February 29, 2004

BuzzFlash Stays On The Case For 9/11 Panel:

"As BuzzFlash has pointed out many a time, Condi Rice has admitted that she and Bush were briefed in the summer of 2001 that Al-Qaeda was planning to hijack planes as part of a terrorism campaign. She claims, however, that she and Bush were not told that they might fly them into buildings.

As BuzzFlash has also pointed out, the press failed to press Rice on one key point: the way you prevent a hijacking that results in planes being flown into buildings is the same way you prevent hijackings in general. So what did she and Bush do to prevent hijackings after the summer 2001 briefing?

Nothing. In fact, Bush went on a month-long vacation to Crawford, Texas."

Now House Speaker Dennis Hastert has refused to allow Congress to extend the life of the 9/11 Commission. The Commission needed more time because the White House keeps stonewalling them.

February 28, 2004

Edward Kenney: The Junk Science of George W. Bush:

"Today, flat-earthers within the Bush Administration - aided by right-wing allies who have produced assorted hired guns and conservative think tanks to further their goals - are engaged in a campaign to suppress science that is arguably unmatched in the Western world since the Inquisition. Sometimes, rather than suppress good science, they simply order up their own. Meanwhile, the Bush White House is purging, censoring, and blacklisting scientists and engineers whose work threatens the profits of the Administration's corporate paymasters or challenges the ideological underpinnings of their radical anti-environmental agenda. Indeed, so extreme is this campaign that more than sixty scientists, including Nobel laureates and medical experts, released a statement on February 18 that accuses the Bush Administration of deliberately distorting scientific fact 'for partisan political ends.' "
So Do We Support the UN or Not?

The row surrounding the bugging of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's office highlight's the West's hypocritical stance on the UN. On the one hand, we want to use the UN as a moral, political and even military bludgeon to enforce our values on "rogue" states, but on the other hand we are happy to see it remain effecticely crippled by its out-dated structure and lack of financing, the better to manipulate UN decisions in our favour. And God forbid the UN should ever dare to criticize us!

As the Guardian? leader says today:

"The 1946 convention establishing the UN, signed by the UK, expressly asserts its inviolability (though that does not stop the UN having its own counter-intelligence department). As Mr Annan's spokesman pointed out, everything the secretary-general does would be undermined if those to whom he spoke lost confidence in the confidentiality of their conversations. "

It's time the West made up its mind about the UN.

Look at Europe, where citizens of many nations now tell pollsters they feel more "European" than any one specific nationality. The EU government is often criticized for its increasing powers, but in a continent with a history of bloodied wars, surely this is not a bad thing. Besides, as Europeans realize, it makes good economic sense.

Why can't we apply the same principles to our global community? Do I feel more "Australian" or more "human"?

As we embark on a new century, we should drop foolish nationalistic ideas and commit ourselves to fully supporting noble international institutions like the UN and the International Criminal Court. With the global population set to rise to unsustainable levels, and with forecasts of impending doom from global warming, such an international approach to problem-solving may be our only hope of survival as a species.
US Senate plans secret session on Iraq

"The Senate is again gearing up for a rare secret session, this time to scrutinize flaws in America's prewar intelligence about Iraqi weapons...

"The senators who voted for the Iraq resolution want to see how the intelligence they based that vote on could be that wrong," said a senior Democratic aide. "This is a very rare occasion, and any time a closed session would be called, it would be about the most important type of debates."

February 27, 2004

Political crises always seem to produce some nice prose..:

From The Guardian:

"... And at that moment he hears the loathed and strangulated Black Country vowels of a voice he had hoped would never impinge on his eardrums again. It is Clare Short and her words make a blowtorch of rage play on his heart. 'Yes, absolutely,' she says, or more accurately, 'yus, absowlootely.'

A fine spray of toast, butter and marmalade lands on the striped upholstery of the Georgian chairs, and the priceless rug, sewn by blind eight-year-olds in the former Soviet state of Filthistan, a gift from the president, is drenched in Earl Grey...

Even now he finds it hard to contain his fury. Her remarks were "highly irresponsible". Conversely, they were "deeply irresponsible". They were also "entirely irresponsible" as well as being "completely irresponsible".

Someone asked whether Ms Short should be prosecuted for a breach of the Official Secrets Act. "She was totally irresponsible.. "
Blix, Butler 'bugged'. 27/02/2004. ABC News Online:

Former UN Weapons Inspector Richard Butler on ABC Radio's The World Today:

"'I was well aware [of being bugged].'

'Those who did it would come to me and show me the recordings that they'd made on others to try to help me do my job in disarming Iraq. They would say 'we're just here to help you' and they'd never show me any recordings that they'd made of me.

'I knew it from other sources. I was utterly confident that I was bugged by at least four permanent members of the Security Council. I don't know what the Chinese were doing.

'I was utterly confident that in my attempts to have private diplomatic conversations trying to solve the problem of the disarmament of Iraq that I was being listened to by the Americans, the British, the French and the Russians.

'They also had people on my staff who were reporting what I was trying to do privately.'

Mr Butler says that if Mr Annan was bugged, it would be illegal.
'There is a headquarters agreement with the United Nations that says that those places, those premises, those persons will be inviolable,' he said.

'It's not true to say that this activity if it occurred was within the law.'

He says he believes the activity could be 'very damaging'.

'What if Kofi Annan had been bringing people together last February in a genuine attempt to prevent the invasion of Iraq ... and one of these people bugging him didn't want that to happen, what do you think they would do with that information?' he said.

Mr Butler says he had tactics to get around being bugged when he
was with the UN.

'If I really truly wanted to have a sensitive conversation with somebody where I was asking them to be honest with me ... I was reduced to having to go either to a noisy cafeteria in the basement of the UN where there was so much noise around, and then whisper in the hope that we wouldn't be overheard.

"Or I'd literally take a walk in Central Park. I'd take a walk with a person in a park and speak in a low voice and keep moving so that we could avoid directional microphones and maybe, maybe just have a private conversation."
Mother Jones Looks At A Legacy of Lies

Mother Jones has a good article examining the history of US lies about Iraqi WMDs. The Clinton administration, she reminds us, used the threat of WMDs to keep the UN sanctions in place despite growing opposition from humanitarian groups.

In retrospect, the key to the whole Iraqi WMD fiasco is Hussein Kamel, the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein and head of Iraq's weapons industries. In 1995, Kamel fled Iraq "carrying crate-loads of secret documents on weapons of mass destruction". Here is what he told Western intelligence:

"'All weapons -- biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed.' The destruction took place in the summer of 1991.

What about chemical weapons?

'I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons.'

An inspector inquired about anthrax. 'Were weapons and agents destroyed?'

'Nothing remained.'

How about the 819 Soviet-made missiles Iraq was known to have purchased in the 1980's?

'Not a single missile left, but they [kept] blueprints and molds for production. All missiles were destroyed.'

In other words, the defector who had been cited time after time, over eight years, by two presidents and their cabinets, as the source that proved Saddam was still hiding a deadly arsenal of chemical and biological weapons -- that defector had actually said the opposite: Not only did the weapons not exist, they had been destroyed before Clinton was even elected. "
Blix Also Bugged:

"The British or US intelligence services monitored former United Nations chief weapons inspector Hans Blix's mobile phone whenever he was in Iraq, sources have told the ABC."
Former Blair Minister Says UK Bugged UN:

Britain spied on the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, in the run-up to the Iraq war, a former British cabinet minister, Clare Short, said yesterday.

Ms Short: "Well, I know. I've seen transcripts of Kofi Annan's conversations. In fact I've had conversations with Kofi in the run-up to war, thinking: 'Oh dear, there will be a transcript of this and people will see what he and I are saying.' "

Interviewer: "So in other words, British spies ... have been instructed to carry out operations within the UN on people like Kofi Annan."

Ms Short: "Yes, absolutely."

Interviewer: "Did you know about this when you were in government?"

Ms Short: "Absolutely. I read some of the transcripts of the accounts of his conversations."

Interviewer: "Is this legal?"

Ms Short: "I don't know. I presume so. It's odd. I don't know about the legalities."

February 26, 2004

Shock! Murdoch Backs Murdoch:

In an article titled "Make no foolish admissions of Iraq error" the Australian newspaper, a Rupert Murdoch-owned News Ltd publication, says:

"The ABC, in its slavish devotion to the BBC, will repeat all the slanders and inaccuracies of its mother broadcaster but the Government should not be swayed by this. (It is instructive to note that had the ABC had that kind of slavish devotion to Fox News it would have got many more judgment calls about the war right than it did.) "

But then the author, Greg Sheridan, makes a startling admission:

"Certainly it would take a government with an extraordinary death-wish to set up a royal commission. "

Why is that, if the government has nothing to hide and did nothing wrong?
Warning over UK arms sales loophole:

"The government is allowing the sale of weapons components to 'known human rights abusers', a new report claims.

