Thursday, April 27, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR THURSDAY, April 27, 2006 Zarqawi and his 4 new '#2 Man' hires: "Okay new Number Two Mans, your only task, per the job description, is to be captured or killed one by one in major U.S. ground operations that strangely coincide with U.S. elections and/or bad poll results for the U.S. GOP. Any questions?" [Entry by greenboy at Needlenose blog photo caption contest; original photo caption: "This is an image made from video originally posted Tuesday, April 25, 2006 on the Internet showing al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, center right, unmasked. In the rare video, al-Zarqawi accused the West and the United States of waging a 'crusader' war against Islam but said Muslim holy warriors were standing firm. This image was provided via the IntelCenter, which is a private contractor working for intelligence agencies." --- zig] Bring 'em on: A bomb blast rocked an Italian convoy at a base in southern Iraq on Thursday, killing three Italian soldiers and a Romanian, the Defense Ministry said. The roadside bomb targeted a four-vehicle convoy on its way to relieve troops at an Iraqi police station in the city of Nasiriyah, the ministry said in a statement. One of the vehicles was destroyed, killing the four soldiers and seriously injuring at least one more passenger. The attack brings the number of Italian military deaths since the Iraq war began in 2003 to 30, including 19 killed in the bombing of a military barracks in November 2003. Since the start of the war, at least 212 foreign soldiers have been killed in Iraq. At least 2,393 U.S. military members have died. [surely it would be more correct to write "at least 2,605 foreign soldiers have been killed in Iraq, including at least 2,393 U.S. military members"; but then, to paraphrase Rummy, I guess you go to war with the press you have... --- zig] Bring ‘em on: In Ramadi U.S. forces exchanged fire with insurgents who attacked with small arms and shoulder-fired rockets from a former train station and a nearby building. Lt. Col. Ronald Clark, commander of the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, said a U.S. jet fired two laser-guided missiles at the buildings and U.S. forces returned fire with mortars and rockets, killing eight of the attackers. [see below "In Ramadi gunfire erupts like clockwork" --- zig]
One Iraqi soldier killed during firefight with “insurgents” in a Ramadi neighborhood.
"400-500 fighters" attack several police checkpoints in Baquba: The afternoon raids, including mortar fire, lasted several hours and the rebels were only repelled when U.S. forces came to the aid of the police. Police Major-General Ghassan Adnan al-Bawi said four rebels were killed in the fighting and 16 were arrested. "The attack took place at 2:15 p.m. (1015 GMT) from six directions," he said. "I estimate there were 400-500 fighters." He said police might launch a counter attack later in the day. The dead included five policemen, and six police and two civilians were wounded. OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: Relative of Iraq's new Sunni Arab vice president shot and killed. The sister of Tariq al-Hashimi was killed by unidentified gunmen today as she was leaving her home with her bodyguard. Police say the bodyguard also died. One man killed while his son escaped death when gunmen in a car shot at them in a southern Baghdad area. Bodies of 16 Iraqis who had been kidnapped and tortured were found in Baghdad and other cities. Roadside bomb in Baghdad hits Iraqi army patrol, killing a soldier. Dujail: Gunmen kill four people while driving a car in Dujail, 90 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad. Samarra: U.S. forces kill four Iraqi police commandos by mistake in Samarra. Roundup: Number of Iraqi civilians or police killed since Saturday is now at least 128. NEWS Sistani tells prime minister designate Nuri al-Maliki that militias must be disarmed : "Weapons must be in the hands of government security forces that should not be tied to political parties but to the nation," Sistani was quoted as saying in a statement released after his meeting with Maliki. Chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee, says he may invite testimony from retired generals who have called for Rumsfeld to resign: Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) said he will confer with colleagues before deciding whether to schedule a hearing that would feature defenders of Rumsfeld as well as retired officers who have stirred debate in recent days by saying the secretary should step down. "I commit to making a decision on this request in the near future," Warner said in a statement, adding that the panel has a busy schedule. REPORTS This week's 'Army Times' poll results: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has come under fire in recent weeks from a variety of retired generals, who say he should resign for his performance in managing the war in Iraq. Do you think the U.S. war effort is grounds for Secretary Rumsfleld to resign?
