Saturday, December 24, 2005

Brazil, Venezuela work on refinery plans

SUAPE, Brazil - The presidents of Venezuela and Brazil pressed forward Friday with plans to build a shared oil refinery at this Atlantic port, vowing to bolster South America's neglected infrastructure.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva laid the cornerstone Friday for a $2.5 billion refinery that will process heavy crude from Venezuela's huge Orinoco Belt and Brazilian offshore fields.

The refinery won't come online until 2011, but it's already a symbol of the converging geopolitical and economic interests of both countries - and the growing regional influence of the visiting Venezuelan president. Chavez, an outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy, said South America must unite to overcome the underdevelopment he blamed on "imperialism of the North."

"They took our wealth and left us with poverty," Chavez said. Venezuela is now "looking South," and the refinery is part of its continental development plan.

Analysts say the joint construction project shows how South American nations are increasingly building the infrastructure needed to do business directly with each other.

"We'll spend 10 billion, 20 billion dollars, but we're going to integrate South America," Silva told a cheering crowd of about 2,000. Many wore red T-shirts saying, in Portuguese, "The refinery is ours."

Silva said he advised Chavez to have "more patience and more dialogue" to avoid conflicts with U.S. President George Bush, a favorite target of the Venezuelan's fiery rhetoric against U.S.-style capitalism.

Chavez blamed high oil prices on the lack of refineries and on capitalism. "Refining oil is not a very lucrative business; the profit margin is small. Voracious capitalism goes always after the maximum profit and very few want to invest in refineries. But investments should not be oriented only by profit but also by the needs of development and of lowering costs," he said, speaking to reporters after the ceremony.

The refinery in Brazil is the first to be built in this country in 30 years.

Chavez paid a short visit to a town 20 miles off Recife named after Jose Inacio Abreu e Lima, the Brazilian hero after whom the refinery also will be named.

Abreu e Lima fought along with Venezuelan hero Simon Bolivar for independence from Spanish colonial rule. Chavez reveres Bolivar and calls his leftist-populist government a "Bolivarian revolution."

With construction slated to start in 2008, the Jose Inacio Abreu e Lima refinery will process 200,000 barrels of oil daily to produce diesel fuel, naphtha - a solvent used to make petrochemicals and fertilizers - and other oil products.

Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil producing nation, would guarantee a market for at least 100,000 barrels daily in Brazil, South America's biggest nation and largest economy.

The refinery in Suape, located 1,180 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro, also is seen as a major technological challenge. It will process thick oil-based tar from fields in the Orinoco belt that must be upgraded to make it "refinable."

That's why oil giants Petroleos de Venezuela and Brazil's Petrobras also have plans to build a $1billion preprocessing plant to upgrade the Orinoco's extra-heavy oil by some 10 API degrees, an American Petroleum Institute measurement of oil density, into refinable crude.

Construction of the preprocessing plant is expected to start in 2006, according to Petrobras. It would begin operation in 2009 or 2010.

EU arrest warrant issued for 22 CIA operatives

Suspects wanted for allegedly kidnapping Egyptian cleric in Italy in 2003

MILAN - A Milan court has issued a European arrest warrant for 22 CIA agents suspected of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric from Italy’s financial capital in 2003, Prosecutor Armando Spataro said on Friday.

Milan magistrates suspect a CIA team grabbed Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr off a Milan street and flew him for interrogation to Egypt, where he said he was tortured.

Prosecutors asked the Italian Justice Ministry last month to seek the extradition of the suspects from the United States, but Justice Minister Roberto Castelli has not yet decided whether to act on the request.

A European Union warrant is automatically valid across the 25-nation bloc and does not require approval of any government.

The warrant was agreed by the European Union in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks on the United States in 2001 and was hailed as a key part of the bloc’s fight against terrorism.
Spataro told Reuters he had also asked Interpol to try to detain the suspects anywhere in the world.

Earlier this week, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he did not believe CIA agents had kidnapped Nasr, but added that governments were not going to defeat terrorism by playing by the rules.

Justice officials believe Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, is still in custody in Egypt. Italian investigators have accused him of ties to al-Qaida and recruiting combatants for Iraq, and a Milan judge has issued a warrant for his arrest.

There has been a series of investigations into whether U.S. intelligence officials used Europe as a hub to illegally transfer militant suspects to third countries for interrogation.

The U.S. embassy in Rome was not immediately available for comment.

Bush: 'I Am the Law' - "L'état, c'est moi."

"L'état, c'est moi." I am the State:" That's what the 17th century French monarch, Louis XIV (1638-1715), told the Parliament of Paris after some of its members dared to question funding for the war against Spain.

"La Loi, c'est moi; I am the Law:" That is what George W. Bush, so anti-French, so unlike the Sun King and yet so monarchical, has in effect told those who question the president's right to do whatever he wants under the guise of the "war against terrorism." Or, Bush being Bush, he would probably say: "Me, I'm the law, that's me, the law is me."

Bush, aided by a handful of partisan lawyers willing to twist and bend legality in every direction or even to turn it on its head to suit convenience, has sought legal cover to subvert or ignore the law at every turn. Political appointees such as former White House Counsel and current Attorney-General Alberto Gonzalez and former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo have been more than willing to deliver tortuous legal opinions meant to give Bush carte-blanche and prevent any future liability for top officials and anyone else involved in the "war on terror."

Bush's legal enablers have been a busy and shameless bunch. International law regarding the justification for war? No problem, go to the UN Security Council to seek authorization. And, if the Council declines to approve war? Invade anyway and invoke violations of Security Council resolutions as the legal basis for military action.

The Geneva Conventions? No sweat: Its provisions have been rendered "quaint" by the "war on terror." Then coin a new category, label prisoners in this war "enemy combatants," and argue that for them no rules apply and anything goes.

The Convention Against Torture? Taking candy from a baby: Claim that it only applies to interrogations conducted in the United States. Then send them to other countries for the third degree. Just in case, redefine the terms. Torture is what we say it is; if they don't have that near-death experience, if they don't see the white light, it isn't torture. And, even if they die under torture, understand that was legal too because if the Commander-Chief says it is legal, then it is.

Intense subversive activity by new head of the U.S. Interests Section

THE United States Interests Section in Havana is distributing hundreds of propaganda items from a mercenary organization in Miami led by a former Cuban-born U.S. military officer, which are arriving in Cuba via diplomatic pouch, in violation of all international regulations.

"Now it’s not only videos, televisions, radios, cameras..." said Rogelio Polanco, editor of the daily Juventud Rebelde, displaying the "new goodies bag" of the "Plan Bush perks" during the Roundtable program on Cuban television. The cloth bag contains an assortment of objects bearing the word "CAMBIO" (Change).

"Regime change, like what they did in Afghanistan and what they’re doing in Iraq, based on invasion, aggression, torture and violations of human rights," the journalist emphasized.

The white "goodies bag," distributed by the dozen to paid informants of the U.S. officials, contains a wallet – "supposedly to hold their Plan Bush money" – a decal, hand-fan, a deck of cards, a bracelet, a T-shirt and ... a baseball.

The "goodies bag" also bears the logo "Democracy Support Group" in Spanish – formerly known as "Dissidence Support Group," one of the main beneficiaries of USAID funds, which has its offices at 1000 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Suite 312, Coral Gable, Florida 33134.

Frank Hernández Trujillo is the owner of GAD, according to its initials in Spanish. He is a buddy of USAID official Adolfo Franco, and a former U.S. military officer who, from 1988 until April 2005, raked in the colossal sum of $4.6 million in U.S. taxpayers’ money to carry out his propagandistic activities.

Regarding the illegal entry into Cuba of the "Plan Bush perks," the journalist gave a concrete example of the pouch on February 16, 2005, which arrived at 4:20 on flight TWN9211 "with cargo under 12 luggage tickets corresponding to cargo manifest No. 1727."

"Customs then counted 21 packages under luggage ticket No. 32A00440112-2 as diplomatic cargo with the U.S. Interests Section as its destination..."


After meeting with the capos of the Cuban-American mafia in Miami – including several individuals with proven terrorist records – during a visit to southern Florida, the new U.S. Interests Section (USIS) chief in Havana, Michael Parmly, began to stage a series of provocative shows using the same troupe of mercenaries contracted by his predecessor, James Cason, as the main stars.

