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Potemkin World — or the President in the Zone

February 28th, 2005 - by admin

Tom Englehardt / TomDispatch.com – 2005-02-28 23:12:19


Tom Englehardt / Tom Dispatch.com

(February 27, 2005) — “The great motorcade,” wrote Canadian correspondent Don Murray, “swept through the streets of the city… but there were no crowds. George W. Bush’s imperial procession through Europe took place in a hermetically sealed environment. In Brussels it was, at times, eerie. The procession containing the great, armor-plated limousine (flown in from Washington) rolled through streets denuded of human beings except for riot police. Whole areas of the Belgian capital were sealed off before the American president passed.”

Murray doesn’t mention the 19 American escort vehicles in that procession with the President’s car (known to insiders as “The Beast”), or the 200 secret service agents, or the 15 sniffer dogs, or the Blackhawk helicopter, or the 5 cooks, or the 50 White House aides, all of which added up to only part of the President’s vast traveling entourage. Nor does he mention the huge press contingent tailing along inside the president’s security “bubble,” many of them evidently with their passports not in their own possession but in the hands of White House officials, or the more than 10,000 policemen and the various frogmen the Germans mustered for the President’s brief visit to the depopulated German town of Mainz to shake hands with Prime Minister Gerhard Schroeder.

This image of cities emptied of normal life (like those atomically depopulated ones of 1950s sci-fi films) is not exactly something Americans would have carried away from last week’s enthusiastic TV news reports about the bonhomie between European and American leaders, as our President went on his four-day “charm offensive” to repair first-term damage to the transatlantic alliance….

Here’s one of the strangest things about our President: He travels often enough, but in some sense he never goes anywhere. As I wrote back in November 2003 , as George and party were preparing to descend on London (central areas of which were being closed down for the “visit”):

“American presidential trips abroad increasingly remind me of the vast, completely ritualized dynastic processionals by which ancient emperors and potentates once crossed their domains and those of their satraps. Our President’s processionals are enormous moving bubbles (even when he visits alien places closer to home like the Big Apple) that shut cities, close down institutions, turn off life itself. Essentially, when the President moves abroad, like some vast turtle, he carries his shell with him.”

The Man in the Bubble
Back then, I was less aware that, for Bush & Co., all life is lived inside a bubble carefully wiped clean of any traces of recalcitrant, unpredictable, roiling humanity, of anything that might throw their dream world into question.

On the electoral campaign trail in 2004, George probably never attended an event in which his audience wasn’t carefully vetted for, and often quite literally pledged to, eternal friendliness, not to say utter adoration. (Anyone who somehow managed to slip by with, say, a Kerry T-shirt on, was summarily ejected or even arrested.)

In a sense, our President’s world has increasingly been filled with nothing but James Guckert clones. Guckert is, of course, the “journalist” who, using the alias Jeff Gannon, regularly attended presidential news conferences and lobbed softball questions George’s way.

The Gannon case, or “Gannongate,” has — are you surprised? — hardly been touched on touched on by most of the mainstream media despite its lurid trail leading to internet porn sites and a seamy underside of gay culture — issues that normally would glue eyes to TV sets and sell gazillions of papers (and that in the Clinton era would have rocked the administration).

On the other hand, it did cause an uproar in the world of the political Internet, where, if we were to be honest — and stop claiming to be shocked, shocked — we would quickly admit that almost all of George’s world has essentially filled up with Gannons (though not necessarily with the porn connections).

After all, even the President’s Crawford “ranch” is really a Gannon-style set. And in Germany and France, George and Condi, his new Secretary of State, managed to have town-hall style meetings only with audiences of European Gannons; audiences so carefully combed over that, on a continent whose public is largely in opposition to almost any Bush policy you might mention, not a single challenging question seems to have been asked.

Bush’s Potemkin World
That certainly represents remarkable advanced planning. It’s no easy thing, after all, constantly to rush ahead of a President and his key advisors and create a Potemkin world for them from which reality has been banished and in which no rough edges will ever be experienced.

This urge to shut down a pulsing planet rather than deal with it is but the other side of a no-less-powerful administration urge — to free the President as Commander-in-Chief (and so the Pentagon as well) of all the fetters of our political system, of all those checks and balances so dear to high school civics classes throughout the land, and to encase his acts in a shroud of secrecy as well as non-accountability.

More news about this appears practically every day. Just last week, Ann Scott Tyson and Dana Priest of the Washington Post reported that the Pentagon “is promoting a global counterterrorism plan that would allow Special Operations forces to enter a foreign country to conduct military operations without explicit concurrence from the US ambassador there.” The only authority for this would evidently be an “execute order” from the President.

So the President passes through the empty cities of the world and, even when in filled auditoriums, through a world emptied of all reality but his. As I wrote in that 2003 dispatch, this impulse to shut down and shut out “combines many urges at once. Certainly, there’s the urge to stamp an imperial imprint of power on the world, and allied to it, the urge to control. The desire to cut off information, to rule in silence and secrecy, must undoubtedly have allures all its own. And then there’s also simple fear (a feeling not much written about since our President and his administration quite literally took flight on September 11, 2001).”

When you live in this way, only listening to your own voice or to those who don’t dare to or care to challenge you, you don’t always get the best advice. And while for a time you may be able to maintain your fantasies relatively intact, you’re likely to have a tin ear for how you sound to others. If, for instance, this was the President’s charm offensive, consider the “charm.”

Bush’s ‘Charming’ List of Imperial ‘Musts’
His “conciliatory” speeches and press conferences, his pledges to “listen” to the Europeans and “think over” their proposals (though not, of course, to do anything about them http://slate.msn.com/id/2113964) were filled with nearly his normal quotient of imperial “musts,” issued like so many diktats to the world at large. These pass largely unheard by American journalists, few of whom seemed to wonder how they sounded, along with the President’s typically hectoring/lecturing style, to European leaders or publics:

“The European project is important to our country. We want it to succeed. And in order for Europe to be a strong, viable partner, Germany must be strong and viable, as well… Syria must withdraw not only the troops, but its secret services from Lebanon… Iran must not have a nuclear weapon…

Today, a new generation [of Slovakians and other Eastern Europeans] that never experienced oppression is coming of age. It is important to pass on to them the lessons of that period. They must learn that freedom is precious, and cannot be taken for granted; that evil is real, and must be confronted…”
One congenial crowd on the President’s tour was filled with American troops, many from Iraq, gathered at Wiesbaden Army Airfield in Germany to “hoo-ah” him.

As Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times wrote, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “served as a warm-up speaker. Ms. Rice was raucously greeted with shouts of ŒWe love you!’ In a pep talk delivered without notes, Ms. Rice asked the crowd of 3,000: ŒDo you know why America has the greatest military in the history of the world? Because it has the greatest soldiers, airmen and seamen in the history of the world.'”

