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 Saturday, August 30, 2003

  Does Ariel Sharon Deliberately Want to Provoke a Violent Palestinian Response?
- Chronology of Israel's Assassinations and Palestinian Suicide Bombings.

" The escalation of assassinations illustrated by the August 22, 2003 Israeli killing of the major Hamas spokesman Ismail Abu Shanub in Gaza, widely seen as a Hamas moderate, is a clear sign that the Sharon government is concerned more about its own extremist political agenda than it is for Israeli civilian lives.

It is nearly impossible to avoid concluding that current Israeli government has either deliberately provoked a number of them or at least undertaken actions that would clearly risk them.

Either way, Ariel Sharon's government is complicit in the deaths of scores of Israeli citizens.

A nearly certain predictor for a suicide bombing is when Israel assassinates a senior commander or political leader of a militant group, especially when it does so during or in the negotiations for a truce by these groups on attacks on Israelis.

Ariel Sharon and his Minister of Defense Shaul Mofaz are touted as among Israel's most acute and ruthless military tacticians, who undertake few actions without thoroughly studying their consequences."
Read HERE full article by Steve Niva "Israel's Assassination Policy : The Trigger for the Lastest Suicide Bombings?"

  • READ HERE also an essay by Gilad Atzmon " Collective Self-Deception: The Most Common Mistakes of Israelis"
    Gilad Atzmon was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military. He now lives in London

  • READ HERE an article by Uri Avnery "The military’s classic putsch".

    Excerpts from Avnery's article:
    " The roadmap is dead, because Sharon was against it from the beginning.

    Bush saw it only as a photo-op in a nice background and Abu-Mazen did not get from Israel and the US anything that he could present as a Palestinian achievement.

    On August 21, the army assassinated Isma’il Abu-Shanab, the fourth ranking leader of Hamas. The man was a well-known political leader. Why was he of all people chosen for assassination?

    A military correspondent on Israeli TV made a slip of the tongue: Abu-Shanab was killed, he said, because he was ‘available’. In other words, he was an easy target because he did not go underground after the bus bombing, as did the leaders of the military wing.

    This time, at long last, the aim was achieved. The Palestinian organisations announced that they were calling off the hudna. Sharon and Co. rejoiced.

    Within hours the Israeli army had again penetrated into the centres of the Palestinian towns, starting an orgy of arrests and house demolitions (more than 40 in a single day). "

    Uri Avnery is a leading Israeli writer and a former member of Knesset
    Excerpts from Steve Niva's article "Israel's Assassination Policy : The Trigger for the Lastest Suicide Bombings?" :

    Palestinian suicide bombings are vicious and clearly war crimes under international law.

    They have driven the Israeli public to embrace the Israeli far right's expansionist agenda and have severely damaged the Palestinian cause in the court of world opinion.

    In the past three years, Israel undertook nearly 160 extra-judicial assassinations. And militant groups frequently list assassinations as a key justification for the suicide bombings. Israeli assassinations have also killed over one hundred civilian bystanders in the past three years fueling demands for revenge.

    Four out of the five recent suicide bombings came within a week of Israel's recent assassinations or attempted assassination of such high level militant commanders.

    All of them came during or in the process of negotiating the three-month truce against attacks on Israeli civilians that was implemented on June 29, 2003.

    Palestinian militants group had very clearly stated that they would consider Israeli assassinations to be a violation of the truce and that they reserved the right to respond accordingly.

    The Israeli decision to assassinate senior military and political leaders from Hamas and Islamic Jihad during the past three months frequently resulted in a suicide bombing, usually within a week.

    In four of the past five suicide bombings, the group whose senior militant was assassinated carried out the attack.

  • On June 10, 2003, Israel attempted to assassinate the senior Hamas political leader in Gaza, Abdel-Aziz Rantisi, which wounded him. It killed four Palestinian civilians. Hamas had vowed a swift and dramatic response that came earlier than many predicted.

    Palestinian militants' response: A day later, on June 11, Hamas responded with a suicide bombing on a bus in downtown Jerusalem.

  • On August 8,2003 Israel assassinated Fayez Al Sadr, head of Hamas' Qassem Brigades in the Askar refugee camp in Nablus.Three other Palestinians were killed in the raid.

    Palestinian militant's response: On, August 12, 2003 near Tel Aviv and near the Israeli settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank, dual suicide bombings took place, killing two Israelis. Both the Qassem Brigades and the Fatah-linked Aqsa Martyrs Brigades immediately vowed revenge. Each claimed responsibility for one of the bombings. According to several reports, the young bombers were both from the Askar refugee camp and had grown up within blocks of one another.

  • On August 15, 2003, Israel assassinated Muhammed Sidr, the commander of Islamic Jihad's Quds Brigades in Hebron. The Quds Brigades issued a statement warning that their response would be swift and would strike at the heart of Israel.

    Palestinian militants' response: Four days later, on August 19, a suicide bombing in Jerusalem a bus in which twenty-one Israelis were immolated. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility, but Hamas released videotape of one of its own Hebron activists, Raed Abdel-Hamed Mesk, who undertook the attack. Mesk asserted in the video he would carry out a suicide bombing to avenge the killing of Sidr. Hamas spokesmen claimed it was avenging the assassination of Abdullah Qawasmeh, Hamas' local West Bank chief in Hebron on June 21.

    The only exception to this pattern in the past three months is that the July 8 suicide bombing in the Israeli town of Kfar Yvetz that killed an elderly Israeli woman was not precipiated by Israeli assassination. But the Jenin branch of Islamic Jihad claimed the attack was in response to Israel's refusal to release Palestinian prisoners. The Islamic Jihad's official spokesman disavowed the attack.

    None of this should be surprising. Nor should anyone believe that Israeli political and intelligence officials who planned and implemented the assassinations were surprised by the ensuing suicide attacks.

    Israeli Provocations and Palestinian Suicide Bombing Responses

    The FIRST Palestinian suicide bombing actually began with the massacre of 29 Palestinians in Hebron's Ibrahimi by the American-Israeli settler, Baruch Goldstein in 1994.

  • On February 24, 1994, the American-Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinians in Hebron's Ibrahimi Mosque.

    Palestinian militant's response: The FIRST Palestinian suicide bombing inside Israel on April, 6, 1994. began.

    In 1994 and 1995, Islamic Jihad's first suicide bombings were claimed responses to the Israeli assassinations of its senior and founding leaders Hani Abed and Fathi Shiqaqi.

  • On January 5, 1996, Israel assassinated Yehiya Ayash, known as "the Engineer," when a booby-trapped cellular phone exploded in his hand.

    Palestinian militants' response: in 1996, Hamas launched its second bus bombing campaign. On Feb. 25, a suicide bomber blows up a No. 18 bus near Jerusalem's central bus station, killing 26 people and wounding 48 others. Hamas claimed responsibility. Less than an hour later, a second suicide bomb explodes at a soldiers' hitchhiking station near Ashkelon, killing one and injuring 31 others. Hamas claimed the two attacks are in retaliation for the Jan. 5, 1996, slaying of Yehiya Ayash in Gaza.

    Then the second Palestinian intifada began on September 29, 2000. And Israeli resumed its systematic assassination campaign on November 9, 2000.

    Many suicide bombings since then can be directly traced to this pattern of assassination and revenge.

    Examples from the past few years include:

  • On July 31 2001, Israel assassinated two leading Hamas commanders in Nablus. On August 9, 2001,Hamas launched a suicide bombing in a Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria, which ended nearly two-month Hamas cease-fire.

  • On November 23, 2001, Israel assassinated senior Hamas militant Mahmud Abu Hanoud, while Hamas was upholding an agreement with Arafat not to attack targets inside of Israel following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US. Hamas responded on December 1st and 2nd, 2001, with the Jerusalem and Haifa Hamas suicide bombings.

  • On January 14, 2002, Israel assassinated leading Fatah militant Raed Karmi, during a cease-fire declared by all the militant groups in late December,2001. On January 27, 2002, the Fatah linked Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade responded with its first suicide bombing n the center of Jerusalem by a female student from Nablus.

  • On July 23, 2002, Israel launced an air attack on a crowded apartment block in Gaza City to assassinate senior Hamas military leader, Salah Shehada. The air attack killed 15 civilians, 11 of them children, hours before a widely reported unilateral cease-fire declaration by the Fatah-linked Tanzim and Hamas. On August 4, Hamas responded with a Palestinian bombing on a bus near the Israeli town of Tsfat.

  • On December 26, 2002, Israel assassinated three prominent members from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade while representatives from Fatah, Hamas and other factions were meeting in Cairo to formulate a cease-fire on Israeli civilians. On January 5, 2003, the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade responded with a suicide bombing that killed twenty-two Israelis.

    Ariel Sharon's Finger Prints

    One could argue that Sharon had already undertaken nearly every action possible, short of a high level assassination, to undermine Palestinian support for the cease-fire and President Bush's Road Map process.

    In addition to mass arrests and low level killings, he had refused to dismantle Israeli settler outposts, end the siege and blockades of Palestinian cities and towns, release a significant number of Palestinian prisoners, or cease building a separation wall deep within the West Bank.

    There are only two conclusions one can draw:

    • Firstly, is that Sharon thought it so important to kill these high level militant leaders at this time despite the bloody consequences for Israeli civilians .

