opportunity to answer their charges. That is what the U.S. government has denied them.

And if, in fact, Mr. Rivkin's position on why those 100 or so have been released is correct, then the U.S. is acting irresponsibly. If, in fact, those are people who are liable to go back and commit crimes against the United States, then either they should be charged or they can be considered prisoners of war and held until a judgment is made by an independent authority as to whether the "war" is resolved or not. That is Amnesty's position. It is a subtle position. It is not as black and white as Mr. Rivkin is making it. I'm not surprised that Bush and Cheney don't see these subtleties, but Mr. Rivkin is a lawyer, and he ought to understand.

AMY GOODMAN: William Schultz, when you released the report, you said that Washington has become a leading purveyor and practitioner of torture and ill treatment, and that senior officials should face prosecution. Among the officials you named: Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Former C.I.A Director George Tenet, and other senior officials at U.S. detention facilities at Guantanamo. Are you saying that President Bush should be tried for war crimes?

WILLIAM SCHULTZ: No. And let me make it clear, Amy. Amnesty never assumes the guilt of anyone.

Comment: He just couldn't go there, could he? Well, fine. We'll say it for him: CLEARLY, BUSH SHOULD BE TRIED FOR WAR CRIMES!

And we did not call for their prosecution. We called for the appointment of a special prosecutor by the Attorney General to investigate whether President Bush or any of these other officials, including Attorney General Gonzales, should be prosecuted. That is Amnesty's position, again, perhaps a subtle position, but a very important one.

We are saying that there is reason to believe that the President gave a green light here, and that a high-level, truly independent commission, not just a military commission, a commission like the 9/11 Commission, independent, blue-ribbon commission, should be appointed by the Congress to investigate all of these questions. But we have not called for the prosecution until that investigation takes place. That's an elementary principle of due process.

AMY GOODMAN: David Rivkin, why not have this special prosecutor, and then if your arguments prove to be correct, it'll show that there's no reason to move forward with prosecutions?

DAVID RIVKIN: Amy, we have to be careful about terminology. A commission is one thing, a special prosecutor is another thing.

WILLIAM SCHULTZ: We are calling for both.

DAVID RIVKIN: I understand that, but let me say this, there have been more investigations --

AMY GOODMAN: We have ten seconds.

DAVID RIVKIN: --and prosecutions then, again, in any war in human history. We are going to go forward. A number of people have already been indicted. To the extent senior officers are involved, they will be prosecuted. The facts simply do not support the proposition. There's been a wide-scale failure to comply with the laws of war.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there. David Rivkin, William Schultz, head of Amnesty International U.S.A., I want to thank you both for being with us.

Comment: There has, indeed, been a wide-scale failure to comply with the oxymoronic "laws of war" on the part of the Bush administration.

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"Peddling Lies About How They Were Mistreated"

"Diassembling" the "Absurd" Amnesty International Report
June 3, 2005

"I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd. The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world [We have] investigated every single complaint against [sic] the detainees It seemed like [Amnesty International] based some of their decisions on the word and allegations by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people had been trained in some instances to disassemble [sic] ­ that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report. It just is."

President George W. Bush, press conference, May 31

"For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously. Frankly, I was offended by it. I think the fact of the matter is, the United States has done more to advance the cause of freedom, has liberated more people from tyranny over the course of the 20th century and up to the present day than any other nation in the history of the world [I]f you trace [abuse allegations] back, in nearly every case, it turns out to come from somebody who has been inside and been released to their home country and now are peddling lies about how they were treated."

Vice President Dick Cheney, May 30 CNN interview with Larry King

Those of us in the reality-based community are not inclined to dismiss an Amnesty International report out of hand. I myself am sometimes disappointed with AI, especially when they accuse certain organizations I respect of human rights violations on a par with those of the governments they seek to topple. I think it necessary to distinguish between the violence of the oppressed and the violence of the oppressor. One is "political" whether one so distinguishes or not, and AI's politics tends towards the legitimatization of state power over the right to rebel. In any case, the organization does a lot of good work, and I support for example the programs they maintain in our high schools. Only fools would call their reports "absurd," not to be taken seriously.

But here you have the president and vice president of the United States dissing AI big time, arguing in effect that

(a) the U.S. is the biggest liberator of human beings ever, and that therefore ipso facto

(b) it can't possibly have tortured abused and humiliated prisoners from Guantanamo to Afghanistan. Isn't it simple and obvious? And

(c): those making charges are freed detainees, who hate America, and

(d) they have been trained to "disassemble," which preacher man Bush tells us means to lie.

Actually, those in the reality-based community know that "disassemble" means to take something apart, which I am doing now as we speak. The president meant "dissemble," as in Edgar Allan Poe's "Tell-tale Heart.":

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! -- tear up the planks! -- here, here! -- it is the beating of his hideous heart!"

"Dissemble" means to put on a false appearance. In Poe's story, the madman thinks the police officers visiting his apartment know that he's murdered his landlord and deposited the body under the floor planks. He sees their quiet chitchat as a provocation. Actually the cops in the story seem perfectly honest and straightforward, but the murderer haunted by guilt imagines that they must be out to get him.

Bush and Cheney see the released detainees as men out to attack America and themselves and to dissemble in order to achieve that purpose. It's madness, of course. The International Red Cross concluded many months ago that most detainees in Iraq were innocent people mistakenly imprisoned. ("Absurd!" some will say. The U.S. is a country that promotes freedom, so that can't be right, right? Just can't be. America! Good people.) People who report after their release that they were beat up, tortured, mocked for their religion and sexually humiliated while in U.S. custody are probably not dissembling. But those whose very release presumably confirms their innocence, even if the government justifies their earlier confinement on the grounds they might have produced some information servicing U.S. goals, in the madmen's tortured minds have to be lying about their confinement. But these people should ask themselves: "Haven't any released detainees spoken well of the fairness and humanity of their captors?"

No? No happy campers? Nobody saying, "Well, I was picked up by mistake, because my name sounds like this other guy's name, but I was well-treated and freed expeditiously after the matter was cleared up"? Nobody? They're all hostile and bummed out about what happened to them in detention? Well, there's a whole lot of anti-Americanism out there in this unfriendly world of Muslims and French and German and Chinese and other foreign people. Lots of reasons for them to make stuff up just to make us look bad---because we're trying to bring freedom and democracy to their people.

Gollum, gollum.

And for Amnesty to peddle these people's lies well, "What villains!" shriek the world's maddest murderers, tearing up and disassembling the planks of international order and revealing exactly who they are. Deconstructing their dissembling is fairly easy, for those of us on this side of reality. For those on the other side, such dissembling is God's truth. "And so it was an absurd report," their president assures them, closing discussion with the smugly pontifical, "It just is."

It all depends on what is is. The madman's is is a product of his imagination, ours an ontology of discernible reality in which U.S. imperialism seeks to conquer and dominate Southwest Asia using bald-faced lies, fascistic brainless nationalism, religious intolerance and racism at every step. The madman's dismissal of Amnesty's report is an appeal to the Bush base to more thoroughly fortress its bovine mind against questions and criticisms. America---Freedom. America-haters---Liars, Disassemblers.

William Schultz, head of Amnesty's U.S. section responds that it is "worth noting that this administration never finds it 'absurd' when we criticize Cuba or China, or when we condemned the violations in Iraq under Saddam Hussein." Indeed U.S. administrations routinely reference AI reports when they want to attack some foreign foe. But the fascistic epistemology current in ruling circles dictates that truth cannot negatively affect the USA. Facts and intelligence must be fixed around U.S. interests. So the Cheney-friendly Wall Street Journal lashes out at the "moral degradation" of Amnesty International, debased so low as to compare the U.S.'s global network of detention centers including those in allied countries that routinely employ torture, with a "gulag." Neocons David Rivkin and Lee Casey condemn AI's "extravagant and unfounded claims" in the National Review without attempting to refute any particular claim. "Groups like Amnesty persistently state that American policy at Guantanamo Bay is illegal," they declare, "even though this is simply not true." It just is, in the disassembler's words, not true.

But from the reality-based camp a muezzin cries, "Yes! what AI says is true." The battle to determine what is slowly takes shape, as the implications of the lies so plainly spelled out in the Downing Street Memo and so many other documents impact those still awake among us. The Bush administration knowingly and willfully attacked a sovereign country, illegally, unprovoked, on the basis of deliberately manufactured lies, using the emotions produced by 9-11, general ignorance, and a compliant press to promote the cause. Seizing control of a country whose population responded to occupation with sullen caution or natural, predictable resistance, the occupiers rounded up thousands of people doing what people typically do under such circumstances. Of course kids with Kalashnikovs are going to shoot at the invaders. (What would kids in Texas do if confronted with analogous events?) Hated, opposed, ill-prepared by their own brainwashing process as to why any decent person would dislike them, the fine American troops treat these kids as "terrorists," cousins of the 9-11 attackers. Why not make them excrete on themselves, and smear them with menstrual blood, and force them to masturbate and simulate homosexual acts on camera so their neighbors can see, since they hate America so much?

These are the questions raised implicitly by Bush and Cheney and their defenders in the press. How can anyone dispute the reason and justice of the heroic plan to conquer the Greater Middle East, through a combination of military and psy-war tactics, noble lies and if possible a fascistic crackdown on dissent at home? Only people who hate America, people trained in some instances to disassemble, would wish that. So say the fascists. But they are in trouble as thinking people lock horns with their brain-dead supporters, who can only endlessly echo "United We Stand" as they stand against anybody Bush wants to smite in his ongoing imperialist Crusade.

Thank you, Amnesty International, for your epistemological integrity in these troubled crusading neo-medieval proto-fascist times.

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

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U.S. details Guantanamo 'mishandling' of Koran
Fri Jun 3, 2005
By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military for the first time on Friday detailed how jailers at Guantanamo mishandled the Koran, including a case in which a guard's urine splashed through a vent onto the Islamic holy book and others in which it was kicked, stepped on and soaked in water.

U.S. Southern Command, responsible for the prison for foreign terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, described five cases of "mishandling" of a Koran by U.S. personnel confirmed by a newly completed military inquiry, officials said in a statement.

In the incident involving urine, which took place this past March, Southern Command said a guard left his observation post, went outside and urinated near an air vent, and "the wind blew his urine through the vent" and into a cell block.

It said a detainee told guards the urine "splashed on him and his Koran." The statement said the detainee was given a new prison uniform and Koran, and that the guard was reprimanded and given duty in which he had no contact with prisoners. Army Capt. John Adams, a spokesman at Guantanamo, said the inquiry deemed the incident "accidental."

Southern Command said a civilian contractor interrogator apologized in July 2003 to a detainee for stepping on his Koran. The interrogator "was later terminated for a pattern of unacceptable behavior, an inability to follow direct guidance and poor leadership," the statement said.

In August 2003, prisoners' Korans became wet when night-shift guards threw water balloons in a cell block, the statement said. In February 2002, guards kicked a prisoner's Koran, it added.

In the fifth confirmed incident of mishandling a Koran, Southern Command said a prisoner in August 2003 complained that "a two-word obscenity" had been written in English in his Koran. Southern Command said it was "possible" a guard had written the words but "equally possible" the prisoner himself had done it. It did not offer an explanation of the detainee's possible motive.


"Mishandling a Koran at Guantanamo Bay is a rare occurrence. Mishandling of a Koran here is never condoned," Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, commander of the Guantanamo prison who headed the inquiry, said in the statement released after business hours on Friday night. [...]

The United States holds about 520 detainees at Guantanamo, most caught in Afghanistan, and has classified them "enemy combatants" not entitled to rights given to prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. The high-security prison opened in January 2002 for non-U.S. citizens caught in the U.S. war on terrorism, and many prisoners have been held more than three years without charges.

President Bush and Rumsfeld this week defended Guantanamo from criticism by Amnesty International, which called the jail the "gulag of our times."

Comment: The US military (undoubtedly on the orders of the US government) seems a little too enthusiastic about outing themselves for abusing the Koran. We suppose that, if the US military and government could choose whether to expose the fact that they have sanctioned the kicking of a holy book or the murdering of an innocent prisoner, they'll take the former. Indeed, the whole "Koran abuse " episode stinks of a Karl Rove maneuver to direct attention away from the abuse of real live and innocent prisoners, and back onto the most important issue - the clash of civilisations and Bush's crusade. On that point, we dare say that the defiling of the Koran will be going down quite well among the 50 million.

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Religion, suicide terrorism link disputed in book
Fri Jun 3, 2005
By Patricia Wilson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A surge in suicide attacks in Iraq and elsewhere around the world is a response to territorial occupation and has no direct link with Islamic fundamentalism, according to the author of a new book who has created a database of such bombings over the past 25 years.

Robert Pape, associate professor of political science at the University of Chicago, said most suicide terrorists were well-integrated and productive members of their communities from working-class or middle-class backgrounds.

"Technicians, waitresses, security guards, ambulance drivers, paramedics ... few are criminals. Most are volunteers whose first act of violence is their very own suicide attack," Pape told Reuters in an interview.

A broad misunderstanding of the issue, he said, is taking the U.S.-led war on terrorism in the wrong direction and could in fact be fueling an increase in suicide terrorism.

Pape has created what he calls the first comprehensive database on every suicide terrorist attack in the world since 1980, using Arabic, Hebrew, Tamil and Russian-language sources.

The U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, as well as the U.N. Secretary General's office were looking at the information, he said.

