Thursday, January 26, 2006

War News for Friday Jan. 27 and Saturday Jan. 28 Bring 'em on: Gunmen attacked a convoy of oil trucks with rocket propelled grenades in a western district of the capital, setting at least one truck on fire. Bring 'em on: Gunmen killed a policeman and wounded three civilians in southern Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Two clerics were killed and the sister of one of them wounded when gunmen opened fire on their car in southern Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Industry Minister Osama Abdel-Aziz al-Najafi escaped an assassination attempt when a roadside bomb hit his convoy near Balad, 90 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad. Three of his bodyguards were killed and another was wounded. Bring 'em on: Five soldiers were killed and two wounded on Wednesday when a roadside bomb hit their convoy in Ishaqi, near Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: A roadside bomb killed a U.S soldier and wounded another on Wednesday south of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: A civilian was wounded when a roadside bomb went off near a Shi'ite mosque in Mahaweel, south of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Gunmen killed Juma'a Rashid, the brother of a leader in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, in the northern oil city of Kirkuk. Bring 'em on: Othman Rashid, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, was killed by gunmen in a separate incident. Bring 'em on: A roadside bomb in Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of Baghdad, missed a passing U.S. military patrol but killed two Iraqi civilians and wounded two others. Bring 'em on: Five soldiers were killed and two wounded on Wednesday when a roadside bomb hit their convoy in Ishaqi, near Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: A roadside bomb killed a U.S soldier and wounded another on Wednesday south of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: A civilian was wounded when a roadside bomb went off near a Shi'ite mosque in Mahaweel, south of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Gunmen killed Juma'a Rashid, the brother of a leader in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, in the northern oil city of Kirkuk. Othman Rashid, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, was killed by gunmen in a separate incident. Bring 'em on: Othman Rashid, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, was killed by gunmen in a separate incident. Bring 'em on": Fierce fighting between police and insurgents in southwestern Baghdad areas such as Jihad and Saydiyah early Friday. Policemen blaring their theme song "Where is the terrorist today?" from car speakers raided homes in several suburbs, arresting about 60 people. Jihad was the scene of the fiercest street battles, with some insurgents brandishing rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Cars and shops were deserted in the areas as ordinary Iraqis fled for cover. An AP photographer saw at least one body lying in a shop. Another two men trying to escape the area were shot dead as they ran. Witnesses said insurgents killed the men, apparently civilians, after they were seized and tried to flee. With U.S. attack helicopters flying overhead, insurgent snipers positioned themselves on rooftops and masked gunmen roamed alleyways in the cordoned-off area. Bring 'em on: In Baghdad's southern neighborhood of Dora, two gunmen entered a barber shop and killed a man waiting for a haircut. Bring 'em on: Less than 30 minutes later in the same area, men firing from two speeding cars killed a driver for the Higher Education Ministry. It was unclear if both events were linked. Bring 'em on: Police found a man's bullet-riddled body slumped in a car in western Baghdad. Identity cards found among his belongings indicated that he was an interpreter for the U.S. military. Bring 'em on: Gunmen wearing police commando uniform stormed houses in Baghdad's Sunni al-Hurriyah neighborhood early on Friday, kidnapping 16 civilians. IRAQ NEWS Demonstration against al-Qaida militants in Samara: More than 1,000 protesters hit the streets of Samara, some 125km north of the capital, Baghdad, to demonstrate against al-Qaida militants blamed for killing more than 100 local police recruits this month. Even self-described insurgents, locked in bitter fighting with US and Iraqi military forces, joined in the condemnation. "We work against the US occupation without hurting innocents," said Abu Omar of the insurgent Islamic Army. "If al-Qaida is against the ideology behind the insurgency, it's time to force them out of our country." Five Iraqi women prisoners freed by US: The U.S. military in Iraq freed five women prisoners on Thursday, but U.S. and Iraqi officials said their release was pre-planned and not linked to the case of the kidnapped American reporter Jill Carroll. The five, among nine female security detainees held by U.S. forces in Iraq, were freed along with 414 other prisoners. Bulgaria's last Iraq unit disbanded: Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov disbanded the Bulgaria's fifth infantry Iraq battalion on Friday. Nearly all soldiers of the Bulgarian contingent in Iraq returned home by Dec. 30, 2005, according to the withdrawal decision made by the Parliament in last May. Bulgaria had counted 19 deaths - 13 military and six civilians - since the beginning of the operation in August 2003. Basra's provincial council threates to cut ties with British forces: Basra's provincial council threatened on Friday to cut ties with British forces in protest at their arrest of policemen suspected of murder and corruption in Iraq's second-largest