Friday, October 31, 2003

MediaLens explain why they target the 'liberal' media: The role of the 'liberal' media is to draw the boundaries of acceptable debate: this far and no further. Thus it is a crucial component of the propaganda system. Many people would agree that the rightwing press is propaganda but fail to see the 'liberal' media for what it is.

"In all the endless discussion about Iraq's recent history, the "liberal media" has almost completely buried former UN humanitarian coordinator Denis Halliday's damning references to the "genocidal" effects of US/UK sanctions. Halliday has been mentioned in 2 of the 10,811 Guardian and Observer articles mentioning Iraq this year. The list goes on...

"Instead the "liberal media" has been filled with literally tens of thousands of articles and news reports echoing US/UK propaganda."

Chomsky: Bush Needs Fear for Reelection: "U.S. linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky said on Wednesday that President Bush will have to 'manufacture' another threat to American security to win reelection in 2004 after U.S failure in occupying Iraq... "They have a card that they can play ... terrify the population with some invented threat, and that is not very hard to do," he said."

"Chomsky said the military occupation of Iraq ... was a failure. "The country had been devastated by sanctions. The invasion ended sanctions. The tyrant is gone and there is no outside support for domestic dissidence," he said. "It takes real talent to fail in this endeavor.""

U.S. Contractors Reap the Windfalls of Post-War Reconstruction: Breakdown of the major war profiteers

US policy has isolated only one extremist group: "The biggest damage that the Gulf War and its aftermath have inflicted is on the US. It has weakened its political credibility as the world's most powerful state and confronted it with more, rather than less, danger from international terrorism.

"Bush's policy approach, driven more by a minority of neo-conservative and Christian ideologues than the mainstream in US politics, has involved the US in a conflict from which al-Qaeda and its supporters stand to gain more than the world's only superpower. And those US allies [UK, Aus] who have supported this policy bear as much responsibility as Bush for dangerously enabling two pools of extremists - one from the Islamic side, another from Western side - to have a determining role in shaping our future."

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Bi-partisan Bush doctine: Congress passes "Syria Accountability Act": analysis by S.Zunes: "What is noteworthy about the vote, however, is that a careful reading of the bill reveals a rather frightening consensus in support of the Bush administration's unilateralist worldview... The answer may lie in today's unipolar world system where the US, rather than supporting comprehensive and law-based means of promoting regional peace and security, insists on the right to impose unilateral demands targeted at specific countries based largely on ideological criteria. As the one-sidedness of the vote on this resolution indicates, both the Republicans and the Democrats - including the most liberal wing of the party - now accept this vision of US foreign policy."

Rabbis attacked by armed settlers: "Rabbis from the peace group Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) were attacked by five armed settlers. Some of the men had their faces covered when they threatened to attack the rabbis with clubs... Rabbi Arik Ascherman... was beaten by a settler as he went to show solidarity with Palestinian villagers who were preparing to harvest their olives in a few weeks."

''These people believe that their Torah tells them to vandalise land and abuse Palestinian people. I will continue to come here day after day to tell these settlers that they are wrong and that the Torah doesn't teach us Jews to behave in this way" [he said]... ''In this country we are fighting to save our soul. The majority of people in Israel don't want these settlements, we understand that they are a major stumbling block to peace.''''

Taliban poised to close in on Kandahar: "After two years of guerilla warfare with almost dry supply lines, the Taliban are now in a position around the important cities of south and southeastern Afghanistan to begin the next phase of their campaign to oust foreign troops from the country... the battles for the cities are expected to begin next summer."

Al Qaeda, Taliban presence in Pakistan's North-west frontier: "The remote and inaccessible terrain of these forbidding mountains renders operations against Al Qaeda logistically complicated. There are few proper roads, and residents travel on narrow trails and paths. But local support may be the fugitives' strongest defense."

""After the Tora Bora fighting, they were here everywhere," says a local tribesman. "Their red-colored Land Cruisers, satellite phones, horses, dollars - everything was visible. Now they are visible only to the locals.""

"Despite their largesse, these men also foster a climate of fear. On the slightest suspicion, anybody suspected of passing information to the authorities can end up dead... Local residents also talk about the death of another man, saying a note attached to his body read: "Agent of America. This will be the fate of American agents.""

Study tallies Iraqis killed in invasion: "As many as 15,000 Iraqis were killed in the first days of the US-led invasion and occupation of their country, a study produced by an independent American think tank has found. Up to 4300 of the dead were civilian non-combatants. The report, by Project on Defence Alternatives, a research institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts (, offers the most comprehensive account so far of how many Iraqis died."

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Diebold electronic vote fraud story gains momentum: "The movement is winning. The story is spreading (Associated Press). Diebold’s actions are being thrust into the light. How long can they pursue the sepression of evidence that links them directly to election fraud?"

Andrew Bolt: archetypal News Ltd/neo-liberal propagandist: "What we saw, and not just in Brown's heckling of US President George W. Bush, was exactly what makes the Greens so dangerous. I'll go further, even if it offends readers who'd like to think Brown is just a well-meaning crank. What we saw reminds me that greens were in the past willing recruits to the Nazis, and explains why they today form the parliamentary party most likely to inspire violence."

It is the Liberal-National coalition that has practiced, not merely 'inspired', violence in the form of preventive war (Nuremburg: "the supreme crime") against Iraq, on false pretexts as flimsy as those advanced by the Kaiser's Germany in its attack on Belgium in 1914; or by Hitler's Germany against Poland in 1939. Two of the four fundamental principles of the Australian Greens are: peace and non-violence; grassroots democracy.

In another article by Bolt, he develops his 'argument' that the Greens are a sort of proto-fascist group, just as they were in the rise of Hitler.

Articles such as this are a joke and one might wonder whether the hack is serious, however what is deadly serious is the fact that the News Ltd organisation produces and disseminates this kind of propaganda.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Madrid fundraiser fails to get significant commitments for Iraq: "Despite new offers for broader participation in Iraq's reconstruction bonanza, the United States-convened donors' conference on Iraq ended in stifled disappointment, with only US$13 billion raised - a far cry from the $36 billion target. To dampen expectations further, up to two-thirds of the total pledges will take the form of loans, not grants. And if the Afghanistan fundraising experience is any indication, many of the pledges could still end up being just more broken multi-million-dollar promises.

"Most of the contributions came from those who were already expected to give anyway: Japan handed over $5 billion, Spain $300 million and Kuwait another $300 million. As expected, France and Russia gave nothing. Germany donated only $100 million, half of which was its share in the European Union's contribution. The Philippines pitched in a $1million it can hardly afford to give; Vietnam offered rice; while Sri Lanka promised tea. Arab nations, which the US was counting on to save the day, turned out to be the biggest spoilers.

"To underscore just how seriously they thought of the fund-raising event, many of the governments sent only low ranking bureaucrats; others just assigned their Madrid-based diplomats to drop by and say hello. 'Here we are and we've had a very successful conference,' US Secretary of State Colin Powell said at the end of the two-day event on Friday, tying to put on a brave front."

Attack Drives U.S. Forces From Baghdad HQ: "The U.S. occupation authority retreated from its headquarters after Iraqi insurgents attacked the heavily guarded hotel with a missile barrage that killed an American colonel, wounded 18 people and sent the visiting U.S. deputy defense secretary scurrying for safety. The bold blow at the heart of the U.S. presence here clearly rattled U.S. confidence that it is defeating Iraq's shadowy insurgents. Paul Wolfowitz, the shaken-looking but unhurt Pentagon deputy, said the strike Sunday against the Al Rasheed Hotel, from nearly point-blank range, ``will not deter us from completing our mission'' in Iraq... The effect of the 6:10 a.m. volley of rockets was dramatic: U.S. officials and officers fled from the Al Rasheed, some still in pajamas or shorts to a nearby convention center."

Or, in the Washington Post headline of the story, "Baghdad Attack Counters Wolfowitz's Upbeat Message", a classic of understatement, as Billmon says: "The perpetrators of Saturday's attack -- whoever they are -- just pulled off an incredibly clever and audacious operation in the heart of the supposedly secure Green Zone, came within an ace of nailing a Deputy Defense Secretary, and chased a whole bunch of American VIPs out into the street in their f***** underwear."

Meanwhile, "the leader of [Lebanon's] 's Druze community, Walid Jumblatt, described the Deputy Defence Secretary as a "virus" who needed to be destroyed, after Wolfowitz emerged unscathed from a guerilla rocket attack on the fortified Baghdad hotel where he was staying on Sunday. Mr Jumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party, said he hoped Mr Wolfowitz, whom he criticised as an architect of the US-led war on Iraq and a friend of Israel, would not survive any future attack.

"We hope that next time the rockets will be more accurate and effective in getting rid of this virus, and his like, who wreak corruption in the Arab land of Iraq and in Palestine," Mr Jumblatt said. The US embassy issued a statement condemning the remarks as "outrageous and completely unacceptable" and urged the Lebanese Government to do the same."

