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 Monday, March 29, 2004

  Former US Congressman: "9/11 would not have occurred if the U.S. government had refused to help Israel humiliate and destroy Palestinian society"

"Instead of helping Sharon intensify Palestinian misery, our president should suspend all aid until Israel ends its occupation of Arab land Israel seized in 1967. The suspension would force Sharon's compliance or lead to his removal from office, as the Israeli electorate will not tolerate a prime minister who is at odds with the White House.

Once beloved worldwide, the U.S. government finds itself reviled in most countries because it provides unconditional support of Israeli violations of the United Nations Charter, international law, and the precepts of all major religious faiths."
- Paul Findley
The following article was written by former US Congressman Paul Findley from Illinois and published on September 12, 2002 (one year after 9/11) .

Liberating America From Israel


Paul Findley
September 12, 2002

(Mr. Paul Findley, who served as a Republican congressman from Illinois for 22 years, is the author of 'They Dare to Speak Out' and a member of the American Educational Trust's Foreign Relations Committee )

Nine-eleven would not have occurred if the U.S. government had refused to help Israel humiliate and destroy Palestinian society. Few express this conclusion publicly, but many believe it is the truth. I believe the catastrophe could have been prevented if any U.S. president during the past 35 years had had the courage and wisdom to suspend all U.S. aid until Israel withdrew from the Arab land seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

The U.S. lobby for Israel is powerful and intimidating, but any determined president - even President Bush this very day - could prevail and win overwhelming public support for the suspension of aid by laying these facts before the American people:

Israel's present government, like its predecessors, is determined to annex the West Bank - biblical Judea and Samaria - so Israel will become Greater Israel. Ultra-Orthodox Jews, who maintain a powerful role in Israeli politics, believe the Jewish Messiah will not come until Greater Israel is a reality. Although a minority in Israel, they are committed, aggressive, and influential. Because of deep religious conviction, they are determined to prevent Palestinians from gaining statehood on any part of the West Bank.

In its violent assaults on Palestinians, Israel uses the pretext of eradicating terrorism, but its forces are actually engaged advancing the territorial expansion just cited. Under the guise of anti-terrorism, Israeli forces treat Palestinians worse than cattle. With due process nowhere to be found, hundreds are detained for long periods and most are tortured. Some are assassinated.

Homes, orchards, and business places are destroyed. Entire cities are kept under intermittent curfew, some confinements lasting for weeks. Injured or ill Palestinians needing emergency medical care are routinely held at checkpoints for an hour or more. Many children are undernourished. The West Bank and Gaza have become giant concentration camps. None of this could have occurred without U.S. support. Perhaps Israeli officials believe life will become so unbearable that most Palestinians will eventually leave their ancestral homes.

Once beloved worldwide, the U.S. government finds itself reviled in most countries because it provides unconditional support of Israeli violations of the United Nations Charter, international law, and the precepts of all major religious faiths.

How did the American people get into this fix?

Nine-eleven had its principal origin 35 years ago when Israel's U.S. lobby began its unbroken success in stifling debate about the proper U.S. role in the Arab-Israeli conflict and effectively concealed from public awareness the fact that the U.S. government gives massive uncritical support to Israel.

Thanks to the suffocating influence of Israel's U.S. lobby, open discussion of the Arab-Israeli conflict has been non-existent in our government all these years. I have firsthand knowledge, because I was a member of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee in June 1967 when Israeli military forces took control of the Golan Heights, a part of Syria, as well as the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza. I continued as a member for 16 years and to this day maintain a close watch on Congress.

For 35 years, not a word has been expressed in that committee or in either chamber of Congress that deserves to be called debate on Middle East policy. No restrictive or limiting amendments on aid to Israel have been offered for 20 years, and none of the few offered in previous years received more than a handful of votes.

On Capitol Hill, criticism of Israel, even in private conversation, is all but forbidden, treated as downright unpatriotic, if not anti-Semitic. The continued absence of free speech was assured when those few who spoke out-Senators Adlai Stevenson and Charles Percy, and Reps. Paul "Pete" McCloskey, Cynthia McKinney, Earl Hilliard, and myself-were defeated at the polls by candidates heavily financed by pro-Israel forces.

As a result, legislation dealing with the Middle East has been heavily biased in favor of Israel and against Palestinians and other Arabs year after year. Home constituencies, misled by news coverage equally lop-sided in Israel's favor, remain largely unaware that Congress behaves as if it were a subcommittee of the Israeli parliament.

However, the bias is widely noted beyond America, where most news media candidly cover Israel's conquest and generally excoriate America's complicity and complacency.

When President Bush welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, sometimes called the Butcher of Beirut, as "my dear friend" and "a man of peace" after Israeli forces, using U.S.-donated arms, completed their devastation of the West Bank last spring, worldwide anger against American policy reached the boiling point.

The fury should surprise no one who reads foreign newspapers or listens to BBC. In several televised statements long before 9/11,Osama bin Laden, believed by U.S. authorities to have masterminded 9/11, cited U.S. complicity in Israel's destruction of Palestinian society as a principal complaint. Prominent foreigners, in and out of government, express their opposition to U.S. policies with unprecedented frequency and severity, especially since Bush announced his determination to make war against Iraq.

The lobby's intimidation remains pervasive. It seems to reach every government center and even houses of worship and revered institutions of higher learning. It is highly effective in silencing the many U.S. Jews who object to the lobby's tactics and Israel's brutality.

Nothing can justify 9/11. Those guilty deserve maximum punishment, but it makes sense for America to examine motivations promptly and as carefully as possible. Terrorism almost always arises from deeply-felt grievances. If they can be eradicated or eased, terrorist passions are certain to subside.

Today, a year after 9/11, President Bush has made no attempt to redress grievances, or even to identify them. In fact, he has made the scene far worse by supporting Israel's religious war against Palestinians, an alliance that has intensified anti-American anger. He seems oblivious to the fact that nearly two billion people worldwide regard the plight of Palestinians as today's most important foreign-policy challenge.

No one in authority will admit a calamitous reality that is skillfully shielded from the American people but clearly recognized by most of the world: America suffered 9/11 and its aftermath and may soon be at war with Iraq, mainly because U.S. policy in the Middle East is made in Israel, not in Washington.

Israel is a scofflaw nation and should be treated as such. Instead of helping Sharon intensify Palestinian misery, our president should suspend all aid until Israel ends its occupation of Arab land Israel seized in 1967. The suspension would force Sharon's compliance or lead to his removal from office, as the Israeli electorate will not tolerate a prime minister who is at odds with the White House.

If Bush needs an additional reason for doing the right thing, he can justify the suspension as a matter of military necessity, an essential step in winning international support for his war on terrorism. He can cite a worthy precedent. When President Abraham Lincoln issued the proclamation that freed only the slaves in states that were then in rebellion, he make the restriction because of "military necessity."

If Bush suspends U.S. aid, he will liberate all Americans from long years of bondage to Israel's misdeeds.

