Saturday, November 18, 2006

Orwell's Amerika

Cops turn extremely violent on peaceful demonstrators

The story and ugly video evidence:

I noticed the cops were mostly white and the demonstrators not. Maybe the headline should read, "Orwell's AmeriKKKa".

MULTIMEDIA | Complete multimedia coverage of the SOA Watch protest

Posted on Sat, Nov. 18, 2006

Blessings all year
Organizers broadening purpose to give soldiers

Staff Writer

Organizers of the God Bless Fort Benning rally at the Columbus Civic Center are steering the annual event in a new direction.

What started four years ago as a rally to support soldiers as protesters gathered in Columbus to demand the closing of Fort Benning's Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas, is now an event that can back soldiers in a different way.

From contributions and proceeds from this year's rally, God Bless Fort Benning supporters are hoping to establish a fund that will help meet the needs of soldiers.

The event was founded in 2002 by Columbus physician Jack Tidwell and his wife, Eve. Today, the group that supports the rally has grown in numbers and scope.

"In the Tidwells' hearts, all soldiers have needs that need to be taken care of," said volunteer Jimmy Blanton. "There is a lot of pain and hurt. And we want to meet those needs any way we can."

God Bless Fort Benning, now a nonprofit organization, will accept grant requests from soldiers and family members with specific needs not being met by the military or other help organizations. They recently helped purchase a vehicle for a disabled soldier who lost his legs.

Organizers would not say how much money has been set aside for the fund. The application and grant process are still in developmental stages.

"We want to be able to say that this is the day that lasts all year long," said organizer Jan Pease.

Another change is the Tidwells' involvement. While the couple still contributes to the God Bless Fort Benning rally, they are less involved with the daily details.

"I don't think they have attended a meeting all year," Pease said.

The budget for this year's rally is $125,000. The sponsors include Tidwell Cancer Treatment Center, Columbus Bank & Trust Co., TSYS, Synovus, B&B Beverage, Bill Heard Chevrolet, BellSouth, TIC Federal Credit Union, St. Francis Hospital, T-Mobile, Precision Components International and several defense contractors such as Taser International, Bren-Tronics Inc., Omega Training Group and General Dynamics.

The event will be a family-festival that will offer live music and entertainment and speeches from politicians. It will go from noon to 6 p.m. There will be a large-screen television for the Alabama-Auburn football game, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m.

Last year, organizers said more than 25,000 people attended the event in the Civic Center parking lot. They are expecting a similar crowd this year.

"We have stressed this is non-political," said Kevin P. Loncher, one of the event's volunteer leaders. "This is not about the SOA. This is about the soldiers. We want to show we appreciate what they do and the sacrifices they make."

"This has nothing to do with the protest," Pease said.

Thousands of Fort Benning soldiers are expected to attend the rally, but Pease and others said they would welcome protesters to attend.

© 2006 Ledger-Enquirer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

MULTIMEDIA Complete multimedia coverage of the SOA Watch protest:

May God forgive us

New Video: Still Doesn't Get It

Watch the video: Windows Media Player Youtube

Quicktime coming soonMore than 100 Iraqi civilians are dying in Iraq on a daily basis. 45 American Troops have died in the first 16 days of November and 2,865 have died since the war began. While the Bush Administration still won't admit that there is a deadly civil war raging on in Iraq the rest of us are left wondering how and when our troops will get to come home alive. The war is getting worse yet Bush still doesn't get it, but we can make sure this new congress does. Write or call your Senators and your Representatives to let them know that the American people want a real plan for ending the war in Iraq and bringing our troops home safe.

Click here to find out how to contact Senators

Click here to find out how to contact Representatives

The music featured in the video is Ave Marie performed by Perry Como.

Posted on 17 Nov 2006 by Ava

Fort Benning protest looks to attract a record 20,000

By Elliott Minor,
Associated Press

Columbus, Ga. Excited by the changes in Washington, organizers hope for a record 20,000 protesters at Fort Benning's heavily fortified main gate this weekend, continuing a 17-year effort to close a military school they blame for assassinations, torture and other human rights abuses in Latin America.

The protesters will be joined by opponents of the war in Iraq, including war veterans and relatives of those killed, said the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, a Catholic priest who has been leading the demonstrations since 1990.

"It's not possible for people who are gathering in the name of peace not to also address Iraq," he said.

Bourgeois said the populist wave sweeping Latin America and the recent U.S. election, where Democrats won control of Congress for the first time since 1994, has energized the peace movement.

The demonstrations are timed to commemorate six Jesuit priests who were killed along with their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador on Nov. 19, 1989. Some of the killers had attended the Army's School of the Americas, which moved to Fort Benning from Panama in 1984. It was replaced in 2001 by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), under the Defense Department.

"We are gathering in the name of peace and to keep alive the memory of the thousands of victims," Bourgeois said.

Through the years, military officials have strongly denied that the school was responsible for any abuses.

"There's not a single example of anybody using what he learned at the School of the Americas to commit a crime," said institute spokesman Lee Rials. "While it is true that there are people who committed crimes after attending a course, no cause-

effect relationship has ever been found."

