January 30, 2004

Prose With Punch

One of the good things - about the only good thing, unless it can inspire real change - about people getting angry about Bush's lies is that it sometimes inspires some very nice pieces of angry prose.

For example, the following sample is from an article by Maureen Dowd, which is being widely syndicated:

"We now have an amazing image of the president and the dictator, both divorced from reality over weapons, glaring at each other from opposite sides of bizarro, paranoid universes where fiction trumped fact.

"It would be like a wacky Peter Sellers satire if so many Iraqis and Americans hadn't died in Iraq.

"These two would-be world-class tough guys were willing to go to extraordinary lengths to show that they couldn't be pushed around. Their trusted underlings misled them with fanciful information on advanced Iraqi weapons programs that they credulously believed because it fit what they wanted to hear.

"Saddam was swept away writing his romance novels, while President Bush was swept away with the romance of rewriting the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war to finish off the thug who tried to kill his dad.

"The two men both had copies of "Crime and Punishment" — Condi Rice gave Mr. Bush the novel on his trip to Russia in 2002, and Saddam had Dostoyevsky down in the spider hole — but neither absorbed its lesson: that you can't put yourself above rules just because you think you're superior."
Children released from Guantanamo Bay. 30/01/2004. ABC News Online: "The United States Government has released three children who had been held at its military prison in Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, for more than a year. The Pentagon says the three boys, aged from 13 to 15, have been flown to their home country, which was not named."
Ted Rall takes a typically humourous look at the logic implications of Bush's expansionist go-get-the-bad-guys policies.
A Sad Day

Yesterday was one of the saddest days in politics that I can remember. The findings of the UK's Hutton report into the death of David Kelly, the reactions to it and the inevitable repercussions show just how far the governments of Britain, Australia and the USA have sunk.

Consider the rampant hypocrisy shown by Tony Blair. He demands that anyone who ever criticized his decision to go to war in Iraq must now apologize, yet he still refuses to apologize for leading his country to war on false pretences.

Australia's pathetic excuse for a Prime Minister, John Howard, is now demanding that all HIS critics should also apologize. Why?

The Hutton enquiry was set up to examine the suicide of David Kelly. While it clearly shows that Lord Hutton, a retired judge who gave the government the benefit of the doubt at every opportunity, was a firm believer in the government's justifications for war, it does not - and was not set up to - determine whether or not the reasons for invading Iraq were justified. As Hutton himself says, that matter "is not one which falls within my terms of reference".

Sadly, the BBC, almost certainly the best quality and most independent new organisation in the world, is now under renewed attack by government and corporate critics who take exception to being told the truth. It's the perfect excuse for Blair's government to further cut back funding. Rupert Murdoch must be rubbing his hands in delight.

And sadly, as the Liberal Democrats leader Charles Kennedy says, "We are still no closer to determining whether this country went to war on a false prospectus."

Or perhaps we are? On the same day that Blair was receiving his "unreserved apology" from the BBC, former US weapons inspector David Kay was telling US politicians "We were all wrong" about Saddam's WMDs. It's no wonder the Bush White House is staying strangely quiet about Blair's so-called vindication.

January 29, 2004

Time To Dump The Gimp?

"Am I the evil genius in the corner that nobody ever sees come out of his hole? It's a nice way to operate, actually."

The quote is from US Vice President Dick Cheney, when asked by a USA Today interviewer about his reputation as a Machiavellian "eminence gris".

Cheney, who was supposed to be a steadying and mature influence to counter-balance Bush's youthful inexperience, still insists there were links between Saddam and Al Quaeda. He still links Saddam and 9/11. He still thinks the two hydrogen trucks found in the Iraqi desert were WMDs, and that more will be found.

Alternet.org reporter Jim Lobe thinks that moderate Republicans might be quietly campaigning to dump Cheney before the November election.

It's a good argument. Recent polls show Cheney's favorability rating (20 percent and falling) is less than half that of Bush. It would make sense for a frightened White House to dump Rumsfeld and try to distance Bush from the neo-conservatives and the Halliburton scandals. But who woud take Cheney's place? Powell? Or - God forbid - Rumsfeld?

January 27, 2004

It's ironic that Bush & Co., who trashed international conventions and defied the UN to invade Iraq, are now justifying their invasion by saying that Saddam needed to be removed from power because he refused to comply with international law. In this case, it seems, they are talking about "international law" as set out by UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq, the very organisation they themselves ridicule and berate (until they need help, that is).

"We had questions that needed to be answered," says Colin Powell. "What we demanded of Iraq was that they account for all of this and they prove the negative of our hypothesis.. All they did was make statements without proving it to our satisfaction."

So. Just as the deadly WMDs have now become "program-related activities," the clear-cut, absolute and positive proof of WMDs that Powell presented to the UN has now become a "hypothesis". Funny, he wasn't calling it a "hypothesis" back then.

As anti-war protestors will remember, Saddam actually did comply with UN resolutions, albeit very begrudgingly and throwing up obstacles at every opportunity. He did allow UN weapons inspectors into his country - even into his Presidential Palaces - and they came up with nothing. The UN inspectors said they needed more time to confirm there were no WMDs anywhere in Iraq. The US and UK governments said that wasn't good enough because Saddam was secretly developing WMDs that could be used on an international scale "within 45 minutes". That was the justification for invasion.

