"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Friday, January 28, 2005

Next they'll be having birthday parties

hold on a second...

Is Wal-Mart a Person? Thom Hartmann Tells Why It Is--Kind of--But Not Really

...corporations are asserting that they...should stand side-by-side with humans in having access to the Bill of Rights. Nike asserted...that these corporations have First Amendment rights of free speech. Dow Chemical...asserted it has Fourth Amendment privacy rights and could refuse to allow the EPA to do surprise inspections of its facilities. J.C. Penney asserted...that it had a Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from discrimination -- the Fourteenth Amendment was passed to free the slaves after the Civil War -- and that communities that were trying to keep out chain stores were practicing illegal discrimination. Tobacco and asbestos companies asserted that they had Fifth Amendment rights to keep secret what they knew about the dangers of their products.


Thom Hartmann is a familiar name to regular BuzzFlash readers, thanks to his contribution of monthly book reviews. He also hosts a syndicated radio talk show, heard on radio stations from coast to coast, the Sirius Satellite Radio system, on CRN, and on RadioPower.org. As the author of Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights, he has given us a history lesson in how corporations have insinuated themselves into the U.S. Constitution and claimed for themselves the rights that were meant for living, breathing human beings. Here Thom Hartmann answers our questions about personhood, rights, constitutional history and big business as it impacts politics and each and every American.

* * *

BuzzFlash: Let's start with the basic premise of Unequal Protection. In essence, what is "corporate personhood" in terms of current American law?

Thom Hartmann: "Corporate personhood" is the notion that a corporation has the rights of a person under the constitution.

Prior to the founding of this nation, with the exception of a brief period in Greece, the history of the previous 7000 years of what we called "civilization" was that one of three types of rulers were the sole holders of rights. Society was ruled by either warlord kings; theocratic popes, mullahs or variations thereof; or the very rich. And they ruled both by virtue of their personal wealth, power, or knowledge of a god's will, and because they represented a ruling institution (the kingdom, church, or either land or a corporation).

Largely through the power of their institutions, they were the sole holders of "rights," and all the non-institutional humans -- the serfs, common people, and even the very tiny precursor of the middle class, the mercantilists and guildsmen -- had only "privileges," which could be revoked more-or-less at will by the holders of the rights.

The extraordinary experiment that was the basis of American democracy in a constitutionally limited republic was to flip this pyramid upside down. The Founders of this republic said in the Declaration of Independence, and the Framers of the Constitution proclaimed in the preamble to the Constitution, that humans -- "all men" to quote the Declaration, "We the People" to quote the Constitution -- were the sole holders of rights from that point forward.

This was firmly nailed into the Constitution by the addition of the Bill of Rights, which gave humans a huge club they could use to beat back government if it ever were to become oppressive.

Thus, with the founding of America, for the first time, only humans could hold rights. Institutions -- churches, civic groups, corporations, clubs, even government itself -- held only privileges. Of course, you'd want government -- that is, We the People through our elected representatives -- to control the privileges of institutions like corporations. And that's what we did. For example, to prevent kingdom-like accumulations of wealth that could, as Jefferson noted, "threaten the state" itself, corporations in the first hundred or so years of this nation couldn't exist longer than 40 years, and then had to be dissolved. Their first purpose had to be to serve the public, and their second purpose to make money. Their books and all their activities had to be fully open and available to inspection by We the People. Their officers and directors could be held personally liable for crimes committed by the corporation.

This held as a legal doctrine until the end of the 1800s, and even after that largely held until the Reagan Revolution, when corporations began reaching back to an obscure headnote written by a corrupt Supreme Court clerk in an otherwise obscure railroad tax case in 1886.

But today corporations are asserting that they -- and only they -- should stand side-by-side with humans in having access to the Bill of Rights. Nike asserted before the Supreme Court last year, as Sinclair Broadcasting did in a press release last month, that these corporations have First Amendment rights of free speech. Dow Chemical in a case it took to the Supreme Court asserted it has Fourth Amendment privacy rights and could refuse to allow the EPA to do surprise inspections of its facilities. J.C. Penney asserted before the Supreme Court that it had a Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from discrimination -- the Fourteenth Amendment was passed to free the slaves after the Civil War -- and that communities that were trying to keep out chain stores were practicing illegal discrimination. Tobacco and asbestos companies asserted that they had Fifth Amendment rights to keep secret what they knew about the dangers of their products. With the exception of the Nike case, all of these attempts to obtain human rights for corporations were successful, and now they wield this huge club against government that was meant to protect relatively helpless and fragile human beings.




Thursday, January 27, 2005

Poker is a learning game

With great little bits of information like this:
(your game will improve no end)

Right wing academic turned Washington insider Henry Kissinger plumbed new depths of sleazy political behavior by helping Republicans destabilize the Paris peace talks during Richard Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign. Richard Holbrooke, then a senior negotiator with the Lyndon Johnson administration, recalled that "Henry was the only person outside of the government we were authorized to discuss the negotiations with.... It is not stretching the truth to say the Nixon campaign had a secret source within the U.S. negotiating team."

Kissinger advised the Nixon camp to derail talks by using a "back channel" to South Vietnam. Saigon authorities subsequently scuttled the deal with Johnson, believing Nixon's bogus promise of better terms. This effectively added four more years to the war; half the battle deaths in Vietnam took place between 1968 and 1972. As Nixon's Secretary of State, Kissinger was directly responsible for deliberate massacres of civilians, from the notorious "pacification" campaigns like Operation Speedy Express (in which at least 10,000 Vietnamese villagers were killed) to the secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia, which were given the code names "Breakfast," "Lunch," "Snack," "Dinner" and "Dessert." By conservative estimates, the U.S. killed 600,000 civilians in Cambodia and another 350,000 in Laos.

In another characteristic act of homicidal duplicity, Kissinger next ran cover for a bloody junta in Bangladesh to secure the much-lauded "opening" to China that Richard Nixon parlayed into a career as respected elder statesman. Using weapons supplied by the U.S., General Yahya Khan overthrew the democratically elected government of Bangladesh and murdered at least half a million civilians in 1971. The U.S. National Security Council wanted to condemn these actions. Kissinger refused, instead thanking Khan for his "delicacy and tact." Similarly, Kissinger helped rubberstamp the brutal regime of the Greek colonels who seized power in 1967, and approved Operation Condor, which helped military juntas in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay assassinate leftists.




Reply to the unconvinced/inconvincible

On fallujah:

The much-heralded ground assault on Fallujah finally began on 8 Nov, after more than two months of aerial attacks killing scores of civilians. Based on reports from aid workers, Fallujah residents and refugees, a high-ranking Red Cross official estimated that “at least 800 civilians” were killed in the first 9 days of the attack (IPS, 16 Nov).
US-appointed Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi, on the other hand, ‘said he d[idn’t] believe any civilians were killed in the offensive’ (Reuters, 15 Nov).

Once again the US appears to be guilty of serious war crimes: the city was placed ‘under a strict night-time shoot-to-kill curfew’ with ‘anyone spotted in the soldiers’ night vision sights…shot’ (Times, 12 Nov); male refugees were prevented from leaving the combat zone (AP, 13 Nov); and US forces were filmed killing an unarmed, wounded Iraqi (Guardian, 16 Nov). Refugees from the city claimed that ‘a large number of people, including children, were killed by American snipers’ (Independent, 24 Nov) and that the US had used cluster bombs and phosphorus weapons that caused severe burns (IPS, 16 Nov).

Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the rules of war protecting civilians and combatants have been violated in the current fighting in Falluja. Dozens of civilians have reportedly been killed during the fighting between US and Iraqi forces and insurgents. Amnesty International fears that civilians have been killed, in contravention of international humanitarian law, as a result of failure by parties to the fighting to take necessary precautions to protect non-combatants. The humanitarian situation in the city is said to be precarious.


[The US certainly used napalm in Iraq in March of the invasion; this has been admitted. It was apparently first reported by eyewitness Lindsay Murdoch of the Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/03/21/1047749944836.html

Also Lebanese journalist Burhan Fasa�a, who sneaked into Falluja after the assault began, reported "I saw cluster bombs everywhere, and so many bodies that were burned, dead with no bullets in them. So they definitely used fire weapons, especially in Julan District. I watched American snipers shoot civilians so many times"
] ([...]compiled by medialens reader annaf)

"It was really distressing picking up dead bodies from destroyed homes, especially children. It is the most depressing situation I have ever been in since the war started," Dr Rafa'ah al-Iyssaue, director of the main hospital in Fallujah city, some 60 km west of Baghdad, told IRIN.

According to al-Iyssaue, the hospital emergency team has recovered more than 700 bodies from rubble where houses and shops once stood, adding that more than 550 were women and children. He said a very small number of men were found in these places and most were elderly."


"Fuad Kubaysi, one of those staying at the Red Crescent compound, said, "What has happened to Falluja is a horror beyond anything imaginable. We don't want it anymore. Let them have it. Let whomever wants it have it. We cannot ever call this city home again." "

On election "problems":

"Elections in Iraq are taking place under military occupation and ‘any Iraqi prime minister will have to be palatable to Washington' (anonymous US official as paraphrased by Reuters, 17 Dec) – i.e. ‘palatable’ to the foreign occupying power. N.B. Ordinary Iraqis only elect an assembly, which in turn is supposed to select a 'presidency council', which in turn selects the new Iraqi PM - see the Transitional Administrative Law for details: http://www.cpa-iraq.org/government/TAL.html) - so there's quite a bit of scope for arm-twisting and back-room deals.

For the elections in Iraq the US is overtly using cash in an attempt to influence the outcome, having given at least $30 mn to the National Endowment for Democracy 'to provide technical assistance and training for moderate [sic] and democractic [sic] political parties in Iraq' (US State Department, 21 Oct 2004)

It is also worth noting that, whether or not Iraqis vote on 30 January - and whoever they vote for if they do - the US/UK military occupation is set to continue, with all that that entails (for more background info. on the election see link"

"How are the planned Iraqi elections different from other elections held under occupation?

The United Nations has claimed that the precedent for "legitimate" elections held under military occupation is the 1999 UN-run election in East Timor. But there are significant differences. Most importantly, UN resolutions had, since 1976, officially deemed the Indonesian occupation illegal and called on Indonesia to withdraw. The 1999 vote was not to select a puppet "government" to administer East Timor under continuing Indonesian occupation but was a direct referendum on whether or not to end the occupation - a choice never offered to Iraqis. Additionally, the Indonesian military was pressured sufficiently so there was little military violence during the referendum itself. (The Indonesian military's razing of much of Dili came after the election, not before or during.) And the balloting was run directly by the United Nations, with thousands of UN election workers and a wide array of international monitors."


"Al Mukhtar the names of those standing for election are not widely publicized, many names are indeed unknown and little or no manifestos have been published. However, what is publicized are the names and addresses of all who register to vote, they are displayed - in Iraq and all voting centers abroad - at all polling centers. This is simply and purely 'intimidation' says Al Mukhtar, it will 'encourage some and discourage others - disclosing names and addresses is highly dangerous, no one will be safe within or without polling stations, now or later', he contends. Intimidation needs no encouragement. Nadia Selim, from Notholt, Middlesex recounts in the Independent how her family in Hay Al Jamia in west Baghdad a mixed Sunni and Shi'ite neighborhood were planning to vote in spite of the dangers - until they were visited by their local shopkeeper. He requested they hand over their ration books for 'safe keeping'. The ration books are the means of identity for voters. Gunmen had visited him and ordered him to collect all ration books in the neighborhood. The family refused his request. Later he returned sobbing and begged them not to condemn his children to death, reluctantly they gave in. One can only speculate how widely similarly intimidating actions are being replicated throughout Iraq.

Further says Al Mukhtar no one knows who has drawn up the electoral lists and on what they are based. 'I am an Iraqi and entitled to vote, but no one has contacted me.'"


"Baghdad - Election centers have been bombed, candidates and electoral officials threatened and even killed. With only a week to go, intimidation is turning Iraq's landmark polls into a new kind of secret ballot.
Some Iraqis don't know who to vote for as most candidates keep their identities hidden, fearing for their lives. Those who've made up their minds don't know where to cast their ballots, since the location of polling stations is being hushed up until the last minute to thwart election day attacks. "We don't know these candidates, not their names, not their programs, not where they've come from. I will not vote for people I don't know," said Hussein Ali, a handyman in Baghdad. "Until now, we don't know how to vote. I know there is an election center nearby, but I'm not sure exactly where it is." Iraq's first national election since Saddam Hussein's fall will select a 275-seat National Assembly and 18 provincial assemblies. But even Iraqis willing to brave bombs and bullets to vote may have little clue who they are electing until after the event, prompting veteran Iraqi politician Naseer Chaderji to label the Jan. 30 polls the first "secret elections" in history. Voters will not be choosing individual politicians, but a list of candidates representing a party or coalition. However threats mean most of the 7,500 candidates shy away from rallies. Only leading politicians dare appear on television. In Iraq's third city of Mosul, the entire election staff resigned amid intimidation. Election officials in other cities have stepped down too. Seven have been killed, some dragged from their car in Baghdad in broad daylight and shot. Salama al-Khafaji, openly running on the United Iraqi Alliance list, has survived three attempts on her life, the latest last week."
(Reuters - http://www.truthout.org/docs_05/012505Z.shtml) [Well worth reading in full]

On Saddam's "links" to Al Qaeda:

"Jeff Birnbaum of The Washington Post wrote: "The staff report (of the 9/11 Commission) indicates that there was considerable interaction between Bin Laden and Iraq ... it was clear that they're fellow travelers." Commission co-chair Thomas Kean said, "What we have found is, were there contacts between Al Qaeda and Iraq? Yes, some of them were shadowy - but they were there.""

Wow, conclusive, damning evidence there.

the ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda (another dead link)

"Al-Qaeda was in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Pakistan, Chechnya, Singapore, Malaysia, Iran, Spain. Al-Qaeda was everywhere, including South Florida, but never in Iraq. This is what we are to believe?"

Belief is neither fact nor evidence.


"Indeed, most new reports concerning Al Qaeda and Iraq have

been of another nature. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu
Zubaydah, the two highest-ranking Qaeda operatives in custody,
have told investigatorsthat Mr. bin Laden shunned cooperation
with Saddam Hussein. A UnitedNations team investigating global
ties of the bin Laden group reported last month that they found
no evidence of a Qaeda-Iraq connection.

In addition, one Central Intelligence Agency official told The
Washington Post that a review panel of retired intelligence
operatives put together by the agency found that although there
were some ties among individuals in the two camps, ' it was not
at all clear there was any coordination or joint activities.' And
Rand Beers, the senior director for counterterrorism on the
National Security Council who resigned earlier this year, has
said that on the basis of the intelligence he saw, he did not
believe there was a significant relationship between Saddam
Hussein and Al Qaeda." (New York Times, July 20, 2003)

Putting aside Bush's rhetoric, how has he really approached the humanitarian angle:

‘Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has almost doubled since the US-led invasion in March 2003,’ according to a study carried out for UNICEF by the Oslo-based Fafo institute (FT, 24 Nov).

