31 December 2006
Islamic Army in Iraq: The US is talking to the wrong people
London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat calls attention to a statement by the leader of the Islamic Army in Iraq "On the Safavid Iranian Project", posted on the IAI website. (Text version here; voice version here). Although the statement is dated December 28, the paper says it was published on the website yesterday (Saturday December 30).
The main point appears to be that as the focus of the battle shifts from the Americans to the Iranians, the Americans in their search for an exit are making the mistake of talking to "opportunists", including Baathists, who say they represent the Iraqi resistance but don't.
The newspaper's summary begins with this: The Islamic ummah should prepare for the coming fateful battle for Baghdad, against the Americans and the agents of Iran. And it warns against what it calls the "opportunists" among the Baathists, who go around saying they represent the resistance and enter into talks (on that basis) with Arab and Western countries.
Read it here.
Elbow to elbow, like cattle
By Gideon Levy
Dec 28, 2006, 22:15
Laila El-Haddad spent the last three weeks in a dismal apartment she was forced to rent in El Arish, Egypt, together with her son Yusuf, who is two years and nine months old. Every few days the two tried to travel to the Rafah border crossing, about 50 kilometers away, attempting to return to their home in Gaza. These were distressful efforts: Together with another 5,000 or so residents of Gaza, who have also been waiting in recent weeks to return to their homes, she was crammed with her toddler for hours in an endless line at the crossing. "Elbow to elbow, like cattle," is how she describes this in her blog, until being pushed back in shame once again.
El-Haddad, a young journalist who splits her time between Gaza and the U.S., can afford to pay $9 per night. But most of the unfortunate people around her, including cancer patients, infants, the elderly and students, the injured and disabled, cannot allow themselves such luxuries. Some of them rent a tent for 1.5 Egyptian pounds per night. The rest simply sleep out in the open, in the chill of night, or crowd together in local mosques.
These people want to return home. Israel does not even allow them this. They are human beings with families, plans and commitments, longings and dignity, but who cares. In recent weeks, even the Palestinian Minister of the Environment, Yusuf Abu Safiya, was stuck there. El-Haddad tells of how the minister could be seen one evening collecting twigs on the beach of El Arish to light a bonfire. During the summer, at least seven people died of heat and dehydration while waiting at the border. For many of those who are ill, the wait is a nightmare that threatens their lives. For students, it means losing an academic year. There is almost no mention of this cruel abuse in the newspapers: After all, the occupation in Gaza has ended.
Without anyone paying attention, the Gaza Strip has become the most closed-off strip of land in the world - after North Korea. But while North Korea is globally known to be a closed and isolated country, how many people know that the same description applies to a place just an hour away from hedonist Tel Aviv?
The Erez border crossing is desolate - Palestinians are not allowed to cross there, foreigners are rarely allowed to cross and Israeli journalists have also been prohibited from crossing during the past two weeks. Only wheelchairs are occasionally pushed through the long "sleeves" of the security check, leading a deadly ill person or someone seriously injured by the IDF to or from treatment in Israel. The large terminal Israel built, a concrete and glass monster that looks like a splendid shopping mall, juts up like a particularly tasteless joke, a mockery. At the Karni crossing, the only supply channel for 1.5 million people, only 12 trucks per day have passed since January. According to the "crossings accord" signed a year ago, Israel committed to allowing 400 trucks a day to pass through. The excuse: security, as usual.
But there has not been any security incident at Karni since April. The ramifications: Not only severe poverty, but also $30 million in damage to Gaza's agriculture, which is almost the only remaining source of livelihood in the Strip. According to the UN report published last week, Israel has violated all of the articles of the agreement. There is no passage to Israel, no passage to the West Bank and even none to Egypt, the last outlet.
Read the rest here.
Further Combat Looms in Somalia
By Stephanie McCrummen
Dec 30, 2006, 23:17
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- Somali government troops heavily backed by Ethiopian tanks and soldiers pushed Saturday toward Somalia's port city of Kismaayo, the last stronghold of the Islamic Courts movement swept from power in recent days.
A major battle between the two sides seemed imminent, as Ethiopian jets blew over towns near Kismaayo, and leaders of the Islamic movement rallied fighters who had retreated to the area in the face of Ethiopia's vastly superior military force.
The Islamic Courts movement is "ready to fight against the enemy of Allah," Sharif Ahmed, a leader of the group, told residents of Kismaayo, according to the Associated Press.
Somalis are growing impatient with the presence of thousands of Ethiopian troops in their country, but Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who has backed the interim Somali government now in power, has said his military will not pull out until it has captured the most "extremist" leaders and "international jihadists" within the Courts movement.
Meles has accused those leaders of supporting ethnic Somali separatist groups in Ethiopia, and both the United States and Ethiopia have accused the Islamic Courts fighters of sheltering terrorists, an allegation the movement has called propaganda.
The United States has denied giving Ethiopia the green light to invade Somalia but has steadfastly supported Ethiopia's right to self-defense, and Meles has characterized this war as defensive, not preemptive. Just days before the Ethiopian action, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Jendayi E. Frazer, accused the Islamic group of being "controlled" by an al-Qaeda cell, an allegation that regional analysts say was exaggerated and intended to justify Ethiopia's incursion.
The U.S. government, which has a substantial military presence up the coast in Djibouti, has said that four suspects in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania could be among the 2,000 or so fighters who retreated in recent days to the Kismaayo area, which includes a vast forest ideal for hiding in and staging a guerrilla war.
The Islamic Courts movement came to power in June with the popular support of Somalis tired of the brutish rule of warlords who called themselves an "anti-terrorism coalition" and received financial backing from the CIA.
Somalis tend to adhere to a moderate version of Islam, and for many, supporting a movement that enforced Islamic law with varying degrees of severity was a pragmatic choice rather than a religious one.
It is perhaps a measure of that pragmatism that as the government asserted control of Mogadishu, the capital, on Friday, many of the Islamic fighters simply slipped off their uniforms, shaved their beards and went back to regular life, witnesses said.
Read it here.
We've published this pic previously, but it fits the article so perfectly that we can't resist posting it once more. Besides, it really is a classic.
The Tower of Wealth Without a Foundation
By Siv O'Neall
Dec 26, 2006, 13:31
Imperial arrogance – the road to chaos
The two mainstays of the neoconservative and neoliberal agenda can be reduced to the accumulation of more wealth for the tiny upper clique of the American population and to assuring the ever-lasting continuation of the U.S. empire. The rest of the world is simply of no consequence to the neocon way of thinking and that's where they make the huge mistake that is one day going to be their downfall. Willful shortsightedness has always been their hallmark and every day now it is looking ever more likely that their undoing is imminent. When the base caves in, the tower will come tumbling down.
U.S. imperial arrogance has had no bounds since they began to see themselves as an invincible power already in the 19th century. That's when they began to strike out in Latin America to consolidate their empire in the western hemisphere and the Philippines. The geopolitical situation in the world has recently led Washington to assume preposterous rights to single-handedly reshape the world to their liking and the long-term goal is clearly to become the rulers of the planet. But it now looks increasingly as if the roof is going to fall in on the whole pack of wolves and one day soon the now astronomically rich will find themselves left out in the cold with nothing but worthless paper in their portfolios.
Don't credit the neocons with any deep ideological thinking in their way of going about conquering the world. The United States must obviously be an empire, its military must be invincible and the country must continue to be by far the wealthiest country in the world. Of course we are the most powerful and the world has to see it clearly and tremble with awe and fear. We are also the moral beacon to the world; we alone know what has to be done to save our moral values, our high-minded law and order high priests read the gospel of righteousness to the world.
Certainly some neocons believe that God has given them the right or even the duty to defy anyone who threatens U.S. hegemony and that therefore they have every right to run roughshod over international law and conventions. The plenipotentiary powers of the pre-revolutionary European kings is their model. Napoleon and Hitler are their forerunners.
They invaded Iraq, not to get rid of Saddam Hussein. What did they care? They had cooperated most warmly with him for decades before. Of course they thought they would take over the running of that part of the world, Iraq, then Iran, then Syria. No big deal. That whole part of the world was going to become a U.S. protectorate. The American military is invincible (as the warm-up exercises in Central America, Panama and Grenada had proved to Ronald Reagan) and now that they had the American people scared out of their wits after 9/11 (Well done Cheney, Rummy and Karl Rove!), they were absolutely free to go on with their plans to conquer the world. A hyped-up global war on terror was just what it would take to get the Congress to play into the conspiracy game. 
Read the rest of it here.
Localities Operate Intelligence Centers To Pool Terror Data: 'Fusion' Facilities Raise Privacy Worries As Wide Range of Information Is Collected
By Mary Beth Sheridan and Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 31, 2006; A03
Frustrated by poor federal cooperation, U.S. states and cities are building their own network of intelligence centers led by police to help detect and disrupt terrorist plots.