Although WMD lead inspector David Kay has resigned claiming there are no WMDs in Iraq, White House spokesman Scott McClellan still believes the WMDs will be found:

"We believe it's important for the Iraq Survey Group to complete its work so we have as complete a picture as possible."

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is still arguing that Saddam's weapons arsenal was sufficient cause to overthrow his regime:

"Weapons of mass destruction, including evil chemistry and evil biology, are all matters of great concern, not only to the United States, but also to the world community."

(Well, if we can wage war on an abstract concept, I guess we can label chemistry and biology "evil".)

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is still claiming that Hussein harboured terrorists:

"Today the former dictator (of Iraq) sits in captivity; he can no longer harbour and support terrorists, and his long efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction are at an end."

Even British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insists the war was and will be justified:

"I believe the decision we made on March 18 to take military action was justified then in terms of enforcing international law and is still more justified now... A great deal more evidence will emerge."

It's very strange. Why can't these guys just admit that they might have been wrong? Do they know something we still don't know? Or do they think they can keep bluffing until the US elections in November? Will a mysterious cache of WMDs be discovered in late October, for example, only to be dismissed as a hoax in December?

(Don't laugh - Australian PM John Howard pulled off this trick with a boatload of refugees to win the last election).

Meanwhile, US attempts to maintain basic credibility - let alone the moral high ground - on the international stage are becoming farcical. In Russia, Colin Powell asserts that Russia has yet to achieve an "essential balance" between executive power and other parts of government. "Political power is not yet fully tethered to law," he says.

It's a pity. When he first joined the Bush Administration, Powell did seem like a nice guy.

January 25, 2004

USA Now Has A Major Credibility Problem

Although the US has detained hundreds of foreigners at "Gitmo" without trial or charge in clear breach of the Geneva Convention and other long-standing international laws, the Bushies are now demanding that Iran hand over Al Quaeda suspects rather than try them in Iran.

Sure, the chances of these guys being fairly tried in Tehran are minimal, but at least they would get charged and tried, which is more than can be said for the Gitmo detainees.

That's the problem with trashing international treaties, enraging former allies, pre-emptively invading sovereign nations on false pretences and generally just lying through your teeth on a daily basis: you do tend to lose your credibility.

For a list of quotable WMD quotes leading up to the elections:

A History Of Lies: WMD, Who Said What and When ?

January 23, 2004

An International Disgrace

Since January 11, 2002, the U.S. government has sent over seven hundred people picked up from around the world to Guantanamo. Currently some 660 are in detention, including an undisclosed number of children. As the detention camp begins its third year, the public still does not know who the detainees are, what they have allegedly done, and whether and when they will be charged with crimes or released. There have been no hearings to determine the legal status of detainees and no judicial review—in short, no legal process at all.

At Guantanamo there are three children, between the ages of thirteen and fifteen, who have been held for about a year. The military is also jailing an undisclosed number of children aged sixteen and seventeen who are held in the adult camp, rather than separately as required by international standards.

Whoever the detainees are—including those implicated in international terrorism—the United States is obligated to respect their fundamental rights under law.

From Human Rights Watch.
"Things" to Decide the Next President

A review of the Pentagon's Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment, (Serve), has concluded that the Internet-based system is inherently unsafe and liable to interference.

"The flaws are unsolvable because they are fundamental to the architecture of the Internet," says one of the 10 independent computer security experts involved in the review.

"Using a voting system based upon the internet poses a serious and unacceptable risk for election fraud.

"It is simply not secure enough for something as serious as the election of a government official."

In spite of the damning report, the Pentagon still plans to go ahead with the system, which is scheduled for use in South Carolina's primary elections in February.

"We knew from the start that security would be the utmost concern," said Defense Department spokesman Glenn Flood. "We've had things put in place that counteract the things they talked about."

Things? Things? What things?

Security has always been a major dilemma for Internet-based software, and every new "killer" application has been exposed as vulnerable sooner or later. Of course, the US military has always been a leading researcher into new technology - if they have something new and unbreakable, let's see it! But if they are going to be secretive about it, there are two major problems:

1. How can independent observers (i.e. US) know the result is fair, if we do not know how it was achieved?

2. What is to stop Pentagon insiders abusing the system, if they are the only ones who know how it works?

On the other hand, maybe they're bluffing. Maybe these "things" they are talking about are just routine security traps, like firewalls or SSL encryption techniques, whose vulnerability has already been exposed. Either way, it doesn't look good...

January 22, 2004

Bush Does Not Believe In Justice

Since declaring war on the abstract concept of "terror", Bush & Co. have
illegally detained hundreds of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. These prisoners
have typically been held without charge, without access to lawyers, consuls
or even family members.

Horrified by the thought that some of the detainees may actually be found innocent during an election year, Bush has set up a good old-fashioned lynch mob.

