December 31, 2006

Big Oil In The Dept Interior

New York Times:
The Justice Department is investigating whether the director of a multibillion-dollar oil-trading program at the Interior Department has been paid as a consultant for oil companies hoping for contracts.

The director of the program and three subordinates, all based in Denver, have been transferred to different jobs and have been ordered to cease all contacts with the oil industry until the investigation is completed some time next spring, according to officials involved.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation had not been announced publicly, said investigators were worried that senior government officials had been steering huge oil-trading contracts to favored companies.

Any such favoritism would probably reduce the money that the federal government receives on nearly $4 billion worth of oil and gas, because it would reduce competition among companies that compete to sell the fuel on behalf of the government.

If the allegations prove correct, they would constitute a major new blot on the Interior Department’s much-criticized effort to properly collect royalties on vast amounts of oil and gas produced on land or in coastal waters.

The Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, which oversees royalty collections, is now the target of multiple investigations by Congress and the Interior Department’s inspector general.

Those investigations are focused on allegations that the agency ordered its own auditors to abandon claims of cheating by large oil companies; that the agency’s arcane rules for calculating sales value and royalties make it easier for companies to understate their obligations; and that the agency’s basic sources of data are riddled with inaccuracies and are unreliable.

Interior officials have promoted “royalties in kind” as a much simpler and more efficient way for the government to get its proper share, because it eliminates much of the arcane accounting and reduces the opportunities for sleight-of-hand bookkeeping.

About a quarter of all oil and gas produced in the United States comes from federal property, and the Interior Department collected about $10 billion in royalties last year on about $60 billion in oil and gas.

At issue is the “royalty in kind” program, a fast-growing program under which companies pay their royalties in the form oil or gas rather than in the traditional form of cash.

For the 12 months ending last April, the government collected about $3.7 billion in oil and gas. Until recently, most of the oil simply went to the government’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But the strategic reserve was essentially filled this year, so the Interior Department hires private companies to resell the fuel on the open market.

To ensure that it gets the best price, the Interior Department takes bids for contracts in which companies typically offer to pay a specific premium over the daily spot-market prices quoted on the Nymex commodity exchange. The companies offering the biggest premium over the spot market get the contracts.

People familiar with the investigation said it had begun several months ago, but had picked up speed in the last few weeks.

December 30, 2006

My only conclusion is that the Americans want to withdraw from Iraq, but would like to leave behind a full-fledged civil war because it wouldn't look good if they withdraw and things actually begin to improve, would it?

Here we come to the end of 2006 and I am sad. Not simply sad for the state of the country, but for the state of our humanity, as Iraqis. We've all lost some of the compassion and civility that I felt made us special four years ago. I take myself as an example. Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.

Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.

Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? I don't think so.

Just because Americans die in smaller numbers, it doesn't make them more significant, does it?
Bush Loses The Army

Damning stuff: Poll: Troops Disapprove Of Bush On Iraq and Do Not Support "Surge". These are the young grunts who thought Saddam had WMDs until about last week, who still think he might have been connected to Al Quaeda, and whose families have ALWAYS voted Republican. Lose them, and you have lost a lot. A demoralized Army is a losing Army. And yet
Saddam Hanged

Josh Marshall unloads with both barrels:
"Bush administration officials" are telling CNN that Saddam Hussein will be hanged this weekend. Convention dictates that we precede any discussion of this execution with the obligatory nod to Saddam's treachery, bloodthirsty rule and tyranny. But enough of the cowardly chatter. This thing is a sham, of a piece with the whole corrupt, disastrous sham that the war and occupation have been. Bush administration officials are the ones who leak the news about the time of the execution. One key reason we know Saddam's about to be executed is that he's about to be transferred from US to Iraqi custody, which tells you a lot. And, of course, the verdict in his trial gets timed to coincide with the US elections.

This whole endeavor, from the very start, has been about taking tawdry, cheap acts and dressing them up in a papier-mache grandeur -- phony victory celebrations, ersatz democratization, reconstruction headed up by toadies, con artists and grifters. And this is no different. Hanging Saddam is easy. It's a job, for once, that these folks can actually see through to completion. So this execution, ironically and pathetically, becomes a stand-in for the failures, incompetence and general betrayal of country on every other front that President Bush has brought us.

Try to dress this up as an Iraqi trial and it doesn't come close to cutting it -- the Iraqis only take possession of him for the final act, sort of like the Church always left execution itself to the 'secular arm'. Try pretending it's a war crimes trial but it's just more of the pretend mumbojumbo that makes this out to be World War IX or whatever number it is they're up to now.

The Iraq War has been many things, but for its prime promoters and cheerleaders and now-dwindling body of defenders, the war and all its ideological and literary trappings have always been an exercise in moral-historical dress-up for a crew of folks whose times aren't grand enough to live up to their own self-regard and whose imaginations are great enough to make up the difference. This is just more play-acting.

These jokers are being dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that the whole thing's a mess and that they're going to be remembered for it -- defined by it -- for decades and centuries. But before we go, we can hang Saddam. Quite a bit of this was about the president's issues with his dad and the hang-ups he had about finishing Saddam off -- so before we go, we can hang the guy as some big cosmic 'So There!'

Marx might say that this was not tragedy but farce. But I think we need to get way beyond options one and two even to get close to this one -- claptrap justice meted out to the former dictator in some puffed-up act of self-justification as the country itself collapses in the hands of the occupying army.

Marty Peretz, with some sort of projection, calls any attempt to rain on this parade "prissy and finicky." Myself, I just find it embarrassing. This is what we're reduced to, what the president has reduced us to. This is the best we can do. Hang Saddam Hussein because there's nothing else this president can get right.

What do you figure this farce will look like 10, 30 or 50 years down the road? A signal of American power or weakness?
Indeed. What really grates with me is the shameless hypocrisy this meaningless murder exhibits. For example, wingnuts and Big Media still talk about 300,000 dead under Saddam, but nobody mentions the 650,000 or more dead under US occupation; they still talk about Saddam gassing his own people with WMD chemical weapons, but even the death reports do not bother to say these WMDs were supplied by Donald Rumsfeld and the USA; they talk of a million dead in the Iran-Iraq war, but don't talk of US backing for Saddam's Iraq, or US weapons sales to Iraq; Saddam's farcical show trial got so much TV coverage while Gitmo detainees like David Hicks remain ignored and forgotten; they suggest Saddam's death will prompt a surge in violence, or quell violence, when in fact it will make no difference whatsoever because the only people pretending Saddam still leads or inspires the Iraqi insurgents are the wingnuts and Big Media...

This is such an insult to all the dead, whether they died at Saddam's hand or George W. Bush's. If the neocon crazies in the White House only did ONE SINGLE THING right, it should have been this: a proper trial, under proper laws, in a proper courthouse. That might have meant something. It might have stood as a monument to their good intentions, if nothing else.

But of course there were no good intentions, just empty promises and hollow rationales. I am not even going to get started on the blatant hypocrisy of the death penalty per se...

And so George Dubya Bush, the man who set a record for death row killings in Texas, chalks up yet another victim. All hail the great hero!

There will come a reckoning, folks. It will not be videotaped. It will not be leaked to the media, or shown on Iraq TV just prior to the President's State of the Union Address. It will not be light. It will not be easy.

I don't pretend to know where Saddam Hussein has gone today, but I am sure that whoever pulled the trigger, or pressed the button, or cut the rope on his execution, will one day follow him there. And I am sure that all those responsible for this horrific war will also follow him there: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, Rice, Howard, Blair, Berlusoni, Murdoch, and all the other crazies.

I don't pretend to know what Hell might be, or even if it exists, but surely the thought of spending eternity in such base company must approximate a definition of it.

UPDATE: Forget the SoU. As befits the ineptitude of this farce, the video has already been leaked.