So on the one hand, that diktat tone traveled to Europe inside the Bush bubble; while on the other, those grandiose fantasies of American power made it as well (even if just barely). Since most US media organizations exist more or less inside that bubble too, the “charm offensive” largely carried the day — at least in the United States, where vivid descriptions of a Bush-depopulated Europe were scarce and analysis of transatlantic handshakes , forced smiles, and body language (as if these were substantive policy) was plentiful indeed.

Bush’s Unilateralism Has United Europe — against the US
Of course, just about nobody in our mainstream media thinks — or writes anyway ˆ that George’s musts and Condi’s grandiosity are even passingly odd, but the Europeans, evidence tells us, generally think otherwise. As Alain Duhamel of the French paper Libération reminds us, over the last two years our President has had a striking unifying effect on Europe. At the crucial moment when he and his advisors, marching toward the war they so desperately wanted, did seem successful in splitting Europe’s governments:

“France, Germany, and Belgium stood firm against him, and, miraculously, a massively refractory European public opinion emerged. What the European Council of Heads of Government never was able to do, George W. Bush succeeded in achieving: the citizens of all of continental Europe and a good number of Britons, whether their governments were left or right, whether their Prime Ministers had committed themselves in the American wake or had refused, all these citizens purely and simply rejected their choices and American methods. George W. Bush was midwife to the birth of a European public opinion.”

So yes, last week European leaders stepped inside the presidential bubble, smiled, supped, shook hands, and said the right things to signal amity-restored; but they also understood that the very presence of the President in Europe and his visible unpopularity outside that bubble were indications of just how humbled the American “hyperpower” had been. And then they went their own ways.

So much for the good old days when there was to be an “old Europe” and a “new Europe” — and National Security Advisor Condi Rice could claim our policy vis-à-vis Europe was to “forgive Russia, ignore Germany, and punish France”? Well, how the mighty have… if not fallen exactly, then slipped badly. (And neocons lurking in think-tanks all over bubblized Washington are fretting about exactly that.)

Nor, last week, could Europe’s leaders have missed the way, as a New York Times editorial put it, “a seemingly innocuous remark from the central bank of South Korea” about “diversifying” the dollar into other currencies, made “the dollar tank” and markets briefly plummet. Call it a little taste of another kind of “shock and awe.” The greatest superpower with the greatest military and the greatest muscle and the greatest threat potential and the greatest power-projection ability and the greatest …. (well you get the idea) turns out to have economic feet of clay.

Thanks to this administration, our military has been overstretched and humbled by the rebellion of a ragtag bunch of comparatively under-armed rebels and fanatics in Iraq. Administration officials have managed, in a fashion that must be stunning to some of the officers who rebuilt the armed forces in the 1980s, to recreate a Vietnam-like catastrophe, a tunnel with no light whatsoever at the end — so much for the “lessons” of that war — and are now clearly considering furthering the Vietnam analogy by hitting out at the present-day equivalent of “sanctuary areas” in neighboring states (Syria and Iran).

No wonder the Europeans mouthed the right words, offered to train a feeble 1,500 Iraqi police recruits a year (not even in Iraq but in Qatar) — the French donated a single “equipment officer” to the project, about as close to a smirk as you can get — and then went about their Iran-negotiating-China-embargo-dropping-post-Kyoto-Treaty business. From American mainstream reporting, you generally would have had only the most modest idea that this was the case, though there were a few honorable exceptions, just as you could find rare accounts (usually on the inside pages of newspapers) of those emptied streets of Europe. Probably the single canniest exception I saw came from Tony Karon of >I>Time magazine, who began a piece with the pungent title, “Why Europe Ignores Bush”, this way:

“Machiavelli’s advice to political leaders was that it’s more important to be feared than to be loved. That’s no help for President Bush on his European tour; in spite of the warm words he’s exchanging with European leaders, the reality is that the Bush administration is neither loved nor feared in growing sectors of the international community — increasingly, it is simply being ignored.”

And he ended the piece with a reminder that the rest of the world is not simply waiting for the last global superpower to do its thing. It’s reorganizing itself and going about its business just beyond our bubblized line of sight:

“All over the world, new bonds of trade and strategic cooperation are being forged around the US China has not only begun to displace the US as the dominant player in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation organization (APEC), it is fast emerging as the major trading partner to some of Latin America’s largest economies…. French foreign policy think tanks have long promoted the goal of ‘multipolarity’ in a post-Cold War world, i.e. the preference for many different, competing power centers rather than the ‘unipolarity’ of the US as a single hyper-power. Multipolarity is no longer simply a strategic goal. It is an emerging reality.”

Green-zoning Germany: A European Perspective on Bush’s Visit
Oliver Hass

OLDENBERG, Germany — I want to describe to you some of the circumstances of President Bush’s recent visit to Germany, because it’s a beautiful example of the divergence of intentions and impact. Reading the headlines in the American newspapers, I see that this visit is being treated as a great opening for the healing process in the transatlantic alliance and your public opinion seems optimistic that your President’s journey will improve our relationship, despite the continuing great divide on major subjects of international policy.

But let me describe to you this visit/experience through the eyes of the average German citizen:

This last week, after all, Mainz, a little town in Germany, was turned into a Potemkin village. General Potemkin first arrived a few weeks ago in the person of Condoleezza Rice, who informed Germans, that the president forgave us, that we were right, and therefore that our disputes are over and our relationship is excellent.

To underline the new era of friendship, the President was to pay a visit to us, a stop-over on his European charm offensive. But to make sure that the President wasn’t appalled by reality, so much was done to create a bubble at Mainz in the heart of Germany. And here’s where the Green Zone comes into play.

As in Baghdad, so Mainz, too, was turned into a maximum-security zone and the citizens of Mainz and the surrounding area learned what exporting democracy really meant.

First and most obvious was the great disproportion between the President’s freedom to travel and the average citizen’s right to move in public places. Last Wednesday for his arrival, all Autobahnen (highways) around Mainz were closed for several hours. A helicopter flight from the airport to the city might have seemed like a more practical way to transport the President than cutting the veins of the most frequented Autobahn-segment in Germany — and that was just the beginning of our voyage into the absurd.

Many citizens of Mainz weren’t even able to drive their cars. They were forced to park kilometres away from their homes, simply because they lived near one of the maybe-routes the President’s convoy might conceivably have taken.

Using the railway system might have seemed a solution, but unfortunately over 100 trains were also cancelled (and a similar number of flights at the airport in Frankfurt during the time that Air Force One arrived).