Human rights, ethics and democracy training are mandatory at the institute, he said.

For five years the institute has invited protesters to visit the school to see for themselves what courses are taught and how it is run.

Rials said at least 600 have signed up for a visit Saturday.

The protesters' demonstrations begin Friday and end Sunday, following the group's traditional funeral procession, where they carry coffins or white crosses to honor victims of alleged human rights abuses.

Some demonstrators usually cross into Fort Benning and get arrested for trespassing.

Joining the demonstration this year will be Living the Dream, a group dedicated to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of a unified, nonviolent world. Members will end a weeklong pilgrimage from Selma, Ala., to the fort.

Also new this year will be a movement known as "1,000 Grandmothers," inspired by a song of the same name by singer-activist Holly Near.

Organizers hope to have 1,000 grandmothers who will knit "Booties for Peace" and wear white handkerchiefs in solidarity with the mothers and grandmothers who lost thousands of loved ones during the reign of a brutal military junta in Argentina.

Over the past year, the group SOA Watch has been working on two fronts to close the school: lobbying Congress to end its funding and visiting leaders of Latin American countries to stop the flow of students.

A House bill that would have halted the school's funding failed by 16 votes earlier this year. With 35 Republicans who had opposed the bill now out of office, Bourgeois is optimistic it will pass next year under the new Congress.

Meanwhile, Venezuela stopped sending students last year and Argentina and Uruguay did it this year. An SOA Watch delegation had met with leaders of those countries, but Bourgeois credits the pullout to the democratic transformation taking place in Latin America.

"The school is seen as a contradiction to democracy," he said.

Rials said the institute will have a banner year, with about 1,000 students trained at Fort Benning and another 231 trained by mobile teams in South America.

"We have an important role to play, mainly to maintain contact with our allies, not only in this hemisphere, but around the world," Rials said, noting that Latin American countries provide more than 6,000 soldiers to 14 of the United Nation's 16 peacekeeping missions.

"The Few. The Shameless. The U.S. Congress" - 30 sec Video

Pinochet in Palestine

Joseph Massad* looks at the similarities between regime change in Chile and Palestine and condemns the collaboration between Fatah and Palestine's enemies

Before the United States government subcontracted the Chilean military to overthrow the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973, it carried out a number of important missions in the country in preparation for the coup of 11 September. These included major strikes, especially by truck owners, which crippled the economy, massive demonstrations that included middle-class housewives and children carrying pots and pans demanding food, purging the Chilean military of officers who would oppose the suspension of democracy and the introduction of US-supported fascist rule, and a major media campaign against the regime with the CIA planting stories in newspapers like El Mercurio and others. This was in a context where also the Communist Party and the Leftist Revolutionary Movement (MIR) criticised and sometimes attacked the Allende regime from varying leftist positions.

The Chilean example is important to keep in mind when one looks at the Palestinian situation today, as it functions as a sort of training video for US-planned anti-democratic coups elsewhere in the world. Not only are the US and Israel financially backing the open preparation for a coup to be staged by the top leadership of Fateh (and in the case of Israel allowing weapons' transfers to Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas's Praetorian Guard), but so are the intelligence services of a number of Israel-and US-friendly Arab countries whose intelligence services have set up shop openly in Ramallah more recently, making their longstanding and major, though understated, involvement in running the Palestinian territories more open and shameless. Indeed the intelligence "delegation" of one such Arab country has rented out a multi-story building in Ramallah to conduct their operations there.

Israel has helped this effort all along by kidnapping and arresting Fateh members who resist the collaborationist policies of the top leadership. As for the leadership itself, it has periodically purged members of Fateh who oppose its policies, and marginalised those in the Diaspora who continue to resist them. The Fateh/PA coup leaders consist of Abbas and the ruling triumvirate of Mohamed Dahlan, Yasser Abd Rabbo, and Nabil Amr. The profiles of these three make them well suited for the tasks ahead. Dahlan is universally known as America's and Israel's main corrupt military man on the ground. Abd Rabbo (aka Yasser Abd Yasser, literally "Yasser worshipper of Yasser" on account of his subservience to Arafat) is the architect of the Geneva accords, which recognise Israel's right to be a racist Jewish state as legitimate and reject the right of Palestinian refugees to return as illegitimate. He recently upheld the Israeli position when fighting with the Qatari foreign minister and his staff during the latter's visit to the occupied territories. Amr is the former PA information minister, and a former visiting fellow at the Israel lobby think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is also the speechwriter for Abbas and Dahlan.

Abbas and these three have undertaken not only to launch massive strikes by the Fateh security thugs that they have armed to police the territories on behalf of Israel, and strikes by the bureaucracy that staffs the PA ministries, but also have coerced large numbers of Palestinians, including teachers and professors, under the force of guns, to uphold a strike against Hamas, when most of them had voted for Hamas in the first place and refuse to strike. Palestinians who have fought for decades to keep their schools and universities open against Israeli draconian closures and suspension of Palestinian education, are now forced by Fateh and its armed thugs to stop the Palestinian educational process with strikes against Hamas, and threaten to shoot people if they refuse to follow Fateh's coup directives.

