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

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Today's News

Kill your TV.

Howard Beale: "We'll tell you anything you want to hear, we lie like hell."

"You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here, you're beginning to believe that the tube is reality and your own lives are unreal. You do. Why, whatever the tube tells you: you dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even think like the tube. This is mass madness, you maniacs. In God's name, you people are the real thing, WE are the illusion."

"Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation; this tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers; this tube is the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people, and that's why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died. Because this company is now in the hands of CCA, the Communications Corporation of America; there's a new chairman of the board, a man called Frank Hackett, sitting in Mr. Ruddy's office on the twentieth floor. And when the 12th largest company in the world controls the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network?"



Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Mine Mine Mine

Nick Mathiason

The Observer

...The world's richest individuals have placed $11.5 trillion of assets in offshore havens, mainly as a tax avoidance measure. The shock new figure - 10 times Britain's GDP - is contained in the most authoritative study of the wealth held in offshore accounts ever conducted.

The study, by Tax Justice Network, a group of accountants and economists concerned at the escalating wealth held in offshore locations, shows that the world's high-net-worth individuals earn $860 billion each year from their assets.

But there is growing alarm among regulators and campaigners because exchequers worldwide are missing out on at least $255bn of tax each year. Governments appear unable, or unwilling, to prevent the rich employing aggressive strategies to minimise their tax liabilities.

... 'One of the most fundamental changes in our society in recent years is how money and the rich have become more mobile. This has resulted in the wealthy becoming less inclined to associate with normal society and feeling no obligation to pay taxes.'

James Jones, Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, said: 'In this country, we have created a culture of tax avoidance. The current debate is pandering to a culture of consumption and avoidance. We need a much better debate than the political parties are currently giving us.'

...There is nothing illegal about placing assets and cash offshore, but campaigners are promising to attack tax avoidance by the world's richest people in much the same way that they currently target environment and trade issues.

The $11.5trn does not include the vast amount of money stashed in tax havens by multinational corporations, which are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to run rings round the authorities.

full report...



Monday, March 28, 2005

The Agreeable Silence

Annan forced to do something...(but what about the rest of them)

"A report to be made public tomorrow on alleged corruption in the United Nations oil-for-food programme is expected to criticise UN secretary general Kofi Annan over money paid to his son by a company involved in contracts between Saddam Hussein and outside contractors."

"The report is expected to show the UN chief's son Koji Annan received up to $400,000 during 1996 to 2004 from Cotecna Inspection Services, a Swiss company that monitored the food contracts under the UN programme. This is more than twice the figure previously disclosed."

Dear Madam,

While Conor O'Clery exposes the nature of corruption in the UN, could one have expected greater insight into the war's true nature, if he were to include the excess of corruption that became the war in Iraq?

Putting aside the media's weekly re-assessment of the war's illegality, corruption is rife, the international scandal that has shadowed all the lives saved by the 'oil-for-food' programme is but the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to the raping of Iraq's riches.

Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the US federal reserve, reported in Febraury 2005 that “The major source of external financial resources to the Iraqi regime, resulted from sanctions violations outside the [oil-for-food] Programme’s framework.” The report details breaches by both Turkey and Jordan. Their illegal purchase of Iraqi oil was known about by the US and it was considered to be of national interest.(1) The lowest estimate of this crime being approximately $4.5bn.(2)

The present reconstruction project in Iraq is following a similar trend of corruption, the US Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction published a report about the Coalition Provisional Authority in which it is found that $8.8bn designated to the rebuilding of Iraq is disappeared.(3)
Kofi Annan has promised to strip two UN officials, a British diplomat and a Frenchman Benon Sevan, of diplomatic immunity if they are charged with mis-directing Iraqi oil into the hands of "friendly" companies. Will similar charges, however nominal they are, be brought against those who allowed oil to flow into Turkey and Jordan.

In February of this year Claude Hankes-Drielsma, a British adviser to the Iraqi Governing Council, revealed that officials in the Coalition Provisional Authority were demanding bribes of up to $300,000 in return for awarding contracts.(4) In addition approximately $800 million of seized Iraqi money was handed out to US commanders without being counted or even weighed. A further $1.4bn has not been accounted for.(5) The CPA's apparent lack of money management skills was evidenced again in a Pentagon report that alleges, in the course of just one contract, a subsidiary of Halliburton overcharged it for imported fuel by $61m.(6)

As the moves are slowly made towards privatisation of Iraq's oil industry, can we expect that The Irish Times will fulfill it's duty detailed in the Trust of reporting "news that shall be as accurate and as comprehensive as is practicable and be presented fairly" while "giving special consideration to the reasonable representation of [what has become in the mainstream media] minority interests and divergent views," and therefore present a complete representation of the depths to which international corporations and governments are not bothered to go to disguise their corruption.

Alternatively you could simply partake in the 'agreeable silence'.

Yours etc,

1. Paul Volcker, Richard Goldstone and Mark Pieth, 3rd February 2005. Interim Report. Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme. http://www.iic-offp.org/documents

2. Compiled by George Monbiot from (the estimates provided by the Coalition for International Justice) in the table published by Paul Volcker et al, 3rd February 2005. Comparison of Estimates.

3. Stuart W. Bowen, Jr, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, 30th January 2005. Report to Congress.

4. Claude Hankes-Drielsma, 1st February 2005, interviewed on File on 4, BBC Radio 4.
5. File on 4, 1st February 2005. BBC Radio 4.
6. The Defense Contract Audit Agency, cited by Michael Hedges and David Ivanovich, 12th December 2003. Audit: Halliburton overbilled millions. The Houston Chronicle.
7. 'agreeable silence', part of an article by George Monbiot. http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2005/02

The Irish Times


Sunday, March 27, 2005

That Taught'em

Uruguyans Learn from Bolivia, Not India


Privatization has become a no-no word for George Bush since his handlers viewed polls indicating that the US majority fear that the word relates to them losing their future social security. But third world people have come to understand privatization as a euphemism for the externally mandated sale of their property to multinational companies. In several instances catastrophe has resulted from such sales.

In 1999, the Bolivian government, following World Bank advice, provided a subsidiary of the US-owned Bechtel Corporation a 40 year lease to run the Cochabamba water supply. More than half a million people in the area, most of them desperately poor, came to depend on Bechtel for water. Bechtel tripled the price.

Instead of wringing their hands, the Cochabamba populace staged general strike, shutting down the city of Cochabamba and forcing President Hugo Banzer to either declare martial law or concede. At first, Banzer ordered troops to disperse the protestors. The repressive forcers wounded some 100 people and killed four. The protest intensified and threatened to spread, so Banzer conceded and broke the contract with Bechtel.




Saturday, March 26, 2005

How low is the "Bottom Line"?

Buying online has got complicated:

With Dell you are asked the usual sort of questions relating to address etc, before they get down to the nitty gritty.

Customer Information:

*required field

Q4. Will the product(s) be used in connection with weapons of mass destruction, i.e. nuclear applications, missile technology, or chemical or biological weapons purposes?

This is the sort of disclaimer IBM could have done with 60 years ago.

"When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, most of the world saw a menace to humanity. But IBM saw Nazi Germany as a lucrative trading partner. Its president, Thomas J. Watson, engineered a strategic business alliance between IBM and the Reich, beginning in the first days of the Hitler regime and continuing right through World War II. This alliance catapulted Nazi Germany to become IBM's most important customer outside the U.S. IBM and the Nazis jointly designed, and IBM exclusively produced, technological solutions that enabled Hitler to accelerate and in many ways automate key aspects of his persecution of Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others the Nazis considered enemies. Custom-designed, IBM-produced punch cards, sorted by IBM machines leased to the Nazis, helped organize and manage the initial identification and social expulsion of Jews and others, the confiscation of their property, their ghettoization, their deportation, and, ultimately, even their extermination.

Recently discovered Nazi documents and Polish eyewitness testimony make clear that IBM's alliance with the Third Reich went far beyond its German subsidiary. A key factor in the Holocaust in Poland was IBM technology provided directly through a special wartime Polish subsidiary reporting to IBM New York, mainly to its headquarters at 590 Madison Avenue.

