April 29, 2005

BREAKING NEWS: Even More Of The Same!

ABC News' The Note got it right with their predictions about the Bush press conference today:
Things you should look for tonight:

1. There will be a heavy dose of frission in the room as the clock strikes 8:29 pm ET — because even in the currently changed/changing politico-media landscape, primetime is primetime.
And here's El Busho catering to his TV shareholder "base":
Final question. Hutch? I don't want cut into some of the TV shows that are getting ready to air...


... for the sake of the economy.
Sad that the Resident's only prime-time press conference in a year should be so predictable, isn't it?

There was some effort to ask a few hard questions in the press conference, but the responses were also very predictable (emphases and asides are mine):
QUESTION: Mr. President, your State Department has reported that terrorist attacks around the world are at an all-time high. If we're winning the war on terrorism, as you say, how do you explain that more people are dying in terrorist attacks on your watch than ever before?

BUSH: Well, we've made the decision to [yawn!] defeat the terrorists abroad so we don't have to face them here at home. And when you engage the terrorists abroad, it causes activity and action. And we're relentless... (yadda yadda)

QUESTION: So in the near term you think there will be more attacks and more people dying?

BUSH: I can't predict that. In the near term I can only tell you one thing: We will stay on the offense. We'll be relentless ... (yadda yadda)

QUESTION: Mr. President, it was four years ago when you first met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. You said you looked into his eyes and you saw his soul. You'll also be meeting with the Russian leader in about a week or so. What do you think of Putin now that he has expressed a willingness to supply weapons to outlaw regimes, specifically his recent comments that he said he would provide short-range missiles to Syria and nuclear components to Iran?

BUSH: Yes. First, just on a broader -- kind of in a broader sense... (yadda yadda)... So I think Vladimir was trying to help there... [say what?!?!?]

QUESTION: Sir, you've talked all around the country about the poisonous, partisan atmosphere here in Washington. I wonder, why do you think that is? And do you personally bear any responsibility in having contributed to this atmosphere?

BUSH: I'm sure there are some people that don't like me. You know, and I don't know. I've [thought] long and hard about it. I've been disappointed. I felt that people could work together in good faith.

It's just a lot of politics in the town... (yadda yadda) ... I can't answer your question as to why. I'll have to continue to do my best. I've tried to make sure the dialogue is elevated...(yadda yadda)

QUESTION: Mr. President, under the law, how would you justify the practice of renditioning, where U.S. agents who bust terror suspects abroad, taking them to a third country for interrogation? And would you stand for it if foreign agents did that to an American here?

BUSH: That's a hypothetical. We operate within the law, and we send people to countries where they say they're not going to torture the people.

But let me say something. The United States government has an obligation to protect the American people. It's in our country's interests to find those who would do harm to us and get them out of harm's way... (yadda yadda) ...

But, you bet, when we find somebody who might do harm to the American people, we will detain them and ask others from their country of origin to detain them. It makes sense. The American people expect us to do that. We're still at war... (yadda yadda) ...

But, you bet, we're going to fight people before they harm us. [in other words, it's OK by me]

PREDICTABLE FOLLOW-UP SOFTBALL QUESTION: I'd just like to ask simply, what's your view of the economy right now?
And from BuzzFlash: After Bush's scripted TV appearance, Instant AOL Poll Had 61% Dissatisfied with His Remarks and 56% Rating His Overall Job Performance as Poor.
Lies, Lies, Lies

The Guardian carefully disects the Blair government's version of events leading up to the invasion of Iraq.
Bush's USA: The Resistance Is Out There

I stumbled upon this great post from someone named Jane while reading some comments at AMERICAblog. It's a cut-paste from whatreallyhappened.com and it's so good I am reprinting it in full:

A recent poll discovered that half of Americans know that the government intentionally lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The actual figure is probably a lot higher since there is a large percentage of Americans still willing to let their neighbors' children die than ever admit they were wrong to support the war in the first place. So, the majority of Americans know the government lied to create a war.

A majority of Americans now know there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that claims to the contrary were intentional lies.

A majority of Americans now know the US Government lied when it claimed Iraq's WMDs were a threat to the United States.

A majority of Americans now know the mainstream media lied when it claimed Iraq's WMDs were a threat to the United States.

A majority of Americans now know that the US Government has been torturing innocent Iraqis for information on WMDs the US Government already knew they could not possibly have.

A majority of Americans now know their government can and does engage in the most monstrous lies possible, and that hundred of thousands of people have been killed, crippled, and tortured for that lie.

How much of a majority is irrelevant. A majority is a majority is a majority.

Setting aside their access to inside information, the US Congress statistically should follow the public. A majority of them also know the war was started with a lie. It is perhaps understandable that the Congress has done nothing about these lies. They are, after all, complicit. One should not expect a gaggle of liars to impeach the liar in chief. Nor will the mainstream media be overly critical of those lies which they put into a hundred million homes.

But what I do not understand is how Americans, who pride themselves on their love of truth and justice, can continue to tolerate a government that they now know lied to start a war of conquest. What I do not understand is how Americans, who pride themselves on their love of truth and justice, can continue to tolerate a government that shows every indication of preparing to lie again about weapons of mass destruction to justify a war of conquest in Iran.

Do any of you still delude yourselves into thinking that a government that lied to send your children off to die in wars is working for your benefit; is in any way shape or form thinking of your welfare versus their own? Do you still think that this is YOUR government? Is it not more accurate to say that you are the government's property, your children mere livestock to be harvested when old enough, handed a rifle, and sent off to die when useful?

The Constitution does not explicitly authorize the government to lie to the people, and the tenth amendment forbids the government to arrogate that right to itself. Therefore, when the government lies, it acts illegally and unconstitutionally. When the government lies, it ceases by that very lie to be the lawful government of this land. When the government lies, it delegitimizes itself. When a government lies, it lies for its own benefit, not yours. When a government lies, it breaks faith with the people who empowered that government to provide for the common good, not for the privilege of a few.

If you accept that the US Government intentionally lied about weapons of mass destruction to take this nation to war in Iraq, then you must accept that the US Government, by the commission of that act, is no longer a legal government of the people, but an illegal occupation serving private interests. The majority of Americans now know that the US Government is criminal. They know that the US Government has lied to start wars of conquest, and that it has knowingly tortured innocent people because the lie required it. The majority of Americans now know that the US Government, unless stopped, will continue to do more of the same.

The Germans ended WW2 in shock at what their government had really been doing. Americans cannot claim that innocence. We DO know. The information has been available for a long time, and if this new poll is accurate, the majority of Americans know what their government is doing, and the rest of the world knows that Americans know. Get that? The whole world is watching to see what Americans will do now that most Americans know the government deliberately lied to start a war.

So, what will Americans do? Will they walk their talk, and fire the liars? Will they stand up like free human beings and refuse the dictates of an illegal government, or will they cower and send their children off to die, watching them walk up the chutes to the slaughterhouse without complaint, shrugging their shoulders that this is how life is supposed to be and there is no point in making a fuss about it? Will Americans go on paying more money for government than they do for anything else, yet refusing to hold that government to the same standards of truth-in-selling that they demand from a used-car salesman? Will they go on making do with less so that the government and its friends can have that much more? Will they continue to bow down saying, "Take our money, take our neighbors' children, and tell us what to think, oh lord! We know you really are just and moral because you threw Martha and Chong in jail!"

Or will Americans decide enough is enough? Will they decide that they cannot support a government that is criminal without being criminals themselves? Will they finally realize that they cannot claim to be a moral people if they do not have moral government?

No magazine puff-piece, no comic book, no movie can make America look great if, when the time calls for it, Americans fail to be a great people. Great people are willing to stand up to a government gone wrong, to force their government to be truthful and honest and moral. Great people know that freedom is impossible under a government that lies because lies are tools of enslavement, and that chains built of false beliefs hold slaves tighten than chains made of steel. Slaves will cower before a government they know lies to them, bless the face that lies to them, and ask for more. And now the world watches to see if Americans are a great people, or just slaves living under the delusion they are a free people.

Free men or slaves. Time to choose. The whole world is watching.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,

-- The Declaration of Independence
Time to choose...
The Mourning News

Here, finally, are the images of US corpses returning from Iraq and Afghanistan that your government didn't want you to see.

It took a series of Freedom of Information Act requests and a lawsuit, charging the Pentagon with failing to comply with the Freedom Of Information Act, before these images were released. Why?

More at MichaelMoore.com.
Well SOMEONE Had To Say It...