The Roundtable program on December 20, Part I of two episodes, provided a detailed description of subversive activities carried out by Parmly over recent months.

Reinaldo Taladrid, a Cuban Television reporter, explained how on December 10, International Human Rights Day, the U.S. delegation cited its mercenaries "to a corner in Miramar" – a residential neighborhood in Havana – where a van picked them up to take them to Michael Parmly’s official residence.

Once they were there, at about 5 p.m, the event, lasting for one hour and 45 minutes, began. It included a session of exchange with members of the foreign press who responded to the grotesque meeting.

After distributing a number of items, including a speech by George W. Bush and a copy of El Nuevo Herald newspaper, Parmly addressed those present.

Nevertheless, it was the enormous buffet that was most gripping for the odd assortment of participants, including Czech, Romanian, Peruvian and Mexican diplomats.

Shish-kebabs, sautéed shrimp, thyme and parsley butter, tuna patties, stuffed chicken rolls, seafood cocktail, coconut balls, basil-and-cream-cheese balls, French éclairs, and "an abundant volume of all types of beverages," defined the culminating moment of that reception, which was, however, interrupted when they returned to the van.


"After Lieutenant Cason we have Sergeant Parmly," said Lazaro Barredo, editor of Granma daily newspaper, in reference to James Cason, the previous head of the U.S. Interests Section and his successor.

Noting that during his speech Parmly compared Cuba’s revolutionary forces to the fascist "brownshirts" and the Ku Klux Klan, Barredo called the phrase "an expression of disrespect toward the Cuban people."

"It is an outrageous comparison," commented moderator Randy Alonso. "Comparing revolutionary forces with the worst of fascism and the worst of U.S. racism... I think that it is one of the most vulgar and hurtful sentences every uttered against the Cuban people."

Barredo added, "This man uses the date of December 10 to tell the Cuban people what human rights are... Those people who are violating human rights in Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, and in the United States itself with the Patriot Act, as has just been announced with the number of prisoners in their jails and with that unbelievable recent application of the death penalty."

Barredo qualified the representation led by Parmly as an "office for espionage, for subversion, for everything, except for diplomatic work." (Jean Guy Allard) •

Eyeing return, Ortega says Bolivia poll is US loss

MANAGUA, Nicaragua - Former Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a Cold War U.S. foe, hailed Bolivia‘s election of a leftist president and said on Wednesday it was part of a trend that will help him return to power next year.

Ortega said the victory of Evo Morales, who was elected on Sunday to become Bolivia‘s first indigenous president, represented defeat for the United States, which undermined Ortega‘s Soviet-backed Sandinista government during the 1980s.

"The big loser in Bolivia now is the United States, defeated in a humiliating way," Ortega told reporters. "They will have no choice but to sit down with Evo, they will have no choice but to come to terms with us when we win the elections."

Ortega led the 1979 Sandinista revolution that overthrew a dictatorship in his poor Central American nation and is running for president again next year after losing three elections in a row.

"People are disenchanted with the promise that free market policies would take them out of poverty, and people have realized that it is not true, that it is a big lie," he said.

His government, supported by Cuba, faced the U.S.-backed Contra rebel insurgency and a U.S. economic embargo that left the economy in ruins and the nation polarized.

In 1990, Ortega lost a bid for re-election to Violeta Chamorro, a darling of Washington. He has since lost two more presidential races to U.S.-backed candidates.

Morales, a former coca grower, tapped into centuries of indigenous resentment against the country‘s elite in South America‘s poorest country.

He wants to roll back free-market economic policies and has sharply criticized U.S. anti-drug policies in South America.

His praise for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, an enemy of the Bush administration, has raised White House fears of a leftist bloc gathered around Chavez and Cuban President Fidel Castro .

Shoot the Moon and Forget about the Bell Curve

Consider this latest piece by former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega, who writes regularly for Tomdispatch on the Plame case and Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation, as my way of signing off with good cheer until the New Year. In our embattled American world, De la Vega suggests just the kind of optimism that seems both possible, and possibly fruitful, to adopt. This is about as close as I can imagine to an attitude, if not a politics, that I might stand behind. It's a way to think about 2006 with hope (of a sort) and even perhaps grace. I offer my best wishes to everyone who has read Tomdispatch this year, and especially to all those of you who have taken a few heartfelt moments to write in, even when critical, in a kindly and encouraging spirit. Thank you and have a good holiday. Tomdispatch will return -- count on it -- January 2nd or 3rd. Tom

Morales to nationalize Bolivia oil, gas

LA PAZ, Bolivia -- The winner of Bolivia's presidential elections has repeated his vow to nationalize oil and gas and said he will void at least some contracts held by foreign companies "looting" the poor Andean nation's natural resources.

Indian coca farmer Evo Morales said he will not confiscate refineries or infrastructure owned by multinational corporations. Instead, his government would renegotiate contracts so that the companies are partners, but not owners, in developing Bolivia's resources, he said.

"We will nationalize (Bolivia's) natural resources," Morales said at a news conference Tuesday in La Paz.

"Many of these contracts signed by various governments are illegal and unconstitutional. It is not possible that our natural resources continue to be looted, exploited illegally, and as the lawyers say, these contracts are legally void and must be adjusted," Morales said.

Bolivia's proven and potential reserves total 48.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, second only to Venezuela in South America, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration.

Morales said his government would open talks with governments and company executives, working to strengthen relations with state oil companies.

He has close relations with Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, who is also trying to change the role of foreign oil companies in his country.

With 92 percent of polling stations officially counted, Morales had 54.1 percent of the vote in Sunday's election. He needs a bare majority to win outright and avoid having congress choose between him and conservative rival Jorge Quiroga in mid-January.

Outgoing President Eduardo Rodriguez's administration said it was organizing a transition team in anticipation of Morales' inauguration on Jan. 22.

On Monday, Morales said Brazilian oil company Petrobras must turn two refineries it owns in Bolivia back to Bolivian control.

Morales announced that he had asked Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to return the refineries, which Petrobras purchased in the last decade. Petrobras bought the two refineries from Bolivia's state-owned oil company in 1999 for roughly $100 million.

Nationalization of hydrocarbons in Bolivia has become the key campaign issue for Morales. But he has not laid out specific plans on how he will manage the nationalization.

Bolivia in May had passed a new hydrocarbons law that raised oil and gas production taxes and royalties to 50 percent, and at least on paper made the state the sole owner of production. But the interim government of President Eduardo Rodriguez never decided how to put the stipulations into practice.

Morales didn't say when or under which terms his government would negotiate new contracts with the energy companies. But he said that contracts with companies found to have been smuggling oil or gas, or dodging taxes in Bolivia, will simply be annulled.

The top investors in Bolivia are Petroleo Brasileiro SA, known as Petrobras, Spain's Repsol YPF, France's Total SA, British Gas and BP PLC . Foreign energy firms have invested $3.5 billion in Bolivia since 1996. But after the passage of the new hydrocarbons law in May, and amid increasing calls for an outright nationalization of the energy industry in Bolivia, they this year have mostly frozen any new investments.

IMF Announces Plans to Cancel $251 Million in Bolivian Debt

The International Monetary Fund announced yesterday plans to cancel the $3.3 billion in debt owed to it by 19 countries. Among these is Bolivia, with a debt cancellation of $251 million.

This is clearly a policy that has been in motion at the Fund for a while and has no connection to Sunday’s election results. I haven’t had time to take a close look at this. Here are some questions that, perhaps, some of our commenters can answer:

1. Are there any conditions that Bolivia has to meet before the debt forgiveness becomes final?

2. Are there conditions that Bolivia has already agreed to?

3. What happens if President-elect Morales decides to take action that the IMF is clearly not pleased with, like canceling a flurry of foreign oil company contracts?

The IMF has a clear history of heavy handedness in Bolivia (see our recent report, Deadly Consequences) so it is reasonable to ask these questions.

He who lies most, lies worst 'on NSA spying'. (Dikkktator Bush)

He who lies most, lies worst. President Bush is contending that a government leak about Osama Bin Laden using his satellite phone in 1998 resulted in the Al Qaeda leader avoiding the phone or "going dark," to use an National Security Agency (NSA) term. That, Bush maintains, resulted in an intelligence failure.