Some insurgent leaders in Iraq have cast suicide attacks in holy-war terms. President Bush has called such attacks a tactic of "enemies of freedom" driven by a "thirst for absolute power."


"Islamic fundamentalism is not the primary driver of suicide terrorism," Pape said. "Nearly all suicide terrorist attacks are committed for a secular strategic goal -- to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory the terrorists view as their homeland."

"Yes, it's true we're killing terrorists day by day, but the real measure of suicide terrorism is simply the number of attacks," said Pape. "The problem with suicide terrorism is that it's not supply limited, it's demand-driven."

Pape cited suicide terrorism campaigns from Lebanon to Israel, Chechnya and Sri Lanka, where he said major democracies -- the United States, Israel, France, India, Russia -- had been the principal targets.

In "Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism," Pape writes that the world's most prolific suicide terrorist organization is the Tamil Tigers -- a secular, Hindu group in Sri Lanka which he said invented the "suicide belt."

Iraq, he said, was a prime example of strategic terrorism. Prior to the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 there was "never in Iraq's history a suicide terrorist attack" but since then they had doubled every year.

There has been a sharp escalation in violence, especially suicide attacks, since Iraq's new Shi'ite Islamist-led cabinet was announced in late April. More than 700 Iraqis and 78 U.S. soldiers were killed in bombings and other attacks in May, making it the deadliest month in Iraq since January.

Pape collected demographic information on 462 suicide attackers who completed their missions and said he found that the common wisdom was wrong.

"The standard stereotype of a suicide attacker as a lonely individual on the margins of society with a miserable existence is actually quite far from the truth," he said.

Pape, who has been invited to discuss his analysis with a bipartisan group of U.S. congressmen, said he hoped his book would demonstrate to policymakers that a presumed connection between suicide attacks and Islamic fundamentalism is misleading and could contribute to policies that worsen the situation.

The U.S. government had only "a partial understanding" of what has been driving suicide terrorism because it did not begin collecting data until 2000, Pape said.

"Once you have a more complete picture you can see that the main cause of suicide terrorism is a response to foreign occupation, not Islamic fundamentalism, and the use of heavy combat forces to transform a Muslim society is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists as is now happening."

Comment: Pape is wrong, there is no "broad misunderstanding of the issue" among those who are leading the "war on terrorism". They know very well that "terrorism" is a tactic, not an ideology, and it is invariably used by people who are engaging in a struggle against a much more powerful aggressor. They also know that the word "terrorism" is now synonymous with the inside job that was the 9/11 attacks, and that they can therefore associate any individual or group with the 9/11 attacks simply by calling them a "terrorist".

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A Cover-Up as Shameful as Tillman's Death
By Robert Scheer
June 1, 2005

Once again it has taken grieving relatives to point out that the Bush administration will exploit even a heroic death for its own partisan purposes.

As with the widows of Sept. 11 who demanded that our obfuscating leaders investigate what went wrong on that terrible day, or wounded Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch who resisted efforts to make her into some kind of Rambo figure, so relatives of late NFL star Pat Tillman are demanding to know why their celebrated war hero son's death in 2004 was exploited for public relations purposes by the U.S. military and the administration.

"They blew up their poster boy," Tillman's father, Patrick, a San Jose lawyer, told the Washington Post last week. He joined his former wife to demand accountability for the latest military cover-up to happen on Commander in Chief Bush's watch. High-ranking Army officials, he said, told "outright lies."

"After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this," Tillman said. "They purposely interfered with the investigation .... I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out."

A devastating series of investigations and Post stories has shown that the Army's command structure was eager to cover up the embarrassing truth: that Pat Tillman, who turned down a $3.6-million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army Rangers after 9/11, was accidentally killed by his fellow Rangers while on patrol in Afghanistan a year ago.

Last spring, after months of increasingly damaging reports exposing the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and cover-up, the administration found some public relations relief in the sad, patriotic tale of a man who spurned fame and fortune to make "the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror," in the words of a White House spokesman at the time. A nationally televised memorial service and a Silver Star commendation cemented Tillman's place as the nation's first war hero since the story of Lynch's capture and phony details of her rescue were foisted on an unaware public in 2003.

Now, thanks to the reporting of the Post and the fury of Tillman's parents, we know that the military's top commanders were covering up the truth to protect their image, and that of the Bush administration's costly and deadly "nation-building" exercises in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Although "soldiers on the scene said they were immediately sure Tillman was killed by a barrage of American bullets," according to the Post, and "a new Army report on the death shows that top Army officials, including the theater commander, Gen. John P. Abizaid, were told that Tillman's death was fratricide days before the service," Army officials decided not to inform Tillman's family or the public until weeks after the memorial. And even then, they provided no details or answered questions, saying only that friendly fire "probably" killed Tillman.

"The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic," Tillman's mother, Mary, told the Post. "The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting."

The soldiers on the ground said they burned Tillman's bullet-riddled uniform and body armor, the Post reported, because they considered it a "biohazard," and because "we knew at the time, based on taking the pictures and walking around it, it was a fratricide.... so we weren't thinking about proof or anything."

So, given all this, why has nobody higher in the Army chain of command, such as Abizaid, been held accountable for this cover-up?

Did President Bush know about it? If not, why not? After all, this was the most prominent soldier to die since Bush took office four years earlier, a prize recruit for his controversial spate of foreign invasions.

In any case, the White House has refrained from making any public apologies for the cover-up. Indeed, Mary Tillman said she was particularly offended that even after the facts were known, Bush exploited her son's death with a message played before an Arizona Cardinal game last fall before the election.

"Maybe lying's not a big deal anymore," Patrick Tillman said. "Pat's dead, and this isn't going to bring him back. But these guys should have been held up to scrutiny, right up the chain of command, and no one has."

For the Tillmans, as with Pvt. Lynch and the 9/11 widows, the path to true patriotism means confronting your government when it lies.

Robert Scheer is the co-author of The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq.

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U.N.: Weapons Equipment Missing in Iraq
Associated Press
June 3, 2005

UNITED NATIONS - U.N. satellite imagery experts have determined that material that could be used to make biological or chemical weapons and banned long-range missiles has been removed from 109 sites in Iraq, U.N. weapons inspectors said in a report obtained Thursday.

U.N. inspectors have been blocked from returning to Iraq since the U.S.-led war in 2003 so they have been using satellite photos to see what happened to the sites that were subject to U.N. monitoring because their equipment had both civilian and military uses.

In the report to the U.N. Security Council, acting chief weapons inspector Demetrius Perricos said he's reached no conclusions about who removed the items or where they went. He said it could have been moved elsewhere in Iraq, sold as scrap, melted down or purchased.

He said the missing material can be used for legitimate purposes. "However, they can also be utilized for prohibited purposes if in a good state of repair."

He said imagery analysts have identified 109 sites that have been emptied of equipment to varying degrees, up from 90 reported in March.

The report also provided much more detail about the percentage of items no longer at the places where U.N. inspectors monitored them.

From the imagery analysis, Perricos said analysts at the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission which he heads have concluded that biological sites were less damaged than chemical and missile sites.

The commission, known as UNMOVIC, previously reported the discovery of some equipment and material from the sites in scrapyards in Jordan and the Dutch port of Rotterdam.

Perricos said analysts found, for example, that 53 of the 98 vessels that could be used for a wide range of chemical reactions had disappeared. "Due to its characteristics, this equipment can be used for the production of both commercial chemicals and chemical warfare agents," he said.

The report said 3,380 valves, 107 pumps, and more than 7.8 miles of pipes were known to have been located at the 39 chemical sites.

A third of the chemical items removed came from the Qaa Qaa industrial complex south of Baghdad which the report said "was among the sites possessing the highest number of dual-use production equipment," whose fate is now unknown." Significant quantities of missing material were also located at the Fallujah II and Fallujah III facilities north of the city, which was besieged last year.

Before the first Gulf War in 1991, those facilities played a major part in the production of precursors for Iraq's chemical warfare program.

The percentages of missing biological equipment from 12 sites were much smaller - no higher than 10 percent.

The report said 37 of 405 fermenters ranging in size from 2 gallons to 1,250 gallons had been removed. Those could be used to produce pharmaceuticals and vaccines as well as biological warfare agents such as anthrax.

The largest percentages of missing items were at the 58 missile facilities, which include some of the key production sites for both solid and liquid propellant missiles, the report said.

For example, 289 of the 340 pieces of equipment to produce missiles - about 85 percent - had been removed, it said.

At the Kadhimiyah and Al Samoud factory sites in suburban Baghdad, where the report said airframes and engines for liquid propellant missiles were manufactured and final assembly was carried out, "all equipment and missile components have been removed."

UNMOVIC is the outgrowth of a U.N. inspections process created after the 1991 Gulf War in which invading Iraqi forces were ousted from Kuwait. Its staff are considered the only multinational weapons experts specifically trained in biological weapons and missile disarmament.

The report noted that the commissioners who advise UNMOVIC again raised questions about its future. Iraq has called for its Security Council mandate to be terminated because UNMOVIC is funded from past Iraqi oil sales and it wants to be treated like other countries, but the council has not taken up the issue.

France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said Thursday the commission's expertise "should not be lost for the international community."

Comment: The occupying force in Iraq is the US military. Isn't it therefore the USA's job to explain where all the equipment went? They might also give a briefing on what happened to all of Iraq's money...

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$1B spent on Baghdad embassy, $1.3B to go
Pamela Hess, UPI Pentagon Correspondent

Washington, DC, Jun. 2 (UPI) -- Two years after the invasion of Iraq, the United States has spent $990 million on U.S. "embassy" operations there, but none of that has been put toward building a permanent home for the U.S. diplomatic presence, according to a report for Congress.

That project will cost taxpayers another $1.3 billion, only $20 million of which has been put toward the project so far, according to an April report from the Congressional Research Service.

However, two weeks ago Congress approved nearly half that amount to begin construction of the site.

With a staff of about 1,000 Americans and 400 Iraqis, the mission is one of the United States' largest. It is dramatically larger than what came before it in Baghdad: When the United States pulled out of the country after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the embassy staff numbered around 50 and had an annual operating budget of $3.5 million.

By comparison, the new U.S. Embassy in Beijing cost $434 million, according to Congress.

The embassy in Iraq will be three times that expensive because it includes not just offices and living spaces but also a power plant. Iraqi electricity remains unreliable, far below demand and vulnerable to sabotage.

President Bush requested $1.3 billion for the embassy not in the State Department's annual budget but in the 2005 "emergency supplemental," the bill intended to cover costs associated with the war.

The request included $690 million for logistical and security costs and $658 million for the construction of an embassy compound to be built on an expedited schedule within two years.

The U.S. Embassy is currently contained within the "international zone," Saddam's sprawling former headquarters on the Tigris River in Baghdad. U.S. personnel occupy three buildings: the Chancery, a former Baathist residence once occupied by the U.S. Army; the Republican Palace, also known as the Four-Head Palace until the Coalition Provisional Authority paid about $35,000 to have the four massive busts of Saddam removed from its roof; and the ambassador's residence.

The new embassy compound will be built within the "international zone" on a site along the river. The Iraqi government wants the Saddam-era buildings back for its own use.

Congress in May approved $748.5 million for "diplomatic and consular programs" and $592 million for embassy security, construction and maintenance in the supplemental appropriation. During a joint conference on the bill, the Senate was able to reverse a bipartisan provision in the House of Representatives' version of the bill, which had zeroed out that request.

"We knew years ago that we were going to need a new embassy, and yet last summer when plans were laid for construction of this particular site it was not included in the omnibus appropriation bill taken up in November. The 2006 budget request which came up in February, no moneys were included in the president's budget request for that as well," complained Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., when he spoke on the House floor in March to restrict construction funding.

The inclusion of the embassy costs in the emergency supplemental allows the Bush administration to fund the compound out of deficit spending, rather than having to identify cuts within the State Department or Pentagon budgets to pay for it. It also allows the project to be built swiftly, without the sometimes-cumbersome oversight of the appropriate congressional committees.

The practice of larding the supplemental with expenses that are not strictly "emergencies" allows the White House and Congress to offload billions from the regular budget and pad it instead with pet projects, said Winslow Wheeler, a budget analyst with the Center for Defense Information, at a conference last month. In the meantime, the deficit just keeps getting bigger.

Moreover, by allowing undisciplined supplementals -- which are passed swiftly and without extensive hearings -- Congress is forswearing one of its only ways of influencing U.S. policy and the executive branch. And with billions being spent with little congressional oversight, it sets the stage for contracting abuses.

Comment: Ah yes, the spoils of war. The US government and its industry accomplices have followed a very specific strategy in Iraq. For the American population, the cover story is that US troops are "spreading freedom and democracy", the reality, however, is very different. The plan all along was to destroy the Iraqi infrastructure and then use Iraq's oil to offer billion dollar contracts to American multinational organisations and those of US client regimes in the Middle East to "rebuild" the country. The rebuilding of the country however appears never to have really begun, and billions of dollars of oil money have gone missing. To ensure that the flow of stolen Iraqi oil remains unimpeded, the US has installed long time CIA asset Ahmed Chalabi as Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq and "oil minister".

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Kuwaiti Firm wins $14 bln U.S. deal
Sat Jun 4, 2005
By Haitham Haddadin

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait's Public Warehousing Co. (PWC) won its second giant contract this year by securing a U.S. Defense Logistics Agency deal worth as much as $14 billion over up to 5 years, the bourse said on Saturday.

