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ACTION ALERT: National “Mandate for Peace” Call-in Day, Dec. 4

November 30th, 2006 - by admin

Progressive Democrats of America – 2006-11-30 23:29:52

http://pdamerica.org/petition/mcgovern-petition.php

Call your Representative and Senators and tell them “Stop Funding War! – Bring Our Troops Home – NOW! ”

The first “National Call-In Day” since the election will be Dec. 4, and we’re encouraging you to please participate by placing a call to your representative and senators to ask them to “Stop Funding War” and bring our troops home.

The death toll and carnage in Iraq is increasing at an alarming rate. Our soldiers are caught in the middle of a civil war unleashed by an administration that refused to plan for postwar reconstruction and failed to understand Iraqi culture and history.

Congress and the administration sit and wait … for the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report, for the Pentagon study group report, the White House study group — for anything they can hide behind.

On Election Day, voters said enough is enough — we want a new direction. Let’s make sure Congress hears it again by jamming the switchboards on Dec. 4 with our pleas to bring our troops home immediately.

Sign the petition! I support the passage of H.R. 4232, the End the War in Iraq Act of 2005, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. James McGovern (D-MA).

Send an email to the Iraq Study Group. Ask that their recommendations include immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Bring the Mandate for Peace to Washington DC on Jan. 27!

Click here and scroll down to find your representative and senators.

Call your representative and both senators at 202-224-3121 and tell them:
“I insist that Congress act immediately to bring all U.S. troops home from Iraq NOW!”

Background:
The United States has now been engaged in Iraq for longer than our engagement in World War II. Violence in Iraq is spiking to ever-higher levels. It is impossible to say how many Iraqis have died during the war and occupation, but Johns Hopkins University estimates 650,000. We know that over 2,800 US troops have died, and over 20,000 have been maimed or wounded.

The Constitution gives Congress the power to end this war through the power of the purse. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) has described this as “the fulcrum of the people’s leverage … to shackle the hands of an overreaching chief executive.” Congress can and must use this leverage to bring the occupation of Iraq to an end.

Stop Funding War Campaign Plan
Mimi Kennedy, Advisory Board Chair, Tim Carpenter, Executive Director, Sherry Bohlen, Field Director
(November 9, 2006) — With the election of a Democratic House and Senate, now is the time to put pressure on Congress to stop funding war. PDA, with your financial support, is proud to launch the STOP FUNDING WAR campaign!
This is how your contribution will be spent:
. We’ll provide each of our Chapters with STOP FUNDING WAR bumper stickers, buttons and lapel stickers to distribute freely at events, meetings, conferences, conventions and actions.

• We’ll produce a 10-minute DVD featuring Congressman Jim McGovern and PDA Board Members Rep Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, and Rev Lennox Yearwood focusing on encouraging our congressional leadership to STOP FUNDING WAR!

• We’ll provide our Chapters and grassroots leadership with a free copy of the DVD for presentation at meetings, conferences and other gatherings.

• We’ll expand our STOP FUNDING WAR blog ads.

• We’ll expand our STOP FUNDING WAR CapWiz alerts encouraging our grassroots base to send instant messages to their congressional representatives asking them to support HR 4232 or similar legislation.

• We’ll organize and mobilize our Chapters to challenge our congressional representatives to stand with us in a call to STOP FUNDING WAR!

• We’ll be able to send PDA national leadership to join our grassroots on the ground at key STOP FUNDING WAR campaign events.

• We’ll provide support for individual state and county Democratic Party Central Committees to pass resolutions in support of “Ending the Funding” for the war in Iraq.

• And, we’ll be able to provide general support and materials for our grassroots leadership to carry this vital campaign forward.

Please support PDA’s grassroots work. With the exception of two paid staff members, we are an an all-volunteer organization that really knows how to stretch a dollar. Your contribution is integral to this campaign’s success. As a small “thank you” for your support, we’ll send a bumper sticker and button to each donor that contributes to this campaign.

UK Protesters Say Renewing Tridents Violates International Law

November 30th, 2006 - by admin

INRA & BBC News & BBC Sunday AM – 2006-11-30 23:21:48

http://www.irna.ir/en/news/view/menu-239/0611271344180108.htm

UK Protesters Say Renewing Tridents Would Break International Law
IRNA

LONDON (November 27, 2006) —Several hundred environmentalists and peace campaigners held demonstrations outside Britain’s Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Institute in southern England in protest against UK plans to replace their nuclear missiles.

The protest was against building works that has already started at Britain’s main nuclear warhead production site, which campaigners say already heralds a new generation of missiles, even though a formal decision has yet to be made.

Attending the demonstration, Greenpeace spokesman Ben Stewart said that the decision on replace the submarine-based Trident was “exactly the same as Tony Blair’s hypocrisy over the Iraq war and civil nuclear power.”

“First he makes the decision in secret. Then he demands a public debate,” Stewart said in reference to the prime minister’s pledge to allow MPs a vote on the government’s plans early next year.

Greenpeace has warned Blair, quoting legal opinion, that he threatened to breach the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is he goes ahead with plans to upgrade the country’s nuclear capability.

The first indications that new “special facilities” were to be built at the institute came as far back as June 2002, when press reports revealed that a Site Development Strategy Plan outlining new developments was due to be published.

The reports suggested that the plan involved not merely readiness to replace the Trident nuclear system, but also the possible development of new types of nuclear weapons.


Churches Unite to ‘End Trident’
BBC News

(September 14, 2006) — A cross-country protest march against replacing the Trident nuclear weapon system has got under way.

Up to 100 campaigners, including senior church officials and peace campaigners, set off from Faslane Naval Base in Argyll and Bute on Thursday.

The military base is home to Trident, which is up for replacement or upgrade at a cost of billions of pounds. The marchers are undertaking an 85-mile walk to the Scottish Parliament so they can make their views known to MSPs.

At First Minister’s Questions on Thursday Jack McConnell came under fire over his views on nuclear weapons. The UK Government will decide whether to renew Trident in the coming months.

The SNP’s Holyrood leader Nicola Sturgeon called on Mr McConnell to declare where he stood on the issue and not to “hedge his bets”.

Churchmen, including Kirk moderator Rt Rev Alan McDonald, set out from the gates of the Trident submarine base on the Clyde.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Mario Conti and Cardinal Keith O’Brien will also take part in the march before it reaches the parliament on Tuesday. Mr McDonald has been criticised by some in the church, who said he does not speak for them on such a controversial issue.

Glasgow Rally
The moderator, who has attended a number of demonstrations at Faslane over the years, said the statistics about Trident were “chilling”.

He said: “Each Trident submarine can carry the equivalent of 750 Hiroshima atom bombs. The potential for the indiscriminate destruction of countless men, women and children is almost beyond belief.

“For me, the issue of nuclear weapons is close to the heart of what it means to be a Christian today.”

Scottish CND co-ordinator John Ainslie added: “We are concerned that the government will announce later this year the plan to keep nuclear weapons in Scotland for another 40 years. We are marching to Scotland’s parliament to ask them to take a stand on behalf of the Scottish people to oppose these proposals.”

The march, which will be covering 15 miles each day, is set to pass through Glasgow on Saturday for a rally from Blythswood Square to George Square.


Trident Protesters Reach Holyrood
BBC News

(September 19, 2006) — Anti-nuclear arms campaigners have arrived in Edinburgh at the completion of their 85-mile trek from the Navy’s Faslane submarine base on the Clyde.

The marchers, including leading churchmen, have called on the Scottish Parliament and Westminster to scrap Trident missiles and any replacement.

They left Faslane, the home of the UK’s fleet of submarines armed with nuclear warheads, five days ago, to head east. A rally was held, calling for an end the UK nuclear deterrent.

The UK Government will decide before the end of 2006 whether Britain will continue to have nuclear weapons and whether to build new submarines to replace Trident.

Parliamentary Minister Margaret Curran spoke to anti-Trident demonstrators outside Holyrood.

Ms Curran said the views would be passed on to Westminster where the UK Government has responsibility for defence decisions.

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend Alan McDonald, started out with the marchers.

He rejoined them in the capital, along with Roman Catholic Cardinal Keith O’Brien and the Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh, the Right Reverend Brian Smith, and representatives from Islamic and Quaker communities.

Mr McDonald said “Since 1981 the Church of Scotland has said, time and again, that nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction are morally and theologically wrong.

“We know the decision will be taken in Westminster, but this parliament can speak for itself and is able to say whatever it likes. There would be huge moral authority and theological authority if this parliament was to say to ‘no’ Trident.”

‘Irrational and Absurd’
Cardinal O’Brien told protesters: “I hope by our presence here today and by the walk you have completed, we give voice to hope and remind all who will listen that if nuclear war is illogical, immoral and inconceivable, then investing billions of pounds in more nuclear weapons is iniquitous, irrational and absurd.”

Green MSP Chris Ballance said: “Greens, along with the majority of Scots, oppose Trident, oppose the renewal of Trident, and deplore the indiscriminate violence and carnage that nuclear weapons are designed to create.

“Nuclear weapons make us a terrorist target, create nuclear waste, are illegal and give this country a key role in maintaining one of the most immoral and brutal features of 21st Century politics.”


Trident Missile Costs ‘Immoral’
BBC World News

(September 28, 2006) — Spending billions of pounds on renewing the Trident nuclear weapon system would be immoral, according to the SNP.

