June 30, 2004

Only 18% of US voters Believe Bush:

"A CNN/Gallup poll found six out of 10 people believed that Monday's hasty handover - at a moment when Iraq remained so perilous - was a sign of failure. Just a third regarded it as a sign of success.

Major questions still remain about Bush's handling of the war, challenging his image of straight-dealing and plain talking.

Of those polled by the New York Times and CBS, 59 percent said Bush was hiding something in his public statements on Iraq, compared to 18 percent who thought he was telling the full truth.

A further 20 percent considered the president was 'mostly lying'.

By a more than three to one margin, Americans think the risk of terrorist attacks against the US has increased, rather than decreased, as a result of the March 2003 invasion - flatly contradicting Bush's assertions that the removal of Saddam Hussein had made the world a safer place.

By a similar margin, they say the US involvement in Iraq is breeding, not eliminating, terrorists."
Ashcroft faces whistleblower secrets probe:

"The federal government's secrecy watchdog is conducting an inquiry into whether Attorney General John Ashcroft acted properly in classifying information relating to a lawsuit brought by a whistleblower from the FBI's translation unit.

Sibel Edmonds, a contract translator who blew the whistle on mismanagement, inefficiency and serious security problems, is suing the Department of Justice for violating her First Amendment rights by quashing her claims against the FBI with the rarely invoked 'state-secrets privilege.'

Her case relates to the way the translation unit in the bureau's Washington field office was run immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. Edmonds has made shocking allegations about incompetence, lax internal security and deliberate efforts to frustrate the unit's work -- some of which have been acknowledged to be true by the FBI.

The translation issue goes to the heart of the pre-Sept. 11 failure of the FBI and the intelligence community in general to catch the attackers and stop the plot that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Secrecy experts say the affair appears to be part of a pattern of behavior by the Bush administration: the abuse of classification procedures to stifle public debate about politically sensitive aspects of the war against terrorism."
US chief ordered British to Attack Iranians:

"America's military commander in Iraq ordered British troops to prepare a full-scale ground offensive against Iranian forces that had crossed the border and grabbed disputed territory, a senior officer has disclosed.

An attack would almost certainly have provoked open conflict with Iran. But the British chose instead to resolve the matter through diplomatic channels."
G. W. Bush and the Iraqi Pseudostate:

"Whatever happens -- whether Iraq dissolves in pieces, is seen largely as a compliant U.S. satellite, or becomes a cheeky avatar of Arab defiance of the West -- its territory seems likely to continue to be what it has rapidly become in recent months, a literal and figurative minefield for U. S. troops and a hotbed of Al Qaeda recruitment. The volatile, unpredictable nature of pseudostates, and their role as incubators of troubles that can come back to haunt their creators, has certainly been no great historical secret. Perhaps that was why one of the candidates in the 2000 Presidential election said, 'I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building.' The candidate was George W. Bush."

June 29, 2004

The dawn of a new Iraq - or a return to secrecy and killing?:

"Something happened in Baghdad yesterday, but what exactly? What we know is that somewhere in Saddam Hussein's sprawling former cantonment on the banks of the Tigris, behind silver miles of new razor wire, behind high concrete barriers stronger than most medieval fortifications, behind sandbags, five security checks, US armoured vehicles, US armoured soldiers, special forces of various countries and private security guards, behind secrecy and a fear of killing so intense that none save a handful of people knew it had happened until after it was over, an American bureaucrat handed a piece of paper to an Iraqi judge, jumped on a helicopter, and left the country.

... the Bremer who waved from the steps of his departing C-130 didn't only leave sovereignty, in the form of a terse two-paragraph letter, with the Iraqis. He left 160,000 foreign troops, a broken economy and a land beset by ruthless, reckless armed bands.

Just before the swearing-in began the Iraqi leadership waved to the people watching. As they did, they looked like middle-aged people look when the restraining bar locks into place on an extreme funfair ride about to lurch into the air...

We will have to wait for Mr Bremer's memoirs to know what he thought, looking down as his Chinook banked over the parched date groves, yellow cubescape and sluggish brown river of summer Baghdad for the last time.

Yet between the disastrous spell of looting which began the US occupation, the disbanding of the army and police which enabled crime to flourish, the failure to rebuild the country, the continued presence of a vast US force and the uncertainty surrounding future elections, the creation of a transitional government seems a thin achievement, particularly when that government is showing authoritarian tendencies.

But an Iraqi government, any Iraqi government, seems to many like the overdue fulfilment of what they wanted from the Americans all along, which was to painlessly extract Saddam and his family from their lives, like a bad tooth, and immediately vanish. Instead, the dentist moved in. "
Supreme Rebuke:

"SINCE THE OUTSET of the war on terrorism, the Bush administration, across a wide range of issues, has had a simple message for the federal judiciary: Trust us and don't interfere. Yesterday, in a pair of much-awaited rulings, the court delivered its response. First, the justices declared that U.S. citizens designated as enemy fighters are entitled to a 'fair opportunity' to challenge their detentions and 'unquestionably [have] the right to access to counsel' in doing so. Then the justices held that federal courts have jurisdiction to hear challenges to the detentions of noncitizens held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Trust, even during wartime, has limits.

... the judiciary will not sit still for assertions of unbridled executive power. As the war on terrorism progresses, the administration will need -- at long last -- to submit to the oversight and transparency it has so assiduously resisted."
Arabs unimpressed by Iraq power transfer:

"The transfer of authority to an Iraqi government has failed to impress Arab analysts, who predict violence against U.S. troops will continue and Arab governments will withhold full diplomatic recognition.

An Arab diplomat said most Arab states would welcome the change as a good step forward but maintain their 'wait and see' attitude until Iraqis choose a new government through elections.

'The Iraqi people are not easily duped. As long as the Iraqi people see foreign tanks in the streets, I don't think things will change,' said Hassan Nafaa, chairman of the political science department at Cairo University."
Really Good News:

"The US Supreme Court ruled today that prisoners seized as potential terrorists and held for more than two years at a US military prison camp in Cuba may challenge their captivity in American courts - a defeat for President George W Bush in one of the first major high court cases arising from the September 11 attacks."
Soldier of Fortune:

"A third of George Bush's public speeches have been in a military venue, often in uniform. There is nothing this draft-dodging, Ivy League jock loves as much as playing commander-in-chief. "
Like a Bat Out of Iraq:

"Iraq's newly-sovereign government is beset by a growing insurgency, faced with enormous political challenges, and tasked with taking over the management of a tumultuous transition.

Before flying off into the sunset, Bremer 'issued a raft of edicts revising Iraq's legal code.' The new rules -- which will be difficult, if not impossible, to overturn -- will 'restrict the power of the interim government, and impose U.S.-crafted rules for the country's democratic transition.' Controversially, Bremer empowered an appointed electoral commission to 'eliminate political parties or candidates.' Another last minute edict gave 'U.S. and other Western civilian contractors immunity from Iraqi law while performing their jobs in Iraq' -- a provision that outraged many Iraqis because it 'allows foreigners to act with impunity even after the occupation.'

... Bremer left Iraq "without having properly accounted for what it has done with some $20 billion of Iraq's own money," accumulated from oil sales. The actions of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) appear to violate U.N. resolution 1483, which mandated that "Iraq's oil revenues should be paid into the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), that this money should be spent in the interests of the Iraqi people, and [that it] be independently audited."

Bremer did not even appoint an auditor until April 2004, and the report is not expected until mid-July -- long after the CPA has been dissolved. In the meantime, the CPA has refused to provide even basic information about how the money is being spent. Christian Aid also notes that a "majority of Iraq's reconstruction projects have been awarded to U.S. companies, which charge up to 10 times more than Iraqi firms.""
New Report Documents Extensive US War Crimes in Iraq:

"The Bush Administration is committing war crimes and other serious violations of international law in Iraq as a matter of routine policy, according to a report released today by the Center for Economic and Social Rights. The report, Beyond Torture: U.S. Violations of Occupation Law in Iraq, documents ten categories of war crimes and rights violations regularly committed by U.S. forces.

'Torture is only the tip of the iceberg,' said Roger Normand, an international lawyer who directs the Center. 'From unlawful killings, mass arrests, and collective punishment to outright theft and pillage, the U.S. is violating almost every law intended to protect civilians living under foreign military occupation.'"
Charge the Prisoners in Abu Ghraib, or Release Them!

