Wednesday, April 19, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR WEDNESDAY, April 19, 2006 Cartoon by Steve Bell [See below “Rummy's Unknowable Future”] Bring 'em on: A U.S. soldier died from wounds sustained on Tuesday when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said on Wednesday. THE SITUATION IN ADHAMIYAH
Iraqi soldiers man checkpoints and search cars in Adhamiya district of Baghdad after two days of clashes that erupted over rumors that Shiite militias were coming. At least 13 people were killed before clashes ended Tuesday. Stuck in Adhamiya; Area Sealed Off Since Monday Morning: I've been stuck at my aunt's house in Adhamiya since Sunday night. If you had followed the news, you would have learned by now that Adhamiya, which is the largest Sunni district in Baghdad, is witnessing fierce clashes since Sunday night, mostly between armed groups in police uniform, who had attempted to enter the area, and Adhamiya residents. The district has been sealed off and no one can leave or enter the area. Electric power has been cut off for the last 48 hours, and the fighting severely damaged our street generator this morning. I'm on dial up now so I have to sign off. I probably won't be able to post again until tomorrow night. Hopefully the situation would have calmed down by then; it's extremely tense at the moment. # posted by Zeyad : 4/18/2006 11:59:00 PM Dahr Jamail: Disturbingly, this obvious US-backed Shia militia invasion of a Sunni neighborhood may well be a prelude to what the US military is calling a "second liberation of Baghdad" which they will carry out with the Iraqi army when a new government is installed. The Sunday Times reports that US commanders both in Iraq and at an army base in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, are planning a "carrot-and-stick" approach by offering suffering populations "protection" from sectarian violence in exchange for "rooting out insurgent groups or Al-Qaeda." Sound like mafia tactics to you? The article states that "Sources close to the Pentagon said Iraqi forces would take the lead, supported by American air power, special operations, intelligence, embedded officers and back-up troops. Helicopters suitable for urban warfare, such as the manoeuvrable AH-6 "Little Birds" ... are likely to complement the ground attack." This is disturbingly similar to what just occurred in al-Adhamiya. Juan Cole: April 19, 2006 The Financial Times reports further on the fighting in Adhamiyah on Monday and Tuesday [see below], asking whether the incident suggests greater Sunni Arab backing for the guerrillas. But I am told, and the Baghdad press also reports, that the real significance here was that the Shiite death squads in the ministry of interior tried to operate in force and in daylight in a Sunni Arab neighborhood. Earlier, they had had to kidnap and kill at night. April 18, 2006 Arabic sources such as Al-Zaman, al-Hayat and Aljazeera reported in such a way as to make it look like the brave stand of local (Sunni Arab) men against the predations of (Shiite) death squads masquerading as police. The latter were accused of coming into Adhamiyah in order to kidnap, kill and pillage. The special police commandos of the minstry of the interior are widely believed to comprise Shiite militiamen. Financial Times: Sunni politicians on Tuesday condemned government forces who battled guerillas in a Baghdad neighbourhood, feeding fears that rising sectarian violence and Shia militia activity may be pushing Iraq’s Sunni population toward supporting the insurgency. “What happened in Adhamiya is an evil act by an armed militia backed by security and government operatives,” said Dhafer al-Ani, a member of the Sunni-led Iraqi Consensus Front, the largest Sunni block in parliament. Mr Ani was one of several politicians who on Tuesday condemned an early Monday morning raid by Iraqi security forces into the Sunni district that was attacked by rebels. The prominent Iraqi newspaper al-Zaman claimed that the “people of Adhamiya had foiled a night assault” by a ‘’death squad’’ whose members were disguised as police” and quoted members of the “Adhamiya Defense Committees.” Reporters trying to get into the district said US and Iraqi forces had sealed off the area yesterday, while witnesses claimed insurgents were again being deployed on rooftops in possible preparation for another round of fighting. There were reports that at least one civilian was killed and five others wounded in the fighting. It is significant that the street fighting in Adhamiya has been portrayed, by the Iraqi media and Sunni leaders, as neighbourhood self-defence rather than an insurgent attack on security forces. It could strengthen the insurgents’ claim to be fighting for the Sunni population as a whole.
OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: Bomb targeting police patrol blows up in the neighborhood of Harthiya, killing one civilian and injuring 11 people, including two policemen and an Iraqi soldier. Roadside bomb explodes near al-Kindi hospital in eastern Baghdad, killing one civilian and wounding four others. In the Amariyah district, gunmen kill medic as he walked from house to house administering vaccinations. In three separate attacks, gunmen in the neighborhood of Dora kill a construction worker, a trade ministry employee and three power plant workers who had been snatched from their car an hour earlier. In the suburb of Rustamiyah, police discover five bodies of Iraqis, handcuffed and blindfolded. Late Tuesday, police had found 11 corpses in various parts of the capital. Civilian killed and 10 people, including two policemen, wounded when roadside bomb hits police patrol near one entrance to Green Zone. One person killed in roadside bombing near party office of former PM Allawi in western Baghdad. 10 people -- including two police officers -- were wounded. Three security guards at a power station in Baghdad's al-Dura neighbourhood were shot dead by gunmen. Three street sweepers were also killed in a separate shooting in the same area. Former Iraqi army colonel shot dead in front of his house by gunmen in the neighbourhood of Saidiyah. Car bomb kills two people and wounds two others on a busy market street in the capital's centre. Baqubah: Gunmen kill man driving a car bomb in Baquba. After police took the body out of the car, the booby-trapped vehicle exploded, wounding two civilians, police said. Car bomb explodes in Baqouba, wounding two civilians. Police had earlier received a call about a body in the car, which they retrieved moments before the blast, officials said. In Baquba, three university professors shot dead by gunmen close to the University of Diyala. Police officer shot dead, while two civilians were wounded in a roadside bombing. Baquba has witnessed a surge in violence in the last few weeks with a series of bombings and shootings that has left dozens dead. Yusufiya: Gunmen blow up a newly established police station in Yusufiya. No casualties were reported. Kirkuk: Five foreigners, including an Egyptian, were killed as they drove near a village 31 miles southwest of Kirkuk. Officials declined to reveal the nationalities of the other four victims. Three civilians wounded when American forces open fire after the civilians ignored signs not to get to close to a U.S. patrol on a main road, a joint U.S. and Iraqi army centre said. Ramadi: US troops clash with "insurgents" in Ramadi killing four civilians and injuring six others. Civilian houses were struck by rockets fired by American tanks following the clashes, and a US tank was hit and destroyed by a RPG. Iraq's government said in a statement that the Iraqi army had killed three insurgents and detained another after a bomb they were placing on side of the road exploded in Ramadi. Fallujah: Gunmen destroy mobile phone tower used by Iraqna mobile company when they planted a bomb near the tower in Falluja, police said. Baiji: Five people killed in car bomb attack Baiji. The car bomb targeted a passing United States military convoy and also wounded four people, police said. IRAQ NEWS Iraq police, US deny teachers beheaded at school: Iraq's Ministry of State for National Security said on Wednesday two groups of gunmen entered two primary schools in Baghdad and beheaded two teachers in front of their students. "Two terrorist groups beheaded two teachers in front of their students in the Amna and Shaheed Hamdi primary schools in Shaab district in Baghdad," a ministry statement said. An official in the ministry's press office also confirmed the report. But the U.S. military cast doubt on it. "There is no evidence that this happened. The Interior Ministry dispatched Iraqi police to the schools and talked to the guards," said U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Johnson. Police Major Kassim Ahmed told a Reuters reporter who went to the scene his unit was acting on a false tip: "This is not true. It is made up." Residents of the area in Baghdad's Shaab district also said they were not aware of any such attacks. Jaafari digging in: "Stepping down [as the nominee for a second term of the Shi'ite Alliance] is absolutely not in my consideration. I can't understand how resigning ... would benefit the national interest," Jaafari told a nationally televised news conference. RUMMY'S UNKNOWABLE FUTURE
Call goes out for top brass to back Rumsfeld: The Bush administration's attempts to rebut criticism of defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld stepped up a gear yesterday with the publication of a Pentagon memo seeking to persuade former military commanders to back him. The one-page memo, emailed on Friday to a large group of retired officers and civilian experts, took the unusual step of enumerating the Pentagon chief's recent meetings in order to prove "US senior military leaders are involved to an unprecedented degree in every decision-making process in the department of defence". It also sought to play down the importance of the seven ex-generals who have called for Mr Rumsfeld's resignation, noting there are 8,000 current and former US generals alive. The secretary had had 139 meetings with the joint chiefs of staff since 2005, the memo said, along with 208 meetings with other senior field commanders. The Pentagon called the document a "fact sheet", and denied trying to recruit other retired personnel to the defence secretary's cause. Bush: "I'm the decider and I decide what is best" [with video]: This morning while announcing staff changes, President Bush explained the inner-workings of presidential authority: Bush: ...and on Friday I stood up and said I don't appreciate the speculation about Don Rumsfeld. He's doin' a fine job. I strongly support him. Reporter: What do you say to the critics who believe that you are ignoring the advice of retired generals and military commanders who say there needs to be a change? Bush: I say I listen to all voices but mine's the final decision and Don Rumsfeld is doing a fine job. He's not only transforming the military, he's fighting a war on terror - He's helping us fight a war on terror. I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld. I hear the voices and I read the front page and I know the speculation but I'm the decider and I decide what is best and what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the Secretary of defense.