The new "fusion centers" are now operating in 37 states, including Virginia and Maryland, and another covers the Washington area, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The centers, which have received $380 million in federal support since the 2001 terrorist attacks, pool and analyze information from local, state and federal law enforcement officials.
The emerging "network of networks" marks a new era of opportunity for law enforcement, according to U.S. officials and homeland security experts. Police are hungry for federal intelligence in an age of homegrown terrorism and more sophisticated crime. For their part, federal law enforcement officials could benefit from a potential army of tipsters -- the 700,000 local and state police officers across the country, as well as private security guards and others being courted by the centers.
But the emerging model of "intelligence-led policing" faces risks on all sides. The centers are popping up with little federal leadership and training, raising fears of overzealousness such as that associated with police "red squads" that spied on civil rights and peace activists decades ago. The centers also face practical obstacles that could limit their effectiveness, including a shortage of money, skilled analysts, and proven relationships with the FBI and Homeland Security.
Still, the centers are emerging as a key element in a sometimes chaotic new domestic intelligence infrastructure, which also includes homeland security units in local police forces and 103 FBI-led terrorism task forces, triple the number that existed before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Fusion centers are becoming "part of the landscape for local government," said the incoming D.C. police chief, Cathy Lanier. But she warned that police are navigating a new patchwork of state and federal privacy laws that govern the sharing, collection and storage of information. "We're in a very precarious position right now," she said. "If we lose community support, that is going to be a big deal for local law enforcement."
Civil liberties advocates worry that the fledgling fusion centers could stray into monitoring people engaged in lawful activities, as some members of new police homeland security units have done. A Georgia homeland security officer, for example, was discovered photographing a protest by vegans at a HoneyBaked Ham store in 2003. Privacy advocates are also concerned about the vast amount of information some fusion centers collect -- and the sometimes vague limits on its use and storage.
"In Phoenix, we're talking about something like 250,000 police reports a year: names, addresses, contact information, business cards, tickets, all the kinds of information that is gathered and that can be of tremendous value at a national analytical level," said John L. Buchanan, Phoenix assistant police chief. He added, however, that "we've really got to be cognizant of the risk" of abuse.
Read the rest here.
Living in America’s Fringe Economy
By Howard Karger, Dollars and Sense. Posted December 29, 2006.
Millions of Americans live on the margins of the American economy, depending on the likes of payday lenders and pawnshops, who charge excessive interest rates and superhigh fees for their services.
Ron Cook is a department manager at a Wal-Mart store in Atlanta. Maria Guzman is an undocumented worker from Mexico; she lives in Houston with her three children and cleans office buildings at night. Marty Lawson works for a large Minneapolis corporation. (The names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.) What do these three people have in common? They are all regular fringe economy customers.
The term "fringe economy" refers to a range of businesses that engage in financially predatory relationships with low-income or heavily indebted consumers by charging excessive interest rates, superhigh fees, or exorbitant prices for goods or services. Some examples of fringe economy businesses include payday lenders, pawnshops, check-cashers, tax refund lenders, rent-to-own stores, and "buy-here/pay-here" used car lots. The fringe economy also includes credit card companies that charge excessive late payment or over-the-creditlimit penalties; cell phone providers that force less creditworthy customers into expensive prepaid plans; and subprime mortgage lenders that gouge prospective homeowners.
The fringe economy is hardly new. Pawnshops and informal high-interest lenders have been around forever. What we see today, however, is a fringe-economy sector that is growing fast, taking advantage of the ever-larger part of the U.S. population whose economic lives are becoming less secure. Moreover, in an important sense the sector is no longer "fringe" at all: more and more, large mainstream financial corporations are behind the high-rate loans that anxious customers in run-down storefronts sign for on the dotted line.
Read the rest here.
In Search of a Criminal: Donald Rumsfeld's Name Tops the List of Accused of War Crimes
2006 Year in Review
By Alexia Garamfalvi
December 25, 2006
No one thinks that Donald Rumsfeld will end his days in a German prison. Or that there is any real chance he will have to face trial in Germany over allegations that he authorized policies leading to the torture of prisoners at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
But that doesn’t mean that a complaint filed in Germany last month won’t have some ripple effects. The complaint asks a federal prosecutor there to begin an investigation, and ultimately a criminal prosecution, of the former secretary of defense and other U.S. officials for their roles in the abuses.
“Rumsfeld is no longer untouchable,” says Wolfgang Kaleck, the German lawyer who filed the complaint along with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights. “He is now deeply connected with claims of abuses and torture. We have taken the first step to begin the legal discussion on his accountability.”
The complaint against Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet, and other senior civilian and military officials, was filed in mid-November on behalf of 11 Iraqis who had been detained at Abu Ghraib prison and Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi detained at Guantánamo. It alleges that the defendants ordered, aided, and abetted war crimes and failed to prevent the commission of war crimes by their subordinates. In international law, war crimes are defined as grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, including torture and inhuman treatment.
Rumsfeld has said the abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib was the work of a few low-level soldiers and the prisoners affected were mostly not the subject of interrogations, but just “common criminals” who were also detained. “It’s pretty clear that on the midnight shift, for a period of some weeks, there were people there who were behaving in a way that was fundamentally inconsistent with the president’s instructions to treat people humanely [and] my instructions that they were to treat people humanely,” Rumsfeld said in a Dec. 15 television interview.
But the plaintiffs claim that the torture that occurred at detention centers in Iraq and Guantánamo were not isolated incidents or the product of a few soldiers gone bad, but rather was widespread and systemic, having been ordered from the top levels of the military and the Defense Department. “The interrogational torture applied by the United States was not an accident, not a mistake, not a secret action,” the complaint states. (Pentagon and Department of Justice spokesmen declined to comment for this article.)
Stymied in their call for high-level accountability in the United States, the groups thought their best shot was to bring a case in a country, like Germany, that has a strong universal-jurisdiction law, says Michael Ratner, the CCR’s president.
The CCR has been involved in much of the litigation challenging the Bush administration’s post-Sept. 11 policies on the treatment of detainees in the context of the war on terror, including the landmark case Rasul v. Bush, which challenged the indefinite detention of foreign nationals at Guantánamo.
Read the rest here.
Memorization, Standardized Tests, and Official Policy
By Jack Blatherwick, PhD
Dec 29, 2006, 13:17
Teaching answers to standardized tests should not be called "education," especially when problem-solving will be the most important tool for a generation of students destined to inherit the incredible problems we will leave as our legacy.
To repeat the answers we feed is at best, preparing future "patriots" for greater acceptance of official policy. The consequences of this blind trust have become painfully apparent. Our government spent millions of dollars on propaganda to sell a peace-loving populace on an illegal invasion of a sovereign country.
Of all the multiple-choice reasons for this invasion, the one remaining is that Iraq sits in a strategic position for our military to control Asian oil. Imagine the mark this answer would have received on a government-generated standardized test.
In our name, and with our unwitting approval, the United States has aggressively squandered a peace that was earned by the blood of generations before us. We the People unknowingly "agreed to" torture of prisoners, non-compliance with international treaties, destruction of the environment, and proliferation of a nuclear arsenal that was already excessive for its insane, outdated, imaginary purpose. We've widened the gap between the wealthy and the less-fortunate; denied affordable access to health care, and - to avoid any sacrifice - we've left our children with the tab.
Read the rest here.
The Zapatistas and The Other Campaign : the Pedestrians of History
By ELZN. Translated by Agatha Haun and revised by Fausto Giudice, Tlaxcala*
Dec 30, 2006, 16:42
Introductory remarks: Most people who can read or have a television have now heard about the recent elections in Mexico and Calderon's theft of the vote from Obrador - and the aftermath. Many on the Left know something about the election in general terms but do not understand how the fraud was carried out and by whom. Still others know very little about the Zapatistas, the ELZN and The Other Campaign and the revolution now underway in this country that holds strategic importance to the U.S. Many of our readers have also been following the courageous stand the people of Oaxaca have taken against the U.S. backed, neoliberal government in Mexico. In the document that follows, you can learn much more about the background and future of this revolution.
Until now these issues have been passed on through news reports and scattered commentary. To our knowledge, we now have (in the following document) the first comprehensive and exhaustive treatment of these issues by true revolutionaries who are on the front lines in Mexico. The following definitive, organizational and informative document places these events into the revolutionary context which gave them birth. This reading is for those who want to understand what is currently happening and a view toward the future of the revolution in Mexico. Because of it is long and not easily available for cursory "screen reading", we encourage you to do as we have done - print it out and spend some time with it. We are indebted to Agatha Haun and Fausto Guidice, translators for Tlaxcala for translating this document into English, exclusively for Axis of Logic. Emphases and formatting have been added throughout by Axis editors. If you think it too much work to read and digest this important document, think of it as a book ... and imagine the work that went into writing and translating it! Thank you.
