September 30, 2004

Ready For A Fair And Balanced Debate?

With Bush maintaining an inexplicable lead in the US polls, John Kerry needs to make a big impact in the presidential debates. But are the debates already being rigged against him?

The BBC has some details of the debate rules:
One debate will feature questions from the audience, but the questions will be screened by the moderator.

And the audience will not be made up of undecided voters, but of the candidates' "soft supporters" who have been selected by the Gallup poll organisation.

The Kerry campaign made several concessions in return for three debates instead of two.

The Bush campaign wanted lecterns 10ft (3m) apart and just 4ft (1.25m) high so that Mr Kerry would not appear to tower over the president.

The Bush campaign also fought hard to have visible warning lights to indicate when the candidates had gone over their allotted speaking time.

Each candidate will be given two minutes to answer and allowed 90 seconds for a rebuttal...

The candidates are also not allowed to question each other directly or step out from behind the lecterns...

His campaign also allowed the first debate to be on national security, which the Bush campaign believes to be its man's strength.

But the concessions were not all made by the Kerry camp.

The presidential march, Hail to the Chief, will not be played as Mr Bush enters the hall and the presidential seal will not appear on Mr Bush's lecterns.
Well, it's nice to see that Kerry's camp won some concessions!

Josh Micah Marshall speculates that MSNBC may be planning to use a guy called Frank Luntz as its focus group pollster and says such a decision would be so partisan as to defy comprehension. Marhsall provides this link to more info on Luntz:
Luntz, you may know, is one of the right-wing political gurus many on the left are both in awe of and enraged by -- a bogeyman in the same category as Karl Rove and Grover Norquist. His specialty is messaging; he's been credited with recasting "global warming" as "climate change," "tax cuts" as "tax relief," and "estate tax" as "death tax," among many others.
Meanwhile, over at Counterpunch, John L Hess says the media has already begun touting Bush as the winner before the debates have even begun:
The moderator, Jim Lehrer, had Tim Russert on last night and they reminded each other how Bush whomped Al Gore in their debate four years ago. At noon today, PBS said merrily that Bush had cleaned Gore's clock.

But Bush did not win that debate. As Paul Krugman reminds us, a poll of viewers in their living rooms gave it to Gore. But in the back room where the media were hanging out, Bush's spin doctors were cleaning their clocks. They said, did you spot that body language--that sneer, that fuzzy math, that tie he was wearing, those tweeds -- whatever. There's a fresh news angle, just for you. By morning the headlines were calling Bush the winner.

The Cat Hits Back

Cat Stevens aka Yusuf Islam speaks out about his arrest and deportation last week:
"God almighty! Is this the same planet I'd taken off from? I was devastated. The unbelievable thing is that only two months earlier, I had been having meetings in Washington with top officials from the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to talk about my charity work...

I am a victim of an unjust and arbitrary system, hastily imposed, that serves only to belittle America's image as a defender of the civil liberties that so many dearly struggled and died for over the centuries.

Need I say that any form of terrorism or violence is the antithesis of everything I love and stand for? Anyone who knows me will attest to this. I have spent my life in the search for peace and understanding, and that was mirrored clearly in my music. Since becoming a Muslim, I have devoted my life to education, charity and helping children around the world.

I have never harboured any ill will toward people of God's great Earth anywhere and wish the reverse was also true."

September 29, 2004

Expect The Worst

The Atlantic Online takes a long, hard look at Karl Rove:
"If this year stays true to past form, the campaign will get nastier in the closing weeks, and without anyone's quite registering it, Rove will be right back in his element. He seems to understand - indeed, to count on - the media's unwillingness or inability, whether from squeamishness, laziness, or professional caution, ever to give a full estimate of him or his work. It is ultimately not just Rove's skill but his character that allows him to perform on an entirely different plane. Along with remarkable strategic skills, he has both an understanding of the media's unstated self-limitations and a willingness to fight in territory where conscience forbids most others.

Rove isn't bracing for a close race. He's depending on it."
Vote Rigging In Florida

The Independent takes a detailed look at all the shenanigans that have been going on in Florida since the 2000 vote fiasco:
"Arguably, no one person did more to foul up the maddeningly close election in Florida in 2000, and no individual bears more responsibility for the fact that George Bush ended up President instead of Gore.... Yet Theresa LePore will still be in charge for this November's presidential election."
Who is Theresa LePore? And why are the best stories in defence of US democracy being published in UK newspapers? Are we allowed to ask?

PS: Sorry for the slack posting recently, but my father is now in hospital with cancer (and my wife is 20 weeks pregnant on top of that). I will try to keep posting, but there is already enough info on this blog to convict any felon, even one whose cronies control the White House. In the meantime, keep your eyes on sites like, ICC and the other sites listed in the LINKS on the left sidebar.

September 28, 2004

Top 10 Reasons for the US to Get Out of Iraq

1) The Human Costs Keep Increasing
2) Iraqis Aren't Better Off
3) The War Is Bankrupting America
4) Halliburton's War Profiteering
5) The "International Coalition" Is Fleeing
6) Recruitment for Al Qaeda Has Accelerated
7) The War Is Draining "First Responders" (firemen, police, etc) From Our Communities
8) Torture at Abu Ghraib
9) Many Americans Oppose the War
10) No "Sovereignty" Has Been Transferred

See the story at The Nation, with more details on each of these reasons, here: Top 10 Reasons for the US to Get Out of Iraq.
USA's Electoral Shame

Former US President Jimmy Carter says conditions for a fair election still do not exist in the state of Florida.

Will Bush & Co now launch a character assasination of the former President?

If you don't know what Carter is talking about, see this.
US Massacres Continue

US bombing of Iraq city of Kut kills 75, wounds 148.

Tell us, Mr Rumsfeld, how many precision bombs does it take to decimate an entire neighbourhood between 1 am and 3 am?

September 27, 2004

For Shame

A US inquiry has censured Australian military lawyer George O'Kane for failing to respond adequately to Red Cross complaints of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. O'Kane was the principal author of a letter which virtually denied abuse was happening and said some prisoners were not covered by the Geneva Concention.

Australian PM John Howard and Defence Minister Robert Hill previously banned O'Kane from testifying in public before the Australian Senate. The Aussie media obediently dropped the story. We've all moved on from Abu Ghraib, haven't we?

September 25, 2004

Who The $%&# Is Iyad Allawi?

Bush said something quite strange today in an effort to rebuke John Kerry for criticizing his invasion of Iraq:
"'You can't lead this country if your ally in Iraq feels like you question his credibility,' Mr Bush said. "
Isn't that a wierd thing to say? You cannot lead the USA if some unelected puppet stooge doesn't feel like you've got his back? Bush is just nuts, or the pressure is getting to him, or he simply cannot imagine another way of (ahem) "leading the country".

So God bless Riverbend for hitting the keyboard again and giving us a little Iraqi perspective on the way Allawi is being paraded in front of the US and UN (and by the way, Howard wants to bring him here to Australia):
"I can't seem to decide what is worse- when Bush speaks in the name of Iraqi people, or when Allawi does. Yesterday's speech was particularly embarrassing. He stood there groveling in front of the congress- thanking them for the war, the occupation and the thousands of Iraqi lives lost... and he did it all on behalf of the Iraqi people. It was infuriating and for maybe the hundredth time this year, I felt rage. Yet another exile thanking the Bush administration for the catastrophe we're trying to cope with. Our politicians are outside of the country 90% of the time (by the way, if anyone has any news of our president Ghazi Ajeel Al Yawir, do let us know- where was he last seen or heard?), the security situation is a joke, the press are shutting down and pulling out and our beloved exiles are painting rosey pictures for the American public- you know- so everyone who voted for Bush can sleep at night.

Allawi actually said "thank you" nine times. Nine times. It really should have been more- at least double that number of Iraqis died yesterday... and about five times that number the day before. Looking back on the last month alone, over 350 Iraqis have been killed either by American air strikes, fighting, or bombs... only 9 thank yous?"
Riverbend also posts this link to some interesting information on Allawi. For example:
"A former Ba'athist, Allawi set up and leads the CIA-supported Iraqi National Accord which carried out bombings in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the INA provided intelligence about alleged weapons of mass destruction to MI6. Allawi is also alleged to have personally executed six Iraqi prisoners in June 2004 to "send a clear message to the police on how to deal with insurgents".

Allawi has lived about half of his life in the UK and retains British citizenship.

