Thursday, April 06, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR THURSDAY, April 6, 2006 Photo: A U.S. soldier facing angry Iraqi citizens condemning the occupation in Hilla, Iraq, March 19, 2006. (Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters) Bring 'em on: U.S. patrol struck by roadside bomb south of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. There were no reports on the number of casualties. OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: Bomb goes off near police patrol in western Baghdad, killing a policeman and wounding five. A second bomb exploded when another group of police arrived at the scene, injuring two additional policemen. Four corpses of men in their 20s, handcuffed and blindfolded, found in southern Dora district. South of Baghdad, gunmen in three cars ambush five truck drivers on their way to the capital from the town of Mahawil, killing all of them and stealing their trucks. Haswa: Five civilians killed and two wounded when gunmen shoot at their cars near police station in Haswa. Najaf: Car bomb explodes near sacred Shiite shrine in Najaf, killing at least 15 people. Baqubah: Explosive charge detonates near military patrol in AbuKhnazeer area in Baquba, killing an army captain and wounding five soldiers. Roadside bomb goes off near police station of Baquba, causing no human casualties but damaging several shops. Eight people wounded, including six civilians, when roadside bomb targeting patrol explodes in central Baquba. Kirkuk: Gunmen seriously wound Kurdish captain in the Iraqi army in eastern part of Kirkuk. Police discovers headless body they believe belonged to a Kurdish man kidnapped the previous night. Fallujah: Suicide car bomb explodes near Iraqi army-U.S. troops patrol west of Baghdad, killing seven, one of them an Iraqi policeman. The attack took place in Amiriyat al-Falluja area southwest of Falluja. IRAQ NEWS Shiites turn to Sistani to break deadlock: [president and speaker of parliament, prominent Shiite politician Khalid] al-Attiyah said the deadlock [over the formation of the new government] had become "very complicated" and al-Jaafari's supporters within the alliance want to ask the advice of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most respected Shiite cleric, before deciding their next move. Al-Attiyah said other Shiite politicians who are not affiliated with the major Shiite parties also have agreed to seek al-Sistani's opinion. Turning to al-Sistani shows the inability of the Shiite alliance to resolve the standoff, with many Shiite politicians fearing that a move to force out al-Jaafari would splinter their alliance. "During the time Ibrahim Jaafari has been Prime Minister, 40,000 Iraqi Sunnis have been killed", Sheikh Hareth al-Zari, secretary general of the Association of Muslim Scholars, told the popular satellite channel al-Jazeera on Wednesday. US says yet another Zarqawi lieutenant captured, a prime suspect in the kidnapping of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena. Mohammed Hila Hammad Obeidi, also known as Abu Ayman, was arrested in southern Baghdad on March 7. Average Iraq oil exports for March were 1.34 million bpd, down from 1.37 million bpd in February. Polish President Lech Kaczynski arrives on a short visit in Iraq. Plans of the trip had been kept in secrecy for security reasons. He has had a one hour meeting in Baghdad with Djalal Talabani--also visited soldiers in the Polish military base in Diwanija. Rumsfeld Challenges Rice on 'Tactical Errors' in Iraq: Speaking during a radio interview on WDAY in Fargo, N.D., on Tuesday, Rumsfeld said calling changes in military tactics during the war "errors" reflects a lack of understanding of warfare. Rumsfeld defended his war plan for Iraq but added that such plans inevitably do not survive first contact with the enemy. "Why? Because the enemy's got a brain; the enemy watches what you do and then adjusts to that, so you have to constantly adjust and change your tactics, your techniques and your procedures," Rumsfeld told interviewer Scott Hennen, according to a Defense Department transcript. "If someone says, well, that's a tactical mistake, then I guess it's a lack of understanding, at least my understanding, of what warfare is about." REPORTS Bush authorized Iraq intelligence leaks ahead of war, indicted former top White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby said, according to court papers. Libby is under investigation on suspicion of having leaked to the press the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame -- a federal crime in the United States. According to a document filed Wednesday by federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Libby said he spoke to a reporter after learning from Vice President Dick Cheney that Bush had authorized intelligence leaks. "Defendant's participation