Iraq contractor pleads guilty to fraud: A U.S. contractor in Iraq pleaded guilty in connection with a bid-rigging scheme designed to defraud the former Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, the Justice Department said on Tuesday. In a plea deal unsealed in federal court, contractor Philip Bloom admitted that between December 2003 and December 2005, he conspired with some public officials, including several U.S. Army officers, to rig bids on Iraq rebuilding contracts. The total value of the contracts awarded to Bloom exceeded $8.6 million for construction and demolition projects, the department said. REPORTS Nearly 20,000 people kidnapped in Iraq since beginning of the year, according to a report published today on violence in the war-torn country. The 19,548 people kidnapped includes 4959 women and 2350 children, according to the report prepared by a group of 125 non-governmental organisations and made public in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala. The high-profile seizure of foreigners in Iraq has numbered a few hundred since the practice began two years ago and is usually aimed at scoring propaganda points against the US-led occupation. In contrast, the thousands of Iraqis being kidnapped are primarily the victims of political rivals and of common criminals seeking ransom. The report also said an estimated 6877 families have been displaced from their homes. The survey says the true number of displacements is difficult to establish. The authorities have put the figure as high as 10,000 families. Crude Designs: The Rip-Off of Iraq's Oil Wealth [Executive summary of a Global Policy Forum report]: While the Iraqi people struggle to define their future amid political chaos and violence, the fate of their most valuable economic asset, oil, is being decided behind closed doors. This report reveals how an oil policy with origins in the US State Department is on course to be adopted in Iraq, soon after the December elections, with no public debate and at enormous potential cost. The policy allocates the majority (1) of Iraq's oilfields - accounting for at least 64% of the country's oil reserves - for development by multinational oil companies. Iraqi public opinion is strongly opposed to handing control over oil development to foreign companies. But with the active involvement of the US and British governments a group of powerful Iraqi politicians and technocrats is pushing for a system of long term contracts with foreign oil companies which will be beyond the reach of Iraqi courts, public scrutiny or democratic control. COSTING IRAQ BILLIONS Economic projections published here for the first time show that the model of oil development that is being proposed will cost Iraq hundreds of billions of dollars in lost revenue, while providing foreign companies with enormous profits. Our key findings are: At an oil price of $40 per barrel, Iraq stands to lose between $74 billion and $194 billion over the lifetime of the proposed contracts (2), from only the first 12 oilfields to be developed. These estimates, based on conservative assumptions, represent between two and seven times the current Iraqi government budget. Under the likely terms of the contracts, oil company rates of return from investing in Iraq would range from 42% to 162%, far in excess of usual industry minimum target of around 12% return on investment. A CONTRACTUAL RIP-OFF The debate over oil "privatisation" in Iraq has often been misleading due to the technical nature of the term, which refers to legal ownership of oil reserves. This has allowed governments and companies to deny that "privatisation" is taking place. Meanwhile, important practical questions, of public versus private control over oil development and revenues, have not been addressed. The development model being promoted in Iraq, and supported by key figures in the Oil Ministry, is based on contracts known as production sharing agreements (PSAs), which have existed in the oil industry since the late 1960s. Oil experts agree that their purpose is largely political: technically they keep legal ownership of oil reserves in state hands (3), while practically delivering oil companies the same results as the concession agreements they replaced. Running to hundreds of pages of complex legal and financial language and generally subject to commercial confidentiality provisions, PSAs are effectively immune from public scrutiny and lock governments into economic terms that cannot be altered for decades. In Iraq's case, these contracts could be signed while the government is new and weak, the security situation dire, and the country still under military occupation. As such the terms are likely to be highly unfavourable, but could persist for up to 40 years. Furthermore, PSAs generally exempt foreign oil companies from any new laws that might affect their profits. And the contracts often stipulate that disputes are heard not in the country's own courts but in international investment tribunals, which make their decisions on commercial grounds and do not consider the national interest or other national laws. Iraq could be surrendering its democracy as soon as it achieves it. POLICY DELIVERED FROM AMERICA TO IRAQ Production sharing agreements have been heavily promoted by oil companies and by the US Administration. The use of PSAs in Iraq was proposed by the Future of Iraq project, the US State Department's planning mechanism, prior to the 2003 invasion. These proposals were subsequently developed by the Coalition Provisional Authority, by the Iraq Interim Government and by the current Transitional Government. The Iraqi Constitution also opens the door to foreign companies, albeit in legally vague terms. Of course, what ultimately happens will depend on the outcome of the elections, on the broader political and security situation and on negotiations with oil companies. However, the pressure for Iraq to adopt PSAs is substantial. The current government is fast-tracking the process and is already negotiating contracts with oil companies in parallel with the constitutional process, elections and passage of a Petroleum Law. The Constitution also suggests a decentralisation of authority over oil contracts, from the national level to Iraq's regions. If implemented, the regions would have weaker bargaining power than a national government, leading to poorer terms for Iraq in any deal with oil companies. A RADICAL DEPARTURE