The claim came in an SNP-led Holyrood debate on the renewal of Trident, an issue reserved to Westminster. It follows a march on the parliament last week by peace campaigners and church leaders.

However, Labour and Conservative MSPs believe Trident would play a valuable part in international talks to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

The SNP’s Roseanna Cunningham said that when maintenance costs were taken into account, the real cost of replacing Trident was £76bn rather than the £25bn which has been talked about.

She called for a national debate but resented Labour’s suggestion that it should be confined to Westminster.

Ms Cunningham said there was no moral justification for nuclear weapons, especially when Britain was trying to persuade other nations not to acquire them.

“If we are not using them, why do we continue to buy them? And if we continue to buy them and stockpile, why do we believe we can continue to tell others that they should not do the same?” she said. “When we brandish weapons whose only purpose is mass and indiscriminate slaughter, we give up all right to preach to others about the morality of the choices they might make.”

‘Transfer Skills’
Labour’s Jackie Ballie said the SNP had not thought through how it was going to eradicate the world’s nuclear weapons and what it would do with the existing Trident submarine base at Faslane, where 7,000 people were employed.

“It is a staggering number of jobs. I’ve been accused in the past of using that as some kind of excuse for keeping nuclear weapons,” she said. “Far from it, those are the facts. It might be uncomfortable for the SNP but they are very real and must be addressed.”

Mike Rumbles from the Liberal Democrats criticised Chancellor Gordon Brown for pre-empting the debate on Trident.

Conservative Phil Gallie said he hoped there would be a vote at Westminster, where the final decision would be made, some time in the next two years.

The Green Party has expressed concern over any impact on workers at Faslane or Coulport.

Chris Ballance, the party’s spokesman on nuclear issues, said: “Government must engage with workers and trade unions now to plan for transferring the skills and experience of the workforce into other industries. We need to stop throwing tens of billions of pounds into a weapons system aimed at a threat which no longer exists.”

Socialist MSP Rosie Kane said: “This parliament needs to speak out. To say it is a reserved matter, a big boy did it and ran away, is no excuse. “If they had the will, they could speak up.”

© BBC MMVI


Stalking Horse?
BBC Sunday AM

(October 29, 2006) — On Sunday 29 October, Huw Edwards interviewed John McDonnell MP.

HUW EDWARDS: What would a McDonnell leadership mean in policy terms, which after all is the most important thing. What will that be?

JOHN MCDONNELL I’m largely standing on the policies that have been agreed by Labour Party Conference and there’s majority support within our party. Things like we’re a party that’s in favour of peace not war.

So I voted against Iraq and I’d withdraw from Iraq. We’re in favour of public services, not privatisation.

So I’m opposed to what Gordon Brown has been doing in the NHS in terms of privatisation, so has the majority in the country I have to say….

I’m in favour of a decent environment. So I’m in favour of alternative energy sources. And I’m opposed to nuclear reactors. I’m opposed to spending 76 billion pounds on Trident.

I want that invested in our public services. It’s those sorts of issues. But I’m standing on the policies that Labour Party Conference has largely agreed. But also they’re policies that have majority support in the country as well by opinion poll after opinion poll.

HUW EDWARDS: I mean it may seem to some viewers that you’re saying forget New Labour, okay, forget all of that. It’s been a bit of a nightmare. We’re going back to old traditional Labour values.

JOHN MCDONNELL I, I don’t like this “Old Labour”, “New Labour”. I’m not New Labour, I’m not Old Labour. I’m Labour. I’m the mainstream of the Labour Party.

And I’ve been doing these meetings all round the country which has been great fun, listening to people again. And it is going back to listening.

All these techniques of advertising, wasting money, taking loans so you can spend all this money on advertising campaigns. I’m going back to listening to people, engaging people in politics.

And at, at the meetings I’ve been doing round the country you’ll hear as much laughter as you will applause where people are engaging in discussion and having fun and enthusiasm about politics again.

HUW EDWARDS: Let’s just pick up one or two specific things. On Iraq you’d pull out, regardless of the consequences? You’d just pull the troops out and let them get on with it?

JOHN MCDONNELL Of course not. The issue for us now is to recognise we’ve made a mistake in Iraq. I voted against it and I, a lot of us argued … that this was a, a wrong, a mistake.

What we should do now is accept we’ve made a mistake, go back to the United Nations and appeal to the rest of the world to help us in engaging in that withdrawal.

And that does mean tackling the other issues within the Middle East as well. It does mean looking at how we resolve the Palestinian, Israeli problem. We’ve got to restore our credibility as a peace maker in the world. I wanted Tony Blair’s legacy to be Northern Ireland. He’s done a fantastic job in bringing about peace. The tragedy is it’s going to be Iraq.

HUW EDWARDS: Could, could Gordon Brown not restore the Party’s reputation as a peace maker?

JOHN MCDONNELL This isn’t about personalities.

HUW EDWARDS: But could he? Do you think he could?

JOHN MCDONNELL Well I think it’s about saying what about, will there be any policy change? Gordon Brown has been the architect of New Labour’s policies in the same way as Tony Blair. And I think the Labour Party and the country want a radical break with New Labour.

They want us to have a new vision for the country which is based on … more equal society. Labour Party being a peaceful role in the world, playing a peaceful role. Investing in public services, not privatising them.

HUW EDWARDS: Renewing Trident as a nuclear defence system, would you do that?

JOHN MCDONNELL No. There’s been different estimates on the cost. Twenty six million’s what, billion is what the government’s saying. The newspaper said three weeks ago it’s up to seventy six billion pounds.

I think that’s a waste of resources on a weapon we’d never use and doesn’t, actually doesn’t defend us even.

NB: This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script. Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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

In War-torn Sudan, Women Wage Peace

November 30th, 2006 - by admin

Rob Crilly / The Christian Science Monitor – 2006-11-30 23:18:14

http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1121/p07s02-woaf.html

KHARTOUM, SUDAN (November 21, 2006 ) — When the farming tribes of Darfur took up arms more than two years ago against what they saw as a neglectful Arab-dominated government, Samia Ahmed Nihar’s brothers, uncles, and male cousins joined the struggle.

But as a lecturer in development studies at Khartoum University in Sudan’s capital, Ms. Nihar, a mother of two, took on a different role.

With the government’s media machine and its compliant local charities refusing to acknowledge the horrors of Darfur, Ms. Nihar became a secret conduit to ensure that the real story made its way to international journalists and charities in Khartoum. A member of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) rebel group, she risked imprisonment or worse to make sure that the truth of the Arab janjaweed militia and government attacks on civilian villages became known.

“We as women were involved in trying to liaise with NGOs here in Khartoum, keeping them in touch with what was going on there and reflecting the bad situation of women in Darfur,” says Nihar, who was in good company at a recent four-day workshop in Khartoum organized by the US-based Initiative for Inclusive Security, a program to involve women in peace processes around the world.

The conference was designed to include women’s voices in bringing peace to Darfur, and in efforts to rebuild Southern Sudan — itself the scene of a separate civil war that ended last year.

The challenges the women face are huge, and the Nov. 9-12 conference is something of a milestone in a country dominated by Islamists where few women hold positions of real power. Conference organizers say women are too often excluded from peace and reconstruction talks in favor of men with guns. When peace negotiations focus on the combatants, the real victims often find themselves voiceless and disenfranchised.

“Our rationale for working around the world – and our rationale for working with Sudanese women – is that we believe peace will be more durable if women are included,” says Carla Koppell, director of the Initiative for Inclusive Security. “Often you see peace processes that only bring together those that bore arms. It seems to us illogical and not efficacious to not bring in the stakeholders for peace, which very often are women.”

Risky Business
But it has been very difficult — and dangerous — for Sudanese women to take a stand for peace. “We were frightened all the time. We were scared that we could be arrested or even our families would have problems, because of what we were doing,” Nihar says of her surreptitious efforts to raise awareness of the atrocities in Darfur.

Sudanese soldiers and allied janjaweed militiamen have recently stepped up attacks against rebels – and civilians – in Darfur despite a cease-fire, say international observers. The 7,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur this weekend called these attacks a “flagrant violation” of the peace agreement, signed in May by the government and the SLA. “The government is arming Arab militias more than ever before,” said Jan Egeland, the UN’s top humanitarian official, Saturday. Sudan continues to deny this charge.

But, Nihar says, there is never a question of giving in. “People were giving their lives in the struggle, so it seems a small sacrifice [for me to risk being] arrested,” she says.

Nihar’s secret life ended in May when her comrades in the SLA signed a peace deal with the government. At this month’s conference, she represented the political wing of the pro-treaty rebel group. Ministers, academics, and grass-roots community leaders were among the 50 or so women who attended.

Focus on Sudan’s Other War
For all of the recent global attention on Darfur, the conference also focused on the recently ended civil war in Southern Sudan in which 1.5 million people died during two decades of fighting.

Respite finally arrived last year with a peace deal that allows the south a referendum on independence in 2011. But after 21 years of war, the region’s infrastructure was left shattered.

The conference ended with publication of an agenda for women’s groups in Sudan. It urges them to advocate that 30 percent of positions in all levels of government are filled by women, with an eventual target of 50 percent. The agenda also includes scrutinizing legislation of its impact on women and pushing for a fair share of donor and government money.

Conferences like this one in Khartoum – and another smaller one in Darfur last week – offer a chance for Sudanese women to overcome some of the problems unique to their country, added Maha Muna, Sudan coordinator for the United Nations Population Fund.