In addition, Abbas and the Fateh/PA triumvirate have organised demonstrations in Ramallah by middle-class Palestinians, including housewives, who brought out their pots and pans, in a scene borrowed from 1973 Santiago, in demonstrations against Hamas. The Fateh-controlled press, especially Al-Ayyam is fomenting major anti-Hamas propaganda campaign in preparation for the coup and is thus playing the same role as El Mercurio did in Chile. Al-Ayyam is aided in its efforts by the anti-Hamas secular Palestinian intelligentsia, most of whose members are on the payroll of the bankrollers of the Oslo process and its NGOs. These old leftist Palestinians, like their counterparts in Lebanon, are better known today as the right-wing left, as they take up right-wing positions while insisting that they are still leftists based on positions they had held in the 1980s or earlier.

The plan is that the Fateh/PA rulers would do their utmost to provoke Hamas to start the war at which point Fateh, with the aid of the intelligence services of friendly Arab countries, as well as assistance from Israel and the US, would crush Hamas and take over. Indeed, the first unsuccessful round took place when the Israeli government kidnapped a third of the Hamas government, both cabinet ministers and parliament members, and placed them in Israeli jails. This was not sufficient to bring Hamas down, and not for lack of help that Fateh rendered the Israeli occupiers. Aside from the initial burning of the Legislative Council building, Fateh thugs have also burned the prime minister's office, shot at his car, burned offices in different ministries several times, harassed and threatened Hamas ministers and parliamentarians whom Israel failed to kidnap and arrest, refused to allow the government ministries to operate, and so forth. Hamas however, is wisely adamant that it will respond by force only when Fateh launches an all-out war to bring about its planned coup, but not before.

Fateh's planned coup is not only based on the popularity of Hamas and its electoral victory but also on Hamas's increased ability to defend itself against Fateh forces. If the US and Israel armed Fateh thugs under Arafat's leadership to crush the first Palestinian Intifada and any remaining resistance to the occupation since 1994, today, Hamas is almost as well- armed as Fateh forces and can defend the rights of the Palestinians to resist the Israeli occupation and the well-armed Palestinian collaborators that help to enforce it. This is where the situation today differs measurably from that of the mid-1990s. To offset this new balance of forces, the United States government, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, has been training Abbas's Praetorian Guard in Jericho for over a month with American, British, Egyptian, and Jordanian military instructors, and is providing arms to them in preparation for the confrontation with Hamas. The Israeli cabinet in turn has recently approved the transfer of thousands of rifles from Egypt and Jordan to Abbas's forces. The Israelis also approved a US request that Israel allow the Badr Brigade -- part of the Palestine Liberation Army currently stationed in Jordan -- to deploy in Gaza. These steps have been conceived by General Keith Dayton, the American security coordinator in the occupied territories, who wants the Badr Brigade to function as Abbas's "rapid reaction force in Gaza". As a possible step to increase its security and military roles in the occupied territories, the Jordanian government recently established a legal committee to review the provisions of Jordan's decision to "disengage" from the West Bank announced on 31 July 1988, effectively suggesting the possibility of a reversal of part or all of these provisions. More recently, the Israelis intensified their bombings and killings in Gaza, most recently in Beit Hanoun murdering over 50 Palestinians in a few days.

Mahmoud Abbas and his ruling triumvirate are reticent at the moment to start an open war for fear of a public backlash. They prefer to remove Hamas through imposing a "national unity" government that would undercut Hamas gradually and peacefully. However, Abbas and his triumvirate are quickly losing patience. Indeed, in a hastily-arranged meeting of the Diaspora-based Fateh Central Committee set to convene in Amman three weeks ago to ratify the coup plans, members of the committee opposed Abbas's US and Israel-supported coup, which forced Abbas to cancel the meeting altogether claiming falsely lack of quorum as the reason. This speaks to Abbas's desperation in engineering the coup without adequate preparation. Indeed, rumour has it across the occupied territories that the desperate attacks committed recently against Palestinian Christian churches were the work of undercover thugs. Those who sent them want Palestinian Christians and the world at large to think that these were Hamas acts in response to the pope's racist pronouncements against Islam. Hamas duly condemned the attacks. Few in the occupied territories believe that Hamas was behind them and most know that they were the work of undercover agents.

The Fateh plan is simple: where Israel and its Lebanese allies failed to crush Hizbullah in the Sixth war, Fateh and its Israeli allies will succeed in crushing Hamas, even if the ongoing Israeli war against Hamas and the Palestinian people becomes an all-out Seventh war. The flurry of visits by Condoleezza Rice to the area in the last few weeks hoped to put the final touches on this plan. If Hamas, like Hizbullah, could be provoked into a military response, the coup planners believe, then Fateh's and Israel's wrath (backed by the US, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia) would be unleashed to finish Hamas off. The Fateh leadership and its thugs are sharpening their knives for the showdown. Hamas has remained calm despite the pressure.

