They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Veterans still feel Vietnam scars

BBCNews: Vietnam is a 30-year nightmare, from which Jim Doyle is still trying to wake.

Every week he sees a psychiatrist, but no-one can free him from the demons of war. The smallest things - like the smell of diesel - bring the memories flooding back. But it is the big things that worry him most. "Nobody who has ever been to war wants to see anybody else go there," he said. "So Iraq has been a very difficult time".

"War is hell," he adds. "It has an impact on the people who take part that never heals." Link

PNAC: Gary Schmitt wants exclusive French appeasment

PNAC: [..]Over the past month, Chirac's government has made it clear that: one, it sees appeasing both China and Russia - the major non-democratic powers in the world - as in its strategic interest, and two, it will not support the Bush administration's efforts to revive, as Secretary Rice said of NATO, "the premier forum" for transatlantic dialogue. France is providing military help in Afghanistan and in the war on terror and, for that, Americans should be thankful. Nevertheless, on the broader strategic front, Paris continues its efforts to push the U.S. out of Europe and use other powers as a way to check American global leadership [DB emphasis]. Link

DB: Viva la France

Contract Quagmire in Iraq

Corpwatch: Rioting and threats of work stoppages at critical transportation hubs needed to rebuild the war-torn Iraq have erupted in recent months following payment
disputes between contractors originally hired by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority and Iraqi officials skeptical of the billings and the CPA's handiwork.

The contractors include the world's largest shipping company managing Iraq's second largest port, a security contractor responsible for protecting Baghdad International Airport and a major Pentagon supplier hired to install new air traffic control equipment.

All have clashed with the Iraqi government, which has refused to pay the companies.

Backing up the contractors' demands for payment, the U.S. State Department says the billing disputes stem from the transition of control from the CPA, which ran the country for 15 months, to the Iraqis. There is no cause for alarm, say the US officials: "patient firms have been rewarded."

Critics, including one Iraqi official who supervises the contractors, say the disputes are widespread and much more serious: many contracts were signed by CPA bureaucrats without proper paperwork or procedures. In addition many companies have overcharged for work done or failed to deliver on their promises. Link

Amnesty blasts Abu Ghraib failure - continuing abuse

Thedailytelegraph[Aus]:Amnesty International blasted the United States today for failing to launch an independent probe into Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison scandal, a year after images of abused detainees first shocked the world.

The London-based human rights organisation also condemned signs of fresh torture and sexual abuse in the country by the Iraqi prison authorities. Link

Zimbabwe's Role in U.N. Rights Panel Angers U.S. Zimbabwe was re-elected Wednesday to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, a panel that Secretary General Kofi Annan has proposed abolishing because of its practice of naming known rights violators to its membership.

Zimbabwe's selection as one of the 15 countries winning three-year terms drew protests from Australia, Canada and the United States, with William J. Brencick, the American representative, saying the United States was "perplexed and dismayed by the decision."

In a speech to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Mr. Brencick said Zimbabwe had repressed political assembly and the news media, harassed civil society groups, conducted fraudulent elections and intimidated government opponents.

"How can we expect the government of Zimbabwe to support international human rights standards at the Commission on Human Rights when it has blatantly disregarded the rights of its own people," he said. Link

DB: US pronouncements concerning human rights carry little weight. This is surely one of the most disturbing results of US lawlessness under Bush.

Scotland's SNP leader raises alarm over depleted uranium Alex Salmond attacked Labour and the Conservatives yesterday over the firing of depleted uranium shells in south-west Scotland.

The SNP leader claimed Labour had a "nuclear obsession" and he accused Peter Duncan, the shadow Scottish secretary, of being "asleep at his post" over concerns about the MoD's Dundrennan firing range at Kirkcudbright.

Mr Salmond published a letter written to him by Adam Ingram, the armed forces minister, admitting that a report into the MoD "training area" at Kirkcudbright concluded that four "essentially complete DU [depleted uranium] penetrators" had been recovered there.

Mr Salmond said: "If you thought depleted uranium was only a problem on the battlefields of Iraq, think again - depleted uranium is an issue here in Scotland.

"I want to know what action the MoD has taken to trace particles and what action they plan to make sure no more military uranium finds its way on to this beautiful stretch of Scottish coast." Link

Cracks in decaying shell of Chernobyl reactor threaten second disaster

Theindependent: A leading Russian scientist has claimed that the sarcophagus entombing Chernobyl's broken nuclear reactor is dangerously degraded and he warned that its collapse could cause a catastrophe on the same scale as the original accident almost 20 years ago.

Professor Alexei Yablokov, President of the Centre for Russian Environmental Policy, said the concrete and metal sarcophagus was riven with cracks, already leaking radiation and at risk of collapse unless repairs were undertaken and work on a replacement urgently begun.

"If it collapses, there will be no explosion, as this is not a bomb, but a pillar of dust containing irradiated particles will shoot 1.5 kilometres into the air and will be spread by the wind." Depending on how the wind is blowing, Russia or Belarus would bear the brunt of such a dust cloud. Ukraine, where Chernobyl is located, would also be affected. Link

Blix: they should have listened

Guardianunlimited: The head of the United Nations weapons inspectors in the run-up to the Iraq war, Hans Blix, last night undercut one of the main grounds offered by the attorney-general, Lord Goldsmith, in his legal advice to Tony Blair.

Lord Goldsmith said there would have to be evidence that Iraq was not complying with the inspectors.

But Mr Blix, who has since retired to Sweden, said his inspectors found no compelling evidence that Iraq had a hidden arsenal or was blocking the work of the inspectors. He said there had been only small infractions by Iraq.

"We did express ourselves in dry terms but there was no mistake about the content," he said. "One cannot say there was compelling evidence. Iraq was guilty only of small infractions. The government should have re-evaluated its assessment in the light of what the inspectors found."

