Tuesday, February 14, 2006

WAR NEWS FOR TUESDAY, February 14, 2006 Bring ‘em on: A car bomb blew up early Tuesday near a U.S. military patrol outside the flashpoint city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of3 Baghdad, destroying a U.S. Humvee, witnesses said. They said it was not clear whether there was any casualties among U.S. soldiers, adding after the blast, the U.S. troops blocked the highway for more than one hour, preventing people from approaching the scene. Bring ‘em on: A roadside bomb hit a U.S. patrol in Husayba al-Sharqiyah, a town in eastern Ramadi, some110 km west of Baghdad, local residents told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. The attack also destroyed a U.S. Humvee, killing or wounding all the soldiers aboard, they said. The U.S. troops revenged and opened fire randomly after the attack causing unknown number of casualties, the residents said. A U.S. helicopter landed at the site of the attack to evacuate American casualties, they said. Bring ‘em on: BAGHDAD - An Iraqi army major and his son were killed when they were fired on by gunmen in the Taji area north of Baghdad, U.S. military said. BAGHDAD - A civilian was wounded when a car bomb exploded near a police patrol in Baghdad, police and witnesses said. BAQUBA - A police colonel escaped an assassination attempt when gunmen opened fire on his car while he was heading to work in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. The colonel and his bodyguard were wounded, police added. TIKRIT - An Iraqi contractor working with the Iraqi army was killed by gunmen in Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, local authorities said. BAIJI - A police colonel and one of his relatives were wounded when gunmen opened fire on them in the oil refinery city of Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. Bring ‘em on: Masked gunmen shot dead 11 members of the same family, including a 5-year-old boy, after rounding up a group of farmers in Iraq. Among the dead was Sheik Hussein Sarhan al-Hiyali, a tribal leader who owned the farm in the Shi'ite town of Balad, some 50 miles north of Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Roadside bomb targeted coalition military vehicle at 10:30 a.m. in Abu Ghraib, western Baghdad, killing one soldier and wounding two others. The nationality of the victims was not revealed. Bring ‘em on: Coalition convoy attacked in the Baghdad's western Salaam area, wounding four soldiers of unknown nationality. Bring ‘em on: Baghdad police found the bullet-riddled bodies of eight men in different locations throughout the capital. The identities of the victims were unclear. IRAQ NEWS Basra council suspends relations with British: The Basra provincial council has suspended relations with the British following new claims of abuse of Iraqis by UK troops, British military officials said today. Officials in Basra cut off relations yesterday, a day after the News of the World reported video footage showing British troops apparently beating Iraqi civilians. The video - filmed in Amara, north of Basra, in 2004 - appeared to show defenceless young Iraqis being kicked and attacked with batons. It is thought the Iraqis had been plucked from a mob by a "snatch squad" of British troops during a riot in the town. Officials in Basra also cut off relations with the British military last September after troops stormed a police station to free two arrested SAS officers. ”Final ultimatum” issued on German hostages: A militant group holding two German hostages in Iraq issued what they called their final ultimatum before killing the captives unless Berlin met their demands, Al Arabiya television said on Monday. Dubai-based Arabiya aired part of a video that showed the two Germans sitting on the ground as three masked gunmen stood behind them and a fourth militant read from a statement. The Ansar al-Tawhid Wa-Sunna group "threatened to kill the two German hostages it holds in Iraq unless the German government meets their demands," the television said. The two engineers, Rene Braeunlich and Thomas Nitzschke, were abducted on Jan. 24 outside their workplace in the industrial town of Baiji, 180 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad. US judge blocks transfer of US prisoner in Iraq: A U.S. judge on Monday blocked the transfer to Iraqi custody of an American citizen being held in Baghdad who a U.S. military official says has links to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda's leader in Iraq. Shawqi Omar, a dual U.S.-Jordanian citizen, was captured in Iraq in October 2004 in a raid targeting associates of Zarqawi. Omar is being held at Camp Cropper near Baghdad airport. In response to a request by Omar's family members in the United States, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina issued a preliminary injunction barring Omar's transfer to Iraqi custody. An earlier, temporary order blocking his transfer expired on Monday. The family said that it was concerned that Omar, a Sunni Muslim, might be tortured or even killed if he were transferred to Iraqi custody. Omar became a U.S. citizen in 1986 and went to Iraq in 2004. Saddam on hunger strike: Saddam Hussein returned to trial on Tuesday saying he and seven co-accused had been staging a hunger strike for three days to protest their treatment by the court. "We have been on hunger strike for three days to protest the way they brought us to court," said the former president, who has accused the court of forcing him to attend hearings that broke his boycott of the sessions. Jafari wins by one vote to become Iraqi PM: The narrow election of Ibrahim Jafari, a Shiite doctor, as Iraqi prime minister is worrying some Iraqis and U.S. officials because of his ties to Iran. Some Iraqis and U.S. officials have indicated they would have preferred a more secular leader, The Washington Post reports. Jafari's 64-63 win came after days of wrangling among the coalition of Shiite religious parties that won the largest share of seats in the December parliamentary elections. His opponent was Adel Abdul Mahdi, a secular economist. But Jafari received the crucial support of the popular and fiercely anti-American cleric Moqtada Sadr, the report said. Jafari, who had headed the interim government prior to his win, will face the same challenges of a crumbling infrastructure and rampant violence during his new four-year term. But his immediate challenge will be to form a new government to include other ethnic groups. A Sunni leader urged Jafari to choose ministers with no ethnic motivation and no background of corruption. Separately, The New York Times reported Jafari's victory pointed to the growing political power of Sadr, who has led uprisings against U.S. troops. Abused Iraqis take legal action against UK military: At least two Iraqis claiming to have been beaten by British soldiers during a 2004 demonstration said Tuesday that they would take legal action against the British military. The Iraqis told reporters they were among more than 200 people protesting the lack of jobs in the Maysan provincial city of Amarah, 180 miles southeast of Baghdad, when a group of British soldiers fired rubber bullets at them and detained several before beating them at their nearby base. It was not immediately possible to verify whether the Iraqis were those caught on the video allegedly shot by a British soldier. It showed several Iraqis being punched, beaten with batons and kicked following a protest in Amarah in January 2004. "I was one of 250 unemployed people demonstrating in the street in 2004, but when we reached the governor's office we were surprised by the presence of the British forces," Bassem Shaker, 27, told The Associated Press. "We started throwing stones at them because we believed that they were behind all our misery." Speaking at the office of anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Shaker said British troops fired volleys of rubber bullets at the protesters in a bid to disperse them. "Then a group