September 30, 2003

Will all future elections be stolen?

Bush stole the last election largely as a result of problems with the new "chad" voting systems in his brother Jeb's Florida electorate. For the 2004 election, these systems and others are being replaced with electronic voting systems using encryption technology. Anyone who works in IT will be horrified at the implications for abuse of such a system.

Firstly, the wrong guy could win the election because of a software error. Even the best software has bugs - just ask Bill Gates, whose Windows systems are riddled with security flaws. But that's not the worst of it...

With the whole voting process handed over to private companies in G.W.Bush & Co's corporate state, there are two critically important questions: who is making the software and who is testing the software? These people effectively control the US electoral process.

Turns out the people who are making the software are mostly Republicans, many with very close links to G.W.Bush.

Turns out the testing is secret. Certification officials refuse to say what tests they do.

Are you horrified by the implications of all this? Or do you just feel powerless and disenfranchised? Knowledge is power - read about it at BuzzFlash now.

September 29, 2003

TIME for a change...

Time magazine's latest cover story is a well overdue mainstream media front-page exposition of the Bush administration lies and ineptitude which have made the whole Iraqi fiasco such a woeful saga. A few months ago, this sort of story was only being peddled in this sort of detail on Internet "conspiracy theory" websites (like this one *smile*).

Hopefully this is just a sign of increased media readiness to tell it like it is. Dare we believe that - as US electioneering heats up - the mainstream media will go into a feeding frenzy as the Bush neo-con web of deceit unravels? Bush and his neo-cons should be impeached then tried for war crimes in the Hague, where US citizens would be able to appreciate the true (European) democratic values which have held the world back from the brink of madness in the last year.

The latest Bush scandal has already been served up on a plate by the Washington Post and is now ready for general public consumption. The UK Independent picks up the story:

"The Justice Department is investigating whether Bush administration officials broke the law by revealing the identity of an undercover CIA operative whose husband disparaged claims by the White House that Iraq was seeking to develop nuclear weapons... Ms Plame, a weapons expert, is the wife of the former US ambassador Joe Wilson. It is alleged that her identity was revealed in retaliation for comments he made about Iraq's alleged scheme to buy uranium from Niger to develop nuclear weapons."

Wilson has suggested publicly that he believes Bush's senior adviser, Karl C. Rove, broke his wife's cover. He says "naming her this way would have compromised every operation, every relationship, every network with which she had been associated in her entire career. This is the stuff of Kim Philby and Aldrich Ames.... the desire to implicate my wife in this was intended to intimidate others from coming forward. The idea that someone would do this is an anathema to me and should be an anathema to a president who came to office promising to restore honour to the White House.

Wilson told a public forum in suburban Seattle that it is of keen interest to him "to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."

Naming an undercover operative is a federal offence which carries penalties of $50,000 (£30,000) and up to 10 years jail.

Meanwhile, what about that big power cut across the whole of Italy yesterday? Suspiscious? Coming in the wake of similar massive power cuts in the US and Britain, there was a familiarity to the immediate goverment response - "this has nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism." How do they know that when the incident has just occured and they haven't established a reason? As usual, it took them quite a few more hours, and a lot of erroneous finger-pointing, before they could agree on a logical cause for the outage. You can't help thinking that if these outages were due to sabotage, the governments would be very relectant to admit it. Particularly if the sabotage was part of on-going negotiations...

Does that sound like more nutty consipracy theory?

September 28, 2003

President Wesley Clark? I don't think so...

Of course, it would be a big improvement on the current chimp and his entourage. But Democratic contender Wesley Clark is NOT looking like the best man to lead the Democrats in '04, for a number of reasons:

1. Clark the Opportunist.

In 2001, Clark declared: "I'm very glad we've got the great team in office, men like Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice... people I know very well - our president George W. Bush. We need them there."

2. Clark the Ignorant.

Clark said: "Do you ever ask why it is that these people in these other countries can't solve their own problems without the United States sending its troops over there? And do you ever ask why it is the Europeans, the people that make the Mercedes and the BMW's that got so much money can't put some of that money in their own defense programs and they need us to do their defense for them?"

"And I'll tell you what I've learned from Europe is that are a lot of people out in the world who really, really love and admire the United States. Don't you ever believe it when you hear foreign leaders making nasty comments about us. That's them playing to their domestic politics as they misread it. Because when you talk to the people out there, they love us."

3. Clark the instigator of WWIII?

In Yugoslavia, when Clark was the SUPREME COMMANDER of NATO, the "accidental" bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was followed by a moment of heightened tension as Russian troops arrived en masse to secure Pristina airport. Although the Russians were supposed to be allies, Clark wanted to rush in a team of Apache helicopters to keep the airport out of Russian hands. The move would have created a very volatile armed stand-off between Russian and US troops. Clark's plans were only stopped by British commander Peter Jackson, who shouted "I am not going to start World War Three for you!"

What's the worst nightmare for Bush haters? Not that the idiot is re-elected. There's worse. Imagine the Democrats win but their nominee turns out to be JUST AS BAD!?!

September 27, 2003

Dude, where's my country?

September 26, 2003

Here's a thought. The US and the UN are suddenly presenting a united front as they press Iran to abandon its move to develop a nuclear bomb. International inspectors have already found two sites with traces of weapons-grade uranium. Now, this is going to be mighty confusing for the US television-watching public, especially with pre-election debates hotting up...

"Bush lied. He told us there were nukes in Iraq and there was nothing."
"But didn't he say they found those things? I just saw him on TV last night..."
"That's Iran. I'm talking about Iraq!"
"Iran, Iraq, what's the difference? Aren't they both out there in the desert somewhere? Where them terrorists are?"

As Bush prepare to meet Russian PM Vladimir Putin, the Boston Globe points out that America no longer has the moral authority to lecture the Russians on democracy, laissez faire economics, international treaties or even basic human rights. "This is unfortunate not only for the Russians, but for those of us in the USA who fear that we are becoming more like what they, rather than what we, used to be."

P.S. Check out alternet today for a good look at all the Bush lies.
Did the Iraq Sanctions Work?

With a new CIA report virtually confirming that WMDs have not been - and probably never will be - found in Iraq, it is worth re-examining not just the justifications used for the Iraq War, but also the justifications and political pressures that imposed a decade of crippling sanctions before the invasion. The sanctions were imposed by the United Nations, largely at the behest of the United States, in the aftermath of Gulf War I. As one might expect from a well-entrenched dictator, Saddam made a great show of pretending that the sanctions were not hurting him, cracking down on domestic dissenters while simultaneously taunting the United Nations Security Council. Within a short time, many were saying that the sanctions were not working.

Years later, as the world decried a humanitarian crisis of starving children and neglected hospitals, Bush and his "intelligence" people were claiming that the sanctions had not worked because Saddam was actually increasing his arsenal and developing even more dangerous weapons, not to mention forging links with terrorists. These claims seemed to be supported by aerial photos from satellites and spy drones. We now know that Sadddam was bluffing big time - he had the old enemy, Iran, waiting across the border, the US ready to topple him and even elements of his own people would have leapt at the first signs of weakness. So he set up strange constructions in the desert, moved trucks with mysterious canvas covers from one side of the country to the other and generally kept his enemies guessing.

