28 February 2007

We're Goin' to DC

March on the Pentagon March 17!

The March 17 March on the Pentagon is shaping up as a major step forward in the struggle to stop ongoing imperialist wars in Iraq and elsewhere. The ANSWER Coalition reports today that after a major free speech battle with various government entities for permits, the route is now fully permitted, and, in addition, a major collection of pro-impeachment groups have now signed on as endorsers, including such groups as After Downing Street, CODE PINK Women for Peace, Democrats.com, Democracy Rising, Gold Star Families for Peace, the Green Party of the United States, the National Lawyers Guild, Progressive Democrats of America, and World Can't Wait-Drive Out the Bush Regime. There are more than 200 cities organizing transportation. And there's an impressive list of speakers, which you can see at the link above.

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Blair Does Know How to Lie

From Malcom LaGauche


The number of deaths attributed to Saddam Hussein by the West is incomprehensible. If you add them all up, it seems he killed more people than the number who inhabit Iraq. He had to work overtime and must have had advanced weaponry of which no one is aware.

Numbers and techniques abound: 182,000 during the Anfal campaign (Despite the numbers, not one body has been found. Maybe Saddam had a secret vaporizing ray); 5,000 in Halabja (About 300 bodies were found and there is much doubt as to the origin of the gas used against the Kurds); and hundreds of thousands in the south of Iraq.

In November 2003, word came out that more than 400,000 bodies had been discovered in mass graves in Iraq. "The whole country is a mass graveyard" was the slogan of the day. Finally, proof of Saddam being the Butcher of Baghdad was there for the whole world to see. Case closed.

Let’s go forward a few months from the discovery of the almost half million bodies. On July 18, 2004, the headline of the day for the British paper The Independent read, "British Prime Minister Admits Graves Claim Untrue." How could that be? George Bush and Tony Blair don’t lie. If we can’t trust them, who can we trust? Certainly not Saddam, even though he told the truth about WMD. That must have been a fluke.

According to the article:

Downing Street has admitted to The Observer that repeated claims by Tony Blair that "about 400,000 bodies had been found in Iraqi mass graves" is untrue, and only about 5,000 corpses have so far been uncovered.

The claims by Blair in November and December of last year (2003) were given widespread credence, quoted by MPs and widely published, including in the introduction to a U.S. government pamphlet on Iraq’s mass graves.

In that publication, Iraq’s Legacy of Terror: Mass Graves, produced by USAID, the U.S. government aid distribution agency, Blair is quoted from 20 November last year: We’ve already discovered, just so far, the remains of 400,000 people in mass graves."

Here’s what the USAID website stated:
If these numbers prove accurate, they represent a crime against humanity surpassed only by the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Pol Pot’s Cambodian killing fields in the 1970s, and the Nazi Holocaust of World War II.

I assume that USAID did not hear about the two million Iraqis who died at the hands of the U.S.-imposed embargo from 1990-2003. After all, they’re Iraqis: they don’t count.

The same article delved into the regression of other elevated figures attributed to Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath regime in the north of the country. For instance, it mentioned that Human Rights Watch admitted it had to drastically decrease its figures of deaths and could not give an accurate figure.

Read all of it here.

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Iran Will Attend for Iraq's National Interest

Look at the wording carefully. Iran will attend the meeting if it is in IRAQ's interest that they do so. Notice that we rarely, if ever, hear the US say something this way. For the US, it must be in its national interest to undertake much of anything internationally. Rather selfish, eh?

Iran says considering attending Iraq meeting
Wed Feb 28, 11:07 AM ET

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran, accused by Washington of backing militants in Iraq, is reviewing Baghdad's invitation to attend a regional conference on ways of easing tensions in Iran's neighbor, a senior official said on Wednesday.

The United States has said it will attend both a mid-level meeting in March and a ministerial meeting that may be held in April. Syria, accused by Washington of igniting tension in Iraq by failing to control its border, has also been invited.

Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said Tehran was considering the offer.

Iranian officials had previously said Tehran was not interested in discussions before U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq.

"In order to help resolve problems in Iraq, Iran will do its utmost. We will attend the meeting if (we reach the conclusion) that it is in Iraq's interests," Larijani was quoted by Iran's state television as saying.

Read the rest here.

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Texas Coal Wars

Texas Governor Rick Perry tried to fast-track the approval of 19 new, 19th century type coal plants which would add devastating quantities of air pollution to the state. Several citizen groups took the governor to court in an effort to get an injunction against the fast-tracking. This video tells the story.

Texas Coal Wars

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So THIS Is How They Made It Work

From Missing Links

Oil and Gas Law: Behind the "agreement"

Al-Hayat provides an explanation how the Americans (and the British) finally got the Iraqi cabinet to agree on a draft oil law, the point being that main unresolved issue (as far as the draft text of the law is concerned) had to do with the competing claims to control over oil and gas extraction contracts in Kurdistan, by the regional government on the one side, and the central government on the other. The Al-Hayat reporter quotes Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of the national parliament, but not a member of either of the two big Kurdish parties, on how this was settled: US ambassador Khalilzad, on his latest trip to the region, proposed that they simply agree between them that half of the contracts would be under the auspices of the regional government, and the other half under the auspices of the central government. The implication is the text of the law can be left vague, but that there is a side-understanding between the US and the Kurds, to the effect that they will split oil jurisdiction 50-50 between the Kurdish regional government, and the US-controlled central government. Here is the text of what Al-Hayat says Othman said:

Kurdish deputy Mahmoud Othman said "the British and the Americans, who were in a hurry to decide on an oil and gas law, had a major role in convincing the Kurds to accept [this version]"... Othman explained some of the details of the process, that led to the council of Ministers approving this after so many months of disagreement between the central government and the regional government. The British and the Americans, who were bound and determined to accelerate the process of deciding on an oil and gas law, had a major role in convincing the Kurdish parties to accept this, after intensive discussions between the parties leading to haggling about exploitation, contract-management, and distribution. Othman added: "The latest visit by US ambassador Khalilzad to [the Kurdish region] focused on convincing the Kurds to accept [the current version] after promising them that the new law would protect Kurdish interests," and Othman explained: "The Kurds had wanted the authority to enter into contracts for oil and exploitation and the granting of operating permits to corporations, on a par with the authority of the central government [elsewhere in Iraq], while the Baghdad government wanted to have a presence in overseeing contracts [in Kurdistan] equal to that of the the Kurds." Othman said: "That was finally agreed, but only after an agreement that one-half of the contracts signed would be within the jurisdiction of the Region of Kurdistan".

In other words, if I am reading this right, where the text of the law calls for joint participation by the Baghdad and the Kurds in contract-management for properties in Kurdistan, the side-agreement arranged by Khalilzad, which finally brought the Kurds to agreement, was that the contracts would be split 50-50, with one side controlling one-half of them, and the other side the other half. Naturally it would be impossible to include something like that in law, for one thing because of the impossibility of designating which contracts are under the control of which government, and for another thing because it would cast doubt on the idea of genuinely shared jurisdiction.

Read the rest here.

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Go Fuck Yourself, Condaleeza Rice

Condaleeza Rice "says she hopes Iran and Syria will seize this opportunity to bring peace and stability to the region." Astonishing gall that she would lay blame on the Syrians and Iranians for the chaos in Iraq. The US illegally invades the country, ignores the chaos in the aftermath of the invasion, bungles every effort to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure (primarily through contract fraud and theft), is caught cruelly torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib, has soldiers that routinely rape, murder, pillage, save brains as trophies, and so on ad nauseum, and she has the fucking gall to insinuate that Syria and Iran are responsible for the chaos there? What a bloody fool and moron .... About as bright as her boss.

US intelligence chief predicts worse violence in Iraq
By Michael Rowland

The United States director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, is warning the violence in Iraq may get much worse.

Admiral McConnell has told the Senate's armed services committee that sectarian violence in Iraq has become self-sustaining.

"The current security and political trends in Iraq are moving in a negative direction, particularly after the February 2006 bombing of the Mosque at Samara," he said.

He said the latest US intelligence estimate paints a grim picture of the future.

"Unless efforts to reverse these conditions gain real traction during the 12 to 18-month time frame of this estimate, we assess that the security situation will continue to deteriorate at a rate comparable to the latter half of 2006," he said.

Admiral McConnell says the violence would only get much worse if US troops were to leave.

The bleak security outlook came as the US agreed to take part in a regional conference to discuss ways of ending the violence in iraq.

The meeting, to be held in Baghdad in April, will involve all of Iraq's neighbours including Iran and Syria, two countries the US has refused to negotiate with.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she hopes Iran and Syria will seize this opportunity to bring peace and stability to the region.

Read it here.