An Australian Brigadier has admitted that there is no war on terrorism:
The so-called global war on terrorism does not exist, a high-ranking army officer has declared in a speech that challenges the conventional political wisdom.

In a frank speech, Brigadier Justin Kelly dismissed several of the central tenets of the Iraq war and the war on terrorism, saying the 'war' part is all about politics and terrorism is merely a tactic.
He also said that success in battle would only come by winning over the hearts and minds of the local people. Mind you, he is still talking about "generating intelligence", so he is not totally off the Bush playbook...

April 28, 2005

Winning The War On Ahem?

There were a record 175 "terrorist" incidents in 2003. That number tripled to 655 in 2004.

This revelation comes after a recent survey showed Terrorism was the only major policy area where Bush was maintaining positive numbers.

Do people just support their leaders more as they become more afraid? Draw your own conclusions...
Bush Turns Green? Don't You Believe It!

But is this a sign that (faced with an Iraqi insurgency that refuses to die) the Bush Administration is finally giving up on the neo-con dream of conquering the Middle East? Bush is suddenly telling the people of the USA:
"We need to get on a path away from fossil fuel."
I think the chances of a complete US withdrawal from Iraq just doubled.

But I hate it when Bush says something intelligent like this: you just know it's a ruse for some other scheme. Is Halliburton moving into Ethanol production? Is Bush going to paint his energy reform bills as a green agenda? Stay tooned...
Yes, The 2004 US Election Was Really Stolen

The media just isn't talking about it.

Josh Mitteldorf, of the Philadelphia Inquirer, reports from a recent meeting of people investigating 2004 vote fraud:
I met David Griscom, a retired physics prof who spent months with colleague John Brakey poring over election tapes, signature rosters and "consecutive number registers" from Brakey's Tucson home precinct.

They audited and verified, one by one, the 895 votes in the precinct and found: 12 innocent and unsuspecting voters who had their names duplicated on the roster and their votes for Bush counted twice. Twenty-two "undervotes" where the machine had failed to register a preference for president, and these had been dutifully and meticulously converted to 22 votes for Bush.

The "Republican" and "Democratic" co-directors of the polling place were a local fundamentalist preacher and his wife. Thirty-nine of their parishioners from another precinct had cast provisional ballots, which were (illegally) converted to regular ballots and passed through, all 39 for Bush.

I met Richard Hayes Phillips, a geologist from New Hampshire who was invited to Ohio to study the integrity of the vote, and realized that a complete inventory of lost and miscounted votes was needed. To date, Phillips has analyzed 15 of Ohio's 88 counties, and by his most conservative estimate has found 101,000 uncounted Kerry votes - 136,000 is the margin by which Bush officially defeated Kerry.

I heard Clint Curtis talk about working in 2001 as a programmer for Yang Enterprises in Florida. He was assigned to a meeting with State Senate Speaker Tom Feeney, who asked to have a program written into the software that controls voting machines so that the totals could be manipulated without leaving a trace. Curtis, the whistleblower, is now unemployed. Feeney, the politician, is now the U.S. representative from Florida's 24th Congressional district.

I was inspired to hear the travails of Ohio lawyer Cliff Arnebeck. After the Green Party raised $200,000 and obtained authorization for a recount in Ohio, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell staged a charade in which every state rule about the conduct of the recount was thrown out, and two hand-picked precinct captains emerged from behind locked doors to report that yes, indeed the numbers were exactly right and all was hunky dory.

Arnebeck was lead attorney in a lawsuit to expose this sham, and get a real recount. The suit was dismissed by Supreme Court Justice Thomas Moyer, who ruled on the case despite the fact that his own re-election was part of the challenge. Arnebeck has continued to pursue the case while he fights for his legal life: State Attorney General Jim Petro has brought an action to discipline Arnebeck for bringing a frivolous suit that wastes the precious time of the Ohio court.
And check out some of the comments on this article at The Smirking Chimp. For example:
This is no longer the United States of America, the big brawling country where justice might get a bruise or two but always prevailed in the end. This is the sweaty, lurching nightmare place of Franz Kafka's novels where a shadowy sinister, totalitarian bureaucracy crushes citizens with maddening slowness and alters the rules with diabolic design.

This America is an alien place where body snatchers have taken whole towns, entire counties and regions, where the unchanged watch in fascinated horror as the changelings slowly and irresistibly assimilate the body politic. This is a place where the liar is celebrated and the truth-teller is shunned, where the laws have no meaning.

This is not a series of accidents; this is all deliberate design, this is a coup d'etat. One more election cycle under the control of the dominionists and the transformation will be completed.

If you fall asleep now America, you'll be changed forever.
Mind you, other commenters are still hoping George Lucas and his Hollywood friends will come riding in on a white horse to save the day! Gawd... it's too depressing sometimes, isn't it?
Say It Like It Is: BUSH LIED

Bravo to Kevin McMillan of Columbia University and bravo to Juan Cole for publishing his comments on his Informed Comment blog:
It is a simple, incontrovertible and easily demonstrable fact that the Bush Administration carried out a massive and systematic campaign of deception with respect to its case for war in Iraq and with respect to alleged WMDs in particular...

There's no need to play softball with this Administration. Its case for war was fraudulent or ludicrous in virtually every respect, and so many of its deceptions were demonstrably so at the time they were made.
Does anyone actually give a %$&* about Iraqi American Mohammed Monaf?
The Idiots Are In Charge Of The Asylum

More proof today (as if it were needed) that the Bush administration has unleashed a wave of hysterical, militant stupidity both at home and across the planet.

Ted Rall highlights the case of two 16-year-old girls From New York City who have "vanished into the netherworld of a Homeland Security gulag"...
In early March, the New York Times reported on April 7, one girl's parents "went to the local police station house" in the Queens Village neighborhood because "their teenage daughter...had defied their authority." Things calmed down and the parents, believing their daughter had been scared straight, asked the NYPD to forget the whole thing.

It was too late for that.

Without a warrant, NYPD detectives and federal agents burst into the girl's home--no wonder they don't have time to look for Osama!--where they "searched her belongings and confiscated her computer and the essays that she had written as part of a home schooling program," say her family. "One essay concerned suicide...[that] asserted that suicide is against Islamic law." The family is Bangladeshi. They are Muslim. That, coupled with the mere mention of suicide bombing in her essay, was enough to put the fuzz on high alert.

Although she is conservative and devout, the girl and her parents vigorously deny that she is an Islamist extremist (not that such opinions are illegal), but this is post-9/11 America and post-9/11 America is out of its mind.

Based solely on an essay written by one of the two, the FBI says both girls are "an imminent threat to the security of the United States based upon evidence that they plan to become suicide bombers." But the feds admit that they have no evidence to back their suspicions. Nothing.

"There are doubts about these claims, and no evidence has been found that such a plot was in the works," one Bush Administration official admitted to the Times. "The arrests took place after authorities decided it would be better to lock up the girls than wait and see if they decided to become terrorists," another told the New York Post. The same logic could be used to justify locking up any Muslim, or anyone at all. Heck, maybe that's the idea...
As one Bush official told the New York Times:
"Authorities decided it would be better to lock up the girls than wait and see if they decided to become terrorists."
This is the Bush Doctrine in action, folks.

And while Italians remain up-in-arms at the US military's exoneration of the soldiers who killed Nicola Capilari, the same mad military logic is likely to exonerate another US soldier who shot two Iraqis because "I thought they were attacking me." Never mind that he shot them in the back. Never mind that witnesses said there was no justification for the murder.

Again, this is the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive killing taken to its logical extreme.

And The Guardian has more details of rampant military madness from Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), who finally concluded this week - once and for all - that Iraq does not and never did have WMDs as the Bush administration hysterically claimed.

Duelfer says the hunt for WMDs was botched from the very beginning, with the wrong people detained and the wrong people asking them the wrong questions.
The report reserves its most scathing remarks for the manner in which military intelligence went looking for weapons immediately after the war.

First, the US "black list" of scientists wanted for questioning was full of holes. "Some very despicable individuals who should have been listed were not, while many technocrats and even opponents of the Saddam regime made the list and hence found themselves either in jail or on the run." Mr Duelfer wrote, adding that some of the former had been released in the first few months after the war.

He found that military interrogation techniques, designed to acquire quick tactical battlefield intelligence, were ill-suited to gaining a broad understanding of complex weapons programmes.

"It was like trying to use a spanner for a hammer," Mr Duelfer said. "This investigation was a cross between a homicide investigation and a doctoral dissertation.
Duelfer adds that there is no reason to continue holding 105 Iraqi scientists in detention, as if there ever was. He also says that there is no proof at all to support Dick Cheney's theory that Iraqi WMD might have been smuggled to Syria before the invasion.