"We reported consistently that we found no weapons of mass destruction and I carried out inspections at sites given to us by US and British intelligence and not found anything." Link

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Remember Falluja

Jonathan Steele and Dahr Jamail in TheGuardian:

This is our

[..] Three weeks after the attack was launched last November, the Americans claimed victory. They say they killed about 1,300 people;one week into the siege, a BBC reporter put the unofficial death toll at 2,000. But details of what happened and who the dead were remain obscure. Were many unarmed civilians, as Baghdad-based human rights groups report? Even if they were trying to defend their homes by fighting the Americans, does that make them "terrorists"? Link

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Peak Oil: TheTwilight Zone

TheIndependent: From time to time, the world is taken by surprise by a high-impact phenomenon that ought to have been foreseen. How, for example, did governments not manage to spot that CFCs would attack the ozone layer? What about global warming?

The answer is that some scientists do know these things are happening, but nobody listens. We have failed to learn the lessons made clear by such "oversight phenomena", and are currently facing the biggest short-term threat to our economic wellbeing that the modern world has ever seen, involving the commodity that society is most dependent on. Link

Analyst fears global oil crisis in three years

Guardianunlimited: One of the world's leading energy analysts yesterday called for an independent assessment of global oil reserves because he believed that Middle Eastern countries may have far less than officially stated and that oil prices could double to more than $100 a barrel within three years, triggering economic collapse.

Matthew Simmons, an adviser to President George Bush and chairman of the Wall Street energy investment company Simmons, said that "peak oil" - when global oil production rises to its highest point before declining irreversibly - was rapidly approaching even as demand was increasing. Link

See recent papers and presentations by Matthew R Simmons Link

Monday, April 25, 2005

A vote for Blair will be seen by history as complicity

DB: Blair claims (see Independent below) as absurd the idea that he would see re-election as the public's endorsement of his illegal war in Iraq. That's as maybe. But consider this - history may not be so generous. Speaking personally, I would rather see a return to power of the Tories than elect Blair. Howard is a nasty cheap racist. But Blair is a war criminal. Let us be judged rather as fools than as Blair's willing executioners.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Iraq: Let A Thousand Militias Bloom

In trying to defeat the Iraqi insurgency, the Pentagon has turned to Saddam Hussein's former henchmen. Under former Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, U.S. officials has installed many of the hated Baathists who tormented Iraq in high-level posts in the interior and defense ministries. But the new Iraqi government, overwhelmingly composed of Shiites and Kurds who suffered the most under Hussein, have announced that they are going to purge the ex-Baathists, putting them on a collision course with the United States.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made one of his surprise visits to Baghdad last week, warning the new government not to "come in and clean house" in the security forces. The official line is that the U.S. is worried about losing the "most competent" security forces. But there is a deeper concern that purging the security forces could feed into sectarian tensions and explode in civil war.

Much of that is due to a ruthless U.S. policy of using any tactic, no matter how unsavory, in trying to defeat the insurgency. According to a slew of reports, the U.S. military is encouraging tribal vendettas, freeing kidnappers to spy on insurgents, incorporating ethnic-based military units into the security forces, and encouraging the development of illegal militias that draw in part from Hussein-era security forces

[..]It is the more ruthless methods that may be having a greater effect on squeezing the insurgency. Yet the establishment of militias may backfire. U.S. military officials express concern that if the former Baathists who lead the militias are removed, they could take their forces with them.

A report by the Wall Street Journal from Feb. 16 revealed that numerous "pop-up militias" thousands strong are proliferating in Iraq. Not only are many of these shadowy militias linked to Iraqi politicians, but the Pentagon is arming, training and funding them for use in counter-insurgency operations.

Most disturbing, one militia in particular-the "special police commandos"—is being used extensively throughout Iraq and has been singled out by a U.S. general for conducting death squad strikes known as the "Salvador option." The police commandos also appear to be a reconstituted Hussein security force operating under the same revived government body, the General Security Directorate, that suppressed internal dissent. Link

Oil paintings represent US barbarity at Abu Ghraib, Iraq

Fernando Botero: "I was shocked by the barbarity."

Spiegelonline: Columbian Painter Fernando Botero has become one of the first artists to use the horrors of Abu Ghraib as inspiration for his work. In a series of 50 oil paintings and sketches, which is to be exhibited in Rome on June 16, Botero graphically depicts the prisoner abuses at the Iraqi prison. Link

Friday, April 22, 2005

Pilger: Blair's forgotten victims

Informationclearinghouse[New Statesman]: A familiar, if desperate media push is under way to convince the British people that the main political parties offer them a democratic choice in the general election on 5 May. This demonstrable absurdity became hilarious when Tony Blair, leader of one of the nastiest, most violent right-wing regimes in memory, announced the existence of "a very nasty right-wing campaign" to defeat him. If only it was that funny. If only it was possible to read the "ah but" tributes to a "successful" Labour government without cracking a rib. If only it was possible to read warmongers bemoaning the "apathy" of the British electorate without one's laughter being overtaken by the urge to throw up. Link to Full item

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Blair 'will not see election win as endorsement of Iraq war'

TheIndependent: I put it to him [Blair] that some voters are withdrawing their support from Labour because they worry that he would regard a substantial election victory as an endorsement of the war. His response is unequivocal.

"There are going to be many people who vote Labour in this election who strongly disagree with Iraq. There are people in my own party, there are candidates for my own party, who disagreed with Iraq. There will be some people who will vote for other parties who agreed with me about Iraq. Of course, I can't say that if we win this election that means everyone who supports us approved of Iraq. That would be absurd." Link

[DB] That is a message he should repeat, often, to himself.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Economies stare down $105 barrel [.. ] to threaten Iran with bombing, whatever the reason, was tantamount to economic suicide for the Americans, because Iran is the world's number four oil producer.

Were it to shut its oil taps, the price of crude oil would rocket - from its already historically high price at the moment - sending the American, and global, economy into turmoil. The problem is global oil production is now peaking. If the peak does not occur this year, we'll be lucky.

The first person to warn of a peak in global oil production was an American called M King Hubbert. In 1956 he predicted that US oil production would peak in about 1970. He was castigated for suggesting anything so outrageous, but by 1973 it had become apparent that he was correct.

In the late 1960s Hubbert went further and predicted that global oil production would peak in about 2000. He was about five years too early.

