31 January 2007

Wildlife Wednesday - R. Jehn

After a short break, we're trying to resurrect WW. This is a yellow warbler, caught blending in with his background. They loved these bushes, presumably because they were a food source. The picture was taken in the Spring of 2004 in Shelton, Washington.

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Fight the Net, Indeed ...

US Plans To 'Fight The Net' Revealed
Monday, 29 January 2007
By Adam Brookes

A newly declassified document gives a fascinating glimpse into the US military's plans for "information operations" - from psychological operations, to attacks on hostile computer networks.

Report: Information Operations Roadmap:[PDF File]

Bloggers beware.

As the world turns networked, the Pentagon is calculating the military opportunities that computer networks, wireless technologies and the modern media offer.

From influencing public opinion through new media to designing "computer network attack" weapons, the US military is learning to fight an electronic war.

The declassified document is called "Information Operations Roadmap". It was obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University using the Freedom of Information Act.

Officials in the Pentagon wrote it in 2003. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, signed it.

The "roadmap" calls for a far-reaching overhaul of the military's ability to conduct information operations and electronic warfare. And, in some detail, it makes recommendations for how the US armed forces should think about this new, virtual warfare.

The document says that information is "critical to military success". Computer and telecommunications networks are of vital operational importance.


The operations described in the document include a surprising range of military activities: public affairs officers who brief journalists, psychological operations troops who try to manipulate the thoughts and beliefs of an enemy, computer network attack specialists who seek to destroy enemy networks.

All these are engaged in information operations.

Perhaps the most startling aspect of the roadmap is its acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military's psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans.

"Information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and Psyops, is increasingly consumed by our domestic audience," it reads.

"Psyops messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public," it goes on.

The document's authors acknowledge that American news media should not unwittingly broadcast military propaganda. "Specific boundaries should be established," they write. But they don't seem to explain how.

"In this day and age it is impossible to prevent stories that are fed abroad as part of psychological operations propaganda from blowing back into the United States - even though they were directed abroad," says Kristin Adair of the National Security Archive.

Read the rest here.

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Another Indictment of a War Criminal and the MSM

From Another Day in the Empire

Iran Blame Game Shifts into High Gear
Tuesday January 30th 2007, 8:34 pm

As expected, the attack Iran hype has slipped into overdrive.

“The Pentagon is investigating whether an attack on a military compound in Karbala on January 20 was carried out by Iranians or Iranian-trained operatives, a U.S. official told CNN on Tuesday…. Some Iraqis speculate that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps carried out the attack in retaliation for the capture by U.S. forces of five of its members in Irbil, Iraq, on January 11, according to a Time.com article published Tuesday.”

In other words, CNN, as a faithful propaganda handmaiden, is speculating, thus adding fuel to the attack Iran fire now smoldering, ready to break out into a five alarm conflagration, as planned, with the appropriate admixture of irresponsible speculation, as usual backed up with little more than thin air.

“Some Iraqis speculate that the IRGC has already started a campaign of revenge with the killing of five American soldiers in Karbala on Jan. 20, nine days after the arrest of the IRGC [Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.] members in Erbil. As the logic of the rumor goes, five American soldiers were killed for five Iranians taken; [the attack at the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in] Karbala was an IRGC message to release its colleagues—or else,” writes Robert Baer for Time Magazine, basing his story on rumor and hearsay, a common enough modus operandi for corporate journalists these days. “There is nothing the IRGC likes better than to fight a proxy war in another country,” never mind this would play right into the hands of the neocons, thus providing yet another pretext for an ultimate attack, as long planned.

Meanwhile, the Butcher of Honduras, Order of Death alumni (otherwise known as Skull and Bones), Council on Foreign Relations member, Kissinger flunky, currently grand poobah of intelligence, John Negroponte, “told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that an emboldened Iran presented new difficulties for U.S. interests in Iraq, the Gulf region, Lebanon and in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking,” reports Reuters. Naturally, the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq, its continuing occupation, its support for reactionary and decadent Gulf monarchies, and above all else its unfailing and unconditional support for the brutal settler state of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians has nothing to do with these ostensible “new difficulties.”

Unable to contain themselves, Democrats as well as Republicans kissed Negroponte’s hem. “Democratic and Republican lawmakers praised Negroponte’s record. The panel’s Democratic chairman, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, predicted its members would vote quickly to recommend his confirmation by the full Senate,” never mind that the “death-squad manager nonpareil” and “gangster-diplomat extraordinaire,” as Toni Solo pegs him apropos, who micromanaged the “Salvador Option” in Iraq, should be in a war crimes docket with the rest of the neocons, not taking up residence, with the profuse blessing of “lawmakers,” as deputy secretary of state.

Iranians and Syrians, averred Negroponte, “know what they need to do,” that is they will need bend over backwards, jump somersaults, and generally act like domesticated pets, ready to grovel, beg forgiveness, and plead for their lives.

Short of that, they are advised to build bomb shelters.


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Najaf - Anti-Insurgent Action or Massacre?

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US 'victory' against cult leader was 'massacre'
By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad
Published: 31 January 2007

There are growing suspicions in Iraq that the official story of the battle outside Najaf between a messianic Iraqi cult and the Iraqi security forces supported by the US, in which 263 people were killed and 210 wounded, is a fabrication. The heavy casualties may be evidence of an unpremeditated massacre.

A picture is beginning to emerge of a clash between an Iraqi Shia tribe on a pilgrimage to Najaf and an Iraqi army checkpoint that led the US to intervene with devastating effect. The involvement of Ahmed al-Hassani (also known as Abu Kamar), who believed himself to be the coming Mahdi, or Messiah, appears to have been accidental.

The story emerging on independent Iraqi websites and in Arabic newspapers is entirely different from the government's account of the battle with the so-called "Soldiers of Heaven", planning a raid on Najaf to kill Shia religious leaders.

The cult denied it was involved in the fighting, saying it was a peaceful movement. The incident reportedly began when a procession of 200 pilgrims was on its way, on foot, to celebrate Ashura in Najaf. They came from the Hawatim tribe, which lives between Najaf and Diwaniyah to the south, and arrived in the Zarga area, one mile from Najaf at about 6am on Sunday. Heading the procession was the chief of the tribe, Hajj Sa'ad Sa'ad Nayif al-Hatemi, and his wife driving in their 1982 Super Toyota sedan because they could not walk. When they reached an Iraqi army checkpoint it opened fire, killing Mr Hatemi, his wife and his driver, Jabar Ridha al-Hatemi. The tribe, fully armed because they were travelling at night, then assaulted the checkpoint to avenge their fallen chief.

Members of another tribe called Khaza'il living in Zarga tried to stop the fighting but they themselves came under fire. Meanwhile, the soldiers and police at the checkpoint called up their commanders saying they were under attack from al-Qai'da with advanced weapons. Reinforcements poured into the area and surrounded the Hawatim tribe in the nearby orchards. The tribesmen tried - in vain - to get their attackers to cease fire.

American helicopters then arrived and dropped leaflets saying: "To the terrorists, surrender before we bomb the area." The tribesmen went on firing and a US helicopter was hit and crashed killing two crewmen. The tribesmen say they do not know if they hit it or if it was brought down by friendly fire. The US aircraft launched an intense aerial bombardment in which 120 tribesmen and local residents were killed by 4am on Monday.

Read the rest of Cockburn's piece here.

And there's this:

More questions about the official Najaf story

Zeyad at his Healing Iraq website has new information on circumstances surrounding the Najaf fighting, including this:
Another story that is surfacing on several Iraqi message boards goes like this: A mourning procession of 200 pilgrims from the Hawatim tribe, which inhabits the area between Najaf and Diwaniya, arrived at the Zarga area at 6 a.m. Sunday. Hajj Sa’ad Nayif Al-Hatemi and his wife were accompanying the procession in their 1982 Super Toyota sedan because they could not walk. They reached an Iraqi Army checkpoint, which suddenly opened fire against the vehicle, killing Hajj Al-Hatemi, his wife and his driver Jabir Ridha Al-Hatemi. The Hawatim tribesmen in the procession, which was fully armed to protect itself in its journey at night, attacked the checkpoint to avenge their slain chief. Members of the Khaza’il tribe, who live in the area, attempted to interfere to stop the fire exchange. About 20 tribesmen were killed. The checkpoint called the Iraqi army and police command calling for backup, saying it was under fire from Al-Qaeda groups and that they have advanced weapons. Minutes later, reinforcements arrived and the tribesmen were surrounded in the orchards and were sustaining heavy fire from all directions. They tried to shout out to the attacking security forces to cease fire but with no success. Suddenly, American helicopters arrived and they dropped fliers saying, “To the terrorists, Surrender before we bomb the area.” The tribesmen continued to fire in all directions and in the air, but they said they didn’t know if the helicopter crash was a result of their fire or friendly fire from the attackers. By 4 a.m., over 120 tribesmen as well as residents of the area had been killed in the U.S. aerial bombardment.

