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

Monday, February 28, 2005

Ironic Occupation

For two countries in a region of conflict that have problems in common, the proposed solutions could not differ more. As nearly every media outlet reports US calls for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from their occupational position in Lebanon they comically (or worryingly) fail to see any similarities in the US occupation of Iraq.

""The (UN) Security Council resolution that was passed last September was very clear in terms of what the expectations are with regards to Lebanon. It stated very clearly that foreign troops need to be withdrawn from Lebanon," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said at a briefing.

"Syria's continued presence in Lebanon is a destabilizing force in the region and a destabilizing force in Lebanon. Syria's continued support for terrorism is a problem, it is a concern that we have expressed directly to the government of Syria," he said.

Syria has maintained some 14,000 troops and intelligence officials in Lebanon in disregard of the UN resolution.

"Syria needs to change its behavior and use its influence in a constructive way to do what it can to prevent attacks like this from happening in the first place," McClellan added.

The United States made the demand after a huge explosion in Beirut on Monday killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 14 other people. This was believed to be the worst attack in the Lebanese capital since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war." (1)

President Bush has called for Syria, one of his so called 'axis of evils', to withdraw it's forces in response to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in Beirut a week ago. The assassination was quick to be blamed on Syria by the US, Israel and Lebanon's opposition party. Evidence, however, is still in short supply.

In 1989 the Taif agreement stipulated that a timetable would be drawn up for a complete Syrian withdrawal, something the US is unwilling to do in Iraq. How this is not commented is quite baffling.

"Syria has indicated it will start withdrawing some of its troops from Lebanon soon, but U.S. President George W. Bush has insisted it should "end its occupation" of its neighbour." BEIRUT (Reuters) (2)

While Syria maintains dinal in relation to the assassintion, accusations remain rampant and come before any scheduled investigation. This is obviously no surprise to anyone aquainted with the way in which the US handled the 9/11 investigation.

Other similarities are so simple to notice, one could resonably consider the mainstream media blinkered when it comes to US actions, accusations and interests.

The rhetoric has gone into over drive with talk of Lebanon becoming a becon of democratic light in the region. With the expulsion of Syrian troops high on the agenda of many Lebanese, a move on the governments part would indeed show a level of democracy. Much like Iraq there is much popular resentment due to foreign military occupation of Lebanese territory. This however will not be mirrored in the US occupied/ruled Iraq. And this is apparently not in the least ironic enough to report as such.

""The truth is, we can't stand Syria," protesters chanted, as well as "Syria out" and "Freedom, sovereignty, independence"." (2)

The difference in what this should result in, according to mainstream media outlets, represents quite a gap (morally and legally). The Syrian withdrawal is considered a 'no brainer', whereas a US withdrawal is plainly a decision that should be left to the US administration, no matter what the cost suffered by the Iraqi people.

The fact that any journalist can write "President George W. Bush has insisted [Syria] should end its occupation" of Lebanon without adding a laugh track speaks volumes for the media's "impartiality".

1. http://english.people.com.cn/200502/16
2. http://uk.news.yahoo.com/050222/325/fcyk0.html


Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Story of the war

It all comes down to "mis-management" apparently.

When reading this, one would be forgiven in thinking that the only deaths were American contractors and insurgent related murders. Not much changed here then.

The undoing of the great US experiment in Iraq

IRAQ: As he prepares to leave Baghdad after two years covering Iraq, Jack Fairweather reflects on the failings of the US-led invasion which took place without a plan for the aftermath
Two years ago I rode into Basra with a convoy of British tanks feeling like a liberator.

Saddam was about to be overthrown, a massive reconstruction project begin, and democracy appeared just round the corner.

Two years on and Iraq has had its first elections but little else has turned out as expected.
The country is on the edge of civil war. For almost two years a mainly Sunni-led insurgency has pitted itself against US and Iraqi security forces and a floundering reconstruction process. The new Shia government looks set to wage a bloody war of repression in Sunni tribal areas, whilst pushing for an Islamic-style state.

Secular, moderating voices have been bullied into silence by the bombings and murders.
Many of these problems were an inevitable outcome of invading the country, although they have been magnified by a series of American mistakes and miscalculations. At the heart of Iraq's failings is the extraordinary fact that when US and British troops streamed across the Iraqi border, they did so without a plan. I leave the country wondering how the great American experiment in Iraq came undone in the heedless rush to war.

There was a plan for Iraq. In the months leading up to the invasion the US State Department held extensive discussions with Iraqi exiles, resulting in a 2,000-odd page document called the "Future of Iraq Project".




Saturday, February 19, 2005

Arming The World

As mounting suspicion is heaped on to an already unstable Iran, the not so sutble threats being levelled by the US administration makes one wonder is the US forcing governments to develop nuclear weapons as their only means of deterring western military intervention.

As it was quite obvious, "except" to the actual instigators, that Iraq posed no nucleur threat prior to the war, "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..." (Scott Ritter, Weapons Inspector) (1). There is a relevant question to ask, whether war would have gone ahead if Saddam actually did possess the threat he was said to have.

As the ironically renamed DPRK has recently stated its nucleur capabilities we saw an immediate response by the US, in that the threat was basically discarded as bluff.

"Last week, North Korea announced that it had built nuclear weapons and was suspending participation in the talks." (2)

"ElBaradei (Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency) said North Korea was ''the greatest security challenge" the world faces. ''I am very concerned about the North Korea dialogue right now."" (3)

"The North's top general, Gen Kim Yong-Chun, a close adviser to supreme leader Kim Jong-Il, urged the nation's million-strong army to prepare for a final showdown with US "imperialists"." (4)

Unto which the US administration responded:

"I believe the situation with North Korea will be resolved peacefully," Bush said to reporters at his ranch in Texas. "As I said, it's a diplomatic issue, not a military issue, and we're working all fronts.

"... We are working with friends and allies in the region to explain clearly to North Korea it's not in their nation's interest to develop and proliferate weapons of mass destruction."
(United Press International) (5)

North Korea has long been suspected of attempting and even testing nucleur armament (6). However, even after a loaded admisssion (obviously stating they possess weapons as form of deterrant, "The North Korean foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency: "We have manufactured nukes for self-defence to cope with the Bush administration's evermore undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the (North)."" (7)), the threat posed is apparently not an immediate one.

On the other hand Iran has a less convincing past when it comes to capabilities and pursuit of nuclear weapons, but this it seems has more bearing on their supposed threat.

"The director of the UN agency responsible for investigating Iran's nuclear program said yesterday that there have been no new discoveries in the last six months to substantiate claims that the Islamic state is secretly working toward a nuclear bomb."