of British soldiers rushed out from their base and arrested nine of us, dragging us for about 30 yards to the governor's office," Shaker alleged. "They were beating us with fists and batons and were kicking us. Then they cuffed our hands and also dragged us to their base, which is about 15 yards from the governor's office, where they also beat us and frightened us with dogs before releasing us before sunset." Fort Lewis Soldier Refuses Second Deployment To Iraq: A soldier who claimed conscientious objector status and refused to deploy to Iraq for a second time is serving a 15-month prison sentence at Fort Lewis. Benderman served in Iraq in 2003 and filed for conscientious objector status in 2004. It was denied. When he refused to deploy with his unit last year he was convicted of a charge of "intentionally missing movement." REPORTS Poll: Americans see no easy answers: Americans are deeply worried about the possibility that Iran will develop nuclear weapons and use them against the United States, but they also fear that the Bush administration will be too quick to order military action, USA Today reported Tuesday. Citing a new USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, the newspaper said seven of 10 of those surveyed over the weekend said they were concerned that the United States would move prematurely to use force. The poll showed there is almost as much concern that the administration of President George W. Bush won't do enough to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear arsenal, the report said. "People see no easy answers ... and the limits of our power," the paper quoted Richard Eichenberg, a political scientist at Tufts University, as saying. "The Muslim world is in an uproar over the Danish cartoons, Iran is quite vocal in challenging us, and Iraq continues to be a drip-drip-drip of daily violence." Among those polled, 55 percent said they lacked confidence in the administration's ability to handle the situation in Iran, USA Today reported. Meanwhile Bush's approval rating has dipped to 39 percent, the first time below 40 percent since November, according to the report. A 55-percent majority said the war in Iraq was a mistake, USA Today noted. And just 31 percent, a record low since the question has been asked, said the United States and its allies were winning there. At the same time, by a 50 percent to 47 percent margin, Americans said the administration was wrong to allow wiretapping of international communications involving terrorism suspects without obtaining court warrants, according to the report. The myth of Iraq resistance foreign fighters: "It’s much more than just a line in the sand right now," said Lt. Col. Gregory Reilly of Sacramento, Calif., commander of a U.S. cavalry squadron that oversees about 115 miles of Iraq’s northwestern border with Syria, from the Tigris River to the Euphrates. "It’s not like a vast open border, not at all. It’s a very difficult border to cross." Syrian border police are also aggressively patrolling their side, Reilly said, in contrast with official statements in Washington accusing Damascus of lax control. "The Syrians are actually doing their job. They are more violent than we are. If they see someone, they will open up shooting," Reilly said as he walked along a dirt berm in view of Syrian guards several weeks ago. "The myth is that foreign fighters are crossing a porous border," said Maj. Chris Kennedy, executive officer with the 3rd Armored Cavalry. Instead, many of the incoming fighters can simply fly into Baghdad, using valid Iraqi passports made from "boxes and boxes" of blank passports shipped out of Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s rule, Kennedy and other U.S. officers said. Iraqi journalists caught in political crossfire: Under Saddam Hussein, Iraqi journalists were threatened, detained, tortured and killed — victims of a system that tightly controlled what was written about the country's Baathist leader. The destruction of the Information Ministry — one of the main instruments of Saddam-era censorship — during the US-led invasion to oust the Iraqi leader in March 2003 symbolically ended decades of zero press freedom. But journalists' initial optimism that they would finally be able to report freely has been eroded. In today's democratic Iraq, they face many of the same dangers, as well as new threats. Journalists are under intense pressure from political, ethnic and religious groups and there is a risk that interference could intensify as parties jostle for power during talks to form a new government. Reporters are also targeted by Sunni Arab insurgents and militias tied to political factions. "Our journalists have been intimidated and harmed in many ways. They fear being killed, detained or dismissed if they criticise a party or even the government itself," said Moayad al-Lami, secretary general of the Iraqi Journalists Association. Before, censorship was enforced by the Information Ministry. Now, there are many more players trying to control the news -insurgents, ethnic and political factions, and the government. Along with the US-funded Iraqi Media Network, which owns Al Sabah newspaper and the public broadcaster Al Iraqiya – seen by many Iraqis as a mouthpiece for the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Al Jaafari — there are also the newspapers controlled by the various political factions. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), the most powerful party in the ruling Islamist Shi'ite Alliance, has Al Bayna daily as well as Al Forat television; Jaafari's Dawa party has Al Dawa; and former prime minister Iyad Allawi has the daily Baghdad. "There are huge pressures on Iraqi journalists from the parties' militias, which don't like being written about," said Satar Jabbar, editor-in-chief of New Bayna, another newspaper. "The problem is how to be independent when there are these pressures. We can't stand up against any party in the government, or any powerful party, because we might be harmed or banned from working any more." Air war new vicious side to the U.S.occupation: President George Bush keeps trying to sell the occupation of Iraq as a noble humanitarian effort, implemented effectively, worth its cost in U.S. and Iraqi lives and the enormous wealth it swallows up. But the truth is that the occupation is brutal, corrupt and a horrible waste of human and material resources. It is almost certain to end up with a defeat for the most destructive military machine humanity has known. A new vicious side to the U.S. occupation these last few months has been the Pentagon’s air war against the Iraqi population. Little is seen or reported of this war. For one thing, the Pentagon doesn’t invite even “embedded” reporters to join the flights. For another, the brass provides only minimal information to the media. What the Pentagon does provide is this: Up until last August, there were about 25 air strikes per month. By November it had risen to 120. By January it was 150. The air strikes on the far western corner of Iraq during Operation Steel Curtain hit the town of Husaybah hard. One week into this assault, Dr. Zahid Mohammed Rawi from that region said that medical workers recorded the deaths of 97 civilians along with 38 guerrilla fighters. (Wash ington Post, Dec. 24) This gives an idea of what increased air strikes will bring. Many U.S. military analysts and even alleged war opponents like Rep. John Murtha are advocating pulling out U.S. ground troops and increasing the air war. This may not enable U.S. imperialism to conquer Iraq, but is certain to kill lots of Iraqis. House Of Lords to hear key test case from Iraq war: Starting on February the 20th, the Law Lords will begin debating a question of great importance for the future of political activism in the UK, and for how the British courts in future deal with international law. Their Lordships are asked to decide: Is a British court allowed to rule on whether a war started by a UK government is a crime ? The hearing