The Kuwait Stock Exchange said in a statement the deal has a minimum value of $1.4 billion and a maximum value of $4.2 billion during an initial 18-month period.

The news of the deal helped the Kuwaiti bourse, the second largest in the Arab world, log a gain of some or 3.5 percent by late morning.

Under the contract, Public Warehousing will supply and provide logistical services to U.S. and allied armed forces in Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey, the bourse added.

Public Warehousing will also provide support to a UK-based logistics firm which has won the U.S. defense tender to supply the Afghanistan region.

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US Forces Try New Ploy to Combat Resistance
Mafkarat al-Islam, Mohammed Abu Nasr translation

Iraq War June 2, 2005 - US occupation forces announced on their propaganda radio beamed at local residents of ar-Ramadi that the US military would stop raiding houses and mosques, would open roads to local people and turn the electricity and drinking water supply in the city back on if local residents would cooperate by informing the American occupation troops of the locations and bases of Iraqi Resistance fighters operating in the city against the Americans.

The statement on the US radio said that the US would launch a program for employing unemployed youths and offer financial help for those wanting to get married on condition that the men and women of ar-Ramadi cooperate and inform the Americans on the Resistance fighters.

The correspondent for Mafkarat al-Islam reported that the Americans made the announcement more than six times by the time he filed his report (posted at 10:22am Mecca time Wednesday morning). The US propaganda station also jammed other local and international radio stations to force listeners in their cars or homes to hear their announcement.

The statement told residents that they could dial the special local telephone number 104 to contact the occupation troops – whom they called "the coalition forces" – to inform them of the whereabouts of Resistance fighters, whom it called "terrorists."

At the same time, however, the American propaganda radio warned that the people of ar-Ramadi would meet a fate similar to that of the residents of al-Fallujah together with all the destruction inflicted on their city during the US offensives there, if they failed to cooperate with the Americans.

Note: Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, collective punishments are a war crime. Article 33 of the Fourth Convention states: "No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed," and "collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited."

Comment: So on the one hand we have ordinary Iraqi men fighting to protect their country and lives from an illegal army of occupation being called terrorists by the members of the illegal occupying army, while the illegal occupying army are engaging in collective punishments that are defined as "terrorism" by the Geneva Conventions, yet the Bush government claims to be spreading "freedom" while the Iraqi insurgents are the "terrorists." Is there something wrong with the picture?

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Living Conditions in Iraq: A Criminal Tragedy
by Ghali Hassan
3 June 2005

History will acknowledge that the criminal policy of the U.S-Britain and the illegal invasion of Iraq led to the current tragedy of the Iraqi people. In addition, history will have to acknowledge that the Iraqi people, alone, have resisted the genocidal sanctions and the U.S-British Occupation of their country.

A detailed study by the U.N. and Iraqi officials found that life in Iraq has decayed significantly since U.S-led foreign forces invaded and occupied the country, following a general trend seen in most sectors since the imposition of the genocidal sanctions in 1990. Iraqi civilians, mostly children, have suffered the consequences of this criminal tragedy.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) conducted the survey (study), titled "Iraq Living Conditions Survey 2004," (ILCS) in cooperation with Iraq's Ministry of Planning under Occupation. It should be noted that the study is not independent. The survey was conducted by Iraqi officials, who are serving the Occupation, with officials from the U.N.

Iraq had one of the best national health-care systems in the Middle East. For example, Saudi Arabia with all her petrodollar earnings had just a fraction of that of Iraq's.

Iraq boasted a modern social infrastructure with a first-class range of health-care facilities, and the Iraqi people enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East. In 1991, there were 1,800 health-care centres in Iraq. More than a decade later, that number is almost half, and almost a third of them require major rehabilitation. Iraq had used its oil revenues, which accounted for 60% of its gross domestic product (GDP), to build a modern health-care system with large Western-style hospitals and modern technology. Iraqi medical and nursing schools attracted students from throughout the Middle East, and many Iraqi doctors were trained in Europe or the U.S.A. Primary health-care services reached about 97% of the urban population and 78% of the rural population in 1990. But the Gulf war of 1991 and more than 13 years of U.S-Britain sponsored genocidal sanctions have left the country's economy and infrastructure in ruins.

UNICEF reported on March 28, 2003 that, "The Education system in Iraq, prior to 1991, was one of the best in the region, with over 100% Gross Enrolment Rate for primary schooling and high levels of literacy, both of men and women. The Higher Education, especially the scientific and technological institutions, was of an international standard, staffed by high quality personnel". In the 1980s, a successful government program to eradicate illiteracy among Iraqi men and women was implemented.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO),

"Iraq had a modern sanitary infrastructure with an extensive network of water-purification and sewage-treatment systems. Water networks distributed clean, safe water to 95% of the urban population and to 75% of those in rural areas. In 1990, Iraq was ranked 50th out of 130 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index, which measures national achievements in health, education, and per capita GDP".

It has fallen to 127, one of the most dramatic declines in human welfare in recent history, as a result of the U.S-Britain-sponsored sanctions and wars, which needlessly killed civilians en mass.

The UN ILCS study, which took less than five months to complete and covered all of Iraq's provinces, reveals that some 24,000 Iraqis, 12 per cent of them children under the age of 18 years old, died as a result of the U.S-British invasion and the first year of Occupation. The three volumes report, which was based on interviews conducted with some 22,000 Iraqi households in 2004. The report estimates that the total number of Iraqi deaths is between 18,000 and 29,000. However, this estimate is misleading and does not take into account households where all members were lost, crimes that occurred very often in the indiscriminate bombings of population centres.

The most credible study so far was published in November 2004 in the Lancet, the highly reputable British medical journal. It shows that U.S. occupation forces in Iraq have killed more than 100,000 civilians between March 2003 and October 2004, the great majority of them are women and children. The estimate is considered "conservative" because it excludes the high death toll in areas such as Fallujah, where the U.S. committed crimes against humanity by obliterating the entire city of 300,000 people. Further, the Lancet study also shows that 14 per cent of U.S. soldiers and 28 per cent of U.S. marines had killed a civilian: U.S-authorised war crimes ignored in the ILCS Report.

Consistent with other studies, the ILCS study reveals that Iraqi civilians, mostly children, have suffered from lack of health care and adequate nutrition. The Data shows that 23 per cent of children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition, and 12 percent suffer from general malnutrition, 8 per cent suffer acute malnutrition.

In a study published in November, the Norwegian-based Fafo Institute for Applied Social Science found that acute malnutrition among Iraqi children between the ages of six months and 5 years has increased from 4% before the invasion to 7.7% since the US invasion of Iraq. In other words, despite the 13-years sanctions, Iraqi children were living much better (by 3.7%) under the regime of Saddam Hussein than under the Occupation. Officials from the Institute revealed that the Iraqi malnutrition rate is similar to the level in some hard-hit African countries. A generation ago, obesity was the main nutrition-related public health concern, today at 7.7 per cent, Iraq's child malnutrition rate is roughly equal to that of Burundi, an African nation ravaged by more than a decade of war. The study was substantiated by new study prepared for the U.N. Human Rights Commission by the reputed Swiss professor of Sociology and expert on the right to food, Dr. Jean Ziegler.

Infant mortality and malnutrition findings show clearly that, ''the suffering of children due to war and conflict in Iraq is not limited to those directly wounded or killed by military activities",' says the study. With children under the age of 15 make up 39 per cent of the country's total population of 27 million, the ILCS study notes that, "Most Iraqi children today have lived their whole lives under sanctions and war". In other words, most Iraqi children today have lived their lives in constant fear of U.S-British sponsored terrorism. "We find record of not a single significant demonstration protesting the wholesale destruction of Iraqi children," wrote Professor Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado.

A detailed study by the British-based charity organisation (Medact) that examines the impact of war on health, revealed cases of vaccine-preventable diseases were rising and relief and reconstruction work had been mismanaged. Gill Reeve, deputy director of Medact, said, "[t]he health of the Iraqi people has deteriorated since the 2003 invasion. The 2003 war not only created the conditions for further health decline, but also damaged the ability of Iraqi society to reverse it".

And as a consequence of the war, "Hundreds of thousands of children born since the beginning of the present war [March 2003] have had none of their required vaccinations, and routine immunization services in major areas of the country are all but disrupted. Destruction of refrigeration systems needed to store vaccines have rendered the vaccine supply virtually useless", writes Dr. César Chelala, an international public health consultant. "Even antibiotics of minimal cost are in short supply, increasing the population's risk of dying from common infections. Hospitals are overcrowded, and many hospitals go dark at night for lack of lighting fixtures. The Iraqi minister of health claims that 100 percent of the hospitals in Iraq need rehabilitation", added César Chelala. The "current major problems" includes "lack of health personnel, lack of medicines, non-functioning medical equipments and destroyed hospitals and health centres", the study reveals. It is a U.S-made and a U.S-accelerated tragedy.

After health, Iraq's education system has also deteriorated. Again, Iraqis youngsters are hard hit under Occupation. The literacy rate among Iraqis between the ages of 15 and 24 is just 74 per cent, which is according to the study is only "slightly higher than the literacy rate for the population at large". The figure is lower than that for those 25-34, "indicating that the younger generation lags behind its predecessors on educational performance", said the study. As a result of high unemployment (over 70 per cent), males have neglected their education and are in search of work to support their families. Contrary to the ILCS study, like males, women literacy has declined markedly.

In reference to the past, the study acknowledge that while the previous regime (of Saddam Hussein) built up many of the country's service networks, like electricity grids, sewage systems and water, the systems are widely in disrepair, the study reveals. However, in scathing over the sanctions and war, the ILCS study fails to condemn and attribute the causes of Iraq's current conditions to the deliberate and systematic U.S-British bombings campaign (since 1991) to destroy the entire of Iraq's civilian infrastructure, including water purification plants, sewage treatment plants, electricity grids, and communications.

The deliberate destruction of Iraq's water and sewage systems by U.S. bombings has been the major cause (for a decade) of an outbreak of diarrhoea and hepatitis, particularly lethal to pregnant women and young children. Diarrhoea killed two out of every 10 children before the 1991 Gulf War and four in 10 after the war. The study indicates that only 54 per cent of households nationwide have access to a "safe and stable" supply of drinking water. An estimated 722,000 Iraqis, the report also notes, rely on sources that are both unreliable and unsafe.

Conditions are worse in rural areas, with 80 per cent of families drinking unsafe water, the report says. According to researchers, "the situation is alarming" in the southern governorates of Basra, Dhiqar, Qadisiyah, Wasit, and Babel, located near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. A large percentage of the population in this region relies on water from polluted rivers and local streams.

Although 98 per cent of Iraqi households are connected to the electrical grid, 78 per cent of them experience "severe instability" and low quality in the service, according to the survey. One in three Iraqi families now relies on electricity generators, most of which are shared between households. In all, daily living conditions under the Occupation have deteriorated markedly.

According to Barham Salih, Iraq's minister of planning, "This survey shows a rather tragic situation of the quality of life in Iraq". Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. secretary general's deputy special representative in Iraq, said the study "not only provides a better understanding of socio-economic conditions in Iraq, but it will certainly benefit the development and reconstruction processes". The study will help address the grave disparities between urban and rural [areas] and between governorates in a more targeted fashion", Mistura added.

Despite its reluctant to blame this criminal tragedy on U.S-Britain genocidal policy toward Iraq and the violent Occupation, the ILCS study is a strong indicator of a failed colonial policy and an illegal war of aggression against the Iraqi people. The ‘world community' should use the study as a benchmark to demand the full withdrawal of U.S-British forces from Iraq and prevent the acceleration of this criminal tragedy.

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Top terrorists 'hiding in Iran'
04/06/2005 - 08:18:09

Mounting evidence gathered over several years has convinced US and foreign intelligence agencies that leading terror suspects have been living inside Iran.

Their existence in the Islamic republic poses a continuing problem for top Bush administration officials, who have warned Middle Eastern countries against providing shelter or other aid to suspected terrorists.

The evidence includes communications by a fugitive mastermind of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and the capture of a Saudi militant who appeared in a video in which Osama bin Laden confirmed he ordered the September 11, 2001, attacks, according to US and foreign officials.

They spoke anonymously because much of the evidence remains classified. [...]

Comment: Stop the press! US government officials, renowned the world over for disseminating 100% fabricated intelligence reports about its chosen enemies, has just announced that its arch nemesis Iran is "harboring terrorists"! Amazing! We would never have expected such a development...

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He was Speaking the truth
Sarah Whalen, Iraq Tunnel
June 2, 2005

In the heady days of the Second Iraq War, when the West seemed to be winning Bush's "war on terror," Westerners laughed at Baghdad Bob, more formally known as Mohammed "no tanks" Saeed Al-Sahhaf, Saddam's minister of information. Al-Sahhaf's cocksure pronouncements of Iraqi military victory against US "coalition" forces - always made with an air of studied casualness - had then a hilarity about them that spawned endless jokes.

But that was then. This is now.

And now, Al-Sahhaf seems almost prescient in his predictions about how the war would progress. He was incredulous when asked about Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz's predicitions, made by way of their unimpeachable source, Ahmad Chalabi, that Iraqis would welcome US troops with flowers, kisses, and candy: "We will welcome them with bullets and shoes," he assured reporters. And the West laughed. But that was then. This is now.

When asked how Iraqi officials would handle the coalition invaders, Baghdad Bob cordially replied, "They are most welcome" to enter Iraq. "We will butcher them." The West sneered.