So the question that is worth asking now is this: did the sanctions actually work? In contrast with what Bush and his "intelligence" folks told us before and during the war, it now seems that Saddam really was significantly weakened by the sanctions and even by the subsequent UN weapons inspections. His soldiers were demoralised, he lacked the money or the opportunities to purchase new weapons and he was forced to abandon - or at least shelve indefinitely - his WMD programs. So in the military sense at least, the sanctions did work. Unfortunately, they also had the consequence of inflicting poverty on the vast majority of innnocent Iraqis.

Was it worth it, then? As far as disarming a dangerous regime, the sanctions worked better than a military invasion might have done at the time. As far as minimising civilian casualties, the sanctions created harships which steadily worsened over the years and ultimately were comparable with a full-scale military attack. The Food For Oil program was a worthwhile initiative but it did not seriously alleviate the Iraqi people's suffering. In this sense, then, the sanctions failed. But if the Food For Oil program could have functioned more effectively, and if Western "intelligence" could have been a little less incompetent and/or politically unbalanced, the results could well have been very different indeed. If Saddam's enemies - his neighbours, his people and his own military in particular - had known how weakened he really was, there is little chance that he would still have been in power when George W. Bush came looking for his oil reserves.

What does it matter? Next time the UN debates the removal of a brutal dictator, sanctions will again be a major option. The UN does not have an effective military arm and the US is only prepared to use force in situations where it sees an economic benefit. If the sanctions process can be improved to the point where it can guarantee results, sooner or later, the world will have a more effective non-military tool to help relieve oppression around the planet. While they ultimately failed - or were usurped by military invasion - the Iraq sanctions should be remembered for the lessons they can teach us.

September 25, 2003

It's not often critics like me get to gloat at Bush's expense, so it's worth enjoying some of the colourful prose appearing in the international press today. The UK Guardian, in particular, lets rip in its leader, saying Bush took the opportunity merely "to burnish his self-image as the square-jawed, undaunted Captain Marvel of the fight against evil." By contract, the Guardian says, Kofi Annan showed himself to be "a real leader, not a pretend one, an international statesman, not a comic strip character reading from a script".

While the Bush speech itself was bit of a fizzer, events immediately following the speech make for interesting reading. Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnaputro has accused the War On Terror of creating more problems than it has solved. More importantly, as The Times reports, "shares on Wall Street fell sharply again last night after Opec, the oil producing cartel, spooked the market with an unexpected 3.5 per cent cut in oil production."

This is exactly the opposite of what the Bush neo-cons wanted when they invaded Iraq. The USA is a gasoline junkie and US global economic power relies on a steady supply of cheap oil. Privately, administration officials have known for over 50 years that one day the gas will run out and their global dominance will end. That is why Bush invaded Iraq and why he will not relinquish power to the UN or anybody else.

As the US becomes increasingly isolated on the international stage, Australia is left looking very foolish. Fortunately for our government, perhaps, we are fast becoming even more un-noticed and unimportant than ever. Well, we've hardly been showing any moral clarity and inspiring leadership, have we? Foreign Minister Alexander Downer responded to Bush's UN speech by repeating the phantom threat of WMDs as justification for the war: "The conviction that states must uphold international norms, particularly in relation to weapons of mass destruction, led Australia to join the coalition to disarm Iraq." How out-dated does that sound? Downer is our version of the Cheney Gimp, but unfortunately no-one is keeping Downer locked in the basement cupboard.

In other news, a group of elite Israeli pilots have publicly refused to carry out further airstikes in Palestinian territories. Their attacks have been heavily criticized for killing many more innocent civilians than other Israeli methods of slaughter.

September 24, 2003

Bush Bombs at the UN

There's not much to say about Bush's speech to the UN that is not very well said in this article from AlterNet. Bush had a wonderful chance to adopt a new position but of course he didn't take it. No surprises there. In fact, I was expecting him to take an even more aggressive approach and set up an emotionally-charged US versus UN drama for US public consumption. But perhaps that would have been too much of a political gamble.

Meanwhile, the NY Times gives a good overview of the current situation in Iraq. Perhaps it is a little optimistic, but perhaps relentless pessimism is a bit unhealthy, even when dealing with rogues like Bush!

Speaking of optimism, new polls show that all the leading Democrat contenders are now rating as highly, or nearly as high as Bush. Just as the US public starts to turn on Bush and his gang of neo-con nincompoops, another old friend is also turning on him. Ahmed Chalibi, the hand-picked puppet leader of Iraq's illegitimate governing council, is trying to persuade Congress to save billions of dollars by handing control of Iraq to him. That's the problem when you're working with snakes. As soon as you take your foot off their head, they turn around and bite you.

As "Riverbend" reports in her Baghdad Burning blog today, Chalabi's point is painfully true - Iraqis can and should be doing a lot - if not all - of the reconstruction work. They should at least be handing out the contracts to people other than Haliburton, KGR and Co.

Chalabi is playing a dangerous game, jockeying for increased power while trying to keep on the right side of the US. Widely unknown and/or unpopular in Iraq, Chalabi knows he needs to keep US soldiers in the country or his fellow Iraqis will blow his head off!

September 22, 2003

Sit down, boys. It's time to carve up the turkey!

Iraq today became the new pin-up girl of rampant global capitalists. The Bush-appointed Ruler Of Iraq, Paul Bremer, signed into law (ha!) sweeping reforms that will allow foreigners to take complete control of key Iraqi enterprises. According to Australia's ABC, the reforms will allow unlimited foreign investment in all areas except oil and other natural resources. There will be no screening of investors and they will be able to immediately transfer any profits abroad. The plan was unveiled in Dubai at a meeting of the International Monetary Fund. The reforms will also allow foreign banks to buy Iraqi financial institutions.

There's no need to justify any of this - it's called Privatisation and it has been providing billions of dollars for shareholders and CEO's around the world since long before Thatcher came to power. But wait, there's more! From January, the top tax rate in Iraq will be an incredible 15% - come in spinner! And there will be a 5 percent "reconstruction surcharge" on all imported goods, except humanitarian goods.

Great times! But back in Washington, Dubya and his hoodlums are not in the best position to enjoy the fruits of their labour. The growing prospect of losing the next election seems to be forcing them into a major, yet highly reluctant, re-think. The neo-con liars are realising that their pants really ARE on fire, and Bush's unseen boss, Karl Rove, is sending them to the basement to cool off for a few months.

Rove has also rewarded Murdoch's Fox News network ("and the award for slavish subservience goes to...") by offering them an exclusive 30-minute interview with El Busho himself, plus a 20-minute on-camera tour. Bush is gearing up for his big speech to the UN, hoping for something that will make the worm turn. Even though those dang furrinners are still being snooty, Bush and Rove hope the US public remains as ignorant as ever. Focus on the voters, hombre!

Responding to comments by Senator Edward Kennedy, who recently suggested that world leaders are being "bribed" to support the Iraq quagmire, Bush belied his limited intelligence with a moment of subliminal rhetoric:

"Senator Kennedy, who I respect, and with whom I have worked, should not have said we were trying to bribe foreign nations. I don't think we're serving our nation well by allowing the discourse to become so uncivil that people, say, use words that they shouldn't be using."

Cough! Cough! Splutter!

But what the hell. The day is short. While we control the world, we might as well rape and plunder it. Business as usual on Capitol Hill, boys:

1. Emails and internal government documents obtained by The Observer show that White House officials have undermined their own government scientists' research into climate change. In an attempt to play down the impact of global warming, officials have sought to edit or remove research warning that the problem is serious. Remember, if anyone asks, this has NOTHING to do with our beloved President's links to the oil industry.