“With sanctions and the long war in the south, it means that women’s organizations have been cut off from other organizations around the world, but this work brings their voices together with the international women’s movement in a way that is really powerful,” she says.

Whatever the challenges, Nihar says that Sudanese women will not shrink from the task.

“In Darfur, we work in the fields, we look after the families, and we even build the houses, so we are very strong.”

In accordance with Title 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.

Child Poverty And The “Defence” Budget

November 30th, 2006 - by admin

Media Lens – 2006-11-30 23:15:50

Media Lens — “Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media”

LONDON (November 28, 2006) — It was the Daily Telegraph, not the ‘liberal’ Independent or Guardian, that reported accusations last week that Tony Blair is “wasting nearly £7 billion of taxpayers’ money on a failing war on terror”. (Toby Helm and Brendan Carlin, ‘Anger at £7bn cost of war on terror,’ Daily Telegraph, November 20, 2006)

Unsurprisingly, the Telegraph was reporting from within the government’s propaganda framework of a “war on terror.” But the news coverage was welcome given that critical reporting of the immense financial costs to the public of invading and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan has been muted.

The report added that Blair and his Tweedledum/Tweedledee accomplice, Gordon Brown, had proudly “trumpeted special funding” of British taxpayers’ money to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan: a sum totalling £844 million. This funding announcement came just two days after Blair admitted in an Al-Jazeera interview that the 2003 invasion of Iraq had been a “disaster”. Perturbed government officials have since back-pedalled frantically, claiming a prime ministerial “slip of the tongue”.

The day after the Telegraph story, the Press Association reported that the “special funding” was part of a huge increase in Ministry of Defence expenditure limits: up £1.6 billion for the next financial year. Defence Secretary Des Browne quietly slipped out word of the increase in a written statement: the already massive UK “defence” budget would be raised from £32 billion to £33.6 billion for 2006-07. (Ben Padley, ‘MoD seeks extra £1.4bn for Iraq and Afghanistan,’ PA, November 21, 2006)

Several days afterwards, media database searches showed no mention, or follow-up, of this PA news story in the British press. The single exception is a comment piece by George Monbiot in today’s Guardian. He observes of the huge increase in the military budget:

“No one noticed. Or if they did, no one complained. The government didn’t even bother to issue a press release.” (Monbiot, ‘Only paranoia can justify the world’s second biggest military budget,’ The Guardian, November 28, 2006)

Also, as researcher Chris Langley explains, even last year’s quoted expenditure limit of £32 billion is “misleading.” (Langley, personal communication, November 27, 2006). The actual expenditure, including depreciation and cost of capital charges, was £39.8 billion, according to figures produced by the Defence Statistics Agency. (http://www.dasa.mod.uk/natstats/ukds/2006/c1/table11.html)

Punching Above Its Weight — Trampling The Poor
In cash terms, as Monbiot notes, the UK military budget is the second highest in the world (after the US). But then, as we are often reminded by politicians and the media, ours is a country that likes to “punch above its weight” in global affairs. “Defence” is the fourth largest consumer of UK taxpayers’ money after social security, health and education. (Chris Langley, ‘Soldiers in the Laboratory,’ report, 79pp., Scientists for Global Responsibility, January 2005; www.sgr.org.uk/ArmsControl/MilitaryInfluence.html)

The mainstream media rarely question why such a large portion of the country’s tax budget is devoted to the military sector. You would be hard pressed to find a discussion about what impact these skewed finances might have on state support for public health services, education and social justice generally. In particular, there is no debate linking the country’s huge military budget with the consequences for eradicating child poverty in Britain — an ongoing scandal. Hilary Fisher, director of the campaigning coalition End Child Poverty, notes:

“In a country as rich as Britain it is embarrassing and shocking that children still live in poverty.” (www.ecpc.org.uk/index.php?id=4)

The coalition cites some of the ugly realities of child poverty in the UK:

o 400,000 children have inadequate diets.
o Around 52,000 families with children became homeless in 2005.
o Increasing gas and electricity costs mean three million families are expected to be unable to heat their homes this year.
o Children from families of unskilled labourers are 15 times more likely to die from a fire at home.

As one single parent of three children in North London says:

“The worst blow of all is the contempt of your fellow citizens. I and many families live in that contempt.” (‘Making UK poverty history,’ Oxfam GB, BOND, End Child Poverty Coalition and the TUC, October 2005, report, 20pp., www.oxfmagb.org)

In October, End Child Poverty called on Gordon Brown to allocate just £4 billion to wipe out child poverty in Britain. The group warns: “It is clear that current policies and resources will not enable the government to reach its targets.”

But one has to turn to the small-circulation Morning Star newspaper to join the dots and point out the obvious. A recent editorial noted that, in March 1999, Tony Blair promised to eradicate child poverty “within a generation,” quoting 2020 as a target. (Editorial, ‘Sick set of priorities,’ Morning Star, November 20, 2006)

In March 2006, the government had been forced to announce that it had failed — by a significant margin — to meet the first target in that project. It had boasted it would reduce the number of children living in poverty by 25 per cent — approximately one million — and missed by 300,000.

The Morning Star editors wrote:

“There are 3.4 million British children still living in poverty because of that failure, roughly a quarter of the population under 16 years old, in a country which boasts the fifth-largest economy in the world.”

The editorial pointed to the scandal of Blair calling, in the same month these child poverty statistics were published, for a renewed British nuclear “deterrent”. Or, as the paper put it sagely, a replacement for “the irrelevant, ineffectual and unused Trident missile system at an estimated cost of around £25 billion”.

But even the mind-boggling figure of £25 billion is likely a gross underestimate of the final cost to the public. A report in the Guardian, based on calculations by the Liberal Democrats, estimates a much higher total figure of £76 billion. This would be the treasure chest required to buy the missiles, replace four nuclear submarines, and maintain the system for its lifetime of 30 years. (John Vidal, Tania Branigan and James Randerson, ‘Global warming: Could scrapping these… …save this?’, The Guardian, November 4, 2006)

Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility, sent us his response to government plans to replace Trident:

“It’s extremely disturbing that the government seems willing to take a decision to commission a new nuclear weapons system — whose total costs could be as high as £76 billion — while child poverty still exists in the UK.” (Email, November 28, 2006)

Polly’s Cameronian Caravan
Sadly, the same directness in challenging establishment priorities was absent from Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee’s article last week on poverty. (Toynbee, ‘If Cameron can climb on my caravan, anything is possible,’ The Guardian, November 22, 2006). Over many years, Toynbee has built a reputation in the mainstream as a social democrat who champions the cause of poverty reduction.

“For the Tories to admit that ignoring relative poverty was a terrible mistake represents a real breakthrough,” her article declared.

And — another Toynbee gem — Tory leader David Cameron “makes it easier for Labour to be bold on poverty, to hit that target of abolishing child poverty by 2020”.

This was a trivial analysis. Toynbee thus gave credit to Tory leader David Cameron for his wretched PR attempt to hijack the poverty issue. There was no mention of the corporate-dominated policies supported by his party, and pursued by the state no matter which party rules, to the detriment of social justice — including any realistic hopes of abolishing child poverty. As radical historian Mark Curtis has written:

“Addressing poverty eradication without tackling big business is a bit like addressing malaria without mentioning mosquitoes.” (Curtis, ‘Web of Deceit,’ Vintage, 2003, p.217)

We wrote to Toynbee as follows:

“There’s no mention in your article of skewed government spending priorities such as its overblown ‘defence’ budget; and, specifically, whether the state should be paying billions for the invasion-occupation of Iraq.

“Or, looking to Richard Norton-Taylor’s column immediately to the right of yours [‘Beware Trident-Lite’], whether paying for a grossly expensive updated nuclear ‘deterrent’ is a responsible use of public revenue.

“Why did you not consider these issues of relevance in your piece on poverty today?” (Email, November 22, 2006)

In reply, we received an interesting permutation of the standard “lack of space” canard:

“Well, you can’t put everything into one column! Or you’d always write the same one…” (Email, November 23, 2006)

Such a response would make sense if Toynbee had repeatedly examined the link between exorbitant military spending — the Trident replacement, in particular — and the lack of progress on eradicating child poverty. But, in the last twelve months, she has only twice hinted at a possible link. This is an unimpressive performance from someone lauded in the mainstream for her commitment to exposing poverty and social injustice. And so her answer enters the lexicon of liberal evasions.

We also wrote to Andrew Grice, political editor of the Independent, in response to his weekly column on the same topic. (‘The week in politics: Beckham, Toynbee and the Tory view of poverty,’ The Independent, November 24, 2006):

“You referred to: ‘the root causes of deep poverty, such as alcohol and drug problems, and poor education and housing.’ Why is there no mention in your article of the state’s skewed priorities in spending taxpayers’ money; in particular, the huge sums spent on ‘defence’?

“As you are likely aware, Tony Blair faced accusations last week ‘that he was wasting nearly £7 billion of taxpayers’ money on a failing war on terror.’ Moreover, Defence Secretary Des Browne has just announced an increase in the annual UK military budget from £32 billion to £33.6 billion for 2006-07.

“And then there is the proposed replacement for Trident, at a cost of £25 billion or more. Indeed, calculations that account for buying new missiles, replacing four nuclear submarines, and maintaining the system for 30 years, suggest a much higher total figure of £76 billion.