Yes --- 64.45 % (2,284) No --- 32.22 % (1,142) Don't know / no opinion --- 3.33 % (118)
Total votes: 3544 In Ramadi gunfire erupts like clockwork: As U.S. and Iraqi troops marched through alleyways and families retreated indoors, Army Capt. Joe Claburn glanced at his watch and predicted exactly how long it would take for insurgents to attack. "Within 15 minutes the spotters usually come out and they'll identify your position," Claburn said at the start of a patrol in this troubled Iraqi city, explaining that guerrillas were probably maneuvering unseen in the surrounding villas. "Within 30 minutes the weapons get brought in," he said. "And usually about 45 minutes after being on the ground, you can pretty much guarantee that you're going to get shot at." War is often said to be unpredictable. But in Ramadi, Iraq's most dangerous city for American forces, Sunni Arab insurgents are so active that U.S. troops are learning gunbattles often come right on schedule. Claburn, it turned out, was three minutes off. "Did I call it or what?" the 29-year-old asked with a grin as automatic weapons-fire snapped overhead. "Forty-two minutes on the ground. It's a science." Lt. Col. Ronald Clark, commander of the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, said his units average "five or six" firefights with insurgents per day in eastern Ramadi. And that's not counting roadside bombs, mortar attacks or the Marine-patrolled western part of town, much less the suburbs of this city 70 miles west of Baghdad. Estimates differ on how long it typically takes for insurgents to start shooting. Claburn's Charlie company figures 45 minutes is the norm. Delta company reckons they'll be fired at within 37 minutes, Clark said. Some Marines in western Ramadi say attacks can come in eight minutes. That doesn't mean there's a gunbattle every time troops go out. One Marine tasked to help train the Iraqi army, Lt. Ryan Brannon, said he's been on 30 to 40 patrols in central Ramadi in the past three months. Asked how many times there had been gunbattles, the 26-year-old native of Gulf Breeze, Fla., shrugged and said: "Oh, about half." Guard towers at the U.S. Army's Camp Corregidor base are shot at daily - yesterday [April 25], one was hit by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. Across the city, Army and Marine observation posts - entire buildings taken over by U.S. forces - are regularly attacked. (…) As U.S. and Iraqi forces moved in Friday for a sweep of a troubled district, residents ran inside. "Hmmm," noted Claburn, who grew up as an orphan and calls Alabama home. "You see all those people clearing out? That's usually a a bad sign." U.S. Navy SEALs and Iraqi soldiers carrying rockets and boxes of ammunition walked slowly, eyes alert for insurgents, clearing house after house. Forty-two minutes into the operation, a man in a white sedan at the end of one alley fired off a round from his rifle, retreating immediately under a return volley from Iraqi soldiers on a nearby rooftop. One street over, another insurgent sprayed machine-gun fire that cracked over Claburn's head as he stepped into a courtyard with other troops. A U.S. Humvee shot back with a heavy .50-caliber gun. Minutes later, Claburn and a dozen SEALs scrambled to the roof, laid their guns on a chest-high wall and began firing toward another insurgent team - four gunmen in a blue truck. Two Iraqi soldiers on another rooftop also opened fire. The SEALs' fire riddled the truck, and 40 mm grenades destroyed its engine as the gunmen fled. Job done, rooftop littered with spent shell casings, the Americans withdrew. Asked why U.S. or coalition forces didn't pursue the attackers, Claburn - whose radio call sign is "Gunfighter 6" - said it wouldn't be prudent. Insurgents often try to lure troops into danger, he said, exposing themselves in hopes they would be chased down a street where explosives had been laid. "You have to out-insurgent the insurgent. You have to think about what he's trying to make you do ... and do the complete opposite," the Army captain said, riding in a Humvee along a road lined with palm trees as two helicopters clattered overhead. "Unfortunately nothing in Army doctrine teaches you to fight an enemy like this." US forces planning for the long haul in Iraq: The US armed forces are planning to stay in Iraq for at least a decade, a media report claimed on Monday, quoting military strategists. A report in Newsweek said that the 38 square kilometres mini-city and airport Balad was the evidence that American forces were preparing for the long haul. With 27,500 landings and takeoffs a month, Balad is second only to London's Heathrow Airport in traffic worldwide, Brig Gen Frank Gorenc, the base commander, was quoted as saying. Gorenc said he was "normalising" the giant Balad airfield, or gradually rebuilding it to US military specifications. The Saddam-era concrete is considered too substandard for the F-16s, C-130s and other aircraft that fly in and out so regularly that they crack the tarmac. "It's safe to say Balad will be here for a long time," says Gorenc, who, the magazine stressed, felt at home in Iraqi skies, where the Air Force has been having its way since the first Gulf War. "One of the issues of sovereignty for any country is the ability to control their own airspace. We will probably be helping the Iraqis with that problem for a very long time," Gorenc said. Calling it an image of what America's long-term plans for Iraq looked like, the report said it was one of the four "super bases" where the Pentagon planned to consolidate US forces, taking them gradually from the front lines of the Iraq war. Two other bases were slated for the British and Iraqi military. COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Coming Home: The Sniper Returns: Despite what passes for media coverage of these last terrible days of death and destruction; despite the endless hours of freely provided media education on the names and capabilities of all manner of killing devices; despite the obvious question, oft left unasked: "What happens to the dumb people smart bombs fall upon?" Despite the thousands slain, the hundreds of thousands maimed; despite all this, and more, many Americans are yet unaware of just how "your" military approaches conflict: It's not by the Marquis' rules. "The Chick Got in the Way." She chatted, that pleasant Spring day, with a young soldier. He was a soldier in the sights of an American sniper, during the opus' first acts. A moment passed, and she died; her body being nothing more to the sniper than a conduit to his target. If there is consolation, it is that the pair died nearly simultaneously that pleasant Spring day. For their assassin, it was described rather matter-of-factly after the fact by a young American. Simply: "The chick got in the way." Returning now, in whole, or in pieces, are those sent away to inflict upon the "other" atrocity. To kill, remote from consequence is the capital "C" crime commited grandly in Afghanistan and Iraq today, and in other less news-worthy locales. These remnant-soldiers, largely ignored by those sworn to their protection, are now wending their soul-damaged way through the myriad bureaucratic barriers to a just and liveable solution to the psychic disaster their deeds have wrought. Now these thousands return. Ignored perhaps, and still reminders of a greater evil lurking behind these wars of "liberation," of which Mr. Bush may believe his subjects entirely ignorant. That is, afterall his right. But, there is more than a single twisted mind, perfectly trained to do aweful things; these same trained to do that we yet disbelieve, despite the purported evidence behind the terror and carnage of Iraq, are a product of a conspiracy; a conspiracy designed to what end is still uncertain, but a conspiracy to be sure. It may be the sharpshooters trained, armed, and dispatched from America have the best interests of those occupying the occupied nations to which they're sent, and America may be the home of Liberty, but as "America" comes less to mean home for human rights, the question remains: "What do we do with these men upon their returning? And what might they do to us?" "We're actually having a great time here in Iraq": The LAT has an article suggesting that Rummy & Condi went to Iraq to use the country purely as a backdrop for a message aimed at the American public. No kidding. You have to appreciate the irony that the two show up unannounced and uninvited, which they wouldn't do to, say, China or Britain, to talk about how Iraq is fully sovereign now. They're playing up the message of unity, by which I don't mean the "unified government of national unity," but unity between Rummy and Condi, who have evidently put all the fussin' and the feudin' behind them. Sez Condi: "We're actually having a great time here in Iraq. I think it's very stimulating for us both to be in these meetings with Iraq's leaders together." Cuz they really know how to party. Hope the thought of Condi being stimulated doesn't put you off your breakfasts. The other big Gitmo news: The Pentagon wants to put on trial a few of the Guantanamo prisoners, execute a few of them, release some of them (at some point in the future, so why is this news?), transfer others to prisons in their own countries, and declare some of them no longer combatants but continue to imprison them, like those Uighurs, because they can't safely be sent back to their own countries. The LA Times headline for this, which is obviously inaccurate in so many ways, is "U.S. to Free 141 Terror Suspects." And it entirely misses the other big Gitmo news: McDonald's is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Guantanamo store! Hurrah! [see quote of the day --- zig] Bushism as Greek drama: "Hubris" and "Tragic Flaws": The world of theatre that I've swum in for decades as a drama critic provides a useful prism through which to view today's political events and players. This is especially true when thinking about drama from ancient Greece and Europe's Renaissance. Those periods remind us how often human tragedy repeats itself over the centuries. (Which is why many modern directors return so often to the wisdom of these ancient plays, often staging them with contemporary conceits so as to make the connections overt for their audiences.) Much of ancient Greek drama focuses on the disastrous results of "hubris," an overweening pride and arrogance that can lead rulers to go outside the ethical/legal boundaries. (See "Oedipus Rex," "Antigone," "The Orestia.") Almost invariably, because their reckless attitude upsets the delicate balance required for proper rule, punishment or even tragedy results -- and not just personal, but for society as a whole. (...) Bush's Unprecedented Hubris Now we have Bush Junior, who has attempted to codify his power-grabbing hubris by claiming that the president can do whatever he chooses to do as long as he does so as "commander in chief" during "wartime." Using this dictatorial theory, Bush has authorized torture, illegal spying on U.S. citizens, breaking and entering into citizens' homes and computers without their ever knowing such violations of privacy occurred, leaking classified information to friendly reporters, and on and on. The scale of Bush's hubris is unprecedented in American history, which may be why, five years into his rule, even friends and conservative supporters are opposed to his unconstitutional grab for power. Many of them recall Bush's predilection for operating outside the laws and traditions of our democratic republic; three times he has expressed an affinity for dictatorship. What may have been Freudian-slip jokes when uttered several years ago -- such as: "it would be much easier if this was a dictatorship, as long as I get to be the dictator" -- now don't seem so funny. The "Tragic Flaw" Which brings us to the next theatrical concept from the Greeks, and honed in the works of Shakespeare in the Elizabethan period in England more than 400 years ago: the "tragic flaw." The essence of this theory is that, by and large, rulers are not brought down only, or even mainly, by external events -- rather, they bring ruin upon themselves because of some significant deficiency in their own character, a "tragic flaw" in their psychic and ethical makeup. They are consumed by overweening lust for power, or don't mind using immoral means in the service of good ends, or can't control their obsessions, etc. Think: "Macbeth," and ambition; "Othello," and jealousy; "Hamlet," and indecision. (...) Bush is the apotheosis of all those weaknesses into one humongous Tragic Flaw unlike any that has been seen in American politics, with worldwide consequences that result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and maimings. What is different is that the other leaders [Nixon, Reagan and Clinton] , at some level, knew they were misbehaving and tried like the dickens to hide the evidence. These politicians were undone when they came to learn, once again, that the cover-up is always worse than the crime. Bush, of course, has tried to conceal his many mistakes, but when that doesn't work, the Rovian approach for Bush is to loudly assert, in a threatening in-your-face manner, that his worst weaknesses are really his strengths. (For example, he's violating laws and the Constitution in order "to protect Americans.") As the many violations and scandals begin breaking through the denial dam, the policy is altered to proudly assert a "constitutional right" right to do whatever Bush and his cohorts are doing or planning on doing. In short, a variation of Nixon's claim (a theory knocked down instantly by the Supreme Court in the early 1970s) that whatever the president does is ipso facto legal. Most legal scholars today support the Supreme Court's outright dismissal of that claimed right to abrogate the Constitution and upset the separation of powers structure -- but let us not forget that Bush may well have a working majority on today's Supreme Court. From where does Bush's tragic flaw derive? Origin of the Disease In almost any area of governance you can think of, George W. Bush is ridden with the fault-lines of his tragic flaws -- and may have borrowed some from earlier leaders. Bush is so bereft of self-esteem (much of it derived from his upbringing, by constant humiliation by his parents, by a string of personal and business failures, by his inability to admit error and tell the truth), that he can't help himself from over-compensating by displaying a persona of cockiness and belligerent authority. In short, the bully syndrome: deficient on the inside, aggressive on the outside. Bush, let us remember, delighted in blowing up frogs with explosives as a child. Incompetent by nature and practice, Bush surrounds himself with yes-men and those who likewise are boastful bumblers. Basically ignorant, dogmatic and intellectually incurious, Bush easily is manipulated and swayed by those few insiders he trusts; namely, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the architects of his political ideology and modus operandi. One can sense that the American people during the past year or so figured out that Bush and his crew are in way over their heads when it comes to intelligent leadership -- witness the debacle that is Iraq, the post-Katrina-disaster federal "assistance" they thoroughly botched in New Orleans, the economy which has put future generations trillions of dollars in hock, the Medicare and Social Security messes, Plamegate, domestic spying, torture, etc., etc. When Bush uncorks another of his deficient media performances these days, a majority of the American people simply don't pay much attention anymore to what he says, since they know it bears only the slightest connection either to what he is doing or to the activities of Rove, Cheney and Rumsfeld behind the curtain. Many citizens, numb and apprehensive, seem fixated on somehow riding out the next two-and-a-half years of disastrous policies and destructive consequences under Bush. Or perhaps they suspect that something will come along, maybe the Republicans losing the House or Senate in the November midterm election, to finally offer some hope for the future -- including Bush and Cheney resigning rather than face impeachment. Don't count on it. Why about 33 percent of folks in Amerika think Bush walks on water: I am no pollster, social scientist, or academic. What I am, however, is a rather astute observer of the human condition over many years. There is a wealth of statistics one can pull up from the Internet or access from other