- Les Blough, Editor
the Pedestrians of History
EZLN, September 2006
Translated by Agatha Haun and revised by Fausto Giudice
This document is conceived for and addressed especially to the adherents of the Sixth Declaration and The Other Campaign. And of course, to those who can sympathise with our movement.
What we present here is part of the reflections and conclusions which have been shared with some people, groups, collectives, and organisations which adhere to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle. Following our “method” in The Other Campaign, first we listened to the word of these comrades and afterward we explained our analysis and conclusion.
The Sixth Commission of the EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional / Zapatista National Liberation Army) has been mindful of the opinions and proposals of some of the comrades of The Other Campaign, in that which refers to the so-called “post-electoral crisis”, the mobilisations in various parts of the country (particularly in Oaxaca with the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca - APPO), and in the Federal District with Andrés Miguel López Obrador (AMLO), and the Other Campaign. In letters, in reports of meetings and assemblies, on the web page, in some cases in their public positions, and in personal and group meetings, some adherents have expressed themselves concerning these points.
Read the rest of this enlightening history here.
Bush Silences a Dangerous Witness
By Robert Parry
December 30, 2006
Like a blue-blood version of a Mob family with global reach, the Bushes have eliminated one more key witness to the important historical events that led the U.S. military into a bloody stalemate in Iraq and pushed the Middle East to the brink of calamity.
The hanging of Saddam Hussein was supposed to be – as the New York Times observed – the “triumphal bookend” to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. If all had gone as planned, Bush might have staged another celebration as he did after the end of “major combat,” posing under the “Mission Accomplished” banner on May 1, 2003.
But now with nearly 3,000 American soldiers killed and the Iraqi death toll exceeding 600,000 by some estimates, Bush may be forced to savor the image of Hussein dangling at the end of a rope a little more privately.
Still, Bush has done his family’s legacy a great service while also protecting secrets that could have embarrassed other senior U.S. government officials.
He has silenced a unique witness to crucial chapters of the secret history that stretched from Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979 to the alleged American-Saudi “green light” for Hussein to attack Iran in 1980, through the eight years of the Iran-Iraq War during which high-ranking U.S. intermediaries, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates, allegedly helped broker supplies of war materiel for Hussein.
Hussein now won’t be around to give troublesome testimony about how he obtained the chemical and biological agents that his scientists used to produce the unconventional weapons that were deployed against Iranian forces and Iraqi civilians. He can’t give his perspective on who got the money and who facilitated the deals.
Nor will Hussein be available to give his account of the mixed messages delivered by George H.W. Bush’s ambassador April Glaspie before Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Was there another American “green light” or did Hussein just hear what he wanted to hear?
Like the climactic scene from the Mafia movie “Casino” in which nervous Mob bosses eliminate everyone who knows too much, George W. Bush has now guaranteed that there will be no public tribunal where Hussein gives testimony on these potentially devastating historical scandals, which could threaten the Bush Family legacy.
That could have happened if Hussein had been turned over to an international tribunal at the Hague as was done with other tyrants, such as Yugoslavia’s late dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Instead Bush insisted that Hussein be tried in Iraq despite the obvious fact that the Iraqi dictator would receive nothing close to a fair trial before being put to death.
Read the rest here.
Book: Israel, Lobby Pushing Iran War
Nathan Guttman | Fri. Dec 29, 2006
A former United Nations weapons inspector and leading Iraq War opponent has written a new book alleging that Jerusalem is pushing the Bush administration into war with Iran, and accusing the pro-Israel lobby of dual loyalty and “outright espionage.”
In the new book, called “Target Iran,” Scott Ritter, who served as a senior U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998 and later became one of the war’s staunchest critics, argues that the United States is readying for military action against Iran, using its nuclear program as a pretext for pursuing regime change in Tehran.
“The Bush administration, with the able help of the Israeli government and the pro-Israel Lobby, has succeeded,” Ritter writes, “in exploiting the ignorance of the American people about nuclear technology and nuclear weapons so as to engender enough fear that the American public has more or less been pre-programmed to accept the notion of the need to militarily confront a nuclear armed Iran.”
Later in the book, Ritter adds: “Let there be no doubt: If there is an American war with Iran, it is a war that was made in Israel and nowhere else.”
Ritter’s book echoes recent high-profile attacks on the pro-Israel lobby by former President Jimmy Carter and by scholars Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. Ritter, who recently returned from a weeklong speaking engagement on The Nation cruise, speaks of a “network of individuals” that pursues Israel’s interests in the United States. The former weapons inspector alleges that some of the pro-Israel lobby’s activities “can only be described as outright espionage and interference in domestic policies.” Ritter also accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee of having an inherent dual loyalty. He called for the organization to be registered as a foreign agent.
Representatives for both Aipac and the Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment on Ritter’s accusations.
Read the rest of it here.
30 December 2006
End double standards on nukes: Egypt
Published: Tuesday, 26 December, 2006, 11:25 AM Doha Time
CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit called yesterday for an end to nuclear double standards, after the UN imposed sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment.
"The negligence of certain Western countries over questions of non-proliferation, and the fact that they permit some states to acquire a nuclear capacity while preventing others from doing so, is nothing but double standards," the foreign minister said in a statement.
"That must stop," he added. "It is known that Israel has a nuclear capability that is not subject to any control by the International Atomic Energy Agency," the UN’s nuclear watchdog in Vienna.
Israel has never officially admitted having nuclear weapons, but it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and refuses to allow international inspections of its Dimona nuclear facility.
"The fact that some countries obtain peaceful nuclear technology, that they master some steps in making nuclear fuel ... does not in any way mean they can be deemed to be ‘nuclear countries,’ because nuclear countries are those that have military nuclear capabilities," the Egyptian foreign minister said.
Read the rest of it here.
Officials unsure what to do with radioactive tanks
Published on Saturday, December 30, 2006.
Source: Knox News
OAK RIDGE - The government has invested a fortune in the cleanup of Melton Valley, which - considering its inglorious past as a dumping ground for all things nuclear - might be better named Meltdown Valley.
Workers have plugged wells, capped landfills, drained waste ponds and injected grout in cracks and crevices in an effort to halt the spread of radioactive contamination. They have torn down old buildings, hauled away junk and excavated "hot spots" that couldn't be cleaned or contained.
But there are times when federal contractors don't know what to do.
That's the case with five big tanks underneath a three-sided shed a few miles from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. They've been sitting there for decades, unadorned except for a collection of signs that warn of the radiation hazards.
According to John Owsley, the state's environmental oversight director in Oak Ridge, the tanks - and their radioactive contents - don't fit neatly into any of the normal categories for disposal.
They're stuck in nuclear nowhere.
"It doesn't quite meet the definition of high-level waste, and the activity is too high for it to be disposed of as low-level waste," Owsley said.
Therefore, the tanks will stay where they are, alongside a dusty gravel road, while DOE and its contractors and environmental regulators explore the options.
The tanks were brought to ORNL back in the 1960s from the Atomic Energy Commission's operations in Hanford, Wash. The commission was a predecessor of today's U.S. Department of Energy.
Read the rest of it here.
Ray Charles and James Brown
by Arlin Troutt
2006 sure took its toll. I loved Ray Charles and James Brown. Who did more to promote peace, love, joy and harmony on this planet? The world should have celebrated their lives and the gifts they gave us for a month. Larry King should have interviewed every friend they had and recalled every kind deed and funny story they ever told. All the networks should have aired New Specials that lasted 2 weeks straight with no commercials during their funerals.
Blind Ray and the God Father of Soul picked bad times to die. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford stole the spotlight and got top billing in history. President Reagan "tore down that wall" between the Free World and Russia. Ironically, President Bush is rebuilding it between the US and Mexico. Reagan was involved in training and funding Middle Eastern terrorists by trading weapons between Iran and the Contras in Central America. Alzheimer's set in when congress questioned him about it and that was the end of it. Reagan's drawn out funeral didn't leave much airtime for Ray who did a lot more to promote peace on earth.
President Ford's claim to fame was pardoning Richard Nixon for Vietnam, not Watergate as they claim. The American People got rid of Nixon, not Gerald Ford. Richard Nixon's resignation was pure show business, which is now being pawned off as history.
Our kids were listening to Ray Charles and James Brown in Vietnam and they are probably listening to them in Iraq and wondering the same thing: "what the hell are we doing here". They deserve an answer.
President Ford granted immunity to Nixon and associates for war crimes against humanity in Southeast Asia. Had Nixon and his corporate buddies been held accountable for the Vietnam bloodbath, we would not be in Iraq fighting an identical war for these same corporate interests. Look at the names and faces of these men and their companies. The flags change but the mission remains the same.
