Sunday, February 25, 2007

Afghans See Marked Decline Since 2005

Violence, Corruption, U.S. Role Add to Unease and Loss of Confidence, Report Says

By Griff Witte
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, February 24, 2007; A11

Conditions in Afghanistan have deteriorated markedly since 2005, with rising violence, government corruption and misguided U.S. efforts contributing to growing unease among the population, according to a report released yesterday based in part on 1,000 interviews with ordinary Afghans.

Although there were bright spots -- a better overall economy and more rights for women -- the report's authors found diminishing security as the Taliban steps up its attacks, a discredited justice system and a severe lack of basic services such as electricity. The report, produced by the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies and funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, also found that Afghans tend to be more negative in their outlook than official statistics or media accounts would suggest.

"Public fear and frustration are on the rise in Afghanistan. As a result, Afghans are beginning to disengage from national governing processes and lose confidence in their leadership," according to the report. "Dramatic changes are required in the coming weeks, or 2007 will become the breaking point."

That statement echoed remarks made earlier this month by the departing U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, who told a congressional panel that "a point could be reached at which the government of Afghanistan becomes irrelevant to its people, and the goal of establishing a democratic, moderate, self-sustaining state could be lost forever."

A year ago, U.S. officials were speaking much more optimistically about Afghanistan. But an especially violent summer, fed by an increasingly aggressive insurgency, has convinced many policymakers that Afghanistan is at a precarious moment more than five years after a U.S.-led military campaign knocked the Taliban from power. Last week, President Bush pledged $11.8 billion in aid for Afghanistan over the next two years and said U.S. forces would be increased by 3,200 to 27,000, the highest level of the war.

Among the report's recommendations are to shift the focus away from eradicating poppy fields and toward interdiction, to give local communities more control over aid money, and to abandon major military sweeps that inflict damage on civilians in favor of rapid-response forces that can protect Afghans in emergencies. "NATO and the United States' 'big army' military operations and emphasis on foot soldier 'kills' are doing more damage than good," the report said.

Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a Pentagon spokesman, said he could not comment on the report's recommendations because he had not seen them, but he said part of the reason the United States is committing more troops to Afghanistan is to improve response times. Britain said yesterday it would also be sending additional troops.

The report's release came on a day when thousands of people rallied in Kabul to support a bill in the Afghan parliament that would provide amnesty for Afghans accused of war crimes. It also came as a man who claimed to be senior Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah told Reuters in a telephone interview that "this year will prove to be the bloodiest for the foreign troops." The man claimed that "6,000 fighters are ready for attacks."

'Mercenaries' to fill Iraq troop gap

Sun 25 Feb 2007


MINISTERS are negotiating multi-million-pound contracts with private security firms to cover some of the gaps created by British troop withdrawals.

Days after Tony Blair revealed that he wanted to withdraw 1,600 soldiers from war-torn Basra within months, it has emerged that civil servants hope "mercenaries" can help fill the gap left behind.

Officials from the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence will meet representatives from the private security industry within the next month to discuss "options" for increasing their business in Iraq in the coming years.

The UK government has already paid out almost £160m to private security companies (PSCs) since the invasion of Iraq, for a range of services, including the protection of British officials on duty and in transit in some of the most dangerous parts of the world.

But, despite expectations that the booming market for private security would go into decline following the bursting of the "Iraq bubble", firms have now been told to expect even more lucrative work during the "post-occupation phase".

A senior official from one of the biggest PSCs already operating in Iraq last night claimed firms had been told to expect increased business opportunities in areas such as personnel protection, highway security and the training of Iraqi police and soldiers.

"It is not entirely surprising that they recognise PSCs still have a value in Iraq," the source said. "But them wanting to meet us demonstrates that they have accepted just how valuable the industry can be.

"No one is saying PSCs can take over all the jobs of regular military, but the British forces have not been doing regular military work recently. If there is a need to protect people and supply routes and areas, there are a lot of specialised private-sector companies that can do that perfectly well."

The MoD has consistently maintained that it has not paid a PSC to carry out any security duties in Iraq in almost four years since British forces arrived. But officials from the department are planning to join colleagues from the Foreign Office at a "summit" with members of the British Association of Private Security Companies (BAPSC) next month.

The development will reawaken complaints that the government is "privatising" the occupation of Iraq.

Pressure groups have consistently warned that private security contractors have been given too much freedom to operate in Iraq, and one warned that the country was being flooded with PSCs as part of the British "exit strategy".

The size of the private-security companies market is difficult to determine, but an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 private security contractors are thought to be working in Iraq. At a conference of British private-security companies last month, delegates said that the industry had increased about tenfold over the past decade and was worth the equivalent of about $4bn (£2.04bn) a year.

Almost 40 international PSCs are licensed to operate in Iraq, and the Foreign Office has paid out tens of millions of pounds to a handful of the largest British firms over the past four years. The department's bill for bodyguard protection alone rose from £19m in 2003-04 to £48m the following year. Most of the firms employ veterans from the forces, including former members of the SAS and SBS, who can command wages of up to £600 a day.

One company has taken £112m in just three years. Another has been paid £42m for work in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Ministers have failed to bring in legislation to control the activities of the industry, despite promising action four years ago. The Tory homeland security spokesman, ex-Army colonel Patrick Mercer, said "it makes no sense" to make huge payments to private firms while the regular forces were undergoing cuts.

But the charity War on Want claims the government has consciously expanded the role of PSCs in Iraq - through a series of multi-million-pound contracts - in order to pave the way for a military exit.

Both the Foreign Office and the MoD are believed to have supported an expanded role since early in the Iraq operation and Downing Street is now rumoured to favour the move as part of the accelerated withdrawal announced by Blair last week.

"There are genuine worries that the government is trying to privatise the Iraq conflict," said War on Want's campaigns director, John Hilary.

"The occupation of Iraq has allowed British mercenaries to reap huge profits.

How can Tony Blair hope to restore peace and security in Iraq while allowing mercenary armies to operate completely outside the law?"

Hidden casualties of 'outsourced' hostilities
THE dangers faced by contractors working in Iraq were laid bare last night by new figures showing hundreds of civilians employed by the Pentagon alone have been killed in the country since 2003.

In a graphic exposé of a hitherto invisible cost of the war in Iraq, it emerged nearly 800 civilians working under contract to US defence chiefs have been killed and more than 3,300 hurt doing jobs normally handled by the military.

The casualty figures, gathered by the Associated Press, make it clear the US Defence Department's count of more than 3,100 military dead does not tell the whole story.

"It's another unseen expense of the war," said Thomas Houle, a retired Air Force reservist whose brother-in-law died while driving a truck in Iraq. "It's almost disrespectful it doesn't get the kind of publicity that a soldier would."

Employees of defence contractors such as Halliburton and Blackwater cook meals, do laundry, repair infrastructure, translate documents, analyse intelligence, guard prisoners, protect military convoys, deliver water in the heavily fortified Green Zone and stand sentry at buildings - often highly dangerous duties almost identical to those performed by many US troops.

The US has outsourced so many war and reconstruction duties that there are almost as many contractors (120,000) as US troops (135,000) in the war zone. But insurgents in Iraq make little, if any, distinction between the contractors and US troops.

By the end of 2006, the Labour Department had quietly recorded 769 deaths and 3,367 injuries serious enough to require four or more days off the job.

The contractors are paid handsomely for the risks they take, with some making £50,000 per year, mostly tax-free - at least six times more than a new Army private.

Houle's brother-in-law, Hector Patino, was driving a truck for a Halliburton subsidiary in the Green Zone when he was killed by friendly fire at an Australian checkpoint.

Patino, who served two tours in Vietnam, thought he was safe, said his mother, 82-year-old Flora Patino. "I said: 'Hector, you're playing with fire'," she recalled.

Related topic


Hundreds of Iraq Vets Are Homeless

Hundreds of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are ending up homeless. How could this happen?


By Sarah Childress
Updated: 12:41 p.m. MT Feb 24, 2007

Feb. 24, 2007 - Kevin Felty came back from Iraq in 2003 with nowhere to stay, and not enough money to rent an apartment. He and his wife of four years moved in with his sister in Florida, but the couple quickly overstayed their welcome. Jobless and wrestling with what he later learned was posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Felty suddenly found himself scrambling to find a place for himself and his wife, who was six-months pregnant. They found their way to a shelter for homeless veterans, which supported his wife during her pregnancy and helped Felty get counseling and find a job. A year later, he's finally thinking his future. "I don't want to say this is exactly where I want to be—it's really not," he says. "But it's what I can get at the moment."

