18 January 2005
Despite the scandals, Americans condoned them and voted George W, Bush as their second-term President.
Read here for full article by Peter Dizikes,The Scandal Sheet, in Salon.com
This scandal list is limited to events of the past four years of the Bush presidency, or those coming to light in that time. It covers both the executive branch and the Congress, since the latter, especially the Senate, is increasingly a mere adjunct to the White House.
However, the items are not arranged in terms of moral or historical gravity. Abu Ghraib might create years of anti-American hatred abroad, but it and some other headline-generating events appear near the end of the list, to help familiarize readers first with lesser-known or now-overlooked scandals.
Recall how John Ashcroft broke the law? Know why Dick Cheney wants to keep those energy task force documents secret? Read on.
1. Memogate: The Senate Computer Theft
The scandal: From 2001 to 2003, Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee illicitly accessed nearly 5,000 computer files containing confidential Democratic strategy memos about President Bush's judicial nominees. The GOP used the memos to shape their own plans and leaked some to the media.
The problem: The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act states it is illegal to obtain confidential information from a government computer.
The outcome: Unresolved. The Justice Department has assigned a prosecutor to the case. The staff member at the heart of the matter, Manuel Miranda, has attempted to brazen it out, filing suit in September 2004 against the DOJ to end the investigation. "A grand jury will indict a ham sandwich," Miranda complained. Some jokes just write themselves.
2. Doctor Detroit: The DOJ's Bungled Terrorism Case
The scandal: The Department of Justice completely botched the nation's first post-9/11 terrorism trial, as seen when the convictions of three Detroit men allegedly linked to al-Qaida were overturned in September 2004. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft had claimed their June 2003 sentencing sent "a clear message" that the government would "detect, disrupt and dismantle the activities of terrorist cells."
The problem: The DOJ's lead prosecutor in the case, Richard Convertino, withheld key information from the defense and distorted supposed pieces of evidence - like a Las Vegas vacation video purported to be a surveillance tape. But that's not the half of it. Convertino says he was unfairly scapegoated because he testified before the Senate, against DOJ wishes, about terrorist financing. Justice's reconsideration of the case began soon thereafter. Convertino has since sued the DOJ, which has also placed him under investigation.
The outcome: Let's see: Overturned convictions, lawsuits and feuding about a Kafkaesque case. Nobody looks good here.
3. Dark Matter: The Energy Task Force
The scandal: A lawsuit has claimed it is illegal for Dick Cheney to keep the composition of his 2001 energy-policy task force secret. What's the big deal? The New Yorker's Jane Mayer has suggested an explosive aspect of the story, citing a National Security Council memo from February 2001, which "directed the N.S.C. staff to cooperate fully with the Energy Task Force as it considered the 'melding' of ... 'operational policies towards rogue states,' such as Iraq, and 'actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.'" In short, the task force's activities could shed light on the administration's pre-9/11 Iraq aims.
The problem: The Federal Advisory Committee Act says the government must disclose the work of groups that include non-federal employees; the suit claims energy industry executives were effectively task force members. Oh, and the Bush administration has portrayed the Iraq war as a response to 9/11, not something it was already considering.
The outcome: Unresolved. In June 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to an appellate court.
4. The Indian Gaming Scandal
The scandal: Potential influence peddling to the tune of $82 million, for starters. Jack Abramoff, a GOP lobbyist and major Bush fundraiser, and Michael Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), received that amount from several Indian tribes, while offering access to lawmakers. For instance, Texas' Tigua tribe, which wanted its closed El Paso casino reopened, gave millions to the pair and $33,000 to Rep. Robert Ney (R-Ohio) in hopes of favorable legislation (Ney came up empty). And get this: The Tiguas were unaware that Abramoff, Scanlon and conservative activist Ralph Reed had earned millions lobbying to have the same casino shut in 2002.
The problem: Federal officials want to know if Abramoff and Scanlon provided real services for the $82 million, and if they broke laws while backing candidates in numerous Indian tribe elections.
The outcome: Everybody into the cesspool! The Senate Indian Affairs Committee and five federal agencies, including the FBI, IRS, and Justice Department, are investigating.
5. Halliburton's No-Bid Bonanza
The scandal: In February 2003, Halliburton received a five-year, $7 billion no-bid contract for services in Iraq.
The problem: The Army Corps of Engineers' top contracting officer, Bunnatine Greenhouse, objected to the deal, saying the contract should be the standard one-year length, and that a Halliburton official should not have been present during the discussions.
The outcome: The FBI is investigating. The $7 billion contract was halved and Halliburton won one of the parts in a public bid. For her troubles, Greenhouse has been forced into whistle-blower protection.
6. Halliburton: Pumping Up Prices
The scandal: In 2003, Halliburton overcharged the army for fuel in Iraq. Specifically, Halliburton's subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root hired a Kuwaiti company, Altanmia, to supply fuel at about twice the going rate, then added a markup, for an overcharge of at least $61 million, according to a December 2003 Pentagon audit.
The problem: That's not the government's $61 million, it's our $61 million.
The outcome: The FBI is investigating.
7. Halliburton's Vanishing Iraq Money
The scandal: In mid-2004, Pentagon auditors determined that $1.8 billion of Halliburton's charges to the government, about 40 percent of the total, had not been adequately documented.
The problem: That's not the government's $1.8 billion, it's our $1.8 billion.
The outcome: The Defense Contract Audit Agency has "strongly" asked the Army to withhold about $60 million a month from its Halliburton payments until the documentation is provided.
8. The Halliburton Bribe-Apalooza
The scandal: This may not surprise you, but an international consortium of companies, including Halliburton, is alleged to have paid more than $100 million in bribes to Nigerian officials, from 1995 to 2002, to facilitate a natural-gas-plant deal. (Cheney was Halliburton's CEO from 1995 to 2000.)
The problem: The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials.
The outcome: A veritable coalition of the willing is investigating the deal, including the Justice Department, the SEC, the Nigerian government and a French magistrate. In June, Halliburton fired two implicated executives.
9. Halliburton: One Fine Company
The scandal: In 1998 and 1999, Halliburton counted money recovered from project overruns as revenue, before settling the charges with clients.
The problem: Doing so made the company's income appear larger, but Halliburton did not explain this to investors. The SEC ruled this accounting practice was "materially misleading."
The outcome: In August 2004, Halliburton agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine to settle SEC charges. One Halliburton executive has paid a fine and another is settling civil charges. Now imagine the right-wing rhetoric if, say, Al Gore had once headed a firm fined for fudging income statements.
10. Halliburton's Iran End Run
The scandal: Halliburton may have been doing business with Iran while Cheney was CEO.
The problem: Federal sanctions have banned U.S. companies from dealing directly with Iran. To operate in Iran legally, U.S. companies have been required to set up independent subsidiaries registered abroad. Halliburton thus set up a new entity, Halliburton Products and Services Ltd., to do business in Iran, but while the subsidiary was registered in the Cayman Islands, it may not have had operations totally independent of the parent company.
The outcome: Unresolved. The Treasury Department has referred the case to the U.S. attorney in Houston, who convened a grand jury in July 2004.
11. Money Order: Afghanistan's Missing $700 Million Turns Up in Iraq
The scandal: According to Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack," the Bush administration diverted $700 million in funds from the war in Afghanistan, among other places, to prepare for the Iraq invasion.
