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

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Crusade?

No, but we are being led to believe so. Hence, journalists, using the term very loosely, like Steyn and co. faithfully churn out article after repetitive article relaying the horrors of Islam, it's threat to 'the West', and the need for 'the West' to act decisivly. Iraq is to be just the beginning.

[This is a faith-based war, with all the irrationality of the medieval Crusades, or the wars of religion that accompanied the Reformation. The fundamentalists are big on the Reformation of course, but downright hostile to the Enlightenment that succeeded it. Not just hostile to Diderot and Voltaire and Kant but to Thomas Jefferson who heretically declared, "Question even the existence of God, for if there be one, He will more likely pay homage to Reason than to blind faith." Hostile too to the norms of international relations prevailing in recent centuries. One can look at the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) as the midpoint between the wars of religion launched by the Reformation, and the dawn of reason in the Enlightenment. That treaty posited the sovereign state as the basic unit in world politics and promoted non-intervention in order to maintain peace. All very rational. But the Christian right, some of whose members want to chuck the constitution and impose their holy "dominion" over your life, are happy to chuck hundreds of years of international law to irrationally assault the world. All in the name of God! Their hero George Bush specifically said of his illegal invasion in 2003, "God told me to smite [Saddam Hussein], and I smote him."]

[For the time being anyway the focus is on Islam, and on aggressively promoting---demanding, really---political change in the "Greater Middle East." Supposedly this is to protect America. "We are going to build a different kind of Middle East," Condoleezza Rice told U.S. troops last March, "a different kind of broader Middle East that is going to be stable and democratic and where our children will one day not have to be worried about the kind of ideologies of hatred that led those people to fly those planes into those buildings on Sept. 11." What is it about the Middle East that breeds the "ideologies of hatred"---those identified as such by the administration including secular Baathism, al-Qaeda terrorism, and Iran's political Shiism? The only thing linking these disparate ideologies aside from a hostility to U.S. policies is their Muslim component. The subtext here is that the Muslim world, as is, is unsuitable. A danger to our kids. So we need a Crusade for the children.]



Monday, May 30, 2005

Fashion Victims

With these bands changing hands on e-bay for a hundred quid, their purpose seems to have been lost. I blame Bono.

Anti-poverty bands made with forced labour, Oxfam says
By Helen McCormack (30 May 2005)

White wristbands sold by the Make Poverty History coalition were made in Chinese factories accused of using forced labour, it has been disclosed.

The fashionable white wristbands, worn by celebrities and politicians, including Tony Blair, were made for a coalition of charities as the symbol of its 2005 campaign to end extreme poverty.

Oxfam, Christian Aid and Cafod are among those charities selling the wristbands, made in rubber and fabric, for £1 each, of which 70p goes to the organisations.

But reports on two factories making the bands found the working conditions violated Chinese law and the standards of the Ethical Trading Initiative, which promotes better international working practices. "We were stupid," said Dominic Nutt at Christian Aid. "We didn't check it out, Cafod didn't check it out, and Oxfam didn't check it out."

At one of the factories, the Tat Shing Rubber Manufacturing Company in Shenzen, employees were working a seven-day week for less than the minimum wage, with no annual leave, no right to freedom of association, and poor health and safety provisions, one report said.

At the Fuzhou Xing Chun Trade Company, workers were being paid below the minimum wage and having pay deducted for disciplinary reasons, the other report said. About three million bands have been sold since the campaign began in January, almost two million of them in the UK. Most of the bands are fabric and not made in the two factories, which produced silicon versions. Continued...

The Independent

"Thus began one of the boldest aid operations of the 20th century, which surmounted an American and British-led embargo designed to punish Cambodia's liberator, Vietnam. By the sheer ingenuity and political wisdom of its actions and domestic campaigns, Oxfam saved and restored countless people. Later, in demanding that the west stop supporting the Khmer Rouge in exile, Oxfam incurred the hostility of the Thatcher and Reagan governments and was threatened with the loss of its charitable tax-free status. This was clearly meant as a warning to the independent aid organisations, or "NGOs", lest they became too "radical". Many have since embraced a version of corporatism and a closeness to the British government, whose neoliberal trade policies remain a source of much of the world's poverty.

On 27 May, the watchdog ActionAid will publish an extraordinary, damning report, Real Aid: an agenda for making aid work. With the G8 meeting at Gleneagles in Scotland in July, and the Blair government (and other European governments) propagating the nonsense that it is on the side of the world's poor, the report reveals that the government is inflating the value of its already minimal aid to poor countries by a third, and that the majority of all western aid is actually "phantom aid", which means that it has nothing to do with the reduction of poverty."
(John Pilger)



Nu-clear, a little clearer

The Times allows a soft rebuttal of Rev Prof Gerard McGreevy's nuclear proposal. There remains however, no room for criticism of the purpose of his article. Balancing business against sustainability is difficult enough without the media taking sides, which they (seemingly) are unable to curb.

Madam, - As a young engineer I worked for a supplier of hardware for the nuclear industry and was involved in the design of equipment for use in nuclear reactors. As a result I would have few worries about the safe operation and maintenance of nuclear power stations - and they do seem like a good solution to ever growing power needs.

However, now retired, I worry about the legacy I am leaving my grandchildren in the form of spent fuel and other nuclear waste.

Rev Prof Gerard McGreevy (May 24th) regards the case against nuclear power as quite weak, but I think we have not been sufficiently reassured about how nuclear waste and decommissioned stations - radioactive for many, many more generations - can be safely stored or disposed of. Also, the cost of decommissioning needs to be factored into the cost of construction and maintenance.

I would rather see more expenditure on research and development of other renewable energy sources, especially tidal and wave energy, an option sorely ignored. - Yours, etc,

DAVID J. WALSH, Delgany, Co Wicklow.

The Irish Times


Saturday, May 28, 2005

It's our gift to them

US media censor uranium weapons stories
Depleted uranium turns to poison gas

By Bob Nichols
Project Censored Award Winner & Online Journal Contributing Writer

May 27, 2005—A dedication in 2120 might say: Dedicated to the memory of the Iraqi people. Many people believe Iraq was the birthplace of civilization some 5,000 years ago. Iraq was destroyed and radioactively contaminated in an early 21st Century Oil War by a fascist world power, now extinguished.

Dedication to the Iraqi People in 2005: Iraq is uninhabitable. The wars in Central Asia all were nuclear wars fought with radiation-dispersing American weapons....

Those Iraqis not yet radiologically contaminated must leave Iraq as soon as possible. Before they too get radiation poisoning, their genetic line is kaput, they die and become just so much radioactive sand in the deserts of Iraq....

Meanwhile the 140,000-pound A1M1 Death Machine Tanks keep dispensing Poison Uranium Oxide Gas that lasts forever in the Occupied Territories of Iraq, as per the Bushista NeoCons' instructions.

That's the bottom line. The US military, funded by the US taxpayer who borrowed up to 80 percent of the world's savings at one time, killed the Iraqi people. The Iraqis don't even know it yet. Most scientists and just plain people are afraid to look them in the eye and tell them the truth.

(America, Land of War Criminals) Radiation poisoning is a miserable way to die. It means adult diapers, unbearable and unimaginable pain and morphine as a goddess, if you can get it. Poisonous, radioactive, ceramic uranium oxide gas colors everything else. There is no treatment and there is no cure.

Radiation poisoning is a death sentence, courtesy of the US Political Class delivered on target and on time by the US military, the most lethal military in the history of the world. .