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Medical Marijuana in Texas

From the Dallas Observer

Into the Breach: We feel the need for weed
By Patrick Williams
Published: February 22, 2007

Into the breach: Once again, the Texas Legislature will consider baby steps that would make it somewhat easier for sick people to use marijuana to treat their ailments. We say "somewhat easier" because this session's HB 1534 would not legalize medical marijuana. It would simply allow anyone busted for possession who had a legitimate medical need for weed to raise that fact as an issue in their defense. (It would also shield doctors who advise patients to try grass.)

But — wink, wink — it's a Trojan horse, right? A wedge used by stoners to get marijuana decriminalized. Even we thought so. But then we talked with Garland resident Tim Timmons, who was heading down to Austin to lobby for the bill. After speaking to him, we're ready to make a deal with the devil: Buzz loves us some grass, but we would gladly accept that it will be forever illegal for us if guys like Timmons could legally get the weed they need.

OK, so he's a persuasive lobbyist. Or maybe we're lying. Probably both. Timmons has had chronic multiple sclerosis for 20 years. He takes 18-23 prescribed medicines a day — barbiturates, amphetamines, antispasmodics, muscle relaxants — to deal with the painful effects of the illness.

They're slowly trashing his liver, and they don't always do the trick. "I still have spasms that can knock me out of bed," Timmons says. If he takes enough muscle relaxants to halt the spasms, he can end up in a psychedelic nightmare. (He has called the Garland police to his home because of paranoid hallucinations.) Three tokes on a pipe, however, and he sleeps through the night.

And this guy is not a stoner. He tried marijuana a couple of times in high school but didn't take up smoking medicinally until he got some at his 30th high school reunion. Yep, he's a criminal—and former risk management consultant and part-time university teacher who's now disabled.

So Timmons will go to Austin and aim his words at Governor Rick Perry, who declared in his inaugural address last month that Texas has "a responsibility to the most vulnerable among us, the young and the aged, those who are sick and those who live with disabilities, and that is to protect them, nurture them and empower them." Back the words with action and pass the bill, Timmons says. Otherwise, Perry's speech was "just noble words camouflaging heartless cowardice. "

Like we said, he's a good lobbyist.

Read it here.

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27 February 2007

V-I Day Is At Hand

From Empire Burlesque

V-I Day is Close at Hand: New Oil Law Approved in Bushist Baghdad
Written by Chris Floyd
Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Iraqi Cabinet Approves Draft of Oil Law (New York Times)

I may be writing more on this later, if I have the stomach for it, but read through the above New York Times report on the new oil law approved by the Iraqi government – and gasp in shock-and-awed wonder that the leading newspaper in the United States could file a story like this and only note – in the next-to-last paragraph – that Iraq's oil will [be] controlled by the iron fist of a "central body called the Federal Oil and Gas Council" which will have "a panel of oil experts from inside and outside Iraq" as part of the operation… without telling us that these "oil experts" will in fact be executives and representatives of American and other Western oil companies.

In other words, the Bush-backing oil barons will now have an official stranglehold on the oil of the Iraqi people. No wonder the Administration has been so adamant that "a new oil law is crucial to the country’s political and economic development," as the warm and fuzzy Times tells us.

As we noted here a few weeks ago, an oil law giving Bush's crony conquistadors a dominant hold on Iraq's oil has always been the true "benchmark" of victory for the White House. And now it is within reach; the Iraqi parliament will vote on the law next month – with 140,000 American troops parked all around the country, and American bombs falling on the capital.

Gee, wonder which way the vote will go?


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Forty-Five to Go

Five western governors sign agreement to reduce greenhouse gases
Joe Shaulis at 9:09 PM ET

[JURIST] The governors of five western US states signed an agreement Monday to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases [JURIST news archive], a cause of global warming [EPA climate change materials]. During the winter meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) [official website], the governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington [JURIST news archives] signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative [agreement text], which calls for the states to set reduction goals within six months, devise a "market-based program" to reach those goals and track emissions through a regional registry. "In the absence of meaningful federal action, it is up to the states ... to address climate change," Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) [official profile] said in a press release [text]. The market-based program could take the form of a cap-and-trade system, in which companies whose emissions exceed mandatory limits could buy credits from companies that produce less pollution. A regional cap and trade program would be a powerful first step toward developing a national program, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) [official profile], the only Republican among the five governors, said in an address to the NGA [press release]. Statements were also issued by Govs. Bill Richardson (D-NM), Ted Kulongoski (D-OR) and Christine Gregoire (D-WA) [press releases]. AP has more. Gannett News Service has additional coverage.

Read it here.

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Escobar on the Iraq Oil Law

US's Iraq oil grab is a done deal
By Pepe Escobar

"By 2010 we will need [a further] 50 million barrels a day. The Middle East, with two-thirds of the oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize lies." - US Vice President Dick Cheney, then Halliburton chief executive officer, London, autumn 1999

US President George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney might as well declare the Iraq war over and out. As far as they - and the humongous energy interests they defend - are concerned, only now is the mission really accomplished. More than half a trillion dollars spent and perhaps half a million Iraqis killed have come down to this.

On Monday, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's cabinet in Baghdad approved the draft of the new Iraqi oil law. The government regards it as "a major national project". The key point of the law is that Iraq's immense oil wealth (115 billion barrels of proven reserves, third in the world after Saudi Arabia and Iran) will be under the iron rule of a fuzzy "Federal Oil and Gas Council" boasting "a panel of oil experts from inside and outside Iraq". That is, nothing less than predominantly US Big Oil executives.

The law represents no less than institutionalized raping and pillaging of Iraq's oil wealth. It represents the death knell of nationalized (from 1972 to 1975) Iraqi resources, now replaced by production sharing agreements (PSAs) - which translate into savage privatization and monster profit rates of up to 75% for (basically US) Big Oil. Sixty-five of Iraq's roughly 80 oilfields already known will be offered for Big Oil to exploit. As if this were not enough, the law reduces in practice the role of Baghdad to a minimum. Oil wealth, in theory, will be distributed directly to Kurds in the north, Shi'ites in the south and Sunnis in the center. For all practical purposes, Iraq will be partitioned into three statelets. Most of the country's reserves are in the Shi'ite-dominated south, while the Kurdish north holds the best prospects for future drilling.

The approval of the draft law by the fractious 275-member Iraqi Parliament, in March, will be a mere formality. Hussain al-Shahristani, Iraq's oil minister, is beaming. So is dodgy Barnham Salih: a Kurd, committed cheerleader of the US invasion and occupation, then deputy prime minister, big PSA fan, and head of a committee that was debating the law.

But there was not much to be debated. The law was in essence drafted, behind locked doors, by a US consulting firm hired by the Bush administration and then carefully retouched by Big Oil, the International Monetary Fund, former US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz' World Bank, and the United States Agency for International Development. It's virtually a US law (its original language is English, not Arabic).

Scandalously, Iraqi public opinion had absolute no knowledge of it - not to mention the overwhelming majority of Parliament members. Were this to be a truly representative Iraqi government, any change to the legislation concerning the highly sensitive question of oil wealth would have to be approved by a popular referendum.

In real life, Iraq's vital national interests are in the hands of a small bunch of highly impressionable (or downright corrupt) technocrats. Ministries are no more than political party feuds; the national interest is never considered, only private, ethnic and sectarian interests. Corruption and theft are endemic. Big Oil will profit handsomely - and long-term, 30 years minimum, with fabulous rates of return - from a former developing-world stalwart methodically devastated into failed-state status.

Read the rest here.

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Students for Sensible Drug Policy

On Wednesday Students for Sensible Drug Policy officially took action to defend students' rights in a brief filed in the most important Supreme Court case ever to deal with student free speech about drugs and drug policy. SSDP filed an Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) brief in the Supreme Court case of Morse v Frederick, better known as the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case. Read the brief at http://www.ssdp.org/ssdp-scotus-bh4j.pdf.

This case has made national news, sparking discussion about whether students have the right to express opinions contrary to school policy. High school student Joseph Frederick, 18 at the time, held up a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at a school-sanctioned, off-campus event (the viewing of an Olympic Torch parade). He sued his principal and school board after receiving a 10-day suspension. Losing the case in federal district court, Frederick won his appeal to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. When his school board appealed that ruling, the Supreme Court accepted the case.

While this case started out with a student being punished for displaying an absurd banner, the potential consequences of the Supreme Court's decision are far from a laughing matter. The school district, represented pro bono by Whitewater special prosecutor Ken Starr, is arguing for a blanket prohibition on any student speech about drugs. They argue that schools should be able to ban speech that is "inconsistent with the mission of the school to promote healthy lifestyles (including at every turn to combat substance abuse)." If the Supreme Court adopts this standard, principals could legally prevent students from forming SSDP chapters at their high schools!