Australian terror suspect David Hicks, detained at Guantanamo Bay for over two years now, has been earmarked to be among the first detainees to face a military trial. Hicks was recently appointed a US military lawyer, Marine Corps Major Michael Mori, who has launched an unprecented attack on the trial process.

"The military commissions will not provide a full and fair trial," Maj Mori told reporters in Washington.

"The commission process has been created by those only with a vested interest in conviction."

Major Mori was asked if his criticism was levelled at his commander-in-chief, President Bush, who ultimately signed off on the military commission.

"Well if I'm criticising the rules, obviously the people who signed the two military commission orders and the nine instructions, they created those, but I'm not attacking anyone personally here."

Mori said he was concerned other nations might in the future use similar legal processes against American citizens, something he said the US government would find unacceptable.

The question remains: "Why Do They Hate US?"

At a time when the Bushies are once again courting the UN - still without acknowledging their errors in Iraq - some Iraqis are demanding that US insiders who supported Saddam until 1990 should also face trial.

"Saddam should not be the only one who is put on trial. The Americans backed him when he was killing Iraqis so they should be prosecuted," said Ali Mahdi, a builder.

This will no doubt be perplexing to those who believed, like Donald Rumsfeld, that Iraqis would welcome their "liberators" with open arms. But the question asked widely in the days after 9/11 - "Why do they hate us?" - remains unaddressed. Indeed, the USA is more hated now than ever.

Consider this. According to Sonoma State University's Project Censored, a 27-year-old program dedicated to shining light on the shortcomings of major news media, the Bush administration has broken or otherwise compromised about 10 international treaties. These include:

- the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,
- the Chemical Weapons Commission,
- the Biological Weapons Convention,
- the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,
- the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty,
- the Treaty Banning Antipersonnel Mines,
- the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and
- the U.N. Convention on Climate Change.

Iraqis do not want to be subjugated by an aggressive, culturally insensative, oil-greedy military force with no real concern for the lives and welfare of human beings beyond its own borders. Neither does the rest of the world.

January 21, 2004

The Real State Of The Union

232: Number of American combat deaths in Iraq between May 2003 and January 2004

501: Number of American servicemen to die in Iraq from the beginning of the war - so far

0: Number of American combat deaths in Germany after the Nazi surrender to the Allies in May 1945

0: Number of coffins of dead soldiers returning home from Iraq that the Bush administration has allowed to be photographed

0: Number of funerals or memorials that President Bush has attended for soldiers killed in Iraq

100: Number of fund-raisers attended by Bush or Vice-President Dick Cheney in 2003

13: Number of meetings between Bush and Tony Blair since he became President

10 million: Estimated number of people worldwide who took to the streets in opposition to the invasion of Iraq, setting an all-time record for simultaneous protest

2: Number of nations that Bush has attacked and taken over since coming into the White House

9.2: Average number of American soldiers wounded in Iraq each day since the invasion in March last year

1.6: Average number of American soldiers killed in Iraq per day since hostilities began

16,000: Approximate number of Iraqis killed since the start of war

10,000: Approximate number of Iraqi cililians killed since the beginning of the conflict

$100 billion: Estimated cost of the war in Iraq to American citizens by the end of 2003

$13 billion: Amount other countries have committed towards rebuilding Iraq (much of it in loans) as of 24 October

36%: Increase in the number of desertions from the US army since 1999

92%: Percentage of Iraq's urban areas that had access to drinkable water a year ago

60%: Percentage of Iraq's urban areas that have access to drinkable water today

32%: Percentage of the bombs dropped on Iraq this year that were not precision-guided

1983: The year in which Donald Rumsfeld gave Saddam Hussein a pair of golden spurs

45%: Percentage of Americans who believed in early March 2003 that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 11 September attacks on the US

$127 billion: Amount of US budget surplus in the year that Bush became President in 2001

$374 billion: Amount of US budget deficit in the fiscal year for 2003

1st: This year's deficit is on course to be the biggest in United States history

$1.58 billion: Average amount by which the US national debt increases each day

$23,920: Amount of each US citizen's share of the national debt as of 19 January 2004

1st: The record for the most bankruptcies filed in a single year (1.57 million) was set in 2002

10: Number of solo press conferences that Bush has held since beginning his term. His father had managed 61 at this point in his administration, and Bill Clinton 33

1st: Rank of the US worldwide in terms of greenhouse gas emissions per capita

$113 million: Total sum raised by the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, setting a record in American electoral history

$130 million: Amount raised for Bush's re-election campaign so far

$200m: Amount that the Bush-Cheney campaign is expected to raise in 2004

$40m: Amount that Howard Dean, the top fund-raiser among the nine Democratic presidential hopefuls, amassed in 2003

28: Number of days holiday that Bush took last August, the second longest holiday of any president in US history (Recordholder: Richard Nixon)

13: Number of vacation days the average American worker receives each year

3: Number of children convicted of capital offences executed in the US in 2002. America is only country openly to acknowledge executing children

1st: As Governor of Texas, George Bush executed more prisoners (152) than any governor in modern US history

2.4 million: Number of Americans who have lost their jobs during the three years of the Bush administration