Truth: This stuff is deadly. It is Bad, Radioactive and Kills people—forever. It is not okay a year from now. It is not okay, ever. Its use is always a war crime....

In short, the lying big media have you and your family controlled perfectly. That makes the Professional Hairdo News Readers on your tube guilty of being accessories to genocide and accessories to mass murder.

Full Article: Online Journal


Friday, May 27, 2005

War, Torture, Corruption - Anomalies?

"The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." Milan Kundera

The Silent Media Curse of Memorial Day

Media Beat (5/26/05)
By Norman Solomon

Memorial Day weekend brings media rituals. Old Glory flutters on television and newsprint. Grave ceremonies and oratory pay homage to the fallen. Many officials and pundits speak of remembering the dead. But for all the talk of war and remembrance, no time is more infused with insidious forgetting than the last days of May.

This is a holiday that features solemn evasion. Speech-makers and commentators praise the “ultimate sacrifice” of American soldiers -- but say nothing about the duplicity of those who sacrificed them. War efforts are equated with indubitable patriotism. Journalists claim to be writing the latest draft of history, but actual history is no more present than the dead....

It has become popular to describe the U.S. invasion of Iraq as some kind of anomaly, a departure from Washington’s previous record of seeking peaceful alternatives to war and refusing to engage in aggression. Such depictions amount to a kind of pseudo-historical baby food, chopped up and strained so it can be stomached.

But during the last half century -- when, for days or months or many years, U.S. troops and planes assaulted the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq again -- the rationales from the White House were always based on major falsehoods, avidly promoted by the U.S. mass media. In the light of real history, the U.S. soldiers who are honored each Memorial Day were pawns of methodical deception. Media spin and the edicts of authorities induced them to kill “enemy” combatants and civilians, for whom Pentagon buglers have never played a single mournful note.

The Orwellian process of rigorous forgetting is not only about past wars. It’s also about the next war.

Aldous Huxley observed about “triumphs of propaganda” long ago: “Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.” I thought of that comment the other night while watching a TV network. No, it wasn’t Fox or MSNBC or CNN. It was PBS -- the Frontline show, airing a report about Iran’s nuclear program. Every word of the May 24 broadcast may have been true -- yet, due to the show’s omissions, the practical effect was to participate in laying media groundwork for a military attack on Iran....

Memory with integrity should inform our understanding, on Memorial Day and every day. If we remember the Americans who were killed but forget the people they killed -- if we remain silent while media scripts exclude crucial aspects of history that demolish Washington’s claims of high moral ground -- the propaganda system for war can remain intact. When journalists defer to that silence, they’re part of the deadly problem.

Full Article: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Kevin Myers celebrates diversity

It is the 24th of May and Kevin Myers goes off on another rant. Stumbling through a few well honed prejudices and eventually finding his way to the conclusion that Muslims are preparing a silent revolution in order to take over Europe, and they will not rest until the Vatican itself, is theirs. The spark for this brainstorm? The 'innocent' ramblings of a politician, Mary Hanafin.

Mrs. Hanafin has announced that "diversity [in Primary Schools] is respected and that we celebrate it and appreciate it." Making the fatal mistake of saying that we, the Irish people, will not teach our children racial or religious prejudice. A truely horrible idea, but it's said now and she'll have to accept Kevin Myer's consequences.

In his prosecution of immigration, Mr.Myers cites Fiji and the Americas. Both subject to years of imperial oppression, imigration under military occupation, followed by systematic genocide. In these cases it was the immigrants with the greater fire power that claimed self defense. Not exactly an equivalent to the immigration we are experiencing now. It seems Mr.Myers is in need of a history lesson.

As of this minute, this past century and the foreseeable future "good white christians" are killing, maiming and torturing Muslims across the world. When we're not killing them, we are actively supporting military dictatorships which enforce those severe punishments and inequalities that Mr. Myers, and myself, find so offensive. The Saudi leadership, which Mr. Myers uses to demonstrate the evil nature of Islam, is not a reflection of Islam, it is a reflection of the kind of regime we in the west support.

There are approximately one billion muslims in the world and a minute number of them are extemists. Reading Mr. Myers work, one would be led to believe they are all barbarous human beings. This is quite typical of someone that comes to a judgment on a subject/person before learning where the preponderance of the evidence actually lies. Openly evidenced in his articles concerning single mothers. This piece reads like a monologue, serving simply to reinforce prejudices, unfortunately his are not the only ones to be served.

Racial and religious prejudice is nothing new, this however doesn't change the validity of its condemnation. Sikhs, hindus, muslims, jews, protestants, catholics, mormons are all bullied, beaten, descriminated against and in some cases killed in nearly every country. This kind of behaviour is often attributed to fear and ignorance. Mr .Myers article is that fear and ignorance embodied in print.

In an appeal to authority Mr. Myers interprets Pope John Paul's disdain for contraception as a means to increase Europe's population in order to combat the influx of foreign peoples. A clever perversion, which makes his case all the more weighted, if you believe him.

Is there any sane reason why we shouldn't "[respect] diversity and celebrate it and appreciate it"?

Allow Mr. Myers temples to throb, because if The Irish Times didn't, atleast in word, respect diversity, where would this confused right wing scribe find refuge.

Indeed, with Mr. Steyn and Mr. Myers on board you can commend yourself, for a publication without historical context or insight.

The islamic tide may have turned towards Europe, but in waging war on their homelands, did we offer them an alternative?

In todays Times, Mr. Myers attacks the Greens for their 'apparent' opposition to the 'democratic' government in Iraq. This seems quite harsh given that there is no democratic government in Iraq.

Perhaps a similar interpretation of authority is in order to rebuff Mr. Myers support for the Iraq war. Walter Jones, the Republican congressman for North Carolina and inventor of "freedom fries" has now made it clear that the US/UK went to war "with no justification." My interpretation of this is that the US/UK went to war with no justification.

An Irishman's Diary

With temples throbbing with disbelief, I read of the new guidelines for our primary schools, "Intercultural Education in the Primary School", with dear, sweet Mary Hanafin declaring that "diversity is respected and that we celebrate it and appreciate it". Naturally, she cited Auschwitz, saying that it must never happen again, writes Kevin Myers.

coninued... The Irish Times

An Irishman's Diary

That old leftie Daniel Cohn-Bendit apparently doesn't think much of the Irish Greens. He'd think even less if he knew that their leader, Trevor Sargent, recently appeared on the platform of an "anti-war" rally which backed the "resistance" to the new democratic government in Iraq, writes Kevin Myers.

continued... The Irish Times


Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Rev Gerard McGreevy's vision of the apparent need for Britain to rely on nuclear energy comes following several weeks of huffing and puffing from the nuclear lobby. A timely move from Maynooths Prof Emeritus of Experimental Physics, coincidence is rife these days. The brunt of his defense for nuclear power in light of many obvious, but apparently unfounded criticisms is that it represents the greener option and therefore a "remedy for reducing the gas emissions that are supposed to cause global warming." Of course he couldn't admit these gases contribute to global warming, instead we are given a defense, based on a presumption, he is unwilling to accept. A solid case if ever there was.

The truth remains that nuclear power is an "outmoded, heavily subsidized, high-risk relic of the Cold War that presents far too many serious hazards to justify its continuation." The costs associated with decommissioning alone in the UK are to reach £46 Billion, all to be accounted for by the taxpayer. Then there is the obvious link between nuclear power and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. These represent such barriers in the face of new ventures into nuclear power that it is unneccessary to delve into the nightmare that is nuclear waste disposal.