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 Saturday, March 27, 2004

  Robert Fisk: The Chilling Implications Of Killing Sheikh Yassin

For years, there has been an unwritten rule in the cruel war of government-versus- guerrilla. You can kill the men on the street, the bomb makers and gunmen.

But the leadership on both sides - government ministers, spiritual leaders - were allowed to survive.

Now all is changed utterly. With all their own security, Bush and Blair may be safe, but what about their ambassadors and fellow ministers?

Leaders are fair game. If, or when, our own political leaders are gunned down or blown up, we shall vilify the killers and argue a new stage in "terrorism" has been reached. We shall forget that we are now encouraging this all- out assassination spree.
- Robert Fisk

The Chilling Implications Of This State Killing

Robert Fisk

March 23, 2004
The Independent

IT DOESN'T take an awful lot of courage to murder a paraplegic in a wheelchair. But it takes only a few moments to absorb the implications of the assassination of Sheikh Yassin.

Yes, he endorsed suicide bombings - including the murder of Israeli children. Yes, if you live by the sword, you die by the sword, in a wheelchair or not.

But something went wrong with the narrative of the news story yesterday - and something infinitely more dangerous, another sinister precedent - was set for our brave new world.

Take the old man himself. From the start, the Israeli line was simple. Sheikh Yassin was the "head of the snake" - to use the words of the Israeli ambassador to London - the head of Hamas, "one of the world's most dangerous terrorist organisations".

But then came obfuscation from the world's media. Yassin, the BBC World Service Television told us at lunchtime, was originally freed by the Israelis in a "prisoner exchange". It sounded like one of those familiar swaps - a Palestinian released in exchange for captured Israeli soldiers.

And then, later in the day, the BBC told us that he had been freed "following a deal brokered by King Hussain (of Jordan)". Which was all very strange. He was a prisoner of the Israelis. This "head of the snake" was in an Israeli prison. And then, bingo, this supposed monster was let go because of a "deal".

Sheikh Yassin was set free by no less than that law-and-order right- wing Likudist Benjamin Netanyahu when he was Prime Minister of Israel. King Hussain wasn't a "broker" between two sides. Two Israeli Mossad secret agents had tried to murder a Hamas official in Amman, the capital of an Arab nation which had a full peace agreement with Israel.

They had injected the Hamas man with poison and the late King Hussain called the US President in fury and threatened to put the captured Mossad men on trial if he wasn't given the antidote to the poison and if Yassin wasn't released.

Netanyahu immediately gave in. Yassin was freed and the Mossad lads went safely home to Israel. So the "head of the snake" was let loose by Israel itself, courtesy of the Israeli Prime Minister - a chapter in the narrative of history which was conveniently forgotten yesterday. Which is all very odd.

For if the elderly cleric really was worthy of state murder, why did Mr Netanyahu let him go in the first place? It was not a question that anyone wanted to ask yesterday.

But there was something infinitely more dangerous in all this.

Yet another Arab - another leader, however vengeful and ruthless - had been assassinated.

The Americans want to kill Osama Bin Laden. They want to kill Mullah Omar. They killed Saddam's two sons. The Israelis repeatedly threaten to murder Yasser Arafat.

It's getting to be a habit.

No one has begun to work out the implications of all this.

For years, there has been an unwritten rule in the cruel war of government-versus- guerrilla. You can kill the men on the street, the bomb makers and gunmen. But the leadership on both sides - government ministers, spiritual leaders - were allowed to survive.

Now all is changed utterly. Anyone who advocates violence is now on a death list. So who can be surprised if the rules are broken by the other side?

With all their own security, Bush and Blair may be safe, but what about their ambassadors and fellow ministers? Leaders are fair game. We will not say this. If, or when, our own political leaders are gunned down or blown up, we shall vilify the killers and argue a new stage in "terrorism" has been reached.

We shall forget that we are now encouraging this all- out assassination spree.

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  President Bush Jokes about Search for WMD in IRAQ : Critics Say It Is NOT Funny

Other Breaking News
  • After a marked decline in U.S. troop deaths in Iraq in February, the toll is again escalating. Read here for more

  • Ten Reasons Why Sharon Killed Sheikh Yassin:The easiest explanation is to say that killing is what Sharon does best. His career is marked by massacres. The killing of Sheikh Yassin is simply the latest episode in Sharon's life-long ambition to break the back of Palestinian nationalism and absorb the West Bank into Greater Israel. Read here for more

  • US President George Bush was persuaded by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair not to attack Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks, it has been claimed. According to a former British ambassador to Washington, the US president had come under intense pressure from some in his own military to attack Saddam Hussein in the days after the 2001 terrorist attack in the US. Read here for more

  • Trust Clarke - He's right about Bush: More than two years after the worst terrorist attack in history, the President still does not understand the threat we confront, say security experts. Richard Clarke, Counter-Terrorism czar for 4 US administrations says U.S. President George W. Bush had failed to understand the threat al-Qaeda posed to the United States before Sept. 11, and bungled the U.S. response afterward. Mr. Clarke categorically denounced Mr. Bush's handling of the terrorist threat. He blamed the President for "continuing to work on Cold War issues" even as the al-Qaeda danger mounted. Read here for more

  • The swiftness and ferocity of the Bush White House's attack on Richard Clarke tells you two things: his story may be largely true, and the Bush administration is terrified that the American people will believe it. Read here for more

  • Bush jokes about search for WMD, but it's no laughing matter for critics

    by David Teather

    March 26, 2004
    The Guardian

    President George Bush sparked a political firestorm yesterday after making what many judged a tasteless and ill-judged joke about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

    Mr Bush made the joke at a black-tie event for radio and television journalists in Washington on Wednesday night.

    He narrated a slide show, described as the White House election year album, making hay of the administration's reputation for secrecy and strained relations with European allies.

    But it was the joke about the war in Iraq that drew attacks.

    A slide showed Mr Bush in the Oval office, leaning to look under a piece of furniture. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere," he told the audience, drawing applause.

    Another slide showed him peering into another part of the office, "Nope, no weapons over there," he said, laughing. "Maybe under here," he said, as a third slide was shown.

    John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who will fight Mr Bush for the White House said the joke displayed a "stunningly cavalier" attitude.

    "If George Bush thinks his deceptive rationale for going to war is a laughing matter, then he's even more out of touch than we thought. Unfortunately for the president, this is not a joke."

    He added:
    "585 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq in the last year, 3,354 have been wounded and there's no end in sight. George Bush sold us on going to war with Iraq based on the threat of weapons of mass destruction. But we still haven't found them, and now he thinks that's funny?"
    The statement from Mr Kerry also included a comment from an Iraqi war veteran, Brad Owens.

    "War is the single most serious event that a president or government can carry its people into," he said. "This cheapens the sacrifice that American soldiers and their families are dealing with every single day."