city. Council member Munaadhil al-Mayahee said relations would be severed if British forces did not release policemen they are still holding, withdraw their troops from central Basra, and hand over control of security to local authorities. Basra residents plan to stage a demonstration against the detentions on Sunday, he said. German govt confirms contact with Iraq kidnappers: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Friday that the government had made contact with the kidnappers of two Germans in Iraq and was trying to avoid anything that would endanger the pair's lives. Iraqi cameraman killed filming attack: An Iraqi cameraman was killed as he was filming an attack by Sunni fighters on two buildings used by US troops in the town of Ramadi on Tuesday. Eyewitnesses said that the man, identified as Mahmoud Za'al, was wounded in the leg and moments later killed by a US aerial attack. Za'al, according to Reuters, worked for the Baghdad Satellite Channel, owned by the Iraqi Islamic Party, Iraq's largest Sunni political group. Witnesses claim that gunmen used attacked the governorate directorate building and the Iraqi Nationality Department with mortar rounds, grenades and machinegun fire. "When they got very close to these buildings, helicopters and other military planes started shooting at them," one witness said, adding, "The cameraman was in the streets to film the clashes when he was wounded, first in his legs, and then when U.S. planes started shooting he was killed." US officials denied that they had attacked Ramadi on Tuesday, saying only that they had bombed an area within the city's vicinity the previous day, and caused no injuries. Arab troops in Iraq possible only if not under US command: Arab countries are willing to discuss sending troops to help stabilise Iraq once US-led forces eventually leave, but only if asked by an Iraqi national unity government,Arab League chief Amr Moussa said. "The start is that there must be a sovereign government in Iraq that requests such a serious step",Moussa told Reuters Television late on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos,Switzerland. "Then we'll see under what conditions, and when, and how, and how many (troops), and who will pay for it. It's a very big issue and it cannot be answered just simply." He said an Arab force would not serve under US command - a sticking point in previous discussions some 18 months ago - and the terms for sending it would have to be agreed separately from any arrangements between Washington and Baghdad for a pullout of US and coalition troops. US Army near breaking point: The U.S. army has been overstretched nearly to a "breaking point" by frequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, risking collapse unless relief comes soon, according to a latest study commissioned by the Pentagon. The study, which is conducted by retired U.S. army officer and military analyst Andrew Krepinevich under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the U.S. army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to eradicate insurgency, according to U.S. media reports Wednesday. Number of Iraqis living below poverty line increased dramatically after US occupation: Recent estimates indicated that one fifth of the onetime rich Iraqis are living below the poverty line since the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003. "A study conducted by the ministry in coordination with the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations Development Program shows that 20 percent of the population is affected by poverty," Leila Kazem, director general of the department of social affairs at the labor ministry, told Agence France Presse (AFP) Wednesday, January 25. "Some two million Iraqi families live under the poverty line, as defined by international criteria, which is fixed at one dollar per day per person." A recent study by Iraq's health ministry in tandem with Norway's Institute for Applied International Studies and the UN Development Program (UNDP) said children are paying the silent cost of the US-led occupation with malnutrition rates exceeding by far those in the world's poorest and disease-plagued countries. The report added that acute malnutrition among Iraqi children has nearly doubled since the US-invasion-turned-occupation in March 2003. 5,000 UK troops to be sent to Afghanistan: The biggest Army deployment since the Iraq invasion will begin next month. Almost 5,000 servicemen will move to Afghanistan, with the majority in Helmand province, one of the most dangerous areas. The three-year operation will cost £1 billion. Almost a quarter of the RAF's heavy helicopter fleet will be used to ferry troops around the country. (...) Locals in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah were either unperturbed or defiant about the British operation. "I have cultivated 30 jiribs [six hectares] of poppy," said Haji Barak, 63, an imposing white turbanned man with piercing blue eyes and few teeth. "If the British come to eradicate poppy we will resist. "We will put landmines and roadside bombs and we will look to the Taliban for help. But this year I think we have enough time to harvest before they arrive." REPORTS, COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS US Soldier Describes War In Poetry
The ghosts of American soldiers wander the streets of Balad by night, unsure of their way home, exhausted, the desert wind blowing trash down the narrow alleys as a voice sounds from the minaret, a soulfull call reminding them how alone they are, how lost. And the Iraqi dead, they watch in silence from rooftops as date palms line the shore in silhouette, leaning toward Mecca when the dawn wind blows.