A Single-State Solution For Israel?: "Israel's situation is 'close to hopeless,' writes a prominent American Jewish historian, who, with others, now believes the only solution to permanent bloodshed is to form a single nation of Israelis and Palestinians. It is a transforming idea, one openly discussed by Israelis and Palestinians appalled by what they are becoming."

Given enough time, as more Palestinians are killed or exiled, as more of their homes are demolished and as more settlers arrive in the Occupied Territories, there will be no Palestinians left and the whole of the OT will be Judaized. But we are far from reaching that point yet and I think the pronouncement of the death of the two-state solution is very much premature. Uri Avnery argues that it is a dangerous idea, which makes peace even more difficult. The difficulty with the two-state solution is not its likely efficacy in bringing about a political solution to the conflict, but its failure of penetration where it counts, in the domestic populations of the US and Israel. In this sense loose talk about a single-state solution can be seen as yet another distraction, deliberate or not. A better use of media space right now, especially in the US, would be publicity and debate regarding the latest "Geneva" peace proposals.

Jews for Justice in the Middle East: The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict (this booklet is an excellent summation of the origins of the conflict): "The persecution of the Jews for centuries in Europe was the worst of many stains on the European record, and the Zionists' desire for a place of sanctuary is certainly understandable. Like all other colonial enterprises, however, Zionism was based on the total disregard of the rights of indigenous inhabitants. As such, it is morally indefensible. And, as previously stated, all subsequent crimes - and there have been many on both sides - inevitably follow from this original injustice to the Palestinians."

Captain Boston's Affidavit on the Attack on the USS Liberty: "For more than 30 years, I have remained silent on the topic of the USS Liberty. I am a military man and when orders come in from the Secretary of Defense and President of the United States, I follow them. However, recent attempts to rewrite history compel me to share the truth."

"The evidence was clear. Both Admiral Kidd and I believed with certainty that this attack, which killed 34 American sailors and injured 172 others, was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew. I am certain that the Israeli pilots that undertook the attack, as well as their superiors who had ordered the attack, were aware that the ship was American."

Monday, October 27, 2003 The future of energy: "The best way to curb the demand for oil and promote innovation in oil alternatives is to tell the world's energy markets that the “externalities” of oil consumption—security considerations and environmental issues alike—really will influence policy from now on. And the way to do that is to impose a gradually rising gasoline tax.

"By introducing a small but steadily rising tax on petrol, America would do far more to encourage innovation and improve energy security than all the drilling in Alaska's wilderness. Crucially, this need not be, and should not be, a matter of raising taxes in the aggregate. The proceeds from a gasoline tax ought to be used to finance cuts in other taxes—this, surely, is the way to present them to a sceptical electorate."

This proposal is a defacto "carbon tax", except that a carbon tax is calculated on carbon emissions and applies to all carbon-producing agents. And perhaps a better investment of the money raised by this tax would be in clean, efficient public transport, which is necessary in itself and also contributes to less global warming.

Iraq: The $87 Billion Money Pit: "“CPA is run by a bunch of political hacks and incompetents who have no idea what they’re doing” ... Iraq is still largely a lawless place. And one company director for a British firm doing business in Baghdad says that makes all the difference. “I’ve never seen corruption like this by expatriate businessmen. It’s like a feeding frenzy,” he says."

Defend Religious Freedom -- Drop 'Under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance: "Many of the founding fathers were persecuted for their stand in support of the separation of church and state. The main criticism lobbed at Jefferson in his successful campaign for president was that he was an atheist. Paine died in poverty, primarily for statements such as, 'The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion.' ('The Age of Reason ,'' 1794).

"Probably the most explicit of the early 'Deists' who fought for religious freedom and the earliest fighter for separation of church and state was Jefferson. In his private letters, Jefferson made it clear he did not accept Christianity. 'The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, the Supreme Being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classified with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.' (Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823.)"

Fisk: The worst problem facing US forces in Iraq may not be armed resistance but a crisis of morale: "No wonder morale is low. No wonder the American soldiers I meet on the streets of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities don't mince their words about their own government. US troops have been given orders not to bad-mouth their President or Secretary of Defence in front of Iraqis or reporters (who have about the same status in the eyes of the occupation authorities). But when I suggested to a group of US military police near Abu Ghurayb they would be voting Republican at the next election, they fell about laughing. 'We shouldn't be here and we should never have been sent here,' one of them told me with astonishing candour. 'And maybe you can tell me: why were we sent here?'"

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Mahathir speech to OIC SUMMIT 2003 (full text): "13. But this is not all that we ignore about the teachings of Islam. We are enjoined to Read, Iqraq i.e. to acquire knowledge. The early Muslims took this to mean translating and studying the works of the Greeks and other scholars before Islam. And these Muslim scholars added to the body of knowledge through their own studies.

14. The early Muslims produced great mathematicians and scientists, scholars, physicians and astronomers etc. and they excelled in all the fields of knowledge of their times, besides studying and practising their own religion of Islam. As a result the Muslims were able to develop and extract wealth from their lands and through their world trade, able to strengthen their defences, protect their people and give them the Islamic way of life, Addin, as prescribed by Islam. At the time the Europeans of the Middle Ages were still superstitious and backward, the enlightened Muslims had already built a great Muslim civilisation, respected and powerful, more than able to compete with the rest of the world and able to protect the ummah from foreign aggression. The Europeans had to kneel at the feet of Muslim scholars in order to access their own scholastic heritage...

16. But halfway through the building of the great Islamic civilisation came new interpreters of Islam who taught that acquisition of knowledge by Muslims meant only the study of Islamic theology. The study of science, medicine etc. was discouraged.

17. Intellectually the Muslims began to regress."

New York Times suppresses new report on USS Liberty attack: "In his sworn affidavit, Captain Ward Boston, Counsel to the original 1967 U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry's investigation into the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, says the attack was deliberate but that the Court was ordered to cover it up by the Johnson White House. "For more than 30 years I have remained silent on the topic of the USS Liberty. I am a military man and when orders come in from the Secretary of Defense and President of the United States, I follow them," Boston said."

Arctic Ice Cap Melting at Worrying Rate: NASA: "The polar ice cap is melting at an alarming rate due to global warming, according to NASA scientists, with satellite images showing the ice cap has been shrinking by 10 percent per decade over the past quarter century. 'It is happening now. We cannot afford to wait a long period of time for technological solutions,' said David Rind of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York."

"Why the increase in global temperature?" [Serreze] asked. "Part of this is probably simply due to natural variability in the climate system," he added. "But the general consensus of the climate community is that part these changes are due to human impact."

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia in secret nuke pact: ""Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia," the Pakistani source said, "see a world that is moving from nonproliferation to proliferation of nuclear weapons."

"The Saudi rulers, who are Sunni Muslims, are believed to have concluded that nothing will deter the Shi'ite Muslims who rule Iran from continuing their quest for a nuclear weapons capability. Pakistan, meanwhile, is concerned about a recent arms agreement between India, its nuclear archrival, and Israel, a longtime nuclear power whose inventory is estimated at between 200 and 400 weapons. To counter what Pakistani and Saudi leaders regard as multiple regional threats, the two countries have decided to quietly move ahead with an exchange of free or cheap Saudi oil for Pakistani nuclear know-how, the Pakistani source said."

Cuba in the Cross-Hairs: A Near Half-Century of Terror: "Now that the Bush administration, pursuing its 'war against terrorism,' has once again elevated Cuba into America's cross-hairs as a newly anointed member of the Axis of Evil, it seems like a good moment to consider the question of terrorism and Cuba. Noam Chomsky takes up this matter in his new book, 'Hegemony or Survival, America's Quest for Global Dominance', and a long, chilling excerpt from that book is included below (with his kind permission). No one has written more powerfully or consistently on the subject of state violence and state terror or reminded us more powerfully or consistently that 'terror' isn't primarily what small stateless bands of fanatics deliver to large and powerful states. History is, in a sense, a history of state terror and the United States has been a practitioner of the form, in the case of Cuba, as Chomsky shows, with unrelenting perseverance and relish for nearly half a century.
-- Tom Engelhardt"

UK MP George Galloway expelled by Labour: "MP George Galloway has been expelled from the Labour Party in the wake of his outspoken comments on the Iraq war. The Glasgow Kelvin member immediately denounced the decision as 'politically motivated' and said Labour would rue the day it decided to throw him out."

"He faced five charges relating to a television interview during the war in which he accused Mr Blair and George Bush of acting "like wolves" in invading Iraq... He said he would stick around to "fight with every bone in my body to bring a lying, deceiving prime minister to account". He added that he was determined to stay in public life. "I intend to make sure that Tony Blair regrets this day," he said."

[Labour MP Tony Benn] said: "George is a principled and courageous man who opposed the war, as did the Pope and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. What hope is there for the Labour Party if the public think that when you join you just become a private in Mr Blair's army and have to obey orders or be thrown out of the party? That is what is really worrying."

"The Stop The War Coalition, which mounted protests outside the committee meeting in support of Mr Galloway, said the expulsion was an "absolute disgrace." Convenor Lindsey German said: "George Galloway told the truth before, during and after the war with Iraq, whereas Tony Blair has told nothing but lies. It is disgraceful that the Labour party is penalising George Galloway and giving Tony Blair a standing ovation because that does not reflect the British people's views."