    CNN viewers emailed the network to vent their anger at the joke. "How can a thinking, caring human being joke about the lies that led to body bags and broken young men and women? I was appalled," wrote one viewer.

    Another said: "It was tasteless and childish. It shows the true man - or child in his case."

    The defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, later declined to give an opinion at a press conference. "To know what I would think, I would have to be there," he said.

    Mr Bush's skit poked fun of members of the administration, including Mr Rumsfeld.

    When he showed another slide, the president joked: "Oops, this photo wasn't supposed to be in here. This is the skull and bones secret signal."

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     Tuesday, March 23, 2004

      ISRAEL Raises the Stakes on TERROR by Assassinating Hamas Leader

    Other Breaking News
  • New poll in Israel shows majority of Israelis back Yassin assassination; 43% support killing Arafat: In yet another indication of radicalism in Israeli society, an evening poll conducted Monday by the mass circulation Maariv daily showed that 61% of the population supports Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. Read here for more

  • Al-Jazeera web poll says 61% for attacking Israelis abroad:Following the assassination Monday of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the Arabic-language website of the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite channel posted an opinion poll asking readers the question, "Do you support that Palestinians transfer their [reprisal] operations outside Palestine [against Israeli interests and targets abroad]?" Read here for more

  • "The Israeli air force this morning killed the mastermind of all evil, Ahmed Yassin, who was a preacher of death." - Chief Israeli military spokeswoman Brig. Gen. Ruth Yaron.
    It does not take a rocket scientist to predict the assassination of Hamas Leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin by the Israeli Army will lead to more suicide bombings and bloodshed on innocent Israelis.

    It is unthinkable that Ariel Sharon does NOT know the consequences of his assassination orders to potentially befall on innocent Israeli citizens.

    Of course he did. Israelis had experienced tit-for-tat suicide bombings each time Israeli gunships kill Palestinians.

    Ariel Sharon took this dangerously reckless risk to put on harm's way the lives of innocent Israeli citizens, knowing that Hamas will seek a more bloody revenge on the killing of their spiritual leader.

    Without doubt, it was a deliberate decison by Ariel Sharon to plunge the Middle East into another cycle of violence, and with it, the lives of innocent Israelis and Palestinians. They will be paying the price for the Israeli Prime Minister's one-upmanship to stoke the fires in the Middle East.

    Suspicions on the Arab streets point to the White House knowing beforehand the intent of Israel to assassinate Sheikh Yassin. No amount of denials by the White House will convince the Arab world. It is well known that Israel does not take such high risk action without seeking permission from the Bush Administration.

    It is too late for the Western world to condemn Israel. The Arab streets had heard and seen their condemnation meant little to Israel. The condemnation by Western countries are weak at best and hopelessly useless to reverse this bloodshed.

    When Hamas's revenge unfolds , choosing its own time and place, as everyone has predicted , the world will surely come to Israel's side to condemn the killing of the innocents, and so they should. But western leaders have this persistent amnesia on this current provocation by Israel that caused the violence that undoubtedly will unravel in days or months to come. One can only hope and pray that it does not happen.

    The US media, with its bias reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, must also take equal share of the blame for the death of innocents in Israel and in the Palestinian territories.

    The blood of innocent Israelis as a result of this assassination must fall on Ariel Sharon's hands.

    Given that the Israeli Army says Sharon himself commanded the assassination, the Israeli Prime Minister must now ensure he is well protected against Hamas.

  • Israel's assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin has enraged the Arab and Muslim world which has called for revenge and predicted that the region would plunge deeper into violence. Mohamed Mahdi Akef, leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, called it "an unforgivable crime" Read here for more

  • Palestinians have vowed bloody revenge on Israel after its helicopter gunships assassinated the spiritual leader of the Hamas Islamic militant group, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, as he left a mosque in his wheelchair in the pre-dawn.Israeli security sources said the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, a former general, commanded yesterday's killing of Sheik Yassin - the highest-profile symbol of Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip - from his ranch in the Negev Desert. Read here for more

  • Many Israelis would pay with their lives for the killing of Hamas's spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, an Israeli cabinet minister who voted against assassinating him says. "Certainly those who are perpetrating terrorism, preparing a bomb which we know they are about to place somewhere, have to be targeted. But Yassin was not a ticking bomb," the Interior Minister, Avraham Poraz, told Israel Radio yesterday. Read here for more

  • Egyptian leaders say the assassination of Palestinian Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin marks an end to the Middle East peace process. Arab leaders say the killing will have severe consequences throughout the region. Read here for more

  • Those who thought that hitting Sheikh Ahmed Yassin will serve as a deterrence are mistaken, Dr. Reuven Paz, research fellow of the National Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism of the Interdisciplinary Institute of Herzliya, told the Jerusalem Post. Paz, however, warned that Yassin's demise could have severe repercussions not only in Israel, but will cause reactions throughout the entire Moslem world and lead to attacks against Israelis and Jews abroad. "We are talking about Moslems in Europe and the United States who identify with the Hamas and its policies, and recruit funds on its behalf," he said. "I believe that the same Hamas supporters abroad will also begin to recruit activists to wage attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets abroad, and we could possibly see elements affiliated with Al Qaeda recruiting activists on behalf of the Hamas. Read here for more

  • Many of the world's leaders, from Britain to Iran, were quick to condemn Israel's killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin - with the United States one notable exception. AFP quoted a State Department official as urging "all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint." Read here for more

  • The United States strongly denied any involvement in the assassination on Monday of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and appealed for calm in the region following his death. White House national security advisor Condoleezza Rice said in a round of interviews on U.S. television stations that the United States did not have advance warning of the assassination. Read here for more

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     Sunday, March 21, 2004

      Remembering Rachel Corrie Killed by Israeli Bulldozer in Gaza in March 2003

    Remembering Rachel Corrie

    by Adam Shapiro
    (Adam Shapiro is an organizer with the International Solidarity Movement.)

    On March 7, 2004, an Associated Press photographer in the West Bank village of Beit Dukou captured an image of a Palestinian woman during a protest against the wall Israel is constructing in her village. The image is simple, but it evokes a power beyond words.

    A Palestinian woman stands in front of an Israeli army bulldozer, working on a section of the separation barrier Israel is building to separate the West Bank from Israel near the village of Beit Dukou, some 10 km northwest of Jerusalem Sunday March 7, 2004. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

    This woman, dressed in a headscarf, long peasant dress and sweater, stands with her arms folded in front of her as if she is slightly cold or perhaps waiting for a tardy child. Her head is tilted slightly downward but her presence dominates the scene. What is particularly striking about this woman is that she is standing between the two treads, and directly in front of the cab, of an Israeli army D-9 bulldozer--the kind that has destroyed homes, uprooted trees and even killed an American woman. After a moment of disbelief over the image of a "covered" woman confronting this huge machine, you might then look again and realize that she stands there in defiance with her back to the machine, as if to say, "I will remain here on my land and will not acknowledge your brute force."