2. Those pesky Yurpeeans want to reverse the burden of proof in the US-dominated chemical industry. They want manufacturers to provide evidence of the hazards of the products they sell, rather than selling them and then waiting for governments (prompted by sick consumers) to outlaw dangerous ones after they have already done harm. Bush is mounting an intensive campaign to force European countries to drop these safety tests, which are designed to identify cancer-causing and "gender-bender" substances and are expected to save thousands of lives each year. Internal US government documents, seen by the Independent on Sunday, reveal that Bush administration officials including Colin Powell have threatened Europe with trade sanctions if they go ahead with the tests.

I really don't know what to make of this...

On a day when The West Wing won its third Emmy award, I hear there is a new US drama series, K Street, about a Washington lobbying firm. The show stars George Clooney and real-life political lobbyists James Carville (who gained fame guiding Bill Clinton to the presidency) and Mary Matalin (who was - until recently - an assistant to President George W. Bush). Guest stars are queuing up and even Howard Dean recently made a cameo appearance.

There is something good about getting Americans involved and aware about behind-the-scenes political processes, but there is also something quite distorted about turning real-life politics into fictional drama... Is Clooney planning a move into politics? Well, he has gotta be smarter than Schwarzenegger.

September 21, 2003

Dumb Animals

Once again I feel ashamed to be Australian. Or, more correctly, I am ashamed of my right-wing Liberal government's actions. After the US predictably vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel's threats to remove or kill Yassar Arafat, a similar motion was passed at the UN General Assembly by a resounding margin, 133 to 4. The four countries which voted against were the US and Israel (of course), with token support from the Marshall Islands and Micronesia. But another 15 countries, including Australia, abstained.

I'm not the only person pissed off their government. The California election debacle is once again raising the spectre of lawyers stealing elections from the people at the behest of Big Brother. As the NY Times reports, "the same germs that have made California the Fabulous Invalid of national politics ... are pulsing through the bloodstream of American democracy more broadly."

"There is a national dissatisfaction," says Curtis B. Gans, the director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate in Washington. "The electorate is very deeply and partisanly polarized, and there is a dissatisfaction with this type of politics, which yields very little but inaction on a whole series of relevant issues."

Speaking of inaction, it will be very interesting to see whether the Europeans can agree to bail out Iraq's bloodied invaders, Bush and Blair. The only danger for Chirac and Schroeder is that they will be blamed again if no deal can be reached. Aside from that, they have nothing to lose and these is no reason why they should negotiate anything but an ideal UN agreement. As the Guardian reports, "success depends on Mr Bush and his advisers overcoming their state of denial, admitting the US needs help and agreeing to work along the lines proposed by France. Common sense insists America's discredited leaders open their eyes. Pride and prejudice suggest they may not."

Meanwhile, at the Baghdad Zoo, US soldiers have shot dead a tiger. The soldiers had passed through the outer cage and were hand-feeding the tiger through the inner bars. When it mauled a soldier's arm, a colleague shot the beast dead. Stupid animal. It should have known there is no such thing as a free lunch.

September 19, 2003

Good news for Chechens

Putin claims the war is over. In fact, it has been over for months!

"There is no war there at all," Mr Putin said way back in February. With an election looming, Putin is now in a hurry to install a puppet, give him a degree of autonomy and surround him with Russian soldiers. Then he can say he has dealt with the seperatists, err... I mean, terrrrrrrrrrrrrsts! Sounds familiar to anyone?

September 18, 2003

The 25 Most Under-Reported News Stories of the Year

As you read through this list, compiled for Project Censored by 200 students and faculty from Sonoma State University, ask yourself WHY these stories were not more widely reported:

1. The Neoconservative Plan for Global Dominance
2. Homeland Security Threatens Civil Liberties
3. US Illegally Removes Pages from Iraq UN Report
4. Rumsfeld's Plan to Provoke Terrorists
5. The Effort to Make Unions Disappear
6. Closing Access to Information Technology
7. Treaty Busting By the United States
8. US/British Forces Continue Use of Depleted Uranium Weapons Despite Massive Evidence of Negative Health Effects
9. In Afghanistan: Poverty, Women's Rights and Civil Disruption Worse than Ever
10. Africa Faces New Threat of New Colonialism
11: U.S. Implicated in Taliban Massacre
12: Bush Administration Behind Failed Military Coup in Venezuela
13: Corporate Personhood Challenged
14: Unwanted Refugees a Global Problem
15: U.S. Military's War on the Earth
16: Plan Puebla-Panama and the FTAA
17: Clear Channel Monopoly Draws Criticism
18: Charter Forest Proposal Threatens Access to Public Lands
19: U.S. Dollar vs. the Euro: Another Reason for the Invasion of Iraq
20: Pentagon Increases Private Military Contracts
21: Third World Austerity Policies: Coming Soon to a City Near You
22: Welfare Reform Up For Reauthorization, but Still No Safety Net
23: Argentina Crisis Sparks Cooperative Growth
24: Aid to Israel Fuels Repressive Occupation in Palestine
25: Convicted Corporations Receive Perks Instead of Punishment

For more information, see
The cat is now out of the bag.

Under increasing pressure from all sides, including his fellow Republicans, George Bush has finally come clean and admitted the truth - Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11.

"We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in Sept. 11."

It is fascinating to watch the story of Bush's admission hitting Number One on news sites around the world. I clicked on the Google link to the Guardian story, then clicked "related stories" and got just one page of links. I clicked again a few minutes later and there were more than three pages. Surely this is going to be big news, particularly as seven in ten US citizens still believe Saddam and 9/11 were linked?

Bush's statement comes hot on the heels of similar retractions from Cheney (who was forced to retract statements made over the weekend - see below), Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.

Rumsfeld on Tuesday, asked about links between Saddam and 9/11:

"I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that.''

Cheney on Sunday, talking to Meet The Press host Tim Russsert:

"'Reconstituted nuclear weapons.' You misspoke?"
"Yeah, I did misspeak .... We never had any evidence that he had acquired a nuclear weapon."

Wolfowitz on Firday, challenged about a TV claim that "a great many of bin Laden's key lieutenants are now trying to organize in cooperation with old loyalists from the Saddam regime to attack in Iraq":

"Zarqawi is actually the guy I was referring to – should have been more precise... It's not a great many – it's one of bin Laden's key associates – probably better referred to that way than a key lieutenant."

So what is the new administration take going to be? Condoleeza Rice was already preparing the ground yesterday, saying the administration never actually SAID THAT.

What are you going to call these habitual White House lies? Political Spin? Betrayal of trust? Tampering? Censoring? A disregard for truth? Overstatement for emphasis?

Cheney, who is now using the Orwellian word "mis-speak", might have been wheeled out of the cupboard just to take the fall on this one.

September 17, 2003

Seeing Through the Smoke...

Australian PM John Howard today argued that the Iraq war has diminished the chance of terrorist attacks in Australia, without ever actually explaining how this could be true. Howard brushed off criticism that he ignored important pre-war intelligence (see the JIC story below), trotting out the usual excuse that he is never actually informed of anything he doesn't want to know. Then Howard offered up this somewhat bizzarre quote:

"It was the judgment of the head of ASIO that the war in Iraq would not influence what al-Qaeda did. He said it might influence the timing of terrorist attacks but our consistent advice was that a war in Iraq would not of itself alter the nature of the intent of al-Qaeda. Given that al-Qaeda was the main terrorist network, I found that advice quite compelling."