Note that this describes events in the Zarka (or Zarga I guess is better) area just outside Najaf. This is where the messianic followers of Ahmad al-Hassan had their colony, according to Azzaman and others, but according to this account the trigger-event had nothing to do with them, rather with a group from the Hawatim tribe, passing through the area, or trying to, in order to participate in the Ashura processions in Najaf. Trigger-happy persons initiated an exchange of fire at an Iraqi army checkpoint, which was then joined in by another tribe, the Khazail, which lives in the area. American helicopters appeared, dropping leaflets warning the "terrorists" they were about to bomb the area.

Read the rest here, and look for several other posts on the Missing Links Web site on this topic.

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Zinn Says Kick 'Em Out

Impeachment by the People
Tuesday, 30 January 2007
By Howard Zinn

Courage is in short supply in Washington, D.C. The realities of the Iraq War cry out for the overthrow of a government that is criminally responsible for death, mutilation, torture, humiliation, chaos. But all we hear in the nation’s capital, which is the source of those catastrophes, is a whimper from the Democratic Party, muttering and nattering about “unity” and “bipartisanship,” in a situation that calls for bold action to immediately reverse the present course.

01/30/07 "Progressive" -- -- These are the Democrats who were brought to power in November by an electorate fed up with the war, furious at the Bush Administration, and counting on the new majority in Congress to represent the voters. But if sanity is to be restored in our national policies, it can only come about by a great popular upheaval, pushing both Republicans and Democrats into compliance with the national will.

The Declaration of Independence, revered as a document but ignored as a guide to action, needs to be read from pulpits and podiums, on street corners and community radio stations throughout the nation. Its words, forgotten for over two centuries, need to become a call to action for the first time since it was read aloud to crowds in the early excited days of the American Revolution: “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and institute new government.”

The “ends” referred to in the Declaration are the equal right of all to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” True, no government in the history of the nation has been faithful to those ends. Favors for the rich, neglect of the poor, massive violence in the interest of continental and world expansion—that is the persistent record of our government.

Still, there seems to be a special viciousness that accompanies the current assault on human rights, in this country and in the world. We have had repressive governments before, but none has legislated the end of habeas corpus, nor openly supported torture, nor declared the possibility of war without end. No government has so casually ignored the will of the people, affirmed the right of the President to ignore the Constitution, even to set aside laws passed by Congress.

The time is right, then, for a national campaign calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Representative John Conyers, who held extensive hearings and introduced an impeachment resolution when the Republicans controlled Congress, is now head of the House Judiciary Committee and in a position to fight for such a resolution. He has apparently been silenced by his Democratic colleagues who throw out as nuggets of wisdom the usual political palaver about “realism” (while ignoring the realities staring them in the face) and politics being “the art of the possible” (while setting limits on what is possible).

I know I’m not the first to talk about impeachment. Indeed, judging by the public opinion polls, there are millions of Americans, indeed a majority of those polled, who declare themselves in favor if it is shown that the President lied us into war (a fact that is not debatable). There are at least a half-dozen books out on impeachment, and it’s been argued for eloquently by some of our finest journalists, John Nichols and Lewis Lapham among them. Indeed, an actual “indictment” has been drawn up by a former federal prosecutor, Elizabeth de la Vega, in a new book called United States v. George W. Bush et al, making a case, in devastating detail, to a fictional grand jury.

There is a logical next step in this development of an impeachment movement: the convening of “people’s impeachment hearings” all over the country. This is especially important given the timidity of the Democratic Party. Such hearings would bypass Congress, which is not representing the will of the people, and would constitute an inspiring example of grassroots democracy.

These hearings would be the contemporary equivalents of the unofficial gatherings that marked the resistance to the British Crown in the years leading up to the American Revolution. The story of the American Revolution is usually built around Lexington and Concord, around the battles and the Founding Fathers. What is forgotten is that the American colonists, unable to count on redress of their grievances from the official bodies of government, took matters into their own hands, even before the first battles of the Revolutionary War.

In 1772, town meetings in Massachusetts began setting up Committees of Correspondence, and the following year, such a committee was set up in Virginia. The first Continental Congress, beginning to meet in 1774, was a recognition that an extralegal body was necessary to represent the interests of the people. In 1774 and 1775, all through the colonies, parallel institutions were set up outside the official governmental bodies.

Throughout the nation’s history, the failure of government to deliver justice has led to the establishment of grassroots organizations, often ad hoc, dissolving after their purpose was fulfilled. For instance, after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, knowing that the national government could not be counted on to repeal the act, black and white anti-slavery groups organized to nullify the law by acts of civil disobedience. They held meetings, made plans, and set about rescuing escaped slaves who were in danger of being returned to their masters.

In the desperate economic conditions of 1933 and 1934, before the Roosevelt Administration was doing anything to help people in distress, local groups were formed all over the country to demand government action. Unemployed Councils came into being, tenants’ groups fought evictions, and hundreds of thousands of people in the country formed self-help organizations to exchange goods and services and enable people to survive.

More recently, we recall the peace groups of the 1980s, which sprang up in hundreds of communities all over the country, and provoked city councils and state legislatures to pass resolutions in favor of a freeze on nuclear weapons. And local organizations have succeeded in getting more than 400 city councils to take a stand against the Patriot Act.

Read the rest here.

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Part Three of the Monday Movie

3. Propaganda in America - The Art of PR Spin

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Fidel Feels Fine

And Mariann Wizard's candle may have something to do with it.

Castro up and talking in new Cuban video
POSTED: 4:15 a.m. EST, January 31, 2007

HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- Cuban television Tuesday broadcast scenes of what it said was ailing leader Fidel Castro meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The only indication of a date on the video was a copy of Saturday's edition of the Argentine newspaper Clarin, which Chavez carried.

The 80-year-old Castro, who has ruled Cuba since the 1959 communist revolution he led, ceded power to his brother Raul in late July before undergoing intestinal surgery. (Watch how the latest video differs from a previous one)

Castro has not been seen in public or on video since October, and the Cuban government has maintained secrecy about his condition, giving rise to widespread speculation about his fate.

Chavez told the Cuban state television program "Roundtable" that Castro was in a good mood and looked well Monday during their meeting.

The scenes that aired Tuesday showed Castro, dressed in a track suit, talking with Chavez, a close ally. The Cuban leader was shot from the waist up and could be seen standing but not walking.

Chavez said they spent two hours discussing various topics, including "the threats of the empire" -- a reference to the United States.

Earlier this month, the Spanish newspaper El Pais quoted unnamed medical sources saying Castro was in grave condition.

A Spanish surgeon, who had visited Castro in December and works at the same hospital as the sources, dismissed the report and said Castro's current condition shows "some progressive improvement."

Read it (and see the video) here.

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30 January 2007

It's About Not Frightening the Natives

North America activists plotted 'stealth' strategy: Details of secret Banff meeting released as part of FOIA request
Posted: January 30, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Joseph Farah
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

WASHINGTON – Participants in a high-level, closed door, three-day conference on the integration of the three North American nations debated whether openness about goals was preferred to a stealthy policy of building infrastructure before a vision of the end result was even laid out to the people of the U.S., Mexico and Canada, according to notes obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Official notes taken on a session on "Border Infrastructure and Continental Prosperity" at the North American Forum in Banff, Canada, last September, reveal the internal debate over continued secrecy.

"While a vision is appealing, working on the infrastructure might yield more benefit and bring more people on board ('evolution by stealth')," record the notes discovered amid documents obtained by Judicial Watch.

Several speakers at the event emphasized the importance of "deepening economic integration," "integrating the energy infrastructure" and "the development of new institutions" between the three North American nations.

Participants promoted the idea of using popular issues, such as concern over climate change, to push integration of energy and environmental governance and the possibility of imposing a carbon tax.

Judicial Watch released yesterday the documents it received in a FOIA request from the U.S. Northern Command, whose commander, Admiral Timothy Keating, participated in the conference along with Northcom political adviser Deborah Bolton and Plans, Policy and Strategy Director Maj. General Mark Volcheff. A similar request concerning participation in the North American Forum meeting by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is still pending.

At least one attendee of the conference said the meeting was intended to subvert the democratic process. Mel Hurtig, a Canadian author and publisher elected as the leader of the National Party of Canada, told WND last fall the idea of the North American Forum is to move the countries toward integration without public consent or even knowledge.

"What is sinister about this meeting is that it involved high level government officials and some of the top and most powerful business leaders of the three countries and the North American Forum in organizing the meeting intentionally did not inform the press in any of the three countries," he said. "It was clear that the intention was to keep this important meeting about integrating the three countries out of the public eye."