Bush: The main game: "We now know that the election mattered a great deal; more so than most people have yet grasped. How so? Because the defining characteristic of the Bush Administration is that it uses its power not to implement its policies, but uses its policies to entrench its power. Not content to implement policy in the existing framework of the two-party system at home and the existing international order abroad, the Bush team seeks to bend the framework, restructure the order.

"The actions of the Bush White House show that it seeks, above all, to structurally strengthen the Republican Party at the structural expense of its Democrat opponents. That is, the Bush Administration is working to permanently entrench the Republican Party in power. And in a close parallel, Bush's foreign policy is working to impose a new vision of permanent US global domination."

Friday, October 24, 2003

Ashrawi hits back: boycott over Sydney Peace Prize ridiculous: "Dr Ashrawi told the Herald: 'Obviously she's [Sydney Lord Mayor Lucy Turnbull] been misled deliberately or she's taken information based on incomplete or dishonest sources. I knew there would be mobilised voices trying to malign Palestinians, particularly ones like me who have been outspoken for peace.'"

"City councillors were not informed of the Lord Mayor's decision [that Sydney City Council would boycott the ceremony] until two days after Cr Turnbull sent a letter to the director of the Sydney Peace Foundation, Stuart Rees. Professor Rees said he had been told Cr Turnbull's husband, Malcolm, was concerned the row was being used to derail his campaign to win Liberal preselection for the federal seat of Wentworth, which has a large Jewish vote."

The war that could destroy both armies: "The undeclared US war on Iraq ended some six months ago in a matter of weeks, mostly through bribery of an Iraqi high command infiltrated by US special operations that had been embedded during years of better relations in the Iran-Iraq War and military cooperation with its US counterpart, making treasonous plots possible. That may explain why the US high command had been so confident of a quick victory in defiance of mainstream military logic."

Denial: "In 1975, there was a committee of the US congress called the Pike Committee, named after its chairman Otis Pike. This committee investigated the covert side of US foreign policy and discovered a number of scandalous secrets, some of which were leaked to the public, while others remained secret. In an interview Congressman Pike stated that any member of Congress could see the entire report if he agreed not to reveal anything that was in it. 'But not many want to read it,' he said.

"The interviewer asked him 'Why?'

"And Pike replied: 'Oh, they think it is better not to know. There are too many things that embarrass Americans in that report. You see, this country went through a bad shock with Watergate. But even then, all they were asked to believe was that their president had been a bad person. In this new situation they are asked much more; they are asked to believe that their country has been evil. And nobody wants to believe that.' The word for that is of course 'denial'."

Diebold voting machines open to fraud: "The documents, from Diebold Elections Systems, a company in charge of the electronic voting machines in 37 states, prove that the company knowingly produced an electronic election system that contained absolutely no security against voter fraud. In fact, the lead engineer from Diebold wrote over two years ago that anyone could change votes without leaving a trail: 'Right now you can open GEMS' .mdb file with MS-Access, and alter its contents. That includes the audit log.' GEMS stands for Global Election Management System and is the central computer in each county on which the votes are stored after the election.

"Diebold has filed cease and desist orders against anyone who has attempted to share these memos with the public. They have taken down hosts all over the world, including the personal website of the very journalist who broke this story, Bev Harris."

Why has Iran complied with the international demand that it halt the enrichment of uranium?: "In conclusion, Tehran's decision to comply with the IAEA will allow it to maintain its nuclear research program. It also takes away political ammunition that could be used by the United States and Israel in attempts to weaken the country through U.N. sanctions. Iran will now be able to increase political and economic relations with the European Union and Russia, likely to the detriment of U.S. interests. Finally, if Tehran becomes threatened by U.S. influence on its eastern and western borders, it could quickly weaponize its nuclear energy program and become a nuclear-armed state, thus helping to insulate it from outside threats."

Parliament greets Bush: A day in the life of our faltering democracy, by Margo Kingston

Why John 'Dubya' Howard debases himself before the real Dubya: "Howard wants Australians to see the corollary of this - that in times of threat to Australia, the US will be its guarantor. He reminded Bush that Australians would never forget that the US, during World War II, stood between Australia and potential conquest: the unspoken but clear message was the Australians would expect no less in any future threat."

This 'security guarantee' is a delusion, or perhaps merely a deception of the public. States act in their 'national interest', not out of loyalty or reciprocity or some other foolish conception which they will be glad to cultivate in their vassals but can have no intention of acting upon themselves.

Servile Australian Senator 'defends' Bush and 'man of steel' Howard from 'dangerous' files: "'I [Liberal Senator Ross Lightfoot] spontaneously rose from my seat when I saw [Green senators] Brown and Nettle heading for the President with some files in their hand. I don't know what was in those files. They could have been something dangerous. I couldn't take that chance.

'I prevented them from accosting the President and the Prime Minister. I assumed either [of the leaders] was deserving of my defence.'"

"The "dangerous" object the Greens were bearing was actually a letter written by Maha Habib, pleading for the release of her husband, Mamdouh, who has been held without charge at Guantanamo Bay for some two years."

"When the US President was delivering his address to Parliament, the 18-year-old [Ahmed Habib], whose father has been held without charge by the Americans in Cuba since late 2001, stood up in the public gallery. "What about my father's rights?" he called out before security guards escorted him from Parliament, making him the only person removed during the address.

"[Lawyer] Mr Kenny said the two men were "being kept in cages, their regular exercise is two 15- or two 10-minute exercise periods per week whilst shackled . . . They've had no contact with the outside world except occasional censored Red Cross letters"... Mrs Habib said Mr Bush "was saying wonderful things about freedom, about democracy and justice and dignity, but unfortunately, where is my husband standing now?""

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Uri Avnery on the new mideast peace plan, The Beilin Agreement: "The Beilin-Abed-Rabbo agreement is the latest hit on the Middle Eastern market. This week I made a short visit to Germany, where a book of mine has come out, and was asked about it at every event. At my meetings with President Johannes Rau and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, too, the subject came up at once. I used the opportunity to argue for support of this initiative by all possible means."

"Both drafts [Beilin and Gush Shalom] are based on the principle of "two states for two peoples", with their capitals in Jerusalem, a border based on the Green Line, removal of the settlers from the Palestinian territories and a practical solution of the refugee problem. The differences are mainly due to Beilin-Abed-Rabbo's desire to sweeten the pill for the Israelis as much as possible."

"Throughout the world, the document was well received by all who wish for an end to the conflict. The great hope is that this initiative, like the "revolt of the pilots", represents the end of the era of despair. The first task of Beilin and his colleagues is to raise the Labor and Meretz parties from their ruins (the Labor party chairman, the birthday darling, has not joined the initiative!) and to set up a strong and combative opposition in the spirit of the document. To quote Churchill again: This is not the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

SIEV-X second anniversary report: "I [Margo Kingston] went to a conference last night where Julian Burnside spoke, probably the leading pro bono barrister trying to obtain justice for the boat people. He said he was arguing in Court for Iranian reffos who had been found not to be genuine asylum-seekers. He was trying to stop them being sent back to Iran because they were certain to be tortured. He actually had a video that he spoke about in flat terms - which did not make it any easier to hear - a video of a man lying on a table with his family beside him and a group of officials reading in a bureaucratic manner a long document, in the process of which the man on the table's eyes were taken out and they were put on a towel.

"He said that the government's response in the Court was: 'Let's assume that it's true that the Iranian people we will send back to Iran will be tortured in this way, under the Migration Act we still have the right to do it - and we will do it'"

Michael Hudson / Has Georgism been Hijacked by Special Interests?: "Why has land-rent taxation failed so disastrously in the political arena, if it is so good? The idea of basing the entire tax base on a rent tax rather than taxing profits or wages would make society much richer and be much fairer than the existing system. Most people believe in fairness and economic justice. Why then hasn't the taxation of economic rent (and land rent in particular) attracted more widespread support?

"I believe (1) that the movement to tax economic rent has been trivialized, and (2) that this is the result of its having been hijacked by a group of people whose ideology is basically averse to the ideas of Henry George."

"It has been easier for the wealthy classes in every nation to support social democratic programs than to accept land taxation, for a much larger economic return accrues to land ownership in the form of economic rent than can be made as profit by employing wage-labor. A century ago, socialists recognized this, and embraced Henry George as one of their own. But George rejected their appreciation as he ran for mayor of New York City in 1886-87. Seeking the support of capital rather than labor, he expelled the followers of Daniel de Leon and insisted on rewriting the fusion-party program that had nominated him so as to exclude its labor planks, and put forth land taxation as a cure-all.

"This led to a break between his followers and those of the socialists. More and more intellectuals shifted to the socialists, because they had a broader view of economic reform that encompassed land taxation but did not exclude labor and housing reform and related reforms that subsequently became mainstream in character, most notably during the New Deal decade under Franklin Roosevelt in the United States."