221,000: Number of jobs per month created since Bush's tax cuts took effect. He promised the measure would add 306,000

1,000: Number of new jobs created in the entire country in December. Analysts had expected a gain of 130,000

1st: This administration is on its way to becoming the first since 1929 (Herbert Hoover) to preside over an overall loss of jobs during its complete term in office

9 million: Number of US workers unemployed in September 2003

80%: Percentage of the Iraqi workforce now unemployed

55%: Percentage of the Iraqi workforce unemployed before the war

43.6 million: Number of Americans without health insurance in 2002

130: Number of countries (out of total of 191 recognised by the United Nations) with an American military presence

40%: Percentage of the world's military spending for which the US is responsible

$10.9 million: Average wealth of the members of Bush's original 16-person cabinet

88%: Percentage of American citizens who will save less than $100 on their 2006 federal taxes as a result of 2003 cut in capital gains and dividends taxes

$42,000: Average savings members of Bush's cabinet are expected to enjoy this year as a result in the cuts in capital gains and dividends taxes

$42,228: Median household income in the US in 2001

$116,000: Amount Vice-President Cheney is expected to save each year in taxes

44%: Percentage of Americans who believe the President's economic growth plan will mostly benefit the wealthy

700: Number of people from around the world the US has incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

1st: George W Bush became the first American president to ignore the Geneva Conventions by refusing to allow inspectors access to US-held prisoners of war

+6%: Percentage change since 2001 in the number of US families in poverty

1951: Last year in which a quarterly rise in US military spending was greater than the one the previous spring

54%: Percentage of US citizens who believe Bush was legitimately elected to his post

1st: First president to execute a federal prisoner in the past 40 years. Executions are typically ordered by separate states and not at federal level

9: Number of members of Bush's defence policy board who also sit on the corporate board of, or advise, at least one defence contractor

35: Number of countries to which US has suspended military assistance after they failed to sign agreements giving Americans immunity from prosecution before the International Criminal Court

$300 million: Amount cut from the federal programme that provides subsidies to poor families so they can heat their homes

$1 billion: Amount of new US military aid promised Israel in April 2003 to offset the "burdens" of the US war on Iraq

58 million: Number of acres of public lands Bush has opened to road building, logging and drilling

200: Number of public-health and environmental laws Bush has attempted to downgrade or weaken

29,000: Number of American troops - which is close to the total of a whole army division - to have either been killed, wounded, injured or become so ill as to require evacuation from Iraq, according to the Pentagon

90%: Percentage of American citizens who said they approved of the way George Bush was handling his job as president when asked on 26 September, 2001

53%: Percentage of American citizens who approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president when asked on 16 January, 2004

(courtesy The Independent)

January 19, 2004

Sizing Up The US Electorate

George W. Bush's approval rating has dipped to 50 per cent, and the US electorate is evenly split heading into the 2004 presidential election year, a new poll has found.

Given a choice between Bush and an unnamed Democratic candidate, 43 per cent would vote for Bush and 45 per cent would vote for the Democrat, according to the New York Times/CBS News poll published today.

Ironically, Bush was seen as strong on terrorism and national security, but Americans were lukewarm about many of his domestic initiatives. An astonishing sixty-eight per cent said they approved of his campaign against terrorism. Forty-eight per cent even gave him a thumbs-up on his handling of Iraq and just 46 per cent gave him a thumbs-down.

Are Americans really, as Ted Rall's recent comic says, "As dumb as rocks?"

As the US election campaign notches up a gear, it appears that Bush & Co are betting on just that.

The first Republican television ads forcefully - and unfairly - accuse Democrats of "attacking the President for attacking terrorists", and the Republican National Committee is urging voters to call their congressmen "to support the President's policy of pre-emptive self-defence".

As Bill Clinton's former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright says, this year's election will constitute a virtual referendum on whether Americans want to puruse an increasingly unilateral and pre-emptive international policy, or attempt to repair damage to the long-standing trans-Atlantic partnership.

"If the Republicans pursue an ideological campaign and win, the world will change in highly combustible ways. It is one thing for an American administration to depart from traditional policies under stress and for a limited time, but it would be quite another for a president to win an election with a mandate to make that departure permanent."


Electing Chaos

There are two election scenarios that could lead to disastrous outcomes for the Iraqis and ourselves: (1) the Shiites win and (2) the Shiites lose.

The Washington Post explores the looming lose-lose scenario in Iraq.


Another Media-fed lie

Three dozen mortar shells uncovered in Iraq earlier this month had no chemical agents, the Danish army says. It is not clear why initial tests first showed they could contain blister gas.


Katharine Gun

At the time of her arrest for exposing American corruption in the run-up to war on Saddam, Katharine Gun said:

'Any disclosures that may have been made were justified on the following grounds: because they exposed serious illegality and wrongdoing on the part of the US government who attempted to subvert our own security services; and to prevent wide-scale death and casualties among ordinary Iraqi people and UK forces in the course of an illegal war.'

She added: 'I have only ever followed my conscience.'

Katharine Gun was an anonymous junior official toiling away with 4,500 other mathematicians, code-breakers and linguists at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, UK.