Sorry? The advice was that war in Iraq would NOT impact al-Quaeda. Surely this could only be a "compelling" argument against the war. Is this the logical conclusion of Doublethink gone ballistic, or is the old bastard just getting senile?

For a more coherent view of things, William Pfaff has written an excellent article, The Limits of US Force, wherein he argues that military power is not a logical solution to terrorism, in fact it is totally counter-productive. Pfaff says the US has inadvertently revealed the weaknesses of its military might, including an inability to deal with chaotic guerilla situations, high operational costs and the swelling political consequences of over-deployment and excess casualties.

At the same time, Pfaff argues, US "soft power" intelligence and diplomacy has diminished and allies have been estranged. This is the kind of story that makes you remember that it is the world - not you - that is going crazy.

Meanwhile, talking about crazy people, the fourteen hundred scientists, military and intelligence "experts" who have been scouring Iraq looking for WMDs for the past four months are ready to go home now. The group's leader, David Kay, was due to release a delayed report this week. Now it seems the report may never be published (well, why would you publish it if it was embarrassing, right?).

September 16, 2003

Dirty Deeds Down Under

Like his counterpart in the UK, Australian PM John Howard is coming under fire for ignoring warnings that invading Iraq would actually increase the risk of terrorism. The warnings came from the British Government's Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) more than a month before the United States-led invasion.

As the Sydney Morning Herald reports:

"John Howard has a nervous mannerism, only seen at moments of great stress. His shoulder twitches in a strange, even Strangelove way. It was out of control yesterday for the first time since the last election."

Like Bush, Howard has been riding the crest of war-time popularity and has seemed politically unassailable. But suddenly, manipulation of pre-war intelligence is not the only problem on Howard's plate.

Firstly, he stands accused of burying an embarrassing report into his government's involvement in ethanol imports. Australia's #1 ethanol importer is a close friend of Howard and the government has been pushing to increase the ethanol content in fuel, despite studies showing it is harmful to many cars. Howard lied about a secret meeting with his "mate" and denies using Australian consulate staff in Brazil to spy on a major competitor. Now he is refusing to release a (presumably) damning report on the whole affair.

Secondly, as the same SMH story explains, the Australian Electoral Commision and the Federal Police seem to have "turned a blind eye" to government misdemeanors.

September 15, 2003

Bring Out The Gimp

Dick Cheney doesn't get out much these days. Remember Dick? He's the Generalissimo's VP, but he hasn't done a TV interview for about 6 months. Now that a bit of mud is beginning to stick, Bush told the boys to unlock the closet door, wheel him out and give him a cue card to read. The results were predictable...

Virtually parroting comments made simultaneously by Colin Powell on the other side of the planet, Cheney declared "major success, major progress" in Iraq, claimed most of the country is "stable and quiet" and - like Powell - asserted that Americans are viewed as "liberators" there.

Now, listen up guys. We're emphasizing the word "liberators" so that people stop calling us "occupiers". Of course, the Iraq's were "liberated" a few months ago - the ones who survived, anyway - so just avoid any questions about why we are still there and when we are planning to leave...

Despite Powell's attempt to engage former allies at the UN, Cheney argued that there is no reason to "think that the (administration's Iraq) strategy is flawed or needs to be changed."

That's when things started to get comical. Obviously, it must have been pretty dark in that closet...

Cheney said the administration did not underestimate the financial cost, the resistance or the troop strength needed to pacify Iraq.

Mis-quoting pre-war testimony from General Eric K. Shinseki to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Cheney said "I still remain convinced that the judgment that we will need, quote, 'several hundred thousand for several years,' is not valid." (In fact, Shinseki never mentioned "several years" in his testimony.)

Cheney argued that the administration did not understate the cost of the war in Iraq because they never put a figure on it. Oh? What about figures from then-White House Budget Director Mitchell E. Daniels, who said war would cost $50 billion to $60 billion and that a figure in the range of $100 billion to $200 billion was too high?

Cheney got a little flustered: "Well, that might have been, but I don't know what his basis was for making that judgment."

It was time for the old smoke and mirrors routine, and Cheney knew it. He claimed that one of the 9/11 hijackers was an Iraqi who returned to Iraq and MAY have been given safe haven by Saddam. He also renewed speculation that Mohamed Atta, who led the Sept. 11 attacks, MAY have met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Baghdad 5 months before the attacks (never mind that an FBI investigation already concluded that Atta was in Florida and Czech officers who first made the allegations have since withdrawn it).

"We've never been able to develop any more of that yet, either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it," Cheney said. "We just don't know."

Go, Dick, go! That will make the boss happy!

Cheney said that prewar allegations about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction would be vindicated. He spectacularly claimed that Iraq was "the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."

Wham! Thwakk! Ka-pow!

"The Iraqi government or the Iraqi intelligence service had a relationship with al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s." (Bin Laden probably had 8 meetings with Iraqi officers in the early 1990's, long before September 11, 2001.)

What about Saudi Arabia, Dick? Cheney sucked his teeth back in.

"I don't want to speculate," he said, adding that Sept. 11 is "over with now, it's done, it's history and we can put it behind us."

What about the big issue, the WMDs?

Cheney said he believes chemical weapons are "buried inside [Hussein's] civilian infrastructure." He praised the "very good man" man now leading the search for WMDs in Iraq, David Kay, "a former leader of UNSCOM." (Kay worked with the IAEA under UNSCOM but was never its leader).

Cheney talked about "500 tons of uranium" as proof that Hussein had "reconstituted" his nuclear weapons program. (The material was low-grade uranium, the waste product of a nuclear reactor unusable for weapons production without sophisticated processing that Iraq could not do).

Then Cheney brought out some old and smelly "intelligence", resurrecting the highly discredited claim (by Bush himself) that a couple of trucks in the desert represented "mobile biological facilities that can be used to produce anthrax or smallpox or whatever else you wanted to use during the course of developing a capacity for an attack."

Wait, there's more! Cheney also claimed that a new British investigation "revalidated the British claim that Saddam was, in fact, trying to acquire uranium in Africa -- what was in the State of the Union speech." In fact, the British Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee only concluded that such a claim was "reasonable" - not validated or proven. The unsubstantiated claim probably originated from a single Nigerian embassory worker in Italy who saw a chance to make some money from information-hungry CIA agents.

OK, Dick. Back in the cupboard... Boys! Come and clean up this mess, will you?
Globalisation = Hegemony?

Those who campaign against Globalisation sometimes fail to acknowledge that there is really no alternative. The world is getting small and more inter-reliant, which in itself is not a bad thing. So many wars have been fought under the banners of nationalism and religion, when the underlying motivation for war was primarily financial. By locking world economies together under a fair and agreed set of rules, everybody should benefit. And wars should become less frequent. Surely a good thing.

From a developing country's point of view, the most important issues today have got to be agriculture and labour - what else do they have to bring to the table at competitive rates? But the rich countries preach "open markets" while protecting their farmers with subsidies. They talk of "emerging opportunities" while aggressively protecting jobs. It's hypocritical and it threatens to block any real progress.

How can a farmer in France produce carrots cheaper than a farmer in Brazil? How can a factory in Wisconsin build plastic toys cheaper than a factory in Indonesia? If globalisation is going to be fair, these issues must be urgently addressed. The rich countries have to be prepared to take a few short-term political hits for the long-term benefit of all. Just don't expect the Bush administration to take any political hits right now...