December 29, 2006

Gitmo Gets A Kangaroo Courthouse

Via TPMmuckraker:
Although the Pentagon estimates that no more than 80 of the 400 or so terrorism detainees here will ever be tried, it is moving forward with plans for a $125-million legal complex...

December 27, 2006

Bush Is Reading Again

I am starting to wonder if the White House is taking the piss or trying to send coded messages. The latest book on Bush's list is quite astonishing: "King Leopold's Ghost" by Adam Hochschild:
King Leopold convinced the undoubtedly "well-informed" people of Belgium of the need to liberate the backward but freedom-hungry black Africans from a bunch of crazy Arab slave traders and to expand "free-trade." Sound familiar?
Crisis? Watch The Money

Oil edges higher, Iran bristles at sanctions:
But analysts said traders might disregard the latest developments unless they saw evidence of supply disruption.

"It is certainly a bullish factor, but I think geopolitical matters will be ignored unless clearer risks materialize," said Makoto Takeda, energy analyst at Bansei Securities Co.
Layer Upon Layer Upon Layer

Is Cheney trying to blame Iran for all the mess in Iraq? And is that a precursor to an attack on Iran? This New York Times article has some damned good analyis:
The Iraqi government has kept silent on the arrests, but Tuesday night officials spoke of intense behind-the-scenes negotiations by Iraq’s government and its fractured political elite over how to handle the situation.

Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, had invited the two Iranians during his visit to Tehran, his spokesman said on Sunday, but by Tuesday, some Iraqi officials began to question if Mr. Talabani had in fact made the invitation. His office was unavailable for comment Tuesday night.

“We know when they caught them they were doing something,” said one Iraqi official, who added that the Iranians did not appear to have formally registered with the government.

Some political leaders speculated that the arrests were intended to derail efforts by Iraqis to deal with Iran on their own by making Iraqis look weak...

At about 7 p.m. on Wednesday, the military stopped a car in Baghdad and detained four people — three Iranians and an Iraqi. The military released two of them on Friday and the other two on Sunday night, General Caldwell said. The Iranian Embassy confirmed the releases.

But the more significant raid came in predawn hours of the next morning, when American forces raided a second location, the general said. The military described it as “a site in Baghdad,” but declined to release further details about the location.

Iraqi leaders said last week that the site was the compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite political leaders, who met with President Bush in Washington three weeks ago. A spokesman for Mr. Hakim said he had not heard of a raid on the compound.

A careful reading of General Caldwell’s statement makes it clear, however, that the location itself was of central importance. The military gathered “specific intelligence from highly credible sources that linked individuals and locations with criminal activities,” it said. The crimes were against Iraqi civilians, security forces and Americans.

In that raid, American forces detained 10 men, 2 of them Iranians. They seized documents, maps, photographs and videos, at the location, the military said. The military declined to say precisely what the items showed, nor did it specify if the Iranians themselves were suspected of attacking Americans, or if the Iraqis arrested with them were suspected, or both.

Some Iraqis questioned the American motives, saying that the operation seemed aimed at embarrassing Mr. Hakim, the driving force behind a new political grouping backed by the United States to distance militants from the political process.

One Iraqi politician suggested that the tip for the raid had come from a source within Mr. Hakim’s own party, known by the acronym Sciri, in an effort to weaken or unseat him.

However it was led there, the military said it had found evidence of wrongdoing. By questioning the detainees and investigating the materials, the military found evidence that connected some of those detained “to weapons shipments to armed groups in Iraq,” General Caldwell said.

The military did not specify the types of weapons.

The allegation, if true, would mark the first time since the American invasion that Iranian military officials were discovered in the act of planning military action inside Iraq.
So let's piece this together... Iraq's President Talabani seemingly tries to broker a deal with Iran, in defiance of his US masters. The US gets wind of it and takes out his Iranian contacts. But the Iranians in question are being hosted by al-Hakim, Bush's new boy in Baghdad. And a mole within al-Hakim's group seems to be the key to the bust.

So was this a setup? Surely a whole heap of people are talking to Iran (isn't that an ISG recommendation?), but obviously it's potential headlines if Iran is supplying weapons to the terrrrrsts... And wouldn't it be great if the USA's much-maligned intelligence services could actually PROVE such a thing (as opposed to fabricating it)?

And wouldn't that be a darned good excuse the NUKE THE FUCK OUT OF IRAN, and then blame them for the past three years of Iraq insurgency along the way?

Is that the plan? A setup?

Well, nuking the fuck out of Iran would be a quick way to end the newly-developing arms race, wouldn't it?

"Hey, King Abdullah! Ya really wanna go there, do you?"


UPDATE: Iraq Expels 2 Iranians Detained by U.S.:
The decision to free the men was made by the Iraqi government and has angered U.S. military officials who say the operatives were seeking to foment instability here.

"These are really serious people," said one U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They were the target of a very focused raid based on intelligence, and it would be hard for one to believe that their activities weren't endorsed by the Iranian government. It's a situation that is obviously troubling."

One of the commanders, identified by officials simply as Chizari, was the third-highest-ranking official of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' al-Quds Brigade, the unit most active in aiding, arming and training groups outside Iran, including Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, U.S. officials said. The other commander was described as equally significant to Iran's support of foreign militaries but not as high-ranking.

American military forces nabbed the two men in raids last week... The Iraqi government decided to honor Tehran's claims that the two detainees had diplomatic immunity. U.S. officials had argued that although the men had diplomatic passports, they were operating under aliases and therefore not immune.

Despite their frustration at the release of the Iranians, U.S. officials said a strong message has been sent to Iran that its operatives will be tracked down and that it will be held accountable for its activities in Iraq...

U.S. officials said they now had a treasure trove of data from computers and documents and the lists of weaponry recently shipped to Iraq...

The raids deeply angered officials in the Iraqi government, which is hoping that building ties with Iran could help stem the violence in Iraq. They set in motion a flurry of diplomatic moves to secure the release of the two men.

"The story the Americans said is not true," said Sami al-Askari, a member of parliament and a close adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "They said these were military men with diplomatic status. But they failed to prove anything."

"Iraq is trying to have a solid relationship with its neighbors."

December 26, 2006

The Race For Iraq's Resources:
The Iraqi government is working on a new hydrocarbons law that will set the course for the country's oil sector and determine where its vast revenues will flow. The consequences for such a law in such a state are huge. Not only could it determine the future shape of the Iraqi federation -- as regional governments battle with Baghdad's central authority over rights to the riches -- but it could put much of Iraqi oil into the hands of foreign oil companies...

Nevertheless, the draft law lays the ground work for private oil companies to take large stakes in Iraq's oil. The new law would allow the controversial partnerships known as 'production sharing agreements' (PSA). Oil companies favor PSAs, because they limit the risk of cost overruns while giving greater potential for profit. PSAs tend to be massive legal agreements, designed to replace a weak or missing legal framework -- which is helpful for a country like Iraq that lacks the laws needed to attract investment.

It's also dangerous. It means governments are legally committing themselves to oil deals that they've negotiated from a position of weakness. And, the contracts typically span decades. Companies argue they need long-term legal security to justify huge investments in risky countries; the current draft recommends 15 to 20 years.

Nevertheless, Iraq carries little exploratory risk -- OPEC estimates Iraq sits atop some 115 billion barrels of reserves and only a small fraction of its oil fields are in use. By signing oil deals with Iraq, oil companies could account for those reserves in their books without setting foot in the country -- that alone is enough to boost the company's stock. And, by negotiating deals while Iraq is unstable, companies could lock in a risk premium that may be much lower five or ten years from now.

Without drastic improvements in the security situation, companies are unlikely to begin operations anytime soon. "The legislation is not a golden bullet," one industry source told SPIEGEL ONLINE. Western oil companies are happy to receive Iraqi officials in their European headquarters, but are not keen to return the visit. Firms from China, Russia and India, however, are less intimidated by Iraq's precarious security situation and actively court Baghdad on its home turf.