In order to make their case, oil companies and their supporters argue that PSAs are standard practice in the oil industry and that Iraq has no other option to finance oil development. Neither of these assertions is true. According to International Energy Agency figures, PSAs are only used in respect of about 12% of world oil reserves, in countries where oilfields are small (and often offshore), production costs are high, and exploration prospects are uncertain. None of these conditions applies to Iraq. None of the top oil producers in the Middle East uses PSAs. Some governments that have signed them regret doing so. In Russia, where political upheaval was followed by rapid opening up to the private sector in the 1990s, PSAs have cost the state billions of dollars, making it unlikely that any more will be signed. The parallel with Iraq's current transition is obvious. The advocates of PSAs also claim that obtaining investment from foreign companies through these types of contracts would save the government up to $2.5 billion a year, freeing up funds for other public spending. Although this is true, the investment by oil companies now would be massively offset by the loss of state revenues later. Our calculations show that were the Iraqi government to use PSAs, its cost of capital would be between 75% and 119%. At this cost, the advantages referred to are simply not worth it. Iraq has a range of less damaging and expensive options for generating investment in its oil sector. These include: financing oil development through government budgetary expenditure (as is currently the case), using future oil flows as collateral to borrow money, or using international oil companies through shorter-term, less restrictive and less lucrative contracts than PSAs (4). IN WHOSE INTERESTS? PSAs represent a radical redesign of Iraq's oil industry, wrenching it from public into private hands. The strategic drivers for this are the US/UK push for "energy security" in a constrained market and the multinational oil companies' need to "book" new reserves to secure future growth. Despite their disadvantages to the Iraqi economy and democracy, they are being introduced in Iraq without public debate. It is up to the Iraqi people to decide the terms for the development of their oil resources. We hope that this report will help explain the likely consequences of decisions being made in secret on their behalf. COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Prisons as a measure of tyranny: In the Bushian view of life, the world is primarily divided into two parts: America, the incarnation of Freedom, Justice and Democracy, which allegedly has a divinely-sanctioned mission to the world that mimics the mission of the Catholic Church "to teach all nations"; and "the outposts of tyranny." Tyrannies can, of course, take on many forms but there is little doubt that underlying this diversity there are certain attributes to be found in all the forms. One universal attribute appears to be that large numbers get killed in one way or another. A second universal attribute is that imprisonment ceases to be an exceptional fact in the life of a society, and tends towards becoming an ever-expanding industry. The justifications for the growing prison system will vary, but the end result is always the same. Whether one is dealing with "criminals," "terrorists," "subversives," "dissidents" or whatever makes little difference. Thus, in this sense, when obeying the law (understood as societal regulations founded on Justice and the Common Good, and drawing upon the Natural and Divine Law) is redefined to mean all kinds of other and unconnected things, we can say that prison populations become a good measure of the degree of tyranny in a society. If one were to believe the mainstream media of the Western world for the last two decades or so, Saddam's Iraq was a tyranny of the first order; and if this were so, it follows, logically, that the prison system and its size would reflect that tyranny reasonably accurately. So, let's see what we can find out on this subject. (…) But in order to arrive at an estimate of the degree of tyranny under Saddam, let's assume the worst - indeed let us be totally unrealistic so that all doubt is eliminated from the discussion. Let's imagine that there were 15,000 inmates in Abu Ghraib prison, the biggest in the country, and let's imagine that every other prison in Iraq was the same size as Abu Ghraib. That would give us a national total of 120,000 prisoners. The estimate is absurd because Abu Ghraib dwarfed all the other prisons; it is absurd because it is based on the entire population of the country rather than merely the adult population; and it is based on the highest number that we could find on the web about Abu Ghraib's alleged prison population. The best way to express how extreme have been our assumptions is to remember that the largest prison in America, in terms of inmates, is Louisiana State Penitentiary with some 5,000 prisoners. If we were to assume that every other prison in America was the same size as the Louisiana prison, we would, of course, arrive at an absurd figure for the United States. How absurd? According to the International Center for Prison Studies, there are 5,069 detention centers and prisons in the United States. On that basis, it would mean that America would have a prison population of over 25,300,000! But we have decided to apply this kind of rationale to Iraq to paint Saddam as black as black could be. Of course, reason suggests that the real figure in Iraq was probably well below 25,000 inmates at best - but let's keep the extreme figure as our baseline, and let's remember too that only a small percentage of this absurd total would have been political prisoners as opposed to good old-fashioned criminals. (…) Now let's start comparing America to Iraq in terms of their prison systems and populations to grasp the degree of tyranny present respectively. We came to the absurd total of 120,000 prisoners for Iraq. Now given that the adult population of America is 200 million (that is not including the under 18s), and given that the population of Iraq is somewhere around 25 million (including men, women, children and babies), we find that the U.S. population is 8 times larger than Iraq's. That means that if we scale up Iraq's absurd figure of 120,000 to encompass the United States' population, it means that the latter ought to have a