Monday, February 13, 2006

WAR NEWS FOR MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2006 Bring ‘em on: U.S. logistics convoy attacked by roadside bomb north of Baghdad on Sunday, killing one civilian believed to be a Pakistani truck driver and wounding three American soldiers. Bring ‘em on: Suicide bomber detonates explosive belt Monday in a line of people waiting to receive government payments, killing eight people and wounding about 30, including children. Bring ‘em on: BAGHDAD - Ayham al-Samarrai, former minister of electricity during Iyad Allawi's government, escaped an assassination attempt when a roadside bomb went off near his convoy in Baghdad. Al-Samarrai, who is the head of a political party, was unharmed but his three bodyguards and a woman who was passing by were wounded. RAMADI - A police colonel and a brigadier were killed on Sunday by gunmen in two different incidents in the volatile city of Ramadi, 110 km (68 miles) west of Baghdad, police said. BAQUBA - Gunmen killed four people while they were driving in their car in Baquba, police said. One worked in the ruling SCIRI, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of his relatives said. ISKANDARIYA - Two policemen were killed and one was wounded on Sunday when a roadside bomb went off near their patrol in Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. HILLA - Two policemen were killed and another wounded on Sunday when a roadside bomb went off near their patrol in Hilla, 100 km (62 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. TUZ KHURMATU - A policeman was killed and two others wounded on Sunday when a roadside bomb went off near their patrol in Tuz Khurmatu, police said. IRAQ NEWS UK military arrests man over Iraq abuse video: British military police have made an arrest in connection with a probe into video footage apparently showing British troops abusing Iraqi civilians, the defence ministry said. "We can confirm that an arrest has been made in conjunction with this investigation," a defence ministry spokesman told AFP, adding that the person was arrested on Sunday. Blair vows to investigate UK troops alleged abuses: "We take seriously any allegations of mistreatment and those will be investigated very fully indeed," Blair said in South Africa while attending a meeting of center-left politicians. However, he added that "the overwhelming majority of British troops, in Iraq as elsewhere, behave properly, are doing a great job for our country and for the wider world." A Ministry of Defense spokesman, Brig. Martin Rutledge, said the images were "extremely disturbing and are the subject of an urgent Royal Military Police investigation." Basra City Council chief Mohammed al-Abadi said local leaders wanted quick action taken on the investigation and an assurance that Iraqis will not be "humiliated further" by coalition forces. Arab satellite television stations, including Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, replayed the footage throughout the day and juxtaposed the images alongside pictures from the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. Basra resident Muhannad al-Moussaoui said, "We thank God that it comes from their own photography. Many consider the actions normal compared to what happens behind closed doors, which is greater." Italian students stage anti-Bush demonstration in Winter Olympic city of Turin during official visit of Laura Bush: Said one protestor: "We are protesting here outside the University because the presence of these individuals in a place that represents critical thought and Turin's culture, are not welcome. "They are a symbol of war, of exploitation, of oppression for many people around the world like, especially in the last few years Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian Occupied Territories. This is why today, we have decided to demonstrate outside Palazzo Nuovo (Turin's University), to prevent Laura Bush and the wars she simbolizes, from entering our university. "She's been welcomed by the University Director and she's entered parts of the accademy, but in the places where students gather everyday she has not been able to get in." Saddam forced to attend trial: Saddam Hussein was forced to attend his trial Monday, looking haggard and wearing a robe rather than his usual crisp suit as he shouted "Down with Bush." His top co-defendant struggled with guards bringing him in and sat on the floor, his back to the judge, for much of the session. After the stormy start, prosecutors put on the stand two members of Saddam's regime for the first time and produced documents trying to link the former Iraqi leader directly to torture and executions that allegedly took place in a 1982 crackdown in the Shiite town of Dujail. The two witnesses — Ahmed Hussein Khudayer al-Samarrai, the head of Saddam's presidential office, and Hassan al-Obeidi, an intelligence officer — complained they were being forced to testify. Al-Obeidi, who worked as a manager in the Mukhabarat, or intelligence agency, from 1980-1991, said guards had forced him to testify then argued with the prosecutor over his role, bringing laughter from Saddam. After the three-hour session, chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman adjourned the court until Tuesday. REPORTS We have met the enemy and he is our collaborators: A British Army operation to purge an Iraqi police unit blamed for torture, murders and attacks on troops is being opposed by senior politicians in the southern city of Basra. British commanders say they have repeatedly clashed with Mohammed al-Waili, the provincial governor, and other elected leaders during a crackdown on the local police’s Department for Internal Affairs (DIA). Al-Waili threatened last week to break off relations with the British after troops arrested two senior policemen. The row dates back to last September when two SAS soldiers became involved in a gunfight and were held at Jamiat police station, which served as DIA headquarters. Whitehall sources said the soldiers had been following a member of the DIA when they were spotted. Al-Waili, who belongs to a Shi’ite group called the Islamic Virtue party, refused to call for the soldiers’ release. The DIA has been blamed not only for killing and torturing prisoners, but also for effectively operating a death squad. DIA members are also alleged to have close links to Iranian-backed insurgents who have planted roadside bombs against British troops. “It’s fair to describe the DIA as one of our main enemies in Iraq,” said a British defence source. “They are not just thugs but murderers and terrorists — with the blood of our soldiers and innocent