And here's the icing on the cake of corrupted military madness conjoined with rampant commercialism in a no-holds-barred Big Business good old boys yeeha! rape and plunder environment: BUSH WANTS TO BUILD OIL REFINERIES ON US MILITARY BASES!

I kid you not.

UPDATE: And yet another incidence of idiocy - a US helicopter gunship in Iraq may have killed a Canadian by mistake.

April 27, 2005

Bush's USA: Endless War Is The New Normal

I was reading through a few "liberal" sites today, and thinking, "These US Democrats still don't quite get it."

For example, Geov Parrish writes:
Even if his nomination goes down, the very fact that the Bush Administration nominated [Bolton] in the first place is a diplomatic insult that will not soon be forgotten in the halls of the U.N. and in the capitols of the world.
Does he still not realize that that was the whole point of the nomination? What did he think the Wolfowitz nomination was? And the Negroponte nomination? And the Gonzales nomination? These are all calculated slaps in the face by an administration that has been playing hardball since before Day One.

Similarly, sites like Daily Kos, Atrios and Josh Marshall keep framing everything in bilateral GOP-versus-Democrats terms. Don't they understand that it has gone way beyond that now?

Then I read the latest Tomgram: The normalization of war, which started off with the ominous words "We are now in an America where..."
"War, in fact, is increasingly the American way of life and, to a certain extent, it's almost as if no one notices. "

The neocons once boasted that they would change the nature of reality and that people like me would be left to "duly report" the new world order. And guess what? It's happened, in the USA at least. I hate to say it, but it has.

Engelhart's piece introduces a new book by Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism, How Americans Are Seduced by War, which "focuses on the ways Americans have become enthralled by -- and found themselves in thrall to -- military power and the idea of global military supremacy".
The primary mission of America's far-flung military establishment is global power projection, a reality tacitly understood in all quarters of American society...

As President Bush has remarked, the big lesson of 9/11 was that "this country must go on the offense and stay on the offense." The American public's ready acceptance of the prospect of war without foreseeable end and of a policy that abandons even the pretense of the United States fighting defensively or viewing war as a last resort shows clearly how far the process of militarization has advanced...

Thus reimagined -- and amidst widespread assurances that the United States could be expected to retain a monopoly on this new way of war -- armed conflict regained an aesthetic respectability, even palatability, that the literary and artistic interpreters of twentieth-century military cataclysms were thought to have demolished once and for all. In the right circumstances, for the right cause, it now turned out, war could actually offer an attractive option--cost-effective, humane, even thrilling. Indeed, as the Anglo-American race to Baghdad conclusively demonstrated in the spring of 2003, in the eyes of many, war has once again become a grand pageant, performance art, or a perhaps temporary diversion from the ennui and boring routine of everyday life.
Read more excerpts here.

Elsewhere, Stirling Newberry at truthout says it should now be obvious to everyone that "in America that we have reached a constitutional moment." He pins the blame for this primarily on Karl Rove:
There are three basic pillars of constitutional order: the mandate of the government, the meaning which binds the people and the government together, and the mechanism by which the government pursues the mandate given to it by the people. Of the various mechanisms, money is the most important, though not in the crude sense merely of who gets money, but how money works, how it is created. Money determines, to no small extent, the incentives and range of actions that an individual has available to him.

The New Deal instituted a new kind of money, money based on assets that banks could show on their books, and backed by the Federal Reserve and deposit insurance. One of the key programs that the New Deal used to make this new kind of money work was Social Security. This money replaced the gold-backed money of the previous constitutional order, and changed, fundamentally, the way America worked as a nation. The mandate of the government was to balance the economy; the meaning was based on consensus for action; if there was a problem, or even a potential problem, then the public sense was that it had to be met head on.

Karl Rove has, more than any other single political operative, been responsible for designing a means of attacking that political order, and he has, in no small measure, accomplished this...

Rove knows that in order to secure Republican domination for a generation or more, he must place a weight on the back of government so heavy that no one can remove it. Should a Democrat manage to take the White House, then all that need happen is that a Republican Congress [from Gandhi: hell, who needs Congress? Big Business is GOP-controlled anyway!] stop doing the behind-the-scenes juggling that keeps the economy going, a recession will ensue, and the Oval office will return to Republican control...

The idea of constitutional crisis is not far from the public's mind, even though those words are never spoken in the broadcast media... Rove's agenda is to take his vision of a different constitutional order, and marry it to political tactics that work within that order. He is attempting to make a coherent set of changes that will force governments that come after this one to adhere to the broad outlines of the kind of state that is now being established...

And it is Rove's intent to create a permanent political coalition where only a Republican can win the White House.
Read the full article here.

Talking about creating an endless GOP regime, Ernest Partidge at The Crisis Papers sums up two and a half years of dismay on electoral reform and machine voting systems:
Electoral integrity is arguably the most important political issue to face the American people since the founding of our democracy, as it raises the question of whether, in fact, we still have a democracy. For if, as the skeptics contend, the outcome of our federal 'elections' are decided before a single vote is cast, then the government of the United States no longer '[derives] its just powers from the consent of the governed.' Despite what we are told from Washington, or by the corporate media, this is not a government 'of, by, and for the people.'

The grounds for suspicion about the integrity of our elections are simple, straightforward, and undisputed. In federal elections, thirty percent of the votes are cast, and eighty percent of the votes are regionally compiled, in machines: (a) utilizing secret software, (b) producing no independent record of the votes (e.g. Paper trails"), and (c) manufactured by active members and supporters of the Republican Party. In sum, the system in place is effectively designed, either deliberately or accidentally, to facilitate fraud...
Meanwhile, confirming the dismal situation we face, another Google Search today on Khaled el-Masri indicates that the story is probably already dead.

"Democracy"? Hah!
Got a problem? Blame The Overzealous Republican Staffer!
Bush and Abdullah, Sitting In A Tree...

Bush denies gay Saudi lover rumours: "This is an important relationship. I've got a good personal relationship with the crown prince."

Bush's romantic hand-holding walk through fields of flowers came at a time when a new poll found that women rate him anything but sexy:
In a recent online poll conducted by Esquire magazine, 11,000 women in 15 countries were asked to rate Bush's sex appeal on a scale of one to 10, and America's commander-in-chief failed to register much more than a two.

Women in Australia, Germany and the Netherlands were the harshest judges of George W.'s sexual allure, giving him an average rating of 1.4 each, Esquire said in its survey released earlier this week.

By contrast, Indonesian women were the most generous, giving Bush an average score of 2.2; American women found their president slightly less appealing, rating him a 2.1...
The survey did not ask how many women thought Bush would make a fabulous friend.

In case you missed them, here are a few famous quotes from Georgie Boy:

"'Karyn is with us. A West Texas girl, just like me'
-- President Bush, May 27, 2004"

"And we'll prevail, because we're a fabulous nation, and we're a fabulous nation because we're a nation full of fabulous people."
-- George W. Bush., Atlanta, GA, January 31, 2002

"It's been a fabulous year for Laura and me." -- George W. Bush., three months after the World Trade Center towers went down.

... and a Website dedicated to answering the important question IS BUSH GAY?

UPDATE: And, as Atrios says: This is just wrong! It almost makes me wonder whether this photo-op was a set-up, designed to embarrass the Saudi sheik? I mean, it reminds me of the Abu Ghraib photos and the high-level Pentagon advice that sexual humiliation was the ultimate taboo for an Arab.... Payback time at the Crawford Ranch???

April 26, 2005

Secret Service logs reveal Jeff Gannon/Guckert made 202 appearances at the White House over two years, attending 155 of 196 White House press briefings. What was this acknowledged male prostitute actually doing there all that time...?
"We have half a million people in Albuquerque, and I can't get 10 people out here with me."

- Intervention Magazine
Proof: Blair Sexed Up Legal Advice on War

This could be the deciding issue in the coming UK election. The Mail on Sunday is the first to leak the full 13 pages of pre-war advice drawn up by Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, which warned Blair the Iraq invasion would be in breach of international law for six reasons:
1. In law, there was a strong argument that it was the job of the United Nations - not Mr Blair - to rule whether Iraq had defied the UN's order to disarm.

Goldsmith set out how it may be judged that it was the function of the UN Security Council, not an individual country such as Britain or America, to decide if Iraq was in 'material breach' of UN Resolution 1441, passed in November 2002 and giving it a 'final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations'. Goldsmith pointed out that although Mr Blair could in theory make the decision, a court could decide otherwise.