brings together the appeals of nineteen people who took direct action against the Iraq war - including 14 already convicted Greenpeace defendants. Five independent activists whose trials are still pending, are also appealing. The 'Fairford Five' seek to know what arguments they are allowed to use in their defence against charges of conspiracy and criminal damage. In March 2003, Paul Milling and Margaret Jones, Phillip Pritchard with Toby Olditch, and Josh Richards, all tried to prevent or delay the take-off of American B-52 bombers from Fairford air force base in Gloucestershire. These bombers were waiting to launch the attack on Iraq that would begin the Iraq war. In the case of Milling and Jones, the action involved disabling a fleet of bomb carriers and other support vehicles used to supply the B-52 bombers. All five say they were justified in their actions, because they aimed at preventing the commission of a far greater crime - that of 'aggression', of starting an unprovoked war against another country. Lower courts have so far denied them this defence argument, saying that the alleged crime of attacking another country is a matter for international law, which cannot be ruled on in a British court. In earlier pre-trial hearings, the Fairford Five have been told they may say in their defence that they feared individual war crimes would be committed in Iraq - but not that the Iraq War itself would be a crime. They will stand trial at Bristol Crown Court later this year. For the BBC,testimony from Iraqis is way down the pecking order of objectivity: A few days ago, a large-scale opinion poll conducted by Maryland University showed that 87% of Iraqis (including 64% of Kurds) endorsed a demand for a timetabled withdrawal of the occupiers. The findings were mostly ignored by the British media. Admittedly, reports on the ground are difficult and dangerous. But while western media are not averse to revealing deceptions around the WMD scare and pre-war lies, occupier-generated news still takes pride of place, and anti-occupation Iraqi voices of all sects - particularly Shia clergy such as Ayatollahs Hassani, Baghdadi and Khalisi - are ignored. A few months before US soldiers boasted of using white phosphorus, the BBC's Paul Wood defended his reporting from Falluja in the November 2004 siege, telling Medialens: "I repeat the point made by my editors, over weeks of total access to the military operation, at all levels: we did not see banned weapons being used ... or even discussed. We cannot therefore report their use." Doctors and refugees fleeing US bombardment talked of "chemical attacks" and people "melting to death". But for the BBC, eyewitness testimony from Iraqis is way down the pecking order of objectivity. It would clearly be wrong to portray victims' claims as uncontested facts, but there is a duty to publish and investigate them. Had, for example, Iraqi families' claims been highlighted shortly after the occupation began, the world would not have waited over a year to learn of torture at US-run jails. It was not until US soldiers gleefully circulated sickening pictures of tortured Iraqis that the media paid attention. Many Iraqis have persistently accused US-led forces of "controlling" an assortment of death squads or private militias and "turning a blind eye" to many terrorist attacks. Almost every week, handcuffed and blindfolded men are found lying next to one another, each killed by a single bullet to the head. Who is methodically torturing and killing these people? Who has so far assassinated more than 200 academics and scientists? Iraqis not linked to the Green Zone regime are convinced that US forces and US-backed mercenaries are involved. For one Marine, torture came home: In the beginning, Jeff [a 40-year-old former Marine sergeant named Jeffrey Lehner, recently returned from Afghanistan] supported the administration's policies in the region. But over time, that began to change. As we talked, Jeff brought out an album of photos from Afghanistan. He pointed to a series of photographs of a trailer and several huts behind a barbed-wire fence; these were taken, he said, outside a U.S. military camp not far from the Kandahar airport. He told me that young Afghans — some visible in blue jumpsuits in his photos — had been rounded up and brought to the site by a CIA special operations team. The CIA officers made no great secret of what they were doing, he said, but were dismissive of the Marines and pulled rank when challenged. Jeff said he had been told by soldiers who had been present that the detainees were being interrogated and tortured, and that they were sometimes given psychotropic drugs. Some, he believed, had died in custody. What disturbed him most, he said, was that the detainees were not Taliban fighters or associates of Osama bin Laden. "By the time we got there," Jeff said, "the serious fighters were long gone." Jeff had other stories to tell as well. He said the CIA team had put detainees in cargo containers aboard planes and interrogated them while circling in the air. He'd been on board some of these flights, he said, and was deeply disturbed by what he'd seen. Jeff told me that he often couldn't sleep at night, thinking about what he had seen and heard. He had gone to Afghanistan a social drinker but came home, like so many veterans, a problem drinker. At the time Jeff told me his story, I didn't quite know what to do with it. Such allegations were not yet being reported — and many Americans would probably have found his accusations unimaginable. For multiple reasons, I put his story on the back burner. I continued to stay in touch with Jeff — and occasionally spoke with his father, Ed, who invariably answered the phone — as I ruminated on his troubling tale. However, late last year, details about secret prisons began to appear. Human Rights Watch, for instance, reported that a number of men being held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had given their lawyers "consistent accounts" of being held and tortured at a secret American-run prison in Afghanistan. I decided it was time to call Jeff and meet again. It was early December. Jeff was still living in his father's home off Old San Marcos Road. He'd broken up with my friend and another woman to whom he had been briefly engaged, and he was struggling to stay sober. But by the time I called, it was too late. The day I phoned, Jeff had quarreled with his father. That afternoon, they held an unscheduled counseling session with Rapp. According to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, Rapp was so concerned after their meeting that she phoned the Lehner house about 6 p.m. Ed answered, spoke with her and then called his son to take the phone. At that point, the line suddenly turned to static. Fearing the worst, Rapp called the police. The worst proved to be the case. The police found two bodies, and quickly labeled the case a murder-suicide. Ed Lehner, they said, had died from multiple gunshot wounds, and Jeff from a single, self-inflicted wound to the head. The irony was that after eight years in the military, the first and only person Jeff Lehner killed was his father. UN inquiry calls for immediate closure of Guantanamo: The UN Human Rights Commission report, due to be published this week, concludes that Washington should put the 520 detainees on trial or release them. It calls for the United States to halt all "practices amounting to torture", including the force-feeding of inmates who go on hunger strike.. The report wants the Bush administration to ensure that all allegations of torture are investigated by US criminal courts, and that "all perpetrators up to the highest level of military and political command are brought to justice". It does not specify who it means by "political command" but logically this would include President George W Bush. The demands are contained in the final report of the commission's working group on arbitrary detention, which will be presented at its Geneva headquarters