civilians on their hands.” The Sunday Times disclosed in February 2004 that the station in Jamiat had become a focal point for the most corrupt elements of Basra’s new British-trained police forces. Last year the army appealed to the Iraqi government to disband the DIA. But it became clear that whether because of complicity or fear, the politicians were reluctant to act. Three months ago, after pressure from the British embassy, the interior ministry finally ordered the DIA to be shut down. A paramilitary unit was sent on November 20 to disperse its officers. Insurgents struck hard at the British that day. Sergeant John Jones was killed by a bomb. Al-Waili was reported to have travelled to Baghdad to lobby against closing the DIA. The situation in Basra has been complicated by claims that politicians have been making fortunes through involvement in oil smuggling and links to armed militias. Big bang + big flame = big media attention: The most feared weapon of the Iraq insurgency has become even more terrifying. Improvised explosive devices containing a primitive form of napalm (made with common household ingredients) are showing up in some regions of Iraq. Even if soldiers escape the shrapnel of the artillery shell, the ensuing fire can cause serious burns. The complexity of the napalm bombs lies not it their manufacture but in their after-effects. Not only do they burn; they also grab attention for the insurgency. "The enemy will do just about anything to achieve desired effects," says Brig. Gen. Dan Allyn. "Obviously big bang, big flame gets big media attention." Roadside bombs account for about half of American deaths in Iraq, and their growing sophistication--including armor-penetrating "shaped" charges and the napalm--has solidified their place as the No. 1 threat. While more soldiers and marines are surviving roadside bombings unharmed, the number of overall bombings continues to rise--meaning the casualties continue unabated. Last week, the Pentagon said it will ask Congress to almost triple the anti-IED budget, from $1.2 billion to $3.3 billion. The new money is for a quicker rollout of more vehicles with V-shaped hulls to deflect blasts and a further expansion of the most reliable jamming technology. UK troops head into the valley of death: Suicide bombings and firefights, Western troops under attack, sectarian clashes between Shia and Sunni, foreigners taken hostage. Days of escalating violence have left dozens of people dead and more than a hundred injured. This is not Iraq but Afghanistan, a conflict which has now overtaken on the grim league table of body counts - 89 killings in the last eight days in Afghanistan compared with 54 in Iraq during the same period. It is into this maelstrom that the Royal Marines - the first batch of 5,700 British troops being sent to Afghanistan - will begin deploying this week in a mission lasting at least three years at a cost of £1bn. With no exit strategy from Iraq in sight, British forces are entering another deadly conflict. Tony Blair's insistence that there should be no sizeable withdrawal from Iraq until the security situation appreciably improves means that contingency plans for a large-scale reduction in numbers have had to be shelved. But last week John Reid, the Secretary of State for Defence, appeared to pave the way for a "significant" withdrawal from Iraq even if the country continued to face serious problems. There are now lethal similarities in the methods used by the insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nato commanders acknowledge that terrorist techniques are being imported from Iraq to Afghanistan and Islamist fighters are entering the country in ever-increasing numbers from Pakistan. The place where this is most evident is the province of Helmand, where most of the British forces will be deployed, and where a resurgent Taliban and their al-Qa'ida allies have killed almost 100 US and Afghan troops in the past few months - the total number lost by British troops in the Iraq war. British commanders say they are also aware that Helmand is potentially more hazardous than Basra, where British forces have not actively engaged the Shia militias who have infiltrated the police force in large numbers. The situation, they believe, will be more akin to central Iraq where American forces have borne the bruntof the resistance. Smugglers in Iraq sell antiquities to US-led occupation troops: Mohammed Mehdi [a senior official from the Iraq Antiquities Department] said smugglers seized recently admitted that they were specifically working for foreign troops in the country. Mehdi,who is in charge of antiquities in the Province of Najaf,said the smugglers were given badges that allowed them to enter foreign military camps in southern Iraq. Mehdi did not mention the nationality of the foreign troops but said the smuggled antiquities were mainly sold to the troops serving in Diwaniya. He said police in southern Iraq have recently apprehended seven smugglers on their way to sell 174 precious pieces to foreign troops. "These smugglers carry badges that give them access to these troops' camps and sell the relics stolen from Iraqi museums and archaeological sites to soldiers there",Mehdi told Azzaman in an interview. Pentagon prepares media intoxication of US public: The National Security Archives have just published a declassified document of the Pentagon in which the approach of the United States with regard to the world media context is redefined. The main principle of «Information Operations Roadmap», signed by Donald Rumsfeld in 2003, is that there’s no limit to the information warfare for, in the future, «operations devoted to propaganda, Psyops, are consumed by the American public and vice versa». Thus, the plan includes numerous military activities going from «the adversary’s manipulation» to the attack against the enemy’s communication networks. The priority is «to combat Internet» and be prepared for the virtual war. According to the document, the Department of Defence should create a centre for this purpose. «We should improve our electromagnetic capacity of attack and communication networks. In order to dominate an information centre in a combat, our troops must know the electromagnetic spectrum with the capacity to attack». (3.Executive Summary - A. Conclusions) The use of Psyops, a military branch specialized in psychological operations, is frequently mentioned: «Great efforts must be made to characterize the potential audience of the adversary and, specially, that of those who have the power to make decisions and their priorities. If these efforts are not made, the launching of effective PSYOPS’ themes and messages aimed at changing the behaviour of the adversary won’t be possible». (3.Executive Summary - A. Conclusions) Even when the United States has always admitted propaganda, no government had authorized the media intoxication of its own voters: the document specifies that «the Psyops messages will be usually spread by the media of larger audiences, including the American public». New film opening in US theaters takes a look at the American war machine over past half century: "Why We Fight" by filmmaker Eugene Jarecki looks at conflicts from World War II right up to the current war in Iraq to examine the political, economic and ideological reasons that drive American war policy. The film includes interviews with John McCain, Gore Vidal, William Kristol and Richard Perle, as well as a retired New York City cop and Vietnam vet who lost a son in the World Trade Center attacks. "Why We Fight" won the 2005 Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. It opens in theaters nationwide today. Director Eugene Jarecki's previous film, "The Trials of Henry Kissinger" was widely acclaimed and won the 2002 Amnesty International Award. COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatch for Feb. 12: A brief glance at recent events in Iraq shows that violence only continues to escalate and the infrastructure which U.S. taxpayers supposedly paid billions of dollars to repair is in shambles. While the Cheney Administration blame Iraqi resistance attacks and sabotage for the lack of reconstruction, I would like to remind people that at least $8.8 Billion of the money meant for reconstruction efforts remains unaccounted for. Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said this is because “oversight” on the part of the Coalition Provisional Authority “was relatively nonexistent.” Meanwhile, the U.S. military is over a quarter of the way towards having the 3,000th soldier killed in Iraq, as 2,267 have now been killed. 25 of those deaths have occurred this month. But as usual, it is the Iraqis who are paying the highest price. Looking at Arab media outlets, evidence of this abounds. According to Al-Sharqiyah television: “The head of the Al-Fallujah Municipal Council was killed by gunshots on February 7, Iraqi Al Sharqiyah TV reported that day. In its 1100 gmt newscast, the TV said: "Unidentified armed men this morning assassinated Shaykh Kamal Shakir Nizal, head of the Municipal Council of Al-Fallujah, western Iraq.” The U.S. backed puppet Iraqi government continues its state-sponsored civil war. Aside from the numerous bodies found in the aforementioned Reuters report, this past week Sharqiyah also reported: “Iraqi and US security forces raided the Iraqi Islamic Party’s headquarters in the Al-Amiriyah area in western Baghdad. The Islamic Party, which is one of the Iraqi entities operating under the banner of the Iraqi Al-Tawafuq Front, issued a press statement today saying that last night, Iraqi forces, backed by US troops, assaulted the headquarters’ guards and the party members who were there at the time, destroyed the headquarters’ furniture and contents, seized the licensed weapons carried by the guards, and confiscated sums of money belonging to the party.” Of course atrocities continue at the hands of occupation forces. Video has been released which shows a group of British soldiers brutally beating and kicking defenseless Iraqi teenagers inside a military compound, and Iraqis recently released from prisons like Abu Ghraib are reporting ongoing torture at the hands of U.S. forces. This, however, should come as no surprise since Secretary of “Defense” Donald Rumsfeld issued a memo over two years ago specifying which types of “harsh interrogation techniques” he wanted used in Iraq. This is just a brief overview of recent events in Iraq. When Israeli/U.S. warplanes begin dropping bombs on Iran, will Iraq fade to the back pages of the news as has Afghanistan? With the corporate media coverage of Iraq at this sorry state already, it’s difficult to imagine that not occurring. A letter to the editor of the Madison WI Capital Times: February 11, 2006 Dear Editor: I was a Christian Peacemaker Team delegate to Iraq. I tell the stories I heard. A retired military intelligence officer approached me at the end of a talk out West to tell me I was a most dangerous person to my government because I saw and heard experiences of ordinary Iraqi people and was telling their stories of living under corporate and military occupation. Too many Iraqis have been tortured and detained and disappeared. Christian Peacemaker Team has been telling of them since 2003, long before the photos from Abu Ghraib appeared. Team members walk unarmed and unprotected by weapons through Baghdad streets, grocery shopping, visiting friends, attending church, meeting Iraqi doctors, lawyers, businessmen and accompanying them to U.S. installations. The military intelligence officer said I was very brave to tell stories that contradict the image presented by the powers that be. The Iraqis whom Christian Peacemaker Team works with, their friends and the friends of their friends have indicated that no one knows or has ever heard of the group claiming to have kidnapped the four Christian Peacemaker Team members in November. It is not in the interest of Iraqi people who want the world to know their relatives have been detained or disappeared to threaten Christian Peacemaker Team members who tell the stories. According to the U.S. intelligence officer, it is our government that doesn't want the stories told. I wish I could call him and ask him who he thinks is holding the Christian Peacemaker Team members. But I can't, because he was afraid to stay in touch with me. Marion Stuenkel, Madison How to stop a war: Can you truly understand what it feels like to watch in the bright sunlight while your husband, still wearing the medals of honor given for over 10 years of commitment to defending this country and its constitution, is forced into confinement by a corrupt command who seem to live for the false sense of power they felt by attempting to control this soldier rather than honoring his inalienable right to choose for himself? Do you know what it feels like to watch a man who volunteered for this service when so many others felt no responsibility to defend what they have been given, be taken into custody for standing for the very rights he had defended? For those who have never been there, please do not say you understand. You never will. The feeling of helplessness can be overwhelming – but you have to be strong when you realize that as much as the motive seems to be a duty to country, what