2. Goldsmith questioned whether Britain could attack Iraq by using UN Resolution

The legal advice explained why the resolution's warning of 'serious consequences' if Saddam continued to flout the UN fell crucially short of permitting military action. The exact wording had important implications. It did not say 'all necessary means' - UN terminology for war, used when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990.

3. Goldsmith urged caution about going to war without a second UN resolution.

He said Mr Blair could go to war without one, but it would be much 'safer' and desirable to secure a second resolution giving specific approval to military intervention.

4. Mr Blair was warned of the risks of relying on the earlier UN resolution used to eject Saddam from Kuwait.

The legal advice challenged Mr Blair's claims that Britain and the United States had a right to go to war by 'reviving' UN Resolution 678, passed in 1990 when Saddam invaded Kuwait. Resolution 678 did not permit them to invade Iraq itself. The limited nature of Resolution 678 was one of the chief reasons the Allies did not try to topple Saddam when he was ousted from Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War. In principle, Resolution 678 could be revived; in practice it could be difficult.

5. Goldsmith drew attention to UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and his search for weapons of mass destruction.

On March 7, 2003, the day the legal advice was written, Mr Blix reported to the UN Security Council that 34 Iraqi al-Samoud missiles had been disabled. He said Iraq was being more helpful generally and that no weapons of mass destruction had been found so far. By the time Mr Blair received Goldsmsith's legal advice, he would have been aware of Blix's latest report.

6. He explained that the American government's position on the legality of the war did not apply in Britain.

Goldsmith explained the legal stance taken by George Bush and why he faced none of the legal restraints confronting Mr Blair. The US Congress had given Mr Bush special powers to declare the war legal in American law. It also detailed why, in the US view, a second resolution was unnecessary.
All six caveats were left out of the final report.

The leaked document includes references to the legal advice on the US position which will be seen as further proof that Blair was "Bush's poodle" (and given that, John Howard of Australia is just a flea on the butt of Bush's poodle).
Khaled el-Masri: WHERE'S THE MEDIA???

Am I missing something here or has the whole world gone nuts?

The US government admits that it kidnapped an innocent foreign national on foreign soil, then flew him on a secret flight to a US-occupied foreign country, Afghanistan (which somehow, despite the US military presence, retains a reputation for lawlessness and torture). The US government admits that it then "rendered" this innocent man into the captivity of supposedly independent Afghan authorities and then (presumably and allegedly) watched while he was tortured. When it became clear that the man was innocent, the head of the CIA was informed but he did nothing for months. Presumably as a result of pressure from the German government, the State Department finally forced the CIA (after repeated attempts) to let the man go. But rather than being flown back to Germany with a massive apology and millions of dollars in compensation, the man was flown to Albania and dumped on the roadside out in the middle of nowhere!

The US government admits this and yet... And yet... THE MEDIA IS SILENT!!!

Why? Why???? WHY?!?!?!

A Google News Search on "Khaled el-Masri" today brings up just a handful of publications. For the record, here are the publications who are at least TOUCHING the subject, or have done this month:
Innocent German beaten by US jailers
Sydney Morning Herald (subscription), Australia - 24 Apr 2005
The officials said that when Khaled el-Masri was taken from a bus on the Macedonian-Serbian border in December 2003, US authorities believed he was a member of ...

Rice Ordered Release of German Sent to Afghan Prison in Error
New York Times - 22 Apr 2005
... of Ms. Rice's decision that was first reported by NBC News, said that when Khaled el-Masri was taken from a bus on the Serbian-Macedonian border on Dec. ...

Innocent German jailed by US in Afghanistan, says report
Peninsula On-line, Qatar - 22 Apr 2005
Khaled El Masri was held in secret at an Afghan prison nicknamed the “Salt Pit” for three months while Central Intelligence Agency agents considered what ...

US ; CIA said to have wrongly held German suspect:
Keralanext, India - 21 Apr 2005
Authorities in Germany have been investigating complaints by Khaled el-Masri, a Lebanese-born German who says he was abducted in Macedonia on New Year's Eve in ...

Reports of Afghan Abuses Undermine Security: Expert
Al-Jazeerah.info, GA - 23 Apr 2005
... Khaled El-Masri was held in secret at an Afghan prison nicknamed the “Salt Pit” for three months while Central Intelligence Agency agents considered what ...

Man's Claims May Be a Look at Dark Side of War on Terror
Los Angeles Times (subscription), CA - 11 Apr 2005
ULM, Germany — Khaled el-Masri says his strange and violent trip into the void began with a bus ride on New Year's Eve 2003. When ...

Not Boltin'
Slate - 12 Apr 2005
... The LAT fronts the story of Khaled el-Masri, a naturalized German who seems to have been kinda ["kinda"???!] kidnapped by US intel agents, imprisoned in Afghanistan, and ...

Man's Claims May Be A Look At Dark Side Of War On Terror
DisInfo.com - 12 Apr 2005
'ULM, Germany — Khaled el-Masri says his strange and violent trip into the void began with a bus ride on New Year's Eve 2003. ...

CIA abduction plane landed in Shannon Airport
Sunday Business Post, Ireland - 9 Apr 2005
Khaled el-Masri was reportedly arrested while on holidays in Macedonia, taken to a motel near the country's capital, Skopje, and handed over to the US ...
What's going on? How do you kill a story like this?
The No-Blame Plame Game

American Prospect Online explains why the Valerie Plame case doesn't seem to be going anywhere:
'You have two people who had a conversation,' says the attorney, 'Novak and an administration official. If both of them are going to lie -- Novak and the source -- there is no way to penetrate that. None. It doesn't matter how meticulous you are a prosecutor, or that you have unlimited resources at your disposal.'

April 25, 2005

US Fesses Up On el-Masri - But Now What?

US officials have finally admitted that the amazing story of Khaled el-Masri is actually true. This story confirms all the worst fears of so-called "Conspiracy Theorists".

For those not familiar with the case: Khaled el-Masri, 41, a car salesman who lives in Ulm, Germany, was taken from a bus on the Serbian-Macedonian border on Dec. 31, 2003. He was flown on a C.I.A.-chartered plane to an Afghan prison where he was shackled, beaten, photographed nude and injected with drugs by interrogators who pressed him to reveal ties to Al Qaeda. He was then taken to Albania on another CIA flight, where he was dumped on an empty country road in the middle of the night. When he finally made his way back home, even el-Masri admitted that his story sounded too bizarre to be true.

But it is true. And it turns out that all this happened because el-Masri's name is SIMILAR to one on a terrorist list! Thank Gawd my parents didn't call me Osama, ya know what I'm saying?

New revelations from NBC show that el-Mazri was held in an Afghan prison called "the Salt Pit" for 5 months, even after US officials realised he was innocent, and despite high-level meetings involving CIA Director George Tenet. It seems el-Mazri was only released after Condi Rice personally intervened. Yet it still took two orders from Rice before he was set free (why two?).

This case raises all kinds of questions that must now finally be answered. As the NYT says:
The disclosure of the decision to free Mr. Masri shed new light on the transfer of suspected Qaeda operatives around the world. Until now, it was believed that the transfers were carried out by the C.I.A. under presidential directives issued after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Ms. Rice's involvement suggests that the White House may have played a more hands-on role than was previously known.
Well... duh! Demand answers on this one, folks. It's not just a "conspiracy theory" any more. If they get away with this, they can get away with anything.

Write to your congressmen, newspapers, friends... Here's a good place to start your letters:
A US human rights group has demanded a special prosecutor investigate US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA director George Tenet and other top officials for possible war crimes related to the torture and abuse of prisoners.

Nearly a year after photos of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison shocked the world, more than half a dozen official investigations have resulted only in prosecutions of lower ranking soldiers, Human Rights Watch said in a report released under the title "Getting Away with Torture?".

"The evidence demands more," the report said.

"Yet a wall of impunity surrounds the architects of the policies responsible for the larger pattern of abuses."

The report argues that the evidence indicates that decisions and policies made by Mr Rumsfeld and other high-ranking officials facilitated widespread abuse of prisoners in violation of US and international law, notably the Geneva Conventions.

It cited mounting evidence that they knew or should have known violations took place, and failed to act to stem the abuse, making them legally liable for the actions of subordinates further down the chain of command.

Besides Mr Rumsfeld, the report cites Mr Tenet; Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the former US commander in Iraq; and Major General Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of a military-run detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The known evidence, the report said, "already makes a compelling case for a thorough, genuinely independent investigation of what top officials did, what they knew and how they responded when they became aware of the widespread nature of the abuses."