I think Hudson is right here, that the self-isolation and trivialisation of the georgist idea really begins with George himself, perhaps right here in the 1886 campaign. The error is to insist on the land tax as a cure all. The temptation to do this is understandable, as it is such a powerful idea once it has been fully grasped, but to give way to this temptation is a fatal mistake. Instead the idea must be allocated a prominent place in a united socialist/progressive platform, or in modern terms a progressive/green platform.

Israeli panic over peace plan intensifies: Knesset member urges death for Israeli authors of "Geneva" peace plan: "Those who initiated the Geneva agreement have perpetrated a crime of treason necessitating a death sentence or life imprisonement," Shaul Yahalom, who heads the radical National Religious Party (NRP), wrote in a letter to Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein, according to a copy obtained by AFP."

"Yahalom charged that the "Israelis behind this initiative have devised an agreement whose goal is, among other things, to deprive Israel of its sovereignty over the (Palestinian territories) and notably Jerusalem."

"According to available details, the plan provides for shared sovereignty over disputed areas of the holy city of Jerusalem and gives the Palestinians 97.5 percent of the West Bank." [in exchange for peace?! Shock, horror!]

"Israel has applied the death penalty only once, against Nazi SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Jewish Holocaust during World War II. He was hanged in a prison near Tel Aviv in 1962."

The degree of panic in the Israeli government suggests that the peace plan is regarded as a real threat. There is obviously a genuine fear that peace might break out and the Zionist dream of "Greater Israel" would have to be abandoned.

Senior Israeli pilot condemns air strikes that hit civilians: "First, it is unlawful and immoral to attack innocent civilians. Two, the situation of us oppressing another nation leads us to such unlawful, immoral situations... It is unlawful to hit innocent people, full stop. What I'm saying is that the situation should be solved politically so that we are not standing before such dilemmas every other day... It brings us to disaster, including to immoral, unlawful, according to our own law, occurrences every other day. So I'm talking to the Government... What should be done is disengagement, separation, with a border that should be as legitimate as possible, doing unilaterally by us because we are the stronger party and because this is my government that should be the wiser and more moral"

Reasonable remarks, however it is a mistake, even asinine, to be "talking to the government" - the government is the problem. It is to the people of Israel that such remarks must be addressed: to do the hard work of building the support necessary for peace and a political solution.

Shadia Drury: Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq: "Leo Strauss repeatedly defends the political realism of Thrasymachus and Machiavelli (see, for example, his Natural Right and History, p. 106). This view of the world is clearly manifest in the foreign policy of the current administration in the United States.

"A second fundamental belief of Strauss’s ancients has to do with their insistence on the need for secrecy and the necessity of lies. In his book Persecution and the Art of Writing, Strauss outlines why secrecy is necessary. He argues that the wise must conceal their views for two reasons – to spare the people’s feelings and to protect the elite from possible reprisals.

"The people will not be happy to learn that there is only one natural right – the right of the superior to rule over the inferior, the master over the slave, the husband over the wife, and the wise few over the vulgar many. In On Tyranny, Strauss refers to this natural right as the “tyrannical teaching” of his beloved ancients. It is tyrannical in the classic sense of rule above rule or in the absence of law (p. 70).

"Now, the ancients were determined to keep this tyrannical teaching secret because the people are not likely to tolerate the fact that they are intended for subordination; indeed, they may very well turn their resentment against the superior few. Lies are thus necessary to protect the superior few from the persecution of the vulgar many.

"The effect of Strauss’s teaching is to convince his acolytes that they are the natural ruling elite and the persecuted few. And it does not take much intelligence for them to surmise that they are in a situation of great danger, especially in a world devoted to the modern ideas of equal rights and freedoms. Now more than ever, the wise few must proceed cautiously and with circumspection. So, they come to the conclusion that they have a moral justification to lie in order to avoid persecution. Strauss goes so far as to say that dissembling and deception – in effect, a culture of lies – is the peculiar justice of the wise."

"Danny Postel: Finally, I’d like to ask about your interesting reception among the Straussians. Many of them dismiss your interpretation of Strauss and denounce your work in the most adamant terms (“bizarre splenetic”). Yet one scholar, Laurence Lampert, has reprehended his fellow Straussians for this, writing in his Leo Strauss and Nietzsche that your book The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss “contains many fine skeptical readings of Strauss’s texts and acute insights into Strauss’s real intentions.” Harry Jaffa has even made the provocative suggestion that you might be a “closet Straussian” yourself!

"Shadia Drury: I have been publicly denounced and privately adored. Following the publication of my book The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss in 1988, letters and gifts poured in from Straussian graduate students and professors all over North America – books, dissertations, tapes of Strauss’s Hillel House lectures in Chicago, transcripts of every course he ever taught at the university, and even a personally crafted Owl of Minerva with a letter declaring me a goddess of wisdom! They were amazed that an outsider could have penetrated the secret teaching. They sent me unpublished material marked with clear instructions not to distribute to “suspicious persons”.

"I received letters from graduate students in Toronto, Chicago, Duke, Boston College, Claremont, Fordham, and other Straussian centres of “learning.” One of the students compared his experience in reading my work with “a person lost in the wilderness who suddenly happens on a map.” Some were led to abandon their schools in favour of fresher air; but others were delighted to discover what it was they were supposed to believe in order to belong to the charmed circle of future philosophers and initiates."

You May Justifiably Want to Take Friday Off: "This peculiar holiday was organized by a committee of economists and nonprofit advocates in response to the fact that, as a society, we are working more than ever before. Come Friday, if our country's work load were on a par with the rest of the industrialized world, you would have the rest of 2003 off.

"When compared with workers in Western Europe, the average American will work 350 hours more per year, the equivalent of nine extra weeks. Furthermore, a study by the International Labor Organization reports that in 2000, the average U.S. worker put in 199 more hours than in 1973. Despite working hard, many people are barely staying afloat in the modern economy."

Mr Bush, here is why we opposed the Iraq war: "Forty-one ALP federal parliamentarians have written an open letter to George Bush". An eminently reasonable statement and a matter of shame for those MPs who did not sign. "A spokesman for Mr Crean said the Opposition Leader did not have a problem with the letter, but had decided not to sign. "It is entirely in line with Labor policy and Tanya has every right to distribute it," the spokesman said. "It is not necessarily Simon's opinion, but he is not going to order others not to sign it." This is as weak a response as can be. What is Crean saying then, that he approves of "preventative war" and that the war on Iraq to rid Saddam of his WMDs and links to terrorism was justified? Not only should Crean have signed it, he should have encouraged members of his party and of other parties, all parliamentarians, to sign the letter, and have personally presented it to Mr Bush.

The statement in the letter "We retain our commitment to the ANZUS alliance", however, reveals the contradiction at the heart of the ALP that is crippling its effectiveness in critiquing the war or challenging the government. The whole world could see that this war was a crime and an act of aggression. In such circumstances the alliance should be suspended and the bases closed, temporarily at least. Australia has still to get over its fundamental fear of being racially overwhelmed and of colonial dependency. It is this fear that is the target of ridicule in our region, such as the remark by the Singapore official that Australia could be part of Asia when it is 51% Asian, a remark which touches directly on the fear but which evoked laughter among Asian leaders.

Howard by targetting boat people as he has done in the most public and international way that he could, has exploited and reinforced the underlying fears of white Australia, but he has done so at grave cost to Australia's long term reputation. There is a kind of blindness often afflicting white people, that they are not aware of the massive record of racism and inhumanity over the last 500 years. Non-white people however are quite sensitive to it, and it is never in Australia's national or security interests to highlight this, except on the traditional racist calculation that non-whites don't matter, the only thing that matters is our friendship with the great white powers, whether the UK or especially now the US. That this is an historical and geographic mistake must be apparent to nearly every Australian public figure except John Howard and Pauline Hanson.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Interview with Michael Hudson on Chile: "SS: Regarding land distribution, some historians on both the left and right point out that Allende had attempted land reform, angering owners. Is this the case essentially?

"MH:Allende's attempts at land reform were half-hearted. He focused on urban problems, not agriculture. Chile's problem was vast underutilized tracts of land ­ the latifundia I mentioned earlier, which were ruining Chile just as Pliny the Elder said that they had ruined ancient Rome. Allende did not have a coherent economic program to provide this land to smallholders who would use them. He was so anti-business that he did not think of opening up rural credit banks to finance agricultural modernization.

"It does not seem to have occurred to Allende that rather than threatening to nationalize these estates outright, he could have used the tax system to break them up. He could have proposed a rent tax on the potential value of this land. That would have obliged the large landowners either to use their land efficiently or pay the government a tax as if they had done so. The landowners might have yelled 'confiscation,' but a property tax is normal for any country to levy."

US Intelligence failures: Lengthy Seymour Hersh article discusses the systematic degradation of intelligence gathering under relentless pressure from the Bush neocons to find or manufacture a case against Iraq. Also includes a fascinating account of the notorious forged Niger uranium documents.