it comes down to is your husband knowing that he will do anything to keep you safe – so the country benefits from the love you share. Monica Benderman is the wife of Sgt. Kevin Benderman, currently serving a 15 month sentence at the Ft. Lewis, WA stockade, for filing a CO application and not returning for a second combat tour in Iraq. Beware the fake terrorist groups in Iraq: Considering the fact bona fide resistance groups realize abducting journalists and Quaker peaceniks is seriously counterproductive, we can conclude Jill Carroll was kidnapped by a black op pseudo-gang run out of the Pentagon. As an example of how sincere resistance groups operate, consider the tactics of Hamas and Hezbollah—both resistance groups kidnap Israeli soldiers “as bargaining chips” and rarely take civilians captive (although an Israeli businessman, Elhanan Tannenbaum, was abducted in October 2000). In January, 2004, “Israel released more than 400 prisoners, the vast majority Palestinians, in exchange for an Israeli businessman and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers,” according to the Associated Press. In Lebanon, Hezbollah occasionally kidnaps and executes Israeli soldiers, actions disapproved by the United Nations and the international community (it should be noted that Israel’s theft of Lebanese and Syrian land is also disapproved by the United Nations and the international community). Obviously, we are expected to believe the Iraqi resistance, under the guise of never heard of before terrorist groups, is unable to learn tactical lessons from the Palestinians and Lebanese. Instead, we are to believe, with the complicity of the corporate media, that the resistance consists of “terrorists” and blood-thirsty Arabs and crazed Muslims interested in killing as many innocent people as possible (a stereotype based on the mythical creation of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi). It should be clear what is going on here—fake terrorist groups, long ago trail blazed by British General Frank Kitson, and used effectively in Kenya, Rhodesia, and Northern Ireland, are operating in Iraq to discredit the legitimate resistance, engaged in entirely legitimate paramilitary operations against U.S. troops. Insurgents 'cooperating' with U.S. occupying forces in Iraq?: Why is it that we repeatedly get stories like this one from the Dallas Morning News that seem to authoritatively state that discussions with Iraqi "insurgents" are underway, but the pieces themselves say nothing of substance? The meetings are said to be in their "initial stages," but this was the case 6 months ago (Chapter 38 of Neo-CONNED! Again covered these so-called developments in detail). The meetings are ongoing but have made no progress in getting a "commitment for them to lay down their arms." And beyond these two or three sentences, the article is about something completely different from these allegedly groundbreaking "negotiations"! With "news" like this, who needs rumor? The only value of the headline, "U.S. officials meet Iraq insurgent groups," it would seem, is to perpetuate the fantasy that Iraqi insurgents are on the verge of surrender, due to their ineffable eagerness to participate in the U.S.-crafted and -dominated "political process," and that they resort to arms simply because they are "grumpy" that they can't tyrannize their Shiite neighbors the way they used to under Saddam. It's also an encouraging thought to mom and pa America who are repeatedly told that victory is around the corner, and that they need only "stay the course" for a little while longer! Nevermind that these Iraqis, like people the world over, might just simply resent the occupation of their country by a foreign army. What proves this thesis is a comment made by one Osama al-Jadaan as reported by a Christian Science Monitor article misleadingly subtitled: "To fight foreign terrorists, US and Iraqi forces are looking to the Sunni Arab resistance." The piece was evidently written to show how some Sunni insurgents are forming alliances with their country's occupiers to root out the mysterious "al-Qaeda in Iraq." The American spin on the development is that "The local insurgents have become part of the solution and not part of the problem" (according to Army MG Lynch). But what of al-Jadaan's true sentiments? "Iraq has its men, its honorable resistance," he says, "and we will drive out the Americans and liberate our country ourselves." A truth that escapes millions: December 13, 2004 One day while I was in a bunker in Vietnam, a sniper round went over my head. The person who fired that weapon was not a terrorist, a rebel, an extremist, or a so-called insurgent. The Vietnamese individual who tried to kill me was a citizen of Vietnam, who did not want me in his country. This truth escapes millions. Mike Hastie — U.S. Army Medic Vietnam 1970-71 The corporate plundering of Iraq: Saddam’s regime was undoubtedly corrupt, in the sense that he established a system of patronage and rewards for the elite that remained closest to him. But the scale and intensity of the corruption and fraud perpetrated by the occupation is unprecedented in modern history. The largest part of the money spent by the US-British occupation was not US or international donor funds, but oil revenue that belongs to the Iraqi people. During the period of direct rule the US spent, or committed to spend, around £11.3 billion, most of which was disbursed to US corporations. Of this expenditure, £5 billion is unaccounted for. From the available evidence we know that much of it has vanished into the hands of corporations, corrupt public officials and elite Iraqi deal fixers. During 14 months of its existence the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) – the body set up to rule Iraq and headed up by Bush favourite Paul Bremer – issued 100 legal orders by decree. Those orders, implemented without the consent of Iraqi people, represent a pure form of neo-liberal orthodoxy that has had profound and irreversible consequences for the Iraqi economy. The explicit aim was to promote fast entry into Iraq’s oil rich economy. CPA Order 12, implemented a month after George Bush declared major hostilities over, suspended customs and duty charges on goods entering the country. Within a few days of the order being passed, mass produced chicken legs were dumped on the Iraqi economy by US companies, forcing the market price of chicken down to 71p a kilogram, below the cheapest price that Iraqi producers could sustain. Those chicken legs were surplus to the US market because the average American prefers breast meat. Before the invasion, those chicken legs