30 April 2007

Convicted of Inhumane Treatment of Iraqi (aka Murder)

This is too predictable: murder an Iraqi and serve one year in prison. We have tried to watch for these cases, but unfortunately have missed a number of them. The pattern is all too clear - war crimes will no longer be punished in this new world order, courtesy of the USA.

First Brit War Crimes Convict Heads to Jail: UK Soldier Gets One Year for "Inhumane" Treatment of Iraqi Detainees

The first British soldier ever convicted of a war crime was officially dismissed from the Army on Monday and sent to jail to serve out a one-year sentence for the inhumane treatment of civilian detainees in Basra in 2003.

Following the hearing, a member of Payne's legal team indicated that the condemned soldier, reportedly feeling abandoned by the Army and his superiors, may be ready to talk about others involved in the abuse of prisoners.

The case originated from Payne's time stationed at the Basra Detention Center, where he and other soldiers enacted harsh treatment on detainees under their supervision, beating one to death. Baha Mousa had evidence of ninety-three separate wounds after his death. Six other soldiers were cleared of charges in Mousa's death.

Payne himself was earlier cleared of manslaughter and perverting the course of justice by a court martial, but admissions he made during those proceedings led him to be charged with war crimes under the International Criminal Court Act 2001.

Payne reportedly enjoyed conducting a "chorus" of prisoners: lining them up hooded and shackled, punching and kicking to create the "music" of screams, grunts, and cries. The Guardian's report makes clear that while the judge slammed Payne for doing something "particularly harmful" to the reputation of British troops, Justice McKinnon did not reserve criticism only for the soldier ...

Read it here.

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There Has Never Been a "Liberation" Like This One

From Arab Woman Blues

Something about "Liberation"...

This "liberation" has done us in.
There is not one person I know who has not been affected and whose life has not been altered, read - forever changed by so much "liberation".

You don't even have to be an Iraqi. This "liberation" has served as a perfect mirror reflecting the moral bankruptcy of some and the resilience of others...

Those who are faithful to Iraq - the concept of it - (now we are talking about concepts since the Reality of what was Iraq is something of the past!), those who are close to Iraq in spirit and mind lose sleep too...

I have received tons of mails from all over the world. Africa, India, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the USA.

Those who are close to Iraq in spirit feel alienated from their peers. They suddenly feel out of place, they suddenly no longer feel as if they belong to what was deemed a "familiar" environment. This "liberation" has affected them too...
Seems they, too, are as unable to handle so much "freedom"...
But they are a minority. I like to call them the "feeling" minority. These people and all honors to them have not lost the capacity to feel...Praise them for they have become a rare breed.

Some write to me expressing their own pain, some write to me telling me how they feel strangers in their own land and some write to me thanking me for "freeing" them with my anger...giving them that inner space and permission to express the repressed taboos of the "politically correct", to formulate their own anger vis a vis the lies and the deceptions...
And they write to me expressing their disgust.

Something about this Iraqi "liberation" is viscerally disgusting...

Something about it, something out of this world... Something unseen before, something unfathomable...

As if all the dirt and the scum of the Earth has risen to the surface like the sewage of the streets of Baghdad...

As if this Earth has not stopped vomiting all of its foul bitter acid bile ...covering the whole land of Ur with it.

Never, at least not to my knowledge, has a "liberation" produced so much human filth...
Never has a "liberation" managed to generate so many death mercenaries and contractors being paid up to 5'000 dollars a day with the sole aim of exterminating...and "pacifying".
Never has a country been so openly plundered and pillaged right in front of everyone's eyes and to the utter silence of its spectators...
Never have so many atrocities of an unspeakable kind, not even seen in the worst horror films go by under an aura of such great detached indifference...

When I mention that cadavers are deliberately left lying in the streets until they are bloated by death or chewed at by wild dogs, I am not believed...I am called extraordinary with extraordinary claims.
I am told, surely the civilized world will not allow that!?. I am then asked to prove it.
Like do you want me to send you a corpse by DHL or should I ask one of the mercenaries of Blackwater Inc. to carry one in his suitcase, courtesy of the Crusaders?

When I write to "friends" that some children are seen playing football with the skull of a dead man, something that has been confirmed by the Arab League Ambassador to Baghdad, I am told that I need psychiatric help...Surely no "liberation" will drive children to play ball with heads ?!

When I am told, that some members of a sectarian militias like the Badr Brigades or Mahdi Army of Iran presented a sunni woman with her baby boy roasted and on platter delivered in front of her doorsteps...I say to myself surely this "liberation" cannot give birth to so much cannibalism...and that maybe I do need psychiatric care after all.

When am told that an elderly woman waiting for her son in some street in Baghdad is presented with a plastic bag with her son in it in pieces...I feel I am watching a third rate horror show...and maybe I am having audible hallucinations.

But this is the reality of the Iraqi "liberation".
All these base, bestial, sadistic, psychopathic impulses have been unleashed and encouraged to flourish...

Iraq , the mirror of the West's "suppressed" bestiality? I leave you to ponder on this one.

But whatever you come up with, you must admit, there has never been a "liberation" like this one...ever.


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What We Didn't Get from Congress

Tomgram: Scahill, A Democratic Sell-out on Bush's Mercenaries

Let's be clear about what it is -- when it comes to "withdrawal" from Iraq -- that the President will veto this Wednesday. Section 1904(b) of the supplemental appropriations bill for the Pentagon, H.R. 1591, passed by the House and Senate, mandates that the Secretary of Defense "commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq not later than October 1, 2007, with a goal of completing such redeployment within 180 days." If you've been listening to network TV news shows or reading your local newspaper with less than an eagle eye, you might well be under the impression that -- just as the phrasing above seems to indicate -- a Democratic-controlled Congress has just passed a bill that mandates a full-scale American withdrawal from Iraq. (Reporters and commentators regularly speak of the Democrats' insistence that "American troops be withdrawn from Iraq.") But that's only until you start reading the exceptions embedded in the bill.

Here are the main ones. According to H.R. 1591, the Secretary of Defense is allowed to keep U.S. forces in Iraq for the following purposes:

1. "Protecting American diplomatic facilities and American citizens, including members of the United States Armed Forces": This doesn't sound like much, but don't be fooled. As a start, of course, there would have to be forces guarding the new American embassy in Baghdad (known to Iraqis as "George W's Palace"). When completed, it will be the largest embassy in the known universe with untold thousands of employees; then there would need to be forces to protect the heavily fortified citadel of the Green Zone (aka "the International Zone") which protects the embassy and other key U.S. facilities. Add to these troops to guard the network of gigantic, multibillion dollar U.S. bases in Iraq like Balad Air Base (with air traffic volume that rivals Chicago's O'Hare) and whatever smaller outposts might be maintained. We're talking about a sizable force here.

2. "Training and equipping members of the Iraqi Security Forces": By later this year, U.S. advisors and trainers for the Iraqi military, part of a program the Pentagon is now ramping up, should reach the 10,000-20,000 range (many of whom -- see above -- would undoubtedly need "guarding").

3. "Engaging in targeted special actions limited in duration and scope to killing or capturing members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations with global reach": This is a loophole of loopholes that could add up to almost anything as, in a pinch, all sorts of Sunni oppositional forces could be labeled "al-Qaeda."

An Institute for Policy Studies analysis suggests that the "protection forces" and advisors alone could add up to 40,000-60,000 troops. None of this, of course, includes U.S. Navy or Air Force units stationed outside Iraq but engaged in actions in, or support for actions in, that country.

Another way of thinking about the Democratic withdrawal proposals (to be vetoed this week by the President) is that they represent a program to remove only U.S. "combat brigades," adding up to perhaps half of all U.S. forces, with a giant al-Qaeda loophole for their return. None of this would deal with the heavily armed and fortified U.S. permanent bases in Iraq or the air war that would almost certainly escalate if only part of the American expeditionary forces were withdrawn (and the rest potentially left more vulnerable).

No less strikingly, in an era in which the "privatizing" of state functions is the rage, the enormous mercenary forces of private "security" companies like Blackwater USA, now fighting a shadow war alongside U.S. troops in Iraq, would be untouched. On this striking point Jeremy Scahill has much to say -- and he should know. He's the author of the surprise national bestseller, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, which will shake you to your combat boots when it comes to the nature of the mercenary age -- sorry, the age of "private security contractors" -- that we've now entered. No personal library that claims to make sense of our messy, bloody planet should be without his book. Tom


Who Will Stop the U.S. Shadow Army in Iraq? Don't Look to the Congressional Democrats
By Jeremy Scahill

The Democratic leadership in Congress is once again gearing up for a great sell-out on the Iraq war. While the wrangling over the $124 billion Iraq supplemental spending bill is being headlined in the media as a "show down" or "war" with the White House, it is hardly that. In plain terms, despite the impassioned sentiments of the anti-war electorate that brought the Democrats to power last November, the Congressional leadership has made clear its intention to keep funding the Iraq occupation, even though Sen. Harry Reid has declared that "this war is lost."

For months, the Democrats' "withdrawal" plan has come under fire from opponents of the occupation who say it doesn't stop the war, doesn't defund it, and insures that tens of thousands of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq beyond President Bush's second term. Such concerns were reinforced by Sen. Barack Obama's recent declaration that the Democrats will not cut off funding for the war, regardless of the President's policies. "Nobody," he said, "wants to play chicken with our troops."