Russia, after all, knows first hand what's at stake. They negotiated PSAs after the fall of communism, but the terms turned out to be so disadvantageous that they've taken to nationalizing the projects in question. Not unlike Iraq today, Russia then had weak governance and needed the money.

That's why some fear Iraq is setting its course too hastily and in too much secrecy. Greg Muttitt of social and environmental NGO Platform London told SPIEGEL ONLINE: "I was recently at a meeting of Iraqi MPs (members of parliament) and asked them how many of them had seen the law. Out of twenty, only one MP had seen it."

Last week, the Iraqi Labor Union Leadership suggested the same. "The Iraqi people refuse to allow the future of their oil to be decided behind closed doors," their statement reads. "(T)he occupier seeks and wishes to secure themselves energy resources at a time when the Iraqi people are seeking to determine their own future while still under conditions of occupation."

Many worry instability would only get worse if the public feels cheated by the government and multinationals -- the Iraqi constitution says the oil belongs to the Iraqi people. The Labor Union Leadership warned: "We strongly reject the privatization of our oil wealth, as well as production sharing agreements, and there is no room for discussing the matter. This is the demand of the Iraqi street, and the privatization of oil is a red line that may not be crossed."

Peter Eigen, chairman of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a body that aims to bring improved governance in resource-rich countries, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that an open debate is crucial. "Civil society and private sector should play a role in this," he said. "If this doesn't happen, it will just be another country where the blessing of petroleum has been turned into a curse."

Why so fast?

Oil is central to Iraq's reconstruction and economic recovery, and the U.S. government is urging Iraq to develop the sector quickly. The recent Iraq Study Group report recommended the US help Iraq "prepare a draft oil law" to hasten investment. The report estimates Iraq could raise oil production from 2 million to 3 or 3.5 million barrels per day over the next three to five years.

Critics say the US is leaning on the IMF and World Bank to push Iraq into signing oil contracts fast, so western firms can secure the oil before Chinese, Indian and Russian firms do. An IMF official told SPIEGEL ONLINE that "passage of a hydrocarbon law is not a condition for financial support from the IMF." Nevertheless, Iraqi authorities found it necessary to promise the IMF a draft petroleum law by the end of this year -- this in the same letter that says "we will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the program remains on track."

The IMF sets the conditions for Iraq's debt relief from the so-called Paris Club countries. Eighty percent of that debt has been wiped clean, and the final 20 percent depends on certain economic reforms. With the final reduction, Iraq's debt would come to 33 percent of its GDP -- but if the reforms are not made, debt would climb to 57 percent of GDP, according to an IMF report.

Criticisms have also been levelled against the World Bank, where former US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz is in charge. Wolfowitz has been accused of pushing a US agenda after opening a World Bank office in Baghdad.

Most agree that Iraq should develop its oil -- the question is how and how fast. Apart from the law's content, Eigen stresses the drafting process must be transparent for any law to succeed: "Everything that is done behind closed doors will probably have to be renegotiated later."
Report: Japan developing nuclear warhead. Nuff said!
It looks like there is a global nuclear arms race underway in 2007: Japan, the Saudis and other "allies" are now actively pursing nukes (if Iran and NK have them...).

Meanwhile, I can't help wondering if Bush's "surge" ballyhoo is just providing political cover for behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts which are more in line with the ISG recommendations?

EG, Israel talking nice, suggestions of a $10 billion "jobs fund" for Iraq, etc.

If behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts cut violence in Iraq, Bush can pretend it was his bold military resilience that did it.

Whaddayareckon? I know I shouldn't hope against Bush pursuing a full-on military solution...

December 23, 2006

The Middle East Nuclear Arms Race

Try to see it their way... For example, "Bickering Saudis" have their own ideological struggles:
“Iran has become more dangerous than Israel itself,” said Sheik Musa bin Abdulaziz, editor of the magazine Al Salafi, who describes himself as a moderate Salafi, a fundamentalist Muslim movement. “The Iranian revolution has come to renew the Persian presence in the region. This is the real clash of civilizations.”

Many here say a showdown with Iran is inevitable. After several years of a thaw in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Saudis are growing concerned that Iran may build a nuclear bomb and become the de facto superpower in the region.

In recent weeks, the Saudis, with other Persian Gulf countries, have announced plans to develop peaceful nuclear power.
Emphasis mine. So now we have a Middle East arms race: if Israel and Iran can do it, they are all thinking, why can't we?

And Condi Rice says no one should mourn the passing of the "old Middle East" because "it was going to burn down anyway, one of these days."

I wonder if a nuclear Armaggeddon is what she had in mind?
Uncle Sam's Middle East

Scary words from Bob Gates:
"I think the message that we are sending to everyone, not just Iran, is that the United States is an enduring presence in this part of the world. We have been here for a long time. We will be here for a long time and everybody needs to remember that - both our friends and those who might consider themselves our adversaries," he said.
That tells you all you need to know about "withdrawal" from Iraq.

December 22, 2006

2006: Don't Look Back?

The Nation reviews 2006: A Year of Living Dangerously. If they are right, 2007 will be even more dangerous - for Bush & Co.

Here are my predictions for the coming year:

1. By this time next year, the GOP and Dems will be in a no-holds-barred catfight over Executive Privilege. There will be subpoenas flying in all directions as Dems try to expose the criminal misdeeds of the past five years and Reps desperately try to characterize it as dirty partisan politics. Sadly, it will all be politicized by the looming 2008 elections. Any progress the Dems make will be locked up in court, while Bush prepares a list of pardons that will more than quadruple any previous list.

2. Iraq will grind onward in ever deeper violence and misery. Howard and Bush will maintain their fantasy and keep stalling for time. PM Gordon Brown will unilaterally announce a timetable for withdrawal of UK troops by mid 2008.

3. SOMEBODY in Iraq will sign a new Oil Law giving Big Oil the PSAs they crave (later Iraqi rulers will dismiss the contract as illegitimate) but private security firms will baulk at supplying the personnel to protect pipelines, drill new wells, etc. Big Oil will have to sit back and wait, contracts in pocket.

4. John Howard's poll ratings will continue to sink as the Australian federal election looms in Oct/Nov. Either a terrorist attack on Australia soil will provide a sudden turnaround, or Howard, citing health reasons, will quit politics to spend more time with his family.

5. Gandhi's blogs will continue to suck and attract minimal visitors. He will continue to contemplate an end to blogging but will not be able to pull the plug on this compulsive habit. He will start writing a new book at least a dozen times, never getting past the opening paras and/or a general outline. George Soros will not send him any money.

6. The sun will continue to rise, glorious and majestic, every morning. Villagers in sleepy Third World communities will continue to appreciate its glory more than caffeine-addicted office workers in the concrete jungles of New York, Paris, London, Sydney, Tokyo, and Brussels. Global warming will continue to seep into the collective consciousness, with new hybrid electric cars and much-touted political initiatives that will fail to live up to their promises.

7. In response to slower ratings and changing political realities, the Murdoch media empire will continue to drift slowly away from its radical Zionist agenda without ever admitting error or relinquishing control of the levers of government in Australia, the UK and the USA. Global institutions like the IMF and World Bank will continue consolidating power in the hands of a global corporate elite, whose fortunes will continue to grow even larger. Protest groups will become more organized, but police interference with these groups will also grow. Political leaders, backed by the Murdoch press, will characterize such groups as "radical terrorists" and use harsh anti-terror laws to supress them. At least one major news story along such lines will be revealed as a hoax (but a later police investigation will reveal nothing).
Breaking The Shackles

Max Hastings previews Gordon Brown, PM:
This is the problem about dealing with a US leader who takes his cues from God. Bush will remain capable of almost anything until the day he leaves office, which is likely to be after the next British election...