in a critical conversation with Judith Miller ... occurred only after the vice president advised defendant that the president specifically had authorized defendant to disclose certain information in the NIE" (National Intelligence Estimate), the document said. Former senior US military commander, Anthony Zinni, calls for dismissal of Rumsfeld over critical mistakes made in Iraq war: Zinni, who headed the US Central Command from 1997 to 2000, was asked if anyone should lose their job over how Washington has managed its Iraq policy."Secretary of defense to begin with," he told NBC's "Meet the Press" program. "There's a series of disastrous mistakes. We just heard the secretary of state say these were tactical mistakes. They were not tactical mistakes. These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policies made back here," he said. "A War Launched to Erase both the Culture and Future of the Iraqi people": International Seminar on the assassination of Iraqi Academics and Health Professionals, Madrid (Spain) - Saturday 22 April: Public Session - Sunday 23 April: International Meeting on Iraq Solidarity (organizations) The Association of Iraqi Academics estimates that more than 180 academics from a wide range of academic and scientific fields of studies from all over the country have been killed or forced in to exile. Most of them were high-level academic staff members [1]. According to official Iraqi sources, an additional 311 primary and secondary teachers of both sexes have been killed in Iraq during the last four months alone [2]. Likewise, workers attached to the National Iraqi Medicare System--a model of civic compromise during the 15 years of sanctions, war and occupation--are being targeted for a mass campaign of extortion, threats and murders. Meanwhile, Iraqi hospitals and clinics are being attacked and systematically raided by US occupation forces. The occupation is responsible for these killings. There is no doubt that this is a deliberate campaign of criminal acts committed by death squads and encouraged by those who want to erase all secular and qualified layers of Iraqi society: academics, scientists, professionals and intellectuals, women and men who would be the foundation in the rebuilding of a democratic and non-sectarian society in a free and sovereign State of Iraq after the end of the Occupation. Within the framework of the conclusions of the World Tribunal on Iraq [3], the Spanish Campaign against the Occupation and for the Sovereignty of Iraq (CEOSI), The BRussells Tribunal and the US organization International Action Center (IAC, presided over Mr. Ramsey Clark), are calling for the International Seminar A War Launched to Erase both the Culture and the Future of Iraq, on the assassinations of Iraqi Academics and Health Professionals, which will be held in Madrid, on Saturday 22 April 2006. On Sunday 23 April there will be an international meeting of both European and US organizations with the purpose of encouraging international solidarity with Iraq. COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS The Iraqis aren't fools…: We all used to laugh; Sunnies and Shia'ats, Arabs and Kurds, we used to laugh and accept one another; I am a Shia'at, my husband is a Sunnie. We raised our children to love all the people, respect all the people, do not discriminate between people, and hold no grudge against anyone… Our neighbors were Arabs and Kurds, Muslims and Christians; we love and respect them, and they love and respect us…this is how we used to live… But Iraq today lives in a big dilemma, there isn't a place for the neutral logicals, like us. There are some who support and finance the ugly sectarian call, spiteful of the Other, to destroy the country… And there are some who assassinate the voice of the logical neutrals… All who speak with the sectarianism spirit, or say it was present before the war, is just a fool who is destroying Iraq, knowingly, or not… When I met Iraqi women and men here, those who are against the war and the occupation, all were from various sorts- Muslims and Christians, Sunnies and Shia'ats, Arabs, Kurds, and Turkman, men and women, they all spoke like me, all their hearts burned in sadness for Iraq. We asked each other: Didn't we live together, weren't our parents friends and neighbors, weren't we childhood and school mates, did we ever ask: are you a Sunnie or a Shia'at? A Kurd or an Arab? But now, who tore Iraq apart but this ugly occupation? The picture gets clearer when we all meet, feel that our hearts are united, and there is one enemy targeting us, wanting to tear our unity apart, and divide our country… The Iraqis aren't fools, these calamities strengthen our unity and solidarity. People in Baghdad collect donations, from all families, from all sects and ethnics, building the demolished mosques, so that Al-Athan (= the Islamic