At the last minute Saddam Hussein has thrown his hat in the ring for most publicized death of 2006. How do you compete with that? --- Our Sons and Daughters
The stink of death has followed our solders into the poppy fields of South East Asia and the Middle East for a thousand years. Those lucky enough to return are scarred for life. That is the nature of war and mankind. The Nixons, Reagans, Fords, Bushs and Husseins of the world have been around forever and have changed nothing---But there will never be another Ray Charles and James Brown.
Robert Fisk: A dictator created then destroyed by America
Dec 30, 2006, 13:52
Saddam to the gallows. It was an easy equation. Who could be more deserving of that last walk to the scaffold - that crack of the neck at the end of a rope - than the Beast of Baghdad, the Hitler of the Tigris, the man who murdered untold hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis while spraying chemical weapons over his enemies? Our masters will tell us in a few hours that it is a "great day" for Iraqis and will hope that the Muslim world will forget that his death sentence was signed - by the Iraqi "government", but on behalf of the Americans - on the very eve of the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the moment of greatest forgiveness in the Arab world.
But history will record that the Arabs and other Muslims and, indeed, many millions in the West, will ask another question this weekend, a question that will not be posed in other Western newspapers because it is not the narrative laid down for us by our presidents and prime ministers - what about the other guilty men?
No, Tony Blair is not Saddam. We don't gas our enemies. George W Bush is not Saddam. He didn't invade Iran or Kuwait. He only invaded Iraq. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead - and thousands of Western troops are dead - because Messrs Bush and Blair and the Spanish Prime Minister and the Italian Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister went to war in 2003 on a potage of lies and mendacity and, given the weapons we used, with great brutality.
In the aftermath of the international crimes against humanity of 2001 we have tortured, we have murdered, we have brutalised and killed the innocent - we have even added our shame at Abu Ghraib to Saddam's shame at Abu Ghraib - and yet we are supposed to forget these terrible crimes as we applaud the swinging corpse of the dictator we created.
Who encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980, which was the greatest war crime he has committed for it led to the deaths of a million and a half souls? And who sold him the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the Kurds? We did. No wonder the Americans, who controlled Saddam's weird trial, forbad any mention of this, his most obscene atrocity, in the charges against him. Could he not have been handed over to the Iranians for sentencing for this massive war crime? Of course not. Because that would also expose our culpability.
And the mass killings we perpetrated in 2003 with our depleted uranium shells and our "bunker buster" bombs and our phosphorous, the murderous post-invasion sieges of Fallujah and Najaf, the hell-disaster of anarchy we unleashed on the Iraqi population in the aftermath of our "victory" - our "mission accomplished" - who will be found guilty of this? Such expiation as we might expect will come, no doubt, in the self-serving memoirs of Blair and Bush, written in comfortable and wealthy retirement.
Read the rest here.
Saddams Execution : The western anti war movement - the left boot of imperialism?
Posted by Kola on December 30, 2006, 12:51 am
The silence of the western antiwar movement on the lynching of Saddam Hussein is deafening and is increasingly beginning to prove what a lot of discerning people have suspected all along – that the mainstream anti-war movement (including large parts of its left wing) in the west is the well concealed left boot of western imperialism, the conscience of the conqueror.
The main reason given by western radicals – including many on this board for ignoring the assassination of the deposed Iraqi president is the crimes against humanity he has allegedly committed. How many of these ‘left’ activists then would welcome a Chinese invasion of the British Isles, the sacking of British cities, the incarceration and torture of tens of thousands of English youths in concentration camps scattered along the Yorkshire Dales, the murder of a million British citizens (the equivalent of the Iraq dead) if the reason Beijing gave for the invasion was to arrest, try and execute Tony Blair for the limitless war crimes he has directly and indirectly carried out in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine over the last three years – killing in Iraq alone (in 3 years) more than Saddam killed in 35.
Saddam Hussein has not been tried; he has been executed by the west’s leaders, while their ‘radical’ sons look the other way. If a serial killer was brought to trial in the UK and during the trial three of his defence lawyers were kidnapped, tortured and murdered, (clearly by state agents) the media lens message board for one will be heaving with anger and righteous fury, but now there is only silence.
Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, but as president of Iraq, he represented something which nobody ever talks about these days, the sovereignty of his nation, by his judicial murder by a foreign invader the sovereignty of every poor third world nation has just been executed. The reason why the left in the west cares so little about that is because the sovereignty of poor nations is as much a threat to them as it is to their ruling circles.
The multi billion pound human rights/NGO industry for one (the new missionaries) are as dominant in the third world as any multinational, and in many ways even more powerful, since they seduce the minds of the natives buying up activists by the barrel load, feeding them with inconsequential facetious drivel about ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ all the better to cement the west’s moral and ideological supremacy over the natives.
Read all of it here.
Army Times Poll: Unhappy Troops
Decline in Military's Staunch Supporters of War
The American military, staunch supporters of President Bush and the Iraq war -- has grown increasingly pessimistic about chances for victory, according to the 2006 Military Times Poll, with results published in Army Times. Excerpts from the article are below.
The survey, which polled 6,000 active duty people at random, found that despite growing disaffection with the war in Iraq, members of the U.S. armed forces are content with their jobs. The mail survey, conducted Nov. 13 through Dec. 22, is the fourth annual survey of active-duty military subscribers to the Military Times newspapers.
The poll found that for the first time, more troops disapprove of the president's handling of the war than approve. The president's rating is low -- barely one-third of service members approve of the way of his handling the war.
Professor David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland, says perhaps this is because the military is seeing more casualties and fatalies and less progress.
In 2004, when the military was feeling most optimistic about the war, 83 percent of poll respondents thought success in Iraq was likely. This year, that number was only 50 percent.
Only 35 percent of the military members polled this year said they approve of the way President Bush is handling the war, while 42 percent said they disapproved. The president's approval rating among the military is only slightly higher than for the population as a whole.
In this year's poll only 41 percent of the military said the U.S. should have gone to war in Iraq in the first place, down from 65 percent in 2003.
Read it here.
For Whom the Bell Tolls: Top Ten Ways the US Enabled Saddam Hussein
The old monster swung from the gallows this morning at 6 am Baghdad time. His Shiite executioners danced around his body.
Saddam Hussain was one of the 20th century's most notorious tyrants, though the death toll he racked up is probably exaggerated by his critics. The reality was bad enough.
The tendency to treat Saddam and Iraq in a historical vacuum, and in isolation from the superpowers, however, has hidden from Americans their own culpability in the horror show that has been Iraq for the past few decades. Initially, the US used the Baath Party as a nationalist foil to the Communists. Then Washington used it against Iran. The welfare of Iraqis themselves appears to have been on no one's mind, either in Washington or in Baghdad.
The British-installed monarchy was overthrown by an officer's coup in 1958, led by Abdul Karim Qasim. The US was extremely upset, and worried that the new regime would not be a reliable oil exporter and that it might leave the Baghdad Pact of 1955, which the US had put together against the Soviet Union (grouping Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Britain and the US). (Qasim did leave the pact in 1959, which according to a US official of that time, deeply alarmed Washington.)
Iraq in the 1940s and 1950s had become an extremely unequal society, with a few thousand (mostly Sunni Arab) families owning half of the good land. On their vast haciendas, poor rural Shiites worked for a pittance. In the 1950s, two new mass parties grew like wildfire, the Communist Party of Iraq and the Arab Baath Socialist Party. They attracted first-generation intellectuals, graduates of the rapidly expanding school system, as well as workers and peasants. The crushing inequalities of Iraq under the monarchy produced widespread anger.
Qasim undertook land reform and founded a new section of Baghdad, in the northeast, which he called Revolution Township, where rural Shiites congregated as they came to the capital seeking work as day laborers (it is now Sadr City, where a majority of Baghdadis live). The US power elite of the time wrongly perceived Qasim as a dangerous radical who coddled the Communists.
1) The first time the US enabled Saddam Hussein came in 1959. In that year, a young Saddam, from the boondock town of Tikrit but living with an uncle in Baghdad, tried to assassinate Qasim. He failed and was wounded in the leg. Saddam had, like many in his generation, joined the Baath Party, which combined socialism, Arab nationalism, and the aspiration for a one-party state.
Read the rest of it here.
29 December 2006
A call for peace and a tribute to all who have died or whose lives have been forever changed by the illegal war in Iraq. John Lennon's "Happy Christmas / War is Over" provides background music to these powerful photos.
RAISE YOUR VOICE FOR PEACE!
Join the MARCH ON WASHINGTON January 27, 2007
Tell Congress NO MORE TROOPS - bring all our troops home NOW!
IMPEACHMENT FLASHMOB (1,200 people plus helicopter)
Sat, Jan 6, Ocean Beach, San Francisco, 10:30 a.m.
On Saturday, January 6, 2007 (just two days after the new US Congress convenes), 1,200 people will gather for a (Park Service-permitted) impeachment event in Nancy Pelosi's back yard -- on Ocean Beach in San Francisco.