Young, alienated and often living on their own for the first time, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans increasingly are coming home to find that they don't have one. Already, nearly 200,000 veterans—many from the Vietnam War—sleep on the streets every night, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. But young warriors just back from the Mideast—estimated around 500 to 1,000—are beginning to struggle with homelessness too. Drinking or using drugs to cope with PTSD, they can lose their job and the support of family and friends, and start a downward spiral to the streets. Their tough military mentality can make them less likely to seek help. Advocates say it can take five to eight years for a veteran to exhaust their financial resources and housing options, so they expect the number to rise exponentially in a few years. "Rather than wait for the tsunami, we should be doing something now," says Cheryl Beversdorf, president of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

The problem is mainly a lack of resources, advocates say. There are only about 15,000 beds available in VA-funded shelters or hospitals nationwide, and nearly every one is taken. In some smaller cities there simply aren't many places for a homeless veteran to go. And as affordable housing units shrink nationwide, veterans living on a disability check of, say, $700 a month, (which means a 50-percent disability rating from the VA), are hard-pressed to find a place to live. Most shelters require veterans to participate in a rehabilitation program, but a "fair amount" of veterans just go back to the streets once they leave, says Ed Quill, director of external affairs at Volunteers of America, the nonprofit housing group for veterans that helped Felty.

The VA says it's making a concerted effort to reach out to vets before they hit bottom, says Pete Dougherty, the VA's coordinator for homeless programs. Intake counselors are trained to ask questions, especially of newer veterans, to seek out mental health or other problems that could lead to homelessness. "We're much more sensitive than we were 40 years ago for signs of problems," he says. And they have expanded some services. Last week, the VA approved $24 million to boost aid for the homeless, which will allow them to add about 1,000 more beds and increase the number of grants to help the growing population of homeless women veterans and those with mental illnesses.

Much of the work with new veterans is being done one soldier at a time. At New Directions in Los Angeles, a center that rehabilitates homeless veterans, Anthony Belcher, a formerly homeless Vietnam vet who now works at the center, looks out for one particular Iraq veteran who shows up at the center about once a month, filthy, drugged out and tortured by PTSD. "He's a baby," Belcher says. "You can see it in his eyes." So far, the young vet is too wary to accept more than a night's bed or a hot meal. But as Belcher says, at least he has a place to go. That's more than many of the thousands of vets on America’s streets can say tonight.

Missile Fantasies

The administration's rush to deploy missile defenses in Europe brings a sinister response from Russia.

Sunday, February 25, 2007; B06

THE EMERGING debate over the deployment of U.S missile defenses in Central Europe is based on a series of false pretenses. The Bush administration pretends that it is sensible to invest $225 million next year in preparing to install ground-based interceptors and radar systems in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend against an attack from Iran, even though the glitch-plagued defense system hasn't yet proved workable and Iran doesn't have a missile that could reach the United States or Europe. The Polish and Czech governments, eager to deepen strategic cooperation with the United States, pretend that they will benefit from hosting the systems, even though they have little reason to worry about threats from the Middle East and the Bush administration has been slow to reward their past collaboration in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The prize for cynical posturing, nevertheless, goes to Russia, which in the past few days has suddenly advanced a claim that it knows to be false: that the deployment of the antimissile system would weaken the Russian nuclear deterrent. As Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals know, even if U.S. interceptors in Poland could function according to the Bush administration's scheme -- which they can't, and won't anytime soon -- they would not be capable of stopping a single Russian intercontinental ballistic missile, much less the massive force that remains at Moscow's disposal. U.S. officials have met with Russian counterparts on at least 10 occasions to explain this.

Mr. Putin and his generals nevertheless are threatening that Russia might respond to the U.S. missile defenses by redeploying intermediate-range missiles that were banned from Europe by a 1987 treaty. An even more sinister comment came Monday from the commander of Russian missile forces, who said that if Poland and the Czech Republic hosted the U.S. rockets and radars, they would be targeted by Russia's strategic missiles. This crude attempt at intimidating Moscow's former Soviet satellites predictably produced a defiant response from the two governments and probably eliminated any domestic opposition to an otherwise questionable venture. As Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg put it, "The Czechs will now think the shield is even more necessary."

The Bush administration's pushing of this initiative, which would not result in the deployment of any interceptors in Europe before 2010, is probably motivated by the same political impulses that have driven missile defense since 2001. Administration officials are determined to create a program so literally set in concrete that it can't be stopped or reversed by future presidents -- as was the missile defense program of President George H.W. Bush. Whether the technology actually works or a threat exists that justifies the rush never seems to matter much.

Such sandbagging justifies close scrutiny by Congress of the Pentagon's $10 billion funding request for missile defense in next year's budget, including the funds for Poland and the Czech Republic. But the Russian gamesmanship is more worrisome. On the opposite page today, Mr. Putin's foreign minister denies any interest in confrontation. But at the same time Mr. Putin may use the U.S. defense program as an excuse to revive a major piece of the Soviet nuclear arsenal with which to threaten NATO members in Europe. It's hard to think of a quicker way to revive the Cold War.

Americans lowball Iraqi death toll

Poll shows knowledge of U.S. dead, but huge underestimation of Iraqis

The Associated Press

Updated: 10:17 a.m. MT Feb 24, 2007

WASHINGTON - One person can tell you precisely how many Americans have been killed in Iraq. Another pays close attention to the names and hometowns of those who die each week. A third mourns for the families of fallen U.S. troops, but also figures it was their choice to enlist.

Americans are keenly aware of how many U.S. forces have lost their lives in Iraq, according to a new AP-Ipsos poll. But they woefully underestimate the number of Iraqi civilians who have been killed.

When the poll was conducted earlier this month, a little more than 3,100 U.S. troops had been killed. The midpoint estimate among those polled was right on target, at about 3,000.

Far from a vague statistic, the death toll is painfully real for many Americans. Seventeen percent in the poll know someone who has been killed or wounded in Iraq. And among adults under 35, those closest to the ages of those deployed, 27 percent know someone who has been killed or wounded.

For Daniel Herman, a lawyer in New Castle, Pa., a co-worker’s nephew is the human face of the dead.

“This is a fairly rural area,” he said. “When somebody dies, ... you hear about it. It makes it very concrete to you.”

Iraqi toll lowballed by tens of thousands
The number of Iraqis killed, however, is much harder to pin down, and that uncertainty is perhaps reflected in Americans’ tendency to lowball the Iraqi death toll by tens of thousands.

Iraqi civilian deaths are estimated at more than 54,000 and could be much higher; some unofficial estimates range into the hundreds of thousands. The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq reports more than 34,000 deaths in 2006 alone.

Among those polled for the AP survey, however, the median estimate of Iraqi deaths was 9,890. The median is the point at which half the estimates were higher and half lower.

Christopher Gelpi, a Duke University political scientist who tracks public opinion on war casualties, said a better understanding of the Iraqi death toll probably wouldn’t change already negative public attitudes toward the war much. People in democracies generally don’t shy away from inflicting civilian casualties, he said, and they may be even more tolerant of them in situations such as Iraq, where many of the civilian deaths are caused by other Iraqis.

“You have to look at who’s doing the killing,” said Neal Crawford, a restaurant manager in Suttons Bay, Mich., who guessed that about 10,000 Iraqis had been killed. “If these people are dying because a roadside bomb goes off or if there’s an insurgent attack in a marketplace, it’s an unfortunate circumstance of war — people die.”

Gelpi said that while Americans may not view Iraqi deaths through the same prism as American losses, they may use the Iraqi death toll to gauge progress, or lack thereof, on the U.S. effort to promote a stable, secure democracy in Iraq.

To many, he said, “the fact that so many are being killed is an indication that we’re not succeeding.”

Whatever their understanding of the respective death tolls, three-quarters of those polled said the numbers of both Americans and Iraqis who have been killed are “unacceptable.” Two-thirds said they tend to feel upset when a soldier dies, while the rest say such deaths are unfortunate but part of what war is about.

Sometimes it’s hard for people to sort out their conflicting emotions.

“I don’t know if I’m numb to it or not,” said 86-year-old Robert Lipold of Las Vegas. “It’s something you see in the paper every day there. And how do you feel when in the back of your mind it’s unnecessary?”

Most 'worried' about situation
Given a range of possible words to describe their feelings about the overall situation in Iraq, people were most likely to identify with “worried,” selected by 81 percent of those surveyed.

Other descriptive words selected by respondents:

  • Compassionate: 74 percent.
  • Angry: 62 percent.
  • Tired: 61 percent.
  • Hopeful: 51 percent.
  • Proud: 38 percent.
  • Numb: 27 percent.