On the upside, there are many cases for varied sources of "energy [that have] not been sufficiently made, if made, [that have] not been listened to dispassionately." For example the capture of solar energy has been largely ignored, in the face of the fact that the earth receives more energy from the sun in just one hour than the world uses in a whole year. (4) Biomass energy crops have also been marginalisd, Biomass fuels are carbon neutral, in that CO2 produced in burning is offset during the growth phase. The renewable, above-ground biomass resource that could be used as energy is about 100 times the world's total annual energy consumption. (7)

Rev Gerard McGreevy's letter represents nothing more than the nuclear industries attempt at dis-information in light of the growing, and substantiated, awareness among the public to Global Warming and Peak Oil.


1. http://www.ewg.org/reports
2. http://www.jc-solarhomes.com
4. http://www.solarbuzz.com/
5. http://www.newstatesman.com/200505230004
6. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper
7. http://www.bera1.org

"Indeed, if the full costs of decommissioning nuclear plants are factored in, the nuclear power industry is uneconomic and, in Britain at least, bankrupt. This has been avoided by the administrative manoeuvre of extracting the industry’s decommissioning costs from the department of trade and industry’s proposed Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), thereby transferring the financial burden onto ordinary citizens." (3)

"The NDA will be responsible for the decommissioning of the early Magnox power stations and some nuclear weapons plants and research facilities. The costs are expected to be at least £46 billion – close to £1,500 for every taxpayer in the country." (3)

"All this activity, documented in trade magazines such as PR Week, shows that in the year or so before the general election, the nuclear industry slowly but surely put together a classy public relations act. And it was not just targeting politicians and the media." (5)


Monday, May 23, 2005

What is racist these days?

Mark Steyn came up with his usual fair this week, criticising Newsweek for their mis-informed story which resulted in the yet more deaths in the Arab world. However, as per every other article Mr. Steyn manages to throw together, he omits several important facts. Firstly, "Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker said the magazine showed the report to Pentagon officials before it was published and made it clear that it would have agreed not to publish the item had they so requested" (4); secondly, their are many substantiated reports of coalition desecration of the Koran; thirdly, if reports such as this cause unnecessary anger in the the middle east, then the same criticism should be leveled against the Sun's latest offering 'Tyrants in his pants'.

What makes this piece sightly different from Steyn's usual attempts is that he forgets to disguise his own prejudice. He says, the "Muslim street" is not angered by the "arrest [of] their terrorists" and "[d]espite the best efforts to rouse the Muslim street, its attitude has remained: start the jihad without me...they're nuts but not that nuts." (1) Replace Muslim with Irish/Jewish/Catholic and try not to be offended. Unfortunately this is yet more evidence of the demonisation of Muslims.


"The International Committee of the Red Cross gathered "credible" reports that US personnel at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba abused the Koran, and raised the issue with the Pentagon several times, according to a Red Cross and US government officials in Washington." (3)

"Shocking and detailed accounts have emerged of how two Afghan prisoners were tortured to death by American interrogators and prison guards at Bagram air base, outside Kabul.

A 2,000-page report on an internal investigation by the US military leaked to The New York Times and published yesterday provides exhaustive detail on how the two were kept chained in excruciating positions and kicked to death." (2)

1. The Irish Times
2. The Independent
3. The Irish Times

["A former interrogator at Guantanamo, in an interview with the Times, confirmed the accounts of the hunger strikes, including the public expression of regret over the treatment of the Korans." (Neil A. Lewis and Eric Schmitt, "Inquiry Finds Abuses at Guantanamo Bay," New York Times, May 1, 2005, p. 35.)

The hunger strike and apology story is also confirmed by another former detainee, Shafiq Rasul, interviewed by the UK Guardian in 2003 (James Meek, "The People the Law Forgot," The Guardian, December 3, 2003, p. 1.) It was also confirmed by former prisoner Jamal al-Harith in an interview with the Daily Mirror (Rosa Prince and Gary Jones, "My Hell in Camp X-ray World Exclusive," Daily Mirror, March 12, 2004.)

"Ehsannullah, 29, said American soldiers who initially questioned him in Kandahar before shipping him to Guantanamo hit him and taunted him by dumping the Koran in a toilet. It was a very bad situation for us, said Ehsannullah, who comes from the home region of the Taliban leader, Mohammad Omar. We cried so much and shouted, Please do not do that to the Holy Koran. (Marc Kaufman and April Witt, "Out of Legal Limbo, Some Tell of Mistreatment," Washington Post, March 26, 2003.)

Also citing the toilet incident is testimony by Asif Iqbal, a former Guantanamo detainee who was released to British custody in March 2004 and subsequently freed without charge:

"The behaviour of the guards towards our religious practices as well as the Koran was also, in my view, designed to cause us as much distress as possible. They would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet and generally disrespect it." (Center for Constitution Rights, Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, August 4, 2004.)

The claim that US troops at Bagram airbase prison in Afghanistan urinated on the Koran was made by former detainee Mohamed Mazouz, a Moroccan, as reported in the Moroccan newspaper, La Gazette du Maroc. (Abdelhak Najib, "Les Americains pissaient sur le Coran et abusaient de nous sexuellement", April 11, 2005). An English translation is available on the Cage Prisoners web site.

Tarek Derghoul, another of the British detainees, similarly cites instances of Koran desecration in an interview with Cageprisoners.com.

Desecration of the Koran was also mentioned by former Guantanamo detainee Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost and reported by the BBC in early May 2005. (Haroon Rashid, "Ex-inmates Share Guantanamo Ordeal," May 2, 2005.)]

Yahoo Opinion


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Just another day at the office

JOHN PERKINS: Well, really, over the past 30 to 40 years, we economic hit men have created the largest global empire in the history of the world. And we do this, typically -- well, there are many ways to do it, but a typical one is that we identify a third-world country that has resources, which we covet. And often these days that's oil, or might be the canal in the case of Panama. In any case, we go to that third-world country and we arrange a huge loan from the international lending community; usually the World Bank leads that process. So, let's say we give this third-world country a loan of $1 billion. One of the conditions of that loan is that the majority of it, roughly 90%, comes back to the United States to one of our big corporations, the ones we've all heard of recently, the Bechtels, the Halliburtons. And those corporations build in this third-world country large power plants, highways, ports, or industrial parks -- big infrastructure projects that basically serve the very rich in those countries. The poor people in those countries and the middle class suffer; they don't benefit from these loans, they don't benefit from the projects. In fact, often their social services have to be severely curtailed in the process of paying off the debt. Now what also happens is that this third-world country then is saddled with a huge debt that it can't possibly repay. For example, today, Ecuador. Ecuador's foreign debt, as a result of the economic hit man, is equal to roughly 50% of its national budget. It cannot possibly repay this debt, as is the case with so many third-world countries. So, now we go back to those countries and say, look, you borrowed all this money from us, and you owe us this money, you can't repay your debts, so give our oil companies your oil at very cheap costs. And in the case of many of these countries, Ecuador is a good example here, that means destroying their rain forests and destroying their indigenous cultures. That's what we're doing today around the world, and we've been doing it -- it began shortly after the end of World War II. It has been building up over time until today where it's really reached mammoth proportions where we control most of the resources of the world.

Confessions of an economic hitman


Saturday, May 21, 2005


Newsweek to remove spines from future publications
Change to spineless format follows latest trend in American journalism
by: Freepressed on: 20th May, 05

Since its founding in 1933, the pages of Newsweek have been held together by a perfect combination of glue and staples. The binding method proved incredibly effective, ensuring that the pages would not be lost or shuffled in the wrong order.

However, all of that will change next week when the popular weekly news magazine becomes a worthless stack of loose papers.