Once again, Bush is just plain lying (along with being misinformed). It was no secret that Bin Laden stopped using his satellite phone in 1996 after Chechen President Dzhokar Dudayev was killed by a Russian air-to-ground missile as he was talking on his satellite phone. In that case, Dudayev erred by keeping his conversation longer than two minutes, ample time for a joint Russian-US operation to pinpoint his location using an overhead U.S. communications intelligence satellite. The editor reported and spoke in detail on that operation in 1996 ("DID NSA HELP RUSSIA TARGET DUDAYEV?"
by Wayne Madsen, Covert Action Quarterly, Summer 1997.

Strong evidence suggests that the US, in violation of its ban on assassination, used the world's most sophisticated satellite technology to help Russia target the Chechen leader, and boost both Yeltsin's and Clinton's election chances.)

and was once berated by a senior Pentagon officer for referring to the public news reports concerning it in an address to a seminar in Tyson's Corner, Virginia. Also, from Wayne Madsen, "Report Alleges US Role in Angola Arms-for-Oil Scandal," CorpWatch, May 17, 2002:

"Jardo Muekalia, who headed UNITA's Washington office until it was forced to close in 1997, says that that the military forces that ultimately succeeded in assassinating [Jonas] Savimbi were supported by commercial satellite imagery and other intelligence support provided by Houston-based Brown & Root, Cheney's old outfit. Both the State Department and Pentagon vehemently deny any US government role in the killing of Savimbi.

But the US frequently uses such intelligence wizardry to help track down troublesome leaders. In 1996, according to US and British intelligence sources, the NSA may have passed on location data to the Russians on the location of Chechen President Dzhokar Dudayev (he was struck by an air-to-surface missile while talking on his satellite phone). In 1999, the New York Times reported that Turkey captured Kurdish Workers' Party leader Abdallah Ocalan after his cell phone location data was tracked by U.S., British, and Israeli intelligence agents."

From Network World, "The Terrorist Network," by Sharon Gaudin, Nov. 26, 01:

"Chechen leader Dzokhar Dudayev knew he needed to limit the time he spent using the satellite phone given to him by his Islamic allies in Turkey. It was the spring of 1996, and the survivor of two Russian assassination attempts was wary of Russia's ability to home in on his communication signal - and his location.

But on the evening of April 21, Dudayev, baited by Russian President Boris Yeltsin's offer of peace talks, called an adviser in Moscow to discuss the impending negotiations.

This time, Dudayev stayed on the phone too long.

American spy satellites, trained on Iraq and Kuwait, were quickly turned north to the Caucasus mountains and Chechnya, according to a former communications specialist with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The satellites pinpointed the Chechen leader's location to within meters of his satellite phone signal, and the coordinates were sent to a Russian Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jet.

Dudayev was killed by two laser-guided air-to-surface missiles while still holding the phone that gave him away.

This deadly lesson, which the U.S. has never officially confirmed, was not lost on Osama bin Laden, a purported Chechen ally who fed money and weapons to their fight against the Russians. That lesson was complete when bin Laden subsequently received word that U.S. spy satellites, perhaps the very same that located Dudayev, had eavesdropped on his own satellite phone conversations. And members of the NSA played the tapes for visitors.

'Bin Laden knows what has happened and he's a smart man,' says Wayne Madsen, a security consultant and former communications specialist with the U.S. Navy and the NSA. 'He's learned his lesson... and he knows technology is a double-edged sword so he's using it carefully.'

Today bin Laden is believed to school his soldiers in high-tech tools of communication. E-mail, online dead drops, satellite phones, cell phones, encryption and digital camouflage called stenography (see story, next page) are all tools of Al Qaeda, bin Laden's terrorist network. Those high-tech tools enable members of Al Qaeda to communicate with terrorist cells (or groups) hidden around the world.

But bin Laden himself uses none of it.

Instead, he has fallen back on ancient methods of communication, denying the U.S. and its allies the chance to track electronic footprints, satellite signals or even the radiation emissions from cellular phones. A grid of trusted human couriers, foot soldiers melding in with civilians, crisscross Afghanistan and flow into neighboring countries carrying written and whispered messages that are then electronically shot around the world."

Bush is actually trying to stop the flood of leaks from NSA and other intelligence agencies by disgruntled analysts and other professionals by making noise about "leaks." Its a desperate move on Bush's part. It was Bush who alienated the US Intelligence Community and now Bush will pay the political price for his arrogance and demoralization of the "INT" agencies: Sigint, Humint, Imint, and Elint.

Bin Laden ceased using his sat phone in 1996 after Dudayev's sat phone frequency and location was homed in on by a Russian missile

NOTE: WMR has received a request to consolidate our early stories on NSA eavesdropping.

Wayne Madsen Report NSA archives:

Bush's ideological and GOP dynasty doppelganger is set to sign a Gestapo-like law, the Ohio Patriot Act.

December 24, 2005 -- Bush's ideological and GOP dynasty doppelganger, convicted Governor of Ohio Bob Taft (at 15 percent approval rating), set to sign a Gestapo-like law, the Ohio Patriot Act. Merry Christmas and show us your papers!

Welcome to Ohio: Your papers please! Your papers are NOT in order!

The Washington Post Shill

Left I on the News
A leftwing view of the day's news and the way it's presented in the media

The importance of the air war in Iraq has been emphasized here many times, and its recent escalation has been a subject of discussion by Dahr Jamail, Norman Solomon, and others. The Washington Post finally catches on, summarizing American offensive actions last month by citing a source claiming that 97 civilians were killed last month as part of the air war in Anbar province ("Operation Steel Curtain"), and notes an increase from 25 airstrikes last January to 120 in November. But outside of those basic facts (and the first isn't actually stated as fact), the article from one end to another could have been (and for all I know was) written by the U.S. military propaganda office (or its outsourced PR firm).

Start with that figure of 97. It's a figure provided by a doctor in Husaybah, and only refers to fatalities in the first week in one town of a multi-town, 17-day offensive. But even though the article refers to how "some critics" say that the deaths are "too liittle investigated," there isn't the slightest effort in the article to investigate or even add up the claims of deaths in other towns to come up with an actual total estimate for the entire campaign.

Then of course we have the obligatory military claims. The article quotes that same doctor saying, "I dare any organization, committee or the American Army to deny these numbers," and then proceeds to do just that:

Just how many civilians have been killed is strongly disputed by the Marines...U.S. Marines in Anbar say they take pains to spare innocent lives and almost invariably question civilian accounts from the battleground communities. They say that townspeople who either support the insurgents or are intimidated by them are manipulating the number of noncombatant deaths for propaganda..."I wholeheartedly believe the vast majority of civilians are killed by the insurgency," particularly by improvised bombs, said Col. Michael Denning, the top air officer for the 2nd Marine Division, which is leading the fight against insurgents in Anbar province..."Insurgents will kill civilians and try to blame it on us."...Townspeople, medical workers and officials often exaggerate death tolls, either for effect or under orders from insurgents [That last statement made completely with attribution, merely as simple fact on the authority of the Post]...American commanders insist they do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, Denning said [Ed. note: not content with making that claim once in the article, this is now the second time for the identical claim]...The precision-guided munitions used in all airstrikes in Anbar 'have miss rates smaller than the size of this table,' Denning said [Ed. note: too bad "precision" is not the same as "accuracy"; "precision-guided" munitions are not the same as "accuracy-guided" munitions because the latter do not exist]"

But just citing disclaimer after disclaimer from the U.S. military isn't enough. Every individual incident cited in the article (some of which have been mentioned in this blog before) is covered with excuses of insurgents being seen firing from the neighborhood, insurgents taking civilians hostage, and so on. Not a single airstrike described in the article is the fault of the U.S. military (even forgetting about the fact that the entire offensive -- not to mention the entire invasion and occupation -- was the deliberate, unprovoked choice of the U.S. military).
Perhaps the most outrageous charge in the article is this one, which is the conclusion of one of the phrases cited above (emphasis added): "They say that townspeople who either support the insurgents or are intimidated by them are manipulating the number of noncombatant deaths for propaganda -- a charge that some Iraqis acknowledge is true of some residents and medical workers in Anbar province." Who are those Iraqis? None are identified in the article. The only possible source for this "charge" comes much later in the article, with this statement:

Arkan Isawi, an elder in Husaybah, said he and four other tribal leaders gathered to assess the damage while the operation was still underway and identified at least 80 dead, including women and children. "I personally pulled out a family of three children and parents," he said.