Now while the real criminals control the White House, Gun is going on trial. Legal experts believe that her case is potentially more explosive for the Blair Government than the Hutton inquiry because it could allow her defence team to raise questions about the legality of military intervention in Iraq.

January 17, 2004

Where's The Outrage?

On March 17th, 2003, G. W. Bush declared:

"Intelligence gathered by this government and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and to conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

A month before going to war, President Bush told Americans:

"Saddam Hussein has longstanding, direct, and continuing ties to terrorist networks ... Senior members of Iraqi intelligence and al-Qaida have met at least eight times since the early 1990s Iraq has also provided al-Qaida with chemical and biological weapons training."

Vice-president Dick Cheney and nearly every other member of the Bush administration continually repeated these false claims, even after the fall of Baghdad.

Now we know there never were WMDs, at least not since the first Gulf War. Now we know that there was never any significant link between Saddam and Al Quaeda. Investigators have even released documents in which Saddam clearly orders his supporters to avoid close contact with the "foreign jihadists". As the more intelligent in the intelligence community long suspected, Saddam saw the fundamentalists as a threat and wanted nothing to do with them.

There can no longer be any doubt that Bush lied repeatedly and has led the USA down a corrupt and dangerous path to corporate global empiricism.

What now needs to be understood now is HOW he keeps getting away with it. Where is the anger? Where is the outrage? Where are the mass demonstrations?

Even Teddy Kennedy, in his angry speech denouncing the whole sorry history of Bush lies, held back from the most obvious call to action. If he really believes Bush did all he says Bush did, why doesn't he call for impeachment, or at the very least resignation?

At least the hypocrisy of Bush honouring Martin Luther King has provoked some to action, although as usual Bush went through the protests with blinkers on and many media outlets chose to ignore the story of the protestors:

"As hundreds of protesters shouted objections, President Bush laid a wreath Thursday at the tomb of Martin Luther King Jr. on a visit to mark what would have been the 75th birthday of the slain civil rights leader.

"Bush, arriving from New Orleans on a day devoted to building support among black voters, was greeted by hundreds of demonstrators. They were beating drums, chanting "Go home, Bush" and waving signs saying, "War is not the answer" and "Bush no more in 2004."

"The president was joined at the gravesite by King's widow, Coretta Scott King, and other family members. The president appeared unfazed by the protest."

The Human Rights connection with MLK is interesting to explore.

When drumming up support for the war with fear stories of WMDs and terrorist connections, Bush said the USA is now prepared to unilaterally and pre-emptively attack any nation which he believes is a threat or potential threat to the US. As they now attempt to justify the Iraq war retrospectively by pointing to Saddam Hussein's manifold crimes, rather than his WMDs, the confused Bush & Co. logic would indicate that they now believe they can attack any nation on earth simply to advance US standards of human rights.

If so, perhaps we can expect a US invasion of Australia, where the rogue government has ignored the anti-war sentiments of 82% of the population but also regularly violated UN rules on the Human Rights of refugees. Or an invasion of Japan, whose government has just sent troops into a war zone in clear defiance of the people's wishes as well as the constitution.

January 15, 2004

What's the plan now, George?

As you probably know by now, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has released a book called "The Price of Loyalty", in which he calls Bush a "blind man in a room full of deaf people".

I particularly love his account of a "Crisis Meeting" on the weekend after September 11. As reported by the SMH, while O'Neill sat poring over CIA documents detailing plans for regime change across the globe:

"The President had gone to bed. Across the room, the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was singing hymns, accompanied on the piano by the Christian fundamentalist Attorney-General, John Ashcroft."

Or how about his quote from VP Dick Cheney: "Reagan proved deficits don't matter."

One thing is for sure: O'Neill is a rich-ass imbecile, just like Bush. He was a huge embarrassment to the Bush administration and nobody was sorry to see him leave. But that doesn't mean that what he said in the book is not true, even if he is now furiously back-pedalling under who-knows-what kind of pressure.

O'Neill now says, like his former boss and other administration apologists, that Bush was only following Clinton's example in preparing plans to remove Saddam. But that's another Bush lie. Another administration insider told ABCNews that Bush started planning for a military invasion, where as Clinton had only ever sought to assist an overthrow of the regime.

For anyone who thinks Bush is really a fine leader who knows what's going on, just read this account of his current visit to Mexico for the "Summit of the Americas":

'The early-rising president can get crabby and punchy if he doesn't hit the pillow by 10 or so at night... (Bush) sounded tired and bored at the few public appearances during his 28-hour visit. His remarks had unusually long pauses. Cutaway television shots captured Bush glowering into space as other heads of state talked about "economic growth with equity to reduce poverty," "investing in people" and "democratic governance." '

Yeah, that's a leader in control of policy, alright. Consider O'Neill's account of Bush's bewilderment when his advisors targetted the wealthiest Americans for a second round of tax cuts:

"Didn't we already give them a break at the top?" asked Dubya.

More bad news for Bush: a US Army College report slamming the illegal US invasion of Iraq as an unfocussed "strategic error" which has over-stretched the US army and actually increased the risk of terrorist attacks on US soil.