*ashbah: arabic word for ghosts
Brian Turner is a soldier-poet who served for seven years in the U.S. Army. Beginning in November 2003, he was an infantry team leader in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. His book, Here, Bullet, reflects his war-time experiences in graceful and unflinching poetry.
"CG wants the husband": Iraqi human rights activist Hind al-Salehi contends that U.S. anti-insurgent units, coming up empty-handed in raids on suspects' houses, have at times detained wives to pressure men into turning themselves in. Iraq's deputy justice minister, Busho Ibrahim Ali, dismissed such claims, saying hostage-holding was a tactic used under the ousted Saddam Hussein dictatorship, and "we are not Saddam." A U.S. command spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, said only Iraqis who pose an "imperative threat" are held in long-term U.S.-run detention facilities. But documents describing two 2004 episodes tell a different story as far as short-term detentions by local U.S. units. The documents are among hundreds the Pentagon has released periodically under U.S. court order to meet an American Civil Liberties Union request for information on detention practices. In one memo, a civilian Pentagon intelligence officer described what happened when he took part in a raid on an Iraqi suspect's house in Tarmiya, northwest of Baghdad, on May 9, 2004. The raid involved Task Force (TF) 6-26, a secretive military unit formed to handle high-profile targets. "During the pre-operation brief it was recommended by TF personnel that if the wife were present, she be detained and held in order to leverage the primary target's surrender," wrote the 14-year veteran officer. He said he objected, but when they raided the house the team leader, a senior sergeant, seized her anyway. "The 28-year-old woman had three young children at the house, one being as young as six months and still nursing," the intelligence officer wrote. She was held for two days and was released after he complained, he said. The second episode, in June 2004, is found in sketchy detail in e-mail exchanges among six U.S. Army colonels, discussing an undisclosed number of female detainees held in northern Iraq by the Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division. The first message, from a military police colonel, advised staff officers of the U.S. northern command that the Iraqi police would not take control of the jailed women without charges being brought against them. In a second e-mail, a command staff officer asked an officer of the unit holding the women, "What are you guys doing to try to get the husband - have you tacked a note on the door and challenged him to come get his wife?" Two days later, the brigade's deputy commander advised the higher command, "As each day goes by, I get more input that these gals have some info and/or will result in getting the husband." He went on, "These ladies fought back extremely hard during the original detention. They have shown indications of deceit and misinformation." The command staff colonel wrote in reply, referring to a commanding general, "CG wants the husband." "It's turning into our Vietnam": Aaron McGonigal knows all about patriotism and fighting terrorism. He was in the Illinois National Guard on Sept. 11, 2001. Soon after the attacks, he volunteered for active duty in the Army and ended up on a security force in Germany. McGonigal, 25, now a sales manager for a medical-technology company here, doesn't believe the war in Iraq has anything to do with battling terrorism. He also doesn't think his opposition to the war makes him less patriotic. "I don't think we should be there," he says. "It's turning into our Vietnam." The night the Americans came: Last weekend an American special task force unit raided my house. It was precisely the kind of terrifying experience I have had described to me over and over again by Iraqis I have interviewed in the past two-and-a-half years. My wife, Zina, described it as like something out of a Hollywood action movie. It began at half past midnight on Saturday when explosives blew apart the three entrances to my house. We thought we had been caught in a bombing, but then a rifle sneaked round our bedroom door and shot a couple of bullets blindly; suddenly our room was filled with the wild sounds of US soldiers. My three-year-old daughter Sarah woke to this nightmare. She pushed herself on to me and shouted "Daddy, Americans! They will take you! No, no, not like this daddy ..." She tried to say something to one of the soldiers but her tears stopped her from speaking. Instead of blaming the soldier I could see she was blaming me. I tried to calm her down but as I did so the soldier threw me on to the ground and tied me. They then took me downstairs and made me sit in the living room while they smashed every piece of furniture we have. There were about 20 soldiers inside the house and several others on guard on the roof. A blue-eyed captain came to me holding my Handycam camcorder and questioned me aggressively: "Can you explain to me why you have this footage?" I explained. "These are for a film we are making for Channel 4 Dispatches. There is nothing sinister about it." But that was not good enough. He seemed to think he had found very important evidence. Hooded and with my hands tied I was taken to an armoured vehicle. I was then driven to an unknown destination. I spent the entire journey thinking back on what has happened in the past two years of the occupation. I have so often heard of such things happening to others. But now I was experiencing it myself, and I too could feel the shame and humiliation. It is this kind of disrespect for the privacy of the home - that tribal people regard as a terrible humiliation - which Sunnis in the west of Iraq see as legitimising resistance. When the journey eventually