would have most likely been sold as pet food. Order 39 permitted full foreign ownership of a wide range of state owned assets. The intention is that over 200 state owned enterprises – including electricity, telecommunications and the pharmaceuticals industry – will be sold off, permitting 100 percent foreign ownership of banks, mines and factories. The decree allowed these firms to move their profits out of the country. Order 81 created a patent regime to ensure that agriculture would depend on foreign agri-biotech firms. It outlawed the sharing of seeds, forcing farmers to use the protected varieties sold to them by transnational corporations. There can be no doubt that the occupation has presided over a progressive weakening of Iraq’s industrial and commercial base. The biggest scandal involves reconstruction contracts. In one period between 2003 and 2004, more than 80 percent of prime contracts were given to US firms, with the remainder split between British, Australian, Italian, Israeli, Jordanian and Iraqi firms. One source estimates the total received by Iraqi firms during the CPA’s rule at around 2 percent. The CPA managed to concentrate funds in the hands of US firms by issuing non-competitive bids. From records of expenditure we can estimate that around 66 percent of contracts between April 2003 and April 2004 were issued non-competitively to hand-picked favourite companies. (…) Iraqi oil revenue was flown in to the CPA in $100 dollar bills, shrink wrapped in $100,000 (£57,000) bundles of “cash bricks”. One CPA official has described how cash was distributed to contractors from the back of a lorry. The use of cash payments enabled the CPA to distribute the reconstruction funds without leaving a paper trail. One review found that a payment made by the CPA to the Kurdish regional government for £794 million was entered under the budget heading “transfer payments”. The Kurdish authorities insisted that the money was not spent but could not provide any evidence to support this. It was widely reported that this payment was delivered by Blackhawk helicopters to a courier in the Kurdish city of Erbil who subsequently disappeared. Apparently no one even bothered to record the courier’s name. (…) The lack of basic record keeping and monitoring, and the culture of cash handouts that emerged inside the CPA, created fertile conditions for corporate crime to flourish. In one of the most reported cases, the private military firm Custer Battles collected £8.5 million to provide security for Iraq’s civilian airline. Custer Battles was one of hundreds of firms that were set up specifically to get a slice of the war spoils. This company was established by Mike Battle and Scott Custer, reputedly a descendant of general George Custer of Little Big Horn fame. One CPA official giving evidence to a US senate committee, told Custer Battles to “bring a bag” to pick up their cash. He produced a picture of two company officials smiling to the camera as they loaded up duffel bags with over £1.1 million of Iraqi oil money. Custer Battles never did the job they were contracted for, but ran off with the cash, using it instead to set up barrack accommodation for cheap imported labourers that they hired out to other Western firms. It is indeed a Brave New World: As many Americans somnambulate through their existence, they are virtually oblivious and indifferent to the profound human misery which must occur in order for a tiny fraction of humanity to experience the American Dream. When (or if) their Soma fix finally wears off, I suspect they will be ready to chew off their own arms to escape the disease-ridden whores with whom they have unwittingly climbed into bed. Mirroring Hitler’s Germany, this nation of “decent, God-fearing” people is pledging allegiance to a murderous regime. At first blush, the United States appears to be the haven for freedom and human rights portrayed in legend, lore, and the propaganda of its school textbooks and media. However, if one can awaken from the drunken stupor induced by America-Soma, or if one happens to be a resident of another nation besides Israel or Great Britain (the only two nations still deluded enough to truly ally themselves with the United States), the many headed hydra of the American Dystopia reveals its truly abhorrent nature. Lord Acton conveyed truth when he wrote that "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Despite its cleverly constructed image of a benevolent super-power, those ruling the United States are more corrupt than the power elite of any nation, including those in Bush's alleged "Axis of Evil". Due to its power, military might, and rogue leadership, the United States has also become the world's most significant threat to the perpetuation of life on Earth. Most Americans still do not realize that they are enslaved to the ruling elite, a group with a savage, relentless devotion to avarice, the blind pursuit of money, and the domination of Earth's people and resources. Under the Bush Regime, the mask of civility, morality, and democracy has slipped to the point that the hideous visage of raw capitalism and imperialistic ambition is almost completely exposed. Yet somehow, as over a hundred thousand lie dead in Iraq, the Patriot Act strips our civil liberties, the wealth gap widens to a chasm, Big Brother has been caught watching (and is unrepentant), billions of dollars are wasted on occupations of sovereign nations, habeas corpus disappears, America engages in torture regularly, property rights precede human rights, and a major city lays in ruins due to the willful neglect of a government charged by the Constitution with promoting the general welfare, many Americans still cannot, or will not, dare to even glimpse at the lurid countenance of evil leering at them from Washington. The sin of cultural relativism: When I state my opposition to the war [in Iraq] and someone disagrees with me, they do not generally see my disagreement as being motivated by my lack of integration into modern British society. Opposition to the war is actually very British according to most surveys. But when similar surveys demonstrate that Muslims in Britain are rather more British on this issue then anybody else, this becomes the occasion for discussions about how Muslims cannot be integrated into the modern world. To notice this is to be guilty of a new kind of sin, accompanying more familiar charges of “political correctness” or “anti-Americanism”. This sin is called “cultural relativism”. On the face of it this is a bit confusing. If we notice that when one group of people say something it’s judged by entirely different criteria than if anybody else says something, surely it’s the person with this double standard who is a cultural relativist not us. This would be to miss two kinds of history within which discussions about cultural relativism are embedded. The first kind of history is to do with colonialism and the second kind of history is to do with capitalism. During the colonial period there were fixed beliefs concerning a hierarchy of cultures, this hierarchy being connected to everything from poetry to cutlery. It was therefore the responsibility of Western civilisation to ensure that people learnt to write poetry correctly and eat properly (among other things). The end of the colonial era meant that it might be possible to have a different kind of debate about human cultural achievements. This meant rejecting the idea that there was a cultural hierarchy with knives and forks at the top, chopsticks in the middle, and eating with your fingers at the bottom. This is one meaning of the term “cultural relativism” – refusing to accept that there is a hierarchy of cultures. The very idea of multiculturalism is therefore capable of driving into a frenzy the kind of people who wonder when fish and chips will finally be recognised as a superior supper. If you do not accept that Western culture, in all its aspects, is superior to others, you are by these people’s reckoning, a “cultural relativist”. Imagining that a debate with someone from an “inferior culture” about gay rights can be conducted in the same way as debates with “people like us” puts you in that category. This explains why many liberals are deeply impressed by people from inferior cultures who criticise their own inferiority but deeply unimpressed by inferior people who criticise Western crimes. To the liberal, those from inferior cultures should just get on with correcting their own inferiorities and there wouldn’t be a problem. Liberals have been arguing like this for something like 200 years, and as the great powers get dragged into new projects of empire they’ve collapsed gratefully back into the history which produced them. Arguments about cultural relativism are a symptom of the re-emergence of colonial ambitions. Dubya chooses between Heaven and Hell: While walking down the street one day, George "Dubya" Bush is shot by a disgruntled NRA member. His soul arrives in heaven and he is met by St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. "Welcome to heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem: We seldom see a Republican around these parts, so we’re not sure what to do with you. "No problem, just let me in; I’m a believer," says Dubya. "I’d like to just let you in, but I have orders from the Man Himself: He says you have to spend one day in hell and one day in heaven. Then you must choose where you’ll live for eternity." "But, I’ve already made up my mind; I want to be in heaven." "I’m sorry, but we have our rules." And with that, St. Peter escorts him to an elevator and he goes down, down, down, all the way to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a lush golf course; the sun is shining in a cloudless sky, the temperature a perfect 72 degrees. In the distance is a beautiful clubhouse. Standing in front of it his dad and thousands of other Republicans who had helped him out over the years: Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Jerry Falwell. The whole of the "Right" is here, everyone laughing, happy; casually but expensively dressed. They run to greet him, hug him, and reminisce about the good times they had getting rich at expense of the "suckers and peasants." They play a friendly game of golf, then dine on lobster and caviar. The devil himself comes up to Bush with a frosty drink and says, "Have a Margarita and relax, Dubya!" "Uh, I can’t drink no more, I took a pledge," says Junior, dejectedly. "This is Hell, son: you can drink and eat all you want and not worry, and it just gets better from here!" says the devil. Dubya takes the drink and finds himself liking the devil, who is a very friendly guy who tells funny jokes and pulls hilarious nasty pranks, kind of like a Yale Skull and Bones brother with real horns. They are having such a great time that, before he realizes it, it’s time to go. Everyone gives him a big hug and waves as Bush steps on the elevator and heads upward. When the elevator door reopens, he is in heaven again and St. Peter is waiting for him. "Now it’s time to visit heaven," the old man says, opening the gate. So for 24 hours Bush is made to hang out with a bunch of honest, good natured people who enjoy each other’s company, talk about things other than money, and treat each other decently. Not a nasty prank or frat boy joke among them; no fancy country clubs and, while the food tastes great, it’s not caviar or lobster. And these people are all poor; he doesn’t see anybody he knows, and he isn’t even treated like someone special! Worst of all, to Dubya, Jesus turns out to be some kind of Jewish hippie with his endless 'peace’ and 'do unto others’ jive. "Whoa," he says uncomfortably to himself, "Pat Robertson never prepared me for this!" The day done, St. Peter returns and says, "Well, then, you’ve spent a day in Hell and a day in Heaven. Now choose where you want to live for eternity." With the 'Jeopardy’ theme playing softly in the background, Dubya reflects for a minute, then answers, "Well, I would never have thought I’d say this; I mean, heaven has been delightful and all, but I really think I belong in hell with my friends." So Saint Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down, all the way to hell. The doors of the elevator open, and he finds himself in the middle of barren, scorched earth covered with garbage and toxic industrial waste, the sky dark with smog…kind of like Houston. He is horrified to see all of his friends dressed in rags and chained together, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags. They are groaning and moaning in pain, faces and hands black with grime. The Devil comes over to Dubya and puts an arm around his shoulder. "I don’t understand," stammers a shocked Dubya. "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and a clubhouse and we ate lobster and caviar and drank booze. We screwed around and had a great time. Now there’s just a wasteland full of garbage and everybody looks miserable!" The Devil looks at him, smiles slyly, and says, "Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted for us." IRAN AND BEYOND Iran prepared to retaliate: Iran is prepared to launch attacks using long-range missiles, secret commando units, and terrorist allies planted around the globe in retaliation for any strike