This restrictive standard would also mean that students could be punished for openly debating their school's random drug testing policies, challenging the effectiveness of D.A.R.E., or speaking out against random locker searches. Whatever you think of the effectiveness of these programs, it is essential that students have the right to debate the merits of policies that directly impact their lives.

The school district also argues that schools should have the right to punish student speech that an administrator could "reasonably glean … exposes a positive sentiment" about drugs. Under this standard, students could be punished for supporting a decriminalization voter initiative, advocating for medical marijuana laws, or even talking about how marijuana has helped a relative suffering from cancer.

SSDP filed a brief because this case because we know that the ability of students to discuss drug policy issues is vitally important. However, filing a Supreme Court brief is expensive for a small non-profit such as ours. Our printing and filing fees for this brief will cost up to $1,500. We are willing to take this money out of our budget because of the importance of this case, but are asking our supporters to help offset the cost by making a generous contribution to SSDP today at http://www.ssdp.org/donate/

I hope you will take the time to read SSDP's amicus brief in this important Supreme Court case. Thank you for your enduring support.

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Cartoon Tuesday - C. Loving

Thank you, Charlie.

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26 February 2007

One Step Closer

Iraq cabinet endorses landmark draft oil law
By Claudia Parsons and Mariam Karouny Mon Feb 26, 3:59 PM ET

Iraq's cabinet on Monday endorsed a draft oil law crucial to regulating how wealth from the country's vast oil reserves will be shared by its ethnic and sectarian groups, a move hailed as a major political milestone.

Passing a law to help settle potentially explosive disputes over the world's third largest oil reserves has been a key demand of the United States, which has linked it to continuing support for the Shi'ite-led national unity government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih told Reuters that Iraq's leaders had pledged to have the law enacted by the end of May. The draft has to be approved by parliament first.

"The political leadership have committed to have the law and other associated laws and regulations be implemented by the end of May 2007 -- admittedly tough, and a grueling schedule, but economic and political imperatives of the country require all of us to rise to the challenge," Salih said.

Read the rest here.

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The Monday Movie - We Are Slowly Winning

On the streets, in the Halls of Congress, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, at the gates of the White House itself, and elsewhere, activists have opposed the Bush-Cheney Gang's illegal and immoral war in Iraq, as well as the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. This video, which features 90 photos, represents only a handful of the thousands of demonstrations that have been held across the country since the Iraqi War was launched on March 20, 2003.

Antiwar Activism Digitalized

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They Just Like to Hear Themselves Talk

That is sometimes the way we feel about these politicians. They don't say anything truthful or meaningful; they just want to read their own names in a headline.

Having said all that, why do we believe it is more likely that the Iraqi official is being truthful than we do the Americans, who claim that Iran has a bad, criminal government that is sending weapons to Iraq?

Iranians stop giving weapons to Iraq - Iraq official
25 Feb 2007 17:07:40 GMT
Source: Reuters

BAGHDAD, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Iranians have stopped training and providing weapons to Iraqi militants in Iraq in the last few weeks to allow a U.S.-backed security plan in Baghdad to succeed, a senior Iraqi official said on Sunday.

National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told CNN there was some evidence that Iranians had been supporting some Shi'ite militia groups fighting U.S. troops in Iraq.

"There is no doubt in my mind that recently in the last few weeks they have changed their position and stopped a lot of their tactics and interference in Iraq's internal affairs," Rubaie said in an interview.

It was unclear if he was talking of the Iranian government. Washington accuses Shi'ite Iran of fuelling violence in Iraq.

The United States has drafted thousands of extra troops into Iraq in an attempt to crack down on insurgency and curb sectarian conflict.

U.S. officials said this month that the Quds Force, a unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, was supplying weapons to Shi'ite militia groups in Iraq.

Read the rest here.

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If A=B And B=C, Then A=C

Juan Cole at Informed Comment has a fine assessment of what the deal is between the American Enterprise Institute, big oil, war, and this administration. And it isn't pretty.

Al Gore, Global Warming, the Oscars and the Iraq War

That the Al Gore film "An Inconvenient Truth" was legitimized by an Oscar Sunday night for "Best Documentary" has wider implications for the future of the United States than it might seem, though admittedly it is a small step.

We know that Exxon Mobil is a significant funder of the American Enterprise Institute and has used it to attempt to bribe "scientists" to cast doubt on global warming. Lee Raymond, who was CEO of Exxon Mobil until 2005, is the vice-chair of AEI's board of directors.

We also know that the American Enterprise Institute is the most hawkish of the Washington "think tanks," and that its staffers were key to thinking up and promoting the Iraq War with lies and propaganda.

A=B, B=C, therefore A=C. Exxon Mobil is a big behind the scenes player in the Iraq War by virtue of its support for AEI. In fact, I think a boycott of its gas stations is in order until the company cuts off AEI and stops promoting the Iraq War and muddying the waters on global warming. (It pledged to do the latter in the past, but obviously was lying).

So the point is that the American Enterprise Institute symbolizes the intersection of Oil and War, which are the two most menacing threats to the future of America.

Only by a Manhattan Project-scale government effort to develop green energy can we hope to avert the worst consequences of global warming, which is likely to raise sea levels 20 feet over the next century or century and a half. (That would put a lot of cities on both coasts under water).

But the other problem with petroleum and gas as sources of energy is that they are getting scarcer. No big new fields have been found for some time. And in one recent year China generated 40% of new demand for petroleum. If a billion Chinese and a billion Indians adopt the American lifestyle and all want 1.5 automobiles and superhighways to crawl along on, the existing stocks of oil will become objects of fierce competition. This process has already begun, and there is a sea change from the mid-1990s, when oil was still cheap and competition for it limited.

Iraq is an Oil War in the mind of politicians like Dick Cheney. It was necessary to deny it to China and other rivals thirty to fifty years in the future. It was necessary to open its vast petroleum fields up for exploration and cast aside anti-American Baath socialism.

Likewise, the religious rigidity of the Pushtun peoples of Helmand province is not the real reason for the US insistence on occupying Afghanistan. It is the vast Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan gas fields that Cheney has his eye on. It was the US hope to use a pipeline from Turkmenistan to supply Pakistan and India, and so forestall a deal by those two countries with Iran. The inability of the Bush administration to calm things down in Afghanistan sufficiently for anyone to dream of putting in such a pipeline and having it avoid routine sabotage has made it likely that Iran will break out of the Bush boycott toward the East.

Hunger for future rights to petroleum and positioning the US to remain a superpower in a world of hydrocarbon scarcity is also driving the campaign to get up a war against Iran. Why can Pakistan have a nuclear weapon, and that is all right, but Iran cannot? Pakistan has very little petroleum. Iran has a lot, and maybe 750 trillion cubic feet of gas in the southwest. If it gets a bomb, regime change becomes impossible, and if Iran wants to tie its supplies up in proprietary contracts with China and India, locking out the United States, it will be able to do so.

Continued heavy dependence on gas and oil therefore not only turns the world into a hothouse, with rising seas, ever more destructive hurricanes, and possibly disastrous shifts in the ocean currents, but it also drives the United States to more and more wars.

And, note that the wars are not even successful in allowing a practical oil grab of the sort Cheney and Lee Raymond dreamed of.

Indeed, you could now, in retrospect, turn their whole argument around on them. US militarism cannot secure petroleum and gas supplies from places such as Iraq, because the pipelines are so easily sabotaged and local nationalisms and religious activism make it impossible for people to accept that kind of US hegemony.

Since the Pentagon cannot practically speaking hope to safeguard US petroleum supplies from the Gulf, national security requires a massive and rapid research and development program of green energy. A lot of green technology, especially solar, would come down in price rapidly if enough government money were thrown at it. We need to press Congress on this, and maybe Californians can craft some of their famous referendum items. That would be one way to promote a new generation of electric cars.

Green energy-- wind, thermal, solar, maybe ultimately fusion, etc.-- is what would allow the US to retain its autonomy and independence into the next century, and what would allow it to avoid losing more cities the way Bush and Cheney lost New Orleans. Oil and War will, in contrast, ruin us all.


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25 February 2007

Once More, With Feeling

It is a mystery to us how the American people can allow all this to begin again, with virtually identical rhetoric and actions as occurred in mid- to late 2002, just prior to the aggression against Iraq. It is cynicism at its most insidious.

US funds terror groups to sow chaos in Iran
By William Lowther in Washington DC and Colin Freeman, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:30am GMT 25/02/2007

America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear programme.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime is accused of repressing minority rights and culture

In a move that reflects Washington's growing concern with the failure of diplomatic initiatives, CIA officials are understood to be helping opposition militias among the numerous ethnic minority groups clustered in Iran's border regions.