An exact count, however, was impossible, he said. "Anyone who gives you a number is lying, because the city was a mess, and people buried bodies in backyards and parking lots," with other bodies still under rubble, Isawi said.

Well, ok, it's true that this guy says an exact count is impossible, and no doubt that's true. But he personally identified "at least 80" dead people, so I doubt very much if he said this to cast doubt on the doctor's claim that 97 civilians were killed. I mean, what would be the point of "exaggerating" by using the number 97 instead of "at least 80"? The point, and the order of magnitude, are exactly the same. It really doesn't matter morally or legally or by any other criteria. And who is more likely to be accurate anyway, a doctor in a hospital issuing death certificates, or someone pulling bodies out of the rubble? Do you really keep an exact count when you do something like that?

Perhaps this was not the Iraqi who "acknowledged" that the number of noncombatant deaths was being "manipulated for propaganda" (although even he isn't quoted as making any such charge, only saying that it is impossible to make an exact count, which isn't the same thing at all). If not, then why not at least cover your tracks by attributing the claim to "Iraqis who refused to be identified for fear of their lives" or something like that? No, the Post didn't even think that was necessary, any more than they thought it necessary to attribute the more direct claim "Townspeople, medical workers and officials often exaggerate death tolls, either for effect or under orders from insurgents" to anyone. Just the word of the Post, which is really the word of the U.S. military, ought to be good enough for its readers. At least, that's the implicit attitude in the article.

Not once in the article does anyone challenge the word of the U.S. military or note that their claims "could not be verified," or might be "exaggerated." The one former Pentagon official who appears in the article as some kind of mild critic is mainly noting that better assessments should be made post-facto. Among the claims of this "critic" are: "It's almost impossible to fight a war in which engagements occur in urban areas [and] to avoid civilian casualties...when you're using force in an urban area or using force in an area with limited intelligence [and facing an enemy actively] exploiting distinctions between combatants and noncombatants, air power becomes challenging no matter how discriminate it is." This "critic" is better at making excuses for the military than actually criticizing them.

As Amy Goodman says, "If we had state media in the United States, how would it be any different?"

La Bolivia india se une a la izquierda latina

Más allá de la importancia simbólica, que a nadie se le escapa, el hecho de que Evo Morales sea indio y el primero en acceder al poder en Bolivia, no es determinante. Al fin y al cabo el país ya tuvo un vicepresidente aymará, Víctor Hugo Cárdenas, y su origen étnico no le impidió aplicar o avalar una política ferozmente neoliberal durante el primer mandato de Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (1993-1997). Lo mismo que el actual jefe del estado peruano, Alejandro Toledo (mestizo quechua), que para atraer votos se limitó a alardear de la sangre indígena que corre por sus venas.

No cabe duda de que Morales, un indio aymará orgulloso de serlo, ha sido capaz de superar el “etnicismo” y, más allá de su comunidad de origen, aglutinar a mestizos, clase media e intelectuales. Esto le ha dado la victoria en la primera vuelta de los comicios presidenciales del 18 de diciembre con al menos un 52% de los votos —cifra anunciada el 20 de diciembre por la Corte Nacional Electoral tras el recuento del 60% de los sufragios—. Morales representa para el país más pobre del continente americano —el 74% de la población, en su mayoría indígena, vive por debajo del umbral de la pobreza— una esperanza de cambio demasiado tiempo postergado. Presidente de las seis federaciones de cultivadores de coca, diputado por Cochabamba en 1997 y principal dirigente de la primera fuerza política del país, el Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), ha encabezado, junto con otros dirigentes de los numerosos movimientos sociales, los alzamientos que en dos años han derrocado a dos presidentes: Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (17 de octubre de 2003) y Carlos Mesa (6 de junio de 2005).

El cambio tan anunciado ha empezado ya: revisión del modelo neoliberal y del estado colonial, nacionalización de los recursos naturales, en particular de los hidrocarburos, reforma agraria, revalorización de las lenguas indígenas, autonomía regional y elección de una Asamblea Constituyente en junio de 2006 para “volver a fundar el país”.

En Bolivia nadie se hace ilusiones, pues son muchos los obstáculos que habrá que remover. Aunque los partidos tradicionales han quedado barridos, el MAS (con 65 diputados de 130 y 13 senadores de 27) va a tener una relación de fuerza frágil en el parlamento.

A pesar de que los dirigentes de izquierda más radicales —Jaime Solares de la Central Obrera Boliviana (COB) y Felipe Quispe, del Movimiento Indigenista Pachacuti (MIP)— han sido desautorizados por sus bases, no le pondrán las cosas fáciles a Morales si las reformas se hacen esperar demasiado. Y aunque se lleven a cabo, pueden endurecer sus posiciones.

Por su parte los conservadores, que han aceptado públicamente su derrota, no tardarán en levantar cabeza apoyándose en la elite blanca de las ricas provincias del este del país (Santa Cruz y Tarija), donde reina una clara tendencia separatista.

Tampoco habrá que perder de vista a las multinacionales del gas y el petróleo (Total, Repsol, Petrobrás, British Gas y Exxon, por mencionar a las más importantes), respaldadas por sus gobiernos respectivos (Francia, España, Brasil, Reino Unido y EEUU). Aunque el nuevo presidente ha garantizado que, en el marco de una política de “nacionalización sin expropiaciones”, estas compañías podrán seguir operando en Bolivia, también ha dicho que su gobierno va a revisar todos los contratos (a menudo firmados al margen de la ley), aumentar las tasas y los royalties, recuperar la propiedad de los yacimientos y controlar el 50% de la producción. A ejemplo de la política petrolera del presidente venezolano Hugo Chávez, el estado boliviano necesita apropiarse de las reservas de gas (calculadas en 1,375 billones de metros cúbicos, las segundas del continente después de las venezolanas) para sufragar las reformas sociales que demandan la mayoría de los bolivianos.

Por último, Morales deberá enfrentarse a Washington, que acaba de sufrir un nuevo revés en su patio trasero americano y no ha perdido la ocasión de satanizar a Evo Morales, junto con Hugo Chávez (Venezuela) y Fidel Castro (Cuba).

Tradicionalmente, para EEUU, so pretexto de lucha contra el narcotráfico, todos los temas de la agenda bilateral han ido acompañados de condiciones, directas o indirectas, en relación con la erradicación total de las plantaciones de coca: deuda externa, cooperación en el ámbito de la sanidad y la educación, relaciones comerciales, etc. El dirigente del MAS ha anunciado que va a acabar con la cocaína y el narcotráfico, pero no con la coca. Firme partidario de despenalizar esta planta, utilizada por los indios con fines rituales y medicinales, se opone a las continuas injerencias usamericanas en los asuntos internos del país amparadas en la política antidroga. Si a esto se añade la negativa a firmar un tratado de “libre comercio” (TLC), se comprenderá el fuerte recelo que siente y expresa Washington.

La conjunción de estos tres factores —oposición conservadora, resistencia de las multinacionales y hostilidad de EEUU— es un mal agüero para este país en crisis permanente. Pero Morales también cuenta con grandes apoyos. El pueblo lo ha convertido en el símbolo de su anhelo de cambio. Cualquier intento de subversión tendría por respuesta una de esas movilizaciones populares masivas que han dado fama a los bolivianos. Además, para llevar a cabo su proyecto, Morales llega al poder en un momento propicio, pues se suma al frente común de los países que rechazan la hegemonía tanto del liberalismo económico como de EEUU —Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, Brasil y Uruguay— y podrá contar con su simpatía, su ayuda y su protección, además de reforzar su posición.

Is George Bush a Mad Emperor?

