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 Saturday, May 31, 2003


Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) : Who Said What and When ?

READ here Dafna Linzer's (Associated Press) summary article on the international furore on lack of proof of Iraq's WMD for the war after 11 weeks.

Updated : May 30, 2003

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
Dick Cheney, US Vice President, Speech to VFW National Convention, August 26, 2002

Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.
George Bush, US President, Speech to UN General Assembly, September 12, 2002

If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.
Ari Fleischer, Press Briefing, December 2, 2002

We know for a fact that there are weapons there.
Ari Fleischer, Press Briefing, January 9, 2003

Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.
George Bush, US President, State of the Union Address, January 28, 2003

We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.
Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, Remarks to UN Security Council, February 5, 2003

We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.
George Bush,US President, Radio Address, February 8, 2003

So has the strategic decision been made to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction by the leadership in Baghdad? . . . I think our judgment has to be clearly not.
Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, Remarks to UN Security Council, March 7, 2003

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.
George Bush, US President, Address to the Nation, March 17, 2003

We are asked to accept Saddam decided to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd
Tony Blair, UK Prime Minister, 18 March, 2003

Intelligence leaves no doubt that Iraq continues to possess and conceal lethal weapons
George Bush, US President, 18 March, 2003

Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly . . . all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes.
Ari Fleischer, Press Briefing, March 21, 2003

There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. And . . . as this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them.
Gen. Tommy Franks, Press Conference, March 22, 2003

One of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD. There are a number of sites.
Pentagon Spokeswoman Victoria Clark, Press Briefing, March 22, 2003

I have no doubt we're going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction.
Defense Policy Board member, Kenneth Adelman, Washington Post, p. A27, March 23, 2003

We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.
Donald Rumsfeld,US Defense Secretary, ABC Interview, March 30, 2003

Saddam's removal is necessary to eradicate the threat from his weapons of mass destruction
Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary 2 April, 2003

Obviously the administration intends to publicize all the weapons of mass destruction U.S. forces find -- and there will be plenty.
Neocon scholar, Robert Kagan, Washington Post op-ed, April 9, 2003

I think you have always heard, and you continue to hear from officials, a measure of high confidence that, indeed, the weapons of mass destruction will be found.
Ari Fleischer, Press Briefing, April 10, 2003

We are learning more as we interrogate or have discussions with Iraqi scientists and people within the Iraqi structure, that perhaps he destroyed some, perhaps he dispersed some. And so we will find them.
George Bush, US President, NBC Interview, April 24, 2003

There are people who in large measure have information that we need . . . so that we can track down the weapons of mass destruction in that country.
Donald Rumsfeld,US Defense Secretary, Press Briefing, April 25, 2003

Before people crow about the absence of weapons of mass destruction, I suggest they wait a bit
Tony Blair , UK Prime Minister, 28 April, 2003

We'll find them. It'll be a matter of time to do so.
George Bush, US President, Remarks to Reporters, May 3, 2003

I'm absolutely sure that there are weapons of mass destruction there and the evidence will be forthcoming. We're just getting it just now.
Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, Remarks to Reporters, May 4, 2003

We never believed that we'd just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country.
Donald Rumsfeld, US Defense Secretary, Fox News Interview, May 4, 2003

I'm not surprised if we begin to uncover the weapons program of Saddam Hussein -- because he had a weapons program.
George Bush, US President, Remarks to Reporters, May 6, 2003

U.S. officials never expected that "we were going to open garages and find" weapons of mass destruction.
Condoleeza Rice, Reuters Interview,May 12, 2003

I just don't know whether it was all destroyed years ago -- I mean, there's no question that there were chemical weapons years ago -- whether they were destroyed right before the war, (or) whether they're still hidden.
Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, Commander 101st Airborne, Press Briefing, May 13, 2003

Before the war, there's no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical. I expected them to be found. I still expect them to be found.
Gen. Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Interview with Reporters, May 21, 2003

Given time, given the number of prisoners now that we're interrogating, I'm confident that we're going to find weapons of mass destruction.
Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, NBC Today Show interview, May 26, 2003

They may have had time to destroy them, and I don't know the answer.
Donald Rumsfeld, US Defense Secretary, Remarks to Council on Foreign Relations, May 27, 2003

For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.
Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defense Secretary, Vanity Fair interview, May 28, 2003

It is possible Iraqi leaders decided they would destroy them prior to the conflict
Donald Rumsfeld, US Defense Secretary, 28 May, 2003

It was a surprise to me then — it remains a surprise to me now — that we have not uncovered weapons, as you say, in some of the forward dispersal sites. Believe me, it's not for lack of trying. We've been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, but they're simply not there.
Lt. Gen. James Conway, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Press Interview May,30,2003

You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, 'Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons,' They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. For those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them.
George Bush, US President, Remarks to Reporters, speaking to Polish television, May 30, 2003

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Update: The Search for Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Summary Update: Click on the links for full story

  • Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz cited bureaucratic reasons for focusing on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, and said a "huge" result of the war was to enable Washington to withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia.
      "The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason," Wolfowitz was quoted as saying in a Pentagon transcript of an interview with Vanity Fair.

      Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Iraq's weapons of mass destruction may have been destroyed before the war. "It is also possible that they (Saddam Hussein's government) decided that they would destroy them prior to a conflict," he told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

      The Daily Express of London ran a report Friday on the statements by the two U.S. officials with the headline "Just Complete and Utter Lies." .

  • Donald Rumsfeld insisted yesterday that weapons of mass destruction were still in Iraq Former Washington security officials had claimed that US "intelligence had been cooked to the recipe of policy".Mr Rumsfeld had also said earlier this week the Iraqi regime may have destroyed chemical and biological weapons before the Anglo-American invasion.

  • President Bush said U.S. forces in Iraq have "found the weapons of mass destruction" that were the United States' primary justification for going to war. Bush, in remarks to Polish television to day (May 30) was citing two trailers that U.S. intelligence agencies have said were probably used as mobile biological weapons labs.
      Bush said. "But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them."

    Click here to read CIA's Assessment of mobile trailers suspected of Iraqi bioweapons program? (in .pdf file -needs Acrobat Reader) . Or here in html file.

    Fred Kaplan ( Slate) analysed CIA's report as follows:
    The report concedes that U.S. officials found no traces of any bioweapons agent inside the trailers. "We suspect," it states, "that the Iraqis thoroughly decontaminated the vehicle to remove evidence." That's possible.

    The report also notes that, in order to produce biological weapons, each trailer would have to be accompanied by a second and possibly a third trailer, specially designed to grow, process, sterilize, and dry the bacteria. Such trailers would "have equipment such as mixing tanks, centrifuges, and spray dryers"—none of which were spotted in the trailers that were found. The problem, the CIA acknowledges, is that "we have not yet found" these post-production trailers. Question: Is it that they haven't been found—or that they don't exist?

    It could well be that the CIA is right about its inferences. Either way, these trailers—simply by being capable of producing biotoxins—constituted violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions barring such technology. However, we're beyond U.N. resolutions at this point. We're looking for evidence that Iraq actually did produce such weapons. From what we know so far, the trailers constitute less than airtight proof.

    A U.S. Marine general, Lt. Gen. James Conway in a teleconference with reporters at the Pentagon said on Friday (30 May) U.S. intelligence was "simply wrong" in leading military commanders to believe their troops were likely to be attacked with chemical weapons in the Iraq war.

      "We were simply wrong," he said of the assessment that chemical shells or other weapons were likely to be used by Iraqi forces. Such shells have not been found even in ammunition storage sites, he told reporters.

      "It was a surprise to me then. It remains a surprise to me now that we have not uncovered weapons ... in some of the forward dispersal sites," said Conway.

      "Believe me, it's not for lack of trying. We've been through virtually every ammunition supply site between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad. But they're simply not there."

  • The United States last night announced a major expansion of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The Pentagon said the new Iraq Survey Group, a team of 1,400 US, British and Australian experts, would be led by US army Major General Keith Dayton. They will seek the weapons which the US and UK cited as the main justification for the invasion of Iraq which toppled Saddam Hussein.
      The move was announced just hours after Lieutenant Gen James Conway said intelligence was "simply wrong" in leading the military to believe that the invading troops were likely to be attacked with chemical weapons. Meanwhile, Tony Blair continued to insist that chemical and biological arms would be found.