prison population of around 960,000. What we find, however, is that the U.S. prison population is 2.2 million; that is well beyond double what it ought to have been. And if we have used figures to show Saddam in the blackest possible light, what do these figures tell us about the Bush regime and its predecessors? It tells us that in terms of prison population and tyranny, they leave Saddam standing far behind! And this is the best-case scenario for the Bush regime, for if we calculate Iraq's figures on the basis of the more probable 25,000 figure, it means that the U.S. should have a proportional prison population of around 200,000; that translates into ten times more than Saddam's record! So whether you take estimates for Saddam's Iraq which are patently absurd, or whether you take figures calculated on reason, you still end up with the same conclusion: America is far more tyrannical, in terms of prison population, than Saddam's Iraq, and the only "consolation" that Americans can have is whether or not they have the courage to use reason-based figures for Iraq or Star Trek-style figures. However you look at it, America comes out as either much worse than Iraq (courageous position) or unbelievably worse than Iraq (Dr. Spock position)! Unfortunately, it is actually worse than this, for the United States prison totals do not include the many places around the world that the United States has access to, like Guantanamo Bay. (…) When one reflects on this scandal of an innocent man being held for years in prison on no evidence whatever, and when one considers how far ahead the U.S. is in terms of prison population rates compared to the rest of the world, one can only be stunned by the arrogance of U.S. governments posing as the agents of Freedom, Justice and Democracy. In any comparison with Bush in these terms, Saddam wins hands down, and if the Bush regime wishes to rid the world of "outposts of tyranny," it ought to begin with itself. The Most Evil People in the World: I have come to the conclusion that the Christian fundamentalists, also known as the religious right, are the most evil people in the world. Others (such as those of various Islamic terrorist groups) were considered, but after due consideration, the Christians won....... hands down. In fact it was no contest. However, in order to support my assertion that those of the religious right are such a nasty crew, it is necessary that I clarify what I believe it means to be evil. The minimal test of evil is, of course, one of awareness, an intent, an abject willingness to be malicious, a willingness to go out of one's way to harm others, a lack of concern for the welfare of another person, an unwillingness to place one's self into that of another's shoes, a grudging reluctance to acknowledge the pain one may have caused another. Such is bad, but not as bad as having slipped to the point of having become psychically blind, effectively unable to face up to what one has done. Such is more depraved since it represents a loss of integrity, an existential unwillingness to take responsibility for one's behavior. And, of course, worst of all are those who go to the extreme of regarding themselves to be shining examples, paragons of how to live a good and decent life, while having chosen to disregard the fact that they have lived life in such a despicable manner. And as we will see, the Christian fundamentalists seem to exemplify such folks at the apogee of evil, the nadir of civilized life, in that they preach to the world while yet living the life of a barbarian! All of the great religions of the world indicate that we should strive to treat others as we would like for them to treat us, in essence suggesting that we follow the Golden Rule. However, considering this the gold standard for how we ought to live our lives, it is quite clear that Christian fundamentalists have missed the mark! Regardless of all the wonderful things they have claimed to have done for the world, it is apparent that the fundamentalists have been unable to live up to the most minimal standards for that of a decent life, almost as if they have gone out of their way to "cast a speck out of their neighbor's eye, while refusing to recognize the enormity of the plank in that of their own." With no apology, nor even a hint of remorse, they continue on their way running roughshod over others, with little or no concern for how their victims might feel. Rather than caring for others, disregard and disrespect has become that which defines them as a people. (…) So, as a psychologist, I am compelled to ask: what is it that seems to have motivated such people to have become so depraved, to have chosen a style of life so opposed to everything that Jesus taught? What is it that has led fundamentalists to become such a mean-spirited gathering of folks? What is it that such people have in common, that which might serve to explain why they have led such horrid lives? The riddle of why such folks, who look upon themselves as being so very good while having behaved so terribly bad, can be understood by realizing that fundamentalists suffer from an axiomatic inability to face who they have, in fact, become. In having followed the dictum to be "in" the world, but certainly not "of" the world, they began to set themselves apart, to disengage from the rest of the world, effectively creating an inner sanctum, a world of their own, an imprisoned partition separating them from the rest of humanity. And, of course, all of such in order to protect themselves from being contaminated by an outer world of sin. Thus in having symbolically reached for the heavens, while yet remaining so deeply mired in a rather cognitively truncated, black and white, world of their own making, they have become unable to even touch the sky. In believing themselves to have become the true remnant of God, the special elect, the keepers of the keys to the kingdom of God, they allowed themselves to have been lulled into worshiping a deity who has turned out to be nothing more than a figment of their own imagination, an extension of their own rather neurotic needs, a red, white, and blue god willingly ready to allay their fears, fill their pockets with gold, and to destroy each and every one of their enemies. Falling right into line, they began to look upon the neo-conservative leadership of our nation (George Walker Bush, Richard Bruce Cheney, Donald Henry Rumsfeld, et al.) as men