    Women were more likely than men to feel worried, compassionate, angry and tired; men were more likely than women to feel proud, a finding consistent with traditional differences in attitudes toward war between the sexes.

    For women, said Gelpi, “there is an emotional response to casualties that men don’t show. ... It could be some sort of socialization that men get about the military or combat as being honorable that women don’t get.”

    Charlotte Pirch, a lawyer from Fountain Valley, Calif., said she’s “always appalled and just very upset at hearing about more casualties, whether it’s U.S. troops or troops from another country.”

    Pirch said two of her nieces are married to men who served in Iraq and she doesn’t live far from Camp Pendleton, which has sent many U.S. troops to Iraq. But she added, “Whether I knew someone personally or not, I would still feel it as a citizen of our country.”

    Perhaps surprisingly, the poll found little difference in attitudes toward the war between those who did and did not know someone who had been killed or wounded. There was a difference, however, in their opinions on whether opponents are right to criticize the war.

    About half of those who know someone who has been killed or wounded felt it is right to criticize the war, compared with two-thirds of those who don’t have a personal connection.

    The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,002 adults, conducted Feb. 12-15, had a 3 percentage point margin of error.

  • Who Do You Think We Are?

    February 25, 2007
    Op-Ed Contributor


    IN Alan J. Pakula’s 1974 film “The Parallax View,” the nefarious Parallax Corporation uses a questionnaire to recruit potential assassins. Sociopaths and psychopaths are weeded in with a battery of questions that expose their psychological strengths and weaknesses, secrets and predilections. At the opposite end of the moral spectrum, and with utterly benign intent, the General Social Survey has been performing a similar exploration of the American psyche for 34 years.

    Who Do You Think We Are?Slide Show

    Who Do You Think We Are?



    7 Reasons To Nuke The USA

    Feb 23, 2007

    By Yamin Zakaria

    According to the doctrine of pre-emptive strike which the US has adopted since 9/11, it too can be subjected to a pre-emptive nuclear strike, as it poses a threat to other peaceful nations of the world. The US has a sordid track record for using such weapons against civilians and it has constantly maintained a large stockpile of such weapons of mass destruction, and continuously develops them. There are additional reasons to nuke the US, however I have decided to highlight only seven, which I have listed below.

    This is partly for brevity and I hope it might have some resonance with the Zionist-Christian Fundamentalists, especially the nutty ones, as number 7 has significance in the Bible. Also, they are constantly yearning for the Armageddon, and nuking USA may only speed up the process, so for a change I might have these Christian-Zionists on my side! The Halleluiah brigade would probably jump up, waving their arms in the air whilst claiming to be speaking in tongues, proclaim that the good Lord says: bring it on, nuke the US for their sins! Perhaps, I would also have the communists and their variants to concur with me, as nuking the leading capitalist nation by non-state actors would seem like initiating a 21st century explosive revolution by the powerless proletariats against the capitalist class!

    Before anyone screams mass murder, they ought to consider that their judgments will rest on the identity of the victims and the perpetrators. If it is the ‘terrorists’ (non state-actors, freedom fighters, Iraqi resistance etc) nuking the US, it will be depicted as terrorism and mass murder; conversely if the US uses such weapons, it will be defensive measures in the guise of a pre-emptive strike to eliminate potential threats incurring lots of collateral damages. Like the collateral damages inflicted on a massive scale when the Atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, neither were military targets and by this time Japan was already on its knees with no Air Force and its Navy almost annihilated. Perhaps one day some objective historian might call that an act of terrorism! Let me now list the 7 reasons to Nuke the USA.

    1) The US was established on the blood of 70 million Native Americans. Their lands were stolen. Since the US leadership considers it right of the Jews to occupy Palestine as they lived here over 2000 years ago, then the Native Americans can also argue back only 500 years and have their lands returned to them. So a valid ground to repatriate the European colonizers, if they refuse they can be herded into camps, subjected to a trail of tears. Alternatively they can be nuked out of existence for resisting, as well as retribution for the brutal killing of their ancestors.

    2) Consider the crimes against the Africans, their enslavement, oppression and lynching for centuries, which led to millions perishing. An irony of the declaration of independence by the Founding Fathers of the US, who stated that all men were created equal, whilst Afro-Americans were subjected to such brutality which continued for many decades. They have the right seek retribution (including nuclear strike) against the descendents of the criminals who have not paid them any compensation.

    3) During the Spanish-American war at the turn of century, Philippines was colonized, and at least a 250,000 Filipinos were killed, then the country was turned into a brothel for the US soldiers, and it continues to be used in that manner. We don’t find Billy Graham and his ilk lecturing about the sin here. Nor do we find the voices for women’s rights; I suppose if they covered up instead of spreading their legs to the US soldiers then it would be cause for alarm! The Filipinos have the right of retribution for the carnage and rape.

    4) The killing of the innocent Vietnamese populations and supporting monsters like the Pol Pot led to millions of Cambodians being killed. They too have the right of retribution and a nuclear strike would serve as deterrence for future attacks by the US.

    5) The ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians through arming the Zionists, and the genocide against the Iraqis from 1991 onwards are good reasons to nuke the US and halt the massacre and oppression. A bully always think twice when it gets a punched by one of its victim. The only reason why the US has not used nukes against the Islamic world because it fears nuclear reprisal, as Muslims do not believe in turning the other cheek, for that matter neither do the Christians!

    6) Using the various financial institutions, and bribing corrupt regimes, the US has exploited the economic resources for its own benefit, bringing misery to millions around the world. Nuking the US would halt these forms of oppression, and a new economic order is likely to prevail after it is crippled permanently by nuking it.

    7) At present everyone is speculating the use of nuclear weapons against Iran by the US or through its proxy Israel. A pre-emptive strike would make the US and the Zionists think twice, as the American and Israeli masses might appreciate what it means to use such weapons. I doubt they would have the appetite for more. For the Iraqis and the oppressed around the world they are already dying, their situation is unlikely to get any worse than it is.

    Using the principles of free speech I have expressed the case for nuking the US and I am sure others would add to the above list. My opponents would try and gag me under the pretext of promoting terrorism, of course that is because I am advocating that Americans are terrorized in order to restrain the beast amongst them. Giving them a taste of their own medicine would make the US masses actually realize what foreign policy, collateral damages etc really means! In contrast, the numerous times calls have been made to nuke Iran, Mecca, North Korea etc goes unnoticed, of course that would not be promoting terrorism but upholding free speech. Is this not double standard? Of course not as it depends on whose standards you are using as a yardstick!

    Although I have made the case for nuking the US but I would oppose the use of such weapons, a nuclear war would lead to everyone losing out. Mass murder on such a scale would bring misery to all sides. Hence, I would favor a genuine nuclear-free world and not a nuclear-free Iran only! Likewise a nuclear-free Middle East and not a nuclear Israel with nuclear-free Arabs. The only justification for using such weapons would be one of last resort of self-defense, which the Iranians, Iraqis and Palestinians and others might resort to given the constant US and Israeli aggression against them.

    Now consider this scenario, a Caliphate is established in the Middle East that has unified the Islamic world, it’s armed with nuclear weapons. No doubt it would be competing with the US in the international arena. Who is more like to use such weapons? Foreign policy of the Caliphate is Jihad, which is the spread of Islam, using nukes to annihilate entire section of population, would defeat that central objective of spreading the message of Islam. Nukes and Jihad does not go hand in hand unless it is entirely for defensive purpose.

    Where as the US as a Capitalist nation is a far better candidate as it: has a track record for using such weapons; it seeks to maximize its interests at any cost, so annihilating other races fits with its philosophy and morals, and it has a strong record for committing genocide on a massive scale in order to exploit natural resources and enforce hegemony.

    They scream peace, but what they mean is war; they shout freedom but what they mean is enslavement; they shout democracy but what they mean is democracy for its multinationals. The Holy Quran describes such people whose words contradict their deeds: “And when it is said unto them: Make not mischief in the earth, they say: We are peacemakers only. Are not they indeed the mischief-makers? But they perceive not. (2:11-12)”

    Yamin Zakaria ( - Mumbai, India

    Failing in Baghdad -- The British Did It First

    By Toby Dodge

    Sunday, February 25, 2007; B01

    At the center of Baghdad's neglected North Gate War Cemetery, near the edge of the old city walls, stands an imposing grave. Sheltered from the weather by a grandiose red sandstone cupola, it is the final resting place of a man from whom George W. Bush could have learned a great deal about the perils of intervening in Iraq.

    Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick Stanley Maude was head of the British army in Mesopotamia when he marched into Baghdad on a hot, dusty day in March 1917. Soon thereafter, he issued the British government's "Proclamation to the People of Baghdad," which eerily foreshadowed sentiments that Bush and his administration would express 86 years later: British forces, Maude declared, had entered the city not as conquerors, but as liberators.

    Maude had arrived in Baghdad after a long and arduous military campaign. British forces had been fighting the Ottoman army for 2 1/2 years and had suffered one of the worst defeats of World War I in the six-month siege of the eastern city of Kut, which had ended in an ignominious surrender to the Turks in April 1916.

    Having rallied from that loss and finally reached Baghdad, Maude tried to create common cause between the British army and the city's residents, whom he saw as having been oppressed by 400 years of Ottoman rule. "Your lands have been subject to tyranny," he declared in his proclamation, and "your wealth has been stripped from you by unjust men and squandered." He promised that it was not "the wish of the British Government to impose upon you alien institutions." Instead, he called on residents to manage their own civil affairs "in collaboration with the political representatives of Great Britain."

    Maude did not live to see the failure of his efforts to rally the people of Iraq to the British occupation. He died eight months later, having contracted cholera from a glass of milk.

    After his death, British policy toward Iraq changed repeatedly as the army attempted to dominate the country and suppress the population, while the government strove to adjust to Britain's diminished role in the international system after WWI. Initially, the aim was simply to annex the territory and make it part of the Empire, run in a fashion similar to India. But Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points speech in January 1918 did in that idea. In setting out America's vision for the postwar world, Wilson expressly attacked the duplicitous diplomacy of European imperialism, which he blamed for dragging the world into prolonged military conflict.

    This meant that a modern, self-determining state was now to be built in Iraq. Britain was to take the lead, but its effort was to be continually scrutinized by the League of Nations, which had been set up under Wilson's watchful eye at the Paris Peace Conference at the end of the war.

    In an echo of what is happening under the U.S. occupation, hopes for a joint Anglo-Iraqi pact to rebuild the country were dashed by a violent uprising. On July 2, 1920, a revolt, or thawra, broke out along the lower Euphrates, fueled by popular resentment of Britain's heavy-handed behavior in Iraq. The British army had set about taxing the population to pay for the building of the Iraqi state, while British civil servants running the administration refused to consult Iraqi politicians, judging them too inexperienced to play a role in the new government.

    The rebellion quickly spread across the south and center of the country. Faced with as many as 131,000 insurgents armed with 17,000 modern rifles left over from the war, the British army needed eight months to regain full control of Iraq; 2,000 British troops were killed, wounded or taken prisoner and 8,450 Iraqis were killed. To make matters worse, the British government was forced to pour troops back into Iraq, long after the end of the war, to stabilize the situation.

    The revolt forced Britain to devolve real power to Iraqi politicians. At the head of this new administration the British placed a newly created king, Faisal ibn Hussein, famous for his association with Lawrence of Arabia during the war. But the revolt had as much influence in Britain as it did in Iraq itself. The "blood and treasure" expended in putting down the violence made the continued occupation extremely unpopular. The public's discontent reached its peak in the general election campaign of November 1922. The leader of the opposition, conservative Andrew Bonar Law, captured the national mood when he declared: "We cannot alone act as the policeman of the world."

    Newspapers and candidates organized their electioneering around the "bag and baggage" campaign demanding that Britain withdraw from Iraq as soon as it could. After defeating wartime coalition leaders David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, the victorious Bonar Law pledged that "at the earliest possible moment, consistent with statesmanship and honour, the next government will reduce our commitments in Mesopotamia."

    U.S. presidential candidates now campaigning to seize the White House in 2008 should be forewarned, however: It took Britain 10 more years to jettison its financial and military commitments to Iraq. During that period, a number of governments struggled to reduce the size of the forces deployed in Iraq and the amount of money being spent there. They strove for a decade to stabilize the country and meet Britain's pledges to the international community while trying to placate domestic opinion. The tensions involved in this exercise -- building a state from scratch with a hostile population, under severe budgetary constraints and in the face of rising domestic anger -- ultimately led to the failure of the whole exercise.

    Like Maude's before him, Bush's policy in Iraq has resulted in a series of unintended outcomes. In the face of ever-increasing violence, the stirring rhetoric about Iraq becoming a beacon of democracy in the Middle East has been quietly dropped. Instead, the operation in Iraq has been placed on the frontline of the global fight against terrorism: It is better to battle terrorists on the streets of Baghdad than in Brooklyn or Houston, the mantra goes.

    Where does this leave U.S. policy toward Iraq? Historical studies often divide military interventions into three general phases. The first phase, the initial decision to invade, is shaped by common misperceptions that the conflict will be short and that military force can be used to achieve political objectives. World War I began with an assumption that British troops would be home by Christmas; Bush declared "mission accomplished" after three weeks.

    The second phase is marked by a slow realization that both these assumptions are wrong. The policy failure leads to increasingly desperate attempts to stay the course, to pour in ever greater numbers of troops, gambling on a resurrection of the initial policy. This middle stage comes to an end with the decision to disengage. Interestingly, this choice -- admitting defeat and going home -- is usually taken by a new government.

    The 1920 revolt, followed by the change of government in London in 1922, led to a prolonged but largely unsuccessful attempt to do nation-building on the cheap. The final transformation of policy was marked by another change of government. The election of May 1929 resulted in a Labor administration. The new foreign policy team found it easier to identify the contradictions at the heart of Britain's relations with Iraq and find ways to overcome them. It recommended Iraq for unconditional membership to the League of Nations in 1932, unceremoniously dumping Britain's commitment to building a democratic and stable state.

    Iraq became a fully independent state that same year. But it was unable to defend itself against its neighbors, or to impose order without assistance. The government was ultimately dependent on the British air force to guarantee its survival.

    Eighty years later, after failing to stabilize Iraq, the U.S. government has come face to face with the high costs of the new "forward-leaning" foreign policy of the Bush doctrine. Comparisons with other military interventions suggest that Bush will continue to pursue a largely unvarying policy in Iraq, deploying all the troops and resources at his disposal in an attempt to correct the mistakes that have been made. The result, as the president himself has recognized, will be to push the difficult decisions about the future of U.S. involvement in Iraq onto his successor.

    History, however, has two final disturbing lessons for the next president. The governing elite nurtured by the British to take their place -- the Iraqi royal family and their associates brought to the country in 1921 -- proved unfit for the purpose and were swept aside by a military coup in 1941. The British army was forced to reinvade and restore them to power. Yet even this second invasion was not enough. The violent instability that engulfed Iraq and resulted in the rise of Saddam Hussein was triggered by the murder of the royal family by Iraqi army officers in July 1958. The crime was committed in the name of Arab nationalism, as a strike against British interference in a sovereign Arab nation.

    Here is what Britain's history of failure at building a democratic state in Iraq in the 1920s and '30s tells George W. Bush and his successors: If, like Gen. Maude, they fail to deliver on the promises of a better future for the Iraqi people, then Iraq will continue as a font of violent instability long after those who made the promises have been buried.

    Toby Dodge, author of "Inventing Iraq: The Failure of Nation Building and a History Denied" (Columbia Univ. Press), is associate professor of international politics at the University of London and a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

    Would things be better, or worse, in Baghdad four years later if the United States had not invaded?


    Sunday, February 25, 2007

    As a Shiite living in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Thanaa al-Taee eked out an existence in a totalitarian state that oppressed her religious sect, cracked down on ethnic minorities, and silenced dissent by torturing and executing opponents who dared criticize the despotic regime.

    Now, watching sectarian bloodshed rip apart her country, al-Taee wonders if the war that toppled Hussein's dictatorship was worth it.

    "I have a conflict with myself about what happened to us, Iraqis," al-Taee, 38, who had worked at a Baghdad art gallery before fleeing to Bahrain in 2004, wrote in a recent e-mail after visiting her parents in Baghdad. "Do you think this is better for us?"

    It is also the question on the minds of scholars and military experts in the United States, including the architect of the "shock and awe" campaign that helped bring down Hussein's regime. Four years after the United States invaded Iraq, these observers contemplate what Iraq would have looked like today had the Bush administration decided not to go to war.

    "How else can you evaluate whether going to war was the sensible thing to do?" said Larry Diamond, who worked as the senior adviser to the Coalition provisional authority in Baghdad in 2004.

    Not surprisingly, the experts' answers reflect a range of opinions. Some of those who favored the war feel that the invasion of Iraq, however bloody its consequences, has staved off a larger conflict by putting a major U.S. fighting force in the heart of the Middle East and preventing Hussein from developing weapons of mass destruction.

    But others -- including analysts who opposed the war from the start and even some former supporters of the invasion -- paint a different picture.

    Without the war, they also see Hussein still in power, but too weakened by international sanctions to have resumed building weapons of mass destruction. Iraq, these experts say, would have been drained by political crackdowns and corruption, but not racked by incessant violence. The United States, whose political and military capital would not have been sapped by the war, would have been in a better position to mediate a workable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, rebuild Afghanistan, and possibly even capture Osama bin Laden. The turbulent Middle East would have been far more stable than it is today.

    "Wherever you look, this attack on Iraq has the most potentially catastrophic strategic consequences," said Harlan Ullman, the military strategist who masterminded the "shock and awe" campaign of targeted aerial bombardment and missile strikes, which helped U.S. troops quickly incapacitate Hussein's military machine.

    "Saddam is gone," Ullman said. "I don't, quite frankly, see any other benefits."

    Since the March 19, 2003, invasion, tens or even hundreds of thousands Iraqis have been killed, by some estimates, in bombings, firefights and sectarian execution-style murders. Two million people have fled the country of about 22 million, according to a recent United Nations report, and the U.N. migration agency expects a million more to flee this year. Infrastructure in most of the country is in a shambles, oil production is lower than before the war, and electricity is sporadic. The streets of Baghdad, once flanked with palm trees and neatly pruned hedges, are laden with frequent roadside bombs, rutted by explosions and steeped in stagnant raw sewage.

    Had Hussein remained in power, "a very horrible dictatorship would be continuing to reign in that country," said Diamond, now an expert on democracy-building at the Hoover Institution. "Of course, there are people that are better off in Iraq now than they were before. The Shiites, collectively, have an opportunity for power, for resources, for dignity as a group that they didn't have before.

    "They also have something of an equal chance to participate in the misery of a destroyed national order. A somewhat leveled opportunity to be kidnapped, to be forced into exile, to have their daughter abducted or raped, to have their father murdered, families killed in the suicide bombings."

    Supporters of the war say killings of civilians in Iraq today may not surpass the number of lives that would have been taken by Hussein's Baath Party regime, which had executed tens of thousands Iraqis since 1968.

    Had Hussein remained in power, "you would have seen another set of purges on a scale that would have made what's going on now look tame," said Frederick Kagan, a neoconservative expert at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

    "There's disorder now but there's freedom," agreed Max Singer, a co-founder of the Hudson Institute, a conservative Washington think-tank. "The Iraqis have not yet given up on making a country for themselves."

    By now, say Singer and Kagan, Hussein would have been revving up his once-dormant nuclear arms program, starting a region-wide race that would have posed a far greater threat to the United States than the dangers its troops currently face in Iraq. These analysts see the U.S. invasion as an effective deterrent for nations in the region -- other than Iran -- that may have harbored their own nuclear ambitions.

    "There's a good chance that Libya," which abandoned its nuclear path in 2003, "would have continued its program to get nuclear weapons," said Singer.

    "We were headed to a point where ... Saddam rearms, starts to become a major regional threat," Kagan said.

    The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iraq would have encouraged Iran, Iraq's arch-enemy, to pursue its own nuclear arms program at an even greater speed than it is doing now, he said, paving the way for an "apocalyptic scenario" of an Iran-Iraq nuclear race.

    "It would have ended up posing a more significant threat than what we have now," said Kagan, who advocates deploying an additional 30,000 troops for 18 months to quash the violence in Iraq. "What would have been required for success in the other scenario would have been much greater than the sacrifices we are called to make now."

    But other experts say Hussein's nuclear program in 2003 was in such disarray that it would have taken Iraq many years before it could pose any significant threat.

    By now, "we would have been incrementally losing more control over Saddam's actions, but ... he would have posed no direct threat to the United States," said Wayne White, who, as a former senior Middle East analyst for the State Department, saw intelligence on Iraq before the war. "The Iraqi threat would have been way down the road had we not gone in."

    Instead, argue White, Ullman and other experts, the war in Iraq has exacerbated the terrorist threat to the United States. It has turned Iraq into a recruiting tool for international jihadists, making the country a training facility for fighters from around the world. Fighters who have honed their fighting skills in the deserts and shrapnel-scarred city streets of Iraq now export their knowledge to other battlefronts of the war against terror such as Afghanistan, experts on terrorism say.

    Without the war, "Iraq would not have been such a training ground for people to be able to get a direct shot at American troops," White said.

    Most analysts agree that international jihad would have existed regardless of the war in Iraq, fueled by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the U.S. support of Israel. But had Washington not spent so many resources on the war, it would have been better equipped to fund and "substantially increase the U.S. border screening, defenses, the numbers of people working on these defenses, in addition to the immigration and naturalization services," White said.

    "There's a lot of expensive technology" to enhance border security "that hasn't been emplaced because of the lack of funding," White said.

    Had it not gone to war with Iraq, Washington also could have spent more effort trying to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, said Ullman, who called that conflict "the real issue." Washington could have rallied support from its allies in the Arab world to help resume Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. This is much harder to achieve today, when the Arab governments are "besieged by constituents outraged at the United States for its perceived anti-Muslim agenda," White said.

    The damage to the U.S. image extends beyond the Arab nations. In January, half of the 26,000 people polled for the BBC World Service across 25 countries said the United States is playing a mainly negative role in the world.

    "The United States in many quarters is considered a much worse threat to the world security than, say, Iran," White said. "That just shows the depth of the United States' loss of credibility and the fear of the United States taking unilateral action."

    Without the enormous strain of the Iraq war depleting the U.S. military, Washington would have been much more capable of building security and statehood in Afghanistan, Diamond said.

    "There would not be any resurgence of the Taliban," he said. "There would be much more security on the roads and in the countryside. We might have been able to put in enough troops to actually fully destroy al Qaeda and prevent its evacuation to Pakistan, and might have even found Osama bin Laden."

    And Iran would have been further away from dominating the region, because it would have been deterred by Iraq, said Rashid Khalidi, director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia University.

    "By destroying what had formerly been the most powerful Arab country ... we have thrust at Iran an even greater power than it (would have) otherwise had," he said.

    The rise of Iran -- a Persian Shiite power in the predominantly Arab Sunni Middle East -- enhanced a centuries-old sectarian rift that is threatening to destabilize the region, Khalidi said. Many Sunni states have Shiite minorities within their own countries, and their Sunni leaders see as a threat what Jordan's King Abdullah has called a "Shiite crescent" stretching from Tehran to Beirut.

    "We started a particularly poisonous sectarian spiral downwards in the Middle East," Khalidi said.

    The Bush administration's push to promote democracy across the Middle East? This, too, would have worked much better had the region not been radicalized by "the Sunni resistance to the occupation by the United States of yet another Arab land," said Diamond. Instead, anti-Western forces gained more power in Lebanon, Egypt and the Palestinian territories.

    So, was it worth it?

    "There were no human rights, Saddam was a son of a bitch and life was terrible," Ullman said.

    But even with Hussein in power, he said, "we'd be a lot better off, and the world in general ... At the moment, you'd be hard-pressed to say Iraqis are better off."

    Anna Badkhen, Chronicle Staff Writer

    E-mail Anna Badkhen at

    This article appeared on page E - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

    The Jewish Grassroots Revolt

    The Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians

    Special to Canadian Dimension February 19,2007

    A grassroots revolt is underway in Jewish communities throughout the world, a revolt that has panicked the elite organizations that have long functioned as official mouthpieces for the community.

    The latest sign of this panic is the recent publication by the American Jewish Committee of an essay by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, entitled “‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,” which accuses progressive Jews of abetting a resurgent wave of anti-Semitism by publicly criticizing Israel.

    This is the latest attempt to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism in order to silence or marginalize criticism of Israel. This approach is widely used in Canada. Upon becoming CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Bernie Farber declared that one of his goals was to “educate Canadians about the links between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.”

    It is misleading for groups like the CJC to pretend that the Jewish community is united in support of Israel. A growing number of Jews around the world are joining the chorus of concern about the deteriorating condition of the Palestinians in the occupied territories as well as the inferior social and economic status of Israel’s own Palestinian population.

    In a world where uncritical support for Israel is becoming less and less tenable due to the expanding human rights disaster in the West Bank and Gaza, leaders of Jewish communities outside Israel have circled their wagons, heightened their pro-Israel rhetoric, and demonized Israel’s critics. These leaders imply that increased concerns about Israel do not result from that state’s actions, but from an increase in anti-Semitism.

    Despite this effort to absolve Israel of responsibility for its treatment of Palestinians, Jewish opposition is growing and becoming more organized. On February 5th a group in Britain calling itself Jewish Independent Voices published an open letter in The Guardian newspaper in which they distanced themselves from “Those who claim to speak on behalf of Jews in Britain and other countries [and who] consistently put support for the policies of an occupying power above the human rights of the occupied people.” Among the signatories of the letter were Nobel-prize winning playwright Harold Pinter, filmmaker Mike Leigh, writer John Berger, and many others.

    This development follows the emergence of similar groups in Sweden (Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace), France (Union Juive Francaise pour la paix, Rencontre Progressiste Juive), Italy (Ebrei contro l’occupazione), Germany (Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost), Belgium (Union des Progressistes Juifs de Belgique), the United States (Jewish Voice for Peace, Brit Tzedek, Tikkun, the Bronfman-Soros initiative), South Africa, and others, including the umbrella organization European Jews for a Just Peace and the numerous groups within Israel itself.

    In Canada, the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (ACJC) has been founded as an umbrella organization bringing together Jewish individuals and groups from across the country who oppose Israel’s continued domination of the West Bank and Gaza.

    Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic, nor does it “bleed into anti-Semitism,” a formulation that says essentially the same thing. Some genuine anti-Semites do use Israel as a cover for maligning the Jewish people as a whole, but it is fallacious to argue that anyone who criticizes Israel is anti-Semitic because anti-Semites attack Israel. There are some anti-Semites who support Israel because they are Christian fundamentalists who see the return of Jews to Jerusalem as a precondition for the return of Christ and the conversion of Jews to Christianity, or because they are xenophobes who want to get rid of Jews in their midst. Anti-Semites take positions in support of and in opposition to Israel.

    It is wrong to criticize all Jews for Israel’s wrongdoings, yet Israel’s leadership and its supporters in the Diaspora consistently encourage this view by insisting that Israel acts on behalf of the entire Jewish people. This shifts blame for Israel’s crimes onto the shoulders of all Jews. But Jewish critics of Israel demonstrate through their words and deeds that the Jewish community is not monolithic in its support of Israel.

    Defenders of Israel often argue that Israel is forced to do what it does – to destroy people’s homes, to keep them under the boot of occupation, to seal them into walled ghettos, to brutalize them daily with military incursions and random checkpoints – to protect its citizens from Palestinian violence. Palestinian violence, however, is rooted in the theft of their land, the diversion of their water, the violence of the occupation, and the indignity of having one’s own very existence posed as a “demographic threat.”

    To justify Israel’s continued occupation and theft of Palestinian land, the state and its defenders attempt to deny Palestinian suffering, arguing instead that Palestinian resentment is rooted not in Israeli violence, but rather in Islam, or the “Arab mentality,” or a mystical anti-Semitism inherent in Arab or Muslim culture. Consequently, pro-Israel advocacy depends upon on the active dissemination of Islamophobia. Not surprisingly, engendering hatred in this manner inflames anti-Jewish sentiment among Arabs and Muslims. None of this is a recipe for making Jews safe.

    Jewish people can help avert the catastrophic effects of Israeli behaviour, but only by taking a stand in opposition to it.

    Coalition Of The Leaving

    White House website is scrubbing embarrassing interviews

    Saturday, February 24, 2007

    On March 16, 2003 Dick Cheney went on Meet the Press. His absurd claims in that interview have since become politically embarrassing to the White House. For example, he declared...

    I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.

    You won't any longer find a link to this transcript on the WPublishhite House website—nor, indeed, are there links to most of Cheney's interviews from before 2006. Don't believe me? Just do a search for that infamous sentence at

    The WH website evidently has been busy scrubbing links to interviews and perhaps other public appearances by top officials. The operation has proceeded somewhat unevenly, though aggressively. Pretty clearly the WH wants to make it much harder to research the administration's past pronouncements, especially unscripted ones, and especially those pertaining to Iraq.

    How embarrassing now for the White House to get caught in the act of scrubbing its website!

    It's difficult to tell how extensive the operation has been, of course, but clearly it has wide dimensions. The most obvious losses from the White House website have been the transcripts of interviews. A little searching for prominent interviews by the Vice President quickly turned up some striking absences.

    For example, on May 30, 2005 Cheney told several whoppers to Larry King on CNN, in particular this one:

    I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.

    You'll look in vain for any transcript of that interview at the White House website, however. There are several transcripts of subsequent White House briefings in which reporters asked one or another official to comment upon the validity of Cheney's "last throes" statement. But the transcript of the interview in question? AWOL.

    Again, on Meet the Press on September 14, 2003 Cheney rejected the calls for an investigation of the pre-war intelligence on so-called WMD, denied that there had been any administration failure in that regard, and predicted that the WH would be vindicated.

    I think in the final analysis, we will find that the Iraqis did have a robust program.

    The White House website nowhere links to a transcript of that interview, either.

    When did this scrubbing operation occur and what did it involve? It's a difficult question to answer. So far I've located no evidence that the foregoing interviews were ever linked at the WH website. However it's certain that the WH site was scrubbed in some fashion fairly recently.

    Take for example the White House Radio Page. Traditionally it has two groups of links: (a) to all the President's scripted weekly radio addresses; (b) to radio interviews given by top administration officials. The scripted addresses are all archived in good order; nothing unusual there. But you'll notice two peculiar things about section (b) of the page, as it appears now.

    (i) First, there are no archived interviews since August 2006. I commented on this curious fact in a post dated January 29, 2007: The White House is talking behind your back. I argued that it looked like the WH had decided sometime about a year ago that it was counterproductive to be offering transcripts to interviews that could in the future be used as ammunition against them. So they gradually cut back on the number of linked interview-transcripts, until finally suspending the practice entirely in summer 2006. The interviews with administration officials continued, of course. In fact, in October 2006 the WH had a "Radio Day" in which dozens of right-wing radio talk-show hosts descended on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to hold a marathon of interviews with WH officials. But none of those was linked on the WH "Radio Page".

    The only person whose interviews were still (more or less) regularly being linked to at the WH website, I discovered, was Dick Cheney...not on the "Radio Page", but on his own Speeches and News Releases page.

    Oddly enough, on Jan. 30, 2007—the very day after I posted (and widely crossposted) that assessment of the WH bunker mentality regarding interview-transcripts—a new (if fairly trivial) radio interview was linked at the WH "Radio Page". This was the first link to be posted in half a year! It's equally remarkable that not one interview-link has been added since then. Make of that what you will.

    "When you're at this as long as I've been, you stop believing in coincidence."

    (ii) The second strange thing about the WH "Radio Page" is this: No longer are there any radio interviews archived from before March 2004. The entire first three years of transcripts was scrubbed from the site. And I can state with certainty that this occurred sometime after Jan. 29 when I wrote that last analysis of strange doings at the WH "Radio Page". While researching that post, I went through the full range of archives of radio interviews going back to 2001.

    So there's no doubt that an extensive scrubbing of the WH website has been carried out in the last few weeks. Whether the rest of what I'm pointing out here also dates to the same operation is not clear.

    If we turn our attention now to Dick Cheney's Speeches and News Releases Page, we find another revealing pattern. As I remarked in my foregoing post, it's remarkable that Cheney, alone at the White House, has continued linking to his own interviews throughout last year.

    But it's equally remarkable that that pattern of openness holds only for the period from mid December 2005 to the present. For the earlier part of 2005, there are links to only 3 interviews. For 2004, there's a grand total of 5 linked interviews (3 from the same day). And from that point back to late March 2002, there is not a single interview linked on Cheney's website. Thus for more than three and a half years, from March 25, 2002 to December 17, 2005, you'll find links to exactly 8 interviews on Cheney's "Speeches and News Releases Page".

    This is of course the most controversial period for the Bush administration. It is a period in which Cheney made frequent appearances to talk up the grounds for attacking Iraq. After the invasion, Cheney continued to be the most vociferous defender of the invasion. His claims about alleged WMD became an object of derision for many Americans. His strident attacks upon administration critics became unusually repellent. His high profile in the outing of a CIA agent, utterly loathsome.

    I'd venture that if I were to set about scrubbing the WH website of politically embarrassing interviews, I'd begin with the Vice President's and I'd concentrate on exactly the period for which we now see the fewest interview-links on Cheney's page. In fact I would be particularly thorough in scrubbing any and all interviews by the Great Man during 2002 and 2003—the period in which there are no links whatever now.

    And what about the occasional links that remain in the vast wilderness of 2004 and 2005, standing like lone trees here and there after a forest fire? I've read the transcripts of those interviews. None of them touches on politically embarrassing material. Mostly they steer clear of Iraq altogether. Unless and until topics like CAFTA become hot political issues, I would anticipate that the transcripts of those interviews can safely remain available to the public on the Vice President's page.

    For what it is worth, I've also noticed that not a single radio interview dating before March 2004 is linked on Cheney's "Speeches etc." page; all (surviving) links to earlier Cheney appearances are instead for televised interviews. Thus if Cheney's page has been scrubbed of interviews as described above, then the operation also involved bringing it into line with the President's "Radio Page", which (as noted) has erased its links to all radio interviews that pre-date March 2004.

    Pretty striking: Two peculiar patterns of the absence of linked radio interviews, patterns which happen to coincide perfectly with each other. As I've remarked many times before, the most egregious comments from Bush administration officials can often be found in interviews with nutty radio hosts, where the conservative base gets its red-meat. So scrubbing entire years of transcripts to radio interviews makes a good deal of sense politically for a White House that is increasingly under siege.

    What about the equivalent page for George Bush, "Presidential News and Speeches"—has that been scrubbed? The answer is less than clear.

    The current February 2007 page links to a few of Cheney's interviews from Australia. I immediately noticed, however, that it has no link to the most embarrassing of those interviews, the one I wrote about yesterday in which the VP was (for the first time) pressed by a journalist (Jonathan Karl) to reconcile his 1991 statement that invading Iraq would inevitably lead to a quagmire, with his support for invading Iraq in 2003. Cheney's own page, by contrast, does provide a link to that (second) interview with Jonathan Karl as well as to the other interviews that Bush's page links to. At a minimum, then, I would infer that the White House is being careful to exclude links on the "Presidential News" page to interviews that have the most potential to haunt them.

    A little tour of the archives for the "Presidential News and Speeches" page, in any case, turned up surprisingly few links to interviews by administration officials, especially for the period before March 2004. Obviously, none of the three television interviews of Cheney that I began this post with make an appearance. But neither do many other interviews that you might have expected to find linked.

    Let's take for example the interviews of Condoleeza Rice, an official who unlike Cheney can be counted on to stay on the reservation and to dance around awkward questions. Under normal circumstances, you would suppose that the White House would be perfectly content to let transcripts of her interviews remain available at the WH website. So I've done a search for transcripts of her interviews at CNN, and checked whether the "Presidential News" page provides a link. The results are pretty striking for the first two pages of interviews that Google pulls up. There is (at the moment) not a single link on the "Presidential News" page for any of the interviews given by Rice in this group: Sept. 24, 2001; May 19, 2002; Nov. 15, 2002; Sept. 7, 2003; Oct. 8, 2003; or Sept. 2, 2005. Google thinks these are the most prominent of her interviews on CNN, but the WH website doesn't care to link to any of them. It tends to confirm my sense that Bush's own "Presidential News" page has thinned out the number of archived interviews.

    A more decisive test, perhaps, would be how the WH website treats the interviews given by somebody who is a little more embarrassing than Rice...such as Harriet Miers. How many interviews with Harriet Miers are now linked at the White House website? Not one, as it turns out.

    I think there's a good deal of evidence that the White House has decided to throw obstacles in the path of any journalist or meddlesome citizen who might wish to investigate the administration's past pronouncements. Bush & Co. has never been eager to let the public scrutinize its words and deeds, so the absence of links to interviews, even major interviews, does not by itself prove that the links were posted and then removed.

    Yet as I've shown, there is definite evidence for some kind of scrubbing operation in recent weeks, and on a massive scale. It's hard to imagine an innocent explanation for the removal of all radio interviews pre-dating March 2004. Therefore it's legitimate to look for further evidence that might fit into a pattern of concealment. And in fact this administration has an established record of scrubbing politically embarrassing information on line, if not necessarily at the White House website.

    A final note: While looking to see whether any of the President's more embarrassing speeches had been scrubbed as well, I noticed that the original link to his May 1, 2003 "Mission Accomplished" speech had gone dead recently. We'd archived that link at the Timeline on the run-up to the Iraq invasion at in September 2005, and had double-checked to make sure that it worked properly.

    As it happens, the speech is still linked at the WH website, but under a new address. The difference between the old and new addresses for the speech was simply the string "/iraq/". This led me to check out the search function at the "Presidential News" page. I discovered that it was no longer possible to search for links on the topic "Iraq". Indeed, none of the search functions on that page work any all. It's as if the topical search function was just turned off.

    Now why would the White House want to do that?

    Crossposted from Unbossed.

    Labels: , , ,


    Reuters VIDEO

    Artist’s anti-Bush stunt provokes violent reaction
    Sunday Herald, UK - 23 hours ago

    THE BRITISH artist Mark McGowan has been forced to curtail his latest stunt after it inspired a violent reaction in New York.
    In Times Square, three burly men with handlebar moustaches were less sympathetic, calling McGowan a "goddamn liberal" and threatening to kick him "in the jaw" adding, "you'd have terrorists up your ass if it wasn't for George Bush." Shortly afterwards, he decided to head back to the art fair, to remain there for the duration.


    update fri 23 feb

    i have been kicked in the ass continuously on the streets of new york.
    i have also been confronted by very angry bush supporters who have literally scared me so much so that i have had to abandon doing it on the streets and i am now just crawling around the scope art fair as i fear for my life.
    mark mcgowan

    Israel appoints racist as Tourism Minister

    Controversial MK appointed tourism minister

    Israel Our Home MK Esterina Tartman to take over portfolio from Isaac Herzog, who will become minister for social affairs. Peace Now: Government should be ashamed of appointing an MK with racist views

    Amnon Meranda

    Controversial Israel Our Home MK Esterina Tartman will become Israel's next tourism minister, Avigdor Lieberman's faction decided Sunday.

    Tartman will take over the portfolio from Labor MK Isaac Herzog who will become the minister for social affairs as part of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government reshuffle.

    The left-wing Peace Now movement said the government should be "ashamed" of appointing an MK with "racist views" as tourism minister.

    Tartman drew criticism from across the political spectrum last month when she lambasted that Labor leader Amir Peretz's decision to appoint Israeli Arab Labor MK Raleb Majadle as science, sports and culture minister, terming it "a lethal blow to Zionism."

    Asked whether Tartman would get along with Majadele after slamming his appointment, Lieberman replied, " They will get along great."

    Tartman said, "I have no personal problem with Raleb or with anyone else, even not with (Defense Minister) Amir Peretz . I am protesting methods of cynical use for political needs."

    "The new minister will not bring new tourists to visit the country, and will reveal Israel's ugly face to the world," said Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer.

    'A sad day for Israeli politics'

    MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) said that "the appointment is a blow to sanity and tolerance. The government has become a refuge for racists,” Tibi said.

    MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) said that "this is a sad day for Israeli politics, when racism enters the government table from the front door. Let's hope she doesn’t cause potential tourists to flee."

    The hawkish faction also elected MK Stas Misezhnikov to chair the powerful Knesset Finance Committee.

    Olmert allotted this chairmanship to Israel Our Home after coalition talks with United Torah Judaism collapsed, denying UTJ MK Yakov Litzman a second term as committee chairman.

    Tartman beat her colleague MK Israel Hasson to the tourism post in a vote held by her party faction on Sunday.

    Five year old girl terrified to death after Israeli forces arrest her father

    Child Ebtisam was terrified to death

    Sunday February 25, 2007 07:2
    Palestine News Network
    saed at imemc dot org

    Late last night a five year old girl died in the southern West Bank after a struggle in the hospital. The Palestinian Prisoner Society's Hebron branch issued the details on Saturday that cite the cause of her death as terror.

    As is a common occurrence during arrest campaigns, Israeli forces raided the family home as they slept. The soldiers were loud and violent, tearing through personal belongings, throwing furniture, shoving family members, holding them all at gunpoint.

    PPS reports that during arrests Israeli forces generally use jeeps or tanks, break down doors, fire tear gas and bullets, bring in dogs and beat people.

    The Director of PPS in Hebron, Amjad Najjar, is following the case. “The conduct of occupation soldiers is that of pirates. They engage in persecution and violate international law, human rights and religious values. These hostile operations crush people, particularly children.”

    The invasions frighten the toughest of adults who know they may not live through them. And it is well documented how psychologically damaging the midnight raids are for children.

    At the beginning of the month Israeli forces broke into the Al Tardh family home. Five and a half year old Ebtisam was terrified as soldiers screamed at her and her siblings, forcing them all outside into the cold. In front of the children, Israeli forces arrested their father. The young girl went into an apparent shock and was taken to the hospital. She never recovered.