ended I found myself in a small room, two metres square, with wooden walls, a refrigerator and an oval table in the middle. Soon two men came in, civilians, wearing vests. "Do you know why you are here, Mr Fadhil?" they asked me. I replied: "To be interrogated?" With a broad smile, one of them said: "No. There was a mistake in the address and we apologise for the damage." So that's it. They blew three doors apart with explosives, smashed the house windows, trashed all our furniture, damaged the car, risked our lives by shooting inside rooms aimlessly, hooded me and took me from my family who didn't know if they would ever see me again - and then, with a smile, they dismissed it as a small mistake. So was this intimidation or just a typical piece of bungled repression? I don't know and cannot tell, though I have yet to have my tapes returned. I do know, however, the effect it has had on my daughter. Sarah hates all soldiers and calls them Americans even if they are Iraqis. There is no way she will change her mind about them after that nightmare. There are many Iraqis - Iraqis who welcomed the fall of Saddam - who feel exactly the same today. "Maybe they just need to have their civil war": Not only the Embassy but the U.S. military was quite conscious of the serious consequences of its sectarian-ethnic strategy. Last May, for instance, Washington Post reporter Ann Scott Tyson wrote that "U.S. military analysts" conceded that, "by pitting Iraqis from different religious sects, ethnic groups and tribes against each other," the U.S. strategy "aggravates the underlying fault lines in Iraqi society, heightening the prospects of civil strife." With the Sunni community even more overwhelmingly behind the anti-occupation armed struggle than was the case a year ago, the U.S. command feels it has no choice but to depend on just such sectarian or ethnic units to help put down the Sunni insurgency. But even if they do not explicitly admit it, U.S. commanders know that this is a brutal and cynical policy. Thus, they have had to find a way to justify it to themselves. In October, a "senior military official in Baghdad" was quoted in another Tom Lasseter piece saying, "Maybe they just need to have their civil war. In this part of the world it's almost a way of life." That official was unconsciously echoing the words of General William Westmoreland, the former commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, who rationalized the hundreds of thousands of deaths inflicted on the Vietnamese by the U.S. intervention in an infamous statement: "The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does a Westerner... Life is cheap in the Orient." There is no doubt that the history of violence among the Sunnis, the Shiites, and the Kurds made for strong tendencies toward sectarian-ethnic violence in post-Saddam Iraq. But the fact that a senior American military official would resort to such a racist explanation to evade responsibility for creating civil-war conditions in Iraq only underlines the depths to which the United States has descended. Belafonte live on CNN: "I believe what our government does has terror in the center of its agenda": Transcript of "The Situation Room" hosted by Wolf Blitzer aired January 23, 2006 - 19:00 ET.
BLITZER: The new Gestapo. You know, those are powerful words, calling an agency of the U.S. government, the Department of Homeland Security with, what, about 300,000 federal employees, the new Gestapo. Do you want to take that back? BELAFONTE: No, not really. I stand by my remarks. I am very much aware of what this has provoked in our national community. People feel that I talk in extremes. But if you look at what's happening to American citizens, a lot is going on in the extreme. We've taken citizens from this country without the right to be charged, without being told what they're taken for, we've spirited them out of this country, taken them to far away places and reports come back with some consistency that they are being tortured, that they're not being told what they've done. And even some who have been released have come back and testified to this fact. BLITZER: But no one has taken you or anyone else, as far as I can tell, to an extermination camp and by the tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, even millions decided to kill them, which is what the Nazis did. BELAFONTE: Well, Mr. Blitzer, let me say this to you, perhaps, just perhaps had the Jews of Germany and people spoken out much earlier and had resisted the tyranny that was on the horizon, perhaps we would never have had... BLITZER: Well, wait a minute, wait a minute, are you blaming the Jews of Germany for what Hitler did to them? BELAFONTE: No, no. What I'm saying is that if it an awakened citizenry, begins to oppose the first inkling of the subversion of government, of the subversion of our democracy, then perhaps an early warning would have saved the world a lot of what we all experienced. I'm not accusing the Jews at all. What I was getting at really is that if all citizens, the Jewish community, the Christian community and all else had taken a very early aggressive stand rather than somehow suggesting or thinking or feeling that this would have gone away, we might have found that Germany would have been in a far different place than it wound up in. BLITZER: When you were in Venezuela with Hugo Chavez, you said that Bush is the greatest terrorist, the greatest tyrant. Are you saying that President Bush is worse than Osama bin Laden? BELAFONTE: I'm saying that he's no better. You know, it's hard to make a hyperbole stick. I obviously haven't had a chance to meet all the terrorists in the world, so I have no reason to throw around the words like the greatest or make some qualitative statement. I do believe he is a terrorist. I do believe that what our government does has terror in