According to the survey of 22,000 homes, conducted in April and May of this year, acute malnutrition among children aged between six months and five years has risen from 4% before the invasion to 7.7%.

‘The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from “wasting,” a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein’ (Washington Post, 21 Nov). "Iraq’s child malnutrition rate now roughly equals that of Burundi, a central African nation torn by more than a decade of war. It is far higher than rates in Uganda and Haiti."

A high-powered research team who conducted a cluster sample survey inside Iraq this September has concluded that, ‘[m]aking conservative assumptions…about 100,000 excess [Iraqi] deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths’ (Lancet, published on-line 29 Oct). Furthermore, ‘most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children.’

"Instead, the US public is fed bogus polls telling them half of Iraqis feel they are better off now with a year of occupation under their belts. That is an amazing figure, since nearly every one of the hundreds of Iraqis I interviewed throughout Iraq was understandably enraged at the 70% unemployment, less than 8 hours of electricity per day in Baghdad, water so terrible there are cholera outbreaks in southern Iraq, and a security situation that spirals further out of control on a daily basis." (ZNet)

On oil:

Now, Iraq’s unelected, US-appointed government ‘has issued an open invitation to the world’s largest oil companies to exploit its vast reserves’ (Independent on Sunday Oct). In an interview in a Shell newsletter Iraq’s Oil Minister said that ‘Iraq would open its doors to the oil giants early next year. “We would like to open a dialogue with the international oil companies [IOCs] … we think there is room for IOCs in Iraq – in particular in the upstream,” he explained.

"ChevronTexaco stands to gain from the new Iraqi government. The U.S. tax-payer funded Iraqi National Congress, the London-based Iraqi opposition party, is very likely to have a key role in the new government of Iraq. Multi-millionaire, Ahmed Chalabi, who leads the INC, has made very clear their intentions to provide a leading role for US multi-national oil corporations, specifically ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil, in the future of Iraqi oil. "American companies will have a big shot at Iraqi oil," according to Chalabi, frontrunner to be installed as the new leader of a U.S. led Iraq. (Washinton Post, 9/15/02: In Iraq War Scenario, Oil is Key Issue)

The UK Guardian reported that the Iraqi National Congress met with executives of three US oil multinational, including ChevronTexaco, to negotiate the carve-up of Iraq's massive oil reserves. (11/3/2002)

Even CBS's 60 Minutes reported meetings between the INC and ChevronTexaco, reporting in March, 2002, that Chalabi is working, "with the president's and vice president's friends in the oil industry, promising executives of both ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil preferential treatment in a post Sadam Iraq."

Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor and super-hawk of the Bush Administration is a former director of ChevronTexaco and continues to maintain strong ties to the company. Chevron and Texaco executives, prior to the company merger, advised Vice President Dick Cheney on energy policy, both directly through the Energy Task Force and through the companies close ties to the Council on Foreign Relations."


On intelligence regarding WMD capabilities prior to war:

What follows is the meat and potatoes of my interview with Ritter three years before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and one year after Ritter published a more detailed analysis in his book "Endgame."

SG: Can you tell me about the threat that Saddam Hussein poses to the Middle East region, in particular, and the world, in general?

Ritter: "Let's talk about the weapons. In 1991, did Iraq have a viable (WMD) capability? You're darn right they did. They had a massive chemical weapons program. They had a giant biological weapons program. They had long-range ballistic missiles and they had a nuclear weapons program that was about six months away from having a viable weapon.

"Now after seven years of work by UNSCOM inspectors, there was no more (WMD) program. It had been eliminated....When I say eliminated I'm talking about facilities destroyed...

"The weapons stock had been, by and large, accounted for - removed, destroyed or rendered harmless. Means of production had been eliminated, in terms of the factories that can produce this....There were some areas that we didn't have full accounting for...(U.N. Resolution) 687 required that Iraq be disarmed 100 percent. It's what they call 'quantitative disarmament.' Iraq will not be found in compliance until it has been disarmed to a 100 percent level. That's the standard set forth by the Security Council and as implementors of the Security Council resolution, the weapons inspectors had no latitude to seek to do anything less than that - 80 percent was not acceptable; 90 percent was not acceptable; only 100 percent was acceptable.

"And this was the Achilles tendon, so to speak, of UNSCOM. Because by the time 1997 came around, Iraq had been qualitatively disarmed. On any meaningful benchmark - in terms of defining Iraq's WMD capability; in terms of assessing whether or not Iraq posed a threat, not only to its immediate neighbors, but the region and the world as a whole - Iraq had been eliminated as such a threat....

"What was Iraq hiding? Documentation primarily - documents that would enable them to reconstitute, at a future date, WMD capability....But all of this is useless...unless Iraq has access to the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars required to rebuild the industrial infrastructure (necessary) to build these weapons. They didn't have it in 1998. They don't have it today. This paranoia about what Iraq is doing now that there aren't weapons inspectors reflects a lack of understanding of the reality in Iraq.

"The economic sanctions have devastated this nation. The economic sanctions, combined with the effects of the (first) Gulf War, have assured that Iraq operate as a Third World nation in terms of industrial output and capacity..."

(Scott is a former Marine, Republican, Weapons Inspector)


"Despite public statements made before the war by Bush, Blair and officials and pundits on both sides of the Atlantic to the contrary, the ISG report concludes that all of Iraq's WMD stockpiles had been destroyed in 1991, and WMD programmes and facilities dismantled by 1996."


“A substantial amount of Iraq's chemical warfare agents, precursors, munitions, and production equipment were destroyed between 1991 and 1998 as a result of Operation Desert Storm and UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission) actions.”-- From a Defense Intelligence Agency report released in June 2003

“The IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] had found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq”-- IAEA head, Mohamed ElBaradei, report to the Security Council, 3/7/03

”The CIA does not agree that Iraq possesses a crude nuclear weapon. ’We don't believe they have the fissile material required for a nuclear weapon,’ said one senior U.S. official. ... ‘Nor do we believe they currently have the infrastructure to build a nuclear weapon.’”-- The Washington Post, 11/5/00

[“[Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.”-- Sec. of State Colin Powell, 2/4/01 (Just two years later, the same Colin Powell put the last shred of his credibility into a tiny vial and presented it to the UN along with BushCo’s imaginary reasons for war against Iraq.) *This Feb 2001 Powell "No significant WMD" TV footage is still being as relentlessy suppressed/ignored by the media as it was in the run-up to the war - that includes the BBC, The Independent, Channel4 News etc - right the way down to Fox News. Watch the original still-taboo Powell 20-second TV footage - the footage that could have completely undermined Bush's case for war - online at: [url]http://www.evuk.co.uk/hotwires/rawstuff/art56.html [/url]

“… let's remember that [Saddam’s] country is divided, in effect. He does not control the northern part of his country. We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.”-- National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, on CNN Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer, 7/29/01 (Two years later, she was talking about “mushroom clouds”.)]
([...] comment by medialens reader m)

“The problem is not in the intelligence; it was in the use and abuse of that intelligence by others, whoever they were.”-- S. Eugene Poteat, President of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/17/04

On Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi:


To summarize:

If the Iraq people don't get some sort of democratic process as a result of this invasion, the only things we will have accomplished are, over 100,000 civilians dead (see: Lancet report), 1,000+ coalition soldiers dead, over 10,000 soldiers injured, a country left in ruins, a land contaminated with depleted uranium (http://www.rimbaud.freeserve.co.uk/dhap99f.html http://www.chugoku-np.co.jp/abom/uran/index_e.html) and a new training ground for extremists. We all deserve a pat on the back.