But that was then. This is now. And after two years of suicide bombings and car bombings and the occasional, horrific kidnappings and beheadings, one has to wonder who's living less in reality - Baghdad Bob, or Chevy Chase Cheney, also known as Dick Cheney, America's vice president? "I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency," Cheney averred this week about Iraq. With 140 car bombings and 60 suicide bombings in May alone, one wonders whether President George Bush isn't the only top US political executive who never reads the newspapers.

The Bush administration hoped to reduce these figures by Operation Lighting, geared to shatter the insurgency through setting up checkpoints, instigating massive arrests, and then catching insurgents as they fled through the checkpoints. A good plan, in theory, as Pentagon plans always are. But Operation Lightning didn't take into account the many insurgents who'd rather stand and die than flee. And so it surprised Americans when the insurgents turned and, as the Los Angeles Times observed, "target(ed) the very checkpoints set up to ensnare them" with no fewer than five suicide bombings in six hours.

If US casualties are down in Iraq, it's largely because few Americans dare venture outside highly protected areas. The problem's the same as Al-Sahhaf observed when the West had not yet stopped laughing at him: "How can you lay siege to a whole country? Who is really under siege now? Baghdad cannot be besieged." Is Al-Sahhaf having the last laugh? "Washington," driven by "the insane little dwarf, Bush," Al-Sahhaf warned back then, "has thrown their soldiers on the fire."

American voters were so sensitive to this issue in the last presidential election that Bush vigorously sought to pull together Iraqi police and somewhat diverse groupings of Iraqi "defense forces" supposedly only "backed" by Americans and coalition soldiers. "I think we may well have some kind of presence over there for a period of time," Chevy Chase Cheney reportedly mused, implying that Iraqis would now run their own show. But insurgents merely shifted targeting Americans to targeting those Iraqis considered Quislings. One raises an eyebrow remembering Al-Sahhaf's remark that invading Americans rarely left their tanks and "refused to do battle with us. They are just going places." Indeed, Iraqis now see Americans bunker down behind the thick, guarded walls of their Green Zone. Meanwhile, Iraqis just seeking jobs or, even better, paychecks, often lose their lives.

And when Americans do leave their safety zone, such as in Operation Lightning, the results are curious indeed. "At 4 a.m. today, American soldiers attacked my house from all directions," Sunni Iraqi Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, head of the Iraqi Islamic Party, declared. "They blew up doors and took me and my three sons. They blindfolded me and put me in a helicopter and took me someplace. They interrogated me all day. Then they let me go." America's response? "Coalition forces regret any inconvenience," the Pentagon remarked.

If Baghdad Bob were speaking, we'd all be laughing. But that would have been then. This is now. Now - almost a year after the Abu Ghraib scandal first broke; weeks after the supposedly false news reports about flushing the Qur'an down the toilet at Guantanamo sparked deadly riots in Afghanistan; and days after the tabloid press published demeaning photographs of Saddam Hussein shirtless in his underwear - all clear violations of the Geneva Conventions. So it is with a certain chill that one remembers Al-Sahhaf's remarks on the coalition forces and those who lead them: "These are not ordinary human beings. They are criminals....both by nature and training. Big institutions in this imperial state, in this evil US empire, prepare their politicians to become criminals."

Americans and those who support them need to see that these things are no laughing matter.

Not then, and not now.

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Voluntary Security ID to Debut in Florida
AP Technology Writer
June 3, 2005

Beginning June 21, the Orlando airport will let travelers pay $80 a year for a card that guarantees an exclusive security line and the promise of no random secondary pat-down. To get this new "Clear" card, travelers would have to be vetted by the Department of Homeland Security and submit to fingerprint and iris scans.

Since the federal government began letting select frequent fliers with new high-tech passes speed through airport security checkpoints, one of the biggest complaints has been that the year-old program is too limited to be of much use.

Now, a privately run version coming online in Florida could spur efforts to broaden the program - and boost media entrepreneur Steven Brill's vision of installing such a system across the nation at airports and other security-sensitive locations.

Similar systems exist at some European airports, and in five U.S. airports as part of a test by the Transportation Security Administration.

But the TSA's "Registered Traveler" program, which is free for now while in its test phase, has been capped at 10,000 participants, and cards obtained at one airport don't work at others.

The company behind Clear is Verified Identity Pass Inc., which Brill founded in 2003 in hopes of creating a nationwide, voluntary system that would give pre-screened people a dedicated fast lane for entering secure areas - not only at airports but also office buildings, power plants and stadiums.

Brill, the founder of Court TV and American Lawyer magazine, argues that while more rigorous security checks are needed in post-Sept. 11 America, it doesn't make sense for everyone to have to go through them.

New York-based Verified ID has attracted such investors as Lehman Bros. and Lockheed Martin Corp., which is providing the technology for Clear. But until the Orlando deal, Verified Identity Pass had not snared a customer.

Brill says he has had talks with about 20 other airports.

He's giving them good reason to listen: In its proposal to Orlando officials - which beat a rival bid from technology integrator Unisys Corp. - Verified ID promised to share 29 percent of Clear's first-year revenue with the airport authority and as much as 22.5 percent in succeeding years. The airport also would get 2.5 percent of Clear's future nationwide revenue.

The proposal says Verified ID expects to have 3.3 million members across the nation within six years, with annual memberships likely costing $100.

That kind of participation is well beyond the scope of the TSA's Registered Traveler tests, which have been limited to certain airlines' passengers in Boston, Los Angeles, Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Washington-Reagan. A separate, older program, known as INSPASS, lets frequent international travelers whisk through some U.S. Customs checkpoints with the use of hand-shape biometrics.

The TSA is open to broadening Registered Traveler through public-private partnerships, and several airports have expressed interest, said Steve Van Beek, executive vice president of policy for Airports Council International, a trade association. But he is concerned that the concept could run aground unless the TSA enforces technology standards that enable cards to work at more than one airport.

Not everyone, however, is ready for trusted-traveler programs to take off.

Chris Bidwell, who oversees security for the Air Transport Association, which represents airlines, says it remains to be seen whether Registered Traveler does much to enhance security, especially because many airports' lines aren't that long anyway.

Privacy watchdogs have questioned how flyers' personal data will be handled, although Brill pledges that Clear will obtain minimal information on its members and store almost none. For example, the system will not record its users' comings and goings the way automated toll-collection devices do.

"We have much less information about you, at our best, than any credit card company has," Brill said.

(Brill also has distanced himself from Choicepoint Inc., the data aggregator originally cited as one of Verified ID's partners. Brill said he wouldn't work with the company until it fixes the problems that led to a massive leak of personal information to identity thieves that came to light in February. A private data-mining company like Choicepoint isn't necessary for Clear in airports anyway, since the government is doing the vetting.)

Other observers worry that fast lanes will be tempting to terrorists whose records are clean enough to earn them a "trusted" label.

"As soon as you make an easy path and a hard path through a security system, you invite the bad guys to try to take the easy path," said Bruce Schneier, author of "Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World."

"It's counterintuitive," Schneier said. "Everyone complains: 'Why are you frisking grandmas?' But if you don't frisk grandmas, that's who (terrorists) are going to pick to carry bombs."

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Flight Lands Safely After Hijack Alarm
Associated Press
June 3, 2005

WASHINGTON - A New York-bound passenger jet was diverted to Canada on Friday after sending out a false hijacking alarm. It landed safely in Nova Scotia and resumed its flight to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Canadian fighter jets escorted Virgin Atlantic Airways' Flight 45 to the Halifax International Airport because of the false alarm.

Canadian law enforcement officials met the plane and inspected it to determine what caused the problem. Airline spokeswoman Brooke Lawer said the transponder sent out a false alert.

SWAT team members were seen entering the Airbus A340-600 as it sat on the tarmac with its 273 passengers and 16 crew members still on board. The plane had left London Heathrow Airport.

The airline issued a statement saying the technical issues involved in the false alarm were resolved and it apologized for any upset or inconvenience to passengers.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Greg Martin said transponders rarely malfunction.

"It does happen," Martin said.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the president was briefed about the plane incident while clearing brush on his Texas ranch and was being kept apprised of the situation.

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The View From the 'Owner's Box'
By Molly Ivins
June 2, 2005

The Texas Legislature gives itself a huge retirement pension and, the next day, cuts retirement benefits for teachers. Welcome to a Republican-ruled state.

So, the Texas Legislature decided it's OK for gay couples to be foster parents, but only if they're not married. I would explain what message that sends, if only I understood it.

Look at it this way: At least we can hunt inside city limits now. My personal fave was the day they voted themselves a huge retirement pension and the next day cut retirement benefits for the teachers. Classy move, boys. Retiring solons will now get $36,000 a year after 12 years in the Lege. The job pays $7,200 a year and requires 140 days of work once every other year. Welcome to a Republican-dominated state.

As all hands know by now, the Lege got nowhere on the Big One -- the interrelated issues of property tax relief and school financing. The whole state is screaming for property tax relief because of the rise in real estate values.

In order to lower property taxes, you have to raise them on something else. So of course the House decided to tax ordinary people, instead of taxing big corporations. Not for nothing is the House gallery, where the business lobbyists sit, known as "the Owner's Box."

The House was prepared to saddle us all with the highest sales tax in the country. By lowering property taxes and raising sales taxes, the House lowered the tax burden on the richest Texans and dumped it on the poorest Texans, in a state that already has a staggeringly regressive tax structure.

The Senate passed a fairer bill, all things being relative, but House Speaker Tom Craddick refused to compromise. [...]

"The Speaker said no," was the story of the whole session. If the state Supreme Court, which consists of nine conservative Republicans, backs the lower court decision that our current school financing system is unconstitutional, we'll have to close the public schools in October. That's how irresponsible these people are.

You know, it's one thing for Republicans to run year after year railing against government. But once you win, you got to run it, people.

One good thing: The state added 2,500 child protection workers. This was after a study showing that 509 Texas children died from abuse or neglect over a two-and-a-half-year period between 2001 and 2004. More than a quarter of those children had previously been investigated by Child Protective Services. CPS workers are so overburdened, they're handling up to 70 cases each, when the recommended load is somewhere in the 20s. Gov. Goodhair Perry ordered the statewide study after the beating death of a 2-year-old in San Antonio just a few weeks after she was returned home from state custody. God bless the child -- at least she didn't die in vain. [...]

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The US Labor Force: One Foot in the Third World

Welcome to a Has-Been Country
June 3, 2005

In May the Bush economy eked out a paltry 73,000 private sector jobs: 20,000 jobs in construction (primarily for Mexican immigrants), 21,000 jobs in wholesale and retail trade, and 32,500 jobs in health care and social assistance. Local government added 5,000 for a grand total of 78,000.

Not a single one of these jobs produces an exportable good or service. With Americans increasingly divorced from the production of the goods and services that they consume, Americans have no way to pay for their consumption except by handing over to foreigners more of their accumulated stock of wealth. The country continues to eat its seed corn.

Only 10 million Americans are classified as "production workers" in the Bureau of Labor Statistics nonfarm payroll tables. Think about that.

The US with a population approaching 300 million has only 10 million production workers. That means Americans are consuming the products of other countries labor.

In the 21st century the US economy has been unable to create jobs in export and import-competitive industries. US job growth is confined to nontradable domestic services.

This movement of the American labor force toward third world occupations in domestic services has dire implications both for US living standards and for America's status as a superpower.

Economists and policymakers are in denial while the US economy implodes in front of their noses. The US-China Commission is making a great effort to bring reality to policymakers by holding a series of hearings to explore the depths of American decline.

The commissioners got an earful at the May 19 hearings in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations. Ralph Gomory explained that America's naïve belief that offshore outsourcing and globalism are working for America is based on a 200 year old trade theory, the premises of which do not reflect the modern world.

Clyde Prestowitz, author of the just published Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East, explained that America's prosperity is an illusion. Americans feel prosperous because they are consuming $700 billion annually more than they are producing. Foreigners, principally Asians, are financing US over-consumption, because we are paying them by handing over our markets, our jobs, and our wealth.

My former Business Week colleague, Bill Wolman, explained the consequences for US workers of suddenly facing direct labor market competition from hundreds of millions of Chinese and Indian workers.

Toward the end of the 20th century three developments came together that are rapidly moving high productivity, high value-added jobs that pay well away from the US to Asia: the collapse of world socialism which vastly increased the supply of labor available to US capital; the rise of the high speed Internet; the extraordinary international mobility of US capital and technology.

First world capital is rapidly deserting first world labor in favor of third world labor, which is much cheaper because of its abundance and low cost of living. Formerly, America's high real incomes were protected from cheap foreign labor, because US labor worked with more capital and better technology, which made it more productive. Today, however, US capital and technology move to cheap labor, or cheap labor moves via the Internet to US employment.

The reason economic development in China and some Indian cities is so rapid is because it is fueled by the offshore location of first world corporations.

Prestowitz is correct that the form that globalism has taken is shifting income and wealth from the first world to the third world. The rise of Asia is coming at the expense of the American worker.

Global competition could have developed differently. US capital and technology could have remained at home, protecting US incomes with high productivity. Asia would have had to raise itself up without the inside track of first world offshore producers.

Asia's economic development would have been slow and laborious and would have been characterized by a gradual rise of Asian incomes toward US incomes, not by a jarring loss of American jobs and incomes to Asians.

Instead, US corporations, driven by the short-sighted and ultimately destructive focus on quarterly profits, chose to drive earnings and managerial bonuses by substituting cheap Asian labor for American labor.