the center of its agenda. When you lie to the American people, when you've misled them and you've taken our sons and daughters to foreign lands to be destroyed, and you look at tens of thousands of Arab women and children and innocent people being destroyed each day, under the title of collateral damage, I think there's something very wrong with the leadership. BLITZER: What you did say in Venezuela was that President Bush was, and I'm quoting now, the greatest tyrant in the world and the greatest terrorist in the world. BELAFONTE: Yes, I did say that. BLITZER: Now that raises the issue of moral equivalency. Are you saying what the Bush administration, what the president is doing is the moral equivalent of what al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden ordered on 9/11? BELAFONTE: I think President George W. Bush, I think Cheney, I think Rumsfeld, I think all of these people have lost any moral integrity. I find what we are doing is hugely immoral to the American people and to others in the world. BLITZER: And the same, or if not worse than al Qaeda? Is that what you're saying? BELAFONTE: Well, I don't want to make those kind of comparisons. I'm not too sure all of what al Qaeda has done. Al Qaeda tortures. We torture. Al Qaeda's killed innocent people. We kill innocent people. Where do the lines get blurred here? BLITZER: What about -- and these were very, very damning words that you said a few years ago, and I wonder if you still stick by them. When you call Colin Powell, the secretary of state at that time, or Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser now the secretary of state, plantation slaves. It's one thing to disagree with them, but when you get involved in name calling with all the history of our country, plantation slaves, isn't that crossing the line? BELAFONTE: Not at all. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of plantations in America where people are slaving away their lives. You know, one of the big problems that we have in this country is the inability to be honest and to be straightforward. We've never had a dialogue in this country on the real issues of slavery. I don't even want to get stuck there. But what I said about Colin Powell is that he serves his master well. And in that context, I was asked to describe what that meant. And I used the metaphor of slavery and the plantation. And I stand by it.
Comment on this Belafonte interview by the Black Commentator:
Harry Belafonte is an esteemed elder, one of the tallest trees in the forest. Beside him, this president is a shrub. A bush.
General Odom: "The biggest threat to the U.S. empire is incompetent U.S. leadership": Retired General William Odom, who served as a national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, spoke last Thursday to the Committee for the Republic in Washington, DC. He described the IRAQ WAR as a historic blunder that the United States should end. He was asked - if U.S. PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH sought your advice on IRAQ what would you say in a letter to him. Odom responded that he would tell the President that "he is losing in IRAQ" and that he "has made the most strategic foreign policy disaster in U.S. history." To get out he suggests the PRESIDENT sends Secretary of State CONDOLEEZZA RICE to Europe ostensibly to talk about Kyoto. In reality, the purpose of the visit would be to say the President wants to meet with you in the Azores to discuss IRAQ. Once a meeting is organized the President should tell other foreign leaders "I screwed up and am pulling out." He should make the point that the U.S. pulling out could make things worse for the region, Russia and the Far East because terrorists in Iraq will be freed up to go to other countries. The country least likely to be effected by this would be the United States. The President should seek the involvement of these countries in order to minimize the destabilization that might occur. Then he would instruct the Secretary of Defense DONALD RUMSFELD to develop the logistics for getting out of IRAQ. In order to bring stability to the region the best approach, according to Odom is to "develop an opening between the United States and Iran." The conflict with Iran needs to be turned on its head. THE PRESIDENT should send a private delegation to Iran to explain our common interests. We should be willing to make concessions on the nuclear bomb - get the nuclear bomb off the table and begin to work with Iran to stabilize the region. General Odom was asked by an IRAQ veteran who had just returned how he knew the war was lost when we have only been there for three years. Odom described the problems in IRAQ as beyond our ability to control. The multiple ethnic groups in IRAQ, the divisions in Arab culture and their lack of history with a limited state makes "IRAQ one of the hardest places on earth to put in place a liberal democracy." Odom sees spreading democracy, especially liberal democracy, as very difficult. When asked how we can bring THE PRESIDENT to heel? Odom responded with a question "how do you impeach THE PRESIDENT ?" He went on to express concern about the weakening constitutional balance in the United States. When it came to Congress, Odom talked about meeting with Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) where he congratulated Jones for "taking the lead because then it won't go to the radical left and we won't be spitting on our soldiers." Regarding Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA), Odom said he "absolutely agrees with Murtha." Odom came to oppose the VIETNAM WAR, not from the left but from the right and he is doing so on Iraq as well. He saw Vietnam as uniting our enemies and failing to contain China. He sees the same thing occurring in Iraq. The unintended consequences of strengthening Iran, undermining U.S. influence in the