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Patriot Act Author Has Concerns

November 30th, 2003 - by admin

by Los Angels Times –

(November 30, 2003) — A chief architect of the USA Patriot Act and a former top assistant to Attorney General John Ashcroft are voicing concern about aspects of the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policy, the LOS ANGELES TIMES reported on Sunday.

At issue is the government’s power to designate and detain “enemy combatants,” in particular in the case of “dirty bomb” plot suspect Jose Padilla, the New York-born former gang member who was picked up at a Chicago airport 18 months ago by the FBI and locked in a military brig without access to a lawyer.

Civil liberties groups and others contend that Padilla — as an American citizen arrested in the United States — is being denied due process of law under the Constitution.

Viet Dinh, who until May headed up the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy, said in a series of recent speeches and in an interview with the LOS ANGELES TIMES that he thinks the government’s detention of Padilla is flawed and unlikely to survive court review.

The principal intellectual force behind the Patriot Act, the terror-fighting law enacted by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Dinh has steadfastly defended the Justice Department’s anti-terrorism efforts against charges that they have led to civil-rights abuses of immigrants and others.

In an interview, Dinh, now a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said the Padilla case was not within his line of authority when he was in the department, but that he began to think about the issue after leaving the government, and came to the conclusion that the administration’s case was “unsustainable.”

Another top former Justice Department official, Michael Chertoff, who headed the department’s criminal division, has said he believed the government should reconsider how it goes about designating enemy combatants. “Two years into the war on terror, it is time to move beyond case-by-case development,” Chertoff said.

In the interview, Dinh said he believed the president had the unquestioned authority to detain persons during wartime, even those captured on “untraditional battlefields,” including on American soil. He also said the president should be given flexibility in selecting the forum and circumstances — such as a military tribunal or an administrative hearing — in which the person designated an enemy combatant can confront the charges against him.

The trouble with the Padilla case, Dinh said, is that the government hasn’t established any framework for permitting Padilla to respond, and that it seems to think it has no legal duty to do so. “The president is owed significant deference as to when and how and what kind of process the person designated an enemy combatant is entitled to,” Dinh said. “But I do not think the Supreme Court would defer to the president when there is nothing to defer to. There must be an actual process or discernible set of procedures to determine how they will be treated.”

Militarization in Miami: Threatening the Right to Protest

November 30th, 2003 - by admin

by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman –

http://lists.essential.org/pipermail/corp-focus/2003/000170.html

There was a real threat to the social order on the streets of Miami last week, during the Ministerial Meeting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). It wasn’t protesters, not even those calling themselves anarchists or even those dressed in black. No, the threat came from the Miami police, Florida state troopers and the other police and military forces patrolling the city.

With more than $10 million in special funding (including an $8.5 million allocation in the federal government’s Iraq appropriations bill), 2,500 or so officers — many clad in full body armor and backed up by armored vehicles — turned Miami into a veritable police state.

As was almost inevitable, the police used wildly excessive force to deal with protesters. They launched unprovoked attacks against people who were doing nothing illegal. They sprayed tear gas and pepper spray at protesters — including retirees — and shot many with rubber bullets. They used taser guns. They knocked down peaceful protesters and held guns to their heads.

They blocked thousands of retirees and union members on buses from joining a rally and march for which all required permits had been obtained. They attacked journalists viewed as hostile. They arrested approximately 250 persons, according to the best estimates, with little or no rationale. Credible reports have emerged of brutality and sexual harassment against several of those jailed.

At least as serious, the police deterred thousands from even considering joining the FTAA protests — and protests into the future.

A Dark Week for the First Amendment
In sunny Miami, it was a dark week for the First Amendment, for civil liberties and for the right to dissent. A South African activist told us how deeply frightened she was walking down the streets of Miami. Even before the police violence erupted, marching in the streets amidst thousands of armored police sent chills down her spine, she said.

Last week’s outrages had their roots in months of planning led by Miami Police Chief John Timoney. He whipped the city and the police force into a frenzy. The absurdist invocation of an anarchist threat convinced the local media (especially television reporters) and much of the local population that downtown would be a riot zone. That was enough to empty the downtown, and scare many local Miamians from joining any of the protests, no matter how tame.

We had first-hand experience with this problem. We had been involved in a planning a small demonstration on Tuesday — two days before the main protests. We had obtained all requisite permits from the police. With agreement from their schools, more than 100 high school students were eager to join our small action highlighting how the FTAA and trade agreements interfere with anti-smoking and other public health measures. But no school could feel comfortable sending students to a militarized downtown, and so the students were not able to demonstrate. We turned our rally into a news conference.