Early that morning, in 100-foot letters stretching 450 feet across the sand, volunteers from the Beach Impeach Project will outline the message:
At 10:30 a.m., the 1,200 attendees will arrive and lay their bodies down inside the message's lettering. At 11 o'clock a helicopter will arrive overhead and photographers will record the 1,200 bodies in the sand -- IMPEACH! -- with the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
News editors will have compelling photos for the next morning's Sunday papers; the nation and world will have convincing evidence of how badly the American people (even Ms. Pelosi's own constituency) want their leaders held accountable for the Iraq disaster; and the impeachment movement will have powerful visuals to go with the words and chatter swirling in the air for months and months now.
"Apartheid" Jimmy? When will Americans call a spade a spade?
By Lee Salisbury
Dec 29, 2006, 04:49
Former President and Nobel Peace prize recipient Jimmy Carter’s latest book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid has fellow Democrats running for cover. Because of recent book, the attacks on Carter are vicious and many. The angry, nonsensical cartoon below from www.investors.com is typical of the Zionist temper tantrums one can expect anytime the Israeli government is criticized - especially when the criticism comes from someone with the voice and international credibility of former President Jimmy Carter.
U.S. House Speaker designate and Democrat mother-hen Nancy Pelosi felt compelled to protect Democrats from such dangerous rhetoric saying, “Jimmy Carter doesn’t speak for the Democratic Party.” Can’t you just see the wheels turning in her head, “Who does Jimmy Carter think he is, he must be getting senile. How could he know anything about the Middle East? Besides, doesn’t Carter know that (based on a Washington Post survey) 60% of the Jewish pro-Israel PAC political contributions go to Democrats versus only 35% to Republicans? Let’s be practical Jimmy!
What is happening in America? How could any one say anything critical about God’s chosen people? That’s anti-Semitic! Would you deny the Holocaust too! Don’t Americans know Israel can do no wrong? Israel is above criticism!
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz says, “the word 'apartheid' suggests an analogy to the hated policies of South Africa, and it is especially outrageous." Yes Professor, Americans should all know Israeli Zionists would never engage in (the dictionary definition of apartheid) a governmental policy of racial/ethnic segregation resulting in political, economic and legal discrimination.
Read it here.
The Proposed Iranian Oil Bourse
By Krassimir Petrov
Dec 29, 2006, 05:48
I. Economics of Empires
A nation-state taxes its own citizens, while an empire taxes other nation-states. The history of empires, from Greek and Roman, to Ottoman and British, teaches that the economic foundation of every single empire is the taxation of other nations. The imperial ability to tax has always rested on a better and stronger economy, and as a consequence, a better and stronger military. One part of the subject taxes went to improve the living standards of the empire; the other part went to strengthen the military dominance necessary to enforce the collection of those taxes.
Historically, taxing the subject state has been in various forms—usually gold and silver, where those were considered money, but also slaves, soldiers, crops, cattle, or other agricultural and natural resources, whatever economic goods the empire demanded and the subject-state could deliver. Historically, imperial taxation has always been direct: the subject state handed over the economic goods directly to the empire.
For the first time in history, in the twentieth century, America was able to tax the world indirectly, through inflation. It did not enforce the direct payment of taxes like all of its predecessor empires did, but distributed instead its own fiat currency, the U.S. Dollar, to other nations in exchange for goods with the intended consequence of inflating and devaluing those dollars and paying back later each dollar with less economic goods—the difference capturing the U.S. imperial tax. Here is how this happened.
Early in the 20th century, the U.S. economy began to dominate the world economy. The U.S. dollar was tied to gold, so that the value of the dollar neither increased, nor decreased, but remained the same amount of gold. The Great Depression, with its preceding inflation from 1921 to 1929 and its subsequent ballooning government deficits, had substantially increased the amount of currency in circulation, and thus rendered the backing of U.S. dollars by gold impossible. This led Roosevelt to decouple the dollar from gold in 1932. Up to this point, the U.S. may have well dominated the world economy, but from an economic point of view, it was not an empire. The fixed value of the dollar did not allow the Americans to extract economic benefits from other countries by supplying them with dollars convertible to gold.
Economically, the American Empire was born with Bretton Woods in 1945. The U.S. dollar was not fully convertible to gold, but was made convertible to gold only to foreign governments. This established the dollar as the reserve currency of the world. It was possible, because during WWII, the United States had supplied its allies with provisions, demanding gold as payment, thus accumulating significant portion of the world’s gold. An Empire would not have been possible if, following the Bretton Woods arrangement, the dollar supply was kept limited and within the availability of gold, so as to fully exchange back dollars for gold. However, the guns-and-butter policy of the 1960’s was an imperial one: the dollar supply was relentlessly increased to finance Vietnam and LBJ’s Great Society. Most of those dollars were handed over to foreigners in exchange for economic goods, without the prospect of buying them back at the same value. The increase in dollar holdings of foreigners via persistent U.S. trade deficits was tantamount to a tax—the classical inflation tax that a country imposes on its own citizens, this time around an inflation tax that U.S. imposed on rest of the world.
Read the rest of it here.
No More Victims Group Continues to Aid Iraqi Children
By Ashley Severance
t r u t h o u t | Guest Contributor
Thursday 28 December 2006
Alaa' left Florida a little over a year ago. I had full intentions of keeping a journal during her stay; however, when I found time to write, I would draw a blank. It wasn't due to writer's block, lack of time, or even apathy. It was because I had a mixture of emotions. It was too hard to define, too hard to narrow down, too hard to describe.
I'm a mother. I'm a wife. I'm a daughter. I'm a law student. I'm a Muslim. I'm an American. I could label myself all day. But, at the end of the day, I'm a human being. So was Alaa'. So were the many people who died. And, a year later, I feel that I have a responsibility to share with others what I gained from Alaa's visit.
When I first met her, she had just gotten off the plane. The media surrounded us. It was the chance for that perfect shot, that memorable moment. But, I didn't reach out to hug Alaa' that night. Instead, I muttered, "Mashallah." It was one of the few Arabic phrases I knew. It was appropriate. While the phrase means Praise God, it is typically used to verbalize a cause for happiness. Likewise, it can be used to describe a beautiful child. Alaa' was beautiful.
The first few days consisted of housekeeping. Due to a significant language barrier, I called upon friends to help with translating. Alaa' arrived a week before our final exams. For anyone unfamiliar with law school, you only get one exam per class. Needless to say, it was stressful, and I'm forever grateful for those who assisted. We helped Khalid (Alaa's father) get settled, and we began the getting-to-know-you process.
Khalid was reserved at first. Who could blame him? He was in the very country that took the lives of his two sons and almost took the life of Alaa'. Yet, he was so grateful at the same time. He continuously thanked me for helping him. I felt ashamed. I asked him not to thank me. I was later asked by a news reporter why I was hesitant to accept his thanks. I explained, as best I could: "It's like tying someone to a railroad track, pulling them off before the train runs them over, then expecting a thank you." I'm not sure if anyone understood my explanation, but I meant every word. I felt like it was my country that put her in that situation and I didn't want to be thanked for my meager attempt to remedy her plight.
Read it all here. Here is No More Victims.
Why cousin marriage matters in Iraq: Clan loyalty fixed by cousin marriage was always bound to undermine democracy in Iraq.
By Anne Bobroff-Hajal
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Compared with the rest of the world, the United States is a young country. Its people left many of their traditional social structures behind, crossed vast oceans, and started anew. So to understand the lives of the majority of people around the world, who live within institutions that have shaped human existence for centuries, Americans need to make a special effort to see things from a very different perspective.
One central element of the Iraqi social fabric that most Americans know little about is its astonishing rate of cousin marriage. Indeed, half of all marriages in Iraq are between first or second cousins. Among countries with recorded figures, only Pakistan and Nigeria rate as high. For an eye-opening perspective about rates of consanguinity (roughly equivalent to cousin marriage) around the world, click on the "Global Prevalence" map at www.consang.net.
But who cares who marries whom in a country we invade? Why talk to anthropologists who study that arcane subject? Only those who live in modern, individualistic societies could be so oblivious. Cousin marriage, especially the unique form practiced in the Middle East, creates clans of fierce internal cohesiveness and loyalty. So in addition to sectarian violence in Iraq, the US may also be facing a greater intensity of inter-clan violence than it saw in Vietnam or the ferocious Lebanese civil war.
The US can't deal with a problem it doesn't recognize, let alone understand.
Anthropologist Stanley Kurtz has described Middle East clans as "governments in miniature" that provide the services and social aid that Americans routinely receive from their national, state, and local governments. No one in a region without stable, fair government can survive outside a strong, unified, respected clan.
But still, what does this have to do with marrying cousins? Cousin marriage occurs because a woman who marries into another clan potentially threatens its unity. If a husband's bond to his wife trumped his solidarity with his brothers, the couple might take their property and leave the larger group, weakening the clan. This potential threat is avoided by cousin marriage: instead of marrying a woman from another lineage, a man marries the daughter of his father's brother - his cousin. In this scenario, his wife is not an alien, but a trusted member of his own kin group.