"The 1949 Geneva Conventions permit the detention without charge of prisoners of war and other detainees only in the case of an international armed conflict - which by definition is between governments - or an occupation. Washington says that both will come to an end on June 30, meaning that the ongoing conflict between the Iraqi government and Iraqi insurgents would become a civil war. That a sovereign government may seek assistance from foreign governments does not transform a civil war into an international conflict. In the absence of an occupation or an international conflict, no one can be detained under international humanitarian law without being charged with a recognized crime. Those not charged must be released and repatriated 'without delay.'

'The Bush administration can't have its cake and eat it too,' said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. 'If the occupation is over, so is the U.S. authority to detain Iraqis without criminal charges.' "

June 28, 2004

Reaction To Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 Film:

"Before the movie started, Leslie Hanser prayed.

'I prayed the Lord would open my eyes,' she said.

For months, her son Joshua, a college student, had been drawing her into political debate. He'd tell her she shouldn't trust President Bush. He'd tell her the Iraq war was wrong. Hanser, a 41-year-old homemaker, pushed back. She defended the president, supported him fiercely

But Joshua kept at her, until she prayed for help understanding her son's fervor.

Emerging from Michael Moore's 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' her eyes wet, Hanser said she at last understood. 'My emotions are just.... ' She trailed off, waving her hands to show confusion. 'I feel like we haven't seen the whole truth before.'"
Bush and Hitler: What The 'Torture Memos' Reveal:

"In the Spring of 1941, as Nazi Germany was preparing to invade the Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler issued an infamous edict which has become known as the 'Commissar Order,' to govern the conduct of German armed forces on the Eastern Front. This order provides a largely-unnoticed precedent for the 'legal' rationalizations found in a number of hitherto-secret Bush Administration legal memoranda, which have recently come to light."
Australian PM Tries To Buy The Next Election:

"It may seem the simplest of tricks but, until the 2001 budget, no politician had thought - or dared - to try it. And as a long-time student of creative public accounting, I take my hat off to John Howard, inventor of the Backward-Looking Budget. Good one, Honest John."
An Enormous Mistake

Former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke says the invasion of Iraq was an ''enormous mistake'' that is costing untold lives, strengthening al-Qaida and breeding a new generation of terrorists.

''We did exactly what al-Qaida said we would do invade and occupy an oil-rich Arab country that wasn't threatening us in any way,'' Clarke said before giving the keynote address at the American Library Association's annual convention in Orlando. ''The hatred that has been engendered by this invasion will last for generations. . .'' '

''We won the Cold War by, yes, having good strong military forces but also by competing in the battle of ideas against the Communists,'' Clarke later told the librarians. ''We have to do that with the jihadists.''
Bremer's Parting Gift To Iraqis

U.S. Edicts Curb Power Of Iraq's Leadership:

"U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer has issued a raft of edicts revising Iraq (news - web sites)'s legal code and has appointed at least two dozen Iraqis to government jobs with multi-year terms in an attempt to promote his concepts of governance long after the planned handover of political authority on Wednesday.

Some of the orders signed by Bremer, which will remain in effect unless overturned by Iraq's interim government, restrict the power of the interim government and impose U.S.-crafted rules for the country's democratic transition. Among the most controversial orders is the enactment of an elections law that gives a seven-member commission the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support.

The effect of other regulations could last much longer. Bremer has ordered that the national security adviser and the national intelligence chief chosen by the interim prime minister he selected, Ayad Allawi, be given five-year terms, imposing Allawi's choices on the elected government that is to take over next year.

Bremer also has appointed Iraqis handpicked by his aides to influential positions in the interim government. He has installed inspectors-general for five-year terms in every ministry. He has formed and filled commissions to regulate communications, public broadcasting and securities markets. He named a public-integrity commissioner who will have the power to refer corrupt government officials for prosecution.

Some Iraqi officials condemn Bremer's edicts and appointments as an effort to exert U.S. control over the country after the transfer of political authority. "They have established a system to meddle in our affairs," said Mahmoud Othman, a member of the Governing Council, a recently dissolved body that advised Bremer for the past year. "Iraqis should decide many of these issues.""

June 26, 2004

Congressional report warns CIA is heading over 'proverbial cliff':

"The CIA has ignored its core mission of spying, has refused to take corrective action and is heading 'over a proverbial cliff' after years of poor planning and mismanagement, the Republican-led House intelligence committee has concluded in the latest congressional broadside aimed at America's premier intelligence agency.

A report that accompanies the committee's proposed intelligence authorization bill, which was approved by the full House in a 360-61 vote last night, paints a devastating picture of the CIA division that sends clandestine agents overseas, recruits foreign spies, steals secrets and provides covert commandos for the war on terrorism. "

The CIA has been corrupt and secretive since it was formed under the leadership of former Nazi supporter Allen Dulles. The real politicizing started, of course, when Bush Snr was made head of the CIA, the most overtly political appointment in the agency's history.
God Bless The Child?

Bush's ignorance and faith-based politics came to the fore in a tense Irish TV interview:

"I wouldn't have made the decisions I did if I didn't believe the world would be better," said Bush. "Why would I put people in harm's way if I didn't believe the world would be better?''

There's that word again - "believe." It's all faith-based. Even if Bush made a mistake, it's not really a mistake if he believed it, right?

Bush went on to say:

"...most of Europe supported the decision in Iraq. Really what you're talking about is France, isn't it?"

Does he really believe that most of Europe supported the decision to invade Iraq? If so, he better fire his White House advisors or start reading newspapers...
Beautifully crafted, surprisingly consistent, technically perfect post-modern LIES

Ted Rall looks at Bush's linguistic leaps of logic.

"Any news junkie with some experience reading legal documents can extract the elusive truth from a Bush quote. On June 17, for example, Bush said that Saddam had 'provided safe haven for a terrorist like [Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab] Zarqawi, who is still killing innocents inside of Iraq.' Actually, Zarqawi never lived in Saddam's Iraq; he arrived after the U.S. invasion. But a guy Bush says is like Zarqawi, Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, did live in Baghdad under Saddam. To the extent that any Abu is like another, Zarqawi is like Nidal. (In this phrasing, 'like' typically means 'for example.' In order to obfuscate, however, Bush will claim to have meant 'similar to.') Yes, Nidal's Fatah organization was only a threat to Israel, never the United States. And Zarqawi's Islamist Al Qaeda never cooperated with Yassir Arafat's Fatah. [NB: Nidal has also renounced active terrorism and was an old man when he entered Baghdad... Gandhi]

This statement elevates the craft of creating intentionally confusing syntax to dazzlingly cynical new heights. Polls confirm that such convoluted verbiage has convinced a plurality of Americans, 49 to 36 percent, that 'clear evidence that Iraq was supporting Al Qaeda has been found.'

It's all so beautifully postmodern: all of the Bushies' lies are true. Technically."
Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon oneself.

– Lao Tzu
Cheney Loses It On The Senate Floor:

Under growing pressure on Iraq and Halliburton, Vice President Cheney uttered a big-time obscenity on the Senate floor this week.

"On Tuesday, Cheney, serving in his role as president of the Senate, appeared in the chamber for a photo session. A chance meeting with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, became an argument about Cheney's ties to Halliburton Co., an international energy services corporation, and President Bush's judicial nominees. The exchange ended when Cheney offered some crass advice.

'Fuck yourself,' said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency. "

June 25, 2004

UK alarm over Guantanamo trials:

"The planned military tribunals for terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay are unacceptable, says the British attorney general. Four British men are still being held at the Cuban camp.

In a speech on Friday, Lord Goldsmith is to say there can be 'no compromise' on certain principles and the US tribunals would not offer a fair trial. "

No comment as yet from John Howard's sycophantic Australian government, who have so far happily accepted Donald Rumsfeld's verdict that two Australian detainees are "bad guys."
War Was A Mistake, World Is More Dangerous

Reuters reports on the latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll released on Thursday:

"For the first time since the start of the war in Iraq, a majority of Americans now say the U.S.-led invasion was a mistake... Amid continuing violence in Iraq and questions about the justification for the war, 54 percent of the 1,005 Americans polled said it was a mistake to send U.S. troops into Iraq, compared with 41 percent who held that view three weeks ago.

The findings mark the first time since Vietnam that a majority of Americans has called a major deployment of U.S. forces a mistake, USA Today reported on its Web site. In addition, the poll found that for the first time a majority also said the war in Iraq has made the United States less safe from terrorism. Fifty-five percent said the war has increased U.S. vulnerability, compared to a December poll in which 56 percent said the war made the United States safer... "

A Washington Post/ABC poll draws similar conclusions: "Fewer than half of those surveyed -- 47 percent -- say the war in Iraq was worth fighting, while 52 percent say it was not, the highest level of disapproval recorded in Post-ABC News polls. Seven in 10 Americans surveyed now say there has been an ''unacceptable" level of casualties in Iraq, up six points from April."