And that's how the trains to Auschwitz ran on time." (1)

"No machines were sold to the Nazis-only leased. IBM was the sole source of all punch cards and spare parts, and it serviced the machines on-site-whether at Dachau or in the heart of Berlin-either directly or through its authorized dealer network or field trainees. There were no universal punch cards. Each series was custom-designed by IBM engineers not only to capture the information going in, but also to tabulate the information the Nazis wanted to come out."

Which has not been denied:

" "The fact that Hollerith equipment manufactured by (IBM's German unit) Dehomag was used by the Nazi administration has long been known and is not new information," IBM representative Carol Makovich wrote in an e-mail interview. "This information was published in 1997 in the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing and in 1998 in Washington Jewish Week."" (2)

"When Hitler came to power in 1933, his desire to destroy European Jewry was so ambitious an enterprise, it required the resources of a computer. But in 1933 no computer existed. What did exist was the Hollerith punch-card system. It was invented by a German-American in Buffalo, New York, for the Census Bureau. This punch-card system could store all the information about individuals, places, products, inventories, schedules, in the holes that were punched or not punched in columns and rows.

This is the same technology we saw in Florida in the presidential election. The Hollerith system reduced everything to number code. Over time, the IBM alphabetizers could convert this code to alphabetical information. IBM made constant improvements for their Nazi clients."

From the same private tyrannies that gave you Fanta.

1. Truthout
2. http://news.com.com/2009-1082-269157.html
3. The Corporation


Friday, March 25, 2005

My My Myers

I realise ardent supporters of everything American find it difficult to criticise their present policy in Iraq, but in his continual criticism of the anti-war movement Kevin Myers has again plumbed for the tried and tested formula of using the views of the some of the most questionable critics of the war as a way to slander all those who resist US/UK propaganda.

The courage shown by the Iraqi people during the recent elections was obvious, risking their very lives for the opportunity to claim the independence long (and continually) opposed by the west. Which should make the fact that the very thing they voted for, the removal of coalition forces, has been universally ignored. However, why is this courage such a shock, is Mr. Myers unaware of the Iraqi peoples attempted revolt in the aftermath of Gulf War one, resulting in their brutal crushing, which was in no small part a result of US in-action. Their survival in the face of years of sanctions which took the lives of hundreds of thousands of their children. Their present struggle aginst occupation, torture and the threat of death from several fronts.

The "real democracy taking root in Iraq" is unfortunately not in the foreseeable future. What we can expect, if the past is any indication, is a government that will pander to US interests. Until then we can take for granted, a familiar theme, "insurgents targeting Iraqis," US forces killing Iraqis and more Iraqis dying.

It is a shame that Corporal Ian Malone's "clear notion of what was right and wrong, and what was freedom and what was not" is not made more evident in the mainstream media. Without holding our government and their policies to account, we not only give up our right to democracy, but also lose the respect of those that risk their lives depending on whether we're at war with Eastasia or Eurasia.


An Irishman's diary

If those nice people in the American Embassy wanted to know about the real face of Sinn Féin, they should have attended the anti-US demonstration in the centre of Dublin last weekend, writes Kevin Myers

It was a trip to Doolallyville, 1968. That splendid fellow Cllr Larry O'Toole declared: "We will rid the world of tyrants like Bush and Blair. . .Comrades, it is a very important today to send out a clear message to the Dublin government: Shannon must be closed off to US warplanes". As long as international solidarity remained, "imperialism is doomed."

Firstly, to deconstruct Shinner-speak, that term "Dublin government", rather than "the Government", is not accidental: it was probably only by the greatest restraint that he did not spittingly refer to it as a parcel of Free State lackeys. Because whatever they say in public - where they spout bare-faced lies - and no matter how agreeable they seem when being colonically irrigated by various governments, Shinners detest those who hold office in Leinster House. They regard all Irish governments as traitorous inheritors of a usurped authority. The only Dáil they genuinely recognise is that of 1918; the only tradition they honour is the armed one that stands in unbroken continuity from the 1916 Rising.

Moreover, I like the word "tyrants" to describe Bush and Blair. The former was re-elected, fairly and squarely, last year; the latter will probably - alas, because I despise the man - be re-elected this spring. Tyrants don't do elections - or if they do, they win them the way that Saddam Hussein or Ill Kill Him or whatever his name in North Korea is: they win them by polling 99 per cent, ad infinitum, until replaced by a son, who does better than daddy by securing 99.99 per cent.


The Irish Times


Don't Mention...

"While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East with two thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies, even though companies are anxious for greater access there, progress continues to be slow."

"Oil is unique in that it is so strategic in nature. We are not talking about soap flakes or leisurewear here. Energy is truly fundamental to the world's economy. The [1991] Gulf War was a reflection of that reality. The degree of government involvement also makes oil a unique commodity. This is true in both the overwhelming control of oil resources by national oil companies and governments as well as in the consuming nations where oil products are heavily taxed and regulated... It is the basic, fundamental building block of the world's economy. It is unlike any other commodity."(1)

Dick Cheney CEO Halliburton (1999)

"It's one of the best-kept secrets in Washington, and most of the records of Cheney's Dick Cheney's National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG) are *still* under lock-and-key. (Illegally, by the way, though it's not as if the Law matters any more). Judicial Watch only managed to obtain a few pages of those records.

The NEPD Group was convened in May 2001, and some might wonder whether an impending shortage of oil might not count as a *very* urgent reason to seek - or create - reasons to go to war in regions important to oil production.

But that would be a Conspiracy Theory.

"Last July, after appealing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for NEPDG documents, Judicial Watch won a small victory with the release of seven pages of NEPDG documents.

They included:

• A detailed map of all Iraqi oil fields (11% of world supply);

• A two-page specific list of all nations with development contracts for Iraqi oil and gas projects and the companies involved;

• A detailed map of all Saudi Arabian oil fields (25% of world supply);

• A list of all major oil and gas development projects in Saudi Arabia ;

• A detailed map of all the oil fields in the United Arab Emirates (8% of world supply);

• A list of all oil and gas development projects in the UAE;

The documents may be viewed online at:

http://www.judicialwatch.org/071703.c_.shtml" (2)

1. http://www.warmwell.com/04nov27cheney.html
From The Wilderness


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Sum of parts

Is the UN useless? Is the UN only as powerful/effective as it's members allow it to be?

France pushes for UN vote on Sudan; US may veto

France is to put to a vote today a U.N. resolution referring alledged Sudanese war crimes cases to the International Criminal Court, daring Washington to cast an embarrassing veto or accept a tribunal it opposes.
by: Evelyn Leopold on: 24th Mar, 05

After weeks of haggling on a comprehensive resolution on Sudan, the U.N. Security Council has been deadlocked on where to try alledged perpetrators of atrocities in the country's western region of Darfur.

On Wednesday, France's U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, introduced a draft resolution that would refer Darfur cases to the ICC, the world's first permanent criminal court, as recommended by a U.N. panel of experts in January.

But the United States offered to create a new U.N.-African Union tribunal in Tanzania that has drawn little support, with several council members arguing that only the ICC already has investigators on staff ready to begin work.

The Bush administration objects to this court, set up in The Hague to try war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. It fears U.S. citizens could face what it calls "politically motivated prosecutions".


The Global Echo


Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Dear Madam,

Patrick D Goggin of the so-called "Anti-anti-war Movement" has had the chance to make his views abundantly clear in yesterday's Irish Times, in doing so he has insulted those who oppose the invasion and occupation of a foreign country for several valid reasons, even excluding the very obvious moral one, which he describes as the "the universal abhorrence to war." This, however, touches only the surface of what makes war so repulsive. Mr. Boyd-Barret's search to inform readers of information that they may not have been privy to, was wrongfully described as a hunt for applause. A mean feat for any writer, especially in these esteemed circles.