As the New York Times reported, "Lawmakers said they expect that Congress and Mr. Bush would eventually agree on a spending measure without the specific timetable" for (partial) withdrawal, which the White House has said would "guarantee defeat." In other words, the appearance of a fierce debate this week, Presidential veto and all, has largely been a show with a predictable outcome.

Read the rest here.

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Critiquing Capitalism - R. Jensen

An Unsustainable System: Anti-Capitalism in Five Minutes

We know that capitalism is not just the most sensible way to organize an economy but is now the only possible way to organize an economy. We know that dissenters to this conventional wisdom can, and should, be ignored. There's no longer even any need to persecute such heretics; they are obviously irrelevant.

How do we know all this? Because we are told so, relentlessly -- typically by those who have the most to gain from such a claim, most notably those in the business world and their functionaries and apologists in the schools, universities, mass media, and mainstream politics. Capitalism is not a choice, but rather simply is, like a state of nature. Maybe not like a state of nature, but the state of nature. To contest capitalism these days is like arguing against the air that we breathe. Arguing against capitalism, we're told, is simply crazy.

We are told, over and over, that capitalism is not just the system we have, but the only system we can ever have. Yet for many, something nags at us about such a claim. Could this really be the only option? We're told we shouldn't even think about such things. But we can't help thinking -- is this really the "end of history," in the sense that big thinkers have used that phrase to signal the final victory of global capitalism? If this is the end of history in that sense, we wonder, can the actual end of the planet far behind?

We wonder, we fret, and these thoughts nag at us -- for good reason. Capitalism -- or, more accurately, the predatory corporate capitalism that defines and dominates our lives -- will be our death if we don't escape it. Crucial to progressive politics is finding the language to articulate that reality, not in outdated dogma that alienates but in plain language that resonates with people. We should be searching for ways to explain to co-workers in water-cooler conversations -- radical politics in five minutes or less -- why we must abandon predatory corporate capitalism. If we don't, we may well be facing the end times, and such an end will bring rupture not rapture.

Here's my shot at the language for this argument.

Capitalism is admittedly an incredibly productive system that has created a flood of goods unlike anything the world has ever seen. It also is a system that is fundamentally (1) inhuman, (2) anti-democratic, and (3) unsustainable. Capitalism has given those of us in the First World lots of stuff (most of it of marginal or questionable value) in exchange for our souls, our hope for progressive politics, and the possibility of a decent future for children.

In short, either we change or we die -- spiritually, politically, literally.

1. Capitalism is inhuman

There is a theory behind contemporary capitalism. We're told that because we are greedy, self-interested animals, an economic system must reward greedy, self-interested behavior if we are to thrive economically.

Are we greedy and self-interested? Of course. At least I am, sometimes. But we also just as obviously are capable of compassion and selflessness. We certainly can act competitively and aggressively, but we also have the capacity for solidarity and cooperation. In short, human nature is wide-ranging. Our actions are certainly rooted in our nature, but all we really know about that nature is that it is widely variable. In situations where compassion and solidarity are the norm, we tend to act that way. In situations where competitiveness and aggression are rewarded, most people tend toward such behavior.

Read the rest here.

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29 April 2007

Some Think Junior Is Missing

Bush Has Gone AWOL
By General William Odom

04/28/07 "ICH" -- -- The following is a transcript of the Democratic Radio Address delivered by Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.) on Saturday April 28, 2007:

“Good morning, this is Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army, retired.

“I am not now nor have I ever been a Democrat or a Republican. Thus, I do not speak for the Democratic Party. I speak for myself, as a non-partisan retired military officer who is a former Director of the National Security Agency. I do so because Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, asked me.

“In principle, I do not favor Congressional involvement in the execution of U.S. foreign and military policy. I have seen its perverse effects in many cases. The conflict in Iraq is different. Over the past couple of years, the President has let it proceed on automatic pilot, making no corrections in the face of accumulating evidence that his strategy is failing and cannot be rescued.

“Thus, he lets the United States fly further and further into trouble, squandering its influence, money, and blood, facilitating the gains of our enemies. The Congress is the only mechanism we have to fill this vacuum in command judgment.

“To put this in a simple army metaphor, the Commander-in-Chief seems to have gone AWOL, that is ‘absent without leave.’ He neither acts nor talks as though he is in charge. Rather, he engages in tit-for-tat games.

“Some in Congress on both sides of the aisle have responded with their own tits-for-tats. These kinds of games, however, are no longer helpful, much less amusing. They merely reflect the absence of effective leadership in a crisis. And we are in a crisis.

“Most Americans suspect that something is fundamentally wrong with the President’s management of the conflict in Iraq. And they are right.

“The challenge we face today is not how to win in Iraq; it is how to recover from a strategic mistake: invading Iraq in the first place. The war could never have served American interests.

“But it has served Iran’s interest by revenging Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran in the 1980s and enhancing Iran’s influence within Iraq. It has also served al Qaeda’s interests, providing a much better training ground than did Afghanistan, allowing it to build its ranks far above the levels and competence that otherwise would have been possible.

“We cannot ‘win’ a war that serves our enemies interests and not our own. Thus continuing to pursue the illusion of victory in Iraq makes no sense. We can now see that it never did.

“A wise commander in this situation normally revises his objectives and changes his strategy, not just marginally, but radically. Nothing less today will limit the death and destruction that the invasion of Iraq has unleashed.

“No effective new strategy can be devised for the United States until it begins withdrawing its forces from Iraq. Only that step will break the paralysis that now confronts us. Withdrawal is the pre-condition for winning support from countries in Europe that have stood aside and other major powers including India, China, Japan, Russia.

“It will also shock and change attitudes in Iran, Syria, and other countries on Iraq’s borders, making them far more likely to take seriously new U.S. approaches, not just to Iraq, but to restoring regional stability and heading off the spreading chaos that our war has caused.

“The bill that Congress approved this week, with bipartisan support, setting schedules for withdrawal, provides the President an opportunity to begin this kind of strategic shift, one that defines regional stability as the measure of victory, not some impossible outcome.

“I hope the President seizes this moment for a basic change in course and signs the bill the Congress has sent him. I will respect him greatly for such a rare act of courage, and so too, I suspect, will most Americans.

“This is retired General Odom. Thank you for listening.”

General Odom has served as Director of the National Security Agency and Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army’s senior intelligence officer. In his address, General Odom will discuss why he believes President Bush should sign the conference report on the Iraq Accountability Act.


[+/-]

The Smithfield Workers' Dispute

Smithfield Packing struggle mixes Black-Brown unity, environment & workers' rights
By Shafeah M’Bal and Peter Gilbert
Apr 27, 2007, 08:23

Smithfield Packing is a glaring example of how capitalism creates all kinds of victims of oppression, who when they take a broader view, can push the strategic weak point of the system and open a way for many others to win a victory.

Smithfield has spawned three different movements: one demanding the right of workers to organize a union and to collectively bargain with the company; another resisting environmental poisoning, and a third composed of immigrant workers and their allies fighting repression based on their nationality status.

Smithfield Packing is the second largest meat packing company in the U.S. and runs the world’s largest pork processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C. Smithfield workers, primarily Latin and African-American, butcher and pack 176,000 hogs per week under harsh health and safety working conditions. These workers have been fighting to establish a trade union for 14 years.

The company has increased its level of viciousness to fend off workers’ efforts. It has played Mexican and Black workers against each other, women workers against men and young versus old. It has attempted to intimidate Latin workers by threatening to have the government deport them.

Dirt, danger and discrimination

While unionized in most locations outside of North Carolina, in this southern state Smithfield has fought vigorously to prevent its employees from forming a union. Elections to unionize the plant held in 1994 and in 1997 were initially lost. But a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge made a landmark decision overturning the results. The decision charged Smithfield with multiple violations of federal labor law, violations that destroyed the conditions for a free and fair election.

Since the plant opened, Smithfield workers have fought for the right to organize a union and to collectively bargain in the face of criminal and sometimes violent repression by the company, at times with the state’s collusion.

In addition to the challenges to organizing any union in the U.S. South, especially with a very multinational workforce of mostly African-American and Latin@ workers, workers have faced spies, deportation and plant-closing threats, false arrests, police attacks and racist hate speech.

In 2006, after having been found guilty of a long list of illegal anti-union policies in the previous union election, Smithfield is now calling for a new election. Having experienced the threats, illegal firings and physical attacks at the previous election, workers are instead demanding full recognition of the union immediately.

As one worker, Ronnie Simmons, put it: “If the company held another election, they would just intimidate and violate our rights again and then we’d have to wait another ten years for it to wind its way through the courts. We need help now and we need our voices to be heard and respected now. We’ve been fighting for far too long. Our workers want a union now. It’s long overdue.”

The Employee Free Choice Act, which the U.S. Senate will debate next week, would allow all workers to form a union without having to be subjected to undemocratic elections where, like at Smithfield, workers are subject to attack and harassment by management. Some senators have threatened to filibuster to prevent a vote, and Bush has promised a veto.

To force the company to recognize the union, workers are building a more permanent movement rather than following traditional union strategies. Workers are simultaneously building community and political pressure on the company, while fighting for winnable gains inside the plant.