The problem: Article I, Section 8, Clause 12 of the U.S. Constitution specifically gives Congress the power "to raise and support armies." And the emergency spending bill passed after Sept. 11, 2001, requires the administration to notify Congress before changing war spending plans. That did not happen.
The outcome: Congress declined to investigate. The administration's main justification for its decision has been to claim the funds were still used for, one might say, Middle East anti-tyrant-related program activities.
12. Iraq: More Loose Change
The scandal: The inspector general of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq released a series of reports in July 2004 finding that a significant portion of CPA assets had gone missing - 34 percent of the materiel controlled by Kellogg, Brown & Root - and that the CPA's method of disbursing $600 million in Iraq reconstruction funds "did not establish effective controls and left accountability open to fraud, waste and abuse."
The problem: As much as $50 million of that money was disbursed without proper receipts.
The outcome: The CPA has disbanded, but individual government investigations into the handling of Iraq's reconstruction continue.
13. The Pentagon-Israel Spy Case
The scandal: A Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, may have passed classified United States documents about Iran to Israel, possibly via the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a Washington lobbying group.
The problem: To do so could be espionage or could constitute the mishandling of classified documents.
The outcome: A grand jury is investigating. In December 2004, the FBI searched AIPAC's offices. A Senate committee has also been investigating the apparently unauthorized activities of the Near East and South Asia Affairs group in the Pentagon, where Franklin works.
14. Gone to Taiwan
The scandal: Missed this one? A high-ranking State Department official, Donald Keyser, was arrested and charged in September with making a secret trip to Taiwan and was observed by the FBI passing documents to Taiwanese intelligence agents in Washington-area meetings.
The problem: Such unauthorized trips are illegal. And we don't have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
The outcome: The case is in the courts.
15. Wiretapping the United Nations
The scandal: Before the United Nations' vote on the Iraq war, the United States and Great Britain developed an eavesdropping operation targeting diplomats from several countries.
The problem: U.N. officials say the practice is illegal and undermines honest diplomacy, although some observers claim it is business as usual on East 42nd Street.
The outcome: Little fuss here, but a major British scandal erupted after U.K. intelligence translator Katherine Gun leaked a U.S. National Security Agency memo requesting British help in the spying scheme, in early 2003. Initially charged under Britain's Official Secrets Act for leaking classified information, Gun was cleared in 2004 - seemingly to avoid hearings questioning the legality of Britain's war participation.
16. The Boeing Boondoggle
The scandal: In 2003, the Air Force contracted with Boeing to lease a fleet of refueling tanker planes at an inflated price: $23 billion.
The problem: The deal was put together by a government procurement official, Darleen Druyun, who promptly joined Boeing. Beats using a headhunter.
The outcome: In November 2003, Boeing fired both Druyun and CFO Michael Sears. In April 2004, Druyun pled guilty to a conspiracy charge in the case. In November 2004, Sears copped to a conflict-of-interest charge, and company CEO Phil Condit resigned. The government is reviewing its need for the tankers.
17. The Medicare Bribe Scandal
The scandal: According to former Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.), on Nov. 21, 2003, with the vote on the administration's Medicare bill hanging in the balance, someone offered to contribute $100,000 to his son's forthcoming congressional campaign, if Smith would support the bill.
The problem: Federal law prohibits the bribery of elected officials.
The outcome: In September 2004, the House Ethics Committee concluded an inquiry by fingering House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), saying he deserved "public admonishment" for offering to endorse Smith's son in return for Smith's vote. DeLay has claimed Smith initiated talks about a quid pro quo. The matter of the $100,000 is unresolved; soon after his original allegations, Smith suddenly claimed he had not been offered any money. Smith's son Brad lost his GOP primary in August 2004.
18. Tom DeLay's PAC Problems
The scandal: One of DeLay's political action committees, Texans for a Republican Majority, apparently reaped illegal corporate contributions for the campaigns of Republicans running for the Texas Legislature in 2002. Given a Republican majority, the Legislature then re-drew Texas' U.S. congressional districts to help the GOP.
The problem: Texas law bans the use of corporate money for political purposes.
The outcome: Unresolved. Three DeLay aides and associates - Jim Ellis, John Colyandro and Warren RoBold - were charged in September 2004 with crimes including money laundering and unlawful acceptance of corporate contributions.
19. Tom DeLay's FAA: Following Americans Anywhere
The scandal: In May 2003, DeLay's office persuaded the Federal Aviation Administration to find the plane carrying a Texas Democratic legislator, who was leaving the state in an attempt to thwart the GOP's nearly unprecedented congressional redistricting plan.
The problem: According to the House Ethics Committee, the "invocation of federal executive branch resources in a partisan dispute before a state legislative body" is wrong.
The outcome: In October 2004, the committee rebuked DeLay for his actions.
20. In the Rough: Tom DeLay's Golf Fundraiser
The scandal: DeLay appeared at a golf fundraiser that Westar Energy held for one of his political action committees, Americans for a Republican Majority, while energy legislation was pending in the House.
The problem: It's one of these "appearance of impropriety" situations.
The outcome: The House Ethics Committee tossed the matter into its Oct. 6 rebuke. "Take a lap, Tom."
21. Busy, Busy, Busy in New Hampshire
The scandal: In 2002, with a tight Senate race in New Hampshire, Republican Party officials paid a Virginia-based firm, GOP Marketplace, to enact an Election Day scheme meant to depress Democratic turnout by "jamming" the Democratic Party phone bank with continuous calls for 90 minutes.
The problem: Federal law prohibits the use of telephones to "annoy or harass" anyone.
The outcome: Chuck McGee, the former executive director of the New Hampshire GOP, pleaded guilty in July 2004 to a felony charge, while Allen Raymond, former head of GOP Marketplace, pleaded guilty to a similar charge in June. In December, James Tobin, former New England campaign chairman of Bush-Cheney '04, was indicted for conspiracy in the case.
22. The Medicare Money Scandal
The scandal: Thomas Scully, Medicare's former administrator, supposedly threatened to fire chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster to prevent him from disclosing the true cost of the 2003 Medicare bill.
The problem: Congress voted on the bill believing it would cost $400 billion over 10 years. The program is more likely to cost $550 billion.
The outcome: Scully denies threatening to fire Foster, as Foster has charged, but admits telling Foster to withhold the higher estimate from Congress. In September 2004, the Government Accountability Office recommended Scully return half his salary from 2003. Inevitably, Scully is now a lobbyist for drug companies helped by the bill.
23. The Bogus Medicare "Video News Release"
The scandal: To promote its Medicare bill, the Bush administration produced imitation news-report videos touting the legislation. About 40 television stations aired the videos. More recently, similar videos promoting the administration's education policy have come to light.
The problem: The administration broke two laws: One forbidding the use of federal money for propaganda, and another forbidding the unauthorized use of federal funds.
The outcome: In May 2004, the GAO concluded the administration acted illegally, but the agency lacks enforcement power.
24. Pundits on the Payroll: The Armstrong Williams Case
The scandal: The Department of Education paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote its educational law, No Child Left Behind.
The problem: Williams did not disclose that his support was government funded until the deal was exposed in January 2005.