The decision to switch to the spineless format comes amid a general willingness in the media to rollover in the face of criticism from the White House and the radical right wing of the Republican Party.

Newsweek President Harold Shain explained that it wouldn't be much of a change because the magazine never had much of a spine in the first place.

"This will make things a lot easier. It takes too much money and effort to back-up our stories with solid supporting materials."

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said President Bush is looking forward to the change.

"We hope that this will make it easier for us to manipulate the news product, allowing us to keep the news we want and throw the rest away."

Global Echo

New reports bolster prisoner abuse claims
Conor O'Clery, North America Editor, in New York

US/IRAQ: The International Committee of the Red Cross gathered "credible" reports that US personnel at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba abused the Koran, and raised the issue with the Pentagon several times, according to a Red Cross and US government officials in Washington.

This comes as Washington tries to defuse anger in Muslim countries over Newsweek's report that the Muslim holy book was flushed down a toilet at the Guantanamo prison in front of a detainee....

US president George Bush said yesterday of the pictures: "I don't think a photo inspires murderers," and blamed "an ideology that's so barbaric and backwards that it's hard for many in the Western world to comprehend how they think".

The Red Cross claims about the disrespect for the Koran at Guantanamo were relayed to the Pentagon several times in 2002 and early 2003, Red Cross spokesman Simon Schorno said. "The US government took corrective measures and those allegations have not resurfaced," he said....

The New York Times reported that in October 2004, the US Army's Criminal Investigation Command concluded that there was probable cause to charge 27 officers and enlisted personnel with criminal offences - ranging from dereliction of duty to maiming and involuntary manslaughter - in the Dilawar case.

Full Article...

The Irish Times


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Zinn on Toirtapism

The Scourge of Nationalism
By Howard Zinn

"The Progressive" - - I cannot get out of my mind the recent news photos of ordinary Americans sitting on chairs, guns on laps, standing unofficial guard on the Arizona border, to make sure no Mexicans cross over into the United States. There was something horrifying in the realization that, in this twenty-first century of what we call "civilization," we have carved up what we claim is one world into 200 artificially created entities we call "nations" and armed to apprehend or kill anyone who crosses a boundary.

Is not nationalism--that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder--one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred? These ways of thinking--cultivated, nurtured, indoctrinated from childhood on--have been useful to those in power, and deadly for those out of power.

National spirit can be benign in a country that is small and lacking both in military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica, and many more). But in a nation like ours--huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction--what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.

Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring civilization, liberty, democracy.

That self-deception started early. When the first English settlers moved into Indian land in Massachusetts Bay and were resisted, the violence escalated into war with the Pequot Indians. The killing of Indians was seen as approved by God, the taking of land as commanded by the Bible. The Puritans cited one of the Psalms, which says: "Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the Earth for thy possession."




Would believe it!

"In a revealing glimpse into the relations between the corporate media and the government, Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker said the magazine showed the report to Pentagon officials before it was published and made it clear that it would have agreed not to publish the item had they so requested."

Newsweek retracts Guantánamo abuse storyBy Bill Van Auken
17 May 2005

Caving in to pressure from the Pentagon and the White House, Newsweek magazine Monday retracted a story on anti-Muslim abuse of detainees held in the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp. The article sparked anti-US upheavals that swept Afghanistan last week claiming at least 17 lives and spreading to other parts of the Muslim world.

The retraction represents an act of journalistic cowardice and expresses the ever-closer integration of every section of the American media into the state apparatus. This is only the latest in a series of incidents in which major news outlets have backed away from reporting because of administration pressure.




The Enemy of my Enemy...

or just another useful ally.

The Irish Times reports on the recent massacre of up to 500 civilians in the city of Andijan on Friday in Uzbekistan. "Mr Karimov's tyrannical rule will be unchallenged by Moscow but the killings will make it an acid test for the US administration. Mr Bush has never criticised Mr Karimov's government, mindful as he is of the very useful US military base in the country, not to mention its strategically-important energy resources. But the White House, along with other western governments, can ignore it no longer and must put pressure on Mr Karimov to let his people enjoy the freedom and prosperity that is their right." (1)

It is a sad day when it takes an event on the scale of Tiananmen Square's forceful 'military resolution' (If one accepts the modest estimate made by the NYT (2)) for Ireland's "newspaper of record," who's editorial policy is said to foster the "progressive achievement of social justice between people and the discouragement of discrimination of all kinds," to instigate even mild dissent.

Uzbekistan has enjoyed favourable assistance from the US and UK for many years now, acting as a strategic ally in the 'War on Terror'. An ironic fact considering Uzbekistan's disregard for it's own people's human rights. In 2002, Sen. Joseph Lieberman led a delegation of U.S. senators to thank Uzbekistan's president for his support in the US led war against terrorists

But while [Sen. Joseph] Lieberman said the United States planned to work with Uzbekistan to improve business relations and attract foreign investment, he warned that "the state of democracy and human rights matters to us, and unless Uzbekistan continues to move in that direction there will be limits on the support that we can give."" (3)

But while Uzbekistan represents an excellent positionfrom a military perspective, it also benefits/suffers from having a wealth of natural resources.

"This is a very important part of the world with extraordinary natural resources, including particularly gas and oil," Sen. Joseph Lieberman said.

While making sure to address the human rights abuses maintained in Uzbekistan, it was found that these minor transgressions were not seen as a major obstacle in a devloping/sustaining a partnership. Therefore, while feigning promotion of democracy across the middle east, the US and UK actively supported the extension of a tyranical leadership. Whether this was news worthy or not, it certainly makes any support for their present ventures in Iraq and Afganistan void of any respectability.

"Organizations such as New York-based Human Rights Watch are alarmed that Uzbekistan's military cooperation may lead the United States to overlook the electoral abuses, torture and false imprisonment that the group says have been routine under Karimov.

"In Uzbekistan's current political conditions, there is no possibility for any free or fair vote or for an informed choice to be made at the ballot box," Rachel Denber of Human Rights Watch's New York office said Thursday. (4)

The Uzbekistan leadership's commitment to human rights violations was also noted by the UK government during it's consideration of supporting the regime.

"Uzbekistan is a key player in a region of increasing strategic importance to the UK, so defence co-operation is important. However, while bilateral defence co-operation is effective, it is important to note that the Uzbek armed forces are not implicated in human rights violations." (5)

Here again, the strategic importance of the region compensated for the lack of respect for basic human rights. And yet Mr. Blair is still trusted with freeing the Iraqi people and setting them on a course to democracy. In Tony Blair's speech to US Congress, "Freedom not tyranny. Democracy not dictatorship. The rule of law not the rule of the secret police," (6/03 (6)) he presumably forgot to mention the exceptions.

Simon Thomas MP made several observations regarding the nature of the relation to be nurtured with Uzbekistan:

"Importantly, we are developing a dialogue on trade and economic issues. Uzbekistan is an attractive potential market and has substantial resources, including gas, oil, gold and silver. The previous high-level British visit to Uzbekistan, focusing on trade and investment, was undertaken in September by the lord mayor of London. As well as promoting the City of London's financial and business services, the lord mayor raised with Uzbek Ministers some challenges that face British businesses in doing business in Uzbekistan. In terms of deepening business-to-business contacts, which is a driver of necessary reform, that was an important initiative to undertake." (5)

While paying lip service to awkward snags like persecution:

"We are also monitoring the persecution of religious minorities in Uzbekistan. We understand that there are 7,000 religious and political prisoners—that is 7,000 too many. Of those prisoners, many are simply devout Muslims, whom we believe are often unfairly convicted of being extremists. We will continue to stress to the Uzbek Government the fact that falsely accusing citizens of extremist activity is likely to foster rather than discourage extremism." (5)

His advice neither taken by the Uzbek Government or the US/UK coalition.