"In a wide-ranging interview with four US newspapers, Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency also described White House policies on Iran and North Korea as inconsistent"

"The Bush administration contends the program is designed to build nuclear weapons but Iran says the goal is nuclear energy that will someday substitute for its oil and gas reserves." (8)

With most experts believing that it would take Iran five to ten years at their present capacity to develop nucleur capabilites:

"Iran could master the nuclear fuel cycle this year, which would give it the ability to build a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade." (9)

"The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna has had inspectors in the country throughout the period. While finding much that is suspect, the inspectors have not found any proof of a clandestine nuclear bomb programme." ('Special forces "on the ground" in Iran,' Ian Traynor, The Guardian, January 17, 2005)

This was met with a different US reaction:

"Iran's announcements are further strong evidence of the compelling need to take Iran's nuclear programme to the Security Council," Mr Bolton said in a statement. (The US Under Secretary of State) (10)

"We're concerned about reports that show that prior to a certain international meeting, they're willing to speed up processing of materials that could lead to a nuclear weapon," Mr Bush said. (11)

And most importantly, what sort of action is likely:

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week said military action was not on the agenda "at this point"." (12)

Therefore it has been made obvious that US will not instigate the action, most probably due to the backlash it suffered acting without UN approval with regard to Iraq. This, however, does not negate all military options as:

"Cheney...expressed concern that Israel "might well decide to act first" to destroy Iran's nuclear program. The Israelis would let the rest of the world "worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterward," he added in an MSNBC interview." (13)

Given that this president has recently claimed recieving a mandate and also being gifted legitimacy by many world leaders in his venture into Iraq (by hosting, so called, democratic elections) his statement that he would "never want...to say 'never', but military action is certainly not, never the...first choice" (The Irish Times) is a disconcerting one.

There is obviously a certain inequaility in how each countries nuclear capabilities are weighted. North Korea has long been considered a nuclear power, which is accepted by most as the reason why the serious human rights abuses cannot be addressed there.

("We have a gift coming from Russia that will enable us to pick up the gap for a month. And then if we don't have additional support, we'll reduce our level of activity by something in the neighbourhood of 3.8 million people in February," Mr Morris warned.

Most of North Korea's 23 million people are extremely poor, with food, clean water, power and medical services in short supply. In some parts, food is so scarce that fields are guarded." (14))

But even an open admission is unamimously played down by western governments. This is polarised in their reaction to Iran's less than obvious threat. In fact showing less potential than it's neighbour Iraq who "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." (Dick Cheney) (15). There is provided here, ample reason to be suspicious.

The question remains, would the US actually risk open war with a nucleur armed country. Certainly the past has shown that this sort of war is avoided at all costs. During the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union attempted to maintain a war without ever having to directly attack each others home territory, for the obvious reason of risking nucleur reprisal.

It has been made quite obvious to any country aiming to steer clear of a US led invasion that only a nuclear deterrant is sufficient. Russia, China and more recently India and Pakistan have all benefited from their nuclear capacity. As the US and other western countries have led the way in nuclear armament for the purpose of deterrence it seems quite obvious others would follow.

"During the Cold War, nuclear deterrence occupied center stage, and our strategy was focused on deterring the significant nuclear and conventional threat from the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. Now that the Cold War is over, the role of nuclear deterrence has been reduced, but the need for deterrence in today's world is still critical. Our nuclear posture contributes substantially to our ability to deter any future hostile political leadership with access to nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction from aggression against the United States, its forces abroad, and its allies and friends." (Edward L. Warner III, assistant secretary of defense for strategy and threat reduction, March 31, 1998) (16)

Not to mention:

"When we signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1968, we subscribed to Article VI, which calls for the parties to undertake "to pursue negotiations in good faith relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." In 1995, when the NPT was indefinitely extended, we reiterated this pledge to work toward the complete elimination of nuclear weapons in the context of general and complete disarmament." (16)

But as you may have noticed, this is a direction long forgotten.

1. http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0210-02.htm
2. http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2005/02
3. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles
4. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/world/2003
6. "North Korea fired a missile in 1998 over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean. The Taepodong 1 is believed to have a range of up to 2,500 km. North Korea is also thought to be developing missiles capable of reaching the western US."
"A huge explosion in North Korea last week was a deliberate blast during work on a hydro-electric dam, Pyongyang's Foreign Minister, Paek Nam-sun, was quoted as telling a visiting British official yesterday."

Where again, the possibilty of a nuclear threat was dismissed out of hand.

"But a BBC correspondent in Pyongyang with the British Foreign Office Minister, Bill Rammell, quoted Mr Paek as saying: "It was no nuclear explosion or an accident. It was a deliberate controlled detonation to demolish a mountain in the far north of the country.""

"American and South Korean officials immediately played down the possibility the cloud was evidence of a nuclear weapons test, with one U.S. official telling CNN it was "no big deal" and could be from a forest fire."

"US Secretary of State Colin Powell also rejected suggestions of a nuclear blast."

""We're trying to find out more about it and what exactly it was if anything, but it does not appear (that it was) a nuclear event," Powell told the Fox News television program today."

Possibly faithfully, however a certain level of skepticism was shown by the Democrat John Kerry:

"The Boston Herald reported that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry issued a statement that the very idea North Korea could have been testing a nuclear weapon represented a national security failure by President George W. Bush.

"North Korea's nuclear program is well ahead of what Saddam Hussein was even suspected of doing - yet the president took his eye off the ball, wrongly ignoring this growing danger," Kerry said."
7. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/world/2005
8. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn
9. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/world
10. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/world
11. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/world
12. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4246517.stm
13. Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, Friday, Jan 21, 2005
14. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/world/2003
15. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002


Friday, February 18, 2005

Definitely the man for the job

US envoy to Iraq is new chief of spy agencies
Conor O'Clery in Washington

US: President Bush yesterday named Mr John Negroponte, currently the American ambassador in Iraq, to be the first US national intelligence director, with oversight of all 15 US spy agencies.

Mr Negroponte (65) is a former US ambassador to the United Nations and was at the heart of the Bush administration's drive to convince the world body that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Bush chose the career foreign service officer for the job of ambassador to Baghdad last April. Mr Negroponte took over from US administrator Paul Bremer hours after the handover of sovereignty to Iraq's interim government.

Mr Bush had originally resisted creating the post of national intelligence director, which was a major recommendation of the bipartisan commission that investigated intelligence failures before September 11th.



Dear Madam,

Conor O'Clery writes in today's Irish Times "As ambassador to Honduras Mr Negroponte strengthened the military dictatorship of Gen Gustavo Alvarez at a time when scores of political opponents were disappearing." However "[he] has since said he did not believe death squads operated in Honduras during his time as US ambassador."

Is this the most informative article possible, while still remaining concise?

Although Mr Negroponte has maintained his defense, against allegations that he was either aware or complicite in extreme violations of human rights in the 1980s while ambassador to Honduras. His defense amounts to nothing more than pleading ignorance. Mr Negroponte's main task was to implement the Reagan administration's policy of arming and training Contra rebels in an attempt to overthrow the Sandinista government (who won an election endorsed as free and fair by international monitoring agencies) in neighboring Nicaragua. In executing this policy Mr. Negroponte channeled US aid (which had increased from $3.9 million in 1980 to $77.4 million by 1984) away from the Honduran population, living in abject poverty, and into developing the country's military.

Battalion 316, a project of Honduran military intelligence and trained by the CIA (who later admitted the following), was responsible for widespread torture, kidnapping, and assassination. Avoiding combat with the Nicaraguan army, Battalion 316 attaked civilian targets, essentially acting as a terrorist organisation.

With experience such as this, even if he cannot recall it, he is arguably the man for the job.