“Why did you consider all of this irrelevant to your column this week?” (Email, November 24, 2006)

We have received no response at time of writing.

Concluding Remark
Corporate reporters and commentators have mastered the art of not making painful connections; painful for powerful interests, that is. Thus, shameful child poverty and a massive military budget belong in separate compartments of mainstream thought. Woe betide anyone who should look at one, and then the other, and wonder aloud whether state policy is, in fact, insane.

It is as though the state were hard-wired to *exclude* rationality; indeed, to exclude compassion.

Chogyam Trungpa once noted that “compassion is the ultimate attitude of wealth: an anti-poverty attitude, a war on want. It contains all sorts of heroic, juicy, positive, visionary, expansive qualities”. (Trungpa, ‘Cutting through spiritual materialism’, Shambhala, 2002, p. 99)

At root, we need to question whether the state can, in any meaningful way, act with rationality and compassion. And, if not, what we are going to do about it.

SUGGESTED ACTION
The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

The Iraq Study Group: Official Damage Control and Cover-Up

November 29th, 2006 - by admin

Larry Chin / Global Research – 2006-11-29 23:32:08

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=CHI20061127&articleId=3987

(November 27, 2006) — The Iraq Study Group (ISG) is a “bipartisan task force” created by the US Congress in response to the failure of the Bush administration to better manage the occupation of Iraq.

Mainstream media reporting and official statements from Washington have characterized the ISG as proof of a “shift towards diplomacy” in the Middle East. These same reports cite the sponsorship of the so-called US Institute for Peace as evidence that the ISG represents a “change of course”.

In fact, the ISG is another official damage control apparatus, spearheaded by notorious Western political and corporate elites, former military-intelligence officers, and “experts” from right wing and intelligence-connected Western think tanks—one of which is the US Institute for Peace itself.

What is the US Institute for Peace?
The sponsor of the ISG is the US Institute for Peace (USIP). USIP’s directors and members feature prominently throughout the ISG’s panels.

Despite its insistence that it is an independent and non-partisan body, the USIP itself is a policy group that functions as an arm of the US government, and as a US intelligence/propaganda apparatus. The USIP appointed by the President of the United States, and confirmed and funded by Congress. The rotating membership of the USIP consists primarily of elites, including “retired” Washington politicians and Pentagon officials.

Named in true Orwellian fashion, the US Institute for Peace is a harbor for elite managers of global warfare. Its former members have included the most notorious war criminals in modern history, among them Dick Cheney, Frank Carlucci, Caspar Weinberger, and Stephen Hadley.

Headed by former Iran-Contra officials
The Iraq Study Group is charged with bringing “fresh eyes” to the Middle East conflict. However, one glance at the directors of the ISG should remove any illusions. The ISG’s leaders are world-renowned American elites and Cold Warriors, each of whom played major roles in the crimes of the Reagan-Bush and Clinton administrations.

These are very old eyes, on very blood-soaked globalists who seek to fine-tune, perfect, and expand the war, not end it:

Its co-chairs are James A. Baker III and Lee Hamilton. The chairmanship by this tag-team of war criminals itself promises more of the same.

James A. Baker III.Former secretary of state Baker’s deep and extensive political and business connections to the Bush family, and high-level role in the Bush and Reagan-Bush administrations is well known. It was Baker who personally intervened to install George W. Bush as president in 2000. It was Baker, member of the Carlyle Group, who laid the groundwork behind 9/11 and the “war on terrorism”. It is James A. Baker Institute for Institute for Public Policy pushing many aspects of on oil and petrodollar conquest. Now it is Baker coming to George W. Bush’s aid again, with “better ideas”, by way of George H.W. Bush, Brent Scowcroft and Henry Kissinger.

Lee Hamilton is co-chair of the infamous 9/11 Commission, a blatant cover-up. Hamilton’s role with the ISG marks his third chairmanship of official cover-ups: Iran-Contra, 9/11, and now Iraq.

Edwin Meese is the former Reagan administration attorney general. In addition to facilitating many aspects of the Iran-Contra/CIA drug trafficking operations of the 1980s and early 1990s, Meese is implicated in the crimes related to PROMIS software, including the Inslaw scandal, and the murder of Danny Casolaro.

Lawrence Eagleburger is a former Reagan-Bush secretary of state, and another Iran-Contra insider. In line with the ideas of Baker, Scowcroft, Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Eagleburger has been a blunt and outspoken critic of the “bungled” Bush-Cheney occupation. Note: Eagleburger replaced former CIA Director Robert Gates, who has been nominated to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.

William Perry, Clinton administration secretary of defense, is a legendary proponent of all-out military force, and even nuclear confrontation.

Vernon Jordan is the legendary Jimmy Carter-Clinton family confidant, advisor and Washington insider and damage control specialist, now a senior managing director of the investment firm Lazard Freres & Company.

Sandra Day O’Connor, former Supreme Court justice, was a driving force behind the stolen election of 2000 that installed George W. Bush. (Recall that when informed of Al Gore’s potential victory, O’Connor gasped “oh, that’s terrible”, and promptly headed to the Supreme Court chambers to illegally stop it.) Given her lack of expertise on foreign policy and military-intelligence matters, there is no explanation for O’Connor’s role on the ISG—except as the legal advisor who will facilitate law-bending and the destruction of more Constitutional and international laws.

Other directors include former US Senator, Republican Alan Simpson (classic obstructionist who provided political cover for a host of Reagan-Bush era scandals, and a spearhead for many Reagan-Bush judicial and cabinet appointments), the scandalized former Virginia senator, Chuck Robb, and the ubiquitous Democratic Party insider and former White House chief of staff, Leon Panetta.

Think Tank Assets
The ISG is structured around “working groups” which deliberate on four aspects of the Iraq occupation: military and security, economy and reconstruction, political development, and strategic environment.

The membership of the working groups is thoroughly dominated by figures from neoconservative, military-intelligence related Western think tanks, and outright intelligence fronts, including:
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS),
The RAND Corporation, the Heritage Foundation,
The Hoover Institution, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR),
The Brookings Institution,
The American Enterprise Institute (AEI),
The James Baker Institute for Public Policy and
The National Defense University (NDU).

There are also officers with Bechtel and Citigroup.

The working groups are as follows:

Military and Security
Hans Binnedijk, National Defense University;
James Jay Carafaro, Heritage Foundation;
Michael Flournoy, CSIS;
Michael Eisenstadt, Washington Institute for Near East Policy;
Bruce Hoffman, Security Studies Program, Georgetown University;
Clifford May, Foundation for Defense of Democracies;
Kalev Sepp, Naval Postgraduate School;
John Sigher, NDU;
W. Andrew Terrill, Strategic Studies Institute;
Jeffrey White, Washington Institute.

Political Development
Reuel Marc Gerecht, AEI, neoconservative, and former CIA operative;
Larry Diamond, Hoover Institution;
Raymond Close, freelance analyst;
Andrew Erdmann, National Security Council;
David Mack, Middle East Institute;
Augustus Norton, Boston University;
Marina Ottaway, Carnegie Endowment;
Judy Van Rest, International Republican Institute;
Judith Yaphe, NDU.

Economy and Reconstruction
Frederick Barton, CSIS;
Jay Collins, Citigroup;
Jack Covey, Bechtel;
Keith Crane, RAND Corporation;
Amy Jaffe, James Baker Institute for Public Policy;
David Lipton, Citigroup;
Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings Institution;
James Placke, Cambridge Energy Research Associates;
James Schear, NDU

Strategic Environment
Jon Altermann, CSIS;
Steven Cook, Council on Foreign Relations;
James Dobbins, RAND Corporation; Hillel Fradkin, Hudson Institute;
Chas Freeman, Middle East Council;
Geoffrey Kemp, Nixon Center;
Dan Kurtzen, Princeton U.;
Ellen Laipson, Henry Stimson Center;
William Quandt, Brookings Institution;
Shibley Yelhani, Brookings;
Wayne White, Middle East Institute

The ISG’s military senior advisor panel consists of:

Admiral James Ellis, US Navy-retired;
General John Keane, US Army-retired;
General Edward Meyer, US Army-retired;
General Joseph Ralston, US Air Force-retired;
Lt. General Roger Schultz, SR., US Army-retired

Map of War and Conquest
Given its despicable leaders and unsavory composition, the Iraq Study Group does not represent a “change of course”, but an extension of a very old and familiar map of war and conquest, across the Middle East and Eurasian subcontinent; a very old Cold War agenda to head off the perceived threats posed by China and Russia.

There is not one member of the Iraq Study Group who represents alternative viewpoints or opposition to Anglo-American geostrategic policy. There are no Iraqis; no one from the Middle East or Central Asia (not even intelligence plants). There is not one member who represents the views of the people whose lives and nations are being “managed”.

It is, like the 9/11 Commission, a cover-up. It is a damage control apparatus designed to salvage the disastrous and politically embarrassing and untenable Bush-Cheney stewardship of the war, by putting the “war on terrorism” back on what the American Empire’s elites view to be its originally planned course: the bipartisan “consensus” reached immediately after 9/11.

It is elites and political criminals, talking to each other, hatching new schemes among themselves. This constitutes “study”.

The ISG’s report, due to be released next month, will likely recommend Bush rear-end saving compromises, which may include troop redeployment, but no end to the war and no end to the permanent US presence in Iraq. There will be calls for greater “international cooperation” (covert deals and UN-led multinational warfare, “nuance”), and new, and perhaps more aggressive, counter-terrorism (to better destroy “insurgencies”).

