Monday, February 06, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS for Monday, February 6, 2006 Bring 'em on: Danish soldiers on patrol in southern Iraq came under attack but escaped unharmed, the Danish military headquarters said. Iraqis shot at the patrol on Sunday as the Danish soldiers gave first aid to a group of children injured in a traffic accident south of Al-Qurnah, it said. The soldiers shot back, withdrew from the area and took several of the children to hospital, he said. Denmark has been the target of angry protests in many Muslim countries following the publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. In Iraq on Monday, thousands of marchers demanded a fatwa, or Islamic ruling, calling for the killing of the Danish cartoonists. Bring 'em on: Hotel Shat al Arab in the Southern Iraqi town of Basra, often visited by British troops in Iraq, was attacked with rockets, INA reported. British troops closed the area. No casualties of injured are reported. Bring 'em on: Gunmen shot dead two policemen in the northern oil city of Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Body of Iraqi contractor working with U.S forces found on Sunday near Dujail, 90 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Gunmen killed Iraqi policeman on Sunday near the oil refinery city of Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Iraqi policeman killed and his brother, also a policemen, wounded in an attack by armed men firing from a speeding car in the northern city of Kirkuk. Bring 'em on: In Baghdad's southern Abu Dashir neighborhood, police found the bodies of two more brothers seized from their home late Sunday by men claiming to be Interior Ministry commandos. Bring 'em on: Iraqi soldier killed a member of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi militia, which was guarding a a group Shiites taking part in an Ashoura procession in northwestern Baghdad's Shula neighborhood. Bring 'em on: In Basra, police killed a man who fired a machine-gun at a group of Shiites performing Ashoura ceremonies and threw a hand grenade at police forces. Two civilians and two policemen were also wounded during the clash. Bring 'em on: Gunmen killed an Iraqi working as an interpreter for British troops based in Basra. Bring 'em on: Drive-by gunmen killed retired teacher, aged 60, and wounded his son in southern Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Grocer, car dealer, former military intelligence official and innocent bystander killed in three separate attacks in the capital's western suburbs. IRAQ NEWS Sadr says US spreading strife among Arabs: Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim leader Moqtada al-Sadr met Syrian leaders on Monday and said the United States and Israel were trying to spread strife among Arab countries. Sadr, who led two anti-U.S. uprisings in Iraq, expressed support for Syria, which is facing western pressure over its alleged support for rebels in Iraq and the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. "Both Iraq and Syria are under U.S. pressure. We have good relations but our common enemies, Israel, the United States and Britain, are trying to spread strife among us. The people will not fall for this," he told reporters. "I will help Syria in every way. We are witnessing Islamic solidarity," said Sadr, who met President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara. Iraq freezes contracts with Denmark and Norway: Iraq's Transport Ministry said on Sunday it had frozen contracts with Denmark and Norway in protest against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad published in the countries' newspapers. "This decision was taken to protest the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad and we will not accept any reconstruction money from Denmark or Norway," said a spokesman on behalf of Transport Minister Salam al-Malaki. The spokesman said he did not know the value of contracts between Iraq and Norway and Denmark, which has more than 500 troops in Iraq. Militant groups in Iraq have threatened Denmark's troops and a patrol was shot at on Sunday in an attack the Danish army said may have been connected to the furore. Saddam Hussein may be forced to appear in court: Saddam Hussein may be forced to appear in court when his trial resumes next week, the chief prosecutor said on Monday, expressing frustration at the former leader's persistent boycotting of proceedings. Ja'afar Moussawi also confirmed that Saddam's defence team had been barred from visiting him and seven co-accused in jail, saying the lawyers had lost that right when they stormed out of court last week after clashing with the chief judge. Sunni Arabs form own militia: Sunni Arabs have formed their own militia to counter Shi'ite and Kurdish forces as part of an attempt to regain influence they lost after Saddam Hussein was toppled. The so-called "Anbar Revolutionaries" have emerged from a split in the anti-U.S. insurgency, which included al Qaeda. They are a new addition to a network of militias that have thrived in Iraq's bloody chaos and are tied to the country's leading ethnic and political parties, now negotiating the formation of a coalition government after the Dec. 15 election, the second such polls since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The newly-organised militia is made up mostly of Saddam loyalists, Iraqi Islamists and other nationalists leading an insurgency against U.S. and Iraqi government forces. Sunni officials familiar with the militia say its numbers are in the hundreds and it will be used for "defensive" purposes only. Second Iraqi confirmed to have died from deadly H5N1 bird flu strain: Hamma Sur Abdallah, 40, who died of flu-like symptoms a little over a week after his niece passed away under similar circumstances, was confirmed as having died of virus by a lab in Cairo, a senior Kurdish health official told AFP. Iraq farmers seek compensation amid bird flu prevention measures: Farmers from the northern Sulaimaniyah governorate are requesting compensation from the Kurdish government for losses incurred by the culling of fowl, undertaken to prevent the spread of avian influenza. "We're aware of the bird flu situation in Iraq, but our livelihoods are related to those birds," said Omar Diar, a local farmer from Sulaimaniyah, which is located some 380 km north of the capital, Baghdad. "We urgently ask the government to compensate us so we can support our families," he added. Ever since a teenage girl died from the so-called "bird flu" in mid-January, more than 900,000 chicken and migratory birds have been culled by the regional ministries of agriculture and health. REPORTS Turkish movie depicts Americans as savages: In the most expensive Turkish movie ever made, American soldiers in Iraq crash a wedding and pump a little boy full of lead in front of his mother. They kill dozens of innocent people with random machine-gun fire, shoot the groom in the head, and drag those left alive to Abu Ghraib prison -- where a Jewish doctor cuts out their organs, which he sells to rich people in New York, London and Tel Aviv. "Valley of the Wolves Iraq" -- set to open in Turkey on Friday [Feb. 2] -- feeds off the increasingly negative feelings many Turks harbor toward their longtime NATO allies: Americans. The movie is part of a genre of popular culture in Turkey that demonizes the United States. The film comes on the heels of a novel, "Metal Storm," about a war between Turkey and the U.S., which has been a best-seller for months. One recent opinion poll revealed the depth of the hostility in Turkey toward Americans: 53 percent of Turks who responded to the 2005 Pew Global Attitudes survey associated Americans with the word "rude"; 70 percent with "violent"; 68 percent with "greedy"; and 57 percent with "immoral." U.S. soldiers have become hate figures in Muslim countries around the world after the unpopular war in Iraq. But here in Turkey, a personal grudge fuels the resentment. "Valley of the Wolves Iraq" opens with a true story: On July 4, 2003, in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, troops from the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade raided and ransacked a Turkish special forces office, threw