Developed nations today walked away from crucial trade talks in Cancun, claiming they were being threatened and even blackmailed into unwanted agreements. Although 70 developing countries opposed a new proposal for internationalization of investment, organizers still included it in the meeting's Draft Proposal. Delegates apparently have just 90 minutes to accept or reject the Draft Proposal.

It seems the US brought their new imperialist military stance to the negotiating table. As one British delegate said:

"It's difficult to know what the Americans want. They're staying in their hotel. They're behaving like the Soviet Union in the Eighties..."

What do they want? Hmnnn, could it be.... GLOBAL DOMINATION??? Bwwaa-ha-haa... Bwaaaa-HA-HA-HA-ha-haa... *Dr Evil laugh*

September 13, 2003

The latest news on Powell's efforts to involve international allies (or former allies) in the Iraq reconstruction process is not good. As the Washington Post reports, Powell is blaming "donor fatigue" (is this Ethiopia?) and claims the USA wants to work with the U.N. "but we can't simply cede all responsibility and authority to the U.N."

Why not? Why did you ask for help?

Bush is his usual dumb (or is it just ill-informed?) self:

"We're rolling back the terrorist threat, not on the fringes of its influence, but at the heart of its power," he said. "It's time for others to join us."

Let's hope the world remembers that Iraq was not the "heart" of terrorism till the US turned it into a terrorists playground.

And speaking of the terrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrsts:

"Therapy will not work with these kind of people... Treaties make no sense. There's only one thing: Get them before they get us, to stay on the offensive."

Sure, lets all stay on the offensive. Nuke Arafat today. That will help.
How Embarrassment!

It looks like there will be little international money and even less troops heading for Iraq, even if Colin Powell can swing a new resolution at the UN.

Mr Powell and the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, told senators this week that the bill for postwar reconstruction in Iraq was expected to run $US55 billion ($83 billion) more than the $US87 billion the President, George Bush, has asked Congress to provide.

During a briefing to senators behind closed doors, Mr Powell and Mr Rumsfeld were asked how thought they could fill the gap.

"They looked at each other and there was sort of an embarrassing pause," a Senate official said. "Powell said maybe we'll get a few hundred million from [the European Union] and maybe a little help from Japan."

September 12, 2003

Curriculum Vitae: George W. Bush Jnr.

George W. Bush
The White House, USA

Past Work Experience
I ran for US Congress and lost.
I produced a Hollywood slasher B movie. ("The Hitcher")
I bought an oil company, but couldn't find any oil in Texas; the company went bankrupt shortly after I sold all my stock.
I bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in a sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money.
With my father's help and name, I was elected Governor of Texas.

Accomplishments as Governor:
I changed pollution laws in favor of the power and oil companies and made Texas the most polluted state in the Union.
I replaced Los Angeles with Houston as the most smog-ridden city in America.
I cut taxes and bankrupted Texas government to the tune of billions in borrowed money.
I set the record for the most executions by any Governor in American history.
I became US President after losing the popular vote by over 500,000 votes with the help of major Enron money and my father's appointments to the Supreme Court.

Accomplishments as President:
I attacked and overtook two countries.
I spent the US surplus and effectively bankrupted the US Treasury.
I shattered the record for the largest annual deficit in US history.
I set an economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12 month period.
I set the all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the US stock market.
My record for environmental issues is the least of my concerns.
I am the first president in US history to enter office with a criminal record.
I set the all-time record for most days on vacation in any one year period.
After taking-off the entire month of August, I then presided over the worst security failure in US history.
I am supporting development of a "Tactical Bunker Buster" nuke, a WMD.
I am getting our troops killed, under the lie of Saddam's procurement of Yellow Cake Nuke WMD components, then blaming the lie on our British friends.
I set the record for most campaign fundraising trips by a US president.
In my first year in office over 2-million Americans lost their jobs and that trend continues every month.
I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12 month period.
I appointed more convicted criminals to administration than any president in US history.
I set the record for least amount of press conferences than any president since the advent of television.
I signed more laws and executive orders effectively amending or ignoring the Constitution than any president in history.
I presided over the biggest energy crisis in US history and refused to intervene when corruption involving the oil industry was revealed.
I presided over the highest gasoline prices in US history and refused to use national reserves as past presidents have done.
I have cut health care benefits for war veterans and support a cut in duty benefits for active duty troops and their families -- in war time.
I have set the all time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously protest me in public venues (15 million people), shattering the record for protest against any person in the history of mankind.
I've dissolved more international treaties than any president in US history.
I've made my presidency the most secretive and unaccountable of any in US history.
I'm proud that the members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in US history.
My "poorest millionaire," Condoleeza Rice, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her.
I am the first president in US history to have almost all 50 states of the Union simultaneously suffer massive financial crisis.
I presided over the biggest corporate stock market fraud of any market in any country in history.
I am the first president in US history to order a preemptive attack and the military occupation of a sovereign nation, and I did so against the will of the United Nations and the world community.
I created the largest government department bureaucracy in the history of the United States.
I set the all-time record for biggest annual budget spending increases, more than any president in history.
I am the first president in US history to have the United Nations remove the US from the Human Rights Commission.
I am the first president in US history to have the United Nations remove the US from the Elections Monitoring Board.
I removed more checks and balances, and have the least amount of congressional oversight of any presidential administration in US history.
I rendered the entire United Nations viewpoints irrelevant.
I withdrew the US from the World Court of Law.
I refused to allow inspectors access to US "prisoners of war" (detainees) and thereby have refused to abide by the Geneva Convention.
I am the first president in history to refuse United Nations election inspectors (during the 2002 US election).
I am the all-time US and world record holder for receiving the most corporate campaign donations.
My largest lifetime campaign contributor, and one of my best friends, (Kenneth Lay, former CEO of Enron Corporation) presided over the largest corporate bankruptcy fraud in US history. My political party used the Enron private jets and corporate attorneys to assure my success with the US Supreme Court during my election decision.
I have spent more money on polls and focus groups than any president in US history.
I garnered the most sympathy for the US after the World Trade Center attacks and less than a year later made the US the most resented country in the world, possibly the largest failure of diplomacy in World history.
I am actively working on a policy of "disengagement" creating the most hostile of Israel Palestine relations in at least 30 years.
I am first president in history to have a majority of Europeans (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and security.
I am the first US president in history to have the people of South Korea more threatened by the US than by their immediate neighbor, North Korea.
I changed the US policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts.
I set an all-time record for the number of administration appointees who violated US law by not selling their huge personal investments in corporations bidding for US contracts.
I failed to fulfill my pledge to capture Osama Bin Laden, dead or alive.
I failed to capture the anthrax killer who tried to murder the leaders of our country at the US Capitol Building. Even after 18 months I have no leads and no credible suspects.
In the past 18 months following the World Trade Center attack I have successfully prevented any public investigation into the biggest security failure in the history of the United States.
I removed more freedoms and civil liberties for Americans than any president in US history.
In a little over two years, I created the most divided country in decades, possibly the most divided since the Civil War.
I entered my office with the strongest economy in US history and have turned every single economic category downward -- all in less than two years.

Records and References:
I have at least one conviction for drunk driving in Maine. My Texas driving record has been erased and is not available.
I was AWOL from the National Guard.
I refuse to take a drug test or even answer any questions about drug use.
All records of my tenure as Governor of Texas are now in my father's library, sealed, and unavailable for public view.
All records of SEC investigations into insider trading or bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.
All records or minutes from meetings that I, or my Vice-president, attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review.