The outcome: The House and FCC are considering inquiries, while Williams' syndicated newspaper column has been terminated.
25. Ground Zero's Unsafe Air
The scandal: Government officials publicly minimized the health risks stemming from the World Trade Center attack. In September 2001, for example, Environmental Protection Agency head Christine Todd Whitman said New York's "air is safe to breathe and [the] water is safe to drink."
The problem: Research showed serious dangers or was incomplete. The EPA used outdated techniques that failed to detect tiny asbestos particles. EPA data also showed high levels of lead and benzene, which causes cancer. A Sierra Club report claims the government ignored alarming data. A GAO report says no adequate study of 9/11's health effects has been organized.
The outcome: The long-term health effects of the disaster will likely not be apparent for years or decades and may never be definitively known. Already, hundreds of 9/11 rescue workers have quit their jobs because of acute illnesses.
26. John Ashcroft's Illegal Campaign Contributions
The scandal: Ashcroft's exploratory committee for his short-lived 2000 presidential bid transferred $110,000 to his unsuccessful 2000 reelection campaign for the Senate.
The problem: The maximum for such a transfer is $10,000.
The outcome: The Federal Election Commission fined Ashcroft's campaign treasurer, Garrett Lott, $37,000 for the transgression.
27. Intel Inside ... The White House
The scandal: In early 2001, chief White House political strategist Karl Rove held meetings with numerous companies while maintaining six-figure holdings of their stock - including Intel, whose executives were seeking government approval of a merger. "Washington hadn't seen a clearer example of a conflict of interest in years," wrote Paul Glastris in the Washington Monthly.
The problem: The Code of Federal Regulations says government employees should not participate in matters in which they have a personal financial interest.
The outcome: Then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, spurning precedent, did not refer the case to the Justice Department.
28. Duck! Antonin Scalia's Legal Conflicts
The scandal: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia refused to recuse himself from the Cheney energy task force case, despite taking a duck-hunting trip with the vice president after the court agreed to weigh the matter.
The problem: Federal law requires a justice to "disqualify himself from any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned."
The outcome: Scalia stayed on, arguing no conflict existed because Cheney was party to the case in a professional, not personal, capacity. Nothing new for Scalia, who in 2002 was part of a Mississippi redistricting ruling favorable to GOP Rep. Chip Pickering - son of Judge Charles Pickering, a Scalia turkey-hunting pal. In 2001, Scalia went pheasant hunting with Kansas Gov. Bill Graves when that state had cases pending before the Supreme Court.
The scandal: George W. Bush, self-described "war president," did not fulfill his National Guard duty, and Bush and his aides have made misleading statements about it. Salon's Eric Boehlert wrote the best recent summary of the issue.
The problem: Military absenteeism is a punishable offense, although Bush received an honorable discharge.
The outcome: No longer a campaign issue. But what was Bush doing in 1972?
30. Iraq: The Case for War
The scandal: Bush and many officials in his administration made false statements about Iraq's military capabilities, in the months before the United States' March 2003 invasion of the country.
The problem: For one thing, it is a crime to lie to Congress, although Bush backers claim the president did not knowingly make false assertions.
The outcome: A war spun out of control with unknowable long-term consequences. The Iraq Survey Group has stopped looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
31. Niger Forgeries: Whodunit?
The scandal: In his January 2003 State of the Union address, Bush said, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
The problem: The statement was untrue. By March 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency showed the claim, that Iraq sought materials from Niger, was based on easily discernible forgeries.
The outcome: The identity of the forger(s) remains under wraps. Journalist Josh Marshall has implied the FBI is oddly uninterested in interviewing Rocco Martino, the former Italian intelligence agent who apparently first shopped the documents in intelligence and journalistic circles and would presumably be able to shed light on their origin.
32. In Plame Sight
The scandal: In July 2003, administration officials disclosed the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative working on counterterrorism efforts, to multiple journalists, and columnist Robert Novak made Plame's identity public. Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had just written a New York Times opinion piece stating he had investigated the Niger uranium-production allegations, at the CIA's behest, and reported them to be untrue, before Bush's 2003 State of the Union address.
The problem: Under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act it is illegal to disclose, knowingly, the name of an undercover agent.
The outcome: Unresolved. The Justice Department appointed special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to the case in December 2003. While this might seem a simple matter, Fitzgerald could be unable to prove the leakers knew Plame was a covert agent.
33. Abu Ghraib
The scandal: American soldiers physically tortured prisoners in Iraq and kept undocumented "ghost detainees" in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The problem: The United States is party to the Geneva Conventions, which state that "No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever."
The outcome: Unresolved. A Pentagon internal inquiry found a lack of oversight at Abu Ghraib, while independent inquiries have linked the events to the administration's desire to use aggressive interrogation methods globally. Notoriously, Gonzales has advocated an approach which "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." More recently, Gonzales issued qualified support for the Geneva Conventions in January 2005 Senate testimony after being nominated for attorney general. Army reservist Charles Graner was convicted in January 2005 for abusing prisoners, while a few other soldiers await trial.
34. Guantánamo Bay Torture?
The scandal: The U.S. military is also alleged to have abused prisoners at the U.S. Navy's base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. FBI agents witnessing interrogations there have reported use of growling dogs to frighten prisoners and the chaining of prisoners in the fetal position while depriving them of food or water for extended periods.
The problem: More potential violations of the Geneva Conventions.
The outcome: An internal military investigation was launched in January 2005.
Monday, January 31, 2005
(Robert Fisk is Britain’s most highly decorated foreign correspondent. He has received the British International Journalist of the Year award seven times, most recently in 1995 and 1996. His specialty is the Middle East, where he has spent the last twenty-three years. Currently the Beirut correspondent for the London Independent, Fisk has covered the Iranian revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, the Persian Gulf war, and the conflict in Algeria.. read here for more)
29 January 2005
Read here full article by Robert Fisk in The Independent (UK) or HERE
Shias are about to inherit Iraq, but the election tomorrow that will bring them to power is creating deep fears among the Arab kings and dictators of the Middle East that their Sunni leadership is under threat.
America has insisted on these elections - which will produce a largely Shia parliament representing Iraq's largest religious community - because they are supposed to provide an exit strategy for embattled US forces, but they seem set to change the geopolitical map of the Arab world in ways the Americans could never have imagined.
For George Bush and Tony Blair this is the law of unintended consequences writ large.
Amid curfews, frontier closures and country-wide travel restrictions, voting in Iraq will begin tomorrow under the threat of Osama bin Laden's ruling that the poll represents an "apostasy".
Voting started among expatriate Iraqis yesterday in Britain, the US, Sweden, Syria and other countries, but the turnout was much smaller than expected.
The Americans have talked up the possibility of massive bloodshed tomorrow and US intelligence authorities have warned embassy staff in Baghdad that insurgents may have been "saving up" suicide bombers for mass attacks on polling stations.
But outside Iraq, Arab leaders are talking of a . Shia "Crescent" that will run from Iran through Iraq to Lebanon via Syria, whose Alawite leadership forms a branch of Shia Islam
The underdogs of the Middle East, repressed under the Ottomans, the British and then the pro-Western dictators of the region, will be a new and potent political force.