The operations are controversial because they involve dealing with movements that resort to terrorist methods in pursuit of their grievances against the Iranian regime.

In the past year there has been a wave of unrest in ethnic minority border areas of Iran, with bombing and assassination campaigns against soldiers and government officials.

Such incidents have been carried out by the Kurds in the west, the Azeris in the north-west, the Ahwazi Arabs in the south-west, and the Baluchis in the south-east. Non-Persians make up nearly 40 per cent of Iran's 69 million population, with around 16 million Azeris, seven million Kurds, five million Ahwazis and one million Baluchis. Most Baluchis live over the border in Pakistan.

Funding for their separatist causes comes directly from the CIA's classified budget but is now "no great secret", according to one former high-ranking CIA official in Washington who spoke anonymously to The Sunday Telegraph.

His claims were backed by Fred Burton, a former US state department counter-terrorism agent, who said: "The latest attacks inside Iran fall in line with US efforts to supply and train Iran's ethnic minorities to destabilise the Iranian regime."

Read all of it here.

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Poetic Irony?

Slavery Ties Sharpton to Thurmond

NEW YORK (Feb. 25) - Genealogists have revealed that the Rev. Al Sharpton is a descendent of a slave owned by relatives of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond - a discovery the civil rights activist on Sunday called "shocking."

Sharpton learned of his connection to Thurmond, once a prominent defender of segregation, last week through the Daily News, which asked genealogists to trace his roots.

"It was probably the most shocking thing in my life," Sharpton said at a news conference Sunday, the same day the tabloid revealed the story.

"I have always wondered what was the background of my family," the newspaper quoted Sharpton as saying. "But nothing -- nothing -- could prepare me for this."

"It's chilling. It's amazing."

Read the rest here.

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They Think We're Stupid

Saving Us from the Bad Guys, Again: Missile Defense Redux

Huh? According to Condi Rice, the US attempt to put missile shields in Poland and the Czech Republic is to counter some future Iranian missile threat? What would that be? Does Tehran want to conquer Poland? For its strategic position, perhaps? Or maybe to set up an outpost of the Revolutionary Guard? This tale of Ms. Rice's proves that she not only thinks the US public is gullible, she thinks they are stupid. In addition, she doesn't have much of an opinion of the Russians either, who are pretty upset about the US attempt to extend its missile shield to Russian borders. To those Russians, Rice dismissed their concern, stating "Anyone who knows anything about this will tell you there is no way that 10 interceptors in Poland and radar sites in the Czech Republic are a threat to Russia, that they are somehow going to diminish Russia's deterrent of thousands of warheads."

If that is the case, than it must certainly be true for anyone who knows anything about this will tell you there is no way that 10 interceptors in Poland and radar sites in the Czech Republic need to be constructed since the US has the ability to take care of any imaginary threat from Iran with its existing arsenal and defense system. Now, I'm sure some missile shield proponent would tell me that placing missiles to protect the US on lands thousands of miles await from both the US and Iran is necessary, but they would be hard put to make a convincing case. It sounds to me kind of like putting your alarm system and pit bull in that guy's house two streets over to prevent anybody from burglarizing your house. Or maybe it's like a drug dealer keeping his stash at a friend's so that they'll get robbed instead of him. Either way, it doesn't make a lick of sense.

If I were Russian I would be concerned. After all, those shields would be right on my borders. If I were Czech or Polish, I would be even more concerned, since those shields would be in my backyard. Talk about inviting trouble. Especially when the whole threat exists primarily in the paranoid brains of Washington and the hopeful bank accounts of the war industry.

Anyone with a memory capable of stretching back to the 1980s must of course remember the placement of cruise missiles around Europe during the Reagan years. These placements took place amidst massive public protest throughout the continent and in the United States. Encampments were erected around the US bases involved in the project; blockades of sites occurred and millions of people attended protests in the countries that the missiles were sited for. Despite this, the European governments assented to the missile placements and they were installed. In the current situation, there has been some opposition expressed by citizens groups, and the Polish deputy Prime Minister suggested that the country hold a referendum on the question. This suggestion was immediately dismissed by his superior, who probably remembers the aforementioned cruise missile opposition as well and hopes to avoid a similar scenario in his country. The only official opposition in Poland has come from the pro-business Civic Platform Party which has brought up safety concerns. In the Czech Republic, the Social Democrats have also expressed opposition, but only because the shields are not scheduled to be incorporated into the NATO missile shield. The European Greens, who were major players in the organizing against the cruise missiles and rose to prominence based on their role, issued a statement that read in part: "Fundamentally, the missile defense scheme promoted by the US weakens the security of the people ­ it is neither a fail-safe technology nor a deterrent to aggression. History has shown us that building walls ­ on land, at sea or in space ­ is not the way to achieve sustainable peace. Furthermore a reversion to the 'old system' of ignoring public opinion and local communities, is not the behaviour expected of a democratically elected European government." Whether or not the 2007 version of the European Greens can mobilize a wave of protest comparable to that unleashed in the 1980s remains to be seen. The party itself is a much different beast than it was then, thanks in part to its successes in the parliamentary arena.

Read the rest here.

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Reducing the Charges to Avoid the Embarassment

We reported this incident last Autumn. We might call this a victory, or we might recognize it for what the prosecutor clearly says: "... we don't want to put the war machine on trial."

36 Indian Island protesters have charges dropped to infractions
By Jeff Chew, Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND - A Jefferson County District Court judge on Friday reduced the charges against 36 of those arrested last fall as they blocked the gates to Naval Magazine Indian Island.

Thirty-seven were arrested on Sept. 23 as they gathered at the gates on federal land to protest the Iraq war and the storage of depleted uranium at Indian Island, which is one of the main non-nuclear conventional weapons depots for the Navy's Pacific fleet.

One of the 37 charged with disorderly conduct - Aldo Sardone, 41, of Seattle - pleaded guilty at his arraignment in October.

The rest pleaded not guilty to the same charge.

On Friday, District Judge Jill Landes dismissed the misdemeanor charges and - based on a motion from the county prosecuting attorney's office - ruled that the defendants would get lesser infraction citations.

Each defendant was charged with "pedestrian blocking the road," an infraction punishable by a $76 fine.

The original charge of disorderly conduct carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Avoid "soapbox trial"

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Todd DeBray said after the hearing that the move was intended to avoid a "soapbox trial."

"Our office decided to drop the cases to infractions and, at this point, we are not expecting to have anything to do with this case," DeBray said.

"This took a lot of hours on the part of the Sheriff's Office.

"At the same time, we don't want to put the war machine on trial."

DeBray said that the county prosecutor's office felt that enough county time had been absorbed by the case.

"The feds didn't think it was worth their time."

Read the rest here.

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Commentary on the MCA

What the New York Times doesn’t say about the court ruling on habeas corpus
Published on Sunday, February 25, 2007.
Source: WSWS - By Joe Kay

The New York Times on Thursday published an editorial on this week’s appeals court ruling upholding the Military Commissions Act, which strips Guantánamo prisoners of their habeas corpus rights. The commentary, entitled “American Liberty at the Precipice,” is a model of half-truths and evasions.

Typical of this leading organ of present-day American liberalism, the editorial denounces the ruling and the law it upholds while saying nothing about the complicity of the Democrats and ignoring the social reality underlying the assault on democratic rights.

The writ of habeas corpus—the right to challenge one’s detention in court—is a bedrock principle of democracy and indispensable legal restraint on executive power. Without the protection of the “great writ,” the president (or in an earlier period, the king) has the power to arrest and detain an individual indefinitely without giving any reason. The Bush administration, under the pretext of the so-called “war on terror,” asserts that it has the right to do precisely this.

The decision handed down Tuesday by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a case brought by Guantánamo detainees alleging that the Military Commissions Act, passed last September, is unconstitutional because it bars US courts from considering writs of habeas corpus “filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant.”

The Times notes that the “frightening” law “raises insurmountable obstacles for prisoners to challenge their detentions.” The newspaper adds that “it gives the government the power to take away habeas rights from any noncitizen living in the United States who is unfortunate enough to be labeled an enemy combatant.”

However, the Times describes the passage of the law in a manner calculated to place the entire onus on the Bush administration and ignore the critical role played by the Democrats. The act was “stampeded through Congress last fall” by the Bush administration, the editorial states, and further on declares that the Bush administration responded to last year’s Supreme Court ruling striking down its military commissions by “driving” the new law through Congress.

This is a whitewash of the role of the congressional Democrats. While they could not have stopped passage of the bill in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, they could have blocked it in the Senate, where they had more than enough votes to garner the 41 needed to mount a filibuster. They refused to do so.