If the US does decry from every hill top this gross act, will that excuse the years of support. For in this case one cannot even fall back on the trusted cursing of past administrations and the promise of change.

"I am delighted to be back in Uzbekistan. I've just had a long and very interesting and helpful discussion with the president ... Uzbekistan is a key member of the coalition's global war on terror. And I brought the president the good wishes of President Bush and our appreciation for their stalwart support in the war on terror ... Our relationship is strong and has been growing stronger." - US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in Tashkent, February 2004 (7)

"At about 1pm, trucks drove into the square, and started shooting at the crowd. People rushed up to the armoured vehicles and asked them to stop shooting - but the soldiers just shot them.

About 350 civilians had also gathered near the college near the square. They were mostly women and children aged 10-16. The spetsnaz [special forces] took aim and fired at them, the armoured vehicles shooting at everyone who was there. Maybe they had orders to chase the militants, but I don't know why they opened fire. They killed the unarmed citizens of Andijan. The scariest thing was that if someone was lying down in the road shot in the arm or leg, the soldiers would make shots to their head." (8)

1. The Irish Times
2. 21 June 1989 NY Times: Early estimates of 2600-3000 without basis. Survey of hospitals indicates about a dozen soldiers/policemen killed + 400-800 civilians.
3. http://multimedia.belointeractive.com (01-06-02)
4. LA Times (12/07/2001)
5. publications.parliament.uk
6. http://www.guardian.co.uk
7. http://www.atimes.com/
8. http://www.guardian.co.uk/


Monday, May 16, 2005

Not Free, Not Fair

If the western mainstream media told the truth about Africa, stories in our newspapers would be much different. "Market ideology causes Ethiopian Famine," "130 years running and imperialists still mix with bad weather to kill millions."

"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."

Global Policy

Britain blamed for India suicides
Free trade policies backed by the UK government have caused a crisis in India leading thousands of farmers to commit suicide, a charity has said.

Christian Aid has examined the impact of market reforms in Ghana, Jamaica and India in a report.

It blames 4,000 suicides in India's Andhra Pradesh state on policies inspired by the IMF and World Bank.

The UK government says the criticism is "behind the times" and aid is not tied to conditions such as privatisation.

Christian Aid has urged the government to stop linking its aid to developing countries to free trade initiatives and wants the UK to use this year's presidency of the G8 to encourage change.

'Not free, not fair'




From the paper...

that allows Mark Steyn to say "Whatever one feels about it, the United States manages to function. The UN apparatus doesn't. Indeed, the US does the UN's job better than the UN does." comes some home truths about how the US (along with its aids) actually functions:

Bush silent on ally regime killings

Conor O'Clery, North America Editor, in New York

UZBEKISTAN: The shooting dead of hundreds of demonstrators by Uzbek soldiers has drawn only muted reaction in Washington, where Uzbekistan is considered a close ally in its war on terrorism.

...And recently it emerged that the US has another use for Uzbekistan: Washington has sent terror suspects there for detention and interrogation.

...International human rights groups have accused Uzbekistan of torturing prisoners with the use of boiling water and electric shocks on genitals, as well as plucking off fingernails and toenails with pliers.

...The country "is not a democracy and does not have a free press", it states on its website. "Several prominent opponents of the government have fled, and others have been arrested. The government severely represses those it suspects of Islamic extremism, particularly those it suspects of membership in the banned Party of Islamic Liberation (Hizb ut-Tahrir). Some 5,300 to 5,800 suspected extremists are incarcerated."

...Asked about renditions at a press conference on April 28th, Mr Bush said: "We operate within the law and we send people to countries where they say they're not going to torture the people. But let me say something: the United States government has an obligation to protect the American people. It's in our country's interests to find those who would do harm to us ... We still [ are] at war."

Mr Bush has welcomed President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan to the White House, and the US has given Uzbekistan more than $500 million for border control and other security measures.

The official US view is that Uzbekistan is "a strong supporter of US military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq and of the global war against terror" and the US "in turn, values Uzbekistan as a stable, moderate force in a turbulent region".

Full Article: The Irish Times

But this isn't set to last, one can be assured democracy building will be back on the agenda soon, probably on a day there's fewer deaths to report.

So other reports only manage to retort administration rhetoric with other reports. Hence, X number of Iraqis killed today, as Ms. Rice says "we are winning etc." Are we to believe, if no Iraqis are killed on a particular day, then what Ms. Rice says is true?

Rice arrives in Iraq for surprise talks with leaders

Arshad Mohammed and Ian Simpson in Baghdad

IRAQ: US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice met Iraqi leaders yesterday to discuss the battle against an escalating insurgency, and authorities said they found the bodies of 34 men killed by guerrillas.

..."We are fighting a very tough set of terrorists who are, it seems, determined to stop the progress of the Iraqi people," Ms Rice told a news conference with Mr Jaafari.

US national security adviser Stephen Hadley said Ms Rice's trip was part of a US effort to reach out to minority Sunni Muslims. Sunni Arabs dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein and make up the backbone of the insurgency.

"Obviously, she is going to continue that process, because that is really the way forward over the long term to bringing a conclusion to this terrorist effort," Mr Hadley told CNN.

...Journalists travelling with Ms Rice were not made aware of any meetings with Sunni officials.

Full Article: The Irish Times

Whatever the failings/inadequacies of the UN, they represent the only (thin as it is) barrier to US hegemony.


Saturday, May 14, 2005

What's his angle?

"Global warming” at least the modern nightmare vision - is a myth. I am sure of it and so are a growing number of scientists. But what is really worrying is that the world's politicians and policy makers are not."
Professor David Bellamy, Daily Mail, July 2004

Climate change denial, as David Bellamy’s claims show, is based on pure hocus pocus
By George Monbiot

For the past three weeks, a set of figures has been working a hole in my mind. On April 16th, New Scientist published a letter from the famous botanist David Bellamy. Many of the world’s glaciers, he claimed, “are not shrinking but in fact are growing. ... 555 of all the 625 glaciers under observation by the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich, Switzerland, have been growing since 1980.”(1) His letter was instantly taken up by climate change deniers. And it began to worry me. What if Bellamy was right?

He is a scientist, formerly a senior lecturer at the University of Durham. He knows, in other words, that you cannot credibly cite data unless it is well-sourced. Could it be that one of the main lines of evidence of the impacts of global warming – the retreat of the world’s glaciers – was wrong?


“Despite his scientific reputation, he makes all the mistakes that are possible”. He had cited data which was simply false, failed to provide references, completely misunderstood the scientific context and neglected current scientific literature.(4) The latest studies show unequivocally that most of the world’s glaciers are retreating.(5)




Friday, May 13, 2005

Cart before Horse

Prof William Reville's examination of suicide bombers in the May 12th edition of The Irish Times revealed a great deal about the nature of those that choose to sacrifice their lives in an attempt to kill others for the purpose of reprisal. In doing so, guaranteeing the desired side effect, drawing attention to a particular conflict.

Prof Reville makes particular reference to the media's role in this process, and recommends several ways by which the media can curb this behaviour. This being to basically report these events with as little detail as possible and therefore refraining from putting them in any context. This approach may reduce suicide bombings, however, as he explains, "research shows that most suicide bombers are psychologically normal and the phenomenon is most readily explained as a community response set in a background of violence, aggression and revenge." If one wishes not just to reduce the incidences of this terrible act, one must act to change this cycle of violence, aggression and revenge.