This was a small incident. Our demonstration wasn’t going to change the world. (We do, however, intend to win on our demand to exclude tobacco products from all trade agreements.) But as an illustrative example, it is incredibly important, for it shows how police over-deployment, scare tactics and militarization intimidates people from marching in the streets and opposing corporate- and state-approved policy.

The Indoctrination of Police Paranoia
It wasn’t just the public and media that Timoney managed to frighten. There’s little doubt that the police themselves buy the propaganda. After months of excessive training and hearing about the dangers posed by protesters, and empowered by new body armor, shields, batons and other equipment, the police were, to say the least, overeager to lunge at protesters. (Said one of a group of 10 cops on bikes as they crossed the street to assess the scene at our news conference, and with one of us standing right next to them, “Let’s go fuck ’em up.”)

By the time of the main demonstrations on Thursday, the police couldn’t hold themselves back.

In different circumstances, it would have been funny to see the police outnumbering the direct action protesters, or the comically attired “undercover” agents who were a bit too well built to credibly seem part of the ranks of the slight direct action protesters — many of whom are vegans.

But it wasn’t funny.

Not when the police — responding to the smallest provocations, such as a couple small fires lit in trashcans — went berserk and attacked large crowds of protesters. Not when credible reports say some of those undercover agents may have been provocateurs, and when several of them emerged as some of the most brutal in attacking protesters.

Activists, the National Lawyers Guild, the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil liberties standard bearers must do all they can and will do to oppose the rising repression evidenced in Miami. But that’s not enough.

There will, undoubtedly, be civil lawsuits down the road, and, if there is any justice, they will succeed. But that’s not enough, either. As important as such litigation is, it is clear from recent crackdown on protests around the United States that police forces are willing to absorb the costs of these suits.

Media Support for Police Tyranny Must End
The present cycle is that the media and political establishment applaud the police for running scare campaigns, militarizing cities, directing violence against protesters and blatantly violating civil liberties. Often, as details emerge, criticism emerges from those same pillars of society.

This must change. The establishment must speak out now, immediately after the abuses occurred. They are apparent to anyone who cares to know about them.

In the future, the establishment — we mean newspaper editors, political leaders of all parties, lawyers, even corporate executives — must insist on appropriate police tactics in advance of large-scale protests, and they must make clear that regular police and top officers alike will be held personally accountable for abuses. If they fail to pursue this course, the consequences for the right to protest will be grim indeed.

Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman are the editors of the Washington, DC-based Corporate Crime Reporter, http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com. Weissman is co-director of Essential Action, a corporate accountability group. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press. http://www.corporatepredators.org.

(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

_______________________________________________

Focus on the Corporation is a weekly column written by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman. Please feel free to forward the column to friends or repost the column on other lists. If you would like to post the column on a web site or publish it in print format, we ask that you first contact us (russell@nationalpress.com or rob@essential.org). Focus on the Corporation columns are posted at .

There is immediate need now to support those who were jailed and mistreated, and force the city to drop trumped up charges against protesters. You can help by sending a fax to Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz protesting the violation of constitutional rights. Public Citizen has established a free fax site at:
http://www.citizen.org/fax/background.cfm?ID=245&source=19
Those who are facing charges will need legal help. You can donate to support them by going to:
http://stopftaa.org/article.php?list=type&type=42 or to
http://www.unitedforpeace.org/ftaadonate

Israel Seizes Dancing Osama, Saddam Dolls

November 26th, 2003 - by admin

by BBC World News –

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3241202.stm

Israeli customs have confiscated a cargo of 450 singing, dancing Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein dolls. The battery-powered figures were seized by customs officials, who said they had the potential to incite. The 400 Osama Bin Laden dolls and 50 Saddam Hussein dolls were discovered during a routine search at the port in Haifa, northern Israel.

An Arab-Israeli businessman said he ordered the figures as a “gimmick” to sell to Arabs and Jews.The dolls had been on a ship carrying toys from China. The cargo also included 450 Teletubby dolls.

Customs agents had been examining the shipment to see if any of the goods were counterfeit.

The Customs Authority said the dolls were confiscated under a law banning incitement. “The law doesn’t exactly say that you cannot own a Bin Laden doll, but neither he nor Saddam Hussein are exactly good educational role models,” said spokeswoman Idit Lev-Zerahiya.

An Arab-Israeli from the northern village of Qafr Qara admitted to importing doll versions of the al-Qaeda leader and the deposed Iraqi ruler.

Behind the Lies: Britain’s Very Secret Service

November 26th, 2003 - by admin

by Michael Meacher / The Guardian –

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1090082,00.htmlhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1090082,00.html

LONDON (November 21, 2003) — David Kelly, giving evidence to the prime minister’s intelligence and security committee in closed session on July 16 – the day before his suicide – made a comment the significance of which has so far been missed. He said: “Within the defence intelligence services I liaise with the Rockingham cell.” Unfortunately nobody on the committee followed up this lead, which is a pity because the Rockingham reference may turn out to be very important indeed.

What is the role of the Rockingham cell? The evidence comes from a former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, Scott Ritter, who had been a US military intelligence officer for eight years and served on the staff of General Schwarzkopf, the US commander of allied forces in the first Gulf war. He has described himself as a card-carrying Republican who voted for Bush, but he distinguished himself in insisting before the Iraq war, and was almost alone in doing so, that almost all of Iraq’s WMD had been destroyed as a result of inspections, and the rest either used or destroyed in the first Gulf war. In terms, therefore, of proven accuracy of judgment and weight of experience of the workings of western military intelligence, he is a highly reliable source.

In an interview in the Scottish Sunday Herald in June, Ritter said: “Operation Rockingham [a unit set up by defence intelligence staff within the MoD in 1991] cherry-picked intelligence. It received hard data, but had a preordained outcome in mind. It only put forward a small percentage of the facts when most were ambiguous or noted no WMD… It became part of an effort to maintain a public mindset that Iraq was not in compliance with the inspections. They had to sustain the allegation that Iraq had WMD [when] Unscom was showing the opposite.”

A Clearinghouse with an Agenda
Rockingham was, in fact, a clearinghouse for intelligence, but one with a predetermined political purpose. According to Ritter, “Britain and America were involved [in the 1990s and up to 2003] in a program of joint exploitation of intelligence from Iraqi defectors. There were mountains of information coming from these defectors, and Rockingham staff were receiving it and then selectively culling [picking out] reports that sustained the [WMD] claims. They ignored the vast majority of the data which mitigated against such claims.”

Only one other official reference to Operation Rockingham is on record, in an aside by Brigadier Richard Holmes when giving evidence to the defence select committee in 1998. He linked it to UNSCOM inspections, but it was clear that the Rockingham staff included military officers and intelligence services representatives together with civilian MoD personnel. Within, therefore, the UK intelligence establishment — MI6, MI5, GCHQ and defence intelligence – Rockingham clearly had a central, though covert, role in seeking to prove an active Iraqi WMD programme.

One of its tactics, which Ritter cites, is its leaking of false information to weapons inspectors, and then, when the search is fruitless, using that as “proof” of the weapons’ existence. He quotes a case in 1993 when “Rockingham was the source of some very controversial information which led to inspections of a suspected ballistic missile site. We … found nothing. However, our act of searching allowed the US and UK to say that the missiles existed.”

Donald Rumsfeld Created a Similar Propaganda Unit in the US
A parallel exercise was set up by Donald Rumsfeld in the US, named the Office of Special Plans. The purpose of this intelligence agency was the provision of selective intelligence which met the demands of its political masters. Similarly, in the case of the UK, Ritter insists that Rockingham officers were acting on political orders “from the very highest levels”.

Both Ritter and British intelligence sources have said that the selective intelligence gathered by Operation Rockingham would have been passed to the joint intelligence committee (JIC), which was behind the dossiers published by the UK government claiming Iraq had WMDs.

The significance of this is highlighted by Tony Blair’s statement: “The intelligence that formed the basis of what we put out last September… came from the JIC assessment.” So Rockingham was an important tributary flowing into the government’s rationale for the war.

This shoehorning of intelligence data to fit pre-fixed political goals, both in the US and the UK, throws new light on the two most controversial elements of the government’s dossier of September 2002. One was that Iraq could launch WMD within 45 minutes. Was this “sexed up” on the orders of No 10 or — derived allegedly from an Iraqi brigadier via an informant — did Rockingham put a gloss on it to please its political masters?

The other highly contentious item in the dossier was that Saddam tried to buy uranium yellowcake from Africa. How did material that the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded on February 4 was a blatant forgery come to be included in President Bush’s January 28 State of the Union address? And, since the British were named as the source, why did MI6 not spot this outlandish forgery? In fact, they alleged that the Niger claim came from another independent source, which has never been identified. Could this be because this disinformation served the Rockingham purpose only too well?

Spinning the News; Suppressing the Facts
It is not only the massaging of intelligence that seems to have gone on, but also the suppression of the most reliable assessment of the facts. David Kelly, we now know, had been advising privately prior to the war about the likelihood of Iraqi WMD. He told the foreign affairs select committee: “I have no idea whether there were weapons or not at that time [of the September 2002 dossier]”. And to the intelligence and security committee the next day he added: “The 30% probability is what I have been saying all the way through … I said that to many people … it was a statement I would have probably made for the last six months.” Yet this view from the leading expert within government never saw the light of day. Why not?

