August 30, 2003

If it were not so sad...

Definitely illustrative of something, is this newly-released transcript from the 9/11 tapes:

'"A young man answering the phone at a police desk near the ground floor is nonchalant about a plane hitting the building.

"It will affect new paperwork. . . . Only the paperwork," he says.

A woman asks him, "It's a big plane or a little plane?"

"Gotta be small," he says.

Seconds later, the second plane hits and, with the shock wave passing through the structure, he changes his tune: "Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa -- that didn't feel good."
'

Hopefully these tapes will highlight the lack of response (one emergency caller was told "Do not evacuate") from public officials. As we now know, GWB was raced off to AF1 and stayed seven miles high until it was safe to come down. Meanwhile his spin doctors were already working to pin the blame on Saddam Hussein.
Comical Ali-Stair Resigns - Hoooo-oo-ooray!

Following Tony Blair's inadequate performance in court at the Hutton enquiry, Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair's main media man - sometimes called "the real deputy prime minister," has resigned.

In true Spin Doctor fashion, Campbell says his resignation is not linked to the enquiry and he was planning to step down a long time ago, but only stayed on to help the PM with the Iraq crisis.

August 29, 2003

Sorry, but it DOES get complicated...

One of the problems with running a blog like this - aside from the ever-present potential of anti-American, pro-terrorist criticism - is that many of the issues which really matter cannot be described in a 5 second sound-bite. You have to look into it yourself. You have to think about it. You might even have to do some background reading. And sometimes, even the language, the distorted symantics in which politicians specialize, can be a major problem.

One critic whose relentless analysis of modern-day American woes has been more painfully "difficult to read", yet also more consistently well-researched and logical than most, is Noam Chomsky.

Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things, has written a wonderful article praising Chomsky's dedicated efforts. A few choice exerpts:

"Today, thanks to Noam Chomsky and his fellow media analysts, it is almost axiomatic for thousands, possibly millions, of us that public opinion in "free market" democracies is manufactured just like any other mass market product ...

"Chomsky shows us how phrases like "free speech", the "free market", and the "free world" have little, if anything, to do with freedom. He shows us that, among the myriad freedoms claimed by the U.S. government are the freedom to murder, annihilate, and dominate other people. The freedom to finance and sponsor despots and dictators across the world. The freedom to train, arm, and shelter terrorists. The freedom to topple democratically elected governments. The freedom to amass and use weapons of mass destruction — chemical, biological, and nuclear. The freedom to go to war against any country whose government it disagrees with. And, most terrible of all, the freedom to commit these crimes against humanity in the name of "justice", in the name of "righteousness", in the name of "freedom".

"Attorney General John Ashcroft has declared that U.S. freedoms are "not the grant of any government or document, but... our endowment from God". So, basically, we're confronted with a country armed with a mandate from heaven. Perhaps this explains why the U.S. government refuses to judge itself by the same moral standards by which it judges others....

"Since the Second World War, the United States has been at war with or has attacked, among other countries, Korea, Guatemala, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Grenada, Libya, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan. This list should also include the U.S. government's covert operations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the coups it has engineered, and the dictators it has armed and supported. It should include Israel's U.S.-backed war on Lebanon, in which thousands were killed. It should include the key role America has played in the conflict in the Middle East, in which thousands have died fighting Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. It should include America's role in the civil war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, in which more than one million people were killed. It should include the embargos and sanctions that have led directly, and indirectly, to the death of hundreds of thousands of people, most visibly in Iraq. "

Enough. Put on your thinking hat and READ THE ARTICLE.

August 28, 2003

Chaos? What Chaos?

"I keep reading stories about it's a country in chaos. This is simply not true," Iraqi supremo Paul Bremer today told the Washington Post. "It is not a country in chaos, and Baghdad is not a city in chaos."

Got that? Thugs with AK-47s roam the streets, the UN and international aid agencies are pulling out because the inadequate military force cannot or will not guarantee their safety, but it's not chaos. Water supplies, electricity and oil pipelines are being bombed on a daily basis but, Hey! it's probably safer than South Central LA, right?