American businesses' short-run profit maximization plays directly into the hands of thoughtful Asian governments with long-run strategies. As Prestowitz informed the commissioners, China now has more semiconductor plants than the US. Short-run goals are reducing US corporations to brand names with sales forces marketing foreign made goods and services.

By substituting foreign for American workers, US corporations are destroying their American markets. As American jobs in the higher paying manufacturing and professional services are given to Asians, and as American schoolteachers and nurses lose their occupations to foreigners imported under work visa programs, American purchasing power dries up, especially once all the home equity is spent, credit cards are maxed out and the dollar loses value to the Asian currencies.

The dollar is receiving a short-term respite as a result of the rejection of the European Union by France and Holland. The fate of the Euro, which rose so rapidly in value against the dollar in recent years, is uncertain, thus possibly cutting off one avenue of escape from the over-produced US dollar.

However, nothing is in the works to halt America's decline and to put the economy on a path of true prosperity. In January 2004, I told a televised conference of the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, that the US would be a third world economy in 20 years. I was projecting the economic outcome of the US labor force being denied first world employment and forced into the low productivity occupations of domestic services.

Considering the vast excess supplies of labor in India and China, Asian wages are unlikely to rapidly approach existing US levels. Therefore, the substitution of Asian for US labor in tradable goods and services is likely to continue.

As US students seek employments immune from outsourcing, engineering enrollments are declining.

The exit of so much manufacturing is destroying the supply chains that make manufacturing possible.

The Asians will not give us back our economy once we have lost it. They will not play the "free trade" game and let their labor force be displaced by cheap American labor.

Offshore outsourcing is dismantling the ladders of America's fabled upward mobility. The US labor force already has one foot in the third world. By 2024 the US will be a has-been country.

Paul Craig Roberts has held a number of academic appointments and has contributed to numerous scholarly publications. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. His graduate economics education was at the University of Virginia, the University of California at Berkeley, and Oxford University. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:

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Deep Throat as Sideshow - Only Republicans Lie?
June 3, 2005

If I didn't know better, I'd think Hillary planted the Vanity Fair story.

The outing of W. Mark Felt as Deep Throat has set off a predictable frenzy of Republican bashing and obligatory Dubya/Tricky Dick comparisons. With visions of John Kerry fading in our ever-shortening attention spans, it's open season on the GOP and you know what that means: Yet another opportunity to directly or indirectly prop up the Democrats as a viable alternative.

Although he does offer a tangential mention to LBJ, Bob Herbert of the New York Times melodramatically reminds us, "with George W. Bush in charge, the nation is mired in yet another tragic period marked by incompetence, duplicity, bad faith, and outright lies coming once again from the very top of the government."

I wonder: When was the nation NOT mired in incompetence, duplicity, bad faith, and outright lies from the very top of the government? To not ask this question is to grant tacit, undeserved credit to the Democrats.

Before the hair-splitters bombard me with e-mails attempting to defend the Dems, let's not lose sight of the fact that arguing over who lies less further masks the real crimes. Remember, Nixon was brought down for his role in the Watergate cover-up...not for, say, war crimes in Southeast Asia or Vietnam. The adversarial (sic) press is ever at the ready to topple leaders over misdemeanors but the felony offenses remain taboo. In fact, that same lapdog press willingly plays its part in resurrecting disgraced leaders like Nixon (and turning "I am not a crook" into an enduring punch line). If Nixon had resigned after being charged with mass murder, well, perhaps his public rehabilitation might not have gone as smoothly.

Watergate, Deep Throat, Woodward, Bernstein, etc ... these are all smokescreens effectively obscuring the catalog of crime we call American History. Until more Americans recognize both the corporate media and two-party (sic) system for what they truly are, we're left with sideshows like W. Mark Felt.

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Rice Introduces New Department Spokesman
Sat Jun 4,12:07 AM ET

WASHINGTON - There's a new face at the podium for the State Department's daily press briefings.

Sean McCormack will be answering questions in the sessions, which are broadcast worldwide and made previous spokesman Richard Boucher one of the best-known figures in the government.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice introduced McCormack on Friday.

"Don't get excited. I didn't come to answer questions," she said. "I came to make a handoff here."

McCormack was Rice's spokesman in her previous job as White House national security adviser. Like Boucher, he is a career foreign service officer with a specialty in economics.

Boucher plans to remain in government but his new job has not been announced. He served two stints as spokesman, most recently from 2000 to this week. He also was spokesman from 1989 to 1993. He served six secretaries of state under both Democratic and Republican White Houses.

"Richard, obviously, has been the consummate professional," Rice said. "He is somebody on whom I've relied, not just for advice on communications and press matters, but on all kinds of matters of foreign policy."

McCormack took questions on North Korea, Lebanon, Israel and numerous other subjects in his first session at the microphone.

"I think it's an example for the entire world in that the spokesman of the State Department (is) standing up here and taking questions from a free and responsible press," McCormack said.

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European Consitution Analysis:

Much Ado About Nothing
SOTT Analysis

Last Sunday the French voted down the proposed referendum. On Wednesday, the Dutch followed suit. "It's the gravest crisis in the history of the union!" shout the headlines.

Is it really?

Today we present a variety of responses to the No vote as we look at the spin doctoring going on to influence how we see the results.

Nothing to smile about

The public rejection of the EU treaty may have been a debacle for French President Jacques Chirac but, despite his conflict with US President George W. Bush, his detractors in Washington are none too pleased with the result. Jerome Bernard reports.

The United States will now have to deal with a European Union that has been weakened by the French rejection of a European draft constitution when Washington needs it as a strong partner in resolving a number of international issues, according to US experts.

"I think the dominant view will be that the United States now faces a host of weak European leaders," said Charles Kupchan, director of European studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"Blair is weak, Chirac is now weak, Schroeder is headed toward what looks like defeat, Berlusconi just had to change his cabinet and that spells trouble for the United States that needs help in the world and my sense is that perspective will dominate any other," Kupchan said.

"Finally, at a time when the Bush administration had demonstrated a renewed willingness to deal with Europe as a union, the EU may be missing in action," said Siman Serfaty, an expert on European issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"What can now be expected from the EU and its members - in Iran, but also Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the Middle East; in Ukraine but also in Southeast Europe and toward Russia; in North Korea and in China; in the Sudan?" he asked.

"The question is daunting: if not with the EU and its members, with whom; if not now, when?" Serfaty said.

"We were seeing since January the start of the process of revitalization of a new transatlantic agenda," pointed out Samuel Wells, an expert on European issues at the Woodrow Wilson Institute. "I think that will slow down" in the wake of the French vote, he said.

According to Wells, "the US government and analysts generally will probably take the EU less seriously as a player in international politics." However, Kupchan does not believe the French referendum "will have any immediate impact on US-European relations."

The State Department said that Washington expected the European Union to remain an effective partner "however the EU evolves."

According to Kupchan, the administration of US President George W. Bush is somewhat divided on how to deal with Europe.

"There will be those who prefer a weaker, a more decentralized Europe, the so-called hardliners, and others, primarily in the State Department who see this as a setback and will prefer a stronger and more unified Europe that could ultimately be a partner of the United States," he said.

Wells shares that view. "The neoconservatives and a very large group in Congress, who prefer to deal with Europe bilaterally and not to work through the European Union, will feel inclined to do it," he said.

"There is a significant group of policy and political elites who feel the major foreign policy issue is China and I think they will now have arguments that more attention should be paid to China and less to the European Union," Wells pointed out.

US newspapers described the resounding French "no" to the EU constitution as damaging for Europe and devastating for French President Jacques Chirac.

Unhappy French voters who rejected the proposed European constitution were "thumbing their noses at the country's governing elite," a Washington Post article said.

French President Jacques Chirac "smiled stiffly as he struggled to mask his disappointment" in televised remarks immediately after the vote, The New York Times said.

"The vote, which made France the first country to reject the treaty, has deeply wounded the French president," The Times said. "The vote stalls the forward momentum of Europe and makes it more vulnerable to economic and political uncertainty.

"It could paralyze decision-making in the European Union for months, complicate the process of admitting new members, and make it even more difficult to impose discipline on members' spending and inflation levels," The Times pointed out.

But, added Kupchan, "there may be certain members of the US government that are not unhappy to see Chirac's political fortunes take a downturn because of the legacy of the rift over Iraq."

Comment: So from the US, the media is emphasising that the vote was a blow to Jacques Chirac. What they don't point out is that in most of the countries where the constitution has been approved, it was approved by a vote of the parliament or national assembly, not a public referendum. Had the vote gone to the French National Assembly, it would have been overwhelmingly accepted. The split is not simply between Jacques Chirac and the French voters; the vote marks a split between the ruling elites, including the press, and the voter.

The constitutional proposal was drawn up by bureaucrats and politicians behind closed doors. There was no popular input, no democratic discussion. It was a document coming down from the top.

The voters said no to this un-democratic way of proceeding.

The next analysis comes from the US business magazine Forbes.

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Large 'No' Vote May Boost The Netherlands' Standing In EU
Oxford Analytica, 06.03.05, 6:00 AM ET

Voters in the Netherlands rejected the European Union constitutional treaty 61.6% to 38.4% on June 1. The overwhelming "no" vote by the citizens of a traditionally pro-European founding member of the EU raises questions about Dutch attitudes toward the European integration process. It also throws into doubt the survival of the treaty itself. [...]

All the mainstream political parties supported the "yes" campaign, both in the governing coalition and opposition. The "no" campaign was led by a heterogeneous group of extreme right- and left-wing parties. It triumphed, despite the overwhelming support among the electorate that the mainstream parties commanded in the last national elections, and the 75% approval rate for the EU in the most recent Eurobarometer poll.

The desire to register a protest vote against the government played an important role in boosting the "no" vote. Discontent among the Dutch electorate is directed at the political establishment as a whole and particularly its stance on a number of key EU policy issues.

Many voters blame price increases in the Netherlands on the introduction of the euro, or link immigration concerns to EU enlargement.

The perceived loss of influence of the Dutch government as the process of European integration unfolds also played a part in the large "no" vote.

Concern over this perceived bias was exacerbated by recent developments concerning the euro-area's Stability and Growth Pact. While the Dutch obeyed the pact's fiscal strictures, Germany and France ignored them and went unpunished, and in March, the Pact was loosened to suit the needs of large states with excessive budget deficits.

The treaty's opponents also connected concerns over loss of influence in social issues.

While there is no direct connection between the approval of the constitution and the accession of Turkey, the possibility of increased Muslim immigration, which Turkish accession could usher in, is likely to have increased the appeal of the "no" front.

The Netherlands has long been a supporter of deepening integration and strengthening EU institutions. Therefore, to the extent that the reforms proposed in the constitution supported the process of European integration, Wednesday's "no" vote will undermine Dutch interests at the EU level.

However, the Dutch position in the EU may be strengthened by the referendum result.

Since the French rejection of the constitutional treaty preceded the Dutch "no" vote, the Dutch will not be singled out for blame for scuttling the treaty. The Dutch political establishment, which overwhelmingly supported the constitution, also proved its credentials to its EU partners.

The Dutch "no" will strengthen the government's position in future EU negotiations. This leverage is likely to manifest itself in this month's budget negotiations.

The result of the referendum is not formally binding, and parliament has the task of ratifying the treaty. Given Wednesday's result, it will not be able, politically, to do so.

The option of a second referendum before November 2006 remains open, and has been mentioned as a possibility by several key politicians. This may be preceded by a treaty renegotiation on specific areas of concern such as social policy or immigration. However, "opt-outs" from the constitutional treaty are hard to envisage, and such hopeful statements about the survival of the treaty may not last beyond a further rejection of the treaty by popular vote in another member state.

The electorate's convincing rejection of the constitutional treaty has challenged the long-standing Dutch commitment to deeper European integration. However, the "no" vote, and the prospect that the EU will continue to operate under the current institutional framework will bolster the Dutch position. Its negotiating position on policy issues, notably the budget, will harden as a result of the voters' strong expression of discontent about the integration process.

Comment: Here we get the point of view of big business. The little twists and points hilighted at the expense of others get us into the mindset of the people who framed the treaty. Notice the remark about the Dutch political establishment proving its credentials to the bureaucrats in Brussels (the real partners in the enterprise).

The last paragraph gives the impression that it was Europe as an idea that was being rejected when it is clear in both France and the Netherlands that the voters were rejecting only the neo-liberal vision of Europe, not Europe itself.

The neo-liberals have been upset with France over the size of its deficit, a deficit that is slightly above the maximum allowed deficit permitted by the EU. Long gone is the day when a country could go into debt to stimulate its economy, provide jobs, and guarantee a safety net to its citizens. Keynes is dead; Long Live the balanced budget. When Chirac speaks of the French model, it is to this intervention of the state that he refers.

But let's look at that bastion of neo-liberal thought, the United States. Since 9/11, the Bush gang have sent the US budget into figures never before seen in order to keep his war going. The beneficiaries of this deficit are the Halliburtons, Carlyle Groups, and other members of the Warbucks clique. A deficit to enrich the pockets of the warmongers is OK; a deficit to take care of the disenfranchised is not.

The logic is clear.

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"No" votes challenge ratification process of EU constitution 2005-06-04 13:09:37

BEIJING, June 4 (Xinhuanet) -- The latest polls showed the French and Dutch "no" votes on the European Union's constitutional treaty decreased the support for the treaty in European countries and triggered debates on EU enlargement on Friday.