One could imagine George Bush sitting in a car, but in a train? If you smiled at that, you’ll laugh when I mention the Rhine River. The route of the President crossed the Rhine and so the whole river was closed to shipping. (Estimated losses in profits only for this: 500,000 euros.)

Anyway, most people in Mainz didn’t really have a reason to leave home that day. For example, Opel decided to close its factory on Wednesday, because workers and suppliers wouldn’t make it to work in time. 750 cars weren’t built and the production loss has to be compensated for by the workers on the next two Saturdays.

Linde Vacuum asked their employees to take one day off. In addition, most small businesses in Mainz were closed and the inner city had all the charm of a ghost town — the streets were totally empty.

In Germany you are free to write a letter to your representative, but unfortunately if you wanted to, you would have had to wait a few days, because all letter boxes were taken away too. The costs of this extravaganza can’t yet be tallied. 15,000 additional security forces were out on the streets and the one thing we know is that we, the taxpayers, will be left with the final price tag.

The most disturbing aspects of this visit/nightmare haven’t even been mentioned yet. People were told to stay away from their windows and they were forbidden to step out on their balconies! And the Secret Service that protects your President even had plans to shut down the mobile phone communication system. They didn’t actually go so far, but the public expression of that idea alone tells a story about the direction of Secret-Service thoughts.

And I don’t think the intention on this subject was to disrupt “mobile-ignited” explosives, but to further complicate the situation for Germans who wanted to protest the visit. It was hard enough to organize a demonstration in a ghost city, where you couldn’t even get lunch at a cafe. With the communication systems off, the protestors would have been further marginalized and easily scattered.

To complete the Potemkin masquerade, I should just mention the planned meeting between some ordinary citizens of Mainz and your President, like the town-hall meetings in America. But don’t think the assembly actually consisted of ordinary citizens. After the German delegation emphasized that they would not collect the questions beforehand and fake the conversation (as had happened at the meeting Rice had with students in France), the American delegation cancelled that meeting.

An emperor shouldn’t be annoyed by tough questions. Instead 20 so-called young leaders were chosen by the [conservative] Aspen Institute and the German Marshall Fund, and so a few hand-picked Germans were talking with the President instead of upset citizens.

The overall feeling that remains is that we got trampled upon by the President’s baggage — like those beds of roses at Buckingham palace, if you remember that “the-queen-is-not-amused” episode. Mainz was not blessed by this visit, it was doomed. Liberty of action was interrupted and the burden of costs for the visit remains in Germany. Diplomats are trained to accentuate symbolic gestures and the return to a dialogue, but average citizens have been stunned by how much less our freedoms were worth than George Bush’s. The media worked fine for the President’s propaganda and you won’t hear too much about this, especially not outside of Germany.

The latest Potemkin village was planned all too well and, as you know, the people have no role in this scenery. Welcome to the world of delusion.

Oliver Hass, a 28 year-old chemist and graduate student from Oldenberg, Germany, wrote recently that America as a country, he added, “is still largely admired here in Germany… the core American freedoms — freedom of speech, tolerance, pursuit of happiness and the will to do better — shined bright and dissolved the shadows. These days the shadows get ever darker and, like a black hole, they eat up my confidence in our deepest ally and friend.”

Federal Judge Orders ‘Enemy Combatant’ Jose Padilla Charged Or Released

February 28th, 2005 - by admin

WYFF TheCarolinaChannel.com – 2005-02-28 22:54:42


(February 28, 2005) — A federal judge in Spartanburg has ordered that an American citizen held as an enemy combatant in a Navy brig in Charleston should be released.

US District Judge Henry F. Floyd ruled Monday that the president of the United States does not have the authority to order Jose Padilla to be held.

“If the law in its current state is found by the president to be insufficient to protect this country from terrorist plots, such as the one alleged here, then the president should prevail upon Congress to remedy the problem,” he wrote.

In the ruling, Floyd said that three court cases that the government used to make its claim did not sufficiently apply to Padilla’s case. Floyd wrote that, in essence, “the detention of a United States citizen by the military is disallowed without explicit Congressional authorization.”

Bush’s Claim of Authority ‘Violates the Country’s Constitutional Tradition’
Floyd wrote that because the government had not provided any proof that the president has the power to hold Padilla, he must reject the government’s claim of authority. “To do otherwise would not only offend the rule of law and violate this country’s constitutional tradition, but it would also be a betrayal of this nations commitment to the separation of powers that safeguards our democratic values and individual liberties,” he wrote.

“For the court to find for [the US government] would also be to engage in judicial activism. This court sits to interpret the law as it is and not as the court might wish it to be. Pursuant to its interpretation, the court finds that the President has no power, neither express nor implied, neither constitutional nor statutory, to hold [Padilla] as an enemy combatant,” Floyd wrote.

As a result, Floyd ordered that Padilla be charged with a crime or released within 45 days. The government is expected to appeal the decision.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

11,000 US Soldiers Dead from DU Poisoning

February 28th, 2005 - by admin

Bob Nichols / SF Bay View – 2005-02-28 09:20:23


SAN FRANCISCO (February 2, 2005) — Considering the tons of depleted uranium used by the US, the Iraq war can truly be called a nuclear war.

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

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

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

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

‘Too Big To Cover Up’
“The VA Secretary (Principi) was aware of this fact as far back as 2000,” wrote Bernklau. “He, and the Bush administration have been hiding these facts, but now, thanks to Moret’s report, (it) … is far too big to hide or to cover up!”

“Terry Jamison, Public Affairs Specialist, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs, at the VA Central Office, recently reported that ‘Gulf Era Veterans’ now on medical disability, since 1991, number 518,739 Veterans,” said Berklau.

“The long-term effects have revealed that DU (uranium oxide) is a virtual death sentence,” stated Berklau. “Marion Fulk, a nuclear physical chemist, who retired from the Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab, and was also involved with the Manhattan Project, interprets the new and rapid malignancies in the soldiers (from the 2003 Iraq War) as ‘spectacular — and a matter of concern!'”

When asked if the main purpose of using DU was for “destroying things and killing people,” Fulk was more specific: “I would say it is the perfect weapon for killing lots of people!”

Principi could not be reached for comment prior to deadline.


• 1. Depleted Uranium: Dirty Bombs, Dirty Missiles, Dirty Bullets: A Death Sentence Here and Abroad, by Leuren Moret, http://www.sfbayview.com/081804/Depleteduranium081804.shtml.

• 2. Veterans for Constitutional Law, 112 Jefferson Ave., Port Jefferson NY 11777, Arthur N. Bernklau, executive director, (516) 474-4261, fax 516-474-1968.

• 3. Preventive Psychiatry E-Newsletter. Email Gary Kohls, gkohls@cpinternet.com.