After Hubbert's eerie predictions, all went quiet until a British gentleman - Colin Campbell - who had spent his whole life trying to find new oil for the big oil companies re-ignited the subject about 15 years ago. He is convinced global production will peak within the next two years. Link

See also 'Bank says Saudi's top field in decline' Link
'Peak Oil Slowly Seeping Into National Conciousness' Link

"Japan's Nationalism Risks its Power Position in East Asia"

The Power and Interest News Report(PINR):[..] Japan's growing nationalism derives from its desire to develop a more independent foreign policy and to increase its military power; much of the country's political elite want to see a return of a powerful Japan. Fomenting nationalism among the Japanese population is a necessary development to increase support for a stronger military.

While in the past such levels of nationalism would be restrained due to the country's recognition of its violent expansion throughout East Asia in the first half of the 20th century, in recent years Japan's society has changed. The memory of Japan's actions before and during WWII are fading; China is dramatically increasing its power; and the difficulties encountered by the U.S. in Iraq have eroded the certainty that Washington will intervene completely in defense of Japan upon a conflict with China. Link to Full

The UK al-Qaida ricin ring that never was

Duncan Campbell for TheGuardian: Colin Powell does not need more humiliation over the manifold errors in his February 2003 presentation to the UN. But yesterday a London jury brought down another section of the case he made for war - that Iraq and Osama bin Laden were supporting and directing terrorist poison cells throughout Europe, including a London ricin ring.

Yesterday's verdicts on five defendants and the dropping of charges against four others make clear there was no ricin ring. Nor did the "ricin ring" make or have ricin. Not that the government shared that news with us. Until today, the public record for the past three fear-inducing years has been that ricin was found in the Wood Green flat occupied by some of yesterday's acquitted defendants. It wasn't.

[..]The experience of being an expert witness on these issues has made me feel a great deal safer on the streets of London. These were the internal documents of the supposed al-Qaida cell planning the "big one" in Britain. But the recipes were untested and unoriginal, borrowed from US sources. Moreover, ricin is not a weapon of mass destruction. It is a poison which has only ever been used for one-on-one killings and attempted killings.

If this was the measure of the destructive wrath that Bin Laden's followers were about to wreak on London, it was impotent. Yet it was the discovery of a copy of Bourgass's notes in Thetford in 2002 that inspired the wave of horror stories and government announcements and preparations for poison gas attacks. Link

Also see in-depth report at GlobalSecurity.Org here

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Iraq: exploding head "a symbol of optimism"

washingtonpost: "Take him down," Ruiz told a sniper. The sniper fired his powerful M-14 rifle and the man's head exploded, several American soldiers recalled. As he fell, more soldiers opened fire, killing at least one other insurgent. After the ambush, the Americans scooped up a piece of skull and took it back to their base as evidence of the successful mission.

Born arrived to find parts of the bomber's body scattered in all directions. His initial reaction, he said, was "euphoric" - relief that none of his men had been killed or badly injured. Of the bomber, he said, "I felt absolutely nothing."

[..] The March 12 attack - swift and brutally violent - bore the hallmarks of operations that have made Ruiz, 39, a former Brooklyn gang member, renowned among U.S. troops in Mosul and, in many ways, a symbol of the optimism that has pervaded the military since Iraq's Jan. 30 elections. Link

[DB:] Nice - if that's optimism give me pessimism any day. The Washington Post has been taken over by a cult, and the article was written by a cu*t.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Iraq: Ayoon Wa Azan (They do not see their own faults)

DarAl-Hayat: I insist that the oil-for-food "scandal" is incomparable to the occupation's scandals in Iraq ... What I am saying is that I think that the campaign against the UN and its Secretary General only started when the latter declared the war against Iraq as illegitimate, and that the campaign's other goal is to divert attention away from the occupation's misconduct and crimes in Iraq. Link

[DB] Rumsfeld was in Iraq today warning against "cronyism that could lead to corruption". Wouldn't that be a terrible thing.

Tory Photoshop lies cause a storm, yawn

thisislondon: Labour called on Michael Howard today to sack a Tory candidate who doctored a photograph of himself at a protest against the deportation of an asylum seeker for his campaign literature

The original picture showed Ed Matts, the Conservative candidate for Dorset South, holding a placard with a picture of Verah Kachepa and her four children who were facing being returned to Malawi.

Alongside him, Tory former home office minister Ann Widdecombe is shown with a placard with the slogan "Let them stay".

But in the version which appeared on Mr Matts's campaign literature, the picture of Ms Kachepa is missing and has been replaced with the slogan "Controlled immigration", while Ms Widdecombe's slogan has been changed to read "Not chaos and inhumanity".

The crowd of protesters in the background in the original picture is also missing from the version in the leaflet.

The row comes as the head of the Commission for Racial Equality entered the general election debate with a warning to main parties not to inflame racial tensions in the heat of the campaign. Link

[DB:] Those Tories will stop at nothing in their pursuit of power - much like Labour. However the Tory game of stoking up ill-informed paranoia concerning immigration is a desperate tactic from a party without a real hope of returning to government in the near future, short of a spectacular own-goal by Labour. Ed Matts cannot be blamed for adopting a creative approach - we love photoshops at DB too - what is rotten though is the Tory party and its policies under Howard.

Michael T Klare: Oil, geopolitics and war with Iran

AsiaTimes: If the United States attacks Iran, one thing is certain: the administration of President George W Bush will never mention oil as a reason for going to war. As in the case of Iraq, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will be cited as the principal justification for a US assault. "We will not tolerate the construction of a nuclear weapon" by Iran is the way Bush put it in a much-quoted 2003 statement.

But just as the failure to discover illicit weapons in Iraq undermined the administration's use of WMD as the paramount reason for its invasion, so its claim that an attack on Iran would be justified because of its alleged nuclear potential should invite widespread skepticism. More important, any serious assessment of Iran's strategic importance to the US should focus on its role in the global energy equation.