Middle East and the world and strengthening Osama bin Laden make this a war counterproductive to U.S. interests. He pointed out that like Vietnam the Iraq War was justified by false intelligence comparing the Gulf of Tonkin with the Weapons of Mass Destruction claims. Odom saw three stages in Vietnam: 1961-65 getting into the war; 1965-68 understanding we are not fighting it right, changing approach to a pacification policy; 1968 to end - Vietnamization and phony diplomacy in Paris. He sees us at the end of Phase II in Iraq and beginning Phase III this year. We are seeing the Iraqization of the war and concludes we will see Congress starting to break with the President more and more; and the final conclusion will be the U.S. leaving the "Green Zone" much like the U.S. left the embassy in VIETNAM. Odom noted that the United States is "running out of Army" and that people underestimate how difficult the Iraq War is on the Army. Indeed, he said "if we took a referendum among U.S. troops 80 percent would favor leaving. We might be winning tactically, but we are losing strategically." He predicted a dramatic draw down by next Christmas with some type of political cover invoked to accomplish it. As to the idea that the Iraq War is a war for oil, Odom described oil as a "red herring. Oil is a commodity. Our enemies will sell us oil." However, Odom did see a need to break U.S. addiction to oil. He recommended a $2 tax on oil to build up a research and development fund for alternative energies. He realized the political leadership may not be able to accomplish this feat. On the larger issue of American Empire, and the lessons from Iraq. Odom urges that "the United States should be an empire that acts like a Republic. We should use our power like a teacher on a playground - not like one of the kids." It is possible that the U.S. Empire is history, but he hopes not. Is Bush once again going to allow Israel to pull America into another quagmire?: Remember this when thinking about warfare-Iran was called Persia-they have 5000 years of military history behind them-with a lot more wisdom than these upstarts and uneducated men who are running our military. If this is the best that West Point and our other military academies have to offer for leadership-then we'd be ready to revamp those institutions and get some wiser and cooler heads to run our armed forces and maybe some men with courage enough to tell the president that he doesn't know a damn thing about war or strategy. As I said months ago, if Israel or the U.S. attacks Iran, "you ain't seen nothin' yet." Bush has already lost a war in Iraq, he has no victory in Afghanistan, and it seems his only solution is to start another war that he can't win-thus destroying our image as a democratic peace-loving nation, getting thousands more Americans killed in needless wars, totally busting the economy so that his friends at Halliburton and Blackwell and other firms can make money, and in the meantime, with his legal team in place, he's preaching democracy while destroying democracy and dissent at home in America. Does all of this sound like it's a madhouse? A friend of mine, Marvin X wrote a book recently, The Crazy House Called America. I'm afraid he's right, we've become a crazy house, led by an idiot, a man who should be treated for mental disorders and possibly dry alcoholism or worse, according to some prominent psychologists and psychiatrists in America and in the world. If he's not run out of office soon, the craziness will get further out of hand, and what is left of America as we knew it will be lost. US Tries to Pressure Iran with Attack Stories: Recent reports in the Turkish and German press of the U.S. asking the Turkish government to support a possible attack on Iran and alerting allied countries of preparations for such an attack appear to be part of a strategy to pressure the Iranian regime rather than the result of a new policy to strike Iran. The reports are unlikely to be effective in getting Iran to be more forthcoming, however. None of the stories suggested that the military option was anything more than a possibility. That would not represent anything new, because the administration's public posture since August 2005 had been that the "military option" was on the table. The press reports do refer to possible air attacks on Iran, but since fall 2004, Bush administration planning for possible military action against Iranian nuclear facilities appears to have focused on commando operations to sabotage them rather than on air attacks. The choice of covert operations instead of air strikes in administration planning reflected the serious downside associated with an overt attack on Iran. Administration policymakers were concerned about the likelihood of Iranian retaliation - in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere in the Middle East - for an open military air attack against Iranian targets. Having failed to get agreement by the European three to exploit the military option in the diplomatic maneuvering with Iran, the Bush administration apparently felt that it needed to take other steps to increase the pressure on Tehran, including arranging for sensational newspaper articles to appear in the Turkish and German press. The destruction of the myth of the "virtuous" Europe and the "civilized" West: In the face of the arrogance and the abuses committed by the United States over the past years - in particular, as Jacob Singer recalls, due to the huge demonstrations against the war in Iraq - a myth was created: that Europe serves as "counterweight" to the neoconservatives' imperial wishes. The absence of a true reaction to the case of human rights violations in its own territory seriously undermines this myth. In Al Watan, Kuwaiti intellectual and Parliament member Ahmed Yussef Al Daiij notes that this is a clear example of