Read it here.
PM postpones government reshuffle
Azzaman, December 28, 2006
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not been able to muster enough support to introduce new changes in his government.
Parliamentary blocs have been adamant in their attitude not to give any concession that would have seen a reformed government brought to light this year.
Maliki had promised President George Bush during a meeting held in Amman recently that he would form a national unity government as part of efforts to contain terror and violence.
The Prime Minister had hoped to have the unity government in place before Bush’s much-awaited for announcement of his new Iraq strategy.
Bush is expected to make public his new Iraq policy early next year and Mailiki now fears he might not be able to honor his pledge to have the national unity government ready by then.
“The prime minister is facing huge hurdles in his efforts in this regard. Political forces in the country are still using wrong methods in their approaches,” said Abdulkarim al-Anzi of the ruling unified Iraqi coalition.
Anzi said some political parties in the parliament were not willing to accept any changes in the structure of the government while others persisted on certain names.
“This is a difficult situation,” he said.
Fatima has three posts of that title, and we expect her to add more.
I hate describing Baghdad as a dying city, but that's truly the feeling that passes through me as I drive down the streets of this once busy city. I took these pictures on different Saturday afternoons, all during the past month or so. This was once (not very long ago), one of the busiest streets in Baghdad, the 14th of Ramadan Street in the Mansour area. Now, as you drive down this street in the middle of the day, at least three fourths of the shops are closed down! Only a random store here and there opens, and some of them open for just a few hours, closing down by 1 or 2 pm. It was really sad for me especially during Eid season to drive down this street (and others in Baghdad) and to find it looking like a ghost town.
Shop owners have either been threatened to shut down, killed for opening, or felt the danger of opening shop with an army search point parked in front of their stores (attracts car bombs/ etc). Business has come to a halt and many of these merchants have left town.
Read the rest here.
How many gallons of water do you think this is? Or perhaps a more realistic way to ask the question is, "How many inches do you think sea level will rise as all of this ice melts?" At the rate we're going, the new WTC building entrance will be under water before the structure is ready for occupancy.
Giant Ice Shelf Snaps Free Near North Pole
By ROB GILLIES, AP
TORONTO (Dec. 29) - A giant ice shelf has snapped free from an island south of the North Pole, scientists said Thursday, citing climate change as a "major" reason for the event.
The Ayles Ice Shelf - all 41 square miles of it - broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 500 miles south of the North Pole in the Canadian Arctic.
Scientists discovered the event by using satellite imagery. Within one hour of breaking free, the shelf had formed as a new ice island, leaving a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.
Warwick Vincent of Laval University, who studies Arctic conditions, traveled to the newly formed ice island and couldn't believe what he saw.
"This is a dramatic and disturbing event. It shows that we are losing remarkable features of the Canadian North that have been in place for many thousands of years," Vincent said. "We are crossing climate thresholds, and these may signal the onset of accelerated change ahead."
The ice shelf was one of six major shelves remaining in Canada's Arctic. They are packed with ancient ice that is more than 3,000 years old. They float on the sea but are connected to land.
Some scientists say it is the largest event of its kind in Canada in 30 years and that climate change was a major element.
"It is consistent with climate change," Vincent said, adding that the remaining ice shelves are 90 percent smaller than when they were first discovered in 1906. "We aren't able to connect all of the dots ... but unusually warm temperatures definitely played a major role."
Read the rest of the article here.
Why there's no meaningful debate about the "troop-surge"
The Ethiopian invasion of Somalia occurred because both sides had concluded that the United States supported the idea of a military solution, rather than negotiated power-sharing between the Islamic Courts organization and the so-called interim federal government (IFG). You don't have to take my word for it, it is the well-supported view of John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group (Brussels-based). Unfortunately, the only web-accessible venue for his remarks seems to be Al-Quds al-Arabi, the pan-Arab newspaper published in London.
Of course if you prefer the other approach, you could read the accounts in the NYT over the last few days, where they tell a story of exciting military strategy and with a clear-cut victory for the "government", no mention there of any negotiating option whatsoever.
It is a familiar situation: News of an exciting military victory for our side against the dangerous Islamists, touted by the readily-available NYT, and a less-exciting account, often not circulated at all in America, having to do with the actual alignment of political forces, which you really have to hunt for. Only if you put the two accounts together can you grasp the way in which the Bush administration is confirming and strengthening the anti-American, pan-Arab view, which is that Somalia is being added as the fifth Arab nation to be attacked in this way, after Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, and Sudan, just for being Arab and Islamic. Ali Muhammed Fakhro, writing on the Al-Quds al-Arabi opinion page yesterday, warned people in other Arab states not to be complacent in 2007: this could happen to your country too. (It's a pdf link; it is the column at the left).
What else is new? What else is new is that the Bush administration is about to order an increase in troop levels in Iraq, and not only does nobody know why, but nobody in the American media asks why, either.
Norwegian historian and Shiite-scholar Reidar Visser yesterday sent to his e-mail subscribers (a free service) a draft op-ed piece, aimed at the American press, setting out what would be really the only rational basis for a troop-surge , and the argument goes like this: Any improvement in Iraqi security would be a boon to all, including all the Iraqi political parties. If the US is able to offer any such improvement, it should be conditioned on a commitment by the political class (particularly the leadership of SCIRI and the two big Kurdish parties) to do what they have so far failed to do, namely make the necessary serious concessions to reconcile Sunni groups to the political process (including points having to do with federalism, de-Baathification, and so on). Doing this publicly would put "pressure from below" on the party leaders, who otherwise feel no such pressure. Without such serious political restructuring, any troop-increase will only mean more of the same (at best).
Read the rest here.
End of Another Year...
You know your country is in trouble when:
A day in the life of the average Iraqi has been reduced to identifying corpses, avoiding car bombs and attempting to keep track of which family members have been detained, which ones have been exiled and which ones have been abducted.
2006 has been, decidedly, the worst year yet. No- really. The magnitude of this war and occupation is only now hitting the country full force. It's like having a big piece of hard, dry earth you are determined to break apart. You drive in the first stake in the form of an infrastructure damaged with missiles and the newest in arms technology, the first cracks begin to form. Several smaller stakes come in the form of politicians like Chalabi, Al Hakim, Talbani, Pachachi, Allawi and Maliki. The cracks slowly begin to multiply and stretch across the once solid piece of earth, reaching out towards its edges like so many skeletal hands. And you apply pressure. You surround it from all sides and push and pull. Slowly, but surely, it begins coming apart- a chip here, a chunk there.
That is Iraq right now. The Americans have done a fine job of working to break it apart. This last year has nearly everyone convinced that that was the plan right from the start. There were too many blunders for them to actually have been, simply, blunders. The 'mistakes' were too catastrophic. The people the Bush administration chose to support and promote were openly and publicly terrible- from the conman and embezzler Chalabi, to the terrorist Jaffari, to the militia man Maliki. The decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi army, abolishing the original constitution, and allowing militias to take over Iraqi security were too damaging to be anything but intentional.
The question now is, but why? I really have been asking myself that these last few days. What does America possibly gain by damaging Iraq to this extent? I'm certain only raving idiots still believe this war and occupation were about WMD or an actual fear of Saddam.
Read the rest of it here.
Crisis in Housing Adds to Miseries of Iraq Mayhem
By MICHAEL LUO
Published: December 29, 2006
BAGHDAD — Along with its many other desperate problems, Iraq is in the midst of a housing crisis that is worsening by the day.
It began right after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, when many landlords took advantage of the removal of his economic controls and raised rents substantially, forcing out thousands of families who took shelter in abandoned government buildings and military bases. As the chaos in Iraq grew and the ranks of the jobless swelled, even more Iraqis migrated to squalid squatter encampments. Still others constructed crude shantytowns on empty plots where conditions were even worse.
Now, after more than 10 months of brutal sectarian reprisals, many more Iraqis have fled their neighborhoods, only to wind up often in places that are just as wretched in other ways. While 1.8 million Iraqis are living outside the country, 1.6 million more have been displaced within Iraq since the war began. Since February, about 50,000 per month have moved within the country.
Shelter is their most pressing need, aid organizations say. Some have been able to occupy homes left by members of the opposing sect or group; others have not been so fortunate. The longer the violence persists, the more Iraqis are running out of money and options.
Shatha Talib, 30, her husband and five children, are among about a thousand struggling Iraqi families that have taken up residence in the bombed-out remains of the former Iraqi Air Defense headquarters and air force club in the center of Baghdad. “Nobody should live in such a place,” she said. “But we don’t have any other option.”
Read it here.