His advice concludes that "by reporting suicide bombings in an appropriate manner, the media can dampen the publicity effect and this should feed back to dampen the enthusiasm of the organising groups for using this terror tactic." While this is advice that the media should carefully consider, it should come as no surprize that the "background of violence and aggression" is not a product of suicide bombing, but exacly the opposite.

In the case of the Israel-Palestine conflict, would it also be possible for Prof Reville to provide guidelines as to how the media could act, so as to dampen Israel's enthusiasm for state terrorism?

Response to:

Nearly half Middle East suicide bombers had third-level education

Under the Microscope: Prof William Reville One of the most disturbing aspects of war and terrorism is the suicide bomber. Suicide bombings are now regular occurrences in Iraq and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We commonly imagine that the typical suicide bomber is psychologically unlike the rest of us and, possibly, has a death wish.

However research shows that most suicide bombers are psychologically normal and the phenomenon is most readily explained as a community response set in a background of violence, aggression and revenge. Suicide bombing is examined from a psychological point of view by Paul Marsden and Sharon Attia in the March 2005 edition of the Psychologist.

Suicide terrorism is not new. From the 11th century on, Assassins invited almost certain death for themselves following their brazen public murder of rivals. More recently, in the Vietnam war, Vietcong supporters blew themselves up in order to kill American soldiers.


The Irish Times


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

"Slavery is not just a crime... It is a business"

"Some 12.3 million people are enslaved worldwide, according to a major report....

The ILO calls for better laws and stronger law enforcement to break "a pattern of impunity" in "privately-imposed forced labour"....

BBC developing world correspondent David Loyn says there are some positive signs of change...

But, he adds, it will take a lot to change the culture of forced labour, as it operates best in informal areas outside the view of the normal economy."


In much the same way, unaccountable corporations operate best in informal areas outside the view of the 'normal economy'.

Burma in the balance
John Pilger, 21 Jul 2000

A military junta and multinational corporations on one side, and Buddhist democratic forces led by Aung San Suu Kyi on the other, are engaged in battle for Burma.

Milan Kundera once wrote that the "struggle against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting". Few outside Burma know about the epic events that took place here between 1988 and 1990. Few have heard of the White Bridge on Inya Lake in the centre of Rangoon, now known to foreign business people as the site of an "inter- national business centre".


"Burma: The Next Tiger?". The Japanese government restored some $50 million in aid. The Australian deputy prime minister, Tim Fischer said that Australia could adopt a "flexible" approach to a country that offered "great economic opportunities".

By far the biggest investment, however, was already well established: a billion-dollar pipeline being built by the French oil company Total, partly owned by the French government, and its US partner Unocal. This will carry Burma's natural gas into Thailand and give the generals an estimated $200 million to $400 million every year for thirty years.




You are free to do as we please

In U.S. poll, 44% favour restricting Muslims' rights
Over a quarter would force Muslims to register with government

Republicans, the 'highly religious' and TV news-watchers more likely to back repression

ITHACA, N.Y. — Nearly one-half of Americans believe the U.S. government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim-Americans, a national poll indicates.

The survey conducted by Cornell University also found Republicans and people who described themselves as highly religious were more apt to support curtailing Muslims' civil liberties than Democrats or people who are less religious.




Tuesday, May 10, 2005

No I hate you more

Conor O'Clery reports on the Venezuelan government's pursuit of the
extradition of a Cuban exile wanted on charges of bombing a Cuban
airliner in 1976. The suspect, an ex-CIA agent, in the bombing of the
Cuban passenger aircraft which resulted in the deaths of 73 people has
been afforded protection by the US government.

While Mr.O'Clery makes it clear that President Bush considers
"Venezuela's president Hugo Chávez ... as hostile," it is important to
note that the feeling is mutual.

Mr. Chavez has said, "If I am assassinated, there is only one person
responsible: the president of the United States."

In the interest of fairness and accuracy in reporting would this
information be pertinent to readers in light of the past US
administrations lack of shyness in the use of the accused techniques,
for example the Reagan administration's 1986 bombing raid on Libya
that sought to kill Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.

Yours etc,

Venezuela asks US to extradite Cuban exile bomb suspect
Conor O'Clery in New York

THE US: The Venezuelan government is seeking the extradition from the US of Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles, who is wanted in Venezuela on charges of bombing a Cuban airliner in 1976 and is now believed to be in Florida.

The request poses an embarrassing dilemma for Washington, which has rarely clamped down on anti-Castro militants, but insists that no country should harbour terrorists.


The Irish Times


The Price of 'Freedom'

Soaring birth deformities and child cancer rates in Iraq
By James Cogan

Iraqi doctors are making renewed efforts to bring to the world’s attention the growth in birth deformities and cancer rates among the country’s children. The medical crisis is being directly blamed on the widespread use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions by the US and British forces in southern Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, and the even greater use of DU during the 2003 invasion.

The rate of birth defects, after increasing ten-fold from 11 per 100,000 births in 1989 to 116 per 100,000 in 2001, is soaring further. Dr Nawar Ali, a medical researcher into birth deformities at Baghdad University, told the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) last month: “There have been 650 cases [birth deformities] in total since August 2003 reported in government hospitals. That is a 20 percent increase from the previous regime. Private hospitals were not included in the study, so the number could be higher.”




Monday, May 09, 2005

Grows on Trees

Nearly 4 weeks ago Criminologist John Ruiz Dempsey filed a Supreme Court action in Canada on behalf of the People of Canada alleging that the commercial banks were counterfeiting, or creating a money substitute, and lending it as money to borrowers, when actually they did not have legal money to lend. While Electronz ran this story on information provided from sources nearby soon after the event, we have been uneasy that such an action, with implications involving billions of dollars, could fail to be passed on by P.A. and the other international media services.

Such clearly shows that a filtering or censoring process is in operation which only allows news to pass through if it is not going to embarrass part of the complex which is actually "controlling" the public mind, which can only process the material of which it is aware. This weekend we saw the first sign that some people in the news media world in Godzone know what is going on, though it did not run as a major story, but merely the answer to a reader's question. A reader of the Sunday Star Times (who could possibly also be on the Electronz list for all we know) sent in to the paper a question saying that it was understood a class action in Canada is under way, charging financial institutions with counterfeiting, and asking for confirmation or otherwise?

The answer was not provided from the paper's Financial Editor in Auckland, but by Financial Planner Peter Hensley, hundreds of km further South in New Plymouth. His reply was so frank, and obviously well informed, that we run it here in slightly abridged form. It runs as follows:

"Yes, on April 15th, forensic litigation specialist John Dempsey filed a class action suit alleging that Canadian financial institutions are engaged in the illegal creation of money. One of the best kept secrets is the mechanism of money creation in today's economic system. ..The fact is that money is created, not by and for the people who use it, and not even by the government, but is issued by commercial banks when making loans to private people, businesses and governments. It is like smoke and mirrors stuff.

"Dempsey claims that creation of money out of nothing is beyond the banks' authority, and therefore void; that being under false pretences it contravenes the Criminal Code. He claims that those transactions constitute counterfeiting and money laundering, in that the source of money deposited into borrower's accounts, could not be traced, explained, or accounted for.




Thursday, May 05, 2005

Logic commits hari-kari

In a 2002 Downing Street Memo, based on a meeting that took place involving Tony Blair,Geoff Hoon, Jack Straw and several other high ranking officials, Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General 'said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action.'