The conference raised more suspicions about plans for the future merger of the U.S., Canada and Mexico – with topics ranging from "A Vision for North America," "Opportunities for Security Cooperation" and "Demographic and Social Dimensions of North American Integration."

Confirmed participants included Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State George Shultz, who serves as co-chairman of the North American Forum, former Central Intelligence Agency Director R. James Woolsey, former Immigration and Naturalization Services Director Doris Meissner, North American Union guru Robert Pastor, former Defense Secretary William Perry, former Energy Secretary and Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and top officials of both Mexico and Canada. But the only media member scheduled to appear at the event, according to documents obtained by WND, was the Wall Street Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady.

Read it here.

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Stop the Madness - Kick Them Out

Impeachment: The Missing Word at the Anti-War Demo

The largely unstated word at the massive anti-war demonstration and march in Washington on Saturday was "impeachment." Not that it wasn't on demonstrators' lips and signs, but it wasn't coming from the podium.

The march, organized by United for Peace and Justice, was instead deliberately focused narrowly on the issue of ending the war in Iraq and preventing an invasion of Iran. But clearly, behind that was the sense that the US government is in the hands of a cabal of warmongers and anti-democratic usurpers who are intent on broadening the war in the Middle East, not ending it , and that the Democrats in the 110th Congress haven't got the spine to stop them (a group from Seattle actually addressed this with a giant white spine float emblazoned with the words "investigate, impeach, indict").

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the new head of the House Judiciary Committee, was a late addition to the roster of speakers at the rally on the National Mall. He told the cheering throng that while Bush may have been "firing the generals who tell him that we're losing the war in Iraq," he "can't fire you." Then he added, in a none-too-veiled hint that impeachment may be coming, "But we can fire him!"

The crowd went wild, with chants of "Impeach him!"

The stage has been set.

Bush and Cheney have stated publicly that they will not be swayed by the November election, or by polls or demonstrations, all making it clear that the vast majority of Americans want the Iraq War ended quickly. They have thrown down the gauntlet saying that they will ignore any Congressional resolution condemning the escalation of American involvement in Iraq. They have made it clear by sending a Naval armada to the Persian Gulf and by their threatening statements, that they are getting ready to attack Iran despite universal international opposition and warnings from military experts that it would be a disaster.

There is really only one way to stop the madness: impeachment.


In Bush's case, there is ample evidence already in the public record to justify multiple bills of impeachment. Just to name a few, we know:

* A federal judge has ruled, after hearing evidence from both sides, that President Bush violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a felony, and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution by authorizing warrantless monitoring of the communications of American citizens.

* The president violated the US Criminal Code and the Geneva Conventions by both authorizing torture of prisoners in captivity, and by failing to act to prevent and to punish torture when it was brought to his attention.

* The president has abused his power by assuming legislative powers to invalidate duly passed acts of Congress through his issuance of so-called "signing statements"-a process not even mentioned by the Constitution, which assigns "all legislative authority" to the Congress. On these and a number of other issues, there is really no need for investigations at all. The crimes against the Constitution are obvious, blatant and self-evident. (And in the case of NSA spying, are actually laid out in a federal judge's opinion.)

All that is lacking at this point, is a principled, courageous and patriotic House leadership to initiate the process.

Read all of it here.

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It's Worse Than You Thought

FBI turns to broad new wiretap method
Declan McCullagh
CNET News.com
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The FBI appears to have adopted an invasive Internet surveillance technique that collects far more data on innocent Americans than previously has been disclosed. Instead of recording only what a particular suspect is doing, agents conducting investigations appear to be assembling the activities of thousands of Internet users at a time into massive databases, according to current and former officials. That database can subsequently be queried for names, e-mail addresses or keywords.

Such a technique is broader and potentially more intrusive than the FBI's Carnivore surveillance system, later renamed DCS1000. It raises concerns similar to those stirred by widespread Internet monitoring that the National Security Agency is said to have done, according to documents that have surfaced in one federal lawsuit, and may stretch the bounds of what's legally permissible.

Call it the vacuum-cleaner approach. It's employed when police have obtained a court order and an Internet service provider can't "isolate the particular person or IP address" because of technical constraints, says Paul Ohm, a former trial attorney at the Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. (An Internet Protocol address is a series of digits that can identify an individual computer.)

That kind of full-pipe surveillance can record all Internet traffic, including Web browsing--or, optionally, only certain subsets such as all e-mail messages flowing through the network. Interception typically takes place inside an Internet provider's network at the junction point of a router or network switch.

The technique came to light at the Search & Seizure in the Digital Age symposium held at Stanford University's law school on Friday. Ohm, who is now a law professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Richard Downing, a CCIPS assistant deputy chief, discussed it during the symposium.

In a telephone conversation afterward, Ohm said that full-pipe recording has become federal agents' default method for Internet surveillance. "You collect wherever you can on the (network) segment," he said. "If it happens to be the segment that has a lot of IP addresses, you don't throw away the other IP addresses. You do that after the fact."

"You intercept first and you use whatever filtering, data mining to get at the information about the person you're trying to monitor," he added.

On Monday, a Justice Department representative would not immediately answer questions about this kind of surveillance technique.

"What they're doing is even worse than Carnivore," said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who attended the Stanford event. "What they're doing is intercepting everyone and then choosing their targets."

When the FBI announced two years ago it had abandoned Carnivore, news reports said that the bureau would increasingly rely on Internet providers to conduct the surveillance and reimburse them for costs. While Carnivore was the subject of congressional scrutiny and outside audits, the FBI's current Internet eavesdropping techniques have received little attention.

Carnivore apparently did not perform full-pipe recording. A technical report (PDF: "Independent Technical Review of the Carnivore System") from December 2000 prepared for the Justice Department said that Carnivore "accumulates no data other than that which passes its filters" and that it saves packets "for later analysis only after they are positively linked by the filter settings to a target."


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Another BushCo Fraud Brewing

The Black Gold Rush: Divvying Up Iraq's Oil
By James Ridgeway
January 29, 2007

Washington Dispatch: A reform law put together with lots of help from U.S. consultants could finally open Iraq's massive reserves to ExxonMobil & Co.

The biggest story out of Iraq so far this year may not be the surge, or the latest mass bombing, or the escalating sectarian violence; it might, instead, be a decision that further complicates all of the above. Over the next few weeks, a law to reform Iraq's oil industry — essentially the only source of income the country has aside from U.S. subsidies — is expected to move toward implementation, and the consequences could be enormous.

Coverage of the proposal has focused on the fact that it doesn't break up the country's oil resources, as some had suggested, to various ethnic groups — a piece for the Kurds, a piece for the Shiites, etc. But the real story may be that once the proposal is put into place, international oil companies will have a far better shot at Iraq reserves than ever before.

Iraq has the planet's largest oil reserves, roughly 10 percent of the world total; it's also thought to have the largest unexplored potential, primarily in its western desert. "On top of its 115 billion barrels of proven reserves, Iraq is estimated to have between 100 and 200 billion barrels of further possible (as yet undiscovered) reserves," according to the British public interest group Platform.

Three decades of war and sanctions have left much of Iraq's oil industry decrepit and outmoded. Under Saddam, the industry was state-controlled; the Bush administration made it clear even before the war that it intended to open Iraqi oil up to more private involvement, and ever since 2003 representatives of various major oil companies have been closely involved in guiding Iraqi oil policy. The State Department's Future of Iraq Project, which prior to the invasion drew up a reconstruction blueprint, had a special oil and energy working group whose report recommended using "production sharing agreements" to encourage foreign investment in Iraq's oil industry. Production sharing agreements are contracts between governments and businesses that nominally leave control in the hands of the government, but de facto turn resources over to the private sector.

A few months after U.S. troops rolled into Baghdad, in July 2003, Coalition Provisional Authority head Paul Bremer appointed Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum, a member of the State Department's energy working group, as Iraq's oil minister. Al-Uloum soon proposed a privatization program, and endorsed production sharing agreements as the route to that goal. Ever since then, the issue of how to open Iraq oil to bidding by international oil firms has been a major topic for Iraqi and American officials.

The Iraqi commission that drew up the current oil-industry proposal reportedly included a representative of BearingPoint, a Virginia-based consulting company (and a spinoff of the accounting firm KPMG) that has a substantial U.S. government contract to assist in developing Iraq's economic infrastructure. A BearingPoint spokesman told Mother Jones that BearingPoint was advising Iraq on matters relating to banking, oil and taxes, but would not comment on details of the oil consulting.

Read the rest here.

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Life in Baghdad

Iraqis on the move: Sectarian displacement in Baghdad: An assessment conducted by International Medical Corps

January 29, 2007, Santa Monica, Calif. — Over one million residents of Baghdad could be driven from their homes in the next six months if Iraq’s sectarian violence continues at its current level, according to an in-depth assessment conducted by the Santa Monica-based humanitarian assistance group, International Medical Corps.