in the next few days. A copy of the report has been obtained exclusively by The Daily Telegraph. The report is bound to intensify the already strained relations between the US and the UN over the Iraq war. Many Guantanamo detainees not tied to 'hostile acts': More than half of the US "war on terror" detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba prison camp never committed any "hostile acts" against the United States, two lawyers said in a report Wednesday. Based on an analysis of government documents regarding the more than 500 people held at the US naval prison facility, lawyers Mark Denbeaux and Joshua Denbeaux estimated that 55 per cent "are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies". Moreover, they said that only eight per cent of the detainees were characterised in the documents as al-Qaeda fighters, while 60 "are detained merely because they are 'associated with' a group or groups the (US) government asserts are terrorist organisations". The lawyers, who represent two Guantanamo detainees, noted that only seven per cent of the 500 detainees had been captured by US and coalition forces. Of the rest, 47 per cent were turned over to the United States by Pakistan and Afghan Northern Coalition forces, and the captors of another 44 per cent held were unknown. The study suggests that at least some of these detainees were turned over to US forces by bounty hunters and reward-seekers without verification of the detainee's status. COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Dahr Jamail: Eyewitness to U.S. War Crimes in Iraq: Revolution: What do you think are some of the most important things for our readers to understand about the situation of the Iraqi people today? Dahr Jamail: What I talked about [in the testimony for the Commission] was, in sum, the total destruction of a sovereign country by the U.S. military under orders from their commander-in-chief, George Bush. It was a country that back in the late '70s, early '80s, had the best medical system in the Middle East. They had more PhDs per capita than any other country on the planet. They had a very solid infrastructure. In regards to women's rights in the Middle East, it was one of the more progressive places for a woman to be—not to say it was the bastion of women's rights, but comparatively in the Middle East, aside from probably Lebanon, it was the best place, as far as education and women's rights and respect, for a woman to be. Flash forward to the invasion and occupation of Iraq and now, coming up on three years of occupation. The infrastructure is in total shambles. Women now, if they even leave their homes, better go out with an abaya – a face cover — and certainly a hijab. Unemployment's over 50 percent, the medical system's in total shambles. Ambulances and medical workers and hospitals themselves are being targeted by the U.S. military. It's their standard operating procedure now, in combat zones, to target the medical infrastructure. Collective punishment is now standard operating procedure. In Haditha, Fallujah, Al Qaim, Ramadi, Samarra, Saniya, just to name a few off the top of my head, the standard policy is: if the U.S. is getting attacked a lot in the area, cut the water and electricity to the city, prohibit medical supplies from going in or out of the city, and use snipers quite often to deliberately target anything that moves in the city at certain times, impose curfews – this is the standard procedure now. Now it's common. It first started in Fallujah where people started describing their city as a concentration camp or a "big jail" after the U.S. siege and the "security measures" then imposed on the city by the U.S. military. Well, that now is what we are hearing from people in Saniya, from people in Ramadi, from people in Samarra and Al Qaim and Haditha, in other areas around and even some areas of the capital city. Iraq's destroyed. The occupation, there's no end in sight—there's permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. There is not going to be a total withdrawal ever, if this administration gets its way. They want to certainly reduce the number of troops in Iraq, but there is no plan for withdrawal, there's permanent bases. When I say permanent I mean swimming pools, movie theaters, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, AT&T phone home centers, concrete barracks – I mean permanent. They call them enduring bases. Revolution: You compared what the U.S. occupation forces did in Fallujah with what happened in Spain during the Spanish Civil War in the case of the bombing of the city of Guernica. Dahr Jamail: Exactly. I co-authored a piece for the Guardian with Jonathan Steele, and we called it "This Is Our Guernica," because really Fallujah—the same thing happened essentially: the whole city was collectively punished, it was bombed to the ground. Seventy percent of it was absolutely destroyed, but it's been a dismal failure, in that now attacks continue almost daily in Fallujah against Iraqi security forces and U.S. soldiers. People there absolutely hate the United States. Now they hate the military, they can't tolerate them in their city. Attacks will continue without a doubt, and they are. But it can't be understated, the harshness, the brutality, of the methods being used in Fallujah, and Fallujah is just a model. So when we talk about Fallujah, that's just the starting point. Again, the aforementioned cities are included in this now—not to the severity of Fallujah, but very similar tactics. Now in Fallujah, residents have to get retina scans and fingerprints and a bar code to go in and out of the city; curfews are in place; there's no reconstruction. And this policy for one degree or another is being imposed in other cities as well. Deciphering America’s Strategic “Roadmap”: America’s new strategic posture and Rumsfeld’s recent comments indicate that the US seeks to expand its military activities. However, it also indicates that decision-makers in Washington have begun to realize that their unilateralism has not paid off and hence they are now seeking to incorporate other allies in the global war against “terrorism”. The fact that Donald Rumsfeld jokingly suggested during the conference that his earlier depiction of European nations that opposed the Iraq war as “old Europe” was a manifestation of “old Rumsfeld,” and that he hoped to reinvigorate transatlantic relations and strengthen the NATO alliance is indicative of how much Washington has realized that – in Rumsfeld’s own words: “one nation cannot defeat the ‘extremists’ alone.” In the years following the invasion of Iraq, observers of international politics have witnessed how much US-European views and positions have coalesced on a variety of issues. In fact, the US and Europe have been the most vocal in their criticism of Iranian nuclear enrichment plans and have recently been supportive of taking Iran to the Security Council and the imposition of sanctions. Moreover, the US and Europe – despite their deafening calls for democracy in the Middle East – greeted the Hamas victory in Palestinian elections with considerable hostility. The Syrian-Lebanese crisis was also another venue where the US and France worked side by side to isolate Syria, disarm Hizbullah, and destabilize domestic Lebanese politics to their favor. By the US' seeking to more closely incorporate Europe in its hegemonic designs in the Muslim world, and Europe’s seeming readiness to do so, the West would be greatly enhancing the dominant view among many that this is in fact a clash of civilizations and an anti-Islamic crusade that is guided by an Islamophobic West. Recent revelations involving the degradation of the Koran by US interrogators in Guantanamo Bay and the EU’s absurd display of solidarity with Denmark in the recent cartoon controversy which inflamed Muslim passions, is further proof, in the eyes of many Muslims and Westerners alike, that a clash of civilizations is being fueled by the West. This is further augmented if one