According to a survey conducted by Greens for business daily Boersen in Denmark, where a referendum on the treaty is scheduled for Sept. 27, 39.5 percent of Danes would vote "no" for the treaty, compared with 30.8 percent who would vote "yes." Just last month, Greens found that naysayers represented only 26 percent of the voters, while 34.3 percent of the population expected to vote "yes" on the treaty.

Morten Messerschmidt, a spokesman for the Danish People's Party that opposes the treaty, said Friday that "I think the government should follow the Danish People's Party proposal about not holding a referendum. It seems pointless, since there isn't anything to vote on, now that France and Holland have said no."

In the Czech Republic, according to a poll conducted by the Factum Invenio public opinion institute, more than two-fifths (almost 44 percent) of respondents who said they would take part in the referendum would support the document, fewer compared to the findings of other polls which were carried in the country before the referendums in France and the Netherlands.

The result showed that 33.7 percent of the Czechs are against the ratification of the EU constitution, 31.5 percent support and 34.8 percent have no clear view on the question.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Diogo Freitas do Amaral said Thursday that his country will cancel October's referendum on the EU constitution if EU leaders decide to stop the ratification process.

The Irish government said in a statement after the Dutch referendum that it was continuing to prepare to ratify the EU constitution by November 2006.

However, a spokesman for the foreign ministry told the press Friday that Ireland was closely watching the situation and would take into account any decision made at the upcoming EU summit in mid-June.

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Junker, current rotating EU president and prime minister of Luxembourg, said Friday that he will resign if the EU constitution is rejected in a referendum on July 10 in his country.

The latest surveys show 46 percent of voters in Luxembourg support the constitution and 32 percent plan to vote "no," with 22 percent undecided.

The setbacks of the EU constitution ratification process also triggered debates on the enlargement of the bloc, as quite a lot of Europeans are worried that the enlargement might result in massive influx of cheap labor.

As a response, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Friday said that it was "totally wrong" to suggest that EU enlargement should stop after the EU constitution was rejected by French and Dutch voters.

The EU must fulfill its commitment of admitting Romania and Bulgaria on Jan. 1, 2007, provided both countries meet accession criteria, Schroeder told reporters after meeting with visiting Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu.

Romania and Bulgaria singed accession treaties on EU membershipin April.

In Turkey, Sermet Atacanli, chief advisor of foreign affairs to Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, said at a press briefing on Friday that "Turkey is determined to maintain its progress in integration with the EU. There is not any deviation from Turkey's integration with the EU."

"We rightfully expect the EU and the EU member countries not to assume prejudiced attitudes against Turkey with respect to their commitments," he added.

The failure of the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands also led to a higher opposition to Norwegian membership of the EU.

An opinion poll conducted right after the Dutch rejected the constitution showed that the opposition to Norway's entry to the EU has increased from 42 percent to 59 percent.

Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said Friday that it would take longer time for Norway to join the EU after the constitutional crisis.

"First the EU constitution must be in place, in order that we will know what kind of a union we will be debating," he said.

The Norwegians have rejected twice the EU membership so far.

Comment: The rejection of the constitution by France and the Netherlands has shown the European population that they do not have to accept without question the decisions made in their name by politicians and bureaucrats. By voting No they can assert their right to have a say in their future, in the type of Europe that their children will inherit -- providing we all live that long.

It is incumbent upon the voters in the remaining countries to defeat the constitution so that France and the Netherlands are not left alone. The bureaucrats are already discussing the possibility of holding another French referendum at a later date if the constitutional proposal passes in the other countries. This managerial approach to democracy must be shown for what it is: the attempt of the "decision-makers" to take the decision out of the hands of the voters.

The increasing awareness of the problems with the proposed constitution could be the opportunity for grass roots discussion on the current proposal and the changes the population of each country would like to see, from starting over from scratch on a real, political document as opposed to the free trade agreement under a different name that is currently before them, to changes in the document as it is.

Rather than a crisis, the No votes offer an opportunity for Europeans to take back their political life from the technocrats.

The following article is something of a curiosity; it is an attempt by an apparently American "progressive" to justify the constitution. He tasks the French left to task for voting No.

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Just Say 'Non' to Progressive Values

In voting against the EU constitution, the French left allowed its hatred of Jacques Chirac to trump good sense.
By Ian Williams, AlterNet. Posted June 1, 2005.

The French predictably voted "non!" to the proposed EU constitution this weekend. While the outcome of the referendum was hardly surprising, the reactions of some U.S. commentators to the vote were as collectively incoherent as the motives of the voters themselves.

Diehard conservatives in the United States cheered on French Communists and leftists for their success in frustrating a multinational challenger to U.S. global dominance, while many on the American left expressed solidarity with their French comrades who joined with fascists to vote down a "capitalist" constitution. The irony of this blinkered endorsement is redoubled by the rejected constitution itself, which guarantees rights undreamt of by any liberal in the United States. This is a constitution derided by the conservative Weekly Standard for guaranteeing "entitlement to social security benefits and social services providing protection in cases such as maternity, illness, industrial accidents, dependency or old age, and in the case of loss of employment." How can so-called liberals in a country that has 45 million uninsured citizens dismiss a document that ensures the right of access to preventive health care and the right to benefit from medical treatment?

The draft constitution even has a clause on animal rights -- whither Brigitte Bardot? -- and recognizes equal rights for religions and "philosophical" associations for all those born-again atheists.

Who needs that kind of Anglo-Saxon capitalism?

The weakness of the constitution is not so much its alleged corporate agenda, but its dense and prolix prose, which reflects the attempt to accommodate everyone from British conservatives to East European emulators of American excess that has led to far too much ambiguity. In the end, those ambiguities gave a wide spectrum of the French public the excuses they needed to vote against the real issue on the ballot: Jacques Chirac. This includes the French Socialists and Communists who, albeit with deep anguish, voted for Chirac at the last election to keep Le Pen's rightwing and ultra-nationalist party from winning. This time around, the same folks voted "no" alongside Le Pen's racists and fascists -- a sight that should at least give U.S. progressives some pause for thought.

French workers have every reason to want to defend their social benefits against the encroaching Anglo-Saxon free market capitalism. But perhaps they should first have looked across the English Channel, where British conservatives oppose the constitution because of all the benefits it guarantees ordinary people. Indeed, most British labor unions that once opposed joining Europe as a capitalist plot now recognize the superior protections offered by Brussels. And while much has been made of the threat of immigration, if that mythical Polish plumber turns up in Paris with his wrench in hand, the constitution entitles him to the same, considerable statutory benefits of his French colleagues.

So what will the ultimate effect be of this French cupidity? It is true that by indulging themselves in giving le doigt to Chirac, the French were as reckless of the consequences to them and the rest of the world as American voters who voted for George Bush out of fear and paranoia. However, despite the "sky falling down" rhetoric that the "Oui" campaigners deployed to scare voters, the French referendum is unlikely to have such dire effects as Bush's new term of office.

For a start, it will not dissolve the European Union, which, at worst, will remain in its present Rube Goldberg, ad hoc state – and that may in it self be a political blessing in disguise. It may delay the supplanting the dollar by the Euro, but it is unlikely to break up the currency union.

It may also push back the creation of an official European foreign policy, but the formulation of such a policy -- acceptable to all the disparate members -- would in any case be a long, drawn-out process. The reality is that the Europeans have been increasingly acting in concert, and would indeed be doing so much more frequently if it were not for Tony Blair, who seems determined to confirm Charles de Gaulle's suspicion that Britain is no better than an American Trojan horse in Europe.

After an abysmal failure to develop a common position on the Balkans, the European Union has incrementally developed a number of shared policies, whose coherence becomes more impressive given that these often put the EU at loggerheads with the United States. The EU continues to support multilateralism and the United Nations, has stayed firm in its support of the International Criminal Court, and has been a collective voice of reason in the face of neoconservative hysteria over Iran and North Korea. Moreover, the EU has consistently called for more aid and debt relief to the developing world.

Much of this consensus has developed without an official charter while muddling along with a bewildering variety of different institutions and treaties. Ironically, the EU constitution is an attempt to harmonize and rationalize these policies, and to do so within the context of an agreed decision-making process that gives more direct and transparent input to citizens and states alike. And in rejecting the constitution, the French left also said "non" to more democratic and rational alternative to rightwing visions of empire in the global arena.

In the end, the European Union is a good idea, both for its own citizens and for the rest of the world. Imagine, 450 million people with near-universal health care! Eventually, in some form or other, the Europeans will adopt a constitution to reflect what they have already achieved. Perhaps the next time around, Chirac -- if he is still around -- will campaign for a "No" vote and provoke the French into supporting it!

Comment: According to this offer, the French should have voted yes because it guarantees more rights than US workers have. Some measure! Unfortunately, the language of the constitution is so vague that it can be read in many different ways. And when he looks at the consequences, he comes up with a number of places where things may turn out for the better after the No vote!

The author raises the fact that the left voted No, as did the National Front of Le Pen, telling us that this fact should give US progressives pause for thought. We paused to think about this fact and came to the conclusion that it tells us that the base of the Front National is largely working class, as is the base of the left. Both groups are worried about the effects of neo-liberalism. What's the problem?

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Thwarted by a surge of democracy

Under cover of unification, free market liberals hijacked Europe
Serge Halimi
Thursday June 2, 2005
The Guardian

There is one tiny problem with most of the analysis of last Sunday's vote in France. Those who probe the motivations of the large majority who voted no (54.87%) forget to remind us that they, overwhelmingly, voted yes.

For more than six months, all the leading commentators in the media heaped praise on the constitutional project. France's two biggest media owners (and weapons manufacturers) endorsed the yes side: Serge Dassault, a conservative senator, did so in an editorial in one of his many magazines; Arnaud Lagardère spoke to a pro-yes rally, cheered by Nicolas Sarkozy and most of the cabinet.

Most commentators have observed that Jacques Chirac has been stung by this defeat, but the rout of France's mainstream media is even more impressive. From the rightwing television channel TF1 to the "leftwing" weekly le Nouvel Observateur, and including le Monde, Libération, the business press, the major radio stations, even women's and sports publications - they all warned and railed, they all censored and twisted. Yet, their propaganda was blunted by an unexpected surge of democracy. Thousands of well-attended meetings discussed the constitutional treaty. And, bit by bit, the sense of inevitability that it would be easily ratified by a mildly interested electorate was torn apart.

Indeed the outrage about media bias became a leading issue of the campaign - not least because it encapsulated so many of the things that this referendum came to be about: representation, the elite and class.

The problem is obvious on the political side. Last February more than 90% of French deputies had backed the constitution; it garnered the support of only 45% of the voters. The gap is no less obvious when it comes to informing the people: the leading journalists, who often live in Paris, an increasingly bourgeois city, seem to write and speak for the affluent. And the rich did vote yes by a healthy margin, just like 66% of the Parisians.

But elsewhere it was quite another story: whereas 74% of the voters earning more than €4,500 a month backed the constitutional project, 66% of the voters earning less than €1,500 a month voted against. In ultra-wealthy Neuilly (a Paris suburb where many industrial and media tycoons reside, and whose mayor is the presidential hopeful Sarkozy) 82.5% voted yes. Mining cities of northern France and the poorest districts of Marseille were equally lopsided: 84% of Avion (Nord-Pas-de Calais) and 78% of Marseille's 15th district voted no.

Granted, Chirac has lost. Yet it should not take long for the Socialists to wonder how well a party of the left is doing when 80% of the workers and the unemployed, 60% of the young and a large proportion of its own voters desert its official position on such an important issue.

Four years ago Pierre Moscovici, then the French minister for European affairs, wrote in the Financial Times that Tony Blair's triumph was "excellent news for the left and for Europe. For the left, it shows that a good leader, good results and a good programme can win elections. From that point of view, Mr Blair is an admirable example to other social democrats." Yet a few months after Lionel Jospin had been inspired by this "admirable example" he was humiliated in France's presidential election and sidelined by Jean-Marie Le Pen. The cause? A gulf between the Socialist party and its working-class constituency, who rarely read the English business press.

The party did not learn its lesson. By backing a constitution enshrining free-market liberalism, it again made the wrong choice and lost.

Business leaders and the wealthy journalists who write for them may bewail this: the French regularly reject Anglo-Saxon-style capitalism, and the left electorate does not want the "third way". Every new election makes this clear. Yet nothing seems to change. Chirac was first elected president 10 years ago because he had denounced a "social divide". Today it is greater than ever. In the meantime, a series of free-market reforms has hit pensions, education and industry. Unemployment has kept on rising and poverty has spread.

Some politicians - and the employers' federation - had hoped to use the constitution's obsession with markets (the word appears 88 times) and competition (29 times) as a legal wedge against France's "social model".

"Why am I pro-European?" said Sarkozy a few weeks ago. "Because I think it is a powerful lever to force France to modernise and reform. If France has twice as much unemployment as other countries it is not because we are too liberal, it is because we have the 35-hour week." But France is not yet safe for liberalism. Sarkozy's line of argument triggered such a backlash that the Socialists - but also Chirac - swore that he had misunderstood it all. "The constitution is a child of 1789," Chirac argued.

But by voting no, many French people have understood that their choice was the truly European one - that, contrary to what they were told, the constitutional treaty was not the tool that could end Europe's free-market drift. In the last 20 years, the project dreamed up by the European commission and most governing coalitions of the member states has appeared obsessed only with economic reform, an ever-expanding free-market zone, the dismantling of the welfare state, lower corporate taxes and business-friendly legislation - such as a proposal to liberalise Europe's market for service industries.