The study finds that residents of the Iraq capital account for about 80% of the 546,078 Iraqis civilians who have already fled their homes because of the sectarian fighting in the 11 months since the Feb. 2006 bombing of the Holy Shrine in Samara. The pace of those fleeing is accelerating at a dramatic rate. Since November alone, the number of those displaced has jumped by 43%.

The humanitarian situation is deteriorating at an increasingly rapid rate and there are few indicators of any change in this trend in the short term. While often over-used, the words “humanitarian crisis” accurately describe conditions now unfolding inside Iraq. Long-term displacement seriously reduces the ability of many Iraqis to sustain their livelihood, while the disruption to the lives of IDPs and restricted movements caused by sectarian fighting deny particularly women, children, and minorities of access to basic healthcare services.

“It is a brewing humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions that is being overshadowed by the fighting itself and the debate surrounding the war,” said Nancy Aossey, IMC’s President and CEO. “It must be acknowledged and addressed.”

The population movement constitutes a large-scale reshaping of the city’s neighborhoods along sectarian lines. Some of the displaced have sought refuge with family or friends in “sectarian friendly” neighborhoods within the capital, while others have fled the capital altogether to outlying governorates.

Unlike the temporary displacement of civilians that occurred prior to Feb. 2006—displacements often caused by military operations such as those conducted in 2004-5 in and around Falluja and Tal Afar—the movements we are tracking appear to be more permanent. The sale or abandonment of real property is one piece of evidence that suggests this permanence.

Read the rest here.

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Raw, Repellant Cynicism

French report: Former U.N. envoy Bolton says U.S. has 'no strategic interest' in united Iraq
The Associated Press
Published: January 29, 2007

PARIS: Former U.S. envoy to the United Nations John Bolton said in an interview published in France that the United States has "no strategic interest" in a united Iraq.

Bolton, who resigned last month from his temporary appointment as U.N. ambassador, also told the French daily Le Monde that U.S. President George W. Bush's administration acted too slowly to hand power over to Iraqis after toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003.

"We did a disservice to Iraqis by depriving them of political leaders," Bolton was quoted as saying, adding that the Coalition Provisional Authority that initially ran Iraq allowed terrorists to regroup. Bolton was speaking in English, and the interview was published in French. An English-language copy of the interview was not available.

Bolton suggested in the interview that the United States shouldn't necessarily keep Iraq from splitting up. The Bush administration and the Iraqi government have said they don't want Iraq divided.

"The United States has no strategic interest in the fact that there's one Iraq, or three Iraqs," he was quoted as saying. "We have a strategic interest in the fact of ensuring that what emerges is not a state in complete collapse, which could become a refuge for terrorists or a terrorist state."

The comments marked the second time in less than a week that Bolton had criticized the Bush administration's policy. On Fox News last week, he said the United States may not be able to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons because it was following a flawed diplomatic strategy.


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Lights Off on Thursday

The 1st of February 2007: Participate in the biggest mobilization of Citizens Against Global Warming!

The Alliance for the Planet [a group of environmental associations] is calling on all citizens to create 5 minutes of electrical rest for the planet.


People all over the world should turn off their lights and electrical appliances on the first of February for 5 minutes, starting at 1:55 pm in New York, 12:55 pm in Austin, 10:55 am on the Pacific Coast of North America.

This is not just about saving 5 minutes worth of electricity; this is about getting the attention of the media, politicians, and ourselves.

Five minutes of electrical down time for the planet: this does not take long, and costs nothing, and will show all political leaders that global warming is an issue that needs to come first and foremost in political debate.

Why February 1? This is the day when the new UN report on global climate change will come out in Paris. This event affects us all, involves us all, and provides an occasion to show how important an issue global warming is to us. If we all participate, this action can have real media and political weight.

Please circulate this call to your utmost ability to your network.

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Part Two of the Monday Movie

2. Propaganda in America - The Gimmicks

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Toonie Tuesday - C. Loving

Thank you, Charlie.

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Juan Cole on Bush's Iran Policy

The danger of Bush's anti-Iran fatwa
By Juan Cole

The president's decision to use force against Iranian "agents" inside Iraq could snare innocent pilgrims, and raises the risk of open warfare.

Jan. 30, 2007 | George W. Bush last week announced that American troops in Iraq were henceforth authorized to "kill or capture" any Iranian intelligence agents they discovered in Iraq. The announcement came on the heels of his pledge in the State of the Union address to bring another aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf, a move that clearly targeted Iran. A prominent Iranian parliamentarian responded to Bush's threat by saying, "Such an order is a clear terrorist act and against all internationally acknowledged norms." Iraq's deputy prime minister, meanwhile, put a pox on both Iran and the U.S. for conducting their geopolitical battle on Iraqi soil.

The danger of Bush's approach may be realized in short order. Tuesday, Jan. 30, marks the 10th day of Muharram, and is the Islamic holy day known as Ashura. Iraq is the Shiite holy land, the site of the passion and martyrdom of revered figures such as Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, and al-Husayn, the Prophet's grandson. Thousands of Iranians come on pilgrimage to the Shiite shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq every year, and the flow of pilgrims peaks at Ashura, which commemorates the martyrdom of al-Husayn. Ashura is an especially important holiday to Shiites, drawing up to 1 million pilgrims to Karbala, 60 miles southwest of Baghdad. In 2004 Sunni insurgents exploited the presence of so many Shiite pilgrims by setting off massive explosions that killed more than 100 people.

Given Bush's new directive, how will U.S. troops distinguish between innocent Iranian devotees and spies? What if U.S. troops kill pilgrims in a mistaken belief that they are covert operatives? Leaving aside whether U.S. law authorizes such a broad, vague use of deadly force against foreign nationals, which is unclear, Shiite religious sensibilities would be inflamed in both Iraq and Iran, furthering the potential for a widening conflict.

Or maybe the spark for a wider conflict is just what the increasingly desperate President Bush seeks. His fixation on Iranian activities in Iraq cannot be explained by his cover story, which is that Tehran is supplying weapons to forces that kill U.S. troops. To date, no hard evidence that the Iranian government is sending high-powered weaponry into Iraq has been made public, and no credible proof may be forthcoming. In general, one should take such claims with a large grain of salt, much like the skepticism with which one should greet the official U.S. story about the firefight in Najaf on the weekend that supposedly claimed the lives of 250 insurgents.

To begin with, some 99 percent of all attacks on U.S. troops occur in Sunni Arab areas and are carried out by Baathist or Sunni fundamentalist (Salafi) guerrilla groups. Most of the outside help these groups get comes from the Sunni Arab public in countries allied with the United States, notably Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies. Washington has yet to denounce Saudi aid to the Sunni insurgents who are killing U.S. troops.

Meanwhile, the most virulent terror network in Iraq, which styles itself "al-Qaida in Mesopotamia," has openly announced that its policy is to kill as many Shiites as possible. That the ayatollahs of Shiite Iran are passing sophisticated weapons to these, their sworn enemies, is not plausible.

If Iran is providing materiel to anyone, it is to U.S. allies. Tehran may be helping the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its Badr Corps paramilitary, but the U.S. is not fighting that group. By sale or barter, some weaponry originally given to the Badr Corps might be finding its way to other groups, such as the Mahdi Army of nationalist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, that do sometimes come into conflict with the U.S. That problem, however, must be a relatively small one, and cannot explain Bush's hyperbolic rhetoric about Iran.

Read the rest of it here.

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29 January 2007

The Latinos Have It Right - Just Say NO

Latin American forum says no to U.S. imperialism
By Heather Cottin
Jan 29, 2007, 11:12

Left parties and organizations from all over Latin America and the Caribbean and their allies converged in San Salvador Jan. 12-15 for the Sao Paulo Forum XIII, an ongoing meeting whose first session was in Brazil in 1990.

They called this forum “A New Stage of the Struggle for the Integration of Latin America and the Caribbean.” Over 500 delegates from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Guatemala, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico (including Oaxaca), Peru, Chile, and Colombia discussed the need to combat U.S. imperialism and neoliberalism, the “globalization” policies ravaging the Third World.

Outside the forum one could observe the impact of neoliberal policies. Salvadorans who work in factories called “maquilas,” owned by capitalists in the imperialist countries (the U.S. and Western Europe) are paid $4 a day. The rest survive on $2 a day. People in the countryside have no running water, no clean water, no medical care or free schools.

Although the delegates had political differences, the theme of the four-day forum was unity and support for all the left parties and formations in the region.