Today, thanks to Blair's identification with Bush, we find ourselves facing enemies whom we do not wish to fight, and associated with causes in which we have no belief. Brown will be offered a chance to break the shackles. He should take this, however much it hurts.
The Question Is WHY Don't They Want You To Know The Truth?

Dead On Arrival:
Note to the reader: The following is a critique of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) report on the World Trade Center (WTC) collapse. The 43 volume NIST report was the result of a 3 year investigation, and was released in September 2005. It remains the official US government explanation for why the WTC collapsed on 9/11. As you are about to discover, the report itself collapses under scrutiny. There is no doubt that the NIST investigation was politically controlled by limiting its scope, thereby making the truth unobtainable. This is one way to neuter an investigation.
What have they got to hide? Here's a taste:
The persistence of molten steel under the WTC for many weeks is extraordinary–––and anomalous. Evidently, the hot spots under the wreckage were not in the least fazed by heavy rain on September 14-15, nor by the millions of gallons of water that firemen and cleanup crews sprayed on the smoking ruins. Five days after the attack the US Geological Survey (USGS) found dozens of “hot spots” in the wreckage via remote sensing, i.e., an infrared spectrometer (AVIRIS). The two hottest spots were under WTC 2 and WTC 7. The USGS recorded surface temperatures as high as 747°C (1376°F)).[8] The molten pools below the pile must have been at least twice as hot––––hot enough to evaporate rain and the water sprayed on the pile, long before it reached the bottom...

There is no way to avoid the conclusion that the molten materials under the wreckage, as well as the smoldering fires, were a residual product of whatever caused the collapse of the WTC. Something on September 11, 2001 burned hot enough to melt steel in the basement of both towers. But such a deduction is too simple, evidently, or too provocative for the NIST, which made a decision not to go there.
Just a crazy conspiracy theory?
Although the WTC’s soaring lines gave the impression of a relatively light frame, in fact, the towers were extremely rugged, engineered to withstand hurricane-force winds and to survive a direct hit by a Boeing 707, the largest commercial jetliner of the day. In a 1993 interview the WTC’s principal structural engineer, John Skilling, stated that prior to construction he performed an impact analysis of a 600 mph Boeing 707 impact, and concluded “that the building structure would still be there.” The architectural firm that worked with Skilling described his 1,200 page structural analysis as “the most complete and detailed ever made for any building structure.” Frank A. Demartini, onsite manager during the construction of the WTC, seconded this view during a January 25, 2001 interview, in which he noted that the study involved “a fully loaded 707.” Demartini even declared that “the building probably could sustain multiple impacts of jetliners because this structure is like the mosquito netting on your screen door, this intense grid, and the jet plane is just a pencil puncturing that screen netting.” Demartini kept an office in the North Tower and was last seen on 9/11 assisting evacuees on the 78th floor.
Read the full article here and decide for yourself. Bottom line:
Only the truth about 9/11 can free us from the current tyranny of secrecy and lies which today is a far greater threat to our liberty than any foreign enemy.
Mohammed and its most common alternative spelling, Muhammad, are now more popular babies' names in England and Wales than George.

December 21, 2006

Jeb Spits: "No Tengo Futuro"

Even Jeb Bush hates Dubya:
"No tengo futuro (I have no future),"Jeb Bush told Spanish-language reporters in Miami, when asked about any possible political ambitions after he steps down next month...

Bush did not elaborate on his terse "no future" comment. But he has said repeatedly over the past year that he would not run for president in 2008 and has never seemed comfortable with talk about Bush III or the Bush presidential dynasty.
No wonder Poppy was crying. The idiot son has fucked up everything.

And yeah, I know I am swearing too much these days: I need a holiday, and I am going to take one.
So what happened to John Conyers? Seems he has decided impeachment is impossible as long as the Dems hold only a slim majority and many of them will not even contemplate impeachment. But he is still keen to see Bush held accountable. How?
William M. Arkin says Bush can't see past today's events to craft a strategy for tomorrow.
They say that the Army and Marine Corps has been stretched to a breaking point, that more troops are needed to fight the "long war" against global terrorism.

I might be convinced that America might need a larger (or different) military to address the challenges it will face in the future. But what it needs FIRST is to get out of the Iraq, a move that would instantly alleviate the pressures on today's military.

And America needs a larger non-military. Whether it's Iraq, drugs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa, hurricane Katrina, or the increase in domestic crime it is so clear only Washington can't see that our tendency to see a military solution to everything is not only wrong but has had profound negative effects.
The Mahablog has a great look at the USA's unhealthy dependency on a military economy:
Chalmers discusses “military Keynesianism,” in which “the flow of the nation’s wealth — from taxpayers and (increasingly) foreign lenders through the government to military contractors and (decreasingly) back to the taxpayers.” As a result, “the domestic economy requires sustained military ambition in order to avoid recession or collapse.” Then, he ties military Keynesianism to the “unitary executive” theory and Bush’s increasingly unchecked power. Meanwhile, citizens and media dutifully “abet their government in maintaining a facade of constitutional democracy until the nation drifts into bankruptcy.”
The Corporate Occupation Of Iraq

The untold story from Antonia Juhasz:
After firing Iraq’s senior bureaucrats, Bremer’s next law in Iraq allowed for, among other things, the privatization of Iraq's state-owned enterprises—excluding oil—and for American companies to receive preferential treatment over Iraqis in the awarding of reconstruction contracts. These laws were part of a series of economic policies implemented by Bremer, virtually all of which remain in place today, to "transition [Iraq] from a … centrally planned economy to a market economy" virtually overnight and by U.S. fiat. The laws reduced taxes on all corporations by 25 percent, opened every sector of the Iraqi economy (except oil) to private foreign investment, allowed foreign firms to own 100 percent of Iraqi businesses (as opposed to partnering with Iraqi firms), and to send their profits home without having to invest a cent in the struggling Iraqi economy. Thus, Iraqi laws governing banking, foreign investment, patents, copyrights, business ownership, taxes, the media, and trade were all changed according to U.S. goals, with little participation from the Iraqi people.

What followed was a U.S. corporate invasion of Iraq.

While some 150 U.S. companies received contracts for work in Iraq following the invasion, the big reconstruction winners (after Halliburton) were: Parsons Corporation of Pasadena, Calif. ($5.3 billion); Fluor Corporation of Aliso Viejo, Calif. ($3.75 billion); Washington Group International of Boise, Idaho ($3.1 billion); Shaw Group of Baton Rouge, Louisiana ($3 billion); Bechtel Corporation of San Francisco, Calif. ($2.8 billion); Perini Corporation of Framingham, Mass. ($2.5 billion); and Contrack International, Inc. of Arlington, Va. ($2.3 billion).

These seven companies are responsible for virtually all reconstruction in Iraq, including water, electricity, bridges, roads, hospitals and sewers. One reason for their failure was that companies, such as Bechtel, came to Iraq with the hopes of ultimately winning contracts to privatize the services they were hired to rebuild. Because many U.S. contracts guaranteed that all of the companies’ costs would be covered, plus a set rate of profit—known as “cost-plus contracts”—they took their time, built expensive new facilities that showcased their skills and would serve their own needs were they to run the systems one day.

The American companies were hired instead of Iraqi companies that had successfully rebuilt Iraq after the previous U.S. invasion. And, because the Americans did not have to hire Iraqis, many imported foreign workers instead. The Iraqis were of course well aware that American firms had received billions of dollars for reconstruction, that Iraqi companies and workers had been rejected and that the country was still without basic services. The result was increasing hostility, acts of sabotage targeted directly at foreign contractors and their work and a rising insurgency.