...former CIA officer Vincent Cannistraro: "[...] Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London [...] he was a paid Mukhabarat agent for the Iraqis, and he was involved in dirty stuff." A Middle Eastern diplomat confirmed that Allawi was involved with a Mukhabarat "hit team" that killed Baath Party dissenters in Europe.
One wonders how such a rogue can become even an interim leader of any country. Then again, if someone like Bush can become leader of the USA, perhaps it makes sense.
Iraq Prison Abuse Still Continues

So you thought the torture and abuse in Iraqi jails was over? Yeah, right...:
'Nobody talks about it. All everyone talks about is Abu Ghraib because of the pictures,' said Alomari. 'But in these other places, there's tons of acts of torture, abuse, rape.'
We Are All Terrorists Now

In yet another sad example of how Bush's "War On Ahem!" is being misrepresented and abused worldwide as an excuse for state oppression, Russia wants the UN to redefine terrorism so that anyone who fights to reclaim seized land - including Chechens and Palestinians - will be officially classified as "terrorists".

This would mean that the resistance movement in East Timor, for example, would have been classified as a terrorist group and could have expected military opposition from UN-backed forces. Let's remember that Nelson Mandela's ANC was officially considered a terrorist group.
How Have The Mighty Fallen

In a sign of how out-of-favour Donald Rumsfeld now finds himself, his suggestion that Iraqi elections may only be held in limited areas of the country has been criticized not only by Bush, Allawi and the UN officials helping orchestrate the vote, but also by State Department Number Two, Richard Armitage.
Howard Didn't Want To Know The Truth About WMDs

Australian PM John Howard has always insisted that he went to war in Iraq based on the best advice of Australian intelligence services, and that any faulty intelligence on WMDs etc originated with the US and UK intelligence groups. But now the SMH reveals that Australia's leading expert on weapons of mass destruction defied political and bureaucratic barriers to warn the Prime Minister that his case for war against Iraq was based on falsehoods and would make Australia a bigger terrorist target.
"Bob Mathews, a 35-year veteran of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, wrote to John Howard as a private citizen three days before he committed Australia to the war - a last, desperate act after the expert's superiors repeatedly blocked him from expressing his views.

Dr Mathews was a principal research scientist for weapons of mass destruction and arms control at the organisation when he wrote the letter and has an esteemed international reputation in WMD and counter-terrorism.
So what was Howard's response? Dr Mathews' "actions were investigated, his travel was curtailed and charges were contemplated."

The contents of Dr Mathews' letter, published today by the Herald, are eerily preminiscent. He told Howard:
- There was not even circumstantial evidence to back the view that Saddam Hussein had substantial stockpiles of usable WMD.

- If he did have WMD, and if Iraq were invaded, there was a "high probability" they would be passed on to terrorists. He said there was no chance of their falling into al-Qaeda's hands while Saddam remained in power.

- Australia would "face an increased risk of terrorist acts" if it joined the invasion, which was a "serious distraction to the fight against terrorism".

- Australia would have greater difficulties dealing with South-East Asian nations in combating terrorism due to the Iraq war.

- The United Nations must be given more time for inspections, and was an important curb on Saddam's WMD ambitions.
So John Howard willfully ignored the advice of his top WMD expert - and others, let's not forget - and took Australia into a war based on lies, in which over 35,000 people have already died. That is an offence for which he should not only resign, but also be prosecuted under international law.

September 24, 2004

OK, So How Bad Is It In Iraq Right Now?

Salon correspondent Phillip Robertson has spent five months covering the war in Iraq. As the presidential campaign finally focuses on the war, Robertson offers this assessment:
"One of the unutterable truths for the administration is that the U.S. occupation is breeding and fueling insurgent groups. Iraqi government officials rightly fear for their lives, but Iraqi forces, which are supposed to be fighting alongside U.S. troops in the cause of a free and democratic Iraq, are often undisciplined, dangerous and in some places infiltrated by insurgent groups. The Mahdi Army in Sadr City has a number of police officers in its ranks, and in a little remarked upon event that took place during one of the large demonstrations in Baghdad at the time of the siege, the Iraqi police helped Sadr officials address a crowd of Muqtada al-Sadr supporters outside the neutral Green Zone.

On Aug. 13, with U.S. troops looking on, a Mahdi Army sheik urged the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr to go to Najaf to support the men occupying the shrine. He used a public address system in the back of a police pickup to get his message across. The fighters were yelling and grabbing at journalists, proud that the police were on their side, and they wanted us to take note. Above us, in their watchtowers, Iraqi police hung pictures of Muqtada al-Sadr and waved to the crowd. The organizers of the rally were overjoyed.

...The Allawi government, the result of American occupation, is what many Iraqis scornfully call a U.S. puppet government. In the months following the "transfer of sovereignty," I never heard a single Iraqi offer up praise for it. Not one.

...Contrary to the administration's hopeful statements, we are not seeing the establishment of a stable Iraq, the mopping up of unreformed Baath Party apparatchiks and dead-enders. We are seeing the beginning of a larger conflict that is busily giving birth to monsters."
Full story here: Hell.

"Israel and Palestine, Choosing Sides" by Alison Weir, Founder and Executive Director of If Americans Knew.
"The most monumental cover-up in media history may be the one I'm about to describe. In my entire experience with American journalism, I have never found anything as extreme, sustained, and omnipresent.

Three and a half years ago, when the current Palestinian uprising began, I started to look into Israel and Palestine. I had never paid much attention to this issue before and so - unlike many people - I knew I was completely uninformed about it. I had no idea that I was pulling a loose piece of thread that would steadily unravel, until nothing would ever be quite as it had been before...

In February and March of 2001 I went to the Palestinian territories as a freelance reporter, traveling alone throughout Gaza and the West Bank. I saw tragedy and devastation far beyond what was being reported in the American media; I saw communities destroyed, ancient orchards razed, croplands plowed under. I saw children who had been shot in the stomach, in the back, in the head. I still see them.

I saw people convulsing and writhing in pain from a mysterious poison gas that had been lobbed at them; they said it felt like there were knives in their stomach.3 I talked to men who had been tortured.4

I watched as a mother wept for her small son, and I took pictures of his spilled blood. I watched a son grieve for his mother, killed on her way home from the market on a day that I was told was the Muslim equivalent of the day before Christmas, or Passover, and I thought of my own son, the same age.

I listened to old people who described the start of this holocaust – over fifty years ago, at the end of an earlier one. They described what it was like when three-quarters of your entire population is ethnically cleansed from their homes and land, children dying along the roadside while aircraft shell the fleeing families. They told of dozens of massacres of entire villages, and I’ve since read accounts by Israeli soldiers, published in Israeli publications, of how they raped the women, and then killed them, of how they used sticks to crush the skulls of children...

And I saw the cover-up. I saw how one of the most massive and brutal displacements of a people in modern times has largely been swept under the rug; how the continuing and ruthless methods used by a theocratic, exclusionary state7 to rid itself of people of the “wrong” religon/ethnicity are covered up. Let me describe how this censorship works.

A few days after the deaths of the little boy and of the mother I mentioned above, there was a suicide bombing in Israel. I went to a hotel in East Jerusalem and saw that the New York Times had published a front-page story about it.8

I wondered if the paper had run similar headlines about, or at least had mentioned, the Palestinian deaths in the days before, and I discovered that they had not. But I noticed that the story about the suicide bombing had at least contained some information about these preceding Palestinian deaths – one phrase each, in the second paragraph. Near the end of the story, full of extensive, graphic descriptions of the Israeli tragedies, I also saw that there were a few paragraphs about Israeli crowds beating random Palestinian Israelis to a pulp – one was almost killed – and chanting “Kill Arabs.”

A few days later I was back in the San Francisco Bay Area, and went to the library to see how the San Francisco Chronicle had covered these events. (I had emailed them on-the-scene reports, incidentally, about both Palestinian deaths.) I noticed that this paper, also, had neglected these deaths at the time. It had, however, carried the New York Times report about the suicide bombing that had followed. When I looked at the S.F. Chronicle’s version of this report, however, I was astounded: someone had surgically excised the sentences near the top of the story telling of the Israeli killing of a nine-year-old Palestinian boy and a mother of three. The person had also deleted all information about the Israeli mob violence.

Since that time I’ve monitored the media closely, and investigated numerous similar incidents, in an attempt to discover the nuts and bolts of obfuscation on Israel."
The author, Alison Weir, describes in detail five specific examples of stories which were "surgically" edited to remove descriptions or criticism of Israeli actions, or details of Palestinian suffering. She then explains how she set up a media monitoring group to record the number of deaths of both Palestinians and Israelis mentioned in headlines, then compare the percentages of overall deaths that were covered in the US media.
"Our findings are staggering.

We discovered, for example, that the San Francisco Chronicle had prominently covered 150 percent of Israeli children’s deaths—i.e., many of the deaths were the subject of more than one headline in the paper—and five percent of Palestinian ones. In other words, Palestinian deaths were rarely accorded headline coverage even once.

In the first three and a half months of the current Palestinian uprising against Israel’s continuing confiscation of Palestinian land and suppression of human rights, Israeli forces killed 84 Palestinian children. The largest single cause of their deaths was gunfire to the head.27 During this period, not one Israeli child was killed. Not one suicide bombing against Israelis occurred.