Please consider my record when voting in 2004.
What's gone wrong since 9/11/01?


Bush has deceived the US public:

"President Bush can't ask us for $166 billion for Iraq while he runs record $500 billion budget deficits and doubles the national debt - all in order to give $300 billion a year in tax cuts over the next decade mostly to the best-off people in America."

Bush has destroyed long-standing international alliances, and not only with Europe. Latin America, like the rest of the world, reached out to the US in its time of grief. Now they understand that the so-called "War On Terror" is the world's greatest con job.

"Once upon a time, countries might have chosen to turn the war on terrorism into an opportunity to accelerate needed and crucial reforms, and to cooperate for the benefit of their own democracies. Then Bush started down
the path of going it alone..."

In Iraq today, innocent civilians are being "disappeared" just as happened in Pinochet's Chile.

"The American soldiers smashed through 68-year-old Ali Ahmed’s door at 2:30 in the morning..."

In the USA itself, citizen's rights are disappearing:

At home and abroad, hundreds, maybe thousands, of men are being held in camps and prisons by the military, by the CIA and by the justice department, incommunicado, without legal representation or hope of release, there to endure prolonged and terrifying interrogation. Alone, this is enough for the US government to place itself in contravention of the Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, which it is obligated to uphold. But that is not all. There is evidence that the US authorities have encouraged the use of torture and may indeed have participated in the torture of those men they believe to hold information on past and future terrorist attacks.

Bush has trashed myriad noble international treaties, including the Nuclear Non-Priliferation treaty, Kyoto, the International Criminal Court and even the Geneva convention. The US has been holding countless individuals in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba without charges, some for nearly two years now, yet it refuses to afford these prisoners the status of "POWs":

"It is a total travesty of justice and I think that's the view of most people around the world."

All this is being done at the behest of Big Business. Bush is a compliant stooge. Rampant capitalism rules the world, using terrorism as a justification for endless war and endless abuses of individual liberty. Orwell's vision has come to pass, albeit 20 years late.

September 11, 2003

Don't Deal With Evil

In an effort to fund his failed, ill-conceived invasion of Iraq, Bush says he is now willing to "negotiate" with the UN. But his language is far from conciliatory. In fact, it remains downright hostile. Dismissing anti-war objections as "past bickering", Bush warns:

"We expect and hope that our friends contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq. It is in your interest that you do so."

It's a widespread axiom that you should not negotiate with blackmailers, terrorists and other agents of evil. The UN should publicly announce a plan for Iraq - US troops out within a month and UN assuming full control, with significant funds paid by the US - and they should stick to it. Let Bush stew in his own bloodied political pot.

Of course, it is worth asking how UN forces would be recieved in Iraq, particularly in the wake of the bombing of the UN's Baghdad office. The UN supervised years of harsh sanctions that, according to the United Nations Children's Fund, were directly responsible for the deaths of half a million Iraqi children and an explosion in the mortality rate. Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, two senior UN officials, resigned in disgust - for them, the UN betrayed the people of Iraq. On the other hand, it was long-term US pressure which maintained the sanctions for so many years, just as US vetoes have blunted UN efforts to oppose Israeli aggression for so many years.

Back in the USUK, Two-faced Tony Blair is preparing to sacrifice his Defence Minister in an effort to save his own political bacon. While Blair praises Geoff Hoon's "magnificent victory" in Iraq, his office leaks a memo which accuses Hoon of misleading the Hutton inquiry.

September 10, 2003

Bush Is Our Greatest Danger has been publishing some great stories that are registering highly on the Google News site.

The latest is a very clear, angry denouncement of the Bush administration's manipulation of post-9/11 anger:

"It is now clear that the greatest obstacle in the very real war against global terrorism is the president himself. "
Rumsfeld Responds to Questions on WMDs

The following quotes are from a Washington Post story:

"I have so many things to do at the Department of Defense..."

Regarding a 30-minute meeting with David Kay, the CIA representative who is coordinating the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:

"I made a conscious decision that I didn't need to stay current every 15 minutes on the issue. I literally did not ask. . . . I'm assuming he'll tell me if he'd gotten something we should know..."

"I . . . have to compartment things, and that is, in my view, something the intelligence community is working on, and working on effectively..."

"I have a feeling they will, in fact, continue to work the problem..."

"There were several hundreds of suspected WMD sites..."

"Nothing actionable in the way of intelligence, but suspected..."

At Rumsfeld's final news conference in Baghdad, exasperated reporters asked Rumsfeld twice about the weapons search. "Can you please give us at least one example of what is the result today?"

"I'm inclined not to," the secretary replied. "I'll tell you what the situation is: The situation is that it's an important question."

He said Kay's teams "are visiting various sites periodically..."

"And rather than dribbling out pieces of information in a way that, oh, causes confusion, debate or discussion, it strikes me that it's useful to let the leadership of that team . . . proceed in an orderly way and at the right moment bring forward the information they have to the people of the world. And they will do so."

September 08, 2003

Lies, lies, lies

Bush's speech to his peasantry, the first since he landed on that aircraft carrier flight deck, was predictably loaded with old lies and nothing new of substance.

He repeated his assertion that Saddam "possessed and used weapons of mass destruction."

He did not say when. The only WMDs that Saddam is known to have used, and proven to have used, are those supplied to him in the 1980s, by Western governments including the former Reagan administration.

"Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness."

Nobody would call Israel a "weak" country, yet they suffer more terrorist attacks than any other country. Would America even be a target if they had not sponsored Israeli aggression for the past 50 years?

Bush even had the gall to blame Iraqis for the disaster their country is becoming, telling them that "now they must rise to the responsibilities of a free people."

The Iraqis are not free. They cannot go out into the street without being stopped at roadblocks. Even their houses are routinely searched without warning.

Bush said that other countries suddenly have a "responsibility" to send troops and money to Iraq, and to support a new UN resolution that will legitimise the US invasion. These are the same countries that were ridiculed for opposing the war, whose companies were frozen out of post-war contract bids.

But the biggest lie is the one nobody questions any more, the one that has been repeated blindly on all side. It is contained in three words:

"War On Terrorism"

The phrase itself is and always has been ridiculous. You cannot wage a war on terrorism. No amount of money, no quantity of weapons, no Star Wars defence systems, no columns of tanks, nothing can stop a man with a briefcase, a woman with a bag on a bus. Especially if there are thousands willing to follow in their footsteps.

It's time for the US to suck in its chest and admit that terrorism does not spring from some unholy well-spring of pure evil. It is the last resort of people who feel they have been wronged and believe they have no other forum for protest. Nelson Mandela's ANC were terrorists. The IRA, whose members and affiliates now share power in the Irish Government, were terrorists. What about US citizens who rose up against English rule in the Civil War? Terrorists?

To quote retired US Air Force Lt Col. Dr. Robert M. Bowman, a former director of "Star Wars" programs and veteran of 101 combat missions over Vietnam:

"In country after country, our government has thwarted democracy, stifled freedom, and trampled human rights. That's why we are hated around the world. And that's why we are the target of terrorists... We are not hated because we practice democracy, freedom, and human rights. We are hated because our government denies these things to people in third world countries whose resources are coveted by our multinational corporations. And that hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism - and in the future, nuclear terrorism."