Euroarmy threatens US-dominated Nato: " In Brussels last week, the French president made it clear that Paris and Berlin are determined to push ahead with this [the Euroarmy] – preferably with Britain, but not necessarily. “Our British friends have reservations about the creation of a bigger, more independent operation,” he said. “We are continuing our discussions, but we are determined to go ahead with this: there cannot be a Europe without its own defence system.”

"British officials, in a panic, dashed around the touchlines of the EU summit protesting that any new European defence structures would “complement” Nato, not undermine it. “Nothing whatsoever must put at risk our essential defence guarantees at Nato,” said Tony Blair. But the Americans are truly rattled by all this. The US ambassador to Nato, at a tense meeting in the alliance’s Brussels headquarters last week, described the French-German moves as “the most serious threat to Nato’s future”. He demanded an emergency meeting of Nato ambassadors tomorrow, at which he will try to establish where Europe’s going on defence."

Can Iran's Pursuit of Nuclear Technology Be Thwarted By Air Strikes?: "Taking these factors into account, the prospect of launching a successful air strike that would thwart Tehran's pursuit of nuclear technology is not a viable strategy. In addition to the logistical difficulties involved in destroying Tehran's nuclear facilities, there is also the fear that such an attack would only accelerate Tehran's pursuit of nuclear arms. Finally, the political reverberations that would be felt by such an attack would be severe, and the attacking state would likely be held accountable for its actions."

Caspian: The New Great Game: "The main spoils in today's Great Game are Caspian oil and gas. On its shores, and at the bottom of the Caspian Sea, lie the world's biggest untapped fossil fuel resources. Estimates range from 110 to 243bn barrels of crude, worth up to $4 trillion. According to the US department of energy, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan alone could sit on more than 130bn barrels, more than three times the US's reserves. Oil giants such as ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and BP have already invested more than $30bn in new production facilities."

Liberal elder to Abbott: Australia risks being branded a war criminal: "Mr Valder, a former backer of Mr Howard, confronted health minister Tony Abbott "as a friend", accusing the Government of being a party to "a much greater atrocity" than the September 11 terrorist attack in the United States. "I suspect the strength of feeling is not only in this room or in this country but around the world on this subject," he said. "Let's not underestimate the enormity of what happened in Iraq."

"Coupled with what has happened with human rights in this country, from children overboard (to) Guantanamo Bay, there is a total disregard by this government of human rights." Only two of the 42 nations whose citizens the US had detained in Guantanamo Bay without charge had not strongly protested to the US - Australia and China. "I have to say to you as a friend - it is an appalling situation and it is not too late for your government to make amends."

Sharon panic over Peace Plan: threat to imprison negotiators as support reaches 40%: "The Israeli right calls the negotiators traitors. Minister Uzi Landau from Sharon's Likud party said on television that most countries have laws against any unofficial representatives negotiating with the enemy, and he would introduce such legislation in Israel too."

"The deal does not have official standing but the Palestinian Authority (PA) has not rejected it out of hand. On the Israeli side, opinion polls show around 40 per cent support."

Monday, October 20, 2003

Australia's Governor General backs pre-emptive war and Vietnam war: This is a disgrace, Howard's second appointment is worse than his first, the pedophile-protecting priest, if that's possible. The least the Governor-General could have done was taken note of the huge protests against the war earlier this year, the statement from Kofi Annan that the war was without UN sanctio, the statement from Hans Blix that Iraq had no WMDs, the fact that the war has been a fiasco, and had the sense to keep his mouth shut.

The Vietnam war destroyed 3 countries and killed an estimated 2-3m Indochinese, 58,000 Americans and 500 Australians, for no gain whatever. It was in large part based on a lie as well, the Gulf of Tonkin 'incident'. The Iraq war, of course, is yet to conclude, but it is plain as can be it was based on a mammoth lie, the alleged WMDs and terror links. A similar lie is that instead of fighting nationalist resistance to imperialist and colonialist powers, the war on Iraq is falsely described as a 'war on terror' just as Vietnam was falsely described as 'war on communism'. It is revealing, yet sad, that 40 years later senior people seem to have learned nothing.

Pilger: The Fall And Rise Of Liberal England: "Andrew Gilligan will probably be pilloried by an establishment tribunal for telling a version of this truth. Lord Hutton (he who sat on the notorious 'Diplock' court in Belfast) could and should have recalled Blair for cross-examination, but chose not to. This is a travesty, because the real issue is the criminality of Blair and his coterie. The truth of this is currency now, thanks to the millions who have broken an established silence, with thousands of them going into the streets for the first time and filling the letters pages and shaming the majority of Labour MPs, who chose Bush and Blair over their constituents."

IHT: Willaim Pfaff comes out in support of unofficial peace plan: "The Geneva agreement represents an enormous investment of private time and effort by people led by Yossi Beilin, Ehud Barak's former justice minister, and by Yasser Abed Rabbo, a former Palestinian Authority cabinet secretary and information minister. They decided to complete the near-agreement reached at Taba. The hard parts still weren't settled in 2001, and these people decided to to demonstrate that they could be settled. Here is what responsible people can agree upon, they are saying.

"From Oslo to Taba, settlement proposals all started at the beginning. This seemed logical but proved fatal, since every one of them, including the road map, allocated lengthy periods of time for negotiation - "confidence-building" - eventually leading up to the hard problems. The Camp David, White House and Wye Plantation accords were merely agreements to go on trying to agree. They all postponed the real problems, which allowed the people who don't want a settlement to subvert them.

"The Geneva initiative offers a way out - a slim chance. The Israelis themselves have to make this a point of mobilization to save their country. The Israeli majority, one must remember, still favors a just two-state solution if only they can have it. They must be given international support to make this their solution.

"The terrorist groups don't want any plan because they don't want Israel to exist. The Sharon government and the Israeli right have already called this initiative the result of a "secret and illegitimate relationship with the enemy." They say it is an effort "to pull the rug out from under" an imminent Israeli victory over "terrorism."

"European nations should brush aside their historical inhibitions, and American hostility to European interference in the Middle East, and throw their weight behind this plan. It would be the greatest service they could possibly do for Israel and the Palestinians - and, incidentally, for the United States."

The International Herald Tribune is, I believe, owned 50% by the New York Times and the Washington Post. Thus it is interesting to see the penetration of the peace plan to this point.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Government shift to accrual accounting criticised as rightist ideology: "Over recent years governments in Australia and New Zealand have led the Western world in the switch from undeniably problematic cash-based accounting systems to the sorts of accrual accounting systems used by business. Along with the application of business principles and practices, these reforms were badly needed and have played a part in making government more efficient and effective.

"But a growing band of critics is now questioning the way the reforms were implemented, claiming ideology has been allowed to get in the way of good practice. As a result the application of business accrual accounting to the public sector has fostered a controversial agenda designed to shrink the role of government, force governments to act more like businesses and allow the operation of free markets unfettered by government interference."

Land boom: 20% per year: "Australians are wealthier than ever before and the mood of consumers more buoyant than at any time in the past nine years, despite the prospect of higher interest rates. Private wealth in Australia jumped 14.7 per cent to an all-time high of $4325 billion last financial year, new figures show.

"CommSec analyst Craig James said the wealth boom was driven by surging house prices, which climbed about 20 per cent last year."

Land value, of course, is not wealth. Land value could be zero (as it would be in a geonomic society) but wealth would not be diminished in the slightest.

The Battle Hymn of the New Liberal Media: A Good Business Plan: "It took several years and many millions for both conservative talk radio and Fox News to build enough of an audience to be self-sustaining and then profitable. Conservative investments in these media have now both yielded profits and also pushed American public opinion to the right with dizzying speed.

"After all, the core of the conservative agenda is to transfer control of our government and our commons to big corporations; reduce taxes on the rich while squeezing the middle class; and strip labor of its power to organize while enhancing organized corporate power by supporting trade associations, Chambers of Commerce, political alliances, and monopolistic mergers. These are the mantras of conservative talk radio and Fox.

"Trillions are at stake in this transformation of America from its founding ideal of government of, by, and for We, The People, into a neo-feudal state ruled by corporate-CEOs-turned-politicians and operated on the ancient but corrupt principle of crony capitalism and rule-by-the-rich."

Europe poll: 'Bush makes world more dangerous' say survey Britons: "Some 52% of British people questioned in the Europe-wide survey said the world was more dangerous as a result of Mr Bush's war on terrorism. In other contries 69% in Belgium and Switzerland, 67% in the Netherlands and 57% overall say he has made the world more dangerous. Just 7% of Europeans asked by pollsters TNS for CNN and Time magazine said Mr Bush had made the world safer."

"Some 36% of British people polled said that the US acted only in its own interests, against 51% in Europe overall, 71% in Finland and 66% in France and Switzerland. Just 11% of those questioned said the US had the rest of the world's best interests at heart."

Bringing the War Home: The New Military-Industrial-Entertainment Complex at War and Play: "In the late 1990s, the otherwise dreadful soundtrack for Godzilla, that blockbuster-flop of a movie, featured a track, 'No Shelter,' by rebel rap/rockers Rage Against the Machine that trashed both the movie ('And Godzilla pure muthafuckin filler, To keep ya eyes off the real killer') and a consumer-driven militarized Hollywood, writ large:

What ya need is what they sellin'
Make you think that buyin' is rebellin'
From the theaters to malls on every shore
Tha thin line between entertainment and war

"The line had by then grown thin indeed. Today, it hardly exists at all. The military is now in the midst of a full-scale occupation of the entertainment industry, conducted with far more skill (and enthusiasm on the part of the occupied) than the one in Iraq."