inspired by God, men, no doubt, appointed by God to take charge of the world, and to do whatever they might deem to be necessary in order to redeem the world. Consequently, the fundamentalists, supposing themselves to be at war with an, as yet, unsaved world, have become convinced that they can do no wrong as long as they continue to faithfully obey the commands of their hallowed leaders, each and every one a crusader, struggling to restore the once lost kingdom of God........ a people crying out for "the blood of the Lamb" to cleanse the world, in perfectly-pitched and four-part harmony, chanting "Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before! Christ the royal master, leads against the foe, forward into battle, see his banner go!" Perhaps the foregoing has shed a bit of light on the mystery of how, and, perhaps even, why such a self-righteous group of folks has become so terribly evil........ why it is that the Christian fundamentalists have been led to believe they have been set free to do what they may, to live above and beyond the normal restraints of man (a law of the heart requiring that we respect the rights of others), that they, as the faithful followers of the Old Testament's readily rendered red in tooth and claw claim for the right to extract an "eye for an eye," have declared for themselves the divine authority to take charge of, to rule, to plunder and pillage, even, if necessary, to bring on Armageddon ....... and all of such in the name of a "thoroughly providential and loving God." Stand up for Humanity: Ninety years ago the Irish rebelled against the British in the Easter Rising. The rebellion was short-lived and Irish insurgents and leaders were caught and hanged by the British. Notable among these was SIR ROGER CASEMENT, a noble humanitarian who - like E. Morel - had "blown the whistle" on Belgian atrocities in the Congo (where some 10 million had died as a result of appalling Belgian rubber-collection atrocities). The Easter Rebellion was "unsuccessful" at the time but 6 years later Ireland became independent. Similarly, hanging Sir Roger Casement did not stifle his spirit. The humanitarianism of Sir Roger Casement lives on and periodically decent people everywhere are profoundly moved by courageous individuals who stand up for humanity - true heroes such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Raoul Wallenberg, Hugh Thompson, Dr Rafil Dhafir and, most recently, Australian medical doctor, Dr Malcolm Kendall-Smith. DR MALCOLM KENDALL-SMITH is an Australian hero and humanitarian. An Australian doctor in the British Royal Air Force (RAF), Dr Kendall-Smith has been decorated for previous tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. However Dr Kendall-Smith has now been jailed for refusing to participate further in the illegal Iraq War. He argued that the UK-US-led invasion of Iraq was illegal and "on a par with Nazi Germany". The post-invasion under-5 infant mortality and excess mortality in Occupied Iraq now total 0.4 million and 0.5 million, respectively (see MWC News ). International legal experts have indicated that the UK-US-led invasion of Iraq was indeed illegal but the military panel thought otherwise and sentenced Dr Kendall-Smith to 8 months jail and dismissed him from the RAF (see: here and here ). DR RAFIL DHAFIR, an Iraqi American medical doctor and specialist oncologist, was sentenced in 2005 to 22 years imprisonment as a result of sending food and medical supplies to Iraq during the Sanctions period. It can be readily estimated from the latest UN infant mortality figures that the Iraqi under-5 infant mortality under Sanctions totalled 1.2 million in the period 1990-2003 and have totalled 0.4 million post-invasion. Dr Dhafir is the only Honorary Member of the distinguished Brussells Tribunal humanitarian organization HUGH THOMPSON was a US helicopter pilot who heroically intervened to save Vietnamese civilians from being massacred by US soldiers at My Lai, Vietnam, on 16 March 1968. He subsequently reported the My Lai massacre - this eventually lead to public exposure of the atrocity by Seymour Hersh and the conviction of Lieutenant William Calley for the massacre of 500 unarmed civilians. This decorated war hero (Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross and Soldier's Medal) died of cancer in January 2006 (see: here ). RAOUL WALLENBERG was a Swedish diplomat who heroically helped save the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews from Nazi genocide in 1944. He disappeared after the Soviet Red Army liberated Budapest and is believed to have died in the Soviet Gulag system in Siberia. A bust of Raoul Wallenberg at a very busy intersection in Melbourne, Australia, is a continuing reminder to everyone of our duty to stand up for humanity (see: here ). DIETRICH BONHOEFFER was a German Protestant pastor and theologian who stood up to the Nazis. He helped Jews escape to Switzerland and eventually became involved in the Abwehr (Military Intelligence Office) plot to remove Hitler. He was incarcerated in a concentration camp and eventually hung on 9 April 1945, one month before the end of the Second World War in Europe (see: here and here ). Both Dr Dhafir and Dr Kendall-Smith are still alive. They are both medical doctors who have been imprisoned in Western democracies (the US and the UK, respectively) for standing up against horrendous abuse of humanity by the Anglo-American Coalition in Iraq. The Nazi analogy adduced by Dr Kendall-Smith in his defence is germane. The Nazis killed 1.5 million Jewish children during World War 2. So far, the post-1990 Iraqi infant mortality totals 1.6 million and the post-2003 infant mortality totals 0.4 million - 90% of these deaths have been AVOIDABLE and have occurred through the non-provision by the Occupying Coalition of the life-preserving requisites demanded by the Geneva Conventions. The under-5 infant mortality in Iraq (post-1990) and Afghanistan (post-2001) have been 1.6 million and 1.4 million, respectively, and now total 3.0 million (see MWC News for the latest UN and UNICEF mortality figures ). How many infants have to be murdered before the world cries "enough is enough"? Decent people around the world should be inspired by these examples. Decent people living in INTERNALLY decent democratic societies with freedom of speech (such as those of the war criminal Coalition countries) are obliged to stand up for humanity - they