Tony Blair countered that 'Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD.' He added, 'If the political context were right, people would support regime change.' 'The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.'

What occured at this meeting, in essence, is the planning of a military campaign against a sovereign nation without the backing of international law. An illegal war to be conducted under false pretences and for those responsible, with impunity.

If you've ever seen a documentary or read a book detailing the events of the 22nd of November 1963 in Dallas you may have several or many questions left unanswered. No matter how emphatic the ex-CIA investigator seems, or how detailed the reconstructions are, there will still be pieces that simply don't fit togeather.

Bill Hicks said "No fucking way! I can't even see the road. Shit they're lying to us. Fuck! Where are they? There's no fucking way. Not unless Oswald was hanging by his toes, upside down from the ledge. Either that or some pigeons grabbed onto him, flew him over the motorcade..." and we laughed, but that was it. We understood why it was funny, but the relation between Bill's insight and our reasoning just didn't click. Many people will tell you they don't believe the government line on that days events, some believe it was a 'hit' ordered from within Kennedy's own administration, but even if everyone believed this, would we be up in arms calling for a new investigation?

Logic says yes, if the evidence doesn't support the official declaration then this is sufficient reason to warrant the re-opening of the investigation. In this case it is not just warranted, it is essential. However, when it comes to the investigation of officials, logic seems to go out the window. Re-opening an investigation that was offcially closed decades ago is obviously absurd.

Following the events of 9/11 an 'independent' commission was set up to investigate the attack and to find the responsible parties. The results of this investigation were inconclusive at best. The largest single human catastrophe in American history, and the results the of official investigation are completely inadequate. Most people with any knowledge of the subject recognise that this commission's findings were insufficient, logically, a re-opening is in order. This is not just a feeling one finds in the backrooms of internet chatrooms, within the press there is a sizeable list of acedemics and journalists who recognise that the holes in this one are gaping, but the call for further investigation is muffled. Logic, has commited hari-kari.

We can be quite sure that the US administration is, at least, guilty of shocking levels of incompetence regarding both its reaction to 9/11 and the measures it employed to prevent such a catastrophe from happening. But they have escaped any punishment. In fact they were basically excused from taking any responsibility at all. It begs the question, what is it about Blair and cohorts that make them the free from any sort of liability? No matter what sort of evidence is stacked against them, the water seems to roll off these ducks' backs. Are we so conditioned that asking for a full and final investigation into wars, terrorist atacks and assassinations is not worth fighting for? Is our role as 'the public' limited to infrequent criticisms and then general subordination to power?

What is more absurd, calling for the re-opening of investigations into Kennedy's assination or the fact that a war criminal is likely to be re-elected, in one of the world's 'great' democracies?


We are the "Thought Police"

"Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac."
George Orwell

"you simply cannot allow foreign troops to go anywhere they want, break into any houses at any time of the day, arrest anybody, take them to any prison detention facilities without going through any legal process and without being accountable."

AMY GOODMAN: Cherif Bassiouni joins us on the phone right now from his home in Chicago. He's a professor of law at DePaul University, author of 27 books on a wide range of legal issues, and he’s President of the International Human Rights Law Institute. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Professor Bassiouni.


AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Well, why don't you first tell us what you found in Afghanistan?

CHERIF BASSIOUNI: Well, Afghanistan, we have to distinguish between the general human rights situation in that country and the problem connected with the coalition forces. First, Afghanistan is a very poor country that has gone through almost a quarter of a century of wars, and is very ethnically and tribally and regionally divided. It has had warlords who have controlled the fate of the country for years. During the last 25 years, many of these warlords have emerged as having committed major atrocities, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and because they have been useful to U.S. forces when they invaded Afghanistan in 2003, they – many of the leaders were basically rewarded with plum positions, and above all, they were rewarded with impunity for their past crimes. In time, their help may not have proven to be that useful to the U.S. In fact, the elusive Bin Laden has still not been captured, and his al Qaeda leadership, presumably still in Afghanistan, has not been captured.

But in the meantime, these warlords have converted into drug lords. They control the drug economy or give it protection. It brings them over $2 billion a year in income. They have $80,000 men under arms. And they're literally a power within the country. For the U.S. to have allied itself to these people for political military strategic purposes was a judgment that many in time will certainly dispute, particularly because of the dangers of this alliance, and the fact that it's not likely to produce much of the desired benefits that the U.S. wants.

The result of that is a terrible human rights situation in Afghanistan, particularly for weaker elements of society: women, children, the handicapped. The justice system is totally inefficient, corrupt. The prison conditions there are medieval. I have seen not hundreds, but thousands of prisoners live in incredibly inhuman conditions. Prisons are sometimes made of a metal container, a small metal container in which 12 people are put in there. No toilets, no running water, no heat in the cold when it gets down to 10 or 0 degrees. People in medieval shackles, hand and feet with a metal bar between them. All of these situations and instances are matters that I brought up to the government, and I must say that the government of President Karzai has always been very responsive and desirous of making changes, but they don't have the resources, and that's not really one of their top priorities. So, that's one aspect, and that's why a human rights monitor representing the United Nations, with experience and with a certain personal prestige and the prestige of the United Nations, is important to be there. Whether it's me or somebody else is immaterial.

Now, the next issue is the fact that the United States and the coalition forces consider themselves above and beyond the reach of the law. They feel they -- that human rights don't apply to them, the international conventions don't apply to them, nobody can ask them what they're doing, and nobody can hold them accountable. And that type of position is simply untenable. And then as one goes further into it, these forces have acted in a manner which maybe in their mind is justified, but in a country where now you have a constitution and presumably a rule of law, you simply cannot allow foreign troops to go anywhere they want, break into any houses at any time of the day, arrest anybody, take them to any prison detention facilities without going through any legal process and without being accountable. So, that's the essential problem.

Now, the Defense Department and the U.S. government take the position that nobody can ask the U.S. government what it's doing in Afghanistan. And I take the very simple position, which I think is principle and principled and valid, that that's not really true. If the United States are there, and we're not questioning why they're there, and we're not questioning what they're doing, that's a political judgment. But how you behave with ordinary citizens, that's something that is questionable.

AMY GOODMAN: Cherif Bassiouni, we have to break, but when we come back, I want to ask about what happened to you, about the U.S. saying that the human rights situation has improved in Afghanistan, so the U.N. doesn't need an independent and human rights investigator. We're speaking to Professor Cherif Bassiouni, who teaches law at DePaul University, President of the International Human Rights Law Institute, just let go by the United Nations after he came up with a report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan.


AMY GOODMAN: As we continue with Professor Cherif Bassiouni. He teaches law at DePaul University, President of the International Human Rights Law Institute. Then, we're joined in our studio for the first time by Dahr Jamail, who we are used to speaking to on the telephone from Iraq, from Baghdad, an unembedded reporter.

But Professor Bassiouni, can you talk about what happened to you at the United Nations? First, specifically what your title was, what your mandate was, and why you don't have that title anymore.




Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Browne squeezes through...

shrinking gap for dissent

However, partially using a disputed document which has been deemed a "complete forgery" by the attorney General's office, Mr. Browne made what should have been a simple argument, fatally flawed. (1)

The minutes drawn up by Blair's foreign policy advisor's assistant revealing the events of a meeting on 23 July 2002 attended by Geoff Hoon and Jack Straw among others, was released by the Sunday Times on May 1st. In this document the Attorney General says 'that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action.' Which Tony Blair countered with 'Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD.'