On Jan. 15, when workers stayed out of work to honor Dr. Martin Luther King and demand the holiday off, production dropped by 9,000 hogs. Last November, in response to firings of immigrant workers, hundreds of workers walked out for two days, and won concessions from the company including the rehiring of the fired workers.

Read the rest here.

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Amerikan Democracy Failing

Inside Texas' For-Profit Immigrant Prison: The Horrors of Hutto

"Help us and ask questions," read the note, secretly passed to a visitor from an immigrant child incarcerated in a Texas prison.

Based on their visits and interviews, the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service are calling for the immediate shutdown of the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas.

Local activists have brought national and international attention on this facility, owned by the Corrections Corporation of American (CCA), which imprisons children and their families for profit under the same horrendous conditions as when it was a prison for adults.

Approximately 400 immigrants are incarcerated in Hutto, and at least half of the prisoners are children, according to Texans United for Families. Many of the immigrants--who are limited to countries other than Mexico--have made requests for asylum in the U.S. They await deportation hearings without any charges for months, and sometimes years.

* * *

On March 6, the ACLU sued Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on behalf of 10 children in the Taylor jail. The ACLU based its lawsuit on a 1997 settlement protecting immigrant minors that resulted from a class-action suit accusing immigration officials of abusing minors. In its current initiative, the ACLU accuses Hutto of violating every provision of the 1997 settlement, including not giving children the right to wear their own clothes or have privacy.

The artwork of children tells no lies, and the artwork of children imprisoned at Hutto--posted on the ACLU Web site--is heartbreaking. A child sits atop a broken heart; a boy behind crudely drawn bars. The saddest of all--an American flag, with the words "HELP" scrawled between the two red stripes at the top.

* * *

According to depositions filed with the ACLU lawsuit, the guards at Hutto threaten unruly children with separation from their mothers. But this is often an echo of the threats that drove these families to the U.S. in the first place, to seek asylum.

Raouitee Pamela Puran came from Guyana after she and her four-year-old daughter Wesleyann Emptage were threatened by the people who kidnapped and murdered her husband.

"Wesleyann has heard the guards threaten that children who act up will be separated from their parents," Raouitee said in her deposition. "Almost everyone has heard this. Wesleyann is terrified that something like that could happen to her. She is afraid of the guards because she thinks they have the power to take me away from her."

Sherona Verdieu, a 13-year-old from Haiti whose father was kidnapped and eventually killed when her mother could not pay a ransom, said she worried about crying--that this could be a cause for separating her from her mother.

Elsa Carbajal--a 24-year-old woman from Honduras who survived a brutal rape committed by the son of a police officer who continued to terrorize her afterward--said that her 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter "think that they have done something wrong to be imprisoned in this jail."

Angelina, Elsa's daughter, suffered significant weight loss while in Hutto. She told her mother that she was always cold, but according to Elsa, she was yelled at for trying to take a blanket, while the guards wear gloves and heavy clothing.

The cruelty of the guards and prison officials that emerges from reading the lawsuit is hard to fathom.

Families are awakened at 5:30 or 5:45 a.m., and must be through bathing by 6 a.m. They are given 20 minutes to eat. "If we haven't finished," Elsa says, "the officials say they aren't interested--the time to eat has finished."

If the children haven't finished, they have to throw away the food. "In some cases," she says, "they have grabbed the food and thrown it in the trash in front of the children, and they cry because they say they are hungry."

After the 20-minute meal, the prisoners return to their cells "to do nothing," Elsa says. "They don't allow us to sleep, only to sit and wait for the hours, days, months to pass." The prisoners aren't allowed to have books sent to them, and a great deal of the day is spent in senseless head counts to make sure no one has escaped.

Nine-year-old Kevin Yourdkhani, the son of Iranian-born parents who have sought asylum in Canada for several years, ended up in Hutto after the plane he and his family were traveling on was forced to make an emergency landing in Puerto Rico, where U.S. officials questioned their passports.

In his deposition, Kevin complained about the ridiculous excuse for an education system at Hutto. "Students" in the class of 25 ranged in age from six to 12 years old. "All we do is color and draw pictures and watch Spanish movies," Kevin said. Kevin also said that his bed was small and cold, and stuck next to a smelly washroom. His mother had to use the toilet in front of him.

Once, when Kevin's dad came in to fix the bed, guards told him that if his father was in his room again, both parents would be put in separate jails, and Kevin would be sent to a foster home. "I cried and cried," he said. "I felt if I will be separated, I can never see my parents again, and I will get stepparents, and they will hurt me or maybe they will kill me."

Read it here.

[+/-]

The Defense Industry

Pentagon as Casino: Versailles on the Potomac

War profiteer. It used to be one of the dirtiest slurs in American politics, potent enough to sully the reputations of the rich and powerful. Now it's a calling card, something you might find highlighted in a defense contractor's corporate prospectus as a lure to attract investors looking for bulging profits and escalating dividends.

In the summer of 2000, the defense industry was mired in a prolonged slump, as was the US economy, which under the unforgiving lash of its neo-liberal architects had become dependent on the financial engines of the munitions makers. Unhappily for the defense industry and its investor class, the Soviet Union had disintegrated before their very eyes and the People's Republic of China, long considered the bogeyman state in waiting, had lustily embraced state capitalism instead of stepping up to the plate as a brawny military rival.

The big ticket items of the Cold War, from Stealth bombers to nuclear subs, from aircraft carriers to the Star Wars scheme, that had sustained the industry to the tune of tens of billions every year no longer had the slightest pretext for continued production, except as the most extravagant form of corporate welfare. Those weapons systems that weren't obsolete, such as the B-2 bomber and F-22 fighter, simply didn't work, such as Star Wars-lately remarketed as Ballistic Missile Defense.

To make matters more fraught for the weapons industry, the Pentagon was poised to put the finishing touches on its Quadrennial Defense Review, which sets procurement, budget and policy goals for the Defense Department. Of course, the Pentagon would never slash its own budget and, in fact, many anticipated that the QDR would call for increasing annual defense spending to something approaching 4 percent of the gross domestic product. However, it seemed likely that the generals would call for the termination of many of the multi-billion dollar relics of the Cold War in exchange for massive increases in spending on newer killing technologies geared for what has come to be known as "4th Generation Warfare."

Then 9/11 happened and all the anxieties of the weapons lobby evaporated in the flames of one fateful morning. The QDR, once so threatening, was simply another fat white paper that came and went without leaving so much as a scratch on the old Imperial Guard.

As we revealed here in CounterPunch, the Taliban offered Osama Bin Laden, and his top associates, the Bush administration on several occasions after the attacks of 9/11. Bush refused. They wanted a prolonged and ever-escalating war, not a deftly executed police action and not justice for the families of those slain and maimed by Bin Laden's kamikazes.

Instead, thousands of Cruise missiles were ordered up and, just like that, Boeing and Lockheed were back in business. For months, cruise missiles, J-DAM bombs and CB-87 cluster munitions shredded the hamlets and hovels of Afghanistan, killing more than 3,500 civilians in the early days of that one-sided war. But this was simply a bloody prelude to a more profound slaughter. For Afghanistan, in the immortal words of Donald Rumsfeld, wasn't a "target rich" environment. But Iraq certainly was. And only hours after the 9/11 attacks, Rumsfeld and his neocon coterie of laptop bombardiers began plotting the war on Saddam and the domestic propaganda campaign for how to sell it to a psychologically shattered and anxiety-ridden American public. The civilian body count in Iraq would climb much higher, topping 650,000 by the winter of 2007, with more than 200 Iraqis dying every day.

The Bush wars on Afghanistan and Iraq were misguided, counter-productive and illegal ventures, although entirely predictable outbursts of imperial vengeance. What is truly perverse is the fact that while one wing of the Pentagon was planning wars against a "faceless enemy" and a "rogue state", another wing was lobbying congress on behalf of the weapons companies to approve tens of billions in funding for all of the baroque artifacts of the Cold War, from Star Wars to Stealth fighters. Congress was only too happy to help. From the fall of 2001 through the end of 2002, not a single funding request for a big-ticket item went denied, from unneeded aircraft carriers to unwanted Boeing tankers.

But in order to fund these bailouts to the defense lobby for making weapons for a war that no longer existed, Congress had to rob other budgetary accounts. And here's where it gets truly bizarre. Intent on satiating the cravings for pork from their political patrons, the leadership of the Defense Appropriations committees, chaired until 2007 by Senator Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican, paid for these costly and useless projects by reprogramming billions from the so-called Operations and Maintenance accounts, which were being used to fund the logistics work for the on-the-ground wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Even the normally docile Office of Management and Budget raised a warning, writing in a letter to Stevens dated December 6, 2002: "These [Operations and Maintenance] reductions would undermine DoD's ability to adequately fund training, operations, maintenance, supplies and other essentials. They would seriously damage the readiness of our armed forces and undermine their ability to execute current operations, including the war on terrorism."