France's landslide rejection of the treaty is likely to embolden many of the progressive forces of the EU, bringing about the rethinking of a once-worthy ideal that gradually became distorted into a single market and a military junior partner for the US. Such a reappraisal bears no resemblance to the "federation of fear" that European commission president José Manuel Barroso saw unfolding after Sunday's vote.

All along, "Europe" has been an elite process with shallow roots. In France, a large turnout (70%) has tackled the constitutional project with seriousness and passion. Many politicians in Paris and Brussels probably regret this surge of democracy and will look for ways to pressure the French to hold another vote. But it is unlikely that an informed electorate will change its mind now that it has understood the links between the social devastation at home and the neoliberal policies that spread under the cover of European unification.

· Serge Halimi writes for le Monde diplomatique and is the author of Le Grand Bond en Arrière: Comment l'ordre libéral s'est imposé au monde (The Great Leap Backward: How the liberal order was imposed on the world)

Comment: The author points out the obvious point that those who are now decrying the vote in the media are the same ones who waged the battle for the Yes; those who give us the analysis of why the vote is a disaster had spent months attempting to brainwash the public into accepting a document that was not in their interests.

Here we start to get at the root of the real reasons for the rejection of the constitution, that it was not a vote against Europe, the vote of a xenophobic population voting against the foreigner. The class divisions in the voting were clear. Those with a vested interest in business voted for; those who have seen their job security eroded in recent decades voted no.

A similar take is to be found in the next article.

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"Le Jolie Mois de Mai"
The French Bust the European Union Treaty
June 2, 2005

The Sunday May 29 victory of the NON campaign against the EU Constitutional Treaty has already taken its first toll. On Tuesday, President Jacques Chirac replaced a controversial, unpopular prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, with the debonair, Dominique de Villepin. In a morose but defiant speech on Sunday evening, Chirac provoked international tension over Europe. The French and British mainstream press heaped on the hysteria with worn out Kissingerisms of falling dominoes.

A long time associate of Chirac and a former foreign minister, Villepin was of course the man to have given France the tepidly willed role of peace harbinger faced with the US plan to invade Iraq. His oppositional stance stood upon being rational. His words evoked US responsibility under international law. But his appointment is little more than a make-up job. A handsome profile for Chirac to keep face.

The French political elite has long played off on drama to rally its forces. One need only recall another May event, this time back in '68. Faced with a mounting insurrection, then President Charles de Gaulle fled France to Baden Baden where he consulted with his chiefs of staff behind closed doors. The plunge into darkness worked. Shortly after returning to Paris, he launched a referendum on his political future. A mass of 800,000 Gaullist forces marched along the Champs Elysees to Place de la Concorde calling for an end to the student-workers' revolt, prior to de Gaulle's overwhelming referendum victory. Little has changed since.

At bottom, the NON result is not more significant for internal French politics than were the regional and cantonal elections a year ago when the Socialist Party swept the board with their candidates. In any democratic system, this would have surely been enough to remind a leader of his outstanding debts and pledges. Yet in 2004 not only did the president fail to speak henceforth in the name of all the French, he also ignored the opposition victory. Even now, the elite might be pissed off, but what it expresses is anything but shame.

This is why it must be said that the French voted on the Constitutional Treaty less out of interest in the European past and future, than on the national present. In the build-up to the French poll on Sunday, the media usurped objectivity and turned an act of responsible citizenry into a battleground lined with self-deception and guilt.

What stood explicitly to observe was the spiritual pact between the media and the French political elite. Together they tried to hound the NON vote into the irrational. The mainstream media overwhelmingly rejected any new voices from being heard. They bid to force the opposition into the clutches of former prime ministers whose "leftist chic" is a stain on the ontological complaints issued in the only major question asked of the population about the entire European governance issue, aside from the initial Maastricht Treaty referendum of 1992.

Those new voices, however, are the ones to have framed the opposition's standpoint. It was the ATTAC group, knit from sociologist Pierre Bourdieu's 1995 involvement in the general public sector strike with Le Monde diplomatique (the monthly political journal with no relation to the establishment daily Le Monde). ATTAC's members are also some of the people who helped bring you the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre and Mumbai. Their publications, website ( and public gatherings proved to be the laboratory fostering the arguments on why a NON was necessary.

ATTAC operates as a national NGO projecting internationally. It is at the forefront of progressive political groups in France and throughout Europe who reject the association of the current capitalist oligarchy running the G7 zone with the name "democracy". And it lies at the tense fault line of debate regarding the most effective way to grind down the power elite, whether through self-transformation into a political party or by establishing the issues from without.

As the late French philosopher Michel Foucault argued, it is pointless to battle against power wholesale until understanding how to reform the terms of governance. Yet it is senseless to begin to govern until striving to establish new terms for creating oneself as an individual and group member. The whole question is how does the other side, the 24 other member states, fare in all of this.

This is what the French are seeking to work out from behind the scenes, in the shadows where the media glare does not beam and where meaning is shaped to strike. From the media's angle, the NON vote is merely a vote of protectionism, national cocooning and cowardly diversion from the necessities of today.

As usual, the British establishment press, from the eurosceptics of the Financial Times to the Blairites of the Guardian lambasted the French sense of the situational and surreal. After all, wasn't the European Union a great deal of a French insistence? Weren't the French benefiting most from the treaty? Hasn't everything been done to comply with France's stubborn insistence on agricultural subsidies and its broad public sector?

As a progression from the European Economic Community, a financial deal that was built upon the persuasive rhetoric of the need to prevent further wars between France and Germany, the European Union long ago left the shores of memory for most of the population. Contemporary pragmatism forces it to be considered an economic powerhouse in a brutal competitive market. Therefore, it is argued, "Planet France" can only better grow under the new "neo-liberal" terms set out in the Constitution. As Jon Henley wrote in the Guardian (May 14), "the liberal Anglo-Saxon model (in Britain at any rate) boasts an unemployment rate half that of France's, a minimum wage raised by 40% in five years, health spending doubled over the same period, steadily increasing purchasing power, years of sustained growth, low interest rates and 2 million children lifted from below the poverty line."

Why then would "Planet France" resist an economic philosophy bound for success? The only thing Henley failed to point out were the terms of the initial conditions motivating that British growth. Over a decade of Thatcherism had gone as far as wiping away minimum wage requirements. Purportedly hands-off government led to the "poll tax". Under Blair, continued short-term planning has marked the job creation front and the nature of British services being offered. In this makeshift mood of post-crisis, Britain perpetuates its imperialism. Like France, it stands within the top five GDPs worldwide ­ oil, weapons and financial products are its only "productive" sectors.

Beyond contemporary economic platforms, the European Union is also the child of history. Yet if the French voted "NON" on the referendum, they did not do so in the name of WWII and imperial glory. Put to the ballot was their betrayed past. As international awe shrouds this expression of the population's will, the truism of the media's ability to send the near-past into oblivion has been further confirmed. The date of reckoning is neither 1945, nor 58 and de Gaulle, nor even 68 or 89, the latter being revolutions in their own right. It was 2002.

The victory of the "NON" is an attack on the results of the 2002 presidential elections-and everything that has come in its wake. (See Norman Madarasz, "The Luck of the Draw", April 22, 2002; "Pandora's Box: Media Obsessions and Muting the Progressive Voice," May 7, 2002, As a collective expression, it is absurd to speak of revenge. But as a judgment on the type of governance Jacques Chirac has offered the 83 percent of the French population who voted against him in the first round back in 2002, only to be compelled to elect him against the freak result of a face-off against a far-right contender in the second, the majority of the population was indeed stirred for action.

Some will object that the NON vote was replete with a right-wing xenophobic sentiment. The NON forces consist also of the extreme right, the Front National and MPF, headed by Jean-Marie LePen and Philippe de Villiers, respectively. Together, they may account for some 15 percent of the entire voting population. Despite their leaders' rhetoric, all of the voters' claims cannot be dismissed outright as mere lunacy. But what the entire vote surely falls short of is muffled fear, as Timothy Garton Ash would have it (The Guardian, May 30).

Instead, the vote was largely cast upon issues related to accountable and emancipatory governance. The turnout in France was high for a non-national level election, standing at some 70 percent. Democracy is only a pale ideological lie when the fudged results of the vote-count are used to force through programs for which the majority has little patience. The referendum had everything to do with breaking the gridlock of an elite that has insisted ever since the latter-day decay of the French socialist party on telling the people want they want.

Distance is often a theoretical vantage point held high in esteem in the sciences, whereas modulating the question of speed of thought is often ignored as a methodological approach. Whether a project for a socialist Europe will be achieved or not depends on many factors of transnational building which require, over and above the population's consent, time. Hasty results can now be deferred by disagreement. The lessons learnt recently over the elitist protectionism involved in drafting the United States Constitution must be borne in mind here. Out of its slanted terms, the US Senate has defended its oligarchic legitimacy for over 200 years. So as opposed to what the French media claim about the impressive level of debate marking the referendum campaign, the actual negotiation begins now ­ with the power elite on the retreat.

In the current militaristic and corrupt-corporate environment, it plays into the hands of conservative manipulators to encourage the formation of a centralized European executive, whose ultimate intension is to build a European army. As it also does into the pockets of the transnational military-industrial complex, which arm-in-arm with the increasingly monopolized stock exchanges, are the main fabricators of what is known today as the "economy". Slowing down inevitable thought associations is a stick thrown into the spokes of competitive hysteria. With China fever going round, such hysteria has only built since the terms of its forced-fed argument were first introduced in the early nineties.

From a balanced vantage point, the Chinese threat looks more integrated from this side of the Atlantic. While American financiers have been thrilled to receive Chinese T-Bond investment, it is a deception to claim that what the North American population must fear is China's competitive force. The American public's own unquenchable thirst for product buying is what ought to be blamed as a starting point. Financial crises have less to do with the productive sector of the economy than with the banking and stock market industries. It's through the big buck mergers in which mega corporations brutalize each other that the population is left sclerotic and the productive sector disabled.

This situation is no less the case in France. The elite is certainly conservative, but it has also taken advantage of a push within French culture of a moral philosophy and ethical insistence whose purported aim is to get beyond the differences. Although derided for its lack of uniformity, the French NON is crafted from what that difference involves on the field. Still, rhetoric blooms with the spring air. Upon examining a recent article by one of the French elite's foremost sociologists, Edgar Morin ("Les lendemains du non," Le Monde, May 26), the path to achieving that peace beyond difference stretches by way of defacing the adversary as "Communists-Trotskyites" in words, to better smash it as object later. Only afterward can peace be drawn on a bed of lilies deprived of song and dreams.

In the end, President Jacques Chirac's defeat allocution remains striking by its deafness. Chirac embarrassingly skirted the results as the French elite has done throughout the campaign. His wife went out on a last minute socialite tour trying to portray the population as her children with whom she pleaded to keep the family honor intact.

As usual, the only ears on the right to hear the message clearly were those of the maverick Nicolas Sarkozy. No current French politician is more Machiavellian, more devious than the fox-snake hybrid and Downing Street-admired Sarkozy. As head of the governing UMP party, his Sunday speech was a scroll down a list of every piece of litigation the French NON voters voiced. Atypically, he pledged to honor them all. The only glitch was that Sarkozy's party and government are behind them all: from destroying the 35-hour anti-unemployment policy, to harassing the French public sector, to privatizing and accumulating joblessness, to subjecting the psychoanalytic establishment to political law, reforming education on Taylorist assembly-line principles, and destroying the only job security program for the creative arts in the world (the "intermittents du spectacle") The list goes on.

His shrewd smirk has obviously never tasted the stench of the tear gas and pepper spray of social and political insurrection-which are decidedly the only means by which the French economic machine will honor opposition claims.

The main item of litigation is anything but fear. It is the adamant, stubborn erosion of France's welfare state, akin to the Amazon forest, due to "market forces". The population yearns only for its reinforcement. But the elite do not speak these social terms: "unemployment" is the only shrunk down issue, after apart from public safety, its smokescreen jargon names.

France is the world's fifth economic power. If lack of job security is the handmaiden of economic growth, then what is it all worth? This is the question to which the larger part of the French electorate responded: "not much".

Like in the US, its elite clinch to stock options while the population rots. Corruption, white collar crime, massive in level, is well protected by the law, and thus shades in spectacular comparison to the ever so visible petty crime stemming from "immigrants". The population has little choice but to use "referenda" as its only tool of opposition, when the nation's youth are not corralled like cattle on Museum-lined streets when asking for a brighter day.

With the retreat and dissolution of France's revolutionary left through the 1980s in the name of social-democratic reform, the French political terrain was groomed for "la pensée unique". Its principles are that democracy has proved itself historically the best political system for the largest amount of people, and that capitalist economic planning with decreased state involvement over the specific economy is its motor ­ though democracy and capitalism are claimed to be two irreducible entities. Back in the 1990s, and in the name of solidarity, French big business pleaded with the population to release its hold on the welfare state due to the ferocious competition coming from the "authoritarian" Asian tigers.

Then the construction bubble burst in the Far East. The French and German stock exchanges bulged in convulsion from the hot money flooding their respective pits. Yet the elation of split stocks never translated into shared stripes.

These were some of the issues at stake. The population took advantage of a serious vote, acting on its future and the terms of international collaboration. In a "not-in-my-name" act, the majority has attempted to paralyze the political class from moving forward in a program that has made life in France more expensive, less secure in terms of jobs, and all the more attractive to international finance. Production is at the basis of a democratic economy, not investment. Sunday's poll was a NON against the Constitutional Treaty as well as against Chirac. No ambivalent disjunction and therefore no mystery: were only one listening to its terms.