From here on in, Mr. Goggin aims, actins as lead prosecutor, to put the case forward that, Mr. Boyd-Barret is not just an attention seeker, but a traitor to his country. An unusual claim to make in these circumstances, although it may be simpler to make this charge against Mr. Goggin...

In recent un-free and un-fair elections, Iraqis took to the violent streets in an attempt to gain independence through a democratic vote. In this vote, which excluded a large proportion of the electorate, they voted in huge numbers for a party which made the promise to expel the occupying forces. This promise has subsequently been rescinded. This "first" step towards democratic government, under the watchful eye of the US and it's partners is not, however, the very first step. Towards the end of the first Gulf War, people across Iraq initiated a large uprising, in the belief it was supported by the US. The reality was that no support was given and the rebels were viciously crushed by the "venegeful despot".

In the lead up to the present, and on-going, war Colin Powell made a famous, although forgotten in the mainstream media, speech to the world. In this speech, he made a case for war based on solid, unquestionable evidence that Saddam possessed stock piles of WMDs, which he could and would use against the west. This has been found to be emphatically false.

If one was to study the testimony of every weapons inspector involved in Iraq's disarmament one would find the idea that Saddam possessed WMDs about as likely as a grown man suffering severe facial injuries as a result of eating a pretzel.

The real traitor is the man who knowingly allows his country to participate in a program that predicts the death of thousands of innocent people.

Yours sincerely,

In response to:

Madam, - Having joined in celebration with an Iraqi family friend, glad that Iraq has taken its brave first step on the road to democratic government, I found it galling to see the so-called "Anti-war Movement" still looking for applause (Richard Boyd-Barrett, again, March 14th).

The anti-war case rested on two pillars, one sound and one rotten. The sound pillar is the universal abhorrence of war. There is simply no Kantian categorical imperative that in all places and at all times war is not an option. Yet the more light we see at the end of the Iraqi tunnel the harder the anti-war movement has to dig for dirt to throw at the American effort, as in "book reviews" where the books seem to have been chosen by smell.

The other pillar, despite repetition, is founded on a lie. It is a lie to say that Bush or Blair lied to their people on the decision to go to war. They did exactly what they were elected to do, to take that awesome decision on the basis of available intelligence. Their duty was to ensure the security of their people. How much time could they allow Saddam before he became a lethal threat to the West? They were not fools, nor criminals.

Intelligence is never 100 per cent, and there can always be disagreement at different levels within the intelligence community (ignorantly offered as "evidence" of the "lie"). Information is processed into intelligence over six stages including evaluating sources, collating with known pieces and assessing operational value. It is not military accountancy, adding up "facts" to arrive at a mathematical bottom line. The jigsaw is never complete. Intelligence is not a science; it is an art calling for a judgment.

Saddam was a key factor in the intelligence estimate. All 15 members of the UN Security Council believed him to be a danger. He had WMD, which he had used against his own people and over 12 years failed to co-operate with the UN. He could easily have hidden chemical or biological WMD in a desert country as big as France. (In this small island 10,000 gardaí, who speak the language and know the people and places intimately, cannot find large arms dumps over 30 years). He also used terrorism, giving fortunes to the families of suicide bombers. The simplistic idea that secular Baathists and religious Jihadis could not co-operate has since been exploded in numerous suicide bombings. His previous "form" as a mass murderer and his unbalanced, bitter, anti-Western mind burning with desire for revenge after the first Gulf War made him a ticking time bomb.

The democratic leader has to live with uncertainty and accept his unavoidable responsibility to provide an operational decision based on the available advice of his military and political staffs. This is in full awareness that he might be wrong. If there was no danger of being wrong, then it would not be a problem and anyone, including Mr Boyd-Barrett, could have taken it. But this awesome responsibility is the political leader's alone, not the media or street agitators, however much entitled they are to their opinions.

However, once his country is at war, is a reporter who provides comfort for the enemy and undermines the morale of his own army in the field, a traitor, a 21st- century Lord Haw-Haw? - Yours, etc.,

Glenageary Woods,
Dun Laoghaire,
Co Dublin.



Monday, March 21, 2005

This is the last Steyn

Dear Madam,

Mark Steyn opens his latest Irish Times piece with his first distortion "Two years ago, the liberation of Iraq began" and then the dream really begins.

Two years ago the US and the UK governments led many in the west to war under the illusion that Saddam Hussain's regime had the ability and the will to wage nucleur attacks against foreign countries, including the capacity to assault Britain within 45 minutes. These and other fabrications were found to be false, the war was declared illegal and over 100,000 Iraqis were subsequently killed.

Where Mr.Steyn pulls his figures out of is unknown, with police estimates for last weekends anti-war protests at 45,000 and organisers estimates at nearly 100,000, his figure of 10,000 is firstly, a long way out and secondly a cheap shot.
While Europe's anti-war brigade "align themselves against the people of the Middle East and on the side of their dictators" Mr. Steyn applauds the restraint of coalition forces in not reducing Baghdad to rubble. While Baghdad may still stand, other "lesser" cities have fallen, Fallujah being the prime example of the power of US explosives.

As the war still rages on and journalists, police and soldiers continue to die at the hands of "friend and foe" Mr. Steyn fails in each of his 10 attempts to "prove" the anti-war lobby wrong. Insurgents are estimated at 200,000 plus, Iraqis voted overwhelmingly for US withdrawl, bombing from both sides continues, "democracy" is not flourishing, WMD have not been found and recent polls show the world is against the war.

As he rightly observes, Lebanon has been a hotbed of protesting in recent weeks, however, while those who consider themselves anti-war have been vocal in their opposition. Those that support continued occupation in Iraq have not and more than likely, will not venture outside in an effort to show their support. This is the most obvious comparison one could make with Lebanon.

The fact that by forcing his fingers into his ears is continuing to cause Mr.Steyn problems in both focus and perception is evident in this latest offering. Which manages to both, say alot and reveal nothing. The fact that the Irish Times prints this rubbish is baffling.


In response to:

10 reasons why the naysayers were wrong about Iraq
Mark Steyn

Opinion: Two years ago, the liberation of Iraq began, and this weekend the "anti-war" movement marked the occasion with some mass demonstrations.

As mass demonstrations go they were a little underpowered: 10,000 showed up in London's Hyde Park, which seems a little thin next to last week's scenes of a million citizens on the streets of Damascus - or close to a third of the entire population of Lebanon.

Heigh-ho. If Europe's "anti-war" movement is determined to align itself against the people of the Middle East and on the side of their dictators, that's up to it. But not everything is a matter of opinion and, two years on, it's worth revisiting some of the assertions made by the usual experts.

Not about the war itself - the idiotic predictions of how Baghdad would be the new Stalingrad: reduced to rubble, with coalition troops fighting in bloody hand-to-hand combat street-to-street for months on end.

But the assertions made after the regime fell, when the experts, without pausing for even a moment of sheepish embarrassment, instead immediately moved on to even more idiotic predictions.

Here are the Top Ten Quagmires of the Week from two years ago. I cheerfully mocked them at the time, but it seems appropriate to revisit them as a glimpse into the mindset of the eternal naysayers:

1 "Iraq's Slide Into Violent Anarchy" (The Guardian, April 11th 2003).
Even at the height of the now flailing insurgency, this was never true. For most of the last 23 months, somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of Iraq has been peaceful and well-governed. In the north, there's been a tourism boom and most hotels are enjoying capacity bookings. The violence around Falluja was never an accurate reflection of the country as a whole - if Kurdistan is Scotland and Basra is Surrey, the Sunni Triangle was the Northern Ireland of Iraq: at the very least, an unreliable measure of the overall temperature.


The Irish Times


Saturday, March 19, 2005

The problem with Cash'n'Carrys

Middleman takes the heat, while manufacturers shrink comfortably into the shadow of media silence:

Broadsheet editors have had an easy few days in light of the up-coming trial of a morally bankrupt Dutchman. This "businessman" (Frans van Anraat) is accused of selling/providing the poison gas that the former Iraqi government used in the 1980-1988 Iran war and against its own Kurdish civilians, including the 1988 attack on the town of Halabja. Where the gas came from is not discussed. The elephant in the room is red with embarrassment.