  • U.S. national security professionals are accusing the Bush administration of slanting the facts and hijacking the $30 billion intelligence apparatus to justify its rush to war in Iraq. A key target is a four-person Pentagon team, called themselves the Cabal, that reviewed material gathered by other intelligence outfits to tied Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to banned weapons or terrorist groups.
      This team "cherry-picked the intelligence stream" in a bid to portray Iraq as an imminent threat, said Patrick Lang, a former head of worldwide human intelligence gathering for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) , which coordinates military intelligence.

      The DIA was "exploited and abused and bypassed in the process of making the case for war in Iraq based on the presence of WMD," or weapons of mass destruction, he added in a phone interview. He said the CIA had "no guts at all" to resist the allegedly deliberate skewing of intelligence by a Pentagon that he said was now dominating U.S. foreign policy.

      Vince Cannistraro, a former chief of Central Intelligence Agency counterterrorist operations, said he knew of serving intelligence officers who blame the Pentagon for playing up "fraudulent" intelligence, "a lot of it sourced from the Iraqi National Congress of Ahmad Chalabi."

      "There are current intelligence officials who believe it is a scandal," he said in a telephone interview. They believe the administration, before going to war, had a "moral obligation to use the best information available, not just information that fits your preconceived ideas".

  • Australia's intelligence agency (ASIO) knew the United States was lying about Iraq's WMD programme. Australian intelligence agencies made it clear to the Australian Government all along that Iraq did not have a massive WMD program (that dubious honour remains restricted to at least China, France, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Britain and the US).
      Nor was Saddam Hussein co-operating actively with al-Qaeda. And there was no indication Iraq was intending to pass WMDs to terrorists

      ..... Report after report from the bureaucracy made it abundantly clear that the US impatience to go for Iraq had very little to do with WMDs and an awful lot to do with US strategic and domestic interests.

    Secret transcipts called the "Waldorf transcripts" are being circulated in Nato diplomatic circles. Dan Plesch and Richard Norton-Taylor (The Guardian UK) reports:
    (The transcripts mentioned) Jack Straw and his US counterpart, Colin Powell, privately expressed serious doubts about the quality of intelligence on Iraq's banned weapons programme at the very time they were publicly trumpeting it to get UN support for a war on Iraq.

    Their deep concerns about the intelligence - and about claims being made by their political bosses, Tony Blair and George Bush - emerged at a private meeting between the two men shortly before a crucial UN security council session on February 5. The meeting took place at the Waldorf hotel in New York, where they discussed the growing diplomatic crisis. The exchange about the validity of their respective governments' intelligence reports on Iraq lasted less than 10 minutes, according to a diplomatic source who has read a transcript of the conversation.

    The foreign secretary reportedly expressed concern that claims being made by Mr Blair and President Bush could not be proved. The problem, explained Mr Straw, was the lack of corroborative evidence to back up the claims. Much of the intelligence were assumptions and assessments not supported by hard facts or other sources. It is not being revealed how the transcripts came to be made; however, they appear to have been leaked by diplomats who supported the war against Iraq even when the evidence about Saddam Hussein's programme of weapons of mass destruction was fuzzy, and who now believe they were lied to.

    Mr Powell shared the concern about intelligence assessments, especially those being presented by the Pentagon's office of special plans set up by the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz. Mr Powell said he had all but "moved in" with US intelligence to prepare his briefings for the UN security council, according to the transcripts.

    But he told Mr Straw he had come away from the meetings "apprehensive" about what he called, at best, circumstantial evidence highly tilted in favour of assessments drawn from them, rather than any actual raw intelligence. Mr Powell told the foreign secretary he hoped the facts, when they came out, would not "explode in their faces".

    The transcripts will fuel the controversy in Britain and the US over claims that London and Washington distorted and exaggerated the intelligence assessments about Saddam's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programme.

  • British Government Ministers were accused of distorting the findings of the chief UN weapons inspector to support Britain's claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons programme. Amid growing anger among senior intelligence officials about Downing Street's use of their work for political ends, Hans Blix's office rejected claims by ministers that he had provided unequivocal evidence of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programme.
      Dr Blix's spokesman said the chief weapons inspector had "never asserted" that Iraq definitely had weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the conflict.

      The armed forces minister, Adam Ingram, declared that the UN had provided "damning" evidence of illegal Iraqi weapons. Ewen Buchanan said Dr Blix had merely said there was a "strong presumption" that banned items such as an thrax still existed. Mr Buchanan's remarks will undermine the credibility of Downing Street.

  • Downing Street doctored the dossier on Iraq's weapons programme to make it "sexier", according to a senior British official, who claims intelligence services were unhappy with the assertion that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were ready for use within 45 minutes. The key claim in last September's dossier - that Iraq could launch a chemical or biological attack within 45 minutes of an order - had been inserted on the instructions of officials at No 10.
      The unnamed official told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Most people in intelligence weren't happy with the dossier because it didn't reflect the considered view they were putting forward."

      Describing how it was "transformed" in the week before it was published to make it "sexier", he added: "The classic example was the statement that weapons of mass destruction were ready for use within 45 minutes. That information was not in the original draft. It was included in the dossier against our wishes because it wasn't reliable. Most things in the dossier were double-source but that was single-source and we believe that the source was wrong."

  • It's a... biggest State Lie of recent years . Of a campaign of manipulation probably waged in full knowledge of the facts, in any case, in spite of all the contrary indications, to make world public opinion believe that Iraq held and constructed weapons of mass destruction..... Donald Rumsfeld declared Tuesday that it was possible that the Iraqis had "decided to destroy (them) before the conflict"
      . ...a beginning of a confession that the American and British authorities started a war in Iraq in March to "destroy" these weapons, while they enjoyed the quasi-certitude that those same weapons no longer existed at that date.

      George W. Bush and Tony Blair are finding it harder and harder to maintain that they are "persuaded" of the existence of these weapons. The truth, which they knew, becomes apparent today: the war was not started to destroy these weapons, but to change the Baghdad regime and to begin the remodeling of the Middle East.

      The weapons served only as a pretext. Faced with this State Lie, democracy demands that world opinion know the whole truth. Read here the original French version of this article.

  • Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia said Thursday if Iraq's weapons of mass destruction posed enough of a threat to justify war, they should have been found by now. Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, challenged comments by Bush administration officials that the weapons were well-hidden and may not be located soon.

    "You can't quite say that it's going to take a lot more time if the intelligence community seemed to be in general agreement that WMD was out there,'' Rockefeller said in an interview. Rockefeller said that if the weapons were so well concealed, the United States should have considered giving U.N. inspectors more time to find them.

  • A group of former US intelligence officials has written to President Bush claiming that the US Congress and the American public were misled about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction before the war. Tim Reid (Times Online) reports:
    The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity group is headed by Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst for 27 years.

    The group’s members, most of them former CIA analysts, say that they have close contacts with senior officials working inside the US intelligence agencies, who have told them that intelligence was “cooked” to persuade Congress to authorise the war.

    The manipulation of intelligence has, they say, produced “a policy and intelligence fiasco of monumental proportions”.

    They write in the letter to Mr Bush: “While there have been occasions in the past when intelligence has been deliberately warped for political purposes, never before has such warping been used in such a systematic way to mislead our elected representatives into voting to authorise launching a war. You may not realise the extent of the current ferment within the intelligence community and particularly the CIA. In intelligence, there is one unpardonable sin — cooking intelligence to the recipe of high policy. There is ample indication that this has been done in Iraq.”

    The former CIA officials were supported by a current official in the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency, who told The New York Times yesterday: “The American people were manipulated.”

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    The Brits are Doing a Better Job than the Yanks Handling Post-Saddam Iraq

    USA Today reports:

    A Tale of Two Cities After the War :

      American-controlled Baghdad: Scene: U.S. soldiers in full combat gear sit nervously atop tanks scanning the horizon through gun sights. Seven U.S. troops have died in escalating attacks -- five since Sunday. Anti-U.S. anger also is erupting into the kind of hostile demonstrations that forced U.S. troops to withdraw from the town of Hit on Wednesday.

      British-controlled Basra in the south: Scene: The atmosphere in Basra is more relaxed. The British forces that run the city have restored water and electricity to pre-war levels and have won the locals' trust. Soldiers are barely noticed: Unlike the armored convoys rumbling through Baghdad, an occasional jeep carries one or two soldiers sporting berets instead of combat helmets. British and Iraqi police conduct joint foot patrols. Often, a British officer is seen gossiping with a local sheikh or fixing the plumbing in a hospital. Some looting persists at night, but chaos and shortages are far less than in Baghdad.

    The continuing woes gripping Baghdad have led to growing criticism that the U.S. is bungling the country's postwar reconstruction. In other words, the U.S. is failing to achieve the same success that the British have accomplished in restoring Basra to normalcy. .

    Learning Lessons for Managing Baghdad

    Donald Rumsfeld's solution to Baghdad is to implement new set of guidelines that include:

      * the need for better security,
      * more patience and,
      * increased experimentation in helping Iraqis work out a political system.

    At the same time, the U.S. is making plans to keep 160,000 coalition troops in Iraq, rather than reduce the number as it earlier hoped.

    Yet even this improved blueprint skips over important groundwork needed to gain the support of local people and understand customs.

    The U.S. squandered precious time in failing to follow Britain's lead.

    But it is willing to learn from its mistakes. For example, it quickly replaced its initial postwar team of administrators after it failed to stop rampant lawlessness.

    And U.S. officials are consulting closely with the British, who have a long history of running countries -- first as a colonial power and later as peacekeepers.

    Since the Vietnam War, the U.S. has been reluctant to play that role of peacekeepers. Yet now the US has taken on one of its most ambitious nation-building projects ever. To succeed in that task, Rumsfeld's new guidelines call for a flexible plan based on ''trial and error.''

    One fundamental error of the US was to be less prepared than the British for dealing with ugly postwar realities. While that shortcoming can't be wholly overcome, the U.S. still can look for opportunities to borrow its ally's proven methods as it grapples with the difficult times ahead.

    The British's Approach for Basra

    Basra provides a promising model for success. In Basra, the British moved quickly to:

      * Build trust. They got to know local Iraqis, worked to understand their fears and needs, and identified natural leaders.

      * Provide information. They began printing and distributing a newspaper in Arabic -- avoiding Baghdad's often anti-American rumor mill. British officers also tour schools and other public places, giving practical information, such as how to handle unexploded ordnance.

      * Solve problems swiftly. Rather than following the U.S. military's practice of bucking decisions up the chain of command, they patched up the most important facilities -- such as an oil refinery -- on the spot, using Iraqi know-how and spare parts scrounged from a local market. They avoided Baghdad-style demonstrations over unpaid salaries by smashing their way into a local bank with the approval of a local sheikh.

    The proactive approach of the British got Basra functioning in basic ways and brought qualified local figures into running parts of the city based on their competence and reliability. Most important, it took advantage of the early honeymoon days to lay the foundation for cooperation.

    Also, Basra is much smaller than Baghdad. It's located where anti-Saddam feelings ran high. And the British had a two-week start on the Americans, who needed more time to capture Baghdad.

    Basra still has problems. In addition to continued looting, dirty water has caused a cholera outbreak. Some local leaders who were cooperative early on have since sparked protests.

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     Friday, May 30, 2003

      "Saving Private Jessica Lynch"

    The parents of Private Jessica Lynch gave a
    press conference on Thursday (29th May) regarding their daughter who is recuperating at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

    It is still not known when Lynch will be released from the hospital. And Jessica Lynch herself hasn't commented publicly about her time in Iraq.

    Greg and Deadra Lynch told the press at their West Virgina home:

    "We're really not supposed to talk about that subject. It's still an ongoing investigation and we can't talk about anything like that."

    They both also said they couldn't comment on media reports that dispute military information released on their daughter's April 1 rescue from an Iraqi hospital.

    U.S. doctors have said Lynch doesn't remember anything about her capture, and probably won't.

    But at the press conference Thursday, Greg Lynch disputed the army doctor's view. He said his daughter's memory is as good as ever.

    Private Jessica Lynch's story will go down as one of the most " stunning pieces of news management yet conceived" .

    The US media are now picking up the story following BBC's broadcast of the Lynch story in UK and in Canada a few days later, following investigations by BBC reporters with Iraqi doctors and medical staff in Nassariyah, Iraq.

    Hugh Dellios and E.A. Torriero (Chicago Tribune) report:
    Lynch's story is the tale of how a modern war icon is made, and perhaps how easily officials and journalists accepted contradictory, self-serving versions of what happened to her.

    Seven weeks after her dramatic rescue marked a turning point in the Iraq war's public relations campaign, questions remain about the telling of her story and about the roles of the Pentagon and the U.S. news media in turning the petite, 19-year-old Army private into the face of good battling evil.

    The final story hasn't been told, and no one contests Lynch's bravery.

    Iraqi doctors who treated her say they worked hard to save her life, they deny reports that she was slapped by an Iraqi officer and they insist there was no resistance when the U.S. forces raided the building.

    Despite her pain and fear, Jessica Lynch sipped juice and ate biscuits under the watchful eye of Iraqi doctors and nurses who shielded her from thugs during her eight days of captivity in an Iraqi hospital in March.

    .... Experts in propaganda say the tale fit all too nicely into the neat story line the Bush administration wanted to push and the American public wanted to hear at a time when the war didn't appear to be going very well.

    "I recognized the pattern: She was being made into an important symbol," said Robert Ivie, an Indiana University expert in communication, culture and the rhetoric of war. "She stood for the narrative that the Bush administration was telling."

    In its handling of the story, the Pentagon was taking its cues from the White House, which had sent a former Bush election campaign official to Central Command's Qatar base to manage the daily briefings to 700 journalists there.

    Pentagon officials say any suggestion that the Lynch rescue was concocted is ridiculous. They blame any exaggerations on the media. "Both the Department of Defense and the folks at CENTCOM (Central Command) tried very hard to tamp down a lot of the stories and speculation about (Lynch) and her circumstances," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. David Lapan said.

    The Pentagon insists it didn't embellish the Lynch story when it announced the rescue at its Central Command headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

    But a few targeted whispers to reporters by anonymous U.S. officials -- about Lynch's "to-the-death" gunbattle before she was captured, her supposed gunshot wounds and her mistreatment at the hospital -- set the plate for a feast by TV networks and newspapers that couldn't resist such a made-for-TV story line.

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    Happy 100th Birthday - Bob Hope : And Thanks for the Laughs and Memories

    On May 29,2003 (Thursday), Bob Hope celebrates his 100th birthday. The man is a legend. He is the King of the One Liners.

    He was born in London on May 29, 1903, as Leslie Townes Hope. He emigrated to America with his parents in 1907. His first film appearance was in 1938 in "The Big Broadcast" singing what became his signature tune, "Thanks for the Memories."

    Universal Studios Home Video made a release of "The Bob Hope 100th Birthday Tribute Collection," and there will be the NBC special "100 Years of Hope and Humor" and the unveiling of a plaque on one of the actor's four Walk of Fame stars.

    There is a special website called "Bob Hope Military Tribute". In San Diego Bay, there is a landscaped area called The Tribute, honoring Bob Hope's long association with the military:
    " As you walk across the terazzo bridge into a circle filled with historical memories, you'll enter the realm of one of America's greatest entertainers. Five bronze full-size statues of Bob Hope stand on the points of a granite five-star platform.

    Let history come to life as you hear motion-activated recordings of Bob Hope telling jokes, while five full-size statues representing each military branch (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard) respond with the hearty laughter of those who so appreciated Bob Hopes efforts to improve their morale. "

    He is not only a legendary comedian, but an actor and writer. Click here to see the list of films he had been involved through out his long career.

    Ed Jensen wrote:

    "Bob Hope, fragile and in declining health, hasn't been seen in public in three years, his last major appearances were two years before that, and his final performances in front of paying audiences ended not long after his 90th birthday.

    Deaf, blind and secluded in his longtime compound in Toluca Lake, Calif., his public image still ferociously protected by his family, he's outlived his fame and virtually all of his contemporaries. He's famous now for being ancient, his reputation badly eroded by his last two decades of awkwardly performed TV specials.

    He starred in 56 motion pictures. He was featured in 286 TV specials (The last in which he actually appeared was in 1994). He was host or co-host for the Oscars 18 times, still the record. He was on radio for 21 years, including in a series from 1938 to 1956. There have been 44 Bob Hope Classic golf tournaments.(His last appearance at one was in 2000).

    He's made about 60 USO tours, beginning in 1942 and ending in 1990. He appeared in 34 consecutive years of Christmas shows at home and overseas, beginning in 1948. He's been strafed by German aircraft in Italy and Tunisia, and in 1964, the Viet Cong tried to blow up his hotel."

    Click here to Bob Hope's Official website

    Read here Ron Miller's close-up recollection of his friendship with Bob

    A collection of Bob Hope's jokes (click here) " Bob Hope's Jokes For The Memory"

    Here are some of Bob Hope's memorable one lines and jokes.

    I'm so old that they've cancelled my blood type.

    I do benefits for all religions - I'd hate to blow the hereafter on a technicality.

    I grew up with six brothers. That's how I learned to dance - waiting for the bathroom.

    I have a wonderful make-up crew. They're the same people restoring the Statue of Liberty.

    A James Cagney love scene is one where he lets the other guy live.

    If you watch a game, it's fun. If you play it, it's recreation. If you work at it, it's golf.

    Middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle.

    My father told me all about the birds and the bees, the liar - I went steady with a woodpecker till I was twenty-one.

    People who throw kisses are hopelessly lazy.

    The good news is that Jesus is coming back. The bad news is that he's really pissed off.

    You know you are getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.

    I love to go to Washington, if only to be nearer my money.

    Zsa Zsa Gabor got married as a one-off, and it was so successful she turned it into a series.

    I don't feel old. I don't feel anything till noon. That's when it's time for my nap.

    If I had my life to live over....I wouldn't have time.

    The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat are really good friends."

    The toughest part of the course for me nowdays are the sand traps. It's not hard to get the ball out....the problem is to get me out, at my age!

    Golf is my profession. Show business is just to pay the green fees.

    I set out to play golf with the intention of shooting my age, but I shot my weight instead!

    I asked my good friend, Arnold Palmer how I could improve my game, he advised me to Cheat!

    Bob played golf with eleven presidents. He never knew which course they were going to play until the Pres. hit the first ball.

    I have performed for twelve presidents and entertained six.

    Oscar night at my house is called Passover.

    Sailors on shore leave spend the first 6 days of each week sowing wild oats, then they go to chapel on Sunday and pray for a crop failure.

    Out here in the Pacific, they have typhoons and hurricanes that blow over 200 miles an hour. We have tornadoes and hurricanes back home, but I don't worry about them. The mortgage on my house is so heavy that nothing could budge it.

    Some of my jokes have been met with so much quiet, some monks named a vow of silence after me.

    I've been in The Road to Singapore and now The Road to Zanzibar. I went up to my producer the other day and said, 'You name all my pictures Roads.' He said, 'Yeah, and we're going to keep naming them Roads, until you take the hint!

    You probably know that (Hope's wife) Dolores is a devout Catholic. For years, she thought Norman Vincent Peale was a stripper.

    President George Bush (I) speaking of the bombing of Pearl Harbor mistakenly said it happened on October 7, 1941. Bob noticed the error and kidded George by saying, "George is always prepared, always ready, in fact, he was ready for Pearl Harbor three months before it happened."

    One of Bob's favorite golfing partners is Gerald Ford, "the man who made golf a contact sport." "You all know Jerry Ford -- the most dangerous driver since Ben Hur. Ford is easy to spot on the course. He drives the cart with the red cross painted on top. Whenever I play with him, I usually try to make it a foursome -- the President, myself, a paramedic and a faith healer. One of my most prized possession is the Purple Heart I received for all the golf I've played with him. "Whenever I play with Ford these days I carry 13 clubs and a white flag. I try to win only enough from him to pay my extra insurance premiums."

    Bob has played with all of the Hollywood celebrities, some were pretty fair golfers. For example: "Jimmy Stewart could have been a good golfer, but he speaks so slowly that by the time he yells 'Fore!' the guy he's hit is already in an ambulance on the way to the hospital."

    I can see where those books (sex manuals)would sell because, you know, it's not like golf where you can take lessons. And it's so hard to find a pro shop.

    Happy Birthday, Bob. And thanks for the beautiful memories.

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    Consequences of the Iraq War - "We Told You So"

    The current geo-political situation in Iraq and around the Middle East after the invasion of Iraq by the American-led coalition forces were as predicted by anti-war groups, according to a report by Ted Rall.
    ( Ted Rall is the author of "Gas War: The Truth Behind the American Occupation of Afghanistan," an analysis of the under-reported Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline project and the real motivations behind the war on terrorism.)

    In his article published May 27, 2003, Rall said:
    "As I predicted last July, the war has meant the end of a unified Iraq and the beginning of chaos throughout the Middle East..... Now the antiwar movement's doomsday scenarios have been fulfilled so completely that military history scarcely mentions a more thoroughly botched endeavor--and we'll be living with the fallout for years.

    Here is an excerpt of Ted Rall's article:
  • The Bush Administration was warned that invading Iraq would destabilize the Middle East and spread radical anti-American Islamism. We told the American people that taking out Saddam Hussein without a viable government to replace him would open a vacuum for anarchy, civil war and a power grab by radical Iranian-backed Shiite clerics.

  • When we argued that Donald Rumsfeld's low-budget occupation of Iraq would turn out as disastrously as it had in Afghanistan , right-wing Republicans called us stupid and un-American. Now that we've been proven correct on every count.

  • The former northern "no-fly zone" is already openly referred to by Kurdish officials as the incipient Islamic Republic of Kurdistan. "It's etiquette, like a game," says Farhad Pirbal of Erbil University. "[Kurdish] politicians say what the Americans want to hear"--that they want to remain part of Iraq. But, he continues, "more than 80 percent of the people are for independence."

  • Since Turkish reticence prompted the Pentagon to invade Iraq from the south, only small numbers of American forces entered the Kurdish zone, which has since remained under control of peshmerga guerillas.

  • On May 23 U.S. and British occupation authorities formally endorsed the permanent partition of Iraq, setting the stage for Kurdish statehood. The U.S. civilian administrator Paul Bremer officially dissolved Iraq's armed forces, and allied commander Lt. Gen. David McKiernan announced that the peshmerga would be allowed to keep its automatic weapons and heavy artillery--becoming Kurdistan's de facto army.

  • A few days later, Kurdish leaders announced plans to continue expanding their territory. "Now we are back in Mosul," regional governor Nechirvan Barzani told The New York Times. "We control Senjar and Mosul provinces. We want to add the other parts of Kurdistan."

  • If Turkish Kurds, armed by their Iraqi counterparts, fight to attach southeastern Turkey to Iraqi Kurdistan, bloody civil wars and ethnic cleansing could sweep across Turkey to Eastern Europe and the Caucasus--potentially claiming hundreds of thousands of lives.

  • Regrettably, free Kurdistan looks a lot like Taliban-controlled Afghanistan: women under wraps, blood feuds, medieval Islamism. "Kurdish political parties today are not that different from the tribes of the 18th century," notes David McDowall, author of "A Modern History of the Kurds." "You don't get democracy as an end product."

  • And what's left of Iraq looks even worse. The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) is angry that the U.S. has endorsed a Kurdish, but not a Shiite, army. "We will not accept that other militias will be allowed to stay there with their weapons while we will not be there with ours," says a spokesman for Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, the leader of SCIRI who recently returned from exile in Iran.

  • SCIRI and other Shiite groups are already using their weapons and demographics-- 60 percent of Iraqis are Shia Muslims--to transform Saddam Hussein's modern secular dictatorship into a fundamentalist Islamic state melding Iranian Shiaism to Taliban-style Sharia law. Incredibly, American occupation forces are working with, and even financing, these anti-American zealots.

  • On May 2 influential Mullah Murtada Sadr, called for Sharia law in Iraq. "The banning of alcohol and the wearing of the veil should be spread to all and not only to Muslims," Sadr told followers in Kufa, near Najaf. "Alcohol and the display of a woman's body are forbidden for us Muslims, as they are for Christians, upon whom I call to give up these banned things."

  • In Baghdad Imam Mohammed al-Fartussi upped the ante on May 16, threatening those who show "indecent films" and "sinful women" who consort with foreigners, especially Americans. "If in a week from now they do not change their attitude, the murder of these women is sanctioned (by Islam)," Fartussi raged. "This warning also goes out to sellers of alcohol, radios and televisions. The torching of cinemas would be permitted."

  • Shiite militias that control Baghdad's vast Sadr City slum are already enforcing the mullahs' diktats. Sheik Kadhem al-Fartusi, who asserts that "Islam and all religions forbid alcohol," runs a local gang that beats liquor vendors and men who refuse to grow beards. "He's the primary shaker and mover here," U.S. Special Operations Maj. Arthur P. Vidal told The Times. Special ops troops pay Fartusi's religious police with "bricks of Iraqi dinars."

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     Thursday, May 29, 2003


    Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Twists and Turns in the Road Map for Peace

    Israel's PM Ariel Sharon and Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas

    The Road Map for Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is like a football being kicked around with the US as the referee, but many believed, especially in the Arab world, the US is a biased referee.

    But latest media reports coming out of Washington are saying that the Bush Administration, in particular the State Department, is taking a tough stand against Israel if it sinks this Road Map.

    But how much clout does the State Department under Colin Powell has, to take on, firstly, the neo-conservative hardliners found mainly in the Defense Department, who had made their pro-Israel stance blatantly obvious, and secondly, the strong pro-Israel lobbyists in Congress? The unfolding events in the coming weeks will tell whether this Bush Administration is made of sterner stuff to resolve this on-going human tragedy for both sides in the conflict, since the creation of Israel in 1948.

    George Bush is putting his personal print into the Middle East peace process as he said he will go to the Middle East himself to talk to the two leaders as well as other leaders in the region.

    It is interesting times now in the Middle East, with loose ends still untied in Iraq after the war, and now with Washington's itch to have a fight with Iran. Meanwhile the problem with North Korea's nuclear programme is still unresolved.

    Here are the links to news reports and commentaries by columnists relating to attempts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Click on the links to read the full stories


  • Sally Bolton and Simon Jeffery (Guardian UK) : FAQ - Overview and background of the road map to peace: The conflict has developed its own logic of hate and anger that perpetuates the killing. On the Israeli side many fear the Palestinians want to drive them into the sea. Many Palestinians feel besieged by Israel and fear the Jewish state will, if not annex the West Bank and Gaza, deny the right of an economically and politically viable Palestinian state to exist.

  • Alexander Cockburn : The road map hoax - Mideast 'progress' is an illusion -- we've been here before: Don't waste your time fretting over the fortunes of the "road map" to peace in the Middle East. It's all a fraud, following the contours of all the other frauds down the years, back to such museum pieces as the Rogers Plan, conceived in Nixon time .

    Israel's PM Ariel Sharon

  • Kathleen Christison: Same Old Shellgame - What Sharon Wants, Sharon Gets: The Israeli cabinet's highly qualified acceptance on Sunday of the "roadmap" to peace between Israel and the Palestinians is likely to mean the final derailment of this latest in a line of misbegotten peace plans. Just a random sampling of the Sunday morning talk shows demonstrates why this perverse reality is so. Senator Joseph Lieberman said "yes", when asked whether the Bush administration should now ignore the other members of the Quartet altogether (the others being the European Union, the UN, and Russia) and go ahead with the roadmap in whatever way the administration saw. According to Lieberman, the Israelis mistrust the rest of the Quartet, and if "we expect Israel to make peace we have to accommodate its concerns." On Wolf Blitzer's Late Edition on CNN, Representative Tom Lantos was asked about the Israeli cabinet's rejection, of any consideration of a Palestinian right of return as a condition for accepting the roadmap. Lantos dismissed the right of return as a spurious demand. And he said, in any case, the right of return has never been considered a serious part of the negotiating process

  • Chris McGreal (Guardian UK): Sharon derides EU peace efforts - Israeli leader says only the US view is relevant : In an interview held on 19th January, 2003 Ariel Sharon dismissed European peace efforts as anti-Israeli and said only the US matters in deciding the fate of the Palestinians. The prime minister's comments followed an interview with Newsweek magazine released on 19th January 2003 in which he was asked about the efforts of the Quartet - the US, UN, EU and Russia - to map out a road to peace. "Oh, the quartet is nothing! Don't take it seriously! There is [another] plan that will work," he said.

  • DEBKAfile(Israel) Special Analysis (May 25, 2003 ): Middle East Road Map – A Small Inset on US Postwar Atlas: What has led Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to fit unreservedly into America’s geo-strategic box for the postwar Middle East? What has President George W. Bush promised him for saying yes to the Middle East road map, a document that no one except its authors believes in? What role is assigned the Palestinians? And how much will it cost Israel?

  • DEBKAfile (Israel) Exclusive Report: Middle East Road Map – A Useful Cover Story: After undergoing several metamorphoses since its formulation by the Quartet, the Middle East road map looks rather like a skimpy blanket pulled over Ariel Sharon, Colin Powell, Bashar Assad, Abu Mazen and Yasser Arafat while each keeps to his own bed.

  • Jonathan Wright (Reuters): On May 13,2003, Powell says U.S. will not rewrite Middle East road map: . Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States does not plan to rewrite or renegotiate its road map for Middle East peace. Powell said the document, accepted by the Palestinians but not by Israel, was "the only path" to peace."They (the Israeli government) have some comments on the road map and we will listen to their comments but we do not plan to rewrite or renegotiate the road map," Powell told reporters in Amman on the third leg of a Middle East tour.

  • Ali Abunimah.(The Electronic Intifada ) : Who's afraid of the Road Map?: Even before its publication, Israel's supporters in the United States launched a vigorous campaign to sabotage the U.S.-sponsored 'Road Map' for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Nearly 400 members of the U.S. House and Senate signed letters circulated by the pro-Israeli lobby opposing the plan.

  • Cal Thomas (Syndicated Columnist): Road Map to Middle East Disaster: It is a road map to disaster for Israel.It requires Israel to give up real land which it had seized for its own security and the so-called Palestinians to “promise” to fight terrorism.They are unlikely to fight terrorism.

  • Arab News (25 May 2003) Editorial: The Israeli Cabinet’s endorsement of the road map, following yesterday’s vote, should have come as little surprise. The Middle East peace plan is the only initiative currently on the table and without the Cabinet’s green light, the plan would have hit a dead end and Israel would have been blamed for not wanting a settlement to be reached. In addition, the road map is the only initiative which the United States, a party that helped draft it, is willing to deal with — meaning that Israel would have risked being put in Washington’s doghouse had it not gone along with what its closest ally wants.

  • Greg Myre (New York Times) : Sharon defends road map: Sharon argued that Israel had no real option but to accept the measures outlined in the peace plan. After a stormy session, the Israeli cabinet voted 12 to 7 in favor, with 4 abstentions. Sharon hit back at his critics in the Likud Party with language that sounded as if it were coming straight from Israel's liberal peace camp."You may not like the word, but what's happening is occupation," he told Likud members of Parliament. "Holding 3.5 million Palestinians is a bad thing for Israel, for the Palestinians and for the Israeli economy. We have to end this subject without risking our security."

  • Ravin Nessman (AP): Israelis Puzzled by `New` Sharon : Theories abound: Sharon is trying to secure his place in history. He is trying to deflect U.S. pressure. He is trying to avoid blame, assuming the Palestinians will themselves scuttle the plan by failing to stop terrorism.

  • Chris Marsden (29 May 2003) : Sharon has not changed his spots: When the inveterate war criminal Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is being portrayed as a born-again advocate of peace and the creation of a Palestinian state, one knows that something truly despicable is being planned.

  • Haaretz(Israel) News paper: Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom Shalom said Palestinian refugees won't return to Israel : During the meeting Shalom warned Israel's neighbors that a return of Palestinian refugees or their descendants to its territory was not negotiable under any peace settlement. He vowed to push the peace process forward but said Arab nations must do more to help solve the refugee problem. "There will be no way refugees will be settled in the state of Israel," he said and urged Arab states to accept the refugees, estimated at some 4 million, on a permanent basis.

    Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas

    VOA News: Israel's Implementation of 'Road Map' Will Be True Test, says Palestinian PM Abbas: Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas says he is ready to test Israel's commitment to the latest peace plan for the Middle East, known as the "road map". Mr. Abbas says that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's true intentions will only become clear when he implements the "road map."

  • Akiva Eldar (Haaretz) : Abbas said `U.S. told us to ignore Israeli road map reservations' : Abbas says the Americans proposed he not pay any attention to any of the talk about [Israeli] comments and reservations. They promised him they too would not allow Sharon evade a declaration about an end to [Israeli] violence and incitement, as required by the first article of the road map. The sensitive refugee issue is known to be particularly close to the heart of Abass,himself a refugee from Safed. "We cannot accept relinquishing the right of return," he said.

  • William Pfaff: Why Ariel Sharon supported the Road Map and surprised his right wing supporters. American Jews force Sharon's hand : Prime Minister Ariel Sharon forced his cabinet to say yes to the plan, and to accept the principle of Palestinian national independence. Moreover, Sharon has shocked his party and country by using forbidden words. He told members of his Likud party Monday that Israel is "occupying" Palestine, and that this can't go on.

  • Arnon Regular and Aluf Benn, Haaretz: Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Ariel Sharon will meet at 9 P.M. in Jerusalem on Thursday, for their second round of talks in as many weeks after the initial meeting was called off. Abbas told the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth that he expected to reach an agreement with Hamas by next week for a complete halt to attacks on Israelis. Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said Thursday that the organization has set no preconditions for discussing a cease-fire agreement with Abu Mazen, and is willing to consider halting violence in the territories as well as inside Israel. Hamas religious leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin on Wednesday told Abu Mazen that Hamas will not surrender its weapons until a Palestinian state is declared. Sharon will tell Abu Mazen that Israel has accepted the Palestinian demands, and the road map, and now it is the Palestinians' turn to take steps against terror. Sharon will propose that Abu Mazen take gradual security control over areas that the IDF withdraws from.

  • The News International, Pakistan: Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said on Wednesday Israel's acceptance of the U.S.-backed road map to peace was "a trick" and warned that Washington could not be an honest peace broker. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who has called on militants to end the armed struggle against Israel, has accepted the road map, which calls for an end to 32 months of violence and the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005.Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's cabinet approved the staged peace plan on Sunday, but with reservations, primarily on security issues.

  • Amnesty Issues Mideast Violence Report: Amnesty International issued its annual report Wednesday and accused Israel of war crimes and Palestinian militants of crimes against humanity.

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    Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Found At Last by US Investigators

    The following is an excerpt of the report filed by Julian Borger of the Guardian UK in Washington, May 28, 2003

    " The good news for the Pentagon yesterday was that its investigators had finally unearthed evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) , including 100 vials of anthrax and other dangerous bacteria.

    The bad news was that the WMD was found, not in Iraq, but in Maryland, less than 50 miles from Washington, near Fort Detrick.

    The anthrax was a non-virulent strain, and the discoveries are apparently remnants of an abandoned germ warfare programme.

    (1) This WMD find merited only a local news item in the Washington Post.

      When it concerns Iraq : Suspicious finds in Iraq have made front-page news (before later being cleared), given the failure of US military inspection teams to find evidence of the weapons that were the justification for the March invasion.

    (2) Even more embarrassing for the Pentagon, there was no documentation about the various biological agents disposed of at the US bio-defence centre at Fort Detrick.

      When it concerns Iraq : Iraq's failure to come up with paperwork proving the destruction of its biological arsenal was portrayed by the US as evidence of deception in the run-up to the war.

    (3) The US germ warfare programme at Fort Detrick was officially wound up in 1969, but the base has maintained a stock of nasty bugs to help maintain America's defences against biological attack. The Fort Detrick clean-up has unearthed over 2,000 tonnes of hazardous waste. The sanitation crews were shocked to find vials containing live bacteria. As well as the vaccine form of anthrax, the discarded biological agents included Brucella melitensis, which causes the virulent flu-like disease brucellosis, and klebsiella, a cause of pneumonia.

      When it concerns Iraq :Trying to explain why no chemical or biological weapons had been found in Iraq, the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said yesterday the regime may have destroyed them before the war. He said the speed of U.S. advance may have caught Iraq by surprise, but added: "It is also possible that they decided that they would destroy them prior to a conflict."
    The leading theory about the unsolved anthrax letter attacks in 2001 is that they were carried out by a disgruntled former Fort Detrick employee.

    The equipment found dumped in a pond eight miles from the base has been linked to the crimes. "

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     Wednesday, May 28, 2003


    Michael Jackson Superstar Going Broke ?

    Duncan Campbell and Tania Branigan of the Guardian UK report Michael Jackson is simply fed up and physically sick with getting sued and may be facing financial bankruptcy.

    Michael Jackson, the pop music superstar, is facing bankruptcy, according to his former financial advisors. He had just one too many lawsuits of all kinds. In his career, Jackson had to face about 1,500 lawsuits.

    Jackson's lawyer, Brian Oxman said the latest lawsuit arrived in Indianapolis, and which landed him in hospital, suffering from what Mr Oxman described as "reaction to lawsuits". It was a claim against Jackson as a former member of the Jackson Five over a dispute that goes back to the 60s. The judge in the case ordered that Jackson return to give a deposition within three weeks once he has recovered.

    "He has, on some occasions in the past, not eaten when he should," Mr Oxman said. "He can become very concerned and nervous at depositions. He doesn't like lawsuits, and it makes him ill to have to cope with litigation that people seem to heap on him ... This is the kind of life that Michael leads. No one wants to be reasonable. Everyone wants to be crazy. He is tired of being sued."

    Lawyers are saying Jackson's "the day of reckoning is near" and in papers filed in the Los Angeles county superior court claim that he is a "ticking financial timebomb waiting to explode".

    Another lawsuit claims that Jackson owes the Union Finance and Investment Corporation of South Korea $12m (£7.4m) in unpaid fees and expenses. And the company claimed they were hired by Jackson to sort out his money matters in 1998. Fearing Jackson might be short of funds to pay them, the company sued for their payments .

    "For whatever reason, Michael Jackson is not paying his debts," attorney Pierce O'Donnell told the Associated Press. "He has little or no means of income. He lives off a line of credit. The day of reckoning is near." Union Finance, which launched the lawsuit a year ago and says it took depositions from Jackson in Beverly Hills last week, claims that the singer's financial situation is indeed serious. Jackson's record sales have failed to keep pace with his increasingly lavish tastes.

    But Brian Oxma says Union Finance had already been paid for the work they had done for Jackson.

    Duncan Campbell and Tania Branigan report on the superstar's income status:

  • " The 44-year-old has earned an estimated US$ 575m ( £350m) in his career. Forbes magazine last year estimated his net worth at US$328m ( £200m).

    Thriller Album

    He made $115m(£70m) from 1982's Thriller alone, which sold 50m copies and remains the biggest-selling album of all time.

    But his last release, Invincible, cost $30m(£18m) to produce yet sold less than 7m copies.

  • In 2001 five former employees had to pay him back close to $2m for breaching privacy agreements. Penalties for disclosure of information include $50,000 (£30,000) per person spoken to and $5m( £3m) per broadcast made on US network television. Fines for derogatory remarks start at $10,000 ( £6,000) per person spoken to in private conversation.

  • Jackson had used $450m ( £275m) publishing holdings - which include most of the Beatles' titles and 300,000 other songs - as collateral against a $200m ( £120m ) loan.

  • Recently, he put up his 2,600-acre ranch, Neverland, on the market for $25m (£15m).

  • But Jackson spends millions on other properties and hotels: a brief jaunt to New York cost him $98,000 (£60,000).

    Michael Jackson with his close friend, Elizabeth Taylor

    He recently gave his friend Elizabeth Taylor a $10,000 bottle of perfume.

  • Hundreds of children visit Neverland at his expense each year. One trip cost him a reported $20m (£12m), when he settled allegations of sexual abuse out of court in 1993.

  • He owes $10m (£6m) to a concert promoter after cancelling tour dates, and faces lawsuits from two former managers. Sotheby's last week announced that he had settled the £1m lawsuit it launched when he changed his mind after buying two paintings.

  • His brief marriage to Debbie Rowe also proved expensive: divorce cost him around $18m (£11m. )

  • Forbes Magazine warned that Jackson had incurred big debts and that his spending seemed to be out of control.

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    An Interview with a War Reporter

    Glimpses of Current Situation in Post War Iraq

    Christopher Deliso interviewed Scott Taylor, a Canadian war reporter who had just returned from Iraq. Scott Taylor is a publisher of Esprit de Corps, a monthly magazine on Canadian military. Taylor had reported militiary conflicts in Balkans and Iraq and had provided viewpoints that go against the grain of conventional wisdom and biases of mass media reports.

    In this interview with Deliso, Taylor offers a glimpse into realities seldom reported on Iraq that is under US military command.

    Excerpts of the interview by Christopher Deliso with Scott Taylor

    And how is the situation (in Iraq) now?

    Taylor: I visited Kirkuk, Erbil, Tikrit and Baghdad. I can tell you that Iraq, though calm on the surface, is like a boiling kettle. The Yanks won't be able to keep the lid on it much longer. Look, Chalabi had 80 bodyguards, and 12 of them were killed on his second day in the country. Now he is under Marine protection.

    No doubt about it, the Yanks have really screwed up in Iraq. There is a lot of chaos and looting, and the only concern their soldiers have is for their own self-defense. They don't generally try to intervene against looters, etc., but when they do it is in a very clumsy and culturally insensitive way. They usually only make the situation worse.

    Right now in Baghdad there are armed looters trying to steal from homeowners. The latter have guns to try and protect themselves and their property. When the Americans hear of such a gun battle, they send in tanks. When the looters see the Americans coming, they just melt away into the surrounding area. But since the Americans have a mandate to collect weapons, they end up taking the weapons they can see – those belonging to the homeowners standing out in front of their houses. And so these people are then left unprotected. When the Americans leave – guess what – the looters take over.

    I mean, it's really the Wild West out there. You had the Turkish ambassador, Osman Paksut, coming out with a pistol on his hip and six Palestinians with guns manning the roof. One told me that he had killed a lot of would-be looters. This was one of the only such places that wasn't looted.

    In January, you reported from Taszar Air Force Base in Kaposvar, Hungary. At the time, the US was opening a training camp for Iraqi opposition guys – who were allegedly learning to be "civil administrators." However, it came out that the Turkmen, Kurds and Iraqis at the camp were receiving military training. Tell us, had any of the Turkoman fighters you met in Iraq been trained at Taszar?

    Taylor: The Iraqi Turkoman Front sent 54 guys to Hungary, of which only 12 "graduated." They lost interest when it became obvious that the US was favoring the Kurds and empowering them above the other groups.

    In all, the program was meant to process 3,000 men; 1,500 US Special Forces were on hand to train them. Of the much fewer guys who actually went, most were too out of shape or for all practical purposes, useless. In the end, only 80 graduated.

    You can understand, actually, with some US sergeant major blustering in their face why an Iraqi guy would say, "screw this, I'm going home." Anyway, they got to keep the $3,000 in cash that the Americans gave them.

    So the program actually was a failure. And the Hungarians were worried that its presence might inspire retribution from Saddam loyalists. No one was too upset when it closed down early.

    Are remnants of Saddam's military or intelligence regime still operating?

    Taylor: The Iraqi intelligence agency – known as the Mukhabarat – just melted away when the bombs started falling. They are still there – just not showing themselves openly. According to my sources inside, the American bombings only killed about 3 percent of these Iraqi agents.

    I spoke with one agent who recounted the story of two female Mukhabarat who executed suicide bombings, during the battle for the airport that left several dead. "She did her job," he said. "We haven't done ours – yet."

    Are the Mukhabarat still loyal to Saddam? Do they have any kind of strategy?

    Taylor: They are disappointed, because they have lost contact with Saddam. And without his central leadership, they are disoriented. They often don't know each other's real names. They are a loose-knit group.

    Now they are sitting in cafés; the only thing they have left to plot is how to kill more Americans.

    As for their strategy, they are planning for two civil wars. The first would be between Shiite fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists in the south; the second could conceivably turn into a nasty three-way fight in the north, between Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs.

    The worst thing is that the Bosnia scenario could be repeated. The major Kurdish groups have a history of infighting, the two Christian groups (Assyrians and Chaldeans) don't get along, and the Arabs are not even united. Right now there are 80 registered political parties in northern Iraq. There is a high likelihood that things could get very mixed up in terms of military alliances.

    The Iraqi situation does resemble Bosnia in 1991. Everyone is preparing for civil war and mistrusting the other groups.

    The Turkmen groups have their guys in uniform in front of headquarters, which doesn't make the (Kurdish) peshmergas happy – but then again, they were supposed to have been disarmed too. There's a lot of tension in the air.

    The Iraqi Turkoman Front is, as can be expected, closely aligned with the Turkish General Staff. Right now, they perceive Bush as being very pro-Kurdish. They don't understand why they are not being consulted; if the US really is intent on keeping the integrity of Iraq's borders as they are now, the Turkmen need to play a role – after all, they comprise up to two million people there.

    Northern Iraq is the "American sector." Are they up to the challenge?

    Taylor: The fact that the colonial administration has been changed – and so fast – is not a good sign. The best spin Washington has been able to put on it is that Bremer's administration is more of a civilian government than Jay Garner's would have been. But nobody's buying that shit.

    Look, you don't start a game with your second string. Changing administrations now is like changing quarterbacks when you're down 21-7 in the third.

    How is the situation on the ground for the American troops? We've stopped hearing very much news about skirmishing or Iraqi attacks.

    Taylor: There are still plenty of attacks. In fact, the US has officially stopped reporting casualties, according to a sergeant I talked to at one checkpoint. The truth is, they're losing at least one man a day to hostile fire in Baghdad. They don't want to report this because they fear it might encourage more attacks.

    One week ago, seven Americans were killed by Iraqis. The graffiti on the wall behind them read, "beware monkeys, I'll be back – Saddam." In this symbolic statement, the word "monkeys" is a derogatory reference to the Iraqis themselves.

    Does the US have any intelligence on the ground, or any idea where Saddam may be lurking?

    Taylor: On April 7, the US tried to attack Saddam by bombing a restaurant in an upscale neighborhood of Baghdad. According to them, the missile attack had "narrowly missed" hitting Hussein's party – they had been there something like 15 minutes earlier, it was alleged. And this was supposed to be a sign that American intelligence, thought to be lacking, was getting closer to their man. Remember, getting Saddam was still politically important then to sustaining support for the war.

    After I heard this, I thought, "well, maybe it's possible." So I had my taxi driver take me there. And you know what?

    The possibility of Saddam ever having been there is absolutely zero. This place was the only American style restaurant in Baghdad. It served burgers, fries, and "Kentucky" fried chicken. They had the whole works – paper hats, deep-fat fryers, plastic trays. The only people who went there were American journalists.

    The whole idea was absurd. I mean, can you imagine Saddam carrying a plastic tray?

    So how do you think they came with the idea to bomb this place?

    Taylor: My opinion is that the military was looking to make a show, and so they asked the journalists, "do you know any restaurants around?" And this was the only place they knew, except for the Al Rasheed. They just wanted to bomb something to make it seem like they were on the ball. Actually they were just clueless.

    President Bush has pledged to bring American-style democracy to the Iraqi people. What're the chances of this happening?

    Taylor: Iraq is a country that has never really experienced elections before, yet the US is forcing them on the people. At the same time, the only Iraqis who can afford to form political parties now are the gangsters. So who's going to run the country? It will be just like "liberated" Kosovo, only probably worse.

    Finally, give me some predictions. How are the US soldiers holding up, and what can we expect in the future?

    Taylor: As an ex-soldier, I can say that their lack of knowledge of the local culture was shocking. These guys are young, scared, frustrated, and clearly weren't briefed to cope with the "post-war" challenges of dealing with the locals. The heat is getting to them, they don't go out, and there are anti-American slogans on all the walls. The Iraqis are proving to be a tough crowd.

    Unless Bush works a miracle, there will be civil war. I put the odds right now at about 60 percent. There's a lot of mutual mistrust and all of these groups are eyeing one another – and the US – with suspicion. The Iraq mission is clearly turning out to be something much different than the Americans had anticipated.

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     Sunday, May 25, 2003


    " The Truth Will Emerge"

    - US Senator Robert C. Byrd (May 21, 2003)

    On 21 May, 2003, US Senator Robert C. Byrd, made an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, raising concerns on the Bush Administration's manipulation of the truth on the Iraq war.

    Profile: Senator Byrd became a member of the Senate Leadership in 1967, when he was selected to be Secretary of the Democratic Conference. In 1971, he was chosen Senate Democratic Whip. In 1977, he was elected Democratic Leader, a position he held for six consecutive terms. For the 12 years he held the position of Democratic Leader -- from January 1977 through December 1988 -- Senator Byrd served as Senate Majority Leader six years (1977-80, 1987-88) and as Senate Minority Leader six years (1981-86).

    On two different occasions, Senator Byrd has served as Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, on which he has held membership since January 1959. Also twice, Senator Byrd unanimously was elected President pro tempore of the Senate, a post that placed him third in line of succession to the Presidency. He was President pro tempore from 1989 through 1994, and again from June 2001 through the end of 2002.

    Robert Byrd has the distinction of having held more leadership positions in the U.S. Senate than any other Senator of any party in Senate history.

    Senator Byrd stood almost alone in the US Legislature to speak up critically on the Bush Administration's political maneuvres to invade Iraq.

    Here are his remarks, echoing the concerns of the international community who had opposed the US invasion of Iraq, as well as the rumblings of many ordinary American citizens on the internet.

    The following is an excerpt of that speech, posted on the senator's website, entitled "The Truth Will Emerge".

  • " Regarding the situation in Iraq, .....the American people may have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of long-standing International law, under false premises.

  • There is ample evidence that the horrific events of September 11 have been carefully manipulated to switch public focus from Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda who masterminded the September 11th attacks, to Saddam Hussein who did not.

  • The run up to our invasion of Iraq featured the President and members of his cabinet invoking every frightening image they could conjure, from mushroom clouds, to buried caches of germ warfare, to drones poised to deliver germ laden death in our major cities. We were treated to a heavy dose of overstatement concerning Saddam Hussein's direct threat to our freedoms. The tactic was guaranteed to provoke a sure reaction from a nation still suffering from a combination of post traumatic stress and justifiable anger after the attacks of 911.

  • It was the exploitation of fear. It was a placebo for the anger.

  • Since the war's end, every subsequent revelation which has seemed to refute the previous dire claims of the Bush Administration has been brushed aside. Instead of addressing the contradictory evidence, the White House deftly changes the subject.

  • No weapons of mass destruction have yet turned up, but we are told that they will in time. Perhaps they yet will. But, our costly and destructive bunker busting attack on Iraq seems to have proven, in the main, precisely the opposite of what we were told was the urgent reason to go in. It seems also to have, for the present, verified the assertions of Hans Blix and the inspection team he led, which President Bush and company so derided. As Blix always said, a lot of time will be needed to find such weapons, if they do, indeed, exist. Meanwhile Bin Laden is still on the loose and Saddam Hussein has come up missing.

  • The Administration assured the U.S. public and the world, over and over again, that an attack was necessary to protect our people and the world from terrorism. It assiduously worked to alarm the public and blur the faces of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden until they virtually became one.

  • What has become painfully clear in the aftermath of war, is that Iraq was no immediate threat to the U.S. Ravaged by years of sanctions, Iraq did not even lift an airplane against us. Iraq's threatening death-dealing fleet of unmanned drones about which we heard so much morphed into one prototype made of plywood and string. Their missiles proved to be outdated and of limited range. Their army was quickly overwhelmed by our technology and our well trained troops.

  • Presently our loyal military personnel continue their mission of diligently searching for WMD. They have so far turned up only fertilizer, vacuum cleaners, conventional weapons, and the occasional buried swimming pool. They are misused on such a mission and they continue to be at grave risk.

  • The Bush team's extensive hype of WMD in Iraq as justification for a preemptive invasion has become more than embarrassing. It has raised serious questions about prevarication and the reckless use of power.

  • Were our troops needlessly put at risk? Were countless Iraqi civilians killed and maimed when war was not really necessary? Was the American public deliberately misled? Was the world?

  • What makes me cringe even more is the continued claim that we are "liberators." The facts don't seem to support the label we have so euphemistically attached to ourselves. True, we have unseated a brutal, despicable despot, but "liberation" implies the follow up of freedom, self-determination and a better life for the common people. In fact, if the situation in Iraq is the result of "liberation," we may have set the cause of freedom back 200 years.

  • Despite our high-blown claims of a better life for the Iraqi people, water is scarce, and often foul, electricity is a sometime thing, food is in short supply, hospitals are stacked with the wounded and maimed, historic treasures of the region and of the Iraqi people have been looted, and nuclear material may have been disseminated to heaven knows where, while U.S. troops, on orders, looked on and guarded the oil supply.

  • Meanwhile, lucrative contracts to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and refurbish its oil industry are awarded to Administration cronies, without benefit of competitive bidding, and the U.S. steadfastly resists offers of U.N. assistance to participate.

  • Is there any wonder that the real motives of the U.S. government are the subject of worldwide speculation and mistrust?

  • And in what may be the most damaging development, the U.S. appears to be pushing off Iraq's clamor for self-government. Jay Garner has been summarily replaced, and it is becoming all too clear that the smiling face of the U.S. as liberator is quickly assuming the scowl of an occupier.

  • "Regime change" in Iraq has so far meant anarchy, curbed only by an occupying military force and a U.S. administrative presence that is evasive about if and when it intends to depart.

  • Democracy and Freedom cannot be force fed at the point of an occupier's gun. How could we have been so impossibly naive? How could we expect to easily plant a clone of U.S. culture, values, and government in a country so riven with religious, territorial, and tribal rivalries, so suspicious of U.S. motives, and so at odds with the galloping materialism which drives the western-style economies?

  • As so many warned this Administration.... there is evidence that our crack down in Iraq is likely to convince 1,000 new Bin Ladens to plan other horrors of the type we have seen in the past several days. Instead of damaging the terrorists, we have given them new fuel for their fury.

  • We did not complete our mission in Afghanistan because we were so eager to attack Iraq. Now it appears that Al Queda is back with a vengeance. We have returned to orange alert in the U.S., and we may well have destabilized the Mideast region, a region we have never fully understood. We have alienated friends around the globe with our dissembling and our haughty insistence on punishing former friends who may not see things quite our way.

  • The path of diplomacy and reason have gone out the window to be replaced by force, unilateralism, and punishment for transgressions.

  • I read most recently with amazement our harsh castigation of Turkey, our longtime friend and strategic ally. It is astonishing that our government is berating the new Turkish government for conducting its affairs in accordance with its own Constitution and its democratic institutions.

  • Indeed, we may have sparked a new international arms race as countries move ahead to develop WMD as a last ditch attempt to ward off a possible preemptive strike from a newly belligerent U.S. which claims the right to hit where it wants.

  • In fact, there is little to constrain this President. Congress, in what will go down in history as its most unfortunate act, handed away its power to declare war for the foreseeable future and empowered this President to wage war at will.

  • As if that were not bad enough, members of Congress are reluctant to ask questions which are begging to be asked.

  • How long will we occupy Iraq? We have already heard disputes on the numbers of troops which will be needed to retain order. What is the truth? How costly will the occupation and rebuilding be? No one has given a straight answer. How will we afford this long-term massive commitment, fight terrorism at home, address a serious crisis in domestic healthcare, afford behemoth military spending and give away billions in tax cuts amidst a deficit which has climbed to over $340 billion for this year alone?

  • The American people unfortunately are used to political shading, spin, and the usual chicanery they hear from public officials. They patiently tolerate it up to a point. But there is a line. It may seem to be drawn in invisible ink for a time, but eventually it will appear in dark colors, tinged with anger.

  • When it comes to shedding American blood - - when it comes to wreaking havoc on civilians, on innocent men, women, and children, callous dissembling is not acceptable.

  • Nothing is worth that kind of lie - - not oil, not revenge, not reelection, not somebody's grand pipedream of a democratic domino theory.

  • And mark my words, the calculated intimidation which we see so often of late by the "powers that be" will only keep the loyal opposition quiet for just so long.

  • Because eventually, like it always does, the truth will emerge. And when it does, this house of cards, built of deceit, will fall. "

    May 21, 2003.
    US Senate.

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