While Shia political parties in Iraq have promised that they will not demand an Islamic republic - their speeches suggest that they have no desire to recreate the Iranian revolution in their country - their inevitable victory in an election that Iraq's Sunnis will largely boycott mean that this country will become the first Arab nation to be led by Shias.
On the surface, this may not be apparent; Iyad Allawi, the former CIA agent and current Shia "interim" Prime Minister, is widely tipped as the only viable choice for the next prime minister - but the kings and emirs of the Gulf are facing the prospect with trepidation.
In Bahrain, a Sunni monarchy rules over a Shia majority that staged a mini-insurrection in the 1990s.
Saudi Arabia has long treated its Shia minority with suspicion and repression.
In the Arab world, they say that God favoured the Shia with oil. Shias live above the richest oil reserves in Saudi Arabia and upon some of the Kuwaiti oil fields.
Apart from Mosul, Iraqi Shias live almost exclusively amid their own country's massive oil fields. Iran's oil wealth is controlled by the country's overwhelming Shia majority.
What does all this presage for the Sunni potentates of the Arabian peninsula?
Iraq's new national assembly and the next interim government it selects will empower Shias throughout the region, inviting them to question why they too cannot be given a fair share of their country's decision-making.
The Americans originally feared that parliamentary elections in Iraq would create a Shia Islamic republic and made inevitable - and unnecessary - warnings to Iran not to interfere in Iraq. But now they are far more frightened that without elections the 60 per cent Shia community would join the Sunni insurgency.
Tomorrow's poll is thus, for the Americans, a means to an end, a way of claiming that - while Iraq may not have become the stable, liberal democracy they claimed they would create - it has started its journey on the way to Western-style freedom and that American forces can leave.
Few in Iraq believe that these elections will end the insurgency, let alone bring peace and stability.
By holding the poll now - when the Shias, who are not fighting the Americans, are voting while the Sunnis, who are fighting the Americans, are not - the elections can only sharpen the divisions between the country's two largest communities.
While Washington had clearly not envisaged the results of its invasion in this way, its demand for "democracy" is now moving the tectonic plates of the Middle East in a new and uncertain direction.
The Arab states outside the Shia "Crescent" fear Shia political power even more than they are frightened by genuine democracy.
No wonder, then, King Abdullah of Jordan is warning that this could destabilise the Gulf and pose a "challenge" to the United States.
This may also account for the tolerant attitude of Jordan towards the insurgency, many of whose leaders freely cross the border with Iraq.
The American claim that they move secretly from Syria into Iraq appears largely false; the men who run the rebellion against US rule in Iraq are not likely to smuggle themselves across the Syrian-Iraqi desert when they can travel "legally" across the Jordanian border.
Tomorrow's election may be bloody.
It may well produce a parliament so top-heavy with Shia candidates that the Americans will be tempted to "top up" the Sunni assembly members by choosing some of their own, who will inevitably be accused of collaboration.
But it will establish Shia power in Iraq - and in the wider Arab world - for the first time since the great split between Sunnis and Shias that followed the death of the Prophet Muhammad.
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Sit Back and Listen to the Exact Words Spoken from the "horses' mouths"
DON'T MISS THE ENDING.... The Flag and the "Stars and Stripe Forever " Anthem.. and President Bush's statements after the Iraq War.
Click -->HERE to listen and view "Remind us: Why did the United States Invade Iraq ?
Please Wait and be Patient... as loading may be slow if you have a slower Computer system
- (January,12, 2005) The White House confirmed today that the search in Iraq for the banned weapons it had cited as justifying the war that ousted Saddam Hussein has been quietly ended after nearly two years, with no evidence of their existence.Read here for more
- Read here US team finds no Iraq WMD
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Between 1 July 2004 and 1 January 2005
The figures exclude, where known, the deaths of insurgents.
He told reporter John Simpson: The coalition has yet to respond to the figures.
Read here report by BBC on Iraqi casualty figures
28 January 2005
According to confidential reports from Iraq's Ministry of Health obtained by BBC'sp Panorama Programme, Coalition troops and Iraqi security forces may be responsible for up to 60% of conflict-related civilian deaths in Iraq - far more than are killed by insurgents.
Official figures, compiled by Iraq's Ministry of Health, break down deaths according to insurgent and coalition activity. They are usually available only to Iraqi cabinet ministers.
The data covers the period 1 July 2004 to 1 January 2005, and relates to all conflict-related civilian deaths and injuries recorded by Iraqi public hospitals.
The figures reveal that 3,274 Iraqi civilians were killed and 12,657 wounded in conflict-related violence during the period.
Of those deaths, 60% - 2,041 civilians - were killed by the coalition and Iraqi security forces. A further 8,542 were wounded by them.
Insurgent attacks claimed 1,233 lives, and wounded 4,115 people, during the same period.
Panorama interviewed US Ambassador John Negroponte shortly before it obtained the figures.
"My impression is that the largest amount of civilian casualties definitely is a result of these indiscriminate car bombings.
You yourself are aware of those as they occur in the Baghdad area and more frequently than not the largest number of victims of these acts of terror are innocent civilian bystanders".
Panorama's film Exit Strategy, reported by BBC world affairs editor John Simpson from Baghdad, will be shown at 2215 GMT, Sunday night on BBC One.
The figures exclude, where known, the deaths of insurgents.
He told reporter John Simpson:
The coalition has yet to respond to the figures.
Friday, January 28, 2005
January 27 2005
Read here full article
Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defence for policy, became on Wednesday the first senior Pentagon official to announce his resignation since the re-election of President George W. Bush.
As one of the most prominent neoconservative officials in the Bush administration, Mr Feith was one of the architects of the Iraq war and had responsibility for postwar reconstruction.
A former senior administration official said the White House had been pushing for Mr Feith's departure for several months. He had developed a contentious relationship with other members of the administration, including the White House and the State Department, where one official said there was a “sigh of relief” at the news.
The official said Mr Feith's departure did not represent a change in policy, given that Mr Bush had reaffirmed many of the neoconservatives' views in his inaugural speech last week. He said that instead it was an effort to remove some officials who were lightning rods in the first administration.
Mr Feith drew criticism early in Mr Bush's first term by creating the Office of Strategic Influence, which he wanted to plant news stories with foreign media to influence policymakers. Mr Rumsfeld closed the office after details of its methods emerged in the press.
Mr Feith also had a difficult relationship with the State Department, battling with officials over pre-war intelligence estimates and reconstruction plans for Iraq. The former senior official said relations had deteriorated to the extent that some State Department officials refused to sit in the same room with Mr Feith.
Through the Office of Special Plans, which he created to gather and analyse intelligence independent of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mr Feith was instrumental in pushing intelligence reports that Saddam Hussein was linked to the terror attacks of September 11 2001. Mr Bush was later forced to admit that the administration had no evidence of any such links.
Mr Feith's relations with the uniformed military were equally strained. Retired General Tommy Franks, who commanded US forces during the invasion of Iraq, wrote disparagingly about Mr Feith in his autobiography American Soldier.
“I wasn't convinced that [Mr Rumsfeld] was always well served by his advice,” Gen Franks wrote. “Feith was a theorist whose ideas were often impractical. . . . He had a reputation for confusing abstract memoranda with results in the field.”
Scott Horton, president of the International League for Human Rights, said the Pentagon policy position was so important to the neoconservatives that they would push hard to make sure one of their members replaced Mr Feith.