In the end, Iraq has not emerged as the wealthy free-market haven these companies and others waiting on the horizon had hoped for, at least not yet (the economic policies put in place by the Bush administration remain and the work is ongoing to turn Iraq into a corporate-friendly Middle East Mecca).
Bush: Acknowledging Reality Would Damage My Legacy. Therefore, I Will Not Acknowledge Reality

Or should that be:
A naked emperor would be highly embarrassing. Therefore, I must be wearing clothes.
Anyway, here's Bush today:
"Failure in Iraq will condemn a generation of young Americans to permanent threat from overseas. Therefore, we will succeed in Iraq."
What nonsense. First of all, is it really true that a US withdrawal from Iraq would create a lasting terrorist threat to the USA? Only if groups like Al Quaeda somehow took over the country, explointed the oil resources for profits, and used those profits to attack the USA (forsaking their primary goal of an Islamic caliphate across the Middle East).

Secondly, even if you go along with that mad logic, it doesn't mean that continuing to pursue failed military policies is going to achieve the outcome you desire.

Mind you, Bush is still keeping his options open on the "surge" nonsense:
"I have not made up my mind. There has to be a specific mission that can be accomplished with more troops before I agree on that strategy."
It seems Bush is being forced to re-think the "surge" tactic because too many US military commanders on the ground in Iraq oppose it. Stay tuned for more.
Condi Rice: Child Prodigy or Stupid, Lying Bitch?

Half a million dead, a nation in tatters, a region in turmoil. But rather than acknowledging her complicity in the disaster, Condoleeza Rice keeps trying to wash the blood from her hands:
"The old Middle East was not going to stay," Dr Rice said on Tuesday. "Let's stop moaning [about] the old Middle East. It was not so great and it was not going to survive anyway."
And she is still clinging desperately to the WWII analogies:
"Go back and put yourself in that time," she said. There were "things that could have gone very badly and thrown the whole beginning of the Cold War in a completely different direction", she said, ticking off the gains made by French communists, the civil war in Greece, the victory of Chinese communists and other foreign policy setbacks.

"Does it look that much better than it looks now in the Middle East? I don't think so," Dr Rice said. "When you are at the beginning of a big historical transition, it's very tough."
Yeah, Condi, it's hard work trying to invent a new excuse for another version of the Cold War, isn't it? But one day Halliburton, Lockheed Martin and all the other corporate giants of the US military-industrial complex will thank you for a "heckuva job".

Meanwhile, Condi is throwing the "old" Middle East in the basket with "Old Europe":
"But that Middle East was going to break down ... One way or another it was going to come apart."
If I came home from work and my kids had intentionally set fire to the house, I'd be furious with them. But if they then had the Chutzpah to tell me "it was going to burn down anyway, one of these days"... Grrr!!!
So much for Bush's crap about "listening to the commanders on the ground".

After criticizing Bush's "surge" tactics, lack of pre-war planning, and general characterization of the war, US General Abizaid quits.
Contractors Lost in Pentagon Bureaucracy:
The Pentagon is still struggling to get a handle on the unprecedented number of contractors now helping run the nation's wars, losing millions of dollars because it is unable to monitor industry workers stationed in far-flung locations, according to a congressional report.

The investigation by the Government Accountability Office, which released the report Tuesday, found that the Defense Department's inability to manage contractors effectively has hurt military operations and unit morale and cost the Pentagon money...

According to the report, some 60,000 contractors are supporting the Army in Southwest Asia, a region that includes Iraq. That figure is compared to the 9,200 contractors used to support the military in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

This unprecedented number of contractors on the battlefield means loss of visibility, GAO reports.

December 20, 2006

Bush Talks

Bush gave the WaPo a 25-minute interview which was very revealing.

Here's the WaPo spin on it:
"We're not winning, we're not losing," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. The assessment was a striking reversal for a president who, days before the November elections, declared, "Absolutely, we're winning."
I just wonder what deal WaPo made with the Prez to secure this interview. Yeah, call me a cynic.

Ken Lowell has the full, verbatim interview here.

This is one that is going to get trawled over and analyzed for a week or more. Just go read the whole thing for yourselves.

Bringing It All Back Home:
"The American public is odd," Pogue says. "They seem to lack the imagination to know that you can't indiscriminately bomb civilian areas without hurting civilians. I would like people to be confronted with the consequences of what's going on."
The Austin Chronicle describes how No More Victims was formed:
The project began with one Iraqi girl Pogue photographed on a bus in a tiny village in March 2000. Her right arm was an amputated stump, and Pogue knew she had been injured in a U.S. air strike. Pogue, who was in Iraq as a member of a Veterans for Peace effort to rebuild a water treatment plant, snapped the girl's picture. For then, that was that.

Two years later, during the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, Cole Miller was looking for photographs to make a poster protesting the war. He contacted Pogue, whose photographs he had seen online. Pogue sent him the picture of the girl. It was perfect. Miller's poster, which read, "Are you willing to kill her to get to Saddam?" was downloaded from his Web site tens of thousands of times, in nine different languages, and used in anti-war demonstrations all over the world. It's not hard to see why. The girl's eyes in the photograph draw you in.

The picture haunted both Pogue and Miller, who became friends. They started to ask each other if it would be possible to learn the girl's name, find her, do something for her. Later that year, Pogue returned to Iraq and, with the help of Iraqi contacts, learned that the girl's name was Asra'a Amir Mizyad, and that she lived in the small village of Abu Floos. He also heard more of her story. Asra'a lost her arm when she was nine, in a 1999 U.S. missile attack that inexplicably targeted her small village as she was walking home from school. Pogue researched military and press accounts of the incident and discovered that the same plane fired another missile that morning, in nearby Basra. Two young brothers, Haider and Mostafa Dinar, were struck by the blast while walking to the candy store. Haider died. Six-year-old Mostafa lived, but his left hand was mangled, and several scraps of shrapnel lodged in his body, including one large piece near his spine that doctors were afraid to remove.

Pogue and Miller contacted the families of Asra'a and Mostafa and began making plans to bring them to the U.S. for medical care. The Iraqi health care system – badly weakened by a decade of U.S. economic sanctions that limited access to basic medical supplies – was struggling to cope with the victims of the latest war. Bandages, painkillers, even bags to hold donated blood were at a premium. There was no prosthetics plant in the country capable of restoring Mostafa's hand or Asra'a's arm. "If their families had been able to get care for them," Pogue says, "there was no care to get." Pogue and Miller started making plans to get U.S. medical visas for Mostafa, Asra'a, and their families.

Meanwhile, the clock was running down as a U.S. invasion of Iraq became more and more of a certainty. In March 2003, Pogue and Miller flew to Amman, Jordan. The timing of the trip was terrible. As the invasion began, the bureaucratic maneuvering required to obtain medical visas to the U.S. became ever more intricate, and the two were running out of money. In the end, Mostafa and his mother were able to fly to Los Angeles where he received surgery to remove the shrapnel from his body, a prosthetic glove to cover his damaged hand, and post-traumatic counseling. Asra'a and her father had to be left behind in Iraq.

It was more than a year before they could return for her. Pogue and Miller flew to Kuwait City in September 2004. They had since received support in the U.S. Congress from Austin Rep. Lloyd Doggett and California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who called the embassy to press for visas to be extended to Asra'a and her father, Abdulameir Salman. It took five weeks for the paperwork to come through, but finally Pogue and Miller were able to bring Asra'a and Abdulameir to Houston, where Asra'a would be fitted for a prosthetic arm and taught to use it, pro bono, at the Shriners Hospital for Children.
There is more, if you read the article, and more still at

The funny thing is, back in 1999, when Asra'a lost her arm and No More Victims got started, I was an aspiring cartoonist. I actually made a cartoon about the bombing of Saddam by lame duck President, George Bush (nobody bothered with the H.W. initials, since we never imagined this failed Presidency would ever be duplicated). I'll see if I can find it and post it...
After giving Bush the thumbs-up for an increase in troop numbers, Sen. Harry Reid says:
I do not support an escalation of the conflict.
Growing The Military, Grabbing The Oil, and Wagging The Dog

Gandhi blows his top after being called a bigot at RTS:
If Dubya thinks …(etc) .. he’s living in an alternative universe…
Or maybe he is just stalling for time. And maybe his declared goals of WMDs and “Terrrsts” and “spreading Democracy” and “victory” have always just been an ever-shiftin PR farce to hide the real, un-changing agenda: permanent US military bases and control of Iraq’s oil reserves.