    The image of this woman immediately reminded me of Rachel Corrie. Rachel is the American woman who was crushed to death by an Israeli D-9 bulldozer in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on March 16, 2003. The bulldozer, like all the bulldozers used by the Israeli army, is manufactured by Caterpillar--an American company--and sold to the Israeli government as part of its military aid package.

    Rachel confronting the bulldozer defending a villager's home

    Rachel was ran over by the Israeli bulldozer and was killed

    Rachel Corrie was defending the home of a Palestinian physician, with just her body and her defiance, when the driver put the lever into gear and drove forward and then backward, crushing Rachel beneath the blade not once, but twice. Immediately, allegations of tunnels under the home were used to malign Rachel's extraordinary courage. However, no tunnels were ever located. These facts did not stop the Israeli army from demolishing this house two months ago, along with dozens of other homes in Rafah, in the latest wave of home demolitions carried out by US-built Caterpillar bulldozers.

    Rachel Corrie

    Following Rachel's death, many of us expected the US government to investigate what happened and to work to bring those responsible to justice.

    After all, just a day after Daniel Pearl's kidnapping in Pakistan, FBI agents were dispatched to Karachi to help with that investigation. (Daniel Peral is a journalist of Jewish background)

    But the US government remains silent, as neither the FBI nor the State Department nor Congress has mandated an independent investigation. This despite the more recent deaths of three American security agents in another part of Gaza when their car ran over a roadside bomb, prompting the State Department to threaten to withhold money from the Palestinian Authority until those responsible are brought to justice.

    In the case of Tom Hurndall, the British civilian shot by an Israeli sniper in Gaza a couple weeks after Rachel was killed, the British government has pushed for an investigation and a soldier is already being prepared for trial.

    The initial story about Tom's killing by the Israeli army was that he was an armed terrorist. The soldier who shot him has now admitted to lying about the incident. British pressure undoubtedly has played a part in generating this mea culpa and reversal of narrative. Why have there not been similar efforts by the US government, upon which Israel is dependent for more than $6 billion per year in total aid?

    Why has Rachel's killing gone unchallenged? Why has such a tremendous act of courage and defiance been ignored by much of the media in the United States?

    Like Rachel's family and friends, we at the International Solidarity Movement wonder about the answers to these questions. And we have to wonder what lessons are learned from allowing the Israeli army to bulldoze and kill a young woman without reprisal.

    However, I do know that acts of courage like this Palestinian woman in the village of Beit Dukou and the brutal toll the occupation takes on Palestinians every day are what inspired and outraged Rachel to refuse to be intimidated on that fateful day last March.

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     Saturday, March 20, 2004

      Controversy over "Passion of Christ" is a Reminder to Christians of the Malevolence Toward Them and Their Religion By Others

    Other Breaking News
  • Bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, slips net.A senior Taliban spokesman yesterday made the claim that both Zawahiri and bin Laden were safe in Afghanistan. Read here for more
  • Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero tonight rejected US Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry's call for him to reconsider plans to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq. Read here for more
  • Iraq faces "unbelievably bad days" ahead with more suicide bombings and devastating attacks that U.S.-led forces may be powerless to prevent, according to Britain's envoy to the occupied country."These things are going to keep happening, and it may get worse before it gets better," Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former ambassador to the United Nations and now Britain's top representative in Iraq, told Reuters in an interview. Read here for more
  • John Pilger: The invasion of Iraq, which began one year ago today, was "organised with lies", says the new Spanish Prime Minister. And yet these proven lies are still dominant in Australia. Day after day, their perpetrators seek to obfuscate and justify an unprovoked, illegal attack that killed up to 55,000 people, including at least 10,000 civilians; that every month causes the death and injury of 1000 children from exploding cluster bombs; that has so saturated Iraqi towns and cities with uranium that American and British soldiers are warned not to go where Iraqi children play, for fear of contamination. Set that carnage against the Madrid atrocity. Read here for more
  • If you oppose George Bush's policies, or if you're supported by anybody who opposes George Bush's policies, you're anti-American. That was the message of the 1988 presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush, who suggested that his opponent from Massachusetts was against the Pledge of Allegiance. Now it's his son's campaign message, too.Facts don't matter when you run on this theme. Read here for more
  • Why aren't the Americans accused of terrorism? The US has no right to judge the Al-Quaida or the Taliban as terrorists when the US itself permitted 241 American citizens to go to Britain and volunteer for service (the Eagle Squadron) with the ROYAL AIR FORCE and fight Nazi Germany, before the US entered World War II. What the US is asking the world today, is to revert to its own double standards, which does not seem surprising, at all, since that is the way the US has operated against other nations from 1812 onwards. Read here for more

  • Gibson's Favor


    Charley Reese

    March 8, 2004

    Mel Gibson, the actor and director, has done Christians a favor with his movie "The Passion of the Christ," which depicts the last 12 hours of the life of Christ.

    For one, he's proved once again that the know-it-all critics don't know what they're talking about half the time.

    When he started this project, the jeers were loud and clear: The guy's going to lose his shirt; making a movie in Latin and Aramaic is crazy; nobody will go see it; etc. and so forth.

    Well, as you probably know, Gibson's movie grossed four times its cost in the first five days of release and will certainly add greatly to Gibson's wealth. The naysayers were just flat wrong.

    A more important favor he did, however, was to remind Christians of the malevolence many secularists feel toward them and their religion.

    I have never seen the level of personal attacks directed against Gibson launched against any other director, plenty of whom have produced bloody garbage and soft porn. Even when the Disney people hired a convicted pedophile to direct a movie that had pedophile overtones, the critics were all "ho-hum" and "so what."

    What you've seen spewed out against Gibson is pure venom, a hatred that goes far beyond any critical disagreement as to the merits of the movie. The attacks have been vicious and personal. He's been called an anti-Semite, a sadomasochist, a wacko and Lord knows what else.

    It is far more revealing of the nature of his critics than it is of him. Gibson is a Christian and a near genius as a moviemaker.

    He is NOT an anti-Semite, unless you accept the definition that an anti-Semite is anyone Jews hate.

    The movie accurately reflects the account of the Gospels.

    When you hear people say that the movie is inaccurate, they are really saying the Gospels are inaccurate — which, of course, is the secular position.

    Christ's arrest and execution were instigated and insisted upon by the Jewish religious establishment. That's in the Gospels and also in the Talmud.

    Christ NEVER criticized the Roman Empire, but he did criticize the Jewish rabbis of his day.

    Here, you must give credit to Christian fundamentalists. If the Gospels are not the inspired word of God and therefore not true, then the whole religion collapses. There are no secular accounts, except for a brief mention here and there.

    But if you're not a Christian, then why should you care what Christians believe? What is it about Christianity that causes disbelievers to hate it so? And that's the point of this column.

    All of this malevolence directed at Gibson is also directed at Bible-believing Christians. Don't kid yourself.

    There is a limit to ecumenicalism. If Jesus is the son of God and the true Messiah, then Judaism is a false religion, as is Islam.