"The "Talking DOA Uday," a specialty doll with a two-sided head that spins 360 degrees (à la The Exorcist) transforming Saddam Hussein's son Uday from a smiling face into the bloody mangled one popularized in U.S.-issued photographs. And just when you thought it couldn't get worse, it does. In an unabashedly Orientalist faux-Middle-Eastern accent, the doll cries out: "Someone must help me. I . . . I am still alive only I am very badly burned. Anyone! Can someone please call my father? I am in a lot of pain, I am very badly burned so if you could just… (gunshot). You shot me !! Why did you… (3 gun shots)?"

A Pyrrhic Victory at the UN: "The Bush administration did finally get their resolution, but the question is, what can they do with it? The short answer is 'not a lot.' The White House did not seek this resolution because they felt a need for moral and legal absolution and approbation from the United Nations. It wanted it as a means to four specific goals: to coax more troop contributions from reluctant governments; to coax more cash for Iraqi reconstruction; to coax Kofi Annan to return UN civilian staff to Iraq; and perhaps most of all, reinforced by the previous three, to persuade the bulk of Iraqis that they weren't really occupied at all. It is highly unlikely to secure any of those goals."

And, as Phyllis Bennis has said, there is a downside with this UN resolution: it reinforces an impression among the Iraqi and Muslim worlds that the UN 'approves' the occupation, which could make it more difficult for the UN when the occupation fails and genuine UN involvement is needed.

Newly Uncovered US Documents: Bush Ancestor's Bank Seized by Gov't: "President Bush's grandfather was a director of a bank seized by the federal government because of its ties to a German industrialist [Fritz Thyssen] who helped bankroll Adolf Hitler's rise to power, government documents show... Fritz Thyssen was an early financial supporter of Hitler, whose Nazi party Thyssen believed was preferable to communism."

De Villepin: forced must not be used against Iran: "'Regime change cannot be a policy on its own in today's world,' he says bluntly. 'You have to be respectful of sovereignty... "But you have to have the support of the international community. You need to have at a certain point the support of the UN. So this is a matter of unity. If there is one country that imagines it can just solve this matter just alone, we are going to see more vengeance, more difficulties, more problems, and the world is going to be more unstable."

"Asked if he could envisage a situation in which France might support military intervention against Iran to curb its alleged nuclear ambitions, he is equally forthright. "You don't speak about military action just like that," he says. "I must say we have enough problems with Iraq not to open a new front in Iran. This would be absolutely ridiculous... My conviction and my belief is that if we imagine we are going to address this situation by force, we are totally mistaken.""

Bin Laden tape threatens new suicide attacks, including against Australia: "'We reserve the right to respond at the appropriate time and place against all the countries participating in this unjust war, particularly Britain, Spain, Australia, Poland, Japan and Italy,' the voice said."

"In the portion addressed to Americans, the speaker said: "I tell the American people we will continue fighting you and we will continue martyrdom operations inside and outside the United States until you stop your injustice, and you end your foolishness." Addressing US troops in Iraq, the speaker said: "Your blood will be spilled so the White House gang gets richer and the arms dealers with them, as well as the large companies involved.""

""America is bogged down in the quagmire of the Tigris and the Euphrates (rivers)," the speaker on the tape said. "(America) is in real trouble, God willing, and is today screaming at the top of its lungs and bowing before the whole world ... and calling for help from the lowest of people." Bush "thought that Iraq and its oil is an easy treasure", the voice said, adding that it had now "resorted to buying mercenary fighters from East and West", calling its war in Iraq a "new Crusade on the Muslim world...a decisive war for the whole nation"."

Saturday, October 18, 2003

UN SECURITY COUNCIL VOTE ON U.S. OCCUPATION: "The resolution calls only for a new deadline for the U.S.-selected Iraqi Governing Council to announce its timeline for drafting a constitution and holding elections; it does not set a timeframe for turning Iraqi sovereignty back to Iraq. It does not allow any central or even significant role for the United Nations, despite the cosmetic reference to the secretary-general. The Council opposition, led by France, Germany and Russia, largely collapsed in the face of relentless U.S. pressure. But the U.S. 'victory' will be a pyrrhic one. The new resolution may provide enough political cover for governments such as Turkey, eager to prove their loyalty to Washington, but it will almost certainly not result in other countries sending significant new troop deployments or funds to bolster Washington's occupation."

"The U.S. will certainly use the resolution to claim that the war and its occupation of Iraq were sanctioned by the United Nations. The perception that the UN agreed with the U.S. occupation will of course weaken the UN. Many will not recognize the intensity of U.S. pressure and threats that forced the decision, and the position will increase hostility to the global organization in Iraq and elsewhere, making it difficult later (when the U.S. occupation is acknowledged a failure) for the UN to work in Iraq. Further, the Council decision was a slap to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had, in the wake of the horrific bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad, shown more willingness to challenge the U.S."

Bolivian president deserted by last key supporter; close ally says president will resign: "In defending the [gas-export] plan, the president calls the gas resources 'a gift from God' that would bring millions of dollars annually to a cash-strapped Andean country. But few here believe his claims that average Bolivians, many of whom earn only a few dollars a day, would benefit. Bolivia, which declared its independence from Spain in 1825, is a majority indigenous country where many speak Spanish haltingly. The country yielded its vast mineral wealth to its colonial rulers -- and many see the gas-export project as a return to that legacy."

Proven: The Environmental Dangers That May Halt GM Revolution: "British Scientists delivered a massive blow to the case for genetically modified crops yesterday when they showed in a trail-blazing study that growing them could harm the environment. Their findings, which will spark controversy around the world, are likely to present a serious obstacle to Tony Blair in his desire to bring GM technology to Britain, and will be viewed with concern and anger in the United States, home of GM technology. They could ultimately lead to a ban on growing the crops concerned throughout the European Union."

Investors blamed for land boom: "Mr Howard said he did not expect property values to fall... the Victorian Government blamed the housing affordability crisis on generous tax concessions for investors.

"In its submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry into first home ownership, the Bracks Government singled out negative gearing and capital gains tax breaks as key reasons for the housing bubble. Over the past seven years, lending to housing investors rocketed by 402 per cent in real terms, accounting for 52 per cent of the total growth in housing debt.

"Investors can write off rental losses against tax and since 1999 pay tax on only half the capital gain when they sell. That, along with historically low interest rates and relaxed lending practices have encouraged the investment surge. But the submission said the tax concessions had left first home buyers at a serious disadvantage.

"'The overall effect of these arrangements is to provide incentives to invest in residential properties,' it said. 'This is particularly true for negative gearing, which is only available to investors. This puts owner-occupiers, including first home buyers, at a competitive disadvantage relative to investors.'"

Friday, October 17, 2003

Perle Panic over Palestine Peace Plan: "Pentagon adviser Richard Perle yesterday denounced an unofficial peace plan negotiated between Israeli opposition leaders and moderate Palestinians, saying it would damage Israel's security, undermine its government and "would be illegal in the United States." [Richard Perle] added: 'In a democracy we elect people to represent us and [opposition groups negotiating with external opponents of the state] seems to me fundamentally undemocratic.' The pact would commit both sides to renounce any new claims for territory and would replace all previous U.N. resolutions. It foresees the creation of a Palestinian state conforming to the boundaries of the Palestinian territories before the start of the Israeli occupation in 1967, with some modifications."

"Mr. Perle was speaking to reporters and delegates at the inaugural "Jerusalem Summit," a gathering of Israelis and mainly American Jewish and Christian analysts and politicians opposed to conceding a Palestinian state. Mr. Perle, who was honored at the event, commended Israel for striking last week at a Palestinian camp inside Syria in response to a suicide bombing of a cafe in Haifa that killed 20 persons."

"Rather than offering to share Jerusalem and hand the Palestinians a demilitarized state, any discussions should have focused on getting the Palestinians to "address the practice of teaching Palestinian children to hate Israelis," he said."

On the Administration's Failure to Provide a Realistic, Specific Plan to Bring Stability to Iraq: Senate speech by Ted Kennedy effectively cricitises the Administration policy.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Daylong Security Council debate slams Israel's Apartheid Wall: 40 speakers in the debate, even New Zealand speaking against the Wall. Australia, to its shame, absented itself from the debate. But that is probably better than speaking in favour of the Wall and aligning itself against virtually the whole world. Speaker after speaker denounced the Wall. Naturally the resolution in the end had a single vote against, the US of course, which vetoed it, John Negroponte doing the honours again and looking increasingly isolated and uncomfortable. A sampling of the debate:

"Almost all speakers at the meeting expressed strong opposition to the construction of the barrier, particularly regarding the fact that its route incorporated territory east of the Green Line."