And maybe we all just keep following the “story” that Bush and Cheney have planted in the media, and even parrotting their talking points, memes and loaded expressions (”war on terror”, “Coalition of the Willing”, etc).

And maybe it is just not possible to have an intelligent discussion about this stupid, murderous war on those terms.
Even The Iraqis Think The War Was A Terrible Mistake

A new report from Chatham House concludes that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was a "terrible mistake" leading to a "debacle" that will have repercussions on policy for years.
"The root failure (of Blair's foreign policy) has been the inability to influence the Bush administration in any significant way despite the sacrifice -- military, political and financial -- that the United Kingdom has made," the report said.

"Tony Blair has learned the hard way that loyalty in international politics counts for very little," it said.
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said the report was "ridiculously wrong." Australia Foreign Minister Alexander Downer backs her up:
"It seems to me as an outsider that what is more important than what someone from Chatham House thinks is what the Iraqi people think," Mr Downer said after meetings with his UK counterpart Margaret Beckett.

"I would have thought that would pip at the post someone from Chatham House in terms of relevance."
OK, so what are the Iraqi's saying? Well 90% or more want us out of their country. And Iraq's Vice President says Bush 'brainwashed' Blair into back-tracking on a pledged Iraq pullout:
Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi told New York's Council on Foreign Relations that when he spoke with Blair about three months ago, the British leader was supportive of his appeal for the United States and Britain to say when they would withdraw.

"I had just convinced him," Hashemi said. "He promised he was going to discuss the subject with President Bush, but at the end of the day, it's quite unfortunate, that your president (made) some sort of brainwashing of Mr. Blair."
UPDATE: Blair defends close ties with US:
"You won't find a situation in which you are able to make progress in Israel-Palestine without America and everybody knows that," Blair said.

"So us having a strong relationship with America is one reason why when I come and discuss the Israel-Palestine issue out in the Middle East, you are having a different type of conversation, precisely because you've got the relationship with America."
The problem is, dear Tony, that you do not have a "strong relationship" with the USA. You have a servile, weak and ultimately useless relationship.

If you really want to have an influence on US policy, the best thing to do is walk away from them when they make mistakes and refuse to change.
Five days before Christmas, David Hicks refuses to speak to his father. He has also refused visits from Australian consulate officials. Sure doesn't sounds like a man in a fit mental state.

UPDATE: Hicks' father says Hicks is at breaking point:
"He's really struggling, he's just not coping," Mr Hicks said.

"For him to do that, it shows he's just not right. The emotional stress on him must be terrible...

"He has probably thought 'do I need to go through this mental stress' and speak to the family.

"The Australian government says he's OK ... but they're cold, they have got no heart, they don't care about him."
Breaking: Blair Bullshit Bombshell

From the UK's Independent:
The Government's case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony Blair lied over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.

In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests."

Mr Ross revealed it was a commonly held view among British officials dealing with Iraq that any threat by Saddam Hussein had been "effectively contained".

He also reveals that British officials warned US diplomats that bringing down the Iraqi dictator would lead to the chaos the world has since witnessed. "I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed)," he said.

"At the same time, we would frequently argue when the US raised the subject, that 'regime change' was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos."

He claims "inertia" in the Foreign Office and the "inattention of key ministers" combined to stop the UK carrying out any co-ordinated and sustained attempt to address sanction-busting by Iraq, an approach which could have provided an alternative to war.

Mr Ross delivered the evidence to the Butler inquiry which investigated intelligence blunders in the run-up to the conflict.

The Foreign Office had attempted to prevent the evidence being made public, but it has now been published by the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs after MPs sought assurances from the Foreign Office that it would not breach the Official Secrets Act.

It shows Mr Ross told the inquiry, chaired by Lord Butler, "there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW [chemical warfare], BW [biological warfare] or nuclear material" held by the Iraqi dictator before the invasion. "There was, moreover, no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or the US," he added.
Bush Versus Eisenhower

The US military is today stretched too thin to cope with the demands Bush and Cheney have placed on it. Therefore, according to Bush, we need to expand the size of the military:
The Army has already temporarily increased its size from 482,000 active-duty soldiers in 2001 to 507,000 today and soon to 512,000. But the Army wants to make that 30,000-soldier increase permanent and then grow an additional 7,000 soldiers or more per year. The Army estimates that every 10,000 additional soldiers will cost about $1.2 billion a year.
Let me just respond with the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, from a visionary 1961 speech:
We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.

Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad...

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together

As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.
Vanity Fair Nails The Neocons

The piece is called Neo Culpa. It's a good read, if you want to go over all that again.

But seriously, how many such articles must be written before these neo-cons are just written off forever as laughing stocks, or worse?
Who Speaks For The Victims of War? You?

This is Umar.
Umar was traveling from Mosul to Baghdad with his mother, father, and brother to celebrate Eid with relatives. When the family reached Samara, the bus was attacked by US forces. His father suffered gunshot wounds to his arm and back, and multiple shrapnel injuries. His mother was killed in the attack. The bus driver and two other passengers died at the scene.
Umar looks like a very brave little boy, doesn't he? What sort of future do you think he has?

One of the problems with charity work is that, no matter how unimaginable the horrors involved, the appeal for help is almost always kind of boring. I don't know why that is so, but it's a fact. For some reason, when it comes to charities, our minds switch off. It takes an adrenalin-pumping event like a Band Aid concert or a live telethon to really get our attention (and our money) and even then the window of opportunity only lasts for an hour or two. Chimpanzees probably have a greater sense of empathy.

Take the Boxing Day tsunami in Asia, for example. In its own way, it was every bit as shocking as 9/11. As long as the TV news was pumping out fresh video footage of the surging seas and screaming victims, the world's attention was riveted and the charity money poured in. But a few months later, nobody could even be bothered to see what had happened to the money they sent.

Then there is something the TV producers call "fatigue". Watching endless visions of violence in Iraq, day after day, the audience starts to mentally switch off. They flick channels. Never mind that the other channel is showing some cheap police drama with FAKE car-bombings! The human mind can only take so much, it seems. We seek escape into the world of fantasy.

But every now and again something creeps through the fog and wedges itself in your consciousness. Is it a curse, a blessing, an opportunity, a message?

After seeing Dahr Jamail's photos of little Shams the other day, I was close to tears. I bit my lip and swore at my computer. I had to go outside for a little walk in the fresh air. But when I came back to my computer, I was still choked up.

I showed the picture to some colleagues at work, just to gauge their reaction. Was this image really so troubling, or was it just me?

"Terrible," they said. "Just terrible."

Then they went back to work, before they got in trouble for wasting time. I guess they were fatigued.

When I came home, I showed my wife. She didn't say anthing.

"She's the same age as Aisha," I said.

Eventually I sent an email to Dahr Jamail, asking if he had any more information on Shams, and if there was anything I could do to help. Here is his reply:
Thank you for your concern. The best suggestion I have is to visit this link:


This group is doing the best job I know of helping Iraqi children like Shams, and I know that they are aware of her plight.
Hey, you! YOU! Did you click on the link? Can I ask you a favour? Please? Will you please just click on the link and go take a look. Please?

These people are not trying to shock you with horrific images or harangue you with a political guilt trip. They are just trying to help ordinary kids like Umar and Shams, the innocent victims of an horrifically violent war.

I know, there are more exciting sites on the Internet. But please, just consider the daily reality that these little kids are facing, think about the world you want to live in, and help create that world today.




December 19, 2006

Sean Penn:
So...look, if we attempt to impeach for lying about a blowjob, yet accept these almost certain abuses without challenge, we become a cum-stain on the flag we wave.
Kucinich: We could exit Iraq in sixty days:
CQ: This is your second consecutive shot for the presidency. How do you feel 2008 will be different from 2004 for you?

Kucinich: Well, it’s already different in the sense that I was right. I go into the 2008 election as the one person who campaigned continually on opposition to the war, who from inside the Congress challenged the war. And everything I said was right, so people can now look to me and say, “Well, there’s a leader. There’s somebody who had the foresight to challenge the war from the beginning.”

But there’s something else that’s happened. And the other thing that’s different is that the American people have given the Democrats the power of the government. We are now the majority, and we are a co-equal branch of government. The people gave that to us on one issue and one issue alone: Iraq.

So I’m in a singular position of encouraging my party to rise to the occasion, to accept the mantle of responsibility, to confirm the will of the people, and to take steps to bring our troops home. ... People are waiting for Democrats to take this direction so my position is to protect the ability of the Democratic Party to have a Democratic president in 2008, and to take the nation in a new direction that’s consistent with the aspirations of Democrats.

But everything that we care about —health care, education, housing, job creation, the environment — all of those issues are going to be swept aside by war, by the fiscal drain of the war. ... If Democrats go through with their plan to put the war on budget, that means cutting the very programs that we care about.

We shouldn’t be in this kind of Hobbesian choice. We should be having a clear position that accepts the verdict of the people in November. The people said we want the Democrats to take over, the issue is Iraq, we want the Democrats to give us a new direction, that direction obviously is out.
After a little prompting from TPM, the Pentagon finally releases overdue figures showing attacks on US-led forces, local security personnel and civilians in Iraq 'at all-time high':
"Attack levels - both overall and in all specific measurable categories - were the highest on record during this reporting period," said the report, entitled Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq, produced for the US Congress.

The average number of attacks per week rose to 959 in the three months between August 12 and November 10 from 784 in the previous three months, according to figures provided by the Pentagon to accompany the report.
Team America, Fuck Yeah!

For real:
U.S. Special Forces teams sent overseas on secret spying missions have clashed with the CIA and carried out operations in countries that are staunch U.S. allies, prompting a new effort by the agency and the Pentagon to tighten the rules for military units engaged in espionage, according to senior U.S. intelligence and military officials.

The spy missions are part of a highly classified program that officials say has better positioned the United States to track terrorist networks and capture or kill enemy operatives in regions such as the Horn of Africa, where weak governments are unable to respond to emerging threats.

But the initiative has also led to several embarrassing incidents for the United States, including a shootout in Paraguay and the exposure of a sensitive intelligence operation in East Africa, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter. And to date, the Special Forces espionage effort has not led to the capture of a significant terrorism suspect.
This is actually not a new story, the LA Times are just re-hashing it as an issue for Bob Gates to deal with. And the "officials say" text I highlighted above is just the start of the big official "downplay" thread that runs through the article.

But the bottom line is this rather amazing fact: the USA has teams of armed, military-trained spies running around the world (including Europe) without the knowledge of anyone other than the local US Ambassador (supposedly), and these people are shooting, killing and kidnapping people. They are barely accountable to anyone. And they are prone to "accidents"!

With that in mind, check out this little story from Iraq:
Plain-clothes Americans have taken a former Iraqi electricity minister, who is a dual U.S. citizen, from Iraqi police custody where he was awaiting trial on corruption charges, Iraqi officials said on Monday.

The officials spoke variously of "U.S. forces" and men in "American cars" removing him on Sunday from his cell in a police station in the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi government and the U.S. and British embassies.
Of course, "plain-clothes Americans" in the Green Zone could be just about anybody, including private contractors (as the article suggests).

A lot of spooky people have reported to Uncle Donald Rumsfeld over the years, and it's a line of work where loyalties are sometimes stronger than chains of command. Rummy is supposed to be on his way out of town, but knowing the guy's Modus Operandi, and Cheney's continuing hold on power, you have to wonder.

The Iraqi minister was spruing from jail about the same time as, or shortly after, Rumsfeld's "farewell tour" of Baghdad.

December 18, 2006

I have no idea why this happened to me. My eyes were burned out of their sockets by a car bomb in Baghdad's Sadr City district.

Will I live? Will I die? Do you care?

I know nothing of your politics, your wars, your greed, your sweeping ideologies. Your moral justifications mean nothing to me.

I will never see my mother again. She died in the explosion.

When I am older, if I live, I will wonder who did this to me, and why. Will my heart be filled with anger and a thirst for vengeance? Or will I know only sorrow and sadness?

Stuff happens. This is what happened to me. I don't know why. I don't even ask why: I am just a baby. My name is Shams. It means "Sun".

Stuff happens to babies everyday: we take it all in, we learn from it, we build our view of the world piece by piece. This is my world. Look. This is what I have learned.

Somewhere on the other side of a world I can no longer see, a little baby girl just like me is learning about Christmas. She stares wide-eyed at pictures of Santa Claus, at Christmas trees with sparkling decorations and glistening stars symbolizing hope for all the world. She likes to go out into the garden at night, just before bed-time, and look up into the sky.

"Moo-oon!" she cries, pointing to the moon. "Star!"

She lives in a big house with air conditioning and a swimming pool. Her father, a part-time blogger, is building a new cubby house for her to share with her older brothers. In the mornings, when he goes to work, he kisses her good-bye.

"Bye bye, Daddy." she says. She doesn't know why he has to go to work every day. Like me, being a baby, she just accepts it. Her name is Aisha. It means "life".

Forty seven cents in every dollar her father makes at work is taken by his government. The money is used to pay the salaries of her country's politicians, to fund their Armed Forces and pay for their weapons, fighter jets and other tools of war.

Aisha lives in a peaceful country. She is lucky.

I will never see my mother again.


Photo from Dahr Jamail via Antony Loewenstein.

No words can compensate this poor little girl or her family. But one day, those of us whose countries brought this violent chaos to her doorstep will be expected to make reparations.

I hope and pray that day will come soon, and I hope we will be ready to do what must be done to mend the damage that has been wrought in our name.

The consciences of our leaders are as shrivelled and dry as this poor little girl’s eyes. I hope our hearts are not similiarly damaged beyond repair.
Maybe He Doesn't Inhale It?

Bush is drinking again (did he ever really stop?).

December 17, 2006

Tony Blair: Nothing Left But Spite

Tony Blair stabs Gordon Brown (and his own Labor Party) in the back by leaking a "secret memo" which was quite obviously designed to inflict damage on Brown's election campaign.

Blair is now escaping his latest, damning domestic troubles with the all-purpose, get-out-of-jail-free trip to Baghdad. Have you noticed how many of the war-mongers suddenly go to Baghdad whenever politics at home get uncomfortable? You can pretend the trip was pre-planned, but had to be kept secret. And nobody can give you a hard time when you are putting your life on the line, right?

What a tosser.

Mind you, Brown deserves what he gets for dancing with the devil so damned long.

UPDATE: Blair has made some very powerful enemies as this SMH article explains:
Mr Blair refused to offer public or even private backing to Lord Levy, who helped secure £14 million ($35 million) in secret loans for the Labour Party before the 2005 election...

In Turkey, at the start of his Middle East tour, Mr Blair was asked if Lord Levy should remain as his special Middle East envoy.