    If the Jews are right that Jesus was a fraud, then Christianity is a false religion.

    Mutually contradictory propositions cannot be compromised. That doesn't mean that people with different and contradictory beliefs cannot treat each other with courtesy and decency, but theology, by definition, is not suited to compromise.

    As for the movie itself, in my opinion, it's too violent for children or even squeamish adults. Gibson has made real the suffering of Jesus and done so deliberately. It's one thing to read that he was scourged and crucified; it is another thing entirely to see it. That causes people to realize the enormity of the sacrifice. But that's why the movie is R-rated, and it is certainly LESS violent than much of the junk that Hollywood produces.

    Gibson is owed an apology by his critics, but I expect to see the Second Coming before that happens.

    But you Christians can take comfort in the fact that your enemies are pretty much a nest of vipers — the kind of people no decent person would want for a friend.

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      Arab Journalists Walked Out of Colin Powell's News Conference in Baghdad To Protest Killing of Arab Journalists by US Troops

    Other Breaking News
  • U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan proposed to the Security Council Friday night that he establish an "independent high-level inquiry" into allegations of corruption in a former U.N.-administered humanitarian program that used Iraqi oil revenue to feed Iraqis. Read here for more
  • German Jewish leaders condemned Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of Christ on Wednesday, a day ahead of its opening in theatres here, and warned against allowing it to be used to whip up anti-Semitism. Read here for more

  • Journalists Disrupt Powell Briefing

    By Glenn Kessler and Karl Vick Correspondent Sewell Chan in Baghdad contributed to this report

    Washington Post

    Saturday, March 20, 2004

    Iraqi journalists confronted Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Friday over the deaths of two of their colleagues, disrupting an unannounced, lightning visit designed to highlight progress in Iraq on the first anniversary of the war.

    As Powell and Iraq's civilian administrator, L. Paul Bremer, strode into a briefing room for a news conference, the Iraqi journalists -- joined by foreign reporters -- stood and called for a moment of silence for a reporter and a cameraman from al-Arabiya television who allegedly were shot by U.S. troops Thursday as they tried to report on a rocket attack.

    After the moment of silence, Najem Rubaie, an editor at the daily newspaper al-Distoor, read a statement that 50 Iraqi journalists had signed. Charging that the United States "has proved its failure in eliminating terrorism and the creation of a secure environment after a year of occupation," Rubaie said the journalists demanded "an open investigation, before all of the media, of the entity that committed this murder of journalists."

    After demanding greater security for journalists and a "full and open investigation into the murders," more than two dozen Arab journalists walked out of the conference. Rubaie and two dozen other journalists then stood up and left.

    After the protest, Bremer called the walkout "a celebration of democracy."

    "I said to the secretary in the car as we left, 'That's what we came here to fight for. More than 500 Americans have died so that those guys could organize themselves and stand up and walk out of a press conference,' " Bremer told reporters after Powell had departed Baghdad for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and talks with Crown Prince Abdullah and other Saudi officials on U.S. efforts to promote reform in the Middle East.

    Numerous Arab journalists say they have been arrested by U.S. forces while reporting, a practice they contend amounts to intimidation.

    Ahmed Samraee, a producer with al-Jazeera who helped organize Friday's walkout, said: "We sat down and decided to show them we will not take this abuse anymore. The occupation promised to provide a free and democratic society in Iraq, but the American soldiers hit us and put us in jail."

    Powell said he regretted the deaths but was "confident it wasn't deliberate." A senior official with the U.S.-led occupation authority said that the top U.S. ground commander in Iraq, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, had ordered an "urgent review" of the journalists' deaths.

    Shooting of Journalists by US Troops

    Descriptions of the shooting released so far by the military have not mentioned the journalists. A military spokeswoman said Friday that one Iraqi driver was shot and killed Thursday after he struck a Humvee at 30 mph "while trying to run a checkpoint near the al-Hayat Hotel." She said the military was not aware of any other deaths in the incident.

    But when the encounter was over, Ali Abdel-Aziz, 36, an al-Arabiya cameraman, was dead, and reporter Ali Khatib, 30, was critically wounded; Khatib died Friday

    The driver for the two slain journalists, Ahmed Abdul Ameer, said they were shot while driving away from a U.S. military checkpoint, where both had spent 10 minutes trying to talk their way past pickets to film the aftermath of a rocket attack on the al-Hayat Hotel a block away.

    "What happened yesterday, it's a homicide," said Abdul Ameer, 41, who survived the incident with bruises and a lacerated scalp. "It was not a random shooting."

    Ameer said the reporter and photographer approached the checkpoint gingerly, as journalists in Iraq routinely do. He said he stopped their Kia sedan about 30 yards short of the two Humvees that blocked the four-lane street. Khatid and Abdel-Aziz then approached the soldiers on foot and asked for permission to film the hotel. The soldiers refused.

    "Ali [Khatid] talked to them about 10 minutes and he comes back and says, 'Let's go to another place' or 'Let's try another way,' " Abdul Ameer said. He said he then made a U-turn over the low median. At the same time, he said, he noticed a white Volvo sedan approaching the checkpoint at a speed that suggested it would not stop at the roadblock just ahead.

    Fearful that the approaching vehicle was a car bomb, Abdul Ameer said he responded by hitting the gas. "I wasn't afraid of the Americans. I was afraid of the Volvo. It could bomb us," he said.

    He heard shooting after traveling about 50 yards. "I don't believe they're attacking me until I find my friend's head on my shoulder," he said. Khatib, who was in the front passenger seat, was slumped over with a bullet in his brain; he lived until morning. Abdel-Aziz, who was in the back seat beside his camera, died immediately, also from a round to the back of the head.

    The Volvo crashed at 30 mph into a Humvee, but it contained no explosives.

    The incident occurred against a backdrop of often antagonistic relations between Arab news channels and occupation officials, who have openly accused the channels of encouraging -- and even collaborating with -- violent resistance to the occupation. The Governing Council has banned both al-Arabiya, which is based in Dubai, and Qatar-based al-Jazeera from its official functions for weeks at a time, complaining that both have broadcast segments encouraging attacks.

    Meanwhile Friday, the military announced that two troops with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were killed Wednesday "as a result of enemy action" in Anbar province, in western Iraq. No further details were provided. A soldier with the Army's 1st Infantry Division died Friday, two days after his Bradley Fighting Vehicle overturned near Baji, north of Baghdad. Another soldier was killed in the accident.

    Powell's Visit

    The last event on Powell's agenda was the news conference. He was informed shortly beforehand that a protest was likely, according to one of his aides.

    The news conference was the final event of Powell's visit to Baghdad, which took place under heavy security and tight secrecy. Powell arrived in Kuwait City Thursday for what were described as talks on Middle East reform, but instead he boarded a C-130 military transport plane for the trip to Baghdad's airport, followed by a ride in a Black Hawk helicopter to the headquarters of the occupation authority.