Before proceeding, let me state for the record that I do not claim oil is the sole driving force behind the Bush administration's apparent determination to destroy Iranian military capabilities. No doubt there are many national security professionals in Washington who are truly worried about Iran's nuclear program, just as there were many professionals who were genuinely worried about Iraqi weapons capabilities. I respect this. But no war is ever prompted by one factor alone, and it is evident from the public record that many considerations, including oil, played a role in the administration's decision to invade Iraq. Likewise, it is reasonable to assume that many factors - again including oil - are playing a role in the decision-making now under way over a possible assault on Iran. Link

Monday, April 11, 2005

Iraq: Sadr loyalists plan campaign to oust US Followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shia preacher, said on Sunday that they would follow up a big demonstration in Baghdad with a non-violent campaign to oust US and other foreign forces from Iraq.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of Sadrists staged possibly the largest political protest since the 2003 US invasion, filling the capital's al-Fardous square with chants of "No to America."

They demanded that the US government set a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops, and that it release an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 Sadrists in detention, and that the "American agent" Saddam Hussein be brought to trial as quickly as possible

The Sadr loyalists, who fought intermittently against US and Iraqi government forces through much of last year, said they would continue to organise street protests, call upon Iraq's Shia clergy to demand withdrawal, and ask their allies in parliament to introduce a motion for a pull-out.

"We have emerged from the jails of Saddam, only to enter the jails of the Americans," said Muayad al-Khazraji, a cleric, as protesters wearing US-style camouflage and orange jumpsuits acted out skits depicting the abuse of prisoners in US-supervised detention facilities.

Unlike many Sadrist rallies in the past, protesters on Saturday did not carry weapons. Some said they had been instructed by the leadership not to chant slogans against Iraq's current government.

The protest, held on the second anniversary of the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime, coincided with anti-occupation rallies in the Sunni town of Ramadai, but the Sadrists said there had been no co-ordination between the groups. Link

Photo lifted from Occupation watch - "Iraqis Welcome 'Liberation'? Or Demand an End to Occupation? We Report, You Decide" Link

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Gwynne Dyer: What the Pope really did

tehrantimes: It was the biggest photo-op in world history, and everybody who is anybody was there. Even the Protestant president of the United States and the Muslim clergyman who is president of the Islamic Republic of Iran felt obliged to show up for the Pope's funeral. But the media circus has already moved on to the next global event - two divorced British people in late middle age getting married in a registry office in Windsor - and there is one last opportunity to consider the life of Karol Wojtyla. Link

Michael T. Klare: Imperial Reach

TheNation: [..]The decommissioning of older bases in Germany, Japan and South Korea and the acquisition of new facilities in other areas has been described by the White House as "the most comprehensive restructuring of US military forces overseas since the end of the Korean War." In explaining these moves, the Bush Administration emphasizes the issue of utility: Many older installations eat up vast resources but contribute little to overall combat effectiveness, and so should be closed; at the same time, new facilities are needed in areas where few American bases currently exist. But while it is certainly arguable that the closing of obsolete bases in Europe and East Asia will free resources that might be better employed somewhere else, it is also clear that a lot more is going on than mere military utility. Indeed, a close look at Pentagon statements and policy reports suggests that three other factors are at work: a new calculus of America's geopolitical interests; a shift in US strategic orientation from defensive to offensive operations; and concerns about the future reliability of long-term allies, especially those in "Old Europe." Link

Iraq: Abu Ghraib attack - the 'unofficial' version

TheObserver: An orange sun set over the city, casting just enough light to finish the kickabout, when the players heard the unmistakable sound of rockets whooshing overhead.

Seconds later the missiles slammed into Abu Ghraib, the jail adjoining their football pitch. Explosions resounded across the complex and more rockets were launched. The Americans fired back.

The 25 children and seven adults sprinted to a wall enclosing the school grounds and huddled together, waiting for the storm to pass. But the attack intensified and bullets peppered closer so the group scrambled into a communal toilet. They cowered in darkness as hits on their shelter showered dust and masonry fragments. Some of the children started to sob, vomit and soil themselves.

'We put our hands in the children's mouths to stop them crying. It was the most difficult time of my life' said Abu Mohammad, 38.

For 12 hours the group crouched in the three-square-metres space, murmuring prayers as car bombs detonated outside, until dawn broke and they emerged, waving a white T-shirt, to a scene of devastation.

Last Saturday's attack on Abu Ghraib drew worldwide headlines as one of the boldest insurgent operations in Iraq, which wounded 44 US troops and underlined the vulnerabilities of the occupation two years after the invasion.

Thousands of Shias loyal to the militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gathered in Baghdad yesterday, the anniversary of the city's fall and the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue, to demand an American withdrawal. It is a wish even closer to the heart of Arab Sunnis, who form the insurgency's backbone. The attack on Abu Ghraib, a symbolic target since last year's inmate abuse scandal, underlined a shift from hit-and-run ambushes to large-scale assaults.

To tackle the sprawling complex 20 miles west of the capital, which doubles as a US base, they used almost every type of weapon in their armoury. An internet statement purportedly from the militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed it was the work of his group, al-Qaeda in Iraq, and depicted a heroic, slick engagement which lasted several hours and deployed seven suicide car bombers. 'Then the merciful brigades and Muslim soldiers clashed with the infidels.'

This version, according to senior coalition commanders, was aimed at sympathisers in the Gulf who funded the insurgency and expected to see results before stumping up again.

The Americans painted a less dramatic picture, saying mortar rounds and rockets were followed by attacks by gunmen on foot. At one point, defenders destroyed a suicide car bomb before it reached the walls and rapid-response troops backed by Apache helicopters and artillery repulsed the rest of the attack after 40 minutes.

While conceding its sophistication, a US spokesman said the assault did not breach the walls, free inmates or kill coalition forces and was therefore a failure, costing the insurgents dozens dead and wounded.

Only now have those caught in the crossfire given their version. It partly contradicts the US and al-Zarqawi statements by claiming there was chaos and panic on both sides and, in the aftermath, looting by US and Iraqi security forces.

Mohammad, one of the adults who sheltered in the toilet with the children, including his three-year-old son, lives in Khan Dhari, a district near the jail inhabited by working-class Arab Sunnis hostile to the occupation.

As they do most Saturdays they met in the grounds of a primary school on the south-western side of the jail to play football. Guards in watchtowers would have seen that the group was mostly young children, said Mohammad.