hoods over the heads of 11 Turkish special forces officers and held them in custody for more than two days. The Americans said they had been looking for Iraqi insurgents and unwittingly rounded up the Turks because they were not in uniform. Still, the incident damaged Turkish-U.S.. relations and hurt Turkish national pride. Turks traditionally idolize their soldiers; many enthusiastically send their sons off for mandatory military service. Homosexuality in Iraq punishable by death: Since 2001, an amendment to the 1990 Penal Code has made homosexual behaviour between consenting adults a crime. In that year, the Revolutionary Command Council issued a decree making the offences of prostitution, homosexuality, incest and rape punishable by death, according to Amnesty International. It is believed that the sudden introduction of the death penalty for these acts was tied to a desire by Saddam Hussein to win the support of Islamic conservatives. The law has not been changed since the US-led invasion of the country. Under Islamic law, the penalty for men engaging in anal sex is also death. The new Iraqi constitution provides protection against discrimination on a variety of grounds, including sex, religion, belief, opinion and social and economic status, but fails to explicitly mention homosexuality. Nevertheless, discrimination against homosexuals remains rampant. "Muslims believe that homosexual behaviour is an offence against Islam and anyone who behaves this way should be sentenced to death without compassion," said Sheikh Ali Amar, a cleric at a mosque in the capital, Baghdad. Bush proposes record U.S. defense budget for 2007: U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday proposed a record $439.3 billion U.S. defense budget for 2007 aimed at fighting both unconventional terrorism and major conflicts with other nations if necessary. The Pentagon budget represented a 4.8 percent boost over current military spending as Bush seeks cuts in domestic programs. The budget does not include tens of billions of dollars in proposed new financing for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One man's attempt to stop the PNAC: What does the PNAC have to do with a retired attorney living in Reno, Nevada? Plenty. At an age when most retirees would be fishing or attending social events or traveling, Douglas A. Wallace is taking on the PNAC with a vengeance. Always a keen observer of politics, he first came across the PNAC in 2000. Wallace explained, "I happened to read an article about the PNAC and that it stood for. I read the names and didn't recognize any. I thought it sounded like wacky Mormons. Then I forgot about it." The contested 2000 election and the interference by the Supreme Court piqued Wallace's interest. He said, "Then we get 9-11. Then the war in Afghanistan. Then, all of a sudden, we have this thing going with Iraq and I couldn't see the connection the administration was touting at all. "Then, the weapons of mass destruction didn't appear. I started getting into this thing more. It was really PNAC as a backdrop behind the Iraq war. Then, I recognized the names because most were a part of the Bush administration. "They're not secret about it. That's the cleverness. They put it out to the public to read, but the public hasn't bothered to read it. They think that gets them out of the category of conspiracy by putting it out to the public. However, the conspiracy is the implementation." On January 14, 2006, Wallace filed a class-action suit in U.S. District Court in Reno, Nevada against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. According to the document: "This class action lawsuit seeks an injunction against the Defendants from further implementation of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) without a constitutional 2/3 vote of Congress and full education of the American public. The lawsuit alleges the plan was the basis for deception behind the Iraq war." "A finding by the court that they have acted outside their job description in violation of the constitution would make them personally liable to anyone who has been damaged by engaging in the war in Iraq. Everybody. Iraqi citizens, the legitimate Iraqi government, U.S. military personnel; everybody." According to Wallace, "They can't ignore the suit. They have 30 days to respond." Bush administration found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity: Today the Bush administration was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for invading Iraq, instituting torture and indefinite detention, attacking efforts to control global warming and for deliberately failing to prevent devastation and loss of life during Hurricane Katrina. These findings were released at the National Press Club by the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity by the Bush Administration. The full text can be found at www.bushcommission.org Shortly after the findings were released, activist Heather Hurwitz confronted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the Commission's verdict during his press luncheon. Hurwitz, of World Can't Wait-Drive Out the Bush Regime, declared Rumsfeld and the Bush administration were guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and that thousands were gathering Saturday, Feb. 4 in Washington to demand that they step down. (www.worldcantwait.net) Ms. Hurwitz was quickly removed by security personnel. After she was led away, Rumsfeld joked, "We'll count her as undecided." When informed of Rumsfeld's comment, Hurwitz said, "war crimes and crimes against humanity are not joking matters. Rumsfeld's attitude typifies this administration's brazen immorality and lawlessness, and this is why it must step down." Earlier, at the Commission's press conference, Ajamu Sankofa, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility-NY and one of the panel of jurists stated, "The historical significance of this tribunal is that American citizens, civil society, is demonstrating courage to stand up and speak its definition of the truth against a wholly orchestrated system of deliberate deceptions." "This commission is attempting to change the level of discourse," said Abdeen Jabara, another panelist and former President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. "We want people to understand Iraq is not simply as a war of choice but an actual war of aggression from which flow certain legal consequences. Torture is often reported as 'abuse' rather than torture. So we need to change the way these items are talked about for people to face the fact of what this government is doing." "The Commission is incredibly important for the future of the United States and really the world, because it's the people of America that are speaking to these very serious indictments," said panel member Ann Wright, a former US diplomat and retired US Army Reserve Colonel. Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern added, "our German fore-bearers in the 1930s sat around, blamed their rulers, said 'maybe everything's going to be alright.' That is something we cannot do. I do not want my grandchildren asking me years from now, 'why didn't you do something to stop all this?'" Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, former UK Ambassador Craig Murray, and former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, were among the 44 witnesses presenting testimony at the Commission's two sessions. The Commission will later issue detailed findings, accompanied by full documentation. 