That warning letter (and thousands of documents like it), ignored by the war-hungry US press, is the congressional equivalent of the Pentagon Papers for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In order to shell out billions for Star Wars and the F-22 fighter, Congress took money from accounts that would have improved the terrible logistical planning in Iraq and bought essential items for the protection of US combat troops, such as body armor and armored Humvees. The blood of many a soldier maimed or killed in Iraq is indelibly stained on the hands of Stevens and his colleagues who choose to put the welfare of Boeing and Lockheed above the grunts in the field.

The Pentagon has become a kind of government operated casino, doling out billions in contracts to the big-time spenders in American politics: General Dynamics, Boeing, Raytheon, Bechtel, Lockheed and, of course, the bete noir of the Bush administration, Halliburton.

Read it here.

[+/-]

Junior's REAL Plan

Escalating Military Spending: Income Redistribution in Disguise
By Ismael Hossein-Zadeh

"Preservation, justification, and expansion of the military–industrial colossus, especially of the armaments industry and other Pentagon contractors, have become critical big business objectives in themselves."

How Escalation of War and Military Spending Are Used as Disguised or Roundabout Ways to Reverse the New Deal and Redistribute National Resources in Favor of the Wealthy

Critics of the recent U.S. wars of choice have long argued that they are all about oil. “No Blood for Oil” has been a rallying cry for most of the opponents of the war.

It can be demonstrated, however, that there is another (less obvious but perhaps more critical) factor behind the recent rise of U.S. military aggressions abroad: war profiteering by the Pentagon contractors. Frequently invoking dubious “threats to our national security and/or interests,” these beneficiaries of war dividends, the military–industrial complex and related businesses whose interests are vested in the Pentagon’s appropriation of public money, have successfully used war and military spending to justify their lion’s share of tax dollars and to disguise their strategy of redistributing national income in their favor.

This cynical strategy of disguised redistribution of national resources from the bottom to the top is carried out by a combination of (a) drastic hikes in the Pentagon budget, and (b) equally drastic tax cuts for the wealthy. As this combination creates large budget deficits, it then forces cuts in non-military public spending as a way to fill the gaps that are thus created. As a result, the rich are growing considerably richer at the expense of middle– and low–income classes.

Despite its critical importance, most opponents of war seem to have given short shrift to the crucial role of the Pentagon budget and its contractors as major sources of war and militarism—a phenomenon that the late President Eisenhower warned against nearly half a century ago. Perhaps a major reason for this oversight is that critics of war and militarism tend to view the U.S. military force as primarily a means for imperialist gains—oil or otherwise.

The fact is, however, that as the U.S. military establishment has grown in size, it has also evolved in quality and character: it is no longer simply a means but, perhaps more importantly, an end in itself—an imperial force in its own right. Accordingly, the rising militarization of U.S. foreign policy in recent years is driven not so much by some general/abstract national interests as it is by the powerful special interests that are vested in the military capital, that is, war industries and war–related businesses.

The Magnitude of U.S. Military Spending

Even without the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are fast surpassing half a trillion dollars, U.S. military spending is now the largest item in the federal budget. Officially, it is the second highest item after Social Security payments. But Social Security is a self-financing trust fund. So, in reality, military spending is the highest budget item.

The Pentagon budget for the current fiscal year (2007) is about $456 billion. President Bush’s proposed increase of 10% for next year will raise this figure to over half a trillion dollars, that is, $501.6 billion for fiscal year 2008. A proposed supplemental appropriation to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq “brings proposed military spending for FY 2008 to $647.2 billion, the highest level of military spending since the end of World War II—higher than Vietnam, higher than Korea, higher than the peak of the Reagan buildup.” [1]

Using official budget figures, William D. Hartung, Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York, provides a number of helpful comparisons:

• Proposed U.S. military spending for FY 2008 is larger than military spending by all of the other nations in the world combined.

• At $141.7 billion, this year's proposed spending on the Iraq war is larger than the military budgets of China and Russia combined. Total U.S. military spending for FY2008 is roughly ten times the military budget of the second largest military spending country in the world, China.

• Proposed U.S. military spending is larger than the combined gross domestic products (GDP) of all 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

• The FY 2008 military budget proposal is more than 30 times higher than all spending on State Department operations and non-military foreign aid combined.

• The FY 2008 military budget is over 120 times higher than the roughly $5 billion per year the U.S. government spends on combating global warming.

• The FY 2008 military spending represents 58 cents out of every dollar spent by the U.S. government on discretionary programs: education, health, housing assistance, international affairs, natural resources and environment, justice, veterans’ benefits, science and space, transportation, training/employment and social services, economic development, and several more items. [2]

Although the official military budget already eats up the lion’s share of the public money (crowding out vital domestic needs), it nonetheless grossly understates the true magnitude of military spending. The real national defense budget, according to Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute, is nearly twice as much as the official budget. The reason for this understatement is that the official Department of Defense budget excludes not only the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also a number of other major cost items. [3]

These disguised cost items include budgets for the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security; nuclear weapons research and development, testing, and storage (placed in the Energy budget); veterans programs (in the Veteran’s Administration budget); most military retiree payments (in the Treasury budget); foreign military aid in the form of weapons grants for allies (in the State Department budget); interest payments on money borrowed to fund military programs in past years (in the Treasury budget); sales and property taxes at military bases (in local government budgets); and the hidden expenses of tax-free food, housing, and combat pay allowances.

After adding these camouflaged and misplaced expenses to the official Department of Defense budget, Higgs concludes: “I propose that in considering future defense budgetary costs, a well-founded rule of thumb is to take the Pentagon's (always well publicized) basic budget total and double it. You may overstate the truth, but if so, you'll not do so by much.” [4]

Read all of it here.

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They Said ...

... that if Vietnam fell to the Commies, that Hawaii would be next. Now we read this talking head who says the consequences of our withdrawal from Iraq would be more extreme, and our inclination is to tell him he is full of shit. The consequence these morons missed is what would have happened if we had stayed the fuck out of the Middle East. What then?

War Called Riskier Than Vietnam: Military Experts Fretful Over Long-Term Consequences
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 29, 2007; Page A19

President Bush recently said that "there's a lot of differences" between the current war in Iraq and the Vietnam War.

As fighting in Iraq enters its fifth year, an increasing number of experts in foreign policy and national strategy are arguing that the biggest difference may be that the Iraq war will inflict greater damage to U.S. interests than Vietnam did.

"In terms of the consequences of failure, the stakes are much bigger than Vietnam," said former defense secretary William S. Cohen. "The geopolitical consequences are . . . potentially global in scope."

About 17 times as many U.S. troops died in the Vietnam War -- the longest war in U.S. history -- as have been lost in Iraq, the nation's third-longest war. Also, despite widespread public dissatisfaction with the Iraq war, the debate over it has not convulsed American society to the extent seen during the Vietnam conflict. However, Vietnam does not have oil and is not in the middle of a region crucial to the global economy and festering with terrorism, experts say, leading many of them to conclude that the long-term effects of the Iraq war will be worse for the United States.

"It makes Vietnam look like a cakewalk," said retired Air Force Gen. Charles F. Wald, a veteran of the Vietnam War. The domino theory that nations across Southeast Asia would go communist was not fulfilled, he noted, but with Iraq, "worst-case scenarios are the most likely thing to happen."

Iraq is worse than Vietnam "in so many ways," agreed Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., a retired Army officer and author of one of the most respected studies of the U.S. military's failure in Vietnam. "We knew what we were getting into in Vietnam. We didn't here."

Also, President Richard M. Nixon used diplomacy with China and the Soviet Union to exploit the split between them and so minimize the fallout of Vietnam. By contrast, Krepinevich said, the Bush administration has "magnified" the problems of Iraq by neglecting public diplomacy in the Muslim world and by not developing an energy policy to reduce the significance of Middle Eastern oil.

In strategic terms, the Vietnam conflict was understood even by many of its opponents as part of a global stance of containment, a policy that preceded the war and endured for 15 years after Saigon fell, noted retired Army Col. Richard H. Sinnreich, a veteran of two Vietnam tours of duty. "I'm not sure we can count on a similarly prompt strategic recovery this time around," he continued. "Bush's preemption strategy was controversial even before Iraq, and the war itself has been so badly mismanaged that even our allies doubt our competence."

Gary Solis, who fought as a Marine in Vietnam and more recently taught the law of war at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, said he is hearing more such discussions. "Most of my military acquaintances agree that the issues in our departure from Vietnam will pale beside those that will be presented by an Iraq withdrawal," Solis said.

In addition, some experts say that the ethical burden of the Iraq war is heavier for Americans. "Vietnam had an ongoing civil war when the U.S. intervened, while Iraq's civil war did not begin until after the U.S. intervention," said a State Department official who served in Iraq and is not authorized to speak to the media. "This makes it much harder -- morally -- for us to extricate ourselves, at least from where I sit."

Read the rest here.

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A Story We Post Every Couple of Months

Rebuilt Iraq Projects Found Crumbling
Published: April 29, 2007

In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.

The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time inspectors have found that projects officially declared a success — in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections — were no longer working properly.

The inspections ranged geographically from northern to southern Iraq and covered projects as varied as a maternity hospital, barracks for an Iraqi special forces unit and a power station for Baghdad International Airport.

At the airport, crucially important for the functioning of the country, inspectors found that while $11.8 million had been spent on new electrical generators, $8.6 million worth were no longer functioning.

At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked — Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment — and partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.