But perhaps the USA is no longer capable of helping itself. Perhaps it is already a nation in irreversible decline. A poll last month showed that 7 in 10 Americans still believe that Saddam was connected with September 11th. Money spent on the war is being taken from US schools, who are being forced to cut teachers and classes. The presidency itself is now being bought for cash* and still nobody seems to care.

It is well and truly time for the world to make a stand against US aggression. If the US will not sign up to Kyoto and the International Criminal Court, if they will not respect the Geneva Convention, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty and the even United Nations itself, the rest of the world should act without them and even impose sanctions on the USA. Perhaps that would be enough to shock the people of the USA into taking a good, long look at what their nation has become.

* "Soft" money political donations have risen from $19 million in 1980 to $496 million in 2002.
Come In, Spinner...

Last night I heard that El Busho will be visiting Australia in October, following an APEC meeting in Bangkok. Oh, no! I thought. This means we will be sending in troops. For those who don't know, my homeland was one of the first to support the US invasion, despite over 80% of the public opposing the idea (and demonstrating loudly for weeks). There are currently only 800 (non-combat) Australians in Iraq. So far the PM, John Howard, has been resisting pressure to send more. He, too, has an election to face next year.

Australians this morning can read two seemingly disconnected stories of Bush's planned visit and his plans to ask for more troops. We can expect Howard to be pledging more troops very soon, whether we like it or not. So much for democracy.

Howard, like Bush, has become an expert at distorting truths and even telling huge, outrageous lies to the media, but somehow getting away with it. As an example of the genre, I particularly loved the following comment from supreme hypocrite and US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld:

"One of the things that took place in (Iraq) that I think contributed to the circumstances we are in today - the security circumstance - was that the war was never finished."

Funny, Bush didn't seem to agree when he landed on that flight deck many months ago and declared "Mission Complete."

Meanwhile, a few people are still pretending that the much-vaunted Road Map To Peace is "still alive". As Gandhi said:

"There is no road to peace. Peace is the road."

September 06, 2003

Mario Vargas Llosa in Baghdad:

"People cannot live castrated and subject to abjection, terror and servility, as the Iraqis have lived in the three decades under the Ba'ath dictatorship, without reacting on feeling completely and absolutely free, which is just how the Iraqis felt on April 9, with that explosion of anarchy, profligacy and savagery that has destroyed Baghdad and left an open, bleeding wound in the soul of all of its citizens."

If you found Riverbend's blog interesting, Vargas Llosa's description of everyday life and suffering in Baghdad are also very readable. You just wonder what the hell he is doing there!

September 05, 2003

Rall for Prez?

As today's editiorial in the Arab News rightly points out, it is a little premature to rejoice at the Bush administration's decision to go back to the UN for help in Iraq: "What is important is not America’s dignity but Iraq’s future... the diplomatic dance will not last long unless Bush is prepared to genuinely climb down."

The big question is not just what will happen now, but what SHOULD happen now? Should the UN demand full control of operations in Iraq, or should they accept a UN command? If the UN will not get involved, should the US double their troop strength in an attempt to guarantee Iraqis' security, or should they look for an exit strategy?

In an effort to keep pace with front-runner Howard Dean, other democratic presidential nominees have begun taking urgent stances on these issues. Just listen to this bit of blustering from Richard Gephardt:

"This president is a miserable failure. I some days just can't believe — it's incomprehensible to me — it's incomprehensible that we would wind up in this situation without a plan and without international cooperation to get this done."

As the NY Times points out, however, Gephardt is a former minority leader who helped Mr. Bush negotiate the resolution that authorized the invasion of Iraq in the first place.

But even Dean is not yet prepared to publicly call for an immediate withdrawal of US troops. Leave that to Ted Rall:

"More money, more men, more international involvement--those were good ideas back in March. Now it's too late to avoid the ostracizing of the United States or the Afghanistanization of Iraq. For God's sake, cut our losses--and Iraq's--and bring our troops home."

September 04, 2003

Will the Trickle Become A Flood...?

All it takes is a small volte-face (I choose the French term with a wry smile) and suddenly the Emperor has no clothes. Are the little media men suddenly remembering why they wanted to be journos in the first place? Or have I just been drinking too much coffee?

Most explosively today, a document leaked to the Washington Times shows that the Joint Chiefs Of Staffs (old-time buddies of Colin Powell) have blamed the current Iraqi crisis on "a flawed and rushed war-planning process." The briefing claims that "Insufficient U.S. government assets existed to accomplish the mission." It also shows that "President Bush approved the overall war strategy for Iraq in August 2002, eight months before the first bomb was dropped and six months before he asked the U.N. Security Council for a war mandate that he never received."

The document shows Powell's military buddies making a stand against the "civvies" who have been taking control since 9/11. But could it also be a sign of a wider media shift?

From the Boston Globe: "The Bush administration's hubristic foreign policy has been efficiently exposed as based on nothing more than hallucination... No one could have predicted a year ago that the fall from the Bush high horse of American Empire would come so hard and so quickly. "

From the International Herald Tribune: "The Bush administration's recent willingness to consider a greater United Nations role on the ground is the first sign that it is aware of how vastly mistaken its assertions about the occupation were..."

And from the Guardian: "Resolution is defeat for US hawks."

There is a smell of blood on the ground. Will the media hounds go after it, or will their corporate master rein them in as usual?
Humble Pie

The Powell-inspired decision to invoke UN help will be seen as a major turning point in US and world history. America tried to go it alone as the playground bully. Thankfully, it has failed.

When he first came to power, Bush Jnr. trashed the Kyoto Treaty, walked away from Clinton's commitment to the International Criminal Court (one of the most noble and potentially revolutionary institutions ever conceived) and instead began plotting ways of drilling in the Alaskan wilderness. Like Harrison Ford in Air Force One (I am sure the film inspired El Busho's neo-con advisers), he announced that the USA would go after the bad guys wherever they were... as long as there were lots of potential oil contracts in the region.

Bush alienated the USA from the rest of the world. With typical blind arrogance, he assumed that did not matter. For a while, perhaps, it did not. But now it does.

As the Boston Globe reports:

''The president is belatedly doing the right thing,'' said Brookings Institution analyst Susan Rice. ''It is perfectly predictable that we would need the help and participation of others. But the price we're going to have to pay has increased substantially over what it might have been six or eight months ago. And it's impossible to quantify.''

''This is pragmatism winning out over unilateralism,'' said Max Boot, national security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. ''All this name-calling and one-upmanship really pales in comparison to the larger goal, which is reviving Iraq. I think we have to do what it takes to get that done. My sense is that the president is leaning more toward that mind-set as well.''

Ha! Surely, my good sir, you jest? The bully has been humbled and lies spread-eagled on the playground bitumen in the hot midday sun. As others gather around to jeer him, he tells them to focus - like him - on the next election??? Hilarious.

True to form, the Washington Post has an entertaining description of how Colin Powell sensationally trumped Rumsfeld to get the go-ahead for a new UN resolution. But even Powell is warning overseas critics that this is not the time "to fight the old battles.'' Does that mean the hot chips in the Oval Office will again be called French Fries?

Fo an insight into the flood of relief that is greeting the US about-face, check out the latest stories at Information Clearing House.