It is no surprise to note that the Iraq Study Group agenda comes at the same time that one of its original members, former CIA Director Robert Gates, has been tapped by Bush-Cheney as the new Secretary of Defense, and new Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), in one of her very first act as the new Speaker, consults with Zbigniew Brzezinski.

There is no guarantee that the Bush-Cheney hardliners will abide by the recommendations of this cover-up commission.

In any case, the world must brace for what could be a future that is more insidious, worse than what has already transpired. The world must oppose the legitimacy of the Iraq Study Group as fervently as it opposes the Bush administration’s continuing criminal war.

The Anglo-American Empire’s rampage across the Grand Chessboard has stumbled and derailed under the management of George W. Bush. The Iraq Study Group will restore it. That spells increasing danger for the world.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization. www.globalresearch.ca

© Copyright Larry Chin, Global Research, 2006

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

Russia Sells Tor Missiles to Iran

November 29th, 2006 - by admin

Agence France-Presse – 2006-11-29 23:19:44

MOSCOW (November 25, 2006) — Russia has begun deliveries of the Tor-M1 air defence rocket system to Iran, Russian news agencies quoted military industry sources as saying, in the latest sign of a Russian-US rift over Iran.
“Deliveries of the Tor-M1 have begun. The first systems have already been delivered to Tehran,” ITAR-TASS quoted an unnamed, high-ranking source as saying.

The US has pressed Russia to halt military sales to Iran, which Washington accuses of harbouring secret plans to build a nuclear weapon.

Moscow has consistently defended its weapons trade with Iran. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the contract for 29 rocket systems, signed in December last year, was legitimate because the Tor-M1 has a purely defensive role.

ITAR-TASS reported that the rockets were to be deployed around Iran’s nuclear sites, including the still incomplete, Russian-built atomic power station at Bushehr.

In August, Washington announced sanctions against several companies, including Russian arms exporter Rosoboronexport, for supplying technology to Iran that could allegedly be used to develop missile technology and weapons of mass destruction.

Under the sanctions no US company can deal with foreign companies on the sanctions list for two years.

A spokesman for Rosoboronexport contacted by AFP would not confirm or deny the reports about the Tor-M1 delivery, which were also issued by the Interfax news agency.

The Tor-M1 is a low to medium-altitude missile fired from a tracked vehicle against airplanes, helicopters and other airborne targets.

The news came as the UN Security Council continued to consider possible sanctions against Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity in response to the Islamic republic’s suspect nuclear programme.

The major powers have been debating a draft resolution drawn up by Britain, France and Germany that would impose limited sanctions on Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile sectors for Tehran’s failure to comply with an earlier UN resolution on halting enrichment.

China and Russia, both close economic partners with Iran, argue the measures are too extensive, while Washington has pressed for tougher action.


Tor M1 9M330 Air Defense System

The TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile system is a mobile, integrated air defense system, designed for operation at medium-, low- and very low –altitudes, against fixed/rotary wing aircraft, UAVs, guided missiles and precision weapon. The system is capable of operating in an intensive aerial jamming environment. The system is comprised of a number of missile Transporter Launcher Vehicle (TLV).

A Russian air defense Tor battalion consists of 3 – 5 companies, each equipped with four TLVs. Each TLV is equipped with 8 ready to launch missiles, associating radars, fire control systems and a battery command post. The combat vehicle can operate autonomously, firing from stationary positions or on the move.

Set-up time is rated at 3 minutes and typical reaction time, from target detection to missile launch is 5-8 seconds. Reaction time could range from 3.4 seconds for stationary positions to 10 seconds while on the move. Each fire unit can engage and launch missiles against two separate targets.

Tor M1 can detect and track up to 48 targets (minimum radar cross section of 0.1 square meter) at a maximum range of 25 km, and engage two of them simultaneously, at a speed of up to 700 m/sec, and at a distance of 1 to 12 km. The system’s high lethality (aircraft kill probability of 0.92-0.95) is maintained at altitude of 10 – 6,000 m’.

The vertically launched, single-stage solid rocket propelled missile is capable of maneuvering at loads up to 30gs. It is equipped with a 15kg high-explosive fragmentation warhead activated by a proximity fuse.

The system is offered as fully integrated tracked combat vehicle, or as a modular combat unit (TOR-M1T) comprising a truck mounted mobile control module and launcher/antenna units, carried on a trailer. Other configuration include separated towed systems, as well as shelter-based systems, for the protection of fixed sites.

The missile is also effective against precision guided weapons and cruise missiles. In tests the missile demonstrated kill probability of such targets ranging from 0.6 to 0.9.

The first operator of the Tor system was the Russian Army Air-Defense, which operates 100 units of the SA-15 Gauntlet variant. The Russian navy also uses the naval version known as SA-N-9. China bought 50 systems and possibly 25 more, between 1997 and 2002.

The Greek army fielded 21 Tor M-1 systems. Most recently (December 2005) Iran was reported to sign a deal worth US$ 1.0 billion covering the procurement of up to 29 TOR M-1 missile systems, modernization of air-force systems and the supply of patrol boats.

The system was also proposed to several other countries. THe TOR component of the deal was reported to be US$700 million. Deliveries of the TOR systems began in November 2006 and are expected to continue through 2008. (more from freerepublic)

Full Text of President Ahmadinejad’s Message to American People

November 29th, 2006 - by admin

IRNA – 2006-11-29 23:13:45

http://www.irna.ir/en/news/view/line-20/0611303579001137.htm

TEHRAN (November 29, 2006) — In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
“O, Almighty God, bestow upon humanity the perfect human being promised to all by You, and make us among his followers.”

Noble Americans!

Were we now faced with the activities of the US administration in this part of the world and the negative ramifications of those activities on the daily lives of our peoples, coupled with the many wars and calamities caused by the US administration as well as the tragic consequences of US interference in other countries; Were the American people not God-fearing, truth-loving, and justice-seeking, while the US administration actively conceals the truth and impedes any objective portrayal of current realities; And if we did not share a common responsibility to promote and protect freedom and human dignity and integrity; Then, there would have been little urgency to have a dialogue with you.

While Divine providence has placed Iran and the United States geographically far apart, we should be cognizant that human values and our common human spirit, which proclaim the dignity and exalted worth of all human beings, have brought our two great nations of Iran and the United States closer together.

Both our nations are God-fearing, truth-loving and justice-seeking, and both seek dignity, respect and perfection.

Both greatly value and readily embrace the promotion of human ideals such as compassion, empathy, respect for the rights of human beings, securing justice and equity, and defending the innocent and the weak against oppressors and bullies.

We are all inclined towards the good, and towards extending a helping hand to one another, particularly to those in need.

We all deplore injustice, the trampling of peoples’ rights and the intimidation and humiliation of human beings.

We all detest darkness, deceit, lies and distortion, and seek and admire salvation, enlightenment, sincerity and honesty.

The pure human essence of the two great nations of Iran and the United States testify to the veracity of these statements.

Noble Americans!
Our nation has always extended its hand of friendship to all other nations of the world.

Hundreds of thousands of my Iranian compatriots are living amongst you in friendship and peace, and are contributing positively to your society. Our people have been in contact with you over the past many years and have maintained these contacts despite the unnecessary restrictions of US authorities.

As mentioned, we have common concerns, face similar challenges, and are pained by the sufferings and afflictions in the world.

We, like you, are aggrieved by the ever-worsening pain and misery of the Palestinian people. Persistent aggressions by the Zionists are making life more and more difficult for the rightful owners of the land of Palestine. In broad day-light, in front of cameras and before the eyes of the world, they are bombarding innocent defenseless civilians, bulldozing houses, firing machine guns at students in the streets and alleys, and subjecting their families to endless grief.

No day goes by without a new crime.

Palestinian mothers, just like Iranian and American mothers, love their children, and are painfully bereaved by the imprisonment, wounding and murder of their children. What mother wouldn’t? For 60 years, the Zionist regime has driven millions of the inhabitants of Palestine out of their homes. Many of these refugees have died in the Diaspora and in refugee camps. Their children have spent their youth in these camps and are aging while still in the hope of returning to homeland.

You know well that the US administration has persistently provided blind and blanket support to the Zionist regime, has emboldened it to continue its crimes, and has prevented the UN Security Council from condemning it.

Who can deny such broken promises and grave injustices towards humanity by the US administration?
Governments are there to serve their own people. No people wants to side with or support any oppressors. But regrettably, the US administration disregards even its own public opinion and remains in the forefront of supporting the trampling of the rights of the Palestinian people.

Let’s take a look at Iraq. Since the commencement of the US military presence in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, maimed or displaced. Terrorism in Iraq has grown exponentially. With the presence of the US military in Iraq, nothing has been done to rebuild the ruins, to restore the infrastructure or to alleviate poverty. The US Government used the pretext of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but later it became clear that that was just a lie and a deception.

Although Saddam was overthrown and people are happy about his departure, the pain and suffering of the Iraqi people has persisted and has even been aggravated.

In Iraq, about one hundred and fifty thousand American soldiers, separated from their families and loved ones, are operating under the command of the current US administration. A substantial number of them have been killed or wounded and their presence in Iraq has tarnished the image of the American people and government.

Their mothers and relatives have, on numerous occasions, displayed their discontent with the presence of their sons and daughters in a land thousands of miles away from US shores. American soldiers often wonder why they have been sent to Iraq.

I consider it extremely unlikely that you, the American people, consent to the billions of dollars of annual expenditure from your treasury for this military misadventure.

Noble Americans!
You have heard that the US administration is kidnapping its presumed opponents from across the globe and arbitrarily holding them without trial or any international supervision in horrendous prisons that it has established in various parts of the world. God knows who these detainees actually are, and what terrible fate awaits them.

You have certainly heard the sad stories of the Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib prisons. The US administration attempts to justify them through its proclaimed “war on terror.” But everyone knows that such behavior, in fact, offends global public opinion, exacerbates resentment and thereby spreads terrorism, and tarnishes the US image and its credibility among nations.

The US administration’s illegal and immoral behavior is not even confined to outside its borders. You are witnessing daily that under the pretext of “the war on terror,” civil liberties in the United States are being increasingly curtailed. Even the privacy of individuals is fast losing its meaning. Judicial due process and fundamental rights are trampled upon. Private phones are tapped, suspects are arbitrarily arrested, sometimes beaten in the streets, or even shot to death.

I have no doubt that the American people do not approve of this behavior and indeed deplore it.

The US administration does not accept accountability before any organization, institution or council. The US administration has undermined the credibility of international organizations, particularly the United Nations and its Security Council. But, I do not intend to address all the challenges and calamities in this message.

The legitimacy, power and influence of a government do not emanate from its arsenals of tanks, fighter aircraft, missiles or nuclear weapons. Legitimacy and influence reside in sound logic, quest for justice and compassion and empathy for all humanity. The global position of the United States is in all probability weakened because the administration has continued to resort to force, to conceal the truth, and to mislead the American people about its policies and practices.

Undoubtedly, the American people are not satisfied with this behavior and they showed their discontent in the recent elections. I hope that in the wake of the mid-term elections, the administration of President Bush will have heard and will heed the message of the American people.

My questions are the following:
Is there not a better approach to governance?
Is it not possible to put wealth and power in the service of peace, stability, prosperity and the happiness of all peoples through a commitment to justice and respect for the rights of all nations, instead of aggression and war?
We all condemn terrorism, because its victims are the innocent.

But, can terrorism be contained and eradicated through war, destruction and the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocents? If that were possible, then why has the problem not been resolved? The sad experience of invading Iraq is before us all.

What has blind support for the Zionists by the US administration brought for the American people? It is regrettable that for the US administration, the interests of these occupiers supersedes the interests of the American people and of the other nations of the world .

What have the Zionists done for the American people that the US administration considers itself obliged to blindly support these infamous aggressors? Is it not because they have imposed themselves on a substantial portion of the banking, financial, cultural and media sectors?

I recommend that in a demonstration of respect for the American people and for humanity, the right of Palestinians to live in their own homeland should be recognized so that millions of Palestinian refugees can return to their homes and the future of all of Palestine and its form of government be determined in a referendum. This will benefit everyone.

Now that Iraq has a Constitution and an independent Assembly and Government, would it not be more beneficial to bring the US officers and soldiers home, and to spend the astronomical US military expenditures in Iraq for the welfare and prosperity of the American people? As you know very well, many victims of Katrina continue to suffer, and countless Americans continue to live in poverty and homelessness.

I’d also like to say a word to the winners of the recent elections in the US:

The United States has had many administrations; some who have left a positive legacy, and others that are neither remembered fondly by the American people nor by other nations.

Now that you control an important branch of the US Government, you will also be held to account by the people and by history.

If the US Government meets the current domestic and external challenges with an approach based on truth and Justice, it can remedy some of the past afflictions and alleviate some of the global resentment and hatred of America.

But if the approach remains the same, it would not be unexpected that the American people would similarly reject the new electoral winners, although the recent elections, rather than reflecting a victory, in reality point to the failure of the current administration’s policies. These issues had been extensively dealt with in my letter to President Bush earlier this year.

To sum up:
It is possible to govern based on an approach that is distinctly different from one of coercion, force and injustice.

It is possible to sincerely serve and promote common human values, and honesty and compassion.

It is possible to provide welfare and prosperity without tension, threats, imposition or war.

It is possible to lead the world towards the aspired perfection by adhering to unity, monotheism, morality and spirituality and drawing upon the teachings of the Divine Prophets.

Then, the American people, who are God-fearing and followers of Divine religions, will overcome every difficulty.

What I stated represents some of my anxieties and concerns.

I am confident that you, the American people, will play an instrumental role in the establishment of justice and spirituality throughout the world. The promises of the Almighty and His prophets will certainly be realized, Justice and Truth will prevail and all nations will live a true life in a climate replete with love, compassion and fraternity.

The US governing establishment, the authorities and the powerful should not choose irreversible paths. As all prophets have taught us, injustice and transgression will eventually bring about decline and demise. Today, the path of return to faith and spirituality is open and unimpeded.

We should all heed the Divine Word of the Holy Qur’an:
“But those who repent, have faith and do good may receive Salvation. Your Lord, alone, creates and chooses as He will, and others have no part in His choice; Glorified is God and Exalted above any partners they ascribe to Him.” (28:67-68)

I pray to the Almighty to bless the Iranian and American nations and indeed all nations of the world with dignity and success.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Is There Hope for Iraq? The Al-Maliki Memo

November 29th, 2006 - by admin

Text of US Security Adviser’s Iraq Memo – 2006-11-29 23:07:34

WASHINGTON, DC (November 29, 2006) — Following is the text of a Nov. 8 memorandum prepared for cabinet-level officials by Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, and his aides on the National Security Council. The five-page document, classified secret, was read and transcribed by The New York Times.

We returned from Iraq convinced we need to determine if Prime Minister Maliki is both willing and able to rise above the sectarian agendas being promoted by others. Do we and Prime Minister Maliki share the same vision for Iraq? If so, is he able to curb those who seek Shia hegemony or the reassertion of Sunni power? The answers to these questions are key in determining whether we have the right strategy in Iraq.

Maliki reiterated a vision of Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish partnership, and in my one-on-one meeting with him, he impressed me as a leader who wanted to be strong but was having difficulty figuring out how to do so. Maliki pointed to incidents, such as the use of Iraqi forces in Shia Karbala, to demonstrate his even hand. Perhaps because he is frustrated over his limited ability to command Iraqi forces against terrorists and insurgents, Maliki has been trying to show strength by standing up to the coalition. Hence the public spats with us over benchmarks and the Sadr City roadblocks.

Despite Maliki’s reassuring words, repeated reports from our commanders on the ground contributed to our concerns about Maliki’s government. Reports of nondelivery of services to Sunni areas, intervention by the prime minister’s office to stop military action against Shia targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones, removal of Iraq’s most effective commanders on a sectarian basis and efforts to ensure Shia majorities in all ministries — when combined with the escalation of Jaish al-Mahdi’s (JAM) [the Arabic name for the Mahdi Army] killings — all suggest a campaign to consolidate Shia power in Baghdad.

While there does seem to be an aggressive push to consolidate Shia power and influence, it is less clear whether Maliki is a witting participant. The information he receives is undoubtedly skewed by his small circle of Dawa advisers, coloring his actions and interpretation of reality. His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change. But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.

Steps Maliki Could Take
There is a range of actions that Maliki could take to improve the information he receives, demonstrate his intentions to build an Iraq for all Iraqis and increase his capabilities. The actions listed below are in order of escalating difficulty and, at some point, may require additional political and security resources to execute, as described on Page 3 of this memo. Maliki should:

¶Compel his ministers to take small steps — such as providing health services and opening bank branches in Sunni neighborhoods — to demonstrate that his government serves all ethnic communities;

¶Bring his political strategy with Moktada al-Sadr to closure and bring to justice any JAM actors that do not eschew violence;

¶Shake up his cabinet by appointing nonsectarian, capable technocrats in key service (and security) ministries;

¶Announce an overhaul of his own personal staff so that “it reflects the face of Iraq”;

¶Demand that all government workers (in ministries, the Council of Representatives and his own offices) publicly renounce all violence for the pursuit of political goals as a condition for keeping their positions;

¶Declare that Iraq will support the renewal of the U.N. mandate for multinational forces and will seek, as appropriate, to address bilateral issues with the United States through a SOFA [status of forces agreement] to be negotiated over the next year;

¶Take one or more immediate steps to inject momentum back into the reconciliation process, such as a suspension of de-Baathification measures and the submission to the Parliament or “Council of Representatives” of a draft piece of legislation for a more judicial approach;

¶Announce plans to expand the Iraqi Army over the next nine months; and

¶Declare the immediate suspension of suspect Iraqi police units and a robust program of embedding coalition forces into MOI [Ministry of the Interior] units while the MOI is revetted and retrained.

What We Can Do to Help Maliki
If Maliki is willing to move decisively on the actions above, we can help him in a variety of ways. We should be willing to:

¶Continue to target Al Qaeda and insurgent strongholds in Baghdad to demonstrate the Shia do not need the JAM to protect their families — and that we are a reliable partner;

¶Encourage Zal [Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador] to move into the background and let Maliki take more credit for positive developments. (We want Maliki to exert his authority — and demonstrate to Iraqis that he is a strong leader — by taking action against extremists, not by pushing back on the United States and the Coalition.);

¶Continue our diplomatic efforts to keep the Sunnis in the political process by pushing for the negotiation of a national compact and by talking up provincial council elections next spring/summer as a mechanism for Sunni empowerment;

¶Support his announcement to expand the Iraqi Army and reform the MOI more aggressively;

¶Seek ways to strengthen Maliki immediately by giving him additional control over Iraqi forces, although we must recognize that in the immediate time frame, we would likely be able to give him more authority over existing forces, not more forces;

¶Continue to pressure Iran and Syria to end their interference in Iraq, in part by hitting back at Iranian proxies in Iraq and by Secretary Rice holding an Iraq-plus-neighbors meeting in the region in early December; and

¶Step up our efforts to get Saudi Arabia to take a leadership role in supporting Iraq by using its influence to move Sunni populations in Iraq out of violence into politics, to cut off any public or private funding provided to the insurgents or death squads from the region and to lean on Syria to terminate its support for Baathists and insurgent leaders.

Augmenting Maliki’s Political and Security Capabilities
The above approach may prove difficult to execute even if Maliki has the right intentions. He may simply not have the political or security capabilities to take such steps, which risk alienating his narrow Sadrist political base and require a greater number of more reliable forces.

Pushing Maliki to take these steps without augmenting his capabilities could force him to failure — if the Parliament removes him from office with a majority vote or if action against the Mahdi militia (JAM) causes elements of the Iraqi Security Forces to fracture and leads to major Shia disturbances in southern Iraq. We must also be mindful of Maliki’s personal history as a figure in the Dawa Party — an underground conspiratorial movement — during Saddam’s rule.

Maliki and those around him are naturally inclined to distrust new actors, and it may take strong assurances from the United States ultimately to convince him to expand his circle of advisers or take action against the interests of his own Shia coalition and for the benefit of Iraq as a whole.

If it is Maliki’s assessment that he does not have the capability — politically or militarily — to take the steps outlined above, we will need to work with him to augment his capabilities. We could do so in two ways. First, we could help him form a new political base among moderate politicians from Sunni, Shia, Kurdish and other communities.

Ideally, this base would constitute a new parliamentary bloc that would free Maliki from his current narrow reliance on Shia actors. (This bloc would not require a new election, but would rather involve a realignment of political actors within the Parliament). In its creation, Maliki would need to be willing to risk alienating some of his Shia political base and may need to get the approval of Ayatollah Sistani for actions that could split the Shia politically. Second, we need to provide Maliki with additional forces of some kind.

This approach would require that we take steps beyond those laid out above, to include:

¶Actively support Maliki in helping him develop an alternative political base. We would likely need to use our own political capital to press moderates to align themselves with Maliki’s new political bloc;

¶Consider monetary support to moderate groups that have been seeking to break with larger, more sectarian parties, as well as to support Maliki himself as he declares himself the leader of his bloc and risks his position within Dawa and the Sadrists; and

¶Provide Maliki with more resources to help build a nonsectarian national movement.

* If we expect him to adopt a nonsectarian security agenda, we must ensure he has reasonably nonsectarian security institutions to execute it — such as through a more robust embedding program.

* We might also need to fill the current four-brigade gap in Baghdad with coalition forces if reliable Iraqi forces are not identified.

Moving Ahead
We should waste no time in our efforts to determine Maliki’s intentions and, if necessary, to augment his capabilities. We might take the following steps immediately:

¶Convince Maliki to deliver on key actions that might reassure Sunnis (open banks and direct electricity rebuilding in Sunni areas, depoliticize hospitals);

¶Tell Maliki that we understand that he is working his own strategy for dealing with the Sadrists and that:

* you have asked General Casey to support Maliki in this effort

* it is important that we see some tangible results in this strategy soon;

¶Send your personal representative to Baghdad to discuss this strategy with Maliki and to press other leaders to work with him, especially if he determines that he must build an alternative political base;

¶Ask Casey to develop a plan to empower Maliki, including:

* Formation of National Strike Forces

* Dramatic increase in National Police embedding

* More forces under Maliki command and control

¶Ask Secretary of Defense and General Casey to make a recommendation about whether more forces are need in Baghdad;

¶Ask Secretary of Defense and General Casey to devise a more robust embedding plan and a plan to resource it;

¶Direct your cabinet to begin an intensive press on Saudi Arabia to play a leadership role on Iraq, connecting this role with other areas in which Saudi Arabia wants to see US action;

¶If Maliki seeks to build an alternative political base:

* Press Sunni and other Iraqi leaders (especially Hakim) [Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Maliki rival] to support Maliki

* Engage Sistani to reassure and seek his support for a new nonsectarian political movement.

Dismay Grows Over US Torture School

November 28th, 2006 - by admin

Patrick Mulvaney / The Nation.com – 2006-11-28 22:46:55

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20061127/school_of_the_americas

(November 15, 2006) — The annual protest of the US Army’s School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, has grown dramatically in recent years, drawing 10,000 people in 2003, 16,000 in 2004 and 19,000 in 2005. Building on that momentum, the movement to close the controversial institution is expanding its horizons even further.

As peace activists from throughout the United States converge at the gates of Fort Benning, SOA protesters will simultaneously take to the streets in Santiago, Bogotá, San Salvador and several other Latin American cities. The demonstrations offer a strong testament to the growing international movement to reject US military policy.

Recent reports of the Bush Administration’s decision to increase training and aid for the militaries of Latin America so as to reverse the region’s leftward swing have only sharpened criticism at home and abroad.

Founded in Panama in 1946 and moved to Fort Benning in 1984, the SOA has trained more than 60,000 Latin American soldiers in military and law-enforcement tactics.

The Pentagon has acknowledged that in the past the SOA used training manuals advocating coercive interrogation methods and extra-judicial executions, and over time SOA alumni have been linked to many of Latin America’s most heinous human rights atrocities, from widespread torture to massacres of young children.

Congress renamed the SOA the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001; since then thousands of foreign soldiers have journeyed to Fort Benning for training. However, with political change currently sweeping through Latin America, several countries have cut ties with the SOA in recognition of its notorious track record.

“Many of the governments here in South America are now made up of people who were thrown in prison and tortured in the past,” says Lisa Sullivan, a Caracas-based organizer for SOA Watch, “so they’re taking a very different look at the role of their armed forces and their military relations with the United States.”

In 2004 Venezuela stopped sending soldiers to the SOA, and earlier this year, Uruguay and Argentina followed suit. Roy Bourgeois, the Catholic priest who founded SOA Watch, catalyzed those developments through meetings with government officials in Caracas, Montevideo and Buenos Aires.

Throughout 2006, Bourgeois has continued to make his case against the SOA in the capitals of Latin America, from a sit-down with President Evo Morales of Bolivia in March to a meeting with Chile’s Defense Minister, Vivianne Blanlot, in August.

The activist priest plans to visit at least five more countries next year, including Nicaragua, now likely to re-evaluate its military-training partnership with the United States given the recent election of Sandinista leader and former contra target Daniel Ortega as president.

Meanwhile, local activists throughout the hemisphere have begun to focus heavily on the SOA and US military training, as this weekend’s events suggest. “We plan to protest because we want future generations to live in peace and with justice,” says Pablo Ruiz, a Chilean torture survivor gearing up for the Santiago demonstration. “And that, to our understanding, will never happen if we continue to allow soldiers to be taught that things should be resolved with weapons and violence, as is taught at the School of the Americas.”

In Washington the Bush Administration’s strategy to further militarize the hemisphere, as reported November 10 by USA Today, has exacerbated the long-running controversy over the SOA and US training.

According to the report, the White House decided on October 2 to waive restrictions on US military training and funding in an attempt to “blunt a leftward trend” in Latin America. (The restrictions had been in place to pressure nearly a dozen governments throughout the hemisphere to promise immunity to US service members in the International Criminal Court.) In short, the Administration has responded to the mounting rejection of US military influence in Latin America by striving to increase its influence.

Despite the Bush team’s effort, the new Democratic majority in Congress could alter the course of the training debate. In June, the GOP-led House rejected an appropriations amendment to cut funding for the SOA, long the icon of the training debate, but the midterm elections may have swallowed its thirty-vote margin.

Given that Democrats were five times more likely than Republicans to support the amendment, a similar measure could break differently next session.

“I absolutely plan to introduce the legislation again in the next Congress, and I hope that now we’ll have a better chance of getting it passed,” says Democrat Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, who sponsored the amendment and cruised to a sixth term on election day.

With regard to the current trend throughout the hemisphere, McGovern says international opposition to the institution and US training helps bolster his position in Congress. “It shows how isolated we are,” he says. “The SOA is supposed to be about training the militaries of Latin America. But as people in that part of the world say, ‘We don’t want any part of this,’ we become more and more isolated.”

Still, with the Senate not quite as engaged in the SOA issue as the House and with several prominent Democrats backing the foreign policy the Georgia institution represents, McGovern and his allies continue to face a tough struggle.

Back in Georgia, the SOA is now more exposed and observed than in its cold war heyday, and it may be as much a symbol of dangerous policies as a practical danger in itself. But it should come as no surprise that this small institution has evolved into an international lightning rod.

After all, the most recognizable qualities of the SOA over the past six decades — the teaching of torture, the absence of accountability and the furtherance of political objectives through military means — explain much of this country’s struggling image in Latin America and around the world.

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

Civil War in Iraq? Two Reports from the Maelstrom

November 28th, 2006 - by admin

Michael Ware / CNN & Iraqi Roulette / Electronic Iraq – 2006-11-28 22:44:49

http://electroniciraq.net/news/2676.shtml

“Stand Here on these Streets and You Will Know this is Civil War…”
Michael Ware / CNN

(November 28, 2006) — KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Let’s get straight to Baghdad and CNN’s Michael Ware. Michael?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kyra, the curfew, as you said, has lifted. Nonetheless, this morning, as many as 39 executed bodies were found on the streets of the capitol. And in the town of Baquba, just north of Baghdad, 12 more bodies were found.

We also see the continuation of what’s becoming a daily phenomenon here in this city, which is neighborhood mortar wars. Firing bombs at each other. We’ve seen another neighborhood in the capital hit. There’s reports of at least three dead and 15 more wounded.

There’s been some sporadic attacks on Iraqi police. There’s at least one dead police officer as a result.

Essentially, this is a city that’s almost socially paralyzed by fear. People dare not leave their homes. The education system is grinding to a halt. Teachers are not showing up at schools. Students aren’t attending classes. Families aren’t prepared to leave their homes.

And reading Iraqi weblogs has become the most illuminating exercise.

Electronic Iraq is an organization which — which culls these things, has posted a number of these — these references. We have people in suburbs saying, “My suburb is under attack now, I can hear gunfire. We’ve been under mortar attack for two days. God save us.”

Someone else saying, “Our suburb is running out of ammunition. Please, come to our aid.”

Another one saying, “Our suburb is breached. We will fight to the death.”

That’s what has become of Baghdad.

PHILLIPS: Michael Ware, interesting point is you give us these descriptions. All you can think about is, is there a civil war or not? Some journalists are coming a little more daring and saying, yes, there’s a civil war going on here. Others not saying that.

King Abdullah doing an interview on ABC this week, saying, still, potential civil war. When exactly can you say as a journalist, as a politician, as an administration, all right, there’s a civil war going on right here. This is how
you define it.

WARE: Well, put it this way, this is the way I define it. It’s that anyone who still remains in doubt about whether this is civil war or not is suffering from the luxury of distance.

You stand here on these streets, you take shelter in these families’ homes. You dare to try to go out and try to go to work or, indeed, shop at a marketplace and you will know that this is civil war.

There are already signs of what technically could be declared ethnic cleansing. The United Nations says entire neighborhoods are being disrupted to various degrees. Communities being split. I mean, we have areas that people of one sect cannot enter for fear of immediate execution by another sect.

You drive in a minibus on your way to work. Suddenly, there’s a check point. If you’re of the wrong faith, you are dead.

There’s literally defensive fighting positions now built in some of these suburbs. And the Sadr City quarter of Baghdad, the Shia domain, where as much as half of the population lives, is essentially now a garrison, servicing outlying Shia militia outposts as it wages its retaliatory strikes for the deadly multiple car bombing on Thanksgiving Day which saw 200 innocents slain in the streets in Sadr City.

If that’s not civil war, if we don’t have two sides of a nation going face to face, then, honestly, I don’t know what is, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Michael Ware couldn’t have put it more directly. Live from Baghdad, thanks.


Once Upon a Time in Iraq
Iraqi Roulette / Electronic Iraq

Out of concern for the safety of our Iraqi contributors and their families and friends, Electronic Iraq does not reveal an Iraqi author’s full identity unless the author gives us permission to do so.

(November 28, 2006) — When I was so much younger than today, I thought that writers who devoted thousands of pages to death were unconditional freaks. Since then many moons have passed and I find myself doing exactly the same thing.

I remember once watching a nature film about apes and their reflexes. A baby ape died as he lied in his mother’s lap. She started screaming and beating her chest–demonstrating grief I presume.

But as soon as they carried the baby away she resumed her usual life eating bananas and picking fleas from her head. They brought the baby back and she started screaming her head off and beating her chest again.

They repeated the experiment several times and the result was the same each time. The conclusion was: Apes have a short memory. How I envy that practical Madam Ape.

My memory is so crowded with images of the dead–I even suspect that the number of my dead acquaintances has already exceeded the number of my living ones.

A new experience hit me the other day. Unfortunately, I have already experienced being shocked when death occurs — the total helplessness, the disbelief, the hope that there was some sort of a mistake…

But to hear about someone’s death after a considerable period and suffer while everyone else has already gotten over it is quite awkward.

Several years ago I worked in a company. My job was uninteresting and exhausting and the wages were so meagre that it would have been more lucrative for me to beg.

In fact, I was once standing with a friend when an old beggar asked us for help. We told her how much we were being paid and the old beggar said: You poor things, how the hell do you manage? I swear to God this is not a joke, it actually happened to me.

Yet somehow we managed in those crippling embargo years.

As work expanded and the owner of the company grew richer, upon my demand I managed to get transferred to another department. Thus a replacement had to be recruited. A sweet miniature young woman came in one afternoon with her dad–they had heard about the vacancy through a friend. I explained the task to her and she accepted.

Both of us were specialists and our specialties could not have been more remote to the job, but everyone was working outside of their specialities then. It was trendy in those embargo years to do anything to survive: engineers were standing selling underwear in al Arabi market, teachers were working as tailors, linguists were working as clerks, chemists were working as builders.

I even had a relative with a philosophy degree who was working as a plumber. He used to joke that whenever he unclogged a blocked toilet or drain he actually saw all the philosopher’s faces “from Aristotle to Jacques Derrida” reflecting on the bathroom’s glossy tiles and on the toilet’s porcelain. They were mocking him.

So, the miniature woman was no exception. And she never really minded–always in a good mood, always making the best of it.

We used to work in different shifts, so whenever she had a question or something to tell me, she either wrote me a note or phoned. The manager made her his personal assistant because she was so efficient and loyal. She used to deliver his messages and orders to the staff — meaning that whenever she called late at night it was bad news and there would be trouble the next morning with the manager.

– Hello , I hope I did not wake you up , but Mr. ______ wants you in his office tomorrow first thing in the morning.

– It is OK Mimi (that was my nickname for her), I wont be sleeping after all you tell me.

The sweetest giggle resonated at her end

– Ok sweet dreams…don’t worry you’ll survive

– I sincerely hope so. Good night.

Once she came to me just as I was going home after an excruciating day. She began her request apologetically:

– I know you are tired and all, but can you please give me a crash course on how to use Microsoft Office? The manager said he will allocate a computer for me only if I learn, and I have no time. But I can come a bit earlier, before my shift starts and if you…I mean if it is no trouble…if you can stay a little later to help me learn…

– I looked at her half crazed with exhaustion, but for some reason I said Sure, I’ll stay for an hour after I finish work…sure, why not? You just make sure the boss doesn’t object.

My other colleagues were pressing me to demand over-time pay. “After all,” they would say, “the boss should pay for your efforts to improve his assistant’s skills.”

I had bitter experiences in demanding my rights–if they ever hand out awards for cowardice I surely would get the equivalent of the Nobel prize. So after two weeks of teaching her Word , Excel and Power Point — after two weeks of her taking notes, asking questions and doing the tasks seriously, I wrote a memo to the manager demanding a reward for Mimi. The manager asked to see me and I told him how serious she had been and “boy how I sang that day.” It’s always easier to demand other people’s rights isn’t it?

He seemed convinced and wrote to the accountant ordering her a reward, the sum of 15,000 Iraqi Dinars — the equivalent of 7 dollars. My God he was cheap!

She became an indispensable member of the company — always running around working so enthusiastically you would’ve thought it was…

It was the last chance she’ll ever have to work.

A couple of years later, sick to death of it, I left my job. I was hoping for a better tomorrow after the war. I thought there would be more chances than I could possibly be able to deal with — we were supposed to be the new Emirate for Christ’s sake. The future was supposed to be so bright, as Oprah says, it would blind our eyes. Could I have been more ridiculous?

So I quit after a minor row with the manger. Mimi phoned me a couple of times — after my stupid dreams proved to be false — telling me that the manger wanted me back.

I did not go back, because enough is enough.

A couple of weeks ago, I met an old friend that used to work there too and we reminisced about the past and about how foolish we were on the eve of the war.

We though all evil was connected to one man…

This friend was counting the people that left the country and the ones that were kidnapped, wounded, killed…and casually mentioned Mimi.

– You know she was killed months ago.

– What, just a moment, she was killed you say? How? When?

– Yes, didn’t you know?

– No, I lost contact with our old gang, I… God, are you sure?

– Yes — shot…I’m sorry I thought you knew… she was shot with a couple of other employees.

– She was barely thirty, I whispered.

I sank in my chair trying to prevent tears. It was supposed to be a bloody outing you see, I didn’t want to spoil it for my friend. Besides, it happened ages (months) ago, which equals centuries in normal nations calendars.

Two or three nights later I had a dream about Mimi. She was not talking to me directly — she was talking to me on a phone. I heard that pleasant voice of hers on the other end. She asked how I was and said that she was fine: “No I did not die, don’t believe that I died,” she said. I woke up wishing that there was actually a place on earth where Mimi would be holding her phone receiver telling people what they had to do for the next morning.

Today I started a new day remembering that we have new things to grieve about. We have people being dragged out of their offices in broad daylight and taken to the unknown… the unknown? I beg your pardon, how stupid of me, of course to the well-known horrible death Iraqi civilians have earned for trying to continue… living.

Read more from “The Iraqi Roulette” here.

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