The newly built water purification system was not functioning either.

Officials at the oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, said they had made an effort to sample different regions and various types of projects, but that they were constrained from taking a true random sample in part because many projects were in areas too unsafe to visit. So, they said, the initial set of eight projects — which cost a total of about $150 million — cannot be seen as a true statistical measure of the thousands of projects in the roughly $30 billion American rebuilding program.

But the officials said the initial findings raised serious new concerns about the effort.

The reconstruction effort was originally designed as nearly equal to the military push to stabilize Iraq, allow the government to function and business to flourish, and promote good will toward the United States.

“These first inspections indicate that the concerns that we and others have had about the Iraqis sustaining our investments in these projects are valid,” Stuart W. Bowen Jr., who leads the office of the special inspector general, said in an interview on Friday.

The conclusions will be summarized in the latest quarterly report by Mr. Bowen’s office on Monday. Individual reports on each of the projects were released on Thursday and Friday.

Read the rest here.

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28 April 2007

Canada's Shame - Learning From the Yanks

Is this Canada's Abu Ghraib? Harper and O'Connor can't escape Afghan torture scandal
by Derrick O'Keefe
April 28, 2007
Seven Oaks

There are, to be sure, significant differences between the torture scandal currently engulfing Ottawa and the one that rocked the Bush administration three years ago. There are no gruesome photos and, unlike the U.S. abuse of Iraqi detainees, the torture in Afghanistan is being done by Canada's local allies.

But in many ways this scandal is equal to the outrage of Abu Ghraib. With the photographic evidence of the abuse in Iraq, even old Donald Rumsfeld could not have pulled the straight-faced performance of Stephen Harper and Gordon O'Connor in the House of Commons this week.

Faced with the shocking accounts from Afghan detainees featured in The Globe and Mail this week, Harper had the audacity on Tuesday to dismiss the reports as “allegations of the Taliban.”

Graeme Smith, The Globe and Mail correspondent in Afghanistan (and, by the Prime Minister's appalling logic, a Taliban spokesperson), conducted weeks of research touring “medieval nightmare” prisons and interviewing 30 detainees. Smith recorded accounts of beatings, electric shock, whipping, freezing and starvation among the methods employed by the security forces to which Canadian soldiers turned over their detainees.

On Wednesday, The Globe and Mail delivered the knockout punch to Harper's and the Conservatives' evasions and denials. The headline summed it all up, “What Ottawa doesn't want you to know: Government was told detainees often faced 'extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and detention without trial'.”

A 2006 report on Afghanistan compiled for Foreign Affairs Canada provides proof that the Conservative government knew about all of this, contrary to everything O'Connor and the PM have been saying for months - and what they, incredibly, continued to assert in the House this week. Key passages of the Afghanistan report were blacked out, but The Globe and Mail obtained an original copy. The censored content, what Ottawa didn't want us to know, includes the following passages:

"Despite some positive developments, the overall human rights situation in Afghanistan deteriorated in 2006...

Extra judicial executions, disappearances, torture and detention without trial are all too common. Freedom of expression still faces serious obstacles, there are serious deficiencies in adherence to the rule of law and due process by police and judicial officials. Impunity remains a problem in the aftermath of three decades of war and much needed reforms of the judiciary systems remain to be implemented." (The Globe and Mail, A1, April 25, 2007)

It is important to note that the torture scandal that has exploded in recent days is something that the anti-war movement and human rights activists have been trying to expose for years. Lawyers Against War, Amnesty International and academics like University of British Columbia professor Dr. Michael Byers have long been sounding the alarm that Canada was in violation of the Geneva Convention by handing over detainees to almost certain torture and abuse.

This includes, lest we forget, handing over prisoners to U.S. authorities, who have established their own facilities for “enemy combatants” at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan and the infamous Guantanamo base on occupied Cuban territory.

Canada's complicity in torture has also been a motivation for the many groups across the country advocating for troops out of Afghanistan. Those who have defended the current NATO mission as a “humanitarian intervention” have lost a lot of credibility this week.

For instance, in a recent feature essay in This Magazine, Vancouver journalist Jared Ferrie does not mention torture once and makes a bold assertion, “for all its flaws, the current Afghan government's human rights record is light years ahead of any in the past three decades.”

Rather than “light years ahead,” Afghanistan's current situation looks like more of the same that the country has endured for decades:

Counter-insurgency war, corrupt government, “medieval” prisons and widespread torture. This has accompanied the long tradition of foreign intervention, pursued in turn by the UK, the USSR and the U.S.

Canada is now deeply complicit in all of this, and neither the denials of Stephen Harper nor the rationalizations of liberal interventionists will be able to change that fact.

*Derrick O'Keefe is a founding editor of the weekly on-line journal Seven Oaks Magazine and a co-chair of Vancouver's StopWar coalition.


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Somalia - Salim Lone Talks to Democracy Now

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The Same War Against the World's Poor

Four Million Refugees: Afghanistan and Iraq are the Same War

Four years ago the U.S. and Britain unleashed war on Iraq, a nearly defenseless Third World country barely half the size of Saskatchewan.

For twelve years prior to the invasion and occupation Iraq had endured almost weekly U.S. and British bombing raids and the toughest sanctions in history, the "primary victims" of which, according to the UN Secretary General, were "women and children, the poor and the infirm." According to UNICEF, half a million children died from sanctions related starvation and disease.

Then, in March 2003, the U.S. and Britain --possessors of more weapons of mass destruction than the rest of the world combined --attacked Iraq on a host of fraudulent pretexts, with cruise missiles, napalm, white phosphorous, cluster and bunker buster bombs and depleted uranium (DU) munitions.

The British Medical Journal The Lancet published a study last year estimating Iraqi war deaths since 2003 at 655,000, a mind-boggling figure dismissed all-too readily by the British and American governments despite widespread scientific approval for its methodology (including the British government's own chief scientific adviser).

On April 11, 2007, the Red Cross issued a report entitled "Civilians without Protection: the ever-worsening humanitarian crisis in Iraq." Citing "immense suffering," it calls "urgently" for " respect for international humanitarian law." Andrew White, Anglican Vicar of Baghdad added, "What we see on our television screens does not demonstrate even one per cent of the reality of the atrocity of Iraq"

The UN estimates two million Iraqis have been "internally displaced," while another two million have fled --largely to neighbouring Syria and Jordan, overwhelming local infrastructure.

An attack such as that on Iraq, neither in self-defence nor authorized by the United Nations Security Council is, in the words of the Nuremberg Tribunal that condemned the Nazis, "the supreme international crime." According to the Tribunal's chief prosecutor, US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, such a war is simply mass murder.

Most Canadians are proud that Canada refused to invade Iraq. But when it comes to Afghanistan, we hear the same jingoistic bluster we heard about Iraq four years ago. As if Iraq and Afghanistan were two separate wars, and Afghanistan is the good war, the legal and just war.

In reality, Iraq and Afghanistan are the same war.

That's how the Bush administration has seen Afghanistan from the start; not as a defensive response to 9/11, but the opening for regime change in Iraq (as documented in Richard A. Clarke's Against all Enemies).That's why the Security Council resolutions of September 2001 never mention Afghanistan, much less authorize an attack on it. That's why the attack on Afghanistan was also a supreme international crime, which killed at least 20,000 innocent civilians in its first six months. The Bush administration used 9/11 as a pretext to launch an open-ended so-called "War on Terror" --in reality a war of terror because it kills hundreds of times more civilians than the other terrorists do.

That the Karzai regime was subsequently set up under UN auspices doesn't absolve the participants in America's war, and that includes Canada. Nor should the fact that Canada now operates under the UN authorized International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mislead anyone. From the start, ISAF put itself at the service of the American operation, declaring "the United States Central Command will have authority over the International Security Assistance Force" (UNSC Document S/2001/1217). When NATO took charge of ISAF that didn't change anything. NATO forces are always ultimately under US command. The "Supreme Commander" is always an American general, who answers to the American president, not the Afghan one.

Canadian troops in Afghanistan not only take orders from the Americans, they help free up more American forces to continue their bloody occupation of Iraq.

Read the rest here.

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The FDA Drug Company

U.S. Health Freedom on Verge of Collapse
By Byron J. Richards, CCN

A new attack against health freedom, drug safety, and dietary supplements was launched last week by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) with major support from Michael Enzi (R-WY). It is called the Food and Drug Administration Revitalization Act (S1082). This legislation was planned over the past few years working hand-in-glove with the FDA’s dysfunctional management and legal team – meaning this legislation was written for the profits of Big Pharma and Big Biotech AT THE EXPENSE OF SAFETY AND HUMAN HEALTH.

S1082 is a Trojan Horse bill that pretends to address safety issues. Unbelievably, the bill turns the FDA into a drug development company that will expose Americans to new and dangerous biological drugs that have little testing to prove safety or effectiveness. And to top it off, the bill gives broad new regulatory powers to the FDA that can be used to frivolously attack dietary supplements and forward the FDA management’s anti-American globalization agenda.