Bob Nichols (bobnichols@cox.net) is a Project Censored Award-winning reporter.

The Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). http://www.globalresearch.ca
© Copyright belongs to the author 2005.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

US Plot to Assassinate Venezuelan President

February 28th, 2005 - by admin

VHeadlineNews.org – 2005-02-28 09:13:41


CARACAS (February 28, 2005) — Speaking from the press lectern at the Miraflores Palace at precisely 02:45 p.m. today, Communications & Information Minister Andres Izarra has reconfirmed the position that the Venezuela government has “incontrovertible proof” that a plot is being hatched to assassinate President Hugo Chavez Frias.

Izarra stated in clear, unequivocal terms, that he will not reveal the source of this intelligence information … but he did say that persons involved in past destabilization attempts in Venezuela are acting in concert with the main assassination coup plotters.

A local journalist pointed out that there had been alarms in the past about a possible assassination attempt on the President’s life, but that the government, then as now, had never offered any proof or given names. Izarra merely answered that the information exists and that for reasons of national security, he could not reveal the source and that the fact he would not reveal it did not mean that such a plot did not exist.

VHeadline.com can, however, reveal that we have been able to corroborate intelligence details from other reliable sources which show a build-up of subversive activities focusing on a possible date within the next one hundred days.

Activities out of the US Embassy bunker on Colinas de Valle Arriba as well as covert locations outside the capital show the high-level participation of US government agencies in support of violent anti-government groupings intent on the overthrow of President Hugo Chavez Frias’ democratically-elected government.

‘CIA Operatives Are Already in Place…’
The same confidential intelligence sources also formed the basis of our February 3, 2002, World Exclusive in which we revealed the preliminaries to the April 2002 coup d’etat which saw US puppet dictator Pedro Carmona Estanga seize power to dissolve the Constitution, Congress and the Venezuelan judiciary all in one fell swoop.

Now … as then … covert US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives are already in place in Venezuela as the SOA/WHISC prepares for what we can only describe as “a third bite at the cherry.”

A build-up of USAAF and Navy contingents are already assembling at a Southern Command base on the Caribbean island of Aruba (Netherlands Antilles) to provide logistic and material back-up to an invasion force and the Pentagon is also preparing for a US Navy hospital ship to be readied to sail off Venezuela’s northern coastline.

In a further VHeadline.com exclusive on February 8 (2002) we quoted unnamed but highly-placed diplomatic and IC sources as telling us of the Washington-initiated plot to assassinate President Hugo Chavez Frias and added that “Spanish-speaking US military operatives are already present in Venezuela lending logistic support to several anti-government terror cells in what’s described as ‘a fail-safe plan’ to dislodge Chavez Frias and to win US control over strategic oil supplies.”

Search the NYTr Archives at: http://olm.blythe-systems.com/pipermail/nytr/

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What the World Saw on Inauguration Day

February 28th, 2005 - by admin

Joan Chittister, OSB / The National Catholic Reporter – 2005-02-28 08:00:49


IRELAND — Dublin, on US Inauguration Day, didn’t seem to notice. Oh, they played a few clips that night of the American president saying, “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.”

But that was not their lead story.

The picture on the front page of The Irish Times was a large four-color picture of a small Iraqi girl. Her little body was a coil of steel. She sat knees up, cowering, screaming madly into the dark night. Her white clothes and spread hands and small tight face were blood-spattered.

The blood was the blood of her father and mother, shot through the car window in Tal Afar by American soldiers while she sat beside her parents in the car, her four brothers and sisters in the back seat.

A series of pictures of the incident played on the inside page, as well. A 12-year-old brother, wounded in the fray, falls face down out of the car when the car door opens, the pictures show.

In another, a soldier decked out in battle gear, holds a large automatic weapon on the four children, all potential enemies, all possible suicide bombers, apparently, as they cling traumatized to one another in the back seat and the child on the ground goes on screaming in her parent’s blood.

No promise of “freedom” rings in the cutline on this picture. No joy of liberty underlies the terror on these faces here.

An Image of War in a Family’s Death
I found myself closing my eyes over and over again as I stared at the story, maybe to crush the tears forming there, maybe in the hope that the whole scene would simply disappear.

But no, like the photo of a naked little girl bathed in napalm and running down a road in Vietnam served to crystallize the situation there for the rest of the world, I knew that this picture of a screaming, angry, helpless, orphaned child could do the same.

The soldiers standing in the dusk had called “halt,” the story said, but no one did. Maybe the soldiers’ accents were bad. Maybe the car motor was unduly noisy. Maybe the children were laughing loudly — the way children do on family trips. Whatever the case, the car did not stop, the soldiers shot with deadly accuracy, seven lives changed in an instant: two died in body, five died in soul.

A Picture that Spread across Europe
BBC news announced that the picture was spreading across Europe like a brushfire that morning, featured from one major newspaper to another, served with coffee and Danish from kitchen table to kitchen table in one country after another.

I watched, while Inauguration Day dawned across the Atlantic, as the Irish up and down the aisle on the train from Killarney to Dublin, narrowed their eyes at the picture, shook their heads silently and slowly over it, and then sat back heavily in their seats, too stunned into reality to go back to business as usual — the real estate section, the sports section, the life-style section of the paper.

Here was the other side of the inauguration story. No military bands played for this one. No bulletproof viewing stands could stop the impact of this insight into the glory of force. Here was an America they could no longer understand. The contrast rang cruelly everywhere.

I sat back and looked out the train window myself. Would anybody in the United States be seeing this picture today? Would the United States ever see it, in fact? And if it is printed in the United States, will it also cross the country like wildfire and would people hear the unwritten story under it?

In this War, We Are Killing Children
There are about 25 million people in Iraq. Over half of them are under the age of 15. Of the over 100,000 civilians dead in this war, then, over half of them are children. We are killing children. The children are our enemy. And we are defeating them.

“I’ll tell you why I voted for George Bush,” a friend of mine said. “I voted for George Bush because he had the courage to do what Al Gore and John Kerry would never have done.”

I’ve been thinking about that one.

Osama Bin Laden is still alive. Saddam Hussein is still alive. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is still alive. Baghdad, Mosul and Fallujah are burning. But my government has the courage to kill children or their parents. And I’m supposed to be impressed.

That’s an unfair assessment, of course. A lot of young soldiers have died, too. A lot of weekend soldiers are maimed for life. A lot of our kids went into the military only to get a college education and are now shattered in soul by what they had to do to other bodies.