Palestine: "Along with settlement activities, the construction of the wall involved the illegal, de facto annexation of expansive areas of occupied land that would effectively transfer large number of Palestinian civilians and would constrict the rest of them in several walled Bantustans. He said Israel’s claim that the wall was a security measure to prevent suicide bombings was incredulous -- Israel could build protective walls along the armistice line if that were the case... He said Israel’s claim that the wall was a security measure to prevent suicide bombings was incredulous and illogical, as Israel could build walls along the armistice line. In reality, the whole issue had revolved around one thing -- land and the designs to illegally conquer more land at the expense of the Palestinian people. After the onset of the Oslo peace process, the occupying Power had doubled the number of settlers. Israel was doing all of that while it had not solved the issue of ownership of land in Israel itself. “Absolute madness and compound crimes”, he said. All had been sustained by the illegitimate protection, funding and unlimited armaments provided by basically one source."

"Syria’s representative, introducing a draft resolution it co-sponsored along with Guinea, Malaysia and Pakistan, said the Security Council must make clear to Israel that the wall, along with settler colonialism and the aggression against Syria and Lebanon, were illegal actions. He called for the resolution to be submitted for a vote at the end of the debate... Israel’s objective in building the wall was not to protect security; the track of the wall was far removed from the 1967 borders and was a way to create a de facto border. Israel was, in fact, annexing vast expanses of West Bank territories, he went on, and was violating the most famous of international laws, namely, the inadmissibility of annexing territory by force, and also violating Security Council resolution 242. He said the present Israeli Government was a war government aiming at ending the peace process."

Bulgaria: "appealed to Israel to stop using punitive steps, including extrajudicial killings, and act in accordance with international law. He strongly opposed construction of a security wall that did not follow the Green Line, involved confiscating land, blocked free movement of people and goats, and undermined the Palestinians’ hope for the Road Map. That wall was unacceptable, he said."

Russia: "An important component for Israel’s exit strategy was cessation of illegal acts, such as the construction of the wall and illegal settlements, which must be immediately halted."

Chile: "condemned the wall as it was counter-productive to a negotiated settlement and flouted international law."

Guinea: "That illegal practice [the Wall] was likely to increase feelings of frustration and hate and was the expression of a policy of “Bantustanization”, as well."

France: "said that the question of the separation wall concerned the very possibility of a negotiated settlement in the Middle East. France had publicly noted its opposition to the construction of a wall that deviated from the Green Line, as well as its opposition to the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories."

China: "strongly deplored the continued construction of the separation wall and expansion of settlements, actions which were not acceptable."

Pakistan: "All Council resolutions, as well as the Road Map, agreed on the need for Israel’s withdrawal from all of the West Bank. The intention [of the Wall] was not to prevent terrorism but to prevent a settlement in the Middle East based on land for peace. It was designed to further entrench the settlers and lead to annexation of land, something that was prohibited by international law."

Arab league: "the construction of the wall was just the beginning of the annexation of areas of the West Bank by Israel, since it cut deeply into Palestinian territory. The wall would result in the total destruction of the Palestinian economy and create a new generation of refugees -- its real objective was expansion. It was a direct threat to the two-State solution, as well as any hope of a just and lasting peace."

Malaysia: "The wall was more than a “security wall”, it was a devious way to create facts on the ground and impose a unilateral solution."

Iran: "what the world was witnessing in the West Bank was “a visible and clear act of territorial annexation under the guise of security”. The wall, once completed, would stretch for hundreds of kilometres, with wide buffer zones, trenches, barbed wires, electric fence, a two-lane patrol road, and “no-go” areas of 70 to 100 metres wide. That was what the Israelis deceitfully called “simply a fence”. In addition to the effects on the lives of the Palestinians, the decision on the wall and new settlement was further proof that the Israeli regime had never been serious about peace; its goal was to draw the border arbitrarily and to sabotage the possibility of establishing a viable Palestinian State."

Egypt: "it would be very dangerous for the international community not to address the recent Israeli acts. That could lead to greater confrontation than had recently been seen in the Israeli air attack on Syria. Recent events had prompted greater distrust of Israel’s intentions and led everyone to believe that Israel would not abide by the two-State solution. Instead, it was opting for a course that ran counter to the search for a just and lasting solution."

Saudi Arabia: "recent events confirmed the aggressive nature of Israel, which had shown that it meant to annex or Judaize more Palestinian territory. The racist wall of separation was started under the pretext of security, but it was part of Sharon’s plan to erase the Green Line, to annex the settlements and divide remaining Palestinian territory. Israel would not have continued such activity except for the silence of the Council and the acceptance of double standards. He called on the Council to fully assume its responsibilities by deciding on the illegitimacy of the construction, calling for its immediate end, and the calling on Quartet to fully assume its responsibilities concerning the Road Map, including the use of forces to intervene between the two parties and ensure their compliance with that peace plan."

Norway: "said his Government would have preferred to see no wall erected between Israelis and Palestinians, as it was hard to see the fence as a means to sustainably address security problems. That could only be done by ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel. However, if the Government of Israel chose to continue construction of the wall, it must be built on the Green Line, and not on the West Bank."

Kucinich's 'True Patriot' Act would restore rights: "The backlash against the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 is picking up speed and snap.

"On Sept. 24, Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul introduced the Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act (HR3171) to repeal the most controversial sections of the Patriot Act as well as some of the more egregious actions taken by the Department of Justice... The True Patriot Act heralds its intent by quoting Benjamin Franklin's famous statement: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty or Safety."

"When introducing the True Patriot Act, Kucinich told members of the House: 'Twenty-four months after the Sept. 11th attacks, this nation has undergone a dramatic political change, leading to an unprecedented assault on the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.' "

Peace plan causes panic in Israeli government: "Supporters of the new 'Geneva accords', while acknowledging that the agreement is unlikely to persuade Mr Sharon to abandon his militarist approach to the conflict, say that the deal is a breakthrough because it nails the government's lie that there is no one to negotiate with."

"The negotiations were led by another former Israeli cabinet minister, Yossi Beilin, and Yasser Abed Rabbo, a close associate of Yasser Arafat, who is unlikely to have reached such a deal without the Palestinian president's blessing."

"Supporters of the accords plan a signing ceremony in about a fortnight, probably on the anniversary of the assassination of the former Israeli prime minister and architect of the Oslo accords, Yitzhak Rabin. Among those invited to attend is Bill Clinton."

"'The Geneva agreement has caused panic in the prime minister's office because it proves there are Palestinians with whom we can talk, and that there are things worth talking about,' said Yuli Tamir, a former Israeli cabinet minister who was part of the talks."

The peace plan is potentially dangerous because it could panic Sharon and the government into starting another war in order to sideline it, much as the 1982 invasion of Lebanon was motivated by an outbreak of peace among the Palestinians at the time.

Unofficial Middle East Peace Pact Ignites Uproar: "It remains to be seen how the Israeli and Palestinian public will respond to the document.

"Israeli media reports said the main thrust of the plan, as yet unpublished, runs as follows:

* Palestinian refugees will concede the right of return to Israel in exchange for financial compensation.
* The Palestinians will recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
* Israel will withdraw to the borders of 1967, with certain territorial exchanges in which several major Jewish settlement blocks in the West Bank will become part of Israel, while Israel will cede equivalent territories in its southern Negev desert.
* Jerusalem will be divided by nationality, with Arab neighborhoods becoming part of the Palestinian state and Jewish neighborhoods remaining part of Israel.
* The Western Wall will remain under Israeli sovereignty, while the Temple Mount above it, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, will be under Palestinian sovereignty. An international force will ensure freedom of worship for all faiths.
* The Palestinians will pledge to prevent terror and incitement and disarm all militias. An international force will supervise the demilitarized state, including border crossings.

"Mohamed Sid Ahmed, commentator with the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, hailed the plan as a possible last hope for peace. 'The situation is so catastrophic that the choice now is between terrorism and this kind of agreement, because the `road map' does not work,' he told AFP."

This plan is a workable variant on the traditional 30yr old two-state land-for-peace solution, and will go on the shelf along with all the others. The problem is that Zionist Israel, which includes the Army, the media, and the two major political groupings (Likud & Labor) has no intention and never did have any intention of ever withdrawing from the Occupied Territories. The intention from beginning to end has been to maintain the occupation, to build settlements, to annex land, and somehow to marginalise, transfer or ignore the Palestinians. The most that Zionist Israel has ever been prepared to concede is a sort of Palestinian Bantustan system, where the Palestinian Authority acts to suppress its own population within confined areas for the overall benefit of Zionist Israel. And the intifada has put paid to that process (Oslo). What the government (Sharon) now plans for the Palestinians is not openly stated. Perhaps a giant open air prison using the Apartheid Wall, or perhaps a mass expulsion in a manufactured war crisis. But neither of these options may prove to be feasible even for Sharon, and some suspect he is beginning to look helpless in the face of ongoing Palestinian resistance.