While the two pillars of moral decency, the US and the UK, revel in their new found fame as the newest tag team on the block, 'the democracy bringers' (or 'the bringers of death', whichever way you prefer), the news that someone is likely to be charged with complicity in the crimes often refered to as the "ultimate horror" has been met with media 'writers block'.

One doesn't have to look hard, long or far to find out who is truely responsible:

"In fact the British government's view of the atrocity was expressed loud and clear in its doubling of export credits to Baghdad, which rose from £175 million in 1987 to £340 million in 1988. A UK Department of Trade and Industry press release of November 1988 described how "this substantial increase reflects the confidence of the British government in the long term strength of the Iraqi economy and the opportunities for an increased level of trade between our two countries following the ceasefire in the Gulf War"." (1)

"Five months after Halabja, Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe noted in a secret report that "opportunities for sales of defence equipment to Iran and Iraq will be considerable". In October 1989, Foreign office minister William Waldegrave wrote of Iraq: "I doubt if there is any future market of such a scale anywhere where the UK is potentially so well-placed" and that "the priority of Iraq in our policy should be very high"." (1)

"In the first year after Halabja, the British government steadfastly refused to accept that its ally had used chemical weapons, stating that the evidence "was compelling but not conclusive". Human Rights Watch reported recently that the evidence it collected on Halabja at the time was simply ignored by the Foreign Office. The British government, it seems, was "singularly unreceptive"." (1)

On August 18, 2002, the New York Times reported how in the 1980s the Reagan administration secretly provided "critical battle planning assistance at a time when American intelligence knew that Iraqi commanders would employ chemical weapons in waging the decisive battles of the Iran-Iraq war". Walter Lang, a former senior US defence intelligence officer added: "The use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern."

Soon after Halabja, the US approved the export of virus cultures and a $1 billion contract to design and build a petrochemical plant that the Iraqis planned to use to produce mustard gas. Profits were the bottom line. Indeed "so powerful was the grip of the pro-Baghdad lobby on the administration of Republican President Ronald Reagan", Dilip Hiro notes in the Observer, "that it got the White House to foil the Senate's attempt to penalise Iraq for its violation of the Geneva Protocol on Chemical Weapons to which it was a signatory". (2)

The US continued to support Iraq after the Iran-Iraq war because of "our duty to support US exports" the State Department declared in early 1990. (3)

Recent reports by the US Senate's Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban affairs, reveal that the US sold anthrax, nerve gas, West Nile fever germs and botulinum to Iraq up until March 1992, even after the 1991 Gulf War, and four years after Halabja. (4)

Reports by the US Senate's committee on banking, housing and urban affairs -- which oversees American exports policy -- reveal that the US, under the successive administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr, sold materials including anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever germs and botulism to Iraq right up until March 1992, as well as germs similar to tuberculosis and pneumonia. Other bacteria sold included brucella melitensis, which damages major organs, and clostridium perfringens, which causes gas gangrene. (5)

The British government had been selling arms to Iraq throughout the 1980's, and then at the time of the Al Halabja genocide, military aid was increased fourfold.

Is the British (and US) Governments major role in what they have referred to as genocide of importance? In the interest of fairness and accuracy, would this not be a suitable point to break the silence?

1. Mark Curtis, Web of Deceit, Vintage, 2003, p.36, p.37
2. Hiro, 'When US turned a blind eye to poison gas', The Observer, September 1, 2002
Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, Routledge, 2003, p.111
4. medialens
5. commondreams

Dutchman in court for selling poison to Iraq

IRAQ: A Dutch businessman accused of selling Saddam Hussein ingredients for chemical weapons used against Iraqi Kurds appeared in court yesterday to face charges of complicity in war crimes and genocide.

Dutch prosecutors say Frans van Anraat (62) supplied thousands of tonnes of agents for poison gas that the former Iraqi government used in the 1980-1988 Iran war and against its own Kurdish civilians, including the 1988 attack on the town of Halabja.

Prosecutor Fred Teeven told a pre-trial hearing at the high-security court in Rotterdam that the defendant continued to supply chemical agents even after news of the Halabja attack which killed an estimated 5,000 people 17 years ago this week.


The Irish Times


Friday, March 18, 2005

Foreign Chavs not toeing line

Dear Mr. Clifton,

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

However Mr. Chavez's domestic policy is in many respects a huge part of his foreign policy and as such affects his diplomatic relations. While I understand the piece was not intended to give "an in-depthcountry-by-country analysis" it could still have been more clear/fair in its sweeping statements:

"the US knows that even if some of Latin America's leaders have embraced anti-American rhetoric - such as President Lula of Brazil -the reality has been very different."

"That is why anti-American rhetoric is successful for Latin Americapoliticians even if it does not seem to have affected the policies that much."

After which particular reference is made to Venezuela, in order to intimate that although Mr. Chavez has "embraced" "anti-American rhetoric" his policies have not shown the same tone.

What I attempted to show was that in a huge number of his policies, he has gone in an obviously "anti-American" direction. Such as reversing the "Privatization, public spending cuts, liberalization, and deregulation" employed by President Carlos Andres Perez.

While the piece focuses on rhetoric travelling north, it leads us to believe the US is unconcerned, however, referring to Chavez in a January 26 speech to a US Senate foreign relations committee, Ricesaid that Bush administration was "very concerned about a democratically elected leader who governs in an illiberal way."

Also "Director of the CIA, Peter Goss, publicly targeting Venezuela asthe leading Latin America nation the US is concerned about and a TV documentary run by Fox News in early February under the title The Iron Fist of Hugo Chavez."

To understand what Ms. Rice means by illiberal we only have to look at how Mr. Chavez treats those defenceless entities, the US corporation:

"Chavez is leading a popular process known as the "Bolivarian revolution" that is challenging US domination in the region and redistributing wealth and political power to the 80% of Venezuelans who live in poverty. Venezuela supplies up to 15% of US oil imports and the US purchases upto 60% of Venezuela's oil output. A key goal of the Chavez government has been ensuring full government control over Venezuela's oil industry in order to use its earnings to eradicate poverty. This has put Venezuela at odds with US oil corporations, and therefore at odds with the US government.

In November, Chavez announced that his government would begin to enforce the law passed in 2001 that calls for a dramatic increase in the royalties foreign corporations pay to the Venezuelan government the increase and is considering mounting a legal challenge, according to a February 28 Venezuela Analysis report."

"The Venezuelan government has also begun cracking down on corporate tax evasion, fining and temporarily closing down businesses that fail to obey the law. McDonald's and Coca-Cola have been two high-profile targets of the campaign, forced to shut down their operations inVenezuela this year for two days for failing to have their books in order. "

While Mr. Chavez has embraced anti-American rhetoric, his policies have indeed backed up that rhetoric. It is these very policies that aim to address the fact that "Much of poor Latin America relies on its rich northern neighbour for trade and economic assistance." As it is well known that "the US rewards thosecountries that pursue economic as well as democratic reforms - so it pays to be friendly. Most Latin American governments continue to pursue policies that are favourable to US economic interests."However, it is also well known that US rewards rarely (if ever) trickle down to "much [of] poor Latin America."

Chavez, anti-American rhetoric, diplomatic relations and reality couldn't be made clearer.

"If there is any aggression, there will be no oil," Chavez, "We want to supply oil to the US. We're not going to avoid this supply of oil unless US government gets a little bit crazy and tries to hurt us."(1)

Yours sincerely,

1. AlJazeera


Many thanks for your note.

Chavez's domestic record was not really the topic of the piece.

The point of the piece was to look at diplomatic relations between the US and Latin America not go into an in-depth country-by-country analysis of the efficacy of certain policies.