research venues. As a writer -- and I am far from alone in this -- I use statistics sparingly. After all, there is that old saw about figures don't lie, but liars figure. What I rely on mostly is my own innate life experiences and interactions. Back to the stupid factor, most historians rate Bush as one of the worst presidents in US history, and he still has 33 months to go. His poll numbers are in the toilet, and in spite of all his conversations with God, it looks like the Almighty also has given up on the monkey boy. Still, about 33 percent of folks here in Amerika think Bush walks on water. It is my contention that 33 percent who believe in Bush have a collective I.Q. of about 60. Think about it, if 40 percent of this county is functionally illiterate, it is obvious this is where Bush's base is. Looking at it further, a large part of Bush's base is comprised of the fascist, religious wingnuts. Now that's a group real high up there on the I. Q. scale. I mean, how much intelligence does it take to follow a living high on the hog preacher, who steadily berates you for being a sinner, all the while imploring you to keep sending in those checks. That takes a heap of brain cells, folks. Sending your grocery money in to some sharkskin suited preacher man (or woman) who lives in that big house on the hill. Then we have the Toby Keith contingent, you know, that faction who drive through life with the gun rack affixed to the rear window, and the jingoistic, requisite flags and assorted other magnets attached to their pickemup trucks or SUVs. Their idea of entertainment is stringing folks up to barbwire fences, or sitting with beer in hand watching other guys drive around in circles. And we cannot leave out the Minutemen, those paragons of literary nuance whose three favorite words are, "shoot the spics." As a matter of fact it is the only words they can form into a complete sentence, after that the utterances become lost in the frothing that forms around their mouths; a seasoned mixture of chewing tobacco and spittle. I suppose there are a few other groups, or sub-groups that I could include in this diatribe; but, after all I don't want to be accused of stereotyping. Heaven forbid that I find myself joined with those liberal elitist, Birkenstock-wearing, latte-sipping, Volvo-driving . . . well, you get the idea. Just remember, that shining example of common sense, who uttered it so well in the movie Forrest Gump, "My mamma always said, 'Stupid is as stupid does.'" This is not about politics. It's about stopping the madness -- and the giggling madman whose aggressive stupidity and exaggerated sense of himself have brought shame to this once proud nation. Henry Kissinger once said, "Of all the despots I've had to deal with, none was more ruthless than Donald Rumsfeld." With Rumsfeld, it's about rendition, brutal torture, sexual humiliation and ghoulishly insane war crimes. It's about a group of immensely brave apolitical patriots being forced to do what the US Congress and the US media steadfastly refuse to do -- tell the American people the truth. The blood dripping from the corpses in Iraq is nothing compared to that literally gushing from those who know what is going on, but choose to remain silent. This is not about Rumsfeld "transforming" the Army. It's about the calculated destruction of all the services. It's about privatizing the military -- contracting out US security to war profiteers such as Halliburton, Bechtel, Blackwater. It's about psychological operations (PsyOps) teams and death squads roaming throughout Iraq murdering innocents in their homes and mosques, gunning down anything that moves in the streets. It's about a secretary of defense not only ordering torture, but getting personally involved in it. This is not about whether Rumsfeld should be replaced. It is about whether he should be hanged for not supporting those for whom he is responsible. It is about sending hundreds of thousands of Americans into the mayhem of an insurgent battlefield; many to certain death as a result of improper training, lack of protective armor and lack of proper equipment. It is about Rumsfeld "disappearing" the nearly 2,400 dead service members who continue to return in the dead of night without honor. It is about 35 families who will drop to their knees tonight and pray for the safety of their children, not knowing they are already dead. It is about more than 20,000 soldiers and marines evacuated from Rumsfeld's war, many physically and mentally damaged beyond repair -- nearly 12,000 of them suffering from disease. This is about destroying entire populations with Depleted Uranium, including many future generations of Americans. Of course Rumsfeld must go. And, ultimately, he will take George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice and the rest of the depraved warmongers with him. The American people have finally had enough of aggressive stupidity. And we are the deciders. Chernobyl Twenty Years Later: How Empires Fall: The Evil Empire ended twenty years ago today with the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster, which killed and injured hundreds and left a legacy of waste in Ukraine and Belarus. Yes, it reminded the world of the need for extraordinary care in the use of nuclear power, a theme highly relevant in today's energy and international security framework. But, the real significance of Chernobyl was that for the first time in the history of the USSR the leadership was forced to admit publicly to such a disaster. There had of course been massive losses of life in purges, wars and internal nuclear disasters before Chernobyl. But this time, CNN covered the story that first came from Swedish scientists who reported an enormous spike in atomic particulate. UPI reported, erroneously, hundreds of thousands of deaths. NPR and BBC picked up the story and, in the face of the typical Soviet news black out, reported lower estimated casualties, but continued to instill panic. The newly installed General Secretary of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, was forced to go on television a few days after Chernobyl to explain that an explosion had occurred, but that the situation was far less dire than many media outlets had suggested. In short, the existence of global media cracked the Communist grip on shaping of the news. This was really the end of the USSR. I worked for Armand Hammer in those days and remember exactly where I was when we received a call about Chernobyl. The US government offered aid, but the Russians declined. We offered to send in some medical experts and equipment; the Soviets said yes. They trusted Dr. Hammer, because he always talked to the Soviets, in good times and bad. We went to Moscow, Kiev and the environs of Chernobyl in early May, 1986. Gorbachev told Hammer he was livid at the Western press coverage, incredulous that we could not control our media. In time, Gorbachev and his colleagues understood that information cannot be contained, or not forever, but the time for keeping the Communists in power had passed. Why should we care today? In the fervor to use the disaster of September 11, 2001 to impose an ideology on the globe through blunt force, the Bush Administration is all too slowly learning the lesson that destroyed the USSR. You can manipulate information for a while, but in today's Internet world, the truth shall out. Bush tries to scare us into believing that if we do not continue to use force in Iraq, Iran or wherever he next chooses, the U.S. will topple. The truth is quite the opposite. As we learn of the motivations, the shoddy planning and the nauseating corruption in Iraq, we see that Bush's global ambitions have weakened America, perhaps inexorably. Let's hope that twenty years on, when Chernobyl is as far away in time as the launching of Sputnik is now, that historians are not writing that the United States ended on 20 March, 2003, the day the secretive George Bush ordered an invasion of Iraq. FOUR MOVIES NO SELF-RESPECTING BUSHIE WILL FAIL TO HATE Sir! No Sir!, directed by David Zeiger; documentary
Review: Despite avoiding any mention of Iraq, Sir! No Sir! nonetheless derives its contemporary relevance from its Vietnam subject's parallels to America's ongoing Middle East exploits. The story of the G.I. anti-war movement during the late '60s and early '70s, David Zeiger's documentary—narrated by actor Troy Garrity, Jane Fonda's son—uses a standard-issue mix of recent interviews, archival photos, newsreel footage, and newspaper clippings in recounting veterans' opposition to LBJ and Nixon's disastrous war, meticulously detailing the harassment, humiliation, abuse, and imprisonment suffered by many "mutinous" servicemen and servicewomen who dared break ranks by speaking out against the conflict. --- Nick Schager, slant magazine
Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire, Media Education Foundation; documentary
Review: Better than anyone to date, the Media Education Foundation has quietly and accurately documented the most important history of 21st century thus far in their recent video and DVD release, Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear, and the Selling of American Empire. Hijacking Catastrophe is powerful, understated, straightforward and educational. In a single meticulously organized hour of evidence and analysis, viewers are treated to a thoughtful explanation of modern American empire, neo-conservatism as a driving force for the current Bush administration, and something I have not seen before, a real economic analysis of what is driving some of our current "global war on terror." --- Karen Kwiatkowski (Lt. Col. USAF retired)
See 'Hijacking Catastrophe' online
America: From Freedom to Fascism, directed by Aaron Russo; documentary
Review: Well, the title as it is, I saw the film America: From Freedom to Fascism tonight in Tucson, Arizona. From the moment it begins it is gripping, informative and down right scary! The viewer comes away with an understanding that as good as we might be in our day to day lives, we are all targets of a runaway government, intent on exerting it's power and expressing it's will - despite the law. Aaron Russo has created a compelling and troubling documentary that indeed gives the impression that America has already moved from Freedom to Fascism (and defines the terms so the viewer can decide for themselves). The film is in the final stages of post-production and upon completion will be entered at Cannes in May. It is sure to make the headlines there and open more than a few eyes. This film will make an impact on the viewer - It's up to the viewer to then make an impact on the state of affairs in American government. --- IMDB review
V for Vendetta, directed by James McTeigue, screenplay by the Wachowski brothers, based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore; feature film (rated #14 at the Apr 21 - 23 weekend U.S. box office)