In the meantime, Ramallah proper (excluding the surrounding villages), continues to be what many now refer to as the Palestinian Green Zone, sheltering, in addition to the intelligence staff of Israel and Israel-friendly Arab countries, those Palestinians who are paid and protected by the Oslo process, whether the Oslo bureaucracy, its technicians, and hired intellectuals, or the business and middle classes recently habituated to the new name-brand consumerism that the Green Zone can offer. This opulent life contrasts with the life of the rest of the Palestinians outside Ramallah who live in misery, hunger, and under the bombardment of the Israelis and the attacks of savage Jewish colonial settlers, not to mention the harassment by Fateh thugs. In Ramallah itself, the trigger-happy thugs shoot at random during their demonstrations, injuring and sometimes killing passers by "in error". Even the few secular intellectuals who deign to oppose Fateh inside Ramallah are harassed in different ways. Some of them experience mysterious robberies that are repeated every time they make anti-Fateh statements. The preservation of Ramallah as the Green Zone is paramount to Abbas and the Fateh/PA triumvirate, whose fear of any reform introduced by Hamas would strip the elite of the benefits of corruption and the dolce vita that Fateh-rule has ensured for them.

Meanwhile, Abbas and his triumvirate will continue to treat Hamas the way Israel has treated the PLO and other Arab countries all along. In the interminable negotiations that Hamas held with Fateh to avert a showdown, whenever Hamas would agree to a Fateh demand, Fateh would up the ante and insist on another concession or claim that its initial demands always included the now expanded terms, even though they did not. Moreover, Fateh would also publicly interpret Hamas's concessions as having included things that Hamas had not agreed to at all. If this is reminiscent of the post-Oslo negotiating strategy that the Israelis used successfully with Arafat, this is because it is the same strategy. Abbas has gone so far as to walk away from negotiations, and refuse to speak to Hamas leaders, just as the Israelis have done often with the PA. Moreover, if the Israelis would often carry undercover attacks against Western interests to implicate Arab governments, the clearest example being the infamous Lavon Affair of the mid-1950s targeting Egypt, similar operations are being committed to implicate Hamas by undercover agents, like the recent example of the attacks on the churches illustrates. There may be many more such operations being planned.

Whatever fig leaf still covered the Fateh leadership's complete collaboration and subservience to Israeli interests has now fallen off. As a result, there is very little left that can restrain Fateh's actions. The next few weeks will be decided by how much Fateh leaders are itching for a fight to save their skins and fortunes, and how much patience Hamas can muster in the face of so much thuggery. In the meantime, what has been unfolding in the Palestinian territories is nothing short of the Chilean script.

Pinochet is in Palestine. His success however remains far from certain.

* The writer is associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University. He is the author of The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians (Routledge, 2006).

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

Al-Ahram Weekly Online : Located at:

Israel was busy last night

By Sam Bahour

The Israeli occupation is alive and well, although you may not be hearing much about it. See attached pics from our front page today... the words under the picture from left to right say, "Rafah", "Beit Hanoun", and Beit Lahya," all cities in the Gaza Strip. Just enough destruction to not make the world's headlines, and just enough to make sure Palestinian see no hope for the future! ... and these 3 pics are just from Israeli actions last night!!

Pdf - see the top images for November 18, 2006

Sam Bahour, MBA, is a Palestinian-American businessman, originally from Youngstown, Ohio, who lives in Al-Bireh, the sister city of Ramallah. He may be reached at

The Olive Picker

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Felicity Arbuthnot

When Bristol, U.K., based, Ed Hill's elderly mother persuaded him to accompany her on a 'Holy Land Tour', as a committed atheist, he was underwhelmed. He returned from Palestine a changed man, in love with the place and people, enraged at their plight.

He joined solidarlity movements, campaigned, with Bristol Palestine Solidarity campaign helped raise money for for an orphanage in the northern town of Tulkarm, to which Bristol mosques conbtributed generously. Then Palestine's life blood, olives, touched his heart. He had learned of olive groves, some over a hundred years old, bulldozed by the Israelis.

Then he heard of the Zaytoun Co-operative, formed by a group who put their scant savings, student loans, unemployment money, to export olive oil to the U.K. He started selling Zaytoun's oils and the project became a passion: 'I had crossed the line, I became a Zaytoun Zealot!', says Hill.

Last year, Zaytoun organised an olive harvest trip. Farming families now depend almost entirely on their land for survival and the olive harvest has anyway, ever been one of the year's key events for every Palestinian villager.

Now Israeli settlers and soldiers harrass, attack and deter villagers travelling by cart, donkey and battered pick-up, armed just with tarpaulins and blankets, to catch the olives as they fall and whatever celebratory picnic they can afford at a time celebrated over millenia.

Zaytoun had decided to ask those from other countries for the occasion in the hope that, as with the 'internationals' that travel with ambulances, there might be less harrassment. Hill needed no urging, but, he says, a lot of advice on convincing the Israeli authorities to let him in and persuade them of his reasons for visiting Palestine.

Ironically this self confessed non-believer, now on a different kind of 'Holy Land Tour', decided that donning a large cross and declaring himself a born again Christian would be convincing. It worked.