Reporter returns to Baghdad to find it far different - and worse off
By Hannah Allam
BAGHDAD, Iraq — The tiny, dusty shops of Kadhemiya are treasure chests filled with agate, turquoise, coral and amber. I used to spend hours in this colorful Baghdad market district, haggling over prices for semi-precious stones etched with prayers in Arabic calligraphy.
That was just before I left Iraq in 2005, when rings from Kadhemiya were simply sentimental reminders of a two-year assignment here. When I returned to Baghdad last month, however, I found a city so dramatically polarized that sectarian identity now extends to your fingers. Slipping on a turquoise ring is no longer an afterthought, but a carefully deliberated security precaution.
A certain color of stone worn a certain way is just one of the dozens of superficial clues - like dialect, style of beard, how you pin a veil - that indicate whether you're Sunni or Shiite. These little signs increasingly mean the difference between life and death at the terrifying illegal checkpoints that surround the districts of Baghdad. In a surprise reversal, Shiite militiamen have usurped Sunni insurgents as the most feared force on the streets.
When I was last here in 2005, it took guts and guards, but you could still travel to most anywhere in the capital. Now, there are few true neighborhoods left. They're mostly just cordoned-off enclaves in various stages of deadly sectarian cleansing. Moving trucks piled high with furniture weave through traffic, evidence of an unfolding humanitarian crisis involving hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced Iraqis.
The Sunni-Shiite segregation is the starkest change of all, but nowadays it seems like everything in Baghdad hinges on separation. There's the Green Zone to guard the unpopular government from its suffering people, U.S. military bases where Iraqis aren't allowed to work, armored sedans to shield VIPs from the explosions that kill workaday civilians, different TV channels and newspapers for each political party, an unwritten citywide dress code to keep women from the eyes of men.
Attempts to bring people together have failed miserably. I attended a symposium called "How to Solve Iraq's Militia Problem," but the main militia representatives never showed up and those of us who did were stuck inside for hours while a robot disabled a car bomb in the parking lot.
Read the rest here.
Bearing in mind that our food supply, coming now from giant megacorporations far away, grown on poor soils, does not have the same nutrient content (see here) as it did when we were growing up, in fact far less, ways must be developed to eat more veggies.
Human vitamins and minerals must all come from food, synthetic are useless.
Hence, concentrated salad:
Take a large bunch of spinach or any other fresh tender greens.
Say you have enough for a generous salad for six people.
Wash well, and dry. (Do not buy prepackaged prewashed greens in plastic bags, which are then the perfect medium for bad organisms to grow.)
- CUT In a large wooden salad bowl, carefully wad up the greens into a ball, like a head of cabbage. Slice vertically, as finely as possible. Your pile of greens is now half the size it was. Do it a couple more times. Half again as large. Presto now salad for two!!! You are eating three times the greens in your salad!!!
- ADD LEMON Squeeze a whole lemon into the greens and mix well.
- ADD GARLIC OLIVE OIL Keep a little jar handy with fresh garlic cut up in the best olive oil you can find. Raw cold pressed virgin and delicious. Put in a tablespoon or two per person. Eat the old garlic and replace with fresh oil and garlic every few days.
- ADD Braggs’ Aminos or parmesan cheese, or whatever type of salt you choose to use.
- TOSS AND SERVE this will be a great accompaniment on the same plate with almost any meal. Lasagna, roast, tuna sandwich, whatever. Or make it the meal by adding toasted sunflower seeds or other nuts and a grain such as rice. Grilled onions make a wonderful addition to any salad.
28 December 2006
You Don't Have Gerald Ford to Kick Around Any More
I usually headline the eulogizing posts with "RIP..." and then the name of the person who died, but I'm not doing that for Ex-President Ford. Not because I bear him any specific ill-will. I don't think he was a great, or even particularly good, President, but he also doesn't seem to be as massive an asshole as the other men who have held the position of late. It's because, maybe he should do a little thinking rather than going immediately into the rest phase.
I think, amidst the usual gamut of mistakes, Ford made one unforgivable error: pardoning Nixon. Not just because the guy deserved to be punished for his crimes against, well, everyone. And not just because it sets a horrible precedent to let a power-mad delusional psychopath get off scott free to open his own library in Yorba Linda.
Read it here.
Escalation and Expansion: Bush's "Great Leap Forward" Into Hell
The outlines of Bush's "New Way Forward" or "Great Leap Forward" or "Long Walk Off a Short Pier" in Iraq is now fairly clear. It has three general thrusts: a large increase in troop numbers; a direct assault on the forces of Motqada al-Sadr; and, if possible, an expansion of the war beyond Iraq's borders through a military strike on Iran.
The troop increase is now certain (if indeed it had ever been in doubt). In the past few days, with the nation distracted by the Christmas holidays (and by the ever-phony and genuinely idiotic "Christmas Wars" eating up media airtime), the Bush Faction has carried out a quiet coup – or perhaps a counterrevolutionary purge – in the military ranks. Top generals who openly opposed increasing the U.S. occupation force in Iraq have either announced their retirements or else have been compelled to crawl and eat their words in public recantations. (This moral cowardice is even more remarkable when you consider how weak, stupid – and deeply unpopular – is the "commander-in-chief" who has somehow overawed these stalwart soldiers. One can only imagine that some sort of blackmail must be involved.)
The generals were the last possible obstacle to the war's precipitous escalation; the national Democrats have already signaled their willingness to countenance a "surge" (the Orwellian propaganda term that has been adopted wholesale by the corporate media to describe the vast expansion of the war). Even those Democrats who have appeared to speak out against it have, almost invariably, couched their objections in weasel-wording terms devoid of any actual oppositional content. "I won't support a surge unless it's part of an overall plan to bring our troops home sooner," is the standard formulation, although the "boldest" among them will sometimes tack on a specific date: "bring our troops home by 2008" or some such. But of course, any escalation of the war will be presented precisely as a strategy to bring the conflict to a speedier end; thus most Democrats will latch onto that spin and – grudgingly or enthusiastically – go along. In any case, it's certain that the Congressional Democrats will not put up a concerted, united effort against an escalation.
Read it here.
Federal Bureau of Intimidation
by Howard Zinn
I thought it would be good to talk about the FBI because they talk about us. They don’t like to be talked about. They don’t even like the fact that you’re listening to them being talked about. They are very sensitive people. If you look into the history of the FBI and Martin Luther King-which now has become notorious in that totally notorious history of the FBI- the FBI attempted to neutralize, perhaps kill him, perhaps get him to commit suicide, certainly to destroy him as a leader of black people in the United States.
And if you follow the progression of that treatment of King, it starts, not even with the Montgomery Bus Boycott; it starts when King begins to criticize the FBI. You see, then suddenly Hoover’s ears, all four of them, perk up. And he says, okay, we have to start working on King.
I was interested in this especially because I was reading the Church Committee report. In 1975, the Senate Select Committee investigated the CIA and the FBI and issued voluminous reports and pointed out at what point the FBI became interested in King. In 1961-62 after the Montgomery Bus Boycott, after the sit-ins, after the Freedom Rides of ‘61, there was an outbreak of mass demonstrations in a very little, very Southern, almost slave town of southern Georgia called Albany. There had been nothing like this in that town. A quiet, apparently passive town, everybody happy, of course. And then suddenly the black people rose up and a good part of the black population of Albany ended up in jail. There were not enough jails for all who demonstrated.
A report was made for the Southern Regional Council of Atlanta on the events in Albany. The report, which was very critical of the FBI, came out in the New York Times. And King was asked what he thought of the role of the FBI. He said he agreed with the report that the FBI was not doing its job, that the FBI was racist, etcetera, etcetera.
At that point, the FBI also inquired who the author of that report was, and asked that an investigation begin on the author. Since I had written it, I was interested in the FBI’s interest in the author. In fact, I sent away for whatever information the FBI had on me, through the Freedom of Information Act. I became curious, I guess. I wanted to test myself because if I found that the FBI did not have any dossier on me, it would have been tremendously embarrassing and I wouldn’t have been able to face my friends. But, fortunately, there were several hundred pages of absolutely inconsequential material. Very consequential for the FBI, I suppose, but inconsequential for any intelligent person.
Read the rest of it here.
New World Order - New Fix or New Failure?
Globalization and the new world order are profound failures. They are based on flawed economic logic that ignores need to have no government intervention in free markets controlled by supply and demand. Democracy can not be created by developing new economic markets based on government corruption. History indicates free states precede free markets. Political democracy creates economic democracy not the other way around.
Conceptually, one world government is based on the idea international banking and other corporate interests can take over world governments just as they did in America. Henry Kissinger, Council on Foreign Relations said: “Who controls the money controls the world.” Proponents favor open borders, free trade, and international control over economic issues, and elimination of the present concept of national sovereignty in favor of a more global perspective on world governance.