Meanwhile, back in Baghdad, Bremer now admits that his plans for (ahem!) "elections" are in chaos.
"We are looking for a method that will be both legitimate and transparent but also meet the timeline, and I'm sure we will find one," Mr Bremer told Fox News.

Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani represents 60% of the Iraqi population. If he is not happy with Bremer's plans to fashion a malleable US puppet government, it's not going to happen. Where does that leave Bush, with an election looming? Either facing more violence and troop casualties as the Iraqi vote gets delayed further and further, even beyond the US November elections, or setting up an un-workable puppet government which will almost certainly lead to ethnic division and civil war.

Al-Sistani wants REAL elections because he knows the Shia's, who were persecuted by Saddam's Sunni minority, will have 60% of the vote. Other ethnic and religious groups are not keen on that idea. The Kurds in the north are already virtually guaranteed an autonomous state, if not a fully independent one. And violence is on the rise in the south, which was once considered a model area for media photo opportunities.

What's the plan now, George? Do you really think we can distract the nation by talking about trips to Mars and the sanctity of marriage?

January 09, 2004

The report on Saddam's WMDs is already in.

Forget the long overdue report from US-appointed weapons inspector David Kay, whose 400-strong team has just withdrawn from Iraq without a whisper. Everything you ever wanted to know about WMDs is right here in this 5-page Washington Post report:


The article shows that:

- Saddam did not have the ability to produce nuclear, chemical or other WMDs.

- Iraq almost certainly destroyed all chemical and biological weapons in 1991 (after the first Gulf War), whether Saddam knew it or not.

- Iraqi scientists routinely misled Saddam as a means of maintaining funding for projects which were never capable of producing WMDs.

- A defecting Iraqi general, Hussein Kamel, gave Western intelligence complete details of the state of Saddam's weapons programs in 1995, but was not believed.

- Iraq was not even capable of producing the kind of long-range missiles that could deliver such WMDs to targets like Tel Aviv, and was in fact still "six years away" from such capability.

Couple the Post article with a new report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a liberal think tank in Washington, and the following conclusions are now certainly beyond question:

1. There were no WMDs, there was no connection with Al Quaeda or other terrorists and the UN inspections were working very successfully.

2. The CIA and other intelligence providers did not have clear and reliable evidence about Saddam's weapons capability. They did not have any reliable sources in Iraq, they did not have a clear understanding of basic cultural and social conditions in Iraq, they didn't even have adequate language skills. Given the amount of taxpayers' money these spooks get every year, that is unacceptable.

3. These same intelligence providers allowed their information, flawed as it was, to be deliberately misrepresented for political purposes. Those who spoke out were chastized by their superiors. Why?

4. Bush, Blair and Howard deliberately ignored caveats from these intelligence sources and knowingly constructed a raft of phoney reasons for going to war with Iraq. This begs the question, what were their real reasons? If the Bush-ites claim (as they now belatedly do) that their objective was simply to remove a cruel dictator, why could they not say that beforehand?

January 08, 2004


Of the nearly 700,000 U.S. troops deployed in Kuwait and Iraq during the first Gulf War, more than 100,000 are now chronically ill. Many scientists believe that depleted uranium oxide dust is the cause of this so-called "Gulf-War Syndrome".

Despite widespread condemnation and repeated warnings from the scientific community, war veterans and others, the US military continues to use Depleted Uranium (DU) munitions.

At the end of the ground combat phase of the Gulf war, military DU weapons experts Dr Doug Rokke was assigned the job of cleaning up U.S. equipment contaminated by depleted uranium. He was also asked to “provide initial medical recommendations for all individuals who were or may have been exposed as a consequence of military actions."

Dr Rokke says:

"Our initial observations of the DU contamination can be summed simply by three words 'OH MY GOD!'

“Although my mission was limited to U.S. personnel and equipment, all affected persons and equipment should have been processed identically. They were not!

“Although I and U.S. Army physicians assigned to the 3rd U.S. Army Medical Command issued immediate verbal and written medical care recommendations, those still have not been complied with - for not only all U.S. and coalition military DU casualties, but for Iraqi military personnel and especially noncombatants, women and children, who were exposed to DU munitions contamination."

Another Gulf War vet, Sergeant George A. Parker, performed similar duties for the British Army. He says:

"I am now aware that armed forces personnel are considered as disposable items. Something to be used abused and then discarded when broken. Further more, when made ill by the use of politically sensitive weapons such as DU they are an expensive embarrassment to be silenced when voicing concerns."

"It is my sincere and heart felt belief that until such time as the UK and US governments can properly care for ill and dying veterans of war, they should refrain from deploying members of the armed forces overseas."

Since the first Gulf War, cancer rates in southern Iraq have increased dramatically, including a 1600% jump in cases of ovarian cancer. Ironically, George W. Bush’s “liberation” of the Iraqi people may end up costing more Iraqi lives that Saddam’s own murderous use of chemical weapons against his own people.

Read more here.