Read the rest here.

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British Withdrawal? Or Just a Change of the Guard?

'Mercenaries' to fill Iraq troop gap
BRIAN BRADY WESTMINSTER EDITOR (bdbrady@scotlandonsunday.com)

MINISTERS are negotiating multi-million-pound contracts with private security firms to cover some of the gaps created by British troop withdrawals.

Days after Tony Blair revealed that he wanted to withdraw 1,600 soldiers from war-torn Basra within months, it has emerged that civil servants hope "mercenaries" can help fill the gap left behind.

Officials from the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence will meet representatives from the private security industry within the next month to discuss "options" for increasing their business in Iraq in the coming years.

The UK government has already paid out almost £160m to private security companies (PSCs) since the invasion of Iraq, for a range of services, including the protection of British officials on duty and in transit in some of the most dangerous parts of the world.

But, despite expectations that the booming market for private security would go into decline following the bursting of the "Iraq bubble", firms have now been told to expect even more lucrative work during the "post-occupation phase".

A senior official from one of the biggest PSCs already operating in Iraq last night claimed firms had been told to expect increased business opportunities in areas such as personnel protection, highway security and the training of Iraqi police and soldiers.

"It is not entirely surprising that they recognise PSCs still have a value in Iraq," the source said. "But them wanting to meet us demonstrates that they have accepted just how valuable the industry can be.

"No one is saying PSCs can take over all the jobs of regular military, but the British forces have not been doing regular military work recently. If there is a need to protect people and supply routes and areas, there are a lot of specialised private-sector companies that can do that perfectly well."

The MoD has consistently maintained that it has not paid a PSC to carry out any security duties in Iraq in almost four years since British forces arrived. But officials from the department are planning to join colleagues from the Foreign Office at a "summit" with members of the British Association of Private Security Companies (BAPSC) next month.

The development will reawaken complaints that the government is "privatising" the occupation of Iraq.

Read the rest here.

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A Little Blunt Truth

And, frankly, the MSM is entirely responsible for this result and for that reason alone should be dismantled. It seems clear that capitalist society is never, ever going to be workable if one believes in justice for humanity.

As for the claimed Israeli attacks on Americans in the piece, they are trivial in comparison with what Israel does on a daily basis to the Palestinians. The incursion into Lebanon last Summer, despite hundreds of civilian deaths, was relatively benign alongside what has happened before and since in Gaza and the West Bank. When will the world recognize these truths and call the Israeli government to task?

From Another Day In the Empire

Gallup Poll: Years of Propaganda Works like a Charm
Saturday February 24th 2007, 3:00 pm

“A Gallup poll surveying US opinion on geopolitics singles out Israel as only foreign nation Americans feel favorably toward and also say that what happens there is vitally important to the US,” the Israeli online newspaper Yedioth Internet reports.

Never mind Israel attacked the USS Liberty in 1967, killing 34 Americans and wounding 171, and never mind Israel was caught red-handed in 1954 plotting to blow up U.S. targets and presumably killing Americans in Egypt, and never mind, according to a German public television (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) documentary, the main suspects in the 1986 Berlin disco bombing that killed two U.S. soldiers, an event that provided a pretext for a U.S. air assault on Libya, worked for Israeli intelligence (with more than a little help from American spooks), and never mind that in response to Jonathan Pollard selling U.S. secrets to Israel resulting in the execution of CIA agents in the Soviet Union, Israel granted Pollard citizenship and continues to pester U.S. officials and presidents, demanding the traitor be released, and finally never mind that Israel used nuclear blackmail to force Kissinger and Nixon to airlift supplies during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Never mind. Americans like to be stabbed in the back.

“The country viewed as least-favorable by Americans is Iran (9 percent), followed by North Korea (12), Iraq (15), Palestinian Authority (16), Syria (21), Afghanistan (23), Cuba (25), Pakistan (28), Saudi Arabia (35), Venezuela (41) and China (48),” the Gallup poll indicates.

Never mind that not one of the above mentioned nations ever declared war on the United States, although Iran, Iraq, the Palestinians, Afghanistan, and Cuba have more the enough reason to regard the United States, and indeed its brain-dead public, not only as “least-favorable” but with contempt.

Read the rest here.

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Annie Lennox Is Singin' On Sunday

She's so good, we had to have her back. This is a remarkable video from a remarkable singer and musician.

Annie Lennox - Why (Live At Live 8 London)

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John Prine Is Singin' On Sunday

John Prine Live at 2006 Telluride Bluegrass Festival

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We Are Sick of the Lies

When will the Amerikan public stand up and say, "We no longer support you or your lies. We demand that you step down as President and Vice President of the US."

U.N. calls U.S. data on Iran's nuclear aims unreliable
By Bob Drogin and Kim Murphy, Times Staff Writers
February 25, 2007

VIENNA — Although international concern is growing about Iran's nuclear program and its regional ambitions, diplomats here say most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran.

The officials said the CIA and other Western spy services had provided sensitive information to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency at least since 2002, when Iran's long-secret nuclear program was exposed. But none of the tips about supposed secret weapons sites provided clear evidence that the Islamic Republic was developing illicit weapons.

"Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that's come to us has proved to be wrong," a senior diplomat at the IAEA said. Another official here described the agency's intelligence stream as "very cold now" because "so little panned out."

The reliability of U.S. information and assessments on Iran is increasingly at issue as the Bush administration confronts the emerging regional power on several fronts: its expanding nuclear effort, its alleged support for insurgents in Iraq and its backing of Middle East militant groups.

The CIA still faces harsh criticism for its prewar intelligence errors on Iraq. No one here argues that U.S. intelligence officials have fallen this time for crudely forged documents or pushed shoddy analysis. IAEA officials, who openly challenged U.S. assessments that Saddam Hussein was developing a nuclear bomb, say the Americans are much more cautious in assessing Iran.

American officials privately acknowledge that much of their evidence on Iran's nuclear plans and programs remains ambiguous, fragmented and difficult to prove.

The IAEA has its own concerns about Iran's nuclear program, although agency officials say they have found no proof that nuclear material has been diverted to a weapons program.

Iran's Islamist government began enriching uranium in small amounts in August in a program it says will provide fuel only for civilian power stations, not nuclear weapons.

Read the rest here.

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Sy Hersh on the "Redirection"

THE REDIRECTION: Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism?
Issue of 2007-03-05
Posted 2007-02-25


In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. Its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made defiant pronouncements about the destruction of Israel and his country’s right to pursue its nuclear program, and last week its supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on state television that “realities in the region show that the arrogant front, headed by the U.S. and its allies, will be the principal loser in the region.”

After the revolution of 1979 brought a religious government to power, the United States broke with Iran and cultivated closer relations with the leaders of Sunni Arab states such as Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. That calculation became more complex after the September 11th attacks, especially with regard to the Saudis. Al Qaeda is Sunni, and many of its operatives came from extremist religious circles inside Saudi Arabia. Before the invasion of Iraq, in 2003, Administration officials, influenced by neoconservative ideologues, assumed that a Shiite government there could provide a pro-American balance to Sunni extremists, since Iraq’s Shiite majority had been oppressed under Saddam Hussein. They ignored warnings from the intelligence community about the ties between Iraqi Shiite leaders and Iran, where some had lived in exile for years. Now, to the distress of the White House, Iran has forged a close relationship with the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”

Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.

A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee told me that he had heard about the new strategy, but felt that he and his colleagues had not been adequately briefed. “We haven’t got any of this,” he said. “We ask for anything going on, and they say there’s nothing. And when we ask specific questions they say, ‘We’re going to get back to you.’ It’s so frustrating.”

The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney. (Cheney’s office and the White House declined to comment for this story; the Pentagon did not respond to specific queries but said, “The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran.”)

Read the rest here.

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Bringing Democracy to the Middle East

We reported this a couple of days ago, but we want to emphasize the importance of understanding what is happening here. As soon as the press is not cooperating, the US military must intimidate and, perhaps, even silence them. These incidents help to highlight how this was was never about bringing democracy to the Middle East. This demonstrates how it was always about establishing another cooperative client state in a region where US hegemony is necessary to guarantee a steady flow of petroleum to feed the US corporate behemoth.

Another U.S. Military Assault on Media: U.S. soldiers ransacked offices of the Iraq Syndicate of Journalists (ISJ) in central Baghdad
by Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily
Global Research, February 24, 2007
Inter Press Service

BAGHDAD, Feb 23 (IPS) - Iraqi journalists are outraged over yet another U.S. military raid on the media.