It called for the appointment of a special prosecutor on grounds that Attorney-General Alberto Gonzalez was himself deeply involved in devising the policies that led to the abuse, and thus had a conflict of interest.

It also called on the US Congress and the President to establish a special commission to investigate the matter, and name a special prosecutor if Mr Gonzalez has not already done so.

At least seven investigations have been conducted since the Abu Ghraib scandal broke.

Human Rights Watch said all but one was conducted by the military on itself, and none examined the role of senior civilian leaders.

The CIA also is reported to have conducted internal inquiries but no details have been made public.

The report highlights Mr Rumsfeld's role in approving coercive interrogation techniques in December 2002 for use only on prisoners in Guantanamo - including the use of dogs to incite fear, "stress" positions, and the stripping of detainees - which later migrated to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr Rumsfeld rescinded the approval for the use of the techniques January 15 after the Navy's general counsel objected.

The US commander in Iraq later apparently drew on the list in devising his own interrogation guidelines in Iraq in September 15, 2003, which itself was later rescinded.

On the CIA, the report said Mr Tenet was potentially legally liable for a policy of sending prisoners to countries that routinely practiced torture for detention and interrogations.

Between 100 and 150 prisoners have been "rendered" to governments in the Middle East such as Egypt and Syria, and "there is now credible evidence that rendered detainees have in fact been tortured," it said.

The report said the CIA continues to hold some prisoners in prolonged incommunicado detention in secret locations with no oversight and no access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Demand answers. Just don't hold your breath waiting for Hollywood to turn this astounding story into an international blockbuster!
Worsening Patterns of Global Terrorism

A State Department report showing an increase in terrorist attacks around the world last year has been altered to strip it of its pessimistic statistics.
The country-by-country report, Patterns of Global Terrorism, has been issued every year since 1986. This year's edition showed a big increase, from 172 significant terrorist attacks in 2003 to 655 in 2004, mostly because of attacks in Iraq.
Condi Rice has ordered the report to be withdrawn and a new one issued, minus the statistics.

On the one hand, this shows the hypocrisy of classifying every attack on US forces as "terrorism". As one article says, "it's only terrorism when we say so". On the other hand, it also shows very clearly that Bush's "War On ... (ahem!)" is just not working. Which is hardly surprising because it was never a logical, intelligent or even vaguely rational agenda in the first place.

Democratic congressman Henry Waxman is calling for an investigation into the suppression of the report. Waxman says "there appears to be a pattern in the administration's approach to terrorism data: favorable facts are revealed while unfavorable facts are suppressed."

Well... um... Duh! Let's not forget how the State Department manipulated 2003 data in its "Patterns of Global Terrorism Report" to argue the United States was winning the war on terrorism.
The U.S. government later revised the figures, saying the number of people killed and wounded in terrorist attacks in 2003 was more than double what it had initially reported.
So there's the pattern: grab the headlines with "good" news then let the "bad" news trickle out weeks later on page 99b... The media is being played, and they are performing like hired stooges by letting this charade go on and on and on...

April 22, 2005

Know Your Enemy: So What Is A "Terrorist" Anyway?

An Italian judge has ruled that whether or not a person can be called a "terrorist" depends on their intended target.

Judge Clementina Forleo says those now fighting foreign forces in Iraq cannot be universally classified as terrorists. She warned that defining "every violent act" by irregular forces as terrorist risked "comprising people's right to self-determination and independence".
Her January ruling was seen as a legal defeat for the Italian government which has sent more than 3000 troops to Iraq and has tried, in coordination with the United States, to step up anti-terrorism policing at home.

Earlier this year, Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli called Judge Forleo's decision "stomach turning" and Communications Minister Maurizio Gasparri said she was "extremely wrong".

She is suing them for defamation.
Gotta love them feisty Italian women eh?
Masters Of The Universe

And you thought Skull and Bones was wierd... Now it turns out the new Pope served with Bush's younger brother Neil on the board of a relatively unknown ecumenical foundation.
The charter members of the board were all well-known international religious figures, except for Bush and his close friend and business partner, Jamal Daniel...

The Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1999 to promote ecumenical understanding and publish original religious texts, said a foundation official.

Besides then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, founding board members included Rene-Samuel Sirat, the former chief rabbi of France; Jordan's Prince Hassan, a Muslim dedicated to religious dialogue; the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, another prominent Muslim; Olivier Fatio, director of the Institute of the History of the Reformation; and foundation president Metropolitan Damaskinos, a Greek Orthodox leader...

The foundation, based at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Geneva, is listed by Dun & Bradstreet business credit reports as a management trust for purposes other than education, religion, charity or research.
Neither Bush nor Daniel is still on the board, but so what? The Newsweek article also includes lurid details from Bush's divorce proceedings, such as his penchant for Asian call-girls.
Another Freudian Slip From Condi?

Who can forget Condi Rice calling George W. Bush "my husba - " before stopping herself? Now comes another revealing moment:
"One day you will run for president?" Rice was asked on Ekko Moskvy Radio.

"President, da, da," Rice readily replied.

That, as nearly everyone knows, even if they are not fluent in Russian as Rice is believed to be, means yes.

"Nyet, nyet, nyet, nyet," Rice quickly added, taking herself out of the race as fast as she'd gotten into it.
Rice specialized in Soviet studies and is fluent in Russian, making the slip all the more surprising.

If Condi seriously has presidential ambitions, she already has a whole load of heavy "baggage" for opponents to use against her.

April 21, 2005

Chaos and Death Stalk Iraq

The farcical story of non-existent Iraqi hostages has taken a grim twist, with dead bodies suddenly turning up all over Iraq.

More than 50 bodies have suddenly been pulled from the Tigris River. Iraq's interim president wont say where the bodies were found, but he says he has the names of all the dead (how?) and also the names of all those who killed them. Talabani says the discovery of the bodies proves his government's claims that hostages were abducted.

The Guardian has this interesting comment:
As summer approaches and temperatures start to rise, bodies have been floating to the surface, said Dr. Falah al-Permani of the Swera district health department. He said some 50 bodies have been recovered over the past three weeks. But it was not clear whether they were the bodies referred to by Talabani.
Northwest of Baghdad, meanwhile, another 19 bullet-riddled bodies were found slumped against a bloodstained wall in a soccer stadium.

This is on top of the "usual" daily carnage, which yesterday killed at least nine Iraqis and two Americans, wounding another 21. The attacks included four suicide car bombs (one targetting Allawi's convoy), a roadside explosion, and a blast that sent smoke billowing over the Green Zone.

This "hostage" drama is a big story across Iraq, where it is spouting all manner of conjecture. Even Riverbend has something to say. Predictably, people like Omar and Mohammed Fadhil think the Iranians are behind this, while others like brother Ali blames alSadr. Most Iraqis, however, see it as evidence that their much-hyped government - which still hasn't been able to even assemble itself - is becoming a tragic farce.

But dont expect to hear too much analysis of complex hypotheses in Bush's USA. Even though most US citizens now think the Iraq War was not "worth it", the media's attitude seems to be "Yes, Iraq is fucked, but that's old news". Besides, it's embarrassing to the President and potentially unpatriotic. It's becoming like the old Fawtly Towers routine: "Don't mention the war!"

Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, the Finance Minister is complaining that NGOs are running the country:
The functions of government have been taken over by others.. Our own resources are absolutely inadequate.
Fox Hunting

Rupert Murdoch says "'We are fair and balanced and we challenge anyone to show Fox News has any bias in it."

David Brock at Media Matters takes up the challenge!

April 20, 2005

Bolton Nomination Pushed Back

Thank Gawd... I mean, here is a man who cannot even admit he has a VERY bad haircut...

... or maybe everybody around him is too scared to tell him?
A interesting little article from AlterNet: Progressive Dems win antiwar resolution:
"2,000 California Democrats passed a resolution calling for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq..."
Interesting not just because it is a sign of growing SU calls for withdrawal, but because it represents a victory for popular Democrats over the powerful pro-war hawks within their party.
Eli Stephens: the Killing of Nicola Calipari, a Math Lesson: "Sgrena has told CBS that the car she was in was going 30 mph. At 30 mph, a car is going 15 yards per second. So, according to the U.S. military, they fired warning shots within 2.7 seconds of flashing a warning light, and used 'deadly force' 2.3 seconds after that. And actually, if the U.S. military story were true and the car were really travelling at 'high speed', let's be generous and call that only 45 mph, that's 22 yards per second, meaning 1.8 seconds between warning lights and warning shots, and 1.6 seconds between warning shots and deadly shots."
"To hell with you, we are Americans!"

This story from Reuters cast a big question mark over who is really in charge of Iraq:
An Iraqi lawmaker accused a U.S. soldier of grabbing him by the throat and shoving him to the ground Tuesday after he parked his car in Baghdad's Green Zone.

Fattah al-Sheikh, an independent, said he had parked his car before a session of parliament when U.S. troops approached him and told him he didn't have the right permit.

He said a soldier then kicked his car, insulted him and grabbed him by the throat with both hands as others looked on, before tying his hands behind his back with white plastic cuffs and shoving him to the ground.

'I don't speak English and so I said to the Iraqi translator with them, 'Tell them that I am a member of parliament,' and he replied, 'To hell with you, we are Americans,'' Sheikh told parliament, fighting back tears as he recounted the story.
Story courtesy of MichaelMoore.com, which since the November election has become an increasingly good site for latest news items.

April 19, 2005

The Next BIG Story?

Given what we now know about Abu Ghraib, it would be very surprising if this were NOT true:

Iraqi female detainees say that they have been illegally detained, raped and sexually humiliated by U.S. occupation forces.
One female detainee, who identified herself as “Noor”, said that U.S. soldiers at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib raped women and, in many occasions, forced them to strip naked in public. She also said that many female detainees got pregnant.

The classified investigation launched by the U.S. army, led by Major General Antonio Taguba, confirmed Noor’s account and said that U.S. guards sexually abused female detainees at Abu Ghraib.

According to Taguba’s report, the 1,800 abuse photographs shot by U.S. guards inside Abu Ghraib included images of naked male and female prisoners, a male Military Police guard “having sex” with a female detainee, and naked male and female detainees forcibly arranged in various sexually explicit positions for photographing.

The Bush administration, which insists that these were the acts of a few soldiers, blocked the release of photographs of Iraqi women detainees at Abu Ghraib, including those of women forced to bare their breasts, although these have been shown to Congress.

However, Taguba’s fifty-three-page report, found that between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib”.

Also, a British MP, Ann Clwyd, confirmed a report that an Iraqi woman in her 70s had been harnessed and ridden like a donkey at Abu Ghraib after being captured last July...
Worst President Ever: USA Turns Against Bush

The Harris Poll reports that Bush's job ratings this month have fallen to 44 percent positive, 56 percent negative, the worst numbers of his presidency.

This is a big drop from his previous historic lows of 48 percent positive, 51 percent negative in February. He was 50% positive, 49% negative following the election last November and has been going downhill ever since.

Do you think he actually cares? Does anybody even tell him this stuff?
Baghdad Is Still Burning

BuzzFlash has an interview with Riverbend to promote her new book. Here are a few choice quotes:
I write the blog because it gives me a medium to express my emotions and opinions and possibly show the 'other' side of the war- the one that is not cheering on the occupation, as many news channels and newspapers like to depict...

The White House makes it very simple when talking about the insurgency -- foreign, Islamic terrorists. It's hardly that simple. I guess most Iraqis believe there is resistance and there is terror. Resistance is coming from various sources -- former Iraqi army people, Islamists, Ba'athists, nationalists and ordinary people who hate this new way of life Iraqis are being relegated to. Terror is also coming from various sources and in many cases it is a complete mystery. Many people believe the attacks against the police force and security forces are the work of outsiders or people who want Iraqis to hate the resistance. It's difficult to tell at this point just what is going on...

Many American companies are getting millions of dollars for reconstruction contracts and then giving the work to Iraqi sub-contractors who have 'relations.' Reconstruction work right now is not about the good job a contractor can do, but just who he is related to or how many people he's bribed to get the contract. This has resulted in shoddy work, and millions of dollars literally going to waste, because the contract is given to American companies for very large sums of money and then to Iraqi sub-contractors for a pittance...

People have to want something enough to rise up and change it. They have to be ready for democracy and willing to accept its responsibility. The US could have promoted democracy in Iraq peacefully, but then they wouldn't have permanent bases in the country, would they?

Many children have lost their childhood in this war and occupation. Children saw things no child should see -- corpses in the streets, foreign tanks, their countrymen being shoved to the ground or detained at checkpoints for no reason -- and this is the average child ... Other children saw their parents killed in front of them ... or lost arms, legs, eyes in an explosion or gun fire ... or were abducted ... thousands of children were privy to raids on homes which were once sacred and symbolized security and shelter...
Iraq's New Government: A Total Farce

I guess it is only logical that a fictional war gives rise to a fictional government with fictional dramas like this...
Officials said on Saturday that Sunni Muslim insurgents were holding 150 Shi'ite hostages in Madaen, about 45 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, and were threatening to kill them unless Shi'ites left the area.

Shi'ite caretaker Prime Minister Iyad Allawi vowed to punish the "terrorist" kidnappers he linked with al Qaeda's wing in Iraq. But raids by Iraqi forces backed by U.S. troops have yielded no kidnappers or hostages...

Doubts about what actually happened in Madaen fuelled the growing cynicism of Iraqis whose leaders have promised stability and economic prosperity since U.S.-led troops invaded the country in 2003.

"There is no way it is true. It was probably a problem with one person in Madaen and people with their own interests blew it up," said Jasmine Daghaghni, waiting to cross a busy street...

The conflicting reports from Madaen generated conspiracy theories that thrive on Iraq's uncertainty.

Some people said U.S. forces made up the story for an excuse to raid Madaen after rebel attacks on U.S. convoys.

Others suspected Iran, which was home to Iraqi Shi'ite exiles during Saddam's rule who are now Iraq's new leaders.
Allawi said "an Al Qaeda-affliated group" had taken over the town. But witnesses said there we no signs of any problems in the town itself:
An Associated Press photographer and TV cameraman who were in or near the town Sunday said large numbers of Iraqi forces had sealed it off, supported by U.S. forces who were keeping a low profile farther from the edge of Madain.

The cameraman said he toured the town Sunday morning. People were going about their business normally, shops were open and teahouses were full, he said. Residents contacted by telephone also said everything was normal...
An Iraqi General , Adnan Thabet, said 85 insurgents had been killed in a massive assault on the town:
General Adnan Thabet, identified by Agence France Presse as a senior security advisor to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, said 85 insurgents died in what was a seventeen hour assault by Iraqi troops and US aircraft on a camp shared by Ba’ath party loyalists and members of Al-Qaeda. Reportedly speaking from Samarra, Thabet told AFP that US "air raids" killed 50 insurgents, while Iraqi commandos killed 35, indicating that US forces played a significant role in the assault.

Thabet added that the raid resulted in no prisoners, but that several militants "escaped by boat" across the lake.
Then Thabet told reporters that
"the number of hostages has been greatly exaggerated".
Shortly afterwards it was reported that Major-General Adnan Thabet had been gunned down in his own home.

But then Iraqi officials said Thabet was still alive!
They named the dead man as Major-General Adnan Midhish Kharagoli, an adviser to the defense minister. He was killed along with his nephew when 10 gunmen burst into his Baghdad home.

Interior Ministry officials had earlier said the victim was Major-General Adnan Thabet, hours after he told the media that a hostage crisis was exaggerated.

"We made a mistake," said one of the officials, who declined to be named.
So were 85 people killed? Or 50? Was there actually a massive battle at all? Were there ever any hostages taken?

And what prompted Allawi to blame Al Quaeda for all this? Where is he getting his information? Where are his top generals getting their information? Given their already flaky credibility, is there any reason to believe anything these guys say?

And given the Sunni versus Shi'ite nature of the allegations, is someone trying to push Iraq towards all-out Civil War? And if so, who and why?
Should Saddam Be Executed?

Iraq's new president says he is against the death penalty as a matter of personal moral conviction. But Jalal Talabani is quite happy to play Pontius Pilate:
But you know, the presidency of Iraq are three people. These three must decide. So I can be absent. I can go on holiday and let the two others decide.
What moral conviction, eh?

Talabani expresses a widespread feeling that the death of Saddam would help quell the insugency because his supporters would give up hope of restoring him to the Presidency. But there is little proof that this is a main aim of the insurgents, and a lot of proof that other aims - expelling the USA and taking control of Iraq for Iraqis - are more dominant.

The death penalty is a symptom of a violent culture. Setting up a proper, popularly supported judicial process and allowing Saddam to rot away the rest of his life in a jail cell - in a 100% secure environment - would say a lot more about the reformation of Iraq than the blood-thirsty global spectacle of a public execution.