on the country's nuclear facilities, according to new US intelligence assessments and military specialists. US and Israeli officials have not ruled out military action against Iran if diplomacy fails to thwart its nuclear ambitions. Among the options are airstrikes on suspected nuclear installations or covert action to sabotage the Iranian program. But military and intelligence analysts warn that Iran -- which a recent US intelligence report described as ''more confident and assertive" than it has been since the early days of the 1979 Islamic revolution -- could unleash reprisals across the region, and perhaps even inside the United States, if the hard-line regime came under attack. ''When the Americans or Israelis are thinking about [military force], I hope they will sit down and think about everything the ayatollahs could do to make our lives miserable and what we will do to discourage them," said John Pike, director of the think tank GlobalSecurity.org, referring to Iran's religious leaders. ''There could be a cycle of escalation." Mobilizing the masses for an unpopular war: No one knows better than the editors of the New York Times that Iran does not have nuclear weapons or a nuclear weapons program. The Times editors comb through mountains of information to determine the veracity of particular allegations, and yet, they fail to produce even one reliable source who can confirm their claim that Iran is building nukes. Not one. So what’s the game here? Is the Times willing to sacrifice what’s left of its ragged credibility just to pave the way to another unprovoked war? It seems so. Apart their from daily articles, which invariably suggest Iranian duplicity and foul play, (none of which can be corroborated) the February 8 editorial reiterated at least 5 times that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. Huh? According to the Time’s, Iran has continued to pursue "its two-decade long drive to build nuclear weapons", but it would be preferable if the Iranian government was "more willing to put the economic future of its people ahead of building nuclear bombs." "Building nuclear bombs"? Where? If the Times has knowledge of such programs they should come forward and dispute the findings of the foremost nuclear weapons inspection team in the world (the IAEA), which has consistently found "no evidence" of nuclear weapons programs. The Times spurious charges are also refuted by the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) which projects that Iran will not be capable of building nuclear weapons for at least 10 years. The Times, of course, needs neither evidence nor intelligence to fulfill its mandate of fabricating a crisis. They simply rely on a steady stream of baseless accusations that contribute to the rising public anxiety. Judith Miller may have left, but her legacy of deceit still courses through the paper of record like a surging stream. The strategy for manipulating public opinion is unchanging. The media settles on a narrative grounded in pure fantasy and simply repeats the same fiction over and over again from its many outlets. The Times has proved once again that the elite-media is a steadfast partner in mobilizing the masses for an unpopular war. Even though countless thousands of innocent people have already been killed by the Time’s reckless reporting and specious fear-mongering on Iraqi WMD, the editors continue to use the corporate bullhorn to call the nation to arms. It is truly outrageous! When America’s war of terror finally concludes, the international community will have to determine the culpability of the media in the vast devastation, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. No one should be surprised if the first group frog-marched to the gallows is the editorial staff of the New York Times. Their guilt was already established long before Iran. What Iran knows: "If Iran used the bomb, they would face hundreds of Israeli NUCLEAR WARHEADS, and thousands in the U.S.," Giraldi, who writes for The American Conservative, a print magazine that contends the conservative movement, further states. "Iran would be annihilated and would cease to exist. They know this." Prior to Iraq war, Giraldi said, he warned that attacking the country was “neither realistic nor practical”, and could eventually lead to major unintended consequences. However, the former CIA officer warned that Iran could make the situation in Iraq "untenable" for the Americans and that by aiding the Shia fighters there. to Iran, Giraldi said He also suggests that Tehran might consider transferring cruise missiles obtained from Ukraine and Shahab missiles with biological and chemical payloads, targeting the U.S. occupation bases in Iraq, Israel, Qatar, Bahrain and elsewhere. At the same time Giraldi said that shutting down the Strait of Hormuz could send oil skyrocketing to as much as $300 a barrel. Giraldi says: "is this all worth it? No". "It's not good policy to go to war on a basis of a 'what if' situation," he said. "The Soviet Union was contained for 40 years." "Ronald Reagan was able to destroy it without firing a single shot." Hugo Chavez as the Anti-Bush: Chavez is the polar opposite of his arch-rival, George Bush. Raised in a dirt-floor shack, Chavez worked his way up through the ranks of the elite paratrooper-corps dreaming of becoming of becoming a baseball player and moving to the United States. Bush, on the other hand, is a patrician slacker, who drank his way through high school and college, went “missing” during his tour with the Champagne Unit of the Texas National Guard, and ran three companies (Spectrum, Arbusto, and Harken) into the ground. He finally, found his niche in politics when he realized he could translate his family name and connections into political capital. Since then, he has faithfully served the corporate interests that catapulted him to the presidency; providing lavish subsidies to industry giants, tax cuts to the wealthy, and deregulation to nearly every area of commerce. The divisions between Chavez and Bush are more than just personal. Chavez imagines a world where government is deeply involved in the health and welfare of its citizens and where certain guarantees of security are provided under the rule of law. He has worked tirelessly to actualize a modern Bolivarian Revolution, loosening the centuries-long grip of colonial rule and binding the continent together in a shared vision of peace and cooperation. He’s become the bane of the petro-oligarchs who see his efforts to redistribute some of Venezuela’s vast oil wealth into social programs as a direct challenge to their authority. (Ironically, Chavez’s attempts to share oil profits are not nearly as extreme as the many programs initiated by FDR under the New Deal. Even into the 1950s the highest tax rate for anyone making over $200,000 was 92%. This “socialistic” redistribution of wealth explains the explosive growth of America’s middle class following the Second World War) Chavez has provided clinics and schools in every barrio in Caracas; ensuring that even the neediest citizens will enjoy federally funded health care, literacy programs, and a minimal standard of living. His vision of social justice is sharply contrasted to that of Bush who has consistently hacked away at education, public television, Medicaid, student loans, and the crumbling social safety-net that provides vital resources for the destitute. In Bush-world, the solitary function of government is to enhance the wealth of America’s “privileged few”. While Chavez is working to create a nationally-owned web of oil and gas pipelines that will knit the continent together, Bush is pursuing a global resource war that has destroyed much of Iraq and killed tens of thousands of innocent people. The Chavez approach requires partnership and cooperation, whereas the Bush strategy is merely a continuation of smash-and-grab imperialism. Gore condemns "terrible abuses" against Arabs after Sept. 11: Former Vice President Al Gore told a mainly Saudi audience on Sunday that the U.S. government committed "terrible abuses" against Arabs after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that most Americans did not support such treatment. Gore said Arabs had been "indiscriminately rounded up" and held in "unforgivable" conditions. The former vice president said the Bush administration was playing into al-Qaida's hands by routinely blocking Saudi visa applications. "The thoughtless way in which visas are now handled, that is a mistake," Gore said during the Jiddah Economic Forum. "The worst thing we can possibly do is to cut off the channels of friendship and mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and the United States." Gore told the largely Saudi audience, many of them educated at U.S. universities, that Arabs in the United States had been "indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable." CARTOONS AND THE “CLASH OF FREEDOMS” Most Britons back publishing Muhammad cartoons: Most people in Britain believe newspapers were right to publish the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad which have sparked violent protests by Muslims across the globe. As thousands gathered in London for a second weekend of demonstrations - which passed off peacefully - the YouGov poll for the Sunday Times found little sympathy. And it also suggested the country was pessimistic about community relations with British Muslims - with 67% expecting tensions to worsen. The decision to publish the cartoons - and the reprint of them elsewhere - was backed by more than two to one, 56% to 29%. A huge majority - 88% - agreed that the violent protests have been a "gross overreaction" and 58% said they were angered by placards seen in London last week. Some carried slogans threatening a repeat of the September 11 and July 7 bombings and 76% of those polled said the police should have arrested those carrying them. Cultural editor of Denmark's Jyllands-Posten sent on "indefinite leave": "The Editors have told (cultural editor) Flemming Rose to take a vacation because no one can understand the kind of pressure he has been under," Jyllands-Posten editor Carsten Juste told Berlingske Tidende newspaper, Reuters reported Friday, February 10. The move comes only two days after Flemming said he was considering to publish cartoons on the Holocaust in his daily. An Iranian newspaper has said it will run a contest for cartoons on the Holocaust. "We would consider publishing them," Rose said Wednesday. "But we will not make a decision before we have seen the cartoons, and it is in no way seen as remorse or a way to establish a false balance between our cartoons and the Iranian cartoons," he told Agence France Presse (AFP). Three years ago, Jyllands-Posten had rejected to publish cartoon of Jesus Christ because of being "offensive" to Christians. About 25 Muslim graves vandalised at cemetery in Denmark: Anders Hansen, a spokesman for the local police, said vandals had pushed over headstones, smashing several into pieces, at the cemetery in Esbjerg. Esbjerg is Denmark's fifth biggest city and is 250km west of the capital, Copenhagen. "We don't know who did this," Hansen said, adding the attack probably happened late on Saturday or early on Sunday. The cemetery has both Christian and Muslim graves, but only the Muslim graves were desecrated, he said. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, said in a statement: "I strongly condemn this disgraceful act and deeply regret that Muslim graves have been desecrated." What it’s all about: This is not about “freedom of speech”. It’s not about a “war of civilisations”. It’s about racism. Anyone who doubts that need look no further than the right wing Danish paper that commissioned the notorious anti-Muslim cartoons last September. It would have us believe it was all for a noble principle of “freedom of speech”. Oh, really? This is the same paper, Jyllands-Posten, which: — Campaigned in 1984 to censor an artist who produced an erotic image of Jesus. — Refused three years ago to print a cartoon because the editors said it would provoke an outcry among Christians. No brave commitment to freedom of speech there. That was only invoked, cynically, when the editors chose to target Muslims, not for debate about religious views, but with bigoted caricatures that imply every Muslim is a terrorist. One rule for the majority, another for Arab, Asian and African immigrants. There’s a word for that – it’s called racism. It’s not just a scandal about religious symbols. . .: For the sake of clarity, let it be noted that Denmark sent its military to take part in the aggression against Iraq and Danish forces are still squatting on Iraqi soil. The Danish parliament has just extended their stay until July 2006. Danish investigators have taken part in the torture in Iraqi prisons. So it is clear that the caricatures are an expression of the colonialist’s scorn for the colonized more than anything else. But it will appear strange to some westerners that some of us sat silent in the face of what happened in the mosques of ar-Ramadi, al-Fallujah, in the al-Aqsa Mosque, and in Guantanamo, but now pretend to be such passionate defenders of Islam today. Would our Prophet Muhammad accept this?


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