The forum delegates were ebullient as Raphael Correa was about to be inaugurated as Ecuador’s president, and Daniel Ortega, who had led Nicaragua during the Sandinista period, had just been inaugurated Jan. 11. Ortega had announced then that Nicaragua was leaving the neoliberal Central American Free Trade Agreement and had signed the ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas) accords as Cuban Vice-President José Ramón Machado, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales and Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez embraced him.

At the Sao Paulo Forum, the Faribundo Martí National Liberation Front of El Salvador (FMLN) General Coordinator Medardo González, said, “Today we are in position to affect the defeat of neoliberalism, and not just to defeat it, but to overcome it and to construct a new model for Latin America and the Caribbean.”

The four major points of agreement, which were unanimously accepted on the last day of the conference, called for fundamental structural reforms that would improve society and the creation of an economic alternative to neoliberalism. They called for national sovereignty and cooperation among the people and countries of the region who embrace this project for continental integration.

Read the rest here.

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Another Issue to Address

W.House urges fast-track trade authority renewal
Mon Jan 29, 2:33 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House urged Congress on Monday to renew key trade negotiating authority that expires in just a few months and said time was running short for countries to reach a new world trade deal.

"We certainly think it is important that Congress renew it," White House spokesman Tony Snow said, referring to fast-track trade legislation that requires lawmakers to vote "yes" or "no" on agreements negotiated by the White House without making any changes.

"It is an important device in extending free trade, and also allowing negotiators to operate effectively," Snow said.

The White House's current fast-track trade promotion authority expires on July 1. Bush is expected to need an extension to complete the Doha round of world trade talks and possible trade deals with
South Korea and Malaysia.

Bush planned to talk about it this week in remarks either in Illinois or New York, Snow said. Many business groups were disappointed when Bush did not call for renewal of fast-track authority in his State of the Union speech last week.

The outlook for world trade talks, suspended six months ago because of disagreements over how far to cut farm subsidies and tariffs, has brightened in recent weeks, raising hopes for a possible breakthrough in coming months.

"We are in a very important part of negotiations. We have a small window to get a lot of things done. I know all sides are working very hard on this. The president is deeply committed to working with all our allies and they've assured us that they're committed also to working with us," Snow said.

Many analysts believe Bush needs a breakthrough in world trade talks to have any chance of persuading the Democratic-controlled Congress to approve an extension of his trade promotion authority. Many Democrats oppose free-trade agreements, while others say they can only support them if the Bush administration includes tougher labor and environmental provisions than it has so far.


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More on the DC Peace March

Deadly Serious March on Washington was a Primer for the March 17 "Stay in Washington Campaign"
By Axis of Logic Editorial
Jan 29, 2007, 11:48

The inexorable peoples' movement in the U.S. against the government’s war on the people of Iraq has begun. And it is not a movement of the anti-war leaders. It is a movement of the people. Saturday, January 27 was a beautiful day that will be remembered by a quarter million people who came in Washington DC. to take a stand against the U.S. war on the people of Iraq. The Mall was packed shoulder-to-shoulder all the way to the National Monument and people were angry. It was without doubt, the largest anti-war march we have seen since the 1970s and we've seen them all on the East Coast since 9/11/01. I interviewed many who were present and our dialogue followed these lines:

"Why are you here today?

This is the first protest I’ve been to. I’m just angry. I can’t watch the news on television anymore. We voted against the war and the government has escalated the war.

"Where are you from?

“Here in Washington ... New York ... Florida ... Arkansas ... Cleveland ... Minnesota ... Maine ... Texas ... California ... Washington State ... Colorado ... Germany ... England ... France ... etc., etc."

They poured in on buses from all over the United States and some even came from foreign countries to demand an end to the war. This was not a light-hearted “feel-good” anti-war demonstration. The mood of the people was as somber as it was angry – and deadly serious. They know that the immovable object of the government has met the irresistable force of the people. There was a strong sense that the more the object obfuscates, deceives and refuses to yield to the demands of the force – the more angry and rebellious the people will become. Cries of "We will not stop" could be heard throughout the day. This inveterate rebellion of the people has come to the implacable shove of the RDR (Republican-Democrat-Regime) in Washington. In the interviews I conducted there was as much rage expressed to the Democrats as there was to the Republicans ... and that rage is clearly growing. People are refusing to accept the Democrats' "Non-binding Resolution" against the war as enough. They want funds for the war to be cut off and they want them cut off now.

Staying in Washington on the 4th Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq - March 17, 2007

Our mission in going to Washington on Saturday was three-fold:

* To support the March.

* To cover and report the March on Axis of Logic

* To promote the upcoming March 17 March on Washington with a new tactic in the anti-war movement - not seen since the Vietnam War.

The third part of our mission was to promote the March 17 Stay in Washington being organized by the Troops Out Now Coalition, based in New York.

Please read the rest of it here to get details about the March 17th event.

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And Most of You Keep Believing Him

Bush's Four Anti-Terror Successes All Fictional
David Swanson
Atlantic Free Press
Monday, January 28, 2007

President Bush claimed in his State of the Union speech to have prevented four terrorist plots. Phew! It's a good thing to know that we tossed out our Bill of Rights for some actual REASON – I mean other than turning Iraq into a training ground for terrorism.

Except that we didn't.

1.-"We stopped an al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast."

An October 8, 2005, LA Times story, headlined "Scope of Plots Bush Says Were Foiled Is Questioned," cited "several counter-terrorism officials" as saying that "the plot never progressed past the planning stages.... 'To take that and make it into a disrupted plot is just ludicrous,' said one senior FBI official….At most it was a plan that was stopped in its initial stages and was not an operational plot that had been disrupted by authorities."

On Feb. 10, 2006, the LA Times quoted a "US official familiar with the operational aspects of the war on terrorism," who said that "the Library Tower plot was one of many Al Qaeda operations that had not gone much past the conceptual stage….The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying that those familiar with the plot feared political retaliation for providing a different characterization of the plan that that of the president."

Michael Scheuer, an al Qaeda expert in the CIA's counter-terrorism center, told the Voice of America: "This doesn't sound like anything that I would recall as a major threat, or as a major success in stopping it….My impression [was that the National Security Council] culled through information to look for something that resembled a serious threat in 2002. It doesn't strike me, either as someone who was there or as someone who has followed al Qaeda pretty closely, that this was really a serious sort of effort."

A February 10, 2006 Washington Post story cited "several U.S. intelligence officials" who "said there is deep disagreement within the intelligence community over the seriousness of the Library Tower scheme and whether it was ever much more than talk."

A February 10, 2006, New York Daily News story cited one senior counterterrorism official who said: "There was no definitive plot. It never materialized or got past the thought stage."

Read the rest here.

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Bringing Back Saddam

The New Saddam
Issandr El Amrani
January 25, 2007

Making a renewed appearance in the State of the Union address this year was Iran. Bush set out an agenda that puts the U.S. on a path of confrontation with Iran—the latest installment in the haphazard collection of ideological fads that passes as Middle East policy in Washington these days.

Having made a mess of Iraq, continuing to refuse to play a constructive and even-handed role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and having gotten bored with democracy promotion, the Bush administration now appears to be fanning the flames of sectarian strife region-wide. Since September 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior administration officials have made trips to the Middle East to rally the support of what Rice has described as the “moderate mainstream” Arab states against Iran. This group has now been formalized as the “GCC + 2,” meaning the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman) as well as Egypt and Jordan.

I suggest that this new coalition be renamed to something less technocratic: the Sunni Arab-Dominated Dictatorships Against the Mullahs, or SADDAM. I have to confess I was inspired by historical precedent. In the 1980s, some of you may remember, there was another Saddam who proved rather useful against Iran. Saddam invaded Iran without provocation, sparking an eight-year-long war that was one of the 20th century’s deadliest. Along the way, the U.S. and the Arab states listed above provided much in funding, weapons and turning a blind eye when Saddam got carried away and used chemical weapons against Kurds (it did not raise that much of a fuss when he used them against Iranians, either).

By forming SADDAM, the Bush administration hopes to do several things. Firstly, encourage countries with ambivalent policies towards Israel to accept a new regional security arrangement with the Jewish state firmly as its center—the holy grail of the neo-conservatives who, despite reports to the contrary, continue to craft U.S. Middle East policy. (Otherwise, why would Elliott Abrams still have his job?) Secondly, it is securing the support of these countries against Iran, in preparation for a possible strike against its nuclear facilities or some other form of military action, or at least to ensure the recently announced United Nations sanctions against Iran are effective. One tactic is getting the oil-producing SADDAM countries to up production and bring the price of the oil barrel back to under $50, as Saudi Arabia is obviously doing by boycotting calls by fellow OPEC members to cut production.

Read it here.

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Business As Usual ??