    And although his daughter is dead, Ibrahim Al Tardh remains in Israeli prison, suffering himself from heart disease and in urgent need of health care.

    category hebron | human rights | human interest

    America tortures (yawn)

    By Rosa Brooks
    Special to the Los Angeles Times

    Salt Lake Tribune
    Article Last Updated:02/23/2007 09:28:59 PM MST

    It was much like the usual Nigerian e-mail scam, but it had a dispiriting twist.

    "Greetings," went the e-mail, "I am Captain Smith Scott of the US Marine Force ... in Baghdad-Iraq. On the 10th day of February 2007 ... we captured three (3) of the Terrorists. ... In the process of torture they confessed being rebels for late Ayman al-Zawahiri and took us to a cave in Karbala. ... Here we recovered. ... some US Dollars amounting to $10.2M. . . . I am in keen need of a Reliable and Trustworthy person like you who would receive, secure and protect these boxes containing the US Dollars for me up on till my assignment elapses here in Iraq."
    Apparently, savvy e-mail scammers now assume that a reference to U.S. Marines torturing prisoners lends credibility to their come-ons.

    Well, why not? Thanks to Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, "extraordinary renditions" and "black sites," many people now take for granted the image of the American as torturer. At least 100 prisoners have been killed while in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many more have been beaten, humiliated and abused. Still others have been secretly handed over to our even less-scrupulous friends in various Middle Eastern intelligence services. And though the vast majority of our troops and officials abide by the spirit and the letter of U.S. and international laws, such abusive tactics have been authorized by officials at the highest level of the U.S. government.

    In November 2001, 66 percent of Americans said they "could not support government-sanctioned torture of suspects" as part of the war on terrorism. And when photos of abuses at Abu Ghraib surfaced in the spring of 2004, the U.S. news media treated it - rightly - as a major scandal. In October 2005, the U.S. Senate voted 90-9 in support of legislation prohibiting the inhumane treatment of prisoners, sponsored by Arizona Sen. John McCain. But over the last year, we seem to have lost our former sense of outrage, though prisoner abuse has hardly ended. A handful of low-ranking people have been convicted for their roles in abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, but the bigger fish carry on as usual. In September, President Bush gave a speech defending the use of "alternative" interrogation methods; a poll shortly after that found public opposition to torture was down to 56 percent. In October, Congress obligingly passed the Military Commissions Act, which permits the use of coerced testimony in trials of suspected enemy combatants and restricts the ability of U.S. courts to examine allegations of abuse.

    Lately, news relating to torture has been greeted by a collective yawn. On Jan. 31, German prosecutors issued a warrant for the arrest of 13 CIA operatives involved in the illegal abduction of Khaled Masri, a German citizen who was taken to Afghanistan for a little "alternative" interrogation - and then unceremoniously abandoned in Albania when the CIA realized that it had grabbed the wrong guy. On Feb. 16, an Italian court indicted 26 U.S. intelligence operatives and contractors accused of kidnapping an Islamic cleric and taking him to Egypt, where, he says, he was tortured.

    It should be huge news when two of our European allies demand the arrest of U.S. government agents - but these stories were rapidly superseded on the front pages by news of Anna Nicole Smith's embalming and matters of similarly pressing national interest. (This newspaper learned the names of several of the indicted officials but declined to print them "because they have been charged only under their aliases.")

    If you need any more evidence that the American public has gotten blase about torture, consider the hit Fox action drama "24." The show featured 67 torture scenes during its first five seasons, and most of those depicted torture being used by "heroic" U.S. counter-terror agents.

    In this week's New Yorker, Jane Mayer reported on the efforts of human rights groups, interrogation experts and military leaders to persuade the show's producers to stop glamorizing torture. A few days after her story was posted on the New Yorker's Web site, executive producer Howard Gordon announced that "24" will indeed have fewer torture scenes in the future - but not because of the complaints. The reason for the shift? Torture "is starting to feel a little trite," Gordon explained. "The idea of physical coercion or torture is no longer a novelty or surprise."

    We've come a long way since 1630, when John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, told the settlers on the Arabella that "we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us." If we failed to live up to the high standards we set for ourselves, warned Winthrop, "we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world."

    His prediction, it turns out, was absolutely right. Just ask the Nigerian e-mail scammers.
    Brooks is a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. You can e-mail Brooks at

    Do Something Good

    Murtha Stumbles on Iraq Funding Curbs

    February 22, 2007

    This past Tuesday, in Fairbanks, Alaska, nine people entered the office of Senator Ted Stevens to deliver their “emphatic request” that the Senator vote against supplemental funding for the war and then began reading the names of Iraqis and U.S. people who had died because of this war. They separated the names of U.S. troops by age. When ordered to leave, they were only half way through the commemoration of the twenty-one year old U.S. troops who died in Iraq. They began by reading the ages of the younger troops.

    Seth Warncke, a University student, was issued a citation; Rob Mulford and Don Muller were taken to the Fairbanks Correctional Unit. They were released after being in jail for 23 hours.

    Senator Steven’s staff worker in the Fairbanks office assured the nine peace activists occupying the office that their efforts were worthless. “The Senator’s aide told us that our action wouldn’t do any good,” said Rob Mulford, “but when we were locked up I knew we’d done something good because a woman jailer spotted us in our cells and she said, ‘Oh! You guys are my heroes!’”

    On a more somber note, Rob Mulford and Don Muller told me of a fellow prisoner whom they encountered in the correctional center. He was an Iraq war veteran, age 21. The guards were kind to him, but the young man was very disturbed and ended up fracturing his hand and fist, pounding a wall. After falling asleep, he repeatedly woke up, shouting and cursing, “You killed my friend, - I’m gonna’ kill you,” and intermittently sobbing, “It doesn’t change. It never goes away.”

    Rob Mulford, himself an Air Force veteran and the local contact for Veterans for Peace, was watching from his cell.

    Rob and Don are two of the several dozen people who’ve been arrested in the first two weeks of “the Occupation Project,” a campaign to end U.S. funding for war in Iraq.

    The same day, in Chicago, four women were kneeling in front of the Federal Building, chanting the names of Iraqis and U.S. service people killed in Iraq. Their statement read: “We are a poet, a doctor, a pregnant woman, and a grandmother. We are risking arrest today to publicly protest Senator Durbin’s refusal to vote NO on the president’s $93 Billion dollar supplemental appropriations request to continue funding the immoral and unjust war in Iraq. If Senator Durbin is against this war, he must stop funding it. We will occupy the lobby of the federal building until removed because we strongly believe that this war must end.” These women will go to trial insisting that Senators Durbin and Obama have “the power of the purse,” —the power to end this war not by submitting resolutions almost certain to be vetoed by President Bush, but rather by simply refusing to fund it.

    The Occupation Project is developing, nationally, into a sustained campaign. We welcome participation, and encourage further nonviolent efforts to resist appropriations for military action in Iraq, or against Iran, other than funds to withdraw troops from Iraq. It’s wrong to fund killing and destruction in another country because people in that country oppose the Bush administration’s political agenda for their country. What is more, U.S. soldiers will be killed in carrying out this agenda, and thousands of Iraqi civilians will be killed in “collateral damage,” people who may or may not be opposed to the Bush administration’s political agenda for their country.

    The following day, Ash Wednesday, 25 Chicagoans held an ecumenical prayer service and then attempted to deliver a letter to Senators Durbin and Obama. Many in the group were clergy, vested in their clerical garb. They had gathered to pray for forgiveness, as a nation, for the times we all had not spoken out against the war. They wanted to assure that the Senators of Illinois heard their remorse and understood their opposition to the war and its ongoing funding.

    But when they approached the Federal Building, security officials quickly locked all entrances to the Federal Building. A member of Senator Obama’s office staff told the assembled group that all staff members were in a meeting, but that they definitely wanted to receive their letter. Unfortunately, security officials at the Federal Building said nobody could enter. When a high school student who had joined the prayer service placed a cell phone call to Senator Durbin’s office, he was disappointed that the staff member there hung up the phone after a very brief exchange. Eventually, three of Senator Durbin’s staff members emerged from the Federal Building to receive the letter.

    The constitution insists that congress shall make no law abridging the right of people to assemble peaceably for redress of grievance. We bear a terrible grievance as we exercise our responsibility to end the “war of choice” waged by the Bush administration.

    As the Occupation Project develops, we carry, shoulder to shoulder, the responsibility that comes with hearing an agonized cry, epitomizing the horror of the consequences of war: “It doesn’t go away.”

    Until the U.S. stops funding war in Iraq, we cannot go away either.

    Related Project:
    The Occupation Project

    Kathy Kelly ( co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence