Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Bush is Author of Dark Chapter for America: "Bush's use of fear as a key tool of governing has turned the world's most powerful nation into its most paranoid, despite two invasions and an expenditure of nearly $200 billion (U.S.).

"The administration, invoking 9/11 and the murder of 2,900 innocents as its licence to wage unilateral wars, has so far killed about 10,000 innocents in Afghanistan and Iraq. That's a guesstimate, since America does not count the Afghans and Iraqis it kills in the process of 'liberating' them... His war on Iraq was waged on a pack of lies, shoving aside the United Nations when it refused to play its part in the sham exercise of rubberstamping a predetermined course... He keeps delaying direct elections in Iraq for fear that the majority Shiites would win and won't be the puppet he wants installed in his subject kingdom."

"So long as the Israeli-Palestinian issue festers, anti-Americanism and, presumably, terrorism will keep growing. The link has been unmistakable. Surveying these geopolitical ruins, it is politically incorrect to blame the American public. But its gullibility is alarming. Even now, a majority believes that Saddam had a hand in 9/11... All of the above is self-evident, except to a majority of Americans and their apologists, including, sadly, some Canadians [and Australians]."

"Iraqi sovereignty belongs to Iraqis. They need to write their own constitution, elect their own leaders and make their own mistakes. They could not possibly do any worse than their occupiers, who have been lurching from crisis to crisis for the last eight months in a haze of incompetence and ignorance."

Israel breaking free from Microsoft: "The Ministry of Finance announced Sunday it will begin distributing Open Office, which is a package of basic software programs similar to Microsoft Office, for free starting this coming week. The ministry plans to distribute thousands of Open Office programs on CD-ROM at public computer centers and eventually community centers across the country throughout the coming year."

"The programs are for use on the Linux operating system, which is a free alternative to the Windows operating system. Over the past year the programs were translated into Hebrew by Sun Corporation and IBM with the assistance of the Finance Ministry... The Ministry of Finance is about to propose that government ministries use the free Linux open operating system as well."

Empire and Resistance, an Interview with Tariq Ali: "The Washington consensus includes wars necessary to preserve the consensus. The founder of neo-liberalism, Friedrich von Hayek was a staunch imperialist. He suggested that Teheran be bombed in 1979-80 and advised Margaret Thatcher to bomb Buenos Aires during the Malvinas conflict."

"Economically, the US is not as dominant as it is militarily. So it will use its military strength to shore up its economy. Here the shift has been dramatic. The US Empire maintains its global hegemony despite the unprecedented levels of debt and deficits. Here East Asia has replaced Europe and accounts for 70 percent of the world's foreign exchange reserves, the bulk of which are kept in dollars and thus help maintain the exchange rate of the imperial currency. China could easily create a crisis for the dollar and the US economy by shifting to the euro or gold, but it has a gigantic trade surplus with the US ($105billion) and has no desire to provoke a depression. US interdependence with the two East Asian powers_China and Japan---is the Achilles heel of the US economy. Hence the importance of keeping the military option open. If China were to mount a resistance, the Empire has two possible routes of attack and Balkanisation: Taiwan and Tibet. Of course its a very risky business but capital has always taken risks."

"If this resistance carries on, I think the US will switch its tactics, probably by bringing in blue-helmeted United Nations mercenaries to run Iraq for them. For the US, the main thing in Iraq is to push through the privatisation of Iraq's oil, to achieve the liberalisation of the Iraqi economy and to get the big US corporations in there. They are not too concerned as to how the country will be run, as long as that sort of economic structure is maintained."

Willie Nelson: Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?:
"And the bewildered herd is still believing
Everything we've been told from our birth
Hell they won't lie to me
Not on my own damn TV
But how much is a liar's word worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

Now you probably won't hear this on your radio
Probably not on your local TV
But if there's a time, and if you're ever so inclined
You can always hear it from me
How much is one picker's word worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth"

Israel targets Jerusalem's Palestinians: "A law passed by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government in the late 1990s, declared that any Palestinian who has not lived in the city for seven continuous years loses his residency rights. The Netanyahu law, whose time limit has since been changed to three years, does not apply to Israeli Jews. Palestinians expatriates, like Cleveland-based Abu Khalid, are particularly vulnerable to this law. Although he holds a Jerusalem identity card, he was unable to attend his parents' funerals in Jerusalem a few years ago."

This is a detail in the apalling and senseless racism that governs the Jewish state, a racism that can only be compared to Apartheid South Africa. Zionist Israel is a kind of tragedy or nightmare, where the victims and the descendents of the Holocaust learnt the wrong lessons: that the world is divided into fascists and racists, and victims; and that it is better to be a fascist and a racist than a victim.

Inside Big Meat: "Meat at the plant is routinely contaminated with cattle feces because workers on the processing line are not give enough time to wash their hands. Under pressure from aggressive plant managers, meat that falls on the floor, which is often littered with meat byproducts and entrails, is often immediately placed back on the line without being cleansed. Cutting tools and conveyor belts, workers tell CounterPunch, are also regularly coated with pus from abscesses and tumors that haven't been properly cut out of the meat. Meat cutters at the plant also told me that often cows are not rendered unconscious before being sent down the line. Instead, workers say they often hear cows frantically mooing as they are skinned and dismembered alive."

"Workers say that IBP doesn't give them adequate breaks and cheats them out of pay for the 30 minutes a day it takes to put on and remove the protective clothing, glasses and gloves they must wear to work the cutting line. According to union shop steward Maria Martinez, many workers are often denied bathroom breaks, forcing them to urinate in their pants so they won't fall behind."

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Uri Avnery: Israel's Conscientious Objectors: "Israeli democracy is being whittled away with every day of occupation. We are witnessing a continuous decline: the government has become Sharon's kindergarten, the Knesset attracts general contempt, the Supreme Court has largely become an instrument of the occupation, the media are marching in step. It is the refusers who have introduced a moral dimension into the public discourse."

"The accumulation of refusals, with one act inspiring the next and one military unit influencing another, is bound to have a lasting effect on the general public. It is both an expression of change and a stimulus for change. But above all, the act of refusal shines like a beacon in the darkness. It drives out the despair that has infects every part of the collective body. It restores faith in the State of Israel and its younger generation.

"Of course, the objectors are few. They are a small minority of the people and the army. But the course of human history would have been quite different without such minorities--people who had the courage to march on when the chorus of conformists shouted: "Stop!" And not least: these people allow us to be proud again. A nation that has sons like these can have hope."

How Three Threats Interlock: "Three minority extremist groups - the militant fundamentalist Islamists exemplified at the far edge by Al Qaeda, certain activist elements among America's reborn Christians and neoconservatives, and the most inflexible hard-line Zionists from Israel - have emerged as dangerously destabilizing actors in world politics. Working perversely to reinforce each other's ideological excesses, they have managed to drown out mainstream voices from all sides... If these extremists are not marginalized, they could succeed in creating a world order with devastating consequences for generations to come."

Monday, December 29, 2003

Prettty Damn Evil, an Interview with Ed Herman: "The left is outside the system in good measure because ordinary citizens-the 'average American'--can never hear its message, or if they do hear it, it is fleeting, short, and usually presented in a dismissive context. Effective messages are those that are repeated and attached to friendly symbols. Left messages being unfamiliar they need lots of repetition and lots of space and time to counter cognitive dissonance. They never get that. This of course reflects the fact that the left has no numerous and financially solid power base, so it can't fund its messages and can't provide them to that power base to firm up their resolve and clarify their understanding of reality. The labor movement, the natural power base, has not focused on this and its leaders have therefore helped weaken themselves-for the most part these leaders were cold warriors who even collaborated in subverting labor movements in countries like Brazil in service to the corporate interest in a 'favorable climate of investment'-which called for weak or non-existent trade unions. In the crucial formative years of broadcasting, 1927-1933, the top labor brass even refused to support union-funded and controlled broadcasting, letting a pioneer labor broadcaster fail, arguing that ad-based commercial media would surely do justice to labor's interests...

"This left the workers to watch CBS, NBC, and later ABC and Fox, to get their information and world view, with the results we see in ignorance, depoliticization along with a readily manipulable patriotism, and a marginalized left unable to reach their potentially sympathetic audience with messages that might be quite attractive if seen and heard. The decline and rightward trajectory of the Labor Party in Britain is also traceable in part to the death of a labor-supportive trio of major papers in the 1960s, which had given workers not only news but arguments and principles supportive of their interests. These were replaced by rightwing rags that featured tits, welfare mothers' abuses, and attacks on liberals, the left, and governments (except governments of the right, and the police and military segments of government)."

Peace on Earth: The Prospects: "In Central Africa, a brutal war, largely invisible to Americans, has now claimed a staggering four million lives since 1995. A confusing morass of invading armies and mercenaries – where the forces of Rwanda or Uganda are, on a given day, either being trained by or outgunned by the forces of Bechtel and Halliburton – has as its heart the mineral-laden eastern region of The Congo, which among other prizes has most of the world’s supply of several rare minerals used in the production of computer chips, keyboards, screens, and semiconductors. The riches wind up in American (corporate) pockets, the end products are bought mostly by American consumers, the guns come from America, and Washington is far more directly involved than virtually anybody realizes. But it’s Africa, so almost nobody here knows or cares."

Saddam Threatens to Expose US: "Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, now being grilled by American investigators, has reportedly warned US authorities that he will expose Washington’s “political games” and its behind-the-scene role in the occupation of Kuwait. “Saddam threatened that if they continue to pressure him he will reveal startling facts — about America’s political games with his country — that would shock the whole world,” Al-Watan Arabic daily quoted a high-level European source as saying."

Howard's naked exploitation of racism for narrow political advantage: "This year has been overshadowed by the continuing, cruel and completely purposeless Howard Government treatment of the 10,000 or so unfortunate human beings who, between 1999 and 2001, sought refuge in Australia from the tyrannies of Saddam Hussein or the Taliban or from the Iranian theocratic state. A little under 9000 of these people, found to be genuine refugees, are being asked to prove for a second time their protection needs. If they fail, most face deportation to the chaos and the danger of post-invasion Afghanistan or Iraq. Hundreds of those whose asylum claims, for one reason or another, originally failed, but who are too frightened to return to their homelands, have now been languishing in Australia's detention prisons for several years. A further 300 or so asylum seekers have spent the past two years in hell, imprisoned in the tropical detention camp on Nauru. Among the detainees in Australia and Nauru are more than 200 children, whose lives have slowly been destroyed.

"The mercilessness of the Howard Government policy has been revealed by two brutally frank judicial comments in recent weeks. In the High Court, the Solicitor-General, David Bennett QC, pointed out that there was no reason in law why asylum seekers might not be detained 'until hell freezes over', that is to say, for the remainder of their lives. In the same court, Justice McHugh pointed out that there was no legal impediment to the repatriation of asylum seekers, even to certain death. In Australian history the disconnectedness between law and justice has rarely been stated with such little embarrassment. Of all Western societies, Australia is now almost alone in having no asylum claims from unauthorised arrivals. Since Tampa, there has been, quite simply, no asylum seeker 'problem' here. By offering permanent homes to refugees on temporary visas and to those presently indefinitely detained in Australia or on Nauru, absolutely nothing would be lost - but 10,000 lives would be redeemed. Surely for 2004 this is not too extravagant a hope."

Diplomat says government protected people smuggler Quassey: "A former Australian diplomat today claimed the federal government had protected people smuggler Abu Quassey since the ill-fated voyage he organised resulted in the deaths of 353 people. Tony Kevin, a former ambassador to Cambodia, said the government was never serious about extraditing Quassey to Australia or charging him with the manslaughter of those who died when the Siev X vessel sank on its way to Australia in October 2001."

"He criticised the federal government's failure to nab Quassey, saying it had only made a few phony attempts to extradite him. "They have never been serious about trying to bring Quassey to Australia," Mr Kevin told ABC radio. "They have never, for example, indicated any interest in charging Quassey for the manslaughter of these people."

"Mr Kevin said if Quassey's conviction stood he could not face a second manslaughter charge in Australia. "That's extremely convenient for the Australian authorities because they basically have been protecting Quassey since the beginning of the Siev X tragedy," he said. "The first thing they could do is to set up the independent full powers judicial inquiry that the Senate has three times called for and that the government has ignored. "This is Australia's Voyager disaster, a second Voyager, we need to clear up the stench of what the Australian government did." "

Iraqi resistance forces US to drop privatization plans: "Plans to privatize state-owned businesses -- a key part of a larger Bush administration goal to replace the socialist economy of deposed president Saddam Hussein with a free-market system -- have been dropped over the past few months... "The Americans are coming to understand that they cannot change everything they want to change in Iraq," said Adel Abdel-Mehdi, a senior leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite Muslim political party that is cooperating with the U.S. occupation authority. "They need to let the Iraqi people decide the big issues.""

"With goodwill toward Americans ebbing fast, Bremer and his lieutenants have also concluded that it does not make sense to cause new social disruptions or antagonize Iraqis allied with the United States. Selling off state-owned factories would lead to thousands of layoffs, which could prompt labor unrest in a country where 60 percent of the population is already unemployed. An unwillingness to assume other risks has also scuttled, at least temporarily, plans to overhaul a national food rationing program that was a cornerstone of Hussein's welfare state. Several senior officials want to replace monthly handouts of flour, cooking oil, beans and other staples -- received by more than 90 percent of Iraqis -- with a cash payment of about $15. Although the proposal has the enthusiastic support of economic conservatives in the occupation authority, concerns about the logistics have put the effort on hold."

"Iraqi officials expressed further doubts about fast privatization. They argued that waiting for a year or two for Iraq to stabilize would increase the prices at which the government could sell factories. They also raised fears that former Baathists would use ill-gotten money to buy up state firms. In late July, the debate took a grim turn. After refusing to rehire dozens of workers who had been dismissed before the war, Aziz, the director of the vegetable oil company, was gunned down on his way to work. His killing sent a wave of panic through the Ministry of Industry. All of a sudden, no one wanted to talk about privatization. Faced with growing reluctance among officials at the ministry and on the Governing Council, Bremer and his advisers stopped advocating a fast sell-off of state firms. "It's just disappeared from the agenda," an official with the occupation authority said. "It was just too risky." "

Nowhere in this Washington Post article does it suggest that privatization may be against the interests of the Iraqi people and in favour of special and corporate interests.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Alexander Cockburn: a Journey into Rupert Murdoch's Soul: "This brings me back to Page's book, whose core thesis is that Murdoch offers his target governments a privatized version of a state propaganda service, manipulated without scruple and with no regard for truth. His price takes the form of vast government favors such as tax breaks, regulatory relief (as with the recent FCC ruling on the acquisition of Direct TV) monopoly markets and so forth. The propaganda is undertaken with the utmost cynicism, whether it's the stentorian fake populism and soft porn in the UK's Sun and News of the World, or shameless bootlicking of the butchers of Tiananmen Square."

Saturday, December 27, 2003

The 14 Defining Characteristics Of Fascism, by Dr Lawrence Britt: "1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism -Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans,symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

"2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of 'need.' The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc...."

It can all be summed up as 'war abroad and repression at home', with the purpose of entrenching power and privilege.

Chomsky Interview: Of course it was the oil: "QUESTION: Do you think control over energy resources was the main reason for the invasion of Iraq?

"CHOMSKY: They didn't decide to invade Eastern Congo where there's much worse massacres going on. Of course, it was Iraq's energy resources. It's not even a question. Iraq's one of the major oil producers in the world. It has the second largest reserves and it's right in the heart of the Gulf's oil producing region, which US intelligence predicts is going to be two-thirds of world resources in coming years.

"The invasion of Iraq had a number of motives, and one was to illustrate the new National Security Strategy, which declares that the United States will control the world permanently, by force if necessary, and will eliminate any potential challenge to that domination. It is called 'preemptive war.' It is not a new policy, it's just never been announced so brazenly, which is why it caused such uproar, including among the foreign policy elite in the United States. They're appalled by it. But, having announced the doctrine, it needed an 'exemplary action,' to show that the United States really meant it.

"But if the United States is going to attack somebody, the action has to meet several criteria. The first and crucial criterion is that they must be completely defenseless. It's stupid to attack anyone who can shoot back. Anyone knows this. They understood perfectly well that Iraq was completely defenseless, the weakest country in the region. Its military expenditure was about a third of Kuwait, devastated by sanction, held together by Scotch tape, mostly disarmed, under complete surveillance. So Iraq met that condition. Second criteria is that the place attacked has to be important enough to matter. There's no point taking over Eastern Congo, which is also defenseless -- but Iraq matters. That's where the issue of oil comes up, since the United States will end up with military bases right in the heart of the oil producing region. The third criteria is you have to somehow pretend it's a threat to your existence. While the people of Kuwait and Iran might be delighted to tear Saddam Hussein limb from limb, they still did not regard him as a threat. No one thought he was a threat. But in the United States the propaganda did succeed in moving the American population, and Congress passed a resolution authorizing the use of force to defend the US against the continuing threat posed by Iraq. No matter what you think, that's just laughable."

Guerrilla News Network: Interview with Chomsky: "The foundation of Chomsky's moral universe is the belief that intentions and rhetoric have no meaning outside of actions. In other words, you can talk all the bullshit you want about democracy, but when you're blowing up children, you're a fascist."

"Chomsky: There were also reactions in Iraq [to Bush's speech lauding democracy]. There was a poll shortly after asking people why they thought United States came to Iraq. And some people did agree with this, actually one percent in the poll. Throughout most of the region, and in places like Latin America, the reaction was mostly ridicule. For several reasons: for one thing this sort of change of course - we did some bad things in the past now we're going to wonderful, this doctrine is in vogue every two or three years.

"Furthermore, it's uniform in the history of aggression and imperialism. If you look at Hitler or Stalin, Japanese fascists, they all used that kind of terminology, certainly the British Empire used that kind of language, and others. So it basically carries no information. It is kind of the routine reflexive terminology, freedom, democracy justification that Stalin even introduced with what he called People's Democracy. No one takes it seriously, you look at the practice."

Some people take it seriously... all too many in fact, especially in the West. Just as some people were defending the Soviet Union after the 1956 invasion of Hungary, and even after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, some people of the same sort of mental character are defending the United States after its more blatant than ever naked aggression against Iraq.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Troop cuts in Iraq may wait, Bush says: "US commanders have said they hope to reduce the American military presence from 130,000 troops to 100,000 troops by July, when political authority will be handed over to an interim Iraqi government."

What was only a marginal reduction in force dependent upon the successful establishment of a client regime clearly may never happen. The US is committed, as ever, to a long term military occupation of Iraq.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Uri Avnery: Sharon's Speech, the Decoded Version: "In his speech, Sharon outlined a whole, detailed--and extremely dangerous--plan. Those who did not understand--Israelis, Palestinians and foreign diplomats--will be unable to react effectively."

"Some weeks ago, a satirical supplement published a slogan: "YES to peace, NO to Palestinians" ... But beneath the road to the implementation of the Sharon Plan there lie two big landmines: the settlers and the Palestinians."

"In the end, the basic factors will be decisive: the endurance of the two peoples, their readiness to continue the bloody fight, with all its economic and social implications, as well as the willingness of the world to look on passively... Eventually, the fate of this plan will be the same as the fate of all the other grandiose plans put forward by Sharon it in his long career. One need only think of the Lebanon war and its price."

ei: Can Israel escape a binational future?: "The increasing frequency of calls from some Israelis for measures legally defined as genocide, including 'population transfer,' also reflect the sudden realization that the foundations of the Zionist project are disintegrating rapidly as Palestinians are once again becoming a majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Israel's 'peace camp' has long recognized the inherent incompatibility of democracy and the Zionist notion of a state ruled by and for Jews that controls a substantial non-Jewish, indigenous population. It is mainly the desire to preserve a Jewish-ruled 'democracy' that converted the Israeli left to the cause of partial Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967, and nominal Palestinian statehood in the evacuated areas."

"The chances are remote that any prospective changes will translate into an Israeli consensus that could achieve a workable two-state solution acceptable to Palestinians. Israelis remain divided over what "withdrawal" means. No influential Israeli politician is proposing a full -- no tricks -- return to the 1967 borders and an evacuation of even a majority of the settlers -- let alone all of them. This, accompanied by a blanket Israeli refusal to even discuss the Palestinian refugees' right of return, means that no one is contemplating the minimum it would take to get a majority of Palestinians to sign on to a two-state deal.

"On the right, Sharon and Olmert are advancing bankrupt schemes for "unilateral separation," an idea Sharon reaffirmed in Herzliya on 18 December, which in practical terms translates into apartheid for the Palestinians who will be allowed, as was said of the South African Bantustans, "to police themselves and administer their own poverty." Meanwhile, even the most generous proposal the Israeli left has produced, the so-called Geneva Initiative -- which leaves most settlers where they are, annexes to Israel almost all of Jerusalem and gives Israel a complete veto on the right of return -- cannot find a consensus. The initiative has not only been repudiated by the Israeli right, but even by leading "doves.""

Judge rules US troops were 'guinea pigs' for anthrax jabs: "The Pentagon has suspended compulsory vaccination of US troops against anthrax after a federal court judge ordered the military to stop treating its personnel like 'guinea pigs'. US District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that the mandatory inoculations, administered to more than 900,000 troops, violated a law passed in 1998 prohibiting the use of experimental drugs on troops.

"Earlier this year 52 Australian troops were flown home from the Persian Gulf after they refused to have the vaccine because they were concerned about possible side-effects. This was despite the vaccination being voluntary for Australian forces... Defence Minister Robert Hill and the Defence Department would not comment."

Did Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill make good on his promise and have his own anthrax jab when he visited the Gulf? Not bloody likely. Given the prevalence of 'Gulf War syndrome' no one in their right mind would take an anthrax vaccine or any of the other frightening cocktails, or go anywhere near a depleted uranium site.

What a Tangled Web the Neocons Weave, by Jim Lobe: "While most of the world is still trying to come to terms with the neo-imperial ambitions of the post-Sept. 11 Bush administration, U.S. political analysts, particularly those on the libertarian right and the left, have been trying to map out the various forces behind the administration's hawks in order to better understand and counteract them.

"Most analysts have identified three main components to the coalition behind Bush's aggressive foreign policy: right-wing militarists, of whom Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is the exemplar; neo-conservatives, led by former Defense Policy Board (DPB) chairman Richard Perle, whose worldview is similar to that of Israel's Likud Party; and Christian Right forces whose leaders are influential with Bush's political guru, Karl Rove."

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Not Neo-Con, Just Plain Greed: "Mr. Kissinger instructs the [Argentine] minister, 'Proceed with your Export-Import Bank requests. We would like your economic program to succeed and will do our best to help you.' The World Bank estimates that roughly $10-billion of the money borrowed by the generals went to military purchases, used to build the prison camps from which thousands never re-emerged, and to buy hardware for the Falklands War. It also went into numbered Swiss bank accounts, a sum impossible to track because the generals destroyed all records relating to the loans on their way out the door.

"We do know this: Under the dictatorship, Argentina's external debt ballooned from $7.7-billion in 1975 to $46-billion in 1982. Ever since, the country has been caught in an escalating crisis, borrowing billions to pay interest on that original, illegitimate debt, which today is only slightly higher than that held by Iraq's foreign creditors: $141-billion. The Kissinger transcript proves that the U.S. knowingly gave both money and high-level political encouragement to the generals' murderous campaign. Yet despite its irrefutable complicity in Argentina's tragedy, the United States has consistently opposed all attempts to cancel the country's debt."

A 'War' Fought on Half-Truths and Deceptions: "if allowed a fair, open trial, Saddam would surely divulge how the CIA helped his Ba'ath party into power, his role as obedient servant of the West during the era of his worst internal and external crimes, and explosive revelations about his relations during the 1980s with Donald Rumsfeld, and senior CIA and U.S. military officials. Plus embarrassing dirt about other U.S.-backed Arab autocrats.

"So it's unlikely the Bush administration will allow an open trial for the rogue dictator. He knows far too much. Better to bury Saddam in prison like another petty despot who dared mock the Bush family - Panama's former general, and now U.S. prisoner, Manuel Noriega. Israeli commentator Ze'ev Schiff suggests the White House might offer Saddam a deal: a life prison sentence in exchange for a false confession that he had indeed made and hidden weapons of mass destruction, thus absolving Bush and VP Dick Cheney of the accusation of having made extravagant lies to whip up war against Iraq."

US soldiers write to Mike Moore: “You'd be surprised at how many of the guys I talked to in my company and others believed that the president's scare about Saddam's WMD was a bunch of bullshit and that the real motivation for this war was only about money. There was also a lot of crap that many companies, not just marine companies, had to go through with not getting enough equipment to fulfill their missions when they crossed the border. It was a miracle that our company did what it did the two months it was staying in Iraq during the war…. We were promised to go home on June 8th, and found out that it was a lie and we got stuck doing missions for an extra three months. Even some of the most radical conservatives in our company including our company gunnery sergeant got a real bad taste in their mouth about the Marine corps, and maybe even president Bush.”

Civilian Violence in Iraq Up Sharply Since Hussein's Capture: "Iraqi Police Col. Bassam Abdul Aziz who oversees another south Baghdad neighborhood, Yarmuk, just north of al Baya, said he's seen lists of assassination targets with 100 to 150 names on them. The Badr Brigade, Abdul Aziz said, is working down its fourth list."

"A spokesman for SCIRI – the Iran-backed revolutionary group – in Baghdad, Adil Mahdi, said the Badr Brigade is not responsible for the deaths. Instead, he said, the violence is mainly work of Saddam loyalists, mixed with some foreign fighters, who are trying to inflame Sunnis against Shiites in hopes of sparking widespread revolt. "They're trying to influence us psychologically, to make us feel as if we're encircled," he said."

A civil war between Sunnis and Shiites could be exploited by the US taking the side of the Sunnis.

Cheney's tough talking derails negotiations with North Korea: "The Knight-Ridder newspaper chain said a senior official had quoted Mr Cheney as telling the meeting: 'I have been charged by the President with making sure that none of the tyrannies in the world are negotiated with. We don't negotiate with evil; we defeat it.'"

Monday, December 22, 2003

What Tolkien Officially Said About Elf Sex: Fully referenced.

Selective Memory and a Dishonest Doctrine: "Last December, Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, released a dossier of Saddam's crimes drawn almost entirely from the period of firm U.S.-British support of Saddam. With the usual display of moral integrity, Straw's report and Washington's reaction overlooked that support. Such practices reflect a trap deeply rooted in the intellectual culture generally — a trap sometimes called the doctrine of change of course, invoked in the United States every two or three years. The content of the doctrine is: "Yes, in the past we did some wrong things because of innocence or inadvertence. But now that's all over, so let's not waste any more time on this boring, stale stuff."

"Throughout history, even the harshest and most shameful measures are regularly accompanied by professions of noble intent — and rhetoric about bestowing freedom and independence. An honest look would only generalize Thomas Jefferson's observation on the world situation of his day: "We believe no more in Bonaparte's fighting merely for the liberties of the seas than in Great Britain's fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth and the resources of other nations."

Elite Israeli Commandos Refuse to Serve in Palestinian Territories: "Fifteen members of the Israeli army's top commando unit have written to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refusing to carry out missions in the Palestinian territories, private television reported. "We will no longer corrupt the stamp of humanity in us through carrying out the missions of an occupation army... in the past, we fought for a justified cause (but today), we have reached the boundary of oppressing another people."

"According to the report, 15 reservists from the elite Sayeret Matkal unit, said they would no longer participate in the 'rule of oppression' and the defense of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories. 'We will no longer give our lives to the rule of oppression in the territories and to the denial of human rights to millions of Palestinians and we will no longer serve as a defensive shield for the settlements,' the television quoted the letter as saying... The letter was likely to send shockwaves through the defense establishment due to the seniority of the unit"

US Saddam drugged and left for Americans: "The deposed president was drugged and abandoned ready for the American soldiers to recover him, a British tabloid newspaper reported yesterday. Saddam came into the hands of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) after being betrayed by a member of the al-Jabour tribe, whose daughter had been raped by Saddam's son Uday, leading to a blood feud, reported the Sunday Express, quoting an unnamed senior British military intelligence officer... American forces took Saddam into custody about 8.30pm local time on the Saturday, but sat on the dramatic news until 3pm the next day."

Perfect timing for news broadcasts...

Gittins: ignoring the elephant in the living room: "There's just one small problem with the call for the abolition of stamp duty and its replacement with a comprehensive land tax: as the report's fine print itself makes clear, it's got stuff-all to do with the affordability of housing."

Given that land price is the capitalised or exchange value of privately retained site rent, its got everything to do with it. The call to replace stamp duty by annual land dues is sound, but an additional approach would be to abolish grants to the states and to local government and empower them, especially local government, to raise revenue from rates and land taxes. In other words, abolish rate pegging.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Bush wants Saddam to hang, but we must resist: "The coalition's avowed purpose in Iraq is to change the political culture of centuries, above all the region's conviction that problems are capable of solution only by administering violent death."

A typical example of the 'liberal media': takes at face value the 'avowed purpose' of the coalition. One can criticise the Bush Administration but disbelief in their 'avowed purposes' is inconceivable. This is setting the 'outer limits of debate'.

Saddam trial a problem for US: Pepe Escobar details how a trial of Saddam could cause immense embarrassment for the US; and how the resistance will not be stopped by his arrest; and how terrorism has gained a boost from the US invasion.

"Experts in Brussels have even a "top ten" list of countries most likely to be victims of a next wave of terror attacks: they are, from top to bottom, the US, Britain, Israel, Australia, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany and Poland. The experts are all assuming the working hypothesis that al-Qaeda cells which are not directly related to bin Laden anymore are using an "al-Qaeda trademark" to mobilize jihadis and increase the repercussion of their particular attacks."

Avnery: Sharon's plan is the same he has had for decades: "All this confirms the old American adage: A sucker is born every minute. I have already warned a dozen times: Don't pay attention to what Sharon says, pay attention to what Sharon does. His pronouncements can be ignored, they serve only to fulfil the tactical requirements of the moment. But his actions are very, very important. And his actions are quite clear: The Wall is being extended at a frenzied pace. In the Sharon tradition, it is creating 'Facts on the Ground.' The Palestinian territory is being cut into ribbons. Before our eyes, isolated Palestinian enclaves are appearing, each of them an open air prison. And while the army is removing one uninhabited mobile home in one 'illegal' hilltop outpost, the government is pushing the enlargement of the settlements by all available means."

Inequality growing in US: "According to estimates by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez--confirmed by data from the Congressional Budget Office--between 1973 and 2000 the average real income of the bottom 90 percent of American taxpayers actually fell by 7 percent. Meanwhile, the income of the top 1 percent rose by 148 percent, the income of the top 0.1 percent rose by 343 percent and the income of the top 0.01 percent rose 599 percent."

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Dubious Link Between Atta and Saddam, based on forged document: "The Telegraph story was apparently written with a political purpose: to bolster Bush administration claims of a connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam's regime. The paper described a "handwritten memo" that was supposedly sent to Saddam Hussein by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, chief of Iraqi intelligence at the time... 'It's a lucrative business,' says Hassan Mneimneh, codirector of an Iraqi exile research group reviewing millions of captured Iraqi government documents. 'There's an active document trade taking place … You have fraudulent documents that are being fabricated and sold' for hundreds of dollars a piece."

Al Qaeda boasts: America defeated in Afghanistan, being chased in the homeland: "Arabic television al Jazeera on Friday aired an audio tape purportedly from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, saying the United States was defeated in Afghanistan and his group was chasing Americans everywhere, including the United States. 'America has been defeated (by) our fighters despite all its military might, its weaponry...With Gods help we are still chasing Americans and their allies everywhere, including their homeland,' said the speaker who sounded like Zawahri, al Qaeda's second in command."

Rights, Liberties Groups Hail Court Defeats for Bush Anti-Terror War, by Jim Lobe: "The first case involved an appeal by lawyers for Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen arrested in Chicago in May 2002 as a material witness in the government's ongoing counter-terrorism investigation and subsequently designated by Bush as an 'enemy combatant.' He was subsequently transferred to a high-security naval brig in Charleston, South Carolina, where he has been refused permission to communicate with his family, with a lawyer, or any nonmilitary personnel for 18 months."

'Habeas corpus' is fundamental to freedom and an essential barrier to tyranny. The ability of the state to arrest people and hold them in detention at the whim of the govt is the essence of dictatorship.

Housing boom a big game of musical chairs: In his characteristic patronising style (I'm-an-economist-and-I'll-dumb-it-down-for-you-punters) Ross Gittins lectures us that lower interest rates mean higher land prices. Sorry, he says homes. If he were to discuss the 'all-devouring rent thesis' (that all surpluses are absorbed by higher rents and land prices) he might be performing a service. But at least he does indicate that the land boom is a zero-sum game.

Rumsfeld was told to placate Saddam: "Donald Rumsfeld went to Baghdad in March 1984 with instructions to deliver a private message about weapons of mass destruction: that the United States' public criticism of Iraq for using chemical weapons would not derail Washington's attempts to forge a better relationship, according to newly declassified documents."

""The statement, the cable said, was not intended to imply a shift in policy, and the US desire "to improve bilateral relations, at a pace of Iraq's choosing," remained "undiminished . . . This message bears reinforcing during your discussions.""

This is a characteristic feature of US foreign policy, which is often seen for example in its relations with Israel: public criticism (for domestic and international consumption) combined with private assurances (and money and arms) to the leaders of the government. The lesson then is not to pay too much attention to the statements of government officials but to pay attention to the 'facts on the ground' in terms of money and arms shipments.

World leaders should take stand in Saddam trial: lawyer: "Controversial French lawyer Jacques Verges says he is willing to defend Saddam Hussein in court and, if he can, bring world leaders to the witness stand, in what could be a huge embarrassment for the United States, France and other countries."

"He insisted that "all Western heads of state", from the time of the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war to the latest Iraq conflict, should take the stand when the imprisoned former Iraqi officials go on trial. "At the Nuremberg trial, the four allies accused the Nazi leaders of certain war crimes and crimes against humanity," Verges said, in reference to the trials of leading Nazi party officials after the defeat of Germany in World War II. "Right now the former Iraqi regime is being blamed for certain events that took place at a time when its members were treated as allies or friends by countries that had embassies in Baghdad and ambassadors not all of whom were blind (to Iraqi crimes)," he said. "Today, this indignation appears to me contrived," he added. "When we reprove the use of certain weapons (we need to know) who sold these weapons," he said about Iraq's past purchase of arms from France, Britain, the United States and Russia. "When we disapprove of the war against Iran (we need to know) who encouraged it," Verges added."

"Verges also slammed the UN embargo that was slapped on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990 and criticised the US administration's backing of the sanctions, which he said caused the death of an estimated half-a-million people."

Saddam's career of murder goes back to at least 1963 or 1959, and the trial deserves to hear of the involvement of the CIA and other agencies in these crimes as well. In fact, any sort of open trial of Saddam would be an intolerable embarrassment for the US and other powers, which is why no such trial can be held.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Iran doubts Saddam will get fair trial: "Iran's President Mohammad Khatami said on Wednesday he doubted Saddam Hussein would get a fair trial, noting the deposed Iraqi leader could reveal embarrassing details in court about the support he got from other nations... 'I doubt he will be given a totally fair and free trial,' Khatami told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.

"'Saddam will say things which will not be liked by those who are against him. We hope the truth will come out and he says what he has done, what countries he had links to and what support he received,' he said. Iran has long held that the United States and western European countries armed and supported Saddam in the 1980-1988 war against Iran ... following its 1979 Islamic revolution"

"While welcoming Saddam's arrest as good news for Iraq and its neighbours, Khatami reiterated Iran's opposition to the U.S.-led occupation of its western neighbour. "I hope this capture will put an end to Iraq's occupation and accelerates the delegation of power to an administration which is representative of the Iraqi people," he said."