Yours sincerely,






Thursday, February 17, 2005

We love a bit of war we do

The threat of draft will tame warlike US populace

The debate on the draft, to the extent it exists, focuses too heavily on the U.S. military crisis in Iraq and far too little on American domestic arrangements that enabled the Bush Pirates to launch their War Against All, in which Iraq was supposed to be only the first, triumphal episode. Although it is unquestionably true that Iraqi resistance has strained U.S. forces to the breaking point – compelling the Bush men to torture their own soldiers with extended tours of duty and to prepare a selective draft of citizens possessing special skills – it does not follow that a draft will rescue the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Grand Plan. Quite the opposite: a universal military and national service draft such as proposed by Harlem’s Charles Rangel and a small group of other congressmen would utterly wreck the social compact that makes endless war politically possible, by forcing Americans to ponder the consequences of U.S. foreign policy to their own families and friends for the first time in 32 years.




Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Guardian explains what free elections are...

"Groundbreaking elections in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Palestine and Iraq, extolled in President Bush's "dawn of freedom" inaugural address, have encouraged western hopes that democratic values are gaining universal acceptance. But this winning streak, if that is what it is, will come to a shuddering halt next month in Zimbabwe." (1)


"All the indications so far are that the elections will be stolen"


- repression
- banned unlicensed meetings of more than 10 people
- restricted independent election monitoring and human rights groups
- Zimbabweans who have left the country for political or economic reasons cannot vote
- Intimidation and violence by youth militias is continuing unchecked

and what's wrong with this?

"Especially troubling for Mr Mugabe's neighbours is his failure to adopt electoral standards agreed last August with his peers in the 13-country Southern African Development Community."

what sort of standards does this suggest?

"The principles for the conduct of democratic elections include the full political participation of all citizens; freedom of association; political tolerance; equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media; impartial electoral institutions and an independent judiciary; voter education; acceptance and respect of the election results proclaimed by the national electoral authorities, and legal challenges of the election results. The responsibilities of member states holding elections include that they take measures to ensure the “scrupulous implementation” of these democratic election principles; establish impartial, all-inclusive, competent and accountable national electoral bodies staffed by qualified personnel; safeguard human and civil liberties of all citizens, including the freedom of movement, assembly, association, expression, campaigning and
access to the media on the part of all stakeholders, during electoral processes; and provide adequate resources for carrying out democratic elections. The SADC electoral charter also identifies the responsibilities of member states to SEOMs, including that member states must accredit the members of the SEOM on a non-discriminatory basis. There are also provisions for the establishment of an SEOM, for a code of conduct for electoral observers, and for the observation of elections. Should a member state invite an SEOM to observe its election, the Chairperson of SADC’s Politics, Defense and Security Organ must constitute the observer team." (2)

That seems fair.
So why haven't we held the same standards for legitimacy in Iraqi elections?

Opposition party leader
Morgan Tsvangirai of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) made his position clear about the consequences of taking part in elections under these conditions:

Speaking to the Guardian last month in Johannesburg, Mr Tsvangirai said the MDC was facing a dilemma. "The question is: are credible elections possible under the current conditions? The answer is no. We cannot hold public meetings of more than three people without police permission. There are 50,000 youth militia trained to inflict violence on the opposition.

"If we take part under current conditions, we give legitimacy to a discredited system. If we don't run then we become irrelevant."" (3)

Elections in 2000 were hindered (understatement) by violence and intimidation. And many countries questioned (understatement) the result. Prompting Condoleezza Rice to name the country an "outpost of tyranny" in her senate confirmation hearing last month.

As neighbouring countries and those further afield call (rightly) for elections to meet the standards required one may wonder why these standards are not imposed elsewhere.

They hope to establish whether conditions laid down by the Southern African Development Community for a free and fair election have been met.

The SADC benchmarks, set out last year in Mauritius, state that political tolerance, freedom of association and full participation of all citizens are prerequisites." (4)

1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/zimbabwe/article
3. http://www.guardian.co.uk/zimbabwe
4. http://www.guardian.co.uk/zimbabwe/article


Monday, February 14, 2005

Steyn of the Times

It is an open question whether west will survive
Mark Steyn

Opinion: Here are three small news items from around the world you might have missed:

(1) An unemployed waitress in Berlin faces the loss of her welfare benefits after refusing a job as a prostitute in a legalised brothel.

(2) A British court has ruled that a suspected terrorist from Algeria cannot be detained in custody because jail causes him to suffer a "depressive illness".

3) Jeffrey Eden (17) of Charlestown, Rhode Island, has been awarded an A by his teacher and the "Silver Key" in the Rhode Island Scholastic Art Awards for a diorama titled "Bush/Hitler And How History Repeats Itself".

A trio of itsy-bitsy little stories from the foot of page 27 of your daily paper, if they made it at all. But they're as revealing about the course of the war as anything going on in Iraq. The Germans, in the bad old days when their preferred field of combat was France rather than Fraulein Helga's government-regulated bondage dungeon, used to talk about "wehrwille" - war will. America, Britain, Australia and a select few other countries have demonstrated they can just about muster the war will on the battlefield. On the broader cultural front, whether this war in the end will be won, there's little evidence of any kind of will.



Dear Madam,

In the Irish Times today Mark Steyn attempts to "reveal...the course of the war" by annalysing three unrelated articles. A difficult task for anyone, but Mr. Steyn throws himself into it with all the grace and civility of a recently shamed football pundit. The german woman "forced" into prostitution is a sign of European weakness in the midst of the constant threat of Islamic extremists, the "illness" and subsequent release of a terror suspect caused by prison detention is another and the teenager's art project is merely an example of how out of touch the "left" is with reality.

But what does this all mean one might ask, well Mr. Steyn is only too glad to explain: "the Afghan camps are gone, the Great Satan's liberated Iraq" which inturn means "[He's] not worried about Iraq. As they demonstrated on January 30th, they'll be just fine. The western front is the important one in this war, the point of intersection between Islam and a liberal democratic tradition so mired in self-loathing it would rather destroy our civilisation just to demonstrate its multicultural bona fides."

A fairly logical assumption, if it were true. But where do the reported 200,000+ insurgents fit into this? With deaths in Iraq steadily unchanged since democratisation, what can one expect for the newly democratic country?

Well as he said in another recent article:

"The Democrats' big phrase is "exit strategy." Time and again, their senators demanded that Rice tell 'em what the "exit strategy" for Iraq was. The correct answer is: There isn't one, and there shouldn't be one, and it's a dumb expression." (2)

Simple, no exit strategy. One would have thought for anyone witnessing those demonstrations of democracy last month it would be a priority to show our sincerity by bowing to democratic will and at least entertaining the idea of an exit strategy, simply because that is what the majority of Iraqis want. Otherwise, in a "liberated Iraq" one is only free to do as we say.

He then explains the lack of an "exit strategy":

"By contrast, the British went in to India without an "exit strategy," stayed for generations and midwifed the world's most populous democracy and a key U.S. ally in the years ahead." (2)

What he "forgets" to mention is that the reality of British imperialism led the Indian people to greater familiarity with famine than democracy:

"Thousands, if not millions, of people starved to death right next to the very symbols of modernity, the railways that linked ancient agricultural areas to the new international market. The stated British mission of civilizing India actually curtailed India’s economic growth. In addition to the roughly 20 million Indians who died from starvation (British estimates), India’s economy stagnated. In 1800 India’s share of the world’s manufactured product was four times that of Britain. By 1900 India was almost totally under British control and the ration was 8-1 in England’s favor. Moreover, according to a British statistician, who analyzed Indian food security measures in the two millennia prior to 1800, there was one major famine a century in India. Under British rule there was one every four years." (4)

An unfortunate result of spreading democracy:

"Firstly, it diverts scarce land and water resources from meeting local food needs to providing for export markets thus creating hunger and conditions for famine of the most vulnerable and marginal communities. This is what happened during colonialism and is happening under the recolonisation of globalisation." (6)

Not forgeting the mindset of an imperialist:

As "Lord Elgin's 1895 statement [puts it bluntly], "We could only govern by maintaining the fact that we are the dominant race - though Indians in services should be encouraged, there is a point at which we must reserve the control to ourselves, if we are to remain at all." (5)

Control is the leading idea in colonial ambition and so it remains in Iraq. Therefore he feels no reason to provide any reason as to why "the Great Satan" was a close ally.

I could believe his every word if it were not for the niggling problem of a long term memory. History it seems is not in Mr. Steyn's repertoire:

"What is wanted [in Iraq, circa 1920] is a king who will be content to reign but not govern. What we want is some administration with Arab institutions which we can safely leave while pulling the strings ourselves; something that won't cost very much but under which our economic and political interests will be secure" (British Foreign Office, 1920).

As Mr. Steyn berates the 17 year old for comparing Bush to Hitler he makes a valid point "Bush isn't Hitler." But why then in a recent article does he aquire the right to compare the war in Iraq with the war against the Nazis. This smacks of hipocrisy:

"Democrat Senate colossus Harry Reid -- who makes Tom Daschle look like Reese Witherspoon -- said in his first major speech of the week, "With yesterday's elections in Iraq, President Bush has a golden opportunity to change course,'' which means . . . well, to be honest, I haven't a clue what it means. But it sounds a lot like Reid's terrific speech from June 1944: "With yesterday's successful D-Day landings, General Eisenhower now has a golden opportunity to change course and surrender."" (1)

So while Euope faces it's eventual demise "whether the west will survive this twilight struggle: Europe almost certainly won't"
we are told to focus on "The western front, [it] is the important one in this war, the point of intersection between Islam and a liberal democratic tradition so mired in self-loathing it would rather destroy our civilisation just to demonstrate its multicultural bona fides."

While I agree that this war is fought in the west, it is the people of the east who will suffer. So while we debate the morality of imprisoning "terror suspects" indefinitely, sending troops to do "our" biding improperly equiped, invading Iran and distributing Iraqi oil fairly amongst us. We can be safe in the knowledge that our "decadence and weak" nature have allowed the deaths of well over 100,000 people. The price of democracy in Iraq is one we are willing to make them pay.

Maybe for a follow up article Mr. Steyn could, using a story detailing the US national debt, another describing the the life sentence handed out to a man convicted of three felonies (possession of durgs, burglary and carrying a gun) and one describing the recent US intervention in Haiti, come up with the same conclusion of "mass civilisational suicide."

Yours sincerely,

1. http://www.suntimes.com/output/steyn/cst-edt-steyn06.html
2. http://www.suntimes.com/output/steyn/cst-edt-steyn23.html
4. http://www.zmag.org/content
5. http://www.peaceredding.org
6. http://www.goacom.com/overseas-digest

US national debt:


Friday, February 11, 2005

From Haiti to Iraq and beyond

The Pirates Brand of Democracy

The U.S. is determined to “make the pursuit of freedom the organizing principle of the 21st century,” said Condoleezza Rice on the Paris leg of her worldwide debut as Secretary of State. The real nature of this pirate-imposed brand of “democracy,” designed to bestow absolute freedom of action to U.S. corporations, is evident in Iraq and Haiti.

After attempting to straightjacket future Iraqi governments with laws that would have allowed 100 percent foreign ownership of key state assets – in direct contradiction of the Iraqi constitution – and placing exiles in nominal power, the U.S. reluctantly agreed to hold elections. Yet the Americans continue to harden at least 12 “enduring bases” as if they have no intention of leaving, no matter what Iraq’s future government says.




Ward Churchill

"Alert O'Reilly...send word to both the limo liberals and the Soldier of Fortune crowd...Pataki, Zahn, and Hannity take note...we have another repugnant quote from W. Churchill:

"I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place."

Oops...my bad. That wasn't Ward Churchill who said that. It was Winston Churchill. Sir Winston Churchill. The man U.S. News and World Report called "The Last Hero." The legend who also said this: "I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes." The icon/terrorist who asked British scientists to cook up "a new kind of weather" for the citizens of Dresden.

Do you think the good folks at Hamilton College would get any death threats if they invited Sir Winston to give a talk?"*

The essay that started it all:

"Some People Push Back"
On the Justice of Roosting Chickens
By Ward Churchill


The biggest problem lies in this bit:

"As to those in the World Trade Center . . .
Well, really. Let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire – the "mighty engine of profit" to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved – and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to "ignorance" – a derivative, after all, of the word "ignore" – counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in – and in many cases excelling at – it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it."

The problem here is, although he himself has described this piece as harsh, he didn't "[clarify] what did read like a blanket stigmatization of the WTC inhabitants in his original paper" until his statement:

It should be emphasized that I applied the "little Eichmanns" characterization only to those described as "technicians." Thus, it was obviously not directed to the children, janitors, food service workers, firemen and random passers-by killed in the 911 attack. According to Pentagon logic, were simply part of the collateral damage. Ugly? Yes. Hurtful? Yes. And that's my point. It's no less ugly, painful or dehumanizing a description when applied to Iraqis, Palestinians, or anyone else. If we ourselves do not want to be treated in this fashion, we must refuse to allow others to be similarly devalued and dehumanized in our name."

And here's his full statement:


Here churchill defines what he meant exactly:

"WARD CHURCHILL: Well it goes to Hannah Arendt's notion of Eichmann, the thesis that he embodied the banality of evil. That she had gone to the Eichmann trial to confront the epitome of evil in her mind and expected to encounter something monstrous, and what she encountered instead was this nondescript little man, a bureaucrat, a technocrat, a guy who arranged train schedules, who, as it turned out, ultimately didn't even agree with the policy that he was implementing, but performed the technical functions that made the holocaust possible, at least in the efficient manner that it occurred, in a totally amoral and soulless way, purely on the basis of excelling at the function and getting ahead within the system that he found himself. He was a good family man, in his way. He was loved by his children, participated in civic activities, was in essence the good German. And she [Arendt] said, therein lies the evil..."



And some commentary from counterpunch:

The Right has a License to Write Anything

Ward Churchill and the Mad Dogs


When it comes to left and right, meaning the respective voices of sanity and dementia, we're meant to keep two sets of books.



"We Love Free Speech in America"

The People, the President and Ward Churchill


For those of us who have spent time on the college campus or have resided in a university community, living with questionable opinions of "radical" professors and students is not unusual. The Mighty Ado over the University of Colorado's Ward Churchill would barely raise a ripple among those accustomed to cantankerous academic debate.



It's the Same Beast

The Censorship of Ward Churchill and Dancehall Reggae Music


Dancehall Reggae and many of its most prolific and articulate artists have as of late been treated the same as Ward Churchill, and have been censored and attacked for their "insensitive" comments. The reason for the censorship of the Reggae artists was ostensibly the anti-gay content in some of their work but since when have the powers that be cared so much about gays. The reason for the censorship of Dancehall Reggae artists is actually the outspoken radical antiwar content of their music which is spreading a popular radical message to the youth in Europe and the US through a popular musical medium that is "insensitive" to say the least toward US aggression and propaganda.



The New McCarthyism on Campus

Ward Churchill and the Attack on American Higher Education


The real task of the NSTL (National Socialist Teacher's League)is to create the new German educator in the spirit of National Socialism. It is being carried out with the same methods with which the movement has conquered the whole nation: indoctrination and propaganda.

Statement of the German National Socialist Teacher's League, 1933

This past week, I had the delightful opportunity of being interviewed for a soon-to-be-released documentary, "Beyond Five Senses", which focuses on social justice, world events, and the simultaneous, hopeful evolution of human consciousness. The interview took place on the college campus where I teach U.S. history. As the crew set up cameras near a vintage classroom building, I noticed a large display of graffiti on the corner of the building which read: "Rethink patriotism." I smiled, not only because it reminded me of my college years in the sixties, but because this particular campus is not known for its activism. The interviewer pitched me a number of astute questions like: Why do I think the people of the United States are in such denial about their country's demise, how do I see history currently repeating itself, how do my students respond to what I teach them about U.S. history? The camera rolled, for one hour, during which time I was told to "just talk."



* By Mickey Z at http://www.counterpunch.org/mickey02072005.html


How to make several billion dollars vanish

Bush Budget is "a multi-trillion dollar decade long scam"

by Noriel Roubini
Associate Professor Economics, NYU

02/09/05 -- The dishonesty of the administration about budget deficits has reached levels unheard of. These folks have absolutely no shame. Bush presented a budget that claims that he will achieve his goal of reducing the deficit by half by 2008 (from a false
2004 baseline of $521 billion rather than the actual 2004 deficit of $412b) and will achieve a deficit of "only" $233b by 2009. Even better news, the administration claims: the "halving" of the deficit will be reached by 2008, a year earlier than original 2009 target for it.

Who are these accounting scam artists trying to deceive? Do they think everyone in America and around the world is a mathematically challenged total idiot or an accounting moron?

The reality is, that based on realistic scenarios outlined last week by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the deficit by 2009 will be close to $600b (or 4.0% of GDP) rather than falling to $233b; and the deficit will reach over $1,100b (or 5.5% of GDP) by 2015.

How do they create the false $233b deficit by 2009?




Reporting without comment

(from todays Irish Times)

"The message is the same for both: give up nuclear weapons and life can be different," Dr Condoleezza Rice said.

"The message to the Iranians is: you can have a different path with the international community if you are prepared not to go the route of a nuclear weapon and to dismantle whatever activities might be devoted to building a nuclear weapon under cover of civilian nuclear power," she said. (Dr. Rice)

"The US is playing down North Korea's claim yesterday that it has developed a nuclear bomb, while stepping up warnings to Iran not to create the technology to manufacture a nuclear weapon."

"Dr Condoleezza Rice, yesterday urged North Korea to return to talks and warned that the reclusive country faced only deeper international isolation.

"We are trying to give the North Koreans a different path," she told a news conference after meeting EU officials in Luxembourg. She said the US and its allies "can deal with any potential threat from North Korea.

"And North Korea, I think, understands that, but the fact of the matter is that the world has given them a way out and they should take that way out. We would hope that there will be six-party talks again, and six-party talks soon, so that we can resolve the issue.""
(Conor O.Clery)


Dear Madam,

As Dr. Rice not too subtly warns Iran (and the ironically renamed
DPRK) "The message is the same for both: give up nuclear weapons and
life can be different" one should be reminded that the same type of
claims were aimed at another oil laden middle eastern country in the
not too distant past. The alleged threat of Iranian nucleur activities
must be put in perspective. For the interests of fairness and accuracy
in reporting: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein
now has weapons of mass destruction." (US Vice President Dick Cheney,
26 th August 2002)*. Claims of "the threat from weapons of mass
destruction" were present in nearly every pre-war reports, they are
conspicuously absent now that they have been proven emphatically
false. Let us not be slowly ushered into to another bloody war under
false pretenses.

Yours sincerely,

* http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/08/20020826.html

And here's a good article summing up the whole situation neatly:

Iran Now, Iraq Then

With Iran in the sights, let's look back at just some of the lies we were told about Iraq.

by: David Traynier
28th Jan, 05
From: http://www.globalecho.org/viewarticle.php?aid=3064

The drum beat for an attack on Iran is becoming louder with every passing day. From the governments of the US and UK - and their media - a steady stream of warnings, insinuations, and allegations is softening us up to support an assault on Iran by either Anglo-American forces or Israel.

The invasion to 'disarm' Iraq has, according to a recent Lancet study, already cost over 100,000 Iraqi lives. We must not allow this to happen again.

Please take a minute to read the following short quotations. They are all fully sourced, so feel free to check them if you wish. Then please pass this on to as many people as you possibly can, regardless of their views on Iraq.

Remember these statements, the next time you listen to George W. Bush, Tony Blair or our 'impartial and honest' media tell us that we are threatened by the people of Iran.




Thursday, February 10, 2005

Propaganda and the BBC

by Alex Doherty

In a speech given at the Enviromedia conference in Johannesburg in October of last year George Monbiot, one of Britain's best journalists offered an explanation for the general subservience of mainstream reporting in the UK. During his speech he remarked that thankfully there are a few British media institutions which we can be somewhat proud of:

"there is a very limited number of outlets that I would broadly describe as "free". By free I don't mean that the product is given away. I mean that it is free from the direct influence of private proprietors...
The most famous is the BBC. It is not free of all influence, by any means. It is run by the state and financed by a tax on the ownership of televisions, called the licence fee. From time to time it is spectacularly and disastrously disciplined by the government, generally acting in concert with the right-wing press. It operates in a hostile environment, and the perspectives of its enemies - the enemies of free speech - often inform its coverage of the world's affairs. But there is no proprietor to tell it "you cannot do such and such because that offends the interests of my shareholders"."




Tuesday, February 08, 2005

US has used tsunami to boost aims in stricken area

(in The Irish Times)

Although some important information is overlooked:

As John Pilger has tirelessly commented "Newsreaders refer to it in passing: "American B-52 and Stealth bombers last night took off from the uninhabited British island of Diego Garcia to bomb Iraq (or Afghanistan)"" and even within an insightful piece such as that by Rahul Bedi in todays Irish Times Diego Garcia's history is overlooked.

"The US, she added, was also looking for an alternative to Diego Garcia, whose lease was soon running out.
Although historically and legally belonging to Mauritius, Diego Garcia was formally constituted as part of the newly created BIOT in 1965 and came under the administrative control of the British government of the Seychelles. A year later Britain signed a bilateral agreement with the US making Diego Garcia available to it on lease for defence purposes till 2016."

What could easily be mentioned here is that "Diego Garcia once had a small native population, the inhabitants, known as the Ilois, or the Chagossians, were forced to relocate (1967–1973) so that the island could be turned into a military base....Uprooted and robbed of their livelihood, the Ilois now live in poverty in Mauritius's urban slums, more than 1,000 miles from their homeland."*

As US forces continue to use Diego Garcia as a base "for anti-terrorist operations" it serves only to push Bush's quaint speeches about "defending freedom" and "the sacrifices for the liberty of strangers" into the realm of delusion.

As "Article 7 of the statute of the international criminal court describes the "deportation or forcible transfer of population ... by expulsion or other coercive acts" as a crime against humanity." One has to wonder, if a war waged in part, from an island which is inhabitated by means of a "crime against humanity," can that war ever be justified?

To refer to Diego Garcia in passing, without comment, is as much a lie as the British Government's statement in 1970s "There is nothing in our files about a population and an evacuation."*



The article:

The US has availed of the aftermath of the tsunami to bolster its Indian Ocean strategic presence, writes Rahul Bedi in New Delhi.

The US has subtly turned tragedy into imperial strategy in the politics of relief that followed the destructive tsunami which struck 11 Indian Ocean states in December, by bolstering military alliances in a region where its presence was minimal.

In the flurry of rushing international help to the devastated region, Washington quietly furthered its national security strategy of increasing its military bases in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) with the aim of dominating the international stage and, more importantly, of containing potential rival China.

The former US secretary of state, Colin Powell, blatantly declared that US relief to the tsunami- affected region would assist the war against terror and instil "American values" in the region.

Consequently, in the name of relief, the US revived the Utapao military base in Thailand it had used during the Vietnam War. Task Force 536 is to be moved there to establish a "forward positioning" site for the US Air Force and cargo.

During subsequent tsunami relief operations, the US reactivated its military co-operation agreements with Thailand and the Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines. Alongside, US Navy vessels, in keeping with previous treaties, availed of facilities in Singapore.

The US marines and the navy also arrived to bolster relief measures in Sri Lanka, despite the tsunami-hit island's initial reluctance to permit them entry.

Washington has long wanted a naval presence in Trincomalee, eastern Sri Lanka, or alternately in Galle, further south, to shorten the supply chain from its major regional military base in distant Diego Garcia, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) leased to the US in 1966 for 50 years.

Alongside, the US was continuing with its survey of the Malacca Straits, through which nearly 90 per cent of Japan's oil supplies pass and over which China exercises considerable influence.

"Clearly these new bases will strengthen Washington's military logistical support in the region," Prof Anuradha Chenoy of Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru university said. The US, she added, was also looking for an alternative to Diego Garcia, whose lease was soon running out.

Although historically and legally belonging to Mauritius, Diego Garcia was formally constituted as part of the newly created BIOT in 1965 and came under the administrative control of the British government of the Seychelles. A year later Britain signed a bilateral agreement with the US making Diego Garcia available to it on lease for defence purposes till 2016.

With the independence of Seychelles in 1976, however, the BIOT became a self-administering territory under the East African Desk of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

In return for the island's lease, the US contributed half the set-up costs of the BIOT, through an offset arrangement that included Britain buying the US-made Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Although both British and American flags fly over the island, Britain's military presence on Diego Garcia, one of 52 islands in the Chagos Archipelago, is limited to a detachment of marines for security purposes alone.

Diego Garcia's geostrategic location in the Indian Ocean and its full range of naval, military and communications facilities provide it with a critical role in support of the US Navy's forward presence in the North Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Its importance to American defence policy began with the Yemen crisis of 1979, increasing with the Iranian crisis of 1979-1981. It played a critical role in Washington executing the more recent wars in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Diego Garcia is also used for anti-terrorist operations, but it is remote and Washington is desperate for an alternative.

But in its endeavours to establish a lasting presence in the IOR, the US has been unsuccessful in building lasting strategic or diplomatic relations with Malaysia or Indonesia.

Malaysia has been highly critical of Washington's adventurism in Iraq and its imperial aims disguised under the goal of waging war against terrorism.

Indonesia, on the other hand, has been criticised by the US Congress for its human rights record in Aceh, where the struggle for independence has been ruthlessly stamped upon by the military. But a loose "working arrangement" has been worked out between Jakarta and Washington keeping in mind the unprecedented destruction the tsunami wreaked in Aceh and the accompanying human misery.

The tsunami was not the only tragedy that Washington has used to further its strategic interests.

Soon after September 11th, US military presence was palpable not only in Kabul, Islamabad and strategically located central Asian republics like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Krgyzstan - vital to US oil conglomerates, anxious to begin laying pipelines to the Arabian sea - but in varying degrees in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and to a lesser extent in Myanmar (Burma).

And, while seizing the opportunity to obtain its long-term energy and security interests, the US changed all rules of engagement.

In its military alliances, especially in the central Asian republics, it has either played down or ignored human rights considerations among its new-found allies and in some cases even rewarded them.

Desperate for an alternative to the turbulent Arab states for its petroleum needs, the US has emerged as the leading foreign investor in central Asia's energy sector, openly declaring that it wants to promote political and economic stability in the area. Loosely translated, it wants peace to ensure profit.

© The Irish Times


Monday, February 07, 2005

The Irish Times tells it like it is...


Insurgency will go on after misleading poll

The recent Iraqi elections were no exercise in democracy, writes Richard Boyd Barrett

Last Sunday's elections in Iraq were hailed by the US as a "historic" step towards freedom. This is another fiction from the people who brought us "weapons of mass destruction".

The claim of a 59 per cent turnout was deliberately misleading. The figure is based on 14 million registered voters, not the estimated 18 million eligible voters. This means real turnout was about 44 per cent of the eligible. High voter abstention is confirmed by the poll figures for Iraqis living abroad. About two million were eligible to vote, but only 280,000 registered and 265,000 actually voted.

Altogether, 70 political parties and millions of Iraqis boycotted the poll. In the mostly Sunni central provinces, the boycott was overwhelming. The US described the levelling of Falluja last October as "preparation" for elections. About 3,000 people were killed, including 500 children; 200,000 were made refugees and the city was flattened. No wonder so many Iraqis rejected such "democracy".

The insurgency in Iraq is a response to the brutality of the occupation. Figures from Iraq's Health Ministry show occupation forces caused 60 per cent of civilian deaths in Iraq since July 2004. This is on top of an estimated 100,000 dead as a result of the invasion. In Falluja, there were no attacks on US troops until mid-April 2003 when marines killed 13 unarmed protesters.

In a recent report in the Economist, a US marine commander in Ramadi told a journalist, "If anyone gets too close to us, we f***ing waste them. It's a kind of a shame, because it means we've killed a lot of innocent people."

So, the recent terrible killing of two Iraqi parents, in front of their six children, at a US army checkpoint was not an isolated event.

The insurgency and opposition to the election is strongest in the mostly Sunni provinces because US forces and operations are concentrated there but is not confined to Sunnis. It exists across Iraq.

All polls since early 2004 show 70-80 per cent of Iraqis - Sunni and Shia - want the US to get out. The popular Shia cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, who led an uprising against the US last April, also boycotted the elections. Most insurgent attacks are in Baghdad which is two-thirds Shia. Recent heavy fighting in Tal Afar was between US forces and Shia Turkoman insurgents.

Most Shia voted because Ayatollah Sistani, the most senior Shia cleric in Iraq, said elections could help end the US occupation. But, critically, the Sunni and Shia population are united in opposing the US presence.

Media focus on religious identity and the possibility of sectarian conflict in Iraq also ignores very substantial secular, left and nationalist traditions. Only 8 per cent of Iraqis believe a civil war between Sunni and Shia likely. Many Iraqis believe the US is talking up divisions to justify the occupation and undermine the growing insurgency.

A Newsweek report suggested the US is now planning to train local paramilitary groups to use against insurgents as they did in El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980s. John Negroponte, the man credited with co-ordinating the actions in Latin America, is now the top US official in Iraq. The US has already used Shia and Kurds in assaults on places such as Falluja in efforts to stir up religious and ethnic differences.

Dirty tricks are a sign of growing US desperation. Desertions of US soldiers are rising fast, as is public concern about US casualties. Iraq's intelligence director estimates that 200,000 people are active in the insurgency. Asked recently, if insurgents were winning, he replied: "They're not losing."

Shia and Sunni leaders differed over the tactical approach to the elections but this is unlikely to dent the determination of both to remove the US presence.

There was no independent international monitoring of last Sunday's poll or the count. The US-based Carter Centre said the elections did not meet the criteria for a free and fair election. The voting system meant voters didn't know who the candidates were - one poll showed only 7 per cent knowledge of candidates, and parties with lots of US money behind them had a huge advantage. The new assembly and government is likely to look much the same as the old interim governing council.

In any event, the new assembly will have little power. The US will still control Iraq's oil revenues through the Development Fund for Iraq. Multimillion dollar contracts signed by Paul Bremer with US corporations will be binding on the new "government".

The Paris Club has agreed to forgive 80 per cent of Iraq's debts as long as it signs up to a structural adjustment programme. This includes eliminating the monthly free food basket for every Iraqi family. Crucially, Condoleezza Rice says the 150,000 US troops "will remain until Iraqis can do the job."

With most Iraqi's wanting them out now, this guarantees bloodshed in Iraq will continue and escalate.

On Friday, February 11th, at 8 p.m. in the ATGWU Hall, Middle Abbey Street, Dublin, Hani Lazim of Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation will give an Iraqi view on President Bush's version of freedom in his country. On March 19th, cities across the world will march to call for an end to the US occupation as the only way to bring real freedom to Iraq. In Dublin, we will also call on Bertie Ahern to get the US military out of Shannon. That will be a real exercise in democracy.

Richard Boyd Barrett is chairman of the Irish Anti-War Movement.

© The Irish Times


Interesting stuff from truthout.org

Iraq Media Coverage: Too Much Stenography, Not Enough Curiosity
By Norman Solomon

Friday 04 February 2005

Curiosity may occasionally kill a cat. But lack of curiosity is apt to terminate journalism with extreme prejudice.

"We will not set an artificial timetable for leaving Iraq, because that would embolden the terrorists and make them believe they can wait us out," President Bush said in his State of the Union address. "We are in Iraq to achieve a result: A country that is democratic, representative of all its people, at peace with its neighbors and able to defend itself."

President Johnson said the same thing about the escalating war in Vietnam. His rhetoric was typical on Jan. 12, 1966: "We fight for the principle of self-determination -- that the people of South Vietnam should be able to choose their own course, choose it in free elections without violence, without terror, and without fear."



Leading Shiite Clerics Pushing Islamic Constitution in Iraq
By Edward Wong
The New York Times

Sunday 06 February 2005

NAJAF, Iraq, Feb. 4 - With religious Shiite parties poised to take power in the new constitutional assembly, leading Shiite clerics are pushing for Islam to be recognized as the guiding principle of the new constitution.

Exactly how Islamic to make the document is the subject of debate.

At the very least, the clerics say, the constitution should ensure that legal measures overseeing personal matters like marriage, divorce and family inheritance fall under Shariah, or Koranic law. For example, daughters would receive half the inheritances of sons under that law.

On other issues, opinion varies, with the more conservative leaders insisting that Shariah be the foundation for all legislation.



What I Heard about Iraq

Eliot Weinberger

In 1992, a year after the first Gulf War, I heard Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense, say that the US had been wise not to invade Baghdad and get ‘bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq’. I heard him say: ‘The question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is: not that damned many.’

In February 2001, I heard Colin Powell say that Saddam Hussein ‘has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours.’

That same month, I heard that a CIA report stated: ‘We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction programmes.’




Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Irish Times and the elections

Dear Sir/Madam,

The Irish Times has refered more than several times to the recent elections in Iraq as "free" and "democratic", but while I commend your resistance in not refering to them this way in every report (prefering to describe them simply as "elections" or "national elections"), this type of reporting is extremely misleading.

Conor O'Clery reported "Poll success eclipses past blunders for US,
Iraq's election has fuelled the feeling that the corner may have been

"The elections in Iraq have justified the political expectations of those who demanded they be held to establish democratic legitimacy for the transition to self-rule from the US-led coalition which invaded and occupied the country in March 2003."

(opinion 1/2/05)

As Le Monde notes, George W. Bush's obstinacy paid off and "it would be difficult, even indecent, to reproach him for having given free elections to the Iraqis".

"Last week we had no idea how passionately attached to the notion of democracy the people of Iraq would be..."


"No, I don't expect most people in Ireland to be relieved at the success of the Iraqi elections, or to feel pride at the unbelievable courage of Iraqis trooping through the dust of their battered cities to cast their ballots, and if need be, to die in the process. In Ireland, visceral anti-Americanism rules OK. Two-thirds of Irish people are opposed to US troops landing in Shannon en route for Iraq without UN authorisation, and even with authorisation, a majority is opposed to the Shannon halt. In effect, they prefer Saddam.

I take a slightly different line. I backed the US troops going into Iraq; and, better still, I will back them as they finally head homeward, mission accomplished, with peace growing in the country they helped make free, and at such a heavy price."

(Kevin Myers 2/2/05)

The reality is that these elections were neither free or democratic:

"Only around 90 out of 330 intended polling centres in the province actually opened, Mr Rashid admitted, although even those had to be staffed with monitors from Baghdad and the south, apparently because locals were afraid to work in the stations.

According to election officials, many polling centres were kept closed on the recommendation of Iraqi security or US military forces, whether or not any violence occurred nearby."

Financial Times

"44 people were killed in a total of 38 bomb attacks on polling stations."


“Monitoring is a big problem. There won't be any international observation mechanism,” said one UN diplomat. “The UN is not willing. No one is willing. No one wants to send their people there.”


“The fact that security in Iraq is so bad that no one will go to observe the elections suggests that even if they pass without incident, they have failed.

“Elections whose results are not believed are worse than no elections at all. If, when results come out, there is a dispute, and there is no way of resolving that impartially, there is a great danger that instead of resolving political tensions in Iraq it will create them.”

Financial Times

"in Iraq, where 14 million people are eligible to vote, the elections next week may have only one outsider from the hastily organized International Mission for Iraqi Elections to evaluate the balloting. If reluctant governments change their minds at the last minute about letting their officials go to Iraq, a handful of others may show up. But, even then, none is likely to tour polling stations or to be publicly identified, mission and U.S. officials said."

Washington Post

"Approximately eight million people turned out to vote in Iraq. International monitors gave the election their seal of approval, though all 129 of them stayed inside Baghdad's Green Zone. [The New York Times] Security measures included sealing the country's borders, banning travel between provinces, prohibiting private vehicle traffic, and imposing curfews in cities."


"Iraqi insurgents, who had been promising death to anyone who came within five hundred yards of a polling station, [The New York Times] succeeded in carrying out nine suicide bombings, one of which was performed by a handicapped child. [Associated Press]"


"International journalists were limited to five polling stations in Baghdad , four of which were in Shi'a districts with expected high turnout. The U.S.-backed election commission in Iraq originally announced a 72% participation immediately after the polls closed, then downscaled that to "near 60%" - actually claiming about 57% turn-out. But those figures are all still misleading. The Washington Post reported (two days after the vote, on page 7 of the Style section) that the 60% figure is based on the claim that 8 million out of 14 million eligible Iraqis turned out. But the 14 million figure itself is misleading, because it only includes those registered Iraqis, not the 18 million actually eligible voters. Similarly, the claim of very high voter participation among Iraqi exiles is misleading, since only 280,000 or so Iraqis abroad even registered, out of about 1.2 million qualified to register and vote."


ITN's Julian Manyon on CNN International's programInternational Correspondents:

"MANYON: . . . I mean, we've got a situation in Mosul, for example, where American troops, we now discover because the Iraqi employees of the election organization have deserted en masse, it's American soldiers who will be transporting the ballot boxes around when they are full of votes. This is really very far from ideal, and if it were happening in any other country -- I mean, one could mention Ukraine, for example -- there would be a wild chorus of international protest ("Media Coverage of Iraq," January 29, 2005, 21:00:00 ET)"


"BAGHDAD, Jan 31 (IPS) - Voting in Baghdad was linked with receipt of food rations, several voters said after the Sunday poll.*

Many Iraqis said Monday that their names were marked on a list provided by the government agency that provides monthly food rations before they were allowed to vote.


"Two of the food dealers I know told me personally that our food rations would be withheld if we did not vote," said Saeed Jodhet, a 21-year-old engineering student who voted in the Hay al-Jihad district of Baghdad."

(International Press Service)

"Iraq's crunch election has been marred by irregularities and low turnout in Mosul, despite insistence from the US military that voting in the restive northern capital passed off smoothly."

ABC News

"The United Iraqi Alliance, identifying only 37 of their 225 candidates, explained: "We offer apologies for not mentioning the names of all the candidates ... We have to keep them alive.""


"Bush declared it a "resounding success", while Blair asserted that "The force of freedom was felt throughout Iraq". And yet the election fell so completely short of accepted electoral standards that had it been held in, say, Zimbabwe or Syria, Britain and America would have been the first to denounce it."


"Polling stations in several towns in Iraq have not five hours after nationwide voting started on Sunday, the countries electorial commission said."


and from your own reports:

"Fears are running so high that most candidates are keeping their names secret, and officials are trying to withhold the location of voting centres to prevent attacks on election day."

(The Irish Times)

"The conditions in which they are being held are deeply flawed by a violent insurgency directed against the occupying forces led by the United States and the interim Iraqi government it appointed last year. This makes it extremely dangerous to vote in several key provinces and has prevented parties from campaigning effectively."

(The Irish Times)

By refering to these elections as democratic/free or fair one simply maintains the Official US military line, which is unfounded and serves only to justify an Illegal war in which over 100,000 Iraqi people have died.

Recently The Irish Times reported in-depth the less recent elections in the Ukraine.

"A total of 1,300 monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are on the ground, along with more than 7,000 more unofficial international monitors and thousands more local activists."

(27/12/04 Alevtyna Lyubymova in and Chris Stephen)

"NATO and Russia have together called for a free and fair election in Ukraine after weeks of tension between Western capitals and Moscow over presidential poll results."

(21/12/04 Chris Stephen)

"There have been many reports of dirty tricks, irregularly subsidised campaigning and media manipulation, as well as strong involvement of well-known Russian, European and US figures."

(opinion 29/10/04)

"Ukraine's Supreme Court yesterday blocked the inauguration as president of the Prime Minister, Mr Viktor Yanukovich, agreeing to opposition calls for an investigation into claims of massive fraud in last Sunday's elections."

(26/11/04 Chris Stephen in Kiev and Denis Staunton in Brussels)

It is obvious from these reports that "we" require different standards for different elections or maybe different electorate.

President Bush has repeated many times since the elections in Iraq that "The world is hearing the voice of freedom from the center of the Middle East," (Bush told reporters at the White House) . A view that he does not extend to the latest victory of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. His ninth consecutive electoral victory in six years. This begs the question, are elections only "free, fair and democratic" if there is US approval?

It is a fair presumption that if democratic decisions were to be made, a withdrawal of US forces would be made a requirement by the newly elected "leaders" as popular opinion in Iraq is aganist US occupation.

"Elections are the best way to expel the occupier from Iraq."
- Banners in Shi'ite mosques in Baghdad, Najaf, Karbala and Samarra
(quoted in Pepe Escobar's "It's celebration time", Asia Times, 29/01/2005)

From The Irish times:
You assert:

"Most of those who voted were clear about one thing: the desire to regain control over their own political destiny."

(opinion 1/2/05)

The US-led occupation remains extremely unpopular, and many voters cast ballots in the hope of driving the Americans out through peaceful means.

(opinion Lara Marlowe 1/2/05)


The US administration has made it abundently clear that a US military withdrawal is not in the foreseeable future:

"Donald Rumsfeld, the US defense secretary, said on Thursday that the completion of successful elections in Iraq was unlikely to lead to a decrease in violence.

Mr Rumsfeld said he doubted that the election would change the minds of extremists who have been mounting the insurgency against the US-led coalition forces since last year. “I expect that level of violence and insurgency to continue,” Mr Rumsfeld, who last year described the insurgents as a few “dead-enders”, said at a press briefing."

Financial Times

"The Shi'ites may be on the brink of power after 14 centuries. Their premier electoral promise - later reneged - was to negotiate a total American withdrawal. If now their strategy is a "wait and see" - let's train Iraqi forces to fight the Sunni resistance and then we negotiate the American withdrawal - they may be in for a rude shock and awe."

Asia Times Online

US President George Bush has rejected calls to set a specific timetable for pulling the roughly 150,000 US troops from Iraq.

"That (a timetable) would embolden the terrorists and make them believe they can wait us out," Bush said in his State of the Union address late on Wednesday.


The Iraqi people have been misled into thinking they control their own futures. Of course the images of Iraqi people bearing their inked fingers to western cameras is a historic and momentus occasion, but it was quite obvious that a substantial turnout was in order. For the first time in their history, the Iraqi people were given the impression that they were the makers of their own destiny. Even the threat of death, to a people made so familiar with the concept over the last year, could not stop a large portion of them leaving the relative safety of their rubble homes and voting for a candidate. What is forgotten to mention, is that, other than eight million voters Iraq had a day much the same as any other. Some people were blown up, some were shot, some recieved no medical attention, some recieved no food, some had no access to water or electricity and none of this had any bearing on the outcome, apparently. The fact is, it is far to early to tell if this election will make any significant difference for the people of Iraq. With the past our only sign of whats to come, the future looks violent and military in nature.

Consider "a govt appointed by the military occupiers, guilty of torturing its own people, employing arbitrary arrest and detention, assassination squads, wholesale destruction of towns and cities in pursuit of "counter-terror", press represssion and assorted other assaults on basic liberties, this govt organizes elections with hardly any independent international observers present." (themos medialens reader)

Under these conditions do you consider it responsible journalism to refer to elections in Iraq as either "free" or "democratic"?

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,