By the way, the USA recently enjoyed a Labour Day long weekend. Why isn't anyone calling it the "Loyalty Day" long weekend. Don't the peasants read El Busho's proclamations?
The Business of War

Like many others, I have long believed that the Iraq war is and was all about oil. But now I realise that this oft-repeated mantra actually misses the point. Oil is only valuable because it fuels the US economy. The war and everything else George W. Bush has done since coming to power is actually all about MONEY. It's a subtle distinction, perhaps, but it makes it easier to understand the motivations driving the Bush neo-cons. It also provides a scarey insight into what might happen if Bush is given four more years to wreck havoc on the world.

The Bush administration has long been accused of excessively intimate connections with Big Business. Their close connections with companies like Enron, WorldCom, Halliburton and Bechel have come under close scrutiny from many critics. Others have accused Bush administrators of running the country like a business, US Inc, rather than providing meaningful government initiatives and social programs for US citizens.

(When you look at how rich these guys are, it doesn't seem to make much sense that their primary motivation is to make even more money. I mean, what's the point? Where will it end? But that kind of thinking explains why I am here scribbling an inconsequential blog while they are having power breakfasts on their yachts. I assume they do not have the time or inclination to pause and reflect on their primary motivations. Never mind. Perhaps on their death beds...)

As the surprisingly insightful Christian Science Monitor website reports, a large part of the bill for the war in Iraq will be going to private contractors. According to Peter Singer, an analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington and author of the new book about the growth of the privatized military, "Corporate Warriors," the last decade has seen a ten-fold increase in the US military's use of private contractors. There are now nearly 10,000 private military contractors working in Iraq, performing a wide range of tasks including training a new Iraqi military, protecting the Baghdad and Basra airports, and feeding and housing US troops. Thousands more are spread across the globe in places like Afghanistan and Columbia.

Riverbend, my new best friend in downtown Baghdad (smile), reports how her cousin's very experienced Iraqi engineering firm failed to win a bridge-building contract after estimating their costs at $300,000. The Iraqi's lost the bid to a US company that will be charging $50,000,000. Similarly, Ted Rall recently reported how the previously discredited and near-bankrupt WorldCom was given the contract to provide a new mobile phone network in Iraq. Companies like WorldCom regularly provide services like telephony and satellite communications to US soldiers in the field, often at extortionately high prices.

Who cares, right? The Government's paying for it... But what does that mean? We are told that US taxpayers will ultimately be footing the massive bills for the war. But will they really? Or will the Iraqi puppet government ultimately sign off on all these costs, plunging their once-rich people into even further debt? Naturally, the US will be happy to accept payment in crude oil shipments over the next few decades or more...

Now Bush is campaigning for re-election and brushing off criticism of his economic policies. "There are good times ahead," he tells the cheering crowds. While critics point to failed trillion-dollar tax cuts and a soaring deficit, Bush quotes cleverly-selected statistics which have been massively inflated by war-time costs. In other words, the US is profiteering from war. And if wars can make you money, you can bet there will be more of them soon.

It is the sort of thing that makes you sympathize with the colourful protesters who regularly try to blockade meetings of the G8, IMF and other global institutions. If Western-style democratic capitalism is supposed to be a model for the entire world in the 21st century, it had better start to be truly democratic and it had better produce a more meaningful objective than just money, money and more money for the mega-rich.
The Worm Turns?

After years of being ignored by the Bush neo-cons, People Politics is at last starting to have a voice in the Iraqi situation. With an election looming and more US soldiers dying nearly every day, Bush strategists have finally realised they need to do something - and quickly - if they want to rule the world for another 4 years.

"Hey, Rummy! Dig up Colin Powell. Let him talk to his UN peacenik buddies. Within 6 months we could be blaming it all on them!"

The idea is being received with healthy scepticism. As this Guardian article points out, Iraq is fast becoming the land that Bush and Blair warned about: a throbbing hub of terror. In the way that hippies used to head for San Francisco, jihadists are surging towards Baghdad.... The irony is that, at the time, Bush's claims about Al-Quaeda links and terrorist training grounds were not true. But they are now... With astonishing speed, the United States and Britain are making their nightmares come true.

Even Hollywood heart-throb Johnny Depp is criticising US aggression. Now that's gotta hurt at the polls. Even if Depp does live in France nowadays...

In Iraq, there are mounting attacks against those who are seen to support the US invaders. As a result, many - including, perhaps, the UN - feel obliged to distance themselves from the Bush administration. If the same thing starts happening at home, the Bush administration could become a "lame duck" even before voters go to the polls.

September 03, 2003

Baghdad Burning

The following is an excerpt from a fellow Blogger, a girl who is living in Baghdad:

"The looting and killing of today has changed from the looting and killing in April. In April, it was quite random. Criminals were working alone. Now they’re more organized than the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) and the troops combined. No one works alone anymore- they’ve created gangs and armed militias. They pull up to houses in minivans and SUVs, armed with machineguns and sometimes grenades. They barge into the house and demand money and gold. If they don’t find enough, they abduct a child or female and ask for ransom. Sometimes the whole family is killed- sometimes only the male members of the family are killed. "

Baghdad Burning is a heart-breaking account of daily life in Baghdad, written by a strong, intelligent and courageous woman. I strongly encourage everyone to read it regularly. My thoughts are with you and your family, "Riverbend".
Crazy Stuff

A pychologist assessing Bush's personality describes him as an "authoritatrian" and notes that the diagnoses of such personality types was made after assessments of the folks who created fascism. The Guardian article claims:

"Bush's deep hatred, as well as love, for both his parents explains how he became a reckless rebel with a death wish. He hated his father for putting his whole life in the shade and for emotionally blackmailing him. He hated his mother for physically and mentally badgering him to fulfil her wishes. But the hatred also explains his radical transformation into an authoritarian fundamentalist. By totally identifying with an extreme version of their strict, religion-fuelled beliefs, he jailed his rebellious self. From now on, his unconscious hatred for them was channelled into a fanatical moral crusade to rid the world of evil... "Id-control is the basis of Bush's presidency but Bush is a man of fierce anger." That anger now rules the world."

Lighter Stuff

On a lighter note, for some examples of the Genius of Capitalism, check out this Guardian article on some smaller companies that have been profiteering from the Iraqi crisis. Highlights include toilet paper featuring the face of Osama bin Laden or a pair of "French Kiss" lips. But my favourite is the Farting and Talking George Bush doll. To quote the site:

"Pull the commander-in-chief's finger and he'll shake, fart, say seven wacky phrases and a fart song in the off-beat tradition of our great leader."

Funny how Americans always feel obliged to refer to their President as a "great leader" even when they are making fun of him. I started reading a book about Bush called "Ambling Into History" but gave up after a short while - the author was evidently very reluctant to actually CRITICIZE Bush. He made allusions and aspersions, but he knew going further would damage sales.

I can understand that Americans do not want to denegrate the POSITION of President, whatever they think of Bush. But it smacks of criticism that the USA has become a religion, and the President and the Flag are as sacred to US citizens as Jesus and the Cross.

To quote Britney Spears: "Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that."

Australia has a much more laid-back attitude. I once attended a journalists dinner where former PM Bob (nobody called him Robert) Hawke mingled with the crowd after speeches were done. I picked up a plate of hors d'oevres and pretended to be a waiter, moving towards the PM's crowd.

"Here, Bob. Fancy a bite?" I asked. Hawke squinted at the plate.

"Nah. Thanks, mate."

A very Australian moment, I thought.

September 01, 2003

Bring 'em on...


Blog Archive