Appeals Court Says Bush Can't Hold U.S. Citizen: "The president of the United States does not have the power to detain an American citizen seized on U.S. soil as an enemy combatant, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday, in a serious setback to the bush administration's war on terror."

Rephrase that as the Bush Administration's 'war on the constitution' or 'drive to dictatorship' and the comment makes more sense.

The Enola Gay: Ugly History Hides in Plain Sight: "Others have insisted that the atomic bombings were not necessary to end the war. It is an interesting and relevant fact that this controversy was initiated in 1945 by conservatives such as Time magazine publisher Henry Luce, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, New York Times military correspondent Hanson Baldwin and David Lawrence, editor of U.S. News, who wrote in October 1945: 'Competent testimony exists to prove that Japan was seeking to surrender many weeks before the atomic bomb came.' This is a view that historical research has confirmed. The discovery of President Truman's handwritten private diary, for example, revealed that on July 18, 1945, he had read a 'telegram from Jap Emperor asking for peace.'"

Buddies with the US at all costs, and wide open to attack: "The foreign policy of the Howard Government over the past 18 months has been one of unhesitating, unqualified and - given the attitude of many other states - conspicuous support for the United States in its wars against terrorism and against Iraq. It is a policy that can be defended both on Menziean grounds - that is, protecting one's security and paying one's insurance premium to a great and powerful friend - and in terms of our values, given that it was tyranny and terror that were being attacked. I would like to explain why, on realist grounds, I do not find it a compelling argument."

"By being an early, unqualified and high-profile supporter of US policy, when so many others were expressing serious reservations, Australia may well have increased rather than decreased its chances of becoming a terrorist target. In international politics, expectations of gratitude rest on shaky foundations. It was George Washington who observed that "no nation can be entrusted further than it is bound by its interests" and that "there can be no greater error than to expect or calculate on real favours from nation to nation"... These words of Washington's are just as relevant when considering the assumption that a great deal of weight should be attached to cultural affinity. The whole notion that cultural affinity can be the solid foundation of a relationship needs to be treated warily."

The concept of an 'insurance premium' paid to a 'great and powerful friend' is pure folly. These comments from a conservative thinktank illustrate how Howard's policy is not only extreme but absurd.

Concerns surface about Iraq timetable: "Under the accelerated timetable agreed to last month by Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority and Iraqi leaders, an interim Iraqi parliament is supposed to be in place by May 31. It is to select an interim government by June 30, formally ending the U.S. occupation... Bremer's plans to return power back to Iraqis have run into a major political roadblock. The leading religious figure among Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al Sistani, has insisted on direct elections to choose members of the interim parliament. Bremer and many other U.S. officials believe that Iraq isn't ready for elections because there isn't time to develop accurate voter rolls and because of the possibility of fraud or violence.

"Bremer and the advisory Iraqi Governing Council are exploring compromises, such as elections in some parts of Baghdad and other cities. But some officials fear that, with the deadline looming, Sistani and others will be able to hold out and force the United States to cave. U.S. officials, including some in the CPA, privately concede that Bremer and his aides have made three crucial errors, including failing to reach out earlier to Sistani. The other errors are the disbanding last summer of the entire Iraqi army and failing thus far to bring the Sunnis into the political process."

A US corporate media article like this contains interesting information but needs to be interpreted. By 'ending the occupation' they mean setting up a US client state, with a US appointed 'interim government.' The US Administration is also formally admitting its mistakes, namely the sacking of the army, alienation of the Sunnis, and consequent inability to deal with the demand for democracy from the Shias, which should have been predicted. In other words the recipe for US control of Iraq is the same as ever, a Sunni-dominated junta which represses the shia majority in the interests of the hegemonic power. But the neo-conservatives dropped the ball temporarily on this concept, probably due to ideological reasons (or mere fantasies) and this has led to serious problems for the Iraq project.

Stamp duty must go says housing study, replace with land tax (or payroll tax??): "The housing boom delivered a stamp duty windfall for the states of nearly $8 billion last financial year, but the commission said this was an impediment to the market that could 'heighten price pressures within metropolitan areas over time'. It recommended that stamp duty be replaced by alternatives including land tax and payroll tax."

"By contrast, the commission said that Mr Costello had no need to address controversial federal taxes, including negative gearing. The interaction between negative gearing, capital gains tax provisions and income tax rates had helped fuel house price rises, but it recommended against any changes that were specific to housing. Instead, the commission suggested a broader review of the way in which all investments are taxed, not just housing. But the Australian Council of Social Service said the commission's failure to canvass changes to negative gearing was "like saying that we can't put out the fire in the housing market until we have a policy on fighting fires in general"."

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Warmonger Hugh White: War may prove more of a blunder than a crime: "Whatever the complex and confused motives at work in Washington, Bush's removal of a tyrant that terrorised Iraq's people but posed no direct threat to the US is unlikely to be judged by history as an act of selfish aggression."

That of course, depends on who is writing the history. But for the rest of the planet it is as naked an act of selfish aggression as could be. The concept of this war or any war as an act of 'philanthropic compassion' is laughable. White does not once mention oil or US military bases or US corporations and expects readers to believe his fairy story. Well we have news for him - a lot of people dont believe it. And not just in the Muslim world but in the West as well.

"And Washington has yet to resolve the dilemma at the heart of the Iraqi project - that a truly democratic Iraq will most likely be weak, unstable, theocratic and anti-American. To avoid these risks the US will need to take a lot of time - not months, but years - to build not just new institutions but new attitudes. At five deaths a week, that time will be bought at a terrible cost."

White does not have the courage to come out and say openly what is obvious and has already been stated by senior US officials, that there will be no 'true democracy' (ie, Shiite, Iranian-aligned, no US bases or corporations) in Iraq but only a regime ('a limited, top-down democracy') which suits US interests. Either that or Vietnam-style defeat for the US invasion.

There's so much more to open source software than just Linux Janke makes the important point that open source software is not the same as free software. "It is not for everyone. It requires a certain level of technical expertise but there are many advantages. Your vendor cannot hold you hostage, and the software is much cheaper. But to use it in production you need support services, just as you do with any other piece of software." Which explains Compiere's business model: build the software, sell the services."

No explanation of what Free Software really is and no mention of Richard Stallman or the GPL, which is the real core of Linux and the 'Open Source' movement.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Howard hypocrisy: "Before the war Mr Howard's humanitarian concerns for the people of Iraq were insufficient to support 'regime change' in Baghdad. He told the National Press Club in March that Saddam could stay in power, and therefore keep tormenting his people, providing he gave up his Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Given the Iraqi leader had evidently disposed of his WMD several years before, according to the Prime Minister's logic - now derided as 'alternative advice' - Saddam should still be in power.

"This 'change of course' is dramatic, if unsurprising. A search of Hansard for the period when Saddam was committing the worst of his crimes - gassing Iranian soldiers in 1983-4 and the Kurds of Halabja in 1988 - fails to turn up any expressions of concern in the Parliament by either John Howard or Alexander Downer. It's not until the WMD pretext falters in the weeks before the invasion that Canberra discovers human rights violations in Iraq. There were certainly no expressions of humanitarian concern while Canberra supported a vicious sanctions regime which, over a decade, must have been responsible for the deaths of hundred of thousands of Iraqis, while strengthening Saddam and compelling the population to rely on him for their survival."

Iran calls for Saddam to stand trial in an international court: "Iran called Monday for an international court to try Saddam Hussein, adding the court must hear which nations sold him weapons _ a reference to alleged U.S. military supplies during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war... Iranians regard Saddam as the man who began an eight-year war against their country in which more than a million people were killed or wounded... In court, ``it must also be made clear who armed this dictator to push the region into three big crises,'' Ramezanzadeh said, apparently referring to the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf war of 1991 _ when a U.S.-led coalition drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, and this year's invasion of Iraq by a U.S.-led alliance."

Any kind of fair-dinkum, open, international trial of Saddam would be a major headache for the US and other Western powers, more embarassing than the Milosevic trial. But Rumsfeld has got him in a US military prison and he wont be released anywhere the outcome is not guaranteed to suit the US.

Saddam: CIA man since 1959: "Saddam's first contacts date back to 1959, when the CIA backed an assassination attempt in which he took part against then Iraqi prime minister Gen. Abd al-Karim Qasim, the man who overthrew the western-backed monarchy the year before... Saddam, an aspiring young Ba'athist tough, was handled on behalf of the CIA by a local agent and an Egyptian military attaché, who set him up in an apartment opposite Qasim's office... The specific hit, however, was botched when Saddam "lost his nerve" ... When Qasim was finally overthrown in a Ba'ath Party coup ... Saddam was back as head of the party's secret intelligence branch, and, according to Darwish, was leading execution squads of Iraqi National Guardsmen who were hunting down and killing suspected communists included on lists provided by ... the CIA."

Tax rise, but green fuels still cheaper: "The new excise rates are determined on the energy content per litre of different fuels. Normal petrol and diesel have a high energy content and already attract excise of about 38 cents a litre. Bio-diesel, also a high-energy fuel, will be taxed at half that rate. Mid-energy fuels - including LPG, LNG and ethanol - would attract a 25-cent excise on the basis of energy content, but would pay half that. Low-energy fuels such as methanol would pay 8.5 cents a litre rather than 17 cents."

Why is the tax rate not based on carbon emissions rather than the 'energy content'?

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Henderson: No escape for war's opponents: "Not all opponents of the 'coalition of the willing' have been so remiss. In Raimond Gaita's edited collection Why the War was Wrong (Text, 2003), Robert Manne said that 'those who opposed the invasion cannot wriggle away from the fact that, if our opposition had been successful, the disgusting regime of Saddam Hussein would still be in power in Iraq.' He concedes that 'from this simple, unpleasant truth there is no escape'. Quite so."

This is the best possible case that Bush/Blair/Howard can put on their illegal war, ever since the threat of WMDs and the al-Qaeda connection were exploded as colossal lies. It is superficially plausible, as Saddam is indeed a monster. But it has to be asked:

- how many Iraqis died violent deaths in the last 9 months of his regime? An estimated 10,000 Iraqi civilians and an unknown number of soldiers have been killed since the invasion.

- shattered as the Iraqi infrastructure was during the long Saddam/sanctions regime, is it worse since the war than before it? What of health, education, employment, infant mortality and all the other measures?

- what are the chances of real democracy in Iraq when US objectives are to control the oil and establish military bases in the country? Isnt it more likely that an authoritarian puppet regime will be established rather than a true democracy? And thus the country will yet again be condemned to a long period of undemocratic and violent rule?

- how far has the blatant and illegal aggression against Iraq acted to increase the risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction worldwide and to multiply the number of terrorists?

It is not for nothing that aggressive war was described as the 'Supreme Crime' at Nuremburg, that is a crime worse even than tyranny. Experience in the late 20th century has shown that war is not the way to defeat tyranny. Progressive deligitimation and popular uprisings can and will defeat even the worst tyrants provided that the country is not attacked or threatened with war. War is the health of the state and the friend of tyrants and dictators everywhere, whereas peace and stability dooms dictatorship to popular defeat. If the West were genuine in its regard for the people of Iraq, it needed to ban the flow of arms, lift the sanctions, and support liberalisation and the growth of civil society. It is the same with Iran, Syria, North Korea, any such regime. A policy of war or threats of war is criminal, and obviously motivated by hegemonism rather than anything 'noble'.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Howard would back Saddam death penalty: "'I read articles that are critical of the Americans and critical of my government and the implication of those is that Iraq would probably still be better off with Saddam Hussein', [said Aust Prime Minister Howard]. 'You can't have it both ways, you can't say that he was a loathsome dictator and murdered his people and then criticise the people who remove him.'"

'Removing' Saddam by means of an illegal war has cost the lives of an estimated 10,000 Iraqi civilians, an unknown number of Iraqi soldiers, and seems to have succeeded in making the situation in Iraq even worse than it was under the Saddam/sanctions regime, extremely bad as that was. So one might indeed criticise those who 'removed' him for their lawless violence hardly different from mass murder, coupled with monumental lies about the basis for the war and colossal hypocrisy concerning the welfare of the Iraqi people. Howard mentions nothing about oil and he expects us to believe that that was not a factor in launching the war. And where was Howard when Saddam launched the Iran-Iraq war, backed to the hilt by the righteous West, or when the west imposed the genocidal sanctions regime on Iraq?

No one should face the death penalty, not Saddam, not Hitler or Stalin. But 'removing' Saddam will clear the air somewhat in Iraq: whether the insurgency has truly been 'Saddamites' as claimed by the US or whether it is more widely and popularly based.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

U.N. warning: Rising violence could end Afghanistan efforts: "The United Nations may be forced to abandon its two-year effort to stabilize Afghanistan because of rising violence blamed on the resurgent Taliban, its top official here warned Friday in an interview with The Associated Press."

US State terror: the real scandal is silence: "The stories appear--then they disappear. There is no reaction. No outcry in Congress or the courts--the supposed guardians of the people's rights--beyond a few wan calls for more formality in the concentration camp processing or judicial 'warrants' for torture. And among the great mass of 'the people' itself, there is--nothing. Silence. Inattention. Acquiescence. State terrorism--lawless seizure, filthy torture, official murder--is simply accepted, a part of 'normal life,' as in Nazi Germany or Stalin's empire, where 'decent people' with 'nothing to hide' approved and applauded the work of the 'organs' in 'defending national security.' This is the scandal, this is the nation's festering shame. This acquiescence to state terror will breed--and attract--a thousand evils for every one it supposedly prevents."

Shias want UN decision on elections: "Grand Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's highest-ranking Shia cleric, wants the United Nations to rule if early elections can take place in the country, in a new embarrassment to the US occupation authorities."

Having smashed the Baath party and deeply alienated the Sunnis, the US faces a serious problem of demands for democracy from the Shiites.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Seymour Hersh: 'Phoenix' arises in Iraq: "Phoenix was the code name for a counter-insurgency program that the U.S. adopted during the Vietnam War, in which Special Forces teams were sent out to capture or assassinate Vietnamese believed to be working with or sympathetic to the Vietcong. In choosing targets, the Americans relied on information supplied by South Vietnamese Army officers and village chiefs. The operation got out of control. According to official South Vietnamese statistics, Phoenix claimed nearly forty-one thousand victims between 1968 and 1972; the U.S. counted more than twenty thousand in the same time span."

Phoenix rises: Preemptive Manhunting, the CIA's New Assassination Program: "Preemptive Manhunting is the new name for assassination and, according to Hersh (quoting one of his usual anonymous sources), the rationale for resorting to this immoral and illegal measure is that 'The only way we can win is to go unconventional. We're going to have to play their game. Guerrilla versus guerrilla. Terrorism versus terrorism. We've got to scare the Iraqis into submission.' This is a textbook description of 'selective terrorism' as the ultimate form of psychological warfare, and Hersh is correct in describing Preemptive Manhunting as the rebirth of the CIA's Phoenix Program in South Vietnam."

"The CIA's Phoenix assassination teams will rely on paid, anonymous Iraqi informants to identify which Ba'ath Party members will be murdered along with all their family, friends, and neighbors. And anyone else the CIA wants killed... One final note. Hersh mentions that Israel is guiding the CIA's Phoenix Program in Iraq, and as everyone knows, the Israelis are the world's masters of assassination and terrorizing an entire people into submission. What Hersh doesn't mention is that the blanket of censorship that prevents the American media from criticizing Israel for its war crimes has now been cast over Bush and the CIA."

Geonomist: Citizen's Dividend - Share the Rent: "The New York Times (Spt 10): "The New York Times (Spt 10): “One Iraqi proposed a simple solution instantly endorsed by the other men on the sidewalk: 'Divide the money equally. Give each Iraqi his share on the first day of every month.' That is essentially the same idea in vogue among liberal foreign aid experts, conservative economists and a diverse group of political leaders in America and Iraq.”"

"Prof Frank Stilwell of U of Sydney, School of Economics and Political Science, submitted to the federal Productivity Commission Inquiry Into First Home Ownership a paper comparing the advantages of taxing land value all along over taxing land sales as they crop up."

Whitehouse policy in trouble in both Iraq and Afghanistan: "'Reacting with anger and disbelief, some of the affected governments warned that the move could create problems for efforts to rebuild Iraq, restructure its foreign debt and patch up strained relations between Europe and the United States... White Officials officials were reported to be "fuming about the timing and the tone of the Pentagon's directive," and the President "distinctly unhappy" that he had to make previously scheduled calls to the leaders of the three main offended countries about easing their stances on the Iraqi debt burden just after the news broke."

"'As soon as we leave the base, we see lights flashing down the highway for miles,' one senior officer said. 'Whenever we enter the town the horns start hooting. The enemy intelligence network is on top of every move we make.' Across impoverished southern and eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban's tribal homeland, the same desperate pattern is emerging. Military analysts and aid agency bosses in Kabul say America's two-year military campaign has failed to root out the Taliban or to bring peace. 'The Taliban are getting stronger; they're regrouping, reorganising, and we're getting a lot of fire right now,' said Sergeant Ken Green, a National Guardsman seconded to US special forces."

Needed: Iraqi boss with mo': "Those who try to do the undoable must also think the unthinkable. US strategists in Iraq are contemplating what they have always denied, the search for a 'strong man with a moustache' to stop the present rot. If the result is not democracy, so be it."

This article has the realism of cynicism and makes points against the errors of the neoconservatives in their occupation of Iraq. But it is not as if the need for a 'strong man with a moustache' is any kind of surprise. Its the decade long search for a 'Iraqi junta without Saddam', the US-preferred form of Iraq government ever since Saddam disobeyed (or misunderstood) orders by invading Kuwait in 1991.

Cluster Bombs, Air Strikes Killed Hundreds in Iraq, by Jim Lobe: "Hundreds of civilians were killed by Coalition cluster bombs and air strikes designed to 'decapitate' the Iraqi leadership, according to a new report by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which said the high cost in civilian casualties caused by the two tactics may have violated the laws of war.

"The report, which found that U.S.-led Coalition forces in Iraq generally tried to comply with international humanitarian law, nonetheless concluded that U.S. ground forces were too eager to use cluster munitions in populated areas, and that 50 'decapitation' attacks failed to hit a single one of their targets, but caused dozens of civilian deaths and injuries... "The decapitation strategy was an utter failure on military grounds, since it didn't kill a single Iraqi in 50 attempts," said Roth."

Paul Krugman, New York Times: Hardliners' sabotage of reconciliation is no accident: "The last year, from the failure to get UN approval for the war to the retreat over steel tariffs, has been one long lesson in the limits of US economic leverage... These are tough times for the architects of the "Bush doctrine" of unilateralism and preventive war. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld viewed Iraq as a pilot project, one that would validate their views and clear the way for further regime changes. Instead, the venture has turned sour - and many insiders see Baker's mission as part of an effort by veterans of the first Bush administration to extricate George W. Bush from the hardliners' clutches... In the end the Bush doctrine - based on delusions about the US's ability to dominate the world by force - will collapse. What we've just learned is how hard and dirty its proponents will fight against the inevitable."

This New York Times article reflects the level of concern held by sections of the American elite towards the Bush doctrine. It is seen as somewhat out of hand, and dangerous - rather like how Nixon in his latter years was seen as out of control and dangerous, even by members of the American elite itself.

Friday, December 12, 2003

The Empire Strikes Out: Scott Taylor Reports From Iraq, by Christopher Deliso: "I must say that of all my trips into Iraq, this one was by far the most dangerous. The security situation has been steadily declining since the US occupation began seven months ago.... The basic utilities, such as electricity and phones remain worse than in pre-war times, and there is now something like eighty percent unemployment in Iraq, since the new US governing council's decision to disband the entire Iraqi bureaucracy as well as the army and police forces. The other bizarre development is that without the refineries restored to full production and due to the tremendous fuel consumption of the occupying coalition forces, Iraq is now almost out of gas. Citizens have to wait up to four days in line to collect their ration allotment, which they then sell on the black market at one hundred percent markup to taxis and bus drivers who cannot afford to wait in queue."

"Without a doubt, the "hottest" spot in Iraq is the town of Fallujah, about one hundred kilometres from Baghdad. For starters, no one warned us that the US forces have withdrawn from Fallujah. When journalists asked to be embedded with the 82nd Airborne there, the official response was that it was unsafe at the moment. The fact is that the resistance now completely controls Fallujah. The Americans have literally put a lock on the front gate of their Forward Operating Base Volturno, and bugged out."

The Court Case That Could Reshape US Democracy: Its nearly 200 years now since Massachusetts Governor Ellbridge Gerry put the term 'Gerry-mander' into the vocabulary, and this particular form of democratic corruption is as blatant as ever. In a system of single-member electorates a result which is effectively a gerrymander is the rule rather than the exception. One of the many benefits of the multi-member electorate, quota-preferential proportional representation method of electing representative bodies is that it effectively terminates the possibility of the Gerrymander. Give us another 200 or so years, if democracy can survive at all that long...

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Iraq Health Ministry Orders Stop to Counting Civilian Dead: "Iraq's Health Ministry has ordered a halt to a count of civilians killed during the war and told its statistics department not to release figures compiled so far, the official who oversaw the count told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

"The order was relayed by the ministry's director of planning, Dr. Nazar Shabandar, but the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, which oversees the ministry, also wanted the counting to stop, said Dr. Nagham Mohsen, the head of the ministry's statistics department. 'We have stopped the collection of this information because our minister didn't agree with it,' she said, adding: 'The CPA doesn't want this to be done.'"

Heroin linked to rise in robberies: "NSW has the highest robbery rate in Australia - a crime problem linked to the state's serious problem with heroin abuse, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. The bureau has analysed long-term robbery rates across the country, finding robberies in NSW more than doubled between 1974 and 1989, and doubled again between 1993 and 2001.

"The bureau's director, Don Weatherburn, said the research reinforced the link between robbery and heroin use. 'Just as NSW accounts for about half of Australia's heroin users, so it accounts for just over half of all Australian's recorded robberies,' the bureau's research report said. Statistics show the state's number of heroin users rose from around 670 people in 1967 to roughly 67,000 in 1997."

"The report found that since 1966, each 10 per cent increase in the number of dependent heroin users caused a 6 per cent jump in the NSW robbery rate."

We need to terminate this mendacious war on drugs and institute policies of harm minimisation, taxation and regulation in order to deal with the linked problems of substance abuse, crime, imprisonment rates, health problems and police and political corruption.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Former Top US Security Officials Back Geneva Accord, by Jim Lobe: 8 former senior US officials including Robert McNamara, Warren Christopher and Zbigniew Brzezinski join 60 former World leaders in endorsing the Geneva Accord. The 60 World leaders include Mikhail Gorbachev, Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Bill Hayden, Mary Robinson, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, FW de Klerk, Lord Carrington, Jacques Delors, and Oscar Arias Sanchez. The plan is the two-state solution. Practically the whole world supports this including, according to recent polls, the majority of both the Israeli and Palestinian populations. The main obstacle is the veto from the governments of Israel and the United States. Can enough pressure be brought to bear to overcome this and realise the plan? Its possible, but unlikely.

Another interesting facet of this development is the fact that 'retired' or ex-world leaders can find themselves able to support the peace plan, but the people in power support war and violence. Were any of these ex-leaders back in power, one wonders whether or not they would go mum on peace. And among the current leaders, when they are out of power, what are the chances they will support the peace plan? All this says something about the nature of state, political and military power. It is not a force for peace and human rights, rather it is the enemy.

Doomsday warning on greenhouse: "Scorching summers, worsening droughts and severe storms, cyclones and bushfires are set to grip Australia within 30 years. Average yearly temperatures are projected to rise by as much as 2C across the nation by 2030, and 6C by 2070, according to an Australian Greenhouse Office report into global warming - triggering more natural disasters and crippling water shortages... Australia has joined the US and Russia in refusing to ratify the [Kyoto] treaty, which would force signatories to slash their emissions of greenhouse gases, on the grounds it is not in Australia's interests. Many scientists concur that global warming is caused by a build-up of gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, like a gardener's greenhouse. The main culprit is carbon dioxide, which comes from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas for transport and electricity, and from cutting down the forests that naturally absorb the gas."

Nearly half the public agrees with Latham: Bush 'incompetent and dangerous': "Almost half the Australian public agree with Mark Latham that US President George Bush is "incompetent and dangerous", according to a poll. An ACNielsen AgePoll of 1363 people taken last weekend found that 45 per cent of Australians agree with the blistering attack by the new Opposition Leader on the head of Australia's most important ally, while 52 per cent disagree. Mr Latham made the comment well before he became Opposition Leader.

"The poll found that 51 per cent of Australians believe Labor was right to oppose Australia's involvement in the Iraq war, while 45 per cent say it was wrong. In January, when debate centred on whether the UN would sanction force against Iraq, only 6 per cent of Australians responding to an AgePoll were prepared to send Australian troops to war against Iraq. On April 1, 12 days after the first bombs had dropped, support for the war had grown to 44 per cent. In the latest AgePoll, opponents of the war outnumber supporters in every state except Queensland and in every age group. The startling findings suggest that Mr Bush's decision to invade Iraq despite global opposition has badly damaged his support within Australia, one of his country's closest allies.

"It also indicates that the Iraq war has polarised Australians, and not only on party lines. The poll found 26 per cent of Coalition voters believe Mr Bush is incompetent and dangerous, and 31 per cent think Labor was right to oppose Australian involvement in Iraq. But conversely, 33 per cent of Labor voters disagree with their leader's assessment of the US President - which he refused to back down from last week - while 27 per cent think their party was wrong to oppose sending Australian troops to Iraq."

With figures like these why oh why is Labor so gutless on the issue? The answer has to be that Labor now takes more money from corporations than unions and is committed to the neo-liberal, neo-conservative agenda, which is opposed by the public. Latham's statement was a reasonably accurate assessment of Bush, but since becoming leader 'Mark-licker' Latham has literally had to wrap himself in the Stars and Stripes and has even adopted Howard's approach to handling the public embarrassment: No one told me about this! (viz, the presence of the flag in the caucus room).

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Looting Planet Earth: "'The best guess of biologists is that species are disappearing between 100 and 1000 times as fast as they were before Homo sapiens arrived. But our impact is different from the mass extinctions of the past. They wiped out whole groups of animals, notably the dinosaurs, whereas humans are picking off individual species. In the past, biodiversity recovered as species spread into new ecological niches, but humans are wiping out niches as well as organisms. Wildlife will have a tough time regenerating.

"'The winners after the mass extinction that finished off the dinosaurs are about to become the losers. One in four mammal species and one in eight bird species face a high risk of extinction in the near future: the population of each species is expected to fall by at least a fifth in the next 10 years. Almost all are endangered by human activity"

US Tactics In Iraq Begin To Mirror Israel In West Bank: "'With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them,' Colonel Sassaman said."

A classic remark which naturally calls to mind the famous US military statement during the Vietnam war: 'we had to destroy the village in order to save it'.

Reserve bank: Unit prices falling but boom goes regional: "'Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Hobart are the fastest growing markets. Outside Sydney and Melbourne I can't find any evidence that [house prices] have slowed at all. It's almost as though it's something that's spreading from the centre.'"

Monday, December 08, 2003

Opera house antiwar activists face gaol: "On March the 18th 2003, at precisely the same time as George W Bush, John Howard and Tony Blair were declaring an illegal war on Iraq, Dr Will Saunders and Dave Burgess climbed the Sydney Opera House and painted 'No War' on its highest sail. They were arrested and charged with malicious damage and willfully marking a building with paint. The Opera House claims the paint costs $166,000 to remove and Will and Dave are being pursued to pay this."

"Both Will and Dave had prepared extensive defense cases. Part of this defense was based on Section 418 of the NSW Crimes Act, which states that you are not guilty of a crime if it was committed with the aim of preventing injury or death, damage to property, deprivation of liberty or criminal trespass. It is now clear that the illegal war in Iraq has resulted in all of these things happening."

Chomsky Interviewed by Kurdish newspaper: "On the matter of legitimacy and recognition, once the State of Israel was established in 1948, my feeling has been that it should have the rights of any state in the international system: no more, no less. That includes, specifically, the right to live in peace and security within its recognized international borders, understood to be the pre-June 1967 borders, with minor and mutual adjustments. These rights have been recognized by a very broad international consensus since the mid-1970s, including the major Arab states. The US and Israel, virtually alone, have opposed the international consensus since the mid-1970s, and still do. Since the mid-1970s, the US has vetoed Security Council resolutions calling for a two-state settlement on the international border with full recognition of the rights of Israel and a new Palestinian state, has regularly voted against General Assembly resolutions to this effect (along with Israel, sometimes one or another dependency), and blocked other diplomatic efforts seeking to achieve this goal. The only US-Israel proposals, all informal, require that the Palestinian territories be broken up effectively into several cantons, virtually separated from one another and from some small part of Jerusalem, the center of Palestinian cultural and economic life. Something similar is projected, also without formal declaration, in the Gaza Strip. Jewish settlements and enormous infrastructure projects proceeded without a break right through the period of the Oslo 'peace process,' establishing these 'facts on the ground' while talk continued, taking control of the scarce water resources and much of the valuable land. They still continue, at an accelerating pace. The US and Israel have demanded further that Palestinians not only recognize Israel's rights as a state in the international system, but that they also recognize Israel's abstract 'right to exist,' a concept that has no place in international law or diplomacy, and a right claimed by no one. In effect, the US and Israel are demanding that Palestinians not only recognize Israel in the normal fashion of interstate relations, but also formally accept the legitimacy of their expulsion from their own land. They cannot be expected to accept that, just as Mexico does not grant the US the 'right to exist' on half of Mexico's territory, gained by conquest. We do not have sufficient archival evidence to be confident, but I suspect that this demand was contrived to bar the possibility of a political settlement in accord with the international consensus that the US and Israel have rejected for thirty years."

"The US presumably seeks to establish a powerful position right at the heart of the world's major reserves of energy, thereby strengthening its control over this "stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history," as the State Department described the Gulf region at the end of World War II. Formal democracy in Iraq and elsewhere would be acceptable, even preferable, if only for public relations purposes. But, if history is any guide, it will be the kind of democracy that the US has tolerated within its own regional domains for a century. Here, the US has sought to bring about democratic change but only if it is restricted to "limited, top-down forms of democratic change that did not risk upsetting the traditional structures of power with which the United States has long been allied," maintaining "the basic order of quite undemocratic societies"; I am quoting Thomas Carothers, a Latin America scholar and an official of the Reagan administration who worked in its "democracy enhancement" programs. The historical record amply supports that judgment, in the Middle East as well. The rich and instructive historical record will be disregarded only by those who have blind faith in powerful states. And of course the US is by no means alone in these practices."

Indian call centre work at $9 PER DAY: "With daily wage rates that wouldn't pay for a Big Mac meal in Britain, it's little surprise that UK companies are shifting call centre jobs to India at an alarmingly rapid pace. This week Norwich Union joined the list, revealing that it wants to outsource 2,350 jobs in admin posts to India in a move union leaders condemned as 'deplorable' but which prime minister Tony Blair called 'the way the world is today.'"

Saturday, December 06, 2003

US manufatures and exports torture equipment: "United States companies are exporting millions of dollars worth of equipment known to be used for torture, including selling devices to 12 countries where the US State Department says that the use of torture is 'persistent', according to a new report by Amnesty International."

Samarra: an entire city up in arms: "'All of Samarra is with the resistance," explains Muhammad, a local resident. "The guerrillas in Samarra can shoot at the Americans on a sidewalk in the middle of town at noon knowing no one will report them. When they do this, the people clap - men, women and children. The Americans," Muhammad continues, "must get out of Samarra and out of Iraq. We will never tolerate their staying; our religion does not allow it.'"

Pilger: The Bbc And Iraq; Myth And Reality: "Greg Dyke, the BBC's director general, has attacked American television reporting of Iraq. 'For any news organisation to act as a cheerleader for government is to undermine your credibility,' he said. 'They should be... balancing their coverage, not banging the drum for one side or the other.' He said research showed that, of 840 experts interviewed on American news programmes during the invasion of Iraq, only four opposed the war. 'If that were true in Britain, the BBC would have failed in its duty.'

"Did Dyke say all this with a straight face? Let's look at what research shows about the BBC's reporting of Iraq. Media Tenor, the non-partisan, Bonn-based media research organisation, has examined the Iraq war reporting of some of the world's leading broadcasters, including the US networks and the BBC. It concentrated on the coverage of opposition to the war.

"The second-worst case of denying access to anti-war voices was ABC in the United States, which allowed them a mere 7 per cent of its overall coverage. The worst case was the BBC, which gave just 2 per cent of its coverage to opposition views - views that represented those of the majority of the British people. A separate study by Cardiff University came to the same conclusion. The BBC, it said, had 'displayed the most pro-war agenda of any [British] broadcaster'."

Friday, December 05, 2003

New Evidence: U.S. OK'd Argentina's 'Dirty War': "At the height of the Argentine military junta's bloody ''dirty war'' against leftists in the 1970s, then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told the Argentine foreign minister that ''we would like you to succeed,'' a newly declassified U.S. document reveals.

"This document is a devastating indictment of Kissinger's policy toward Latin America. Kissinger actually encourages human-rights violations in full consciousness of what was going on.

"The transcript of the meeting between Kissinger and Navy Adm. César Augusto Guzzetti in New York on Oct. 7, 1976, is the first documentary evidence that the Gerald Ford administration approved of the junta's harsh tactics, which led to the deaths or ''disappearance'' of some 30,000 people from 1975 to 1983."

This is another classic example of US support for 'democracy.'

No Doubts Global Warming Is Real, US Experts Say: "New evidence found by teams of climate researchers leaves no doubt that industrial emissions of greenhouse gases are responsible for increasing global temperatures -- an ominous trend that has speeded up in the past 50 years and threatens to continue for centuries, according to a report by two of the nation's leading atmospheric scientists.

"The two government experts said climate change 'may prove to be humanity's greatest challenge' and warned that 'it is very unlikely to be adequately addressed without greatly improved international cooperation and action.'"

US Poll: More people don't believe Iraq war reduced terror threat: "A growing number of Americans, seven in 10, doesn't think the war in Iraq has reduced the threat of terrorism, according to a poll out Wednesday. Fewer than half felt that way in April, during the war. President Bush and members of his administration frequently say the efforts in Iraq are central to winning the war on terror. The poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland also found strong support, 71%, for the United Nations to take the lead in helping establish a stable government in Iraq. That's up from half who felt that way in April... Four in five agreed that Iraqis should be able to choose their own government, even if that government is unfriendly to the United States."

Yet another remarkable poll, which clearly illustrates once again how government policy in modern 'democracies' ignores the wishes of the public. The poll also gives the lie to the fundamentally mendacious 'war on terror.'

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Unanswered Questions about 9/11: "The specifics of the story are clear, less clear are the implications. Investigators suspect, as reported in the Nov. 2, 2003 edition of the (Scotland) Sunday Herald, that Israeli intelligence had been shadowing the al-Qaeda hijackers throughout the Middle East, Europe and into America where they trained as pilots and made preparations for their audacious attack.

"If the Israelis had preliminary knowledge of the September 11 attacks why would they not have informed U.S. officials? One motive would be to bind Israel and the U.S. together in mutual suffering. If Americans felt the collective pain of civilian deaths at the hands of terrorists, then Israel would have an unbreakable bond with the world's only superpower."