'Marlboro Man' Turns Against War He Symbolised: A cigarette hung from his mouth in the manner of John Wayne or Humphrey Bogart, his grime-covered face showed the exhaustion of battle. This image of US Marine Lance-Corporal Blake Miller, taken during the battle of Fallujah, instantly captured the public imagination and for a while he was known simply as Marlboro Man. But 15 month after that photograph appeared in more than 100 US newspapers, the 21-year-old is back from Iraq, back on civvy street and he is talking about the trauma of what he experienced and the scars he still bears, physical and mental. The once unquestioning Marine is now also questioning whether US forces should be in Iraq. The former Marine says he now questions the US tactics and believes troops should have been withdrawn some time ago. He said: "When I was in the service my opinion was whatever the Commander-in-Chief's opinion was. But after I got out, I started to think about it. The biggest question I have now is how you can make a war on an entire country when a certain group from that country is practising terrorism against you. It's as if a gang from New York went to Iraq and blew some stuff up and Iraq started a war against us because of that." Carter believes US may stay in Iraq for up to 50 years: In a very revealing interview with Larry King on CNN's Larry King Live (Feb. 1, 2006), former US President Jimmy Carter said that he believes that there are "high officials" within the US government who are want US military forces to stay in Iraq for up to 50 years. When asked if he "was for the Iraq war", Carter said he was against it from the onset, having written a NYT editorial a few months prior to the invasion saying it was unnecessary and unlawful. When King pressed whether "high officials" meant the Bush administration, Carter said yes. He also said that the whole intent of going into Iraq was to create a permanent military presence in the Middle East. He said he is yet to categorically hear US officials say "we will not be in Iraq in 10 years". Carter said that this small point was pointed out to him by Arab leaders. He also said that while he did not believe President George Bush intentionally misrepresent intelligence reports on Iraq, "his subordinates" did. Carter said he was not for an early withdrawal from Iraq. How Bush Went Into Iraq, As Told by the British: The Independent confirms a report by the Guardian on a newly-revealed British memo. The memo claims that Bush made the decision to attack Iraq two months prior to the war. Furthermore, the memo states that Bush was thinking about baiting Iraq into a breach of UN resolutions by "flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colors." This most-recent memo is just the latest in a series of official British government documents that have revealed shocking information about how Bush misled the nation into Iraq (see the original Downing Street Memo and the British Briefing Papers revealed previously by ThinkProgress). There are two things all these memos share in common: 1) none of the memos' validity has been disputed, and 2) the U.S. media has been slow to cover every single one of them. In fact, while reputable British papers such as the Guardian, the Independent, and the Financial Times have already reported on the most recent memo, no American newspaper has. If the American media decided to aggressively report on the evidence contained in these British memos, here's the story they would find: -- "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." [Link] -- "US is scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and Al [Qaida that] is so far frankly unconvincing." [Link] -- "Even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years on [the] nuclear, missile or CW/BW fronts." [Link] -- "Indeed if the argument [for attacking Iraq] is to be won, the whole case against Iraq and in favour (if necessary) of military action, needs to be narrated with reference to the international rule of law." [Link] -- "A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to law Officers advice, none currently exists." [Link] -- "The NSC (National Security Council) had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record." [Link] -- "The two leaders [Bush and Blair] were worried by the lack of hard evidence that Saddam Hussein had broken UN resolutions, though privately they were convinced that he had. According to the memorandum, Mr Bush said: 'The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.'" [Link] -- "On January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - ... Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second UN resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme." [Link] -- "[Bush] added that he had a date, 10 March, pencilled in for the start of military action. The war actually began on 20 March." [Link] -- "What happens on the morning after?" [Link] -- "There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." [Link] -- "Bush said that he 'thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups.'" [Link] -- "We have to answer the big question - what will this action achieve? There seems to be a larger hole in this than anything." [Link] The many human faces of DU poisoning and polytrauma we're beginning to see: Anyone with the common sense to look no further back than the nation's last two wars could have predicted many of the consequences, and costs, from which we're now hemorrhaging. And we're only at the beginning. Consider the fact that more than a third of the troops who took part in the 1991 Gulf War - that four-week war, with a U.S. death toll of only 148 (a cheap war indeed) - have put in claims to the Veterans Administration for an array of bizarre, terrifying nerve ailments and cancers, attributed to so-called Gulf War Syndrome. The VA is paying some $2 billion annually in support of 169,000 of those claims, which stem from exposure to modern warfare's inevitable toxins, the most insidious of which is depleted uranium dust (the residue of exploded DU armaments). Among the many human faces of DU poisoning we're beginning to see from the current war are those of Gerard Matthew and his daughter Victoria. Matthew, a former specialist with the Army National Guard, had been part of a war-debris collection detail in southern Iraq, which resulted in significant DU irradiation; he tested positive for the substance in 2004. He's now suffering from an array of ailments - facial swelling, triple vision, brain tumor - typical of DU poisoning. And most heartbreaking of all, his daughter, now a year old, was born without a right hand. The likelihood of birth defects also skyrockets with DU exposure. Because, contrary to Bush administration swagger, we do not support our troops or their families in any way commensurate with the sacrifice they've made for the country, Victoria has been denied disability benefits from Social Security. She and her father are both part of a lawsuit against the Department of Defense, along with eight other members of his unit who tested positive for DU on their return to the States, seeking $5 million each in damages, according to Japan Times. These suits are a minuscule part of the uncalculated cost of Bush's war. And then there are the brain injuries and other manifestations of "polytrauma" experienced to an unprecedented degree by U.S. troops in Iraq, due, ironically, to better battlefield armor that allows soldiers to survive car-bomb and other explosions they wouldn't have survived in earlier eras. Stiglitz and Bilmes calculate lifetime round-the-clock care for these men, and those to follow, to be between $600,000 and $5 million apiece; the total cost for this aspect of the war could be as high as $35 billion, assuming we pay it. Even if the government weasels out of its moral obligations - and it will probably try - someone will bear the direct costs of our injured troops' long-term care. And all of us, and our children and grandchildren, will bear the indirect costs, which include a society of radically diminished possibilities. To what other causes might we have committed $2 trillion? A "legacy of criminality": This week's revelations that George W. Bush and Tony Blair considered staging a war provocation by painting a US spy plane in UN colors and flying it over Iraq, in the hope that Saddam would order it shot down, illustrates a desperate depth of criminality only rivaled by previous notorious historical examples. Philippe Sands, a QC and professor of international law at University College, London, unearthed documents that shadow even the Downing Street memo in terms of direct and unequivocal confirmation that the war was deliberate and planned from the very start and that any pretext to garner international support for it would be considered and utilized. The US government considered staging an act of provocation that would fool the world into supporting an unpopular war. Sands appeared on the Alex Jones Show and shed more light on the documents and their implication for the power structure in London and Washington DC. Sands called Bush and Blair's place in history a "legacy of criminality" and stated that when they leave office they will likely face "Pinochet style proceedings" for their actions. Sands indicated to Jones that his contacts deep inside Blair's inner circle had leaked the original documents. This highlights a substantial degree of division within the halls of Downing Street and lends hope to the possibility of similar leaks occurring. Sands concluded that the 'White House Meeting Memo' laid bare one simple fact, that "definitively, they knew there was no evidence and they were reduced to plotting these types of shenanigans." Sands pondered the possible personal ramifications of releasing the documents, noting that the British government had sought to prosecute individuals who had previously blown the whistle. "I suppose the possibility can't be excluded that they may come after me but I suspect they will be concerned about what else is out there and if I were them I would want to kick the story into touch, get rid of it, and that's not done by prosecuting people," said Sands. Sands remained confident that more whistleblowers will come forward and weaken the power base of an arrogant trans-Atlantic power monopoly already soaked in blood and attempting to sell more wars based on spin and deception. "As President Bush's power, as Tony Blair's power begins to fade away, they're beginning to speak out, they're beginning to release documents, they're beginning to realize that the tide has turned, that's the big change that has happened. There's a lot more material that's going to come out and it's not going to make a pretty picture." COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Americans not ready to believe their president might lie so he could take the country to war: The systematic exaggeration of intelligence before the invasion of Iraq and the flouting of FISA both required, and got, a degree of resolution in the White House that has few precedents in American history. The President has gotten away with it so far because he leaves no middle ground - cut him some slack, or prepare to fight to the death. The fact that he enjoys a Republican majority in both houses of Congress gives him a margin of comfort, but I suspect that Democratic majorities would be just as reluctant, in the end, to call him on either count. Americans were ready enough to believe that one president might lie about a sexual affair; but they balk at concluding that his successor would pressure others to lie, and even would utter a few whoppers himself, so he could take the country to war. Whatever happened to what's-his-name?:'Scourge of Western civilisation', 'leader of the insurgency', 'al-Queda in Iraq', 'Usama's right-hand man', the Scarlet Pimpernel of 'Islamic fundamentalism', Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. For the past couple of years we were bombarded by the mythical man's dastardly deeds, then all of a sudden-he disappeared from the headlines. Well not entirely, in the month of January 2006 I collected 113 stories that mentioned his name of which about 40 are in Western media publications. Scanning the headlines however and we find that the pickings are pretty slim, so slim in fact, most are hardly worth mentioning as they contain nothing of any significance but I suppose they keep some 'journalists' employed. Every single 'news' story is based on hearsay and allegations of links that 'al-Zarqawi' has to the 'insurgency', to 'al-Queda', to 'jihadists' but there is not a single story amongst the entire 113 or so that offers a single shred of evidence that the man actually exists let alone heads up the Iraqi 'branch' of 'al-Queda' or as some stories allege, some kind of 'franchise' arrangement, which would be laughable if it wasn't being used as a basis to wage war on the planet. Okay, look I could go on with more of this drivel (check the list yourself), the question to ask is why a man who has been labelled as one of the world's most dangerous and sought-after individuals, with a $25 million bounty on his head, could occupy the headlines and then just as miraculously vanish from view without so much as a by-your-leave? To understand the role 'Abu Musab al-Zarqawi' plays in the propaganda war the West has conducted for the past several years, we have to look to the role such stereotypes play in the West. He is, after all, only the latest in a long line of demons that stretches back for centuries, all of which have a core based on racist stereotypes eg, the 'savage', the 'hook-nosed Arab', the 'baby-chowing Jew', 'cannibal' or whatever. All have one thing in common, they invariably have dark skins and are decidedly non-Christian. They exploit the deeply instilled fears and insecurities that are the product of a society that survives precisely because it is based upon a divide-and-rule system; weak against the powerful, the haves versus the have-nots, black versus white, Christian versus Islam, Catholic versus Protestant... Having firmly instilled the image into the public's mind, 'fanatic', 'terrorist', 'fundamentalist' or whatever, the actual person whether real or imaginary, can actually be dispensed with. 'al-Zarqawi's' name can henceforth be safely slipped into any 'news' item without recourse to proof, as and when needed, triggering a classic Pavlovian response. All that is required is the occasional insertion here and there, perhaps a tape, an intercepted message, or a press release, purportedly originating with 'al-Zarqawi' or one or his 'lieutenants', to remind us that he's still alive and kicking Western butt somewhere. It's also worth noting that the major corporate/state media are never challenged as to the veracity of their alleged reporting, and those that try to get some kind of proof from the corporate press as to their oft-repeated allegations concerning 'al-Zarqawi's' escapades rarely if ever get a response. The way 'al-Zarqawi' gets used in 'news' items follows a tried and trusty formula; 'it is alleged', 'according to reports', 'sources tell us', 'my sources', or some third-party story that is itself based upon the same elusive 'sources' is always the basis for every story on 'al-Zarqawi'. Nothing else is required, 'al-Zarqawi' has been transformed into a legend that requires no proof; nobody is going to come forward and accuse the corporate media of spreading a pack of lies as there's nothing actually for the media to prove, all its sources are invisible or unnamed based upon a set of assumptions that the chief editors have no need to justify. Ask yourself why not a single journalist has ever gotten within spitting distance of 'al-Zarqawi'? Ask yourself why even third-party connections to 'al-Zarqawi' are almost impossible to track down aside from the man's family who say he's dead (one or two stories surfaced on this but never made it to the front-page or on television news broadcasts). The reality is an unholy alliance between the state and the media who work in close collaboration with each other. Step out of line and the diplomatic correspondent, foreign editor or whoever, lose their access to the corridors of power and within a short time, they can kiss their well-paid jobs goodbye. Investigating the sources of every story on 'al-Zarqawi' leads back to the state-either the US, the UK or an ally such as Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Italy, Australia. I challenge any corporate/state news organisation to produce a single, independent and verifiable source on the existence of 'al-Zarqawi'. Ultimately, the 'al-Zarqawis' are part of an arsenal of propaganda tools whose major function is to disguise the real nature of events and their causes. Thus in Iraq the 'insurgents' are led, not by indigenous Iraqis whose only objective is the expulsion of the foreign occupier, but by a foreigner whose objective is the destruction of 'Western civilisation'. Bush's Pestilent Presidency: He is an amateur dictator enraptured and corrupted by absolute power, depending on the army of conditioned Americans to continue his devastation, both in the Middle East and in the United States. Nothing he has ever done has been a success, and now he is sending one more business venture, the nation called America, down the precipice of failure. Never succeeding, always failing, forever bailed out by Bush the Wiser, he has never learned what it is like to suffer hardship and pain, never experiencing hunger and struggle. He is a callous and cold-hearted individual with deep psychological problems, weak-minded in character and a bully in spirit. His arrogance and hubris will be the demise of us all. Unfortunately, his father cannot save him, or the nation, any longer. He will fail on his own, becoming a curse upon our land, a pestilence infecting our principles and our virtues, our rivers and lands, our children and future. Nothing has gone right since the curse called Bush entered office. His is a Pestilent Presidency, a rotting manifestation of corruption and immorality, a fraud and conniver, a most unethical human being incapable of honor or integrity. When we should be running away from scum such as this we instead allow him to steal two elections and remain the pestilence that he is, creating a diseased society devoid of the freedom it once possessed and the civil rights it fought so hard to attain. George W. Bush is a corporatist without intelligence, an unknowing, incurious, detached and ignorant human beings, a puppet to much brighter individuals, a tool for the corporate world. He does not care for the unenlightened souls that see him as Dear Leader, nor the soldiers he sends to either die or sacrifice mental health. In reality, he does not care about America, at least the America of you, me and everyone else. He is changing our lands, our society, giving our government to corporations and the corporatists that run them. In time, and with reflection, after the hypnosis of this most devastating of Presidents has passed, he will be seen for what he presently is, namely, the worst person to ever occupy the White House, becoming, through infamy, the mistake that was and the lesson learned. The Pestilent Presidency has been a malignant tumor to the America of you, me and everyone else. He has been a grand success to the corporate world. Who do you think he represents? Whose interests does he help further? Only when he departs and exits our lives will the curse of Bush lift from our country, dissipating like a long, permanent haze, and perhaps only then can we try and reclaim what has been lost, if it is not already too late. The ruins of what George W. Bush will leave behind after he leaves our reality will be strewn all around us, rotting and eroding, the whispers of a better America barely audible, yet its horizon ready to be radiant once again. Lies and hypocrisy so deep and twisted it blows our brains apart: The country that drenched southeast Asia in a warm bath of dioxin has the balls to talk about chemical weapons--Saddam's most egregious crime, remember, was that he "gassed his own people," while the generations of deformed Agent Orange babies in Vietnam deserve no parallel treatment. "Useable" nukes will somehow help us prevent nuclear proliferatioin, even as other countries scared to death are scrambling to get nukes to avoid become the US' next victim. Meanwhile, nuclear war is already here: the Persian Gulf has been saturated with depleted uranium munitions not once, but twice, with all the vigor of elites whose kids are not sent to war. More than half of the soldiers of the first Gulf War are on some form of disability, and the coming DU crisis will engulf US society as it has already done to Iraq. Widespread torture will keep us safe, and somehow quell the rage of those who oppose our policies. Spying on nonviolent peace groups will preserve our civi liberties. Quakers, for God's sake! I thought everyone pretty much knew that Nixon was the only dangerous Quaker. No wonder a recent internet sendup claimed that George Orwell's estate was suing the Bush Administration for stealing his ideas. The State of the Empire Address [excerpt]: Abroad, our nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal---we seek the end of tyranny in our world by employing our own. Some dismiss that goal as misguided idealism. In reality, the future security of our corporatocracy depends on it. On September 11th, 2001, we found that our continued oppression and aggression in the Middle East could bring murder and destruction to our country (albeit some say my regime had a hand in the events of that day, but the world will never know the truth). Dictatorships shelter terrorists, feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction. For evidence, look no further than Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph, Dominionists, and the largest arsenal of nuclear weaponry in the history of mankind. Every step toward America's domination in the world makes our financial position stronger-so we will act boldly in rapidly concentrating power in the Executive Branch and in expanding the Empire. Our work in Iraq is difficult because our enemy is brutal. On the other hand, we are fighting in a civilized way. Our depleted uranium, missiles, tanks, cannons, air strikes, and multiple other means of killing are politically correct and legal. We wear uniforms and are an organized military, so when we liquidate civilians, it is not an act of murder, terrorism, or brutality. We are in this fight to win and will annihilate every human being in Iraq if that is what it takes. Yet we are noble liberators and the Iraqi resistance fighters are brutal Terrorists. A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would save Iraqis from death and prison. It would also put men who would reject American and Israeli domination in charge of a strategic country. We must protect our interests in the region, even if it means the murder of innocents and bloody sacrifices by our own military. Our men and women in uniform are making sacrifices to protect the interests of the wealthy and powerful of America. We have inculcated a false sense of duty into the minds of our nation's youth, and used a host of financial enticements and propaganda, to manipulate them into risking, sacrificing, and sometimes dying to perpetuate our ugly agenda. We are grateful to the fallen. Without them, men like Dick Cheney would not enjoy the immense wealth and power he has at his disposal. God bless our plutocracy! The former home of freedom: The single most striking deterioration that has happened in the United States in the last ten years or so is the loss of the right to dissent. The United States government has always done terrible things, but through it all Americans have always had the right to complain about it. The reason that we still hear a lot about what happened in Chicago in 1968 is that it was such an aberration (if you haven't seen it, you should watch the movie 'Medium Cool' some day). Kent State was another aberration, but I wouldn't be surprised, the way things are going, to see another such incident before the end of Bush's Presidency. The consistency of support amongst all political groups for freedom of assembly and freedom of speech has been the best thing about the United States, and it is now dead or dying. The old strain of American libertarianism, which was perceived as flowing directly from the spirit of the American Revolution, and which always supported free speech, now only exists in the form of opposition to any control over gun ownership. Over and over again we are now seeing people arrested for holding up signs, wearing t-shirts with the 'wrong' (i. e., non-Republican Party) message on them (with arrest clearly being used solely as a method of removing the ability to make a public point), or even standing in the wrong place. Freedom of assembly no longer exists, with all manner of artificial and unnecessary restrictions which make assembly useless. Even stronger restrictions are planned. Since there is no real outlet for any contrary opinions in the controlled media, only one voice, the official talking points of the Republican Party (and the Democrats who shamelessly follow them), is allowed. This moral deterioration has occurred in American conservatism. Conservatives who used to be staunch supporters of freedom of speech now see the only issue as maintaining power in their Republican Party, and they applaud any efforts to prevent any contrary point of view from being presented. Conservatives always saw themselves as the true defenders of the values of the American Republic. Their moral deterioration into admit-no-dissent partisanship appears to be permanent, and is why the United States is doomed. American economic superiority is also eventually doomed, as it rested on the freedom of thought required for science and technology, and the Republican attack on science continues and is accelerating. People in countries all over the world who used to look to the United States as an unattainable model of freedom are now able to protest, and do, but protest of any kind is no longer allowed in the former home of freedom. IRAN AND BEYOND Saudi Minister: Iranian nuclear programme for peaceful ends, Israel's not Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister, stated on Wednesday in Tunisia that he believed the Iranian nuclear programme to be for peaceful ends, while one cannot say the same for Israel. "From what I have heard though official channels, Iran's nuclear program has peaceful aims," he claimed, underlining that Israel continues to develop and maintain a nuclear arsenal, while the rest of the world is speaking out against proliferation. He questioned whether the fact that Israel has nuclear weapons does not raisethe logical question why other nations in the region should not have such weapons as well, an issue raised by the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal last month when he accused the west of being partly to blame for the current crisis for helping Israel to develop its 100 nuclear weapons in stock. The Saudi position is that the whole of the Middle East should be free of nuclear and other Weapons of Mass destruction. A Letter to Neocons: Dear Neocons, It is show time over Iran. You are in a bind of your own making and, boy, am I glad to see that! Allow me to explain. The directly increasing Iranian belligerence vis-à-vis your pressure on Iran's nuclear program indicates that a decision time has finally arrived. Your spokesman, the President of United States, having earlier included Iran as an integral part of the 'axis of evil' in a rush of blood, simply does not leave you with a 'do-nothing' option. You now have either to put up or shut up, once and for all. Now let us see your options. To start off, you could put unilateral sanctions on Iran. There is virtually no evidence, however, that unilateral sanctions have ever worked. You know very well that your country has imposed over 80 unilateral economic sanctions on foreign nations from 1995 to 2001. You also know that those sanctions cost U.S. companies up to $19 billion in 1995 alone. There are few items of international commerce of which your country has a monopoly. Target countries simply buy what they need elsewhere. The only losers are big American businesses, which lose sales to foreign competitors and whose reps you principally are. Then is the putting of multilateral sanctions on Iran through the UN. Admittedly, multilateral sanctions have a better chance of success. These are, however, hard to maintain. And with China and Russia, Iran's two major trading partners, present in the Security Council, these are also unlikely to materialize. Moreover, such sanctions too eventually break down, especially when the target country, such as your latest, has considerable deposits of tradable commodities like gold, diamonds or oil. Such goods are easily sold on international markets and difficult to trace. There are always those willing to buy sanctioned goods in return for big profits as your Iraq experience has shown you amply. Suffice it to say that sanctions are not a policy. They are just a feel-good alternate for one and often end up hurting the very people they are meant to help. Not that you care but take the case of your country's sanctions on Iraq. The only significant effect that those sanctions did produce was, according to a UN Children's Fund Report, over 500,000 dead Iraqi children. Next, you could get Israel to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. There are, however, some deep-seated problems attached to this option too. Based on its known military capabilities, the Israeli Air Force can possibly conduct surgical strikes at 1000 Km plus range, but it is incapable of a sustained air campaign against a full range of targets at such a distance. According to one estimate, there are about 19 alleged nuclear facilities dispersed throughout Iran with no guarantees that this number is definite. It is very difficult to find, in the Iranian nuclear program, one vulnerable point destroying which the Iranian program is stopped or stalled for a long time. Furthermore, targets that are well-defended, like the Iranian nuclear facilities, have to be attacked by a larger aerial force composed of attack aircraft, interceptors that protect them, and other support elements for e.g. air refueling, electronic countermeasures support, communication, and rescue etc. etc. For a long term effect, therefore, any attempt to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities would necessitate sustainable operations on a relatively large number of targets and over an extended period of time. Not having aircraft carriers of its own, taking out Iran's nuclear facilities comprehensively would entail Israel conducting its operations from the facilities of a friendly country like Turkey or India. These states also have friendly relationship with Iran and are, therefore, not likely to allow Israel to use their territories for the purpose. That, in turn, would suggest that to have any worth while effects the Israeli attack aircraft would have to take off from air bases in Israel, fly 1,500-1,700 kms to the targets, destroy them, and then fly back the same distance-a daunting prospect for a doubtful outcome. Secondly, the perceived cost of a violent Iranian reaction may forbid the Israeli leaders from going this course, especially when it is clear that with her limited long range operational prowess only a progress delay in the Iranian nuclear program will be achieved. Iran does have a kind of balance of mutual deterrence with Israel. Groups like the Hezbollah, nurtured and supported by Iran, could be used to attack northern Israeli towns or Israeli interests all over the world. Then, Iran has already developed the long range Shihab series of ballistic missiles giving her the capability to strike directly at targets in Israel's territory. In a nutshell, the option of getting Israel to attack Iranian installations is difficult because the probability of success is low, the risks are high, and reprisals are certain. Israel could attack only a few Iranian targets and that too not as part of a sustainable operation over time but as a one time surprise action for an unsure result. That brings us to your next option of using Israeli effort as a part of a larger American effort. This one is a non-starter. If your country undertakes joint preemptive strikes with Israel against Iran, it is sure to reinforce the existing perception in the Muslim world of an anti-Islamic Judeo-Christian conspiracy. Additionally, such an attack, particularly if it did not achieve its planned objectives, would have a destabilizing effect on the entire Middle East-the fountainhead of your much cherished substance, the oil. It could also lead to further acceleration of the Iranian program and a chain of violent clashes between Iran and Israel, as discussed in the preceding paragraphs. Next, you could go it alone in a direct military confrontation. It is no secret that your ideological godfather, Israel, believes that the key to the fight against the Iranian nuclear program is in your hands, especially after the war in Iraq. On November 8, 2002, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in an interview given to the New York Post said that the U.S. war on terror should not end with Iraq. He added, "as soon as Iraq is dealt with, I will push for Iran to be at the top of the 'to do' list . . ." Remember please that Iran is no Iraq. It is large, populous, rugged, and its nuclear facilities are spread throughout the country, some deep underground. A full-scale invasion would be a too-hot-to-handle venture for you. Agreed that in a conventional fight the Iranian army might provide no stiffer resistance than did the Iraqi army in 1991 or 2003 despite facing a demoralized and Iraq-fatigued American army. It is the post-invasion Iran that would prove to be the nightmare. This one fact you are now finding out through a whole lot of bloody lessons in the 'cakewalk' Iraq. When one compares Iran to dictator Saddam's Iraq where you thought you would be greeted as liberators, it is not too difficult to guess the degree, ferocity and popularity of a post-invasion Iranian resistance. Your invasion of Iran may finally prove to be that last straw on the camel's back in the unravelling of your great country a la the Soviet break-up post Afghanistan invasion. Iran's ability to make it further difficult for you in Iraq and Afghanistan is, of course, a definite given. That brings us to your final option i.e. bargain with the Iranians. And it is here that you have really become captives of your own bombast. Bargaining with Iran would mean offering the present regime some incentives for disarmament while dropping the mad rhetoric of regime change. However, any overt bargain with Iran will surely be read as a tucking of your tail between your hind legs and a retreat from your much touted project of democratization and regional transformation. Moreover, a bargain with Iran would also have global effects. The most serious would not be in France or Germany, whose governments have made it plain that they have no stomach for America's future war parties or to oppose Iran, but in China and to a lesser degree in Russia. Beijing, Moscow and Tehran share a barely concealed dislike of the Pax Americana and have a long record of direct and indirect cooperation on nuclear and missile programs. A weak-kneed American deal would not only invite further aggressive thrusts form China and Russia into this region considered so vital to the well being of your beloved country, it would also sound the death knell for your empire building dreams. In short, you are in a bind of your own making and one can clearly see you squirming in the cage. Yes, your mouthpiece, the U.S. President George Bush, had some harsh words for Iran in his State of the Union address the other night but gone was the bellicose swagger from his tone. His pitch was very different from his post-9/11 State of the Union address in 2002, when he stridently hitched together Iraq, Iran and North Korea in an "axis of evil." Now, he says "the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons." The world, please note, not the United States. Five years of misrule, a rapidly awakening citizenry and a bloody nose in Iraq does that, I guess. Now what will you do, dear Neocons? Yours truly, Anwaar Hussain P.S. Were it not for the chance of innocent human beings getting caught in the crossfire, I would have dared you to go for your guns and faster, please. Beware the ides of March: Wars, most wars at least, run not evenly but in fits and starts, settling down into sputtering Sitzkrieg for long intervals, then suddenly shooting out wildly in wholly unpredicted directions. The war in Iraq has fallen into a set pattern for long enough that we should be expecting something new. I can identify three factors -- there may be more -- which could lead to some dramatic changes, soon. -- Osama bin Laden`s latest message. Most observers, including the White House, seem to have missed its significance. In it, bin Laden offered us a truce (an offer we should have accepted, if only to attempt to seize the moral high ground). The Koran requires Muslims to offer such a truce before they attack. The fact that bin Laden himself made the offer, after a long silence, suggests al-Qaida attaches high importance to it. Why? My guess is because they plan a major new attack in the United States soon. I would be surprised if the plan were for something smaller than Sept. 11. 2001, because that could send the message that al-Qaida`s capabilities had diminished. Could this be 'the big one,' the suitcase nuke that most counter-terrorism experts expect somewhere, sometime? That would certainly justify, perhaps require, a truce offer from Osama himself. Of course, al-Qaida`s plan may fail, and it may be for an action less powerful than setting off a nuke on American soil. But the fact that Osama made a truce offer should have set off alarm bells in Washington. So far, from what I can see, it hasn`t. -- In Iraq, Shiite country is turning nasty. The Brits are finding themselves up against Shiite militias around Basra. Moqtada al-Sadr has made it clear he is spoiling for another go at the Americans, saying his militia would respond to any attack on Iran. In Baghdad, the Shiites who run things are finding American interference increasingly inconvenient. We are now talking to at least some Sunni insurgents, as we should be, but that means our utility to the Shiites as unpaid Hessians is diminishing. Put it all together and it suggests the improbable Yankee-Shiite honeymoon may soon end. When it does, our lines of supply and communication through southern Iraq to Kuwait will be up for grabs. -- We are moving towards war with Iran. Our diplomatic efforts on the question of Iranian nuclear research and reprocessing are obviously designed to fail, in order to clear the boards for military action. It will probably come in the form of Israeli air strikes on Iran, which, as the Iranians well know, cannot be carried out without American approval and support. In Israel, it was now ailing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who repeatedly refused the Israeli generals` requests for air strikes; he is now out of the picture. His replacement, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is weak. The victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections gave Olmert`s main opponent, Likud`s Benjamin Netanyahu, a big boost. How could Olmert best show the Israeli electorate he is as tough as Netanyahu? Obviously, by hitting Iran before Israel`s elections in late March. In Washington, the same brilliant crowd who said invading Iraq would be a cakewalk is still in power. While a few prominent neo-cons have left the limelight, others remain highly influential behind the scenes. For them, the question is not whether to attack Iran (and Syria), but when. Their answer will be the same as Israel`s. Washington will assume Iran will respond with some air and missile strikes of its own. Those may occur, but Iran has far more effective ways of replying. It can shut down its own oil exports and, with mining and naval action, those of Kuwait and the Gulf States as well. It can ramp up the guerilla wars both in Iraq and in Afghanistan. It could also do something that would come as a total surprise to Washington and cross the Iran-Iraq border with four to six divisions, simply rolling up the American army of occupation in Iraq. Syria might well join in, knowing that it is only a question of time before it is attacked anyway. We have no field army in Iraq at this point; our troops are dispersed fighting insurgents. A couple dozen Scuds on the Green Zone would decapitate our leadership. Yes, our air power would be a problem, but only until the Iranians got in close. Bad weather could provide enough cover for that. So could the Iranian and Syrian air forces, so long as they were willing to expend themselves. Our Air Force can be counted on to fight the air battle first. As I said, when a war has been stuck in a rut for a long time, thoughtful observers should expect some dramatic change or changes. Any one of these possibilities would deliver that; together, they could give us a whole different situation, one in which our current slow defeat would accelerate sharply. Beware the ides of March. Where expanding empires collide: The war against Iraq was intended to provide the United States with a dominant position in the Persian Gulf region, and to serve as a springboard for further conquests and assertion of power in the region. It was aimed as much, if not more, at China, Russia, and Europe as at Syria or Iran. It is part of a larger process of asserting dominant U.S. power in south-central Eurasia, in the very heartland of this mega-continent. But why specifically the Persian Gulf/Caspian Sea area, and why now? In part, this is so because this is where most of the world's remaining oil is located-approximately 70 percent of known petroleum reserves. And you have to think of oil not just as a source of fuel-although that's very important-but as a source of power. As U.S. strategists see it, whoever controls Persian Gulf oil controls the world's economy and, therefore, has the ultimate lever over all competing powers. Ten years from now, China is expected to be totally dependent on the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea area for the oil it will need to sustain its economic growth. Europe, Japan, and South Korea will be in much the same position. Control over the oil spigot may be a somewhat cartoonish image, but it is an image that has motivated U.S. policy since the end of the Cold War and has gained even more prominence in the Bush-Cheney administration. This region is also the only area in the world where the interests of the putative great powers collide. In the hotly-contested Caspian Sea area, Russia is an expanding power, China is an expanding power, and the United States is an expanding power. There is no other place in the world like this. They are struggling with one another consciously and actively. The Bush administration is determined to dominate this area and to subordinate these two potential challengers and prevent them from forming a common front against the United States. CARTOONS AND THE "CLASH OF FREEDOMS" If someone yells "fire" in a crowded theater, is he exercising his freedom of speech or is he being recklessly irresponsible?: Freedom of speech is indeed a noble idea. To state that it should have no limits (or that it should be absolute) may be a useful academic exercise, but one should also keep in mind that such an exercise of freedom could also lead to the same kind of deleterious consequences as when one screams "fire" in a packed theater. Thus it is not enough to couch the whole argument about drawing caricatures of the Prophet under the rubric of freedom of speech, and thereby dismiss (or even be derisive about) the religious sensitivities of millions of Muslims. Why is it that the golden rule related to the insanity (or illegality) of yelling "fire" in a packed theater is not being applied here? That, in the final analysis, is the question the Western zealots of freedom of speech should answer. The West appears stubborn against compromising on the freedom of expression. The hypocrisy in the West is that this freedom is not as absolute as it is pretended to be in some quarters. Nothing about human affairs can be absolute. Muslims are equally uncompromising about allowing anyone to be disrespectful of their religion and their Prophet. So where do we go from here? In a world that is more of a global village than it has ever been before, there have to be compromises. Muslims make a point of not insulting Christians about their faith. As a quid pro quo, a similar courtesy is warranted toward their religion. The global village is like a packed theater. Good judgment is a requirement before one yells "fire", even in the name freedom of expression. Got Catholicism?: Picture this: A cartoon of Jesus, with his pants down, smiling, raping a little boy. The caption above it reads "Got Catholicism?" Or how about a picture of a Rabbi with blood dripping from his mouth after bludgeoning a small Palestinian boy with a knife shaped like the Star of David-the caption reads "The Devil's Chosen Ones." I wonder if people around the world would just consider this free speech? Of course, some would condone or agree with one, two or all three, while others would say "it's free speech," although they "find it offensive and in poor taste." But do you honestly think media outlets such as the BBC, Le Monde, or any media outlet in Copenhagen would pick up these cartoons? The outrage would begin instantly and advertisers would pullout. Yet, those in Denmark and their supporters around Europe call it freedom of speech to have a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed-who is not supposed be depicted to prevent idolatry according to clerical interpretation of the Koran-with a turban shaped like a bomb on his head. The double standard the West has set for the rest of the world is disgusting. We live in a foolish bubble where we think we are free to say or do whatever we want without consequence. I remember watching Saturday Night Live when Sinead O'Connor ripped up a picture of the Pope. The furor was enormous, which led to NBC receiving a 2.5 million dollar fine by the Federal Communications Commission. Imagine if it was a picture of Jesus-the US Congress would have made the Teri Schiavo intervention look like a joke. If Denmark, Norway, France, Germany and the rest of Europe believe in the freedom of speech, it should include all instances and all religions. These nations are carelessly defending their hypocrisy and reinforcing the double standard that alienates Muslims and desecrates the Muslim faith, under the guise of free speech. I guess only one question remains for small Norwegian Christian newspapers like Magazinet that reprinted the cartoons: What would Jesus do? Where was the Muslim backlash when it was needed most?”: Only an irresponsible and intellectually inept individual would sketch such insulting images as those depicting the Prophet Mohammed by a cartoonist in the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper. And no self-respecting newspaper would allow itself to run such filth. However, the backlash in the Muslim world highlights a much more serious issue. Jyllands-Posten - along with another newspaper in Norway that reran the offensive cartoons - is obviously neither self-respecting nor serious. What good will it do to depict a Prophet revered by hundreds of millions all around the globe as a terrorist, carrying a bomb under his turban? What sort of input to humor or intellect is it to portray a man who has contributed to the spiritual composition of a large portion of humanity as a pig? Nothing at all. What it will do, though, is intensify and cement the feelings of bitterness and humiliation experienced by millions of Muslims as they endure the wrath of US-led Western wars, with all of their tragedies and endless bloodshed. Not even the handy excuse of freedom of the press is so reasonable a defense to the mockery. Such freedom should not be the kind of versatile pretext unleashed only to widen the divide between the West and the Muslim world. Moreover, why not admit that in most Western societies, there are many unquestionable values, ancient and recent, that are taboo, which few dare to approach, the Holocaust being one of them? But it's not the Western media's inconsistencies that I wish to focus on here. What I wish to examine is the inconsistencies of the Arab and Muslim collective response to aggression, tangible or otherwise. The anti-Danish movement managed to build up across Muslim countries at an impressive speed: grassroots collective action and decisive political moves led by various governments - with Libya and Saudi Arabia at the helm - quickly turned into determined diplomatic efforts. Arab League missions in Denmark and across Europe united in one of the most coordinated campaigns organized by Arabs since the war of 1973, heaping even more pressure on both Denmark and Norway. Meanwhile, a serious economic boycott campaign is rapidly translating into empty shelves in grocery stores that once offered Danish products across Saudi Arabia and other countries. While one must commend such a unified Arab and Muslim stance - hoping that it would remain confined to legitimate forms of protest - one cannot help but wonder: Where was such collectiveness when it was needed most? Why the utter failure to carry out such campaigns protesting the US war on Iraq, its unconditional support of Israel and its condescending foreign policy and grand democracy charades it wishes to impose on everyone?


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