When rockets landed around them, guards returned fire wildly, apparently unconcerned about civilian casualties. Even when searchlights 'turned the place into day', US bullets continued hitting the school despite the absence of rebels there, he said.

At some point the jail gates opened and Humvees roared out - probably the rapid-response forces - only for a black Opel packed with explosives to slip into the convoy and blow up. 'It was a hell of fire,' said Mohammad, a tall, wiry Islamic scholar, who said he saw charred Humvee engines and a human hand and leg.

From the toilet his view was restricted, but the next day relatives and neighbours filled in details. Two suicide bombers in South Korean-made KIA vehicles rammed tanks. Another bomber driving a pick-up truck got lost and knocked on doors asking directions to the nearest US target. 'He was a foreigner and asked why people were not coming out for jihad.'

By 5.45am the football players, thirsty, exhausted and terrified, heard the wail of a mosque's muezzin summoning people to prayer. They ventured out to be met by Iraqi soldiers who were astonished no one was hurt given the damage to their shelter. Suspicious, the soldiers demanded to see the football as proof of their story. It was found in a corner of the pitch.

Mohammad, who made no secret of his sympathy for the rebels, claimed that in the clampdown that followed Iraqi troops broke into dozens of shops and looted fruit, biscuits, soft drinks and electronic goods.

US troops joined in, he said, with one soldier wresting a bag of mobile phones from an Iraqi and several others catching a goat and a sheep which were driven in a Humvee back to their base. There was no way of verifying the allegation.

Two months after the election Iraq's parliament named a President and Prime Minister last week, paving the way for a new government which is expected to accelerate the handover of security from coalition to Iraqi forces and empower the majority Shia community.

But tens of thousands of militant Shias who gathered in Baghdad yesterday demanded an immediate pullout, or at least a timetable. 'No, no, to the occupiers,' they chanted, waving effigies of George Bush and Tony Blair.

Torture Air, Incorporated

counterpunch: A sleek Gulfstream V jet with the tail number N379P has racked up more international miles than most passenger jets. Since October 2001, this plane has been spotted in some of the world's most exotic and forbidding airports: Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Karachi, Pakistan, Baku, Azerbaijan, Baghdad, Iraq, and Rabat, Morocco.

It has also frequently landed at Dulles International, outside Washington, DC and enjoys clearance to land at US military air bases in Scotland, Cyprus and Frankfurt, Germany. Observers around the world have noticed men in hoods and chains being taken on and off the jet.

The plane is owned by a company called Bayard Marketing, based in Portland, Oregon. According to FAA records, Bayard's lone corporate officer is a man called, Leonard T. Bayard. There is no contact information available for Bayard. Indeed, there's no public record of Bayard at all. No residential address. No telephone numbers. Nothing. Link

US 'smuggles wounded troops home' under cover of darknes

TheIndependent: The Pentagon has been accused of smuggling wounded soldiers into the US under cover of darkness to avoid bad publicity about the number of troops being injured and maimed in Iraq. The media have also been prevented from photographing wounded soldiers when they arrive at hospital.Link

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Thousands protest in Iraq: "No, No to the occupiers"

Reuters: Tens of thousands of followers of a rebel Shi'ite cleric have marched in Baghdad to denounce the U.S. presence in Iraq and demand a speedy trial of Saddam Hussein on the second anniversary of his overthrow.

Chanting "No, no to the occupiers", men loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr streamed from the poor Shi'ite district of Sadr City to Firdos Square in central Baghdad on Saturday where Saddam's statue was torn down two years ago, in a peaceful show of strength.

The square and side streets were quickly packed with crowds waving Iraqi flags and brandishing effigies of Saddam, Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush.

"No America! No Saddam! Yes to Islam!" many chanted. One group of demonstrators burned an American flag.

"We want a stable Iraq and this will only happen through independence," said a statement from Sadr's office read out at the rally. "There will be no security and stability unless the occupiers leave ... The occupiers must leave my country."

"We want a stable Iraq and this will only happen through independence," said a statement from Sadr's office read out at the rally. "There will be no security and stability unless the occupiers leave ... The occupiers must leave my country." Link

Afghanistan: Revival of the Taliban

AsiaTimes: Two types of Taliban have left their leader Mullah Omar to join with Kabul: first, those organized by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] in Peshawar soon after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, and second, those who were arrested in Afghanistan and subsequently cultivated. Except for a few, all are mullahs.

The vast majority of Taliban commanders retreated to Pakistan or adopted a low-profile private life in Afghan villages pending Mullah Omar finalizing a new guerrilla strategy similar to that adopted by the Iraqi resistance. The results of this are expected to manifest themselves within a few months.

Asia Times Online was the first publication to write about the Taliban's new strategy (see Osama adds weight to Afghan resistance, September 11, 2004), which was the brainchild of a few Taliban who were sent to northern Iraq before the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Oriented with the Ansarul Islam in northern Iraq by al-Qaeda linked Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, they were taught the guerrilla tactics then being successfully applied in various Iraqi cities - and which still are. The group returned to Afghanistan some time ago. One of the members was Mehmood Haq Yar, an expert in guerrilla and urban warfare.

Asia Times Online has learned that this Iraq-style resistance is to be activated in Afghanistan. The central command of the Iraqi resistance has been eliminated and various groups, mostly Islamists, are engaged in guerrilla activity on an independent basis. This decentralization is the guarantee of their security and successful clandestine operations.

An identical tactic has been adopted in Afghanistan. On the advice of Haq Yar, all prominent commanders have withdrawn from the battlefield. The most prominent ones, such as Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani, Saifullah Mansoor and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, took refuge in tribal areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, while the rest were asked to stay with the local population. Link to full

New alliance links Commonwealth republican movements Four leading republican organizations from around the world today launched Common Cause, an alliance of Commonwealth republican movements. In a move that's certain to strengthen the campaign in each country, the Australian Republican Movement (ARM), Citizens for a Canadian Republic (CCR), the Republican Movement of Aotearoa New Zealand (RMANZ) and Republic in the UK have formed the new alliance to share information, ideas and resources.

Common Cause is open to any republican movement within the Commonwealth and is committed to the ideals of democracy and equality in each member's national constitutions. Reflecting their distinctive political and constitutional circumstances, each of the organizations in Common Cause will retain their autonomous national campaigns while sharing resources and ideas to bring about their common goal.