    • Secondly, that he took these actions precisely because he sought a violent Palestinian response.
    It appears that the only thing more threatening for Ariel Sharon's government than Palestinian terrorism is a Palestinian cease-fire.

    Palestinian Militants' Options

    By the same token, militant Palestinian groups must be condemned in the strongest terms for seizing upon Sharon's provocations through their myopic preoccupation with revenge through suicide bombing that has brought untold misery upon both Israelis and Palestinians.

    Suicide bombings against Israeli civilians are clearly not the only option they could undertake in response to assassinations or any other Israeli provocation.

    Palestinian militants have essentially aligned themselves with Israel's expansionist right-wing by providing the crucial pretext for Sharon to reoccupy and lay siege to Palestinian population centers, seize more Palestinian land for Israeli settlements and to build a barrier around Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza that traps them within tiny enclaves.

    While Palestinians must do what they can to end suicide bombings, it is past time to rethink Israel's assassination policy. They make it impossible for Palestinian authorities to undertake steps to reign in the militant groups without risking a major civil war and fuel popular support for retaliation.

    Given all the carnage that can be traced to Israel's assassination policy, the only remaining question is why more Israelis and their supporters abroad are not in the forefront against it.
  • Steve Niva is a professor of international politics and Middle East Studies at The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington.

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     Thursday, August 28, 2003

      In History, Jews Were Protected by Muslims, According to a Jewish Scholar

    In an essay entitled " A Basic History of Zionism and its Relation to Judaism" first published in September 2001, Hanna Braun, a Jewish scholar, wrote:

    "It is the duty of all Jews with a sense of justice and a conscience to speak out against the falsifications of history by the Zionist lobby, and the dangerous misconceptions it has led the West to accept.

    I fear that unless and until Israel is judged by the same criteria as other modern states, this is unlikely to change.

    Nowadays the deliberate blurring of the distinction between Zionism and Judaism, which includes a rewriting of ancient as well as modern history, is exploited to stifle any criticism of Israel's policies and actions, however extreme and inhuman they may be.

    This, incidentally, also plays directly into anti-Semitic prejudices by equating Israeli arrogance, brutality and complete denial of basic human rights to non-Jews with general Jewish characteristics.

    The West tolerates Israel's continuous breaches of human rights--violations that it would not tolerate if perpetrated by any other country. Few Western states and not many Jews dare take a stand against Israel, particularly as many of the former still feel a sense of unease and guilt about the holocaust which Zionist Jews inside and outside Israel have exploited in what to me seems an almost obscene manner.

    In the USA, the Jewish Zionist lobby is still strong enough to keep successive governments on board.

    Moreover, the USA regards Israel as an important strategic ally in its fight against Middle Eastern "rogue" states which have supplanted the Soviet Union as the great satanic enemy of the free world."
    Read HERE the FULL Essay by Hanna Braun "A Basic History of Zionism and its Relation to Judaism"

    Read HERE also an interesting article by Jonathan Cook in The Guardian UK "A Jew Among 25,000 Muslims"

    Excerpts from Hanna Braun's essay :
    I shall sketch an outline of the history of Judaism and the Jews.

    Since biblical times Jewish communities lived in Arab lands, in Persia, India, East and North Africa and indeed in Palestine.

    With the destruction of the Temple and the final fall of their state in 70 AD many Jews were taken out of Judea and hence to Rome and the Diaspora. Many poorer Judeans, however (such as subsistence farmers), were able to stay in Palestine. (Some of them had converted to Christianity and were one of the earliest Christian groups.)

    Modern research suggests that when Islam arrived in the area in 633 AD many of these Jews converted and that they form a considerable part of today's Palestinians.

    These various communities were on the whole well integrated into their respective societies and did not experience the persecutions that later became so prevalent in Europe.

    In Palestine, for instance, Muslims repeatedly protected their Jewish neighbours from marauding crusaders; in one instance at least, Jews fought alongside Muslims to try and prevent crusaders from landing at Haifa's port, and Salah al-Dinl-din, after re-conquering Jerusalem from the crusaders, invited the Jews back into the city.

    The Jews in Spain under Moorish rule flourished and experienced a renaissance mirroring that of the great Islamic civilisation and culture at the time.

    As Christianity spread from the north of Spain, Jews were again protected by Muslim rulers until the fall of Granada - the last Moorish kingdom to pass into Christian hands - when both Jews and Muslims were expelled at the end of the 15th century (Jews in 1492 and Muslims 10 years later).

    Most of the Jews from the Iberian peninsula settled in North Africa and the lands under Ottoman rule, including Palestine, and continued their peaceful co-existence with Muslims in those countries.

    The bulk of Portuguese "converted" Jews (these were forced conversions and such Jews were called Marranos, i.e. pigs, by Jews who had fled or who preferred to die for their faith) settled in Amsterdam, presumably because they had long established trading connections in that city. In 1655 they were invited to Britain by Oliver Cromwell. Most of them were glad to resettle since at the time the Netherlands had just freed itself from the Spanish yoke and the shadow of the dreaded inquisition was still uncomfortably close.

    The fate of Jewry in European countries was very different: persecutions, killings and burnings were widespread and Jews were forced to live in closed ghettos, particularly in the Russian Empire, where they were confined to the "Pale of Jewish" (?) settlement, an area which consisted of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Byelarus or White Russia.

    This distinction between a people and a religion was disapproved of by the Orthodox Jews, who still today regard the Jewish people and religion as indivisible.

    The concept of the Jews as people closely mirrored the relatively new European idea of a homogeneous nation state.

    Some of these early proto-Zionists, calling themselves "Hovevei Zion" (Lovers of Zion), started the first settlements in Palestine in the 1870's, and a larger number of immigrants followed after the Russian pogroms of 1881-82.

    These settlers distinguished themselves by their deliberate segregation from the indigenous population and their contempt for local customs and traditions. This naturally aroused suspicion and hostility in the locals.

    This exclusivity was largely based on a sense of superiority common to Europeans of the time, who believed they were the only advanced and truly civilised society and in true colonial fashion looked down on "natives" or ignored them altogether. However, beyond that there was also a particular sense of superiority of Jews towards all non-Jews.

    This belief in innate Jewish superiority had a long tradition in religious Jewish thinking, central to which was the notion of the Jews as God's chosen people.

    The accepted thinking in the religious communities was that Jews must on no account mix with gentiles for fear of being contaminated and corrupted by them.

    The "father" of political Zionism, Theodore Herzl (1860-1904), came from a totally different perspective. Dr. Herzl was a Viennese, emancipated, secular journalist. Herzl himself felt that the only solution to anti-Semitism lay in a Jewish Homeland. To that end he approached various diplomats and notables, including the Ottoman Sultan, but mainly European rulers, the great colonial powers of the time, and was rewarded for his efforts by being offered Argentina or Uganda by the British as possible Jewish Homelands.

    The first Zionist Congress convened in Basle in 1897, would not accept any homeland other than the land of Zion. The last toast in the Passover ceremony is "Next year in Jerusalem"; although this was a religious rather than a national aspiration, it was common amongst the Orthodox communities to purchase a handful of soil purporting to come from the Holy Land to be placed under the deceased's head. (Orthodox Jews at that time completely rejected any Jewish political movement and did not attend the congress.)

    Herzl realised he had to accept the "Land of Zion", i.e. Palestinian option. In his famous book "Der Judenstaat" (The State of the Jews) Herzl wrote that the Jews and their state will constitute "a rampart of Europe against Asia, of civilisation against barbarism," . He added:
    "We shall endeavour to encourage the poverty-stricken population to cross the border by securing work for it in the countries it passes through, while denying it work in our own country.

    The process of expropriation and displacement must be carried out prudently and discreetly--Let (the landowners) sell us their land at exorbitant prices.

    We shall sell nothing back to them."
    Max Nordau, an early Zionist, visited Palestine and was so horrified that the country was already populated that he burst out in front of Herzl: "But we are committing a grave injustice!"

    Some years later, in 1913, a prominent Zionist thinker and writer, Ahad Ha'am (one of the people), wrote:
    "What are our brothers doing? They were slaves in the land of their exile. Suddenly they found themselves faced with boundless freedom ... and they behave in a hostile and cruel manner towards the Arabs, trampling on their rights without the least justification ... even bragging about this behaviour."
    But the dismay of Nordau and others at the injustices to, and total lack of recognition of, the indigenous population was silenced and indeed edited out of Jewish history and other books, as was some of Herzl's writing.

    The Zionist slogan of "a land without people for a people without land" prevailed and within a matter of a few years the immigrants became "sons of the land" (Bnei Ha'aretz), whereas the inhabitants became the aliens and foreigners.

    The Balfour Declaration in 1917 granted Zionists a Jewish Homeland in Palestine. Protests and representations by local Arab leaders were brushed aside.

    Lord Balfour wrote in 1919:
    "In Palestine, we do not even propose to consult the inhabitants of the country. (Zionism's) immediate needs and hopes for the future are much more important than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who presently inhabit Palestine."
    Settlements grew slowly for a long time, but the systematic buying up of land, frequently from absentee landlords, which left tenant farmers homeless, contributed to the first Palestinian uprising in 1921-22 and other outbursts of hostilities.

    Another contributing factor to growing Arab hostility was the Zionists' policy of not employing Arabs or buying their produce.