Interestingly, a FOX NEWS poll released on the same day shows that "the public’s belief that going to war with Iraq was the right thing to do is holding steady." Indeed, the FOX NEWS poll finds a majority believes "there was a partnership between Saddam and Al Qaeda, and that military action abroad is necessary." What's more, FOX says Bush is actually pulling ahead of Kerry! Says a lot about Rupert Murdoch's FOX (ahem!) "news", really.
Sister Dianna Ortiz:An American Supervised My Torture:

"On November 2, 1989, I was abducted by Guatemalan security forces and taken to a clandestine prison, where I was burned with cigarettes more than 111 times, raped repeatedly, and subjected to other forms of torture. While there, I met the man my torturers referred to as their boss.

He was an American.

Later, when I first spoke of this man publicly, many of my fellow citizens here in the United States had difficulty believing that an American could be involved in torture, much less be boss of a squad of torturers. Even fewer would accept that he was undoubtedly acting on orders from superior.

I hope this is easier to believe today. "
Bush and the CIA Tradition of Torture:

"Read the manual for yourself. You can find it - and a Reagan-era update - online at the National Security Archive. Here you will see exactly why the Pentagon wanted young prison guards at Abu Ghraib to keep the Iraqis naked, sexually humiliate them, sic dogs on them, force them into stress positions, continually break up their eating and sleeping routines, deprive them of sensory stimulation, and apply several other clear-cut violations of the Geneva Conventions.

As the 1963 manual makes clear, the Pentagon's goal in 2003 was not to produce unbearable pain. Instead, the Pentagon wanted to exploit their captives' internal conflicts, make them wrestle in themselves, force them to regress toward childhood, make them feel dread and guilt, and render them unable to hold back information interrogators wanted.

Whether in Afghanistan, Guant?namo, Iraq, or its global gulag of secret torture centers, Team Bush did not conjure all this up as they rushed to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Stress and duress, and the people trained to use it, have been in the American arsenal for years. They were there ready for the administration to use. Bush lawyers did not even have to think up the argument that stress and duress was something less than torture. The canard has been around as long as the techniques themselves.

Where Bush and his advisers showed their originality was in characteristically going too far. The KUBARK manual warned field interrogators never to use the techniques without explicit approval of higher-ups, who would weigh the need for intelligence against the risk that outsiders might learn that Americans were using torture.

Later versions carried warning labels: "The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults or exposure to inhumane treatment of any kind as an aid to interrogation is prohibited by law, both international and domestic; it is neither authorized nor condoned."

"While we deplore the use of coercive techniques, we do want to make you aware of them so that you may avoid them."

Beyond the obvious CYA, the Pentagon and CIA both tried to maintain plausible denial, having senior officials decide when to apply which methods, or letting foreign nationals do most of the dirty work. Mr. Bush ignored such restraints, making wholesale, even boastful use of coercive techniques that his predecessors had tried to use on the sly."
Iraq Goes To The Dogs: Allawi, Negroponte... and now Spicer

I am sure that many Australians will be able to remember the 1997 Sandline affair, when a private militia of international mercenaries tried to invade and conquer the Papua New Guinean island of Bougainville. The leader of that ragtag army was Lieutenant Colonel Tim Spicer, a former British commando. The following year, Spicer helped smuggle arms to Sierra Leone in violation of a United Nations embargo.

Now Spicer has turned up again, with a gig to trump them all: providing the world's largest private army to the new (ahem!) "sovereign" Iraqi government.

WorkingForChange reports that "United States taxpayers will pay up to $293 million for a contract to Aegis Defence Services of London, a new company created by Spicer, to create an "integrator" or coordination hub for the security operation for every single reconstruction contractor and sub-contractor throughout Iraq, effectively creating a private military that can attack Iraqi protestors at any time anywhere in the country...

The military will pay all of Aegis' expenses, plus a pre-determined percentage of whatever they spend, which critics say is a license to over-bill. The company has also been asked to provide 75 close protection teams -- comprised of eight men each -- for the high-level staff of companies that are running the oil and gas fields, electricity, and water services in Iraq."
Immunity For Everyone!

Never mind that Bush has embarrassingly been forced into withdrawing a UN extension to the USA's immunity from prosecution under the International Criminal Court. (Background: Clinton was prepared to sign up to the ICC, but Bush & Co. backed out, then negotiated a UN immunity clause, then negotiated separate immunity clauses with around over 70 countries... think they were planning something illegal???).

Anyway, never mind that. The USA has now asked the Iraqi interim government to extend immunity for all coalition forces for another 6 months. And guess what? The Iraqi's agreed! Amazingly good luck, isn't it? So the IGC puppets, Allawi et al are giving foreign troops carte blanche to go on killing innocent Iraqis for another 6 months, no questions asked. That's gotta boost their popularity, right?

And speaking of immunity, Bush today brought his own lawyer into a 70-minute interview with investigators, just to make sure he has immunity from any fallout over the disclosure of a CIA agent for partisan political reasons. Asked if Mr Bush had answered every question, White House spokesman Scotty McClellan said: "The president was glad to do his part to cooperate with the investigation. The president was pleased to share whatever information he had with the officials in charge and answer their questions." Doesn't sound like a "Yes", does it?

On June 5, 1945, the day before the D-Day invasion, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower penned a statement preparing to take full responsibility should the unthinkable happen and the mission fail. Truman had a sign over his Oval Office desk saying "The Buck Stops Here". Such political accountability sounds very old-fashioned these days.
Document Dump Deception:

"The administration's document dump was notable for what it didn't include. For example, according to Sen. Patrick Leahy it included 'only 3 of the 23 documents that Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee requested and tried to subpoena last week, and of those 3 documents, 2 were already available worldwide on the Internet.' Although the administration released a February 2002 memo by President Bush addressing the treatment of prisoners it didn't address the critical question: 'Did the President sign any directive regarding the treatment or interrogation of detainees after February 7, 2002?' And although the last document released was dated April 16, 2003 the worst abuses are known to have occurred months later... "
Misled Into War By Corporate Media

"If this is the sort of society the US - and Australia - has become, then let's be honest about it.'"

Antony Loewenstein takes a close look at how Murdoch's The Australian newspaper and the New York Times mis-reported the war, the WMDs, the terrorist links...

June 24, 2004

Time To Start Laughing At These Imbeciles

How did 70% of the USA come to believe that Saddam was involved in 9/11? And how come 40% still believe it?

Because Bush, Cheney and others (including Howard and Blair) have consistently and repeatedly walked the fine line between wilfully misleading people and straight-out lying.

I gathered a few quotes from Bush today:

"I have also determined that the use of armed force against Iraq is consistent with taking necessary action against those nations who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11." - Bush letter to Congress, justifying the invasion of Iraq.

"Iraq has sent bomb-making and document-forging experts to work with al Qaeda," Bush said on Feb. 6, 2003, on the eve of war. "Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training."

"We have removed an ally of Al Qaeda." - Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.

"We have carried the fight to the enemy ... so that we do not meet him again on our own streets" - Bush explaining why it's good that Iraqis are dying, not US citizens.

Here's what the 9/11 Commission reported:

"A senior Iraqi intelligence official reportedly made three trips to Sudan, finally meeting bin Ladin [sic] in 1994. Bin Ladin is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded. There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after Bin Ladin had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior Bin Ladin associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."

Bush now says:

"This administration never said that the 9-11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, for example, Iraqi intelligence agents met with (Osama) bin Laden, the head of al Qaeda in the Sudan."

In other words, yes, we misled people, we deliberately led them astray, but we still refuse to acknowledge that those "contacts" amounted to nothing. Because who knows? Just because there is "no credible evidence" today doesn't mean we won't find some tomorrow (even if we have already captured, interrogated and even tortured just about anybody who could provide any meaningful information, plus a few thousand other innocents, and given a full enquiry months of time and millions of dollars to discover nothing but sheer incompetence on our part).

So now it is up to the "Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy" to prove ... what? That there was no real connection between Saddam and Al-Quaeda? It was strongly suspected by many millions of anti-war protesters before the war even began, and now it has been proven! Bush and his followers simply refuse to recognize it as a fact. What can you do about that?