U.S. soldiers raided and ransacked the offices of the Iraq Syndicate of Journalists (ISJ) in central Baghdad Tuesday this week. Ten armed guards were arrested, and 10 computers and 15 small electricity generators kept for donation to families of killed journalists were seized.

This is not the first time U.S. troops have attacked the media in Iraq, but this time the raid was against the very symbol of it. Many Iraqis believe the U.S. soldiers did all they could to deliver the message of their leadership to Iraqi journalists to keep their mouth shut about anything going wrong with the U.S.-led occupation.

"The Americans have delivered so many messages to us, but we simply refused all of them," Youssif al-Tamimi of the ISJ in Baghdad told IPS. "They killed our colleagues, closed so many newspapers, arrested hundreds of us and now they are shooting at our hearts by raiding our headquarters. This is the freedom of speech we received."

Some Iraqi journalists blame the Iraqi government.

"Four years of occupation, and those Americans still commit such foolish mistakes by following the advice of their Iraqi collaborators," Ahmad Hassan, a freelance journalist from Basra visiting Baghdad told IPS. "They (the U.S. military) have not learned yet that Iraqi journalists will raise their voice against such acts and will keep their promise to their people to search for the truth and deliver it to them at any cost."

There is a growing belief in Iraq that U.S. allies in the current Iraqi government are leading the U.S. military to raid places and people who do not follow Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's directions.

"It is our Iraqi colleagues who pushed the Americans to that hole," Fadhil Abbas, an Iraqi television producer told IPS. "Some journalists who failed to fake the truth here are trying hard to silence truth seekers by providing false information to the U.S. military in order to take advantage of their stupidity in handling the whole Iraqi issue."

The incident occurred just two days after the Iraqi Union covering journalists received formal recognition from the government. The new status allowed the Syndicate access to its previously blocked bank account, and it had just purchased new computers and satellite equipment.

"Just at the point when the Syndicate achieves formal recognition for its work as an independent body of professionals, the American military carries out a brutal and unprovoked assault," International Federation of Journalists General Secretary Aidan White said in a statement. "Anyone working for media that does not endorse U.S. policy and actions could now be at risk."

The raid was a "shocking violation of journalists' rights," White said. "In the past three years more than 120 Iraqi journalists, many of them Syndicate members, have been killed, and now their union has been turned over in an unprovoked act of intimidation."

Read the rest here.

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Apparently, the Kurds Have Approved the Iraqi Oil Law

Leaders of Iraq's Kurdish Region Reportedly Approve Draft Oil Law
By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 25, 2007; 7:30 AM

BAGHDAD, Feb. 24 -- Leaders of Iraq's oil-rich Kurdish region have apparently approved a draft oil law that will be presented to Iraqi lawmakers in coming weeks, an eagerly awaited breakthrough that is expected to professionalize and expand drilling in the country.

The agreement was announced Saturday by Massoud Barzani, president of the regional government in Kurdish-populated northern Iraq, during a news conference in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah attended by Iraq's president, the Associated Press reported.

"We reached a final agreement," Barzani said, according to AP. "We accept the draft."

Barzani did not disclose further details of the agreement, and no other officials discussed them publicly.

Spokesmen for the Kurdish regional government and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said they had no information on the reported deal.

The Kurdish minister of natural resources declined to discuss the issue.

Read the rest here.

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Bringing Democracy to the Mountains of Iran

Foreign devils in the Iranian mountains
By M K Bhadrakumar

02/24/07 "ICH" -- - In a rare public criticism of Pakistan, the Tehran Times commented last week that an exclusive Islamabad-Washington nexus is at work manipulating the Afghan situation. The daily, which reflects official Iranian thinking, spelled out something that others perhaps knew already but were afraid to talk about publicly.

All the same, the commentary gave a candid Iranian insight into the state of play in Afghanistan. It estimated that without a comprehensive rethink of strategy aimed at addressing the problems of weak political institutions, misgovernance, corruption, warlordism, tardy reconstruction, drug trafficking and attendant mafia, and excesses by the coalition forces, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) couldn't possibly hope to get anywhere near on top of the crisis in Afghanistan.

The commentary pointed a finger at Pakistan's training the Taliban and providing them with "logistical and political support". It highlighted that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who visited Islamabad recently, chose to sidestep the issue and instead bonded with President General Pervez Musharraf. This is because Washington's priority - that the "new cold war" objective of NATO is to establish a long-term presence in the region - can be realized only with Musharraf's cooperation.

The Iranian outburst was, conceivably, prompted by the spurt of trans-border terrorism inside Iran's Sistan-Balochistan province, which borders Pakistan. Ten days ago, a militant group called Jundallah killed 11 members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards in an attack in the city center of Zahedan. Iranian state media reported that the attack was part of US plans to provoke ethnic and religious violence in Iran. Balochs are Sunnis numbering about 1.5 million out of Iran's 70 million predominantly Shi'ite population.

Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi alleged that in the recent past, US intelligence operatives in Afghanistan had been meeting and coordinating with Iranian militants, apart from encouraging the smuggling of drugs into Iran from Afghanistan. He said the US operatives were working to create Shi'ite-Sunni strife within Iran.

American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has copiously written about recent US covert operations inside Iran. With reference to the incidents in Zahedan, Stratfor, a think-tank with close connections to the US military and security establishment, commented that the Jundallah militants are receiving a "boost" from Western intelligence agencies. Stratfor said, "The US-Iranian standoff has reached a high level of intensity ... a covert war [is] being played out ... the United States has likely ramped up support for Iran's oppressed minorities in an attempt to push the Iranian regime toward a negotiated settlement over Iraq."

Iran is fast joining ranks with India and Afghanistan as a victim of trans-border violence perpetrated by irredentist elements crossing over from Pakistan. Tehran, too, will probably face an existential dilemma as to whether or not such acts of terrorism are taking place with the knowledge of Musharraf and, more importantly, whether or not Musharraf is capable of doing anything about the situation.

Iran, perhaps, is somewhat better placed than India or Afghanistan to resolve this dilemma, since it is the US (and not Pakistan) that is sponsoring the trans-border terrorism. And what could Musharraf do about US activities on Pakistani soil even if he wanted to? The Iranians seem to have sized up Musharraf's predicament.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman in Tehran, while announcing last Sunday that the Pakistani ambassador to Iran was being summoned to receive a demarche over the Zahedan incident, also qualified that it was Iran's belief that the Pakistani government as such couldn't be party to the creation of such "insecurities" on the Pakistan-Iran border region.

Indeed, Tehran is used to the US stratagem. Sponsoring terrorist activities inside Iran has been a consistent feature of US regional policy over the past quarter-century. Tehran seems to have anticipated the current wave. Last May, in a nationwide television address, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad accused Iran's "enemies" of stoking the fires of ethnic tensions within Iran. He vowed that the Iranian nation would "destroy the enemy plots".

Read the rest here.

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The Last of the Neocons

14. The Neocons - Fear is the Only Agenda

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24 February 2007

One Weird, Throwback Retro Act

Venezuela's Revolution: Giving Power to the Poor
By Stuart Munckton

02/23/07 "Green Left Weekly" -- -- “We, and millions of people around the world … believe another world is possible, a world free from war, poverty and hunger. Here in Venezuela the [government of socialist President Hugo Chavez] along with the majority of the people in our country are fighting hard to build this new world, despite the attempts of the old elite and the US government to prevent us from succeeding.” This is what 25-year-old university student Germania Fernandez told Pablo Navarrete, according to a December 1 article on Venezuelanalysis.com.

Fernandez was participating in a November 26 demonstration in Caracas of 2.5 million people, in a city of only 5 million, in support of Chavez’s re-election on December 3 and his call to deepen the pro-poor revolutionary process his government is leading. Repeatedly slamming the “perverse” system of capitalism, Chavez insisted that December 3 would be a referendum on the construction of a “new socialism of the 21st century” — a “democratic” and “humanist” socialism that did not repeat the errors of the Soviet Union.

The results were spectacular. Chavez scored 7.3 million votes (63% of the total), the highest number for a presidential candidate in Venezuelan history and more than double his votes in the 2000 elections. Chavez has since declared: “All that was privatised, let it be nationalised.” The nationalisation of the telecommunications firm CANTV and Electricity of Caracas, both owned by US interests and amounting to 50% of daily trading on the Caracas stock exchange, has already been carried out. Chavez has given five oil multinationals in the Orinoco Belt until May 1 to give the state-run oil company PDVSA at least 60% controlling interests in their ventures, and has promised to nationalise gas.