Allison Henry, National Director of the ARM said today, "This is an exciting development for the republican movements in each of our countries. Common Cause demonstrates that the campaign for democratic Heads of State is no longer just an Australian issue; many countries in the Commonwealth are questioning the future of the monarchy". Link

Friday, April 08, 2005

Sick US dollar 'threat to poor states' Developing countries that have amassed large US dollar reserves face a growing threat of big losses from a sudden decline in the dollar, the World Bank warned yesterday.

In its 2005 Global Development Finance Report, the bank identified the "gravest risk" for emerging markets as a deep and disorderly dollar decline. This could create volatility, including a dollar collapse below what the bank's economists see as its long-term equilibrium level.

The result, it said, could be "a costly restructuring of world industry that would have to be undone in following years as the dollar returned to its equilibrium level".

But even in the event of a continued steady decline in the dollar, the bank warned that countries with big dollar reserves faced capital losses, following the pattern of the past two and a half years. Link

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

BNP leader facing race hate charges

News.telegraph: Nick Griffin, the leader of the far-right British National Party, has been charged with four race hate offences.

Mr Griffin, 45, was arrested at his home in mid-Wales last December by West Yorkshire Police as part of a long-running investigation into the BBC programme Secret Agent.

Answering his bail today at Halifax Police Station, he was charged with four offences of using words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up racial hatred.

[..] Mr Griffin was shown in last year's BBC documentary telling supporters: "You've got to stand up and do something for the British National Party because otherwise they [Muslims] will do for someone in your family. That is the truth." Link

Jeb Bush's culture of life and the Florida Kill Bill

Timesonline: A Bill giving Florida citizens the right to shoot and kill anyone who threatens them in public - without first having to try to escape - is set to be passed into law in a move that critics say could turn the Sunshine State into the Wild West.

Governor Jeb Bush has signalled his intention to sign into statute the 'Stand Your Ground Bill', which allows members of the public to "meet force with force, including deadly force and defend themselves without fear of prosecution".

Mr Bush, the President's brother, described the Bill, which has been backed by the National Rifle Association and was yesterday passed 94-20 by the Florida House of Representatives, as "a good, commonsense, anti-crime issue". Link

[DB] Its great that Jeb supports his brother's masterplan "to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected". This vision clearly does not extend to fools who dare to threaten law abiding Americans - because those suckers are going to get there brains splattered on the sidewalk.

As Daily Kos observed recently, Bush's "culture of life" only relates to those subjects of interest to the Religious Right. Certainly not to violent crack-heads or people with beards behaving suspiciously.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Racist Robots for Iraq

DB: Now we have a flying videocam - the latest in a series of robotic enhancements to the war experience. Latest in a line of machines manufactured by the established players and hungry startups seeking a slice of the 'perpetual war' economy - big boys toys protecting our guys as they go about their business of razing cities, shooting up civilians and generally creating havoc - in order to bring freedom to an unfree world. I have yet to encounter an article that fails to adopt an annoying attitude of wide eyed wonder and schoolboy enthusiasm to these scrapyard-challenge pieces of junk - the idea of military robots never fails to bring out Maxim man in reviewers. In reality these things aren't robots at all - they require a skilled gamer-soldier to control the fun. But they do serve to show us where we are heading.

Robotizing war certainly has the potential for reducing risk to troops or 'taking the human out of the loop' as the military optimistically puts it [the victim doesn't count as human stupid] . As the war without end rolls forward, and further investments are made into this technology, it is inevitable that sooner or later we will be watching DoD videos of dark-skinned people being cut down by a resoundingly successful robot deployment - the audience of hacks will cheer as the enemy gets it. The robot killers will be hailed as a means of, ultimately, eliminating the inconvenient and wholly negative notion of 'the body bag' - and the media will lap it up. Then the DoD will start spending some serious money on developing these things and it will quickly take off and become a multi-billion dollar industry. Mission statements of specialist technology companies will prattle on about saving lives.

If there were a concern in all of this it would be that once you take the 'body bag' [our side only] out of the equation what will be the brake on the aspirations of the worlds little Hitlers? Where will be the political line in the sand beyond which would be a possible anti-war backlash? I am not saying that 'body bags' seem much of an issue in the current climate. The US citizenry seems to be adopting a strategy of 'out of site out of mind' - and the US media are happily accommodating this need not to know. However certain actions have been avoided in Iraq no doubt due to the likely unacceptable levels of carnage [our side]. Without these irritating political considerations what would be the limit on that which we are prepared to do to achieve our aims? The death rate of the enemy? I don't think so, – the Iraq war has been utterly brutal, by design - if 100,000 insurgents had been stupid enough to occupy Fallujah during the recent operation to save the city then I have no doubt that all would have been slaughtered, for example.

Its been well documented that racism is rife amongst the US forces - the evidence for this can been seen in the treatment that Iraqi prisoners have been subjected to. For them the Iraqis have become that which the Slavs and the Gypsies and the Jews became for the Nazis - a subhuman species. Protesting prisoners get shot dead, detainees are routenly tortured to death, residents are regularly subjected to petty and sadistic acts of cruelty. The US military is riddled with war criminals from the top down. These people are unlikely to offer much restraint if ever they are in the position to engage in a remote robot-war.

So my guess is that when they get these killer-pissbots working effectively, they will be wielded without mercy - by smiling video-assassins. Asimov's First Law of Robotics - "A robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm." - will become the reverse of reality.

U-S military and Halliburton 'not cooperating' with investigation Kuwaiti lawmakers say the U-S military and Halliburton aren't cooperating with their investigation of alleged overcharging for fuel deliveries to Iraq. Parliamentarian Ali al-Rashed heads the five-ember investigative committee. He says the lack of cooperation from the U-S military and Houston-based Halliburton subsidiary K-B-R have harmed the investigation.