On April 18, 2007, S1082 was approved by the HELP committee (which Kennedy and Enzi control) and now moves to the floor of the Senate. In a slick move, Kennedy has attached his long-planned FDA/Big Pharma “reform” measures to the renewal of Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA). Current PDUFA law expires later this year and must be reviewed by Congress. PDUFA allows Big Pharma to pay the FDA fees to speed the approval of its drugs. The new Kennedy bill will increase these FDA bribes to 380 million dollars in 2008, well over 50% of the FDA budget for new drug approvals. This is like paying the mob for protection. Kennedy, by replacing the existing PDUFA law with this new bill (S1082), is ensuring that his twisted legislation is the one that will be put before the Senate for a vote.

The FDA Drug Company, an Agency with New Regulatory Power

It is hard for anyone to comprehend that the agency that is supposed to be in charge of drug safety is about to become a drug company. It is astonishing that the FDA will now manage a full scale business activity that uses a “non profit” foundation as a shield to avoid international patent problems, protect proprietary rights of its commercial drug-development enterprise, and massively expands FDA regulatory powers to quickly remove anything from the market that is competition to its own products and licensing agreements.

This new FDA business enterprise is called the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the Food and Drug Administration (see pages 105-125). In previous versions of the Kennedy bill it was going to be an independent drug company within the FDA (the Reagan-Udall Institute for Applied Biomedical Research). In the current bill it is a “non profit” collaboration of the FDA, private industry, government funding, and private funding. It is run directly by the FDA even though it pretends to not be part of the government. Under this scam taxpayers will foot the bill for drug development and then be charged outrageous prices for the drugs. Furthermore, the new bill seeks to allow a massive expanse of FDA regulatory power through this new foundation. For example, on pages 106-107 the bill states:

“The purpose of the Foundation is to advance the mission of the Food and Drug Administration to modernize medical, veterinary, food, food ingredient, and cosmetic product development, accelerate innovation, and enhance product safety….The Foundation shall [take] into consideration the Critical Path reports and priorities published by the Food and Drug Administration, identify unmet needs in the development, manufacture, and evaluation of the safety and effectiveness, including post approval, of devices, including diagnostics, biologics, and drugs, and the safety of food, food ingredients, and cosmetics.”

Through this foundation the FDA is seeking broad new regulatory power that it currently does not possess. This will include the authority to attack any dietary supplement (which are food ingredients) as unsafe based on its use of “Critical Path” technology. This means the FDA will use proteomics (the advanced study of proteins in biological systems) to assess changes in biomarkers (the change in the state of a protein at the molecular level) in order to establish whatever it wants to consider as a risk. The FDA can slant this technology, based on their own personal opinions, to make anything they want appear as a risk – including your favorite dietary supplements that you use to stay healthy.

Read the rest here.

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Profoundly Pissed Off

We're with this guy - we're sick and tired of MSM lies, charades, and money. Kick all the bastards out, or as Rubinson suggest, "Ignore them."

Bill Moyers on PBS. Justified outrage of an anti-war activist
By David Rubinson
Apr 27, 2007, 18:23

I recently sent you a heads up about the Bill Moyers special that aired last night on PBS. (Transcript and replay) For this I am deeply ashamed, and I apologize. I told you that this would be a good thing to watch, that it would shed some needed light on the media industrial governmental conspiracy to sell the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Well, I was wrong. Wrong squared. I suspended my disbelief for one minute, put my bullshit detector on pause, and bammo. The Moyers show was a gigantic crock. He committed precisely the same egregious errors he so piously attributed to the bad guys. He sold us a lie.

Only ONE sentence of anything approaching the real truth was allowed to stick its head outside the sheets of complicity that shrouded Moyers' whitewash. Only Phil Donahue said it: "It's good for business." Moyers played the same game which got us into Iraq, and has gotten us into myriad wars of overthrow and regime change since the nineteenth century. (The concept of the "embedded" journalist was in fact created in the nefarious Mexican War of 1848.)

Moyers limited his sources to the same major media co conspirators (CBS, CNN, Wash Post, NY Times) who colluded last time, and have colluded every single time the Government and their big business bosses have decided it was "good for business" to have a war. He paraded Dan Rather and many similar pimp media Meas who Culpa'ed all over the screen, but Moyers never got to the true story. The war, as all others before it, was begun solely to further the venal and rapacious interests of American business and power. The war was justified on totally mendacious grounds, invented by the government, and spread like fungus by major media. The major media depends on the kindness and advertising of the very people who benefit the most from the war, and it participated with great vigor in the selling of the war and its justification, moral and otherwise.

The business interests that wanted the war, paid the government, and elected officials to create a scenario where the war could be justified and prosecuted. The business interests that wanted the war, paid the media and its journalists to not just go along but play a strong and active role in selling the lie. One so-called "progressive" voice was heard- that of Norman Solomon, ( of the so-called Progessive Democrats, if your stomach can take it) who got the job of explaining gosh how did this all happen ? Solomon appears to be angling to run for something pretty soon. He has turned to a Politicians' Ptolemaic Progressiveness-- perchance he will run on the Ostrich Party ticket. "Well", Norman explained, "we were all bamboozled."

Never mentioned: the hundreds, the thousands of anti war blogs, organizations, newspapers, monthlies, writers, and just plain folks, who saw and loudly and demonstratively spoke the truth and who were purposefully ignored, derided-- and often persecuted- for their actions. Never even whispered: the fact that millions of people marched and demonstrated and fought to stop the wars.

Moyers did exactly what he accused the bad guys of doing- he pursued a willful ignorance, refusing to recognize or reveal that many of us were right, and were loud and were ubiquitous, and were purposely ignored by ALL of those who benefited from the war. The facts were all out there. WE were not bamboozled. WE were ignored, vilified, and hounded by Homeland Security. The press did not snooze. The press was not fooled, nor bamboozled nor tricked.

It is not enough that these whores apologize.

Apology NOT accepted.

What are they gonna DO about it ? Thass what I wanna know. Selling us another pile of doggie poop and telling us its Mount Ararat is NOT gonna be OK. Moyers and PBS proved to be two more allies in selling us the big lie, and should be hounded outta town for it. Even better, they should be ignored. We have serious and brilliant sources for truth available to anyone and everyone. They are NOT on network or cable TV.

They are NOT printed by giant corporations. You KNOW where to find the truth, and ignorance is no excuse. Shame on Moyers, and shame on me for suggesting you watch it. Time to go and read something real. You know where to find it, but if you don't, I'll be very happy to send you a list. It's all free. Our lives depend on it.


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ALBA - An Extraordinary Achievement!
By Arthur Shaw
Apr 27, 2007, 11:42

The third summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for America (ALBA) is set to begin April 28 and end the next day in Barquisimetro, Venezuela. ALBA is a socioeconomic and political organization of Latin American and Caribbean states that fosters development and integration of its members through fair trade and wide-ranging cooperation, rather than by imperialist exploitation and the so-called "free trade" touted by the US imperialists.

The idea of the international organization was formulated in 2004 by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and it quickly won the support of Cuban President Fidel Castro. The two leaders formally launched the organization in April 2005 at a summit between them in Havana. At the 2005 summit, the two leaders signed about 50 deals that have in only two years more than quadrupled trade between the two countries.

The 2005 ALBA deal between Cuba and Venezuela was bilateral in genesis but multilateral in effect. The two countries started a program under ALBA which they called Mission Miracle which aims to restore the sight of over 2,000,000 blind people in Latin America and Caribbean. In the beginning, Cuba provided the medical services and Venezuela provided the money for the program. Today, ALBA's Mission Miracle has restored the eyesight of almost 500,000 Latin Americans and Caribbeans from 28 different countries, who, for the most part, have been flown to Havana or to Caracas for eye surgery. Transportation, surgery, dinners, and housing in Havana and Caracas are free of charge. Another ALBA program intends to graduate 200,000 physicians in 10 years in Latin America and the Carribean. Already two Schools of Medicine functioning, one in Cuba and one in Venezuela, and more are planned in other countries.

Mission Miracle is a glorious display of revolutionary humanism which bourgeois society, utterly decadent, cannot comprehend or otherwise appreciate.

The astonishing success of the ALBA relationship between Venezuela and Cuba stimulated the interest of other Latin American and Caribbean countries in the organization. At the 2006 summit in Havana, Bolivia joined ALBA under the leadership of newly elected President Evo Morales. Both Venezuela and Cuba have since poured billions of dollars of aid into Bolivia, the poorest country in South America.

Among other things, Cuba has already dispatched well over a 1000 doctors to Bolivia. They are treating the Bolivian population without charge. They have built over a dozen hospitals and clinics of various kinds and equipped these facilities with the latest medical equipment and supplies, most of which were manufactured in Cuba. Cuba has also launched the world famous "Yes, I can" program that aims to wipe out illiteracy in Bolivia in 30 months. In the sphere of fair trade, Cuba and Venezuela have agreed to purchase all of Bolivian soy exports, if necessary, after the US imperialists, led by Mr. George W. Bush, indicated that US market access will be denied to Bolivia soy in favor of soy exported from Colombia. Soy is Bolivia's main agricultural export.

Venezuelan trade and cooperation with Bolivia under the auspices of ALBA is so massive and wide-ranging that the people and leadership of other Latin America and the Caribbean countries are amazed. Venezuela has helped Bolivia with its current energy needs and with the development of Bolivia's immense reserves of natural gas. Venezuela has also helped Bolivia escape from its bondage to predatory international financial organizations like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Inter American Development Bank, all three institutions are totally dominated by the US imperialists.

When Bolivia joined ALBA at the 2006 summit in Havana, Daniel Ortega was present as an observer. At the time Ortega was a presidential candidate in Nicaragua. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez walked up to Mr. Ortega and said "Daniel, you should come back to this meeting next year [April 2007] as the president of Nicaragua." Since then the people have elected Ortega as their president in another sweeping democratic victory for the left in Latin America. On Saturday, April 28, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is expected to be in Barquisimetro, Venezuela at the third summit of ALBA. But Ortega didn't wait for the 2007 summit; Nicaragua joined ALBA on the same day that Ortega took the oath of office in January 2007.

Nicaragua, which was a close ally of US imperialists until the November 2006 presidential election, is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere after Haiti. Bolivia is the poorest in South America and the third poorest in the hemisphere.

Expecting the same kind of aid that Bolivia has received, not even the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie, which ordinarily grovels before US imperialists, has seriously criticized Nicaragua's decision to join ALBA. The Cubans are now doing their thing in Nicaragua in the fields of health care, education, engineering, security, etc. The Venezuelans are doing their thing, again on a truly massive scale, with special emphasis in the fields of energy cooperation, financial assistance, health care, education, agriculture, and housing.

Positive results from ALBA in Nicaragua are already discernible after only four months of membership.

In February 2007, Hugo Chavez visited three English-speaking Caribbean countries --Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda. The heads of government of the three countries are respectively Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister Ralph E. Gonsalves, and Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer.

The three Caribbean heads of government signed a memorandum of understanding that says their countries support the "principles" on which ALBA is based.

It is still unclear what, if anything, this means. We know that trade and cooperation agreements between the three English-speaking Caribbean countries and Venezuela and Cuba have existed for years, even before the ALBA relationships that involve Bolivia and Nicaragua. So, this signed memorandum of understanding contemplates something more than mere "principles," because Venezuelans and Cubans are already working in the three countries in a variety of fields. The three Caribbean countries are already members of Petrocaribe through which Venezuela supplies oil and gas to them on preferential terms.

The three Caribbean gentlemen named above don't come off as card-carrying revolutionaries like Chavez, Castro, Morales, and Ortega. Rather Skerrit, Gonsalves, and Spencer resemble middle class liberals; so one has to be cautious about the legal effect of ALBA memorandum of understanding that they signed. Whatever their political and ideological identity, they are political winners in their respective countries and they have a voice in Caricom, OAS, UN and number of other important international bodies.

Indeed, the three countries seem to support ALBA more in practice than in principle.

What appears to be the case is that the three English-speaking Caribbean countries have some kind of relationship with ALBA that lies between membership and non-membership. Perhaps, their relationship will be more clearly defined this week at the third ALBA summit in Barquisimetro, Venezuela, if they show.

There is a possibility that Ecuador may join ALBA. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is now engaged in a bitter political fight to rewrite the constitution of Ecuador. So, now may not be the most opportune moment to enter ALBA formally although Correa may show at the summit in Barquisimetro this week as an observer.

In May 2007, ALBA will launch its international TV network for member countries and others to promote among other things, socialism, democracy, proletarian internationalism and anti-imperialism

Now, finally, to the big and burning question.

Who will represent Cuba at Barquisimetro?

The idea of a summit implies a meeting of either heads of state or of government. The president of Cuba is both the head of state and of government. However, Fidel Castro, 80, is recovering from a serious illness and his brother Raul serves as acting head of state and government. With Fidel in the hospital, it is unlikely that Raul will leave the country. The third ranking official in the Cuban government seems to be Commander of the Revolution Juan Almeida, a vice president of the council of state like Raul, but Almeida doesn't go abroad often.

This leaves, among a few others, Carlos Lage, yet another vice president of the council of state or Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Rogue to head the Cuban delegation to Barquisimetro. The requirements of protocol imply that it will be Lage because he, as a Cuban vice president, seems closer in status to a head of state than the foreign minister.

In the unlikely event, that Fidel has sufficiently recovered, it's possible that he will pop up at Barquisimetro and shock the world. This is the kind of thing he likes to do. Again, this is ... lamentably ... unlikely.

Given the pathological attempts by the US imperialists to isolate Venezuela and Cuba, ALBA is an extraordinary achievement for all of the seven or so countries involved and especially for the Venezuelans and their exceptionally talented president.

© Copyright 2007 by AxisofLogic.com


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Crystalline Clarity Re: Implications of the "War on Terror"

Annual terrorism report will show 29% rise in attacks
By Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - A State Department report on terrorism due out next week will show a nearly 30 percent increase in terrorist attacks worldwide in 2006 to more than 14,000, almost all of the boost due to growing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. officials said Friday.

The annual report's release comes amid a bitter feud between the White House and Congress over funding for U.S. troops in Iraq and a deadline favored by Democrats to begin a U.S. troop withdrawal.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her top aides earlier this week had considered postponing or downplaying the release of this year's edition of the terrorism report, officials in several agencies and on Capitol Hill said.

Ultimately, they decided to issue the report on or near the congressionally mandated deadline of Monday, the officials said.

"We're proceeding in normal fashion with the final review of this and expect it to be released early next week," State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said.

A half-dozen U.S. officials with knowledge of the report's contents or the debate surrounding it agreed to discuss those topics on the condition they not be identified because of the extreme political sensitivities surrounding the war and the report.

Based on data compiled by the U.S. intelligence community's National Counterterrorism Center, the report says there were 14,338 terrorist attacks last year, up 29 percent from 11,111 attacks in 2005.

Forty-five percent of the attacks were in Iraq.

Worldwide, there were about 5,800 terrorist attacks that resulted in at least one fatality, also up from 2005.

The figures for Iraq and elsewhere are limited to attacks on noncombatants and don't include strikes against U.S. troops.

Even after this year's report was largely completed and approved, Rice and her aides this week called for a further round of review, in part to avoid repeating embarrassing missteps of recent years in the report's release, officials said. The review process is being led by Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, formerly the nation's intelligence czar.

The U.S. intelligence community is said to be preparing a separate, classified report on terrorist "safe havens" worldwide, and officials have debated whether Iraq meets that definition.

The report can be expected to be used as ammunition for both sides in the domestic battle over the Iraq war.

President Bush and his aides routinely call Iraq the "central front" in Bush's war on terrorism and likely will say that the preponderance of attacks there and in Afghanistan prove their point.

But critics say the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq have worsened the terrorist threat.

The contention by Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that al-Qaida terrorists were in Iraq and allied with the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein before the invasion has been disproved on numerous fronts.

In September, a Senate Intelligence Committee report found that Saddam rejected pleas for assistance from al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and tried to capture another terrorist whose presence in Iraq is often cited by Cheney, the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"Postwar findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qaida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qaida to provide material or operational support," the Senate report said.

Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA officer who also worked in counterterrorism at the State Department, said that while the new report would show major increases in attacks last year in Iraq and Afghanistan, it could chart reductions in mass casualty attacks in the rest of the world.

"The good news is ... we're seeing verifiable and drastic reductions," he said.

Among the major strikes were bombings in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Dahab on April 24, which killed 23 people and injured more than 60, and aboard trains in Mumbai, India, that left more than 200 dead and in excess of 700 wounded on July 11.

In 2004, the State Department was forced to correct a first version of the report that the administration had used to tout progress in Bush's war on terror. The original version had undercounted the number of people killed in terrorist attacks in 2003, putting it at less than half of the actual number.

In 2005, the department was again accused of playing politics with the report when it decided not to publish the document after U.S. officials concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985.

The outcry forced Rice to drop that plan and publish the report.


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27 April 2007

The Saddest Song We Know ...

"Child of War"

[+/-]

Where Is Robin Hood When We Need Him?

Rip-off Iraq

The plundering of Iraq's wealth, first by the UN and now by Iraq's new Green Zone czars, is the biggest, most shameful financial-political scandal of our times, writes Ramzy Baroud*

Locating Dartmouth House, where Hans von Sponeck, former UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq was scheduled to speak in London 18 April, was a challenge. Yet having been lost for an hour in the ever-confusing and expanding city of London was the least of my concerns the moment I slipped quietly into the lecture hall. His statements were shocking, as were his many statistics: Iraq was simply and shamelessly robbed blind during the period of US-championed UN sanctions. Sadly, the robbery and mismanagement continue to this day, but now the figures are much more staggering.

As Mr von Sponeck spoke, I reflected on my lengthy interview with Iraq's former Ambassador to the United Nations Mohamed Al-Duri. Al-Duri, being interviewed for the first time by English-language media since taking up his post at the UN, revealed to me in early 2001, in equally shocking detail, what sanctions had done to his country and people. He claimed that the UN was a key part of the problem. Led by two countries, the US and Britain, the UN Oil for Food Programme and the "humanitarian" mission it established in Iraq was reducing Iraqis to beggary, robbing the country blind and mis-managing funds, whereas the large bulk fuelled UN-related missions and operations, with needy Iraqi families receiving next to nothing. He spoke of the manipulation of Iraq's wealth for political purposes and alleged that the UN was a tool in the hands of the US government, aimed at encouraging widespread popular dissatisfaction with Saddam's government, before the country was dragged into war.