If the tabloid headlines the day after the September dossier was published had read: “Blair says only 30% chance Iraq has WMDs” rather than “Brits 45 mins from doom” (the Sun), would the Commons vote still have backed the war? Rarely can the selective use of information have had such drastic consequences. If there is one conclusion which must flow from the Hutton revelations, it must surely be the demand for a full-scale independent inquiry into the operation of the intelligence services around the top of their command and their interface with the political system.

Michael Meacher served as the British Environment Minister from1997 to 2003.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Soldiers to Sue over New Gulf War Syndrome

November 26th, 2003 - by admin

by Mark Townsend / The Observer –

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1091487,00.html

LONDON (November 23, 2003) — Dozens of soldiers who served in Iraq are to sue the Government, claiming they are suffering from a new form of Gulf War syndrome. Multiple vaccinations given in the run-up to the conflict are being blamed for chronic pains, stomach problems, rashes, swelling, fever, depression and anxiety.

Lawyers and medical experts say the symptoms are identical to those that affected thousands of veterans after the 1991 Gulf conflict.

The Observer has learnt that 13 soldiers have launched legal actions against the Ministry of Defence over what is being called Gulf War II syndrome. A similar number of ‘robust’ cases are to be launched in weeks. In addition, a former MoD employee has obtained the medical records of another 40 Iraq veterans also suffering similar symptoms. Each case could cost the Government £1 million in damages.

Mark McGhee of Manchester-based Linda Myers Solicitors, said servicemen were coming forward all the time. ‘Previously healthy servicemen received inoculations and suffered serious reactions. Now their jobs, livelihoods and their families are being affected,’ he said.

Two Wars, Same Symptoms
The allegations come ahead of the inquest tomorrow into the death of Major Ian Hill, former chairman of the National Gulf Veterans’ and Families’ Association. Hill suffered a severe reaction to vaccinations he was given and was sent home from the Gulf. However, Army doctors were unable to determine what was wrong with him.

The father-of-four subsequently suffered from a range of illnesses including Q fever, an infection that stops the brain producing cells quickly enough to replace those that die. The MoD disputed that his illness was a result of service and he was denied a pension until shortly before his death in March 2001 at the age of 54.

At the two-day inquest in Warrington, lawyers will argue his deployment to the Gulf and subsequent illnesses contributed to his early death. More than 550 veterans have died since the first Gulf war.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said 12 servicemen from the latest conflict had signed up to a health assessment program while 7,000 former Gulf veterans are to be screened.

US Pays $1.5 Million for Fatal Iraq Blunders

November 26th, 2003 - by admin

by Rory McCarthy / The Guardian (London) –

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1093319,00.html

BAGHDAD (November 26, 2003) The Guardian — The US military has paid out $1.5m (£907,000) to Iraqi civilians in response to a wave of negligence and wrongful death claims filed against American soldiers, the Guardian has learned.

Families have come forward with accounts of how American soldiers shot dead or seriously wounded unarmed Iraqi civilians with no apparent cause. In many cases their stories are confirmed by Iraqi police investigations.

Yesterday the US military in Baghdad admitted a total of $1,540,050 has been paid out up to November 12 for personal injury, death or damage to property. A total of 10,402 claims had been filed, the military said in a brief statement to the Guardian. There were no figures given for how many claims had been accepted.

“The US pays claims for personal injury, wrongful death and property damage,” it said. “Payments will only be made for non-combat related activities and instances where soldiers have acted negligently or wrongfully.”

Commanders make payments from their discretionary funds, rarely even admitting liability. Payouts average just a few hundred dollars and in some cases families have been asked to sign forms waiving their right to press for further compensation. In one area of southwestern Baghdad, controlled by the 82nd Airborne Division, an officer said a total of $106,000 had been paid out to 176 claimants since July.

Beyond the initial payments there is little recourse for the families of the dead. No American soldier has been prosecuted for illegally killing an Iraqi civilian and commanders refuse even to count the number of civilians killed or injured by their soldiers.

US Troops ‘Above the Law’ in Iraq
Iraqi courts, because of an order issued by the US-led authority in Baghdad in June, are forbidden from hearing cases against American soldiers or any other foreign troops or foreign officials in Iraq.

In three separate cases, families have described to the Guardian how their relatives had been killed apparently without cause by American soldiers manning observation posts or patrolling through the streets of Baghdad. In one case a couple were killed in front of their three young daughters when an Abrams tank ran over and crushed their car.

The number of civilian deaths caused by the US since the war remains largely uncounted. In a report last month Human Rights Watch said it had believed 94 civilians were killed in “questionable circumstances” by American troops between May and September 30.