President George W. Bush took the country into the Iraqi War based on a policy of lies. It has cost the lives of an estimated 30,000 to 100,000 Iraqis. Since 2001, Bush has ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on the American people under the guise of catching terrorists. He arrogantly ignored a secret court, the FISA Court, which was set up for that purpose. Bush acts like a mad Roman emperor; he’s as whacky as a Caligula or a Nero.
"Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error."
-- Cicero [1]
The Roman masses finally figured out that their highly eccentric Emperor, Caligula, was a raving lunatic when it was revealed that he was having lavish dinner parties in honor of his favorite horse and that he had even considered making it a Consul! Caligula's reported incestuous relationships with his sisters was bad enough for them to stomach; the "horse thing," however, became the tipping point. [2] Caligula had to go! He was soon replaced, in a palace-orchestrated coup de' dictator, by the bookish Claudius. At that time, unfortunately for the batty Caligula, there wasn't an "impeachment process" or "censure proceedings" in place, to hasten his exit in a peaceful and dignified manner from the then chaotic political scene in the Eternal City. [3]

Recently, President George W. Bush, a/k/a "Bush II," --a would be "Emperor," if there ever was one--was forced to own up to the shocking fact that in Oct., 2001, he had covertly ordered the National Security Agency (NSA), to spy on countless U.S. residents. Is Bush, too, losing his mind? Coming on top of his damnable lies that got the U.S. into the Iraqi War, this is another very disturbing bombshell. [4] Bush has been spying on our citizenry without the required court orders and in direct violation of the liberties guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and in other laws of the land. Question: Is Bush's acting contemptuously, and above the law, in this latest disgusting scandal, going to be a tipping point for the American people? When are they going to stop putting up with his crazed antics? Will this repulsive episode be, like Caligula's "horse thing?" Well, I sure hope so!

'And to all, a good night: A contemporary Christmas tale'

It was only a matter of time before Santa Claus himself came under the Neanderthal-eyed scrutiny of American intelligence. After all, Santa's citizenship is unknown, and he crosses borders with no passport or other form of identification. No one knows whether he even has a valid pilot's license.

Although his image is well known, there is no official photograph on file with American border control, and he has never been fingerprinted or body-searched. Most disconcerting of all, he delivers parcels to children all over the world, including the children living in the Axis of Evil. His intentions with this activity are not understood beyond some fuzzy generalization about kindness and generosity to all. Clearly, here was the world's largest unplugged pipeline to potential terrorists.

It was only after receiving no response to several urgent letters from the State Department requesting an immediate meeting in Washington that a decision was made to approach Santa's North Pole solitude. As usual in such matters with the people now running America, a wing of America's most lethal killing machines was employed for the purpose. You never know what you might encounter in such a forbidding place.

As the planes first zoomed over the icy silence of the North Pole workshop, one of the pilots decided to swoop down for a closer look. He was one of those daring fly-boys, and his tail struck the only wire for thousands of miles around, the North Pole Telegraph, sending his plane hurling into the workshop in a ball of flames with tons of ammunition and missiles exploding.

Santa and Mrs. Claus rushed out of their snow-blanketed gingerbread house to see what was happening, trying to calm the terrified reindeer running from their stable at one end of the house. The elves, too, scurried towards the stable, trying to stop the reindeer from running or flying off.

Above, in the dark vault of sky, the other pilots observed the explosion and saw missile trails smoking into the air. They also saw the frantic activity below and quickly concluded their comrade had come under anti-aircraft attack. So they swooped down in attack formation, rapid-fire canon tearing into everything ahead of them.

Most of the reindeer fell in the snow, spurting warm blood across the bluish-white surface. Most of the elves, too, fell gasping for life. Mrs. Claus received a wound in the head and instantly fell limp. Santa tried heroically to reach his wife but realized the situation was hopeless and turned, running into the darkness accompanied by Prancer, the only surviving reindeer.

The only witness to the massacre is one surviving elf now living somewhere in Canada under an assumed identity, fearful for his life. It is only from his testimony that we know anything about Santa's fate.

Realizing the horrific mistake they had made, the pilots dropped white phosphorus bombs with the intention of incinerating all evidence. The entire North Pole lit up and Santa and Prancer could be seen in the distance on a huge block of ice drifting off into the dark sea, the ice everywhere cracked and weakened by the combined effects of white phosphorus and years of global warming.

Within in a few hours, the beating sound of a black helicopter approached Santa and Prancer. The elf, from his hiding place in a snowdrift, could only make out intermittent sounds across the howling coldness, but it seems armed men emerged from the helicopter, shot Prancer and shackled Santa, shoving him into the dark, beating machine. The elf heard a word that sounded like Guantanamo and Santa has not been heard from since. Reports of his fate reached the International Red Cross and organizations like Amnesty International, leading to inquiries, but these have been met only with silence from American authorities.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

"World Social Forum Travel Fund" (THE VI World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela)

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Depleted uranium - another MIA (Missing in America) story

Since this blog began I've been writing about the evils of depleted Uranium, most recently here. Iraqis and Americans (and others elsewhere that DU weaponry has been used) have suffered as a result.

Today's news
takes the story one step further, both qualitatively and quantitatively:

"Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter charged Monday that the reason Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi stepped down earlier this month was the growing scandal surrounding the use of uranium munitions in the Iraq War.

"Writing in Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter No. 169, Arthur N. Bernklau, executive director of Veterans for Constitutional Law in New York, stated, 'The real reason for Mr. Principi's departure was really never given, however a special report published by eminent scientist Leuren Moret naming depleted uranium as the definitive cause of the 'Gulf War Syndrome' has fed a growing scandal about the continued use of uranium munitions by the US Military.'

"Bernklau continued, 'This malady (from uranium munitions), that thousands of our military have suffered and died from, has finally been identified as the cause of this sickness, eliminating the guessing. The terrible truth is now being revealed.'

"He added, 'Out of the 580,400 soldiers who served in GW1 (the first Gulf War), of them, 11,000 are now dead! By the year 2000, there were 325,000 on Permanent Medical Disability. This astounding number of 'Disabled Vets' means that a decade later, 56% of those soldiers who served have some form of permanent medical problems!' The disability rate for the wars of the last century was 5 percent; it was higher, 10 percent, in Viet Nam.

'The VA Secretary (Principi) was aware of this fact as far back as 2000,' wrote Bernklau. 'He, and the Bush administration have been hiding these facts, but now, thanks to Moret's report, (it) ... is far too big to hide or to cover up!'"

And, as I've also discussed before, not only is this a health problem, it's also part of the never-ending cost of war. Repeating something from that just-linked post:
"While the exact cost of compensating those injured in fighting in Iraq is uncertain, the Department of Veterans Affairs already expects to pay $600 billion over the next three decades in disability payments to veterans of earlier wars."

Let's repeat -- that $600 billion does not include those now serving in Iraq. Add to that the cost of paying for a lifetime of healthcare for hundreds of thousands of soldiers who have been exposed to DU in Iraq (on top of all the other medical problems resulting from the war) and, as Everett Dirksen famously said, "Pretty soon you're talking about real money." And you're definitely talking about real lives. And real deaths.

Not So Fast Christian Soldiers: Media is Busy Selling Idea That We are a Christian Nation, but the Numbers Tell a Different Story

So I caught a few minutes of Fox News a couple of weekends ago and one of their pretty, young, blonde anchors was doing the obligatory “liberals are trying to kill Christmas” stories and this bright, young woman informed her viewers that more than 90% of the country is Christian. Hearing that certainly put the whole debate into its proper perspective. With almost the entire population of our country made up of Christians, it really doesn’t seem fair that a small minority of us secularists are trying to restrict God from our public sphere and government entities. I guess we should all just suck it up and deal. It seems we should be okay with our children being taught intelligent design in school, taking an oath to God as well as our country and embrace the Ten Commandments as the replacement for the Constitution in the dispensing of justice in our courts. Except for the fact that Fox News lies.

I did a little research of my own and surprise, surprise, it turns out that “more than 90%” is a bit of a stretch. According to The American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, although 79.8% of respondents self-identified as Christian, 40% of those that considered themselves religious did not identify with any organized Church. Also interesting is that the percentage of Christians, dropped 8.5% since 1990. It seems that Christian influence in government may be growing, but their ranks are shrinking.

The other important consideration is that religiosity is geographical as well. The percentage of regular churchgoers is much higher in the Bible Belt than anywhere else in the country, and Western states have the highest percentage of people who consider themselves non-religious.