    The worst was a massacre of some 65 Jews in Hebron in 1929, after orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe had founded a "Yeshiva" (a religious study centre) in the town and had aroused the suspicions and hostility of the indigenous population, who prior to this had lived in peace and harmony for hundreds of years with their non-European Jewish neighbours.

    For many years Zionism remained a minority movement of mainly Eastern European Jews . After the establishment of the state of Israel, the new state unleashed a massive propaganda campaign to induce the Sephardi and Oriental Jews to "ascend" to the land of their ancestors, mainly for demographic reasons and also as cannon fodder. In 1948 only about one third of the population and about 6% of the land were Jews or in Jewish hand.

    This also happened in the 1980's with the Jews of Ethiopia. However, upon arrival, these non-European newcomers were treated very much as inferior second-class citizens.

    This European dominance is still prevalent in modern Israel where, for example, the national anthem speaks about Jewish longing for the East towards Zion, whereas for many of the non-European communities Palestine lies to the West.

    Sadly, this has led to some groups of Sephardi (non-European) or Oriental Jews becoming extreme right-wing chauvinists, so as to "prove" their credentials.

    Since that time (1948) we have witnessed an increasing and deliberate confluence of Judaism and Zionism, to the extent that today it is widely regarded as treason and self-hate for a Jew to criticise the state, let alone Zionism.

    The fundamentalists' belief is that the Messianic age is already upon us and that any obstacles to a total elimination of any non-Jews in the promised land, i.e. the whole of what was Palestine including the Holy Mount, is God's punishment for sinful Jews, namely all those who are westernised and secular. This fully exonerates, and indeed sanctifies, a man like Baruch Goldstein who murdered 29 Palestinians praying in the Ibrahimi mosque, as well as the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

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     Tuesday, August 26, 2003

      Editorial: It's time to fire Rumsfeld


    The United States has more serious problems in Iraq than President Bush could have imagined when he declared major combat at an end. Before he faces more surprises, the nation's first MBA president should take management action.

    Relieve Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary.

    The president needs a Defense Department in which professional views about what military force levels hold sway, change can occur without perpetual turmoil and military planning avoids undermining diplomacy. None of that is likely under the domineering Rumsfeld.

    Rumsfeld is brilliant, dedicated and hard-working. It's said he gets results and has won two wars, right? It certainly didn't look that way last week when Americans watched scenes from the bombed U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. Continuing U.S. casualties, sabotage and insecurity plague Iraq.

    In Afghanistan, we now have more troops than ever and the Taliban have been on the offensive, leading to 90 deaths in a seven-day period. So much for driving them into caves. Afghanistan needs additional resources to become a stable nation.

    Every day, Iraq's troubles make it more certain that Rumsfeld was wrong in his assessment of troop needs. His rapid action plan brought quick victories. But just as Gen. Eric Shinseki warned, security requires several hundred thousand military.

    News accounts raise questions about whether Rumsfeld is simply a demanding boss or one who may inadvertently limit what he hears from aides.

    When pressed on troop-level questions months ago, Rumsfeld repeatedly ducked behind the planning of his generals. He now says that his generals haven't requested additional troops. Such talk has enough suggestion of buck-passing to be a management concern.

    If Rumsfeld brings some genius to hiring decisions, it hasn't been apparent. He's surrounded himself with neo-conservatives bent on war, including Paul Wolfowitz, who wanted Bush to attack Iraq immediately after the Sept. 11 massacres, and such Defense Policy Board members as Richard Perle and Newt Gingrich.

    Somehow, Iran-Contra figure John Poindexter was picked to head the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, where he suggested creating a massive personal data program and a terrorism futures trading market.

    Rumsfeld also has proven to be an impediment to diplomacy. Numerous accounts show how Secretary of State Colin Powell has been undercut within the administration.

    During the Iraqi war preparations, Rumsfeld insulted allies with such phrases as "the old Europe." In Germany, he followed up with public praise for Romania and Albania's help in Afghanistan, but none for Germany's leading role. Powell needs to be in charge of diplomacy, untroubled by an out-of-control defense secretary.

    Rumsfeld is the bright, abrasive boss whose usefulness expires quickly. If the president has any thought of a more international approach to security threats, he must remove Rumsfeld from his leadership team.

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     Monday, August 25, 2003

      AUSTRALIA: Former MP Pauline Hanson Jailed 3 Years for Electoral Fraud

    Former Australian MP Pauline Hanson was convicted after a 23-day trial and jailed by the Brisbane District Court . She was found guilty of fraudulently registering One Nation Party in Queensland on December 4, 1997, with David Ettridge. She was also found guilty of dishonestly claiming almost $500,000 in electoral reimbursements from the Queensland Electoral Commissioner, Des O'Shea, after the 1998 state election.

    The chief District Court judge, Patsy Wolfe, sentenced Hanson with David Ettridge to three years jail with no parole. Hanson is facing further mention of a charge in Brisbane's Magistrates Court today for allegedly spending up to $20,000 from the fund on herself.

    Pauline Hanson was the founder of Australia's xenophobic One Nation party. Hanson first appeared on the political scene with a shock victory in the suburban Brisbane seat of Oxley in 1996. Initially endorsed by the rightwing Liberal party, she was removed from its slate when her views on Asian immigration and Aboriginal rights became known. Her policies, which she described as "... a fair go for all Australians", included slashing health, education and housing aid for impoverished Aborigines.

    She said Asian immigrants were synonymous with crime and disease, and that immigration should stop until unemployment reached nil. The Liberals deselected her because of the fear that her extreme views would help Labor.

    Despite her disappearance from parliament, her impact on Australian politics has remained dramatic. "She transformed the political landscape," Margo Kingston, her biographer, said.

    "She started off as a profound risk to the conservative side of politics, but when [prime minister] John Howard broke the bipartisan policy on refugees during the Tampa [immigrant boat] crisis, that was completely turned around. From that moment One Nation support ended, its support went to John Howard, politics was shifted to the right and Labor was dragged along with it."

    Hanson always insisted that Howard had simply stolen her policies on Aboriginal rights and immigration. "It's ironic," said Ms Kingston. "The woman who started all this is in jail and the man who took her policies is prime minister."

    The Prime Minister, John Howard, has joined a chorus of critics of the sentence, branding it excessive.

    The comment pages of the Australian press were dominated over the weekend by the imprisonment of Pauline Hanson, the controversial founder of the anti-immigration One Nation party. Last week, she and David Ettridge, the party's deputy director, were handed three-year jail sentences for electoral fraud. For many, however, the sentence was excessive. It was ignorance rather than malice that had landed Hanson in prison, argued Piers Akerman in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph, and "three years is too long a sentence for stupidity." The Melbourne Herald Sun noted that "far greater crimes have resulted in leniency ... Hanson was dishonest, her politics ill-conceived and dangerous, but in this case the punishment does not fit the crime." The Queensland Sunday Mail's Terry Sweetman was happy to "dance on her political grave", but he felt "a suspended sentence or a symbolic couple of months in the slammer probably would have been enough."

    Read Here full article by Alan Ramsey, "Don't cry for a sleazy grub "
    .August 23, 2003

    Do not waste sympathy on Pauline Hanson. She was a Liberal Party aberration who by ignorance or design tried to defraud taxpayers of almost $500,000. People tend to forget voters never elected Hanson in her own right. She was an accident of circumstance that shot her to prominence, where she self-destructed.

    Hansonism was a political reality, Pauline only ever its lightning rod. She was an ugly image who got into Parliament by mistake and who came to represent all manner of prejudices, none of which was virulent enough to get her re-elected, including intense voter disillusionment with the established party system.

    Yet people who should know better profess she has been punished for a "technicality" when, in truth, it is the criminal justice system that has acted after an idiot element of an arrogant party political system behaved as though it was outside the law. It isn't the first time.

    Almost four years ago, in Adelaide, a state Labor MP named Ralph Clarke, a former deputy opposition leader, sued his own party in the South Australian Supreme Court, and won. Labor had stripped him of endorsement in a factional branch stacking exercise the court ruled illegal, to Labor's immense shock. It didn't save Clarke's political career, who again lost in a new court-ordered preselection ballot. But it cost Labor $250,000 in legal fees.

    And, more significantly, it sounded a warning to all political parties that their rank-and-file members have rights the legal system will uphold if the party system does not. It is this very principle at the core of what has now happened in Queensland.

    The same year Clarke won his legal action in Adelaide, a Queensland state Labor candidate, Karen Ehrmann, pleaded guilty in a Townsville court to 47 counts of electoral fraud, again, like the Clarke case, involving vote rigging - or branch stacking - in an ALP preselection ballot.

    On August 11, 2000, Ehrmann, like Hanson, was sentenced to three years' jail. I'm not aware talkback radio went into meltdown at the time on Ehrmann's behalf or that various self-interested politicians sought to rationalise her behaviour as the product of a "technicality".

    Unlike Hanson, however, who was given no minimum term, Ehrmann's sentence carried a minimum nine months. She served the nine months. So whatever now happens to Hanson's appeal, nobody should think our legal system, in whatever state, isn't fair dinkum about dealing seriously with electoral fraud, however it shows up in the political process.

    The Clarke and Ehrmann cases differ from Hanson's in one major respect. Clarke and Ehrmann were involved in internal frauds where factional manipulation of the electoral roll rorted party endorsements for election to political office. Hanson's sin was to deliberately or unknowingly fiddle Queensland's rules of political party registration, thus enabling her, as party president, to walk away with $500,000 in public funding after the 1998 Queensland state election, money she was later forced to return when the legality of One Nation's registration collapsed.