April 18, 2005

Another female aid worker killed in Iraq, with shades of Margaret Hussein:
"Marla Ruzicka, founder of Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, died on Saturday in the blast, which also killed an Iraqi and another foreigner, officials said. She had been in Iraq conducting door-to-door surveys trying to determine the number of civilian casualties in the country."
Now who would want to stop that?
John Bolton, The Madman

Daily Kos today has a report from a woman who was threatened, smeared, abused and chased down hotel corridors by Bush's proposed UN Ambassador:
"As a maligned whistleblower, I've learned firsthand the lengths Mr. Bolton will go to accomplish any goal he sets for himself. Truth flew out the window. Decency flew out the window. In his bid to smear me and promote the interests of his client, he went straight for the low road and stayed there.

John Bolton put me through hell -- and he did everything he could to intimidate, malign and threaten not just me, but anybody unwilling to go along with his version of events. His behavior back in 1994 wasn't just unforgivable, it was pathological..."
Well, what is "truth" anyway? For Bush & Co, truth is a very manipulate-able commodity. To twist the old addage: We Decide, You Report.

April 15, 2005

USA versus UN: Annan Speaks Out

Kofi Annan has fingered the USA and the UK over the oil-for-food scandal::
"...the bulk of the money that Saddam made came out of smuggling outside the oil-for-food program, and it was on the American and British watch...

Possibly they were the ones who knew exactly what was going on, and that the countries themselves decided to close their eyes to smuggling to Turkey and Jordan because they were allies'...

One had hoped that when Volcker comes out with his final report in June, putting things in perspective, this will die down. But I don't think with that group it will die down...

We are out-gunned, we are outmanned, and they have resources that we don't have, and they are relentless and they are organised... This phenomenon is an American story. When I travel around the rest of the world you don't feel it, it's not there.
What can I say except see the post below...
Bush's USA: Internationally Hated

Now here is a really great article from AlterNetEurope:
"The truth is that the world would likely be a better place if Team Europe and not Team America were in charge. And more and more people around the world are reaching that conclusion."
The article is based on a new poll, conducted by GlobeScan and the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), which reveals that citizens in twenty out of twenty-three countries would like to see Europe become more influential than the United States in world affairs.
Here's how bad it is: even China rated higher than the United States in popular assessments of its global conduct. The United States also took the top prize as the country most widely viewed as having a negative influence on the world (in 15 countries), with Russia coming a close second (14 countries).
Even 34 percent (one third) of Americans agree that Europe should be running the show!

If you are an American and you are reading this with disbelief, I would urge you to go and work and live in Europe for a while. Americans work more hours, live shorter lives, and are much more likely to be poor than their European counterparts. To quote Norwegian foreign minister Jan Peterson:
One of eight UN countries is an EU member state. The EU generates about 20 per cent of the world's total GNP. The internal market is the world's largest multinational market. The euro has become the world's strongest currency after gaining 50 per cent in relation to the dollar during the three first years of its existence. There is even a European space agency, which has 200 satellites orbiting the Earth and which is planning to make a European the first human being to reach Mars.
The Alternet article highlights some major points of disagreement:
Take the case of food... Where Europeans are cautious and more concerned about its effects on human life, the American philosophy is all about the corporate bottom line...

The difference between the Bush administration's military plans and that of the EU: Europeans want to use military force to avert catastrophe, rather than precipitate regime change. It's about peacekeeping not imperial expansion.
The comments on the article are also worthy of note. From a US Expat in Sweden:
That willingness to put human needs before profits is what makes me admire the Swedes, and the E.U. in general... I am saddend by what my country has become and I dream of a day when American wakes up and realizes that chasing that bottom-line is going to decrease the quality of life not only in the U.S., but the whole world.
From Canada:
We may sound snooty and clever in how we bash America here, but I'd say it's just to hide the real fears of being annexed culturally, economically, and politically. We're not just dissatisfied with American leadership, we're scared of it.
From an American:
We did'nt really have any choice in the last election as it was a vote for the lessor of the two evils. Bush was a failure in the oil business and he carries the same to his position as pres. Don't get me wrong, I voted for Bush each time. The BIBLE SAYS... This is now a real scarry world... We can no longer concure and rule!!
And how about a positive outlook:
How about instead of one region having all the power... how about we all start working TOGETHER for the betterment of MANKIND? I know... wishful thinking. People are too greedy for that... And that would require sacrifice and compromise... but until people get over this "nationalistic" notion, we're doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Or an action plan:
Open a Euro bank account and shun the US dollar. It not only makes great economic sense (50% profit in just a few years, and the dollar rate is still going down) but also political sense. Getting rid of dollars is the best way to castrate the US bully.
'Suicide Bomber' or 'Peaceful Protester'?

Like many TV viewers around the world this week, you probably saw this guy being spectacularly crash-tackled by police outside the US Capitol:

Australian protester Wen Hao Zhao was knocked to the ground by SWAT-squad-style police while standing outside the Capitol building, where had had been asking to speak with George W. Bush.

Zhao, who had earlier visited the White House and unsuccessfully asked to see Bush, was standing in a zone which is normally open to tourists but had been temporarily cordoned off. So he may have been in breach of the rules but it is hard to image he could have represented much of a serious threat to staff in the building. He also refused to tell police what was in the two bags, but it's hard to imagine the police response would have been much different if he had told them something like "clothes", isn't it?

Police violently removed Zhao and then blew up his bags for good measure. All of the action was expertly captured on film for TV news. Predictably, the media response was immediate and - like the police action - overwhelming.

Zhao was universally characterized as potentially dangerous and probably a lunatic. The words "suicide bomber" kept turning up in media headlines long after this possibility had been disproved.

Now think about it. Insane or not, this guy was really just a peaceful protester. If the police had not chosen to tackle him so aggressively, and if it had not been captured for TV consumption, Zhao's protest would not even have been news. And given the other news stories that are being ignored every day, perhaps that would not have been a bad thing.

Most TV viewers will have the impression that Zhao's protest was a ridiculous, futile and even slightly frightening. But stop and think about it: this was just a peacfeul protest! What Zhao's small protest really did is show up Bush World for what it is: a fiction-based landscape of paranioa, fear and violence. So I say, "Well done, Wen Hao Zhao!"

UPDATE: Ted Rall today looks at widespread media labelling like this. For example, Muqtada al-Sadr is always called a "radical cleric" rather than "popular leader", Giuliana Sgrena is always called a "communist journalist" and Rall himself is always called a "controversial cartoonist."
ATimetable for Withdrawal? Or Electioneering Lies?

Jack Straw, the UK Foreign Secretary, says British and American troops will be withdrawn steadily from Iraq starting next year and are likely to be completely out of the country within five years:
"The progressive run-down of forces is likely to happen next year," he said. "As to the pace, I cannot say until later this year but over the next parliament British troops will be down to virtually nothing."
Yeah, right. So here's the logic: Brits should re-elect Tony Blair so that he can step down, while supporting a war so that it can end. And if that's not fuzzy enough for you:
[Straw] admitted that "quite a lot of people are angry about Iraq" in Blackburn but hoped his constituents would recognise his efforts to avert a looming war between India and Pakistan in 2002.
So vote for us because we helped stop another war that didn't happen but might have, maybe... and let's not talk about who is selling military weapons to India and Pakistan, which is still run by a military dictator.

And from the same article, more lies exposed:
President George W Bush this week claimed that Iraqi troops now outnumbered their American counterparts but it was questioned by Iraq's interior ministry yesterday.

"We are paying about 135,000 (members of the security services) but that does not necessarily mean that 135,000 are actually working," said Sabah Kadhum, the ministry's spokesman. There are about 140,000 American soldiers in Iraq.

According to Iraqi officials, "ghost soldiers" could account for as many as 50,000 of those officially on the security forces' payroll. The discrepancy is largely explained by deserters and by corruption.
Don't believe the hype.
Pope John Paul II v. The Anti-Christ?

Shiela Samples wonder why CNN and others ignored the Popes criticism of Bush and the Iraq War:
Scribes heralded the rapid ascension of John Paul to a saintly throne, while the gang of international Pharisees, led by George Bush, sat shoulder-to-shoulder in ring-side seats beside those whom they planned to kill as soon as the show was over...