In the old city of Jerusalem, where Zaytoun had arranged to meet their guests, he quickly discovered reality under occupation. Walking through Damascus Gate and : 'suddely in a mediaeval maze of narrow streets and alleyways', he encountered a: 'gang of incredibly young, arrogant and undisciplined Israeli soldiers', and was struck by how big their guns were.

Later he learned that someone had thrown a stone at soldiers in the area that day, who had exacted revenge by: 'throwing sound grenades into groups of school children, injuring some.'

And he discovered the separation wall: 'As tall as a house', being built to separate Israel from Palestine, separating families, farmers from their land and destroying swathes of ancient citrus orchards, figs, olives. 'The apartheid system from South Africa, is being perfected in the West Bank', concludes Hill.

Travelling to the first picking venue, the town of As Sawiya: 'We passed the settlement town of Ariel, with swinming pool, fountains, lawns with sprinklers.

The water comes from aquafers under the West Bank, supplied cheaply to settlers - the Palestinians have to buy their own water back at inflated prices - and rationed so that on average they only get half the U.N. (considered adequate) quota.'

Below Ariel, is the little town of Marda, the wall snaking round, looking likely to completely maroon it. Settlers, learned Hill, from the Head Mistress of a girls high school, sometimes come in to the school, attack students, break windows and furniture, steal computers and also block children from getting to school.

Teachers are turned back at checkpoints. The Head Mistress described a pregnant woman at one, who had become so distressed she had struck a soldier - who shot her and left her to bleed to death. 'Between September 2000 and December 2004, sixty one women gave birth at checkpoints, thirty six babies died as a result, according to the UN', says Hill, adding : 'Near Jenin, Israeli soldiers even forced residents to undress at a roadblock.'

As Sawiya (population two thousand) had lost twenty eight percent of its farm land to the illegal settlement of Eli and farmers have been attacked,says Hill, with sticks, guns and dogs. Fields of fruit have had to be abandoned. Hill's group, with the enduringly courageous Rabbis for Human Rights: 'Provided protection so the villagers could gather at least one more harvest.

Olive picking is convivial, with teams working on each tree, the blankets and tarpaulins spread to catch the handfulls of olives, pulled from the branches.' Later, tablecloths are spread on the ground and "eat,eat" urge the hosts, "you are our guests", as pitta bread, hummous, olives, diced cucumbers and tomatoes are spread out.'

Hill talks of the 'privelige' he feels at knowing these extraordinarily resilient people, who have lost and suffered so much. 'Aren't you angry' he asked one man who had lost swathes of land : 'Anger is for mad people', he replied : 'All we want is to live in peace.'

After As Sawiya, Hill's group moved on to Mada, a village originally without about ten thousand dunums of land. 'The Ariel settlement stole three thousand, the Wall took a further eight hundred - and three thousand olive trees - and a highway will take more. Further all exits except one have been closed off, which the Israelis seal at will,sometimes for days.

Farmers cannot get to their land children their schools. It was possibly the last harvest before the Wall completely enclosed the land'. comments Hill. (At Anata School in Jerusalem, this obscene apartheid symbol, goes straight through the playground, he discovered.)

Currently, Hill is back in Mada and presented his eighty minute documentary 'Our Sufferings in this Land', filmed throughout last year's visit, to the Mayor, Sadeq Kufash.

'The Wall is now complete', says Hill: 'When the gate is closed, fields just across the road cannot be reached, this little town is ghettoised. People rely entirely on their land and their olives. There are nightly raids between midnight and dawn by Israeli soldiers.On 6th November they raided the house of a women psychologist, asleep with her children aged three and one and her mother. They held them at gunpoint in the garden for an hour.

A fourteen year old boy was arrested for gong near the wall.' During one late night attack, the word went round the village: "ring for the olive pickers." 'Last Friday', Hill continues: 'Israeli soldiers attacked the olive harvesters, when we, the internationals tried to intervene, one soldier said: "The only good Arab is a dead Arab." '

'This regular attrition against the ordinary people of Palestine never reaches the main stream media. This little town has done no harm to anyone.

But it is obvious the nearby settlement wants to drive the people out and eventually bulldoze their town to grab the land and recources. I think it is criminal and I want the world to know about it,' he says, adding, that when he saw their plight: 'I felt like crying.'

Hill seeks donations for computers and cameras for school. For his video and informative, resource packed booklet : 'Bristol to Tulkarm' :
For oil and more on Zaytoun:

The coming U.S. withdrawal from Iraq

Martin van Creveld
Tribune Media Services

Now that the American people have recognized that the war in Iraq is hopeless, what comes next? The United States is going to cut its losses and withdraw. Most likely, the withdrawal will start within months and be more or less complete by autumn 2007. If not, then the war will dominate the next U.S elections as it has the recent ones, and that is something neither the Democrats nor the Republicans want.

Withdrawing 140,000 men with all their equipment is a very complex operation. In 1945 and 1973, America simply evacuated its troops, leaving most of its equipment to its West European and South Vietnamese protégés respectively. This time things are different. So precious is modern defense equipment that not even the largest power on earth can afford to abandon large quantities of it.