A dramatic rise in sales to these nations undermines the government's own ethical policies, say the charities Oxfam, Amnesty International and Iansa.

The Foreign Office rejected the conclusions of the charities' report.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the rise in sales was because production lines now operated internationally, but checks were as rigorous as ever.

Questioned by MPs about arms exports, Mr Straw also gave details of a review which could see the lifting of the arms embargo imposed on China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. "
Warmongers In Lock Step

As an Australian, I am always curious to see how often and how closely US and UK government policies and initiatives correspond to the our own Government's supposedly independent policies and initiatives. The unwanted war in Iraq is the most obvious case of US, UK and Australian government fraternising - the hardening of UK and Australian immigration laws is another good example. Now Bush and Howard are simultaneously looking to drive their over-taxed peasants even harder for even longer.

Consider the latest remarks by US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan:

"'We are going to be confronted ... in a few years with an upward ratcheting of long-term interest rates which will be very debilitating for long-term growth,' Greenspan told a US committee examining the ballooning US deficit. "The age for retirement should be indexed in some way to take into account longer lifespans."

At the same time, on the other side of the Pacific, Treasurer Peter Costello was presenting the same idea to Australians.

As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, "The Government says nearly one in four people will be over 65 by 2042, when the number of people of working age will have stopped growing. It believes that keeping older people in the workforce longer will become critical to future prosperity."

The Herald also says "the government predicts demand for health care and pensions by ageing baby boomers would create a Budget hole equivalent to $45 billion by 2042."

Umm... how much is this "war on terror" thing costing us?
Kurds demand vote on independence:

"Kurdish activists have collected 1.7 million signatures on a petition demanding a referendum on the future of northern Iraq's Kurdish region...

"Organisers said they have presented the petition to officials in the Iraqi Governing Council and the occupation authorities, and are waiting for a response. "
US stops import of French meats:

"The US has suspended imports of French meat products on safety grounds.

Items such as sausages, hams and foie gras are affected, France's Agriculture Ministry has reported.

The US has introduced the ban after a team of American farm officials visited the 11 French firms allowed to export such products to the States, it said.

Tuesday's move came hours after the European Union introduced a Europe-wide total ban on US poultry and egg imports after a bird flu outbreak in Texas. "
Charges dropped against UK Whistleblower

"Katharine Gun demanded an explanation today after the case against her of disclosing information and breaking the Official Secrets Act collapsed after the prosecution offered no evidence.

"Ms Gun, a former translator for GCHQ, the security service's main monitoring centre, had been accused of leaking a memo to a newspaper on an alleged American 'dirty tricks' campaign to spy on UN delegates ahead of the Iraq war...

"Ben Emmerson QC, representing Ms Gun, demanded an explanation from the prosecution of why, after such a length of time, they had now decided to drop the charge. Mr Ellison refused to say.

"A full trial could have generated unwelcome publicity for the government and GCHQ.

Following the collapse of the trial, the Guardian newspaper has learned that "a key plank of the defence presented to the prosecutors shortly before they decided to abandon the case was new evidence that the legality of the war had been questioned by the Foreign Office.

"It is contained in a document seen by the Guardian. Sensitive passages are blacked out, but one passage says: "The defence believes that the advice given by the Foreign Office Legal Adviser expressed serious doubts about the legality (in international law) of committing British troops in the absence of a second [UN] resolution."

February 25, 2004

Dumbing Down The USA

As the dumbest and most morally bankrupt (P)resident the USA has ever had, George W. Bush is a symptom of a wider mallaise. Four years ago, Bush promised to be "a uniter, not a divider" but now he uses the tactics of the schoolyard bully, splitting the playground into those who oppose him and those who can join his gang (or at least timidly move about their business and avoid the bullying). But will Bush be able to win the election by dumbing down the issues and intimidating anyone who opposes him?

As Greg Moses writes in Counterpunch, Bush's "most sinister political talent is to rally us against them, whoever they are.

"That is why so few politicians voted against the Patriot Acts or the wars. When Bush brought these issues to the table, he did so with his singular genius for relegating the opposition into an intolerable world apart.

"Now he attempts to do the same thing with gay and lesbian marriage. 'If you dare to vote against this prohibition you will be counted among the forces of darkness, and we will bury your political future.' That is the tone that Bush is able to strike, even if he never quite puts it that way. He has a talent for raising a mob with code words that mask naked power with righteousness."

Michael Avery, President of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), says the bullying is also widespread in legal circles:

"This administration is trying to criminalize dissent, characterize protesters as terrorists and trying to intimidate and marginalize those opposed to its policies," Avery said. It has opened the floodgates to all kinds of investigative activities and now "police agencies across the country are actively engaged in spying and compiling dossiers on citizens exercising their constitutional rights."

For details of the legal bullying, see Working For Change.

Another interesting Bush quote comes from his latest TV appearance, where he childishly taunted the Democrats:

"They now agree the world is better off with Saddam out of power," he said. "They just didn't support removing Saddam from power. Maybe they were hoping he would lose the next Iraqi election."

Ha ha.

Sadly, it is a level of debate, and a style of rhetoric, which will win him many supporters among the Republican faithful. And that is becoming an increasingly important campaign goal, as increasing numbers of Republicans start to drift away from the party. No wonder Bush is proposing the Gay Marriage Amendment - what hard-core Republicans could vote against THAT?
FOX News Analyzes Dubya's Dilemma

Fox News correctly realizes that "Bush appears headed for disaster."

But their analysis of the reasons makes interesting reading:

"Why? Not because of his failures, but because of his successes. His victories in the War on Terror have lowered the relevance of this crucial area of his competence."

So what is their advice for their good mate George?

"The key is for Bush to heighten the saliency of terrorism as an issue..."

Hmmn. Maybe the CIA should start another secret bombing campaign in NY and LA...

The article by Dick Morris goes on to explain that "it is the result of Bush's vigilance that we are all fat and happy enough to see optional issues as more important than the national preservation"

And the staggering conclusion for this wonderful article on the beloved (P)resident?

"Success extinguishes his mandate."

Fair and balanced??? You be the judge.
Australian Government warned prior to Bali:

"The BBC had access to FBI transcripts of the interrogation of terrorist Mohammed Jubara, who was caught after his foiled attempt to bomb the Australian embassy in Singapore.

Four months before the Bali bombing, he told the FBI that at a meeting in Thailand in January 2002, senior Al Qaeda operative Hambali ordered a campaign of bombings in bars, cafes and nightclubs frequented by Westerners, saying he had one tonne of explosives in Indonesia.

US counter-intelligence agent Pat Damuro confirmed that that information was passed on to Australia...

The Australian Government has repeatedly said it never received specific intelligence about a planned attack on Bali."
Even "The Economist" Thinks Cheney Could Go:

US Vice President Dick Cheney "is seen less as the sober pragmatist and more as the dangerously revolutionary zealot. Look at economic management, where he supposedly told Paul O'Neill, his former friend and the former treasury secretary, that "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." Or look at Iraq, where the vice-president went further than anybody else in exaggerating Saddam's "reconstituted" nuclear-weapons programme and the idea that he provided a "geographic base" for terrorism against America.

"Another reason to ditch Mr Cheney is that he has come to epitomise the administration's darker side. Take corporate cronyism. The vice-president made $44m during his time as head of Halliburton, a company that has snaffled up a large number of lucrative contracts in Iraq and has been accused of overcharging the Pentagon into the bargain. He also stuffed his energy task-force with friends from the energy industry. Or take bureaucratic secrecy: he has created a semi-official parallel administration within the White House and has fought like a tiger to keep his doings private. His recent decision (just after the Supreme Court had said it would review whether he could continue to keep secret the deliberations of his energy task-force) to use a government jet to take Justice Antonin Scalia and a bunch of Mr Cheney's oil-business buddies duck-shooting only reinforces the impression that he has a tin ear for politics."

The Economist also has a good article on Cheney's old company, Halliburton:

"The list of allegations, and not just relating to Iraq, is growing fast. There was a bribery scandal in Kuwait, and a flap over the price of petrol imported into Iraq from Kuwait. Then it surfaced that the firm may have charged American taxpayers for millions of meals that were never actually served to soldiers in the Middle East. Though denying wrongdoing, Halliburton has just decided to delay billing for $140m. American and French officials are now investigating whether a consortium including Halliburton made questionable payments of $180m in Nigeria, relating to a natural-gas project. America's Treasury Department is now sniffing around the firm's involvement in Iran to see if it has violated the sanctions imposed by America.
C.I.A. Was Given Data on Hijacker Long Before 9/11

"In March 1999, German intelligence officials gave the Central Intelligence Agency the first name and telephone number of Marwan al-Shehhi, and asked the Americans to track him.

The name and phone number in the United Arab Emirates had been obtained by the Germans by monitoring the telephone of Mohamed Heidar Zammar, an Islamic militant in Hamburg who was closely linked to the important Qaeda plotters who ultimately mastermined the Sept. 11 attacks, German officials said.

After the Germans passed the information on to the C.I.A., they did not hear from the Americans about the matter until after Sept. 11, a senior German intelligence official said. "
Bush 'wanted war in 2002':

"George Bush set the US on the path to war in Iraq with a formal order signed in February 2002, more than a year before the invasion, according to a book published yesterday.

The revelation casts doubt on the public insistence by US and British officials throughout 2002 that no decision had been taken to go to war, pending negotiations at the United Nations.

Rumsfeld's War is by Rowan Scarborough, the Pentagon correspondent for the conservative Washington Times newspaper"
U.S. Charges First Two 9/11 Detainees

As the Post reports, "the U.S. government announced today that it is mounting its first prosecution of enemy prisoners since the aftermath of World War II, charging two detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison who were alleged bodyguards for Osama bin Laden, before a military tribunal with conspiracy to commit war crimes. "

But why did it take two years? Can it be that the intention was always to delay the trials until the start of political campaigning? Is that why hundreds of Guantanamo Bay prisoners have been left to rot for two years? Is there any other explanation being offered?

February 24, 2004

The Daily Mislead

"On February 9th, President Bush endorsed and personally signed his name to a White House economic report that promised he would create 2.6 million jobs by the end of 2004. The report was released to great fanfare, yet, less than two weeks later, the president and his top Cabinet officials are now refusing to stand by those predictions.

Specifically, the Associated Press reports that the president 'distanced himself' from his own predictions, refused to directly answer a question about it, and deployed White House spokesman Scott McClellan to deflect more questions. When McClellan was asked about the president's personal promise to create 2.6 million new jobs, McClellan said the president is not interested 'in crunching numbers.' "
U.N. Plan For Iraq Transition Released

The United States plan to create a provisional government through a complex system of 18 regional caucuses has collapsed. As the UN's man in Baghdad reports, the plan that did not gain support among Iraqis. The caucus system, Brahimi wrote, is 'not a viable option,' and U.S. officials 'themselves accept that it would be impractical to try and implement this system which is totally alien to Iraqis.'

"U.S. officials had hoped that Brahimi's report would propose an alternative plan. Instead, Brahimi outlined a 'range of options' he said his team had discussed with Iraqis while on a fact-finding mission to that country this month.

Those options include expanding the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and allowing it to take control temporarily; convening a national conference of tribal and religious leaders that would create a provisional government; or setting up a transitional government of technocrats -- not politicians -- that would have limited powers.

But Brahimi said that Iraqi leaders, working with U.S. officials and the United Nations, must develop a consensus on which course to pursue.

'It is ultimately up to the people of Iraq to take the decisions required on these issues and to then implement them,' Brahimi's report said. 'They are more than capable of doing so.' "
BBC: Bush goes on anti-Democrat attack

The Bushie Awards

For those who don't know about it and want a laugh, the Bushies rate Web sites based on "All Around Excellence in Bush-Whacking".

A good cure for those days when it all gets too damn depressing! :-)
Superpower Syndrome

"Superpower Syndrome" is a new book by Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, a psychologist who specialises in analyzing group dynamics, often on a global scale.

"During the following months, the administration formed reactionary, poorly designed responses that would paradoxically make the world more unsafe and the danger of terrorism even greater...

Instead of planning a unified battle against a world problem, the Bush government ignored the concerns of other countries and the United Nations and squandered the goodwill that the United States had acquired after the attacks, polarizing the issue with its unyielding sense of mission.

'There had to be some response, but a restrained and international response,' says Dr. Lifton. 'Instead, the administration immediately polarized the work with our own apocalyptic orientation. They created an 'Us versus Them' dynamic, instead of identifying 9/11 as terrorism by a small group of determined zealots.'

And by defining their campaign as a 'War on Terrorism,' the administration added it to a list of past 'wars' (on poverty or drugs) that were categorically unable to be won.

The attack was also a catalyst that gave the administration the courage -- what it might consider a mandate -- to attempt to reshape the Middle East to its own political and economic ideals, the most obvious example being the invasion of Iraq. This cosmic sense of entitlement, according to Dr. Lifton, could hem the United States into an endless cycle of military intervention and violence."
A Wall as a Weapon

Noam Chomskly on the Israeli "security barrier":

"Even before construction of the barrier was under way, the United Nations estimated that Israeli barriers, infrastructure projects and settlements had created 50 disconnected Palestinian pockets in the West Bank. As the design of the wall was coming into view, the World Bank estimated that it might isolate 250,000 to 300,000 Palestinians, more than 10 percent of the population, and that it might effectively annex up to 10 percent of West Bank land. And when the government of Ariel Sharon finally published its proposed map, it became clear the the wall would cut the West Bank into 16 isolated enclaves, confined to just 42 percent of the West Bank land that Mr. Sharon had previously said could be ceded to a Palestinian state.

The wall has already claimed some of the most fertile lands of the West Bank. And, crucially, it extends Israel's control of critical water resources, which Israel and its settlers can appropriate as they choose, while the indigenous population often lacks water for drinking.

Palestinians in the seam between the wall and the Green Line will be permitted to apply for the right to live in their own homes; Israelis automatically have the right to use these lands."
Where are Iraq's Pentagon papers?:

"I've been here before. On my first full-time day of work as a high-level staff aide in the Pentagon, Aug. 4, 1964, I heard President Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara explain our first bombing raids against North Vietnam as a response to 'unequivocal evidence' of an 'unprovoked' attack on our destroyers 'on routine patrol' in the Tonkin Gulf. Already that night I knew, along with many other Pentagon insiders, that each of these statements was a lie..."

The captain of the destroyer in question attributed the scare to "freak weather effects and an overeager sonarman" and sent a cable recommending that no further action be taken. But the Senator who managed passage of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which launched the USA into the Vietnam War, did not know of that cable.

"He hadn't known of that cable because I, among many others, didn't tell him. I didn't dream of doing such a thing at the time; and if the thought had occurred to me, I'm sure I would have rejected it. Now I wish fervently that I had made those cables ... available to Congress and the electorate that same autumn, before the bombs had started falling. When I finally did so belatedly in 1971, former Senator Wayne Morse, who had cast one of the two dissenting votes in 1964, told me that if I had given him those documents at that time, "The Tonkin Gulf Resolution would never have gotten out of committee. And if it had been brought to a vote, it would never have passed." That's a heavy burden to bear."
Should Nader Run?

For those arguing against Ralph Nader's Presidential bid, let me ask: what if Bush wins anyway and Nader is not a factor?

Everybody is saying that Nader and the Greens cost Gore the 2000 election, but you cannot deny that he had a right to run and nobody could have foreseen the consequences. For a start, Bush was positioned as a centrist with a moderate vision. Who knew it would come down to a handful of hanging chads and a shameful decision by the Supreme Court? Who could have foreseen this wildly radical militaristic agenda?

Nader has something very important to say and it's good that he will force environment issues, corporate influence and political corruption onto the debating table during the 2004 Presidential campaign. During normal times, assuming I was a US citizen, I would probably vote for him.

But of course these are not normal times and - whatever reservations I may have about Kerry - it would be irresponsible to vote for anyone but the Democratic contenter, since he is the only one with a real chance of ousting Bush.

But that doesn't mean that Nader shouldn't run. His bid is proof positive that real democracy is alive somewhere deep in the bowels of the USA and it should be an inspiration to all who value tolerance, free speech and genuine democracy. Respect him and applaud his courage. Just don't vote for him.

If Kerry's campaign flops and Bush wins comfortably, what then? Those who now criticize Nader's run may be blaming Kerry (and the rest of the Democratic Party) for not showing such courage. They may be wishing they had nominated the "unelectable" Dean or even Dennis Kucinich. And, if it comes to that, Nader's path may be the only serious option for 2008.
Another great Rall cartoon...

The best cartoons say it all is a single, revealing moment, with a minimum of confusion or distraction. This one is another gem from Ted Rall:

P.S. For anyone too young to know, the above scene is a famous image of the US withdrawing embassy staff from Vietnam, on their final day in the country.
AlterNet: Bush Lies Uncovered:

Jim Lobe looks at two revealing interviews that cast new light on the real reasons for invading Iraq.

The first is from Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress (is it just a coincidence that their acronym is INC?), who "shrugged off accusations his group had deliberately misled the administration, saying, 'We are heroes in error.''