US Troops Operate ‘with Impunity’
Human Rights Watch concluded that US troops were operating “with impunity. The individual cases of civilian deaths… reveal a pattern by US forces of over-aggressive tactics, indiscriminate shooting in residential areas and a quick reliance on lethal force”, Human Rights Watch said. “The lack of timely and thorough investigations into many questionable incidents has created an atmosphere of impunity, in which many soldiers feel they can pull the trigger without coming under review.”

For the families of the dead, the killings and the lack of legal recourse has provoked a groundswell of opposition to the US military occupation.

In some cases relatives have spoken of their plans to join the growing guerrilla resistance movement to avenge the deaths of their relatives. “I know the American soldiers are not inhumane because I saw them when they first came and they behaved well. But now they have changed and I don’t know why,” said Faiz Alwasity, who works for Civic, the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, one of the few groups that has helped secure payments for civilian victims of the US military operations in Afghanistan and now Iraq.

“They are becoming more aggressive, maybe because they are frightened. I am afraid this is creating more resistance against them.”

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Mr. President, Oil Isn’t Worth Dying For

November 25th, 2003 - by admin

by Eric Margolis / Toronto Sun –

http://www.canoe.ca/Columnists/margolis_nov23.html

NEW YORK (November 23, 2003 ) — President George Bush should heed the wise old New York garment district maxim: “First loss, best loss.”

Translated from New Yorkese, this means when you get into a bad deal, bail out fast. The longer you stay in and refuse to face reality, the more you will end up losing.
That, alas, is just what Bush is doing in Iraq. Better he had gone to the garment district for hard advice instead of the regal photo op in London thrown for him by Queen Elizabeth and her dysfunctional family.

In spite of the royal welcome in a nation that increasingly resembles a giant theme park for American tourists, many Britons were appalled by the visit. They greeted Bush and his preposterously bloated entourage, worthy of Kublai Khan, with about as much warmth as they did the Spanish Armada.

Tony Blair, Bush’s de facto foreign minister, salaamed and scraped with unctuous zeal before the visiting Emperor of the West. But at least the Queen summoned up enough pride to refuse White House demands that heavily armed US agents be granted full legal immunity to shoot down threatening Britons.

Back to losing. President Bush’s crusades in Afghanistan and Iraq have turned into bloody, expensive messes. These neo-colonial misadventures may soon cost $2 billion US weekly, plus the deaths and wounding of growing numbers of Americans, allies dragooned into service in Iraq and Iraqi civilians.

The so-called political process in both nations is a farce. Their US-installed regimes are widely viewed as quislings. In Kabul, the US at least has an amiable figurehead, Hamid Karzai. No suitable Iraqi yes-man has yet been found. But the White House, seeing its pre-election popularity dropping fast, is desperately seeking some way out of the Iraqi hornet’s nest into which it so foolishly stuck its thick head.

Facade of Power
Bush just announced — shades of Richard Nixon — that the Iraq war would be “Iraqized.” A facade of political power will be handed over to an Iraqi government. But US troops will stay on for years for “security.” What happens if the “independent” Iraqi regime tells US forces to leave? A speedy regime change, no doubt.
The Pentagon plans to build three major bases in Iraq from which to police the central Mideast and guard America’s new imperial oil lifeline from Central Asia, down through Afghanistan, to the West.

Anyone who remembers Vietnam, which Iraq increasingly recalls, knows “Iraqization” won’t work. Meanwhile, Iraq’s Shia majority remains quiet only because it fears Saddam Hussein may return. Ironically, if the US hunts down and murders Saddam, the Shia will rise up and demand an Islamic republic — just what the White House seeks to avoid.

Any free vote in Iraq will produce the same result. Maybe that’s why Saddam has not yet been found. So take Bush’s calls for Arab democracy with much salt. The only truly free vote held in the Arab world — most of which is controlled by the US — brought to power in Algeria a moderate Islamic government. It was promptly overthrown by the army, with backing from the US and France.

But Bush dares not withdraw American troops from Iraq so long as the elusive Saddam stays alive. Imagine a triumphant Saddam mooning Bush from “liberated” Baghdad. The Democrats would make falafel of the president.

Neo-conservatives insist the US can’t withdraw because of loss of face and prestige. Retreat will encourage terrorism, claim these sofa samurais.

Nonsense. America shrugged off retreat from Vietnam and Indochina. All good generals know when to fall back, and – unlike the neo-cons who engineered these stupid wars – always leave open a line of retreat. No one cared about Afghanistan when the Soviets killed 1.5 million of its people, nor about Iraq when it lost 500,000 soldiers fighting Iran, or 500,000 children due to the punitive US blockade. Why care now?