January 07, 2004

Looking Ahead

I haven't been posting much lately. It's not that there has been a lack of stories - just check out antiwar.com, Information Clearing House and other worthwhile sites - but perhaps I need to take a long, deep breath before we launch into this 2004 election year. It's going to be busy!

Although the US elections are not scheduled until November, campaigning is already well underway on both sides. It's disheartening to see the Democrats publicly attacking one another right now, but hopefully they will soon unite firmly behind their chosen candidate. Meanwhile, Bush is working hard at putting his house in order and everything he does from now till November will be aimed at insuring he gets another four years in power.

The results of this US election will be seen as either a vindication of the Iraq War, or a public rebuke which will dissuade future US leaders from such ill-advised adventures. If Bush wins, we can expessed an even more agressive US stance on international issues, including further pre-emptive invasions, an expanding US presence across the Middle East and an increasingly unilateral US stance on trade and other issues. We can expect the current attack on civil rights to broaden even further, we can expect further deterioration of the environment and further deterioration of international alliances and treaties. Most of all, we can expect increased corporate profiteering on a previously unseen, increasingly global scale. By 2008, the concept of a free and fair America will seem like nothing more than a distant dream. We will be told that this is all a necessary result of the never-ending "war on terror".

On the other hand, if Bush loses, there will be a hell of a lot of work for the new incumbent Democrat. The key to success, both during the election and afterwards, lies in explaining the neo-conservative madness to the US public and ensuring that - like the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s - it can never happen again. Repairing international relations will require some potentially humiliating back-downs. Treaties like Kyoto and the International Criminal Court will need to be resurrected. The United Nations will require not just humble apologies but also US-led reformations to confront the new century as a stronger and more stable organisation. Most importantly, the new President will need to start addressing the ROOT CAUSES of terrorism (US-supported poverty, ignorance and inequality) rather than just the symptoms (bombs and threats). Again, this will require major policy shifts and a serious effort at public eduction. If Bush departs, it will be a victory for democarcy, but it will still be a bumpy road ahead for the new Prez.

In Australia, Prime Minister John Howard is due to call elections by October at the latest, a month or more ahead of the US vote. So far Howard has maintained his Teflon coating and kept his poll ratings high, despite widespread public opposition to Australia's involvement in the invasion of Iraq. Often described as the "consummate politician", Howard will bend whichever way the political winds blow in order to maintain power. Over the past four years, he has become an expert at saying one thing, then saying the exact opposite and denying that he ever said the first thing, and somehow getting away with it. As with every other election he has contested, Howard will use racist innuendos to appeal to the far right, while publicly positioning himself as a centrist. Given the succes of his last campaign, he will probably also make a few outright lies just before the election, if things get close (these lies will only be fully disproved after the election, byt which time it will no longer matter to anyone). Sad but true, such is the modern art of "consummate politics".

In Britain, Tony Blair faces the fallout from the Hutton Inquiry in January. If he maintains his leadership of the Labour Party after that, the UK public will have a chance to chastise him in a series of June polls, with elections for 143 English local authorities and all Welsh councils, the mayor of London and the European Parliament. And if he can maintain his leadership beyond that, there are UK national elections scheduled for 2005, by which time Iraq may have become a forgotten issue. I think Blair may have already learned his lesson from the Iraq War, and I doubt he would be game to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Bush again in such a way. But despite admirable progress in other areas, Blair doesn't really deserve a second chance. The best thing for Britain would be if his own party forces him out of office in 2004 and presents a new candidate for the 2005 elections. Blair versus the Conservatives is really a lose-lose proposition for everyone except the rich socialites of Kensington and Mayfair.

Finally, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin also faces a general election in April, 2004. During 2003, Putin jailed Russia's richest man, an oil tycoon who was about to make a deal with a US company, rather than allowing him to cede control of his oil assets to US control. Now Putin is threatening investigations of other oligarchs, unless they toe the Kremlin-dictated line. Putin watched quietly as a US-friendly administration took control of neighbouring Georgia in their recent "rose revolution". Forget the ideological battles of the Cold War - Putin and other Russian power-brokers know that it is US economic sumpremacy that they must combat now. Once again, it's all about oil.
CIA Finds Saddam's WMDs - On Mars!

January 05, 2004

The Rape Of Iraq

A Turkish man says his father delivered a huge car bomb that devastated the Turkish headquarters of HSBC bank last month, killing a dozen people and wounding scores more. He says his father was enraged by Turkish media reports of US soldiers raping Iraqi women.

Last October an Islamic journal, Yeni Safak, published a front-page report quoting "4000 cases on record". A second article in December said 54 Iraqis wwere killed in the city of Samarra were shot while rioting over the kidnap and rape of 30 girls by US soldiers.

The first article quoted a US sex therapist, Dr Susan Block, as the main source of the information. Ms Block says here article, "The Rape Of Iraq" was wildly mis-quoted.

But it is certainly fair to assume that a number of rapes have occured. The Bush administration doesn't see fit to keep a body count of the Iraqi dead, so we can assume there is no record of rapes either.

While the US administrators of Iraq are struggling to define a handover to the Iraqs, one certainty is that the incoming Iraqi puppet government will have to absolutely excuse all US soldiers for all actions that have been committed since the invasion, including rape.