'If they pay we kill them anyway' - the kidnapper's story
Saturday January 27, 2007
The Guardian

Fadhel is a slim, well-muscled 26-year-old Mahdi Army commander with a thin goatee beard and smoothed down hair that looks like a flat cap. One day last month he described how he and his men seized a group of three Sunni men suspected of killing his fellow Shia. "I followed the group for weeks and then one of them crossed the bridge to Karrada [a Shia district]. We first informed a nearby Iraqi army checkpoint that we were arresting terrorists then we attacked them and put them in the boots of the cars. We only have six to seven minutes when we grab someone - we have to act quickly, if he resists we shoot him."

In this case, he said, the men were taken to Sadr City, the Shia slum to the north-east of Baghdad, where they were interrogated by a "committee" which ordered their execution. "We ask the families of the terrorists for ransom money," said Fadhel. "And after they pay the ransom we kill them anyway."

Kidnapping in Baghdad these days is as much about economics as retribution or sectarian hatred. Another Shia man close to the Mahdi Army told me: "They kidnap 10 Sunnis, they get ransom on five, and kill them all, in each big kidnap operation they make at least $50 000, it's the best business in Baghdad."

One day as we chatted in a small squatters' community to the east of Baghdad, Fadhel showed me his badge - a square laminated card that identified him as a "Amer Faseel" or "platoon commander" in charge of a unit of around 35 fighters. He is particularly valuable to the Shia militia because he grew up in a predominantly Sunni area south of Baghdad and still has an ID card registered in the Sunni town of Yossufiya. "I can speak in their accent, so I can come and go to Sunni areas without anyone knowing that I am a Shia."

It was these qualifications plus his military experience - he was a corporal in the Iraqi military police - that earned Fadhel the role of commanding a "strike unit". His main job is kidnapping Sunnis allegedly involved in attacking Shia areas. It is men like Fadhel, responsible for the scores of bodies dumped on Baghdad's streets daily, whom the US troops pouring into Baghdad will have to bring under control if they are to have any hope of quelling the city's civil war.

Read the rest here.

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Iraqis Trying to Stop the Carnage

From Missing Links

Efforts are continuing to organize a joint Shia-Sunni program in Iraq

This was published by Aswat al-Iraq yesterday, and it speaks for itself.

A Sunni-Shiite fraternal council, organized by [an institution commemorating Moqtada's father] and the Islamic Party of Iraq, wound up two days of activities in Basra today. Abdulkarim Jarrad, head of the Islamic Party in Basra, told Voices of Iraq that attendees, in addition to representatives of the two sides, included also other religious and social leaders, and he said these meetings "differ from earlier meetings we have had together with [the Sadr group] in that it included legal and political studies and [the creation of] working groups that will continue efforts to make sure the recommendations are translated into action".

Jarrad added that the council issued a final statement that included disavowing takfiiris and Saddamists, agreeing on rejection of the occupation, and declaring that it [the occupation] is the first and the last cause of sectarian fitna.

He said the final statement also stressed the need to work to spare the blood of Muslims, Shiia and Sunni alike; to end the practice of forced migrations on both sides; and to invite the return of those who have been subjected to that; and to set up a council to implement that.

The final statement also urged the following: that other religious, tribal and political leaders organize similar fraternal meetings; that there be a timetable for the withdrawal of the occupation forces from Iraq; and that security in Basra be turned over to the Iraqi government once there has been established a sound security force based on national loyalty.


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DC Peace March

DC Marchers Challenge Congress to End War

Actor Sean Penn summed up the new energy -- and the new focus -- of the anti-war movement Saturday, when he turned George Bush's own words against the president.

Just hours after the president had again reasserted his false claim to authority to pursue a war that is not wanted by the American people or the Congress, Penn told anti-war demonstrators gathered in Washington that Bush would be wise to review the Constitution.

"In a democracy," the actor told the cheering crowd, which organizers said numbered in the hundreds of thousands, "we are the deciders."

Saturday's anti-war demostrations, which filled the streets of cities from San Francisco to Washington, marked a return to form for an anti-war movement that had trouble building momentum during the three years that followed Bush's decision to launch a preemptive war against a country that posed no serious threat to the United States or its allies. During the period from 2OO3 to 2OO6, Bush's Republican Party had complete control of the machinery of government, and his allies were successful in assuring that Congress would not serve as any kind of check or balance on the presidency.

Though polls showed that most Americans thought Bush had been wrong to take the country to war, and that they disapproved of his handling of the conflict, demonstrations seemed fruitless because the president held all the cards. Many opponents of the war poured their energies into electoral politics, hoping to restore at least a measure of balance to the federal government by putting opposition Democrats in charge of at least one house of Congress. On November 7, the work paid off, with the election of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

So it was that one of the most popular signs at Saturday's rally in Washington read: "I Voted for Peace."

An equally popular sign, distributed by United for Peace and Justice, the group that played a central role in organizing the demonstrations, read: "Congress: Stand Up to Bush!"

Both signs were necessary messages on Saturday because, while there is no question that Americans voted November 7 for peace, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about whether the Congress that was elected will, in fact, tell the president that it is time to bring the troops home.

Some members of Congress do get it. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Lynn Woolsey, D-California, addressed the Washington rally, urging activists to lobby the House on behalf of comprehensive legislation she has sponsored to withdraw Congressional approval for the war and implement a rapid yet orderly withdrawal of U.S. soldiers and civilian contractors from Iraq. The second most senior member of the House, Michigan Democrat John Conyers, was there as well, telling the crowd that: "George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing," said Conyers, who then looked out at the crowd and shouted: "He can't fire you."

Read the rest here.

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The Decider Continues to Alienate Us

And we're kinda happy that Junior thinks he needs to keep expressing his will in such forceful terms. As he alienates more people, he makes it more difficult for his party to ever regain its former influence.

Troop 'cap' would hamstring US efforts in Iraq: Hadley
Mon Jan 29, 10:12 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President George W. Bush will reject any effort in Congress to limit the number of US forces in Iraq because it would hamstring American efforts to stabilize the wartorn country, national security adviser Stephen Hadley has said in an article.

"Any plan that limits our ability to reinforce our troops in the field is a plan for failure -- and could hand Baghdad to terrorists and extremists before legitimate Iraqi forces are ready to take over the fight," Hadley said in an opinion piece written for the Washington Post.

"That is an outcome the president simply could not accept," Hadley wrote in the administration's latest defense of the president's plan to deploy an additional 21,500 troops in Iraq.

Congress is due to vote in early February on a non-binding motion criticizing Bush's plan to introduce a troop "surge" to help quell sectarian violence in Iraq, with lawmakers from both parties readying resolutions ranging from broad support the president's program to outright repudiation of it.

But Hadley said the president would not even consider tinkering with his plan.

Read the rest here.

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Making Friends with the Neighbours

Iran plans to expand ties with Iraq: Tehran envoy
Mon Jan 29, 9:27 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran is taking steps to greatly expand military and economic ties with Iraq, Tehran's ambassador to Iraq said in an interview on Sunday with New York Times.

The ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, said Iran was prepared to offer Iraqi forces training, equipment and advisers for "the security fight" and was ready to assume major responsibility for the reconstruction of Iraq.

He also acknowledged for the first time that two Iranians detained last month by U.S. forces were security officials as the United States has claimed.

"They worked in the security sector in the Islamic Republic, that's clear," Qomi said in a 90-minute interview at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad. The interview appeared in Monday's New York Times.

The Iranians were in Iraq because "the two countries agreed to solve the security problems," the ambassador said. The Iranians "went to meet with the Iraqi side," he told the newspaper.

Qomi said the Iranians should not have been detained and he ridiculed evidence the U.S. military said it has which proving the Iranians were involved in planning attacks on American and Iraqi forces.

Qomi also announced that Iran would soon open a national bank in Baghdad. An Iraqi banking official confirmed that Iran has received a license to open what would be the first "wholly owned subsidiary bank" of a foreign country in Iraq, the newspaper reported.

Read the rest here.

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There Is Another Way for Israel

From Informed Comment

Elhanan Guest Editorial: Another Way for Israel

Another Way for Israel
Elik Elhanan
Combatants for Peace
Via The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace

This is the message we want to bring to the American Jewish community: Let us try another way. In the eyes of many, the key to this conflict lies in the US. Your support is invaluable just as the lack of it is disastrous. Israel is now refusing to negotiate with Syria, the reason being that Washington wants it so. My question is: What do you want?

For many people in Israel this bleak picture serves to prove that indeed there is no partner and that the formula of land for peace does not work. These attitudes are supported by the political system both in Israel and internationally, and are frequently promoted by the media as undisputable truths. Both societies, the Palestinian and the Israeli, seem to be locking themselves in a violent nationalistic mindset where the needs of the other simply do not exist.