Bremer also dismissed suggestions that the UN would do a better job of controlling Iraq.

"What exactly is it that happens on the ground that makes things better if the U.N. is in charge of reconstruction?" Bremer said. "How does the situation on the ground get better?"

Well, let's see. I guess the Iraqi people would think that they they have successfully repelled an invasion and will soon be able to take control of their own country. So that should reduce the number of soldiers being killed, for a start. Anti-US Islamic fanatics would stop pouring in across the borders. And presumably the UN would ensure their are enough peace-keepers in the country to do the job they are supposed to do, whereas Bush knows that sending in more troops now will be political suicide.

August 27, 2003

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Howard Dean's race to the fore of the Democrat nominees for the 2004 election is generating some impressive statistics. His fast-track rush to widespread popularity no doubts reflects widespread angst in the US about George W. Bush's extreme politics and the disastrous position in which he is placing mainstream American families. Dean's online campaign also reflects the un-tapped potential of Internet "buzz".

Fund-raising for Dean is soon expected to top $10 million, which would make him only the second Democratic candidate to hit that mark in the year before an election (Clinton being the first). Interestingly, Dean is also considering the option of fore-going public funding for his campaign.

The funding is conditional on an agreement to curb funding. Candidates normally receive up to $250 in federal funds to match every private contribution up to $250 they receive, with a cap of $2000 per contributor for multiple contributions. The only other Presidential candidate who has ever fore-gone this public funding is - guess who? - G. W. Bush, whose 1999 campaign against Al Gore shattered all records and raised far more money than has ever been raised before.

Dean supporters say the idea of abandoning such funding curbs could alienate some Democrat supporters, but it may also be the only way to raise enough money to compete with Bush. In a nation where half the citizens typically cannot be bothered to vote, you need air-time and sound-bites to compete with the endless chatter of sports, celebrities and commercial advertising.
Right back at you...

The double-speak is fascinating. It's almost as if Bush' speech-writers are taking the most powerful words used against him, giving them a twist and turning them into sound-bites for their own propaganda. At worst, it confuses the TV-watching voters of the USA (and when things become too complicated, they switch channels). At best, it gives these TV-watchers the impression that these words are somehow "Good" things. That George is taking care of business.

When he was accused of "revisionism" for manipulating the truth to cover up lies about the reasons for attacking Iraq, Bush labelled his critics "historical revisionists."

Now, when his administration's failure to think beyond military victory in Iraq has plummeted much of that country into anarchic chaos, he tells us that "No nation can be neutral in the struggle between civilization and chaos." As if the chaos surrounding the US servicemen in Baghdad has itself become the enemy. As if the terrorists are the ones to blame for the chaos, not him.

"Having fought under the American flag and seen it folded and given to families of your friends, you are committed, as am I, to protecting the dignity of the flag and the Constitution of the United States,'' Bush told a groups of US veterans, to loud cheers. Err,... sorry? Bush's policies are trampling on the US Constitution and destroying citizen's rights. Just ask Jose Padilla.

August 26, 2003

"Let us reject the blinders of isolationism, just as we refuse the crown of empire. Let us not dominate others with our power -- or betray them with our indifference. And let us have an American foreign policy that reflects American character. The modesty of true strength. The humility of real greatness."

- George W. Bush (election campaign, obviously)
The madness is acclerating. ..

The Bush administration has a new euphemism to play with - the "Modern Pit Facility" (MPF). Sounds harmless enough? The word "pit" is an insider term for the plutonium cores that are used in nuclear weapons. The new US$4 billion MPF factory will be able to produce between 250 and 900 "pits" per year. By comparison, China's entire nuclear arsenal now stands at around 500 "pits".

At the same time, the US military is developing hand-held nuclear devices for troops on the battlefield.