These radical moves build on the gains already made by the Bolivarian revolution, as the process led by Chavez, who was first elected in 1998, is known. Named after Simon Bolivar, who liberated much of South America from Spanish colonialism, the revolution has sought to challenge corporate interests and redistribute the nation’s oil wealth to the poor majority. A November 17 Venezuelanlaysis.com article by Calvin Tucker points out that according to opposition-aligned polling company Datanalysis, the income of the poorest 60% has risen by 45%. Navarrette reports that a recent census reveals the number of households living in poverty has dropped from 49% in 1998 to 33.9% in early 2006.

The revolution is also thoroughly democratic. Pro-Chavez forces have won 11 straight national elections and introduced a new constitution guaranteeing popular participation in government, including the right to overturn any legislation via a national referendum. The government has announced an extension of direct democracy, via the promotion of grassroots communal councils, and is also discussing workers’ councils in workplaces across the country to enable working people to exercise control over production.

‘Death of history’?

“This is not supposed to be happening”, you can almost hear them cry out in the corporate boardrooms. There is an air of disbelief in much of the corporate-owned media’s coverage of Venezuela. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc, socialism was supposed to be dead and buried. History was supposed to have ended, with capitalism triumphant. What kind of weird, throwback retro act is playing in Caracas?

Yet no-one should be surprised. The “new world order” has brought the world fresh wars for corporate profit, worsening poverty and environmental destruction. In the 1990s, poverty greatly increased across Latin America at the same time as some 4000 publicly owned companies shifted into the hands of multinational corporations. Russian revolutionary V.I. Lenin’s comment that the world was living in an “epoch of war and revolution” rings true today.

Read all of it here.

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"Theater Iran Near Term" (TIRANNT)
By Michel Chossudovsky

02/23/07 "Global Research" - DUBAI, UAE, 21 February 2007. (revised 23 Feb 2007). Code named by US military planners as TIRANNT, "Theater Iran Near Term" has identified several thousand targets inside Iran as part of a "Shock and Awe" Blitzkrieg, which is now in its final planning stages.

According to the Kuwait-based Arab Times, an attack on Iran under TIRANNT could occur any time between late February and the end of April. This assessment, however, does not take into account the disarray of US ground forces in Iraq as well as the untimely withdrawal of several thousand British troops from the Iraq war theater, many of whom were stationed in Southern Iraq on the immediate border with Iran.

Revealed last April by William Arkin, a former US intelligence analyst, writing in the Washington Post, TIRANNT was first established in May 2003, following the invasion of Iraq.

"In early 2003, even as U.S. forces were on the brink of war with Iraq, the Army had already begun conducting an analysis for a full-scale war with Iran. The analysis, called TIRANNT, for "theater Iran near term," was coupled with a mock scenario for a Marine Corps invasion and a simulation of the Iranian missile force. U.S. and British planners conducted a Caspian Sea war game around the same time. And Bush directed the U.S. Strategic Command to draw up a global strike war plan for an attack against Iranian weapons of mass destruction. All of this will ultimately feed into a new war plan for "major combat operations" against Iran that military sources confirm now exists in draft form. [This contingency plan entitled CONPLAN 8022 would be activated in the eventuality of a Second 9/11, on the presumption that Iran would be behind it]

... Under TIRANNT, Army and U.S. Central Command planners have been examining both near-term and out-year scenarios for war with Iran, including all aspects of a major combat operation, from mobilization and deployment of forces through postwar stability operations after regime change." (William Arkin, Washington Post, 16 April 2006)

The 2003 decision to target Iran under TIRANNT should come as no surprise. It is part of the broader military roadmap. Already during the Clinton administration, US Central Command (USCENTCOM) had formulated in 1995 "in war theater plans" to invade first Iraq and then Iran.

"The broad national security interests and objectives expressed in the President's National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Chairman's National Military Strategy (NMS) form the foundation of the United States Central Command's theater strategy. The NSS directs implementation of a strategy of dual containment of the rogue states of Iraq and Iran as long as those states pose a threat to U.S. interests, to other states in the region, and to their own citizens. Dual containment is designed to maintain the balance of power in the region without depending on either Iraq or Iran. USCENTCOM's theater strategy is interest-based and threat-focused. The purpose of U.S. engagement, as espoused in the NSS, is to protect the United States' vital interest in the region - uninterrupted, secure U.S./Allied access to Gulf oil." (USCENTCOM, complete reference here, emphasis added)

Read the rest here.

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Watada Will Go Back to Court

U.S. Army refiles charges against war objector
Sat Feb 24, 2007 12:50AM EST

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The U.S. government refiled charges on Friday against an Army officer who refused to fight in Iraq after his first court martial ended in a mistrial.

The Army charged First Lt. Ehren Watada with one count of missing movements and four counts of conduct unbecoming an officer. Watada, 28, faces a dishonorable discharge and up to six years in a military prison if convicted on all counts.

Earlier this month, a military judge declared a mistrial in the first known court martial of a U.S. Army officer for publicly refusing to serve in Iraq. The mistrial was based on a ruling that Watada had unknowingly signed a document that amounted to a confession of guilt.

At the time, Watada's lawyer said a retrial would constitute double jeopardy, which forbids a defendant from being tried twice for the same crime, and would seek to have a second case thrown out. There is no date set for a retrial.

The suit was refiled at Fort Lewis Army base south of Seattle.

Watada has admitted to not boarding a plane headed to Iraq with the rest of his unit and making public statements criticizing the war as illegal and accusing President George W. Bush's administration of deceiving the American people to enter into a war of aggression.

The defense made the argument that since the war is illegal, the order to deploy to Iraq is also illegal and following it would make Watada party to war crimes.


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What Sort of Bullshit Is This?

Prosecutors seek OK to create phony files

Florida's prosecutors are floating a proposal to the Legislature to give them the power to secretly falsify public court records -- with a judge's approval -- for undercover law enforcement purposes.

Spurred by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle, the draft bill would limit the authority to manufacture and plant fake documents in court files to 180 days. But it also provides for an unlimited number of 30-day extensions.

"Judges would be very involved in the monitoring. It all has to go through a judge," said Arthur I. 'Buddy' Jacobs, general counsel for the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, which supports the bill.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida opposes the idea.

"The fundamental problem is that it so goes against our notion of the way our justice system ought to work," said ACLU legislative director Randall Marshall. "How would we ever be able to trust anything in the judicial record knowing that something could be intentionally falsified with a judicial seal of approval?"

Tallahassee Public Defender Nancy Daniels said the proposal undermines constitutional protections for those charged with crimes.

Read the rest here.

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Ethnic Cleansing Is Afoot in New Orleans

A Domestic Marshall Plan to Transform America's 'Dark Ghettos'
By Ron Daniels
Feb 23, 2007, 13:55

Black America must revive the concept of a Domestic Marshall Plan to reverse the deterioration of the nation's 'dark ghettos' - most immediately, to restore New Orleans' exiled population. Dr. Daniel's suggests the campaign be called the Martin Luther King-Malcolm X Community Revitalization Initiative, a mobilization to begin on April 4. The guiding principle behind the campaign must be the idea that oppressed people should exercise the power to control their communities and the conviction that every person in this country is entitled to enjoy certain basic human rights, as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"We will call this proposal the Martin Luther King-Malcolm X Community Revitalization Initiative."

This article is based on a presentation made by Dr. Daniels at the Black Family Summit Policy Institute convened February 1, 2007, by the Institute of the Black World 21st Century at Howard University. It is a discussion piece which is intended to assess interest in and commitment to launching a bold initiative to compel the American public and the government to confront issues of racism, poverty and inequality in this country as dramatically exposed by Katrina.

In January at the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) "State of the Black World Forum" in Washington D.C., during discussion on creating a "New Force in Black America" to revitalize the Black Freedom Struggle, New York City Councilman Charles Barron remarked that neither the Democratic Party nor the Congressional Black Caucus has clearly signaled what explicitly "Black issues" they are prepared to advance since Democrats took control of Congress. In this regard it is important to remember that the Six Point Democratic Program for recapturing control of Congress did not include Katrina/New Orleans. Moreover, Katrina/New Orleans was completely absent from President Bush's State of the Union Address.

While there was no noticeable outcry from Black leaders protesting this disgraceful omission, Capital Hill insiders indicate that the Congressional Black Caucus is focusing on aid/assistance for New Orleans and the Gulf as a major priority. With Blacks once again demonstrating unflinching loyalty to the Democratic Party in the critical mid-term elections, however, there is still the overarching and compelling question as to what "race specific" initiatives will be advanced by the Democratic leadership in Congress to address crucial Black issues and concerns. Black America needs an answer to that question, and I believe that one of the responses ought to be to revive the concept of a Domestic Marshall Plan targeted at rebuilding New Orleans and America's "dark ghettos."

"The Six Point Democratic Program for recapturing control of Congress did not include Katrina/New Orleans."

I presented this idea at a recent Policy Institute convened by the Black Family Summit of IBW at Howard University. In so doing, I reminded the assembled organization heads, scholars and activists that it is important to realize that Katrina is a metaphor for the disaster wrought on Black America's urban and rural communities by years of benign and blatant neglect. This was/is manifested by the almost total abandonment of pro-active and corrective policies for problems of inner-city and rural communities by Democratic and Republic administrations. The toll on Black America, especially on Black working class and poor people, has been devastating. Many urban inner-city areas are like zones of desolation and despair, racked by chronic unemployment, underemployment, poverty, inadequate health facilities, environmental degradation, poor performing schools, the infestation of drugs, crime, gangs, the illicit economy, fear, police occupation and terror - all feeding a prison-jail industrial complex where Black and Brown people are the primary fodder. As depicted on the television series "The Wire," life in America's dark ghettos can be deadly and destructive of the aspirations of a people; the tragic consequence of broken individuals, families and communities.

Most importantly, contrary to the exhortations of "America's Dad," Bill Cosby, this is a fate which is not of our own choosing. Nor are these the same "ghettos" that past generations grew up in around the country. As William Julius Wilson observes, in the face of globalization, massive de-industrialization and the calculated shrinking of ameliorative public programs and services under the guise of creating a more efficient government, the most disadvantaged of our people are living in communities where "work has virtually disappeared." Moreover, there is an almost total collapse of supportive community based institutions like settlement houses, health care centers, hospitals and viable schools. And, African Americans in past generations did not grow up in communities where guns and drugs were so readily available and violence and deadly force was endemic to daily life.

"Ethnic cleansing is afoot in New Orleans."

Currently there is no acceptable response to our plight by policymakers in Washington. Total neglect or the conservative mantra of "blame the victim," is the order of the day. To the degree that there has been a response, it has been by developers moving in, aided and abetted by local governments, to displace Black working class and poor people from their neighborhoods, scattering them hither and thither as Whites have decided to recapture the "Chocolate Cities" of this nation. Gentrification has become the "Negro removal program" of the 21st century. It is precisely this kind of "ethnic cleansing" program that is afoot in New Orleans as local developers attempt to remake this African city to create a Disney World, theme park environment.

While we must continue to urge our people who are imprisoned by these conditions to do all they can to assume responsibility for rising above and overcoming the pathology which now afflicts them/us, we must be clear that the racist and exploitive policies of government are primarily responsible for our plight. Ultimately we must compel the government to rescue and transform this nation's dark ghettos. And this will require a massive allocation of resources, not only to improve the physical environment but to heal and restore broken lives and communities. The transformation of America's dark ghettos demands nothing less than a program equivalent to a Domestic Marshall Plan.

Read the rest of it here.

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It's Still About the Oil, Stupid

A David and Goliath Story: Iraq Labor vs. ExxonMobil, BP and Shell
By Kathlyn Stone
Feb 23, 2007, 13:10

According to British media, the US and UK governments are on track to achieve a March victory in Iraq. This victory will not be publicized nor will it mean an end to the occupation.

Written by Bush and Blair's big oil business partners who serve as the leaders' advisors on foreign policy, the new Iraq hydrocarbon law opens the door for international investors, led by BP, Exxon and Shell, to siphon off 75 percent of Iraq oil wealth for 30 years. This economic model is called a "Production Sharing Agreement." But is a 75/25 split, with bloated oil companies taking 75 percent of the country's wealth and leaving just 25 percent for the devastated Iraqis, a sharing agreement or an armed robbery?

The law is currently under consideration in the Iraq Parliament, with deputy prime minister Salih, chair of the oil committee, carrying the legislation.

Iraq's unions, if not its occupied government, are standing firm against the oil law. With the oil sector representing 95 percent of the country's revenues, and with only 17 of Iraq's 80 known oil fields under production, much is at stake.

The General Union of Oil Employees in Basra has taken a strong stand against the proposed law. GUOE's courageous members booted KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary, out of refinery workplaces shortly after the invasion despite Cheney's award of a 'no bid' contract. Members also went on a two-day strike last August, winning their demands for higher pay. From what one can glean from foreign press and unfiltered words from Iraq, so does every other union in Iraq. In his February 6 speech
at a conference held at Basra University to debate the oil law, GUOE president Hassan Jumaa Awad al Assadi minced no words. "Among the objectives America wishes to achieve from the military occupation of Iraq, all the causes of which we do not want to return to, but simply to emphasize one central objective of the American political leaders who crossed oceans and wasted billions of dollars, that is Iraqi oil. Indeed we in the Federation of Oil Unions consider this the most important reason for this foul war."

Assadi, who was jailed three times for opposing the former Baath regime, called on Iraq's Parliament to "bear the Iraqis in mind, to protect the national wealth, and to look at the neighboring countries. Have they introduced such laws even when their relations with foreign companies are closer than in Iraq? If those calling for production-sharing agreements insist on acting against the will of Iraqis, we say to them that history will not forgive those who play recklessly with the wealth and destiny of a people and that the curse of heaven and the fury of Iraqis will not leave them."

The oil workers must be braced for a response. After GUOE's first anti-privatization conference last summer, the U.S. and Iraqi governments responded by freezing the union's bank accounts.

Union members have been arrested and fired from their jobs. At least two union leaders, Hadi Saleh, of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unionists (IFTU) and Ali Hassan Abd of the GUOW, were assassinated since the invasion.

Saddam Hussein's 1987 Law 150, banning unions and union organizing remains in effect. In 2004 U.S. administrator Paul Bremer declared them illegal.

Read the rest here.

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Operation Iraqi Liberation (O.I.L.)

As we've been saying since we started publishing, "it's about the oil, stupid."

Oily truth emerges in Iraq
Juan Gonzalez (jgonzalez@nydailynews.com)
Originally published on February 21, 2007

Throughout nearly four years of the daily mayhem and carnage in Iraq, President Bush and his aides in the White House have scoffed at even the slightest suggestion that the U.S. military occupation has anything to do with oil.

The President presumably would have us all believe that if Iraq had the world's second-largest supply of bananas instead of petroleum, American troops would still be there.

Now comes new evidence of the big prize in Iraq that rarely gets mentioned at White House briefings.

A proposed new Iraqi oil and gas law began circulating last week among that country's top government leaders and was quickly leaked to various Internet sites - before it has even been presented to the Iraqi parliament.

Under the proposed law, Iraq's immense oil reserves would not simply be opened to foreign oil exploration, as many had expected. Amazingly, executives from those companies would actually be given seats on a new Federal Oil and Gas Council that would control all of Iraq's reserves.

In other words, Chevron, ExxonMobil, British Petroleum and the other Western oil giants could end up on the board of directors of the Iraqi Federal Oil and Gas Council, while Iraq's own national oil company would become just another competitor.

The new law would grant the council virtually all power to develop policies and plans for undeveloped oil fields and to review and change all exploration and production contracts.

Since most of Iraq's 73 proven petroleum fields have yet to be developed, the new council would instantly become a world energy powerhouse.

"We're talking about trillions of dollars of oil that are at stake," said Raed Jarrar, an independent Iraqi journalist and blogger who obtained an Arabic copy of the draft law and posted an English-language translation on his Web site over the weekend.

Take, for example, the massive Majnoon field in southern Iraq near the Iranian border, which contains an estimated 20 billion barrels. Before Saddam Hussein was toppled by the U.S. invasion in 2003, he had granted a $4 billion contract to French oil giant TotalFinaElf to develop the field.

In the same way, the Iraqi dictator signed contracts with Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian and Spanish companies to develop 10 other big oil fields once international sanctions against his regime were lifted.

The big British and American companies had been shut out of Iraq, thanks to more than a decade of U.S. sanctions against Saddam.

But if the new law passes, those companies will be the ones reviewing those very contracts and any others.

"Iraq's economic security and development will be thrown into question with this law," said Antonia Juhasz of Oil Change International, a petroleum industry watchdog group. "It's a radical departure not only from Iraq's existing structure but from how oil is managed in most of the world today."

Throughout the developing world, national oil companies control the bulk of oil production, though they often develop joint agreements with foreign commercial oil groups.

But under the proposed law, the government-owned Iraqi National Oil Co. "will not get any preference over foreign companies," Juhasz said.

The law must still be presented to the Iraqi parliament. Given the many political and religious divisions in the country, its passage is hardly guaranteed.

The main religious and ethnic groups are all pushing to control contracts and oil revenues for their regions, while the Bush administration is seeking more centralized control.

While the politicians in Washington and Baghdad bicker to carve up the real prize, and just what share Big Oil will get, more Iraqi civilians and American soldiers die each each day - for freedom, we're told.


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