To see images of what we have done:
Under "Victims of the Anglo-American Aggression"
[caution, disturbing pictures]

"There are dangerous and fanatical individuals and groups around the world who have been inspired by extreme Islamist ideas and who will use the techniques of mass terror — the attacks on America and Madrid make this only too clear. But the nightmare vision of a uniquely powerful hidden organization waiting to strike our societies is an illusion. Wherever one looks for this Al Qaeda organization, from the mountains of Afghanistan to the 'sleeper cells' in America, the British and Americans are chasing a phantom enemy."

The Power of Nightmares - Adam Curtis


"Strange" letter in The Irish Times

Rights of Palestinians

Madam, - In talking about Palestinian refugees' right to return to Israel, Raymond Deane, Chairman of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, speaks of Jewish people returning, "after almost 2,000 years, to a country that happens to be inhabited by another people" (January 25th).

As he will know, the Jews have lived continuously throughout the Middle East, and in the Palestine/Israel land mass in particular, for more than 3,000 years. Their history of defeat, persecution and pogroms by, successively, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders and Arabs attests to this.

Thus their right to continued settlement is at least equal to that of the Arabs.

As for the 750,000 Palestinian refugees who fled or were pushed out in the 1947/48 war launched and lost by the Arabs, why are they and their descendents still refugees? A similar number of Jews fled or were pushed out of Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and other Arab countries as a result of the same conflict, not to mention the millions fleeing from Europe.

Every single one was absorbed by fellow Jews, mainly in Israel, and given citizenship.

Why have the Palestinians never been absorbed by their fellow Arabs? How many Palestinians hold Saudi passports?

The Palestinian refugee problem exists only because of:

(a) Israel's refusal to massacre them in 1948, as it could have (who doubts that the Jews would have been massacred had they lost?)

(b) the disdain of fellow Arabs for Palestinians ever since.

Meanwhile, the recent election of Mahmoud Abbas, who promotes a combination of toughness and non-violence towards Israel, gives the Palestinians the first chance of a peaceful resolution to their piteous situation in a generation. - Yours, etc.,

Tony Allwright

Dear Sir/Madam,

Mr. Allwright has made some shocking statements in todays Irish Times, although the printing of his letter may have been in the interests of attempting to provide a fair and balanced account, it has however made for quite uncomfortable reading. In a sweeping acerate condensation of the conflict Mr. Allwright states: "The Palestinian refugee problem exists only because of: (a) Israel's refusal to massacre them in 1948, as it could have (who doubts that the Jews would have been massacred had they lost?) (b) the disdain of fellow Arabs for Palestinians ever since."
This is one of the most shameful statements I have read in this paper. We are to believe that it was Israeli restraint in not culling the remaining Palestinains and/or the fact that fellow Arabs have not welcomed them into their countries in the following years the reason for the refugee status of the population.
Why does the fact that other Arab countries have not aided the Palestinians sufficiently have any bearing on the situation. Is it their responsibility to address the situation any more than it is ours?
He says, quite rightly that [Israeli] "right to continued settlement is at least equal to that of the Arabs" and this is the very reason a two state solution is being sought. This unfortunately [has been] "unilaterally blocked for the last 30 years by the US" (Noam Chomsky). And while this stalement continues to exist, the most basic of human rights is being violated "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country" (article 13, Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Even on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz we have yet to learn the lessons it was said to have taught us.

Yours sincerely,


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The "Educated Elite" receive an excellent speech

'Over There'

Chris Hedges

b. 1956, Johnsbury, Vermont

Chris Hedges on war in an age of twenty-four-hour television: 'War, we have come to believe, is a spectator sport. The military and the press—remember in wartime the press is always part of the problem—have turned war into a vast video arcade game. Its very essence—death—is hidden from public view.'

In May 2003, New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges gave the Commencement Address at Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois. During the speech students in the audience climbed the stage to disrupt him, and he was escorted out by the police before the ceremony concluded. Subsequently the president of the college apologized to students for having invited Hedges, and the New York Times sent Hedges a letter of reprimand. This is what Hedges said in Rockford:

I want to speak to you today about war and empire.

The killing, or at least the worst of it, is over in Iraq. Although blood will continue to spill—theirs and ours—be prepared for this. For we are embarking on an occupation that, if history is any guide, will be as damaging to our souls as it will be to our prestige, power and security. But this will come later as our empire expands. And in all this we become pariahs, tyrants to others weaker than ourselves. Isolation always impairs judgement, and we are very isolated now.

We have forfeited the goodwill, the empathy the world felt for us after 9/11. We have folded in on ourselves, we have severely weakened the delicate international coalitions and alliances that are vital in maintaining and promoting peace. And we are part now of a dubious troika in the war against terror with Vladimir Putin and Ariel Sharon, two leaders who do not shrink in Palestine or Chechnya from carrying out acts of gratuitous and senseless acts of violence. We have become the company we keep.

The censure, and perhaps the rage, of much of the world—certainly one-fifth of the world’s population which is Muslim, most of whom I will remind you are not Arab, is upon us. Look today at the fourteen people killed last night in several explosions in Casablanca. And this rage, in a world where almost fifty per cent of the planet struggles on less than two dollars a day, will see us targeted. Terrorism will become a way of life. (Someone in the crowd shouts, ‘No!’) And when we are attacked, we will, like our allies Putin and Sharon, lash out with greater fury.

The circle of violence is a death spiral; no one escapes. We are spinning at a speed that we may not be able to halt. As we revel in our military prowess—the sophistication of our military hardware and technology, for this is what most of the press coverage consisted of in Iraq—we lose sight of the fact that just because we have the capacity to wage war it does not give us the right to wage war. This capacity has doomed empires in the past.

‘Modern western civilization may perish,’ the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr warned, ‘because it falsely worshipped technology as a final good.’

The real injustices—the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, the brutal and corrupt dictatorships we fund in the Middle East—will mean that we will not rid the extremists who hate us with bombs. Indeed, we will swell their ranks. (Whistles.) Once you master people by force you depend on force for control. In your isolation you begin to make mistakes. (‘Where were you on September 11?’)

Fear engenders cruelty; cruelty…fear, insanity, and then paralysis. (Hoots. ‘Who wants to listen to this jerk?’) In the centre of Dante’s circle the damned remained motionless. (Horns.) We have blundered into a nation we know little about and are caught between bitter rivalries and competing ethnic groups and leaders we do not understand.

We are trying to transplant a modern system of politics invented in Europe characterized, among other things, by the division of earth into independent secular states based on national citizenship in a land where the belief in a secular civil government is an alien creed. Iraq was a cesspool for the British when they occupied it in 1917. It will be a cesspool for us, as well. (‘God bless America,’ a woman yells.) The curfews, the armed clashes with angry crowds that leave scores of Iraqi dead, the military governor, the Christian Evangelical groups who are being allowed to follow on the heels of our occupying troops to try and teach Muslims about Jesus, the occupation of the oilfields.

(At this point, the microphone gets unplugged. When it is fixed, Rockford College President Paul C. Pribbenow addresses the audience: ‘My friends, one of the wonders of a liberal arts college is its ability and its deeply held commitment to academic freedom and the decision to listen to each other’s opinions. If you wish to protest the speaker’s remarks, I ask that you do it in silence, as some of you are doing in the back. That is perfectly appropriate, but he has the right to offer his opinion here, and we would like him to continue his remarks.’ People blow horns and boo and some applaud.)

The occupation of the oilfields. (More boos. A woman says, ‘We’re not going to listen. We’ve listened enough. You’ve already ruined our graduation. Don’t ruin it any more, sir.’) The notion that the Kurds and the Shiites will listen to the demands of a centralized government in Baghdad (the same Kurds and Shiites who died by the tens of thousands in defiance of Saddam Hussein, a man who happily butchered all of those who challenged him, and this ethnic rivalry has not gone away). The looting of Baghdad, or let me say the looting of Baghdad with the exception of the oil ministry and the interior ministry—the only two ministries we bothered protecting—is self-immolation. (More boos.)

As someone who knows Iraq, speaks Arabic, and spent seven years in the Middle East, if the Iraqis believe rightly or wrongly that we come only for oil and occupation, they will begin a long, bloody war of attrition. It is how they drove the British out. And remember that, when the Israelis invaded southern Lebanon in 1982, they were greeted by the dispossessed Shiites as liberators, but within a few months, when the Shiites saw that the Israelis had come not as liberators but as occupiers, they began to kill them. It was Israel who created Hezbollah, and it was Hezbollah that pushed Israel out of southern Lebanon.




Monday, January 24, 2005

Is Osama's 15 minutes up?

The man who started this whole "War on Terror" has been out of the news of late. His responsibility is still unquestioned even though no evidence has been brought aganist him as yet. Sounds like he's hiding in Iran, go get him George.


Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Guardian: "We're Great!"

The dangers of exporting democracy

Bush's crusade is based on a dangerous illusion and will fail

Eric Hobsbawm
Saturday January 22, 2005
The Guardian

Although President Bush's uncompromising second inaugural address does not so much as mention the words Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terror, he and his supporters continue to engage in a planned reordering of the world. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are but one part of a supposedly universal effort to create world order by "spreading democracy". This idea is not merely quixotic - it is dangerous. The rhetoric implies that democracy is applicable in a standardised (western) form, that it can succeed everywhere, that it can remedy today's transnational dilemmas, and that it can bring peace, rather than sow disorder. It cannot.



Dear Mr. Hobsbawm,

In your recent Guardian article you refer to the nature of democracy in the UK:

"We now know something about how the actual decisions to go to war in Iraq were taken in at least two states of unquestionable democratic bona fides: the US and the UK. Other than creating complex problems of deceit and concealment, electoral democracy and representative assemblies had little to do with that process."

With public opposition to the war in Iraq and subsequently continuation of the war much greater than support for it. Without a democratic decision on an issue as important as waging war and imposing military rule on a foreign nation. How can the democracies (a form of government in which the supreme power is retained and directly exercised by the people) you suggest be "bona fide"?

"Fortunately, media independence could not be so easily circumvented in the UK."

With copy such as: "the country's first free election in decades". ('Vote against violence,' Leader, The Guardian, January 7, 2005), "if the security situation does not improve, there is doubt, as Annan hinted, over the feasibility of holding the country's first democratic election in January as planned". (Leader, 'Kofi Annan on Iraq: The war was illegal,' The Guardian, September 17, 2004), [as Iraq] "prepares for the country's first democratic election next month". (Ewen MacAskill, 'Blair 'feels the danger' on visit to Baghdad,' December 22, 2004)

and opinions: "The Iraqi elections are the first democratic elections in Iraq for 50 years - acknowledged as a democratic opportunity. We know that the Americans and the British want the elections to be free and fair - but of course we don't yet know if that will be the case - especially bearing in mind security. But our aim is to provide impartial, fair and accurate coverage, reflecting significant strands of argument to enable our audiences to make up their own minds." (Helen Boaden Director, BBC News)

While at the same time: "'Failure to hold elections on January 30 would be seen as a major triumph for the insurgence,' he said. 'But if these elections are to be credible they must cover the whole country and the whole population. No one should minimise the difficulty of carrying this through.'" ('Beleaguered Blair gives warm welcome to announcement - US and Britain hope exit strategy can be hastened,' Michael White, political editor, The Guardian, November 22, 2004)

there is cause to believe that the media is not as independent as you a think.

In a recent znet article Frank Brodhead describes two different standards for free and fair democractic elections (or simply "democratic" elections):

"For example, off the media agenda are discussions of the right of government opponents to campaign (without being killed); the absence of large-scale financing of favored candidates by foreign governments or patrons; the presence of meaningful freedoms of speech, the press, and assembly; the ability of voters to cast their ballots freely and safely without intimidation by domestic or foreign military forces or "death squads"; the existence of a truly secret ballot; an honest counting of the ballots; and the assurance that the person who gets the most votes will win the election."

"[A] large turnout (indicating voter support for the election itself and thus identifying the election with "democracy"); statements by political leaders and "ordinary people" that they are voting because they want freedom; and ineffective opposition to the election, perhaps even military attacks, by opponents of the government."

link: zmag

An independent media would, I presume, use the first standard as one that represents democractic elections more accurately. Whether an escalation of the already large scale violence coincides with the elections is no reason to compromise the standards which make democratic elections democratic.
If the criteria Mr.Brodhead proposes are not present then the elections can be nothing more than a smoke screen. Behind which the "independent" media can celebrate it's ability to outsmart government propaganda.

An independent media has, I believe, a responsibility to the truth. But when the media submits to the government's ever changing rhetoric:

"invaded in order to depose a cruel dictator and give its people a better life." (Guardian)

it is discouraging, when one remembers the rhetoric professed just three short years ago:

"The primary goal is to make it clear to Saddam that we expect him to be a peaceful neighbour in the region and we expect him not to develop weapons of mass destruction. And if we find him doing so, there will be a consequence."—U.S. President George W. Bush at his first White House news conference; Feb. 22, 2001

"Our mission -- besides removing the regime that threatened us, besides ending a place where the terrorists could find a friend, besides getting rid of weapons of mass destruction -- our mission has been to bring a humanitarian aid and restore basic services, and put this country, Iraq, on the road to self-government. And we'll stay as long as it takes to complete our mission. And then all our forces are going to leave Iraq and come home"
-made by Bush in Ohio

Would it be safer to suspend the back patting until the Iraqi people have independence? or until Tony Blair is forced to blush when he says "There's a battle between democracy and terrorism and democracy has got to succeed."

Yours sincerely,


Thursday, January 20, 2005

Tony loves the BBC (probably)

The BBC effort to tell the war in Iraq "like it is":


a letter by a medialens reader:

Dear Mr Clifton

Thank you for referring me to your 'Iraq in Depth' page, which I found most
interesting. The idea of in-depth coverage is very good in itself. However,
while there is greater depth in places, the concerns that prompted my
original enquiry, the lack of balance, were equally troubling in relation to
this section. Some crucial facts were missing that could in my opinion be
described as glaring omissions - I would be very interested to know whether
you agree.

I refer to some of these pages from Iraq in Depth.

1) Falluja not the end of the war
The piece begins with Paul Reynolds' opening statement in bold header:

"Falluja was a necessary, but not a final operation in the plan by the
United States and the interim Iraqi government to establish control over the
whole country."

Paul Woods report on the same day, also on the in depth page:

"We have heard from the Iraqi Red Crescent that in their view, conditions
are catastrophic inside Falluja - no food, no water, no medicines, no

Given the Red Crescent fears that 6000 civilians may have died in Falluja,
and the widely-held and deep concerns of the unreported damage done, it is
very difficult to imagine what Mr Reynolds has in mind in simply saying this
was "necessary".

In general, destroying cities is a war crime and many others were committed
in Falluja, like the cutting off of water, preventing civilians from leaving
a war zone, use of indiscriminate weapons like cluster bombs, use of
disproportionate force.

Rather than simply approve of such acts, a balanced report should surely
refer to at least some of these war crimes and draw comparisons with
previous wars where perpetrators were prosecuted. Would you agree they at
least deserve a mention?

2) Voices from Iraq

The idea of reporting "Voices from Iraq" is a sound one, however it is a
little surprising that six Iraqi women are featured, most of whom say their
financial situation has improved with the occupation.

A study only a month previously by the college of economics at Baghdad
University found that "the unemployment rate in Iraq is 70%":-


The link includes picture of Iraqis demonstrating against widespread

Is it not therefore remarkable that the BBC did not find a woman whose
economic circumstances had worsened, or for that matter, who spoke about
relatives who had died in the invasion or occupation? The snapshot of
opinion appears to be misleading.

3) The Q+A page on the Iraqi elections.
In this page there is a short section entitled "What powers will the
assembly have?"

There is no mention of the fact that the power to determine Iraq's economic
future is not in fact part of the elections.

Even after the elections, the orders of Paul Bremer will remain to control
the economy and will bind future Iraqi governments. Some details are given
below, but surely BBC journalists writing on Iraq 'in depth' are aware of
these orders.

"As of June 14, Bremer had issued 97 legal orders, which are defined by the
U.S. occupation authority as "binding instructions or directives to the
Iraqi people" that will remain in force even after the transfer of political
authority...A senior U.S. official in Iraq noted recently that it would "not
be easy to reverse" the orders."

By all accounts, these orders (which are probably illegal, see below) lock
in sweeping advantages to American firms, ensuring long-term U.S. economic
advantage while guaranteeing few, if any, benefits to the Iraqi people.

"The privatisation programme passes complete ownership and control over Iraq
's economy to foreign (US) corporations. There is no requirement even to
hire Iraqis or to reinvest their money in the Iraqi economy - it can simply
be sent home.

15% caps on corporation and income tax mean that social programmes in Iraq
will be very difficult to fund. Suspension of all tariffs on goods entering
and leaving Iraq mean that cheap foreign consumer products have already
devastated local producers.

Foreign contractors will have local immunity from prosecution. If they kill
someone or cause an environmental disaster, the injured party cannot turn to
the Iraqi legal system. Rather, the charges must be brought to U.S. courts.

Bremer's package of "economic" reforms was described by the Economist as a
"capitalist's dream".

Transformation of an occupied country's laws violates the Hague regulations
of 1907 (ratified by the United States) and the U.S. Army's Law of Land
Warfare. In a leaked memo, the British attorney general, Lord Goldsmith,
warned Prime Minister Tony Blair that "major structural economic reforms
would not be authorized by international law."
(Prof Antonia Juhasz writing in the LA Times)

Discussions about Iraq's 'democracy' are surely meaningless without
acknowledgment of major restrictions on powers the elected assembly will
have, yet Bremer's binding orders are never mentioned. I accept that this
criticism could be levelled at most of the media; however I believe the BBC
has a particular duty at least to try be impartial, due to its charter and
its unique institutional role.

4) Reporting of the use of napalm and white phosphorous, both banned in
close combat under the 1980 UN convention, is not only not mentioned in the
In Depth reports, but apparently absent from BBC coverage altogether, though
both were confirmed by the US military and reported by leading British and
American newspapers, for example see
[the Independent]

Given the volume of generally uncritical coverage given to Saddam's
non-existent WMD, would you agree that this is a glaring ommission from BBC

I am increasingly concerned about the BBCs commitment to impartiality on
Iraq issues. I hope that you can alleviate or rectify some of these
concerns. In any case, thank you once again for taking the time to engage
with your troubled web-browsers, it is much appreciated.

Yours sincerely

Walter Buchanan

and mine:

Dear Mr. Clifton,

In a recent e-mail sent by a medialens reader, he refers to the lack of space given to the destruction of the city of Falluja in your Iraq in-depth section,

-Chemical Weapons used
-Targeting civilians (numerous occasions reported, one shown on on BBC)
-Iraqi Red Crescent Society was on TV news staing clearly that it has been denied entry into the city
-Civilians prevented from leaving a war scene
-This and previous attacks on Falluja featured what were undeniable disproportionate use of force, and use of indiscriminate weapons, like 2000+lb bombs
-Hospitals being attacked
-Cutting off water and electricity

"It was really distressing picking up dead bodies from destroyed homes, especially children. It is the most depressing situation I have ever been in since the war started," Dr Rafa'ah al-Iyssaue, director of the main hospital in Fallujah city, some 60 km west of Baghdad, told IRIN.

According to al-Iyssaue, the hospital emergency team has recovered more than 700 bodies from rubble where houses and shops once stood, adding that more than 550 were women and children. He said a very small number of men were found in these places and most were elderly.



"Fuad Kubaysi, one of those staying at the Red Crescent compound, said, "What has happened to Falluja is a horror beyond anything imaginable. We don't want it anymore. Let them have it. Let whomever wants it have it. We cannot ever call this city home again." "

while providing ample space to praise coalition actions during the siege.

"Certainly, the Americans fought cleverly in Falluja this time. Advance warnings might have let the rebel commanders escape. But they also allowed civilians to get out and this has lessened the adverse impact of the fighting."

"The marines also mounted initial diversionary attacks from the south, attracting the rebel fighters there, while in fact the main assault came from the north. The fighters were in the wrong place and became trapped."

"Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows." The British eventually imposed order and a king on Iraq. This time it is supposed to be different."
The only balance is provided by the word "supposed".

Considering the ethics the BBC purports to operate under,

"When civilians do get hurt
In modern warfare it's difficult to ensure that only soldiers get hurt, for despite the effectiveness of precision weapons civilians are often hurt and killed.

The "doctrine of double effect" is sometimes put forward as a defense.

For example if an army base in the middle of a city is bombed and a few civilians living nearby are killed as well, nothing unethical has been done, because the army base was a legitimate target and the death of civilians was not the intention of the bombing (even though their death could be predicted).

The doctrine of double effect can't be used to defend the use of weapons of mass destruction, such as non-precision nuclear weapons, area bombing, or chemical or biological weapons used against a population in general, since these are so indiscriminate in effect that civilian casualties can't be regarded as a secondary result."

"War Crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war, including:

* Atrocities or offences against persons or property, constituting violations of the laws or customs of war
* torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments
* plunder of public or private property
* wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages
* devastation not justified by military necessity"

this seems at the very least, a significant oversight and at worst, complicity in war crimes simply by ignoring they ever happened (thereby easing the path towards future crimes). The idea that space and time were an issue or that the "depth" is simply there to chronicle the progress of the war in military movements is laughable. This piece I presume is for the purpose of representing the war in its entirety. And reads like a story with one side.

For example the first picture in the story of the war is tagged with the caption: "The skyline of Baghdad lights up under fire from US cruise missiles early in the war. The initial strikes on the 20 March were targeted at Saddam Hussein and his sons." This accurately portrays the BBC's reporting. Just as truthfully one could have written "Hundreds die as US missiles fail to find Saddam and his sons." Either the reporting or the ethics need revising.

Yours sincerely,


Monday, January 17, 2005

UN Bashing

Squalid inertia of UN thrown into relief on Asia's battered shores
Mark Steyn

OPINION: Enda Kilroy wrote to our letters page the other day to complain that "some of the most unsavoury journalism I've read in recent days has come from two columnists in your paper" - yours truly and Kevin Myers, both of us having written about the United Nations.

I thought "unsavoury" was a rather good choice of word. For many people, it's just poor taste to criticise the UN, no matter how many genocides they fail to prevent or how much oil-for-food dough they siphon off or how many Congolese children they rape.

The genocide and the fraud and the child sex isn't unsavoury, but using it to besmirch the grand ideals of the UN is. A couple of years ago, I got an irate e-mail from a Canadian reader announcing he was cancelling his subscription to the paper because "criticising the UN is going too far". And I was a lot softer on the UN back then.

This isn't ideological on my part. If I'm standing at the water's edge, whether on the beach at Phuket or the docks at Dún Laoghaire, and a huge wave destroys my home, my family and my livelihood, I'm not going to be picky about who shows up to help out.

But, invariably, the first folks to show up are the Americans, the Australians and the British. The others will get there eventually.




Perhaps the critisim of Mark Steyn's focus on the UN is more a reflection of the cognitive content of his arguments than their relevancy. When he says "Would you let these guys run anything closer to home?" and "Kofi and co" the ability to miss the obvious is baffling. Whichever way you look at it, the UN can be nothing but a sum of its recognized parts. It's ability to act relies on the concern of its members, without their support it is limbless. The US, the UK and Austrailia have indeed given much support, however it was Spain who donated the sum of US and UK donations in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, without the need for public outcry. Indeed "UN sentimentalists" have been around since its conception. Why bother damning an organisation with no power. Have you forgotten, the US reaction to being "asked" to adhere to international law after the World Court's ruling of aggression in the case of funding the Contra in Nicaragua? It is also necessary to qualify the "fledlgling" nature of the new democracies he refers to. Does it include Haiti for instance? and what are the standards necessary for a democracy to be considered fledgling?


Sunday, January 16, 2005

There's one way to look at things and...

...then there's the Bush way

Bush Says Election Ratified Iraq Policy
No U.S. Troop Withdrawal Date Is Set

By Jim VandeHei and Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 16, 2005; Page A01

President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."

With the Iraq elections two weeks away and no signs of the deadly insurgency abating, Bush set no timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops and twice declined to endorse Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's recent statement that the number of Americans serving in Iraq could be reduced by year's end. Bush said he will not ask Congress to expand the size of the National Guard or regular Army, as some lawmakers and military experts have proposed.

In a wide-ranging, 35-minute interview aboard Air Force One on Friday, Bush laid out new details of his second-term plans for both foreign and domestic policy. For the first time, Bush said he will not press senators to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, the top priority for many social conservative groups. And he said he has no plans to cut benefits for the approximately 40 percent of Social Security recipients who collect monthly disability and survivor payments as he prepares his plan for partial privatization.

Bush was relaxed, often direct and occasionally expansive when discussing his second-term agenda, Iraq and lessons he has learned as president. Sitting at the head of a long conference table in a cabin at the front of the presidential plane, Bush wore a blue Air Force One flight jacket with a red tie and crisp white shirt. Three aides, including his new communications adviser, Nicolle Devenish, accompanied him.

With his inauguration days away, Bush defended the administration's decision to force the District of Columbia to spend $12 million of its homeland security budget to provide tighter security for this week's festivities. He also warned that the ceremony could make the city "an attractive target for terrorists."

"By providing security, hopefully that will provide comfort to people who are coming from all around the country to come and stay in the hotels in Washington and to be able to watch the different festivities in Washington, and eat the food in Washington," Bush said. "I think it provides them great comfort to know that all levels of government are working closely to make this event as secure as possible."

The president's inaugural speech Thursday will focus on his vision for spreading democracy around the world, one of his top foreign policy goals for the new term. But it will be Iraq that dominates White House deliberations off stage. Over the next two weeks, Bush will be monitoring closely Iraq's plan to hold elections for a 275-member national assembly. He must also deliver his State of the Union address with a message of resolve on Iraq, and he will need to seek congressional approval for about $100 billion in emergency spending, much of it for the war.

In the interview, the president urged Americans to show patience as Iraq moves slowly toward creating a democratic nation where a dictatorship once stood. But the relentless optimism that dominated Bush's speeches before the U.S. election was sometimes replaced by pragmatism and caution.

"On a complicated matter such as removing a dictator from power and trying to help achieve democracy, sometimes the unexpected will happen, both good and bad," he said. "I am realistic about how quickly a society that has been dominated by a tyrant can become a democracy. . . . I am more patient than some."

Last week, Powell said U.S. troop levels could be reduced this year, but Bush said it is premature to judge how many U.S. men and women will be needed to defeat the insurgency and plant a new and sustainable government. He also declined to pledge to significantly reduce U.S. troop levels before the end of his second term in January 2009.

"The sooner the Iraqis are . . . better prepared, better equipped to fight, the sooner our troops can start coming home," he said. Bush did rule out asking Congress to increase the size of the National Guard and regular army, as many lawmakers, including the president's 2004 opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), are urging. "What we're going to do is make sure that the missions of the National Guard and the reserves closely dovetail with active army units, so that the pressure . . . is eased."

A new report released last week by U.S. intelligence agencies warned that the war in Iraq has created a training ground for terrorists. Bush called the report "somewhat speculative" but acknowledged "this could happen. And I agree. If we are not diligent and firm, there will be parts of the world that become pockets for terrorists to find safe haven and to train. And we have a duty to disrupt that."

As for perhaps the most notorious terrorist, Osama bin Laden, the administration has so far been unsuccessful in its attempt to locate the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Asked why, Bush said, "Because he's hiding." While some terrorism experts complain U.S. allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, could do more to help capture the al Qaeda leader, Bush said he could not name a single U.S. ally that is not doing everything possible to assist U.S. efforts.

"I am pleased about the hunt, and I am pleased he's isolated," Bush said. "I will be more pleased when he's brought to justice, and I think he will be."

Bush acknowledged that the United States' standing has diminished in some parts of the world and said he has asked Condoleezza Rice, his nominee to replace Powell at the State Department, to embark on a public diplomacy campaign that "explains our motives and explains our intentions."

Bush acknowledged that "some of the decisions I've made up to now have affected our standing in parts of the world," but predicted that most Muslims will eventually see America as a beacon of freedom and democracy.

"There's no question we've got to continue to do a better job of explaining what America is all about," he said.




"Generosity of western states open to question"

Sri Lanka: Much aid to tsunami-affected areas comes with strings attached and not a little baggage, Kathy Sheridan reports from Colombo.

The interminable procession of VIPs and disaster tourists along Sri Lanka's battered coastline continued this week. Galle's town hall conference room, which hosted the Irish delegation on Wednesday, was seeing two to three such missions a day.

They remain exquisitely courteous, but Sri Lankans are a sophisticated people. They know that the country is riding a wave of sympathy. They also know that in the brutal global scheme of things, this weekend probably marks the end of it.

They will bid farewell to the media and political onslaught with mixed feelings. This reporter - surrounded by local people - overheard representatives from one European mission discuss the absence of a warning system for tsunamis (a phenomenon last seen around here 2,000 years ago) and how it might have been communicated locally.

"Probably even if someone had been around to shout a warning on the beaches, there would have been a stampede . . . ", offered one, " . . . and killed more people than the tsunami," concluded the other.

A thoroughly, white, ignorant, European view, probably fuelled by the ludicrous response of the responsible minister, who when asked why the national monitoring centre had failed to pass on the alert from Hawaii, replied combatively: "It was a poya [ full moon day and therefore a Buddhist holiday] day. Do you work on a holiday?"

Well, yes, they chorused, afterwards pouring contempt on the entire political class.

In fact, where there were warnings, they worked. There are well-documented reports of army and police officers - telephoned by colleagues caught in areas hit minutes before - leading villages to safety; of heroic bus drivers saving hundreds; of poor, ordinary fishermen who had seen their own children dragged out to sea, risking their lives to save neighbours.

From early on, those in the more developed south were as quick to question western reporters as the other way round. Will you be back, they would ask with firm dignity.

They've also had a rich taste of US media manipulation. Last week, as three Black Hawk helicopters carrying supplies flew into an eastern coastal area, already burdened air workers struggled to keep excited local children safely clear. None of these children was hungry, merely thrilled to see a helicopter close up.

After the first two helicopters were unloaded without incident, a CNN crew emerged from the third. A producer sized up the scene, beckoned to the near hysterical children and watched delightedly as they broke loose of their minders and raced towards the helicopter. CNN had its footage - "desperate" but extremely photogenic little Sri Lankans racing towards American salvation.

The implications of having American troops in Sri Lanka have not gone unnoticed either. All parties here, including aid workers of all political and philosophical leanings, acknowledge that the marines have been superb, doing the bulk of the heavy lifting, not merely with their helicopters, but with raw manpower: physically clearing streets, schools and hospitals and hauling massive aid consignments around the airport.

"It calls for an unqualified thank you," said local commentator, Rajpal Abeynayake, "but there is no such thing as a free lunch . . . The US is no benevolent caregiver, period. How can the government to which Colin Powell belongs, which is responsible for the deaths of over 15,000 children in Iraq, send Powell to look into the plight of so many tsunami-struck children in Sri Lanka?"

Likewise Sri Lankans are not naive about the great international "show me yours and I'll show you mine" bidding war, with telephone numbers being hurled around in pledged aid dollars. "According to the most optimistic estimates, Sri Lanka is not likely to benefit by more than $1,000 million," wrote Nivard Cabraal. "Most of such aid/relief/assistance may also be committed or granted in the form of technical assistance or disaster relief according to the donors' own agendas and hence the actual benefit to Sri Lanka may not be as much as we are now made to believe. Maybe if we all read Graham Hancock's Lords of Poverty, we will understand this better," he said.

An AFP analysis suggests much of the aid will arrive in the form of loans that will have to be paid back, or as contracts for donor countries' companies, or - as many fear - won't arrive at all.

For example, Australia had climbed to number one on the donors' list by announcing the biggest pledge in its history - $815 million.

"But Australia would slip to second or third place if it is taken into account that half of its pledge is in interest-free loans to Indonesia", (which is already in a billion dollar debt to Australia).

The detail of Germany's massive $668 million package is equally murky, with Gerhard Schröder suggesting it could include debt reduction and other measures taken with EU and G7 members.

The US contribution is also a little shapeless so far. The Pentagon says it is spending five to six million dollars a day in tsunami aid but nearly all of that takes the form of pay for personnel and equipment, costs which would be accruing to the US military in any event. US aid is also some of the most politically tied, bound up in laws requiring that taxpayers' money must buy only US products. In theory, aid workers bringing clean water to Batticoloa could be forced to import a more expensive purifier from the US, even if local options were available.

Mr David Roodman, from the Centre for Global Development in Washington, said his think-tank had calculated that the four worst-hit countries were already paying annual tariffs to the US of $1.8 billion - or five times what Washington has pledged in one-off tsunami relief.

Eyebrows have also been raised about the relatively low levels of aid from wealthy Arab states, given the fact that in Kuwait, for example, migrant workers from the affected countries, who built the state and raised its children, outnumber the native population.

It's a chastening context to the picture being painted here in Sri Lanka, of a "silver cloud" to the catastrophe, of this tidal wave of aid dollars being used to raise a gleaming, modernised, "Singapore" from the dank, foetid sludge of the tsunami and an already crippled, poorly-managed economy, a place where coastal conservation laws will actually be observed, and where hundreds of thousands of Sri Lanka's poorest will wind up with homes and facilities they could never have dreamt of, pre-tsunami.

From taxi drivers to diplomats, they believe that it's only a matter of time - if the money is rigorously monitored and the international community stays the course.

But as the spotlight moves, the micro picture is far from comforting. The historic hotel from which this report is written laid off 40 staff yesterday, some of them after 10 years' service. There is no such thing as the dole.

Meanwhile, the hotel was catering for five weddings yesterday, fantastically elaborate and hideously expensive affairs (even by Irish standards) with guest lists of up to 500, and bills of $30,000 to $50,000. One drained looking father confided that he had to work in Saudi Arabia for two years to fund the cost.

While it struggles to continue as usual, Sri Lanka is bracing itself for a rough ride in the coming months and years. The death toll may have passed 40,000 and more than 6,000 are still missing. In relative terms, no affected country has suffered more, even though Indonesia has three times the dead.




Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Irony of the Truth

[totally unfinished]

"US realises late that aid to Muslims enhances its image" ............

Who would have thought it, the unpredictability of it all. The US is now attempting to heal relations with the "Muslim world". More accurately though, they are trying to establish a good relationship. And how do they entend on doing this, you may ask. Well, amazingly enough, they have decieded to provide assistance, aid, help. Shocking new tactics I know.

Although the US was at first slow to respond to the humanitarian disaster in south east Asia, after much critisim they have seemingly made a rather large donation in an effort to limit the consequences of the disaster. As The Irish Times pointed out, the US saw an opportunity as they say to enhance their image in the eyes of Muslims. Cynical as it may seem, this is not important. They did it because they knew it would work. Helping people is a good thing. It's baby steps, but the lumbering giant can't be pushed.

This is a new venture for a government that has had tunnel vision when it comes to the "Muslim World". Bush has continuly parroted on about the only way to keep America safe is to bring democracy to Arab countries. The way in which he sees this best acomplished is, military action. Now whatever way you look at this, it boils down to, killing people. Even a four year old can see this will not make one look good.

So what is the objective in going to war in Afganistan and Iraq. Well, imagining that the government line, is the true one. Putting aside the relatively new objective, since the search for WMD has been given up, "to bring freedom to the Iraqi people." The main objective was to disarm a threat to the US and it's allies.

"We will direct every resource at our command -- every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the destruction and to the defeat of the global terror network." -- George W. Bush, 9/20/01

"We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them." -- George W. Bush, 9/20/01

"The primary goal is to make it clear to Saddam that we expect him to be a peaceful neighbour in the region and we expect him not to develop weapons of mass destruction. And if we find him doing so, there will be a consequence."—U.S. President George W. Bush at his first White House news conference; Feb. 22, 2001

"Our cause is just, the security of the nations we serve and the peace of the world. And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people." --George W. Bush March 22, 2003 Radio Address

"Our mission -- besides removing the regime that threatened us, besides ending a place where the terrorists could find a friend, besides getting rid of weapons of mass destruction -- our mission has been to bring a humanitarian aid and restore basic services, and put this country, Iraq, on the road to self- government. And we'll stay as long as it takes to complete our mission. And then all our forces are going to leave Iraq and come home"
-made by Bush in Ohio

So now that these wars are fully underway, how many of these objectives have been accomplished? No Bin laden, No terrorists, No WMD. Over 100,000 dead. If this was a business (pretending for a second its not) Bush would have been fired long ago.

With the cost of this "War on Terror" going over the $150 billion mark, one could ask, what sort of "good relations" could this buy in the "Muslim World"?

What's the solution? Well my idea is:
Turn the US army into a massive boy scouts brigade who travel around the world helping old ladies cross roads, plough fields with their tanks, mine coal with their rocket launchers, help fishermen with their nucleur submarines etc etc.................