This is radical politics gone ballistic. It blows the Intenational Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty out of the water. It also destroys any moral argument the USA can use to argue against other nations developing nuclear weapons - what will the US do if another country develops nuclear weapons? Invade them before they can finish the project? Nuke them?

While the fire-power, costs and sheer political ruthlessness involved with the MPF are staggering, the problems with nuclear weapons remain un-solved. What will the USA do with the nuclear waste? More importantly, as the IRA said after a failed assasination attempt on Margaret Thatcher: "We only have to get lucky once. You have to be lucky every day." What happens when terrorists or a rogue nation get lucky?

Imagine September 11th with nuclear bombs instead of airplanes.

August 25, 2003

An excellent, very well written article from the International Herald Tribune, William Pfaff: The philosophers of chaos reap a whirlwind. Because it is so clear and succinct, I quote it in full:

"The intensification of violence in Iraq is the logical outcome of the Bush administration's choice in 2001 to treat terrorism as a military problem with a military solution - a catastrophic oversimplification.

Choosing to invade two Islamic states, Afghanistan and Iraq, neither of which was responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, inflated the crisis, in the eyes of millions of Muslims, into a clash between the United States and Islamic society.

The two wars did not destroy Al Qaeda. They won it new supporters. The United States is no more secure than it was before.

The wars opened killing fields in two countries that no one knows how to shut down, with American forces themselves increasingly the victims. This was not supposed to happen.

The killing was one way in September 2001: Al Qaeda killed Americans and others in New York and Washington. Later in 2001 and in 2002, the killing was overwhelmingly in the other direction. Taliban soldiers, Al Qaeda members and Afghan bystanders were the victims, in uncounted numbers.

This year began the same way, but now things have changed. Americans are no longer attacking Iraq from the unreachable sanctuaries provided by technological superiority and command of the air. They are on the ground, among 23 million Iraqis, the objects of elusive and unidentifiable attacks. This is what the U.S. Army has sought to avoid ever since the Vietnam War.

There is no victory in sight, not even a definition of victory. If Saddam Hussein were captured or killed, Washington would claim a victory, but that isn't a victory over terrorism. A functioning democracy in Iraq, with a reconstructed economy, would be a form of victory, but the chance that this will be achieved is remote, even if the country can be pacified.

This outcome was foreseen. It was dismissed in Washington because of the radicalism of the neoconservative project, taken up by President George W. Bush with seemingly little or no grasp of its sources, objectives or assumptions.

The neoconservatives believe that destruction produces creation. They believe that to smash and conquer is to be victorious. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel is an influence, although one would think they might have seen that a policy of "smash and conquer" has given him no victories in Lebanon or the Palestinian territories.

They believe that the United States has a real mission, to destroy the forces of unrighteousness. They also believe - and this is their great illusion - that such destruction will free the natural forces of freedom and democracy.
.
In this, they are influenced by the Trotskyist version of Marxist millenarianism that was the intellectual seedbed of the neoconservative movement. But their idea is also very American, as they are credulous followers of Woodrow Wilson, a sentimental utopian who really believed that he had been sent by God to lead mankind to a better world.
.
They resemble Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, who in 1997 expressed astonishment at the gangster capitalism that had emerged in the former Soviet Union, and which still exists. He said he had assumed that dismantling communism would "automatically establish a free-market entrepreneurial system."

Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and their neoconservative colleagues in Washington assumed that destroying Saddam's regime would automatically establish a liberal democracy in Iraq. But wrecking a society's structure produces wreckage, not utopian change. To believe otherwise leads one to conduct a foreign policy of global destabilization and disruption that creates political anarchy, human suffering and new foyers of violence and terrorism capable of overtaking Americans, as well as those people America intends to benefit.

How is Iraq to be put together again? Washington doesn't want the United Nations, and America's prevailing insecurity deters other governments and international institutions from supporting the reconstruction effort.

What is the exit strategy? There never was one. For the philosophers of chaos in Washington, who created this situation, there is an instinctual reaction to their failure: escalation, and the pursuit of elusive victory by mounting new attacks elsewhere.

For Washington politicians, there is another possibility: Find and kill Saddam, and simply leave Iraq - whose turbulent and ungrateful people, Bush might announce, had shown themselves unworthy of America's efforts.

Does this today seem unthinkable? If Iraq is still going badly in 2004, when the president is looking for re-election, it will be considered."
Can Bush be beaten?

Newsweek poll reports US voters are beginning to turn against Bush:

"A growing number of Americans do not want to see US President George W Bush re-elected next year and fear US troops will be drawn into a long costly occupation of Iraq..."
Who needs 4 more years of this?

It's still all about oil for Big Dubya. According to a new report in The Observer:

"After 11 September 2001, President Bush said he wanted to increase the oil in the reserve from 600 million barrels to 700 million barrels by the end of 2005... The US administration has been paying top dollars - of more than $30 a barrel - for 11 million barrels of oil... The administration has stuck to the plan, despite a slump in oil inventories at refineries to within 3.4 per cent of the 28-year-lows reached in February.

'In effect, the Department of Energy's [reserves] programme has transferred 10 million barrels from private sector inventories into the [reserves] over the past two-and-a-half months at significant cost to taxpayers,' said Democratic senator Carl Levin.

"The US has also been urging India to create a similar reserve in salt-lined caverns that can hold 45 days of emergency stocks

'They've continued filling the reserve - which is crazy, putting the oil under ground when its needed in refineries,' said Leo Drollas of the Centre for Global Energy Studies. "

What's Bush's game? He is paying top dollar - effectively maintaining high prices - to pump up US reserves by an extra 100 million barrels before he can be voted out. Taxpayers are footing the bill, of course, but who is making a big, fat profit out of all this? Guess who - Bush's oil baron buddies. As usual.

August 24, 2003

Not much new in the world. Oh, a few more dead soldiers in Iraq, that bomb that blew up the UN headquarters there. A few more dead Iraqis scattered around the place, no doubt. Apparenly Iraqi citizens can get US$500 if they are wounded by US soldiers and a whopping US$1500 if they are killed. It's a standard rate, apparently.

And another bomb in Israel that - this time, we are told again, definitely, absolutely, certainly - will "de-rail" the Peace Process, as if it was ever "on track". Again, US and Israeli leaders call on the Palestinian leadership, whoever that is, to halt the suicide attacks, as if they can, and again threaten reprisals if they do not. Which will enevitably lead to more anti-US and anti-Israel hatred, which will lead to more terrorism. Madness.

Mouths jabbering away at enquiries in Britain and Australia, inside sources claiming governments lied to us, government sources trying to turn the attack on their accusers.

The Milosevic trial continues in the Hague . How long will that trial take and how much money will be spent? Tribunal chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte has announced that the trial should be concluded by late 2004 or early 2005.

In Argentina, the once-famous "Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo", a group of women who lost their sons and husbands during Argentina's 1976-83 military dictatorship, have managed to overturn a long-standing law granting immunity to those who ran the "dirty war". Justice is slow, and blows this way and that in the political winds.

What sort of world are we creating? Well, Lego has just released a new series, "World City" that features surveillance trucks and vans.

August 19, 2003

The pressure is begining to tell.

The US-apppointed administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer, today complained that "Iraq finds itself poor because of the astonishing mismanagement of the Iraqi economy over the last four decades, and the great costs to the Iraqi people of the political sabotage which continues, the cost of which is $7 million a day to the Iraqi people."

There may be some truth in that, but it is not the whole truth. The Iraqi people are also poor because the US has badly mis-managed the post-war deployment, because the US launched an illegal invasion without UN support, because the US enforced a decade of crippling economic sanctions and because - even prior to that - the US and other Western countries supported countless wars in the Middle East in order to maintain million-dollar payments for their arms suppliers. To say less is an insult to the Iraqi people.
Although it has not been widely reported (why not?) Al Quaeda has apparently claimed responsibility for the recent power blackout of New York, Toronto and points between. If it is true, this would mark a significant shift in Al Quaeda's approach - targetting the government and the economy directly, rather than maintaining a primary focus on "terrorizing" the people.

If you look at the lessons of September 11th and the ongoing guerilla war in Iraq, there is good reason to believe that the claim could be true and Al Quaeda could be responsible for the blackout. It would closely fit their latest "modus operandi" - whether intended or not, the great success of 9/11 (from their perspective) was the long-term impact on the US and global economies. Al Quaeda supporters in Iraq are now targetting oil pipelines, water supplies and electricity cables.

And meanwhile, in the Unites States, things have changed from the days when people poured into the streets to "bring our boys back" from Vietnam. Perhaps Al Quaeda has realised that, in a world of Hollywood violence and 24 hour Cable TV, even the most shocking reports of terrorism in the US media will not be enough to shake the US public from their stupor.

Of course, Al Quaeda's claim of responsibility could well be total crap. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Al Quaeda could be almost wiped out at the moment, after their high-profile confrontations with the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq. Perhaps their latest claim is just total opportunism. But what if it isn't? If so, given the reportedly decrepit state of the eastern seaboard US electircity grid, they should be able to repeat the event in the near future.
Well, what do you know? Here I am living in Australia, taking a very active interest in international affairs, particularly our government's decision to go to war in Iraq, and I did not even know that an inquiry into our involvement in the Iraq war was already underway. I read several major news outlets every day, including the Sydney Morning Herald and the ABC News, yet until today I have seen nothing about this. But perhaps that is not surprising - the so-called enquiry appears to be nothing more than a government-sponsored waste of taxpayers' money. The head of the enquiry is a Liberal Party MP, David Jull, who says he is confident there will be no leaks from Australian intelligence agencies, who retain the right to decide what information they disclose.

August 17, 2003

Irony or Hypocrisy?

Tony Blair's headline-grabbing claim that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of an order to do so was based on hearsay information, the Guardian reports:

"In fact, the foundation for the government's claim was... a single anonymous uncorroborated source quoting another single anonymous uncorroborated source...

"The irony is that the government launched a furious attack on the BBC for broadcasting allegations that the (Iraq) dossier was "sexed up" based on a single, anonymous, uncorroborated source (Dr Kelly)."

August 16, 2003

Notes:

After 3 years in office, Bush has wasted $600,000,000.00 of US taxpayers money. That's six hundred billion dollars! There was a $260 billion federal surplus when Dubya took office. Associated Press expects the total bill for the Iraq War to be another $600 billion.

Liberia (in the news lately) is a country where many US-owned oil tankers are registered.
Power To The Oilmen

A new article at the invaluable Information Clearing House makes for interesting reading, analyzing a 1977 CIA memorandum that has just been de-classified:

"American oil won both World Wars for the Allies and made the US the world's richest and most powerful nation. Meanwhile, throughout most of this same period the USSR remained the world's second foremost oil-producing nation...

"The Reagan Administration abandoned the established policy of pursuing d├ętente with the Soviet Union and instead instituted a massive arms buildup... in the mid-1980s, Washington persuaded Saudi Arabia to flood the world market with cheap oil. Throughout the last decade of its existence, the USSR pumped and sold its oil at the maximum possible rate in order to earn foreign exchange income with which to keep up in the arms race and prosecute its war in Afghanistan... Two years after their oil production peaked, the economy of the USSR crumbled and its government collapsed."

The article then speculates on the coming global peak in oil production - expected around the year 2010 - and the "slow-motion global economic and industrial collapse" which will inevitably follow. It ponders potential differences in CIA and Bush administration policy on this matter.

"If policy makers and their intelligence analysts understand the phenomenon of peak oil, and perhaps even used it strategically during the 1980s to undermine the Soviet Union, and are aware of the upcoming global peak, they must be interested to direct geopolitical events accordingly. What thoughts may be occurring to them in this regard?...

"One cannot help but wonder if the long-coddled Saudi government is even now being set up for a fall."
More news on that U.S. Government Sting - now they are blaming the BBC!
Power To The People?

The problem with power lying in the hands of "we the people" is that people these days get their news and form their opinions through the media. So the media effectively control a proportion of that power.

Of course, if you have a fair and balanced media, that is not a great problem. But when you have media outlets like Fox News actively courting government favour and inflaming public passions for the benefit of their shareholders, there is a problem. And when politicians learn to design carefully orchestrated news stories and manipulate the media for political leverage, there is a problem. And when these politicians perfect the art to the point where they can actually lie on a regular basis, even in parliament, and not be held accountable, there is a problem. And when the media stations get caught up in these big lies to the point where they have to accept some of the blame, but Damage Control says it's too late to admit they got it wrong now, there is a problem.

And when most people only take a passing interest in news stories anyway, picking up a well-pitched line here and there before going out to vote, there is a problem. When these same people cannot be bothered trying to understand the substance of serious allegations against their leaders - to whom, thanks to prime-time media, they have formed a symbiotic emotional attachment - there is a problem.

Maybe we should just change our constitutions (US, Australia and Britain) to say that power now lies with Rupert Murdoch and the other multinational media corporate conglomerates. Maybe we should abolish bothersome public outlets like the BBC and the Australian ABC and SBS (does such an outlet even exist in the USA?). At least that would absolve the public of their share of the guilt.

August 14, 2003

Further news on the U.S. Government Sting Operation Criticized as Setup.
Surprise? While Iraqis riot after queueing for petrol, there has been a surprise rise in US crude oil stock levels .

"When a president is seen as besieged and entangled in controversy, he really can't get very much done. But when a president commands the central institutions of American politics and has few institutional checks, he can range more widely and hover above the fray."
Media Manipulation - This Week's Top "Terrorist" Story Was A Setup!

From the highly respected Janes Intelligence Digest:

"When the history of this week's 'breaking story' about the alleged smuggling of a Russian Igla surface-to-air missile into the USA is finally written, the subtitle should run as follows: 'State set-up; no relevance to terrorist threat'. JID sheds some light on a much hyped tale of stupidity, greed and political spin.

"Despite the plethora of over-excited media headlines earlier this week, the classic 'sting' operation, which was organised by the Russian secret service (FSB) and the USA's FBI to entrap an alleged arms dealer allegedly seeking to sell an Igla missile to what he apparently believed was a group of Islamic terrorists in the USA, revealed little beyond the intelligence services' insatiable desire for positive publicity."

August 13, 2003

After lying about the "Children Overboard" affair and then the Iraq War, Australian PM John Howard is now in trouble for lying once again. This time he mislead parliament by denying a secret meeting with a friend who has a virtual monopoly on the Australian ethanol market. It seems the PMs office also used Brazil-based diplomats to spy on his friend's major rivals and keep them out of the Australian market. Who will take the blame for this one, John?
It seems the government slapped excise on imported ethanol as the Brazilian shipment for Trafigura was on the water, making it $5 million more expensive.
Dubya's United States Of Whatever
From a University lecturer in film and literature at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania:

"Let me put it succinctly: I don't think serious education is possible in America. "

August 10, 2003

Where did we go from there? (Part I)

As the Cold War drew to a close and the USA emerged triumphant from years of military, financial and ideological sparring, the world reached a turning point. Most people, heads buried in the minutiae of their daily lives, did not see it. Politicians and media did not talk too much about it. But it was time for the United States to make a crucial decision - where do we go from here? With the Cold War over, do we make a genuine effort to spread our values and prosperity across the globe, or do we take advantage of our position as the last remaining Superpower to continue building our own economic wealth at the expense of others?

For the billionaire western captains of industry, of course, the answer was obvious. Indeed, there was no question about it: they saw the collapse of communism as a golden opportunity to expand into new markets. They began speaking excitedly about the "inevitable" benefits of globalisation: Coca-cola factories belching fumes across the Balkans and Chicken McNuggets for every kid in Kyrghistan.

For the military, there was also no question about it: the US needed to take advantage of this historic chance to establish itself as a supreme power which could not be seriously challenged again, for the long-term foresee-able future, on land or sea, air or even space.

For the US politicians, however, there was indeed a question to be answered. Unfortunately, it was the eternal question of modern-day politics: "What's in it for me?" Should I start calling for a new global renaissance and pressing for increases in international aid? Should I press for free anti-AIDS drugs for Africa or universal free healthcare and education across the USA? Or should I keep listening to the powerful lobbyists, holding the party line and repeating the usual mantras? Most chose the latter. In fact, nearly all chose the latter.

A few politicians, of course, were way ahead of the pack. They had been dreaming of this day for many years and had very clear ideas about what would happen next. They had been working in secretive discussion groups, tabling and revising papers which would form the blueprint for US global strategy in the 21st Century.

But what about "we the people" of the United States, who supposedly have the final vote on all these matters? How did they feel about this? After 500 years, did they still believe in the universal application of their much-vaunted "American values" like democracy, equality, truth and justice? Maybe they did, but in the lead-up to 9/11, their heads were firmly buried in their navels and most US citizens knew and cared very little about what was happening in the world beyond their borders. Prior to September 11th, 2001, the percentage of international news stories in the US media had dropped to historical lows.

Enter George W. Bush, stage right.

Bush seized the Presidency after a high-finance campaign that turns out - in retrospect - to have been full of lies. Clinton had been successfully holding the middle ground since he was first elected. Bush also sought to portray himself as a moderate. But once in power, his radical right-wing agenda became all too clear. He pulled the US out of the Kyoto treaty and slammed the door on US involvement in the World Criminal Court. He firmly backed the Israeli Likud's murderous campaign against Palestinians, enraging Arabs around the world, and began pressing for oil drilling in the Alaskan wilderness.

Americans didn't really care too much what their President was up to on the international stage. Hell, they lived in the world's greatest country. Their economy was faltering but it still wasn't too bad. MTV was still pumping out new tunes 24 hours a day. The sports pages were as engaging as ever. They trusted their President.

Then September 11th happened.

(to be continued...)

August 07, 2003

Nobody Cares

It looks like Bush, Blair and Howard will get away with it after all. Anyone who cares enough to investigate will conclude, inevitably, that these men lied about the need to go to war in Iraq (see my posts below for the last four months). They lied. Our governments lied to us.

Nobody cares. Bush and Howard are already off the hook. Nobody has resigned, nobody has been sacked, nobody has been impeached. Nobody cares. Blair is still facing an inquiry into the death of BBC informer Dr Kelly and the results are liable to raise more embarrassing questions for the British government, but in the meantime the (inevitably slow) inquiry itself is taking the heat off the real issues.


So welcome to the New World Order. Welcome to capitalism unconstrained by truth or justice. Even though their constitution and all their legal and civil institutions are based on the will and power of "we the people", even though their country has become the most powerful empire on earth, most Americans would rather watch sports than politics. Half of them cannot even be bothered with voting for the person who will hold the most powerful office in the history of the universe. Brits are still more likely to trust the BBC than their government, but Australians do not care that their ABC is being forced to cut news shows while being unfairly accused of anti-American bias by the Minister for Communications.

Nobody cares.

So what does that make me, wasting my time with this Blog? An idiot.

For anyone who DOES still care, the last hope is that Blair will be forced to resign, which could possibly put pressure on Bush and Howard to also accept responsibility. If that happened, the media circus COULD be just enough to inspire some public outrage. Of course, that would depend a lot on political deals with Rupert Murdoch et al. Elections for Bush and Howard are due next year. Who knows? Murdoch might sell more papers by double-crossing his mates and calling for their scalps.

But it's not likely.

August 05, 2003

George Bush opposes gay marriages and is finally forced to admit it openly. Within 24 hours, Australian PM John Howard reveals that he also opposes gay marriages. The world's greatest sycophant has made a living out of riding the coat-tails of the US and British governments' policies.
Americans today are content to be ignorant about the abuses committed by their elected leaders. They are content to be ignorant about what is really going on Iraq and in over one hundred other countries where American troops are putting their lives on the line to protect the elite's Brave New World. They are content to be taxed to the point of financial ruin. They are content to have their public schools deteriorate into elaborate (and dangerous) baby- sitting services. They are content to listen to the propaganda that emanates from both CNN and Rush Limbaugh. (www.chuckbaldwinlive.com)

August 02, 2003

Can Iraq Ever Be Pro-USA?

Along with the myth of ready-to-launch WMDs, a more subtle myth was propogated - between the lines - by the Bush administration in the leadup to its invasion of Iraq. With anti-war demontrators focussed on stopping the violence, there was little attention given to the implicit but widespread assumption that Iraqis would welcome their saviours with open arms and joyous celebration.

The photo of US troops toppling Saddam's statue had been repeatedly broadcast on televisions around the world. But eyewitnesses have reported that the Iraqis involved were a hand-picked crowd of registered "opposition" members (probably ex-Unocal workers) and that US tanks around the square kept locals at a distance until the media stunt was finished. If you are questioning that version of events, how about this - the flag that a US soldier tried to drape over the statue came straight from the World Trade Centre in New York! If that is not a stage-managed media event, what is?

The fact is that Arabs around the world have learned to despise Americans, the prime supporters of repressive Israeli policies - for half a century or more (of course, the Jewish-Arab problem itself is centuries old). With Saddam gone, that hatred remains. What the Iraqis want now is what the American politicians always talk about but seldom deliver - real freedom.

In Iraq today, Iraqi children welcome US soldiers as they drive into a new town. They run alongside the Humvees and tanks, holding out their hands or trying to sell small items. When the US soldiers continue on their way, the kids pelt them with rocks! Such is the nature of the US-Iraq relationship.

Westerners need to understand that Iraqis are a proud people with a magnificent cultural history. From their point of view, 500 years of US "civilisation" pales by comparison. Not so long ago, they enjoyed prosperity and high standards of education. And, as Bush-buddie Wolfowitz pointed out, "the whole country is swimming on a sea of oil". The oil belongs to the Iraqis and they know it is the key to their future.

Of course, people around the world prefer to dismiss "boring politics". Many people prefer to focus on just getting along with their lives as best they can. So it must have been for many weary citizens in Iraq. Life under Saddam must have been hard, but the US-led sanctions made it a lot harder still, and the government-run media no doubt drummed this home day after day: "Don't blame Saddam, blame the Americans!"

Couple that with repeated images of anti-Palestinian atrocities committed by Israel, which would have been prime-time media fodder in all Arab states. Add further stories about the inevitable US veto of any UN criticism in the following weeks. Such was the average Iraqi's government-media-driven image of the US for many years. You start to get an idea of the basic mentality of Iraqis on the streets of Baghdad and beyond.

So can it be true that the only people still opposing the US soldiers are really just the "remnants of Saddam's Ba'athist party"? Or is the growing US death rate more likely linked to the deaths of ten or twenty thousand Iraqis during the invasion, and the ongoing deaths of innocent Iraqi bystanders day after day after day? Other well-armed Iraqis spent years as part of an underground resistance to an oppresive regime - the them the Americans are just a new enemy on the doorstep. Consider this tragic story of an Iraqi who was accused of assisting the US soldiers: his father and brother were forced to shoot him dead, otherwise the rest of the family would have been killed as well.

The US forces are losing a soldier a day or more. It's time to go home and let the Iraqis sort out their mess.

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