In Iraq, 93 Percent of the Dead Are Civilians
A lot of adult civilians have been blasted out of their homes and their neighborhoods and their cars. More and more every day. According to UN Development Fund for Women, 15 percent of wartime casualties in World War I were civilians. In World War II, 65 percent were civilians. By the mid ’90s, over 75 percent of wartime casualties were civilians.

In Iraq, for every dead US soldier, there are 14 other deaths, 93 percent of them are civilian. But those things happen in war, the story says. It’s all for a greater good, we have to remember. It’s all to free them. It’s all being done to spread “liberty.”

From where I stand, the only question now is who or what will free us from the 21st century’s new definition of bravery. Who will free us from the notion that killing children or their civilian parents takes courage?

Comments or questions about this column may be sent to: Sr. Joan Chittister, c/o NCR web coordinator at the address below.

Copyright © 2005 The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64111 All rights reserved. TEL: 1-816-531-0538 FAX: 1-816-968-2280

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Kyoto Never! Oil Consumption and National Security

February 27th, 2005 - by admin

Jamie Weinstein / Cornell Daily Sun / Renew America – 2005-02-27 23:31:33


(February 23, 2005) — Walking through Ho Plaza last week, I was confronted with a startling announcement: The Kyoto Protocol had become International Law. Whether or not that statement is true — international law can be quite ambiguous — it is worthwhile to consider why President Bush rescinded US support for the treaty. After all, his decision caused many a European to whine.

The reasons why President Bush was correct in nixing Kyoto are numerous and often cited by Kyoto’s critics. But there is one area where Kyoto would have a disastrous effect which isn’t widely known: national security.

The Pentagon Is the Biggest Federal Consumer of Oil
The military costs associated with adopting Kyoto are stark. When Kyoto first reared its head in a serious way in the late 1990s, Macubin T. Owens, a professor at the Naval War College and adjunct fellow at the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, outlined the danger in complying with the treaty. He wrote, “The federal government is the largest single user of energy inside the United States, and the Department of Defense (DOD) is the largest user within the federal government, accounting for 70 percent of the government’s total.”

When President Bush withdrew from Kyoto in 2001, the treaty mandated that the United States drop its greenhouse-gas emissions seven percent below its 1990 levels.

Logically, to meet the requirements of Kyoto, the Department of Defense would have to make some serious cuts. As Owens commented, “according to an internal DOD memo subsequently made public, reducing DOD fuel usage by 10 percent, a not unlikely target, would have a significant impact on unit readiness of US ground forces, steaming time for US Navy ships and flying hours for the aviation components of all the services. The memo states that in the event of such a reduction, it would be difficult for the American military to meet the requirements of the US national security strategy.”

Serious to say the least. Even more so when you consider that this was written in 1998, in a pre-Sept. 11 world. I think it is fair to say that our national security strategy has changed, requiring far more exertion from US Armed forces. At the very least, Kyoto would severely constrain training operations by our military. Unacceptable pre-Sept. 11, and unthinkable post-Sept. 11.

Clinton Exempted Military Pollution from International Regulation
But it gets worse. How about the greenhouse gas emissions released by the US military during war. It’s unclear how it would be counted. Back in 1998, when Owens wrote his article, he indicated that the Clinton administration claimed that military operations “pursuant to the United Nations Charter” would be exempt from the treaty.

Yet few military operations taken by the United States ever occur with United Nations backing. Under Clinton, both Kosovo and US/British enforcement of no-fly zones over Iraq occurred without UN approval. Green house emissions released during these operations probably would have counted against us under Kyoto. And almost certainly the emissions released during our recent operation to oust Saddam would have counted against us.

Owens writes that adopting Kyoto would allow “pressure groups, both domestic and international, to hamstring US military power.” According to Owens, “[t]hey could do so by subjecting to scrutiny every movement of US military forces, whether in support of US security obligations abroad, or training exercises at home arguing that greenhouse gas use was improperly accounted for.”

Constraints to Pentagon Are ‘Unacceptable’
I know there are many on this campus excited at the prospect of an international treaty constraining US military operations, but such restraints to US power by international forces are unacceptable in terms of both security and breaches to our national sovereignty.

For these reasons alone, President Bush was completely justified in pulling out of Kyoto.

But, of course, these are not the only concerns. Not by a long shot. The economic costs associated with Kyoto are staggering. Economist Stephen Brown of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank estimated in 2001, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis, that under optimistic projections, implementation of Kyoto would reduce US GDP by 3 to 4 percent. Whether or not the actual effect is more or less, any percentage drop in GDP at all would be devastating to our economy.

Perhaps that is why in 1998 the United States Senate passed the Byrd/Hagel resolution by a vote of 95-0. The resolution mandated, among other things, that the United States government not participate in any global warming treaty that would hurt the economy of the United States. 95-0 is a pretty imposing figure. That is probably why President Clinton signed the treaty but never submitted it to the Senate for ratification. Even he knew that the treaty wouldn’t fly.

Kyoto Is Not the Answer
Radical environmentalists have been predicting mass death caused by environmental degradation for some time. In fact, you could even say it’s routine now. The culprit du jour is global warming. Whether or not global warming is actually a serious threat, and not just another exaggeration in line with all the other environmental exaggerations over the last several decades, Kyoto is not the answer.

Even if Kyoto were to be fully implemented, the effects would be minimal. As senior policy analyst H. Sterling Burnett of the National Center for Policy Analysis wrote in 2001, “[a]ccording to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, if all of the signatories meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets, the earth will be between 0.07 degrees Celsius and 0.19 degrees Celsius cooler than it would be absent Kyoto.”

He goes on to say that this represents “a temperature difference so small it cannot be measured by ground-based temperature gauges.”

While it seems the benefits of adopting Kyoto would be at best marginal, the costs would be extraordinary in both security and economic terms. International law or not, the United States should stand with Australia in defiance of the Kyoto treaty.

Yet on Ho Plaza and off some still scream Kyoto Now! I think not. How about Kyoto Never!

Jamie Weinstein is a junior at Cornell University and writes a column for the Cornell Daily Sun. He can be contacted at jsw46@cornell.edu.
© 2004 Cornell Daily Sun
© Copyright 2005 by Jamie Weinstein

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Alan Keyes, RenewAmerica, or its affiliates.

Posted in accordance with Section 107, Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

An Iraqi’s Perspective: A Letter to George W. Bush

February 26th, 2005 - by admin

Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar / Islam Online – 2005-02-26 23:41:23


BAGHDAD, Occupied Iraq (February 24, 2005) — Dear Mr. Bush:
It was regrettable that you were not allowed to see and talk to ordinary Iraqi citizens during your sneak visit to Baghdad on Thanksgiving Day in 2003. Those Iraqis you met during that visit were part of the US-installed puppet government, which came on the back of American tanks.

Naturally, they told you what they thought you wanted to hear. Moreover, they lived, like your other advisors in Iraq, in their isolated bubbles in the secured “Green Zone,” with very little contact with ordinary Iraqis.

I am sure that had you talked to ordinary Iraqis you would have gotten different opinions than those being passed to you by your American or Iraqi advisors. As an ordinary Iraqi citizen, I would like to share my thoughts on the Iraqi dilemma that America has found itself in.

More than a year ago, you told the Iraqi people that “the torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever.” I honestly wanted to believe you then. I discovered later that your American soldiers had been torturing the Iraqi people from May 2003. I discovered also that your army generals knew about it and wrote reports to their higher authorities about such abuses of human rights. I will give you, Mr. President, the benefit of the doubt and assume that your advisors did not tell you the facts.

Having known the facts, you did not apologize to the victims of the American torture, but went ahead and put the blame only on the “seven bad apples.” That did not stop the torture or the human rights violations committed by your troops in Iraq. Reports are still coming to date confirming that torture is being committed against Iraqis in American detention camps. I am sure that your advisors will tell you that this is necessary to protect the security of America, several thousands of miles away from Iraq.

A New Regime of Beatings and Torture
Your partners in the “coalition of the willing” are not doing any better. The British Army is torturing Iraqi detainees. Now we discover through human rights reports that the “new Iraqi army,” created and trained by your government, is also torturing Iraqis.

It is clear to me that while we were tortured — before the “liberation” — by one force of evil, we are currently being tortured by at least three evil forces. It looks to me that, contrary to your announcement, the “torture chambers” may truly be here forever.

Allow me, Mr. President, to tell you that blaming seven “apples” only set the legal precedent for every dictator in the world to escape the responsibility for torture and human rights violations. Like you, every dictator will pin the responsibility on the seven, ten, or twenty bad apples in his forces. I am sure that decent American legal scholars would tell you that this excuse is very dangerous and would not stand in a proper, impartial court of law.

Actions are judged by results, not by rhetoric. Ordinary Iraqis, like your American soldiers, are faced with threats against their lives. The general lawlessness that still exists, as a result of your occupation of Iraq, makes ordinary Iraqis’ life miserable. We Iraqis are afraid to go out lest we get kidnapped by criminal gangs roaming the country. We also fear getting shot at by your nervous, trigger-happy troops, or killed by a bomb directed at them.

Trigger-happy Soldiers and Dead Civilians
The innocent Iraqi people are not using Armored Personal Carriers, nor are they using armored cars, to help them protect themselves. More innocent Iraqi civilians are killed by your troops than those killed by criminal gangs. You probably know, Mr. President, that your trigger-happy soldiers enjoy freedom from prosecution for these unlawful killings. From what I have witnessed, those killers do not even stop to say sorry for their actions.

Allow me to remind you that, now, in your “liberated” Iraq, more than 60% of the Iraqi workforce are unemployed—as compared to 30% before your liberation. It seems that your action has doubled the number of Iraqis “liberated” from their jobs.

The US Congress issued a report on Iraq at the end of June 2004. The report states that in May 2003 (just after the invasion) seven out of the 18 governorates of Iraq had more than 16 hours of electricity per day. It also says that this number was reduced to one governorate in May 2004, one year after the invasion. Now we consider ourselves very lucky if we get six hours of electricity per day in Baghdad, a city of five million people.

Health services have continued to deteriorate throughout the past 22 months of occupation. Hospitals still lack even the simplest things. Drugs are not available. Fewer patients seek medical treatment or examination because of the security situation and the closed streets. Doctors are not safe at hospitals because they have been physically attacked by relatives of patients, who vent their frustration at the poor, helpless doctors.

Due to the lack of security and the inefficiency of the police force, criminal gangs have kidnapped for ransom a few hundred doctors. Some were threatened. As a result, hundreds of highly qualified doctors have fled the country, which has resulted in further deterioration of health services. Those highly qualified doctors did not run away from the tyranny of the dictator, Mr. President, but from the chaos and lawlessness in your “liberated Iraq.”

Records show that the Iraqi government smuggled up to a hundred thousand barrels of refined diesel fuel a day through Turkey, with your government’s knowledge. These figures indicate that the Iraqi refineries had an excess refining capacity allowing it to export refined oil products.

Why Is Iraq’s Money Being Spent to Import Oil?
During the “liberation” of Iraq, refineries were not targeted, like in 1991; so one assumes that the damage was minimal. I wonder why refineries are not fixed yet — after 22 months of “liberation.” I still cannot understand why Iraq continues to import refined oil products from Turkey, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, and to my amazement, from Israel.

We Iraqis need to know why our money is currently being spent, unwisely, to import gasoline, given that we were an exporting nation in the past. I might understand that Halliburton and KBR needed to import gasoline for a few months, but not after 22 months of “liberation.”

In 1991 our refineries were severely damaged by the bombing. We the Iraqi people were able—despite the sanctions and without help from the Halliburtons—to fix the refineries in a few months only. We kept them working and going for 13 years and we were exporting products. Similarly, the Iraqi people were able to restore the electricity in a few months. The Iraqi people reconstructed every building damaged by the 1991 war in less than a year. Seeing the lack of any reconstruction efforts after 22 months of “liberation” makes me sad.

Our Children Have Been Traumatized by Your ‘Liberation’
Mr. President, In 1991 America promised that Iraq would be returned to the “pre-industrial” age, and they nearly did that by bombing and destroying everything. The Iraqi people surprised the world by reconstructing what had been bombed. On top of that, new projects were implemented despite the sanctions. As an Iraqi, this makes me extremely proud of our achievement in 1991. We the Iraqis set the standards of reconstruction. After 22 months of “liberation” and the lack of honest and visible reconstruction work, I feel that America miserably failed to meet those standards.

For 13 years, Iraqis lived on food rations given by the government. We were told that our government was robbing us and providing us with only 2200 kcal per day. The “liberated” government of Iraq, after the liberation, is still providing us with about 2200 kcal per day.

The government of Iraq used to spend about $150 million a month to import and distribute food rations. According to your CPA Inspector General, 8.8 billion dollars were unaccounted for in one year. These $8.8 billion are enough to feed all the people of Iraq for nearly 60 months. This fiscal irresponsibility and the lack of transparency in spending our money make me wonder about the aim of the “liberation” of Iraq. I’m sorry to say that the Iraqi people are being robbed blind. We are being “liberated” from our wealth also.

I am sure, Mr. President, that our traumatized kids will never forget what was done to their future by your “liberation.” I am sure that your kids have to deal, in the future, with our traumatized kids. I am also sure that your kids will have to repay for all the damage and the stolen money. I can see that the price will be very high.

I do not want to be like the rest of your advisors, who give you a rosy picture. They have told you about the WMD, the Al-Qaeda link, the 9/11 link, the Iraqis welcoming your troops as “liberators” … and it has been proved that they were not telling you the truth. It is about time that you listen to other people.
We do not hate America for its “freedom” or “democracy.” We don’t hate America. We hate the crimes, the destruction, and the devastation committed by America against the innocent people in our country.

Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar

Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar is a retired Iraqi engineer based in Baghdad, Iraq. An independent thinker, Al-Mukhtar doesn’t belong to any political parties, and he didn’t belong to any parties in the past. He can be reached at ghazwan_almukhtar@hotmail.com

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Thrown to the Wolves

February 26th, 2005 - by admin

Bob Herbert / New York Times – 2005-02-26 23:23:40

OTTAWA (February 25, 2005) — If John Ashcroft was right, then I was staring into the malevolent, duplicitous eyes of pure evil, the eyes of a man with the mass murder of Americans on his mind. But all I could really see was a polite, unassuming, neatly dressed guy who looked like a suburban Little League coach.

If Mr. Ashcroft was right, then Maher Arar should have been in a US prison, not talking to me in an office in downtown Ottawa. But there he was, a 34-year-old man who now wears a perpetually sad expression, talking about his recent experiences — a real-life story with the hideous aura of a hallucination. Mr. Arar’s 3-year-old son, Houd, loudly crunched potato chips while his father was being interviewed.

“I still have nightmares about being in Syria, being beaten, being in jail,” said Mr. Arar. “They feel very real. When I wake up, I feel very relieved to find myself in my room.”

In the fall of 2002 Mr. Arar, a Canadian citizen, suddenly found himself caught up in the cruel mockery of justice that the Bush administration has substituted for the rule of law in the post-Sept. 11 world. While attempting to change planes at Kennedy Airport on his way home to Canada from a family vacation in Tunisia, he was seized by American authorities, interrogated and thrown into jail. He was not charged with anything, and he never would be charged with anything, but his life would be ruined.

Mr. Arar was surreptitiously flown out of the United States to Jordan and then driven to Syria, where he was kept like a nocturnal animal in an unlit, underground, rat-infested cell that was the size of a grave. From time to time he was tortured.

He wept. He begged not to be beaten anymore. He signed whatever confessions he was told to sign. He prayed.

The Screams of the Tortured; the Cries of Babies
Among the worst moments, he said, were the times he could hear babies crying in a nearby cell where women were imprisoned. He recalled hearing one woman pleading with a guard for several days for milk for her child.

He could hear other prisoners screaming as they were tortured.

“I used to ask God to help them,” he said.

The Justice Department has alleged, without disclosing any evidence whatsoever, that Mr. Arar is a member of, or somehow linked to, Al Qaeda. If that’s so, how can the administration possibly allow him to roam free? The Syrians, who tortured him, have concluded that Mr. Arar is not linked in any way to terrorism.

And the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a sometimes-clownish outfit that seems to have helped set this entire fiasco in motion by forwarding bad information to American authorities, is being criticized heavily in Canada for failing to follow its own rules on the handling and dissemination of raw classified information.

Official documents in Canada suggest that Mr. Arar was never the target of a terror investigation there. One former Canadian official, commenting on the Arar case, was quoted in a local newspaper as saying “accidents will happen” in the war on terror.

Whatever may have happened in Canada, nothing can excuse the behavior of the United States in this episode. Mr. Arar was deliberately dispatched by US officials to Syria, a country that — as they knew — practices torture. And if Canadian officials hadn’t intervened, he most likely would not have been heard from again.

Mr. Arar is the most visible victim of the reprehensible US policy known as extraordinary rendition, in which individuals are abducted by American authorities and transferred, without any legal rights whatever, to a regime skilled in the art of torture. The fact that some of the people swallowed up by this policy may in fact have been hard-core terrorists does not make it any less repugnant.

Mr. Arar, who is married and also has an 8-year-old daughter, said the pain from some of the beatings he endured lasted for six months.

“It was so scary,” he said. “After a while I became like an animal.”

A lawsuit on Mr. Arar’s behalf has been filed against the United States by the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. Barbara Olshansky, a lawyer with the center, noted yesterday that the government is arguing that none of Mr. Arar’s claims can even be adjudicated because they “would involve the revelation of state secrets.”

This is a government that feels it is answerable to no one.

E-mail: bobherb@nytimes.com
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Gorbachev’s Lost Legacy

February 26th, 2005 - by admin

Stephen F. Cohen / The Nation – 2005-02-26 23:16:15


(March 14, 2005 issue, Posted February 24, 2005) — The most important event of the late 20th century began 30 years ago this month.

On March 11, 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union, and within a few weeks the full-scale reformation he attempted to carry out both inside his country and in its Cold War relations with the West, particularly the United States, began to unfold.

Perestroika, as Gorbachev called his reforms, officially ended with the Soviet Union and his leadership in December 1991. The historic opportunities for a better future it offered Russia and the world have been steadily undermined ever since.

The essential meaning of perestroika for Gorbachev and his supporters was creating and acting on alternatives to failed and dangerous policies at home and abroad. Inside the Soviet Union, it meant replacing the Communist Party’s repressive political monopoly with multiparty politics based on democratic elections and an end of censorship (glasnost) and replacing the state’s crushing economic monopoly with market relations based on different forms of ownership, including private property.

Both of those liberating reforms, which were directed at czarist and Soviet authoritarian traditions, were well under way by the end of the 1980s, when the Soviet Union had already ceased to be a Communist or, as it was often characterized, “totalitarian” system.

In Soviet-American relations, Gorbachev’s reforms meant ending the forty-year cold war and its attendant arms race, which had imperiled both countries and the world with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons.

Here, too, having found willing partners first in President Ronald Reagan and then President George H.W. Bush, Gorbachev’s initiatives were remarkably successful well before he left the historical stage.

By mid-1988, standing on Red Square no less, Reagan had declared that the Soviet Union was no longer an “evil empire,” and in December 1989, at a summit meeting in Malta, Bush and Gorbachev announced that the cold war was over. Treaties providing for major arms reductions were signed, and even more far-reaching ones were being negotiated.

Yeltsin Takes Russia Backwards — With Washington’s Approval
Both at home and abroad, therefore, Gorbachev’s policies bore historic fruit while the Soviet Union still existed, so there was no reason for them to end with that state. But they did. In Russia, Boris Yeltsin, Gorbachev’s successor, abruptly jettisoned his predecessor’s evolutionary approach for the old Russian tradition of imposing unpopular changes on the nation from above — first the abolition of the Soviet Union itself, then the economic measures known as “shock therapy.”

Not surprisingly, those acts led to more undemocratic ones in the 1990s, enthusiastically supported, it should be recalled, by the Clinton Administration and most US media and academic Russia- watchers — Yeltsin’s armed dissolution of an elected parliament, oligarchical privatization, the Chechen war, increasingly corrupted mass media and rigged elections. Today’s Russian president, Vladimir Putin, may be further undoing Gorbachev’s democratization achievements, but the process began when Yeltsin abandoned perestroika.

The opportunities that Gorbachev created for international relations have also been missed, perhaps even lost — here, however, primarily because of the United States. Instead of embracing post-Soviet Russia as an equal partner in ending the cold war and the arms race, both the Clinton and the George W. Bush administrations undertook a triumphalist winner-take- all policy of extracting unilateral concessions first from Yeltsin and then from Putin.

They have included the eastward expansion of NATO (thereby breaking a promise the first President Bush made to Gorbachev); the withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which had discouraged a new nuclear arms race; the bogus nuclear weapons reduction treaty of 2002; and the ongoing military encirclement of Russia with US and NATO bases in former Soviet territories.

‘Exceedingly Unwise Policies’
Those exceedingly unwise US policies, which in Moscow are understandably viewed as another attempt to isolate and “contain” Russia, are leading to a new cold war. They have already badly eroded the political basis for any pro-American orientation in Moscow and persuaded most Russian officials that their country’s salvation lies in reverting to pre-perestroika governing traditions and finding strategic allies again in the East.

Weak militarily and unstable financially, the Kremlin has also reacted by clinging to its uncertainly secure nuclear arsenal, even expanding instead of reducing it. The current Bush Administration has apparently decided, for other reasons, to do the same. A new nuclear arms race, that is, already looms.

Twenty years later, then, little, if anything, is left of the historic opportunities Gorbachev opened up for his country and the world. Their loss may be the worst, and most unnecessary, political tragedy of our time. (Those of us who know Gorbachev have heard him speak of this with great sadness.)

There remains, however, the hope, at least in Russia, that, as sometimes happens in history, the memory of lost alternatives will one day inspire efforts to regain them. But that would require new perestroika-like leadership in both countries.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

‘Leave Our Country, Now’

February 26th, 2005 - by admin

Hassan Juma’a Awad / Guardian of London – 2005-02-26 10:36:57


BAGHDAD (February 18, 2005) — We lived through dark days under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. When the regime fell, people wanted a new life: a life without shackles and terror; a life where we could rebuild our country and enjoy its natural wealth. Instead, our communities have been attacked with chemicals and cluster bombs, and our people tortured, raped and killed in our homes.

Saddam’s secret police used to creep over the roofs into our homes at night; occupation troops now break down our doors in broad daylight. The media do not show even a fraction of the devastation that has engulfed Iraq. Journalists who dare to report the truth of what is happening have been kidnapped by terrorists. This serves the agenda of the occupation, which aims to eliminate witnesses to its crimes.

Workers in Iraq’s southern oilfields began organising soon after British occupying forces invaded Basra. We founded our union, the Southern Oil Company Union, just 11 days after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003.

When the occupation troops stood back and allowed Basra’s hospitals, universities and public services to be burned and looted, while they defended only the oil ministry and oilfields, we knew we were dealing with a brutal force prepared to impose its will without regard for human suffering.

From the beginning, we were left in no doubt that the US and its allies had come to take control of our oil resources.

Occupation Continues to Enforce Saddam’s Repressive Laws
The occupation authorities have maintained many of Saddam’s repressive laws, including the 1987 order which robbed us of basic union rights, including the right to strike.

Today, we still have no official recognition as a trade union, despite having 23,000 members in 10 oil and gas companies in Basra, Amara, Nassiriya, and up to Anbar province. However, we draw our legitimacy from the workers, not the government. We believe unions should operate regardless of the government’s wishes, until the people are able finally to elect a genuinely accountable and independent Iraqi government, which represents our interests and not those of American imperialism.

Our union is independent of any political party. Most trade unions in Britain only seem to be aware of one union federation in Iraq, the regime-authorised Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, whose president, Rassim Awadi, is deputy leader of the US-imposed prime minister Ayad Allawi’s party.

The IFTU’s leadership is carved up between the pro-government Communist party, Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord, and their satellites. In fact, there are two other union federations, which are linked to political parties, as well as our own organisation.

Our union has already shown it is able to stand its ground against one of the most powerful US companies, Dick Cheney’s KBR, which tried to take over our workplaces with the protection of occupation forces.

We forced them out and compelled their Kuwaiti subcontractor, Al Khourafi, to replace 1,000 of the 1,200 employees it brought with it with Iraqi workers, 70% of whom are unemployed today.

Dollars for Foreign Mercenaries; Pennies for Local Workers
We also fought US viceroy Paul Bremer’s wage schedule, which dictated that Iraqi public sector workers must earn ID 69,000 ($35) per month, while paying up to $1,000 a day to thousands of foreign mercenaries. In August 2003 we took strike action and shut down all oil production for three days. As a result, the occupation authorities had to raise wages to a minimum of ID 150,000.

We see it as our duty to defend the country’s resources. We reject and will oppose all moves to privatise our oil industry and national resources. We regard this privatisation as a form of neo-colonialism, an attempt to impose a permanent economic occupation to follow the military occupation.

Sunni-Shia Division Is a ‘Deliberate’ Goal of the Occupation
The occupation has deliberately fomented a sectarian division of Sunni and Shia. We never knew this sort of division before. Our families intermarried, we lived and worked together. And today we are resisting this brutal occupation together, from Falluja to Najaf to Sadr City.

The resistance to the occupation forces is a God-given right of Iraqis, and we, as a union, see ourselves as a necessary part of this resistance — although we will fight using our industrial power, our collective strength as a union, and as a part of civil society which needs to grow in order to defeat both still-powerful Saddamist elites and the foreign occupation of our country.

Bush and Blair should remember that those who voted in last month’s elections in Iraq are as hostile to the occupation as those who boycotted them. Those who claim to represent the Iraqi working class while calling for the occupation to stay a bit longer, due to “fears of civil war”, are in fact speaking only for themselves and the minority of Iraqis whose interests are dependent on the occupation.

We as a union call for the withdrawal of foreign occupation forces and their military bases. We don’t want a timetable — this is a stalling tactic. We will solve our own problems. We are Iraqis, we know our country and we can take care of ourselves. We have the means, the skills and resources to rebuild and create our own democratic society.

Hassan Juma’a Awad is general secretary of Iraq’s Southern Oil Company Union and president of the Basra Oil Workers’ Union

© The Guardian.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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