    Powell stayed in the heavily guarded section of Baghdad known as the Green Zone for his six-hour visit. Even within the zone, his motorcade was shadowed by a circling Black Hawk with soldiers leaning out the sides with sniper rifles.

    Powell met first with Bremer to discuss the handover of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government, scheduled for June 30, and the subsequent creation of the United States' biggest embassy.

    Later, in the vast dining room of one of Saddam Hussein's former presidential palaces, Powell spoke to a group of about 300 soldiers and civilians working for the U.S.-led occupation authority. He said their "noble work" was appreciated and supported in the United States.

    "You and your buddies have removed a horrible dictatorial regime that was a threat to its own citizens, that was a threat to the world," Powell said. "You can be proud of what you and your buddies have done, and let no one ever tell you otherwise."

    To loud applause and shouts of "Hooha," Powell declared: "You hear a lot of chatter back home and there are debates about it, [but] what we are doing is right."

    Powell also met with seven members of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council in an effort to resolve questions over the shape of the government that will administer Iraq until elections can be held.

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     Thursday, March 18, 2004

      Election in Post-Mahathir Malaysia: New Prime Minister Needs Chinese Votes

    Other Breaking News
  • Spain's prime minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has rejected an appeal from President George W. Bush to stand by the United States and has reiterated his threat to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq. Read here for more
  • Israeli helicopters fired two missiles in separate attacks on a Palestinian refugee camp killing four people . Read here for more..
  • Spain's rebuff of the ruling Popular Party on Sunday was a slap in the face to the Bush administration, and a potential setback for US plans in Iraq and the fight against terror. The upset is a wake-up call to US policymakers that democratic influences on global politics are here to stay and can affect - even thwart - US aims. Read here for more
  • Mel Gibson broke Hollywood's 10 Commandments. Here's a quick look at the Ten Commands Gibson opted not to obey and how not doing so helped turn "Passion" into a blockbuster. Read here fore more
  • Germans are still debating about Mel Gibson's movie before its showing. Read here for more
  • A frustrated Afghan soldier who could not afford to get married has been released without charge after being caught having sex with a donkey, police said Tuesday. Read here for more

  • Read here in Channel News Asia article "Chinese support pivotal to Malaysian PM's success"

    March 16 2004

    The powerful Malaysian ethnic Chinese's votes are pivotal in Malaysia's March 21 general elections, analysts say.

    Malaysia's 6.5 million Chinese are the economic power behind the Malay political throne, according to popular belief, helping drive the country to the front ranks of developing Muslim nations.

    Chinese, who make up just 26 percent of the population of 25 million, are estimated to own some 40 percent of corporate equity.

    In the last elections in 1999 the support of the Chinese and the ethnic Indian minority, which makes up about eight percent of the population, helped the ruling National Front coalition retain its two-thirds majority despite a swing against it by Muslim Malay voters.

    The coalition is led by Abdullah's United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) but includes the main parties representing minorities in the country's unabashedly racial political landscape -- the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress.

    While the Chinese and the Indians have many gripes about what they see as unfair preference given to Malays in business and education, analysts say their fear of the main opposition Islamic Party (PAS) will help ensure that the coalition remains in power.

    "A strong economy, the government's pro-business policies, PM Abdullah's anti-corruption drive and his moderate Islamic image will score points with the Chinese," said Abdul Razak Baginda of the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre.

    "Chinese votes will tilt the balance in many marginal seats."

    Malaysia's economy beat market expectations to expand 5.2 percent in 2003, and is targeted to grow 5.5-6.0 percent this year.

    Abdullah has stressed a "moderate and progressive" form of Islamic rule with the message that "Islam is a religion for development".

    The National Front's manifesto pledges freedom of worship for all religions and "to fight all forms of racial intolerance, extremism and terrorism."

    PAS is aware of the importance of minority votes and has constantly sought to reassure the Chinese and Indian communities that it practises a tolerant brand of Islam that will ensure their religious and cultural rights.

    In the two states ruled by PAS in the rural northeast, unlicensed karaoke joints and gaming outlets operate openly in local Chinatowns despite a ban on public singing, dancing and gambling. Beer and pork, considered unclean by Islam, are sold openly to non-Muslims.

    A key rival to the National Front for minority votes is the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP), which was the official opposition until an alliance with PAS saw it lose a swathe of seats in the last election.

    The DAP withdrew from the PAS-led opposition coalition in 2001, citing its distrust of the party's plans to introduce an Islamic state.

    "Some support will trickle back to the DAP but most still stay with the (ruling) coalition because the key issue for Chinese is the role of Islam. PAS is the bogeyman and UMNO is seen as the moderate," said Ong Kian Ming, analyst with think-tank SEDAR Institute

    The DAP, however, has warned Abdullah may introduce stricter Islamic policies to compete with PAS on religious grounds and appealed to Chinese to give it a stronger voice to curb any such a trend.

    Analysts say Chinese votes still carry weight in the forthcoming elections because in the absence of opinion polls it is difficult to gauge whether Malay sentiment has switched back to the government after the retirement last October of veteran premier Mahathir Mohamad.

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     Wednesday, March 17, 2004

      Spain Election: The Price for Supporting George Bush's War in Iraq

    Other Breaking News
  • A citizens' tribunal Saturday in Tokyo found U.S. President George W. Bush guilty of war crimes for attacking civilians with indiscriminate weapons and other arms during the U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in Afghanistan in 2001. Read here the full text of the proceedings and verdict

  • Vote reflects Spaniards' anti-U.S. views

    Glenn Frankel

    Washington Post
    March 16, 2004

    The hand-lettered sign at the sidewalk memorial for the 200 victims of last week's deadly train bombings starkly summed up a sentiment of many who came to pay respects Monday afternoon. It read: "They Died to Support Bush."

    Sunday's stunning electoral defeat for the ruling party of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, one of President Bush's closest European allies, reflected a late surge of public anger over the government's support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq triggered both by the attacks and by the sense that the government had sought to exploit the bombings for political gain, according to political analysts and voters.

    Several added that it also reflected a sense of alarm and despair that seems to cut across the political spectrum over the way the United States is wielding power in the world.

    "We love America -- Faulkner, Hemingway, Coca-Cola and Marilyn Monroe - - but we have something against your government," said Luis Gonzales, 56, a high school Spanish literature teacher, as he stopped to view the rows of candles, flowers and makeshift signs at the central Puerta del Sol. "Aznar took us into a war that wasn't our war, but only for the benefit of the extreme right and the American companies."

    Some analysts said the vote cast doubts about Spain's commitment to the war on terrorism and warned that the extremists responsible for last week's attacks would view the results as a clear-cut victory. They warned that European leaders, such as Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, who sided with Washington in the Iraq war could face similar electoral upheaval and the threat of a terrorist strike on their own civilian populations.