While the religious right is using Fox News and other MSM outlets to sell the idea that Christianity is on the rise and that most Christians want more religion in government, the facts don’t bear that out. Self-identification as a Christian does not automatically translate into support for the Religious Right and the Republican Party. Consider that the African American community has the highest percentage of those who consider religion a “very important part” of their lives, and we know from polling data that their religiosity does not translate into support for Republican candidates. Also interesting is the connection between intellect and religious beliefs.

While many of the studies conducted in this country measuring the connection between IQ and religious beliefs are considered controversial, there is no denying that they often come to the same conclusion, the more educated a person is, the less likely he/she is to be religious. And not at all surprising is that the highest percentage of atheists and agnostics are found in the scientific community. An interesting study was released a few weeks ago that rated the top ten most literate cities in the country and Seattle was at the top of the list. It is also true that Washington State leads the country in percentage of people who consider themselves “non-religious.” Coincidence? Unlikely.

The Religious Right is driven by the Fundamentalists, who are a minority themselves among Christians, and while Fundamentalists tend to support the Republican Party, not all Evangelicals do. It is estimated that 40% of the US population consider themselves Evangelical, and of that group, approximately one-third supported Al Gore in 2000. Fundamentalists take a literal view of the Bible and they have been folded into the Republican Party with the help of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. The MSM had a field day after the 2004 election, selling America on the idea that Bush won the election because the country had moved to the right and Evangelicals were the deciding factor. More accurately it was the literally “unbelievable” vote tallies in Ohio and Florida that won the election for Bush, facilitated by Fundamentalists, not Evangelicals.

The Fundamentalists are God’s soldiers who believe the ends justify the means and that a Christian Nation is what God demands before he will come back and rescue them. The fact that anyone believes in the Rapture is disturbing, but the fact that our President may be one himself, sends a chill up the collective spine of secularists everywhere. With all of his talk of “Crusades” in the Middle-East and his divine belief that he is on a mission from God to bring Democracy to the world, let’s hope that the Fundamentalists are right and the Rapture is soon at hand and God will take them away, leaving the rest of us behind. Bring on the Rapture! Bon Voyage!

An unprecedented interview with the Commander of the Iraqi National Resistance Mr. Izzat al Duri!

In an unprecedented interview with the Commander of the Iraqi National Resistance Mr. Izzat al Duri! *

No! I wasn't surprised by the rumor of my death, for it aims to divert attention from the US impasse in Iraq!

I am thinking seriously to air a recorded document through TV channels to refute the enemies' claims!

Baghdad from Seif Al Juneid

The magazine al Majd is utterly happy to be the only and unique information tribune chosen by the Comrade Mujahid Izzat al Duri, the Commander of the Heroic and Victorious Iraqi Resistance, to make the first press declaration after the tendentious rumors which aimed first and above all at sowing confusion into the ranks of the Resistance and weakening its morale.

But cursed always be the enemies and the stooges, and to hell what they have been hatching and weaving. Here is the Leader (Abu Ahmad) appearing from Al Majd tribune, as strong as ever, healthy, capable and resolute to snatch victory, to defeat the occupier, and to liberate the total soil of the Land of the Two Rivers.

And because this victorious Leader who in charge of the Baath Party as a Deputy Secretary General after the detainment of the President Saddam Hussein, is far much greater than to be introduced or to be presented for his qualities are well known to everyone. Here is the text the al Majd Iraqi correspondent, made with Comrade Abu Ahmad, in amongst the sounds of bombs and shelling, bullets raining, from the battlefield and the raging combat.

* Why there was some confusion about your death rumors, your Excellency is still alive by the grace of the Lord; we would like some explanation about these rumors?.

- We are not at all surprised by such rumors which show the massive impasse the US got trapped into the day it decided to aggress Iraq and to occupy it. That is why the US administration is trying to divert the public opinion to other matters and to distract the world away from the fundamental problem which is in fact the failure of the US project in Iraq and its defeat at the hands of the soldiers of the truth, the heroes of the Iraqi National Resistance, and whatever is undertaken by the enemy propaganda machine aims to mix cards and to give a hazy picture of what is going on in Iraq.

*Why your Excellency doesn't record an audiocassette to be published through TV channels like Al Jazeera, etc. to prove to the world that your Excellency is still running the affairs?

-I agree! This is very important! But you know in the past this hasn't been possible for obvious reasons and we are studying this issue, which will get our full attention in the very next future, God willing!

*What is your opinion, your Excellency, about the Cairo Conference for National Accord, precisely what are your special conditions and those of your companions to negotiate with the Occupation?

- The Party and the Resistance opinion were clear about the so-called Cairo meeting, on this particular question the Party has issued more than a statement. Our position didn't change and our friends and our enemies know that well.

* The citizens and Congress anger and the wrath are growing by the day in the country of the number one occupier, where demands are made to quickly withdraw from Iraq, does your Excellency expect the occupation withdrawal with the beginning of next year?

- We praise the Lord who gave victory to his faithful servants and returned the wickedness against the wicked, themselves. Bush lies and his aggressors and cruel allies' have been exposed. All the people of the world, not only the US, are fed up with the empty arrogance and impertinence of those in the US who call for war and murder. We are dealing here with a moving terrain where every kind of probability could happen any time. We will deal with any of these according to our own interests, to strengthen our victory, God willing, (For if God gives you Victory, no one can triumph upon you) God is trustworthy in his word.

*The government of stooges is asking the occupation forces to stay claiming that will prevent a civil war. Has your Excellency got the full confidence and the national guarantees to prevent such war in between Sunnis and Shias when the occupiers withdraw?

- It has become now a common knowledge that the stooges, the traitors and the spies have linked their fate with our homeland occupier's fate. It is natural that they yell for help and cling to the occupiers to continue their occupation of Iraq. The Occupiers and their stooges, know pretty well that they are living their last moments in our beloved and dearest Iraq. All Iraq problems and complicated conditions are due to the occupation, they will fatefully disappear with the end of the Occupation, because the people of Iraq has always been and will always be a unified people, never to be divided on sectarian grounds, ignorant racism which have been brought by the occupiers and their stooges from outside of our borders.

*The Kurdish north is about to be an independent state, you can't even see over there the Iraqi flag, and in this region they undertake ethnic cleansing against Arabs. Do you think that the Kurdish region got separated effectively and forever, or is it a temporarily separatism it will end when the occupation will end?

-The most important problem today in Iraq is the occupation. The occupation is the root of the Iraqi very suffering. When the occupation ends every thing which has been set and produced by it will disappear. Concerning our sons and daughters in the self-determination area, which is a truly dear and important part of our people and our Homeland, and we truly care about whatever can answer their legitimate rights within the frame of a unified and free Iraq as a homeland and as a people and as a sovereign state. As every one remembers we never held back anything they asked for! On the contrary the legitimate Iraqi government was the only one in amongst all the regional regimes, which gave the Kurds their rights within the self-determination law. However this law can be developed in whatever way to serve better our people in Erbil, Dohuk, and Sulaimaniyah after the liberation of Iraq soon, God willing.

*Every week we hear a responsible in the government of stooges shouting his mouth off and saying that Syria is supporting the "insurgents" and is opening its borders to the Arab combatants flowing to Iraq. Is there effectively any Syrian support, or are they just hollow pretexts and despicable lies, in order to encircle and then attack Syria?

-The campaigns against our sister Syria must be understood as a US reaction to its failure in Iraq. You have probably noticed and we will notice soon that such rowdy declarations increase whenever the US impasse gets deeper and the US confusion gets greater in Iraq. It is not a question of clandestine combatants or an outside support. They are just mere pretexts and despicable lies against the others. It is a US plan to get absolute hegemony over the whole region. The US campaigns will grow and will not only stop against Syria; they will probably go beyond against other countries. Before the occupation, our national leadership did warn our brothers and our friends about the US plans and we cautioned about the nature of the US colonialist project objectives to control the countries of the region.

That is why giving in to the US will not stop it, rather it will encourage it to get more aggressive, and to impose more conditions and exercise bigger pressure. The only and important thing, which disrupts the US evil plans, is the resolute answer of the Iraqi National Resistance and its defiance against the occupation forces and stooges.