the double speech used by politicians. While, on the one hand, the West continues to make calls to respect human rights and takes to court those countries considered to be violating them, on the other hand, it submits itself without any resistance to a US administration that institutionalizes torture and disdain for human rights. Not only has the credibility of the United States but also that of the West, which likes to give lessons, been seriously put into question. Lebanese writer Hazem Saghieh, who had supported the United States during the two wars in Iraq, says nothing different in the Pan-Arab newspaper Dar Al-Hayat. He regrets that Europe and the United States, in other times champions of human rights, are every day seeing how this image is destroyed due to the new scandals that break after the abuses committed by the United States with European complicity. We should hope that this disappointment serves to accelerate the destruction of the myth of the "virtuous" Europe and the "civilized" West - two main ingredients of the war of civilizations and the moral justifications of colonial adventures. Torture worked perfectly: Let us then speak of interrogations justified by national security needs and let us evaluate its reliability: Lebanese citizen Ibn al Shaykh al-Libi was sent to be tortured by the Egyptians; he gave "evidence" of the links between Saddam Hussein and Osaama bin Laden, an assertion that proved to be completely wrong. But, as Robert Sheer recalls in AlterNet, "we should not pay attention to the conclusions of the majority of the experts in torture who explain that the method is not effective as the one who is tortured only says what they want him to say. In the case of al-Libi, torture worked perfectly to obtained precisely the necessary evidence needed to launch a long-desired war". The superpower without complex: From now on, the American empire assumes itself with no complex at all, it's even theorized by the elites of a country that accepts that democratic ideals are not theirs anymore. Thus, the Heritage Foundation held a conference on the lessons of the Roman empire for today's America (The Lessons of the Roman Empire for America Today). As in Rome, the United States is called to play its role as a superpower by means of war and devastation. The American imperialism is not a mental construction of leftists or other alter-worldists. It's a reality, in fact. In Defence of International Law: It is clear that the United States, and also those who support the actions of that country in the name of human rights, oppose the strengthening of that international order. It is very likely that the UN reforms currently being studied will lead to the legitimization of more unilateral actions. According to the argument most commonly used, it is an outrage to put democratic and undemocratic countries at the same level in the United Nations and particularly in its human rights commission. This argument ignores that in all the meetings of the Movement of Non Aligned Countries and in all the summits of the South, who represent 70% of humanity, they - not only "dictatorships" - have condemned all forms of unilateral interference, namely embargos, sanctions or wars. Anyway, liberal imperialists, that is, the majority of US Democrats and most of the European Greens and Social-Democrats - who defend democracy at the internal level while they support interference, that is, the dictatorship of a country or a small group of countries, at the international level - are completely incoherent. Finally, when complaining, as it often happens, about the inefficiency of the United Nations, we have to think of all the disarmament treaties or accords prohibiting weapons of mass destruction, whose main opponent is the United States. It is precisely the big powers the ones that more firmly oppose the idea of law acting against their last resort: the use of force. But, in the same way that no one suggests that, at the internal level, the mafia's hostility towards law can justify the abolition of the latter, no one can use the US's sabotage of the United Nations as an argument to discredit this organization. There is one last argument in favour of international law that may be even more important than all the others: international law is the paper shield that the Third World thought it could use against the West during the decolonization. Those who use human rights to undermine international law in the name of the "right to interfere" ignore that, during the entire colonial period, there were neither borders nor dictators preventing the West from establishing the rule of human rights in the submitted countries. If that was their intention, the least that colonized countries can say is that they did not prove it. Probably, that is one of the main reasons why the countries of the South so strongly condemn the so-called "right to interfere." "Fight the net": A newly declassified document gives a fascinating glimpse into the US military's plans for "information operations" - from psychological operations, to attacks on hostile computer networks. The declassified document is called "Information Operations Roadmap". It was obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University using the Freedom of Information Act. The operations described in the document include a surprising range of military activities: public affairs officers who brief journalists, psychological operations troops who try to manipulate the thoughts and beliefs of an enemy, computer network attack specialists who seek to destroy enemy networks. Perhaps the most startling aspect of the roadmap is its acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military's psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans. "Information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and Psyops, is increasingly consumed by