'As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful,' he told the UK's Telegraph newspaper. 'That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords if he wants.'

The second quote is from U.S. retired Gen Jay Garner, who was in charge of planning and administering post-war reconstruction from January through May 2002. Asked how long U.S. troops might remain in Iraq, Garner replied, ''I hope they're there a long time," and then compared U.S. goals in Iraq to U.S. military bases in the Philippines between 1898 and 1992.

''One of the most important things we can do right now is start getting basing rights with (the Iraqi authorities)," he said. ''And I think we'll have basing rights in the north and basing rights in the south ... we'd want to keep at least a brigade."

''Look back on the Philippines around the turn of the 20th century: they were a coaling station for the navy, and that allowed us to keep a great presence in the Pacific. That's what Iraq is for the next few decades: our coaling station that gives us great presence in the Middle East."

Read more at Alternet.org.
His teeth were there: Was he?

The good folks at Doonesbury and Slate are offering $10,000 to anyone who can verify Bush's Guard record:

"If you personally witnessed George W. Bush reporting for drills at Dannelly Air National Guard Base between the months of May and November of 1972 we want to hear about it. Help Mr. Bush put this partisan assault on his character behind him, so he can focus on more serious issues like jobs, the deficit and the coming civil war in Iraq."

Check out www.doonesbury.com.
US rallies behind Israel over World Court:

"Israel has consistently rejected the court's competence to issue an advisory opinion after a request by the UN's General Assembly in December.

An ICJ ruling 'would without doubt upset the balance of the roadmap and make any meaningful resumption of negotiations more difficult to achieve,' Israel said in its written submission to the court made public on Monday.

Washington has criticized the route of the barrier, but at the same time consistently argued that it is inappropriate for the court to rule on the issue.

Washington insists the Middle East 'roadmap' for a political settlement is the only legitimate framework for discussion."

According to Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat: 'This expansion wall, annexation wall, apartheid wall has turned our villages into jails and collective prisons.'
What do you have to do to stop these Neo-con Crazies?:

Remember John Poindexter's "Total Information Awareness" fiasco? Remember the concept - heavily ridiculed around the world - of a stock exchange for predicting terrorist activities? US Congress last year closed Poindexter's office and barred the agency from continuing most of his research. Poindexter was forced to quit his post.

As AP reports, however, Poindexter's pet projects did not die:

"In killing Poindexter's office, Congress quietly agreed to continue paying to develop highly specialized software to gather foreign intelligence on terrorists."

February 23, 2004

And Now For The Real Terror...

"Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters..

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

Key findings include:

· Future wars will be fought over the issue of survival rather than religion, ideology or national honour.

· By 2007 violent storms smash coastal barriers rendering large parts of the Netherlands inhabitable. Cities like The Hague are abandoned. In California the delta island levees in the Sacramento river area are breached, disrupting the aqueduct system transporting water from north to south.

· Between 2010 and 2020 Europe is hardest hit by climatic change with an average annual temperature drop of 6F. Climate in Britain becomes colder and drier as weather patterns begin to resemble Siberia.

· Deaths from war and famine run into the millions until the planet's population is reduced by such an extent the Earth can cope.

· Riots and internal conflict tear apart India, South Africa and Indonesia.

· Access to water becomes a major battleground. The Nile, Danube and Amazon are all mentioned as being high risk.

· A 'significant drop' in the planet's ability to sustain its present population will become apparent over the next 20 years.

· Rich areas like the US and Europe would become 'virtual fortresses' to prevent millions of migrants from entering after being forced from land drowned by sea-level rise or no longer able to grow crops. Waves of boatpeople pose significant problems.

· Nuclear arms proliferation is inevitable. Japan, South Korea, and Germany develop nuclear-weapons capabilities, as do Iran, Egypt and North Korea. Israel, China, India and Pakistan also are poised to use the bomb.

· By 2010 the US and Europe will experience a third more days with peak temperatures above 90F. Climate becomes an 'economic nuisance' as storms, droughts and hot spells create havoc for farmers.

· More than 400m people in subtropical regions at grave risk.

· Europe will face huge internal struggles as it copes with massive numbers of migrants washing up on its shores. Immigrants from Scandinavia seek warmer climes to the south. Southern Europe is beleaguered by refugees from hard-hit countries in Africa.

· Mega-droughts affect the world's major breadbaskets, including America's Midwest, where strong winds bring soil loss.

· China's huge population and food demand make it particularly vulnerable. Bangladesh becomes nearly uninhabitable because of a rising sea level, which contaminates the inland water supplies.

Jeremy Symons, a former whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said that suppression of the report for four months was a further example of the White House trying to bury the threat of climate change.

Symons said the Bush administration's close links to high-powered energy and oil companies was vital in understanding why climate change was received sceptically in the Oval Office. 'This administration is ignoring the evidence in order to placate a handful of large energy and oil companies,' he added.

Co-incidentally, on the same day the report was leaked, former Green Party candidate Ralph Nader has announced that he will again bid for the US Presidency, this time as an independent.

Announcing his decision, Mr Nader said: "This country has a lot of problems and injustices which it doesn't deserve... This is not a democracy that can be controlled by two parties in the grip of corporate interest."
Global War Machine Gets More Money:

"Britain will boost the size of its domestic intelligence service by 50 per cent, hiring 1,000 new staff to counter the threat of terrorism, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said...

Asked if the recruitment drive was part of the 'war on terror', Prescott said: 'That is the main concern now, frankly.'

'It's (a response to the threat of) a person walking with a massive weapon of mass destruction into an underground (metro system), a chemical weapon or something. So you really have got to have greater use of intelligence than we've got at the moment.'"

Gandhi: Like most of the Western World, these UK spy guys have been watching way too many Hollywood movies. How do you stop an unknown terrorist with a WMD from boarding a bus? The truth is, you cannot do it, at least not all the time. That is the fundamental fallacy of the unwinable "war on terrorism", which is really just an excuse for an Orwellian state of never-ending war.

But why does a terrorist decide to board a bus with a WMD? Why would he even want to find, build or buy a WMD? Humans have an instinct for self-preservation and are generally averse to the concept of murder. The idea that thousand of crazed Muslim terrorists want to kill Westerners just because "they hate our freedom" is just another Bush Lie.

Today's television-addicted children grow up thinking that the world can be separated into "good guys" and "bad guys". Witness the child-like George W. Bush's nonchalant dismissal of the Iraqi war dead and Guantanamo Bay inmates as "bad" or "evil". But the truth is that most people only use weapons against others if they feel they have a legitimate and serious aggrievement that cannot be resolved any other way.

In all this talk of a "War" on "Terror" there has been precious little discussion of how we should resolve the very real and unresolved aggrievements of the Arab peoples. Instead, Bush's phoney "Roadmap" for peace, like the phoney promise of genuine Iraqi democracy, has been left to die a slow beaurocratic death (just as it was created to do). Meanwhile, despite weak US protests, Israel has been allowed to continue building a huge concrete "apartheid" wall that will make life even harder for Palestinians.

Instead of throwing ever more money at our Defence Forces and spewing forth xenophobic vitriol, why don't we launch a real attack on the root causes of terrorism: poverty, racial prejudice and political suppression?
NBC News: Ricin Tests May Have Been Wrong:

"There is a new theory emerging about the ricin scare two weeks ago.

NBC News has learned investigators are looking into the possibility that there never was any ricin attack in the first place...

Since ricin comes from the castor bean, and some nontoxic parts of the plant are used to make paper, it might be possible that the tests found traces of the plant, but not ricin."
Bremer puts Iraqi elections on hold amid speculation about his job:

"Yesterday, Mr Bremer blamed 'technical reasons' for delaying elections for up to 15 months, a verdict reached by members of a United Nations commission sent to Iraq. He said the country lacked a democratic and legislative framework."

It has also emerged that Robert Blackwill, a former US ambassador to India who is now a Middle East "troubleshooter" for Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, made a low-profile fact-finding visit to Iraq just over a week ago.

Mahmoud Osman, a leading Kurdish member of the governing council, said: "Blackwill came here and was asking many, many questions about what was going on. He was trying to see the situation and he was to report back to the president through Condoleezza Rice. No mention of the visit was made to the media.

"It is not clear that Bremer will be sidelined, but with Blackwill coming and going it may just mean that. If I were Mr Bush, I would be thoroughly reassessing the policy of the last 10 months to see what has gone wrong."

Seems like the internal White House squabbling continues, with Bush likely to favour Condi's man over Rummy's quagmire chief.

February 22, 2004

Same White House Crims, Same Game Plan...:

"Bush needs lots of NASCAR dads to win in November, and staging a photo op at the 'Great American Race' was a masterstroke. But it's not an original idea. In fact, Bush's Daytona trip has a historical precedent: Richard Nixon's December 1969 journey to to a football game in Fayetteville, Ark."

The USA badly needs to address the fact that millionaire pro-Nazi Fascists were not properly routed and punished after WWII, nor were Republican White House criminal dealings fully exorcised by Nixon's resignation or the Iran-Contra hearings. The germ of corruption, which was not destroyed, countinues to flourish. Worse yet, the Republican host seems to be developing an increased tolerance for the disease.

There are lot of guys behind Bush - especially Rumsfeld and Cheney - who remember an awful lot about serving in the Nixon White House.
Sometimes you need to look on the dark side of life:

"As TS Eliot said, humankind cannot bear very much reality. Some forms of religion encourage us to bury our heads in the sand to block out the suffering that surrounds us on all sides. The rich man in his palace can reconcile himself to the plight of the poor man at his gate by reminding himself that this is part of God's bright and beautiful plan; those who suffer poverty and oppression in this life will be recompensed in the hereafter. When thousands die in an earthquake, we can tell ourselves that God knew what he was doing.

"In our global world, we can no longer afford to edit out the uncomfortable spectacle of human misery. In the past, we have sometimes pursued policies that have resulted in great suffering, telling ourselves that all would ultimately be well. We have let conflicts fester until they have become intractable. We have supported such allies as Saddam Hussein, ignoring the atrocities they inflict upon their people. We are now rightly outraged by his massacre of his Kurdish subjects, but at the time we ineffectually turned a blind eye. Today we are reaping the reward of our heedless karma. The pain that we ignored in some parts of the world has hardened into murderous rage. "

February 21, 2004

What About The Iraqis? The Body Count is not 500, it's 10,500:

"In international law, countries that wage wars of aggression must pay reparations. Yet in Iraq, this logic has been turned on its head. Not only are there no penalties for an illegal war, there are prizes, with the US actively and openly rewarding itself with huge reconstruction contracts. When the reconstruction spending has attracted controversy, it has not been over what is owed to Iraqis for their tremendous losses, but over what is owed to European corporations and to American taxpayers.

'This war profiteering is poison to America, poison to Americans' faith in government and poison to our allies' perception of our motives in Iraq,' John Edwards said in December. True, but he somehow failed to mention that it also poisons Iraqis - not their faith, or their perceptions, but their bodies. "
America: The accidental empire?:

The BBC has a very readable six-part online series by Jonathan Marcus. Click the link above to read up...

PART ONE: First world order
Globalisation and US power are inextricably linked.

PART TWO : Accidental empire
Did the Spanish-American war of 1898 trigger US global expansion?

PART THREE: New age of warfare
What are the issues confronting the US army in an age of the pre-emptive strike?

PART FOUR : Storm brewing
The growing global anger over aggressive US trade policies

(I guess the next two parts are still to come...)
Bush Raises $12.9M for Reelection Campaign Last Month:

"President Bush raised nearly $12.9 million for his reelection campaign last month and spent more than $7.5 million as he stepped up appeals to voters in the face of attacks from Democratic presidential contenders...

As of the end of last year, the nine Democrats then in contention had less than $20 million in their campaign treasuries."

At least Kerrry has some deep pockets...
Powell persists with the lies:

"The conclusion that Iraq had weapons stockpiled was the 'considered judgment of the entire intelligence community,' not just the United States, Powell said.

Not true. The international community called on extended time for UN inspections.

'We have to keep in mind that in the larger scheme of things, the question of stockpiles isn't the main question we should focus on. He had the intention, the capability and the delivery system,' Powell said."

You don't invade someone for an "intention". And where was the "capability" and the "delivery system"? In a couple of rusting hydrogen trucks?

Sadly, Powell has tied his petard to the Bush/Cheney mast and he will go down with the ship, ever loyal to his crazed captain.
Halliburton scandal of the week:

"When the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission announced two weeks ago that it was joining the Paris public prosecutor's office in examining $US180 million ($227 million) in alleged secret payments to Nigerian officials, Cheney's political enemies took note.

The controversial US defence contractor Halliburton owns one of four foreign companies accused in the scandal. The company, M W Kellogg, was bought in 1998 when Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive officer.
The Nigerian investigation is just the latest controversy swirling about Cheney and Halliburton."

'We've had the Halliburton scandal of the week for a good five weeks and this is the next big one," says Pete Singer, who investigated Halliburton for his new book, Corporate Warriors.

P.S. This is yet another great article from my "local" Australian paper, the Sydney Morning Herald, which is doing a great job in exposing the Bush/Iraq lies.

February 20, 2004

Australians want Iraq royal commission:

Australian Opposition Leader Mark Latham "is demanding a royal commission-style inquiry into how the government used the nation's spy assessments of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Until now Mr Latham, like the government, had said any new inquiry should wait on the results of a parliamentary committee report which is due on March 1.

But with findings of that confidential report now an open secret, and more revelations about the nature of the intelligence fed to the government, Mr Latham believes a wide-ranging inquiry into the issue is now necessary.
He believes the inquiry should also report later this year, ahead of the expected November federal election."
"It's Time to Get Over It": Kerry Tells Anti-War Movement to Move On:

"John Kerry, the frontrunner in the quest for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, has been promoting a foreign policy perspective called 'progressive internationalism.' It's a concept concocted by establishment Democrats seeking to convince potential backers in the corporate and political world that, if installed in the White House, they would seek to preserve U.S. power and influence around the world, but in a kinder, gentler fashion than the current administration.

In the battle to control the American empire, the neocons have in their corner the Partnership for a New American Century while the New Democrats have the Progressive Policy Institute. Come November, who will get your vote? Coke or Pepsi?"
Laureates say Bush is twisting science:

"More than 60 influential scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, have issued a statement asserting the Bush Administration has systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weapons.

The documents accuse the Administration of repeatedly censoring and suppressing its own scientists' reports, stacking advisory committees with unqualified political appointees, disbanding government panels that provide unwanted advice, and refusing to seek independent scientific expertise in some cases. "

February 19, 2004

Public Reply to Mr. Alexander Downer, Australian Foreign Minister

Dear Mr Downer,

As an ordinary Australian citizen, I take exception to almost every single aspect of the article that you published in yesterday’s Australian newspaper (“Iraq truth under siege”, February 19, 2004). For the good of our nation, I would like to invoke a right of reply to this litany of lies.

WHEN you accuse someone of dishonesty, you need to be scrupulously honest yourself.

What would you and other members of the Howard Government know about honesty? You guys brought us the Children Overboard affair, the “No GST, ever” promise and a pre-packaged war on Iraq, based on claims of non-existent WMDs, in which Australian SAS troops were on the ground spilling first blood before war was even declared.

The critics ignore, twist and manipulate the information available to whatever extent is necessary to make their offensive allegations seem plausible. In short, they "sex up".

If that’s what “sexing up” is, Blair Bush and Howard have been doing it in spades for well over a year. If that’s what “sexing up” is, those who criticize the findings of the UK’s Hutton Report are totally vindicated.

These critics (whose preferred position would have left Saddam Hussein in power) …

Totally disgraceful rubbish. This is a divisive lie that you warmongering politicians continually trot out. Most critics of the war were happy to see Saddam removed. We were not happy that it was done illegally, in our names, by governments who are supposedly democratic and supposedly committed to the Geneva Convention and the UN. The majority of war critics would have supported UN action against Saddam, provided the Weapons Inspections had proved it necessary and the Security Council approved it.

In fact, the Government has always made it clear that the legal justification for the war was to enforce Iraqi compliance with a series of UN Security Council resolutions relating to the elimination of Iraq's WMD programs.

This is utter hypocrisy. How can you say that you defied the UN in order to enforce compliance with the UN? Your fellow warmongers have openly criticized the UN and called for its replacement, so to use this as a justification for the invasion sounds quite desperate. Let’s remember that the UN never ruled out military action against Saddam, it just said the inspections needed more time. The warmongers said there was no more time, because WMDs posed an “imminent” risk. Remember?

Throughout the long debate leading up to the war, however, the Government made it clear that the Iraqi regime was barbarous, inhumane and treacherous. We highlighted its mass murders, its sponsorship of terrorism and its use of chemical weapons against its own people.

Yes, you sent out anti-terrorism fridge magnets and ran ads telling us to be scared, but not too scared. You glorified in the imagery of war and painted yourselves as our valiant protectors. But in fact you were actually increasing the dangers to all Australians, inflaming both Islamic fundamentalist and anti-Islamic sentiments around the world, and basically ignoring the real terrorists while helping George “Sugar Daddy” Bush make an oil-grab and build a new base for US militarism in the Middle East. And by the way, the US sold Saddam those “chemical weapons” he used on his own people while Reagan was in power, then he invited Donny Rumsfeld to Baghdad for a quiet coffee.