As the May 29 communiqué from ATTAC declared ("La victoire d'un peuple debout et informé") :

'The French have just said no to the constitutional treaty. An overwhelmingly democratic and European no. As such, citizens female and male alike first and foremost said no to neoliberalism, of which the text subjected to referendum is an eloquent defense and illustration. This no is also a yes to an independent, internationalist, social, ecological and feminist Europe; a yes to a Europe standing together in solidarity with the rest of the world: first with the South and then with future generations.

But it is also a yes to democracy, shamefully derided by the State propaganda acting in combination with a media system whose actors all but entirely bore an unprecedented partialness and offensive haughtiness toward the 'black sheep' who were audacious enough not to literally accept the 'yes' parties' arguments from authority. With their ballots, female and male citizens proved allergic to being brainwashed. This is why this event, whose value ought to stand as an example, has a historical dimension with important repercussions for the rest of Europe and the world.

ATTAC pays homage to the tens and tens of thousands of citizens who thoroughly committed themselves to the battle of the referendum."

Comment: Some readers may wonder why we are spending so much space in looking at a question that is clearly political. We have said in the past that we do not believe that this world needs to be fixed: it is as it is, and we are here to learn certain lessons. Given that idea, why are we so concerned with the vote on the European Constitution?

There are times when one does something not because one is persuaded that one will succeed, or that one will bring about any change. One does what one does because it is right, because one, after careful consideration, knows that it is the expression of who and what one is.

The United States is the beacon of neo-liberalism in the world today. There is no national health care. The education system serves to keep its population dumbed down and ignorant of the rest of the world. The voting is rigged and there is no real opposition party. A dark fog is settling upon the planet and it is originating in the USA. A new fascist power is arising, contemptuous of the rights of the working man or woman, contemptuous of ideas that do not match its own. Should we sit aside and do nothing when such a dark force arises? Should we turn our back when people start being taken away because our concerns are only with something "higher"? When prisoners are tortured and countries invaded on the whim of a half-crazed imbecile who believes he is doing the work of the Creator?

We think that to stand aside and do nothing is to effectively align oneself with the entropic principle, to accept the burgeoning chaos, to become part of the solution.

But it is important to stand for the truth with no anticipation of success. We cannot change human nature and the root cause of these issues is just that, human nature. But by seeing what is going on around us, by discerning the entropic force and the creative force in any moment, in every act, we align ourselves with creation and do something to change our own nature. We learn to see the world differently, to understand how and why it is as it is. We change.

What more can we hope for than to change ourselves, to become the people we would like to be?

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Le Monde editor 'defamed Jews'
Jon Henley in Paris
Saturday June 4, 2005
The Guardian

A French appeal court has found the editor-in-chief of Le Monde and the authors of an opinion piece in the paper guilty of "racial defamation" against Israel and the Jewish people.

In a ruling greeted with applause by Jewish groups and some alarm by media lawyers, the court ordered Jean-Marie Colombani and the three writers to pay a symbolic one euro in damages to the France-Israel Association and to Lawyers Without Borders.

The two groups had alleged that the June 2002 article, headed Israel-Palestine: the Cancer, contained comments that "targeted a whole nation, or a religious group in its quasi-globality", and constituted racial defamation.

The offence was exacerbated, the groups said, by a "semantic slip" from the phrase "the Jews of Israel" to "Jews in general"; in other words, it referred to "the Jews" when it meant "certain Israelis".

France, which has the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in western Europe, has seen tensions rise in recent years in parallel with the increase in violence in the Middle East. The French media are routinely accused of pro-Palestinian bias.

Mr Colombani and the authors of the article - Edgar Morin, a sociologist; Daniele Sallenave, a writer and lecturer; and a French MEP, Sami Nair - argued that the extracts had been taken out of context from "a lengthy and more balanced piece" that "did not undermine or attack the fundamental values of democratic societies".

But the appeals court overturned a lower court ruling, deciding last week that two passages did constitute a breach of France's strict defamation law.

The first passage read: "It is hard to imagine that a nation of fugitives born of a people who have been subjected to the longest persecution in the history of humanity, who have suffered the worst humiliation and the worst contempt, should be capable, in the space of two generations, of transforming themselves into a people sure of themselves and dominating (of others) and, with the exception of an admirable minority, a scornful people that takes satisfaction in humiliating others."

The second continued: "The Jews of Israel, descendants of an apartheid named the ghetto, ghettoise the Palestinians. The Jews who were humiliated, scorned and persecuted humiliate, scorn and persecute the Palestinians. The Jews who were the victims of a pitiless order impose their pitiless order on the Palestinians. The Jews, scapegoats for every wrong, make scapegoats of Arafat and the Palestinian Authority."

The French umbrella group for Jewish associations, CRIF, said it "noted with satisfaction" the appeal court ruling, adding that the verdict "clearly set limits on a deviation that consists of incriminating 'the Jews' in the name of a criticism of Israel".

The group added: "We have always considered that criticism of Israeli policy falls under the category of the free and democratic exchange of ideas, but that debate cannot express itself as a demonisation of Israel nor of the Jews."

Lawyers were divided over the significance of the decision. Catherine Cohen, who acted for Le Monde and Mr Nair, said she was taking the ruling to France's highest court because "we cannot allow jurisprudence like this to stand. The article was a critique of a policy, of [Israeli prime minister Ariel] Sharon's policy, it wasn't a racial criticism. The remarks were taken out of context; the plaintiffs argued that they were against Jews, but a few paragraphs later, the piece says that all occupiers behave the same way.

"This is a very serious matter for intellectuals, for commen tators who express their point of view on a very complex issue. Of course these authors are not anti-Jewish, nobody believes that. In reality, this kind of case does not belong in a court of law - the groups should have written their own rebuttal in the paper."

But Georges Kiejman, who defended Mr Morin (who is Jewish), said he did not think the decision would prevent free and frank debate on the Middle East question in France.

"The court made plain that it found the text as a whole constituted a very potent critique, but a perfectly tolerable one given the complexity of the situation," he said. "It was just those two passages that were picked out. All it means is people are going to have to re-read their copy a bit more carefully; be very careful not to talk about 'the Jews', for example, but about 'some Israelis'."

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Small quakes shake lower North Island
04 June 2005

NEW ZEALAND -- Two earthquakes shook the lower North Island within half an hour late of each other last night.

The first quake at 11.54pm, which rated 3.9 on the Richter scale, was centred 30km west of Bulls, at a depth of 25km, and was felt in Marton.

The second, which measured 3.5, occurred at 12.22am, 10km northwest of Hunterville and was around 30km deep.

It was felt as far away as Marton and Wanganui.

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Magnitude 5.1 Quake - SOUTHERN PERU
2005 June 3 19:24:48 UTC

A moderate earthquake occurred at 19:24:48 (UTC) on Friday, June 3, 2005. The magnitude 5.1 event has been located in SOUTHERN PERU. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

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Magnitude 5.5 Quake - TONGA
2005 June 3 00:53:41 UTC

A moderate earthquake occurred at 00:53:41 (UTC) on Friday, June 3, 2005. The magnitude 5.5 event has been located in TONGA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

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Magnitude 5.8 Quake - NIAS REGION, INDONESIA
2005 June 3 00:42:02 UTC

A moderate earthquake occurred at 00:42:02 (UTC) on Friday, June 3, 2005. The magnitude 5.8 event has been located in the NIAS REGION, INDONESIA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

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Barren Island volcano emitting more smoke

The Barren Island volcano, active since May 28 after lying dormant for 11 years, is emitting a greater quantity of smoke after heavy rain led to decrease in the flames, though lava was still flowing out of the crater, Coast Guard sources said today.

Andamans Governor Ram Kapse, who made an aerial survey of the uninhabitated Barren Island, 140 km north-west of here, this morning, told PTI that he had seen smoke and lava emerging from the crater.

The island's administration as well as the Coast Guard were keeping a watch on the situation, he said.

Coast Guard PRO Commandant Sanjay Anchalwar said that due to the heavy rain the flames had subsided a little, but the volume of smoke had increased and lava was still flowing out.

The last eruption of the volcano took place in 1994 on the island, which is less than two kilometre across.

It is completely uninhabited save some feral goats, which stayed on the other side where there was some vegetation and natural sources of water.

However, there was no report about these goats as of now.

The island is out of bounds with defence personnel solely allowed access.

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Changing planet revealed in atlas

Satellite images reveal how the environment has changed dramatically in recent decades.

An atlas of environmental change compiled by the United Nations reveals some of the dramatic transformations that are occurring to our planet.

It compares and contrasts satellite images taken over the past few decades with contemporary ones.

These highlight in vivid detail the striking make-over wrought in some corners of the Earth by deforestation, urbanisation and climate change.

The atlas has been released to mark World Environment Day.

The United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep) produced One Planet Many People: Atlas of our Changing Environment in collaboration with other agencies such as the US Geological Survey and the US space agency (Nasa).

Transformed world

Among the transformations highlighted in the atlas are the huge growth of greenhouses in southern Spain, the rapid rise of shrimp farming in Asia and Latin America and the emergence of a giant, shadow puppet-shaped peninsula at the mouth of the Yellow River that has built up through transportation of sediment in the waters.

The effects of retreating glaciers on mountains and in polar regions, deforestation in South America and forest fires across sub-Saharan Africa are also shown in the atlas.

This year's World Environment Day, which will be hosted by San Francisco in California, will focus on ways of making cities more environmentally friendly and resource-efficient.

"The battle for sustainable development, for delivering a more environmentally stable, just and healthier world, is going to be largely won and lost in our cities," said Klaus Toepfer, Unep's executive director.

"Cities pull in huge amounts of resources including water, food, timber, metals and people. They export large amounts of wastes including household and industrial wastes, waste water and the gases linked with global warming.

"Thus their impacts stretch beyond their physical borders affecting countries, regions and the planet as a whole."

World Environment Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. It is celebrated each year on 5 June.

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Witchcraft case sparks abuse fear

Three people have been convicted over the abuse of a girl, eight
Hundreds of central African children living in the UK may have suffered abuse or even been killed after being accused of witchcraft, charities say.

The warning follows the conviction of three people over the torture of an eight-year-old girl.

Four London charities, working with people from central Africa, told BBC News this was not an isolated case.

The children may have been returned to their home countries for "deliverance services" or other punishments.

'Breakaway churches'

In one case it was claimed an Angolan child had been sent home two years ago, and had since been killed.

BBC correspondent Angus Crawford said community workers believed the growth of "breakaway churches" could be one possible cause of the abuse.

A minority of these preach a powerful blend of traditional African beliefs and evangelical Christianity.

Community workers also complain of ignorance on the part of the UK authorities, and a lack of resources to tackle the problem.

On Friday three adults were found guilty at the Old Bailey over the torture of an eight-year-old girl in Hackney, east London, after she was accused of witchcraft.

The orphan was beaten, cut and had chilli peppers rubbed in her eyes to "beat the devil out of her".

The child's aunt, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found guilty of child cruelty, while Sita Kisanga and her brother Sebastian Pinto were convicted of aiding and abetting.

The trio, all from London, were found not guilty of conspiracy to murder. They were remanded in custody and the women were warned they faced lengthy jail sentences.

Speaking exclusively to the BBC, Kisanga said the girl was possessed by an evil spirit, known as kindoki.

"In our community, kindoki happens. It is killing people. It is doing bad things," she said.

The orphan was brought to Britain from Angola in 2002 by her 38-year-old aunt after the girl's parents died.

The cruelty started at the beginning of 2003 when a boy told his mother that the girl had been practising witchcraft.

'Today you die'

The child was cut with a knife and beaten with a belt and shoe.

During police interviews, the girl said Kisanga had cornered her in the kitchen and told her "today you die".

Abuse masquerading as religion

The court also heard the girl, now 10, was put into a laundry bag and believed she would be "thrown away" into a river.

Detective Superintendent Chris Bourlet, head of the Metropolitan Child Abuse Command, said such cases were difficult to police: "These are very small churches. Sometimes they meet in very small halls, sometimes in people's houses.

"It's not really the role of the police to go and watch churches."

Mary Marsh, director of the NSPCC, called the case "horrific", saying it had "exposed beliefs held by some in the African community that can lead to child abuse".

Penny Thompson, Hackney Council's Chief Executive, said the case was "very serious".

The City and Hackney Safeguarding Board, which monitors child protection agencies, would be making an independent inquiry.

A new unit called Project Violet had been set up to protect children from abuse as the result of religious or cultural beliefs, police said.

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Couple held for 'babies in freezer'
Associated Press in Vienna
Saturday June 4, 2005
The Guardian

Police in Austria said yesterday that they had found the bodies of four newborn babies at a block of flats. Two were in a freezer and one was in a cement-filled paint bucket.

Investigators said the babies' 32-year-old mother had admitted killing them out of despair over her inability to pay household bills, and fear that having a child might drive away her long-term male partner.

Three bodies were found earlier this week and a fourth yesterday afternoon. It was not immediately clear where the last body was found.

Police said that the woman and her 38-year-old partner, from Graz, about 120 miles south of the capital, Vienna, were both under investigation for murder.

The killings may have begun three years ago.

Graz's Kleine Zeitung newspaper reported that the first of the bodies had been found on Monday by a resident of the flats when he opened a basement freezer shared by the building's occupants.

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