Because of the Pope's open criticism of Bush, wherein he pointed out on more than one occasion the obvious fact that Bush's behavior and attitude were anything but Christian, it would seem that Bush could not get away with co-opting John Paul's considerable legacy. Yeah. It would seem...
The UN Oil-for-food scandal leads back to.... a Texas oil tycoon.
The Bush administration is impeding an investigation into the Education Department's hiring of commentator Armstrong Williams by refusing to allow key White House officials to be interviewed.
GOP: US Soldiers In Iraq Are On Their Own

Travis Bruce was standing watch on the roof of a Baghdad police station. He phoned his girlfriend back home and said they didn't have enough sandbags to build an effective barrier. Shortly afterwards, he was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade. Here's the GOP response:
"It is up to soldiers in the field to protect themselves. If they want more sandbags, they should get more sandbags... "
Story courtesy of Atrios and Think Progress.

April 14, 2005


If you've got broadband this is great - a look at the real George W. Bush from :: dnext :: - including profane use of the Lord's name. Goodness me!
Anti-US protests Continue Across Iraq

From Associated Press:
On Sunday, protesters shouted anti-American slogans in Duluiyah, 45 miles north of the capital. A day later, a similar demonstration was held in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.

On Tuesday, in the troubled city of Samarra, tribal, city and religious leaders gathered along with students in the shadow of a spiral minaret, throwing rocks at U.S. tanks and shouting for the Americans to leave.

'The Iraqis will fight until they force (the Americans) to leave and let us live in peace and security,' Hassan Neama, 33, said Tuesday in Baghdad. 'They are the source of all of Iraq's problems. We consider the Americans our enemy, not our savior from the Saddam Hussein regime.'
Afghanistan: US Model For the Middle East

A weak central government seeks US military and political support to keep itself in power. Just don't mention the military bases, OK?
Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld Immortalized

... as slimy beetles that feed on fungus.
We Broke It, You Fix It

US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick visits Falluja and tells Iraqis it's up to them to fix their destroyed city:
People like you all over Iraq will be the key to Iraq's future, not the United States... It's your country. We can help, but you have to make it happen.... I wanted to come to Fallujah and see with my own eyes how you're coming on rebuilding your city, the security situation and I hope rebuilding your economy."
The War On... Artists?

Secret Service visits art show at Columbia:
The agents turned up Thursday evening, just before the public opening of 'Axis of Evil, the Secret History of Sin,' and took pictures of some of the art pieces -- including 'Patriot Act,' showing President Bush on a mock 37-cent stamp with a revolver pointed at his head...
Wither Now?

The Crisis Papers takes a look into the near future:
"By late summer, 2006, the United States is in a desperate condition. Following the collapse of the dollar in international currency markets, there has been a cascade of business failures and mortgage foreclosures, and a precipitous rise in unemployment, as the US economy slides inexorably into a depression. Meanwhile, the June 2005 American attack on Iran and the continuing war in Iraq has made the United States an international pariah state; thus the community of nations shows no inclination whatever to rescue the United States from its economic collapse.

In the run-up to the 2006 election, the mainstream media has once again fallen in line behind the Republicans, blaming the depression on the Clinton Administration, al Qaeda, and/or betrayal by "the Old Europe." The crimes and outrages of the Bush/GOP syndicate have been unreported by the media, as Democratic war veterans running for office against GOP draft dodgers have once again been castigated as "unpatriotic."

For their part, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and the religious right have proclaimed that these economic and diplomatic catastrophes manifest God's judgment on the American people for their toleration of gays, abortion, the ACLU, the teaching of evolution, and independent judges...
The War On... Unemployed Car Salesmen

Another look at the Dark Side of the "War on (ahem!) Terror":
Khaled el-Masri says his strange and violent trip into the void began with a bus ride on New Year's Eve 2003.

When he returned to this city five months later, his friends didn't believe the odyssey he recounted. Masri said he was kidnapped in Macedonia, beaten by masked men, blindfolded, injected with drugs and flown to Afghanistan, where he was imprisoned and interrogated by U.S. intelligence agents. He said he was finally dumped in the mountains of Albania...
Giuliana Sgrena on 60 Minutes: USA Is Lying.
Exporting Barbarity

The USA's massacre of Falluja is now continuing in Mosul:
From inside a vacant building, Sgt. 1st Class Domingo Ruiz watched through a rifle scope as three cars stopped on the other side of the road. A man carrying a machine gun got out and began to transfer weapons into the trunk of one of the cars.

'Take him down,' Ruiz told a sniper.

The sniper fired his powerful M-14 rifle and the man's head exploded...

After the ambush, the Americans scooped up a piece of skull and took it back to their base as evidence of the successful mission.
Sergeant Ruiz goes on to boast to the reporter about how his street-fighting skills from the Bronx are a great advantage in Iraq...
No Exit

Rumsfeld admits it: "We don't have an exit strategy..." but then claims "we have a victory strategy."

And what is that? "To help the Iraqi Forces develop the skills and the capacity to provide their own security.'' In other words, we need trained goons to protect our US bases and keep the oil flowing to US tankers.

You know, Saddam had plenty of trained goons. How much has this war cost now? Wouldn't it have been easier to just pay off Saddam and use his goons? I'm sure that for a few hundred billion dollars Saddam could have persuaded to do just about anything...
Where's The Gratitude, Hunh?

Iraq is stopping Australian wheat imports. Or as one Iraqi official deliciously put it:
We have not decided to re-import from Australia.
Considering Australia just sent 400 MORE troops to Iraq, the decision will come as a surprise to many. So what's the problem with Australian wheat? Well, nothing it seems. It's just that US wheat is somehow better:
While Iraq liked some of the qualities of Australian wheat over US wheat, Iraq was investigating Australia's practices and that it would buy from Australia if it could not get wheat from other countries...
A few hours later:
Iraq wants to use about $US1 billion ($1.29 billion) in US reconstruction funds to buy American commodities, Khalil Assi, director general of the Grain Board of Iraq, told reporters during his first day of meetings in Washington.
Reconstruction funds going back into the US economy... who would have guessed, eh?
Blair Crippled By Iraq Lies

Tony Blair says he will step down before the NEXT election:
"The main opposition Conservatives and smaller Liberal Democrats jumped on the acknowledgement as a sign that people had lost their confidence in Mr Blair due to the war in Iraq and a string of pledges they said he had broken."
Of course another great lying war criminal, Australian PM John Howard has been saying that HE will step down for about three elections... So don't believe the hype!

I think the Liberal Democrats or even more minor parties are the only choice for British voters this time around. A pity, given some of the other worthwhile achievements and initiatives by the Blair government. He should have stood down months ago, or been dropped by his party.

This is the "accountability moment", folks. Make it count! God knows we in Australia and the USA did not.

April 13, 2005

"We Can't Go On Like This..."

The Economist looks at the unsustainable pressure that US spending is placing on the world economy and concludes that it is only a matter of time before an adjustment must be made:
"Perhaps once ordinary Americans are forced to live within their means, they will start demanding the same from their government."
Aussie Police Terrorize Melbourne Residents

Your government wants you to be frightened.
Alternet takes a damn good look at John Bolton. Like Bush and Kerry, Bolton is a former Yale student - anyone know if he was Skull and Bones?
Lawless in the US

Selected quotes from Max Blumenthal in The Nation:
"I'm a radical! I'm a real extremist. I don't want to impeach judges. I want to impale them!" - Oklahoma's GOP Senator Tom Coburn

"I believe that the judiciary is the focus of evil in our society today." - Republican senatorial candidate Alan Keyes.

"The judges need to be intimidated." - Tom DeLay

April 12, 2005

Lawlessness In Iraq and Washington

A recurring theme at the recent anti-US protest marches in Iraq - see Getty Images here - was a call for Saddam Huseein to finally be tried in court. Along with increased child malnourishment, failing electricity, sewerage and oil supplies, the failure to try Saddam is one of the great illuminating truths of the Bush administration's hypocritical rationales for invasion.

Like Afghanistan, Iraq is well on the way to becoming a lawless land. Forget questions of legitimacy for the US-backed government. Forget that the former-CIA PM kills people in cold blood. Just look at the endless daily examples of lawless behaviour. Here are today's stories:

- A record number of Iraqis - over 17,000 - are now languishing in Iraqi prisons like Abu Ghraib.

- US troops are accused of seizing Iraqi women to force their fugitive relatives to give up.

Why has Saddam not been tried? Because the legal system is not capable of it? Or because those in power fear what he has to say? Or is it simply that those who really pull the strings in Iraq - the war criminals in Washington - have an utter disregard for the law, both in their own country and internationally, which they see as nothing more than a mere inconvenience?

Update: It now seems the new Iraqi government, which cannot agree on anything else, is prepared to agree a deal with insurgents whereby Saddam will be spared the death penalty. Who says we don't do deals with terrorists?


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