We said regime change could not be a legal basis for war …

Yet now the warmongers use “regime change” as a post-facto vindication for their war. I can get quotes if you like.

We said that eliminating Iraq's WMD programs was a critical step in the enforcement of global anti-proliferation objectives.

Not much of a critical step, as it turns out. There were no Iraq WMD programs up and running and only scattered evidence of Saddam’s intent to one day resurrect those programs, if the continued pressure of UN sanctions and inspections ever allowed it. So “enforcing global anti-proliferation objectives” could better have been achieved by confronting North Korea, Iran or even Pakistan.

[Opposition Foreign Minister Phil] Rudd … calls, pre-emptively, for another inquiry. How sincere is it to call for a new inquiry when the existing one is incomplete?

How sincere is it to have a report widely leaked to the press and yet not release it to the public, especially when the PM and others have had it sitting on their desks for weeks? Besides, the available information has changed dramatically since the first enquiry was set up, which is why the British and US governments have been forced to announce new enquiries. The Australian government should do likewise, and it should be a Royal Commission to ensure there is no political cronyism or absurd limitations.

The Government stands by its arguments and its record for sharing intelligence assessments honestly with the public.

Does it also stand by the discredited US and British intelligence, which it accepted without independent verification? Would the government be prepared to take Australia to war again solely on the basis of unverifiable US and UK intelligence?

We do not seek to hide from the fact that we made some references to stockpiles and that, so far, none has been found.

You do not hide from it? Then why don’t you take responsibility for your mistake and resign? Or perhaps, if Baghdad airport is ever secure, the CIA will be able to fly some WMD into Iraq? That would fix the problem, especially if they can do it before the elections.

This is an issue that warrants sensible debate. But that debate should be honest, recognising that the stockpile argument is only one part of the story.

True. Even if WMDs are found, the war was still illegal and those who instigated it should still face an international court. George W. Bush vetoed US involvement in the International Criminal Court about the same time he abandoned Kyoto and the Geneva Convention, but I’m sure we can get it back on track.

As for David Kay's claim (which you quoted) that Iraq had “a stockpile of scientists and technology and actual equipment for producing (WMDs)” and that terrorists “would have acquired it," that is just speculation. Besides, in a “free” Iraq, what is to stop these scientists from helping terrorists? And who is to say that any useful technology was not looted or sold off in the security vacuum that followed the invasion?

The critics choose to forget that the international community, including those countries that opposed the war, was unified in its view about Iraq's capabilities…

Well, no that is not true. The countries that opposed the war said “Let’s wait and see what the UN inspectors find.” That is not the same as “Attack now! Defcon 4!”

Labor also said Iraq possessed WMDs.

Those who believed their governments claims of Iraqs WMDs did not have access to the caveats and qualifiers in the intelligence material that Bush, Blair and Howard saw (and chose to ignore). If they believed in Saddam’s WMDs and terrorist links, it is because people like you misled them.

But, of course, if the international community knew early last year what it knows now about Saddam's WMD programs, there would have been less debate in the Security Council about the appropriate action.

Damn right. They would have said the inspections are working, the sanctions are working, there is no reason to attack Iraq and create even more misery for its citizens. And if Bush had supported the International Criminal Court, they might have decided that was the best way to deal with Saddam and his like.

Kay's report shows that removing Saddam was the only way the international community could be assured that he would no longer threaten anyone with WMDs.

Sorry? Did I miss something here? How did we come to that conclusion, Alex? George Orwell must be doing back-flips in his graves these days. Kay’s report shows no such thing. It shows that the UN had already effectively stopped Saddam from threatening anyone with WMDs.

Far from unstuck, the WMD case is proven.

Proven, yes, but in the negative. Now it is time for those who were wrong to admit it, take responsibility for launching an illegal pre-emptive invasion, and hand themselves over to an international criminal court. Instead, they play for time and peddle confusion, pasting together a mish-mash defence of opinions and speculation, just like this rubbish.

Through their determined action, Australia and its coalition partners permanently removed the threat of Saddam's WMD capabilities and aspirations.

One more time, in case you missed it – Saddam had no WMDs! And how do you remove the threat of an aspiration? Through their actions, Bush, Blair and Howard have in fact destroyed the moral legitimacy of international conventions and treaties that have maintained world peace since WWII.

This action is already providing a global security dividend in Iraq, in Libya, in Iran and in North Korea.

In fact, the Libyan breakthrough was the result of years of quiet diplomacy, not the threat of a pre-emptive invasion by already over-stretched US military forces. And Iran and North Korea continue actively pursuing nuclear programs. Even so, there is no hard evidence associating these activities with terrorism, which – we are told – is supposed to be the real enemy here. Or is possession of a nuclear “deterrent” now considered “terrorism”? If so, let’s invade India, China, France and Russia. Or are they OK, because they are not Arabs? It seems the real definition of a “terrorist” today is anyone who is not on the Kirribilli, Number Ten and White House Guest Lists.

While our critics continue to disingenuously push accusations of dishonesty, they underestimate the intelligence of the public. Australians see through phoney debates and appreciate the honest exposition of the reasons behind difficult decisions.

It is not disingenuous to accuse a pack of serial liars of dishonesty, particularly when they continually refuse to apologize or accept responsibility for their mistakes, and even moreso when they continue to put our lives in danger. Would the Bali bombing have occurred if Australia had not jumped to Bush’s attack command? Probably not. Countries like Canada and New Zealand, who opposed the war, are not the targets that we now are, even though a majority of Australians opposed the war. Australians are not stupid. We do see through these phoney debates. And we will continue calling for justice until our voices are heard.

Yours sincerely,

(an Australian citizen)
Richard Perle: Prince Of Darkness:

"The scariest figure among the crew of insiders that has pushed us into war is Richard Perle, who was assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, and is now on the Defense Policy Board, an outside-the-Pentagon group of military intellectuals that advises the Department of Defense. He is one of the principal architects of the New Imperialism. His nickname—I'm not making this up—is the 'Prince of Darkness.'"
WorkingForChange-This Modern World: How Conservatives See It

Eisenhower Was Right:

"The US Army's chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, told the House Armed Services Committee that he is going to increase the size of U.S. forces by 30,000.

Did Congress authorize the increase? No. And when a few congressmen indicated to the general that they'd be pleased to have Congress authorize the increase, the general responded that Congress didn't need to trouble themselves with providing such authority - that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld had already authorized the temporary increase under his "emergency" power - and that the "emergency" would justify the increase for the next four years. In other words, "Don't worry your pretty little heads"
AlterNet: The Assassination of Howard Dean:

"In the end, Dean threatened a troika of powerful institutions. He was a threat to the political parties (because he attacked Democrats' centrist drift), to media (because he criticized their cowardly reporting) and to big business (because he would roll back chummy tax-benefits for corporations). All three institutions responded with venom and destroyed Dean's candidacy. In 1968, a sniper's bullet ended Robert Kennedy's anti-establishment candidacy. In 2004, the methods used were more subtle, but just as effective. "

February 18, 2004

Is It Worth Considering Alternatives to Voting Kerry?:

"In the run-up to November, the argument is being made that the fight against the Republican administration of George W. Bush can only be waged by supporting the Democratic Party. This is a perspective that ignores the lessons of history, which demonstrate conclusively that the interests of the working class cannot be defended through the Democratic Party. It also overlooks the fact that the financial and corporate elite in America rule through a two-party system, assuring themselves dominance and the defense of their interests whether the Democrats or Republicans control the White House."

Gandhi: It's a fair comment, taken from a Socialist website. Kerry certainly does represent a lot that is wrong with the USA, but surely the objective today must be to vote Bush out as a matter of urgency. Kerry, shackled by the need for support within his own party, simply cannot be as bad as Bush. His own party would not let him get away with it.

So I think the strategy for anyone who is against Bush should be to keep campaigning for Bush's impeachment, if not imprisonment, and keep attacking him even after the next election, even if he is out of office, to ensure his illegal escapades come into the clear light of day and can never be repeated. But in the meantime, take a deep breath, and vote Democrat. You can go straight back to your other parties as soon as Bush is gone.

"Dean scared the establishment. His aggressive style roused youngsters whom aging Boomers prefer to see somnolent. His populist Internet-based fundraising freed him from the corporate donors whose influence keeps the citizens of the world's richest nation living under a Third World system of social protections. Al Gore's endorsement transformed a candidate who came out of nowhere (Vermont) into a genuine threat to the southern conservatives who have hijacked the Democratic Party since 1992. Dean was a pro-business moderate, yet he stood poised to radically transform both his party and the American political system.

Of course he had to go. "
Belated Disclosure (washingtonpost.com):

Former senator Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.) donated $50,000 to an anti-Dean advertising campaign.

According to the Post, the money was "not from his own pocket, but out of his leftover campaign funds. Mr. Torricelli, you will remember, had the cash to spare because he was forced to quit his reelection race after being 'severely admonished' by the Senate Ethics Committee for accepting expensive gifts from a campaign donor he was doing official favors for. Now a champion at collecting special-interest money is gathering checks for Mr. Kerry, who's busy railing against those interests. "
CBC News: U.S. prosecutor sues Ashcroft:

"A U.S. federal prosecutor in one of the first war on terror trials is suing Attorney General John Ashcroft, alleging he was investigated for raising concerns about the war on terror.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino, who was removed from the case, is seeking damages under the Privacy Act. Convertino alleges his First Amendment rights were violated when details about a Justice Department internal investigation into his conduct during the trial were leaked to the media. "

February 17, 2004

Quotes From US Presidents:

"I will never apologize for the United States of America - I don't care what the facts are."

-George Bush, Newsweek, August 15, 1989 (Commenting on the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by the U.S. warship Vincennes, killing 290 civilian passengers.)
I doubt that Dr David Kelly committed suicide:

"Did Dr David Kelly - husband, father of three daughters and a leading world expert in chemical and germ warfare - murder himself, or was he murdered by others?"

A group of qualified doctors refute the suicide verdict and demand the inquiry into his death be re-opened.

As Donald Rumsfeld famously said, there are "known knowns", the things we know we know, and "known unknowns", the things we know we don't know. Then there are the "unknown unknowns", the things we dont know that we dont know. Since this appears to be the kind of logic that the current White House staff use to evaluate issues of global importance, perhaps it is time we applied the same logic to evaluate the activities of Mssrs. Bush, Rumsfeld and their neo-conservative colleagues.

Although Bush & Co. presented their case for war as a long series of "known knowns", starting with Saddam's WMDs and links to terrorism, their evidence has since proved unreliable. As such, the "known knowns" now appear to have been, at best, "known unknowns" which were consistently and repeatedly presented as "known knowns".

We know that US and British intelligence agencies included frequent caveats and qualifiers, all of which were ignored. We know that Colin Powell shamefully presented a re-hashed University thesis as his core evidence to the UN. We know that Cheney and Rumsfeld set up an "Office Of Special Plans" to hand-pick the intelligence that the neo-cons used to justify the war.

Let's stop pretending that Bush, Blair and Howard might have been misled by bad intelligence. We know the intelligence was imperfect, but that is surely all the more reason not to use it as justification for a pre-emptive strike. The war-mongers were not misled, their voting publics were misled. Bush, Blair and Howard lied - we all know it. Some people are just able to accept that.

We know that now, nearly a year since the invasion, no WMDs have been found in Iraq. We know that Iraqi scientists and government officials have consistently claimed that Saddam had no WMDs since the early 1990s. We know that David Kay, head of a massive six month WMD search operation, believes there are no WMDs in Iraq and it is not worthwhile searching any longer. We know the UN sanctions and weapon inspections - despite US claims to the contrary - had effectively disabled Saddam's war machine.

(And by the way, even if WMDs ARE found, say just a few weeks before the US elections in November, that still would not prove that Saddam was going to use them. The invasion would still be unjustified and illegal. Let's not forget that.)

We also know there was no alliance between Saddam and Al Quaeda. We know Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. And yet we know that Bush & Co presented Saddam as an "imminent" threat to US security, vaguely yet consistently linking Saddam with terrorism, Al Quaeda and 9/11. We know that a large proportion of US voters still maintain a belief in this false association.

We know that the forceful removal of Saddam was being agressively pushed by Rumsfeld and other neo-conservatives since the late 90's. We know this group had been steadily documenting plans for US Empire and lobbying for a decade to turn their zealous, simplistic ideology into official US policy. Looking at the world today, it seems they may have been 100% successful.

Anti-conservatives can be too cautious and overly polite, but the facts speak for themselves. We know Saddam's violent overthrow was being planned by the Bush Administration since their first weeks in the Oval Office. The media may be too intimidated to report it as a bald fact, but the rest of the world knows that Bush & Co intentionally used 9/11 as a pretext for their pre-concieved goal of invading Iraq. We know that Bush and Blair have refused to include this possibility in any post-war investigations or committee inquiries. Why not, if they have nothing to hide?

The illegal invasion of Iraq is a tragedy for the thousands of US soldiers who have been sent to die for a cause they do not understand, let alone believe in, and for the thousands of innocent Iraqis who died "for a mistake". It is also a tragedy for world peace and US credibility in the international community.

Beyond Iraq, the false pretexts used to justify the invasion now become urgent justification for a serious re-examination of the Bush administration, including a review of G. W. Bush's errant past. The confusion surrounding his time in the National Guard is just one part of the puzzle.

We know that G. W. Bush was a member of the National Guard, though we don't know why he wasn't called up for service in Vietnam. We know that he was honourably discharged, but we don't know for sure whether he actually served even the minimum number of days required by the Guard. We know that his records have disappeared. We don't know why. We know there are people willing to testify that Bush's records were tampered with or destroyed at the time he was campaigning for the Governor of Texas position.

We know that Bush either failed, or failed to take, the National Guard's physical test in July, 1972. We don't know why. We know that he did not fly again for the National Guard after that date. We don't know why. We know that, when this issue was raised during the 2000 elections, Bush supporters produced a torn Alabama National Guard document - where the name "George W. Bush" should have been, only the letter "W" was legible. We don't know why.

We know that the Republicans have started releasing various files "proving" Bush served his time in the Guard. But why were these documents suppressed in the first place? We don't know. We know that one or two people have come forward saying they remember Bush in Alabama, including a fellow Republican campaigner who says she also remembers locals continually "grumbing" about Bush's lack of attendance. Why were they grumbling, if he was there? We don't know.

In summary, when it comes to George W. Bush, there are now enough "known knowns" and "known unknowns" to make you seriously wonder how this man could ever have become President of the United States of America.

The "unknown unknowns", for the time being at least, remain the stuff of conspiracy theorists... Has the "world's greatest democracy" been surreptitiously usurped by corporate interests? Have invisible forces within the CIA been picking and choosing US Presidents since WWII? Is the White House controlled by an invisible group of Fascists with strong links to Yale University's "Skull and Bones" club?

Consider this. Before WWII, President Franklin Roosevelt issued a warning:

"The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling power... Among us today, a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing."

That "concentration of private power" included George W. Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush, who was later convicted by the US government under the Trading with the Enemy Act.

In 1980, when Ronald Reagan was campaigning against George Bush Snr for the Republican Party ballot, Reagan's camp ran an advertisement which claimed:

"A coalition of multinational corporate executives, big-city bankers, and hungry power brokers... want to give you George Bush... their purpose is to control the American government."

Was this "coalition" ultimately successful in their goal? We don't know, but it certainly looks that way.

There's a lot, obviously, that we don't know. But there is also a hell of a lot of scary stuff that we already DO know. And it's time we found out the whole truth about George W. Bush, his family and his friends.
Doonesbury Still Rocks

For a consistently humourous and insightful take on Bush & Co's illegal antics, check out Doonesbury's Daily Dose:

February 16, 2004

This Iraq Invasion is SERIOUS:

"Plenty of those whose blood was up in the immediate aftermath of the Hutton report - the backlash against the whitewash - suspect they ought to drop it now. Better to change the subject than be a bore.

They should think again. For this is more than another political story de jour, one that looms enormous at the time but is soon forgotten. This is not the fuel protest or the Hinduja affair. On the contrary, the legitimacy of the Iraq war is about as serious a question as you could imagine; its answer could determine the way our world is ordered in the 21st century. And this is not abstract, chin-stroking stuff for the seminar room. It has direct political consequences; it could even break the governments of both Britain and the United States...

Blair and Bush must suspect that Iraq could be the breaking of them, even if they do not know how it will happen. Governments toppled in London and Washington, and the world order reshaped. Boring? I don't think so."
Bush opens NASCAR race - - http://www.smh.com.au:

"President George W Bush throttled up his re-election campaign by donning a racing jacket and opening the Daytona 500, NASCAR's most prestigious event in a sport that draws a prized voter profile.

'Gentlemen, start your engines!' Bush said, squinting up from pit road to the grandstands, where some 180,000 fans roared. They were promptly drowned out by the scream of stock car engines roaring to life."

The race provided an irresistible opportunity for Bush to woo tens of millions of NASCAR fans - the sport claims a fan base of 75 million - watching the televised event eight and a half months before the election.

The crowd in the stands was almost exclusively white and heavily male. The phrase "NASCAR dads" has become political shorthand for voters who like Bush but who could be persuaded to vote Democratic if the issues and candidates were right.

It was also a plum chance to make a 19th visit to Florida, the state that decided the 2000 election.

The president got a much warmer reception than Bill Clinton did when he visited a NASCAR race as a candidate in September 1992, when the question of his lack of Vietnam-era military service was dogging the Democratic candidate.

At the Southern 500 race in Darlington, South Carolina, Clinton was booed and heckled by fans, many shouting "draft dodger!" at him.

As Bush strode through pit row, he received rock-star treatment. An extravaganza unfolded around him.
Bush v. Kerry: The Power Elite’s Dream Ballot:
"If you hear gleeful giggling from behind the curtain shielding the political elites from the mere masses, you’re not alone. There’s a party going on and we haven’t been invited. It’s a presidential election party, where the puppeteers of our democracy are celebrating an upcoming election that they can’t lose. It’s a contest between two of their own.

George Bush versus John Kerry is a dream ballot for those whom C. Wright Mills called the “power elite,” that tight little club of economic, political and military leaders who truly rule the nation. The power elite doesn’t care about political party affiliations. That’s child’s play. In their view, fools line up to vote while the real players decide who’s on the ballot. And for some reason we still refer to the whole charade as democracy. The joke’s on you."
BBC - Concerns over US computer voting:

"Two leading American experts on computer voting have warned that the forthcoming US presidential election could be more chaotic than the last.

They told a Seattle conference that the new systems may be less reliable than those used four years ago. "
Kerry must face up to tough questions:

"Kerry has received more money from lobbyists over the past 15 years than any other serving senator. "

February 15, 2004

Australian Government 'warned' on intelligence:

"Intelligence agencies told the Federal Government in the weeks before the Iraq war that some of the Bush Administration's claims justifying an invasion were exaggerated, according to one of Australia's most senior intelligence officials.

The official - who spoke on condition of anonymity - said the Government was told before the war that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction did not pose an immediate threat. Iraq's chemical and biological warfare capabilities were largely latent, they said.

In a private briefing attended by The Age, the official said the threat posed by Iraq last year did not justify its invasion."
Op-Ed Columnist: The Real Man:

"To understand why questions about George Bush's time in the National Guard are legitimate, all you have to do is look at the federal budget published last week. No, not the lies, damned lies and statistics - the pictures.

By my count, this year's budget contains 27 glossy photos of Mr. Bush. We see the president in front of a giant American flag, in front of the Washington Monument, comforting an elderly woman in a wheelchair, helping a small child with his reading assignment, building a trail through the wilderness and, of course, eating turkey with the troops in Iraq. Somehow the art director neglected to include a photo of the president swimming across the Yangtze River.

It was not ever thus. Bill Clinton's budgets were illustrated with tables and charts, not with worshipful photos of the president being presidential.

The issue here goes beyond using the Government Printing Office to publish campaign brochures. In this budget, as in almost everything it does, the Bush administration tries to blur the line between reverence for the office of president and reverence for the person who currently holds that office. "

February 14, 2004

Blacked-out Bush Arrest Details Released:

"The White House has released previously withheld information about US President George Bush's National Guard record.

It shows he was cited for a prank at Yale University, and that as a teenager he was involved in two traffic accidents and received two speeding tickets. The information, which had been blacked out in copy released four years ago when Mr Bush was running for president, was provided by White House spokesman Scott McClellan."

February 13, 2004

DRUDGE REPORT Claims Kerry Sex Scandal:

Matt Drudge, the online author of the Drudge report (which famously revealed the Monica Lewinsky scandal) claims Democrat Presidential contender John Kerry has been involved for over 2 years with a young woman who has now fled the country.

General Wesley Clark, in an off-the-record conversation with a dozen reporters before abandoning his campaign earlier this week, plainly stated: 'Kerry will implode over an intern issue.' Clark is now preparing to endorse Kerry as a candidate.

According to Drudge: "Reporters who witnessed Clark making the stunning comments marvel at the General's reluctance to later confirm they were spoken -- only to later endorse Kerry for the nomination!"
AlterNet: Nixon's Children:

"Those closest to George W. Bush – notably Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld – learned some valuable lessons from the Nixon presidency and the events that led to its downfall.

After Nixon was forced from office, Cheney became White House chief of staff for Gerald Ford. It was during that job that Cheney first showed he had learned much from his former boss's downfall. While chief of staff for Ford, Cheney earned the code name 'Backseat,' a reflection of his insistence that his work remain behind the scenes and out of the public spotlight. Rumsfeld resigned his congressional seat to join the Nixon administration in 1969 as an advisor on domestic policy.

Both Cheney and Rumsfeld had front-row seats from which to watch the self-destruction of the Nixon presidency. Finding themselves in power again, both men well understood that it was not what Nixon and his cronies did that got them thrown out of office, but the evidence of what they did – the tapes, the memos, the testimony. "
US Finally Decides to Clean Up Guantanamo Cases:

"The Pentagon appears to be moving closer to beginning trials for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, including Australian David Hicks.
The Pentagon has started seeking submissions from media organisations interested in covering the military commissions which will take place at Guantanamo Bay.

It is asking journalists to make a case as to why they should be granted admission to the trials. The criteria include the reach and audience of the publication. The deadline for submissions closes in a couple of days, indicating that the Pentagon is moving with haste."
9/11 Panel to Seek Testimony From Bush:

"The federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks will soon ask President Bush (news - web sites), former President Clinton (news - web sites) and their vice presidents to testify in public about possible warnings they might have received from U.S. intelligence sources before the attacks.

'We need them to testify,' former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean, the bipartisan commission's chairman, told The Record of Bergen County in a story published Thursday. He said the panel would issue formal invitations within the next few weeks, although he conceded that all four men would probably decline to be questioned at a public forum. "
Bush's National Guard files 'thrown out':

"While he was governor of Texas, George Bush's aides disposed of Mr Bush's National Guard files while searching for information that could embarrass the governor in future elections, a retired lieutenant-colonel in the Texas National Guard told a member of the Texas Senate...

The retired Texas National Guard officer, Bill Burkett, said in a letter that Dan Bartlett, now White House communications director, and General Daniel James, then the head of the Texas National Guard, reviewed the file to 'make sure nothing will embarrass the governor during his re-election campaign'.

Mr Bartlett denied on Wednesday that any records were altered. General James, since named head of the Air National Guard by Mr Bush, also denied Mr Burkett's account.

But Mr Bartlett admitted speaking to National Guard officials about the files as Mr Bush was preparing to seek re-election as governor of Texas....

Mr Burkett said in mid-1997, in Camp Mabry military museum, he saw the head of the museum, General John Scribner, going through Mr Bush's records.

Mr Burkett said he saw a rubbish bin with discarded papers bearing Mr Bush's name.

"It never happened as far as I know," General Scribner said. "Why would I be going into records?"
War inquiry may go right to the top :

"The Senate Intelligence Committee may expand the scope of its investigation of intelligence failures in Iraq to include the White House's use of the information in making its case for war.

If the expansion is approved at a full meeting of the panel..., it would mark a reversal for the White House and Republican congressional leaders, who have fought to limit the inquiry to the performance of the CIA and other spy agencies.

The possibility of expanding the inquiry follows signs that some of the committee's Republican members might now support longstanding Democratic demands for an examination of the White House role, congressional sources said. "
You're as corrupt as Bush, Dean tells Kerry:

Howard Dean has reacted angrily to "a report that one of Senator Kerry's campaign fund-raisers, former senator Robert Torricelli, donated $US50,000 ($64,000) to a secretive group that aired anti-Dean ads before the Iowa caucuses. The former Vermont governor ended up finishing third, behind Senator Kerry and John Edwards.

'Senator Kerry apparently . . . supports the kind of corrupt fund-raising, politically corrupt fund-raising mechanism that George Bush has also employed," Dr Dean said.

"Senator Kerry is clearly not the best person to carry the banner of the Democrats in this race. . . . I intend to support the Democratic nominee under any circumstances. I'm just deeply disappointed that once again, we may have to settle for the lesser of two evils."

February 12, 2004

Companies winning few friends in Iraq-Merlin:

"Businesses involved in Iraq's reconstruction have yet to convince local people they are not working hand in glove with occupying forces or show relief agencies and government they are willing to cooperate on the ground, one of Britain's most reputable health NGOs said.

London-based Merlin said most U.S. companies had no legitimacy in the eyes of the local population, who view them as war profiteers following Washington's decision to award billions of dollars in contracts to American firms.

'Our experience in Iraq shows that both general and specific conditions for public-private partnerships are as yet unmet, and raises questions as to whether Iraq is a good setting to experiment with them on such a large scale,' said Lara Pellini, Merlin's public affairs officer. "


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