will not be imprisoned, tortured or killed for simply stating the obvious, that "thou shall not kill" and that mass killing of "enemy infants" is utterly repugnant and unforgivably beyond the Pale. Silence kills and silence is complicity - in the face of horrendous abuses of humanity we are obliged to INFORM everyone and to AVOID (where possible) any personal or business dealings with those responsible. Nuclear Chicken and the "Madman" Theory: Some would say that this is an exact repeat of the leadup to the Iraq war, complete with statements that Iran has a chance to resolve this diplomatically, or the U.S. will go to war. The difference, of course, is that the Iraq war was undertaken in an era of expansive military triumphalism, when nearly all informed opinion thought the Vietnam syndrome had been kicked forever; a mere three years later, we live in an era of stark pessimism about the ability of the United States to transform the world by violence. So I think what we are seeing is what military analyst Fred Kaplan calls a game of "nuclear chicken." The United States and Iran are locking themselves into a collision course, each saying that it will not back down under any circumstances. The threat of military strikes against Iran shows not the likelihood of military action but the desperation of the United States, which seems to have exhausted all its cards and can only hope to scare the Iranians into negotiating. The talk about using so-called "nuclear bunker-busters" goes a step further than that, resurrecting Nixon's old "madman" theory - the quaint idea that if he appeared crazy and violent enough, he could scare the Vietnamese into capitulating. Well, Nixon understood neither the Vietnamese nor the war he was fighting, and his madman theory went into the dustbin of history, only to be occasionally pulled out and dusted off by nuclear hawks (in the Clinton administration as well as this one). Although the United States cannot gain strategically from going to war, if it so happens that it does, make note of this: The war will be justified on the basis of claims that the Iranian rulers are crazy and cannot be trusted to act rationally in their own interests (by refraining from attacking the United States or its allies). At the same time, the war will actually be predicated on a belief that the Iranian government is very sane. Given how amazingly well-placed Iran is to destabilize Iraq even further and to retaliate against soft targets around the world, the United States will be depending on deterring them from retaliation with further threats. One more reason there will be no war with Iran - Hold the caviar: UN-backed body bans export of most endangered sturgeon.
Only Iran will be allowed to export caviar from wild Caspian Sea sturgeon this year after the five nations sharing the basin failed to provide information needed to ensure the fish’s survival to the United Nations-backed body that oversees a global treaty governing trade in endangered species.
The Really Real "Long War": Savvy players in the military-industrial racket know that the "War on Terror" is just short-end money: fat and sweet, sure, but it doesn't really have legs. "Islamofascism" is too empty a concept to sustain the kind of decades-long looting of the public treasury that the dear old Cold War used to provide - the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world just aren't interested in dressing up in Nazi drag and playing their assigned roles in the Pentagon-Neocon-Theocon war game. I mean, Jesus Herbert Walker Christ, you can even walk your army right into the heartland of Islam and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and they still won't take the bait. Not a single Muslim nation has gone jihad over Iraq; they haven't all turned into a nice, big monolithic evil empire set on the utter destruction of America. It's like they're all just ordinary people or something, good, bad and indifferent, largely occupied with their own concerns - personal, economic, social, religious, national. Of course, the war has inflamed the extremist fringes, empowered forces of intolerance and hatred to a degree they could never have dreamed of before; yes, its given sectarian terror a major boost, nicely priming the pump for more war profits. And boy howdy, the next go-round, in Iran, will goose the military market to even greater heights. So we're not saying this Terror War gambit is a bad thing, you understand; no, it's been boffo box office all the way. But still, since there actually is no such thing as "Islamofacism," - as opposed to a few virulent and violent outlaw gangs, and a number of authoritarian regimes that have no interest whatsoever in attacking America - you're just not going to get that Cold War mileage you need. No, when it comes to terrorizing your own people into forking over their money and the blood of their children to keep you in clover, there's just no substitute for the real thing: Commies. Hordes of 'em. A billion of 'em, by God! That's right, we're talking China. Now there's a long-term proposition for you. There's the whole ball of wax: nukes, missiles, vast standing armies, territorial tensions, government suppression - it's vintage Kremlin, baby, circa Cuban Missile Crisis, anytime you need it. And here's the beauty part: you can literally make money coming and going. You can dive into the Chinese market, get in bed with businesses backed by Commie brass, like Neil Bush and Donald Rumsfeld have done, give 'em Google and Microsoft and Starbucks - even the Rolling Stones, for Christ's sake - then turn around and bag even more billions in gargantuan weapons programs to act as "prudent hedges against the possibility that cooperative approaches by themselves may fail to preclude future conflict" with them sneaky yellow devils, as the Pentagon's "long-term strategy review" put it recently. Of course, that's what the "War on Terror" is all about anyway: gaining control of the Muslim oil lands in order to throttle China and eventually knock it on the head if it gets too uppity. If Saddam Hussein and the Ayatollah Khamanei had simply handed over their oil fields to the protection of American overseers, then they could have repressed their own people till the cows come home, with the grateful blessing of Washington. (Equatorial Guinea's rapacious dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema has it down pat. He's opened his vast oil