    And why did it collapse? Because Queensland electoral law, based on federal law, says a political party that does not have at least one elected MP must be able to show it has 500 legitimate members to be eligible to be a registered political party. And it must be a registered party under state law to be eligible to collect state public funding.

    Thus when One Nation won 11 seats by polling 439,121 primary votes - or 22.7 per cent - in the 1998 Queensland election, it exceeded the 4 per cent necessary for public funding and qualified for a total $498,637. But only, of course, if One Nation was legally registered.

    Which, it was later discovered, it was not. It didn't have anything like 500 legitimate members, under the terms of state law. Nor were the rights of those it did have properly observed and respected by Hanson, as party president, and by her co-accused crony, David Ettridge.

    It wasn't enough just to cobble together 500 names of "supporters" and pretend One Nation was a legitimate party entitled to pocket just on half a million dollars of Queensland taxpayers' money.

    Which is exactly what Hanson and Ettridge did. So please, no more tosh about technicalities, nor professed bewilderment at the "harshness" of the penalty now they've been adjudged guilty by a Brisbane jury. Either they were venal bozos or they were utterly cavalier in their behaviour.

    Whatever, they got exactly what they deserved. Just as Karen Ehrmann got what she deserved, but who at least had the saving grace of no pretence she wasn't guilty. And just as the South Australian branch of the ALP got what it deserved when it wasted $250,000 of its members' money defending a court case it arrogantly had believed it, too, just like Hanson and Ettridge, should never have been taken to court for.

    They were all just sleazy grubs.

    And for the record, remember that Hanson, when elected to the Federal Parliament in March 1996, did so still as the candidate of the Liberal Party, even though John Howard, in a panic, insisted she be disendorsed after some of her blunt views on Aborigines and Asians surfaced in a local newspaper interview during the campaign. But her expulsion had come too late to affect her official status on the 70,000 ballot papers which already had been printed. And on these she was still listed, on polling day, as the Liberal candidate. The nonsense later that Hanson was elected as an independent has only been just that: nonsense.

    The Liberals might have disowned her but she went into the ballot box on polling day as the Liberals' only identified candidate. And that is what got her elected. Thirty-one months later, in the October 1998 general election, Hanson switched from the outer Brisbane seat of Oxley to the nearby seat of Blair under the One Nation banner. It didn't help. She led on primary votes but lost on preferences to the Liberal candidate. In 2001 Hanson ran for a Queensland Senate seat and failed there, too. And in the recent NSW state election she was defeated a third time.

    To repeat, Pauline Hanson has only been elected once, and then under the Liberal Party banner. She is its creation, nobody else's. Despite everything, Hanson in five years of trying has never been able to win under the label of her own party, Pauline Hanson's One Nation. The acronym almost got it right - a complete phoney. Voters were fooled just the once, no more. Nobody should be fooled now that she's in the slammer.

    Which leaves only public funding.

    The NSW Wran Labor government introduced public funding of general elections in 1981. Gough Whitlam had promised it federally in every election campaign from 1969 to 1977 but never got the opportunity to introduce it. Public funding remained in Bill Hayden's manifesto in 1980 and Bob Hawke repeated the pledge in Labor's winning campaign in 1983.

    Later that same year, in November, Labor kept its pledge. Public funding of elections became federal law. It opened the door to public funding in all the states, one by one, thereafter. And each time it was a Labor government that introduced it.

    And the Liberals? In the Federal Parliament in 1983, when Kim Beazley was the junior minister who introduced the relevant legislation, both Coalition parties vigorously opposed taxpayers' money being given to political parties for campaign costs, just as they vigorously opposed disclosure of political parties' campaign donations.

    No matter. Both matters became law. Both houses of the Parliament adopted the legislation, despite the Coalition voting against them at each stage of the legislation. Among those Liberals still in the Parliament 20 years later who voted the party line at the time: John Howard.

    Labor's Mick Young made a speech worth recalling. He told the House, in part, on November 10, 1983: "We put this proposal [for public funding] on March 5 in our policy speech. We told the Australian people - as we had in 1972, 1974, 1975, 1977 and 1980 - that when given the opportunity, we would pass these [electoral] reforms. It is important to understand all we are doing is instituting in Australia a system that already applies in most democracies [including] the United States ...

    "And I can assure members not only that we have a mandate to introduce the system, as we are doing now, but also that if ever the conservatives return to power in Australia, as they are likely to do in the years ahead, they will not change the system. I'll bet on it ..."

    He was right. Public funding of elections now applies right across the country. No state non-Labor government, on regaining office, has ever killed it off. And neither did the Howard Government when, ultimately, it got into office 13 years after Mick Young's speech. At the time all those years ago, public funding was limited to 60 cents a primary vote: the cost of three (20-cent) normal-rate postage stamps. In the first federal election in which it applied (1984), just on $8.5 million was shared among the parties.

    The 60 cents a vote is long gone. Now it is up to $1.91 for every vote, under a formula which is indexed every six months.

    And at the last election, the major and minor parties, as well as those independents who gained the necessary 4 per cent of the vote to qualify, shared a total $38.6 million of taxpayers' funds to meet election costs.

    And you never, ever hear John Howard promising to repeal the law.

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     Monday, August 18, 2003

      REVEALED:Israel Helped Uganda's Monstrous Dictator Idi Amin Took Power, According to British Foreign Office Papers

    Read HERE Full Report by Richard Dowden of Independent UK
    17 August 2003

    Excerpt from Dowden's report"

    Britain's Foreign Office papers released last year identified Israel as the conspirator in propping up Idi Amin as Uganda's new ruler.

    The first telegrams to London from the British High Commissioner in Kampala, Richard Slater, show a man shocked and bewildered by the coup.

    But he quickly turned to the man who he thought might know what was going on; Colonel Bar-Lev, the Israeli defence attaché. He found the Israeli colonel with Amin. They had spent the morning of the coup together.

    Slater's next telegram says that according to Colonel Bar-Lev: "In the course of last night General Amin caused to be arrested all officers in the armed forces sympathetic to Obote ... Amin is now firmly in control of all elements of [the] army which controls vital points in Uganda ... the Israeli defence attaché discounts any possibility of moves against Amin."

    The Israelis moved quickly to consolidate the coup.

    In the following days Bar-Lev was in constant contact with Amin and giving him advice.

    Slater told London that Bar-Lev had explained "in considerable detail [how] ... all potential foci of resistance, both up country and in Kampala, had been eliminated".

    Amin made his first foreign trip; a state visit to Israel. Golda Meir, the Prime Minister, was reportedly "shocked at his shopping list" for arms.

    But why was Israel so interested in a landlocked country in Central Africa?

    The reason is spelt out by Slater in a later telegram.

    Israel was backing rebellion in southern Sudan to punish Sudan for supporting the Arab cause in the Six-Day War. "They do not want the rebels to win. They want to keep them fighting."

    The Israelis had helped train the new Uganda army in the 1960s. Shortly after independence Amin was sent to Israel on a training course.

    When he became chief of staff of the new army Amin also ran a sideline operation for the Israelis, supplying arms and ammunition to the rebels in southern Sudan.

    Amin had his own motive for helping them: many of his own people, the Kakwa, live in southern Sudan. Obote, however, wanted peace in southern Sudan. That worried the Israelis and they were even more worried when, in November 1970 Obote sacked Amin. Their stick for beating Sudan was suddenly taken away.

    The British may have had little to do with the coup but they welcomed it enthusiastically. "General Amin has certainly removed from the African scene one of our most implacable enemies in matters affecting Southern Africa...," wrote an enthusiastic Foreign Office official in London.

    The man who argued most vehemently for Britain to back Amin with arms was Bruce McKenzie, a former RAF pilot turned MI6 agent. (Amin murdered him seven years later.)

    He flew to Israel shortly after the coup and, as if getting permission to back Amin, he reported to Douglas-Home: "The way is now clear for our High Commission in Kampala to get close to Amin."

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     Wednesday, August 13, 2003

      The Systematic Destruction of Palestinian Society By Israeli Forces During the 34-Month Intifada

    Read HERE Full Report by the Palestinian National Information Center -August 12, 2003

    Excerpt from the report:

      The Al-Aqsa Intifada broke out in in September 2000.

      (A) Palestinians Killed

    • Up to July 2003, 2,647 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli occupying forces (IOF) in the Palestinian territories.

    • The Palestinians killed included 1,157 ( 43.7 %) in Gaza Strip and 1,490 (56.3 %) in the West Bank.

    • Among those killed by Israeli soldiers were 482 children and 178 women.

    • Those killed in Israeli extrajudicial executions were 241.

    • Palestinian medical crew members killed were 25

    • Palestinian journalists killed were nine.

    • In 2002 alone, 762 Palestinians were killed in Gaza Strip and 488 others in the West Bank, making it the bloodiest year throughout the Al-Aqsa Intifada,

    • In the first months of the Intifada, 191 Palestinians in the West Bank and 126 others in the Gaza Strip were killed by the IOF.

      (B) Palestinians Wounded

    • 36,448 Palestinians have been wounded by the IOF over the past 34 months, including 25,058 in the West Bank and 11,390 in the Gaza Strip.

    • In 2003, 2,547 Palestinians were wounded in the West Bank alone.

    • In 2002, 7,927 Palestinians were wounded.

    • In 2000, 6,575 were wounded.

      (C) Destruction of Palestinian Property and Environment

    • IOF, throughout March 2002 up to this moment, uprooted 964,446 trees,

    • IOF bulldozed 60,240 dunums of arable lands

    • Israel expropriated 95,000 dunums of Palestinian farm land.

    • The Israeli Occupying Force (IOF) , over the past three years, destroyed completely 2,022 houses, while those partially damaged were 36,776.

    • In Gaza Strip alone, 1,555 houses were completely destroyed as 12,824 others were partially damaged.

      (D)Palestinians Detained

    • During the intifada period, IOF arrested 7,389 Palestinians up to the end of July 2003.

    Read HERE Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA) on US Goverment's aid to Israel
    Congressional researchers have disclosed that between 1974 and 1989, $16.4 billion in U.S. military loans were converted to grants and that this was the understanding from the beginning.

    Total U.S. aid to Israel is approximately one-third of the American foreign- aid budget, even though Israel comprises just .001 percent of the world's population and already has one of the world's higher per capita incomes.

    Most Americans are NOT aware how much of their tax revenue our government sends to Israel.

    For the fiscal year ending in September 30, 1997, the U.S. has given Israel $6.72 billion :
    • $6.194 billion falls under Israel's foreign aid allotment and $526 million comes from agencies such as the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Information Agency and the Pentagon.

    • The $6.72 billion figure does NOT include loan guarantees and annual compound interest totalling $3.122 billion the U.S. pays on money borrowed to give to Israel. It does NOT include the cost to U.S. taxpayers of IRS tax exemptions that donors can claim when they donate money to Israeli charities.

      (Donors claim approximately $1 billion in Federal tax deductions annually. This ultimately costs other U.S. tax payers $280 million to $390 million.)

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     Monday, August 11, 2003

      US admits it used NAPALM bombs in Iraq

      A 1980 UN convention banned the use against civilian targets of napalm, a terrifying mixture of jet fuel and polystyrene that sticks to skin as it burns.

    Read HERE related article on use of napalm bombs by US in Iraq

    Read HERE Full Report by Andrew Buncombe (Independent UK)

    Excerpt of the article:
    American pilots dropped the controversial incendiary agent napalm on Iraqi troops during the advance on Baghdad. The attacks caused massive fireballs that obliterated several Iraqi positions.

    The US, which did not sign the UN treaty on use of napalm bombs, is one of the few countries that makes use of the weapon. It was employed notoriously against both civilian and military targets in the Vietnam war.

    The Pentagon denied using napalm at the time, but Marine pilots and their commanders have confirmed that they used an upgraded version of the weapon against dug-in positions. They said napalm, which has a distinctive smell, was used because of its psychological effect on an enemy.

    The upgraded weapon, which uses kerosene rather than petrol, was used in March and April, when dozens of napalm bombs were dropped near bridges over the Saddam Canal and the Tigris river, south of Baghdad.

    "We napalmed both those [bridge] approaches," said Colonel James Alles, commander of Marine Air Group 11.

    "Unfortunately there were people there ... you could see them in the [cockpit] video. They were Iraqi soldiers. It's no great way to die. The generals love napalm. It has a big psychological effect."

    A reporter from the Sydney Morning Herald who witnessed another napalm attack on 21 March on an Iraqi observation post at Safwan Hill, close to the Kuwaiti border, wrote the following day:
    "Safwan Hill went up in a huge fireball and the observation post was obliterated.
    'I pity anyone who is in there,' a Marine sergeant said. 'We told them to surrender.'"

    At the time, the Pentagon insisted the report was untrue. "We completed destruction of our last batch of napalm on 4 April, 2001," it said.

    The revelation that napalm was used in the war against Iraq, while the Pentagon denied it, has outraged opponents of the war.

    "Most of the world understands that napalm and incendiaries are a horrible, horrible weapon," said Robert Musil, director of the organisation Physicians for Social Responsibility. "It takes up an awful lot of medical resources. It creates horrible wounds." Mr Musil said denial of its use "fits a pattern of deception [by the US administration]".

    The Pentagon said it had not tried to deceive. It drew a distinction between traditional napalm, first invented in 1942, and the weapons dropped in Iraq, which it calls Mark 77 firebombs. They weigh 510lbs, and consist of 44lbs of polystyrene-like gel and 63 gallons of jet fuel.

    Officials said that if journalists had asked about the firebombs their use would have been confirmed. A spokesman admitted they were "remarkably similar" to napalm but said they caused less environmental damage.

    But John Pike, director of the military studies group GlobalSecurity.Org, said:
    "You can call it something other than napalm but it is still napalm. It has been reformulated in the sense that they now use a different petroleum distillate, but that is it. The US is the only country that has used napalm for a long time. I am not aware of any other country that uses it."
    Marines returning from Iraq chose to call the firebombs "napalm". Mr Musil said the Pentagon's effort to draw a distinction between the weapons was outrageous. He said: "It's Orwellian. They do not want the public to know. It's a lie."

    In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Marine Corps Maj-Gen Jim Amos confirmed that napalm was used on several occasions in the war.

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     Friday, August 08, 2003

      Historian Who Predicted in 1970s the Downfall of Soviet Union Says Power and Influence of the United States is overestimated.

    Read Here full article by Martin A. Senn and Felix Lautenschlager (translated by Andreas Artz)

    The power and influence of the United States is being overestimated, claims French historian and demographer Emmanuel Todd.

    "There will be no American Empire. The world is too large and dynamic to be controlled by one power."

    According to Todd, whose 1976 book predicted the fall of the Soviet Union, there is no question: the decline of America the Superpower has already begun.

    Emmanuel Todd compares the US to 16th century Spain, arguing that US economic power is being undermined by the decline of its industrial base and its increased dependence on other countries to feed its consumption.

    The following article was originally published in Neue Zuricher Zeitung (The New Zuricher, Sunday morning).

    NZZ: Mr. Todd, you write that America is economically, militarily, and ideologically too weak to actually control the world. This would gladden many anti-Americans. But how is this anything but the wishful thinking of an intellectual who is the product of the French US critical tradition?

    ET: This is neither wishful thinking nor anti-Americanism. Why would I have been so prominently criticised by the left? The French career anti-American paper "Le Monde diplomatique", was the only major paper that remained conspicuously silent on my book. The over-estimation of America is
    fundamental to these people. It is on this topic that they agree with the American ultra-conservatives: the former to demonize, the latter to aggrandize.

    You on the other hand can be accused of underestimating the United States.

    On the contrary, the US is still the most powerful nation in the world today, but there are many indicators that they are about to relinquish their position as solitary superpower. In my 1976 book, La chute finale (Before the Fall: The End of Soviet Domination), I based my prediction of the fall of the Soviet Union on the relevant indicators of the time. An analysis of current demographic, cultural, military, economic, and ideological factors leads me to conclude that the remaining pole of the former bipolar world order will not remain alone in its position. The world has become too large and complex to accept the predominance of one power. There will not be an American Empire.

    Nevertheless, if others are to believed, this empire has already been long in existence. "Get Used to It" was a recent headline in the New York Times Weekend Magazine.

    That is very interesting. Now that the concept no longer corresponds to reality, it becomes commonplace. While there actually was a basis in reality, there was scarcely a mention of the concept.

    Then you are of the opinion that there was an American empire at one point?

    The American hegemony from the end of WW II into the late 1980s in military, economic, and ideological terms definitely had imperial qualities. In 1945 fully half the manufactured goods in the world originated in the US. And although there was a communist bloc in Eurasia, East Germany, and North Korea, the strong American military, the navy and air force, exercised strategic control over the rest of the globe, with the support and understanding of many allies, whose common goal was the fight against communism. Although communism had some dispersed support among intellectuals, workers, and peasant groups, the power and influence of the US was by and large with the agreement of a majority throughout the world. It was a benevolent empire. The Marshall Plan was an exemplary political and economic strategy. America was, for decades, a 'good' superpower.

    And now it is a bad one?

    It has, above all, become a weak one. The US no longer has the might to control the large strategic players, primarily Germany and Japan. Their industrial capacity is clearly smaller than that of Europe and approximately equal to that of Japan. With twice the population, this is no great accomplishment. Their trade deficit meanwhile, is in the order of $500 billion per year. Their military potential is nevertheless still the largest by far, but is declining and consistently over estimated. The use of military bases is dependant on the good will of their allies, many of which are not as willing as before. The theatrical military activism against
    inconsequential rogue states that we are currently witnessing plays out against this backdrop. It is a sign of weakness, not of strength. But weakness makes for unpredictability. The US is about to become a problem for the world, where we have previously been accustomed to seeing a solution in them.

    Assuming you are right: how did this budding empire slide so quickly into

    A rift has been developing, slowly at first and then more quickly, between the US and their various geo-political areas of interest.

    During the early 1970's a deficit in the balance of trade began to open. The US assumed the role of consumer and the rest of the world took on the role of producer, in this increasingly unbalanced global process. The balance of trade went from a deficit of $100 billion in 1990 to $500 billion annually at present.

    This deficit has been financed through capital flowing into the US. Eventually the same effect experienced by the Spanish in 16th and 17th centuries will come to bear. As gold from the New World flooded in, the Spanish succumbed to decreasing productivity. They consumed and dissipated, lived high and beyond their means and fell into economic and technological arrears.