our domestic audience," it reads. "Psyops messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public," it goes on. The roadmap, however, gives a flavour of what the US military is up to - and the grand scale on which it's thinking. It reveals that Psyops personnel "support" the American government's international broadcasting. It singles out TV Marti - a station which broadcasts to Cuba - as receiving such support. It recommends that a global website be established that supports America's strategic objectives. But no American diplomats here, thank you. The website would use content from "third parties with greater credibility to foreign audiences than US officials". It also recommends that Psyops personnel should consider a range of technologies to disseminate propaganda in enemy territory: unmanned aerial vehicles, "miniaturized, scatterable public address systems", wireless devices, cellular phones and the internet. When it describes plans for electronic warfare, or EW, the document takes on an extraordinary tone. It seems to see the internet as being equivalent to an enemy weapons system. "Strategy should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will 'fight the net' as it would an enemy weapons system," it reads. The slogan "fight the net" appears several times throughout the roadmap. The authors warn that US networks are very vulnerable to attack by hackers, enemies seeking to disable them, or spies looking for intelligence. "Networks are growing faster than we can defend them... Attack sophistication is increasing... Number of events is increasing." And, in a grand finale, the document recommends that the United States should seek the ability to "provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum". US forces should be able to "disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum". Consider that for a moment. The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked computer, every radar system on the planet. WORLDWIDE Fidel Castro's prophecy has been fulfilled: One of the most significant events in 500 years of Latin American history will take place in Bolivia on Sunday when Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian, is inducted as president. Morales's victory is not just a symptom of economic breakdown and age-old repression. It also fulfils a prophecy made by Fidel Castro, who claimed the Andes would become the Americas' Sierra Maestra - the Cuban mountains that harboured black and Indian rebels over the centuries, as well as Castro's guerrilla band in the 50s. His prophecy exercised US governments in the 60s. Radical elected governments were destroyed by the armed forces - guardians of the white settler states - supported by Washington. Countries such as Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Bolivia were prevented from following anything that might have resembled the Cuban road. Today the rules have changed. The cold war no longer provides an excuse for intervention, and the US is stretched in other parts of the world. The ballot box, for the first time in Latin America, has become the strategy of choice for revolutionaries and the poor majority. The result in Bolivia is a president who invokes the memory of the silver miners of Potosi and Che Guevara, who dreamed of a socialist commonwealth of Latin America. Castro's prophecy looks close to fulfilment, and, in his 80th year, he will go to Bolivia to savour the moment. Why the West must reOrient: The West in recent decades has been attempting to change China through criticism and apocalyptic predictions. These help China to avoid traps, to prevent possible stumbles and to be careful about the direction it takes and the decisions it makes. For instance on human-rights issues, all the criticism helps the Chinese Communist Party to be on its toes, and in this way we Westerners help to make China a more harmonious society. Yet while we help China to change, we overlook the fact that we should change ourselves, because China's growth has brought a systemic change to the world at large. As it spearheads the general growth of Asia, particularly Southeast Asia and India, it foreshadows a different world, where for the first time in at least two centuries the West will become an economic minority. It is as if we were facing a huge climatic change, as if we went from the glacial era to a temperate era, or vice versa. In this climatic change, we are going to die if we don't change our habits. It is not because China is a threat, that it is malevolently planning an attack on the West. It is because there is a change of climate, and those who do not adapt to the new environment will inevitably suffer. Just a funny joke about Bush [from Russia]: A man enters a bar and orders a drink. The bar has a robot bartender. The robot serves him a perfectly prepared cocktail, and then asks him, "What's your IQ?" The man replies "150" and the robot proceeds to make conversation about global warming factors, quantum physics and spirituality, biomimicry, environmental interconnectedness, string theory, nano-technology, and sexual proclivities. The customer is very impressed and thinks, "This is really cool." He decides to test the robot. He walks out of the bar, turns around, and comes back in for another drink. Again, the robot serves him the perfectly prepared drink and asks him, "What's your IQ?" The man responds, "about a 100." Immediately the robot starts talking, but this time, about football, NASCAR, baseball, cars, beer, guns, and breasts. Really impressed, the man leaves the bar and decides to give the robot one more test. He heads out and returns, the robot serves him and asks, "What's your IQ?" The man replies, "Er, 50, I think." And the robot says... real slowly... "So............... ya ... gonna ... vote . for . Bush .. again???"


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