The Emperor has no clothes, but still insists that he is adorned in the most splendid finery. Half the people in the street still seem to believe him. There is nothing left to do but laugh...
Defending the Indefensible Bush Lies

From the increasingly irate (and why not!?!) Molly Ivins:

"You may recall that when even the administration finally admitted Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction (with that adorable video of President Bush on his hands and knees searching under sofas in the Oval Office for the missing WMD -- oh, it was so amusing, eight hundred American dead), we were treated to the following rationales:

1) Didn't make any difference because Saddam Hussein was a really, really bad guy anyway.

He was, of course, and it was always the only decent rationale for getting rid of him. It was the argument made by Tony Blair, but specifically rejected by the Bush administration. Paul Wolfowitz explained in Vanity Fair that human rights violations were not a sufficient consideration for invasion.

2) It was all Saddam's fault that we thought he had WMD. The wily coot fooled us by repeatedly denying that he had any, a fiendishly clever ploy.

3) He probably shipped them all to Syria just before we got there.

4) Get over it. We've heard enough from you people.

Torture at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere?

1) No worse than fraternity hazing.

2) Just some low-level, white-trash morons.

3) We haven't tortured nearly as many people as Saddam Hussein.

4) Al Qaeda never signed no stinkin' Geneva Conventions, so we have a right to torture them.

5) Shut up, they explained.

Torture was explicitly authorized at the highest levels of government.

1-5) See above, plus:

6) Did not.

7) So what?

8) 'I'm going to say it one more time. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to the law. That ought to comfort you. We're a nation of laws. We adhere to laws. We have laws on the books. You might look at those laws, and that might comfort you.'

Problem is, the administration looked at the laws and decided to ignore them.

Ahmad Chalabi is not just a liar, con man, thief and faker of intelligence, but also apparently a spy for Iran.

1) Chalabi? Ahmad who? Never heard of him.

2) We cut off all ties with Chalabi some time ago. (Last week.)

The 9-11 Commission reports there is no evidence of collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and in fact Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were all much bigger players with Al Qaeda.

1) The 9-11 Commission didn't say that.

2) The media are overplaying the story and are also lazy and outrageous. (Never mind that it's the media's fault as much as the administration's that 69 percent of the American people were under the misimpression that Saddam Hussein was directly tied to 9-11.)

3) We never claimed he was behind 9-11. No, we never did -- we may have implied it, we may have hinted, we may have suggested, insinuated, intimated, connoted, alluded to and said it between the lines, but we never said it, and you can't prove we did and we have no idea how the great majority of Americans ever got that silly idea in the first place. So stop reporting that it's not true.

4) We are tired of hearing from you people, this has been going on for almost 24 hours now and only Dead Reagan gets a week's worth of our undivided attention. Back to Kobe Bryant and Laci Peterson...
USA Is Illegally Changing Iraq's Laws To Favour Corporate Globalization

As the collapse of the Saddam-WMDs and Saddam-Al-quaeda fantasies prove, the USA's illegal invasion of Iraq was always about economics and ideological empire-building. Bush & Co. are selling off Iraq in contravention of international law and at the expense of ordinary Iraqis.

A detailed report of US economic activity in Iraq says:

"The Bush Administration is using the military invasion and occupation of Iraq to advance a corporate globalization agenda that is illegal under international law, has not been chosen by the Iraqi people and may ultimately prove to be even more devastating than twelve years of economic sanctions, two U.S.-led wars and one occupation. The Administration's ultimate goal is to take the agenda to the entire region.

In direct conflict with its obligations under international law, the Bush Administration is fundamentally altering Iraq's economic laws to U.S. corporate advantage and is not adequately restoring and providing Iraqis with fundamental necessities such as water and electricity.

Transformation of an occupied country's fundamental laws is illegal under international law. It directly violates the international convention governing the behavior of occupying forces, the Hague regulations of 1907 (the companion to the 1949 Geneva conventions, both ratified by the United States), as well as the U.S. Army's own code of war..."

Dumb? Or Willfully Deceptive?

An allegation that a high-ranking al-Qaida member was an officer in Saddam Hussein's private militia may have resulted from confusion over Iraqi names, say White House officials. The confusion was started by one of Wolfowitz's neocons in the Office of Special Plans, Christopher Carney.

An al-Qaeda employee in Malaysia, named Ahmad Hikmat Shakir Azzawi, was confused with an Iraqi intelligence agent named Lt. Col. Hikmat Shakir Ahmad.

Juan Cole points out that from an Arab point of view, the names are very dissimilar, as anyone with a sound understanding of Arab culture would know:

"The family name (here, nisba) of the al-Qaeda guy in Malaysia is Azzawi.

The family name of the guy in Iraqi intelligence is Ahmad.

Do you notice how they are not the same?

The personal or first name of the al-Qaeda guy is Ahmad.

The personal or first name of the Iraqi intelligence agent is Hikmat.

Do you notice how it is not the same?

So, Ahmad Azzawi is not Hikmat Ahmad. See how easy that is?"

Cole says this is just another example of neocon idiocy:

"Mr. Carney, Mr. Lehman, journalist Stephen Hayes, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, and all the other persons who gave a moment's thought to the idea that these two are the same person, based on these names, have wasted precious moments of their lives and have helped kill over 800 US servicemen, over an elementary error deriving from complete ignorance of Arabic and Arab culture."

Was this plain dumb ignorance, or willfully ignorant manipulation of facts to support Bush's Iraq-Al Quaeda fantasies (the reason why the neocon Office Of Special Plans was created)? You decide.
White (House) Lies:

"A president has the responsibility to ascertain the truth and do his best to guarantee that the information he shares with the public is as accurate as can be. Too often, Bush has embraced and put forward misinformation to support and advance his policy desires. Did he know the information was false? That is not an excuse. In the case of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, Bush, according to the White House, did not even bother to read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. Produced in October 2002, this 90-page report summarized the intelligence community's information on Iraq. Had Bush perused it, he would have seen that the evidence regarding Iraq's WMDs was often inconclusive and disputed by various US intelligence analysts and that the overall picture of Hussein's WMD capabilities was unclear. And Bush would have had good reason to question his own melodramatic, black-and-white statements about Iraq's WMDs.

If a president recklessly abandons his obligation to determine whether he is in possession of good, solid information, and then accepts incorrect or misleading material and presents it to the public because doing so serves his own ends, he is engaged in a deceptive practice that can be considered the functional equivalent of lying. Bush has yet to face any consequences for promoting deceptions crucial to his agenda, and he has not assumed responsibility for actively misleading the American public and the world. So the debate over his truth-defying ways will continue until Election Day. "

June 23, 2004

AP Sues for Access to Bush Guard Records:

"The Associated Press sued the Pentagon and the Air Force on Tuesday, seeking access to all records of George W. Bush's military service during the Vietnam War.

Filed in federal court in New York, where The AP is headquartered, the lawsuit seeks access to a copy of Bush's microfilmed personnel file from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Austin."
Hypocrites and Bullies

"The US-led occupation authority in Baghdad has warned Iraq's interim government not to carry out its threat of declaring martial law, insisting that only the US-led coalition has the right to adopt emergency powers after the June 30 handover of sovereignty."

So who is really in charge of a "sovereign" Iraq?

US officials quote the Iraqi (ahem!) constitution, plus (ahem!) United Nations Security Council resolution 1546 to back up their claims. Constitution? UN? Since when does Bush & Co care about either of them?
The Moral Low Ground

"In a now famous "torture memo," the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel told the White House that torture "may be justified" in certain circumstances on suspected al-Qaeda terrorists. In fact, it argues, torture may not really be torture unless it causes suffering "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death." That would seem to give a green light to, say, applying a lighted cigarette to the skin. Is that not a form of torture?

In a second, infamous memo written in March, 2003, the administration told Mr. Rumsfeld that the President had the right to authorize torture and override international law under his powers as Commander-in-Chief. It further argued that torturers who followed presidential orders could get immunity from prosecution. Does this mean that the President of the United States is simply above the law?

In December, 2002, Mr. Rumsfeld himself authorized the use of dubious techniques such as hooding, stress positions, nudity and fear of dogs to break down prisoners at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Later, he personally approved the detention of "ghost prisoners" in Iraq, allowing U.S. officials to conceal them from the International Committee of the Red Cross in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions...

"We do not condone torture," George Bush said yesterday. "I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture."

Perhaps that is so, but it is pretty clear that his administration was flirting at the edges of legality, not to mention humanity, in its thirst to acquire intelligence from suspects who might warn them of another terrorist attack.

If he wants to lift the shadow of torture that lies over his administration, Mr. Bush will have to come clean about what exactly he and Mr. Rumsfeld did authorize and what precisely his policy on interrogations is now. The war on terror can only be won from the moral high ground, and by its actions at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, Washington is losing it."