The case for war, described as 'inevitable', being made by Washington at the time was based on the threat from WMD. The MI6 director further remarked that 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.' Although Jack Straw said 'the case was thin', 'Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.'

In the conclusions of the meeting, it was made clear that, 'We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action.' Which was a direct contradiction to Tony Blair address to the House of Commons, 'We have not got to the stage of military action. If we do get to that stage, at any point in time, we will, of course, make sure that Parliament is properly consulted (col 975)... we have not yet reached the point of decision (col 980).'

On the 23 July 2002 Tony Blair said 'The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.' The case was being shaped for an illegal war behind closed doors.

The result of this private meeting was, that in order to shape public opinion to support war, the focus would be on "work[ing] up an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors." Which "would also help with the legal justification for the use of force," in the event that he refused them access, which he stubbornly didn't.

In the event that Saddam failed to comply, Lord Goldsmith stated "It is clear that if Iraq fails to comply...there will be a further Security Council discussion. The text is, however, ambiguous and unclear on what happens next." Therefore no legal case for war was found. The smoking gun, is as Mr. Browne says, could not be smoking more clearly.

The Attorney-General subsequent U-turn 10 days later, informing the Cabinet that the war would be legal due to an accumulation of previous Security Council resolutions demanding that Iraq disarm or face the consequences, is largely irrelevant, as no new evidence for this conclusion surfaced between these two meetings. The advice therefore was either reached due to pressure from the Prime Minister or an epifiny on the Attorney General's part.

Without a reliable alternative, the Conservatives representing a further shift to the right and the Liberal Democrats a possible back door for the Conservatives, the chances are, that a man who should face criminal prosecution under the European Convention of Human Rights will be re-elected, because of a lack of options.

If only the 100,000 dead Iraqis could appreciate their country without Saddam, I'm sure they could understand Blair's latest admission: "I cannot apologise for that decision because I still think the world is a better place with Saddam in prison rather than in power." (4) If they lived beyond the next bomb attack that is.

1. The Scotsman
2. Official Documents
3. BBC NEWS Election 2005 Election 2005 Analysis Iraq war legality
4. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,19809-1589127_2,00.html
5. www.timesonline.co.uk
May 01, 2005, The secret Downing Street memo, SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL - UK EYES ONLY DAVID MANNING (Blair's Foreign Policy Advisor) Meeting minutes by Matthew Rycroft

Making Blair pay for war
Vincent Browne

On March 1st, 2003, Peter Goldsmith, the UK attorney general, wrote a brief note to Tony Blair. It was headed: "Regime-change and the use of force".

It stated:"There are three possible bases for the use of force: (a) self-defence; (b) to avert an exceptionally overwhelming humanitarian disaster or catastrophe; and (c) via a mandate from the Security Council acting under chapter VII of the UN charter.

"As you are aware none of these avenues currently suffice. Iraq poses no direct threat to the United Kingdom. At best it may threaten its neighbours, however, the overwhelming opinion is that the current sanctions and inspection regimes have sufficed since the Gulf War in order to contain Saddam hence significantly eliminating any danger of an imminent attack.

"I understand how it is being argued that terrorists may get their hands on weapons and hence become a threat. However, there must be a degree of imminence. It is important that the implications are understood before proceeding with our American partners in their doctrine for regime-change, I will be justifying what in essence may turn out to be an illegal war. However, this is why it is necessary to grey the lines as much as possible.


The Irish Times


Monday, May 02, 2005

Steyn in 'the mob'?

Does Mark Steyn realise that although he may be right in saying "There are millions of Americans who take the view that there's no such thing as a bad reason to whack Saddam." Saddam remains well and truely alive, while over 100,000 Iraqis and several thousand coalition troops suffered said 'whacking'.

I recently watched a documentary about the common fear that seems to have been instilled into many people, through film and word of mouth, about the dangers of sharks, in particular for the 'Great White'. Narrated by a women that has spent her life working with sharks, who often brings people to see witness these impressive mammals in their natural environment. She has noticed a common trait in every visitor, a profound insecurity resulting from the realisation that they are insignificant in the eyes of a hungry shark. Their humanity does not exist in the reasoning of this beast, and that is a hard thing to grasp.

In the eyes of the great American war machine, itself with a form of hunger, can the humanity of the Iraqi people really exist? Obviously not in the writing of Mr. Steyn anyway.

Response to:

Blair has paid much higher price for Iraq war than Bush
Mark Steyn

Opinion After the last British election, the nickname-crazed George W Bush took to calling Tony Blair "Landslide". He might have to come up with an alternative term of endearment by the time this Thursday's results are in, writes Mark Steyn.

Readers may recall that last year I predicted Mr Bush would be re-elected and bet my column in these pages on the result. Somewhere along the way I also threw in that all three doughty warriors of the Anglosphere - Bush, Blair and Australia's John Howard - would be returned to office. Two down, and on Thursday Triumphant Tony will win - or, to be punctiliously parliamentary, the Labour Party will win. But it's the ever wider chasm between the two - between the Colossus of Mesopotamia and a party base that's either antipathetic or hostile to him - that's given this election its principal dynamic.


The Irish Times


Proof Reader Goes Awol

Does Conor O'Clery believe what he writes? More importantly, does he read what he writes?

In today's Irish Times Mr. O'Clery writes two articles with almost polar opposite views. In the first, his passive approach to Bush's statements gives a none too subtle endorsement to the presidents rhetoric. In the other, he delves deeper into what one can only imagine is Mr. O'Clery's real viewpoint and as such, makes for much more interesting and insightful reading. Whether he chooses to suppress this in his everyday reporting and therefore in the events he chooses not to report, is a question only he or his editor can answer.

The first and arguably far more important piece focuses on the nature of insurgency in Iraq. In this, Mr. O'Clery quotes president Bush (sans quotation marks) without commenting on whether his description is valid, "US forces in Iraq were making good progress and were winning because the Iraqi people were beginning to see the benefits of a free society." A statement that reveals the extent of Mr. Bush's distorted perspective, apparently living in a war zone is how he percieves a free society.

Mr Bush acknowledged, however, that Iraq faced "hard-nosed killers" who wanted to go back to "the old days of tyranny and darkness, torture chambers and mass graves.""

The only perspective offered by Mr. O'Clery:

"Just hours after he spoke, Iraqi insurgents detonated 10 car bombs in Baghdad in a day of widespread violence which claimed at least 27 lives."

Nothing more. No passing mention of the fact that this violent day is but a quick reminder of what Iraq is now, a population besieged on several fronts. The remainder of the article is yet more press fodder released by Mr. Bush and faithfully reported by the independent media. Is this what news reporting has become, government propaganda fed loyally to readers as news, the purpose of the news media forgotten?

His second piece is noticeably more personnel, but at the same time represents actual news. Investigative (of sorts) reporting with informed comment, tucked away inside a myriad of propaganda. And here his real feelings become more apparent.

Quoting Andy Borowitz, President Bush "reiterated his opposition to gay marriage - unless one of the partners has several billion barrels of petroleum," a comic take on Mr.Bush's expression of trust with the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. In this we are treated to a rare glimpse into what Bush actually means by free society. It is okay to support an oppresive regime, as long as the trust is mutual.

The irony of taking a man's word in one piece and then criticising the same word in the next is not lost, but just hard to find.

In a homage to Marla Ruzicka a journalist who "joins the growing number of courageous people killed bringing aid to victims" and who's "work had drawn attention to the human cost of the war, which was made all the more important by the fact that the US military refused to account for civilian casualties" serves only to highlight the disparity in this womens sacrifice and Mr. O'Clery's subservience to power.

The Irish Times