call for prayer) should rise and call in the Iraqi cities: Allahu Akhbar….GOD IS Great… This is what they want to deprive the Iraqis from hearing…. Someone out there is targeting our identity and religion, to shred them… The Iraqis aren't fools… Just three years ago: So much has happened to Iraq in the last three years, it seems eerie to think that only a few months before the U.S. illegal invasion, many things were different. Looking at today's Iraq, one's could think that Iraq has been occupied for decades by the U.S. Let's go back and look at the things that preceded the 2003 invasion and how today's Iraq would be much different had saner minds prevailed. Now we realize that George Bush was so adamant to invade Iraq, even with U.N. inspectors on the ground, because it would have been only a few months and Iraq would have a clean bill of goods and the embargo would have been lifted. Each day that went by with the inspectors reporting cooperation by the Iraqi government, yet no stashes of weapons, was a day closer to justice being served. The U.N. was about a month or two from giving Iraq the clean slate it said it deserved. Bush knew this and could not take chances. At the time, the mood in the U.N. was strongly in favor of quickly revoking the embargo. A few more inspections and the deal would have been done. Today's Iraq is horrible. I don't have to elaborate. Most of my readers have seen the pictures of death and destruction. Imagine if the embargo would have been lifted. Several hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis would not be in their graves. Millions of Iraqis would not have to live in grief because of the deaths of loved ones. Baghdad would be intact. This once majestic city is now a beehive of violence and mayhem. The murder rate in Baghdad would be minuscule, not the current 33 a day. There would be no 10-feet-high concrete barriers. There would be no U.S. tanks running Iraqi vehicles off the road for sport. And, the term "green zone" would not exist. Chalabi, Allawi and Sistani would be living in Europe or Iran. The trauma of the invasion and occupation of Iraq has left it virtually impossible for a resident of Baghdad today to remember that once the city was not a pile of rubble laden with daily violence. Eight-year-old kids and 75-year-old women carry, and know how to use, AK-47s. Imagine an Iraq today where there was no 2003 invasion and the embargo had been lifted. The oil sector would be booming and all the schools and hospitals would be in first-class condition. There would be little unemployment. In other words, the Iraqis would be free and prosperous, as they were before the U.S. began to destroy the country and its psyche in the late 1980s. How anyone can say things are better today in Iraq baffles me. Even the Iraqi stooges catering to the U.S. are beginning to grumble. It is appalling that Bush can take to the airwaves and say things are improving in Iraq. Even more appalling is the belief by the majority of the U.S. public that this is true. It is very hard to put things in perspective, but an Iraqi friend of mine told me about a recent discussion he had with a relative who visited Baghdad a couple of months ago. The relative told him, "Compared to today's Baghdad, the embargo years were the golden years." That is a statement in which no one should take pride. Noam Chomsky: Returning to the Scene of the Crime: In November 2004, U.S. occupation forces launched their second major attack on the city of Falluja. The press reported major war crimes instantly, with approval. The attack began with a bombing campaign intended to drive out all but the adult male population; men ages fifteen to forty-five who attempted to flee Falluja were turned back. The plans resembled the preliminary stage of the Srebrenica massacre, though the Serb attackers trucked women and children out of the city instead of bombing them out. While the preliminary bombing was under way, Iraqi journalist Nermeen al-Mufti reported from "the city of minarets [which] once echoed the Euphrates in its beauty and calm [with its] plentiful water and lush greenery... a summer resort for Iraqis [where people went] for leisure, for a swim at the nearby Habbaniya lake, for a kebab meal." She described the fate of victims of these bombing attacks in which sometimes whole families, including pregnant women and babies, unable to flee, along with many others, were killed because the attackers who ordered their flight had cordoned off the city, closing the exit roads. Al-Mufti asked residents whether there were foreign fighters in Falluja. One man said that "he had heard that there were Arab fighters in the city, but he never saw any of them." Then he heard that they had left. "Regardless of the motives of those fighters, they have provided a pretext for the city to be slaughtered," he continued, and "it is our right to resist." Another said that "some Arab brothers were among us, but when the shelling intensified, we asked them to leave and they did," and then asked a question of his own: "Why has America given itself the right to call on UK and Australian and other armies for help and we don't have the same right?" It would be interesting to ask how often that question has been raised in Western commentary and reporting. Or how often the analogous question was raised in the Soviet press in the 1980s, about Afghanistan. How often was a term like "foreign fighters" used to refer to the invading armies? How often did reporting and commentary stray from the assumption that the only conceivable question is how well "our side" is doing, and what the prospects are for "our success"? It is hardly necessary to investigate. The assumptions are cast in iron. Even to entertain a question about them would be unthinkable, proof of "support for terror" or "blaming all the problems of the world on America/Russia," or some other familiar refrain. After several weeks of bombing, the United States began its ground attack in Falluja. It opened with the conquest of the Falluja General Hospital. The front-page story in the New York Times reported that "patients and hospital employees were rushed out of rooms by armed soldiers and ordered to sit or lie on the floor while troops tied their hands behind their backs." An accompanying photograph depicted the scene. It was presented as a meritorious achievement. "The offensive also shut down what officers said was a propaganda weapon for the militants: Falluja General Hospital, with its stream of reports of civilian casualties." Plainly such a propaganda weapon is a legitimate target, particularly when "inflated civilian casualty figures" -- inflated because our leader so declared -- had "inflamed opinion throughout the country, driving up the political costs of the conflict." The word "conflict" is a common euphemism for U.S. aggression, as when we read on the same pages that "now, the Americans are rushing in engineers who will begin rebuilding what the conflict has just destroyed" -- just "the conflict," with no agent, like a hurricane. (…) Turning beyond the U.S. mainstream, we discover also that "Dr. Sami al-Jumaili described how U.S. warplanes bombed the Central Health Centre in which he was working," killing thirty-five patients and twenty-four staff. His report was confirmed by an Iraqi reporter for Reuters and the BBC, and by Dr. Eiman al-Ani of Falluja General Hospital, who said that the entire health center, which he reached shortly after the attack, had collapsed on the patients. The attacking forces said that the report was "unsubstantiated." In another gross violation of international humanitarian law, even minimal decency, the U.S. military denied the Iraqi Red Crescent access to Falluja. Sir Nigel Young, the chief executive of the British Red Cross, condemned the action as "hugely significant." It sets "a dangerous precedent," he said: "The Red Crescent had a mandate to meet the needs of the local population facing a huge crisis." Perhaps this additional crime was a reaction to a very unusual public statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross, condemning all sides in the war in Iraq for their "utter contempt for humanity." (…) Even apart from such major war crimes as the assault on Falluja, there is more than enough evidence to support the conclusion of a professor of strategic studies at the Naval War College that the year 2004 "was a truly horrible and brutal one for hapless Iraq." Hatred of the United States, he continued, is now rampant in a country subjected to years of sanctions that had already led to "the destruction of the Iraqi middle class, the collapse of the secular educational system, and the growth of illiteracy, despair, and anomie [that] promoted an Iraqi religious revival [among] large numbers of Iraqis seeking succor in religion." Basic services deteriorated even more than they had under the sanctions. "Hospitals regularly run out of the most basic medicines... the facilities are in horrid shape, [and] scores of specialists and experienced physicians are leaving the country because they fear they are targets of violence or because they are fed up with the substandard working conditions." Meanwhile, "religion's role in Iraqi political life has ratcheted steadily higher since US-led forces overthrew Mr. Hussein in 2003," the Wall Street Journal reports. Since the invasion, "not a single political decision" has been made without Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's "tacit or explicit approval, say government officials," while the "formerly little-known young rebel cleric" Muqtada al-Sadr has "fashioned a political and military movement that has drawn tens of thousands of followers in the south and in