“We just can’t cut and run,” said Bush in London, trying to sound Churchillian. Why not? The best way to get the US out of this quagmire is to follow France’s sage advice: bring in a UN-run government as a fig leaf, declare victory, and pull all US troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, chaos will ensue. But Iraq and Afghanistan are in chaos now, and terrorism, as we saw in Istanbul last week, still rages.
Get out now before the US gets sucked ever deeper by “mission creep” into a decade-long morass in Mesopotamia. There’s still time.

Yes, Saddam or his lieutenants and Arab radicals will crow, but Israel survived similar crowing when it wisely ended its disastrous colonial adventure in Lebanon.
Immediate retreat saves $100 billion-plus. Iraq and Afghanistan are not worth the lives of one more American or Canadian soldier, nor more wear on overstretched US forces. Withdrawal will damp down raging anti-Americanism around the globe.
Time to end the megalomania, paranoia and crazy biblical geopolitics that drove the US into these profitless conflicts.

Mr. President, be a real mensch and a true patriot by admitting you were wrong, and just get out.

P.S. It’s cheaper to buy oil than to conquer it.

Eric can be reached by e-mail at margolis@foreigncorrespondent.com.
Letters to the editor should be sent to editor@tor.sunpub.com or visit his home page.

Copyright © 2003, CANOE, a division of Netgraphe Inc. All rights reserved.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Latin America Pleads: “Shut Down the School of the Americas”

November 25th, 2003 - by admin

by Rupert Fike / Special to Rhino’s Blog –

http://www.rhinosblog.info

GEORGIA (November 25, 2003) — Rolling into Columbus, on a sunny Saturday morning for the annual School of Americas demonstration and vigil at the gates of Fort Benning, I park downtown and hop on a shuttle bus that will take us to the Fort. Suddenly I am in a kind of middle-America we all need to remember is out there. A busload of the sweetest protestors imaginable — from a Church of Christ in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

They talk like the good folk of Lake Woebegone. They are shortish, stocky, grey-haired. They look as if they had just walked out of a Wal-Mart sale on hand-towels. They group around me, a curiosity, someone from the South. They want to know why I am there. I tell them I am part of the extended Farm community who did soy, water and medical work in Guatemala in the 70s. Some smile and nod, filling in the others who can’t hear me. I hear, “Well isn’t that something!” several times.

Outside, the scenery of an Army base town floats by — pawn shops, ammo stores, surplus outlets.

I ask them why they are there. A slightly built man in a plaid shirt answers. Their congregation had begun a church-to-church outreach program with a village in Chiapas, Mexico back in the early ‘80s. He spoke proudly of their accomplishments before bad things began to happen. Like the massacre of 21 women, 15 children and 9 men by Mexican paramilitary forces. And on the Oshkosh group’s last visit to Chiapas, they asked what would be the best thing they could do for the village. The answer across the board was, “Close down the School of Americas.” So here they are for the fifth straight year.

As usual, there is a stage set up outside the Fort Benning gates, but this year the Army blasts (and I mean BLASTS) a Kafkaesque tape loop of “patriotic music” including marches, anthems, country and western kick-some-third world-butt ballads, etc.

On the one hand, it is an admission that, after 12 years, the demonstration has gotten to them and that they feel threatened by it. But on the other hand, the zillion decibels are just plain obnoxious — a Psychological Operation designed to wear down the senses of anyone in the vicinity of their speakers.

Father Roy Bourgeois gives a stirring welcoming, shouting over the blasting 1984 soundtrack just behind him. He notes that this new Army strategy is a sign of weakness rather than strength on their part. Other speakers and musicians follow. United Auto Workers to Argentinan nuns. Pete Seeger gets everybody going. The sun beats down. The Puppitistas — over a hundred stilt-walking, banner-waving, helicopter holding, drum beating performers. Veterans from the recent Miami’s WTO protests circulate and tell their stories.

A Mother from El Salvador Confronts the SAO
Mid-afternoon, a woman from Where Are the Children campaign speaks as best she can (some due to emotion, some due to the Army speakers) of her two boys who were taken out of her home in El Salvador never to be seen again. It is a moment. It is a scene even Michael Moore could not have choreographed.

“They busted into our home in the middle of the night,” she says, working to keep her throat from closing. From behind the stage during her pause, the strains of America the Beautiful smash aggressively over the crowd, ” America, America….

She gets it together to go on. “The last I saw of my boys they were crying to me for help . . . ” Speakers- “God shed his grace on thee . . .

The mother then turned and pointed to the Benning Gates, “And later I was to find out that the men who took my boys were trained right there, in that place!” Speakers – ” and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

Later, I flag down a cab to take me back downtown. The cabbie is a sad-looking, ciggie smoking woman, another snapshot of middle America. We drive in silence for a bit before she says, “Mind if I ask you a question?” “Shoot.” “Do they ever give reasons for not closing down that School?”