Review 1: I hope that some ultraconservative group will hear about this film and encourage the world to boycott it. That way more people will go see it. (…) V for Vendetta is no screed. If you want to see a sci-fi action film packed with explosions, gunfire, knife-throwing and a man who is more than human fighting against insurmountable odds, then you can happily enjoy this movie and ignore its political implications. But for those who have any interest in politics, V for Vendetta is an allegory for our times, a call to arms for all those who, like Evey and V, would see the world change to become a place where the people are no longer herded like cattle along the paths the government sets forth; a world where people tell the government how things are going to be. If anything, the greatest problem with V for Vendetta is that few of the people who should be seeing its political message will even think about seeing the movie. If you value freedom and democracy, go see V for Vendetta and form your own opinion. Then write your nearest government representative and encourage him or her to come out publicly against this film. We need a national dialogue framed around a graphic novel to continue to inform the public that comics and comic-based films aren't just for kids anymore - and that, as V says, "People shouldn't fear their governments. Governments should fear their people." --- Paul Benjamin, RevolutionSF Review 2: I'm paralyzed: I've been sitting in front of the computer for what feels like hours trying to figure out where to begin, and I still can't get my head around how profoundly awed and moved and overwhelmed and terrorized and rejuvenated I am by V for Vendetta. It's been 24 hours now since I stumbled from the theater where I saw the film -- my friends and I were the last ones out cuz we were too stunned to move and so we sat through all the long credits and then as the lights came up and then as the cleaning people came through making those harrumphing noises that are meant to invite you to leave -- 24 hours during which I saw another two films and did a lot of non-V for Vendetta-related writing, and my brain is still so in Vendetta overdrive that surely it is gonna asplode. (Note to self: See movie again. About a dozen times. Surely that'll exorcise it from my head.) (...) Then again, maybe it's just a silly movie about a guy in a mask... --- Maryann Johanson, the Flick Philosopher Review 3: I haven't been so emotionally engaged by a freedom film since Braveheart. I haven't seen a more important freedom film since The Matrix. No. Strike that. V for Vendetta is more important than The Matrix because its message is so unabashedly here-and-now. So in-your-face. Not to mention that like The Matrix it wraps its message in one hell of an action-adventure story. This is a movie without compromise. No words minced. No concepts softpedaled or cleverly coded. V for Vendetta overtly advocates the right, even the duty, of individuals in the twenty-first century to defend themselves violently against government tyranny. And the government in question is a recognizable near-future descendent of ones that now lie oozing and festering before our very noses. The movie government isn't a Bush administration clone, as some conservative critics whimpered (it's British, for one thing). But it's familiar enough that the Wachowski brothers, who wrote the screenplay, are obviously warning, "Look, tyranny isn't some distant threat that happens only to foreigners. When you begin hearing words like 'rendition' or 'detention' from your own government, it's time to be very, very watchful. And very, very angry. And to act." Since I'm late coming in, and since words would fail me anyhow, I won't attempt a real review. I'll just say if you haven't seen it yet go. Now. Experience it yourself. And I 100 percent guarantee you it'll be an experience. --- Claire Wolfe
UK Foreign Office lawyers formally advise Straw it would be illegal for Britain to support US-led military action against Iran: The advice given to the Foreign Secretary in the last few weeks is thought to have prompted his open criticism last week of Tony Blair's backing for President George Bush, who has refused to rule out military action against the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003, Straw received similar private advice from senior Foreign Office lawyers who had also advised the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, on the illegality of an invasion without the express authority of the United Nations Security Council. The Foreign Office's deputy legal adviser, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, later resigned when the attorney general reversed his initial view on the war's legality. Sources within the Foreign Office say there is an express desire that this time their legal advice is heard and acted upon.A source close to Straw told the Sunday Herald: "There is now a clear paper trail of legal advice." Straw last week passed on the legal advice to some of his cabinet colleagues after Blair effectively backed the White House view that military action could not be ruled out. Although the Prime Minister claimed any other option would be a "message of weakness", Straw said it would be "inconceivable" that Britain would support a military strike against Tehran. The Foreign Office's lawyers have gone further than merely advising on the legality of military assistance. It is thought their advice stretched to the use of British military advisers, UK airspace and even the dangers of Tony Blair expressing support which could be taken as legitimising a US-led attack without the express authority of the United Nations.
Questioning the intelligence: Before deciding to bomb Iran's nuclear installations the Bush administration must seriously question whether the intelligence on which its decision is based is reliable. Those of us who have followed reports on the development of Iran's nuclear program know that the warnings from American and other intelligence agencies about Tehran building a bomb in three and five years have been made again and again - for more than 15 years. For 15 years, the intelligence agencies have been proven dead wrong. And to this gross exaggeration of Iran's true intentions and capabilities must be added the fairy tales the same intelligence agencies have been feeding the world regarding Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction. --- Martin van Creveld, a professor of military history at the Hebrew University, is the only non-American author on the U.S. Army's required reading list for officers. The chances of a regime change taking place in Iran any time in the near future are nil: Since his election, the Iranian President has embarked upon an ambitious populist social and economic agenda aimed at creating better conditions for the Iranians through fighting corruption, poverty alleviation, equitable distribution of resources among economically disadvantaged regions and cutting public consumption expenditures and other economic austerity measures by government agencies. To stimulate further economic growth and create employment opportunities, Ahmadinejad also withdrew sizeable amounts from Iran's Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund, an emergency fund set up by the former government, to fund job-creating private investments and public development projects. Obviously, these measures would prevent the social and economic demands of the youths from translating into political behavior, such as public protests, riots and other violent behaviors. Such developments would also significantly boost Ahmadinejad's reelection chances. Most Iranians believe that their country cannot afford another revolution because Iran experienced turbulent times over the past three decades. Moreover, the nuclear issues has become a matter of national pride. This strong sense of nationalism and daily scenes of explosions, bloodshed and chaos seen next door in Iraq also preclude the possibility of a foreign-led or sponsored regime chance in the country. The lack of a viable alternative political force to fill in the power vacuum after a possible breakup of the existing order also makes a regime change impossible. Currently, there are no credible political movements outside Iran that can mobilize necessary resources to lead a regime change and run a post-conflict government. Most of the existing foreign-based Iranian opposition groups also lack the needed support of the Iranians. Overall, the chances of a regime change taking place in Iran any time in the near future are nil. The Islamic republic has consolidated its rule over the past quarter of a century and is currently experiencing its most favorable domestic conditions since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Iranian government also enjoys wide support among the vast majority of its citizens. Modern political history of Iran shows that any genuine political changes in Iran comes from within the Iranian society and government. The U.S. should examine the realities on the ground before making irrational moves that could create another mayhem in the Middle East.
While U.S. warships hold exercises in the Caribbean, Venezuela will conduct its own maneuvers with thousands of troops practicing to defend the country's coastline, a top navy official said Tuesday. Vice Adm. Armando Laguna said 10,000 active service troops and 3,500 civilians and reservists will participate in the war games that are to start next week and eventually involve F-16 planes, ships and helicopters. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a fierce critic of Washington, has said the country must be prepared to face a possible U.S. invasion, and has accused the U.S. military of trying to threaten Venezuela with naval exercises it is holding in the Caribbean this month. "We also have the capacity to show our teeth. Venezuelans' teeth are harder," Laguna said. The U.S. deployed an aircraft carrier and other ships and planes to the Caribbean for the exercises. U.S. officials have repeatedly denied Chavez's warnings about a U.S. invasion, but they have accused him of being a threat to regional stability. Myanmar's armed forces reorienting to defend against possible US-led foreign invasion, as revealed in a top-secret internal document leaked exclusively to Asia Times Online. This official Ministry of Defense document represents the first concrete evidence that Myanmar is reacting militarily to recent US official statements referring to the hardline regime as an "outpost of tyranny". The minutes of an October 2005 meeting in which battalion commanders were briefed about a high-level meeting at the War Office in Yangon delineates three ways in which the United States might invade Myanmar - through agitating its citizens, in an alliance with insurgents and ceasefire groups or through a multinational coalition-led invasion. The Burmese-language document, which is more than 40 pages in length, is stamped "Top Secret". The document further identifies Thailand, a staunch strategic ally of the United States, as Myanmar's "nearest enemy" and takes particular umbrage at the US-Thai joint Cobra Gold military exercises held annually in Thailand. In the past, the highly public joint military exercises have focused on counter-narcotics operations to help stem the flow of drugs from Myanmar into Thailand. The document also indicates that [Myanmar's armed forces, commonly known as] the Tatmadaw has been closely studying US military strategy and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and is preparing an "Operation Other No War" plan (as the document's English-language translation calls it) to defend against a possible US invasion through a war of attrition. Exact details of the defensive contingency plan are not included in the document, however. QUOTE OF THE DAY: 'McDonald's makes Gitmo feel like home,'' --- 43-year-old U.S. Army sergeant first class who just happens to be named Domini McDonald, stationed at the Guantanamo base speaking to the Miami Herald on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of McDonald's arrival to what's now the world's most notorious concentration camp.


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