Baghdad's poorest slums." Similar developments have taken place in Sunni areas. The vote on Iraq's draft constitution in fall 2005 turned into "a battle of the mosques," with voters largely following religious edicts. Few Iraqis had even seen the document because the government had scarcely distributed any copies. The new constitution, the Wall Street Journal notes, has "far deeper Islamic underpinnings than Iraq's last one, a half century ago, which was based on [secular] French civil law," and had granted women "nearly equal rights" with men. All of this has now been reversed under the U.S. occupation. (…) The scale of the catastrophe in Iraq is so extreme that it can barely be reported. Journalists are largely confined to the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, or else travel under heavy guard. There have been a few regular exceptions in the mainstream press, such as Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn [of the British newspaper The Independent], who face extreme hazards, and there are occasional indications of Iraqi opinion. One was a report on a nostalgic gathering of educated westernized Baghdad elites, where discussion turned to the sacking of Baghdad by Hulagu Khan and his vicious atrocities. A philosophy professor commented that "Hulagu was humane compared with the Americans," drawing some laughter, but "most of the guests seemed eager to avoid the subject of politics and violence, which dominate everyday life here." Instead they turned to past efforts to create an Iraqi national culture that would overcome the old ethnic-religious divisions to which Iraq is now "regressing" under the occupation, and discussed the destruction of the treasures of Iraqi and world civilization, a tragedy not experienced since the Mongol invasions. Seeing Vietnam all over again: I find myself today, going on sixty-four, a washed-up, dried-up prune of a military veteran who has been thrown on the scrap heap of time and looking back wistfully and saying, "I wished I'd done more to prevent the current disaster in Iraq that's exactly mocking the first disaster in Vietnam that I was personally a part of." I go to Walter Reed Hospital now for trauma counseling. For my own self. Because it never ends. I've got post-traumatic stress disorder. Didn't know I had it. Anxiety and fear and all that crap. And it never goes away. But you can submerge it into a higher cause like politics. So here I am, back at Walter Reed, thirty-seven years later, dealing with the trauma of Vietnam. I never got the counseling back then. But I look down the hall, and it's still 1968. Seeing all these young Iraq War veterans blown up, missing arms and legs and eyes, I just can't stand it. It triggers all of my stuff from Vietnam. And these young men had the same grit and courage that we had going off to war. You go up to 'em, and say, "How ya doing, son?" "Fine, sir!" they answer. But years later, it will take its toll. They just don't know yet. I'm seeing the full circle of the Vietnam experience. What's happening today is that a certain number of young Marines and Army guys are doomed to get killed and blown up and have missing arms and legs and eyes, and maybe they'll be on the phone twenty to thirty years later talking to some guy writing a book about them. I have seen this movie before. I'm terrified that I'm seeing Vietnam all over again in my lifetime. Iraq is Vietnam on steroids. I recently had a phone call from a friend of mine who was in the same infantry battalion that I later went into. He wrote the history of that battalion in a book called "The Lost Battalion." His name is Charley Krohn and he teaches at the University of Michigan. He is a hard-core Republican, but he transcends his party. He says, "We have the worst of both worlds in Iraq." Charley knows combat. His squad lost over half its men -- over twenty men -- in the woods outside Hue during the Tet Offensive. Anybody who understands Vietnam or went through it, like me and Charley and others, sees this war in Iraq as nothing other than total folly. --- Max Cleland is a triple-amputee Vietnam War veteran and former U.S. senator News of Neoconservative Demise are Somewhat Premature: It's high five time for many in the anti-war punditry. No, the war hasn't ended. The death toll in Iraq is rising like the NASDAQ in the late nineties. But American public opinion is beginning to give in to the reality principle: not only is a majority of Americans finally realizing that this war is no good, but the finger is beginning to point clearly towards Pennsylvania Avenue with over 40% of Americans favoring impeachment (a surprising result given that the mainstream media isn't even discussing impeachment). While the hermetic circles around George Bush and Tony Blair are drowning in their platitudes (corners, tipping points, milestones, God, etc.) further