Of these 84 Palestinian children, only one received headline coverage in the Chronicle – Mohammed al-Durra, the little boy whose murder while he was cowering with his father was recorded for all the world to see by a French TV crew."
As the author points out, the San Francisco Chronicle is far from alone in this bias. In fact, even anti-war and pro-Palestinian media outlets exhibit such a bias, for fear of being labelled anti-semetic!
Keeping It Real

Now that John Kerry has (finally) declared that the invasion of Iraq was wrong and accused Bush of living in a "fantasy world of spin", the vast liberal left-wing conspiracy media is eagerly embracing this new theme with a whole-hearted burst of renewed energy.

My old New Age friends, who believe we all create the world we live in every day, would no doubt empathize with this particular take on the "fantasy world" thing:
"To me, the most striking aspect of the Iraqi situation is that this administration's fundamentalist occupation of Iraq emboldened, even (you might say) created, its own dream enemy. Soon after the insurgency there gained modest strength, the President declared Iraq 'the central front in the war on terrorism' -- and as with one of those genies in some old Arabian tale, Poof! It was so. "
Personally, I prefer a more realistic, direct and logical approach, as articulated elsewhere in the same article:
"The United States should just pull out of Iraq.

There are many issues in politics that are very complicated. The war in Iraq is not one of them. Common sense in regard to this war rests on two rock-solid pillars:

(1) The United States should never have invaded Iraq.

(2) Now it should set a timetable to withdraw and leave.

These two propositions go together. The litany of reasons why it was wrong to invade Iraq -- that there were no weapons of mass destruction in the country, no ties to Al Qaeda and only the dimmest prospect of democracy -- are the same as the reasons why it is now wrong to remain there."
Flop. Flop. Flop.

Michael Moore looks back at the USA's changing attitudes to Saddam and comes to this conclusion:
"I know you hate the words 'flip' and 'flop,' so I won't use them both on you. In fact, I'll use just one: Flop. That is what you are. A huge, colossal flop. The war is a flop, your advisors and the 'intelligence' they gave you is a flop, and now we are all a flop to the rest of the world. Flop. Flop. Flop. "
Story here:Mr. Bush and his 10 ever-changing positions on Iraq.
Bush Versus Reality
"The news is grim, but the president is "optimistic". The intelligence is sobering, but he tosses aside "pessimistic predictions". His opponent says he has "no credibility", but the president replies that it is his rival who is "twisting in the wind". The UN secretary general speaks of the "rule of law", but he talks before a mute general assembly of "a new definition of security". Between the rhetoric and the reality lies the campaign...

Bush's campaign depends on the containment of any contrary perception of reality. He must evade, deny and suppress it. His true opponent is not his Democratic foe - called unpatriotic and the candidate of al-Qaida by the vice-president - but events. "
Sidney Blumenthal: The hollow world of George Bush:
Lie, Repeat, Retract

Bush recently said that CIA advisors who painted a bleak picture of Iraq's future "were only guessing as to what the conditions might be like," and that there were really only "a handful of people who are willing to kill in order to stop the process".

Kerry and others pounced on these totally farcical remarks:
"We have an administration in disarray," Kerry said. "The secretary of defense saying one thing and being corrected. The president saying one thing and being contradicted by the prime minister. The secretary of state saying one thing and being contradicted by the president."
In response, Bush hurriedly explained what he actually meant.
What If...?

Wouldn't it be nice to just believe G. W. Bush and Iyad Allawi when they tell us that the war in Iraq is actually going much better than people think, that elections are on schedule for January and that Iraqis are overwhelmingly thankful to their "liberators"? If we could only believe it, we wouldn't need to worry any more about those horrible pictures on TV, those horrible stories in the papers, the endless debates, the loss of life and money and the international status quo. Wouldn't it be nice to just believe... believe... believe... zzzzzzzzz...


As Juan Cole angrily points out, the USA has a population approximately 11 times that of Iraq. Based on the latest figures, Iraq is facing the equivalent of a 9/11 every week.
"What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on Sept. 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.

And what if those deaths occurred all over the country, including in the capital of Washington, D.C., but mainly above the Mason-Dixon line, in Boston, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco?

What if the grounds of the White House and the government buildings near the Mall were constantly taking mortar fire? What if almost nobody in the State Department at Foggy Bottom, the White House, or the Pentagon dared venture out of their buildings, and considered it dangerous to go over to Crystal City or Alexandria?

What if all the reporters for all the major television and print media were trapped in five-star hotels in Washington, D.C., and New York, unable to move more than a few blocks safely, and dependent on stringers to know what was happening in Oklahoma City and St. Louis? What if the only time they ventured into the Midwest was if they could be embedded in Army or National Guard units?

There are estimated to be some 25,000 guerrillas in Iraq engaged in concerted acts of violence. What if there were private armies totaling 275,000 men, armed with machine guns, assault rifles (legal again!), rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar launchers, hiding out in dangerous urban areas of cities all over the country? What if they completely controlled Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Denver and Omaha, such that local police and federal troops could not go into those cities?

What if, during the past year, the secretary of state (Aqilah Hashemi), the president (Izzedine Salim), and the attorney general (Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim) had all been assassinated?

What if all the cities in the U.S. were wracked by a crime wave, with thousands of murders, kidnappings, burglaries, and carjackings in every major city every year?

What if the Air Force routinely (I mean daily or weekly) bombed Billings, Mont., Flint, Mich., Watts in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Anacostia in Washington, D.C., and other urban areas, attempting to target "safe houses" of "criminal gangs," but inevitably killing a lot of children and little old ladies?

What if, from time to time, the U.S. Army besieged Virginia Beach, killing hundreds of armed members of the Christian Soldiers? What if entire platoons of the Christian Soldiers militia holed up in Arlington National Cemetery, and were bombarded by U.S. Air Force warplanes daily, destroying thousands of graves and even pulverizing the Vietnam Memorial over on the Mall? What if the National Council of Churches had to call for a popular march of thousands of believers to converge on the National Cathedral to stop the U.S. Army from demolishing it to get at a rogue band of the Timothy McVeigh Memorial Brigades?

What if there were virtually no commercial air traffic in the country? What if many roads were highly dangerous, especially Interstate 95 from Richmond to Washington, D.C., and I-95 and I-91 up to Boston? If you got on I-95 anywhere along that over 500-mile stretch, you would risk being carjacked, kidnapped, or having your car sprayed with machine gun fire.

What if no one had electricity for much more than 10 hours a day, and often less? What if it went off at unpredictable times, causing factories to grind to a halt and air conditioning to fail in the middle of the summer in Houston and Miami? What if the Alaska pipeline were bombed and disabled at least monthly? What if unemployment hovered around 40%?

What if veterans of militia actions at Ruby Ridge and the Oklahoma City bombing were brought in to run the government on the theory that you need a tough guy in these times of crisis?"
P.S. I know I am quoting Juan Cole a lot lately, but the man is on fire, dammit! Does John Kerry need a new advisor?

September 23, 2004

Election? What Election?

BBC News reports from Afghanistan on an election that is getting more attention from the White House memos than the locals:
"The story of this election campaign so far is that there isn't one - at least not one you can really see and sense that people are talking about... there have been no big public rallies or campaign events of any size - just the occasional speech to a handful of people.

For a campaign that's officially been underway over two weeks, in a country that's never had a proper election, many were expecting a bit more by now."
Aussie Hostage Cover-up?

The Simply Appalling blog has been staying on the case of the Australians who were reportedly kidnapped in Iraq.

The body of a Westerner turned up a few days ago in Samarra, but nodoby seems to have been able to identify it yet and it could be that the US/Allawi forces are unable to even enter the rebel-controlled area where it was found.

As the author of the blog says, this is looking a lot like a cover-up:
"Would it be asking too much of the Australian media to make some inquiries of their government? Did anyone from the Baghdad embassy ever make it to Samarra? If so, what sort of tests did they conduct to determine the identity of the body? You would think they would want to know.
It's The Oil, Stupid

A new book, It's The Crude, Dude: War Big Oil, And The Fight For The Planet, by Linda McQuaig, exposes the Bush cartel's grab for Iraqi oil in stark detail.

The Toronto Star has published a lengthy extract. This sobering reading certainly puts all the Bush White House's crazy manouevering into context.
Look At The Scoreboard

Eleven more men detained at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been released and flown to Afghanistan to be set free. This brings the number of prisoners released or deported from Guantanamo to 202. US officials claim 539 remain in custody.

According to a report in The Nation, more than 5,000 foreign nationals have now been arrested and imprisoned by the US government since 9/11. None have been legally convicted of anything to do with terrorism.

For sports fans, that's a scoreline of 5,000 to 0. You tell me who's winning.

While the Pentagon regularly calls Press Conferences to tout exactly how many new "terrorist suspects" have been detained in the latest sweep, it never publicises their subsequent release, or their continued detention without charges or even access to lawyers (see the PsyOps story below for more on this deliberate restriction of information).
Niger Nukes: More To Come

When CBS News decided to run the Killian memos story on 60 Minutes, it canned another explosive story that ultimately could have done far more damage to the Bush administration.

The story was a follow-up to the Niger Nukes fiasco, including "first ever on-camera interview with Elisabetta Burba, the Italian journalist who first obtained the phony documents, as well as her elusive source, Rocco Martino, a mysterious Roman businessman with longstanding ties to European intelligence agencies."

Ironically, CBS is now hesitating to run the story because they themselves have been exposed by crude forgeries. As blogger Joshua Micah Marshall - who collaborated with 60 Minutes on the story - complains, "This is like living in a Kafka novel!”

Story here: The Story That Didn't Run.

Note: Interestingly, Burba is employed by a media arm of Silvio Berlusconi's network. For anyone who doesn't know, Italian PM Berlusconi, a big-time supporter of the War On Ahem!, is a pint-sized version of Bush, Murdoch and Mussolini rolled into one.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall quotes a Newsweek story today in which FBI official say they have been trying to interview Rocco Martino "but has not yet received permission to do so from the Italian government." Marshall points out that Martino has been in NYC twice in the past few months, so the FBI's excuse doesn't make sense.
Bush & Co Using PsyOps Against US Public

A retired US Air Force Colonel says the Bush administration is using psychological warfare strategies - including withholding information, manipulation of imagery and denial of facts - to fool the US public into believing the Iraqi invasion is a success.
"The Army Field Manual describes information operations as the use of strategies such as information denial, deception and psychological warfare to influence decision making. The notion is as old as war itself. With information operations, one seeks to gain and maintain information superiority -- control information and you control the battlefield. And in the information age, it has become even more imperative to influence adversaries.

But with the Iraq war, information operations have gone seriously off track, moving beyond influencing adversaries on the battlefield to influencing the decision making of friendly nations and, even more important, American public opinion...

I fear war has become an extension of domestic politics, moving beyond influencing adversaries on the battlefield to influencing the decision making of friendly nations and, even more important, American public opinion. Why have the American people become the adversary?"
Story here: The enemy is us.
Cat Stevens Arrested, Deported From USA

British singer Cat Stevens, who recently re-recorded his hit album "Peace Train", has been arrested after his flight from London to Washington was diverted.

Story here: US puts the cuffs on Cat Stevens

September 22, 2004


On a day when Bush's USA became even more isolated from world opinion by refusing to back a global plan to fight poverty (endorsed by 110 countries), Maureen Farrell warns that conditions in America are now tragically ripe for Fascism:
"Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism? Check. Avid Militarism? Check. Disdain for the importance of human rights? Triple check."
Farrell recalls comments made by US Vice President Wilson in 1944, when the battle against Nazi Fascism was at its fiercest, comparing such comments with the Bush administration's lies about WMDs, Saddam and terrorism, and the FOX network's deliberately partisan reporting techniques:
"American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information," [Wallace] wrote.

Decades later, during the first Gulf War, the media dutifully regurgitated propaganda while those in power did, in fact, "use the news to deceive the public." But the public remained so fully gullible that by the time the Bush Cartel's "Operation Iraqi Freedom" hit TV screens, the "deliberate poisoners of public information" didn't even have to break a sweat to fool us twice."
Farrell says Americans have been warned repeatedly of this danger:
"...dynasty founders Samuel Prescott Bush and George H. Walker were both "present at the emergence of what became the U.S. military-industrial complex," in which the Bush family has been enmeshed ever since...

Between now and the November election, it's crucial that Americans come to understand how four generations of the current president's family have embroiled the United States in the Middle East through CIA connections, arms shipments, rogue banks, inherited war policies and personal financial links.
Read the full story here: When Fascism Comes to America, by Maureen Farrell.

This is the great untold story of the past 20 years. It's definitely not just an easily dismissed "conspiracy theory". The USA has been veering dangerously towards Fascism ever since George Bush Snr. was appointed head of the CIA, then Vice President and then President, despite repeated warnings about the powerful business interests supporting him and a general consensus that he was a totally unelectable candidate.

The sudden rise of privatised media like FOX News, who take blatantly partisan political stances, is a great cause of concern. As Andrew Sullivan recently wrote in the Sunday Times:
"Something truly remarkable happened this past July and August: cable news eclipsed the mainstream networks in coverage of the political conventions. On the final night of the Bush coronation, Fox News won more viewers than any other network - 7 million compared to second place NBC's 5.9 million - and more than CBS and ABC combined. And Fox is available in far fewer households than the regular networks. This simply hasn't happened before. And there was a partisan tilt to the viewing as well. The more liberal CNN cleaned up during the Democrats' confab; right-leaning Fox News surged in viewers for the Republicans' infomercial. The old model in which allegedly objective network journalists wielded enormous influence over the media coverage of politics has been exploded. American television is now much less like the BBC and more like the British print press - its biases more open, its competition more fierce, its ideological diversity more acknowledged. "
Sullivan argues that this kind of partisanship is OK because nowadays people can pick the partisan media they like - be it cable TV, blogs or newspapers - and be aware of the political filtering of the news they are watching. The problem is that most people reading or watching the news are not aware of the underlying bias, and probably do not have the time or energy or interest to work it out. That creates a huge social problem, and US Fascists are set to exploit it better than anyone else.

In related news, a US Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12 to 4 to appoint Bush's choice of CIA Director, Porter Goss, despite widespread objections that he was too partisan for the job and had a dangerously sullied history. Four Democrats voted for the nomination: Dianne Feinstein of California, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. John Edwards of North Carolina, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, made no recommendation.
In a Nutshell

All you need to know about Bush's speech to the UN:
"Bush's remarks drew applause only once - at the end of his speech."

More Informed Comment:

"I have a sinking feeling that the American public may like Bush's cynical misuse of Wilsonian idealism precisely because it covers the embarrassment of their having gone to war, killed perhaps 25,000 people, and made a perfect mess of the Persian Gulf region, all out of a kind of paranoia fed by dirty tricks and bad intelligence. And, maybe they have to vote for Bush to cover the embarrassment of having elected him in the first place."

September 21, 2004

Bloggers Take A Bow, But Bush Goes Free

Reuters and other news agencies are today crediting bloggers for relentlessly digging up the facts that exposed the CBS/Dan Rather memoes as forgeries. Bloggers like Joshua Micah Marshall and his many online sources deserve some serious credit.

The wierd thing, though, is that blogs are relentlessly digging up dirt on Bush all the time, yet 99% of it goes unreported. And even in this case, the larger story has been ignored while rabid attention focussed almost exclusively on the authenticity of the memos.

What about Bush's failure to complete his National Guard service, his refusal to take a medical examination, and all the other evidence that has been tabled in the past two weeks? Can we expect to see this dealt with seriously now in the mainstream media, or has "yesterday's news" once again conveniently become "today's fish-wrappings"?
Vote #1 Bush-bin Laden '04

The British Envoy to Italy has articulated what many diplomats believe but few dare say in public: "If anyone is ready to celebrate the eventual re-election of Bush, it's al Qaeda... Bush is al Qaeda's best recruiting sergeant."

Retired USAF lieutenant colonel Karen Kwiatowksi argues that Bush and the neo-conservatives have already achieved Osama bin Laden's stated goals:
"They toppled Saddam Hussein, America now militarily threatens both the Shia government in Iran and the secular one in Syria, the House of Saud is crumbling and we have removed American troops from Saudi Arabian territory. These achievements match – word for word – the oft-stated goals of the Wahhabist Sunni radical Osama bin Ladin...

The turmoil, destruction of economic and social life in Iraq, the escalation of political Islam there, both Sunni and Shia, and the sheer daily injustices visited on the very people we were "liberating" gives al Qaeda added bonuses of recruitment opportunities, local support, and tactical access to Americans and American interests."
Juan Cole argues that bin Laden might prefer a Bush win, but probably doesn't really care who wins in the USA this year:
"If the US withdraws from Iraq (which could happen willy-nilly under Bush as easily as under Kerry), that would be seen as a victory by al-Qaeda. If the US remains in Iraq for years, bleeding at the hands of an ongoing guerrilla insurgency, then that is also a victory for al-Qaeda from their point of view. They therefore just don't care which candidate wins... But given its goal of creating more polarization between the US and the Muslim World, it is entirely possible that the al-Qaeda leadership would prefer Bush, since they want to "sharpen the contradictions."
D.C. Dubya Versus Comical Ali (aka Baghdad Bob)

Try this quick quiz... See if you can guess which of the following quotes came from the mouth of Comical Ali (Saddam's former Minister of Information, who became an international laughing stock for denying reality as US forces invaded), and which came from the mouth of El Busho Loco:

"I will only answer reasonable questions."

"No, I am not scared, and neither should you be."

"Be assured: Baghdad is safe, protected."

"We are in control, they are not in control of anything, they don't even control themselves!"

"The battle is very fierce and God made us victorious."

"They mock me for how I speak. I speak better English than they do."

"I have detailed information about the situation...which completely proves that what they allege are illusions . . . They lie every day."

"I blame Al-Jazeera."

"I can assure you that those villains will recognize in the future how they are pretending things which have never taken place."

"I would like to clarify a simple fact here: How can you lay siege to a whole country? Who is really under siege now?"

"We're giving them a real lesson today. Heavy doesn't accurately describe the level of casualties we have inflicted."

"Those are not Iraqis at all. Where did they bring them from?"

"The American press is all about lies! All they tell is lies, lies and more lies!"

"They are becoming hysterical. This is the result of frustration."

"Just look carefully, I only want you to look carefully. Do not repeat the lies of liars. Do not become like them."

"Search for the truth. I tell you things and I always ask you to verify what I say."

"The United is all their fault."

"Even those who live on another planet, if there are such people, would condemn them."

"This is unbiased: They are retreating on all fronts. Their effort is a subject of laughter throughout the world."

"The force that was near the airport, this force was destroyed."

"They are achieving nothing; they are suffering from casualties. Those casualties are increasing, not decreasing."

"They think that by killing civilians and trying to distort the feelings of the people they will win."

"Our estimates are that none of them will come out alive unless they surrender to us quickly."

"They hold no place in Iraq. This is an illusion."

"Once again, I blame al-Jazeera. Please, make sure of what you say and do not play such a role."

"These cowards have no morals. They have no shame about lying."

"You can go and visit those places. Everything is okay. They are not in Najaf. They are nowhere. They are on the moon."

"Rumsfeld, he needs to be hit on the head."

Answer: All the above quotes are from Comical Ali, but isn't it scary that they could just as easily come from Bush's mouth.

Quotes and story idea thanks to The Smirking Chimp
Karl Rove's Latest Lie

Guess who is reporting that a "quick exit from Iraq is likely" under a Bush administration?

Why it's Robert Novak, the man who leaked the name of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. Way to get your scoops, Rob!

This is clever, you have to admit it: by spreading a rumour that Bush is ready to pull out of Iraq, Rove splits the anti-war vote and distances Bush from the neo-conservative's failed ideology... until November 3rd.

Personally, I didn't even read the article. Sure it makes sense to pull out of Iraq and let them start fixing up their own country, but it ain't gonna happen under a Bush/Cheney administration. US soldiers are building 14 massive military bases across Iraq even as we speak: they aren't planning on leaving anytime soon.

Indeed, GOP senators who have criticized the war in Iraq are actually calling for an increase in US soldiers, and the much-vaunted Sen. John McCain yesterday called for an even more violent onslaught against Falluja and other rebel strongholds. Like Juan Cole, I can't believe such bloody madness is being seriously touted as a path to free and fair elections in January 2005:
"What does McCain think the election would look like, with Ramadi, Fallujah and other Sunni cities reduced to rubble? Does he think the sullen Sunni Arabs will actually just jump on a US bandwagon in the wake of such brutality? Does he have any idea of the sheer number of feuds that will have been incurred with the Sunni tribes?"

September 19, 2004

Vote #1 The Truth

As Newsday says, "by almost all accounts, except that of the president, the military situation in Iraq is deteriorating." The war that began with a lie continues as a lie.

Indeed, truth may be the ultimate casualty in the Iraq war. It's a scary thought.

If Bush, Blair and Howard win re-election, they will believe that they can continue lying on very big issues, even in the face of overwhelming public opposition, and continue to get away with it. Furthermore, other governments around the world will be inclined to copy them, and even the opposition parties in Australia, the US and the UK will start to think "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." The media will conclude that those who supported the liars have come out tops, and dispirited shareholders of publications that opposed the war will clamour for less "divisiveness" and more profits.

I know, I know - politicians lie all the time. But this is big. This is a very big lie, in a time of information overload, when such lies can be seen to be patently false by anyone who bothers looking. But if we just don't care, or can't be bothered looking for the truth... The lies win.
Two more great stories via Alternet

Eclipsed in Iraq

By William Greider: The United States is losing in Iraq – literally losing territory and population to the other side. But who is going to tell the American voters?

Journalism Under Fire

By Bill Moyers: "I believe democracy requires 'a sacred contract' between journalists and those who put their trust in us to tell them what we can about how the world really works."

September 18, 2004

What Is Blair's Dark Secret?

The SMH today stirs the romour pot by talking in circles about a story Britain's tabloids won't touch. Suggesting that some deeply personal information concerning Tony Blair may soon be published in an effort to remove him from office, the paper quietly prods him to resign before this happens:
"Blair has always made it known he will leave politics on his own terms. What better and more sympathetic reason could there be than to protect his family life from excessive press intrusion?"

September 17, 2004

Do You Feel Safe?

On September 12th, a South Korean news agency reported a blast in North Korea that generated a mushroom cloud up to 4 km (2.5 miles) in diameter. South Korean and U.S. officials immediately insist it wasn't a nuclear blast, without actually knowing what it was.

The next day, North Korea said they had blown up a mountain.

Today a South Korean minister explained: "There is no information to support an explosion in the area where there were indications of an explosion.'

When a New York Times journalist asked Bush about North Korea's nuclear program recently, he just opened his palms and shrugged. I can only speculate that the blast was a demonstration of nuclear capability by Kim Jong Il, and that Bush and the South Koreans have agreed to hush it up for political purposes.
God Bless Juan Cole

This today from his Informed Comment blog:
"I am sure that most Americans are not even aware that Palestinians live under Israeli military occupation and that every day Palestinian territory shrinks as it is stolen by fanatical Israeli colonists. These fanatics do not differ in any obvious way from the French colonists in Algeria, which the French also proclaimed 'French soil.' But colonialism is just another word for grand larceny. (Most Americans would be appalled if the United States suddenly chased all the Iraqis out of Baghdad and brought in Americans to permanently take over their apartments and other property, instead. But that is an exact analogy for how the Israelis are behaving.)"
The War In Iraq Is Already Lost

Sidney Blumenthal gathers a few quotes from people who should know.

Retired general William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency:
"Bush hasn't found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it's worse, he's lost on that front. That he's going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It's lost... Right now, the course we're on, we're achieving Bin Laden's ends."
Retired general Joseph Hoare, the former marine commandant and head of US Central Command:
"The idea that this is going to go the way these guys planned is ludicrous. There are no good options. We're conducting a campaign as though it were being conducted in Iowa, no sense of the realities on the ground. It's so unrealistic for anyone who knows that part of the world. The priorities are just all wrong."
Jeffrey Record, professor of strategy at the Air War College:
"I see no ray of light on the horizon at all. The worst case has become true. There's no analogy whatsoever between the situation in Iraq and the advantages we had after the second world war in Germany and Japan."
W. Andrew Terrill, professor at the Army War College's strategic studies institute - and the top expert on Iraq there:
"I don't think that you can kill the insurgency... If we leave and there's no civil war, that's a victory."
Record again:
"I see no exit. We've been down that road before. It's called Vietnamisation. The idea that we're going to have an Iraqi force trained to defeat an enemy we can't defeat stretches the imagination. They will be tainted by their very association with the foreign occupier. In fact, we had more time and money in state building in Vietnam than in Iraq."
General Odom again:
"This is far graver than Vietnam. There wasn't as much at stake strategically, though in both cases we mindlessly went ahead with the war that was not constructive for US aims. But now we're in a region far more volatile, and we're in much worse shape with our allies."
General Hoare again:
"I think the president ordered the attack on Fallujah. I asked a three-star marine general who gave the order to go to Fallujah and he wouldn't tell me. I came to the conclusion that the order came directly from the White House."
Hoare thinks there could be an all-out assault on Falluja after November 2nd:
"You could flatten it. US military forces would prevail, casualties would be high, there would be inconclusive results with respect to the bad guys, their leadership would escape, and civilians would be caught in the middle. I hate that phrase collateral damage. And they talked about dancing in the street, a beacon for democracy!"
Comparing Hoare's remarks on Falluja with the onging air attacks today (while the US voters are busy watching Hurricane Ivan on CNN), the helicopter massacre last Sunday and the recent comments of a senior Army commander in the area (who criticized the decision to go back into Falluja, then set up the Falluja Brigade and now disband it), it does seem as though the citizens of Falluja are being sacrificed on the alter of Bush's electoral popularity, on the basis of a direct command from his office.
The Massacre Continues

The Western media report it but dare not criticize.

'Dozens' killed by US air strikes.
"We have received 25 wounded, 15 dead, and more are coming in the ambulances," Ahmed Thaer, a doctor at the Fallujah General Hospital, said.
Something Smells Very Fishy

The Simply Appalling blog has a very interesting take on the Australian hostage drama in Iraq.

The author notes that Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said he was not aware that a Sydney-based Muslim cleric had been kidnapped in Iraq until ABC News reported his release last Sunday. He/she then quotes an AP report that "a number of Iraqi-Australians had been kidnapped in the past" and wonders how it is possible that the Australian Government is not aware of such ongoing activity?

He/she then asks a few damn good questions:
Let's go back to the original statement by the Islamic Secret Army, as reported by the Guardian:

"One of our brave brigades ambushed civilian cars belonging to the American army on the motorway from Baghdad to Mosul," the statement said. "It took four prisoners, two Australians and two east Asian nationals who were working as security contractors for important people.

Some points:

Such "security contractors" frequently do not carry passports.

The U.S. Army should know if one of its cars is missing, but has made no statement on the matter of which I am aware.

And some questions:

- Who are the two east Asian nationals?
- Who are the "important people"?
- Could the east Asian nationals be the important people?
- Why isn't the country of the Asians identified?
- Why are there no news reports of any Asian country attempting to confirm a kidnapping of its nationals?

This is a political hot-potato for Prime Minister John Howard, with an election only 3 weeks away. But it is also potentially bad news for George Bush.

It's very strange indeed that the hostage-takers have not made any further announcements.
New Zealand troops coming home from Iraq?
Judge Orders U.S. to Find Bush Records:
A federal judge has ordered the Pentagon to find and make public by next week any unreleased files about President Bush's Vietnam-era Air National Guard service to resolve a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The Associated Press.

Baer ordered the Pentagon to hand over the records to the AP by Sept. 24 and provide a written statement by Sept. 29 detailing the search for more records."
Kerry Finally Gets It

Once again, about bloody time! Following a week-long barrage of free advice (see below) John Kerry today said Bush is "living in a fantasy world and has not told people the truth about Iraq:
"He did not tell you that with each passing day, we're seeing more chaos, more violence, more indiscriminate killings. He did not tell you that with each passing week, our enemies are getting bolder.

He failed to tell you the truth. You deserve better. You deserve a president who will not play politics with national security, who will not ignore his own intelligence, while living in a fantasy world of spin.

He did not tell you any of this, even though ... his own intelligence officials have warned him for weeks that the mission in Iraq is in serious trouble. The commander in chief must level with the troops and the nation."
Kerry also pledged to "end the backdoor draft of our National Guard." More than 225,000 Guard members have now been activated for full-time duty, accounting for about 40% of the US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Time To Abolish The CIA

50 years since a disasterous US-backed takeover of Guatemala, Common Dreams has a look at The CIA Then and Now:
"Although the CIA was only 6 years old, the coup in Guatemala, coming on the heels of the agency's successful installation of the Shah in Iran in 1953, established a pattern of US support for anti-democratic governments during the Cold War. Not only did this support lead to countless violations of human rights, it also bred anti-Americanism and produced, in cases, disastrous long-term consequences for US policy-what the intelligence community calls 'blowback.' For decades, such misdeeds drew condemnation from human rights and solidarity activists, some of whom argued that the CIA should be abolished altogether. "
Beyond Pitiful, Beyond Embarrassing

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel says a request by Iraq's de-facto ruler, Juan Negroponte, to divert $3.46 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds to security and economic development is "an acknowledgment that we are in deep trouble."

Only about 6 percent of the $18.4 billion reconstruction money approved by Congress last year has been spent. Hagel said, "It's beyond pitiful, it's beyond embarrassing, it's now in the zone of dangerous."

Bush meanwhile ignored the controversy over the request, ignored a UPI claim that official US casualty figures in Iraq are about 17,000 short, ignored the UN Secretary General's criticism of his "illegal" invasion, ignored a new CIA report warning that Iraq could slide into civil war, and proudly told voters in Minnesota that "freedom is on the march."

A protestor in the crowd held aloft a sign calling for "Pre-emptive Peace".
Dancing On A Pinhead

The BBC follows up yesterday's interview with Kofi Annan, in which he said the invasion of Iraq was "illegal" with a more detailed look at the legal nicities involved:
Resolution 1441, passed on 8 November 2002, warned Iraq that there would be "serious consequences" if it did not comply with UN demands over its suspected weapons programmes.

Mr Annan said it should have been left to the UN Security Council, in a second resolution, to determine what those consequences were.
As you may remember, the US and its war-mongering allies tried desperately to get a further UN resolution, but not so deperately that they would actually succeed within their own mega-urgent timeframe (a UN-backed invasion would have made it very hard for Bush & Co to pillage the country and maintain US military bases there for generations to come). What Bush really wanted was just a UN rubber stamp for the US takeover. No wonder he has nothing to say about Annan's comments today (but note that Bush is due to address the UN General Assembly next week - should be interesting).

By contrast, the British government relied on the advice of Attorney General Lord Goldsmith:
He said the original Resolution 678 from 1990, which allowed for "all necessary means" to end Iraq's occupation of Kuwait and "restore international peace and security" in the region, still applied.

It had been, he said, "revived" by Resolution 687 from 1991, which demanded that Iraq disarm. Since Resolution 1441 stated that Iraq was in breach of Resolution 687, the attorney general argued, there was authority to use force.
Lord Goldsmith's detailed reasoning has never been published or even revealed to cabinet. Why not?

You may well ask!

UPDATE: Ironically, the killer blow to the pro-war "arguments" (aka "lies") comes from the new "Sultan Of Iraq", John Negroponte himself, who, as the US Ambassador to the United Nations at the time, gathered support for Resolution 1441 by loudly insisting that it was not UN authorisation for US military action.

"This resolution contains no hidden triggers and no automaticity with respect to the use of force," he said.

September 16, 2004

This blogging against Bush can be maddeningly frustrating at times, so it's nice to read some encouraging words from a new book, "The impossible will take a little while: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear".
Meanwhile, Back In Afghanistan...

Unocal emplyee-cum-President Hamid Karzai, top dog of the Semi-Divine Generallissimo El Busho, sacked the country's Number One Warlord, prompting riots in which seven people were killed and 50 injured.

As U.N. buildings were being consumed by flames and dozens of aid workers huddled for safety in an American base, henchman-cum-U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad assured terrified reporters: "We just have to ride out the initial bumps."

Such "bumps" were enough to prompt the wicked leftist scum at Reuters to express totally unwarranted scepticism:
Critics accuse Bush, desperate for a foreign policy success to balance the problems he faces in Iraq, of trying to fast-track polls in Afghanistan, whether or not the conditions to ensure they are free and fair have been put in place.
While evil relief workers warn that the premature October 9th elections will be held in a highly militarised society in which power is under factional control, back at the White House it's all Go! Go! Go! for Afghan Democracy!
Good News

A US federal judge has again ordered the US government to release Guantanamo records.
The United States Government must release documents within 30 days relating to the treatment of prisoners held at American overseas detention centres, including Guantanamo Bay and Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, a US federal judge ordered.

Manhattan Federal Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein says the Bush administration has responded at a "glacial pace" to requests for the documents, first made in October 2003.

"If the documents are more of an embarrassment than a secret, the public should know of our Government's treatment of individuals captured and held abroad," he said.

"Merely raising national security concerns cannot justify unlimited delays," he said.
Kofi Annan Declares Iraq Invasion Illegal

If I may say so, it's about bloody time! This just in from the BBC:
"The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has told the BBC the US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN charter.

He said the decision to take action in Iraq should have been made by the Security Council, not unilaterally.

"Lessons for the US, the UN and other member states. I think in the end everybody's concluded it's best to work together with our allies and through the UN," Mr Annan said in an interview with the BBC World Service.

"I hope we do not see another Iraq-type operation for a long time - without UN approval and much broader support from the international community."

"From our point of view and the [UN] charter point of view it was illegal," he added.

Annan's comments come as attention moves towards Iraq's scheduled January elections, which may or may not be possible. The BBC pairs this story up with analysis of two new US reports on Iraq, both of which paint a fairly dismal picture.

UPDATE: Responding to Annan's comments, Aussie PM John Howard said the invasions was both legal and valid:
"The legal advice that we had, and I tabled it at the time, was that the action was entirely valid in international law terms," he said. "That was a legal opinion we obtained from the relevant people in Australia. There had been a series of Security Council resolutions and the advice we had was that it was entirely legal."

Similarly, speaking from a dank cell somewhere, Saddam Hussein said his gassing of the Kurds was entirely legal and valid because it had been approved by his justice ministers.

If Annan's verdict proves correct, Howard will probably claim that he was mis-led by ministerial advice, though nobody will ever be sacked for such misleading advice.
Ignoring The Massacre

Bob Harris at This Modern World echoes my incredulity and outrage and the Falluja helicopter massacre and the Western media's nonchalant response to it:
"Yesterday, I'm working and unpacking, and I've got CNN on in the background. And I hear Wolf Blitzer, barking in that constant breathless get-the-kids-excited-for-Christmas, here-comes-another-shiny-pebble pacing of his, mentioning a video of a civilian journalist, Mazen al-Tumeizi, and about a score of other civilians (reports vary) getting killed in a U.S. airstrike. About 60 other civilians were injured.

I didn't actually see the report live -- Wolf had already moved on to his next story -- but I was struck by how casual this was: innocent civilians killed in a U.S. airstrike, and it wasn't even the news hook; the death of the reporter was...

So, through the miracle of TiVo, I rewound. And there it was.



Being killed by a U.S. airstrike.

Non-combatants. Celebrating on a disabled U.S. vehicle, granted. But civilians nonetheless. Certainly not in combat against any U.S. troops.

In the foreground, a reporter just doing his job, frowning over some little technical glitch, maybe something he forgot to do...

Bang, boom. No warning. Just an incoming U.S. aerial attack. 'To prevent looters from stripping the vehicle,' the Pentagon later says, classifying everyone within thirty feet as 'looters' and sentencing them to summary execution.

Blood splashes on the lens. The camera spins. Tiny glimpses of terrible carnage.

Without a beat, without reflection, without even a moment of minimal thought, Wolf Blitzer moves on. As do we, collectively.

And that's that...

We are numb now.

We are killing. We are killing in large numbers. And we are numb to what we are doing.

That's it. Game over. We have lost.

Not the war. Ourselves.

The war and much more will follow, soon, if we can't wake up from our savage numbness."
Did Bush Run From The Guard To Avoid Drug Charges?

Russ Baker at The Nation says the timing of Bush's decision to leave the National Guard and his departure - about the same time that he failed to take a mandatory annual physical exam - indicate that the two may have been related.

The article notes that Bush's flight performance seemed to be degrading - he was moved from single-seater planes to twin-seaters and simulators - and that "in 1972, the military was in the process of introducing widespread drug testing as part of the annual physical exams that pilots would undergo."

The article also includes some quite stunning new revelations of drug use and wild behaviour. For example:
"One middle-aged woman whose general veracity could be confirmed told me that she met Bush in 1968 at Hemisphere 68, a fair in San Antonio, at which he tried to pick her up and offered her a white powder he was inhaling. She was then a teenager; Bush would have just graduated from Yale and have been starting the National Guard then. "He was getting really aggressive with me," she said. "I told him I'd call a policeman, and he laughed, and asked who would believe me."
John W. Howard: PM, Judge and Jury

Despite an independent legal assessment that it would be would be virtually impossible for Aussie Gitmo detainees David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib to receive a fair trial under the current military tribunal arrangements, Howard says bringing them home to Australia is impossible:
"'That is an unrealistic proposition,' Mr Howard told reporters in Perth. 'If they are brought back to Australia, they go free because there is no crime under Australian law with which they can be charged.'"

Well, what law are they being charged with in Gitmo? What crime have they committed? We are not only entitled to know, we demand to know. And, for the sake of Australian democracy, freedom and human rights, we need to know.

Howard - like Rumsfeld before him - is setting himself up as judge and jury here, leaving Bush's slick war machine to be the executioner. Like Rumsfeld, Howard has independently determined that Hick and Habib are "bad guys". Why? What have they done? Where's the proof?
"9/11's On A Monthly Basis"

Riverbend, the girl blogger at Baghdad Burning, spent the third anniversary of 9/11 watching a bootleg copy of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911:
"Three years ago, Iraq wasn't a threat to America. Today it is. Since March 2003, over 1000 Americans have died inside of Iraq... and the number is rising. In twenty years time, upon looking back, how do Americans think Iraqis are going to remember this occupation?

I constantly wonder, three years after 9/11, do Americans feel safer?"

... We have 9/11’s on a monthly basis. Each and every Iraqi person who dies with a bullet, a missile, a grenade, under torture, accidentally- they all have families and friends and people who care. The number of Iraqis dead since March 2003 is by now at least eight times the number of people who died in the World Trade Center."

September 15, 2004

It's The War, Stupid!

The left-wing media is all but screaming at John Kerry to get tougher on Bush.

"Come On, Kerry, Drop The Kid Gloves On Iraq" shouts a headline from the International Herald Tribune. The story includes this little gem:
When a New York Times reporter asked Bush about North Korea, "he just opened his palms and shrugged."

The Village Voice looks at a hard-hitting new TV ad from a 9/11 widow and urges Kerry to get similarly aggressive on Iraq. The Voice says Kerry should remind voters about Bin Laden:
"the Bush convention—with a hundred references in major speeches to terror and 69 to Iraq or Hussein—mentioned Osama just once, and then only to blame him on Bill Clinton.""

The Voice does not contemplate the possibility that Bush could be hiding bin Laden in some foreign hole, just waiting for such an opening.

The LA Times lead is headed "If Only Kerry Were From The Bronx".

A Guardian hand-picks a variety of analyst comments, headlining with one which says Kerry comes across as "either unprincipled or indecisive".

The New York Times says Preventative War Is a Failed Doctrine and Kerry should be calling for a return to tradional foreign policy, albeit with a new emphasis on fighting terrorism.

Joe Klein at TIME magazine start his piece with the wonderfully timely words, "A long time ago last week,..." and says Bush seems to have the faith of his convictions, however misguided they may be, while Kerry seems prepared to do or say whatever it takes to win.
"Democrats were perplexed, depressed and awestruck. How could Cheney get away with saying, in effect, that a vote for Kerry was a vote for terrorism? More to the point, how could Bush get away with, well, everything: a misspent youth, a lifetime of insider trading on the family name, a misfought war, a misleading inference that the invasion of Iraq had some vague relevance to 9/11, a presidency marked by rampant corporate cronyism at home and abroad? "If we can't beat this guy, with this record ..." a prominent Democrat said to me. He was unable to finish the sentence."

But for me the best advice comes from a Paul Krugman column, reprinted in the Taipei Times:
"When war psychology takes hold, the public believes, temporarily, in a "mythic reality" in which our nation is purely good, our enemies are purely evil, and anyone who isn't our ally is our enemy... To win, the Kerry campaign has to convince a significant number of voters that the self-proclaimed "war president" isn't an effective war leader -- he only plays one on TV. This charge has the virtue of being true."

The Western media is so determined to avoid charges of "bias" and "partisanship" that it refuses to report the truth, even as War Crimes are being committed on a daily basis (ironically, in the name of Western Democracy and Freedom).

In the opening salvos of the Iraq War, the USA made 50 "precision" air strikes in an attempt to kill senior members of Saddam Hussein's regime. Only after the war did US Defence officials admit that all the air strikes had missed their target, and the intelligence they were based on may have been faulty.

For some weeks, the USA has been maintaining a deadly aerial assault on the city of Falluja, causing countless innocent civilian deaths. The reliance on airplane and helicopter attacks is itself an admission that US ground forces are afraid to enter the city, a stronghold of insurgents. Even Israeli Air Force pilots have refused to carry out such attacks, claiming it is impossible to avoid an excessive number of civilian deaths.

Yesterday, US planes bombed Falluja yet again, this time hitting an ambulance:
"Dr Adel Khamis of the Fallujah General Hospital said at least 16 people were killed, including women and children, and 12 others were wounded. Video film showed a Red Crescent ambulance torn apart by an explosion. A hospital official said the driver, a paramedic and five patients had been killed by the blast.

"The conditions here are miserable - an ambulance was bombed, three houses destroyed and men and women killed," said Rafayi Hayad al-Esawi, the director of the hospital. "The American army has no morals."

On Sunday, 13 Iraqis were killed and dozens injured in Baghdad when US helicopters fired on a crowd of unarmed civilians. The scene was captured on film by an Arab television crew and shown around the world, to surprising muted criticism. Guardian G2 columnist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, who was injured in the attack, describes the scene of carnage - and reveals just how lucky he was to walk away.
"It started with a phone call early on Sunday morning: "Big pile of smoke over Haifa Street." Still half asleep I put on my jeans, cursing those insurgents who do their stuff in the early morning. What if I just go back to bed, I thought - by the time I will be there it will be over. In the car park it struck me that I didn't have my flak jacket in the car, but figured it was most probably just an IED (improvised explosive device) under a Humvee and I would be back soon.

On the way to Haifa Street I was half praying that everything would be over or that the Americans would seal off the area. I haven't recovered from Najaf yet.

Haifa Street was built by Saddam in the early 80s, part of a scheme that was supposed to give Baghdad a modern look. A long, wide boulevard with huge Soviet high-rise buildings on both sides, it acts like a curtain, screening off the network of impoverished alleyways that are inhabited by Baghdad's poorest and toughest people, many of whom are from the heart of the Sunni triangle.

When I arrived there I saw hundreds of kids and young men heading towards the smoke. "Run fast, it's been burning for a long time!" someone shouted as I grabbed my cameras and started to run.

When I was 50m away I heard a couple of explosions and another cloud of dust rose across the street from where the first column of smoke was still climbing. People started running towards me in waves. A man wearing an orange overall was sweeping the street while others were running. A couple of helicopters in the sky overhead turned away. I jumped into a yard in front of a shop that was set slightly back from the street, 10 of us with our heads behind the yard wall. "It's a sound bomb," said a man who had his face close to mine.

A few seconds later, I heard people screaming and shouting - something must have happened - and I headed towards the sounds, still crouching behind a wall. Two newswire photographers were running in the opposite direction and we exchanged eye contact.

About 20m ahead of me, I could see the American Bradley armoured vehicle, a huge monster with fire rising from within. It stood alone, its doors open, burning. I stopped, took a couple of photos and crossed the street towards a bunch of people. Some were lying in the street, others stood around them. The helicopters were still buzzing, but further off now.

I felt uneasy and exposed in the middle of the street, but lots of civilians were around me. A dozen men formed a circle around five injured people, all of whom were screaming and wailing. One guy looked at one of the injured men and beat his head and chest: "Is that you, my brother? Is that you?" He didn't try to reach for him, he just stood there looking at the bloodied face of his brother.

A man sat alone covered with blood and looked around, amazed at the scene. His T-shirt was torn and blood ran from his back. Two men were dragging away an unconscious boy who had lost the lower half of one leg. A pool of blood and a creamy liquid formed beneath the stump on the pavement. His other leg was badly gashed.

I had been standing there taking pictures for two or three minutes when we heard the helicopters coming back. Everyone started running, and I didn't look back to see what was happening to the injured men. We were all rushing towards the same place: a fence, a block of buildings and a prefab concrete cube used as a cigarette stall.

I had just reached the corner of the cube when I heard two explosions, I felt hot air blast my face and something burning on my head. I crawled to the cube and hid behind it. Six of us were squeezed into a space less than two metres wide. Blood started dripping on my camera but all that I could think about was how to keep the lens clean. A man in his 40s next to me was crying. He wasn't injured, he was just crying. I was so scared I just wanted to squeeze myself against the wall. The helicopters wheeled overhead, and I realised that they were firing directly at us. I wanted to be invisible, I wanted to hide under the others.

As the helicopters moved a little further off, two of the men ran away to a nearby building. I stayed where I was with a young man, maybe in his early 20s, who was wearing a pair of leather boots and a tracksuit. He was sitting on the ground, his legs stretched in front of him but with his knee joint bent outwards unnaturally. Blood ran on to the dirt beneath him as he peered round the corner. I started taking pictures of him. He looked at me and turned his head back towards the street as if he was looking for something. His eyes were wide open and kept looking.

There in the street, the injured were all left alone: a young man with blood all over his face sat in the middle of the cloud of dust, then fell on to his face.

Behind the cube, the other two men knew each other.

"How are you?" asked the man closer to me. He was lying against the cube's wall and trying to pull out his cellphone.

"I am not good," said the other, a young man in a blue T-shirt, resting against a fence. He was holding his arm, a chunk of which was missing, exposing the bone.

"Bring a car and come here please, we are injured," his friend was saying into his cellphone.

The man with his knee twisted out, meanwhile, was making only a faint sound. I was so scared I didn't want to touch him. I kept telling myself he was OK, he wasn't screaming.

I decided to help the guy with the phone who was screaming. I ripped his T-shirt off and told him to squeeze it against the gash on his head. But I was scared; I wanted to do something, but I couldn't. I tried to remember the first-aid training I had had in the past, but all I was doing was taking pictures.

I turned back to the man with the twisted knee. His head was on the curb now, his eyes were open but he just kept making the faint sound. I started talking to him, saying, "Don't worry, you'll be OK, you'll be fine." From behind him I looked at the middle of the street, where five injured men were still lying. Three of them were piled almost on top of each other; a boy wearing a white dishdasha lay a few metres away.

One of the three men piled together raised his head and looked around the empty streets with a look of astonishment on his face. He then looked at the boy in front of him, turned to the back and looked at the horizon again. Then he slowly started moving his head to the ground, rested his head on his arms and stretched his hands towards something that he could see. It was the guy who had been beating his chest earlier, trying to help his brother. He wanted help but no one helped. He was just there dying in front of me. Time didn't exist. The streets were empty and silent and the men lay there dying together. He slid down to the ground, and after five minutes was flat on the street.

I moved, crouching, towards where they were. They were like sleeping men with their arms wrapped around each other in the middle of the empty street. I went to photograph the boy with the dishdasha. He's just sleeping, I kept telling myself. I didn't want to wake him. The boy with the amputated leg was there too, left there by the people who were pulling him earlier. The vehicle was still burning.

More kids ventured into the street, looking with curiosity at the dead and injured. Then someone shouted "Helicopters!" and we ran. I turned and saw two small helicopters, black and evil. Frightened, I ran back to my shelter where I heard two more big explosions. At the end of the street the man in the orange overall was still sweeping the street.

The man with the bent knee was unconscious now, his face flat on the curb. Some kids came and said, "He is dead." I screamed at them. "Don't say that! He is still alive! Don't scare him." I asked him if he was OK, but he didn't reply.

We left the kids behind the bent-knee guy, the cellphone guy and the blue V-neck T-shirt guy; they were all unconscious now. We left them to die there alone. I didn't even try to move any with me. I just ran selfishly away. I reached a building entrance when someone grabbed my arm and took me inside. "There's an injured man. Take pictures - show the world the American democracy," he said. A man was lying in the corridor in total darkness as someone bandaged him.

Some others told me there was another journalist in the building. They took me to a stairwell leading to the basement, where a Reuters cameraman, a cheerful chubby guy, was lying holding his camera next to his head. He wasn't screaming but he had a look of pain in his eyes.

I tried to remember his name to call his office, but I couldn't. He was a friend, we had worked together for months. I have seen him in every press conference, but I couldn't remember his name.

In time, an ambulance came. I ran to the street as others emerged from their hiding places, all trying to carry injured civilians to the ambulance.

"No, this one is dead," said the driver. "Get someone else."

The ambulance drove away and we all scattered, thinking to ourselves: the Americans won't fire at an ambulance but they will at us. This scene was repeated a couple of times: each time we heard an ambulance we would emerge into the streets, running for cover again as it left.

Yesterday, sitting in the office, another photographer who was looking at my pictures exclaimed: "So the Arabiya journalist was alive when you were taking pictures!"

"I didn't see the Arabiya journalist."

He pointed at the picture of the guy with V-neck T-shirt. It was him. He was dead. All the people I had shared my shelter with were dead."

© Guardian Newspapers

UPDATE: has details of various (conflicting) explantions that have since been issued by the US military, including this: "The helicopter fired on the Bradley to destroy it after it had been hit earlier and it was on fire... It was for the safety of the people around it."

Residents of Falluja have their own explanation: "This was revenge against civilians because the [resistance] hit one of the U.S. tanks," said a man on Haifa Street who would only refer to himself as Abu Mohammed.
The Economist takes a look at the latest polls and concludes that "a big Bush victory, while still not the most likely outcome, has become a real possibility."
Aussie Hostages Are The New Children Overboard

Yesterday it was a phoney claim (no pun) that the hostage-takers had used SMS messages. At the same time, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was saying all Australians had been accounted for. What he actually meant was that the 88 Australians registered with the embassy in Baghdad were accounted for. A reporter on the ABC's 7:30 Report, however, said he was registered but had not been contacted.

Overnight it became clear that more than 60 other Australians were in Iraq - who are these people and why did Downer not know about them? - and at the time of writing DFAT says 27 Australians are still unaccounted for.

Meanwhile Mark Latham is complaining that Howard has sent in a SWAT Squad "negotiating team" without informing Labour.
"This is an outrageous breach of the caretaker conventions in this election campaign," he told ABC radio.

"The truth is that if Labor is elected in three and a half weeks' time, we would be in charge of the operation. We would be in charge of this defence team and possibly the negotiating team, so-called, that are being sent to Iraq.

"So isn't it in Australia's national interest to ensure the alternative government is consulted, given the information and involved from day one about this important decision?"

Does anybody really believe the John Howard's corrupt, lying government will not use this hostage situation to its political advantage in any way possible? Does anybody really believe that Howard would not lie - and instruct his ministers to lie - if he thought it could get him across the finish line at the October 9th polls? This government has a long-standing, proven credibility problem, the seriousness of which is all the more apparent when it is our own security at risk.


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