The Globe and Mail
US approved use of dogs on Guantanamo prisoners:

Pentagon lawyers said torture was OK as long as it was "in good faith"!

"In December 2002 Mr Rumsfeld approved tactics such as forcing a detainee to stand up for up four hours, forced isolation for up to 30 days, deprivation of light, use of 20-hour interrogations, removal of clothing, forced shaving of facial hair, 'inducing stress by use of detainee's fears (eg, dogs)' and use of mild physical contact that did not cause injury.

A Pentagon legal brief recommending the use of the tactics argued that the proposed techniques were likely to pass constitutional muster as long as they were applied 'in a good faith effort and not maliciously or sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm'."

So as long as you were doing it in good faith, because you really, really believed the person was a terrorist, or might be a terrorist, or might have some good information on terrorists, or any information at all, well... no problemo!
It Depends What the Meaning of "Relationship" Is:

"Talking to reporters after his Cabinet meeting this morning, President Bush disputed the 9/11 commission's conclusion that no 'collaborative relationship' existed between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. 'There was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda,' Bush insisted. Then the president drew a distinction:

The administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al-Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. For example, Iraqi intelligence agents met with bin Laden, the head of al-Qaeda in Sudan.

Let's examine these words closely because President Bush clearly chose them carefully. The latest chapter of the 9/11 commission's report, which was released Wednesday, notes that there were - as Bush put it - 'numerous contacts' between the two entities. It cites the same meetings with Iraqi intelligence agents that Bush cited. So Bush's 'dispute' with the commission's findings isn't a dispute at all. He just meant to make it look like a dispute - to make some people think the commission might be wrong...

It makes Bill Clinton's classic line—that the answer to a question "depends on what the meaning of 'is' is"—seem forthright, by comparison.

A final note: Bush has been careful in the way he's worded his charges and rationales. Dick Cheney has not. Last Sept. 14, on Meet the Press, Cheney said that a U.S. success in Iraq will mean "that we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."

There's no getting around this one. Cheney wasn't merely suggesting, he was stating that the 9/11 terrorists' base was in Saddam's Iraq. Even Bush had to backpedal, admitting, "No, we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with Sept. 11." The president is just sneaky. The vice president lies."

June 22, 2004

Abu Ghraib Prisoners Are Not Serious Terrorists At All

"Contrary to the repeated assertions of senior administration officials, none of the detainees at the U.S. naval base in Cuba ranked as leaders or senior operatives of al Qaeda, New York Times has reported, citing interviews with high-level military, intelligence and law-enforcement officials in the United States, Europe and the Middle East. About 595 foreign nationals, designated 'enemy combatants,' are being held at the base."
Most Americans reject Iraq war:

"Fifty-two per cent of Americans believe the Iraq war was not worth fighting in what amounts to a repudiation of President George W Bush's argument that winning in Iraq is key to prevailing in the war on terror, according to a new opinion poll.

The joint survey by ABC News and the Washington Post also indicated that seven in 10 Americans found US casualties were 'unacceptable,' while the number of those confident the war has enhanced long-term US security has slid 11 points this year, to 51 per cent...

The poll also found that 76 per cent of Americans now believe the Iraq war has damaged the US image in the rest of the world, 13 points up from last summer.

Another 63 per cent said it has caused long-term harm to US relations with countries that opposed the war.

As a result, approval of the President's handling of the US campaign against terrorism has fallen to 50 per cent, according to the poll."
Bush Memo OK'd Torture

The Economist has a probing look at the legal advice given to Bush on the subject of torture. It concludes that the office of legal counsel in the Department of Justice has told Bush that it's OK for Americans to torture people abroad.

"Last week, senators questioned John Ashcroft on this issue, and the attorney-general refused to hand over the memo in question. But in another sign that the administration's power over its subordinates is slipping, somebody leaked the full text to the Washington Post. The details make ugly reading for any friend of America.

The memo, which dates from August 2002, looks at the sections of the legal code (2340-2340A) which implement the UN Convention against Torture. It claims torture can be justified on three grounds. First, it narrows the definition of torture, saying American law 'was intended to proscribe only the most egregious conduct.' It is not controversial to say torture should be defined strictly. The UN convention says the pain inflicted must be 'severe'. And the memo correctly identifies an important legal difference between torture and cruel and inhuman punishment. For instance, the European Court of Human Rights said Britain had used cruel treatment in Northern Ireland - hooding, sleep deprivation and so on - but that these things did not amount to torture.

Even so, the memo goes further than most ordinary opinion would in defining torture as 'equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death.' On the face of it, that means sliding needles under fingernails or holding someone's head under water to the point of drowning would not count as torture under the law.

Constitutionally, its second argument is no less striking. This is that the president can do whatever he wants in war, or, as the memo puts it, “enjoys complete discretion in the exercise of his commander-in-chief authority.” Interrogations, the memo says, are a “core function of the commander-in-chief.” Hence “we will not read a criminal statute as infringing on the president’s ultimate authority in these areas.”

This comes near saying that the president is above the law when acting as commander-in-chief in wartime. No other president has made such a claim. The constitution gives Congress power to “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.” This contradicts claims of untrammelled presidential authority. When Harry Truman tried to seize Youngstown Sheet and Tube in 1952 to prevent a steel shortage during the Korean war, the Supreme Court stopped him.

In addition, the memo claims the particular law in question (2340) cannot apply because it offends against presidential power. This law governs the activities of Americans abroad, so it applies almost entirely to soldiers and spies—people under the president’s command. In other words, the memo argues that the law cannot really apply at all. Yet there is a long tradition in the United States against interpreting laws in such a way as to render them meaningless.

The memo’s third argument is that, in rare cases when acts are so egregious that they amount to torture, and do not challenge presidential power, torturers are still able to claim immunity. They could only be prosecuted if it were shown their main intent was to inflict pain. If they intended to extract information (presumably the point for all but sadists), that would be a defence under American law according to the memo. It also says they can use “self defence” to justify actions that might have prevented further attacks on America. International law admits the defence of “necessity” in the case of someone with information about, say, a ticking suicide bomber or imminent threat. But the memo goes far beyond that.

Ruth Wedgwood, a professor of international law at Johns Hopkins University (and often a defender of the Bush administration), points out that the memo defines its task oddly. Instead of looking at “what is the law governing torture?” it asks “what can we do and remain within the law?” As a result, the memo either ignores or glides over American and international laws that ban or limit torture. For instance, America has signed the Geneva conventions, one article of which says combatants in unconventional conflicts are not prisoners of war but “shall in all circumstances be treated humanely”. The memo claims this refers only to civil wars—a highly contentious view. It also ignores customary law banning torture, even though America is using such law against al-Qaeda suspects in its military commissions. And it even ignores the president’s own statement of June 2003: “the United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example.”

Given this eccentricity, it might be argued that these legal controversies do not matter. The memo was just one lawyer’s opinion, not public policy. And it is true that Mr Rumsfeld, who had authorised tougher interrogation methods in Afghanistan and Iraq, later changed his mind. A description of what is now permitted also appeared in the Washington Post last week—and the authorised techniques seem to fall well outside even normal definitions of torture, let alone the narrow ones used in the memo.

The trouble is that this one lawyer worked in the office that provides legal opinion for the whole administration. His views were solicited by someone up the chain of command (it is not known who). They subsequently informed a Pentagon report on interrogations. They were not a one-off. Even if policy did not change, the memo undermines the administration's “rotten apples” defence in Abu Ghraib.

Lastly, Mr Bush’s reaction was not reassuring. Asked about the memo, he said: “the instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you.” Now the instructions can be read, it is hard to be comforted. The unease they cause is likely to dog Mr Bush for some time."
Election coming, poll numbers falling... Whatcha Gonna Do?

Howrd Wraps Himself In The Flag:

"Every Australian school will be required to have a functional flag pole if they are to receive additional funding, under Federal Government legislation to be introduced to Parliament tomorrow."
Amnesty slams Gulf rights record:

"The US-led 'War on Terror' has had a 'profound and far-reaching impact' on human rights in the Gulf region, says an Amnesty International report. The organisation says Gulf states, along with the US, show a 'disturbing disregard for the rule of law and fundamental human rights standards'.

It says a region whose rights record had been improving was now using the war as a cover for repression.
The by-products of the war are torture and extra-judicial killings, it says.

Amnesty says the US, particularly at its detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, has kept people without charges or access to a lawyer, ill-treated them and denied them visits or correspondence with their families.

The impact of Guantanamo Bay is particularly felt in the Gulf region, it says, because more than a third of inmates came from Gulf countries. Of all the Gulf states, only Kuwait has been allowed to send a delegation to the prison because of its close ties with the US, Amnesty says.