out the sacrificial priesthood is getting cold feet. Bill Kristol blames Rumsfeld for botching it. William F. Buckley blames Iraqis for being too stupid to prosper under American tutelage. Francis Fukuyama describes his fellow travelers along with the Bush bandwagon as (gasp) "Leninists" who fail to understand that history cannot be rushed towards its inevitable end in U.S. style liberalism (but only nudged gently by "realistic Wilsonianism," whatever that means.) Christopher Hitchens, apparently exhausted from his long engagement to liberate Kurdistan by any means necessary, is now calling for the U.S. to make peace with Iran's nuclear ambitions. And Andrew Sullivan blames the Iraq quagmire on American narcissism (no kidding!) Hard not be feel a sense of glee amidst all this frantic backpedaling. After all, however cheap it is to say "we told you so," we told you so. The danger, however, is to fall for the comfortable belief that the political struggle over the war was primarily a war of ideas; as if all the antiwar camp lacked was a clinching argument, one that now, with major neocons throwing in the towel (sort of,) we have finally found. Sadly, it was never really about ideas. Behind the apparent sparring of arguments, a ruthless political war was fought over the usual fault lines -- power and money. Forget the ideologues. Did the warmongers achieve their ends? In asking this, we should pay no attention to the blather about WMD, exporting democracy and the rest of the marketing brochures regularly churned out by the White House's creative team. We should focus on the money. Three questions: Who among the powerful groups behind the Bush administration pushed for the war? What did they stand to gain? What did they gain? (...) The defense industry was the neocons' major backer and the expense clearly paid off: the Iraq war was, still is, a phenomenal commercial success. The defense industry took little risk by promoting its pro-war agenda. The worse that could have happened would have been a quick victory in a short war without much international fall-out. That would hardly have been a disaster for the defense industry. But the way things turned out -- the protracted and internationally disruptive war that still rages -- probably exceeded their most optimistic expectations. BEYOND IRAQ A mission to con the world: An Ethiopian prisoner called his Guantanamo war crimes tribunal a con on Thursday and said that after four years of interrogations, the U.S. military had not even managed to learn the correct spelling of his name. The defendant, a 27-year-old British resident, is identified in the charge documents as Binyam Muhammad but he said his surname is Mohammad. He is accused of conspiring with al Qaeda to commit war crimes, including plotting to set off a radioactive bomb, and would face life in prison if convicted. Mohammad, as he said he prefers to be called, has proclaimed his innocence and has stated in court documents that he made false confessions after being extrajudicially transferred to a Moroccan prison where he was beaten, strung up by his arms and cut on the chest and penis with scalpels. "This is four years of interrogation, highly intensive ... torture, and you still don't have the right name," he told the tribunal's presiding officer, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann. "The man you are looking for is not here." The defendant compared Kohlmann to Adolf Hitler and prosecutors to vampire slayers. He calmly criticized the tribunals as "crap" that set a bad example for the world and poked fun at their formal name, commissions. "This is not a commission. It's a con mission. It's a mission to con the world," he said. Helen and Sylvia, the new face of terrorism: Two grandmothers from Yorkshire [UK] face up to a year in prison after becoming the first people to be arrested under the Government's latest anti-terror legislation. Helen John, 68, and Sylvia Boyes, 62, both veterans of the Greenham Common protests 25 years ago, were arrested on Saturday after deliberately setting out to highlight a change in the law which civil liberties groups say will criminalise free speech and further undermine the right to peaceful demonstration. Under the little-noticed legislation, which came into effect last week, protesters who breach any one of 10 military bases across Britain will be treated as potential terrorists and face up to a year in jail or £5,000 fine. The protests are curtailed under the Home Secretary's Serious Organised Crime and Police Act. Iranian democrats tell US where to stick its $85m: The Bush administration has US$75 million in emergency funding to promote democracy in Iran, in addition to $10 million already budgeted. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah is a co-founder of the Center for Human Rights Defenders. Dadkhah tells RFE/RL that democratic changes should come from inside the country - without outside interference. "Democracy is not a product that we can import from another country," Dadkhah said. "We have to prepare the ground for it so that it can grow and bear fruit - especially because independent and national forces, and also self-reliant forces, in Iran will never accept a foreign country telling them what to do and which way to take." Authorities in Iran keep a tight lid on public expression, but most activists inside the country would be wary of being labeled pro-American. Dadkhah said that if activists were to accept the US aid, they would immediately be branded US spies and accused of endangering Iran's national security. "Independent forces would go close to these financial funds," Dadkhah said. "We have to work through legal paths and logical channels so that democracy, freedom and human rights are fully respected in this country." Abdollah Momeni, an outspoken Iranian student leader, warned that US financial aid would threaten the independence of those seeking increased freedoms and put them at risk with officials. Momeni said that those working for democracy in Iran instead needed moral support and international recognition. "Under the current conditions, the support of the international community and pressure on the authoritarian Iranian regime to recognize democratic principles in Iranian society could help the Iranian people achieve democracy," Momeni said. "The only result of financial aid would be to inflame sensitivities, put civil society activists under threat and give the regime an excuse to suppress opponents and opposition members." Harvard Takes On the Israel Lobby: A few weeks ago two scholars published a study that might have languished in the obscurity of academia. But the paper was about the impact that the "Israel Lobby" -- which the authors characterized as a loose confederation of like-minded individuals and groups -- has on U.S. policy in the Middle East. So, predictably, it set off a nice little firestorm with accusations of anti-Semitism flying around our most hallowed Ivy League colleges and members of Congress discussing how to respond to the study's "charges." "The Israel Lobby," by political scientists Stephen Walt of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, offered nothing new to the debate about U.S. policy toward the Middle East. The authors established no groundbreaking facts and unearthed no shocking original documents that could change the course of historical understanding. As Walt and Mearsheimer noted, only their conclusion -- that the Israel Lobby's unprecedented success has shifted U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East away from a narrow focus on America's national interests -- is controversial, and then only by a matter of degree. The data from which they drew that conclusion came largely from Israeli academics and journalists and, as the authors point out, "are not in serious dispute among scholars." What was interesting about the paper was its authorship and the reaction it elicited from Israel's many U.S. supporters. Those supporters inadvertently proved Walt and Mearsheimer correct on at least one point: the Israel Lobby doesn't tolerate debate about the relationship between the United States and its favorite client state, and it's quick to accuse dissenters of having the vilest of intent. The New York Sun -- known as a mouthpiece for neoconservatism -- ran six articles about the paper the week it was released. Two were on the front page, above the fold. The first was headlined "David Duke Claims to Be Vindicated by a Harvard Dean" (Walt is the academic dean at the Kennedy School). According to the Sun, "Duke, a former Louisiana state legislator and one-time Ku Klux Klan leader, called the paper 'a great step forward.'" Later in the article -- below the fold -- Duke admits that he hadn't actually read the study. The guilt-by-association didn't end with Duke -- although he made appearances in a number of other articles about the study, including one in the Washington Post. Terrorists, apparently, also endorsed it: "The Palestine Liberation Organization mission to Washington is distributing the paper, which also is being hailed by a senior member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization," according to the Sun. The Sun's second hit piece quoted two Harvard professors who are "publicly supportive of Israel" and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., who conceded that the "'dishonest so-called intellectuals' who wrote the paper are 'entitled to their stupidity'" but insisted that it was a matter of common decency "to expose them for being the anti-Semites they are." That statement alone illustrates one of Walt and Mearsheimer's main points beautifully: "No discussion of how the Lobby operates," they