“RHINO’S BLOG” is the responsibility of Gary Rhine. (rhino@kifaru.com)
http://www.rhinosblog.info

Reshaping Iraq: Problems with the New Ambassador

November 25th, 2003 - by admin

by Firas Al-Atraqchi, Freelance Columnist / IslamOnline –

http://www.islamonline.net/English/In_Depth/Iraq_Aftermath/2003/11/article_10.shtml

CANADA (November 11, 2003) — The Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) announced this week that it was appointing an Iraqi-American woman, Rend Rahim Francke, as its ambassador to the United States. At first glance, Iraq experts may applaud the ‘courageous’ move to appoint a woman as an Iraqi ambassador.

Some, who are illiterate in the finer aspects of Iraqi society, may invoke how Afghan women have been liberated and that President Bush’s war on terrorism has given down-trodden women in Islamic countries the courage and room to express themselves.

Bantha fodder, really.

First off, Iraqi women were the most liberated, most educated, and most industrious in the Arab World. This covered the period from 1960 to 2003. Unknown to most, and perhaps for ulterior motives, the Baath Party (which has been criminalized by an ignorant few) put women at the forefront. Pan-Arabism, the vision of true Baathism (not the latter-day form inspired by Assad and Saddam) could not be realized without the full integration of women into the work force. That’s why one of Iraq’s leading microbiologists is a woman. That’s why most educated Iraqi women have doctorates in the most varied of fields.

Incidentally, Afghan women have chosen to retain the chador and burka and veil and whatever else you choose to call it. Freedom is not measured by a dress code defined in the West.

Ms. Rend Rahim Franke Is a US Citizen
However, the appointment of Ms. Francke is worrisome to the point of it becoming dangerous and fracturing. On the one hand, Ms. Francke is an American citizen, not an Iraqi. By what right does she believe herself capable of representing Iraqi interests in Washington? And as an American citizen, how could she possibly take such a high post, on Iraq’s behalf in America’s capital? Does no one see this as highly suspicious? Do the words ‘conflict of interest’ not come into the scope?

Having lived most of her adult life in the US, does she know the Iraqi people, or does she tour Baghdad behind the security of US military protecting her and other IGC members? Does the average Iraqi know of this woman?

Consider the scenario: An American-appointed council, which has no legitimacy with the Iraqi people, appoints an American in the disguise of an Iraqi to represent Iraq in America. A few too many references to “America” in that sentence; so the objective is clear. Create an American stooge who can pass off as a spy. Classic. But who the hell are these people trying to fool? This is just going to infuriate those professional diplomats who are still left in the foreign ministry and further increase the Iraqi public’s hatred of the IGC.

Last year, Ms. Francke, who incidentally is the Executive Director of the Iraq Foundation, a DC-based, non-profit organization working for human rights and democracy in Iraq, once wrote that liberating Iraq would send a message to other Arab rulers. “A free Iraq would unleash new voices and new visions for the people of the Middle-East, opening perspectives of freedom that have long been squashed by their autocratic rulers.” Smacks of Agenda

Racism at its Ugliest’
This statement would have been welcomed had it not been put into motion by other, unseen elements in Washington. This domino effect that Ms. Francke alludes to has been the very reason for going to war cited by Frank Gaffney, Charles Krauthammer and Richard Perle, all advocates of ousting Saddam, all supporters of Greater Israel, all anti-Arafat, anti-Syria, anti-Saudi Monarchy, anti-Arab League. This is the principle ethos of transferring democracy to other parts of the world. History teaches us, ladies and gentlemen, that democracy must come from within, entirely from within, and cannot be influenced, nor injected from without.

However, and to her credit, Ms. Francke has stressed that the US not act as an occupying force in Iraq. She told a Foreign Relations Committee in August 2002 that the US should build partnerships with local Iraqis, especially local opposition figures, and work with Iraq’s police forces. But she blasts that meager positivism by stating “that the US will have a decisive role, unprecedented since World War II, to influence the outcome in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.” This is racism at its ugliest, saying that the US must influence the outcome in Iraq.

Sorry, Ms. Francke, perhaps you have lived too long outside Iraq to realize that it is only the Iraqi people that can decide their own outcome, by their own designs, without the intervention of your bosses, or anyone else for that matter.

Ms. Francke would have done well to speak to some veterans of the British occupation of Iraq in the 1920s. The Brits, too, tried to “influence the outcome in Iraq.” They lost 500 of their troops before dropping chemical weapons on rebelling Shiite tribes. Is that what is in store for Iraq? The British experiment ended with the bloody 1958 revolution and Saddam’s eventual rise. Why does no one pay attention to history? Arrogance, perhaps?

Francke’s Appointment Is an Insult to Democracy
Imagine if the New Americans, the forefathers of the Constitution, had declared that they would allow France (who had helped liberate them from the British) decide their outcome. Or if Queen Elizabeth I was told by Russia not to take on the Spanish Armada.
Imagine (oh, the horror!) if a Canadian became US Ambassador to Peru, or China, or Tanzania. Would the US congress sit still for it even if this Canadian spoke American English and ate at Burger King? No way, Jose!

If Ms. Francke is so big on democracy and democratic change, surely she must realize that her appointment is an insult to that very institution which she holds in such high regard. In the democratic US, an ambassador must be approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, after which ambassadorial nominations are sent to the full Senate. Where is such a representative body in Iraq? Oh, forgive me; that body exists in the non-Iraqi citizens of the IGC.

My qualm about Ms. Francke is not that her visions of change in Iraq may indeed be genuine or passionate, but that she is not Iraqi. Most of the IGC carry ‘other’ passports; Ahmed Chalabi, the most charismatic of the lot, has a British passport. Ms. Francke is an American citizen. Has she renounced her American citizenship to take up such a national, Iraqi post? Don’t count on it. And you can bet your bottom petro-dollar on this; when the going gets tough, Ms. Francke and her fellow “representatives of the Iraqi people” will be out of Iraq aboard a specially-provided US transport plane.

Ms. Francke had earlier on seemed to be voicing what many professional Iraqis were finding displeasing with the US presence in Iraq: “Many Iraqis have said to me, what you need on this is Iraqi voices, Iraqi faces, that the message has to be really targeted at what Iraqis need, and instead of Western pop music, have readings of the Koran,” she told the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, one of the leading advocates of the Iraq war.

One wonders if Ms. Francke has somehow been silenced with this offering of an Ambassadorial position.

I have nothing personal against the woman, but I would advise her, for Iraq’s sake, to put her appointment up to a representative body that vets her appropriately or to decline it altogether. Anything short of that is just another chess move in the larger imperial board.

Firas Al-Atraqchi is a Canadian journalist of Iraqi heritage. Holding an MA in Journalism and Mass Communication, he has eleven years of experience covering Middle East issues, oil and gas markets, and the telecom industry. You can reach him at firascape@hotmail.com.

Queen’s Fury as Bush Goons Wreck Garden

November 24th, 2003 - by admin

by Terry O’Hanlon / Sunday Mirror –

http://www.sundaymirror.co.uk/news/content_objectid=13652625_method=full_siteid=106694_headline=-GROUND-FARCE-1-name_page.html

LONDON (November 23, 2003) — The Queen is furious with President George W. Bush after his state visit caused thousands of pounds of damage to her gardens at Buckingham Palace.

Royal officials are now in touch with the Queen’s insurers and Prime Minister Tony Blair to find out who will pick up the massive repair bill. Palace staff said they had never seen the Queen so angry as when she saw how her perfectly-mantained lawns had been churned up after being turned into helipads with three giant H landing markings for the Bush visit.

Blackhawks Downed Shrubs and Trees
The rotors of the President’s Marine Force One helicopter and two support Black Hawks damaged trees and shrubs that had survived since Queen Victoria’s reign. And Bush’s army of clod-hopping security service men trampled more precious and exotic plants.

The Queen’s own flock of flamingoes, which security staff insisted should be moved in case they flew into the helicopter rotors, are thought to be so traumatized after being taken to a “place of safety” that they might never return home.

The historic fabric of the Palace was also damaged as high-tech links were fitted for the US leader and his entourage during his three-day stay with the Queen.

The Palace’s head gardener, Mark Lane, was reported to be in tears when he saw the scale of the damage. “The Queen has every right to feel insulted at the way she has been treated by Bush,” said a Palace insider. “The repairs will cost tens of thousands of pounds but the damage to historic and rare plants will be immense. They are still taking an inventory.

“The lawns are used for royal garden parties and are beautifully kept. But 30,000 visitors did not do as much damage as the Americans did in three days. Their security people and support staff tramped all over the place and left an absolute mess. It is particularly sad because the Queen Mother loved to wander in the garden just as the Queen and Prince Charles do now.

“Some of the roses, flowers and shrubs damaged are thought to be rare varieties named after members of the Royal Family and planted by the Queen Mother and Queen. Other Royals had their own favorite parts of the garden as children and some of those areas have been damaged.”

The Queen’s insurers have told her she is covered for statues, garden furniture and plants she personally owns, but the bill for repairing damage to the lawns and the structure of the Palace will probably have to be picked up by the Government.

The Americans made alterations to accommodate specialized equipment. The mass of gadgetry meant the Royals couldn’t get a decent TV picture during the visit.

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