Le Carré Versus Bush

John Le Carré, author of The Spy who Came In From The Cold and a host of other Cold War novels, has released a stunning new novel that angily lambasts the neo-conservative agenda for global empire.

Le Carre calls this an "extremely delicate point in all our histories." The latest novel follows a Times article 12 months ago entitled "The United States of America has gone mad". At that time he wrote:

"The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams.... As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.

"How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America's anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. But the American public is not merely being misled. It is being browbeaten and kept in a state of ignorance and fear."

In the new book, Absolute Friends, one character says:

"There's a new Grand Design about in case you haven't noticed. It's called pre-emptive naivety, and it rests on the assumption that everyone in the world would like to live in Dayton, Ohio, under one god, no prizes for guessing whose god that is."

Another character asks:

"What would it be like really and absolutely to believe? To believe that God sends you to war, God bends the path of bullets, decides which of his children will die, or have their legs blown off, or make a few hundred million on Wall Street, depending on today's Grand Design?"

Read more here or order now at Amazon.com.

January 03, 2004

What Ever Happened To Peace On Earth?

I've never been much of a country music fans, but surely a few die-hard Republican voters will be touched to know that Willie Nelson is releasing a new song, "What Ever Happened To Peace On Earth" on Jan 3rd.

The lyrics are touchingly true:

There's so many things going on in the world
Babies dying
Mothers crying
How much oil is one human life worth
And what ever happened to peace on earth

We believe everything that they tell us
They're gonna' kill us
So we gotta' kill them first
But I remember a commandment
Thou shall not kill
How much is that soldier's life worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

And the bewildered herd is still believing
Everything we've been told from our birth
Hell they won't lie to me
Not on my own damn TV
But how much is a liar's word worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

So I guess it's just
Do unto others before they do it to you
Let's just kill em' all and let God sort em' out
Is this what God wants us to do

Now you probably won't hear this on your radio
Probably not on your local TV
But if there's a time, and if you're ever so inclined
You can always hear it from me
How much is one picker's word worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

But don't confuse caring for weakness
You can't put that label on me
The truth is my weapon of mass protection
And I believe truth sets you free.

January 02, 2004

Pope Calls For New World Order

Dismayed by the US invasion of Iraq and the UN's inability to stop it, the Pope has called for a new world order based on the achievements of the UN since WWII.

The Pope said the new world order he wanted "would be able to provide solutions to the problems of today ... based on the dignity of human beings, an integrated development of society, solidarity between rich and poor nations, and on the sharing of resources and the extraordinary results of scientific and technological progress."

January 01, 2004

Hawks And Doves

From his hospital bed, US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has written an article admitting foreign policy mistakes and assuring the outside world that despite the US invasion of Iraq, the Bush Administration's approach "is not defined by pre-emption."

Powell says pre-emption "was never meant to displace deterrence, only to supplement it." Contrast that with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's ealier dismissal of the decades-old concept of military deterrence as a theory that "has been overtaken by events".

According to Powell, pre-emptive policy "applies only to the undeterrable threats that come from non-state actors such as terrorist groups." Oh, yeah? Try telling that to the neo-cons, Colin!

Richard Perle, Pentagon insider and "intellectual guru" of the hardline neo-conservative movement, has just published a new manifesto called "An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror" (love that title!). Co-authored by former Bush speechwriter David Frum, the book warns of a faltering of the "will to win" in Washington.

The latest neo-con manifesto backs up their previous "Project For The American Century" ideological blueprint. It demands regime change in Syria and Iran, plus a Cuban-style military blockade of North Korea backed by planning for a pre-emptive strike on its nuclear sites. "With luck" this will encourage the Chinese to overthrow Kim Jong-Il (just like "with luck" the Iraqi peasantry was supposed to rise up against Saddam, greet their invaders as heroes, etc, etc).

Furthermore, Perle and Co. want tough action against France and its dreams of offsetting US power. "We should force European governments to choose between Paris and Washington," they say.

In a dangerously subte piece of innuendo that has the ring of Third Reich propaganda, Perle's manifesto says that State Department ambivalence towards the war on terror may be "actively subversive of representative government."

Say what??? Powell is the head of the State Department. Is Perle saying that Powell is "actively subversive"??? And what is this crap about "representative government"?? Let's not forget that Bush Jnr only "represents" about 21% of the US electorate.

Perhaps Perle is just trying to distract attention from the latest scandal involving neo-con profiteering from the - ahem! - "war on terror".

As the Washington Post reports, Perle "coauthored an opinion piece this summer praising a Pentagon plan to lease tanker aircraft -- which had the potential to steer billions of dollars to Boeing Co. -- 16 months after Boeing committed to invest $20 million with a venture capital firm where Perle was a principal. "

With an election looming soon (happy New Year, readers!), Bush seems to be swinging towards the Doves. The Hawks are clearly pissed by this, albeit they have no sane solutions to the chaos their previous "special plans" have engendered. Colin Powell had better steer clear of dark alleys for the next few months, or he could just become the next victim of the "war on terror".


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