*We often hear about the Iranian interferences against the Sunnis and the Iraqi resistance, and mainly through Badr militias and the Revolutionary Guards and some Hawzas. How can you value the Iranian role in your country?

- The role played by Iran into the aggression against Iraq and the participation into its occupation is a well-known fact today. There is a large coordination between the US administration and the Iranian regime. Both are deeply sunk and up to their necks into committing the most horrible crimes of killing and mass murders against all the sections of our people. The Iranian role will continue as long as there will be an occupation. It will end once the occupation disappears.

* Is Zarqawi a real name on the Iraqi scene? And if Zarqawi really exists how do you value its role? Do you have any contacts with his organization and his activities?

-The US administration and its stooges try to maintain a blackout on the real heroic and honorable role of the Iraqi National Resistance, through spreading lies such as clandestine combatants through the borders, etc. This administration fully knows that the ones who slit its throat in Iraq and the ones who put its nose into the mire are the sons and daughters of Great Iraq. The use of these vocabularies aims at confusing the World and the US opinion in particular, in order to continue fooling them concerning "Al Qaida" organization, and give Bush justifications to go on with his aggressive wars against the peoples of the world and specially his aggression against the people of Iraq and occupy it under the fallacious slogan of "fighting terrorism". In Iraq, we must remember that, before the crime of its occupation, the word terrorism or terrorists were unknown. The ones who are guilty of terror and terrorism are the occupiers and their stooges for they, who target our people through killing, detention and torture. Those who defend Iraq with courage, honor and dignity are the heroes of the Resistance with all its heroic factions.

Notice: We are always at your disposition to answer any question and what ever you want; we are very close to you!

Baghdad on the 30th December 2005

To be published on the site of al Moharer simultaneously with al Majd magazine, published in Jordan.

US hopes of secular Iraqi state fade away

US hopes of secular Iraqi state fade away 21 Dec 2005 Conservative religious parties have surged to a runaway lead in the counting of votes to appoint a government to run Iraq for the next four years. [All-in-all, Saddam Hussein may turn out to have been the better 'deal.' At least the terrorists from Halliburton and Blackwater USA weren't running rampant, blowing up oil pipelines and electrical grids and kidnapping and beheading peace activists. More torture and human rights abuses are taking place under the illegal US-UK occupation than ever took place under Saddam Hussein. Baghdad's museums would not have been looted of precious artifacts by clueless US cultural Troglodytes. And, Iraqi farmers would not be forced to pay to plant Monsanto's deadly genetically modified crops. Not to mention, thousands of years of environmental damage in Iraq, due to Rumsfeld's illegal use of Depleted Uranium.

CONSERVATIVE religious parties have surged to a runaway lead in the counting of votes to appoint a government to run Iraq for the next four years.

With more than 60 per cent of votes tallied, Washington's hopes that the former prime minister Iyad Allawi might pull enough support to build a secular administration have faded dramatically.

Instead, a religious alliance is in the box seat. These parties are already imposing a strict religious code on daily life across swathes of the country and are closely aligned with neighbouring Iran, one of George Bush's "axis of evil" enemies.

The religious Shiites and the Kurdish parties have maintained their iron grip on the south and north respectively, but with 89 per cent of votes counted in the Baghdad melting pot, both Dr Allawi and his arch rival and one-time Pentagon darling, Ahmed Chalabi, face marginalisation.

Amid claims of electoral fraud, it seems the religious Shiites are assured of dominating the new National Assembly, but not of the two-thirds majority needed for a series of major decisions on the shape of the new government or the fate of the new Iraq.

It is an outcome that signals a repeat of the protracted post-poll horse-trading that robbed the fractured country of most of the momentum won by the conduct of its first democratic elections in January, when millions of jubilant Iraqis stared down threats of insurgency violence.

Dr Allawi's best chance of forming a government now hangs on his ability to draw Sunni and Kurdish support for his secular coalition, but observers believe he would still need to split the religious Shiites, an unlikely outcome in the wake of his meagre showing and their apparent triumph in Thursday's poll.

Iraq's Sunnis turned out in dramatic numbers last week, but the Iraqi Electoral Commission is yet to release provisional figures for provinces in which they are the majority. But Baghdad's Sunnis threw their support behind a Sunni religious coalition whose leaders have called for resistance to the American military presence and demanded that the US fix a timetable for withdrawal.

Despite a concerted campaign push by secular and non-Shiite parties in Baghdad, the main Shiite coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, grabbed 59 per cent of the provisional tally. Trailing it, with 19 per cent, is the main religious Sunni Arab party slate, the Iraqi Consensus Front.

Dr Allawi's secular coalition, the Iraqi List, scored 14 per cent and way behind was Dr Chalabi, whose paltry vote in the capital, less than 0.5 per cent, could deny him a slot in the first round of seat allocation in the new assembly.

Sunni parties are expected to win up to 55 seats in the parliament. But the religious Shiites have yet to indicate if they will be invited into the new government and, if so, whether they will be heard on the vital issues that separate them: regional autonomy, sharing Iraq's potentially vast oil revenue and the role of Islam in the law.

There is a risk that if the Sunnis are stonewalled in the parliament they will continue their material and moral support for the insurgency, making it even more difficult for Washington to make significant troop withdrawals before next November's US mid-term elections.

But as the country and Washington started to factor in the poll's affirmation of Iraq's deep religious and ethnic divisions, insurgents who had backed off in the days around the election returned to the fray.

A series of bombings and shoot-outs rocked the capital as Iraqis confronted another harsh economic reality: a threefold increase in the price of petrol on the back of a declaration by the Government that it could no longer afford to subsidise costly fuel imports to an oil-rich nation that has yet to find its feet.

The 'Most Corrupt' Congress Ever Including Elements of the Black Caucus

It is not often that we whole-heartedly agree with a "centrist," white Democratic political leader, but these are disturbing times. Harry Reid (NV), leader of U.S. Senate Democrats, recently blasted the current Congress as "the most corrupt in history." Based on the sheer, gross volume of billions diverted to congressional friends and benefactors during this and previous sessions of the Bush Republican Congress, Reid was undoubtedly correct. The fact that Reid made his outburst in response to allegations that he might also be involved in the mighty tide of corruption, does not mitigate the fact of wholesale auctioneering of the public treasure. Rather, the damnation is made more powerful.

But the term "corruption" is vague, as is "theft" and "fraud" and other crimes. The "pork" that seems to be the princely meal savored by American legislative gluttons, is but one aspect of corruption. Putting aside the bid to fund "bridges to nowhere" in Alaska, the most gruesome (and lucrative) manifestation of endemic corruption is the Iraq war and occupation - a cash cow for favored corporations, and even companies that did not exist previous to the war and the promise of "reconstruction" of Iraq. However, even the rip-off of billions in this scam (and the theft of billions in Iraqi oil revenues) does not come close to describing the enormity of the crime: an attempt to steal the resources of a vast swath of the Earth, far beyond the boundaries of Iraq, and to transfer the proceeds to private hands, all the while billing the American public for the military muscle required.

Now, that's corruption, by anybody's definition.

To measure the scale of corruption in the current congressional and executive branches, and to put the "most corrupt Congress in history" in perspective, we must take at least a glancing look at history.

Following the American Civil War - which saw such profiteering, fraud and faulty weapons production by military contractors that it may have prolonged the conflict by months or years - financial speculators in the North set their eyes on the West, to build a continental railroad. They became known as the "Robber Barons," because they built enormous fortunes by billing the federal government for every mile of transcontinental railroad laid and demanded ownership of millions of acres on both sides of the tracks, as well. Cities sprang up, which filled the coffers of the "Robber Barons" and others who flocked to the new developments. (The Native Americans were erased from this equation, literally.) Thus, the development of the West was accomplished.

Most school history books mark this period as rife with corruption - as it was. But they did build a railroad, and commerce commenced, and cities sprang up.

In other words, the "Robber Barons" stole a lot, killed a lot, and built a lot. The same can be said for their corporate contemporaries in manufacturing, and those who followed. They committed vast crimes against working people - and excluded and exploited Black workers to their own advantage - but jobs appeared, and smokestacks rose, like a pain against the sky. Lives and families became rooted. Detroit was born. American manufacturing was king of the world, and a portion of the trinkets trickled down - even to some Black folks.