Legislators allege Kuwaiti oil supplier Altanmia Marketing Company made almost 760-thousand dollars in daily profits by providing K-B-R with 15-hundred tons of fuel a day. They say the state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, which sold the fuel, made just 387-thousand dollars a day from the contract. Link

Sunday, April 03, 2005

John Paul II's relations with Latin America marked by paradox There [are] two defining moments in the late Pope John Paul II's relations with the Church in Latin America. His rebuff and scolding of monk and Sandinista Education Minister Ernesto Cardenal at Nicaragua's airport (1983) and the massive popular turnouts throughout the continent to welcome the Pope.

The Papal visit to Nicaragua proved to be an ideological battlefield that resulted in the banning of Liberation Theology as quasi-heretical. Later the Pope acknowledged its prophetic nature, replacing it with the terms "authentic liberation" and "integral salvation" at the Latin American Bishop's Conference in Puebla (1992). Link

Chomsky: Globalization, Iraq, and the Middle East

ZNet:[..] Actually I agree that the [Iraq] elections were a success ....of opposition to the United States. What is being suppressed - except for Middle East specialists, who know about it perfectly well and are writing about it, or people who in fact have read the newspapers in the last couple of years - what's being suppressed is the fact that the United States had to be brought kicking and screaming into accepting elections. The U.S. was strongly opposed to them. I wrote about the early stages of this in a book that came out a year ago, which only discussed the early stages of U.S. opposition. But it increased. The U.S. wanted to write a constitution, it wanted to impose some kind of caucus system that the U.S. could control, and it tried to impose extremely harsh neo-liberal rules, like you mentioned, which even Iraqi businessmen were strongly opposed to. But there has been a very powerful nonviolent resistance in Iraq - far more significant than suicide bombers and so on. And it simply compelled the United States step by step to back down. That's the popular movement of nonviolent resistance that was symbolized by Ayatollah Sistani, but it's far broader than that. The population simply would not accept the rules that the occupation authorities were imposing, and finally Washington was compelled, very reluctantly, to accept elections. It tried in every way to undermine them. So for example, the independent press was kicked out of the country. Al Jazeera, which is by far the most popular media in the country and most of the region, was simply kicked out on spurious grounds. The U.S. candidate (the U.S. had a candidate: Iyad Allawi) was given every possible advantage: full state resources, access to any television, and so on and so forth. He got creamed. Link to full

Justice vs Vatican

NewInternationalist: [August 2004] During the worst years of Brazil's military dictatorship - from 1968 to 1978 - over 120 bishops, priests and nuns and nearly 300 Catholic layworkers were arrested. Many were tortured. Seven clerics were murdered. Thirty bishops suffered death threats, accusations, kidnappings, or physical violence. Churches and parochial houses were raided. Church newspapers and radio stations were closed down or, censored.

Unlike many of their Latin American counterparts, Brazil's Catholic bishops openly criticized the dictators. They espoused a theology that actively defended the rights of the oppressed by taking 'an option for the poor', in the words of liberation theology's Peruvian originator Gustavo Gutierrez.

As Leonardo Boff, Brazil's most irreverent but influential exponent of the new thinking, pointed out: 'Jesus was a political prisoner, who died on the Cross, not an old man who died in bed.'

In 1984, in the twilight years of the dictatorship, Boff came under attack - not from the generals this time, but from the Vatican.

He was summoned to Rome to be questioned about one of his books. Boff realized that what was really on trial was the Brazilian church's overwhelming endorsement and adoption of liberation theology. So he asked two of Brazil's leading Catholic cardinals to go with him. One of them, Paulo Evaristo Arns, archbishop of the the world's largest Catholic diocese of Sao Paulo, invited Joseph Ratzinger, the Cardinal in charge of questioning Boff, to come to Brazil and see for himself the shantytowns and slums. Then perhaps he could understand where the church was working and why liberation theology was so popular.

But Ratzinger, a member of the Pope's inner circle and head of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, refused. He claimed his obligation was to the universal church not a local one.

Boff pointed to the lattice window of the room they were in and said: 'Cardinal, you cannot look at liberation theology through a window like this, where it is framed in little lead squares. You have to go and feel what it's like to be poor. That's where this theology is made, it's the cry of the poor.'

Boff was later banned from preaching and celebrating the sacraments and has since reluctantly left the priesthood. Cardinal Arns' Sao Paulo diocese was drastically reduced in size. Conservative bishops were appointed by the Pope to run the new sees thus created. Link

US relied on 'drunken liar' to justify war

TheObserver: An alcoholic cousin of an aide to Ahmed Chalabi has emerged as the key source in the US rationale for going to war in Iraq.

According to a US presidential commission looking into pre-war intelligence failures, the basis for pivotal intelligence on Iraq's alleged biological weapons programmes and fleet of mobile labs was a spy described as 'crazy' by his intelligence handlers and a 'congenital liar' by his friends.

The defector, given the code-name Curveball by the CIA, has emerged as the central figure in the corruption of US intelligence estimates on Iraq. Despite considerable doubts over Curveball's credibility, his claims were included in the administration's case for war without caveat. Link

Pilger: Blair's Bloody Hands

Melbourneindymedia: "Almost eight years ago, the choir of British liberalism celebrated a new age. Tony Blair, wrote the liberal thinker Hugo Young, "wants to create a world none of us have known," a world which "ideology has surrendered entirely to 'values' [and where] there are no sacred cows, no fossilized limits to the ground over which the mind might range in search of a better Britain." Besotted minds ranged far. Link

[db] can clearly remember the excitement. The long cold years of Tory rule were at an end, and neo-labour had brought hope that with Blair - an outstanding orator, dynamic and clever - things would be very different. And they were. But not in the way soft headed liberals such as the writer had expected. This was a leader closer to Thatcher than to Foot [Michael] and more in common with the worlds arch-villain Bush and his crass notions of "freedom" than with the rich history of the UK labour movement - where the word "freedom" had an alternative meaning that didn't necessitate the murder of dark-skinned people to bring it about. John Pilger saw it all coming apparently.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

16 year old Iraqi dead, US soldier walks free

Reuters: A U.S. army tank company commander convicted of shooting dead a wounded Iraqi walked free from court on Friday, although he was dismissed from the army for what he called a "mercy killing."