He replied: "No matter how many different ways you want to draw me into it [cash for honours] I'm not getting drawn into it." Asked why Mr Blair did not back Lord Levy, his spokesman said: "Because he did not want to get involved in answering questions on loans. He wants to concentrate on the substance of this visit."
The difference between the UK and US media will be on display here, as British papers hold Blair to account on this unfolding disaster.
Iraqslogger, a new Iraq-devoted blog with some serious backing, has a big scoop: a US counterinsurgency manual (PDF) published on the net for every man and his dog to read.
I always liked Matt Damon. He says Bush should send his own daughters off to Iraq, if the USA is really at war. Expect more when he appears on Hardball this week.

December 15, 2006

BushWorld: Amazing Coincidence #45,879,032,655,870

the OPEC basket price is up over $62 a barrel again. Surprised? You shouldn't be!

Remember how before the US elections, OPEC said they were going to cut production but nobody believed them, so prices kept dropping? Now suddenly it seems they are serious about it. Surprised? You shouldn't be!

Here's a little graph (slightly adapted) from Opec's own website.

Yup, the lowpoint came on exactly the week of the US Midterm elections, as I have pointed out in more detail before. Surprised? You shouldn't be!

We should actually be a bit more concerned that usual about this kind of blatantly political manipulation, given that Saudi Prince Bandar is encouraging Dick cheney to bomb Iran. Scared? You should be!

UPDATE: Somebody in the NZ government takes an interest:
Fiddling With Politics While Baghdad Burns

Josh Marshall asks readers about Bush and McCain's plans to send up to 30,000 more troops to Iraq. Here's my two cents' worth:
Nobody wants 20,000 more troops in Iraq and I don't believe it is going to happen. I think Bush and McCain are trying to wash their hands of the mess by coming up with an alternative they know full well is unacceptable.

After some theatrics, they will reluctantly agree to go along with a more reasonable plan. Then, when people point fingers, they can say, "Well, my plan was 20,000 more troops, but that was rejected."

These guys realize there are no good options left, and plenty of finger-pointing yet to be done. McCain is planning a 2008 campaign, Bush is safe-guarding his "legacy" as the rootinnest, tootinnest gun-swinger to ever suck down a root beer in the White House saloon.

The tragedy is that these supposed "leaders" continue ignoring others' suffering, and failing in their duties to both the US and Iraqi people, while placing their own agendas first.
Anti-war Activists: On To Afghanistan?

Here's Ted Rall today:
In the new reality-based reality, the difference between anti-war radicals and rabid neocon warmongers is that the latter would rather wait 18 months--as opposed to, say, an hour from now--before getting the hell out. Only nine percent of the public still thinks we can pound the resistance into submission, but who cares? Anyone that dumb is likely to die in some Darwin Award-nominated accident before he gets a chance to express another opinion.
That's just the intro. The full article is actually about how the Afghan War is also being lost, which is surely the Next Big Untold Story.

Along the way, Rall makes a pretty bold statement:
Afghanistan had nothing more to do with the attacks or the war on terror than Iraq.
Well, there is certainly some truth in that, from an ordinary Afghani's perspective anyway. On the other hand, Afghanistan did harbour Bin Laden (and offered to hand himn over to the USA: imagine how much "blood and treasure" would have been saved if someone had taken up that offer).
Laura Bush Wins Wanker Of The Day

I think it could be the first time Atrios has ever given the award to a woman (Anne Coulter doesn't count: she is a man). The winning quote came from a TV interview where Laura blamed the media for her husband's dismal polls:
I do know that there are a lot of good things that are happening that aren’t covered. And I think that the drum beat in the country from the media, from the only way people know what is happening unless they happened to have a loved one deployed there, is discouraging.
And how's this for the ultimate Fridge Magnet:

(NB: cross-posted from Howard Out - we Aussies love our fridge magnets)
Over 90% of Iraqis Believe Iraq Is Worse Now Than 2003

Al Jazeera:
Nearly 66 per cent of respondents to the Iraqi survey thought violence would decrease if US forces were to leave.
Ho Ho Ho!
An agent commented: "The presence of paraphernalia, chemical substances, gold, and foreign people without passports is certainly suspicious. Terrorists are known to fund terrorism activities through illegal drug trading. Or these could be part of an illegal-alien smuggling ring from Mexico. In either case the claim that these three are Kings is unsubstantiated as they are not diplomats registered with the Department of State."
Slipping Out The Back Door...

Bye Bye, Karl Rove:
To little notice in the national media, Bush presidential adviser Karl Rove disclosed during a Washington speaking engagement last week that he will not return to his lifetime profession as a political consultant when he leaves the White House. Rove referred to himself as "a former political consultant" and said that he was leaving the game.
Tony Snowjob explains why the US now does body counts:
Number one, when you’re fighting insurgents, if they’re dead, they’re not going to fight you anymore.

December 14, 2006

Saudi Arabia's Own Civil War

US denies Saudis threatened to back Iraqi Sunnis:
Bush pointedly went out of his way to state Saudi Arabia was committed to a unity government in Iraq during a meeting with top military brass on next steps in Iraq at the Pentagon.

"It's in their interest they do so. And we're working hard with them to figure out a strategy to help the Maliki government succeed," he said, referring to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

"I'm pleased when the Iraqi leaders go to Saudi Arabia and talk to my friend the king of Saudi Arabia, and talk about how they can work together to achieve stability," he said.
Oh, really? So the Saudis fully support Bush's position (whatever it is today)? Then how to explain this, on top of previous comments: Saudi royal family, government split on Iraq:
The resignation of Prince Turki al-Faisal, after just 15 months as ambassador to Washington, for example, came after Saudi officials concluded he was not succeeding at building strong ties with the United States, a Saudi official said Wednesday...

Turki last week fired a Saudi security consultant, Nawaf Obaid, after Obaid wrote in The Washington Post that "one of the first consequences" of any American troop pullout from Iraq would "be massive Saudi intervention" in Iraq "to stop Iranian-backed Shiite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis."

Saudi Arabia denied that Obaid was speaking on its behalf...

But the royal family has been sharply divided over what strategy to adopt toward Iraq, said two Saudis with close ties to the government, speaking anonymously because internal royal deliberations are highly sensitive. Some favor robust support of fellow Sunnis inside Iraq, while others urge caution.

The bottom line has been power struggles and indecision about the best course, both said.

"They have an obsession that Shiites and Iran will control Iraq, but they do not know how to stop that," said one Saudi. The other described what he called total confusion within the government over the best course.
Everywhere you look - Iraq, Dakota, Canberra, Brussels, the WaPo newsroom, the corner store, the local kindergarten - the divisiveness is apparent.

With us or against us. Patriots and ponces. Believers and infidels.
Kitty Does Oprah

I always wondered why such a high-profile black person as Oprah never dissed the Bush team. Looks like Kitty Kelly is about to explain:
Kitty has had plenty of turn-downs from editors and publishers who are afraid even to speak with her after they know about her latest project. But rumor has it that the Crown publishing house will allow Kitty to forge ahead giving Oprah the same treatment that she gave Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Reagan, the Bush dynasty and the British royals.
Kitty Kelly has a bad reputation in the USA, but I have never seen anything to fully explain it.

Her Bush family biography "The Family" was roundly dissed by every major US media outlet, and the Bushes denounced it as trash without ever deigning to refute any of the major claims in the book (and there are pleanty of them). It is actually a very well-researched, informative book. I thoroughly recommend it to any readers.
Globalization Is Hurting Our Children: A Graphic Example!

MEMO TO US READERS: Australian childcare company ABC Learning is about to become the second largest childcare operator in the United States. For your information, ABC Learning is the most abyssmal Child Care provider in Australia. Period. These people are scum. They treat your infant babies like capital resources. You have been warned.


Blog Archive