notes how Rumsfeld described Europe and the US during the Munich conference not only as partners with common strategic interests but rather as the “civilized world” and as “a community, with shared histories, common values, and an abiding faith in democracy” facing a war that was declared by forces wishing to establish “a global extremist Islamic empire.” Rumsfeld’s whimsical, self-serving depiction of the conflict leaves no room for any criticism of the West. In fact, during his speech at the Munich conference we do not see any attempt made to distinguish between the goals of various Islamic movements nor do we see any acknowledgement of America’s failed policies in Iraq or the role that the West had historically played in creating many of the legitimate grievances that Muslims repeatedly mention. Instead, Rumsfeld reiterated the convenient, self-gratifying cliché that the conflict is within the Muslim world, as Muslims are constantly depicted as hopelessly struggling to come to terms with the benevolent message of freedom that the West is supposedly busy propagating. In addition, Rumsfeld shamelessly accuses the Islamists – the victims of the West’s global onslaught – of designing and distributing “a map where national borders are erased and replaced by a global Islamist empire.” The historical fact that the borders of many Arab/Muslim states were drawn by imperialist forces during the era of colonialism and the current US manipulation of various ethnic and sectarian differences across the Middle East is conveniently omitted. A cesspool of corruption: The Bush administration had planned to work the Iraqi oil wells effectively enough to pay the expenses of the occupation. It hasn’t been able to go beyond the pre-war level of production. But it doesn’t mean that no one is making money from the occupation. Robert Stein, a contractor with a 1998 conviction for fraud, nevertheless worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority, the body headed by Paul Bremer who ran Iraq for about a year after the U.S.-led invasion. On Feb. 2, Stein pled guilty to counts of conspiracy, bribery, money laun dering, unlawful possession of machine guns and being a felon in possession of a firearm. In his role as government official, Stein “admitted to stealing over $2 million in cash and taking enormous bribes from the businessman, Philip Bloom, in 2003 and 2004 in return for accepting rigged bids on construction contracts that Bloom was guaranteed to win,” according to the Feb. 2 New York Times. An Associated Press story Jan. 30 made it clear that the corruption went far beyond the connivance between Stein and Bloom. A U.S. government audit showed that the CPA wasted tens of millions of dollars. Lots of the money just disappeared from the books. Some was stolen. The U.S. had seized cash from the Iraqi government or got it from Iraqi oil revenues. The officials in the south-central region of Iraq—an area where the resistance has not been particularly strong—kept large amounts of cash, millions of dollars, in their foot lockers. According to a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruc tion, “tens of millions of dollars in cash had gone in and out of the South-Central Region vault without any tracking of who deposited and withdrew the money, and why it was taken out.” Other items in the reports stated that: Of $23 million earmarked for civilian and military project and contracting officers to pay contractors, only a quarter ever reached the contractors and the CPA paid one contractor $14,000 for the same job four times. The audit reports on the other regions of Iraq have not been published yet. There is no reason to expect that these will show any less theft and overall corruption by the U.S. occupation force. A present to Bush: The masked gunman cradles a sniper's rifle as he sits in the back of a car. Speaking to the camera, he taunts America's President with a chilling outline of his planned mission: "I'm going to give George Bush a small present. I have nine bullets — with each I'll shoot someone and, before your eyes, I'll give the present to Bush." Getting out of the car in a built-up area, he heads over rough ground to the corner of a building. The recording then cuts to a tightly spliced sequence of nine shootings, in which the targets appear to be members of the American or Iraqi security forces. It is pure and brutal propaganda. Some of the images are blurred and there is no proof that the man with the gun has even fired the shots. Each target seems to collapse as a single gunshot is heard, but there is no attempt to verify the gunman's claim that he has killed the victim. Recorded at various times in the past two years, the footage suggests that the rebel fighters have a remarkable ease of movement in urban and rural Iraq; an ability to acquire the weapons and uniforms of the new Iraqi security forces; and they demonstrate their skill in crafting crude home-made missile launchers and improvised bombs for use in brazen daylight attacks on a range of military, political and economic targets. Officially, the cause of most of the 2260- plus American fatalities in Iraq is listed simply as "hostile fire". But there have been dozens of media reports of deaths and injuries by a single shot that go some way to confirming the sniper-inflicted US losses the insurgency attempts to glorify in its propaganda. In [2004], US marines stationed in Fallujah marvelled to The New York Times at the prowess of what some believed was a single sniper who kept 150 Americans pinned down for the best part of a day. US aircraft dropped bombs and ground forces unleashed an estimated 30,000 rounds of automatic rifle fire before the sniper escaped — apparently on a bicycle, according to the Times. The speech by the marksman in the video, is thought to be a new benchmark in an extensive, internet-driven propaganda campaign run by a range of insurgency groups. But stripped of crude enhancements and dubious editing techniques that are intended to make these film clips more appealing to impressionable young Muslim minds, they are a doorway into a violent world. They show rocket and mortar teams at work, often using crude launchers that appear to have been manufactured from lengths of water pipe and angle iron. Operating in broad daylight, the teams appear to launch missiles from busy, built-up areas — sometimes waiting for passers-by to remove themselves from the line of fire. Another remarkable sequence begins with an Iraqi take on what could be a group of labourers going to work anywhere in the world. Carrying tool boxes, they are seen climbing a ladder to the upper level of a two-storey building. The scene cuts to the men at work — drilling and hammering in a corner of a darkened room that gradually fills with light as they break open a narrow, horizontal slit high on a wall. They build a scaffold on which they erect what appears to be a home-made multiple rocket launcher, with the tube opening positioned against the slit they have cut in the wall. The scene cuts to the exterior of the building, showing the slit high on the wall that would hardly be noticed from outside until a series of missiles blast through it and towards an unseen target. The footage also shows rebel fighters attending classes in hand-to-hand combat and bomb-making. Do We Have To Arrest Bush & Company Ourselves?: We have smoking gun after smoking gun and the criminals in charge of our nation do nothing. It is quite clear they are all (with few exceptions) in on the crimes. We have TONS of EVIDENCE that both presidential elections have been stolen. That alone should be enough to arrest the people who have taken over our nation via electoral coup! But wait…there is more…lots more! We have EVIDENCE that there was inside involvement in 9/11…nothing happens. We have EVIDENCE that George W. Bush lied about the reasons for invading Iraq, about what he knew about the potential doom of Katrina in advance, and he knew (and may have been involved) about 9/11…nothing happens. We have testimony that Dick Cheney approved the leaking of top secret information…nothing happens. Do we have to arrest these criminals ourselves? Even if all the EVIDENCE is wrong it only proves that this administration is so incompetent that they should be removed from office for our own safety! Congress is our enemy; the Justice Department has been compromised in the same way that Police Capt. Mark McCluskey was in the movie the Godfather. Our military have been so blinded with propaganda that they don’t realize that they have been mobilized in direct contradiction to the principles for which they believe they are fighting. Our local law enforcement has already taken steps to implement a fascist police state where they view peace groups as the enemy and they enforce the statutes that violate our Constitution. Do we have to carry out justice ourselves? Do we have to revert to the street justice of the wild west? Do we need to form a posse and arrest the criminals ourselves? Is there not a single institution in our nation that can come in and stop this insanity? Will the people have to rise up and save themselves? This whole nation has flipped. We are insane. The crimes are so egregious, so outrageous, so vile that people do not believe they are being conducted. They see, smell, feel, hear and taste the evidence yet they still find this reality to difficult to believe! What do we have to do to wake everyone up? The Bush administration is built on two foundations. 1. Members of PNAC; a group who knew their radical agenda would not be accepted by Americans unless there was, in their own words, “a catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor!” 2. A group of experience criminals (a la Iran Contra), some of which were convicted of crimes related to subverting our political process. I speak of people who had a reason to permit, enable or conduct the events of 9/11 and I speak of people who have decades of experience operating illegal operations at the highest level of government for the purpose of subverting the democratic process. DON’T YOU PEOPLE FIND THIS DISTURBING IN THE LEAST? Paranoid Fantasies About 9-11 Detract From Real Issues: Astute observers of history are aware that for every notable event there will usually be at least one, often several, wild conspiracy theories which spring up around it. "The CIA killed Hendrix", "The Pope had John Lennon murdered ", "Hitler was half Werewolf", "Space aliens replaced Nixon with a clone", etc, etc. The bigger the event, the more ridiculous and more numerous are the fanciful rantings which circulate in relation to it. So it's hardly surprising that the events of Sept 11 2001 have spawned their fair share of these ludicrous fairy tales. And as always, there is sadly a small but gullible percentage of the population eager to lap up these tall tales, regardless of facts or rational analysis. One of the wilder stories circulating about Sept 11, and one that has attracted something of a cult following amongst conspiracy buffs is that it was carried out by 19 fanatical Arab hijackers, masterminded by an evil genius named Osama bin Laden, with no apparent motivation other than that they "hate our freedoms." Never a group of people to be bothered by facts, the perpetrators of this cartoon fantasy have constructed an elaborately woven web of delusions and unsubstantiated hearsay in order to promote this garbage across the internet and the media to the extent that a number of otherwise rational people have actually fallen under its spell. Normally I don't even bother debunking this kind of junk, but the effect that this paranoid myth is beginning to have requires a little rational analysis, in order to consign it to the same rubbish bin as all such silly conspiracy theories. These crackpots even contend that the extremist Bush regime was caught unawares by the attacks, had no hand in organizing them, and actually would have stopped them if it had been able. Blindly ignoring the stand-down of the US Air Force, the insider trading on airline stocks — linked to the CIA, the complicit behavior of Bush on the morning of the attacks, the controlled demolition of the WTC, the firing of a missile into the Pentagon and a host of other documented proofs that the Bush regime was behind the attacks, the conspiracy theorists stick doggedly to a silly story about 19 Arab hijackers somehow managing to commandeer 4 planes simultaneously and fly them around US airspace for nearly 2 hours, crashing them into important buildings, without the US intelligence services having any idea that it was coming, and without the Air Force knowing what to do. The huge difficulties with such a stupid story force them to invent even more preposterous stories to distract from its core silliness, and thus the tale has escalated into a mythic fantasy of truly gargantuan proportions. The true faith of the West: The true faith of the West since the 1960s is hedonism, which teaches that the ultimate goal of human life is to undergo every possible pleasurable experience, with an emphasis on physical stimuli. Hedonism throughout much of history was the privilege of the powerful and wealthy, but in America, it was democratized in the 1960s, especially with “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” and fifteen minutes of fame, and pandered to the masses addicted today. The fallacy of hedonism is that the hedonist believes he can, indeed, experience every possible human experience. Yet such hedonism, in fact, precludes the feeling of denial of pleasure and the experience of asceticism. For if one is overwhelmed by physical pleasure, one cannot appreciate any pleasure from a denial of physical pleasure. Varieties of asceticism characterize some varieties of Islam, just as even longer they have been a significant tradition of Apostolic Christianity and other religions. This involves the experience of asceticism as an ideal of personal sacrifice, not personal fulfillment or indulgence. Asceticism relates somehow to the issues of martyrdom, such an important aspect of early Christianity and contemporary Islam, and military service. Those societies willing to defend their own cultural and spiritual values do not object to military service for their youth, even with the possibility of death. Thus, the Muslim world and the West today are distinguished by their values. The Muslim world possesses something, namely faith and tradition, which its youth is willing to die for (in war, suicide bombings, etc.). No one in the West wants to die for hedonism. No one in the West, in fact, wants to die for anything. Thus, a dynamic of future history is revealed. Those willing to die for their values surely will triumph over those who have none worth dying for. In Frantic Search of a Constant Enemy: Philippe Sands' updating of Lawless World only reinforces his previous case, that the Iraq war had little to do with Saddam Hussein and was part of a wider interventionist agenda post-9/11 in the Middle East, fixed soon after 9/11 but envisaged by some conservatives beforehand. The agenda was only in part to secure oil supplies and protect Israel's eastern flank. It was also what Arthur Miller (referring to both Salem witches and McCarthyism) called a "paroxysm of murderous credulity," a burst of power in frantic search of a constant enemy. Since writing on Iran I have been inundated with American responses, the gist of which is "Are you European wimps going to make us free you yet again from a ruthless tyrant." I cannot tell you how depressing it is for an America-loving observer to handle Washington's belligerent reaction to every world problem (except where expediency demands appeasement, as in China and Pakistan). Last year we were shocked to hear that a majority of world opinion thought America the "greatest threat to world peace." Today I might join that majority. I have watched America (with Tony Blair's assistance) reopen the Afghan opium trail and readmit the Taliban to southern Afghanistan. A