    But America is still the leading example of economic and technological competence.

    When I speak of the economy, then I mean the industrial core and the associated technological cutting edge, not the anemic New Economy. It is in the core industrial sphere that the US is falling dramatically behind. European investors lost billions in the US during the nineties, but the US economy lost an entire decade. As recently as 1990 the US was still exporting $35 billion more in advanced technology than it was importing. Now the balance of trade is negative even in this field. The US is far behind in mobile communications technology. The Finnish Nokia is four times the size of Motorola. More than half the communications satellites are being launched with European Ariane rockets. Airbus is about to surpass Boeing -- the most important transportation medium for personnel traffic in the modern global economy is about to be manufactured primarily in Europe. These are the things that are ultimately important. These are by far more vital and decisive factors than a war against Iraq.

    Are you saying they are waging the wrong war in the wrong place?

    The US leadership doesn't know anymore where to turn. They know that they are monetarily dependant on the rest of the world, and they are afraid of becoming inconsequential. There are no more Nazis and Communists. While a demographic, democratic, and politically stabilizing world recognizes that it is increasingly less dependant on the US, America is discovering that it is increasingly dependant on the rest of the world. That is the reason for the rush into military action and adventures. It is classic.


    The only remaining superiority is military. This is classic for a crumbling system. The final glory is militarism. The fall of the Soviet Union took place in an identical context. Their economy was in decline, and their leadership grew fearful. Their military apparatus gained in size and stature and the Russians embarked on adventures to forget their economic shortcomings. The parallels in the US are obvious. The process has significantly accelerated in the past few months.

    Where do you see the indicators of these developments?

    In European politics and in the weakness of the dollar. In my book I postulated an increasing commonality between France and Germany. In the meantime the positions adopted by the German Chancellor Schroeder and the French President Chirac in opposition to Bush have substantiated my "Historian's Theory". The unexpected, immediate, and strong response from US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld took aim at "old Europe". It is, in fact, the new Europe that instills fear in him.

    In the meantime, however, eight European states have come out in support of the US.

    The significant occurrence was in Germany. The US can only maintain its position as sole superpower so long as it can maintain control over Germany and Japan, both of which are huge creditors of the USA. Therefore the historical significance cannot be over estimated, that a German chancellor could win an election on a "no to the war in Iraq", in effect a no to the United States.

    What about the weak dollar?

    As a historian, the dollar represents a "mentality indicator" to me. It reflects the awareness of international trade and business leaders of the realities of the American economy. The weakness of the dollar is indicative of their assessment that the situation is much worse than is openly acknowledged. The fact is that troops destined for the war in Iraq, which has been represented as a simple mission, are still not totally prepared. After a year of back and forth, the diplomatic heavyweights of France and Germany are trying to prevent this war, and the balance of the allies are participating mostly verbally, not financially. There is an immense risk in engaging in a war on the opposite side of the globe while fettered by a $500 billion trade deficit, a weak dollar and supported only by friends who are unwilling to share the costs.

    You write that in the future there will be three, perhaps four strong polarities, of which the most influential will be Europe. Are you counting on an emerging European Superpower?

    One of the working propositions of my book, After the Empire is that the concept of military control of the globe no longer makes any sense. In relation to the military, there will be a balance of power in the future. There is still a nuclear balance of power between the US and Russia. The notion that sections of the globe can be controlled through military might is passé, because it is unrealistic. You can destroy regimes and bomb their infrastructure, as the Americans have done in Afghanistan, but the populations -- including those in the developing world -- have become educated and literate enough to eliminate any possibility of
    re-colonization. The only power that ultimately counts today is economic power.

    Do you believe that Europe has the "right stuff" economically for superpower status?

    Why not? It is often said that the Europeans are somewhat naïve and passive. They are accused of having neglected their military. But when you understand that military might is no longer the true power, and when you see that presently the Americans no longer possess the economic means to maintain their military apparatus, then you must conclude that the Europeans have done the right thing. They have placed their reliance on their economy. They have introduced the Euro. Their industrial policies are coherent and substantial. Airbus is only one example. Europe is well armed.

    For what is Europe "armed"?

    For the conflict that is just beginning between the Americans who want a war in Iraq, and the Europeans who in effect don't want a war. Iraq, being close to Europe, is a supplier of oil to Europe as well as Japan. Nevertheless, they can afford to buy their oil with the money they earn from their industrial exports. They are economically strong enough to not have to control Iraq with military intervention. The US on the other hand, as a consequence of their massive trade deficit, barely has the means to pay for their oil consumption. That is why it is vital to exercise military control over this region on the other side of the globe. On the surface this appears to be a question of "war or no war", but in fact it is most likely a question of whose sphere of influence will Iraq fall under, Europe or America?

    Who will win this battle of the spheres of influence?

    Most apparent is how clumsy the US has been to date, and how far they have moved away from any notion of universality. They don't see the world as it really is anymore. They are failing in any balanced and fair approach to their allies. All of this reminds me of Germany under Wilhelm II. The US is losing allies steadily. One gets the impression that an office somewhere in Washington has been tasked with the duty to daily prepare a scheme to develop new enemies for the US.

    Is it conceivable that Europe will one day attain the position America has

    There will never be another single super power. In addition to the US, Europe, and Japan, Russia will rise again to prominence. China, despite their presently weak technology, will soon join the fray. Nevertheless, the traditional superpowers are all stagnating. But the developing world is fast gaining. And that is cause for some hope.

    Emmanuel Todd is a 52 year-old Historian and Political Scientist at the National Institute for Demographics in Paris. His research examines the rise and fall of peoples and cultures over the course of thousands of years.

    His newest publication predicts the fall of the United States as the sole superpower: Aprés l'Empire: Essaie sur la décomposition du systéme Américain available in English from Columbia University Press in February 2004). Todd attracted attention with a similar work in 1976, when he predicted the fall of the Soviet Union based on indicators such as increasing infant mortality rates: La chute final: Essais sur la décomposition de la sphére Soviétique.

    Todd studied Political Science at the Institut de Etudes Politiques in Paris and completed his Doctor Thesis in Historical Sciences at Cambridge.

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      Colin Powell Took Strong Stance on Israel's "Apartheid" Fence

    Read Here full Report by BARRY SCHWEID (THe Guardian UK) August 8, 2003

    Read HERE Full report by Amiram Barkatin on World Jewish Congress President Bronfman's urging Bush to oppose Israel's "apartheid" fence.

    Israel's construction of the security fence in the West Bank is complicated and potentially problematic, because it undermines confidence building measures, the president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), Edgar Bronfman, wrote in a letter to President Bush prior to the visit of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Washington. In the letter, co-signed by former under-secretary of State, Lawrence Eagleburger, Bronfman called on President Bush to "urge both sides to take the necessary steps to create stability and momentum in the peace process."

    Colin Powell said Thursday the Bush administration would abide by congressional provisions for reducing U.S. aid to Israel for settlement activity on the West Bank.

    "We have concerns about that fence,'' Powell said. "We have problems with it.''

    His remarks indicated the administration might take punitive steps unless Israel revises the project.

    But more than 30 members of Congress have told President Bush in a letter that the United States should support the effort to avert terrorist attacks.

    Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas complained last month to Bush at the White House that the fence interferes with the lives of Palestinians.

    On the fence, Powell echoed Palestinian objections to the project. "All of us put fences up when we feel a need for a fence on our property,'' he said. "And we try to do it in a way that does not prejudice anyone else's property or anyone else's rights.''

    The secretary said there is a problem when the fence goes BEYOND Israel's border before the 1967 war, during which the West Bank was captured, or "starts to intrude in a way that makes it more difficult for us to make the case for a viable Palestinian state or starts to cut off certain towns or villages.''

    Administration officials are considering a reduction in loan guarantees to Israel as a penalty for constructing the fence.

    The dollar-for-dollar formula now might be applied to the $9 billion in loan guarantees over three years and $1 billion in military aid approved in the spring to help compensate Israel for the economic impact of the war with Iraq.

    Earlier this week, in an interview for broadcast to the Arab world, Powell said. "We are concerned when the fence crosses over onto the land of others.''

    That suggested a judgment that Israel has no claim to the West Bank, which it wrested from Jordan in 1967 after 19 years of Jordanian occupation.

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     Tuesday, August 05, 2003

      US Nobel Laureate Says Bush Gov't as "Worst" in American History

    George A. Akerlof, 2001 Nobel prize laureate who teaches economics at the University of California in Berkeley.

    American Nobel Prize laureate for Economics George A. Akerlof, 61,lashed out at the government of US President George W. Bush, calling it the "worst ever" in American history, the online site of the weekly Der Spiegel magazine reported Tuesday.

    Quote from Prof Akerlof

    "I think this is the worst government the US has ever had in its more than 200 years of history. It has engaged in extraordinarily irresponsible policies not only in foreign policy and economics but also in social and environmental policy.

    This is not normal government policy. Now is the time for (American) people to engage in civil disobedience. I think it's time to protest - as much as possible. "
    Akerlof has been recognized for his research that borrows from sociology, psychology, anthropology and other fields to determine economic influences and outcomes.

    His areas of expertise include macro-economics, monetary policy and poverty.

    Text of Der Spiegel interview by Matthias Streitz

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: Professor Akerlof, according to recent official projections, the US federal deficit will reach $455 billion this fiscal year. That's the largest ever in dollar terms, but according to the President's budget director, it's still manageable. Do you agree?

    George A. Akerlof: In the long term, a deficit of this magnitude is not manageable. We are moving into the period when, beginning around 2010, baby boomers are going to be retiring. That is going to put a severe strain on services like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. This is the time when we should be saving.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: So it would be necessary to run a budget surplus instead?

    Akerlof: That would probably be impossible in the current situation. There's the expenditure for the war in Iraq, which I consider irresponsible. But there's also a recession and a desire to invigorate the economy through fiscal stimulus, which is quite legitimate. That's why we actually do need a deficit in the short term - but certainly not the type of deficit we have now.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: Because it's not created by investment, but to a large extent by cutting taxes?

    Akerlof: A short-term tax benefit for the poor would actually be a reasonable stimulus. Then, the money would almost certainly be spent. But the current and future deficit is a lot less stimulatory than it could be. Our administration is just throwing the money away. First, we should have fiscal stimulus that is sharply aimed at the current downturn. But this deficit continues far into the future, as the bulk of the tax cuts can be expected to continue indefinitely. The Administration is giving us red ink as far as the eye can see, and these permanent aspects outweigh the short-term stimulatory effects.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: And secondly, you disagree with giving tax relief primarily to wealthier Americans. The GOP argues that those people deserve it for working hard.

    Akerlof: The rich don't need the money and are a lot less likely to spend it - they will primarily increase their savings. Remember that wealthier families have done extremely well in the US in the past twenty years, whereas poorer ones have done quite badly. So the redistributive effects of this administration's tax policy are going in the exactly wrong direction. The worst and most indefensible of those cuts are those in dividend taxation - this overwhelmingly helps very wealthy people.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: The President claims that dividend tax reform supports the stock market - and helps the economy as a whole to grow.

    Akerlof: That's totally unrealistic. Standard formulas from growth models suggest that that effect will be extremely small. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has come to a similar conclusion. So, even a sympathetic treatment finds that this argument is simply not correct.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: When campaigning for an even-larger tax cut earlier this year, Mr. Bush promised that it would create 1.4 million jobs. Was that reasonable?

    Akerlof: The tax cut will have some positive impact on job creation, although, as I mentioned, there is very little bang for the buck. There are very negative long-term consequences. The administration, when speaking about the budget, has unrealistically failed to take into account a very large number of important items. As of March 2003, the CBO estimated that the surplus for the next decade would approximately reach one trillion dollars. But this projection assumes, among other questionable things, that spending until 2013 is going to be constant in real dollar terms. That has never been the case. And with the current tax cuts, a realistic estimate would be a deficit in excess of six trillion.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the government's just bad at doing the correct math?

    Akerlof: There is a systematic reason. The government is not really telling the truth to the American people. Past administrations from the time of Alexander Hamilton have on the average run responsible budgetary policies. What we have here is a form of looting.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: If so, why's the President still popular?

    Akerlof: For some reason the American people does not yet recognize the dire consequences of our government budgets. It's my hope that voters are going to see how irresponsible this policy is and are going to respond in 2004 and we're going to see a reversal.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: What if that doesn't happen?

    Akerlof: Future generations and even people in ten years are going to face massive public deficits and huge government debt. Then we have a choice. We can be like a very poor country with problems of threatening bankruptcy. Or we're going to have to cut back seriously on Medicare and Social Security. So the money that is going overwhelmingly to the wealthy is going to be paid by cutting services for the elderly. And people depend on those. It's only among the richest 40 percent that you begin to get households who have sizeable fractions of their own retirement income.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is there a possibility that the government, because of the scope of current deficits, will be more reluctant to embark on a new war?

    Akerlof: They would certainly have to think about debt levels, and military expenditure is already high. But if they seriously want to lead a war this will not be a large deterrent. You begin the war and ask for the money later. A more likely effect of the deficits is this: If there's another recession, we won't be able to engage in stimulatory fiscal spending to maintain full employment. Until now, there's been a great deal of trust in the American government. Markets knew that, if there is a current deficit, it will be repaid. The government has wasted that resource.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: Which, in addition, might drive up interest rates quite significantly?

    Akerlof: The deficit is not going to have significant effects on short-term interest rates. Rates are pretty low, and the Fed will manage to keep them that way. In the mid term it could be a serious problem. When rates rise, the massive debt it's going to bite much more.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why is it that the Bush family seems to specialize in running up deficits? The second-largest federal deficit in absolute terms, $290 billion, occurred in 1991, during the presidency of George W. Bush's father.

    Akerlof: That may be, but Bush's father committed a great act of courage by actually raising taxes. He wasn't always courageous, but this was his best public service. It was the first step to getting the deficit under control during the Clinton years. It was also a major factor in Bush's losing the election.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: It seems that the current administration has politicised you in an unprecedented way. During the course of this year, you have, with other academics, signed two public declarations of protest. One against the tax cuts, the other against waging unilateral preventive war on Iraq.

    Akerlof: I think this is the worst government the US has ever had in its more than 200 years of history. It has engaged in extraordinarily irresponsible policies not only in foreign and economic but also in social and environmental policy. This is not normal government policy. Now is the time for people to engage in civil disobedience.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: Of what kind?

    Akerlof: I don't know yet. But I think it's time to protest - as much as possible.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: Would you consider joining Democratic administration as an adviser, as your colleague Joseph Stiglitz did?

    Akerlof: As you know my wife was in the last administration, and she did very well. She is probably much better suited for public service. But anything I'll be asked to do by a new administration I'd be happy to do.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE: You've mentioned the term civil disobedience a minute ago. That term was made popular by the author Henry D. Thoreau, who actually advised people not to pay taxes as a means of resistance. You wouldn't call for that, would you?

    Akerlof: No. I think the one thing we should do is pay our taxes. Otherwise, it'll only make matters worse.


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      Israeli Lobby Group Had Another 29 US Congressmen In Its Pocket

    A report from The Associated Press 08/03/03

    On Sunday, delegation of 29 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives will arrive in Israel, with the compliments of AIPAC. They will meet with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, a spokesman for American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said.

    The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is the main pro-Israel lobby group in the United States. It frequently sponsors visits to Israel for leading figures in American public life.

    David Kreizelman of AIPAC said the 29 US congressmen headed by Democratic whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, would meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

    Kreizelman said the goal of the trip was to give the U.S. lawmakers first-hand knowledge of the U.S.-Israel relationship, the prospects for peace in the Middle East and economic and political trends in Israel.

    He said that the congressmen would stay in Israel until the end of the week.

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     Monday, August 04, 2003

      US Citizens Suckered into Believing Contrived Propaganda and Misinformation on Iraq War and Terrorism

    Read HERE full article by Brian Cloughley : "The idealistic acceptance of well-presented manipulation of truth"

    Excerpt from Brian Cloughley's article:

    Last Sunday (27/07/03) US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz appeared on television networks to peddle the Bush administration’s new line about why it invaded Iraq: that Bush went to war on Iraq to combat terrorism.

    It is now asserted by every Washington mouthpiece, loudly and persistently.

    I’m waiting for someone to regale us with the wonderful phrase of the Nixon years, when another president told the American people lie after lie after lie. It was: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”

    A massive number of Americans – most of them ordinary people like you and me – believe sincerely that the former Iraqi government committed the atrocities in September 2001 when 3000 people were killed in New York and Washington by (mainly) Saudi Arabian terrorists.

    There is no evidence that Iraq was in the slightest way connected with these horrific attacks, yet US soldiers in Iraq told reporters that the war was “payback time for 9/11”.

    They still display slogans to that effect on their helmets. They believe it because they were encouraged to do so by an effective propaganda campaign initiated in the White House.

    It is on this idealistic acceptance of well-presented manipulation of truth, combined with the fervent and genuine patriotism of average American citizens, that slime like Wolfowitz are capitalising.

    The killing of US soldiers in Iraq, announced Wolfowitz, “is a sacrifice that is going to make our children and our grandchildren safer, because the battle to win the peace in Iraq now is the central battle in the war on terrorism.”

    It would be difficult to identify a more specious piece of nauseating tripe uttered by a Washington figure in recent years.

    This was a contemptible bid to manipulate the patriotic hearts and minds of the American people who stand on the verge of questioning the lies they have been told for so long.

    The US military occupation of Iraq has nothing – nothing whatever – to do with combating Al-Qaeda and international terrorism.

    The deaths of occupation troops have NOT made anyone safer, never mind American children and grandchildren – the children and grandchildren that these dead youngsters will never have.

    Some of the older soldiers who have been killed – those over the age of 20 or so – had fathered children. But they will never be seen again by their sons and daughters.

    Soldiers are dying, Wolfowitz, you latter-day McNamara, because Iraq was invaded, and because Iraqis object to humiliation by occupation forces.

    It is as simple as that.

    Every time there is an incident of houses being burst into by US troops in the dead of night, and terrified, innocent residents being hooded and handcuffed, there is enormous reaction against America throughout the country. Every time the women of a household are subjected to indignity there is revulsion everywhere in Iraq. (And far beyond, of course, throughout the Islamic world – and elsewhere.)

    Wolfowitz and the rest of the Bush extremists cannot understand that an ordinary Iraqi could and can be proud to the extent that he actually objects to invasion and occupation of his country and can be furious about the bombing and gross mistreatment of peaceful citizens.

    Just as in Nazi Germany it was beneficial to be a Nazi, in Ba’athist Iraq it was economically advantageous to join the Ba’ath. But the US viceroy sacked every Ba’ath official and disbanded the army, thereby setting back the administration and security of the country by about a decade, and, instantly disaffected young and middle-aged Iraqis who hate America.

    This was the single most stupid action taken by the occupying power. In the main it is these young Iraqis, with access to weapons, and with despair and hatred in their hearts, who are ambushing and killing occupation troops.

    A Reuters’ despatch records that Lt Gl Ricardo Sanchez, said . “This is what I would call a terrorist magnet where America, being present here in Iraq, creates a target of opportunity if you will,” Sanchez [said].”

    A terrorist magnet? What does he mean?

    Apparently what he thinks he means – or what he has been told to say by the Pentagon – is “The key that we must not lose sight of is that we must win this battle here in Iraq. Otherwise America will find itself taking on these terrorists at home.”

    Selling the contrived message about terrorism just as brazenly as Wolfowitz, he declared,
      “We have to understand that we have a multiple-faceted conflict going on here in Iraq. We’ve got terrorist activity, we’ve got former regime leadership, we have criminals, and we have some hired assassins that are attacking our soldiers on a daily basis.”
    “Hired assassins?” Who are they? Who hires them? There is no public evidence that any such element is operating in Iraq.

    As for “terrorist activity,” the recently-appointed C-in-C Central Command, Gen James Abizaid, has said that the war in Iraq is “now a classical guerrilla-type campaign”.

    Whom do we believe? General Sanchez, who is following the line of the Vietnam draft-dodger defense academic Wolfowitz, or General Abizaid?

    Where is the link between guerrilla strikes and the warning by Wolfowitz that if the US does not “win” in Iraq, it will “find itself taking on these terrorists at home?” His contention is contradictory and confusing, to put it mildly.

    But in the classic propaganda ploy, intended to convince the American public that the deaths of US soldiers are necessary, the threat has to be presented as personal.

    Just as Bush and Rice tried to frighten the American people (and largely succeeded) by making emotional and dramatic declarations that there would be “mushroom clouds” from Iraqi nuclear weapons, so the false Iraq-to-terrorism link is intended to make their flesh creep.

    In striving to sell the NEW rationale for occupying Iraq as the “central battle” in a valiant anti-terrorist campaign, Wolfowitz declared that the attacks on the USS Cole at Aden in 2000 and the US army barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996 were the fault of Iraq because “Americans killed in these attacks were in the region as part of efforts to contain Iraq.”

    This bizarre allegation is the product of an overtaxed mind. No doubt there are terrorists plotting hideous mayhem in and against America.

    But Wolfowitz’s claims that the deaths of US soldiers in Iraq are “a sacrifice... you’d have to expect” to free America of the threat of terrorism is unbelievable bunkum.

    Is this your operative statement, Wolfowitz? Or perhaps your personal sacrifice?

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      Middle East Peace Road Map ? Israeli Army Confiscates Palestinian Farm Lands in Gaza Strip

    Report from Agence France-Presse (AFP) from Gaza City

    GAZA CITY, Aug 2 (AFP) - The Israeli army has confiscated three hectares (7. 4 acres) of land near a Jewish settlement in the southern Gaza Strip, the Palestinian agriculture ministry said Saturday.

    "Israeli occupation forces confiscated in July three hectares (7.4 acres) of land and a well" near the settlement of Neve Dekalim, west of the city of Khan Yunes, the ministry said.

    "Israeli soldiers put up barbed wire around the land and prevented the owners from cultivating it," it added.

    The Israeli government on Thursday invited tenders from contractors to build 22 apartments in Neve Dekalim, military radio said.

    It is the first tender for construction in a Gaza settlement for more than a year.

    Israel's anti-settlement movement Peace Now condemned the move as "new proof that the government of (prime minister) Ariel Sharon is not meeting its commitments within the framework of the roadmap" for peace with the Palestinians.

    The US-backed peace plan calls in its first phase for a freeze on all settlement activity in the occupied territories.

    According to Israeli interior ministry figures, 7,700 Israeli settlers live in Gaza.

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     Sunday, August 03, 2003

      Iraq: Father Had to Kill His Son For Being an American Informer

    Read HERE full article by Anthony Shadid in Washington Post

    Excerpt from the article:

    Two hours before the dawn call to prayer in the village of Thuluya, executioners arrived at a house with Sabah Kerbul, accused by the village of being an American informer.

    The story of what followed is based on interviews with Kerbul's father, brother and five other villagers who said witnesses told them of the events. .

    His father, Salem, carried an AK-47 assault rifle, as did his younger brother, Salah.

    With barely a word spoken, they led Sabah Kerbul behind a house.

    His father raised his rifle and aimed it at his oldest son. One shot hit Kerbul's leg, another his torso. He fell to the ground still breathing, his blood soaking the parched earth near the banks of the Tigris

    His father could go no further and, according to some accounts, he collapsed.

    According to villagers, his other son then fired three times, at least once at his brother's head.

    Sabah Kerbul, a tall, husky 28-year-old, died. "It wasn't an easy thing to kill him," his brother Salah said.

    In his home of cement and cinder blocks, the father, Salem, nervously thumbed black prayer beads this week as he recalled a warning from villagers earlier this month. He insisted his son was not an informer. But his protests meant little to a village seething with anger.

    He recalled that their threat was clear: either he kill his son, or villagers would resort to tribal justice and kill the rest of his family in retaliation for Kerbul's role in a US operation in the village in June, in which four people were killed.

    "I have the heart of a father, and he's my son," Salem said. "Even the prophet Abraham didn't have to kill his son." He dragged on a cigarette.

    His eyes glimmered with the faint trace of tears. "There was no choice."

    Kerbul's body was buried hours after the shooting, his father said, carried to the cemetery in a white Toyota pickup. He accompanied the corpse.

    Salah, his son who fired the fatal shots, said he stayed home.

    US military officials in Thuluya and Tikrit said they were aware of the killing.

    "It's justice,"
    said Abu Dhua, sitting at his home near a bend in the Tigris. "In my opinion, he deserves worse than death".

    Residents of Thuluya said they had no doubt about Sabah Kerbul.

    After the operation in the village, dubbed Peninsula Strike, a force of 4,000 soldiers rounded up 400 residents and detained them at an air base seven miles north.

    An informer dressed in desert camouflage with a bag over his head had fingered at least 15 prisoners as they sat under a sweltering sun, their hands bound with plastic. Villagers said they recognised his right thumb, severed above the joint in an accident.

    "We started yelling and shouting, 'That's Sabah! That's Sabah!'" said Mohammed Abu Dhua, who was held at the base for seven days and whose brother died of a heart attack during the operation. "We asked his father, 'Why is Sabah doing these things?'"

    In the raid, three men and a 15-year-old boy were killed, all believed by villagers to have been innocent.

    Kerbul's family said US forces took him to Tikrit; then three weeks later, he went to stay with relatives across the Tigris in the village of Alim.

    As soon as word of his release spread, his brother Salah and an uncle went there to bring him back.

    Many focused their anger on Kerbul, who had served a year in prison for impersonating a government official and was believed to have worked as an informer after release.

    "We sent a message to his family," said Ali, a retired colonel whose brother was among those killed in the operation.

    "You have to kill your son. If you don't kill him, we will act against your family."

    His father appealed, Ali recalled, saying he needed permission from US forces. "We told him we're not responsible for this," Ali said. "We told him you must kill your son."

    Children in the street recited a rhyme: "Masked man, your face is the face of the devil".

    Calls for revenge, tempered by the fear of tribal bloodletting getting out of hand, were heard in many conversations.

    US officials and residents say informers have been killed, shot and attacked with grenades. They offer no numbers, but anecdotal evidence suggests the campaign is widespread in a region long known to be a source of support for Saddam's government. The officials declined to discuss individual informers and would not say whether Kerbul was one.

    Lists of informers circulated in at least two northern cities, and remnants of Saddam's Fedayeen militia have vowed in videotaped warnings broadcast on Arab satellite networks that they will fight informers "before we fight the Americans".

    The surge of informants has also provoked anger in Sunni towns along the Tigris.

    Some residents say informants are drawn to US field commanders' rewards of as little as $20 and as much as $2,500.

    The informants are occasionally interested in settling their own feuds and grudges with the help of soldiers, the residents said. Others contend that the informers are exploiting access to US officials in order to emerge as power-brokers in the vacuum that has followed the fall of the government on April 9.

    In Saniya, where slogans still declare "Long Live Saddam Hussein", Abdel-Hamid Ahmed sat in a well-to-do house. He proudly described himself as the first person to greet the Americans, and ticked off the help he has offered since they arrived - most notably information on saboteurs of electric power lines.

    Ahmed, who works in the mayor's office, was on two lists of informers in the village and in the nearby city of Baiji, 120 miles north-west of Baghdad.

    Under the heading "In the name of God, the most merciful and compassionate", each list had 20 names and, over the past month, the leaflets were left before dawn on doorsteps and pinned on posts.

    On the first list, he was ranked 10th; on the second, he said, he was fourth. He said he told the Americans of two men who distributed the list, and they were arrested.

    In the street, some have heckled him as an agent - "a grave word", he said.

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