But he said the White House would probably pick someone who attracted less criticism.
Mr Feith's office attracted attention last year after details were published of a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into whether Lawrence Franklin, who worked for Mr Feith, passed classified information to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and an Israeli diplomat.
Some neoconservatives speculated yesterday that Scooter Libby, chief of staff to vice-president Dick Cheney and protégé of Paul Wolfowitz, deputy defence secretary, could replace Mr Feith at the Pentagon.
Pentagon is investigating a website set up by US soldiers in Iraq. The website consists of a gallery of photos taken by soldiers in Iraq and posted onto the website.
This site contains an archive of photos taken by soldiers serving in active duty. This site aims only to visually document their experiences and is not a political site. The name "Under Mars" is an homage both to Mars, the Roman God of War, and to the otherworldly nature of the experience. If you'd like to add your photos to this archive, just email them to email@example.com along with any note you'd like included with them. Please only send photos that you took, or you know you have the permission of the photographer to send. Credit and thanks for this site goes exclusively to the men and women who created the photos which are contained inside.
The website is called UNDER MARS. Click at this link to view the website .
The website ( http://www.undermars.com/index.html ) has been set up for almost a year now.
On its homepage it says:
Read here article by Mark Dunn "Anger over Iraqi war dead on Internet " in the Herald Sun
27th January 2005
THE US Defence Department has been asked to investigate a website being used by American soldiers to post grisly pictures of Iraqi war dead.
The site, which has been operating for more than a year, describes itself as "an online archive of soldiers' photos".
Dozens of pictures of decapitated and limbless bodies are featured on the site with tasteless captions, purportedly sent in by soldiers.
Captions include "plastic surgery needed", "road kill" and "I said dead".
US President George Bush in 2003 demanded the Iraqi military not release photographs of US war prisoners for publication and the Pentagon has banned publication of pictures of coffins containing US war dead being transported back to America.
"It is no less cruel and sickening than web postings by terrorist groups of decapitated bodies of kidnapped victims."
This site contains an archive of photos taken by soldiers serving in active duty.
This site aims only to visually document their experiences and is not a political site.
The name "Under Mars" is an homage both to Mars, the Roman God of War, and to the otherworldly nature of the experience.
If you'd like to add your photos to this archive, just email them to firstname.lastname@example.org along with any note you'd like included with them.
Please only send photos that you took, or you know you have the permission of the photographer to send.
Credit and thanks for this site goes exclusively to the men and women who created the photos which are contained inside.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
(Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is one of the writers featured in The Other Israel: Voices of Dissent and Refusal. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch's hot new book The Politics of Anti-Semitism. )
Read here for full article
The relationship between the United States and Israel is difficult to define. The USA has no official mandate over our country. It is not a normal alliance between two nations. Neither is it a relationship between a satellite and the master country.
Some people say, only half in jest, that the USA is an Israeli colony. And indeed, in many respects it looks like that.
President Bush dances to Ariel Sharon's tune.
Both Houses of Congress are totally subservient to the Israeli right-wing much more so than the Knesset.
It has been said that if the pro-Israeli lobby were to sponsor a resolution on Capitol Hill calling for the abolition of the Ten Commandments, both Houses of Congress would adopt it overwhelmingly.
Every year Congress confirms the payment of a massive tribute to Israel.
But others assert the reverse: that Israel is an American colony.
And indeed, that is also true in many respects. It is unthinkable for the Israeli government to refuse a clear-cut request by the President of the United States.
As a matter of fact, both versions are right:
The USA is an Israeli colony and Israel is an American colony.
Much has already been said about the origins of this symbiosis.
American Christian Zionism preceded the founding of the Jewish Zionist organization. The American myth is almost identical with the Zionist Israeli myth, both in content and symbolism.
On Independence Day in Israel, many American flags are to be seen next to the Israeli ones a phenomenon that is without parallel in the world.
The inauguration of George Bush last week therefore had a special significance for Israel.
The state-controlled TV channel broadcast it live.
In many respects, the President of the United States is also the King of Israel.
George Bush is a very simple, very violent person with very extreme views, as well as being very much an ignoramus. This is a very dangerous combination.
The ideologues who govern the thoughts and deeds of Bush are called "neo-conservatives", but that is a misleading appellation. Mostly Jewish, they are the pupils of Leo Strauss, a German-Jewish professor with a Trotskyite past who ended up developing semi-fascist theories and propagating them at the University of Chicago.
It is no secret that the Neo-Cons intend to "bring democracy" to Iran and Syria, thereby eliminating two more traditional enemies of the USA and Israel.
Dick Cheney, the Vice-President has already prophesied that Israel may attack Iran, as if threatening to unleash a Rottweiler.
There is no way to guess what Bush may perpetrate, now that he has been re-elected by his people.
His ego has been blown up to giant proportions, reaffirming what the Greek fabulist Aesop said some 27 centuries ago: "The smaller the mind the greater the conceit."
He has kicked out the hapless, feeble Colin Powell (as David Ben-Gurion eliminated Moshe Sharett in preparation for his 1956 onslaught on Egypt) and appointed Condoleezza Rice, his personal servant (as Ben-Gurion replaced Sharett with Golda Meir.)
Now the order is "clear the deck for action". On this deck, Bush is a loose cannon, a danger to everyone around. The results of these elections may be viewed by history as a worldwide catastrophe.
In the name of "American values", he is about to destroy one of the foremost American values: the separation of Church and State. His is the religion of a "born again" convert, a primitive religion without morality and compassion.
After four more years of this, America may be a very different country from the one we loved and admired in our youth.
A friend of mine asserts that there are two souls residing in the American nation, a good and a bad one.
There is the America of Thomas Jefferson (even if he liberated his slaves only on his death), Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, the America of ideals, the Marshall Plan, science and the arts.
There is the America of the genocide perpetrated against the Native Americans, the country of slave traders and the Wild West myth, the America of Hiroshima, of Joe McCarthy, of segregation and of Vietnam, the violent and repressive America.
During Bush's second term, this second America may reach new depths of ugliness and brutality. It may offer the whole world a model of oppression.
I would not want my country, Israel, to be identified with such an America. Any advantage we can derive from it may well turn out to be short-term, the damage long-lasting, and perhaps irreversible.
One of the advantages of the US constitution is that Bush cannot be re-elected for a third term.
As the popular Israeli song goes: "We survived Pharaoh, we shall survive this, too."
Perhaps this could become an anthem for the whole world.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
(Ramsey Clark was U.S. Attorney General under US President Lyndon B. Johnson.)
January 24, 2005
Read here full article
Late last month, I traveled to Amman, Jordan, and met with the family and lawyers of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. I told them that I would help in his defense in any way I could.
The news, when it found its way back to the United States, caused something of a stir. A few news reports were inquisitive — and some were skeptical — but most were simply dismissive or derogatory. "There goes Ramsey Clark again," they seemed to say. "Isn't it a shame? He used to be attorney general of the United States and now look at what he's doing."
So let me explain why defending Saddam Hussein is in line with what I've stood for all my life and why I think it's the right thing to do now.
That Hussein and other former Iraqi officials must have lawyers of their choice to assist them in defending against the criminal charges brought against them ought to be self-evident among a people committed to truth, justice and the rule of law.