friend returning from Baluchistan, probably the most lawless place on earth, reports that it is awash in drug and oil money, available on demand to Taliban and al-Qaeda. The perception that America is cutting and running from the region is enough to drive the big Arab money back towards the Taliban. The idea that 3,300 British troops, now returning to the area, can police it is laughable. Meanwhile southern Iraq is being handed over to Tehran-dominated militias under the fantasy that this has something to do with "democracy." The occupation of Iraq has destabilised the old Sunni-Shia balance, crucial to Arab diplomacy for a century. But nothing, absolutely nothing, has remoralised the fanatics so much as Washington's missile-rattling against Iran's pathetic Ahmedinajad. Remember this is 70m people, some very rich, not Iraq. It is run by a chaotic coalition of parties and interests with elections and a parliament, not by a dictator. It should be the easiest place on Earth to manipulate, cajole, bribe and seduce. The one thing the crazies crave is an American missile attack. Yet it is the one thing Washington seems to threaten. A missile attack on Iran at this juncture makes as much sense as would an attack on Russia in 1980. Not only can America not police the world. If it policed a church meeting it would turn it into a riot. I keep telling Europeans that not all Americans are this daft. I point out that half America voted Democrat, that it is a pluralistic democracy, etc, etc. But, boy, is it getting difficult. Why is Reporters without Borders keeping silence about journalist tortured in Guantánamo?: The silence kept by the «freedom-of-the-press» Reporters without border (RSF) organization about Sudanese journalist Sami al Hajj raises many questions on the impartiality of that association headed by Robert Menard. RSF, which is always willing to stigmatize- usually arbitrarily- those countries targeted by Washington such as Cuba, Venezuela and China, has fully ignored the torture suffered by Al Hajj, a journalist with Qatar’s Al Jazeera TV chain. On September 22, 2001, Al Jazeera sent a team of reporters, including Al Hajj, to find out about the conflict in Afghanistan. After 18 days of journalistic work, the team went to Pakistan. In December 2001, Al Hajj decided to return to the place with his colleagues to cover the inauguration of the new Afghan government, but before he reached the border, the Pakistani police arrested the Sudanese journalist and released the rest of the Qatari team. Once handed over to Afghanistan-based US authorities, Al Hajj would experience a true nightmare at the Bagram air force base. «those were the worst [days] of my life», he said. Hajj revealed that he faced sexual abuse and rape threats US soldiers; he was fiercely tortured for months and he mistreated in countless occasions. He was forced to kneels down on the floor for hours. Dogs would constantly hound and attack him. The Sudanese journalist was also jailed in a cage located in a hangar facing glacial wind. He explained how his torturers pulled his hair out of his head and his beard, one by one. The guards would regularly beat him and prohibited him to take a bath for one hundred days although his body was covered with lice. On June 13, 2002, Sami al Hajj was sent to Guantánamo. During the flight, he was chained and gagged with a bag that covered his head. Every time he fell asleep the guards would violently wake him up by beating him on the head. Before facing the first interrogation session, he was held without sleep during more than two days. «For more than three years, most interrogations I faced pursued the objective of having me say that there was a relationship between Al Jazeera and Al Qaeda», Hajj told his lawyer. In the military base located on the US illegally occupied Cuban territory of Guantanamo, the Sudanese journalist received no medical assistance although he had suffered from throat cancer in 1998 and he is currently suffering from rheumatism. They would beat him on the soles of his feet and scare him with threatening dogs. He was the victim of racist humiliations and they never allowed him to take walks due to his skin colour. He witnessed the profanation of the Koran in 2003 and, along the rest of inmates he waged hunger strikes. The US troops reacted violently to the protest: they beat him and threw him down the stairs, which caused serious wounds in his head. Later, he was isolated before being transferred to Camp V, the worst of all detention centres in Guantanamo, where he was included in the fourth security level, meaning the worst brutal treatment. This testimony, so overwhelming to the Bush administration which still refuses to approve the status of prisoners of war for all Guantanamo detainees, joins other similar accusing declarations revealed by another two victims to Amnesty International. However, they only constitute the visible part of the iceberg. In Guantanamo, crime has two faces: The United States inflicts the most inhumane barbarities on persons held without formal proofs, and forcibly occupies a part of sovereign Cuba. The conspiracy between RSF and Washington has already been evidenced in the case of Spanish cameraman José Couso, who was murdered by coalition troops. In its report the Parisian organization exonerated the US armed forces from all responsibility despite strong proofs. RSF and the US State Department acted in such a collusion that the relatives of the journalist denounced the report and urged Menard to withdraw from the issue. The conspiracy is also evident in the case of Cuba, where RSF makes US paid agents appear as «independent journalists», although information on this particular issue is fully available and irrefutable. US authorities rejoice about the RSF tendentious reports and even use them in their propaganda war against Cuba. Michael Parmly, Chief of the US Interest Section in Havana, asserted that 20 percent of all journalists imprisoned around the world «are in Cuba. Reporters without Borders recently established the classification of 164 countries as to the freedom of the press; Cuba was declassified in place last but one, before North Korea ». Since its credibility has turned doubtful due to its constant attacks against Cuba, based on unsubstantial reasons and due to its alignment with the US viewpoint, RSF attempted to respond to accusations. However, the lack of coherence of its communiqué as well as contradictory words observed only enhance suspicions. In effect, Menard has given no explanation about the suspicious links and several meetings of his organization with Florida-based ultra-right Cuban American groups. The RSF general secretary even boasts his admiration for Frank Calzon, president of the Centre for a Free Cuba, an extremist organization financed by the US Congress. «He does fantastic work in favour of Cuban democrats», said Menard Later, RSF had to publically admit that it received financial support from that very centre. Similarly, RSF received fees from the National Endowment for Democracy, an entity dependent on Congress and in charge with promoting US external policy. Such financing implies a conflict of interests in the heart of the French organization, which is not so willing to denounce the actions of one of its sponsors, the US administration. Before the publication of the testimony released by Amnesty International, Menard could have affirmed that he did not know about the existence of Sami al Hajj. But, despite strong international media talk about these new torture cases at the Guantanamo naval base, RSF has not yet deigned to show interest in this case and has deepened itself in revealing silence. The censorship of this new case of serious violation of the freedom of the press by the Bush administration only confirms again the double discourse of Reporters without Borders. While the organization takes it out on Cuba deliberately, though the cases it raises are far from being convincing, it keeps dead silence about a flagrant attempt against the integrity of a journalist, who has been jailed and tortured just because he works for Qatar’s Al Jazeera, a highly influencing TV chain that does not please Washington that much. The credibility of Menard’s organization, already very discredited due its biased behaviours and its links to the US government, is increasingly falling apart since such omissions compared to the obsessive recurrence of certain topics like Cuba can not be the result of mere coincidence. IRAN AND BEYOND Syria switches to euro: Syria has switched all of the state's foreign currency transactions to euros from dollars amid a political confrontation with the United States, the head of state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria said on Monday. "This is a precaution. We are talking about billions of dollars," Duraid Durgham told Reuters. The bank, which still dominates the Syrian market although private banks have been allowed to set up in the last few years, has also stopped dealing with dollars in the international foreign exchange flows of private clients. The United States has been at the forefront of international pressure on Syria for its alleged role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri a year ago. Damascus denies involvement in the killing. "It looks like a kind of pre-emptive action aimed at making their foreign assets safer, preventing them from getting frozen in case of any conflict," said a Middle East economist who requested anonymity. A military operation against Iran would set in motion a complex and long-lasting confrontation: An air attack on Iran by Israeli or US forces would be aimed at setting back Iran’s nuclear programme by at least five years. A ground offensive by the United States to terminate the regime is not feasible given other commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and would not be attempted. An air attack would involve the systematic destruction of research, development, support and training centres for nuclear and missile programmes and the killing of as many technically competent people as possible. A US attack, which would be larger than anything Israel could mount, would also involve comprehensive destruction of Iranian air defence capabilities and attacks designed to pre-empt Iranian retaliation. This would require destruction of Iranian Revolutionary Guard facilities close to Iraq and of regular or irregular naval forces that could disrupt Gulf oil transit routes. Although US or Israeli attacks would severely damage Iranian nuclear and missile programmes, Iran would have many methods of responding in the months and years that followed. These would include disruption of Gulf oil production and exports, in spite of US attempts at pre-emption, systematic support for insurgents in Iraq, and encouragement to associates in Southern Lebanon to stage attacks on Israel. There would be considerable national unity in Iran in the face of military action by the United States or Israel, including a revitalised Revolutionary Guard. One key response from Iran would be a determination to reconstruct a nuclear programme and develop it rapidly into a nuclear weapons capability, with this accompanied by withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This would require further attacks. A military operation against Iran would not, therefore, be a short-term matter but would set in motion a complex and long-lasting confrontation. It follows that military action should be firmly ruled out and alternative strategies developed. More nonsense Iran talk: A common theory is that the upcoming attack on Iran is due to Iran's plan to establish an oil bourse to trade oil in Euros. Paul Craig Roberts neatly rebuts this theory. Any American geopolitical thinkers worried about the value of the American dollar would be worried about keeping the dollar as the world reserve currency, and the cost of an attack on Iran, a cost which would be enormous (in total, probably five to ten times the one or two trillion the Iraq war will cost) and would all have to be borrowed, would do much more to finish the American dollar as a reserve currency than any oil bourse would. The bourse might have a small effect, as countries which need to buy oil might find it handier to keep more of their reserve currencies in Euros, but the overall status of the American dollar is much more dependent on the continued general financial health of the United States. American planners may very well be looking to the bourse as an excuse to gently deflate the overly high value of the dollar. Anyone who tells you that the war on Iran can just be accomplished with bombing raids is lying because: 1. American troops would have to go in to secure the oil fields, which would lead to a ground war and an eventual insurgency even stronger than the Americans face in Iraq; and 2. the Iranian leadership would retaliate by releasing the hounds of insurgency in Iraq (if you think it is bad now, with Iranian cooperation in place to keep things relatively calm, just wait until Iran decides to stir things up!). Nuclear bombs aren't an option as the Americans need to keep the place habitable for American oil engineers, and the loss of world Iranian oil production simply isn't possible. I remain completely convinced that the talk about the war in Iran is just talk, and Syria is the real target in danger. Scott Ritter thinks that war on Iran is inevitable because John Bolton's speechwriter told him that the speech setting it up has already been written. Think about it. If this is true, would Bolton's speechwriter have told Ritter about it? Isn't it just an obvious trick to fool Ritter into thinking that the target is Iran? The United States isn't going to attack Israel's only possible friend in the Middle East. Besides hiding real American intentions, and keeping the Iranian leadership as radical as possible (moderate Iranian leaders would be a disaster for Israel), the Iran talk helps maintain a high world oil price (gotta keep those Exxon profits up near forty billion a year!). CARTOONS AND THE “CLASH OF FREEDOMS” Sweden Defuses Another "Cartoon Crisis": The Swedish government has acted swiftly to prevent what could have been another "cartoon war" when it canceled a contest planned by a Swedish right-wing party on cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). "Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds decided to halt the Web site of the small nationalist party Sweden Democrats, which planned the Prophet cartoons contest," Abdul Razik Wabri, official of the Islamic League of Sweden, told IOL Friday, February 10. The move was taken after talks Thursday, February 9, between the Swedish top diplomat and the political parties in the Scandinavian country, he added. The Web site launched a competition for Prophet Muhammad cartoons on January 10. One of the 40 contributions it had received had already been published on the site. The drawing depicted Prophet Muhammad from the back holding up a mirror. The reflection of his face has the eyes barred over and the caption reads "Mohammedan self-censorship". Double standards: Two decades ago, the American Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan referred in an interview to Judaism as a "gutter religion." Ferocious condemnations from Western leaders and media commentators followed instantaneously, with most not only asking him to apologize and retract his slur but demanding also that other African-American leaders publicly disassociate themselves from Mr. Farrakhan. The cartoons in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten which, among other things, portrayed the prophet Mohammed as a terrorist who also offered virgins to suicide bombers, were infinitely more explosive than Mr. Farrakhan's words. But no major Western figure has condemned their publication even though these have angrily united the Muslim world in a way no other issue has in recent times.


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