Most agree with NEW WORLD ORDER views of Kissinger, David Rockefeller, Jimmie Carter, George H. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and many other globalists that a few wealthy individuals can better manage world government and economic affairs than any other government model especially those that rely on people governed to make decisions. They think wealthy businesses are more intellectual and better capable of ruling in an orderly manner.
Institutional tools were developed to accomplish purposes of one world government globalists. The United Nations is the first organization that helped globalists create other world institutions under the guise of international trade treaties such as GATT, and NAFTA to promote greater world prosperity through trade. World banking consolidation was a necessity to control the world’s supply of capital so accessible money for expansion could be used as a tool to persuade other countries to join the system.
The World Trade Organization provides equal access to all markets but mostly the United States' by international corporations and countries that get preferred trade partner status. This creates opportunity to break down national sovereignty even more. International banking institutions like Citibank Group and corporations like Wal-Mart, Microsoft, and a litany of others are fighting to secure their place in the New World Order. Nations who don’t comply are deprived of the American consumer market and World Bank financing.
Once the one world government institutions were created with control over the money supply and consumer markets, they should have had an easy path to get to the final formation of the new world government. They just needed to convince individual populations of sovereign nations that it was best for them to give up national sovereignty for permanent prosperity in the New World Order.
Read all of it here.
Probes of Bush policies in works
By Rick Klein
Dec 27, 2006, 10:32
WASHINGTON -- Massachusetts lawmakers are set to launch a blizzard of investigations in the new Congress, probing issues such as wartime contracting, post-Katrina housing assistance, and the Bush administration's relationship with Cuba and other countries in Latin America.
In what could be closely watched proceedings, two members of the Massachusetts delegation -- representatives William D. Delahunt of Quincy and Martin T. Meehan of Lowell -- are planning joint committee hearings to examine the administration's Iraq war policies, particularly the reasons for the military's lagging efforts to train Iraqi troops. Delahunt is in line to become chairman of the House International Relations Committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations, and Meehan will take over the same subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee.
Armed with the power to force sworn testimony for the first time after 12 years in the minority in Congress, members of the state's all-Democratic congressional delegation are positioned to play major roles in investigating policies and actions that cut across the federal government and the business community.
"We could be the Bush administration's worst nightmare come to pass, in terms of the questions we'll be able to ask from positions of power," said Representative Edward J. Markey of Malden, the dean of the Massachusetts delegation. "There are a lot of secrets that have been hidden from the American people in terms of the way business has been done for the past six years."
Democrats in general say that when they become the majority party in Congress, they intend to shine a spotlight on administration policies and management, where the Republican power structure has done little to check the authority of the president. With the GOP powerless to stop them, Democrats say, they hope their oversight will protect taxpayer dollars and shape the political agenda going into the 2008 presidential election.
The hearings and investigations planned by Massachusetts' members of Congress will complement and, in some cases, compete with a dizzying array of other investigations Democrats are expected to launch early next year, and Senate committees are expected to be just as active as those in the House.
Read it here.
Spain's Bears Stop Hibernating
By Rossella Lorenzi
Dec 28, 2006, 06:23
Bears appear to have stopped hibernating in Spain's northern mountains, according to Spanish scientists who blame climate change for the behavior.
Of the 130 Cantabrian brown bears living in that region, a few females with cubs have been found awake in a season when bears - all bears - typically slumber.
They are the first bears known not to hibernate in Europe, naturalists from La Fundación Oso Pardo (the Brown Bear Foundation ) said.
"Mild winters mean that it is energetically worthwhile for the females to stay awake and search for nuts and berries," Guillermo Palomero, the foundation's president and coordinator of a national plan for bear conservation, told the Spanish daily El Pais.
Palomero added that other signs of winter bear activity have been observed "with absolute certainty" in the past three years.
While it is impossible to prove definitively that these changes in ursine behavior are the result of global warming, "everything points in that direction," according to climatologist Juan Carlos García Cordón, professor of geography at the University of Cantabria in Santander, Spain.
Normally bears begin hibernation between October and December, and remain dormant through most of the winter to bypass the scarcity of their food supply - mainly nuts and berries. They resume activity between March and May.
But according to Palomero, even for the Cantabrian male bears who do slumber throughout the winter, the hibernation period is getting shorter every year.
"We are seeing the most dramatic negative consequences of global warming in the most cold-adapted species," University of Texas biologist Camille Parmesan told Discovery News.
Parmesan is the author of the most comprehensive synthesis of the impact of climate change on terrestrial, marine, and freshwater species.
Published in the December issue of the Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, her review compiles 866 scientific studies on the ecological effects of human-induced climate change and shows that global warming has already caused extinctions in the most sensitive habitats.
"Polar species, such as polar bears in the Arctic and Adélie and emperor penguins in the Antarctic, are suffering massive population declines," Parmesan said.
Read the rest here.
Insecurity and poverty in Iraq put pregnant women in danger
Report, IRIN, 26 December 2006
BAGHDAD - For years Salah Hussein, 26, had dreamed of having a child, but he never imagined that his wish would be marred by the death of his wife in childbirth.
Hussein's wife, Fadiya, died of complications during a delivery which, doctors said, were caused by malnutrition and the stress of living in a war-torn country.
"We are a poor family and I couldn't afford to buy her good food. This was not my fault but the fault of this destroyed country in which the conditions of the health sector are worsening day by day," said Hussein who works as a barber in the capital, Baghdad.
Dozens of pregnant women with life-threatening conditions are being admitted to Iraq's hospitals every month.
Dr. Mayada Youssif, a gynaecologist at Baghdad's Kadhimiyah hospital, believes that pregnant women are falling ill due to the insecurity and poverty that Iraqis have to live with as a result of the conflict.
Many women give birth in environments where no-one is equipped to recognise an impending emergency. In some cases travelling to hospitals is the last resort because of insecurity, curfews, road blockages and fear of acts of violence.
"Insecurity has forced women to stay at home during their whole period of pregnancy, and they look for a doctor only when they are feeling really ill or feel, near to delivery time, that conditions have become too dangerous," Youssif said.
The UN children's agency UNICEF has said that Iraq's maternal mortality rates have increased dramatically over the last 15 years. In 1989, 117 Iraqi mothers out of 100,000 died during pregnancy or childbirth. That ratio has now increased by 65 per cent.
According to Claire Hajaj, Communications Officer at UNICEF Iraq Support Centre in Amman (ISCA), the mortality rate in Iraq far outstrips that of its neighbours.
Read the rest here.
The Baker-Hamilton Study: Pluses and Minuses
William R. Polk
'In recent days, as you know, there has been a great deal of publicity on the Baker-Hamilton plan for dealing with the problems the United States faces in Iraq and for restarting the peace process on the Palestine problem. I have found, however, very little analysis of the plan in the press. Clearly, it focuses on issues so important , one is tempted to use that often misused term “vital,” not only for Americans but for the whole world that it deserves the closest possible scrutiny. As you will see in the following comment, I find serious weaknesses in it. The most serious is that it sets out objectives or desires without identifying feasible means to achieve them.
In the last few days, various moves have been made by the Bush administration that call into question its serious evaluation of Baker-Hamilton. One that received a great deal of attention is the announcement of its intent to add another 20,000 troops to the American contingent in Iraq. Those of us who remember Vietnam will hear echoes. There we were told time after time that just a few more thousand troops and a few more months would lead us to “victory. One difference from Vietnam is of critical importance. It is that there we were not seriously considering, as apparently we are, further action in another country. Today, there are signs that we have hovered on the brink of war with Iran for at least the last six months. As you may know, I have written on this danger on my website (www.williampolk .com). I think we are edging closer. Among the signs – and there are many -- that point in this direction is one that I do not find reported in the American press: the Selective Service System announced three days ago that it is preparing its first test since 1998 of the draft.
All the above considerations make a careful consideration of American options on the Middle East a prime civic duty for all Americans. These include the detailed plan which Senator George McGovern and I developed in Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now (New York: Simon and Schuster, October 2006) and the Baker-Hamilton study, The Iraq Study Group Report: The Way Forward - A New Approach (New York: Vintage, December 2006). Mr. Hamilton graciously wrote to say that “The report has helped to spark a renewed debate about the direction of U.S. policy, and he appreciates the substantial contribution that you and Senator McGovern have made to that debate.” Our book speaks for itself; here I want to [analyze] the Baker-Hamilton Plan:
The most important positive element in the Baker-Hamilton study is to focus attention on the central predicament of the Middle East – the Arab-Israeli problem. Like a cancer, this issue has infected Middle Eastern affairs for over half a century. No American administration has chosen to attack it head-on. Simply giving Israel a blank check to do anything it decides to do is not an American policy. Indeed, as many thoughtful Israelis have pointed out, it is bound to bring out the worst in Israeli politics. For alerting the government and the public to the need to do something to solve or at least put into remission this problem is important and for doing so Baker-Hamilton deserves praise.
Read all of it at Juan Cole's blog, Informed Comment.
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