The manufacturing "Barons" had contributed something to society. Or, at least, the society had become richer, in gross terms, as a by-product of their insatiable self-aggrandizement, which involved real enterprise as well as fraud, extortion, subornation of public officials, and manifold corruption. People got jobs, and the prospect of fighting for better working conditions and remuneration.

They were "Robber Barons," too. But at least they built something. (Or rather, caused things to be built by their workers.)

This class no longer exists. They have been supplanted for at least the last three decades by finance capital, which moves money around, and commands manufacturers to do their bidding. They pick and choose the manufacturers, and countries, that are most hospitable to their monetary needs of the moment - to get a higher return on their capital, which is the only asset they have. They decided that the United States was not a good investment for manufacturing, and demanded that it be emptied of its factories. Dream lost.

We at BC call them the Pirate Class. They sail the world, looking for raiding targets of opportunity, and acknowledging no law. However, this class cannot operate without the backing of the U.S. military - the ultimate force of coercion, which can impose the terms of the conversation. Big fat bankers with Hawkeye missiles backing them up, and unlimited U.S. funding for death squads in the targeted country, waiting for contracts on those who disagree.

The Pirates climbed to the cockpit of power with the election of George W. Bush, although they had been in ascendance for decades. They were now in full flower. A class that produces nothing, except through plunder, would demand that the Middle East be transformed into a market they could exploit to the fullest - which is why they have failed so badly in Iraq. It was too complicated for big fat white bankers to deal with.

However, in the United States, the hegemony of the Pirates is all but complete - as was necessary in order to harness the American military machine to their specific projects, and to otherwise loot the U.S. treasury to fund themselves and their class. The conquest of U.S. society was the first priority, and they have achieved it: big capital owns all the corporate media, and thereby controls the national conversation. Their think tanks set the agenda for the discourse, mega-phoned by the monopoly media.

It is in this context that we should discuss the issue of "corruption."

The Depths of Corruption

One definition of "corruption" is the stealing of the people's resources for private gain. The Bush regime - and its Congress - is certainly guilty of that on a monumental scale.

However, there is another version of "corruption" - just as lethal and ugly: the theft of a people's trust, and vested interest. In this regard, the infestation of corruption has spread into the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). For example, ten members of the CBC voted for the Republican bankruptcy bill that was passed in April of 2005. In doing so, they violated their own constituent's trust and vote. As the most targeted consumers of predatory lenders, and as the group that has the least employment security, African Americans are the most likely to face financial crisis. These are the aspiring Black middle class: the same people that form the backbone of Black elected officials' support. Yet, ten Black congresspersons betrayed them, by voting for the Republican bankruptcy bill. Here are the perpetrators' names:

William Jefferson (LA)

Artur Davis (AL)

Sanford Bishop (GA)

Kendrick Meek (FL)

Al Green (TX)

David Scott (GA)

Gregory Meeks (NY)

Harold Ford, Jr. (TN)

Albert Wynn (MD)

Emanuel Cleaver (MO)

Corruption comes in many forms. However, the main root of the current corruption is corporate money, which has subverted the entire politics and culture of the United States. It is not necessary to trace every noxious vote to a specific payoff. Television, radio and print media also reward politicians with favorable coverage - and nearly all of these outlets are components of corporate mega-media, all of them Wall Street denizens answerable to finance capital. There dwell the Pirates.

The Pirates have found that it is efficacious to enlist Black lieutenants in their predatory ventures. Some - too many - are signing on aboard ship. The names cited above are among the Black buccaneers, who have made common cause with the same people who are exporting the jobs of their own constituents, making them more vulnerable to predatory lenders, and waging endless war across the globe. These Black opportunists seek a good life for themselves, while the life of the community is being sucked out.

It is a deep corruption. They must be expelled.

Glen Ford and Peter Gamble are writing a book, entitled "Barack Obama and the Crisis in Black Political Leadership."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Tortured Xmas

King Wrong

Will Republican Senators Save the Republic? By Ray McGovern

Wednesday 21 December 2005

I'll say this for Vice President Dick Cheney: he puts it right out there, whether it is trying to ensure legal protection for those torturing prisoners, or insisting - as he did on Tuesday - that in wartime the president "needs to have his powers unimpaired." And Cheney and Bush would have us believe it is they who define the constitutional powers of the president.

Supporters of this view are dredging up quotes from former officials like George H.W. Bush's attorney general William Barr who, according to the Washington Post, contends:

"The Constitution's intent when we're under attack from outside is to place maximum power in the president, and the other branches - and especially the courts - don't act as a check on the president's authority against the enemy."

So there it is. The George W. Bush administration contends that the president's power as commander in chief during wartime means that he is above the law. Small wonder that he bristled at a question from the press about "unchecked power." Whether authorizing torture or wiretaps, he reserves the right to act irrespective of domestic or international law.

The question is whether Congress and the courts will continue to roll over and play dead, or whether men and women of principle honor their oath to "defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic." Some hope can be seen in a recent remark by Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, who told reporters:

"I took an oath of office to the Constitution. I didn't take an oath of office to my party or to my president."
Will enough Republican senators honor that oath? Our system of checks and balances hangs in the balance, so to speak. The president has thrown down the gauntlet by declaring he will continue to authorize eavesdropping that, by law, requires a court order. Will senators pick up the gauntlet, or will they run away home to grandmother's house for Christmas?

Is it fair to pin sole responsibility on Republican senators? No, it's not fair. But that is the way it is. One looks in vain to the other side of the aisle for the courage that the times require. But what about Democrat senators - the gutsy Russ Feingold and the eloquent Robert Byrd? However courageous, they are not well positioned to affect the outcome of this constitutional crisis.

Rather, the Democrats have slender reeds to lean on - take Sen. Jay Rockefeller, for example. Briefed on the illegal eavesdropping program, Rockefeller let himself be intimidated by Cheney into tacit acquiescence. Sure, he wrote a letter to Cheney (and kept a CYA copy, which he has now given the press). But why did he limit his horizon to Cheney? Did it not occur to the ranking minority member of the Senate Intelligence Committee to go to Cheney's supervisor?

On Tuesday, Senate intelligence committee chair Pat Roberts ridiculed Rockefeller for "feigning helplessness." Roberts is certainly in position to know, since Rockefeller has made helplessness a career, and thus made Roberts' task easy. Sen. Rockefeller's obeisance to the chair is matched only by US Marine Roberts' "Semper Fi" to the party and the president. This is important, since the White House has already succeeded in ensuring that Roberts and Rockefeller will play leadership roles in any Senate investigation of the eavesdropping.

Initially, it appeared that since constitutional and legal considerations dominate the issue, the hearings would be orchestrated and led by Senate judiciary committee chair Arlen Specter, who expressed deep concern at the revelations concerning eavesdropping. That was a hopeful sign, even though the ranking Democrat on Judiciary, Patrick Leahy, is another weak sister. The original Patriot Act was rushed through while Leahy slept, and a year ago he expressed optimism - without a tinge of remorse - that arch-defender of unbridled presidential power, Roberto Gonzales, would be readily confirmed as Attorney General.

From Republic to Empire

Let's hope history does not repeat itself. The constitution of ancient Rome was put in place in 510 BC, when the republicans overthrew the last of the Roman kings, Tarquin the Proud. As was the case 2300 years later in the newborn USA, the introduction of constitutional order meant the rule of law and not of kings, providing liberty under law for every Roman citizen. That experiment lasted almost five centuries, until the Roman senators fell down on the job.

Although Cicero warned, with pointed eloquence, of the dangers to the Republic, in the end his warnings proved no match for strongmen like Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompey. They wrapped themselves in republican virtue when it suited them, but they lacked any serious belief in the fundamental principles that had formed republican Rome. They and their followers believed in themselves, and in their own vision of what Rome should be, and in little else. Plutarch tells us that the increasingly glaring unequal distribution of wealth served to make the situation exceedingly volatile. Sound familiar?

And so the Republic died, and Cicero died with it, his severed head and hands nailed to the "rostra," the platform in the forum from which he had warned the Roman people. The vision of the strongmen led first to civil war and then to empire.

Republican senators, don't let it happen here.

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He was an analyst at the CIA for 27 years, and is on the Steering Group of VIPS.