Second, whatever equipment is left in Iraq is likely to fall into the hands of America's enemies. Thus the Pentagon will have no choice but to evacuate millions of tons of war matériel the way it came - in other words, back at least as far as Kuwait. Doing so will be time-consuming, enormously expensive and dangerous, as road-bound convoys making their way south are attacked.

The Iraq that the American forces leave behind them has been devastated. Its infrastructure has been wrecked. The oil industry, which used to account for 90 percent of its income, is in ruins. A recent estimate puts human losses at 150,000 dead. Worst of all, a government that can master the situation is not in sight. In its absence, Shiites and Sunnis are almost certainly going to fight each other for a long time to come; Shiites may also fight other Shiites. The beneficiaries are going to be the Kurds, who have been quietly expelling Arabs from northern Iraq, laying the foundation for their own state.

A reunited Iraq will take a long time to rise, if it ever does. A fragmented Iraq will greatly strengthen the position of Iran. To make sure some future American president does not get it into his or her head to attack Iran, the Iranians are going to press ahead as fast as they can in building nuclear weapons.

A powerful Iran presents a threat to the world's oil supplies and should therefore worry Washington. To deter Iran, U.S. forces will have to stay in the region for the indefinite future, probably divided between Kuwait, Oman, and other Gulf states. One can only hope that the forces in question, and the political will behind them, will be strong enough to deter Iran.

Some countries in the Middle East ought to be even more worried about Iran than the United States is. While turning to America for protection, several of them will almost certainly take a second look into the possibility of starting their own nuclear programs. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Syria may all end up with nuclear arsenals.

An Iraq that is in a state of chronic civil war will present an ideal breeding ground for terrorists of every sort. Most will probably operate within Iraq, but some will almost certainly take on the regimes of neighboring Arab countries, such as Jordan and Kuwait. Some may reach Lebanon, others Israel. Others still will try to extend their activities into the West. Another Osama bin Laden, setting up his headquarters somewhere in Iraq and directing his operations from there, is a distinct possibility.

Before 2003, many people looked at the United States as a colossus that was bestriding the earth. Whatever else, the war has left America with its international position weakened. The first task confronting Robert Gates, nominated to be the new secretary of defense, and his eventual successors must be to rebuild U.S. forces to the point where they may again be used if necessary.

Above all, America must take a hard look at its foreign policy. What role should the strongest power on earth play in the international arena, and just what are the limits of that role? How can U.S. power be matched with its finite economic possibilities and under what circumstances should it be used? If American power is used, what should its objectives be?

The answers to these questions may well have to wait until the 2008 elections sweep what remains of the Bush administration into the dustbin of history.

War on Terror + Enron Accounting = Massive Fraud: Bonddad

Nov 18, 2006

By Bonddad

President Bush has asked for more money for the global war on terror.

The Bush administration is preparing its largest spending request yet for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a proposal that could make the conflict the most expensive since World War II.
The Pentagon is considering $127 billion to $160 billion in requests from the armed services for the 2007 fiscal year, which began last month, several lawmakers and congressional staff members said. That's on top of $70 billion already approved for 2007.

The problem is we have no idea how we have spent most of the money Congress has already appropriated.

As a result, neither DOD nor the Congress reliably know how much the war is costing and how appropriated funds are being used or have historical data useful in considering future funding needs.

On July 18 2006, the General Accounting Office released a report titled Global War on Terrorism: Observations on Funding, Costs, and Future Commitments. (See link above) This report indicated the government's accounting of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) is at best shoddy. Let's go through the report's main findings to see exactly what is going on.
DOD has reported incremental costs of about $273 billion for overseas GWOT-related activities through April 2006. This amount includes almost $215 billion for operations in Iraq and almost $58 billion for operations in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, the Philippines, and elsewhere.
This is not chump change - it's a sizeable amount of money.

However, our prior work [the GAO's] has found numerous problems with DOD's processes for recording and reporting costs for GWOT, including longstanding deficiencies in DOD's financial management systems and business processes, the use of estimates instead of actual costs, and the lack of adequate supporting documentation.

The GAO has found major problems. Let me translate the business jargon. "Financial management systems and business processes" is business lingo for how the inner-workings of the Pentagon deal with costs. For example, suppose department A is responsible for buying ammunition. That department would either have an accounting section to deal with the costs or there would be a central accounting section of a larger department that would perform the same function. All of these accounting departments are overseen at some level to make sure all the departments comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), communicate with each other using similar terminology etc... The GAO found that the internal account departments of the DOD had "longstanding deficiencies". This is business talk for "there are REALLY BIG PROBLEMS IN THE WAY WE PERFORM ACCOUNTING". In other words, the DOD is ripe for accounting abuse. Think Enron and you'll get the idea.

[T]he use of estimates instead of actual costs. This is a classic government problem. An agency will usually overestimate costs to allow for a financial cushion in projects. Now - this is not in and of itself fraudulent. Businesses do this all the time. It gives them financial wiggle room, especially when they are developing new products. However, once a business knows the actual cost of a product, they use the actual cost. The GAO found the Pentagon is continuing to use the estimated costs - even if they know the actual cost - in a variety projects. This means the Pentagon is probably overestimating the cost of many things - again, a situation ripe for abuse.
[T]he lack of adequate supporting documentation. This is great. We don't even have documents to understand the internal cost structures of the Pentagon. Let's just say -- NOT GOOD, BOYS. NOT GOOD AT ALL.

Ladies and gentlemen - I bring you Enron style accounting, courtesy of the GWOT, Donald Rumsfeld and the Republican's "we're the party of business" leadership. If the GWOT were a private, ongoing business concern, they would have to declare bankruptcy to reorganize this mess they have created. This is the result of Republican style rule.

Take Back Gaza, Israeli Official Says

This was Sharon's plan from day one. His apparent conversion led to a swap of the West Bank for Gaza. Just a deke to secure the West Bank and then reinvade Gaza.

Saturday November 18, 2006 1:01 PM


Associated Press Writer

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) - Israel should ignore moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, wipe out the Hamas leadership and walk away from the U.S.-backed ``road map'' peace plan, Israel's new deputy prime minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said Saturday.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert forged an alliance with Lieberman, one of Israel's most divisive politicians, last month to shore up his shaky coalition. The appointment of Lieberman as minister of strategic affairs raised concern that Olmert's government, weakened by the summer's war in Lebanon, would freeze all peace efforts.

Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, had no comment Saturday on Lieberman's latest remarks laying out his views on the conflict with Palestinians.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, a top Abbas aide, said Lieberman is stuck in the past and that his ideas ``are a recipe for the continuation of bloodshed, violence, extremism and hatred between the two sides.''

In an interview with Israel Radio, Lieberman proposed a series of measures, based on what he said is his belief that the Palestinians are not interested in setting up their own state, but rather in destroying Israel.

Israel must walk away from interim peace deals, the so-called Oslo Accords, and from the U.S.-backed ``road map'' plan, which envisions the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel in several stages, he said.

``A continuation of Oslo, of the road map ... will lead us to another round of conflict, a much more bloody round, and in the end to an even deeper deadlock, and it threatens our future,'' he said.

He dismissed Abbas, elected president in 2005, as an ineffective leader and said he should be ignored, in favor of closer coordination with the Jordanian government about the fate of the West Bank.

``We have a reliable partner there which is Jordan,'' he said. ``We have to coordinate with Jordan. We have to say that Abbas is simply not relevant, we have to ignore him ... He has no authority, no power.''

Israel also needs to get tougher with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups, particularly their leaders, Lieberman said. ``I see the entire leadership of Hamas and Jihad walking around freely, and it's continuing to incite,'' he told the radio. ``They ... have to disappear, to go to paradise, all of them, and there can't be any compromise.''

The leader of the Hamas bloc in the Palestinian parliament, Mushir al-Masri, said any attack on the group's leaders would trigger immediate retaliation.

Israel has killed a series of Hamas leaders in targeted missiles strikes in recent years, including the group's founder, but has not targeted members of the Hamas government elected nine months ago.

Lieberman also proposed that Israel take back control of the Gaza-Egypt border to stop weapons smuggling.

Israel ceded the border in a U.S.-brokered agreement, after leaving the Gaza Strip last year.

Since then, the border has repeatedly been closed over security alerts, and Israel troops have raided the area in search of weapons-smuggling tunnels. The Israeli military has expressed concern about weapons flowing into Gaza. The border's Rafah crossing is controlled by Egypt, the Palestinians and EU monitors.

Lieberman said Israel cannot rely on others to prevent the influx of weapons.

``We have heard about tons of weapons, of missiles, we have heard about the smuggling of hundreds of millions of dollars into Gaza, and this is the fuel driving this entire war,'' he said. ``They have all failed, the international observers who are sitting at the Rafah crossing, the Egyptians.''

Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party (Israel is Our Home) has 11 seats in Israel's 120-member parliament, and gives Olmert a comfortable safety net in parliament votes.

The government expansion was roundly criticized by Israeli doves and Arab activists.,,-6223995,00.html

UN chief: Nato cannot defeat Taliban by force: Nato forces 'failing'

Official says alliance failing in Afghanistan as Blair admits Iraq is a 'disaster'

Declan Walsh in Kabul and Richard Norton-Taylor
Saturday November 18, 2006
The Guardian

Nato "cannot win" the fight against the Taliban alone and will have to train Afghan forces to do the job, the UN's top official in the country warned yesterday.
"At the moment Nato has a very optimistic assessment. They think they can win the war," warned Tom Koenigs, the diplomat heading the UN mission in Afghanistan. "But there is no quick fix."

In forthright comments which highlight divisions between international partners as Nato battles to quell insurgency, Mr Koenigs said that training the fledgling Afghan national army to defeat the Taliban was crucial. "They [the ANA] can win. But against an insurgency like that, international troops cannot win."