I have asked Mr Beale about the complaint, and he adds... I did say that "even if SOME Latin Americans leaders have embraced Anti American rhetoric such as President Lula of Brazil, the reality has been very different". I then, under the banner "why the US should be more concerned" point out that Chavez has been more aggressive to the US - though the US still continues to be biggest buyer of its oil. Thank you for your interest in our efforts.

Yours sincerely,

Pete CliftonEditor, BBC News Interactive

Dear Mr. Clifton,

Jonathan Beale writes in his article "US unconcerned by left-wing leaders" that:

"That is why anti-American rhetoric is successful for Latin America politicians even if it does not seem to have affected the policies that much."

Citing Venezuela as the most obvious example of this "fact":

"Anti-American sentiment is most obvious in Venezuela."Could this statement be considered accurate considering the actual changes Mr. Chavez has implemented since his coming to power? Here is a "brief" account of some of his work:

(Followed by info from previous Venezuela post)

Yours sincerely,

In response to:



Tuesday, March 15, 2005

"Bush bandwagon loses wheels after only one week"

Excellent letter in response to Mark Steyn's Latest in the Irish Times:

Madam, - The premature glee of your right-wing scribe Mr Steyn must have turned rapidly to dejection and I suppose, a fair degree of insipidity in his morning cornflakes last week, as his hyperbolic predictions about developments in Lebanon dissolved into a reality quite different from that which he was proposing to your readers.

Not for the first time, the cartoon version of history and politics regularly peddled by your correspondent didn't stand up to the real events occurring in the Middle East. The irony (an abstract concept not well understood by most residents of the North American continent, indigenous natives excepted) of his Action Man hero, GW Bush, proclaiming to the world that countries could not have free and fair elections under foreign occupation, while the brutalised US forces shoot to kill not only unfortunate Iraqi civilians but supposedly friendly allies as well, will not be lost on the Irish people, other Europeans and the entire Islamic world.

When his favourite pin-up girl, Condoleezza Rice, was traipsing around the foreign ministries of Europe recently, she also put her chips on raucous street demonstrations allegedly favouring her and her boss's line as the new world order. She got a cold reception as she, an unelected appointee of a chief executive of dubious electoral and political pedigree, attempted to lecture elected leaders of Europe on what their countries' foreign policies should be. While Ms Rice was lecturing in Europe about human rights and liberty, it was business as usual for the fawning US ally Colombia, with trade union officials and indigenous community leaders murdered in their homes and workplace, along with their three-year-old and five-year-old children, by the massively US-subsidised Colombian Armed Forces.

We also saw, only days ago, the appalling pictures of foremost US Nato ally Turkey allowing its police to baton women and children off the streets when they attempted to demonstrate peacefully on International Women's Day. Defenders of Liberty how are you!

Previous US interventions in Lebanon were unmitigated disasters, though nothing like the scale of the disaster in Iraq, and the current bungling effort is going the same way. The "Bush was right" bandwagon has lost all its wheels after only one week on the road. - Yours, etc.,

The Irish Times

Original Article:

"Time for Irish lefties to admit George Bush was right"

The Irish Times


Monday, March 14, 2005

Lie Detector repaired


US pronouncements on Iraq and the Middle East follow an interesting pattern: tell lies, lies and more lies. Keep lying until the lies are exposed. Replace old lies with new ones. Accuse everyone else of lying - particularly those who want to rake up the past. US ambassador James C Kenny's attack on the Irish Anti-War Movement (opinion & analysis, March 8th) is a textbook example.

Those who remember lies about WMD are dismissed as "some people. . .who cannot stand success" and just want to "look back". Apparently, this is enough to excuse the monstrous lie that led to tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths, the destruction of countless thousands of homes, the ruin of the country's' infrastructure and an escalating spiral of violence.

Kenny challenges the Lancet figure of 100,000 deaths caused by the US-led invasion. The study was produced by the US-based Johns Hopkins University (hardly a mouthpiece of the Iraqi resistance), working with Baghdad University. It used sound and openly declared scientific and statistical methods likely to underestimate the death toll. For example, the figures for deaths in Fallujah were discounted because they would have skewed the figures dramatically upwards. Tal Afar, Ramadi and Najaf - cities that have seen some of the worst violence - were not included in the survey.

Iraq Body Count's figures are based only on killings reported in the media. The spread of the violence over such a wide territory and large population ensure that most killings go unreported.
The US forces, of course, "don't do body counts" (I wonder why), but did place a cordon around Fallujah for weeks after their assault on the city, preventing aid convoys entering, never mind anyone else to survey how many were killed.

Two doctors at Fallujah general hospital - itself occupied at the start of the assault because it was releasing casualty figures - reported personally being involved in recovering 700 mostly rotting corpses from the streets of the city.

US claims to have brought democracy to Iraq are laughable. There was almost no independent international monitoring of the election to verify turnout, fairness or results. We do know that only slightly more than 10 per cent of Iraqi exiles eligible to vote did so, though under no threat from insurgents. The "new" government issuing from the elections will feature almost exactly the same faces as the "old" US-installed interim government with only ministerial positions changing.

After the election, the winners immediately joined Condoleeza Rice in stating that US forces would stay, though they had campaigned on precisely the opposite basis. All polls show 70 to 80 per cent of Iraqis want the US out. Not surprisingly, violence in Iraq continues unabated.
US propaganda about democracy in Lebanon has been answered by 500,000 Lebanese on the streets rejecting calls for Syrian withdrawal and telling the US to stay out of their affairs. The smaller US-supported protests were in large part organised by the same Christian Phalange forces that carried out the massacre of Palestinians with Israel's assistance in Sabra and Shatila in 1982.

Current propaganda by US mouthpieces is an attempt to whitewash crimes in Iraq and lay the ground for an assault on Syria or Iran. Don't let them away with it.

Yours, RICHARD BOYD BARRETT, Chairperson, Irish Anti-War Movement, Dublin 1

The Irish Times


Sunday, March 13, 2005

"The Toothpaste Election"

Both Parties Try to Exclude People from Voting


03/12/05 "Counterpunch" - - Presidential candidate John Kerry's platform and program were way to the right of popular opinion on just about every issue in the 2004 U.S. elections. To the extent that anybody could even understand the program, people didn't favor it. People who voted for Kerry are people who were concerned about the economy and about health issues. Do you think those people could tell you what Kerry's health program was or what he was going to do for the economy? I mean, I couldn't tell you. You have to do a research project to figure out what the program was. And it's not that people failed to know it because they're stupid. It's because it was not presented as something comprehensible.

Of the people who voted for candidate George Bush, the major categories were people who were concerned about terror and about national security. It's claimed that people who were concerned about values voted for Bush, but that's mostly a statistical artifact. When you asked the further question, "What values do you have in mind?" it turned out that the major values were things like, "I don't like this society because it's too materialistic," and "There's too much oppression." Those are the values. Is that what Bush stands for? Getting rid of that? As far as terrorism is concerned, the administration very consciously chose actions that it was expected would increase the threat of terror and, in fact, did. It's not because they want terror, it's just not much of a priority for them.

People who voted for Bush tended to assume that he was in favor of their views, even if the Republican Party platform was diametrically opposed to them. The same was largely true of Kerry voters.




Friday, March 11, 2005

Oil is "not" an issue

US openly researches 'Peak Oil':
(the war must seem quite "convenient" now)

What is 'Peak Oil'?:

"Oil is running out, but the west would rather wage wars than consider other energy sources
by: George Monbiot on: 8th Jun, 04

Some people have wacky ideas," the new Republican campaign ad alleges. "Like taxing gasoline more so people drive less. That's John Kerry." Cut to a shot of men in suits riding bicycles. "


Global Echo

"The Mother Of All Oil Shocks Is Looming: Toward the Petro Apocalypse
By Yves Cochet

In a few years, the global production of conventional oil will fall, while the global demand continues to rise. The resulting shock of this structural oil famine is inevitable, so great are the dependency of our economies on cheap oil and. related to the first, our inability to wean ourselves from this dependency in a short period of time."