Army Captain Rogelio Maynulet had faced up to 10 years in jail after a court martial at a U.S. army base in Wiesbaden, Germany, found him guilty of assault with intent to commit voluntary manslaughter. Link

[db] The Reuters report doesn't really cover this very well. The dump truck that was fired upon by the US trooprs was driven by teenagers looking to earn some money. The victim of the so-called mercy killing was 16 years old, and he had a name which was Kassim Hassan - hell he probably had parents too bubba. I posted some items on this a few months ago here.

Why American neocons are out for Kofi Annan's blood

Robin Cook for GuardianUnlimited: [..]The world is confronted with a choice between two competing models of global governance. The direction signposted by Kofi Annan is to a regenerated UN with new authority for its collective decisions. However, collective decision-making is only possible if there is broad equivalence among those taking part. And there is the rub. The neocons who run the US administration want supremacy, not equality, for America and hanker after an alternative model of global governance in which the world is put to right not by the tedious process of building international consensus, but by the straightforward exercise of US puissance.

There are ways in which this power can be displayed more subtly than by dispatching an aircraft carrier. Over the past six months their influence has been deployed in heavy press briefing against Kofi Annan, to their shame faithfully taken up by rightwing organs in the British press.

There is a breathtaking hypocrisy to the indictment of Kofi Annan over the oil for food programme for Iraq. It was the US and the UK who devised the programme, piloted the UN resolutions that gave it authority, sat on the committee to administer it and ran the blockade to enforce it. I know because I spent a high proportion of my time at the Foreign Office trying to make a success of it. If there were problems with it then Washington and London should be in the dock alongside the luckless Kofi Annan, who happened to be general secretary at the time.

But there is a deeper level of perversity to the denigration of Annan by the American right wing. They have long clamoured for reform of the UN. Kofi Annan has just proposed the most comprehensive overhaul of the UN in its history and is the general secretary most likely to deliver support for it. If they persist in undermining him they are likely to derail his reform package. The suspicion must be that they would rather have a creaking, ineffective UN to treat as a coconut shy than a modern, representative forum that would oblige them to respect collective decisions.

The eccentric selection of John Bolton as Bush's ambassador to the UN is consistent with such a strategy of sabotage rather than reform. His hostility to any constraint on US unilateralism is so deep, (and his life so sad), that he described his "happiest moment" signing the letter to Kofi Annan telling him that the US would have nothing to do with the international criminal court. His relish in the gesture is all the more revealing as the issue was not within the remit of his job, and he pleaded to be allowed to sign as a special favour.

Ironically the first confrontation the US has faced since his appointment was the vote last night on the proposal to refer the war crimes in Darfur to the international criminal court. The problem for Washington unilateralists in trying to stop it was that the brutality and genocide in Darfur is a classic case for enforcement of international law through multilateral process.

To its credit the British government had long made it clear that regardless of what the US did, they would support the French resolution invoking the international criminal court. Such a stand is welcome not only as the right policy for Darfur, but as a demonstration that Britain backs the Annan model of a modern, multilateral system of global governance and this time at least has declined to accept US supremacy. Link

Michael T Klare: Scraping the bottom of the barrel

Asia Times: Data released each year at this time by the major oil companies on their prior-year performances rarely generates much interest outside the business world. With oil prices at an all-time high and Big Oil reporting record profits, however, this year has been exceptional. Many media outlets covered the announcement of mammoth profits garnered by ExxonMobil, the US's wealthiest public corporation, and other large firms. Exxon's fourth-quarter earnings, at US$8.42 billion, represented the highest quarterly income ever reported by a US firm.

"This is the most profitable company in the world," declared Nick Raich, research director of Zacks Investment Research in Chicago. But cheering as the recent announcements may have been for many on Wall Street, they also contained a less auspicious sign. Despite having spent billions of dollars on exploration, the major energy firms are reporting few new discoveries, and so have been digging ever deeper into existing reserves. If this trend continues - and there is every reason to assume it will - the world is headed for a severe and prolonged energy crunch in the not-too-distant future. Link

See Michael Klare 'Blood and Oil' lecture here [Realplayer]

Iraq corruption: Custer Battles can be held liable for fraud

washingtonpost: The Justice Department gave critical support yesterday to whistle-blowers in a federal lawsuit against a U.S. security contractor, concluding that the company can be held liable for allegedly defrauding authorities in Iraq of tens of millions of dollars.

The opinion came in response to a request by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who had asked for the government's help in decoding a basic question at the heart of the case against Custer Battles LLC: Does federal fraud law apply when the contract was administered by the Coalition Provisional Authority, which governed Iraq for a year after the U.S. invasion.

Custer Battles lawyers had argued that because the CPA was international, and because the money at stake was Iraqi and not American, accusations that the company defrauded the occupation authority didn't belong in U.S. court

[..] Legal experts said the department's stand may open the door for other whistle-blower lawsuits against contractors operating in Iraq under the CPA. The Custer Battles case is the first of its kind to be unsealed. Link

See Previous: 'Custer Battles - Fraud Law Does Not Cover Iraqi Funds' Link
'BBC allege massive fraud and corruption in Iraq' Link
Search site for further Custer Battles posts Link

Friday, April 01, 2005

When Rothermere urged Hitler to invade Romania

news.telegraph: The proprietor of the Daily Mail congratulated Adolf Hitler on his annexation of Czechoslovakia and urged him to capitalise on the "triumph" with a march into Romania, newly released documents have revealed.

The first Lord Rothermere - the great-grandfather of the current owner of the newspaper - made the remarks in a letter intercepted by the security service during surveillance of a suspected German agent. But MI5 shied away from taking action against the press baron, whose sympathy for Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts was already well-known.

Rothermere's apparent support for the Nazi cause as late as 1939 came to light during an investigation into the activities of Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe. The daughter of a Viennese dentist of Jewish origins, she had married into the aristocracy of the Austro-Hungarian empire and, although divorced, continued to move in exclusive circles in London society.

Her close friends included Lady Asquith, the wife of the former Liberal prime minister, Lady Snowden, the wife of a Labour chancellor of the exchequer, and the extreme Right-wing Lord and Lady Londonderry.

Her connections earned her the admiration of Hitler, Himmler and Von Ribbentrop, the German ambassador in London. Link to full