Both international law and the Constitution of the United States guarantee the right to effective legal representation to any person accused of a crime. This is especially important in a highly politicized situation, where truth and justice can become even harder to achieve. That's certainly the situation today in Iraq.
The war has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis and the widespread destruction of civilian properties essential to life.
President Bush, who initiated and oversees the war, has manifested his hatred for Hussein, publicly proclaiming that the death penalty would be appropriate.
The United States, and the Bush administration in particular, engineered the demonization of Hussein, and it has a clear political interest in his conviction.
Obviously, a fair trial of Hussein will be difficult to ensure — and critically important to the future of democracy in Iraq.
This trial will write history, affect the course of violence around the world and have an impact on hopes for reconciliation within Iraq.
Hussein has been held illegally for more than a year without once meeting a family member, friend or lawyer of his choice. Though the world has seen him time and again on television — disheveled, apparently disoriented with someone prying deep into his mouth and later alone before some unseen judge — he has been cut off from all communications with the outside world and surrounded by the same U.S. military that mistreated prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
Preparation of Hussein's defense cannot begin until lawyers chosen by him obtain immediate, full and confidential access to him so they can review with him events of the last year, the circumstances of his seizure and the details of his treatment.
They must then have time to thoroughly discuss the nature and composition of the prosecution and the court, the charges that may be brought against him, and his knowledge, thoughts and instructions concerning the facts of the case. And finally, they must have the time for the enormous task of preparing his defense.
The legal team, its assistants and investigators must be able to perform their work safely, without interference, and be assured that their client's condition and the conditions of his confinement enable him to fully participate in every aspect of his defense.
International law requires that every criminal court be competent, independent and impartial. The Iraqi Special Tribunal lacks all of these essential qualities. It was illegitimate in its conception — the creation of an illegal occupying power that demonized Saddam Hussein and destroyed the government it now intends to condemn by law.
The United States has already destroyed any hope of legitimacy, fairness or even decency by its treatment and isolation of the former president and its creation of the Iraqi Special Tribunal to try him.
Among the earliest photographs it released is one showing Hussein sitting submissively on the floor of an empty room with Ahmad Chalabi, the principal U.S. surrogate at that moment, looming over him and a picture of Bush looking down from an otherwise bare wall.
The intention of the United States to convict the former leader in an unfair trial was made starkly clear by the appointment of Chalabi's nephew to organize and lead the court. He had just returned to Iraq to open a law office with a former law partner of Defense Undersecretary Douglas J. Feith, who had urged the U.S. overthrow of the Iraqi government and was a principal architect of U.S. postwar planning.
The concept, personnel, funding and functions of the court were chosen and are still controlled by the United States, dependent on its will and partial to its wishes. Reform is impossible. Proceedings before the Iraqi Special Tribunal would corrupt justice both in fact and in appearance and create more hatred and rage in Iraq against the American occupation. Only another court — one that is actually competent, independent and impartial — can lawfully sit in judgment.
In a trial of Hussein and other former Iraqi officials, affirmative measures must be taken to prevent prejudice from affecting the conduct of the case and the final judgment of the court. This will be a major challenge. But nothing less is acceptable.
Finally, any court that considers criminal charges against Saddam Hussein must have the power and the mandate to consider charges against leaders and military personnel of the U.S., Britain and the other nations that participated in the aggression against Iraq, if equal justice under law is to have meaning.
No power, or person, can be above the law. For there to be peace, the days of victor's justice must end.
The defense of such a case is a challenge of great importance to truth, the rule of law and peace.
A lawyer qualified for the task and able to undertake it, if chosen, should accept such service as his highest duty.
Monday, January 24, 2005
Photos appear to show an Iraqi man arrested and then executed by U.S. troops
Iraqi with hands tied behind his back and kneeling in the rubble
US Soldiers dragging the Iraqi through the rubble
Three US soldiers relaxing with the lifeless body of the Iraqi
Friday, January 21, 2005
From AFP Newswire
BBC World Service conducted a survey in 21 countries involving nearly 21,000 people between November 15 2004 to January 5 2005.
A large majority of people questioned in a BBC World Service global opinion poll think US President George Bush has made the world more dangerous.
"Negative feelings about Bush are high and are generalising to the American people who re-elected him," said Steven Kull, director of the programme on international policy attitudes at the University of Maryland, which carried out the poll in collaboration with international polling company GlobalScan.
"This is quite a grim picture for the US," he added.
Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday acknowledged the need for more diplomacy and for the rebuilding of alliances. She said US interaction with the world "must be a conversation, not a monologue".
Typically, one British contributor to the World Service website on Wednesday said Bush's re-election "means more pollution, war and social injustice [particularly in America]".
"Whatever happened to the freedom-loving, forward-thinking, right-minded people that made America the envy of the rest of us?" he asked.
On average across all countries, the BBC poll indicated that 58% of people think Bush's re-election has made the world more dangerous.
Only in three countries, Poland, India and the Philippines, was there a majority of support for Bush.
Even in traditional US allies such as Germany, France and Britain, as well as in neighbouring Canada and Mexico, sentiment was predominantly anti-Bush.
In Turkey, a US ally and the only Muslim member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, 82% of those polled said Bush's re-election was bad for world peace.
Anti-Bush sentiment was also strong in Latin America, with 79% of those polled in Argentina and 78% in Brazil describing his re-election in negative terms.
In the poll, which took place from 15 November to 5 January, 500 to 1800 people were surveyed in each country.
The margin of error in extrapolating the results to the entire population was placed between 2.5 and four percentage points, depending on the country.
From AFP Newswire
By Scott Ritter
(Scott Ritter was a senior UN arms inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998. He is now an independent consultant.)
20 January 2005
Read here full article
The highly vaunted US military machine, laurelled and praised for its historic march on Baghdad in March and April of 2003, today finds itself a broken force, on the defensive in a land that it may occupy in part, but does not control.
The all-out offensive to break the back of the resistance in Falluja has failed, leaving a city destroyed by American firepower, and still very much in the grips of the anti-American fighters.
The same is true of Mosul, Samarra, or any other location where the US military has undertaken “decisive” action against the fighters, only to find that, within days, the fighting has returned, stronger than ever.
And yet, it now appears as if the United States, in an effort to take the offensive against the fighters in Iraq, is prepared to compound its past mistakes in Iraq by embarking on a new course of action derived from some of the darkest, and most embarrassing moments of America's modern history.
According to press accounts, the Pentagon is considering the organisation, training and equipping of so-called death squads, teams of Iraqi assassins who would be used to infiltrate and eliminate the leadership of the Iraqi resistance.
Called the Salvador Option, in reference to similar US-backed death squads that terrorised the population of El Salvador during the 1980s, the proposed plan actually has as its roots the Phoenix assassination programme undertaken during the Vietnam war, where American-led assassins killed thousands of known or suspected Vietcong collaborators.
Perhaps it is a sign of the desperation felt inside the Pentagon, or an underscoring of the ideological perversity of those in charge, that the US military would draw upon the failed programmes of the past to resolve an insoluble problem of today.
The Salvador Option would not be the first embrace of assassination as a tool of occupation undertaken by the United States in Iraq.
In the months following Paul Bremer's taking over of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in June 2003, the streets of Baghdad crawled with scores of assassination squads.
Among the more effective and brutal of these units were those drawn from the Badr Brigade, the armed militia of the Shia political party known as the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI.
Although not publicly acknowledged, the role played by the various anti-Saddam militias in confronting the residual elements of Saddam's former ruling Baath Party offered a glimpse into what was, and is, an unspoken element of the US policy regarding de-Baathification - let the Iraqis do the dirty work.
SCIRI's efforts to exterminate Baath Party remnants still loyal to Saddam Hussein, or who stand accused of committing crimes against SCIRI or its sympathisers, attracted the attention of the “black” side of the CPA-run de-Baathification efforts – covert operations run by the CIA and elite Special Operations units of the United States military.
Of all the various players in this deadly game, the Badr militia stood out as the most willing and able to take the fight to the Baathist holdouts.
Tipped off by the CPA's covert operatives, the Badr assassination squads killed dozens of Baathists in and around Baghdad.
But the assassination of former Baathists did nothing to pacify Iraq.
The ongoing resistance to the American occupation of Iraq was not founded in the formal structure of the Baath Party, but rather the complex mixture of tribal and religious motivations which had, since 1995, been blended into the secretive cell structure of the Baath Party.
While the Americans and their SCIRI allies focused on bringing to heel former Baathists, the resistance morphed into a genuine grassroots national liberation movement where strategic planning may very well be the product of former Baathists, but the day-to-day tactical decisions are more likely to be made by tribal shaikhs and local clerics.
The increasing success of the resistance was attributed in part to the failure of the CPA-ordered de-Baathification policy.
In an effort to reverse this trend, Bremer rescinded his de-Baathification programme, and ordered the Badr assassination squads to stand down.
This change of policy direction could not change the reality on the ground in Iraq, however.
The Sunni-based resistance, having been targeted by the Badr assassins, struck back with a vengeance.
In a campaign of targeted assassinations using car bombs and ambushes, the resistance has engaged in its own campaign of terror against the Shia, viewed by the Sunni fighters as being little more than collaborators of the American occupation.
Having started the game of politically motivated assassination, the US has once again found itself trumped by forces inside Iraq it does not understand, and as such will never be able to defeat.
The Salvador Option fails on a number of levels. First and foremost is the moral and ethical one.
While it is difficult at times to understand and comprehend, let alone justify, the tactics used by the Iraqi resistance, history has shown that the tools of remote ambush, instead of a direct assassination, have always been used by freedom fighters when confronting an illegitimate foreign occupier who possesses overwhelming conventional military superiority.
As such, history celebrates the resistance of the French and the Russians when occupied by the Germans during the second world war, the Chinese resistance to Japanese occupation during that same time, or even the decades-long national liberation movement in Vietnam which defeated not only the French and the Americans, but also the illegitimate government these two occupiers attempted to impose on the people of South Vietnam.
History, on the other hand, treats harshly the occupying power which resorts to the use of the tools of terror to subdue an occupied people.
Thus, while it is fine for a French resistance fighter to blow up a German troop train, it is not acceptable for the Germans to burn a French village in retaliation.
History will eventually depict as legitimate the efforts of the Iraqi resistance to destabilise and defeat the American occupation forces and their imposed Iraqi collaborationist government.
And history will condemn the immorality of the American occupation, which has debased the values and ideals of the American people by legitimising torture, rape and murder as a means of furthering an illegal war of aggression.
Ethics aside, the Salvador Option will fail simply because it cannot succeed. In an effort to confront a Sunni-based resistance, the Pentagon proposes that special assassination squads be recruited from the ranks of “loyal” Kurds and Shia.
In the 30 years of Saddam's rule, the Baathist government and its security organs were very successful in infiltrating the ranks of Kurdish and Shia opposition movements.
The Shia and Kurds, on the other hand, have no history of being able to do the same to the Sunni. If anything has emerged as the undisputable truth in post-invasion Iraq, it is that the Iraqi resistance knows Iraq infinitely better than the American occupiers.
If implemented, the Salvador Option will serve as the impetus for all-out civil war. In the same manner that the CPA-backed assassination of Baathists prompted the restructuring and strengthening of the Sunni-led resistance, any effort by US-backed Kurdish and Shia assassination teams to target Sunni resistance leaders will remove all impediments for a general outbreak of ethnic and religious warfare in Iraq.
It is hard as an American to support the failure of American military operations in Iraq. Such failure will bring with it the death and wounding of many American service members, and many more Iraqis.
As an American, I have hoped that there was a way for America to emerge victorious in Iraq, with our national security and honour intact, and Iraq itself a better nation than the one we “liberated”.
But it is far too late for this to happen.
We not only invaded Iraq on false pretences, but we perverted the notion of liberation by removing Saddam and his cronies from his palaces, replacing them with American occupiers who have not only kept open Saddam's most notorious prisons, but also the practice of torture, rape and abuse we were supposed to be bringing to an end.
Faced with our inability to come to grips with a popular-based resistance that has grown exponentially over the past year, the best the American policy planners can come up with is to embrace our own form of terrorism, supporting death squads we cannot control and which will only further debase the moral foundation of our nation while slaughtering even more Iraqis.
As an American, I hope and pray that common sense and basic morality prevail in Washington DC, terminating the Salvador Option before it gets off the ground.
Failing that, I hope that the programme of US-backed death squads is defeated. That is the most pro-American sentiment I can muster, given the situation as it currently stands.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Read here full article
"I can say that I was not mistreated, the kidnappers were very kind to me. As soon as they knew I was a bishop, their attitude changed and I was released at midday ... without a ransom being paid.
January 19, 2005
A CATHOLIC prelate, Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa, released by his kidnappers in Iraq early today said he had NOT been mistreated by the armed men who abducted him and demanded a $US200,000 ($264,000) ransom, which he said was not paid.
Casmoussa was seized by the gunmen yesterday afternoon and bundled into the boot of their car.
Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa is the leader of Mosul's 35,000-member Syrian Catholic community.
The 66-year-old prelate said he did not believe his abduction should be seen as an attack by Islamic fundamentalists on Christians in Iraq, as had been feared.
Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa told Vatican Radio shortly after his release:
Iraq's Christian community - which makes up just three per cent of the Muslim majority population - has been heavily targeted in the unrest that has swept the country following the March 2003 US-led invasion and many have fled.
I was always very straight with them, I did what they told me in a calm way. And they behaved properly.
This morning they came in to tell me that the pope had called for my release. And I said: 'Thank God, everything will be alright'.
I think my kidnapping was a coincidence. There are a lot of kidnappings here at the moment. But that's only my personal opinion.
Based on the conversations I had with them, it didn't seem that they wanted to strike against the Church as such."
"I can say that I was not mistreated, the kidnappers were very kind to me. As soon as they knew I was a bishop, their attitude changed and I was released at midday ... without a ransom being paid.
Monday, January 17, 2005
From Agence France-Presse, Thursday 13 January 2005, 10:08 and AP Newswire
A US National Guard unit has defied a Pentagon request that sought to stop television news crews filming six flag-draped soldiers' coffins arriving in Louisiana.
- Sgt. Bradley Bergeron, 25,
- Staff Sgt. Christopher Babin, 27, and
- Sgt. Armand Frickey, 21,
(all of Houma)
- Sgt. Warren Murphy, 29, of Marrero,
- Sgt. Huey Fassbender III, 24, of LaPlace, and
- Sgt. 1st Class Kurt Comeaux, 34, of Raceland.
All but Comeaux received posthumous promotions.
The Pentagon has barred US media from filming the coffins of US service members arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
But the Louisiana National Guard allowed a CBS news crew on Wednesday to film the arrival of six soldiers' coffins at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse, near New Orleans, Louisiana.
Despite the Pentagon request, Lieutenant-Colonel Pete Schneider, a spokesman for the Louisiana National Guard told CBS: "What we thought was, we're going to do what the family asked us to do."
Footage broadcast by CBS showed an honour guard carrying the soldiers' flag-draped coffins out of an aircraft, watched by grieving families, to six waiting hearses.
Relatives sob Wednesday at the sight of flag-draped caskets containing the bodies of six Louisiana National Guardsmen killed by a bomb in Iraq.
One by one, the six caskets were removed from an Air Force cargo plane and loaded into separate hearses as family members watched from a hangar at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base near New Orleans.
The six were killed Jan. 6 in the first of two deadly bombings that took the lives of eight members of the 256th Infantry Brigade of the Louisiana National Guard. In both attacks, bombs blew up heavily armored vehicles.
It was the largest number of US troops killed in a single attack since last month's bombing in a military mess hall at a base near Mosul that killed 14 US soldiers.
There were no speeches.
"They trained together, they fought together, they went to war together, they died together. The families wanted them to come home together," Hunt Downer, assistant adjutant general in the National Guard, told reporters before the plane arrived.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
Read here full article by BRUCE WILSON
16 January 2005
PRINCE Harry will not be forced to visit Auschwitz or make a televised apology for his Nazi fancy dress stunt after Prince Charles decided his son should not be "hung out to dry".
The Prince of Wales is angry his son is being pilloried for what he regards as a silly, but harmless, prank.
Lord Levy, a senior member of Britain's Jewish community joined the debate by saying he was appalled.
"He has let the country down," he said.
Prince Charles does not agree.
After meeting senior officials, he made it clear he would refuse to bow to political pressure from senior politicians, including Tory leader Michael Howard, who demanded Harry make a televised apology.
One senior official said: "As far as the Prince is concerned, Harry has apologised for his mistake. He has said sorry and that is the end of the matter."
It was also decided there would be no gesture such as a trip by Harry to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Read here full article by by Charley Reese "No Peace in Palestine"
January 8, 2005
There will be no peace in Palestine. Don't be fooled by statements of politicians and by the press's careful avoidance of reporting the real facts of the situation.
The bulk of the Jewish settlements – around 200,000 people – are in the West Bank.
The Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has made it plain that he has no intention of:
(1) removing these settlements;
(2) returning East Jerusalem to Palestinian control; or
(3) acknowledging the right of return or compensation of the Palestinian refugees.
These are the three things that killed the last peace plan. It doesn't matter who the Palestinian leader is – no Palestinian can surrender on those three points.
Sharon's plan to "withdraw" from the Gaza Strip is just a ploy to postpone any serious peace negotiations. The small Jewish settlements in Gaza are just a pain to the Israelis. Not only do they have to be constantly guarded by the army, but the roads to them have to be guarded. Even if they are completely dismantled, Gaza will just become one giant concentration camp for Palestinians.
It is already among the most densely populated regions on Earth, and thanks to Israeli actions, unemployment is at 60 percent or more. Israel will surround it on three sides and control the coast. Sharon plans to continue to occupy the area between Gaza and Egypt.
This problem, like so many in the world, originated with British colonialism.
You see, there was a Palestine (though not a modern nation-state) and a Palestinian Arab population long before the British got the kooky idea of re-establishing a Jewish state, which had not existed for nearly 2,000 years.
Not only did this break the promise the British had made to the Arabs that they would be independent after the defeat of the Turks in World War I, but it created a conflict that has lasted nearly 100 years and will probably go on for another century.
In 1948, the state of Israel was established, and it created more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees in the process. Their lands and assets were eventually confiscated.
In 1967, Israel's blitzkrieg war took the rest of Palestine, including the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The United Nations Security Council ordered Israel to return these lands, but it has refused, and the United States has prevented any enforcement of any U.N. resolution directed at Israel.
Under the Geneva Convention, Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are illegal, but Israel, with U.S. backing, has ignored that, too.
The sticky wicket for Americans is this: When Osama bin Laden decided to declare war on the United States, he shrewdly chose the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one of his main reasons.
He did this not because he gives a hoot about the Palestinians – he doesn't. He did it because he knew the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the one issue on which the entire Arab world agrees.
The United States, by completely siding with the Israelis, has made itself the enemy of most of the Arab population.
Until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved, those who hate us will have no trouble at all recruiting new terrorists.
But that conflict will not be resolved until the United States finds the courage to pressure the Israelis to get out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The main job of the powerful Israeli lobby is to make sure that never happens.
The Palestinians are powerless.
There are no concessions they can make. Only the United States can force the Israelis to make concessions so that a Palestinian state can be established.
The United States refuses to do so.
Hence, the never-ending war will go on and on and on.
Eventually, Israel will be destroyed by the Arab birthrate.
In the meantime, thousands on all sides will die because of the cowardice of American politicians
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
With the election of Abbas as the successor to Arafat, the ball is now in Israel's court to move the peace process forward. Arafat the bogeyman is no more around to be blamed for spoiling the peace.
The world will wait and watch what Israel will do and say from now on.
Read here Editorial in The Republican, "New dawn in Mideast with election of Abbas"
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
One day after his decisive victory in the Palestinian presidential election, Mahmoud Abbas extended an olive branch to Israel - sparking a new sense of optimism about a chance for peace in the Mideast.
"We extend our hands to our neighbors," he declared late yesterday after meeting with international observers. "We are ready for peace, peace based on justice."
Words aren't always trusted in the Mideast, but Abbas' quick signal that he is ready to resume peace talks with Israel comes with the authority of the first presidential election in the Palestinian territories in nine years.
During his campaign, Abbas, who is popularly known as Abu Mazen, stuck by his stance that the armed uprising against Israel should end. Despite the boycott by militants, his election by a convincing 62 percent of the vote over his nearest rival, a hawkish Mustafa Barghouti, is a sign that ordinary Palestinians are hungry for peace.
The democratic election of Abbas is an important milestone in the history of the Palestinian people. What happens in the days and months following the election is crucial. Increased involvement of the United States remains one of the keys to a lasting peace settlement.
President Bush, who refused to deal with Yasser Arafat, expressed new hope with the election of Abbas, saying he would invite the new Palestinian leader to the White House.
There are still many stumbling blocks to peace in the Mideast. For example, Abbas has repeatedly called for a return of all Palestinian refugees to their original homes, which is considered a deal breaker for Israel.
Israel welcomed the election of Abbas, but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is planning a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, said he will watch closely how Abbas deals with Palestinian militant factions.
After four decades of corruption-ridden leadership of Arafat, who died Nov. 11, Palestinians and Israelis have a rare opportunity to renew the peace process that had seemed all but lost.
A new day is dawning for Palestinians and Israelis. We hope both sides can seize the moment. They will need the help of the U.S. and the international community to achieve the goal of two states living side by side in peace.
Sunday, January 09, 2005
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