Le Monde

"Plan War and the Hubbert Oil Curve
An Interview with Richard Heinberg

David Ross: How important is oil to industrial societies?

Richard Heinberg: It’s about as important to industrial societies as water is to fish. We wouldn’t be talking right now if it weren’t for oil. The industrial revolution was, basically, all about fossil fuels. Coal came first, but when oil was harnessed things really heated up. With oil humankind discovered the cheapest, most abundant source of energy ever."



US report acknowledges peak-oil threat

By Adam Porter in Perpignan, France
Wednesday 09 March 2005, 18:23 Makka Time, 15:23 GMT

It has long been denied that the US government bases any policy around the idea that global oil production may be in terminal decline.

But a new US government-sponsored report, obtained by Aljazeera.net, does exactly that.

Authored by Robert L. Hirsch, Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling and entitled the Peaking of World Oil production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management, the report is an assessment requested by the US Department of Energy (DoE), National Energy Technology Laboratory.

It was prepared by Hirsch, who is a senior energy programme adviser at the private scientific
and military company, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).




Legal Shmegal

"Britain went to war on the basis of a single piece of paper setting out the legality of invading Iraq, the country's most senior civil servant has revealed."

"Sir Andrew indicated there was not enough time for Lord Goldsmith to prepare a fuller statement because it was required quickly, when it became clear there would be no second resolution in the UN. He said it summarised his views and was not a summary of a larger document. "What he has put forward is the conclusion that he reached as a result of all the thinking he had been doing.""

Full story:

The Independent


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Passing Lie Detector Test 101

"Myth 1 - "Let Iraqis determine their own future without interference." Before the January elections, Iraqis had been unable to do that. Saddam's brutal tyranny had oppressed Iraqis. Now, a legitimate, freely and democratically elected government deriving its powers from the consent of the governed is in Baghdad.

Iraqi and Coalition forces work together against Baathists, Jihadists, and foreign terrorist supporters who want to kill Iraq's nascent democracy and return it to tyranny.
Iraqis have no interest in a premature Coalition withdrawal that would bring back the thugs. They do want Iraq's own forces to take over the security job. That is what we should all want and what the Coalition is in fact helping to achieve."

It is true (but unnecesscery to state, as it is 'a given') to say Iraqis had no self determination under Saddam, however, as George Bush has stated "...We know that democracy cannot survive while occupied by a foreign force." Therefore it is also under US/UK occupation that Iraqi self determination is again supressed.

The idea that "Iraqis have no interest in a premature Coalition withdrawal" is easily refuted, one simply has to look to the principal prongs in the campaign of the recently elected party in Iraq. Of which the main one, was a call for immediate withdrawl of coalition troops. Subsequent to election results, this was withdrawn (this says more about the democratic nature of those elections than anything else).

"Myth 2 - "100,000 Iraqis killed as a result of the US invasion." Patently false. Iraq Body Count, a group that is not pro-American, pro-war, or supportive of the Coalition convincingly refutes that falsehood. According the Iraq Body Count website, and as shown daily on the Irish Anti-War Movement's own website, the actual count of non-combatant civilians killed in Iraq is under 20,000, many killed by insurgents' car bombs, suicide attacks, beheadings, kidnappings, and executions.

We now know that Saddam's own policies and his corruption of the "Oil for Food" programme - not UN sanctions - killed thousands of children by denying them needed medicines and food while he could fuel his regime's security apparatus and his megalomania.
Millions more were killed in Saddam's wars against Iran and Kuwait, his slaughter of Kurds and Shias, and by ultra-repressive security forces - the full scope of the killing fields and mass graves is not yet clear. From what we already know, it is horrific enough. Saddam's overthrow has meant countless Iraqi lives saved. Standing up to the insurgents and terrorists - who target civilians as a matter of routine - is essential to prevent future deaths by another tyrannical regime."

It may surprise one to see a US official citing an independent source on a subject as important as the number of people killed due to US military force, however this is due to the fact the US does not record those deaths. And although 'iraqbodycount' have been tireless in their research, their figures are based only on reported deaths. The Lancet report ("Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey, Roberts L, Lafta R, Garfield R, Khudhairi J, Burnham G, LANCET 364 (9448): 1857-1864 NOV 20 2004") is a detailed study into deaths due to invasion and it is the key to the 100,000 figure. It has yet to be challenged as the definitive report on the subject.

Concerning the sanctions and 'oil for food', what we now know changes little of who is to blame for the deaths of 500,000 children. Although corruption may or may not have taken place, it was the imposition of sanctions that led to the predictable result of hundreds of thousands of needless deaths.

What we know about the "Millions more...killed in Saddam's wars" and gasings, is paired with what we know about western support for the dictator at that time. His brutality was made possible by the ignorance of the western populace and the greed of those in power.

Myth 3 - "Falluja is an assault on peaceful citizens and it killed thousands of innocents." Simply wrong. US and Iraqi forces warned civilians through leaflets and broadcasts to leave the city. The vast majority did. Terrorists hid in houses, mosques, hospitals, schools; they hid behind the civilian population; they killed civilians who tried to leave. Soldiers risked their lives to end al-Zarqawi's imposed terror on the city.

Falluja amounted to a war crime (several actually). Women and children were found dead in large numbers, military aged males were refused exit from the city, services were cut off, banned weapons were used and the city basically levelled. Many who once called it home, are now homeless.

"Myth 4 - "Iraq is an illegal war." Wrong. The UN Secretary General commented last September that he personally believed the war in Iraq was not in conformity with the UN Charter. That is not the institutional judgment. UN Security Council Resolutions 678, 687, and 1441 clearly mandated the use of force against Iraq. A total of 17 UN Resolutions, including 1441, detailed Iraq's obligations, its refusal to disarm, and the consequences it would suffer for noncompliance. The United States and its partners made sure that the use of force was in compliance with UN Resolutions.

Saddam Hussein's regime did not want to hear the voice of the people; it used a highly repressive police state, mass executions, poison gas, and intimidation to stay in power. There can be no question that morally, the regime's removal is better for the Iraqi people."

Simply put, noncompliance did not allow military action (even though we now know Saddam was compling). There was no clear mandate for war.

"Myth 5 - "American soldiers are deserting and refusing to go to Iraq." Wrong again. The anti-war movement must be desperate. It invents facts; it wildly exaggerates figures - claiming 5500 American soldiers have deserted, gone into hiding, been sent to jail, or escaped to Canada to avoid military service. Only three soldiers have gone to Canada to avoid service, and one of them has Canadian citizenship. The total number of desertions is only about a half-dozen. The issue of conscientious objectors and deserters is virtually a non-issue in an all-volunteer army of over two million who serve willingly and bravely."

Not a very convincing statement since it is an unsupported claim.

"During the Vietnam war an estimated 55,000 deserters or draft-dodgers fled to Canada." (1)

5,500 is not really that outlandish.

"Iraq's January elections showed the world what the Iraqi people want: peace, stability, democracy, and self-government."

Was there ever a doubt that the Iraqi people would want these things?

Original article ("...") by James C Kenny, United States ambassador to Ireland

The Irish Times

1. Associated Press


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Abstract Truth

The Wal-Mart Manifesto

The retail giant's CEO says his company pays workers handsomely. He doesn't want you to believe him.
By Timothy Noah
Posted Thursday, Feb. 24, 2005, at 9:14 AM PT

H. Lee Scott Jr., the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart, argued in a speech yesterday in Los Angeles (click here to listen to it) that Wal-Mart is a force for good in the economy. Scott is hardly the first corporate chairman to echo "Engine" Charlie Wilson's claim that what's good for General Motors is good for America. And many independent observers have noted that Wal-Mart's relentless downward pressure on overhead has been a boon to American consumers. (In a recent New Yorker column, James Surowiecki took this further, arguing that the retail economy has become a sort of dictatorship of the consumer, and that Wal-Mart, which earns only pennies on each dollar of sales, is merely doing what it must to stay alive.)
What's fairly new in Scott's speech (a related ad campaign was launched last month) is Wal-Mart's rising on its hind legs to tell the world that it is good to its employees. I'd thought it was a settled matter that Wal-Mart had achieved its miraculously low prices by squeezing its employees. Not so, said Scott:




Monday, March 07, 2005

Steyn is back with avengence

Dear Madam,

It is amusing that Mr. Steyn begins his opinion with a slight at other journalists, refering to their Iraq coverage as "generic boilerplate" due to the way in which they, according to him, describe the scene as a "Vietnam quagmire". Putting aside whether his observation is actually true or not (although it would be very difficult to prove it was, by looking at the majority, if not every national newspaper), Mr. Steyn makes the mistake of criticising his colleagues of the very thing he is about to undertake.