He spoke to the Guardian as Tony Blair came the closest so far to admitting the invasion of Iraq had been disastrous.
When Sir David Frost, interviewing the prime minister for al-Jazeera TV, suggested that western intervention in Iraq had "so far been pretty much of a disaster", Mr Blair responded: "It has. But, you see, what I say to people is, 'why is it difficult in Iraq?' It's not difficult because of some accident in planning, it's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy - al Qaida with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other - to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war."

Downing Street tried to play down the apparent slip last night. A spokesman said: "I think that's just the way in which he answers questions. His views on Iraq are documented in hundreds of places, and that [the belief that it is a disaster] is not one of them." However, Sir Menzies Campbell, leader of the Lib Dems, commented: "At long last, the enormity of the decision to take military action against Iraq is being accepted by the prime minister. Surely parliament and the British people who were given a flawed prospectus are entitled to an apology?"

British commanders have argued that UK troops should be withdrawn from Iraq to allow the military to focus on Afghanistan. But Nato commanders on the ground have pleaded for 2,000 more troops, helicopters and armoured vehicles, to little effect. Last night Nato secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said countries should lift restrictions on what their troops could do."My plea to governments would be: 'Please help us in lifting those caveats as much as possible ... because in Afghanistan it is a problem."

Des Browne, the defence secretary, made clear yesterday that the future of the alliance was now bound up with the future of Afghanistan. "The Afghan people, our own people and the Taliban are watching us. If we are indecisive or divided, the Taliban will be strengthened, just as all of the others despair," he said.

Attacks have increased fourfold this year and 3,700 people have died, mostly in the south. The US has made 2,000 air strikes since June, against 88 in Iraq.

Last week Acbar, an umbrella group of Afghan and international aid agencies, said the crisis highlighted the "urgent need" for a rethink of military, poverty-reduction and state-building policies.

Nato commanders maintain the Taliban have been on the "back foot" since Operation Medusa, a battle which killed more than 1,000 insurgents in Kandahar in September, and talk of gaining "psycho logical ascendancy". However, Mr Koenigs said any claim of victory was premature. "You can't resolve it by killing the Taliban. You have to win people over. That is done with good governance, decent police, diplomacy with Pakistan, and development," he said. Otherwise the Taliban would regroup in Pakistani refugee camps and madrasas and return in greater numbers next spring.,,1951224,00.html

Intervention in Iraq 'pretty much of a disaster' admits Blair, as minister calls it his 'big mistake'

· Downing Street plays down slip in TV interview
· Hodge criticises 'moral imperialism' in speech

Tania Branigan
, political correspondent
Saturday November 18, 2006
The Guardian

Tony Blair conceded last night that western intervention in Iraq had been a disaster. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, the Arabic TV station, the prime minister agreed with the veteran broadcaster Sir David Frost when he suggested that intervention had "so far been pretty much of a disaster".
Mr Blair said: "It has, but you see, what I say to people is, 'why is it difficult in Iraq?' It's not difficult because of some accident in planning, it's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy - al-Qaida with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other - to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war."

Downing Street tried to downplay the apparent slip. "I think that's just the way in which he answers questions," said a spokesman. "His views on Iraq are documented in hundreds of places, and that is not one of them."
Mr Blair's remarks came hours after his trade and industry minister, Margaret Hodge, was reported to have described Iraq as his "big mistake in foreign affairs" and criticised his "moral imperialism".

John McDonnell, the leftwing MP who has pledged to challenge for Labour's leadership, said the prime minister's concession was "staggering" and urged him to bring forward Britain's exit strategy.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: "At long last the enormity of the decision to take military action against Iraq is being accepted by the prime minister."

Earlier, Ms Hodge had told a private dinner organised by the Fabian Society that she had doubted Mr Blair's approach to foreign affairs as far back as 1998, because of his belief in imposing British values and ideas on other countries. According to the Islington Tribune, she said she had accepted Mr Blair's arguments on the threat posed by Iraq because "he was our leader and I trusted him" - before adding: "I hope this isn't being reported."

Ms Hodge was unavailable for comment yesterday, but a spokesman told the Evening Standard that she had not made the remarks. Asked if they reflected her opinions, he added: "I'm not in a position to comment on her private views."

A Downing Street spokesman said he knew nothing of the reported comments. "Margaret Hodge voted for military action in Iraq. Since then, she has always spoken in favour of it. We have a prime minister, a government, that is trying to bring the country together," he said, but added that nobody was disputing "the difficulties there are in Iraq". The Islington Tribune said its editor, Eric Gordon, had taken a shorthand note of the meeting in London, and it had checked the story thoroughly.

Pat Haynes, secretary of the Islington Fabian Society, did not recall the word "mistake", but added: "She said that if she knew then what she knows now, she would not have voted for the war." He did not realise a journalist was at the meeting, he added. But Chris Roche, the Labour member who took Mr Gordon to the meeting, told Sky News: "Everyone knew there was a journalist there."

In May Ms Hodge was criticised by Labour activists after telling a newspaper that eight out of 10 of her constituents were considering voting for the BNP.,,1951267,00.html