But some regional governments are accused of their own human rights abuses. The report says hundreds of people have been detained during crackdowns on Islamic militants justified by the war on terror. It says the worst abuses include torture and ill-treatment, and apparent extra-judicial killings. "
This is the world we live in:

"TWO worlds collided as a raft carrying 42 destitute Africans - bundled up for a chilly, wind-swept crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar - washed up on a nudist beach in southern Spain, officials said today.

Spanish television broadcast amateur video footage of bathers agape over yesterday's landing at sun-splashed Canos de Meca beach in Cadiz province..."
Warmongering Bishop Begs Forgiveness

May God forgive us for unnecessarily going to battle with Iraq:

"As the only Anglican bishop to have endorsed the Australian Government's case for war, I now concede that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. It did not pose a threat to either its neighbours or the United States and its allies. It did not host or give material support to al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

But did Australia and the Defence Force really believe Iraq had WMD and would use them to support its national interests? Definitely. Were intelligence assessments of Iraq's WMD arsenal and its ability to mount military operations exaggerated and inaccurate? Certainly. But in the absence of any clear mitigation, there is no alternative to concluding that the March 2003 invasion was neither just nor necessary...

Looking back on the past 18 months, I continue to seek God's forgiveness for my complicity in creating a world in which this sort of action was ever considered by anyone to be necessary."
Where's The Outcry?:

"Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted Thursday that he approved a request by CIA Director George Tenet to secretly hold a highly valued suspected terrorist in a U.S.-run prison in Iraq."

An anonymous person being held God-knows-where without charge or trial or access to a lawyer or - presumably - contact with family, all because Rumsfeld says he's a bad guy????

Why is this story not front page news on every paper in the world today?

“He has been treated humanely,” Rumsfeld said. “There’s no implication of any problem. He was not at Abu Ghraib. He is not there now. He has never been there, to my knowledge. There’s no question at all about whether or not he’s received humane treatment.”

No problem? Bare-faced violation of the Geneva Convention is "no problem"? And this is "humane treatment"? God help us!
Australian Defence Minister censured over prisoner abuse scandal:

The Australian Senate has censured Minister for Defence Robert Hill over his handling of the Iraqi prisoner abuse issue. It was revealed earlier this month that both the Minister and some Australian military officers learned of concerns that detainees were being mistreated last June, yet nothing was done. Labour is demanding that Mr Hill resign immediately.

"It's not as if there are claims of conflict of interest of misleading the parliament or even a charge of incompetence," claims Hill.

But both Hill and Prime Minister John Howard did make repeatedly misleading statements, claiming Australian officials knew nothing about Abu Ghraib till the scandalous photos were published in the media. If they didn't know, they should have known. Like Bush, they are either lying or incompetent.

Senator Hill and the Prime Minister, John Howard, denied the report for almost a week but then confirmed it, admitting they had misled the public. They blamed the Defence department for giving them the wrong information.

Despite knowing on Sunday, May 30 that they had made many wrong statements, Senator Hill, the Defence Force chief, General Peter Cosgrove, and the Defence Department secretary, Ric Smith, waited until 12.30pm on Tuesday before confessing.

The three had been questioned for 15 hours.

As an occupying power - and more especially so because our invasion was illegal and Australian troops drew first blood - Australia has an obligation to guarantee the safetly of the Iraqi people. Both Hill and Howard should have reacted very quickly and very vigorously to any implication that our "coalition" "partners" were abusing Iraqis as part of their mis-guided "war" on "terror".

Hill must now resign or be sacked, and Howard should apologize to the Iraqi people.

Hill must also release a detailed 61-page dossier outlining what Australians knew about prisoner abuse in Iraq. Hill says the dossier would be embarrassing to the USA. So what? Are we now afraid to embarrass liars, criminals and torturers?

Enough of this morals-free attitude to government. It shames us all.

June 21, 2004

The Long, Sad Story Of Diego Garcia

When I was younger and wont to travel, I used to love looking at globes and identifying far-flung places of interest. About the most far-flung place I ever discovered was a tiny dot of an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean with the intriguing name Diego Garcia.

More or less equidistant from Africa, Australia and India, Diego Garcia is now a major US military base. It probably also houses a few CIA "ghost prisoners".

The British government has leased Diego Garcia to the US government since the late 1960's, when it tricked many of the 2,000 islanders into moving out. At the time, the Brits insisted the local inhabitants were not permanent settlers, only transient. One British diplomat at the time dismissively described them as "man Fridays" and "Tarzans".

Four years ago, a British High Court judge criticized previous governments' handling of the islanders and opened the way for them to return. Yesterday that decision was overturned, not by normal legislative process, but by use of council orders (a remnant of the once all-powerful royal prerogative).

Alan Vincatassin, leader of British Indian Ocean Territory Islanders' Movement, said last night: "It is totally horrendous and unacceptable. I am very angry. This law is the most barbarous I have seen in the name of the Queen. It is because the US wants to have these islands empty they [the Foreign Office] have removed the right of abode."

Diego Garcia is one of the most secretive military bases on the earth. It was used by the USA in both gulf wars.
Bush proves big lies easier to pull off:

"'The great mass of people . . . will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one'
- Adolf Hitler.

The fact that Wednesday and Thursday's top news stories were that there is no credible link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden proves Hitler right.

The Bush administration has engaged in a campaign to mislead the American people in an effort to justify the Iraq war and link it to the war on terrorism."
Another Massacre

The Israeli Air Force has long been criticized for launching air attacks on populated areas. A plane dropping a bomb in a heavily populated area is almost certainly going to kill innocent civilians, even if it is on target. Indeed, some Israeli pilots have refused to support the practice.

Not so their eager US colleagues in Iraq. On Saturday, the U.S. military launched an airstrike in Fallujah after intelligence suggested it was being used as an al-Zarqawi safehouse. The US immediately claimed the strike as a success, even though four houses were destroyed, not one. Now it appears that all those killed were innocent civilians.

MSNBC reports: "A senior leader in the U.S.-allied Fallujah Brigade, Col. Mohammed Awad, said his troops 'affirmed to us that the inhabitants of the houses were ordinary families including women, children and elders.'

'Some of our soldiers who participated in the rescue operation after the attack said they saw the remains of bodies apparently belonging to women and children,' Awad said. 'Through our inspection in the ruins, we could see clothes and stuff of women and children. There was no sign that foreigners have lived in the house.'"

As usual, the story that grabbed the headlines was the premature claim of success in the "War on Terror". As usual, US military intelligence has *@%#ed up.

Why does the US even need to contemplate airstrikes on crowded areas? Because its troops on the ground are too afraid to go into the middle of places like Falluja on foot.
Allies helped bin Laden: US officials:

"Pakistan and Saudi Arabia helped set the stage for the September 11 attacks by cutting deals with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden that allowed his al-Qaeda terrorist network to flourish, several members of the September 11 commission and US counter-terrorism officials say. "

So much for the childish old "with us or against us" ultimatum...

June 20, 2004

Michael Moore Battles To Get His Movie Seen

Dude, Where's My Movie Playing?:

"We're a week away from the nationwide opening of Fahrenheit 9/11 and not a day goes by where we don't have some new battle to fight thanks to those who are still working overtime to keep people from seeing this film. What's their problem? Are they worried about something?

A Republican PR firm has formed a fake grassroots front group called 'Move America Forward' to harass and intimidate theater owners into not showing Fahrenheit 9/11. These are the same people who successfully badgered CBS into canceling the Reagan mini-series a few months ago. And they are spending a ton of money this week to threaten movie theaters who even think about showing our movie.

As of this morning, a little over 500 theaters have agreed to show F9/11, opening next Friday, June 25. There are three national/regional theater chains who, as of today, have not booked the movie in their theaters. One theater owner in Illinois has reported receiving death threats.

The right wing usually wins these battles. Their basic belief system is built on censorship, repression, and keeping people ignorant. They want to limit or snuff out any debate or dissension. They also don't like pets and are mean to small children. Too many of them are named "Fred.""
Another WTO Defeat For Hypocritical US Trade Policies

The New York Times:

"In a landmark decision, the World Trade Organization ruled against American cotton subsidies in a case brought by Brazil, officials from the two countries said on Friday. The decision could eventually lead the United States to reduce subsidies for its entire farm sector and encourage other countries to challenge such aid in wealthy nations, analysts said.

The W.T.O. report, which was not made public, upheld a preliminary ruling in April that supported Brazil's claim that the more than $3 billion in subsidies the United States pays its cotton farmers distorts global prices and violates international trade rules...

In Washington, Bush administration officials criticized the decision."
Bush Losing Support Among Republicans:

"Bush's Iraq woes deepened this week when the 9-11 Commission concluded no link existed between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. With the earlier claim of weapons of mass destruction already discredited, the commissions finding removed the last of Bush's questionable justifications for the war in Iraq.

Even Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, refuses to publicly endorse his son's Iraq war and an increasing number of prominent Republicans and Conservatives are straying off the reservation."
Putin Goes Fishing?

There's something fishy about Russian President Putin's surprise claim that Russia advised the USA that Iraq planned post 9/11 strikes. The White House did not corroborate Putin's claim, while the US State Department said no such reports had passed through its offices.

If Russia had indeed made such a claim, why wouldn't Bush's people have used it to justify their illegal invasion? Is it because Russia says that, in spite of the intelligence, they still believe the invasion was wrong? Russia and France have been the USA's strongest opponents in the UN. Both stand to lose a lot of money in unpaid loans to Saddam's regime. And both are frustrated at being blocked access to lucrative Iraqi reconstruction contracts.

I suspect Putin's sudden, unconfirmed claim has more to do with contract negotiations and political favours than anything else.

And it's worthwhile noting what Putin did NOT say. He emphasized that Russia could not prove a link between Saddam and the al-Qaeda terror network, nor that Iraq had organised any specific attack. So what do we have, besides more rumours and innuendo? Just another player at the political table.
Not Happy, John!

SMH journalist Margo Kingston has released a new book examining John Howard's failures in office: "Not Happy John!"

June 19, 2004

The Big Lie

History will record the Iraq War and the Bush administration in general under a single heading: "The Big Lie".

It began when the neocons teamed up with leftovers from the Bush Snr administration and chose Bush's idiot son as their presidential candidate. The first lie was to pretend he could ever be a serious contender for the job. Then came all the campaign trail lies about being a "uniter, not a divider", or about being a "caring Conservative" with a "humble vision" for the USA's role in the world. How disingenuous those claims sound today!

Next came all the lies and intimidation which stole the election in Florida. Then Bush headed out to pasture on his ranch while his officials rampantly pursued their own agendas. Kyoto was trashed, the International Criminal Court was abandoned, nukes were back on the table... the world began to awake to Bush's dangerously unilateral agenda, but the USA remained ignorant. Then came 9/11.

Thus began The Big Lie. Saddam was connected to 9/11, if not actually behind it. Saddam had nukes. Saddam had chemical weapons. Saddam had ties to Al Quaeda. Iraq could attack foreign countries within 45 minutes. All lies, multiplied time and again by other, smaller fabrications, misleading statements, innuendoes and falsifactions. Words like "mis-spoke" entered our vocabulary, so that press, people and politicians could pretend our leaders were not simply lying.

Even the term "War On Terror" is itself a lie: firstly because you cannot militarily defeat an idea, but moreso because - as is now abundantly clear - the money and energy being expended on this "war" has done nothing at all to defeat or even decrease terror. Instead, support for Islamic fundamentalists is on the rise, terrorist attacks are increasing and we are at even greater threat today than we were on 8/11/01.

Now, as evidence of The Big Lie mounts on all sides, the lies have gone into overdrive.

Reuters says the White House sent an e-mail to Jewish leaders on Friday with a headline reading, "9-11 Commission Staff Report Confirms Administration's Views of al Qaeda/Iraq Ties."

The New York Times comes very close to calling Bush and Cheney liars:

"Mr. Bush said the 9/11 panel had actually confirmed his contention that there were 'ties' between Iraq and Al Qaeda. He said his administration had never connected Saddam Hussein to 9/11. Both statements are wrong."

Members of the 9/11 Commission have challenged Cheney to provide any further evidence he has to back continued claims of a close relationship between Saddam and Al Quaeda.

Is this the great and valued DEMOCRACY we are so determined to spread around the world, where nobody is ever accountable, were lies go unpunished, where innocent foreigners are slaughtered to feed Fascist dreams of wealth and power, where truth itself is abandoned as a political, social and economic liability?
Trapped In A Lie

Here's what Australian PM John Howard had to say about the war in Iraq last night:

"Whatever your view on the war - and I understand there are differing views in this room - winning the peace in Iraq is now vital. To give up on Iraq would be to create a haven for extremists, a sanctuary from which they can spread their ideology of totalitarianism and terror. This alone makes it vital that Australian forces remain in Iraq until their task is completed. Where we stand today, Iraq is not a diversion from the war on terror. It is the frontline."

So let's not admit we got anything wrong. Let's not apologize. Let's not even debate. Let's just keep lying.

Whatever Howard, Bush and Blair say, however much they try to blame foreigners for attacks on coalition forces, Iraq is not yet a "haven for terrorists." If Islamic terrorists are entering Iraq, that is a direct result of our governments' lies, hypocrisy and arrogance, which fuel anti-Western sentiment across the Muslim world. Terrorism is now on the rise worldwide but the real battle - the battle for hearts and minds - is not even being addressed.

Meanwhile, the US-led occupation of Iraq is proving to be a widening disaster. Iraqi self-government cannot come soon enough. Iraq still retains a strong tribal and religious system, which has served as the backbone of social order since long before Saddam took power. As anarchy begins to spread, it's time the US-led forces withdrew and let this tribal/religious system take control, whether in the form of a representative democratic government or some other form.

The best the coalition governments can now do is to admit their mistakes, then apologize to their own citizens and the world at large - particularly the Muslim world. Continued moral bankruptcy from the West only feeds the terrorist's agenda.
The big lie:

"I can't recall precisely the origin of my decision to betray my Government. Probably it was during November and December 2002, when I prepared the detailed intelligence assessment for the Australian Government of the possible humanitarian consequences of the looming invasion of Iraq. It was a sobering experience, one that left me with a clear sense of how bad the fallout from the war could easily be.

The assessment of the British Government seemed particularly weak, not least because of the way in which serious gaps had been backfilled with reams of allegations that I knew couldn't possibly be supported by hard intelligence.

By early 2003, as part of my work at the Office of National Assessments (ONA), I was spending considerable time trawling through the vast intelligence database on Iraq so as to be ready to help cover the war once it started... "
Lying To The US Supreme Court:

"We now know, of course, that top military officials knew of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse at least as early as January. And evidence is mounting that the abuse was not, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld claims, merely carried out by a few 'bad apples,' but the result of secret directives approved by high-level military and CIA officials. Yet last month, in oral arguments before the Supreme Court, government lawyers from the Justice Department's Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) - seeking to persuade the court to back off and let the administration run the war on terrorism as it sees fit - solemnly assured the justices that such things were not happening at US-run detention centers.

So what gives? Did the deputy solicitor general deceive the court? Probably not. Most likely, defense officials deliberately hid knowledge of torture and prisoner abuse from the government's own lawyers. Most likely, defense officials did everything in their power to prevent news of the Abu Ghraib investigation from reaching the justices - who, after all, were being asked to give the president carte blanche to hold prisoners indefinitely, incommunicado, and without interference from the courts. Fortunately, this maneuver was thwarted in the nick of time - before the Supreme Court actually decided the 'enemy combatant' cases, which it is expected to do in June - by a handful of digital photos and the blessings of a free press."
Bush's letter to Congress linking Saddam and 9/11:

"This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda."

-President Bush, in an exchange with reporters, June 17, 2004

"[A]cting pursuant to the Constitution and [the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002] is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. "

-President Bush, in a letter to Congress outlining the legal justification for commencing war against Iraq, March 18, 2003

June 18, 2004

Richard Perle promised us a 90-page Sy Hersh dossier. So, where is it? : Jack Shafer challenges the arch neo-con to back up his criticism of an an outstanding writer.
Counterpunch takes a close look at the "New Iraqi Leaders".
Black Humour

"I tried starving him, serving him only cold meals and shaving his facial hair off, keeping him in stress positions, not turning his light off, playing loud music outside his cell door - all the usual stuff that any concerned parent will do to find out where their child is going after choir practice. But it was all to no avail.

I hesitated to gravitate to harsher interrogation methods because, after all, he is my son. Then Donald Rumsfeld came to my rescue...

I currently have a lot of my son's friends locked up in the garage, and I'm applying electrical charges to their genitals and sexually humiliating them in order to get them to tell me where my son goes after choir practice...

I'm going to round up all the children in the neighbourhood, chain them and set dogs on them. I might accidentally kill one or two - but I won't have intended to - and perhaps I'll take some photos of my wife standing on the dead bodies, and then I'll show the photos to the other kids, and finally, perhaps, I might get to find out where my son goes after choir practice. After all, I'll only be doing what the US administration has been condoning since 9/11. "

By Former Monty Python member Terry Jones.
Back To The Rule Of The Gun?

The Financial Times says "Iraq's incoming government is considering imposing martial law to help stabilise the country."

But who would maintain martial law? US troops, which would be such a target, and so unpopular, that violence would most likely increase? Or Iraqi forces, which by all accounts still lack training and discipline (or, more exactly, a good reason to put their lives on the line for an unpopular, unelected puppet government)?

As the FT points out, martial law would also make a mockery of the new government's supposedly democratic credentials. The violence lately seems very mush out of control, so much so that even the UN is relectant to send staff back into the country.

So what to do? I am reminded of the chaos in Vietnam as the last US troops boarded a helicopter on the roof of the Saigon embassy... The Vietnamese finally got their country back under control. Would the Iraqis be able to do the same, if it comes to that?
Annan Challenges UN To Take On Bush

From the Guardian:

"Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the U.N. Security Council on Thursday to stop shielding American peacekeepers from international prosecution for war crimes.

Annan cited the U.S. prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq in opposing a U.S. resolution calling for the blanket exemption for a third straight year.

The United States introduced the resolution last month but has delayed calling for a vote. Despite intensive lobbying, Washington doesn't have the minimum nine "yes'' votes on the 15-member council to approve a new exemption, council diplomats said.

The current exemption expires June 30...

'For the past two years, I have spoken quite strongly against the exemption, and I think it would be unfortunate for one to press for such an exemption, given the prisoner abuse in Iraq,' he told reporters Thursday.

'It would be even more unwise on the part of the Security Council to grant it. It would discredit the council and the United Nations that stands for rule of law and the primacy of rule of law,' Annan said. 'Blanket exemption is wrong. It is of dubious judicial value, and I don't think it should be encouraged by the council.'"
Antiwar.com's Quote Of The Day:

"I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace."

- George W. Bush
London's Quiet Americans

The Economist has a curious little article about the "invisible" US Ambassador in London and the 120 or so diplomats in his embassy. The article notes that Washington politicians and diplomats now seem reluctant to venture abroad, while those abroad make little effort to defend or explain their government's policies (Australia would appear to be the exception).
US has secret prisons: rights group:

A Human Rights groups claims the USA has a network of illegal, secret detention centres around the world, includign Kohat in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia and a CIA interrogation facility at Al Jafr prison in Jordan.

Prisoners are also being held at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, and others were suspected of being held on US warships."
Things Are Looking Bad in Bush's Baghdad

The Independent looks at how bad things have become in central Badghad, which is experiencing "a growing sense of anarchy":

"Insurgents stopped all oil exports from Iraq yesterday by blowing up the one remaining pipeline to the Gulf, and assassinated the head of security for Iraqi oilfields in the north.

A bomb blast early yesterday morning destroyed a pipeline in the desolate Fao peninsula south of Basra, where saboteurs had struck the previous day. Crude oil gushing from the broken pipe formed deep black ponds in the sand. All crude oil exports from terminals in Basra and Khor al-Amaya have been stopped.

The attacks show that anti-government guerrillas now have the skill and the organisation to cripple permanently Iraq's oil exports. This will seriously damage the prospects of the new Iraqi interim government.."

The article also notes that the US may have difficulty "in stomaching an Iraqi military force consisting of the same military units that it triumphantly defeated 14 months ago. Officials here suspect that the US would prefer to create an army in Iraq which would be like Latin American security forces, easily influenced by Washington and independent of the civil government.

Although the US has said for a year that it is trying to build up an Iraqi army it has provided no budget for communications, ensuring that all messages will have to be passed through the US military forces."
US Commander Tried to Declare Whistleblower Mentally Unfit:

"A National Guard commander told a mental health counselor to change an evaluation to show that a serviceman who accused fellow soldiers of abusing Iraqi prisoners was mentally unfit, another soldier says.

... Sgt. Greg Ford of the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion has said he was stripped of his duties and ordered to see combat-stress counselors after reporting that three fellow soldiers in the California National Guard unit brazenly abused Iraqi detainees during interrogations in Samarra last year. He said the soldiers choked detainees, threatened them with guns and stuck lit cigarettes in their ears. "
The strange, sad death of the American way:

"Would Americans ordinarily tolerate a president who lies and exaggerates? A leader who uses fear to manipulate his people to his own ends? A president whose staff blow the deep cover of a CIA agent as political payback? A president whose Administration channels billions of dollars to crony corporations on false pretexts? A president who deems torture acceptable?
Would they accept a president who seems to agree with his advisers that he is above the law?

The commentator William Rivers Pitt poses them all before concluding: 'The time has come, bluntly, to get over September 11; to move beyond it; to extract ourselves from this bunker mentality which blinds us while placing us in moral peril. It happened and it will never be forgotten, but we have reached a place where fear and obeisance can no longer be tolerated.'

... In less than two weeks the US-led occupation of Iraq gives way to the saddest little "sovereign" government the world has seen in a while.

Its legitimacy is in doubt and, therefore its viability, as much because of the false-pretence by Washington, London and Canberra to justify war as by Iraqi suspicion of the democratic fundamentals of interim government by appointment, by the continued occupation of their country and by a firm foreign grip on their treasury purse-strings.

And while some will dismiss all of that, arguing that time will tell, the greater reality on the ground in Iraq is that the chaos and death from a mismanaged foreign occupation is a product of all the lies."
Bush Forced Into Bare-Faced Lies

Bush insists Saddam-Al Qaeda links exist:

"Mr Bush forcefully disputed findings from the commission investigating the September 11 terrorist attacks which had called into question one of his main justifications for the US war on Iraq.

'The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and Al Qaeda is because there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda,' he said. 'This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and Al Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. There were numerous contacts between the two.'"

So it all comes down to how you define "numerous", or how you define "relationship". Sounds a lot like Clinton's evasiveness on his Lewinsky remarks. At least nobody died for that lie.

June 17, 2004

Americans Are Stupid


(NB with sincere apologies to any intelligent Americans, including those I am related to! You know this does not include you... but...well, LANDSAKES!)
Telling It Like It Is

There is a flood of news from Iraq and the USA coming in lately - most of it very bad for Bush. Is this Karl Rove's premature End Game?

In all the confusion of new revelations and horrors, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what the relevance of each story really is. By the time you place a story in the greater miasma of meaning, it's yesterday's fish-wrappings. So this story from The Independent is very well-tuned indeed:

"The Bush administration's last remaining justification for the invasion of Iraq has been demolished by a private poll revealing that only 2 per cent of Iraqis regard the occupying forces as liberators.

The poll results are devastating for both President George Bush and Tony Blair, who are fond of saying that future generations of Iraqis will thank them for liberating their country. Tony Blair has consistently said that history will prove him right for engineering the downfall of a cruel tyrant, even if weapons of mass destruction were not found.

President Bush, giving a pep-talk to American soldiers in Florida yesterday, said: 'We have come not to conquer, but to liberate people and we will stand with them until their freedom is secure.'

Yet the main findings of the poll, which was commissioned by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) last month and which was leaked yesterday, reveal that only 2 per cent of the Iraqis polled in mid-May see coalition troops as liberators, while 92 per cent said they were occupiers. "
Rumsfeld and Tenet Created a "Ghost" Detainee, Then Forgot About Him

The New York Times says Rumsfeld Issued an Order to Hide Detainee in Iraq:

"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, acting at the request of George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, ordered military officials in Iraq last November to hold a man suspected of being a senior Iraqi terrorist at a high-level detention center there but not list him on the prison's rolls, senior Pentagon and intelligence officials said Wednesday.

This prisoner and other 'ghost detainees' were hidden largely to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from monitoring their treatment, and to avoid disclosing their location to an enemy, officials said.

Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, the Army officer who in February investigated abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, criticized the practice of allowing ghost detainees there and at other detention centers as 'deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law.'"

But then - after questioning him only ONCE! - Rumsfeld and Tenet forgot about the detainee, who was outside the legal system and totally forgotten till prison staff, who kept asking what to do with him, were themsleves noticed.

As the NYT explains, "Mr. Tenet made his request to Mr. Rumsfeld - that the suspect be held but not listed - in October. The request was passed down the chain of command: to Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then to Gen. John P. Abizaid, the commander of American forces in the Middle East, and finally to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the ground commander in Iraq. At each stage, lawyers reviewed the request and their bosses approved it."



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