In hindsight, Al-Duri's assessment was very accurate. Promoting his new book, A Different Kind of War, von Sponeck reiterated in essence and substance Al-Duri's claims; the only difference is that von Sponeck was an insider; his numbers and stories impeccable and hardly contestable. It's no wonder that one and a half years after taking up his post in Baghdad, in 1998, he resigned. Even within such an uncongenial bureaucracy like the UN, some people still possess a living conscience; von Sponeck was and remains a man of great qualities.

By March 2003, when American forces invaded Iraq, the UN was generating $64 billion in sales of Iraqi oil, according to von Sponeck. But scandalously, only $28 billion reached the Iraqi people. If distributed evenly, each Iraqi received half a US dollar per day. According to UN figures, an individual living under one dollar per day is classified as living in "abject poverty". Even during the most destructive phases of the war with Iran, Iraq managed to provide relatively high living standards. Its hospitals were neither dilapidated nor did its oil industry lie in ruins. Only after the advent of UN sanctions in 1991 did Iraqis suffer with such appalling magnitude. Alas, the tyranny of Saddam Hussein expanded to become the tyranny of the international community as well.

"Neither the welfare nor sovereignty of the Iraqi people were respected," by the UN and its two main benefactors, asserted von Sponeck. The UN Security Council's "elected 10 or veto-wielding five" had nothing for Iraq but "empty words," and there were "deliberate efforts to make life uncomfortable (for the Iraqis) through the Oil for Food Programme". All efforts to modernise Iraq's oil industry were blocked, said von Sponeck, at the behest of "two governments that blocked all sorts of items," necessary for even basic living -- again, the US and Britain, the same two that invaded and currently occupy Iraq. The logic in all of this is clear; the "pre- emptive" war on Iraq was but an extension of the sanctions regime.

The assessments of Al-Duri and von Sponeck converge, revealing the shameful intents of the US government and its followers many years before the horror of 9/11 polarised public opinion and allowed Washington's political elites, the neoconservatives and contractors, to make their "case for war". But where did the money go, during the sanctions and now, four years after the invasion?

Von Sponeck reports that a large chunk -- 55 per cent of the money generated from Iraq's oil -- went to fund the UN's own inadequate "humanitarian" programmes. Much of the rest was usurped by the UN Compensation Commission, entrusted with handling damages claims made by those allegedly harmed by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. According to von Sponeck, the Iraqi oil "pie" was so large there was plenty for everyone: Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey, and all the rest. But most ironically, the commission awarded a large sum of money to two Israeli kibbutzim in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, for allegedly losing some of their income due to the fact that the war damaged the tourism industry in Israel.

The robbery in Iraq hardly discontinued after the "liberation". On the contrary, it intensified beyond belief. The US Government Accountability Office uncovered appalling discrepancies in the US military administration's handling of money: uncountable billions went missing; hundreds of contractors fully paid but the work never done; layer upon layer of shady companies, mercenaries and sub-contractors (Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root but mere illustrations). In partnership with the new rulers of Iraq, these corporations are stealing the wealth of the once prosperous nation, leaving it in shambles.

And now, the Iraqis are facing enormous pressure to approve the Iraqi oil and gas law. The draft bill, according to Iraqi MP Nureddin Al-Hayyali, would give "50 per cent of the Iraqi people's oil wealth to foreign investing oil firms". The nationalisation of the country's oil industry in 1972 is being reversed. The robbery that began in the early 1990s continues unabated. Shameful as it is, Iraq's new rulers are stealing from the poor and giving the spoils to the rich.

Read it here.

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Jail Paul Wolfowitz

The puppet who cleared the way for Iraq's destruction
Andrew Cockburn
Thursday April 26, 2007
The Guardian

Paul Wolfowitz must bear a large part of the responsibility that is usually laid at the door of his superior alone

Among those relishing the exposure of World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz's manoeuvres on behalf of his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, in recent weeks was almost certainly the former US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld was driven from public life thanks to the catastrophe of Iraq, and for the moment at least lurks in obscurity. Wolfowitz, his deputy until 2005, contributed in almost equal measure to the debacle, yet managed to slide from the Pentagon into the presidency of a leading international institution with every chance to redeem himself. Blame for torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, bungling over troop levels, chaos in Iraq's reconstruction, and the general meltdown in Pentagon management has all too often been laid at Rumsfeld's door alone. However, Wolfowitz was an energetic enabler of these outrages and many other notorious initiatives.

To cite just one example: among the most infamous documentary testaments to Rumsfeld's place in the hierarchy of torture is the First Special Interrogation Plan for use at Guantánamo that received his approval in December 2002. It cleared the way for prolonged sleep deprivation, 20-hour interrogations, and sexual and religious humiliation, along with other favoured techniques. But as the document signed by Rumsfeld notes, the plan had earlier been reviewed and approved by "the deputy", ie Wolfowitz.

There are indications that Wolfowitz was even more hands on when it came to Abu Ghraib. At the May 2006 court martial of Sergeant Santos Cardona, who was one of the low-ranking personnel called to atone for the collective sins of the military establishment, testimony from one of the interrogators alleged that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were in direct contact with the prison and received "nightly briefings" on the intelligence being extracted under torture.

Just as Rumsfeld will forever be uniquely associated with the torture policy, the hapless former US viceroy in Iraq, Paul Bremer, is credited with the disastrous decision to disband the Iraqi army. Yet numerous sources in Baghdad and the Pentagon at the time were insistent the disbandment decree had been drafted with Wolfowitz's assent, probably as a means of removing a potential pool of support for a rival to the neoconservatives' favourite Iraqi, Ahmed Chalabi.

Earlier Wolfowitz had manoeuvred to have himself appointed as viceroy in Iraq. That effort failed. But a newly revealed inquiry by the Pentagon's inspector general found that, in a foretaste of things to come, he did his best to secure a high-level position in the administration of the conquered country for Riza. Seemingly, he was in awe of her expertise on Iraqi matters. Participants in high level meetings to discuss intelligence on Iraq told me they were startled to hear the deputy secretary of defence invoke his girlfriend: "Shaha says ..." Other Pentagon officials were less impressed by her knowledge of the country, not to mention the enormous salary she demanded for her services, and successfully blocked the appointment. Instead, a huge Pentagon contractor, Saic, was directed to hire Riza for a temporary Iraq mission.

Before we conclude that Wolfowitz was the original author of the policies that destroyed Iraq, we should note that his entire career, at least up through his Pentagon service, has been in the service and at the direction of others. His early work in Washington promoting the dubious merits of an anti-ballistic missile programme, for example, was sponsored by Paul Nitze, a powerful insider who devoted a lifetime of intrigue to boosting east-west tensions and US defence spending. Nitze served as godfather to the neoconservative movement in the 70s, correctly calculating that a fusion of the pro-Israel lobby with the military-industrial lobby would create an alliance of unstoppable power. Among the early and most potent recruits was an old friend of Wolfowitz's, Richard Perle, known and feared in Washington as "the Prince of Darkness" for his ruthless bureaucratic skills and commanding position in the neoconservative forces.

Read the rest here.

[+/-]

Keeping Iraqis "Safe"

"Security" - Hometown Baghdad

[+/-]

Riverbend Is Fleeing Iraq

The Great Wall of Segregation...

…Which is the wall the current Iraqi government is building (with the support and guidance of the Americans). It's a wall that is intended to separate and isolate what is now considered the largest 'Sunni' area in Baghdad- let no one say the Americans are not building anything. According to plans the Iraqi puppets and Americans cooked up, it will 'protect' A'adhamiya, a residential/mercantile area that the current Iraqi government and their death squads couldn't empty of Sunnis.

The wall, of course, will protect no one. I sometimes wonder if this is how the concentration camps began in Europe. The Nazi government probably said, "Oh look- we're just going to protect the Jews with this little wall here- it will be difficult for people to get into their special area to hurt them!" And yet, it will also be difficult to get out.

The Wall is the latest effort to further break Iraqi society apart. Promoting and supporting civil war isn't enough, apparently- Iraqis have generally proven to be more tenacious and tolerant than their mullahs, ayatollahs, and Vichy leaders. It's time for America to physically divide and conquer- like Berlin before the wall came down or Palestine today. This way, they can continue chasing Sunnis out of "Shia areas" and Shia out of "Sunni areas".

I always hear the Iraqi pro-war crowd interviewed on television from foreign capitals (they can only appear on television from the safety of foreign capitals because I defy anyone to be publicly pro-war in Iraq). They refuse to believe that their religiously inclined, sectarian political parties fueled this whole Sunni/Shia conflict. They refuse to acknowledge that this situation is a direct result of the war and occupation. They go on and on about Iraq's history and how Sunnis and Shia were always in conflict and I hate that. I hate that a handful of expats who haven't been to the country in decades pretend to know more about it than people actually living there.

I remember Baghdad before the war- one could live anywhere. We didn't know what our neighbors were- we didn't care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it- depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night.

On a personal note, we've finally decided to leave. I guess I've known we would be leaving for a while now. We discussed it as a family dozens of times. At first, someone would suggest it tentatively because, it was just a preposterous idea- leaving ones home and extended family- leaving ones country- and to what? To where?

Read the rest here.

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