Another critical obstacle to the success of this or any peace plan is the role of the United States. The US supplies weapons, media and propaganda support, diplomatic cover and an estimated $3-5billion dollars annually to Israel. (Israel is the largest recipient of US overseas aid.) This aid essentially funds and sustains the Occupation. If the plug were pulled Zionist Israel would face collapse. But the strategic purpose of 'support' for Israel (which in fact is support for Israel's ruination) is to have a militarised Israel, an Israeli Sparta, as a 'cop on the beat' in the volatile but oil-rich middle east region. Pessimists would hold that this will continue until the oil runs out, that is another 30 or 40 years. And by that time 'facts on the ground' could have made all the plans moot.

Testimony of Andrew Wilkie to Parliamentary Committee, with comments by Ray McGovern: "Our most recent open appeal to you, “Now It’s Your Turn,” was made on August 22, 2003. On that same day, it turns out, former Australian intelligence analyst Andrew Wilkie testified before a parliamentary committee examining the justification given by Prime Minister John Howard for Australia’s decision to join the war in Iraq. Wilkie had been a senior analyst in Australia’s premier intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments. Of all the Australian, British, and American intelligence analysts with direct knowledge of how intelligence was abused in the run-up to the war—Wilkie was the only one to resign in protest and speak truth to power.

"Those who dismiss such efforts as an exercise in futility should know that, on October 7 the Australian Senate, in a rare move, censured Howard for misleading the public in justifying sending Australian troops off to war. The Senate statement of censure noted that Howard had produced no evidence to justify his claims last March that Iraq had stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, and castigated him for suppressing Australian intelligence warnings that war with Iraq would increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks. One senator accused Howard of “unprecedented deceit.” "

Ex-Aide: Powell Misled Americans: "The person responsible for analyzing the Iraqi weapons threat for Colin Powell says the Secretary of State misinformed Americans during his speech at the U.N. last winter."

"Thielmann also tells Pelley that he believes the decision to go to war was made first and then the intelligence was interpreted to fit that conclusion. “…The main problem was that the senior administration officials have what I call faith-based intelligence,” says Thielmann. “They knew what they wanted the intelligence to show. They were really blind and deaf to any kind of countervailing information the intelligence community would produce. I would assign some blame to the intelligence community and most of the blame to the senior administration officials.”

"Steve Allinson and a dozen other U.N. inspectors in Iraq also watched Powell’s speech. “Various people would laugh at various times [during Powell’s speech] because the information he was presenting was just, you know, didn't mean anything -- had no meaning,” says Allinson. Pelley asks, “When the Secretary finished the speech, you and the other inspectors turned to each other and said what?” Allinson responds, “’They have nothing.’” "

Iraq War Swells Al Qaeda's Ranks, Report Says: "'On the plus side, war in Iraq has denied al Qaeda a potential supplier of weapons of mass destruction and discouraged state sponsors of terrorism from continuing to support it,' the report said. 'On the minus side, war in Iraq has probably inflamed radical passions among Muslims and thus increased al Qaeda's recruiting power and morale and, at least marginally, its operating capability,' it said. 'The immediate effect of the war may have been to isolate further al Qaeda from any potential state supporters while also swelling its ranks and galvanizing its will.'"

Given that there has never been any convincing evidence that Saddam's Iraq sponsored or supplied weapons to al-Qaeda and Bin Laden, this is an odd way of expressing conclusions. But it can be taken to mean that even organisations aligned with the Western polical and military elite have been forced to admit the obvious, that the 'war on terror' (ie, the invasion of Iraq) has done nothing but increase anti-American sentiment and al-Qaeda recruiting, which can be expected to result in increased terrorist attacks in the future.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

US plans retreat from Afghanistan: It seems that the Taliban/mujahideen cannot be defeated and the US is coming to an appreciation it has to retreat from the country. Current negotiations centre on attempts to find a 'moderate' Taliban leadership, but the Taliban refuse to consider the US demand that Mullah Omah be removed from control. Eventually the US may be forced into dialogue with Mullah Omar.

"New" Palestinian peace agreement marketed as a sacrifice of the right of return: Uri Avnery has somewhere commented that there have been hundreds of peace plans. They mostly have the same core ingredients: withdrawal from the territories occupied in the 67 war and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel based on those territories. The other contentious issues, such as the holy sites in Jerusalem and the plight of the refugees, are matters that could always be negotiated on the basis of agreement on the key point. The problem is not that there is a lack of good plans to establish peace, but that the target populations for the peace plan are continually kept in the dark. The key target populations are the Israeli and US domestic populations.

All peace plans should be addressed at these target and have the following central objectives: for Israelis, to impress upon them that there can be peace based upon the land for peace principle, especially, peace with the Palestinains based on withdrawal of soldiers and settlers from the territories occupied in the 67 war; and for Americans, impress upon them that US government support for Israel is essentially what has blocked the political resolution since 1971. It is the propaganda and mythology that is the real barrier to peace: in Israel, the myth that all Palestinians are terrorists, they are not human but two-legged beasts, cockroaches; that there is no partner for peace; that they will not recognise Israel; that they were offered everything at Oslo or Camp David or elsewhere but turned it down, and so on and on. In the US, the core myth is that the US is an honest broker, instead of the chief financier, arms supplier and perpetuator of the conflict.

Review of Gabriel Kolko's Another Century of War? by John V. Denson: "A foreign policy that is both immoral and unsuccessful is not simply stupid, it is increasingly dangerous to those who practice or favor it. That is the predicament that the United States now confronts.

He further states:

"The way America's leaders are running the nation's foreign policy is not creating peace or security at home or stability abroad. The reverse is the case: its interventions have been counterproductive. Everyone – Americans and those people who are objects of their efforts – would be far better off if the United States did nothing, closed its bases overseas and withdrew its fleets everywhere, and allowed the rest of the world to find its own way without American weapons and troops."

Bush's New Morally Bankrupt PR Campaign on Terrorism and Iraq: "Bush’s and Cheney’s use of their so-called war on terrorism to justify their invasion and continued occupation of Iraq is patently ludicrous and manifestly deceptive. It was the U.S. government’s interventionist policies in the Middle East that engendered the terrorism in the first place. And Bush’s and Cheney’s invasion and occupation of Iraq are certain to produce even more of it."

"The American people are now faced with a big choice: Should we continue to believe the falsehoods, exaggerations, and deceptions of those who have led our nation down a road that has produced massive amounts of death and destruction — a road of empire, intervention, and dominion over the lives and fortunes of people all over the world — a road that now threatens the economic security of the American people through the uncontrolled federal spending that is necessary to finance it — a road that will inevitably produce more animosity and hatred against our nation, which in turn will produce more terrorism against the United States, which in turn will produce more government oppression here at home?

"Or has the time come to reestablish the constitutional republic that our Founders and ancestors intended for us — a republic that would restore peace, prosperity, and harmony to our lives and once again make America the most admired and respected country in the world?"

No, seriously, says Crean, all rise for George Bush: "What does Simon Crean stand for? George Bush. But will his party stand behind him? And will he clap? And will they? Will they stand as they clap, or clap while seated, or stand silently? And if they stand, which way will they face?"

Labor's pitiful contortions on this issue demonstrate as clearly as anything the lack of courage and coherent vision: the inability to bite the bullet on the issue of an independent Australian foreign policy. Australian needs to end the US alliance, close US bases and join most of the rest of the world (including the countries in our own region) in forthright opposition to the US policies of lawless unilateral violence as nothing less than a betrayal of the values the US (and supposedly Australia also) stands for.

Failing that, why not just boycott the meeting? What is this man, President Bush, doing in the Australian parliament anyway? If he is going to be present, why cannot he be subject to questions from all sides? His policies examined? Perhaps a motion of no-confidence in his leadership? Parliament exists for the elected representatives of the Australian people to debate policy and legislation, and for government leaders to be called to account. This Bush visit demonstrates humiliating subservience on the part of parliament towards someone who has been described by the shadow treasurer as the "worst President in living memory", whose Administration has been described in the US as the worst in American history, bar none. Chomsky has described it as unusually corrupt, even by American standards, a kind of Enron Administration.

If the Emperor of the West has to address His Subjects in the Parliament, the least they could have done is kicked him upstairs to the Upper House, in the manner of the King or Queen of the British Empire. I cannot see how someone who is not elected by the Australian people should ever be permitted to speak or address the House of Representatives assembled.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

What Would Buddha Do? Why Won't the Dalai Lama Pick a Fight?: "'I've always admired the Dalai Lama for his advocacy of nonviolence and his support of the rights of Tibet against Chinese domination,' [Howard Zinn] said recently. 'But I must say I was disappointed to read his comment on the war in Iraq [i.e., 'Wait a few years'], because this is such an obvious, clear-cut moral issue in which massive violence has been used against Iraqis with many thousands of dead.' Zinn added pointedly: 'I wonder if the Dalai Lama knows enough about the history of US foreign policy. If he did, he would understand the real motives of our invasion of Iraq and would not be ambivalent about the present war and occupation.'"

For someone like the Dalai Lama, reputedly of high intelligence, an exile who has lived his whole life in the shadow of Chinese hegemony, it is extraordinary he does not seem to understand the concept of hegemony and international relations.