    Virtually all agreed that the result would have impact far beyond Spain's borders. "It's important to see Spain as part of a much wider phenomenon, not only European but global, and what's affected the election there could affect other countries and other elections as well," said Mark Leonard, director of the Foreign Policy Center, a London-based think tank.

    While little hard polling data was yet available, analysts pointed to an unexpected level of voter turnout -- which at 77 percent was nine points higher than the 2000 elections -- and the participation of 2 million first- time voters as indicating a last-minute surge against the ruling Popular Party. The winning Socialist Workers' Party and a number of regional anti-government parties also gained support in autonomous provinces.

    Usually, analysts expect a dramatic disaster such as last week's synchronized attacks on morning rush-hour commuters to solidify support for governing parties with well-defined law-and-order policies. At first, when officials blamed the Basque separatist movement known as ETA for the bombings, the pattern seemed to be holding, with opinion polls suggesting the ruling party might increase its grip on power. The Aznar government has been widely credited for taking a tough stance against ETA.

    But in the ensuing 48 hours, as suspicion shifted toward Islamic extremists connected with the al Qaeda network, the tide seemed to turn. Opposition politicians and journalists alleged that the Aznar government was withholding evidence implicating al Qaeda, triggering unprecedented street demonstrations outside Popular Party headquarters in Madrid and in other major cities on the eve of Sunday's elections.

    While ETA is widely seen as an unavoidable domestic enemy that has to be confronted, many voters believed al Qaeda would never have targeted Spain had Aznar not supported Bush in the Iraq war. "Americans need to understand that Bush's attitude is causing more hatred and more terrorism," said Marie Isabel Garcia, 31, a foreign language graduate student who visited the Puerta del Sol memorial.

    Others said their votes reflected both a lack of confidence in Spain's intelligence and security services, which failed to detect warning signals that the attack was imminent, and a lack of trust in Aznar, who has been accused of manipulating and selectively using intelligence information for political purposes. Recent disclosures that the American and British governments used faulty intelligence on Iraq's access to weapons of mass destruction to justify the Iraq war compounded the government's credibility problem.

    In the end, those issues overshadowed the government's recognized success in managing Spain's economy.

    Some of the highly visible anti-American sentiment here is aimed directly at Bush, who is viewed by many as a hard-liner with no empathy for other countries. Several people at the Puerta del Sol singled out Bush's televised expression of sympathy following the train bombings as insensitive.

    "He was cold and aloof," complained Elena Nicolas, a civil servant in her late 30s. "He didn't even bother to wear a black tie."

    Many here believe Aznar has adopted a servile stance toward the United States. In contrast, Socialist Party leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero stressed his independence and willingness to criticize Washington. Many approvingly cited an incident during last October's Columbus Day military parade when Zapatero sat down as the American flagged passed by. "It's not my flag," he reportedly said later.

    Zapatero's image as a relative political neophyte was also widely seen as an advantage. He promised voters what he called "full transparency," implying that Aznar and his Cabinet had been less than honest in the aftermath of last week's attacks. Previous episodes, such as claims that Aznar's government had concealed damaging information about a major oil spill off Spain's Atlantic coast two years ago, fed the perception that the outgoing leader and his party were not trustworthy.

    "All the negative elements of his political personality were shown at this stage, and the election became a plebiscite against Aznar," said Antonio Lorsa, a University of Madrid political scientist.

    But Jose Varela Ortega, vice president of the Ortega y Gasset Foundation, a Madrid think tank, said Spanish voters resented the war on terrorism because of a natural tendency to opt for a policy of ignoring or appeasing violent extremists.

    "It is very human to blame the policeman and not the criminal," he said. "You see it in France and Germany and to a large extent in Spain -- that the best thing to do is to let them alone, the Saddam Husseins of this world, and nothing bad will happen. The policeman is the troublemaker, and (the Americans) are the policeman of the world."

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     Thursday, March 04, 2004

      Special Report: Nike, Reebok, Fila, Adidas, Puma, Umbro, and ASICS Use Sweatshops Abusing Workers' Rights in Developing Countries

    Other Breaking News
  • A Muslim film distributor to bring Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ " to France : Tarak Ben Ammar, a major film broker with business ties to media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Bersluconi, told interviewers :"I thought it was my duty as a Muslim who believes in Jesus, who respects and was brought up in the three (monotheist) religions, to have this film shown to the French and let them judge it for themselves." Read here for more

  • OXFAM's Report Reveals Sweatshops Operated by Sportswear Firms like Nike and Reebok

    by Felicity Lawrence for The Guardian UK

    March 4, 2004

    Sportswear made by Puma, Umbro, Fila, Adidas, Reebok, Nike and ASICS is being produced by workers around the world whose rights are being regularly violated, according to a major report by Oxfam and trade unions.

    As the big brands gear up to take advantage of the marketing around the Olympic games, most are using factories that ruthlessly exploit their workers, the charity claims. It says that the business methods of the leading companies, which have cut order times and reduced prices paid to their suppliers, have resulted in workers being forced into excessively long overtime, sometimes unpaid, and given wages too low to live on.

    The report, Play Fair at the Olympics, has been prepared by Oxfam in conjunction with Labour Behind the Label and international trade unions, and is based on interviews with workers producing sports clothes and trainers in seven countries. As well as evidence from the traditional garment-producing countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, China, Cambodia and Bangladesh, research was collected in Bulgaria and Turkey.

    Brendan Barber, secretary general of the TUC, said: "The Olympic games are supposed to be a showcase for fairness and human achievement. But the sportswear industry is violating that spirit by exploiting and abusing workers' rights. We want the companies to talk to us so we can work together for workers in the industry."

    The international director of Oxfam, Jasmine Whitbread, called on the companies involved to change the way they do business. "The majority of workers in the sportswear industry are women whose health, children and family life are suffering from long hours, poor working conditions and low pay."

    According to the report, long working hours and forced overtime were the main concerns of the workers. In peak seasons, seven-day working is becoming the norm. In some factories 16 to 18 hours without proper breaks is common.

    The report gives a catalogue of examples involving suppliers to most of the main brands. In two Chinese factories producing for Umbro, workers said they were all made to work a seven-day week.

    In a Bangkok garment factory producing for Fila, Nike and Puma, workers described having to work through the night.

    In four Turkish factories producing for Fila, Puma and other smaller fashion brands, workers all reported being forced to work overtime.

    In a Bulgarian factory supplying Puma, refusal to do overtime is often used as a pretext for dismissing the worker.

    Many factories were employing workers without proper contracts, and denying them the legal minimum wage, or statutory overtime payments and sickness allowances, researchers reported.

    A garment worker on a temporary contract in a factory in Indonesia supplying Nike, Adidas, Fila and Puma, said that wages were dependent on meeting targets, which they had to work overtime without pay to complete.

    Workers at a Cambodian factory producing sportswear for Adidas and Puma had pay and monthly bonuses deducted if they took a day off sick.

    At a subcontracted factory in Indonesia making sportswear bearing the Olympics emblem, workers say they are sometimes forced to work shifts as long as 17 hours and often six days in a row. They say they are exhausted and that many pregnant women suffer miscarriages. Women workers often reported sexual harassment. At an Indonesian factory making clothes for Nike, Puma, Adidas, Fila and ASICS, for example, women workers complained that they were fondled and harassed by male supervisors.

    In response to previous allegations of exploitation in the sportswear industry, the main companies have adopted codes of practice with their suppliers. Oxfam says its interviews show that these have led to limited improvements but that there is often a gap between their ethical commitments and their purchasing practices.

    The intense competition between companies to deliver constantly changing fashion at ever-lower prices has been fed down the line to put pressure on suppliers. They in turn have responded by pushing their workers to work faster and longer and by keeping their wages down, the report says.

    In the last five years, the price of trainers and sports clothes has fallen by 10% or more. Factory managers claimed that buyers from the big brands used the threat of relocating to force prices down.

    The traditional system of placing bulk orders for four basic seasons has been replaced by "just-in-time" ordering. Fashions now change by the month. Factories that fail to meet the deadlines on orders said they faced fines or higher freight charges. Some suppliers simply cheat the inspectors when they are being audited for the big brands.

    Adidas said it was studying the report carefully and was committed to continuous improvement. "We have a code of conduct in place which requires our suppliers to comply with core labour standards. We have an international team of 30 people who monitor our factories. Independent monitors verify the effectiveness of our monitoring efforts," it said in a statement yesterday.

    Umbro said it could not comment on the report. ASICS and Fila UK said they were studying the findings.

    Nike said it welcomed the report and added that it was working to improve conditions with independent groups such as the Global Alliance for Workers and Communities. Nike employs more than 80 people to check compliance with its codes of practice and its buying was now being done on a "balanced scorecard approach", which means that compliance with the codes is included.

    Puma said it was initially sceptical of the findings on its sourcing activities and would investigate further. It has had a detailed code of conduct on working conditions and labour rights since 1993.

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     Tuesday, March 02, 2004

      Haiti Crisis: US-Driven and Manipulated

    Other Breaking News
  • A man who said he was a caretaker at the home of Jean Bertrand Aristide told French radio that the ousted Haitian leader had been taken away by US soldiers Read here for more
  • A SENIOR US diplomat has vehemently denied a French radio report that ex-Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide had been forcibly removed from his residence by US troops. Read here for more
  • The Bush administration appears to have succeeded in its long-time goal of toppling Aristide through years of blocking international aid to his impoverished nation Read here more
  • The White House has called into question Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's "fitness to continue to govern his country". According to the official White House statement released one day before Aristide's departure for the Dominican Republic. Now should we not apply the same standards to President George W. Bush who has lied to the American people, violated international law and waged a criminal based on a fabricated pretext? Read here for more

  • Don't fall for Washington's spin on Haiti


    Jeffrey Sachs
    Earth Institute, Columbia University

    February 29 2004

    The crisis in Haiti is another case of brazen US manipulation of a small, impoverished country.

    Much of the media portrayed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as an undemocratic leader who betrayed Haiti's democratic hopes and thereby lost the support of his erstwhile backers. He "stole" elections and intransigently refused to address opposition concerns. As a result he had to leave office, which he did on Sunday at the insistence of the US and France.

    Unfortunately, this is a very distorted view.

    President George Bush's foreign policy team came into office intent on toppling Mr Aristide, and their efforts were apparently consummated on Sunday.

    Mr Aristide was long reviled by powerful US conservatives such as former senator Jesse Helms, who obsessively saw him as another Fidel Castro in the Caribbean. Such critics fulminated when President Bill Clinton restored Mr Aristide to power in 1994, and they succeeded in forcing the withdrawal of US troops from Haiti soon afterwards, well before the situation in the country could be stabilised. In terms of help to rebuild Haiti, the US Marines left behind about 8 miles of paved roads in Port-au-Prince and essentially little else.

    In the meantime, the so-called "opposition," a coterie of rich Haitians linked to the preceding Duvalier regime, former (and perhaps current) CIA operatives and decommissioned officers of the brutal Duvalier army disbanded by Mr Aristide, worked Washington political circles to lobby against him.

    In 2000, Haiti ran parliamentary and then presidential elections, unprecedented in their scope. The parliamentary elections went off adequately, although not perfectly. Mr Aristide's party, Fanmi Lavalas, clearly won the election, although candidates who won a plurality rather than a majority, and who should have faced a second-round election, also gained seats. Objective observers declared the elections broadly successful, albeit flawed.

    Mr Aristide won the presidential election later that year.

    The US media now reports that those elections were "boycotted by the opposition," and hence not legitimate, but this is a cruel joke to those who know Haiti. In fact, Haiti's voters elected Mr Aristide in late 2000 with an overwhelming mandate and the opposition, such as it was, ducked the elections. Duvalier thugs hardly constituted a winning ticket and as a result, they did not even try. Nor did they have to.

    Mr Aristide's foes in Haiti benefited from tight links with the incoming Bush team; and thereby followed one of the great recent scandals of US foreign policy. The Bush team told Mr Aristide it would freeze all aid unless he agreed with the opposition over new elections for the contested Senate seats, among other political demands. The wrangling led to the freezing of $500m in emergency humanitarian aid from the US, the World Bank and other multilateral organisations.

    The tragedy, or joke, is that Mr Aristide had agreed to compromise, but the opposition simply came up with one excuse after another - it was never the right time to hold new elections, as proposed by Mr Aristide, because of "security" problems, they said.

    Whatever the pretext, the US maintained its aid freeze and Haiti's economy, cut off from bilateral and multilateral financing, went into a tailspin.

    All this is now being replayed before our eyes. As Haiti slipped into deeper turmoil last month, Caribbean leaders called for a power-sharing compromise between Mr Aristide and the opposition. Once again, Mr Aristide agreed and the opposition balked, saying instead that the president had to leave. US Secretary of State Colin Powell reportedly pressed opposition leaders to accept a compromise but they refused again. But rather than defending Mr Aristide and dealing with opposition intransigence, the White House announced the president should step down.

    The ease with which another Latin American democracy crumbled is stunning. What, though, has been the role of US intelligence agencies among the anti-Aristide rebels? How much money went from US-funded institutions and government agencies to help the opposition. And why did the White House abandon the Caribbean compromise proposal it had endorsed just days before? These questions have not been asked. Then again, we live in an age when entire wars can be launched on phony pretenses, with few questions asked in the aftermath.

    What should happen now is unlikely to pass. The United Nations should help restore Mr Aristide to power for his remaining two years in office, making clear that Sunday's events were an illegal power grab.

    Second, the US should call on the opposition, which is largely a US construct, to stop all violence, immediately and unconditionally.

    Third, after years of literally starving the people of Haiti, the long-promised and long-frozen aid flows of $500m should start immediately.

    These steps would rescue a dying democracy and at least help avert a possible bloodbath.

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