How should one deal with such a situation? The simplest answer would be to play along. The other answer is to confront these false notions, to insist on telling truth to power, to work and expose the contradictions that exist in any black-and-white vision of reality.

Our organization, Combatants for Peace, is trying to do just that. Through our dialogue group, where Israeli and Palestinian former combatants meet regularly, we try to touch the hearts and minds of both societies. We try to help our communities become more aware of the reality of the other side, so that nobody can say "I didn’t know." We want Israelis to comprehend the full scale of the oppression inherent to the Israeli occupation, and we want the Palestinians to know that behind the occupation there are humans, who are also suffering. We want both sides to understand the price of violence. Our message is simple: Peace is possible. The only way to reach peace is through dialogue and negotiations, and the only solution is a two state solution -- an end the occupation, in keeping with UN resolutions.

Read the rest here.

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Monday Movie - Another Several-Day Series

1. Propaganda in America - History of Public Relations

Documentary: The Origin and History of modern propaganda (public relations), and the story of its creator, Edward Bernays. The story exposes how government and big business manipulate the public's consent and preps them for the next 'grand' idea or product.

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28 January 2007

Annie Lennox Is Singin' On Sunday

The Saddest Song I've Got

Here's what the YouTube poster writes:
I think there is a tendency by all of us in the United States, and especially this administration, to overlook the great suffering experienced by the Iraqi population. I wanted to take this beautiful song by Annie Lennox, and these brilliant photographs, and show you all that war never solves anything.

I am not a dedicated born again Christian like George W. Bush. However, there is a quote by JC that I really like.

"This I command you, to love one another." -- Jesus

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Hagel on the Surge, and More

Interview by Wil S. Hylton
GQ, January 2007

Chuck Hagel came home from Vietnam in 1968 with shrapnel in his chest, scars on his face, and an unyielding certainty that the freedom of men is theirs alone to win. As an infantryman, he had not bombed from above or commanded from behind; he had stood knee-deep in the muck, face-to-face with the enemy, firing on men and watching them die. It’s a hard memory to leave behind. Even after four decades and a lifetime of change — a fortune earned in the investment-banking business; a decade as a senator from Nebraska; and a position as one of the GOP’s conservative torchbearers with a shot at the White House — Hagel has put everything on the line to oppose the war in Iraq, refusing to send a “surge” of new troops into battle, or to forget the lessons he brought home from the killing fields long ago.

Sitting in his office on a recent afternoon, Hagel leaned back in his armchair to explain, in a voice reminiscent of sandpaper on rough oak, how he was deceived by the president, and won’t let it happen again.


Why do you oppose the “surge”?

For almost four years, this administration has been saying, “Just give us another six months. Give us more time. The Iraqis need more help. We need more troops. We need more money.” I am not willing to sacrifice more young men and women for a policy that isn’t working.

What do you think the real effect of the “surge” would be?

More American lives lost. Billions of dollars going into this hole. It will erode our standing in the Middle East and the world. It will destroy our force structure. It will divide this country in a bitter way not seen since Vietnam. And what do we get in return? The administration likes to point to these benchmarks—the Iraqis wrote a constitution, they had an election, they elected a unity government. The administration takes great pride in saying, “It’s now a sovereign nation. They’re in charge of their own affairs.” It’s completely untrue, but they say it anyway.

What would it take to secure Baghdad?

It’s not ours to secure. We have never understood that! We have framed this in a way that never made sense: “Win or lose in Iraq.” Wait a minute! There is no win or loss for us. The Iraqis will determine how this turns out. We can help them with our blood and our treasure and our standing, but in the end they have to deal with the sectarian problems. That is what’s consuming that country. It’s not Al Qaeda. It’s not the terrorists. That’s not the main problem over there. It’s a civil war!

Read the rest here.

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Paving Middle Amerika

Toll Road Giant Buys Newspapers to Silence Critics

Critics charge that the Macquarie purchase of American Consolidated Media is designed to silence critics of a Texas toll road project.

Trans Texas CorridorAustralian toll road giant Macquarie agreed Wednesday to purchase forty local newspapers, primarily in Texas and Oklahoma, for $80 million. Macquarie Bank is Australia's largest capital raising firm and has invested billions in purchasing roads in the US, Canada and UK. Most recently the company joined with Cintra Concesiones of Spain in a controversial 75-year lease of the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road.

Sal Costello, the leading opponent of toll road projects as head of the Texas Toll Party, says the move is directly related to a 4000-mile toll road project known as the Trans-Texas Corridor. It will cost between $145 and $183 billion to construct the road, expected to be up to 1200 feet wide, requiring the acquisition of 9000 square miles of land in the areas through which it will pass.

"The newspapers are the main communication tool for many of the rural Texan communities, with many citizens at risk of losing their homes and farms through eminent domain," Costello wrote.

Many of the small papers purchased, most have a circulation of 5000 or less, have been critical of the Trans-Texas Corridor. An article in the Bonham Journal for example, states, "The toll roads will be under control of foreign investors, which more than frustrates Texans."


[+/-]

Rules of Engagement

From Fred On Everything

Fred: A True Son of Tzu
Guderian Was the Mother

January 23, 2007

Being a military thinker of the profoundest sort, I offer the following manual of martial affairs for nations yearning to copy the American way of war. Read it carefully. Great clarity will result. The steps limned below will facilitate disaster without imposing the burden of reinventing it. The Pentagon may print copies for distribution.

(1) Underestimate the enemy. Fortunately this is easy when a technologically advanced power prepares to attack an underdeveloped nation. Its enemy's citizens will readily be seen as gadgetless, primitive, probably genetically stupid, and hardly worth the attention of a real military.

(2) Avoid learning anything about the enemy—his culture, religion, language, history, or response to past invasions. These things don’t matter since the enemy is gadgetless, primitive, and probably genetically stupid. Anyway, knowledge would only make the enlisted ranks restive, and confuse the officer corps.

Blank ignorance of the language is especially desirable (as well as virtually guaranteed). For one thing, it will allow your troops to be seen as brutal invaders having nothing in common with the population; this helps in winning hearts and minds. For another, it will allow English-speaking officials of the puppet government to vet such information about the country as they permit you to have.

(3) Explain the invasion to the American public in simple moral terms suitable for middle-school children at an evangelical summer camp: We are bombing cities to bring the gift of democracy and American values, or to defeat some vague but frightening evil, perhaps lurking under the bed, or to get rid of a bad dictator no longer of service to us, or to bring freedom and prosperity to any survivors. (This doesn’t work in Europe, which is honestly imperialistic.) The public can then feel a sense of unappreciated virtue when the primitives resist. Sententious moralism should always trump reason.

(4) A misunderstanding of military reality helps. Besides, comprehension would only lead to depression. As Napoleon said, or may have, in war the moral is to the material as three is to one, which implies that unpleasant facts should be played down in favor of cultivating a cheerful attitude. Most especially, it should not be noted that a few tens of thousands of determined, probably genetically-stupid primitives with small arms can tie down a cheerful force however gaudily armed.

Pay no attention to tactics, which are boring. It should never enter your mind that in this sort of war, if you don’t win, you lose; if the enemy doesn’t lose, he wins. Think about something else. Above all, do not understand that the enemy’s target is not you, but public opinion at home. You don't need to remember this, as the enemy will remember it for you.

Read the rest here.

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We're Wosing BIG - Stop the Pain

The Timid Chorus and the Mad Marchers: Bush the Empire Slayer

If you fancy losing an argument, try shooting down my contention that Mikhail Gorbachev is the leading historical figure of our time. Not one to miss a shooting opportunity, Dick Cheney tried. To my surprise, he won.

Westerners fondly remember Gorbachev for finishing off an ailing Soviet empire left bleeding from its Afghan travails. Defusing half a century of nuclear tension can leave a mark on impressionable minds. On Cheney's-not so much. The former Defense Secretary had a tender spot for the Cold War and never forgave Gorbachev for ending it with not even a kind word for defense contractors. Cheney is the quintessential warrior, with plenty of dead quails and birdshot-peppered lawyers to prove it. He is the gallant hussar-one day greenlighting "Shock and Awe" to give Guernica a second chance; the next day apprising US Senator Pat Leahy of his favorite sexual technique: "Fuck yourself ! " (1) Quite the martial wag, the man Maureen Dowd calls Big-Time Dick saluted the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 by persuading his boss to invade Panama (for reasons no one seems able to remember). And today it is anybody's guess which Caribbean island the United States will invade to celebrate its victory in Iraq.

Dick Cheney is a man of war, and a man on a mission: a crusader who won't rest until the name Bush Jr is etched in the history books-not lost in the microscopic print of the endnotes section, mind you, as is destined to be Senior's fate, but glowing in the radiant typeface of a chapter heading. That mission, for once, is all but accomplished. In January of 2001, George W. Bush took-er, grabbed-the reins of an American Empire at its zenith. He will soon hand back a smoldering wreckage of broken lives, enduring hatred, and vanished influence. Michael Ignatieff has called Pax Americana Empire Lite. (2) A better phrase would be Empire Short-Lived, or, if you're William F. Buckley Jr and the vernacular ruffles your literary feathers, Imperium Brevissimum. At a recent ceremony for his son Jeb, George H. W. Bush was caught on national television sobbing uncontrollably. Pity the man who stands one short letter away from the worst president in US history. The letter is H, as in H for hubris.

"We're winning! " exulted Bush last October. (3) Well... actually, "We're not winning," he clarified a few weeks later, but "We're not losing" either. (4) So "We're wosing," quipped the Guardian's cartoonist Steve Bell. Indeed, we are; and for you, Mr President, I shall count the wosing ways.

* * * * * * *

Somewhere, deep in the cold, worm-infested soil that a mother will keep watered by tears, lies one of 3,000 young Americans. (5) Dispersed across the land, thousands more will forever carry the scars of war in their battered bodies and hollowed souls, mutants battling hellish shadows and silent phantoms. And the Iraqis, yes those, Mr President, see them spiral into Dante's lower rings of hell, as they join the fastest-growing sect in the land: the dead-hundreds of thousands strong. (6) Watch the White Man's Burden devolve into an orgy of torture and mayhem. (Has it ever devolved into anything else?)

The words Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, detainee bill, and extraordinary rendition are seared in the world's consciousness as the badges of shame of a democracy gone mad. According to Pew's most recent "Global Opinion" survey, "anti-Americanism is deeper and broader now than at any time in modern history." (7) The war effort's claim on the US treasury will soon exceed $600 billion: more than Vietnam; (4) more than all the money ever spent on cancer research; (8) more than enough to "race for the cure" all the way to Alpha Centauri. We're wosing big, Mr President.

Read the excruciating remainder here.

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Yusuf Islam Is Singin' On Sunday

You may know him as Cat Stevens.

Click Here for Peacetrain and a Slideshow of Iran

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Dark Scenarios

What are we missing here? We paint these scenarios only in terms of the impact on the US or on the wider region. Hello !!!! Iraq is not our country to do with as we please. We take a simple view - Iraq was never ours to invade. There is only one solution, and that is to uninvade immediately. Let Iraqis work out their own appropriate solution to the chaos we've created, and provide all the necessary cash for rebuilding the country we have devastated. No IF's, AND's, or BUT's.

Doubt cast on Dire exit scenarios
Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Sunday, January 28, 2007

The case for adding troops in Iraq -- and keeping them there -- rests on one basic assumption: As bad as things are now, they would become catastrophic if the United States leaves.

President Bush in his State of the Union address Tuesday warned that an early U.S. exit would create "a nightmare scenario" for America.

In his Jan. 10 address explaining his order of 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq, Bush said a retreat would "force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale. Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal."

Not everyone is convinced. Some analysts say the apocalyptic scenarios of U.S. withdrawal mirror arguments the administration and many others made for the U.S. invasion in 2003. The premise of the invasion -- flawed as it turned out -- was that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, posing a direct threat to the United States and the world.

"It's remarkable how little time people have spent examining the assumptions," said Kurt Campbell, a former national security official in the Clinton administration, now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But the administration is not alone. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker, a Republican, and former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton, a Democrat, laid out a "Pandora's box" of dire scenarios of U.S. failure in Iraq:

Sectarian war in Iraq spreads across the Middle East. Neighboring regimes are destabilized, and populations radicalized. A humanitarian catastrophe of refugees and ethnic cleansing follows. Iranian influence rises. Regional war erupts. Oil supplies are disrupted. Al Qaeda claims victory, gains recruits and money and is emboldened to strike again. American credibility is damaged.

"If we get run off, there's no reason to say it would be a positive thing, OK?" said retired Gen. William Nash, U.S. commander in Bosnia from 1995 to 1997. "But just think of the dire predictions that were made in 1975 when the helicopters were leaving the embassy grounds of Saigon and everybody thinking that the dominoes would begin to fall. Lo and behold, the dominoes not only didn't fall, but a number of the regional actors started taking some responsibilities for some things."

Bush said Tuesday night that if the United States withdraws, the result will be an "epic battle" between Sunni and Shiite extremists and the creation of a haven for oil-fueled al Qaeda terrorists. Out of the chaos, Bush said, "would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources and an even greater determination to harm America. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of Sept. 11 and invite tragedy."

Terrible things cannot be ruled out, said Michael Mandelbaum, head of the foreign policy program at Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies. "But the relevant question for American foreign policy is, would they be terrible for us? Would we be worse off than we are now? And I don't think that goes without saying."

Many of the dark scenarios sketched as future prospects already exist, even critics of a withdrawal readily acknowledge.

Read the rest here.

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Unknown Implications in International Law

Dutch Iraqi suspect flown to US

Dutch authorities say an Iraqi-born Dutch citizen, suspected of plotting attacks on American forces in Iraq, has been extradited to the United States.

Wesam al-Delaema was put on a plane and flown to an undisclosed location in the US after losing his final appeal against extradition in December.

He is set to become the first suspect tried in a US court for allegedly plotting attacks on US forces in Iraq.

Mr Delaema denies charges of "possessing a destructive device".

Authorities say the evidence against him includes a videotape he made of Iraqi insurgents preparing a roadside bomb.

In Dutch court hearings, he argued that he was kidnapped and forced to make the video on pain of death.

Unknown destination

Mr Delaema was arrested in May 2005 in the Dutch city of Amersfoort in following a tip from US authorities.

His lawyers have argued that the US has no right to try him. They say they fear he could be tortured and will not get a fair trial.

But a Dutch judge said there was "no reason to believe that the US authorities will not abide by the commitments they have given or... deprive the suspect of his fundamental rights".

The US has given assurances that he will be tried in a federal court, not by a military commission, and can serve any sentence in the Netherlands.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

A Dutch justice ministry spokesman said on Saturday that Mr Delaema was on his way to somewhere in the US.

"Even if I knew where he is headed, I couldn't say," he said. "It's a matter for the US justice department now."


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How Many Times Has the US Been the Aggressor?

From Kurt Nimmo's Another Day in the Empire

As Iran’s Nuke Program Stands in Shambles, Neocons Press Onward with Shock and Awe Campaign
Saturday January 27th 2007, 10:23 pm

As it turns out, it does not matter if Iran “stands-down” from its attempt to enrich uranium, a suggestion made by Mohamed El Baradei, head of the IAEA, while in attendance at the elitist confab in Davos, Switzerland.

It doesn’t matter because “Iran’s efforts to produce highly enriched uranium … are in chaos and the country is still years from mastering the required technology,” according to Guardian. “Iran’s uranium enrichment program has been plagued by constant technical problems, lack of access to outside technology and knowhow, and a failure to master the complex production-engineering processes involved,” writes Peter Beaumont, citing “a number of Western diplomats and technical experts close to the Iranian program.”

Of course, the revelations will not stop the neocons and the Israelis from attacking the Muslim nation, as the reason for the attack has nothing to do with nukes or any possible threat Iran may or may not pose to Israel. It’s all about taking out the next “rogue nation” on the “axis of evil” roster, a laundry list of mass destruction plotted out years ago, well before Bush stumbled into office, thanks to Supreme Court appointment.

Naturally, the Guardian revelations will find their way to memory hole in short order and the Iran demonization effort, gleefully pimped by the corporate media, will continue in earnest, just as it did in 2002, as the neocons prepared to kill 650,000 Iraqis.

Iraq, after more than a decade of debilitating sanctions, claiming the lives of more than a million Iraqis, 500,000 of them children, was no more a threat to the United States than Guinea-Bissau. Saddam Hussein’s stab at Arab nationalism, and the moderate successes of Ba’ath socialism in regard to health care and education, was considered a threat to Israel, however, as Israel likes its Arab neighbors enfeebled, poverty-stricken, ruled by greedy despots, and wracked by sectarian divisions, this would not be allowed to stand.

Ditto Iran. According to Israel and the neocons, Iran is simply too proud—the primary reason it will not admit its problems with uranium enrichment—and although the country has many a problem, not least of all the alienation of young people from an austere Islamic leadership, it irks Israel that Iran’s influence is growing in the neighborhood among traditionally downtrodden Shia Muslims, kicked around once too often by arrogant Sunni Muslims, from the Gulf emirates to Lebanon and beyond. Israel hankers to knock Iran down a few notches, even by way of “tactical” nukes, if need be.

“Iran has never once moved beyond its borders in an act of aggression since the organization of the UN and widespread acceptance of the UN Charter as fundamental international law,” write Edward S. Herman and David Peterson.

Read the rest of this incisive piece here.

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