reserves to American companies; in return, he's free to torture, loot and starve his people, and still be lauded by those champions of democracy in the Bush White House.) The war in Iraq and the next war in Iran have nothing to do with Islam or liberation or terrorism or any of that katzenjammer. It wouldn't matter if they were all Southern Baptists or acolytes of Ishtar, if they cared tenderly for their citizens or turned them into soylent green. They've got oil, they wouldn't play ball, so they're going down. Control of these resources and strategic areas in order to box in China (and eventually India) and prevent the rise of any potential rival to American domination of global affairs - or rather, the domination of global affairs by a small American elite quite willing to see their own country sink into corruption, ruin, tyranny and fear - is now and has been since the end of the Cold War the driving force of the political faction led by Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and others brought into power by the rigged election of runner-up George W. Bush in 2000. It is for this and no other reason that thousands of Americans have been killed, and tens of thousands maimed in Iraq; it is for this that up to 300,000 innocent Iraqis have been slaughtered; it is for this that the war plans for Iran are going forward. The only way that the pathetic, stunted intellects of this political faction know how to interpret reality is through the paranoid prism of the Cold War, with its hidebound abstractions, its cartoonish exaggerations, its perverted morality (willing to destroy a village, a region, a nation - even the whole world - to "save" it from the enemy) and, more than anything else, the vast power and privilege it accorded to the national security elite. And so they -- and the generations of younger disciples they have spawned -- are trying to re-order the world, through violence, threat and terror, to make reality fit the blinkered template in their heads. And they will keep on trying, even if the flame of Islamic extremism flickers out, even if the Chinese lay down their arms, even if Iran turns its nuclear plants into Wal-Marts and Pottery Barns. There will always be a new Big Enemy to justify their militarist obsessions. Karl Rove’s dream scenario for the next few months leading up the midterm elections probably goes something like this. Labor Day - the launch of the fall campaign amidst the orchestrated hoopla of ballyhoo, flag-waving, jingoism, prayers and venomous condemnations of our axis-of-evil Islamic and Asian enemies. Mid-September - a major act of terrorism takes place on US soil, perhaps, a dirty nuclear device that has slipped through the lax security at America’s ports might be detonated in a major blue state city, perhaps, Washington or New York, or even in a red state metropolis, say, Houston – that is, of course, attributable to Islamic terrorists of the Bin Laden school of extremism. This would be the second time a Bin Laden-Al-Qa’ida attack would have saved the Republicans from a serious nosedive in the polls. The first time was, of course, 9/11, itself, when Bush was the most unpopular first term president in American history and the WTC collapsed to reverse his political fortunes. October would bring the launch of a multi-pronged air strike against circa four hundred (400) hard targets in Iran that can be linked to its nuclear programme as outlined by Seymour Hersh. Halloween night could see the emergence of a new tape from Osama Bin Laden threatening America with a chilling threat of worse attacks yet to come. This guest appearance by Bin Laden would simply mirror his collaborative appearance on Halloween night in 2004 which threw the phobic citizens of the red states into a fearful frenzy of hand-wringing that led to a fit of Republican voting. On the Monday before the election, Saddam Hussein could be hung in Baghdad, and Bush could address the nation in prime time to beat his breast, notch his gun in public and pray for more direct evidence of the divine status of America’s mission in the modern world – to destroy all terrorists. In the minds of Bush and Rove - after that sequence of political volcanism, election day would see Republicans winning in a walk while maintaining their majorities in both houses of congress. Triumphally, Bush would address the nation congratulating the leadership of the Democratic Party on seeing the light of day and responding to his neoconservative message by supporting his plan to launch America into a permanent state of global war. Calling for unity, Bush would praise individual Democrats who collaborated with his campaign to end terror, and he would call any and every political opponent who still opposes his extremist bellicosity a traitor guilty of treason and the fomentation of terror. These events would bring about the merger of the Paleozoic part of the Democratic Party with the Republicans, and a wrenching schism that would actually divide the Democratic Party into two separate political parties, one neoconservative and one progressive. In the aftermath of these events, the constitutional rights of American citizens would fade into the mists of history to become items of academic interest only. Worse. The new post Apocalypse America would strive to enforce its new regime of police power and military occupation on a global scale closing the period of personal freedom, civil liberty and the rights of humanity that opened in 1776. With a renewed and rejuvenated political power base, George Bush would dismiss Patrick Fitzgerald, pardon Scooter Libby and any other co-conspirators in order to focus on the one problem facing America – terrorism. All American resources would be channelled into the war against terror, and all forms of education, information and the media would be predicated on the causes of terror and the solutions for fighting it with ultra-violence and malice aforethought. The internet will be transformed from a global source of information for the general public to an anti-terrorist network for the transmission of information condemning and combating terrorism. At that point, Karl Rove’s and George Bush’s dream will have transformed America. The era of the American dream will close forever, and the era of the American nightmare will open. QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac." -- George Orwell


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