wrote, "would be complete without examining one of its most powerful weapons: the charge of anti-Semitism In fact, anyone who says that there is an Israel Lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-Semitism, even though the Israeli media themselves refer to America's 'Jewish Lobby.'" (...) Ultimately, most of the criticism of the study amounted to little more than knocking down straw men. Walt and Mearsheimer were accused of furthering anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jews "whispering in the ears of kings," but the authors never suggest there's an organized conspiracy afoot, nor do they claim that the Lobby is the only factor influencing U.S. policy in the Middle East. The scholars went out of their way to say that the "Lobby" is not some shady cabal, and in fact is not even Jewish; many in the Lobby -- they give Dick Armey as an example -- are in fact Christian Zionists. They add that there's nothing wrong with citizens lobbying in a democracy. Their point is simply that the Lobby's success has redirected U.S. policy in the Middle East away from America's interests, narrowly defined. Arguing that the relationship between the United States and Israel "has no equal in American political history," the authors wrote: The U.S. national interest should be the primary object of American foreign policy. For the past several decades, however, and especially since the Six Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy has been its relationship with Israel. China as co-architect of the 21st-century new world order: For the West, necessary adjustment to the re-emergence of the Chinese civilization requires modesty and intellectual curiosity. Are we Westerners ready to learn from Chinese civilization as Chinese people are ready to learn from the West? This is the precondition of a genuinely cooperative relationship. Seriously engaging China is to accept the very possibility of Sinicization. The West, in a position of scientific and economic superiority since the Industrial Revolution, is used to treating China as a product of orientalism. For the majority of Westerners, China is either a museum - hence the surprise of many foreigners in China: "I was expecting something else!" - or a classroom: one has to lecture Chinese people on more advanced standards. The West has to reflect on these prejudices and to look at China as a living matrix of a civilization that is already shaping our time. If China proves to be an integrator factor in a world plagued by morally unacceptable exclusive globalization, if China proves to be a laboratory where cultures can cross-fertilize in a world threatened by hatred between civilizations, one should rejoice to find a co-architect of the 21st-century new world order. Hugo Chávez to launch bid to transform global politics of oil by seeking a deal with consumer countries which would lock in a price of $50 a barrel. A long-term agreement at that price could allow Venezuela to count its huge deposits of heavy crude as part of its official reserves, which Caracas says would give it more oil than Saudi Arabia."We have the largest oil reserves in the world, we have oil for 200 years." Mr Chávez told the BBC's Newsnight programme in an interview to be broadcast tonight. "$50 a barrel - that's a fair price, not a high price." The price proposed by Mr Chávez is about $15 a barrel below the current global level but a credible long-term agreement at about $50 a barrel could have huge implications for Venezuela's standing in the international oil community. Caracas's hopes for an increase in its standing would be a far cry from the days when Mr Chávez came to power after years of quota-busting during which Venezuela helped to keep oil prices down. "Seven years ago Venezuela was a US oil colony," said Mr Chávez. Mr Chávez, a former paratrooper who has survived several attempts to oust him and who faces re-election in December, regards Venezuela's oil revenues as crucial to his plans to fight poverty. Critics accuse him of squandering the country's oil wealth on improvised social programmes. The Venezuelan president used the Newsnight interview to attack the role of the International Monetary Fund in Latin America, where it has a reputation for pushing market-based reforms as the price of its help to countries struggling with their finances. The Chávez government has helped a number of countries, including buying Argentinian and Ecuadorean bonds, with Mr Chávez arguing that he would like to see the IMF replaced by an International Humanitarian Fund. QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Thank you for flying CIA", slogan of an Amnesty International advertisement [pdf] published today in Holland's newspapers, part of a campaign against “illegal detainees transport by the CIA”.


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