While the "raven-tressed Beirut babes demonstrating in Lebanon" (someone may need to inform Mr. Steyn that Lebanon and Iraq are different countries, therefore the "raven-tressed" beauty really cannot effect the "quagmire" in Iraq) call for Syrian troops to withdraw from their military presence Mr. Bush makes his view known "We want democracy to survive...We know that democracy cannot survive while [Lebabnon is] occupied by a foreign force."

Logic could usefully be employed here to justifably conclude that democracy can only prevail in countries that are not occupied by a foreign force, this however is not put together by the "littlegr**nfootball" reading Steyn.

Then follows some typical Steyn fair such as "Over at the Guardian, meanwhile, the poor chaps are desperately trying to give credit to anyone but the reviled Bushitler. Here's how Timothy Garton Ash opened his disquisition: "Has Osama bin Laden started a revolution in the Middle East?" Well, that's one way to look at it. Maybe he could share the Nobel Peace Prize with Michael Moore." Where he uses his favoured technique of convincing, via firstly using ridicule, secondly imploying suspect reasoning and thirdly using the same logic he used to ridicule the opening sentence, in order to make the "best" case possible.

Followed by some light hearted rubbish:

"Jacques Chirac, every dictator's best friend."

And then the case for war is repackaged (convienently):

"Those of us who argued three years ago that Iraq was the place to start the dominoes falling and that the Middle East was ripe for liberty..."

["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]

He then begins to re-write history:

"For three decades, radical Islamism prospered because there was no other big idea to counter it."

No foreign investment, training or support?

Whether The New York Times changes their stance on president Bush's motives/actions is beside the point. Since Mr. Steyn harps on about democracy so effortlessly, it may be an apt point to see what the democratic citizens of the west are thinking:

The War in Iraq receives some of its lowest levels of support yet in the poll, with two-in-five (39%) likely voters saying the war has been worth the cost, in terms of lives lost.
[54% say "not worth it"] (1)

[United States] "A slight majority, 53 percent, disagree with President Bush's plan to spread democracy to other countries, while just over four in 10, 45 percent, agree." (2)

[Spain] "By a 2-1 margin, Spaniards say they do not think the United States should be trying to spread democracy and end tyranny."

[South Korea] "South Koreans say by a 2-1 margin that they do not think the United States should be trying to spread democracy."

[Italy] "Just over half of Italians, 53 percent, say the United States should not be in the business of spreading democracy around the world."

[Britain] "Two-thirds in Britain don't think the United States should take the role of spreading democracy."

Does this have any bearing on the situation?

Yours sincerely,

1. http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.dbm?ID=971
2. http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest

Response to:

Time for Irish lefties to admit George Bush was right
Mark Steyn

Opinion: Come on, lads. You don't want to be the last to leap aboard the bandwagon. The Bush disparagers at the New York Times are running front-page stories with headlines such as "Unexpected Whiff Of Freedom Proves Bracing For The Middle East".

Daniel Schorr, the dean of conventional wisdom at America's National Public Radio, concluded his most recent editorial with a strange combination of words that had never before passed his lips in that particular order: "Bush may have had it right."

Did he simply muff the reading? Did he mean to say: "Bush may have had it - right?" But apparently not. Even America's media naysayers have suddenly noticed that they can hardly hear their own generic boilerplate about what a Vietnam quagmire the new Iraq is over the sound of raven-tressed Beirut babes demonstrating in Lebanon's newly named Freedom Square.

Over at the Guardian, meanwhile, the poor chaps are desperately trying to give credit to anyone but the reviled Bushitler. Here's how Timothy Garton Ash opened his disquisition: "Has Osama bin Laden started a revolution in the Middle East?" Well, that's one way to look at it. Maybe he could share the Nobel Peace Prize with Michael Moore.

In truth, even the most laggardly Irish leftie doesn't have to worry about being last on the bandwagon. That honour seems likely to rest with my own prime minister, Canada's Paul Martin.

The other day he was asked about the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and replied thus: "It's clear if the Syrians are in Lebanon, it's because peace has to be maintained."
For crying out loud, man! Even the Saudis have told Boy Assad to get with the programme and pull his troops out. Even Jacques Chirac, every dictator's best friend. But poor pitiful Canada can't see a rendezvous with history without taking a rain check. In 2003 Martin's predecessor Jean Chretien insisted that his government was not in favour of regime change in Iraq - even after the regime had changed.

Now the torrents of Arabia cascade on, from Baghdad to Beirut, Cairo, Riyadh and beyond. Those of us who argued three years ago that Iraq was the place to start the dominoes falling and that the Middle East was ripe for liberty, for one man, one gloat - whoops, sorry, vote.
Anyway, those of us who told you so way back when, long ago gave up trying to figure out why the likes of Martin and the European sophisticates were so wedded to "stability" uber alles.




Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Irony Continues...

Without comment.

"We want democracy to survive...We know that democracy cannot survive while [Lebabnon is] occupied by a foreign force." G.W. Bush 4/3/05

Both of them stood up and said loud and clear to Syria: 'You get your troops and your secret services out of Lebanon so that good democracy has a chance to flourish,'" G.B. Bush (Anne Arundel Community College)

And suddenly the UN has a say:

"Words are one thing, actions are another," said State Department spokesman Adam Ereli. "We've heard maybe Syrian troops moving in a couple of months. We've heard a variety of things, none of which gets to the heart of the matter."... He added: "We're not hearing what 1559 calls for, which is full and immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon. Those are the magic words, and we haven't heard them yet."

Not to be left behind:

Mr. Blair told Al Arabiya, "The international community will not tolerate anybody trying to interfere with the right of the Lebanese people to elect their own government."


Thursday, March 03, 2005

can't drink, can die

US becomes last country to end death penalty for under-18s

Julian Borger in WashingtonWednesday March 2, 2005

The US bowed to international and domestic pressure yesterday, becoming the last country in the world officially to abolish the death penalty for offenders who were under 18 when they committed murder.
The supreme court ruling will spare up to 70 inmates who are on death row for committing murders while aged 16 or 17, and it removes a source of friction between the US and Europe. The EU welcomed the decision, but said it "opposes capital punishment under all circumstances".
The former American president Jimmy Carter said that with the ruling the US had joined "the community of nations".
"The supreme court decision confirms recent, compelling scientific research findings, that the capacity for curbing impulsiveness, using sound judgment, and exercising self-control is much less developed in adolescents than in adults," Mr Carter said in a statement.
The ruling, passed by a 5-4 majority, was made in the case of Christopher Simmons, who was 17 in 1993 when a woman died after he threw her off a bridge in Missouri.
The swing vote came from Justice Anthony Kennedy, who normally sides with the conservatives on the bench.
In giving his reasons, he explicitly cited the role of world opinion. "It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime," he wrote, adding that there was an emerging national consensus against juvenile execution.
Dissenting from the majority view, Justice Antonin Scalia argued that foreign pressure should play no role in the decision. He said the constitution should not be determined by "the subjective views of five members of this court and like-minded foreigners".
The judges ruled that juvenile execution conflicted with the eighth amendment of the constitution which outlaws "cruel and unusual punishment".
"To decide what is cruel and unusual you don't look at what was happening 200 years ago. You look at evolving standards of decency. In that specific area, what is going on in the rest of the world is relevant," said Stephen Harper, an expert on juvenile law at the University of Miami. "Clearly, international opinion had some effect on the court."
Capital punishment still has majority support in the US. However, this is the second significant judicial limit imposed in recent years. In 2002 the execution of convicts with learning difficulties was abolished.
The decision brings the US into line with the rest of the world. The execution of juveniles is explicitly banned in the UN convention on the rights of the child, which has been ratified by every country except the US and Somalia, which has no recognised government.
Of the 39 executions of child offenders recorded by Amnesty International since 1990, 19 took place in the US. The other countries include Iran, China, Congo, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Yemen, but the US was the last government to condone and defend the practice officially. Iran has formulated a law banning such executions, but it has not yet been put into practice.
"Until today the US was the only country that officially executed child offenders; today's ruling finally brings the US out from the cold on this issue," Kate Allen, Amnesty International's UK director, said in a statement. "The death penalty does nothing to deter crime and is a human rights violation that brings shame on those countries that use it. In addition, innocent people are always at risk of execution."
In 1988 the supreme court outlawed the execution of anyone 15 or under. At the time of yesterday's ruling, 15 states had death penalties for offenders as young as 16 while four had a minimum age of 17.



Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Chavez and the "middle" class

"This year Chavez successfully rebuilt Venezuela's oil company after a devastating management strike and campaign of widespread sabotage at PdVSA plants and pumps. It has to infuriate Bush's oil patch buddies that Chavez restored Venezuela's output from near zero to 2-1/2 million barrels a day." (1.1)

Many who oppose a Venezuelan government under Chavez cite the "fall" of the middle class as ample reason to suggest he is unfit to hold this position. There are several problems with this assumption:

1) Is it true?
2) How many people constitute this class?
3) Is this a fair representation of all his work?

So, how many people constitute Venezuela's middle class?

Well as you may know Venezuela has a high proportion of poor. Recent estimates up to 68% of the total population live below the poverty line. (poverty here here is about $2 a day) (1.2)

With the top 20% taking over 50% of all money. One could presume (fairly accurately) the middle class is quite small (but don't get me wrong, not insignificant). After all, Venezuela is the third most unequal country in the world.

There are a few reasons for the middle class to be angry:

Read: Why is the middle class so opposed to Chavez and the lower class not? (16)

"There are policies that Chávez has promoted that have engendered opposition. Many of these had the effect of pushing some members of the middle class down a rung or two—most of them becoming cab drivers. One of these was to fix the currency, leaving many businessmen who do their buying in dollars and their selling in Bolivares in the lurch. Another policy that alienated middle class Venezuelans was the mass-firing of oil workers suspected of involvement in the oil strike/lock-out and sabotage."

The success Chavez has had has to be taken in context, Chavez took power in a country in a deep depression and a huge debt. The decline of oil prices and capital flight of the early 80's resulted in:

"To deal with this "crisis", President Carlos Andres Perez, elected in 1988, delivered the country over to IMF orthodoxy. Privatization, public spending cuts, liberalization, and deregulation followed. The economy contracted by 8.6% and general poverty went from 43.9% in 1988 to 66.5% of the population in 1989." (2)

However there have been improvements in reducing poverty through redistributive policies such as rural and urban land reform, public education, food distribution, and health clinics.

"According to Wilpert, official unemployment in Venezuela has declined from 18% to 13%. Under Chávez, health care coverage for the poor has been expanded and infant mortality has declined." (15)

Using a method of "trickle up" economics (with the importance of solidarity):

"Development from below means providing opportunities for the poor regarding land, credit, housing, education, health and social security, in a macroeconomic environment of external stability and fiscal sustainability. Small and medium sized businesses, which are close political allies of the new process, and of course big firms, even though belonging to the traditional oligarchies, will benefic from “trickle up” process of increasing demand and human capital formation." (9)

"one million people who learned to read and write, a public health campaign, about 3,000 Bolivarian schools, over two hundred popular markets (Mercal), the missions Robinson, Sucre, Ribas, Miranda, and Zamora" (10)

"in the year of the program’s existence, Plan Bolivar 2000 repaired thousands of schools, hospitals, clinics, homes, churches, and parks. Over two million people received medical treatment. Nearly a thousand inexpensive markets were opened, over two million children were vaccinated, and thousands of tons of trash were collected, just to name a few of the program’s results." (12)

"Laws governing land reform (over two million hectares of land redistributed to peasants), and fishing—in order to reverse the policies that the opposition has tried to impose since late 2002." (11)

"The losses of the oil industry sabotage were enormous and are calculated in billions of dollars (it is estimated at seven billion)."

For graphs showing reserves/stock market figures etc see (11).

The middle class suffered under currency controls, however this was made necessary by "The threat of a steadily devalued currency brought fears of massive capital flight and flight to quality." (3)

The introduction of these currency controls for the purpose of (stabalization) and increasing foreign investment has worked and in 2003 foreign reserves increased "dramatically". (4)

"Private industry is beginning to show signs of economic reactivation despite the negative forecasts of some sectors. Automobile assembly and sales are at present one of the most thriving activities in Venezuela, with a sales record of over 87,000 units between January and September this year, after overcoming the 2003 crisis generated by the oil strike, the decrease in oil income, and the impact of the currency exchange control that restricted the sale of foreign currency within the local market."

"Exports have also recovered significantly by 25.58%, as they rose from 4,641 units (January-September, 2003) to 5,828 in the first nine months of 2004."

"In order to reinforce the reactivation of the automobile industry, the government decided to create a new plan. It decreed the extension, for three years, of the Family Vehicle Program, which offers the benefit of tax (VAT) exemption for the assembly, importation, or sale of the Family Vehicle 2000 to the consumer." (6)

"The Venezuelan government is closing this fiscal year with black figures (a surplus), after several consecutive years of closing it with red figures (a deficit)."

"The scenario for which the 2005 fiscal incomes are calculated is still as conservative as that of 2004.For instance, the price per exported barrel of oil fixed to estimate the oil income was 20 U$. So far, however, the mean price of oil products has been 33.07U$ per barrel." (7)

On reducing corruption:
"Perhaps the most important measure that the government has introduced is the reduction by 80% of “partidas secretas” (secret funds) that ministries and government agencies have." (8)

As far as freedom as a standard of living goes:

"I believe that freedom of speech is as alive in Venezuela as it is in any other country I've visited," former President Jimmy Carter said during a visit there last year (2003)

(Despite what you hear)

When I say context, I mean it. "How can a country work towards growth when it must first work to cancel out the sabotage consistently being imposed upon it?" (4)

"Only last April the Venezuelan president escaped a kidnapping by the Chairman of the nation's Chamber of Commerce." Dec 2003

Huge problems exist, such as corporations attempting to plant genetically modified crops, putting peasant workers out of business (genetically modified crops have been shown to reduce soil fertility, not to mention the harvesting/planting techniques would make small farmers obsolete) who represent 60 million of the population. (5)

The social economy project (13)

"For those who like numbers and data, it is worth reminding them that five years after he became president, Hugo Chavez maintains a level of popularity that has never been reached by any president, not even in their second year in office."

p.s. The HDI does not take into account captital income.

1.1. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/
1.2. http://www.nationmaster.com/country
2.Julia Buxton, "Economic Policy and the Rise of Hugo Chavez", in Steve Ellner and Daniel Hellinger, eds., "Venezuelan Politics in the Chavez Era", Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003.
3. Dow Jones Newswires, 12-06-02 "Venezuela Congress Approves VEB41.6 Tln Budget For 2003"
4. http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?
5. http://www.globalpolicy.org/socecon/tncs/2004
6. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com
7. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com
8. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com
9. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com
10. Robinson: literacy campaign; Sucre: scholarships for college education; Ribas: high school equivalency education; Miranda: support for military reservists; Zamora: land reform
11. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com
12. http://www.venezuelanalysis.com
13. http://www.economiasocial.mpd.gov.ve
14. http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle
15. http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle
16. http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle