Saturday, June 25, 2005

Shutting of the Public Pie-Hole

If you're protesting something, beware...

Supreme Court Liberals
Endorse Government Theft

Dave Lindorff
June 25, 2005

The liberal/centrist faction of the US Supreme Court, headed by Justice John Paul Stevens, and including Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and Anthony Kennedy, has given liberalism in a bad name with the court’s latest 5-4 ruling approving of the theft of homes and stores in New London by city leaders anxious to give their land over to a developer who promises to build a toney riverfront complex.

Cities have long had the power of eminent domain to tear down allegedly "blighted" neighborhoods, evicting the residents, in order to replace them with trendier propertie--a process euphemistically called urban renewal. The process is inherently controversial and prone to corruption, as Justice Clarence Thomas noted in a dissent to the current court ruling, and is often little more than "minority removal." It has frequently left whole downtowns looking like bombed out areas. But at least up to now, a finding of blight or compelling public need, such as a highway route or a subway, had to be demonstrated before someone’s property could be snatched away from them at condemnation prices.

No more.

In their ruling (which could have been penned by Donald Trump), the Stevens majority decided that simply asserting the goal of economic development would provide adequate grounds for a government to legally drive people out of their homes.

As Justice Stevens wrote in his majority opinion in the case, "Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government," adding, "Clearly, there is no basis for exempting economic development from our traditionally broad understanding of public purpose."

That shameless bit of legal sophistry glosses over a huge chasm, however.

It's one thing to say that promoting economic development has long been an accepted function of government. Indeed, many would argue that it is one of the primary functions of government at any level. But how government goes about that is another question.

Converting the downtown of Philadelphia to greenhouses for growing opium poppies would produce far more revenue and "economic development" than the Center City office towers filled with lawyers and bankers currently produce, but I doubt that most Philadelphians would support such a plan. Likewise, tearing down 20-30 of the pretentious mansions in Philadelphia’s Main Line to put in a few big casinos would also produce more tax revenue for the city, but I don't see that happening either.

Yet Stevens moves right from this commonplace statement about the role of government to saying there is "no basis" for disputing that a simple assertion that a project will lead to "economic development" should empower government to rip the heart out of any functioning community it wants.

This is really just another way of saying if the majority of people in a community--or a well-connected developer--want to run roughshod over one part of that community, they have only to declare that they can find a way to make more money out of those people's property by evicting them, tearing down their homes, and building something else.

If this isn’t tyranny, I don’t know what is. If this isn’t an open invitation for powerful economic interests to buy their way into virtually any neighborhood they want, flatten it, and construct huge shopping malls, hotels and casinos, I don't know what is.

I happen to know the Ft. Trumble neighborhood in New London that is about to be razed, having grown up not too many miles away, and having studied at Connecticut College in New London.Far from being a blighted locale, it is rather a long-standing working-class community of houses and stores, some of them second-generation businesses.

What is about to happen to them, thanks to the Supreme Court’s majority, is legalized grand larceny.

I don't often find myself hailing the views of Clarence Thomas or Sandra Day O'Connor, but both were on the right side on this case, along with Justice Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

As O'Connor wrote, "Who among us can say she already makes the most productive or attractive use of her property?" She added, "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property." O’Connor warned, "The government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more."

If this is what a liberal court does, maybe we need another conservative justice on the court.

8:50 am pdt

Riding the Four Horses

Chris Floyd

Global Eye
The Moscow Times
June 24, 2005

When the public liars sat down together -- in Crawford, in the Pentagon, in the Oval Office, at 10 Downing Street -- and very deliberately, very guilefully and very knowingly devised their act of mass murder in Iraq, it is unlikely they gave any thought to the most vulnerable targets of their war crime: the children. So in considering this aspect of the bloodbath, we should give the liars the benefit of the doubt. Let's not make them more monstrous than they are. Let's stick to the facts.

Let us say -- as the incontrovertible facts compel us to say -- that they were willing to kill tens of thousands of innocent people in an action they knew to be illegal, reckless, ill-planned and unsupported by evidence; that they knew their public statements about the plans for war were lies; that they started the war with a vicious bombing campaign months before obtaining even a fig leaf of approval from their respective legislatures, a clear and treasonous violation of their own national laws; that long before their blitzkrieg rolled across the border, they were already divvying up the loot of conquest: the oil rights, the "privatizations," the crony contracts.

In short, let us say that, yes, they are killers, liars, thieves and incompetent fools. But let's not imagine that as they settled their safe and cosseted backsides into the fine upholstery of their elegantly appointed war rooms, they gleefully regaled each other with visions of the exquisite tortures they would soon inflict upon the children of Iraq.

Let's not imagine George W. Bush nudging Tony Blair in the ribs as they masticated their pork together, saying, "Cholera, eh? Typhoid fever. Malnutrition! By God, we can grind these Iraqi children lower than the slum rats of Haiti!" Let's not picture Dick Cheney chiding Donald Rumsfeld over the steak tartare: "Damn it, Don, if there's a single pregnant Iraqi woman left without hepatitis before we're through, heads are going to roll! I want the wombs of those Arab cows swimming in lethal viruses. Lethal, do you hear me?"

Of course it wasn't like that. Such suppositions do these honored national leaders a grave injustice. No doubt their discourse was elevated, focused on lofty matters of state and strategy, on the practicalities of logistics and presentation. If anyone there spoke of the "human factor" -- the actual reality of bleeding flesh, of death, wounds, disease and rot -- it would only have been as part of the political calculations: What level of casualties would the American people accept, how do we keep the dead and maimed out of the public eye?

It was all about numbers, processes, abstractions. Nothing to disturb the moral imagination, nothing to put them off the hearty meals and tasty snacks discreetly laid before them by the servants.

So when leading international agencies -- including the World Bank, now headed by one of the chief liars, Paul Wolfowitz -- find that Iraq's children are dwindling and dying twice as fast under the coalition's benevolent care than under the despotism of Saddam Hussein, we should not conclude that this was the liars' conscious intention.

Yes, it's true that Iraq's child malnutrition rate is now worse than the broken nations of Uganda or Haiti, as the Japan Times reports. Yes, cholera and typhoid are cutting swaths through the population, with especial virulence in the "stable" areas of the Shiite south.

Yes, epidemics of hepatitis are killing pregnant women. Yes, antibiotics are scarce, leaving children, the old and the weak to die of common infections -- that is, when they can get treated at all in a health system ravaged by the liars' war and its atrocious aftermath. (Such as the destruction of Fallujah, for example, when coalition forces deliberately destroyed the city's health clinics and imprisoned doctors to prevent news of civilian casualties from leaking to the press, as the Pentagon's own "information specialists" told The New York Times.)

And yes, it's true that Iraq -- once a modern and prosperous nation -- has suffered "one of the most dramatic declines in human welfare in recent history" during the occupation, as the UN says. But again, this was not part of the liars' deliberate design. The torment of children was outside the parameters of their "metrics of success." It was not a factor one way or the other.

In fact, let's go even further and declare forthrightly that if the liars could have established a client regime and a permanent military presence in Iraq without harming the hair of a single child, they would have done so. If they could have transferred more than $300 billion from the public treasury to the pockets of their family members and business partners without having to concoct a brutal and baseless war of aggression, they would have done so.

If they could have legitimized their radical, rapacious domestic agenda without engineering the slaughter of innocent people in order to assume the politically expedient role of "wartime leaders," they would have done so.

But they couldn't. So like all murderers, they did whatever they had to do to get what they wanted, regardless of the consequences for others.

Like all terrorists, they rationalized their atrocities with noble rhetoric, citing the unassailable righteousness of their cause as justification for the unspeakable evil they were unleashing. And like all abusers of innocent children, they covered up their baser motives with self-serving lies.


Unending Health Disaster for Iraqi Kids
Japan Times, June 18, 2005

Iraq Attacks Preceded Congressional OK
San Francisco Chronicle, June 19, 2005

Former Reagan Official: This is War Waged by Liars and Morons
CounterPunch, June 21, 2005

They Died So Republicans Could Take the Senate, June 20, 2005

House Agrees to Spend More for Iraq War
Reuters, June 21, 2005

Heat and Dust: Inside the Green Republic
Baghdad Burning, June 21, 2005

WMD Claims Were Totally Implausible, says Key UK Diplomat
The Guardian, June 20, 2005

Why the Memo Matters
TomDispatch, June 19, 2005

How Much Proof Needed Before the Truth Comes Out?
Online Journal, June 17, 2005

British Documents Show Determined U.S. March to War
Knight-Ridder, June 17, 2005

Down the Iraqi Rabbit Hole
TomDispatch, June 15, 2005

US Lied to Britain Over use of Napalm in Iraq War
The Independent, June 17, 2005

Bush Wanted to Invade Iraq if Elected in 2000, Says Family Biographer
Guerilla News, Oct. 27, 2004

British Military Chief Reveals New Legal Fears Over Iraq War
The Observer, May 1, 2005

World Tribunal for Iraq Convenes

Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches

Bert and Einstein

World Tribunal for Iraq,
Culminating Session Testimony

Istanbul, Turkey
25 June 2005

Thank you very much for inviting me to the Culminating Session of the World Tribunal on Iraq. I first went to Iraq in November of 2003 as an American citizen both frustrated and horrified by what my unelected government was doing. I went to report on the situation because I was deeply troubled by the “journalism” being provided by the corporate media. At the time, as a frustrated mountain climber from Alaska working as a journalist in Iraq, I never would have believed I would be providing testimony to the World Tribunal on Iraq. I want to thank the organizers for this opportunity. I am honored to be here in solidarity with the Iraqi people.

In May of 2004 I interviewed a man who had just been released from Abu Ghraib. Like so many I interviewed from various US military detention facilities who’d been tortured horrifically, he still managed to maintain his sense of humor.

He began laughing when telling me how CIA agents made him beat other prisoners. He laughed, he said, because he had been beaten himself prior to this, and was so tired that all he could do to beat other detained Iraqis was lift his arm and let it drop on the other men.

Later, he laughed again as he told me what else had been done to him, when he said, “The Americans brought electricity to my ass before they brought it to my house.”

But this testimony is not about the indomitable spirit of the Iraqi people. About the dignity and strength of Iraqis, we need no testimony. This testimony is about ongoing violations of international law being committed by the occupiers of Iraq on a daily basis in regards to rampant torture, the neglect and obstruction of the health care sector and the ongoing failure to allow Iraqis to reconstruct their infrastructure.

To discuss torture, there are many stories I could use here, but I’ll use two examples indicative of scores of others I documented while in Iraq.

Ali Abbas lives in the Al-Amiriyah district of Baghdad and worked in civil administration. So many of his neighbors were detained that friends urged him to go to the nearby US base to try and get answers for why so many innocent people were being detained. He went three times.

On the fourth he was detained himself. Within two days he was transferred from the military base to Abu Ghraib, where he was held over three months without charges before being released.

“The minute I got there, the suffering began,” said Abbas about his interrogator, “I asked him for water, and he said after the investigation I would get some. He accused me of so many things and asked me so many questions. Among them he said I hated Christians.”

He was forced to strip naked shortly after arriving, and remained that way for most of his stay in the prison. “They made us lay on top of each other naked as if it was sex, and beat us with a broom,” he said. In addition to being beaten on their genitals, detainees were also denied water and food for extended periods of time, then were forced to watch as their food was thrown in the trash.

Treatment also included having a loaded gun held to his head to prevent him from crying out in pain as his hand-ties were tightened.

“My hands were enlarged because there was no blood because they cuffed them so tight,” he told me, “My head was covered with the sack, and they fastened my right hand to a pole with handcuffs. They made me stand on my toes to clip me to it.”

Abbas said soldiers doused him in cold water while holding him under a fan, and oftentimes, “They put on a loudspeaker, put the speakers on my ears and said, “Shut Up, Fuck Fuck Fuck!” In this manner Abbas’s interrogators routinely deprived him of sleep.

Abbas said that at one point, “Two men came, one a foreigner and one a translator. He asked me who I was. I said I’m a human being. They told me, ‘We are going to cut your head off and send you to hell. We will take you to Guantanamo.’”

A female soldier told him, “Our aim is to put you in hell so you will tell the truth. These are the orders we have from our superiors, to turn your lives into hell.”

Abbas added, “They shit on us, used dogs against us, used electricity and starved us.”

He told me, “Saddam Hussein used to have people like those who tortured us. Why do they put Saddam into trial, but they do not put the Americans to trial?”

But unlike Saddam Hussein, the US interrogators also desecrated Islam as part of their humiliation.

Abbas was made to fast during the first day of Eid, the breaking of the fast of Ramadan, which is haram (forbidden).

Sometimes at night when he would read his Koran, Abbas had to hold it in the hallway for light. “Soldiers would walk by and kick the Holy Koran, and sometimes they would try to piss on it or wipe shit on it,” he said.

Abbas did not feel this was the work of a few individual soldiers. “This was organized, it wasn’t just individuals, and every one of the troops in Abu Ghraib was responsible for it.”

Accounts by human rights groups support this. According to an April 2005 Human Rights Watch report, “Abu Ghraib was only the tip of the iceberg, it’s now clear that abuse of detainees has happened all over—from Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay to a lot of third-country dungeons where the United States has sent prisoners. And probably quite a few other places we don’t even know about.”

The report adds, “Harsh and coercive interrogation techniques such as subjecting detainees to painful stress positions and extended sleep deprivation have been routinely used in detention centers throughout Iraq. An ICRC report concluded that in military intelligence sections of Abu Ghraib, ‘methods of physical and psychological coercion used by the interrogators appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures by military intelligence personnel to obtain confessions and extract information.’”

Amnesty International has also released similar findings.

Other human rights groups report that US military doctors, nurses, and medics have been complicit in torture and other illegal procedures such as those administered to Sadiq Zoman.

55 year-old Zoman, detained from his home in Kirkuk in a raid by US soldiers that produced no weapons, was taken to a police office in Kirkuk, to the Kirkuk Airport Detention Center, the Tikrit Airport Detention Center and finally to the 28th Combat Support Hospital, where he was treated by Dr. Michael Hodges, a Lt. Col.Lt. Col. Hodges’ medical report listed Zoman’s primary condition as hypoxic brain injury (brain damage caused by lack of oxygen) “with persistent vegetative state,” myocardial infarction (heart attack), and heat stroke.”

After one month in custody, Zoman was dropped off in a coma at the General Hospital in Tikrit by US soldiers. Zoman’s last name was listed as his first name on the report, despite the fact that all of his identification papers were taken during the raid on his home. Because of this, it took his desperate family weeks to locate him in the hospital.

Hodges’s medical report did not mention the fact that the back of Zomans’ head was bashed in, nor that he had electrical burn marks on the bottoms of his feet and genitals, or why he had lash marks across his back and chest.

Today he lies in bed still in a coma, and there has been no compensation provided to his now impoverished family for what was done to Sadiq Zoman.

Another aspect I shall discuss is the catastrophic situation of the health system in Iraq. I’ve recently released a report on the condition of Iraq’s hospitals under occupation.

Although the Iraq Ministry of Health has supposedly gained its sovereignty and received promises of over $1 Billion of US funding, hospitals in Iraq continue to face ongoing medicine, equipment, and staffing shortages under the US-led occupation.

During the 1990’s, medical supplies and equipment were constantly in short supply because of the sanctions against Iraq. The war and occupation brought promises of relief from effects of the sanctions, yet hospitals have had little chance to recover and re-supply: instead, the occupation has closely resembled a low-grade war since its inception. In addition, allocation of resources by occupation authorities has been dismal. Thus, throughout Baghdad there are ongoing shortages of functional equipment and medicines of even the most basic items such as analgesics, antibiotics, anesthetics and insulin. Surgical items and even basic supplies like rubber gloves, gauze and medical tape are
running out.

In April 2004, an ICRC report stated that hospitals in Iraq are overwhelmed with new patients, short of medicine and supplies and lack both adequate electricity and water, with ongoing bloodshed stretching the hospitals’ already meager resources to the limit.

Ample testimony from medical practitioners confirms this crisis. A general practitioner at the prosthetics workshop at Al-Kena Hospital in Baghdad, Dr. Thamiz Aziz Abul Rahman, said, “Eleven months ago we submitted an emergency order for prosthetic materials to the Ministry of Health, and still we have nothing.” After a pause he added, “This is worse than even during the sanctions.”

Dr. Qasim al-Nuwesri, the chief manager at Chuwader General Hospital, one of the two hospitals in the sprawling slum area of Sadr City, Baghdad and home to 3 million people, added that they, too, faced a shortage of most supplies and, most critically, of ambulances. But for his hospital, the lack of potable water was the major problem. “Of course we have typhoid, cholera, kidney stones…but we now even have the very rare Hepatitis Type-E…and it has become common in our area,” said al-Nuwesri, adding that they never faced these problems prior to the invasion of 2003.

Chuwader hospital needs at least 2000 liters of water per day to function with basic sterilization practices. According to Dr. al-Nuwesri, they received 15% of this amount. “The rest of the water is contaminated and causing problems, as are the electricity cuts,” added al-Nuwesri, “Without electricity our instruments in the operating room cannot work and we have no pumps to bring us water.”

At Fallujah General Hospital, Dr. Ahmed, who asked that only his first name be used because he feared US military reprisals said of the April 2004 siege that “the Americans shot out the lights in the front of our hospital. They prevented doctors from reaching the emergency unit at the hospital, and we quickly began to run out of supplies and much needed medications.” He also said that Marines kept the physicians in the residence building several times, intentionally prohibiting them from entering the hospital in order to treat patients.

In November, shortly after leveling Nazzal Emergency Hospital, US forces entered Fallujah General Hospital, the city’s only healthcare facility for trauma victims, detaining employees and patients alike. According to medics on the scene, water and electricity were “cut off,” ambulances targeted or confiscated by the US military, and surgeons, without exception, kept out of the besieged city.

Hospital raids by US military and US-backed Iraqi forces now appear to be standard operating procedure. On the 18th of this month, doctors at the main hospital in Baquba went on strike, saying they are fed up with constant abuse at the hands of aggressive Iraqi police and soldiers.

Dr. Mohammed Hazim in Baquba, pleaded for his governor to protect he and his colleagues from “organized terrorism of the police and army.”

When wounded Iraqi security forces showed up demanding treatment, Dr. Hussein told one of them he would require an x-ray. The doctor was told to go to hell by the policeman he was treating and was then beaten. The same policeman then ordered another police officer to put a bag over the doctor’s head and take him away.

“Our security guards tried to stop them, telling them I was a doctor, but they didn't listen and beat the security guards too,” he said, “Then one of them put a gun to my head and threatened me.”

Similar behavior has been reported during the recent US-Iraqi military operations in Haditha and Al-Qa’im. Doctors also recently went on strike at the large Yarmouk Hospital in Baghdad in a very similar incident.

Many doctors in Iraq believe that the lack of assistance, if not outright hostility, by the US military, coupled with the lack of rebuilding and reconstruction by foreign contractors has compounded the problems they are facing.

The former ambassador of Iraq Paul Bremer admitted that US led coalition spending on the Iraqi Health system was inadequate when he said, “It’s not nearly enough to cover the needs in the healthcare field.”

When asked if his hospital had received assistance from the US military or reconstruction contractors, Dr. Sarmad Raheem, the administrator of chief doctors at Al-Kerkh Hospital in Baghdad said, “Never ever. Some soldiers came here five months ago and asked what we needed. We told them and they never brought us one single needle…We heard that some people from the CPA came here, but they never did anything for us.”

At Fallujah General Hospital, Dr. Mohammed said there has been virtually no assistance from foreign contractors, and of the US military he commented, “They send only bombs, not medicine.”

International aid has been stymied by the horrendous security situation in Iraq. After the UN headquarters was bombed in Baghdad in August 2003, killing 20 people, aid agencies and NGOs either reduced their staffing or pulled out entirely.

With senior Iraqi doctors fleeing Iraq en masse for fear of being kidnapped, interns and younger doctors are left to deal with the catastrophic situation. The World Health Organization last year warned of a health emergency in Baghdad, as well as throughout Iraq if current conditions persist. But despite claims from the Ministry of Health of more drugs, better equipment, and generalized improvement, doctors on the ground still see “no such improvement.”

In conclusion, a quick summary of the overall situation on the ground in Iraq is in order. Over two years into the illegal occupation, while Iraq sits upon a sea of oil, ongoing gasoline shortages plague Iraqis who sometimes wait 2 days to fill their cars. In a country where a long gas line once meant a one-car wait, Iraqis who are lucky enough to afford it now purchase black market petrol and hope that it is not watered down.

Electricity remains in short supply. Most of Iraq, including the northern region, receives on average 3 hours of electricity per day amidst the nearly non-existent reconstruction efforts. Even the better areas of Baghdad receive only 6-8 hours per day, forcing those who can afford them to use small generators to run fans and refrigerators in their homes. Of course, this is only for those who’ve been able to obtain the now rarefied gasoline.

The security situation is, needless to say, horrendous. With over 100,000 Iraqis killed thus far and the number of US soldiers killed approaching 2,000, the violence only continues to escalate.

Since the new Iraqi so-called government was sworn in two months ago, well over 1,000 Iraqis and over 165 US soldiers have died in the violence. These numbers will only continue to escalate as the failed occupation grinds on. As the heavy handed tactics of the US military persist, the Iraqi resistance continues to grow in its number and lethality.

As I mentioned before, potable water remains in short supply. Cholera, typhoid and other water-borne diseases are rampant even in parts of the capital city as lack of reconstruction continues to plague Iraq’s infrastructure. Raw sewage is common across not just Baghdad, but other cities throughout Iraq.

With 70% unemployment, a growing resistance and an infrastructure in shambles, the future for Iraq remains bleak as long as the failed occupation persists. While the Bush Administration continues to disregard calls for a timetable for withdrawal, Iraqis continue to suffer and die with little hope for their future. With each passing day, the catastrophe in Iraq resembles the US debacle in Vietnam more and more.

Dr. Wamid Omar Nadhmi, a senior political scientist at Baghdad University who was invited to this tribunal, told me last winter, “It will take Iraqis something like a quarter of a century to rebuild their country, to heal their wounds, to reform their society, to bring about some sort of national reconciliation, democracy and tolerance of each other. But that process will not begin until the US occupation of Iraq ends.”

And it is now exceedingly clear that the only way the Bush Administration will withdraw the US military from Iraq in order for Iraqis to have true sovereignty is if they are forced to do so.

More writing, photos and commentary at

Black-Out Blackmail in Ontario

Black-out Black Mail in Ontario

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - The Indepedent Electricity System Operator (IESO) say a strike by workers at Hydro One has forced a shut-down at the Nanticoke power plant, reducing its output by half. This comes as Southern Ontario continues to suffer a severe heat wave and stifling humidity.

[Breaking developments: The Ontario Power Group (OPG) sought, and were granted, an injunction late Saturday night to remove Society of Energy Professionals pickets outside power plants. The Nanticoke plant is now back to 100% generation. The provincial government is being criticized by the opposition for their refusal to "interfere" in stalled contract negotiations. ]

Black-Out Black Mail in Ontario
C. L. Cook
PEJ News
June 25, 2005

Ontarians Face Power Crisis in Midst of Heat Wave

The IESO, embroiled in a labour dispute, has blamed union pickets for the partial shut down of the Nanticoke power plant. They have appealed to Ontarians to reduce their power use, but it seems unlikely air conditioners will be shut down now. Environment Canada has expanded severe heat and smog advisories into Northern and Eastern Ontario, while the Greater Toronto region continues to suffer under an early summer, record-breaking thirty-plus consecutive days of heat and smog warnings. People with lung and immunity health conditions, the elderly, and parents of very young children are warned to stay indoors.

Strike talks between Hydro One, the privatised remnant of the province's once public utility, and the union broke down Friday, when the company walked away from the bargaining table. Workers went on strike on June 6th to protest the company's plan to increase work hours without pay, and lower wages and pensions for newer employees. Company spokesperson, John Earl said there were no plans to continue bargaining talks over the weekend.

Earl said pickets have delayed getting enough essential staff into the Nanticoke station to ensure "safe, reliable operation of the station" prompting the partial shut-down. In all, four of the station's eight generators were turned off, two immediately, with two more having their plugs pulled later. Earl says the strike may make electricity imports necessary to meet demand currently soaring with the high temperatures.

The union has appealed to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to intervene in the labour dispute to get Hydro One back to the bargaining table, but the government says they won't "interfere" with the collective bargaining process.

Meanwhile the IESO issued warnings they may take "protective actions such as a system voltage reduction, or rotating cuts to supply" should power supplies be exhausted. It's a move the union believes tantamount to black mail, using possible removal of service to get them to back down.

Heat and smog advisories are still in place, with Environment Canada saying the hot, humid weather will continue through the weekend, keeping vunerable Ontarians indoors, and the power meters whirring.

Two weeks ago, the Ontario Medical Association released a report that says more than 5800 Ontarians will die prematurely this year due to poor air quality.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He is also a contributing editor at You can check out the GR blog here.

Extraordinary Arrest Warrants Issued Against CIA

CIA Arrest Warrants Issued in Italy
C. L. Cook
June 25, 2005

The CIA is experiencing more "blowback," as a result of America's "Extraordinary Rendition" policy. ER is the unilateral authority granted the Agency by the Bush administration to kidnap anyone, anywhere deemed a threat to U.S. national security. Two years ago, the CIA exercised that "authority" when it snatched a prominent Muslim cleric living in Italy. Now, the Italians have issued warrants for 13 CIA agents involved in the abduction.

CIA Arrest Warrants Issued in Italy
C. L. Cook

June 25, 2005

The Italian government has formally requested "judicial assistance" from the U.S. government in identifying 13 CIA agents who grabbed an outspoken Islamic cleric as he walked to his mosque in Milan two years ago. The Italians have extensive evidence implicating the American agents, but currently only possess Noms de Guerre, left on a trail of receipts that outline the operation.

The Italians have yet to file for the extradition of the law-breakers and, given Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's intimate relationship with George Bush, may be unlikely to do so. But, there is clear evidence of a criminal conspiracy to kidnap Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar.

The "radical" cleric was spirited out of Italy to a U.S. military base, before being delivered to Egyptian security officials in Cairo. As in the infamous case of Canadian engineer Maher Arar, Nasr was subsequently tortured in custody.

The charges are the first filed against American agents for alleged crimes commited overseas while prosecuting the self-declared "War on Terror."

The warrants were approved by an Italian judge Thursday and come following a two year investigation by Milan police and the prosecutor's office. The American agents involved are not believed to be in Italy, but Italian government requests for assistance are seen as a first step in a case Italian counterterrorism officials have expressed frustration over; Nasr, a purported participant in military training camps in both Bosnia and Afghanistan, had been under surveillance when taken in the CIA operation without the Italian's knowledge.

Among records making up the paper trail left by the kidnappers are bills for more than US$100,000 for stays in luxury hotels in Milan, Florence, and Venice. In addition to the hotel bills, Italian prosecutors also have cell phone records, car rental receipts, highway toll booth records, and "other" documents that detail what they believe to be the movements of 19 people involved in the plot to take Nasr. The Milan prosecutor's office say the documents are enough to convince them to "attribute the kidnapping with certainty to the CIA."

Though most of the 19 names have proven aliases, at least three are identifiably those of American government employees stationed overseas, while another's listed address in the States led to a post box held under the name of a man listed as an officer of Premier Executive Transport Services, a company known to lease aircraft dedicated to past "extraordinary rendition" cases.

Investigations into to similar "renditions" in Germany and Sweden are also currently in progress.

The CIA and the U.S. Embassy in Rome refuse comment on the case, but State Department spokesperson, J. Adam Ereli said any extradition requests would be handled through the U.S. Justice Department.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He's also a contributing editor at Check out the GR blog here.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Castration En Vogue

Balls at Last! Castration en Vogue

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - The Italian Northern Alliance may have thought themselves ahead of the castration crowd when they tabled a bill in parliament yesterday calling for the castration of rapists, but they''re a little behind the fashion. Judicial Eugenics is already de Rigeur in Africa. -

Balls at Last!
C. L. Cook

PEJ News, June 23, 2005

Clinging to a fingerhold of humaneness, the "centre-right" government of Silvio Berlusconi condemned a bill introduced by its coaliton partner, the Northern League yesterday calling for the mandatory castration of convicted rapists. The Italian Interior Minister, Giuseppe Pisanu rebuked the NL effort to shape immigration policy based on the alleged crimes of immigrants in wake of recent high profile rape cases in Bologna and Milan.

Sentiment in Italy towards the growing population of ecomonic and other refugees is furtile ground for the NL's expulsory message. It would be easy to discount the NL, but the doctrine of judicial dismemberment comes from more than the fringes of Italy's far-right.

In April, Kenya's parliament unanimously enacted castration legislation in hopes of stemming a perceived rising tide of rape and abuse. In AIDS wary Africa, the 'Sexual Offences Bill' provides legislators the right to lop bits off culprits. Kenya's Health Minister sums it up nicely, citing the scriptures, "If any part of the body causes you to sin, it should be removed."

Far removed from the dusty AIDS wards of Kenya, France's ministerial minions too are hard at work developing a Continental version of "surgically-determined" penal correction. True to their innovative reputation, France has developed a temporarily effective "chemical castration." The approach, explains the French Justice Minister Dominic Perben creates a "chemical straitjacket." Rather than castration, offenders would be periodically injected with a neural-inhibitor. The sublteties may be lost on the patients, though Perben is quick to remind, the prisoners involved in the drug experiments are volunteers.

A couple years ago, AIDS-plagued Zambia suffered an explosion in child abductions and sexual molestations. Activists there have called for castrations in rape cases. A twisted cultural belief that sex with a virgin would cure those afflicted with disease has naturally led to catastrophe.

These parallel yet separate assaults against human dignity in France, Italy, Kenya, Zambia, and everywhere, anathema to the human spirit, remind of our collective failure. It puts under our nose the neglected pandemics in far lands, an economic milieux satsified with the destruction of millions of souls, a necessary price of its privilege, and fear-based philosphy whose only solution is to strike out, spreading the contagion of grief and misery, and yet most turn away still while the horror of this folly escalates.

The Italian retro-fascists may install their revived regime. And, George Bush may maintain a semblance of Reich's gone by, for a time. But the scales of justice, like two unsevered balls, demand balance.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He also serves as a contributing editor to You can check out the GR Blog here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Majestic Beasts Save Child in Ethiopia

Anthony Mitchell
June 21 2005

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Police say three lions rescued a 12-year-old girl kidnapped by men who wanted to force her into marriage, chasing off her abductors and guarding her until police and relatives tracked her down in a remote corner of Ethiopia.

The men had held the girl for seven days, repeatedly beating her, before the lions chased them away and guarded her for half a day before her family and police found her, Sergeant Wondimu Wedajo said Tuesday by telephone from the provincial capital of Bita Genet, about 560km west of the capital, Addis Ababa.

"They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest," Wondimu said, adding he did not know whether the lions were male or female.

A Lion

'A young girl whimpering could be mistaken for the mewing sound from a lion cub'
News of the June 9 rescue was slow to filter out from Kefa Zone in south-western Ethiopia.

"If the lions had not come to her rescue then it could have been much worse. Often these young girls are raped and severely beaten to force them to accept the marriage," he said.

"Everyone in thinks this is some kind of miracle, because normally the lions would attack people," Wondimu said.

Stuart Williams, a wildlife expert with the rural development ministry, said that it was likely that the young girl was saved because she was crying from the trauma of her attack.

"A young girl whimpering could be mistaken for the mewing sound from a lion cub, which in turn could explain why they (the lions) didn't eat her," Williams said. "Otherwise they probably would have done."

The girl, the youngest of four brothers and sisters, was "shocked and terrified" and had to be treated for the cuts from her beatings, Wondimu said.

He said that police had caught four of the men, but were still looking for three others.

In Ethiopia, kidnapping has long been part of the marriage custom, a tradition of sorrow and violence whose origins are murky.

The United Nations estimates that more than 70 percent of marriages in Ethiopia are by abduction, practiced in rural areas where the majority of the country's 71 million people live.

Ethiopia's lions, famous for their large black manes, are the country's national symbol and adorn statues and the local currency. Former emperor Haile Selassie kept a pride in the royal palace in Addis Ababa.

Despite their integral place in Ethiopia culture, their numbers have been falling, according to experts, as farmers encroach on bush land.

Hunters also kill the animals for their skins, which can fetch $1 000 (about R6 000), despite a recent crackdown against illegal animal trading across the country. Williams said that at most only 1 000 Ethiopian lions remain in the wild. -

The Orwell Twist

Global Eye

Inside Joke

Chris Floyd
June 17, 2005

As we all know, President George W. Bush is the most morally upright individual ever to set foot in the White House: a sober, righteous man of God. Yet this very rectitude obscures the fact that he is also one of the great wits of our time, a subtle and sophisticated ironist who has turned the dull business of governance into a highly refined comedic art.

With Shavian brio, Bush sends up the bourgeois pretension that words have meanings and actions have consequences. His specialty is the ironic reversal, known by old-time vaudeville gagsters as the "Orwell Twist." For example, you take a man who concocts justifications for torture, kidnapping and the exaltation of presidential authority beyond the reach of law -- and you make him the chief law enforcement officer of the land! It might look easy, but try doing it with a straight face, the way Bush introduced his criminal accomplice Alberto Gonzales as the new Attorney General. It takes real talent to pull off that kind of deadpan.

Or how about this gem? You steal hundreds of millions of dollars from the public treasury to secretly prepare for a war you've been planning for many years; you tell your closest ally months in advance that the invasion is on, come hell or high water; you unleash a massive bombing campaign against the target months before the war; you deceitfully manufacture and massage evidence to build a bogus case for launching an unprovoked act of aggression against an opponent who has already met all your demands -- and then you tell the world that you only wanted peace! What yocks, eh? Not even Groucho Marx could match such comic subversion.

The list -- and the Twist -- goes on and on: fostering a "culture of life" through capital punishment, gulag murders and "extrajudicial killings" by presidential fiat; spreading "compassionate conservatism" by gutting aid for the poor, the sick, the weak and the old; naming corporate polluters as environmental guardians; promoting "democracy" by coddling despots; "fighting terrorism" by spawning more terrorists -- it's a comedy cornucopia!

But Bush's satiric masterpiece, equal to "Annie Hall," "The Philadelphia Story" or even "Herbie Goes Bananas," might well be his appointment of nuclear war advocates to oversee -- wait for it -- arms control! Ain't that a hoot? Looney-fringe types who oppose arms treaties, want to build more nukes and use them "pre-emptively," even in "non-nuclear combat scenarios," are put in charge of all the pacts and programs to control and eliminate nuclear weapons! Thus "arms control" becomes "Armageddon" in the wacky jargon of Bush-speak. We haven't seen this kind of witty wordplay since the old "Arbeit Macht Frei" gag that the Bush Family's business partners pulled at Auschwitz back in the day.

Meeting Mr. Joseph

But we said Bush was subtle. Almost no one has noticed his June 1 appointment of Robert Joseph as the new undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs. Joseph takes the place of John Bolton, the warmongering blowhard and serial fabricator whom Bush has chosen to be the United States' walrus-moustachioed face to the world at the UN. (Yet another masterstroke of wit from the Maestro: Bolton is copiously on record as despising the UN.) Although Joseph is cut from grayer cloth -- while still sporting plenty of nasal foliage, which is obviously a requirement for this baggy-pants role -- he is probably even more dangerous than his tempestuous predecessor, as Tom Barry of the International Relations Center reports.

Joseph has been a key player in the "nuke 'em all and let God sort 'em out" school of international diplomacy since his early minioning days in the diseased bowels of the Reagan administration. He came into his own after the Crawford clown-master seized power in 2000, serving as a "special assistant" to the president, in charge of destroying the ABM treaty, that 30-year bulwark against nuclear conflict. He was also instrumental in fashioning Bush's maniacal "Nuclear Posture Review," which calls for the production of "low-yield, precision-guided nuclear weapons" that can actually be used in combat, or in "pre-emptive" strikes at, well, basically anybody the president decides might pose a vague threat against "American interests" somewhere down the line.

But increasing the risk of global nuclear annihilation isn't enough for jolly old Joseph; he also has a fondness for biological and chemical weapons. Along with nukes, they make up a Holy Trinity of WMD that "have substantial utility" in the "international environment," he writes. And he doesn't just want user-friendly WMD to be "a permanent feature" of life on earth; he's keen on militarizing the heavens as well -- pre-emptively and unilaterally, natch. And it goes without saying that he opposes any attempts to place limits on U.S. testing and deployment of mass-death weapons.

That's "arms control," Bush-style, for you: a perfect joke. Yet Joseph's merry pranks don't stop there; he was also responsible for pushing one of the many big lies -- sorry, funny stories -- in Bush's pre-invasion propaganda blitzkrieg: the pure hokum about Saddam's nonexistent search for African uranium to fuel his nonexistent nuclear program. As with so many others, Joseph's egregious intelligence "failure" has been rewarded with honors and promotion. Because of course it was no failure at all; it was a well-played pantomime, faithfully following the script of Bush's war-crimes comedy.

Lurking behind all this cynical katzenjammer is the grinning skull of the Bush death-cult: a mad but all-too-plausible dream of conquest, loot and unlimited dominion. For this dream, the cultists have already murdered countless thousands and are gambling with the very life of the world itself. With these comedians, the joke is always on us.


Arms Control and Proliferation:

Profile of Robert G. Joseph
International Relations Center, June 2005

The Nuclear Posture Review:
Reading Between the Lines
Common Dreams, Jan. 17, 2002

Bolton's Broken World
Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2005

The U.S. Removes the Nuclear Brakes
Haaretz, May 26, 2005

Gonzales and Torture:

Gonzales: A Record of Injustice
American Progress, November 2004

A Secret Re-Writing of Military Law
New York Times, Oct. 24, 2004

Apologia Pro Tormento, June 9, 2004

Loyal to a Fault?, Nov. 11, 2004

Memo Offered Justification for Torture
Washington Post, June 8, 2004

Justice Memos Explained How to
Skip Prisoner Rights
New York Times, May 21, 2004

2001 Memo Reveals Push for Broader
Presidential Powers
Newsweek, Dec. 18, 2004

Gonzales Excludes CIA
from Rules on Prisoners
New York Times, Jan. 20, 2005

The Most Dangerous Lawyer in America
The Village Voice, Jan. 26, 2005

Two Amigos And Their Gulag Archipelago, May 12, 2005

Some Held at Guantanamo Are Minors,
Lawyers Say
New York Times, June 13, 2005

War and Lies:

The Downing Street Memo and
Related Documents

Illegally Financing the WMD Hoax
Media Monitors, May 27, 2005

The Secret's Out – Now What?, June 15, 2004

Ministers Were Told of Need
for Gulf War 'Excuse'
The Sunday Times (London), June 12, 1005

The Smoking Bullet in the Smoking Gun
Common Dreams, June 2, 2005

[US-UK] Bombing Raids Tried to Goad
Saddam Into War
The Sunday Times, May 29, 2005

The Lies That Led to War, May 19, 2005

Bush Wanted to Invade Iraq if Elected in 2000,
Says Family Biographer
Guerilla News, Oct. 27, 2004

British Military Chief Reveals
New Legal Fears Over Iraq War
The Observer, May 1, 2005

MI6 Chief Told PM:
Americans 'Fixed' Case for War
The Sunday Times, March 20, 2005

Ground Zero:
The Anatomy of an Honest Mistake
Empire Burlesque, Jan. 30, 2004

The Culture of Life:

CIA Kills in Pakistani Shadows
International Herald Tribune, May 16, 2005

CIA Takes on Major Military Role:
'We're Killing People!
Boston Globe, Jan. 20, 2002

Bush's Death Squads, Jan. 31, 2002

Bush Has Widened Authority of
CIA to Kill Terrorists
New York Times, Dec. 15, 2002

Special Ops Get OK to Initiate
Its Own Missions
Washington Times, Jan. 8, 2003

Our Designated Killers
Village Voice, Feb. 14, 2003

A U.S. License to Kill
Village Voice, Feb. 21, 2003

U.S. General From Abu Ghraib
Scandal Promoted
Stars and Stripes, March 15, 2005

Fighting Terrorism:

Former Bush Official Questions
Government 9/11 Story
The Washington Times, June 13, 2005

Cry Havoc: Bush's Own Personal Janjaweed
Empire Burlesque, Aug. 27, 2004

US Wants to Build Network of
Friendly Militias to Fight Terrorism
AFP, August 15, 2004

Pentagon Plan for Global Anti-Terror Army
Sydney Morning Herald, Aug. 11, 2004

Into the Dark:
The Pentagon Plan to Foment Terrorism
Empire Burlesque, Nov. 1, 2002

Darkness Visible:
The Pentagon Plan to Foment Terrorism is Now in Operation
Empire Burlesque, Jan. 25, 2005

Compassionate Conservatism:

Retirement's Unravelling Safety Net
Washington Post, June 14, 2005

Millions Are Dying Because of American Policies
Los Angeles Times, June 12, 2005

The G8 Rescue Plan: A Truckload of Nonsense
The Guardian, June 14, 2005

Body Blow: Bush's Worldwide War Against Women
Empire Burlesque, Oct. 3, 2003

Tax Breaks for Rich Murderers
London Review of Books, June 2, 2005

Virginity or Death!, May 19, 2005

The Richest Are Leaving Even the Rich Far Behind
New York Times, June 5, 2005

Promoting Democracy:

US Opposed Calls at Nato to
Probe Uzbek Killings
Washington Post, June 13, 2005

Catering to Kazakhstan's Kleptocracy, June 8, 2005

U.S. Helps Pakistan Torture U.S. Citizens
Human Rights Watch, May 24, 2005

Police in Azerbaijan Beat Protestors
Demanding Liberty Before Pipeline Opening
Washington Post, May 22, 2005

Reports Cite US and Egypt on Torture
Reuters, May 10, 2005

Bush Family History:

Heir to the Holocaust:
Prescott Bush, $1.5 Million and Auschwitz
Clamor Magazine, May/June 2002

Bush and the Nazis
Newsweek Poland, May 29, 2003

Bush-Nazi Dealings Continued Until 1951:
Federal Documents
New Hampshire Gazette, Nov. 7, 2003

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Welcome to the Green Zone Republic

“The Americans won’t be out in less than ten years.” Is how the argument often begins with the friend who has entered the Green Republic. “How can you say that?” Is usually my answer- and I begin to throw around numbers- 2007, 2008 maximum… Could they possibly want to be here longer? Can they afford to be here longer? At this, T. shakes his head- if you could see the bases they are planning to build- if you could see what already has been built- you’d know that they are going to be here for quite a while.


Baghdad Burning...
Tuesday, June 21, 2005

General Update...

The cousin, his wife S. and their two daughters have been houseguests these last three days. They drove up to the house a couple of days ago with several bags of laundry. “There hasn’t been water in our area for three days…” The cousins wife huffed as she dragged along a black plastic bag of dirty clothes. “The water came late last night and disappeared three hours later… what about you?” Our water had not been cut off completely, but it came and went during the day.

Water has been a big problem in many areas all over Baghdad. Houses without electric water pumps don’t always have access to water. Today it was the same situation in most of the areas. They say the water came for a couple of hours and then disappeared again. We’re filling up plastic containers and pots just to be on the safe side. It is not a good idea to be caught without water in the June heat in Iraq.

“I need to bathe the children and wash all these clothes,” S. called to me as the older of the little girls and I hauled out their overnight bag. “And the sheets- you know nothing has been washed since last weeks ajaja…” We call a dust storm an “ajaja” in Iraq. I don’t think there’s a proper translation for that word. Last week, a few large ajajas kept Baghdad in a sort of pale yellow haze. What happens when an ajaja settles on the city is that within a couple of hours, the air becomes heavy and thick with beige powdery sand. Visibility decreases during these dust storms and it often becomes difficult to drive or see out the window.

On such occasions, we rush about the house shutting windows tightly in a largely futile attempt to keep dust out of the house. For people with allergies or asthma- it’s a nightmare. The only thing that alleviates the situation somewhat is air conditioning. The air feels a little less dusty when there’s an air conditioner pumping cool air into the room.

One dust storm last week was so heavy, E. slept for a couple of hours during its peak and woke up with little beige-tipped lashes from the dust that had settled on his face while he was dozing. You can even taste the dust in the food sometimes. These storms can last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

After the ajaja is over and the air has cleared somewhat, we begin the cleaning process. By this time, the furniture is all covered with a light film of orangish dirt, the windows are grimy, and the garden, driveway and trees all look like they have recently emerged from a sea of dust. We spend the days after such storms washing, wiping, polishing and beating dust out of the house.

“I’ve been dying to wash the curtains and sheets since the ajaja…” S. breathed, pulling out dusty curtains from the plastic bag. She paused suddenly, a horrific idea occurring to her, “You have water, right? Right?” We had water, I assured her. I didn’t mention, however, that there had been no electricity for the better part of the morning and the generator was providing only enough for the refrigerator, television and a few lights. The standard washing machine consumed too much water and electricity- we would have to use the little ‘National’ washing tub, or ‘diaper machine’ as my mother called it.

The pale yellow plastic washing tub is a simple device that is designed to hold a few liters of water and to swish around said water with a few articles of clothing tossed in and some detergent. Next, the clothes have to be removed from the soapy water and rinsed separately in clean water, then hung to dry. While it conveniently uses less water than the standard washing machine, there is also a risk factor involved- a sock or undershirt is often sacrificed to the little plastic blade that swishes around the water and clothes.

We spent some of yesterday and a good portion of today washing clothes, rinsing them and speculating on how our ancestors fared without washing machines and water pumps.

The electrical situation differs from area to area. On some days, the electricity schedule is two hours of electricity, and then four hours of no electricity. On other days, it’s four hours of electricity to four or six hours of no electricity. The problem is that the last couple of weeks, we don’t have electricity in the mornings for some reason. Our local generator is off until almost 11 am, and the house generator allows for ceiling fans (or “pankas”), the refrigerator, television and a few other appliances. Air conditioners cannot be turned on and the heat is oppressive by 8 am these days.

Detentions and assassinations, along with intermittent electricity, have also been contributing to sleepless nights. We’re hearing about raids in many areas in the Karkh half of Baghdad in particular. On the television the talk about ‘terrorists’ being arrested, but there are dozens of people being rounded up for no particular reason. Almost every Iraqi family can give the name of a friend or relative who is in one of the many American prisons for no particular reason. They aren’t allowed to see lawyers or have visitors and stories of torture have become commonplace. Both Sunni and Shia clerics who are in opposition to the occupation are particularly prone to attacks by “Liwa il Theeb” or the special Iraqi forces Wolf Brigade. They are often tortured during interrogation and some of them are found dead.

There were also several explosions and road blocks today. It took the cousin an hour to get to work, which was only twenty minutes away before the war. Now, he has to navigate between closed streets, check points, and those delightful concrete barriers rising up everywhere. It is especially difficult to be caught in traffic and that happens a lot lately. Baghdad has been cut up into sections and several of them may be found to be off limits immediately after an explosion or before a Puppet meeting. The least pleasant situation is to be caught in mid-day traffic, on a crowded road, in the heat- waiting for the next bomb to go off.

What people find particularly frustrating is the fact that while Baghdad seems to be falling apart in so many ways with roads broken and pitted, buildings blasted and burnt out and residential areas often swimming in sewage, the Green Zone is flourishing. The walls surrounding restricted areas housing Americans and Puppets have gotten higher- as if vying with the tallest of date palms for height. The concrete reinforcements and road blocks designed to slow and impede traffic are now a part of everyday scenery- the road, the trees, the shops, the earth, the sky… and the ugly concrete slabs sometimes wound insidiously with barbed wire.

The price of building materials has gone up unbelievably, in spite of the fact that major reconstruction has not yet begun. I assumed it was because so much of the concrete and other building materials was going to reinforce the restricted areas. A friend who recently got involved working with an Iraqi subcontractor who takes projects inside of the Green Zone explained that it was more than that. The Green Zone, he told us, is a city in itself. He came back awed, and more than a little bit upset. He talked of designs and plans being made for everything from the future US Embassy and the housing complex that will surround it, to restaurants, shops, fitness centers, gasoline stations, constant electricity and water- a virtual country inside of a country with its own rules, regulations and government. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Republic of the Green Zone, also known as the Green Republic.

“The Americans won’t be out in less than ten years.” Is how the argument often begins with the friend who has entered the Green Republic. “How can you say that?” Is usually my answer- and I begin to throw around numbers- 2007, 2008 maximum… Could they possibly want to be here longer? Can they afford to be here longer? At this, T. shakes his head- if you could see the bases they are planning to build- if you could see what already has been built- you’d know that they are going to be here for quite a while.

The Green Zone is a source of consternation and aggravation for the typical Iraqi. It makes us anxious because it symbolises the heart of the occupation and if fortifications and barricades are any indicator- the occupation is going to be here for a long time. It is a provocation because no matter how anyone tries to explain or justify it, it is like a slap in the face. It tells us that while we are citizens in our own country, our comings and goings are restricted because portions of the country no longer belong to its people. They belong to the people living in the Green Republic.

- posted by river @ 3:21 AM

The Lies Undoing Us

War: Realities and myths

. . . the lie, about war, about ourselves, is imploding our democracy

By Chris Hedges
Online Journal Guest Writer

June 17, 2005 (DemocracyRising.US)—The vanquished know war. They see through the empty jingoism of those who use the abstract words of glory, honor, and patriotism to mask the cries of the wounded, the senseless killing, war profiteering, and chest-pounding grief. They know the lies the victors often do not acknowledge, the lies covered up in stately war memorials and mythic war narratives, filled with words of courage and comradeship. They know the lies that permeate the thick, self-important memoirs by amoral statesmen who make wars but do not know war.

The vanquished know the essence of war—death. They grasp that war is necrophilia. They see that war is a state of almost pure sin with its goals of hatred and destruction. They know how war fosters alienation, leads inevitably to nihilism, and is a turning away from the sanctity and preservation of life. All other narratives about war too easily fall prey to the allure and seductiveness of violence, as well as the attraction of the godlike power that comes with the license to kill with impunity.

But the words of the vanquished come later, sometimes long after the war, when grown men and women unpack the suffering they endured as children, what it was like to see their mother or father killed or taken away, or what it was like to lose their homes, their community, their security, and be discarded as human refuse. But by then few listen. The truth about war comes out, but usually too late. We are assured by the war-makers that these stories have no bearing on the glorious violent enterprise the nation is about to inaugurate. And, lapping up the myth of war and its sense of empowerment, we prefer not to look.

We see the war in Iraq only through the distorted lens of the occupiers. The embedded reporters, dependent on the military for food and transportation as well as security, have a natural and understandable tendency, one I have myself felt, to protect those who are protecting them. They are not allowed to report outside of the unit and are, in effect, captives. They have no relationships with the occupied, essential to all balanced reporting of conflicts, but only with the Marines and soldiers who drive through desolate mud-walled towns and pump grenades and machine-gun bullets into houses, leaving scores of nameless dead and wounded in their wake. The reporters admire and laud these fighters for their physical courage. They feel protected as well by the jet fighters and heavy artillery and throaty rattle of machine guns. And the reporting, even among those who struggle to keep some distance, usually descends into a shameful cheerleading.

There is no more candor in Iraq or Afghanistan than there was in Vietnam, but in the age of live satellite feeds the military has perfected the appearance of candor. What we are fed is the myth of war. For the myth of war, the myth of glory and honor sells newspapers and boosts ratings, real war reporting does not. Ask the grieving parents of Pat Tillman. Nearly every embedded war correspondent sees his or her mission as sustaining civilian and army morale. This is what passes for coverage on FOX, MSNBC or CNN. In wartime, as Senator Hiram Johnson reminded us in 1917, "truth is the first casualty."

All our knowledge of the war in Iraq has to be viewed as lacking the sweep and depth that will come one day, perhaps years from now, when a small Iraqi boy or girl reaches adulthood and unfolds for us the sad and tragic story of the invasion and bloody occupation of their nation.

I have spent most of my adult life in war. I began two decades ago covering wars in Central America, where I spent five years, then the Middle East, where I spent seven, and the Balkans where I covered the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. My life has been marred, let me say deformed, by the organized industrial violence that year after year was an intimate part of my existence. I have watched young men bleed to death on lonely Central American dirt roads and cobblestone squares in Sarajevo. I have looked into the eyes of mothers, kneeling over the lifeless and mutilated bodies of their children. I have stood in warehouses with rows of corpses, including children, and breathed death into my lungs. I carry within me the ghosts of those I worked with, my comrades, now gone.

I have felt the attraction of violence. I know its seductiveness, excitement and the powerful addictive narcotic it can become. The young soldiers, trained well enough to be disciplined but encouraged to maintain their naive adolescent belief in invulnerability, have in wartime more power at their fingertips than they will ever have again. They catapult from being minimum wage employees at places like Burger King, facing a life of dead-end jobs with little hope of health insurance and adequate benefits, to being part of, in the words of the Marines, "the greatest fighting force on the face of the earth."

The disparity between what they were and what they have become is breathtaking and intoxicating. This intoxication is only heightened in wartime when all taboos are broken. Murder goes unpunished and often rewarded. The thrill of destruction fills their days with wild adrenaline highs, strange grotesque landscapes that are hallucinogenic, all accompanied by a sense of purpose and comradeship, overpowers the alienation many left behind. They become accustomed to killing, carrying out acts of slaughter with no more forethought than they take to relieve themselves. And the abuses committed against the helpless prisoners in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo are not aberrations but the real face of war.

In wartime all human beings become objects, objects either to gratify or destroy or both. And almost no one is immune. The contagion of the crowd sees to that.

"Force," Simon Weil wrote, "is as pitiless to the man who possess it, or thinks he does, as it is to his victim. The second it crushes; the first it intoxicates."

This myth, the lie, about war, about ourselves, is imploding our democracy. We shun introspection and self-criticism. We ignore truth, to embrace the strange, disquieting certitude and hubris offered by the radical Christian Right. These radical Christians draw almost exclusively from the book of Revelation, the only time in the Gospels where Jesus sanctions violence, peddling a vision of Christ as the head of a great and murderous army of heavenly avengers.

They rarely speak about Christ's message of love, forgiveness and compassion. They relish the cataclysmic destruction that will befall unbelievers, including those such as myself, whom they dismiss as "nominal Christians." They divide the world between good and evil, between those anointed to act as agents of God and those who act as agents of Satan. The cult of masculinity and esthetic of violence pervades their ideology. Feminism and homosexuality are forces, believers are told, that have rendered the American male physically and spiritually impotent. Jesus, for the Christian Right, is a man of action, casting out demons, battling the Anti-Christ, attacking hypocrites and castigating the corrupt. The language is one not only of exclusion, hatred and fear, but a call for apocalyptic violence, in short the language of war.

As the war grinds forward, as we sink into a morass of our own creation, as our press and political opposition, and yes even our great research universities, remain complacent and passive, as we refuse to confront the forces that have crippled us outside our gates and are working to cripple us within, the ideology of the Christian Right, so intertwined with intolerance and force, will become the way we speak not only to others but among ourselves.

In war, we always deform ourselves, our essence. We give up individual conscience—maybe even consciousness—for contagion of the crowd, the rush of patriotism, the belief that we must stand together as nation in moments of extremity. To make a moral choice, to defy war's enticement, to find moral courage, can be self-destructive.

The attacks on the World Trade Center illustrate that those who oppose us, rather than coming from another moral universe, have been schooled well in modern warfare. The dramatic explosions, the fireballs, the victims plummeting to their deaths, the collapse of the towers in Manhattan, were straight out of Hollywood. Where else, but from the industrialized world, did the suicide bombers learn that huge explosions and death above a city skyline are a peculiar and effective form of communication?

They have mastered the language we have taught them. They understand that the use of indiscriminate violence against innocents is a way to make a statement. We leave the same calling cards. We delivered such incendiary messages in Vietnam, Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq. It was Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who in the summer of 1965 defined the bombing raids that would kill hundreds of thousands of civilians north of Saigon as a means of communication to the Communist regime in Hanoi.

The most powerful anti-war testaments, of war and what war does to us, are those that eschew images of combat. It is the suffering of the veteran whose body and mind are changed forever because he or she served a nation that sacrificed them, the suffering of families and children caught up in the unforgiving maw of war, which begin to tell the story of war. But we are not allowed to see dead bodies, at least of our own soldiers, nor do we see the wounds that forever mark a life, the wounds that leave faces and bodies horribly disfigured by burns or shrapnel.

We never watch the agony of the dying. War is made palatable. It is sanitized. We are allowed to taste war's perverse thrill, but spared from seeing war's consequences. The wounded and the dead are swiftly carted offstage. And for this I blame the press, which willingly hides from us the effects of bullets, roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades, which sat at the feet of those who lied to make this war possible and dutifully reported these lies and called it journalism.

War is always about this betrayal. It is about the betrayal of the young by the old, idealists by cynics and finally soldiers by politicians. Those who pay the price, those who are maimed forever by war, however, are crumpled up and thrown away. We do not see them. We do not hear them. They are doomed, like wandering spirits, to float around the edges of our consciousness, ignored, even reviled. The message they bring is too painful for us to hear. We prefer the myth of war, the myth of glory, honor, patriotism and heroism, words that in the terror and brutality of combat are empty, meaningless and obscene.

We are losing the war in Iraq. We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are pitiless to others weaker than ourselves. We have lost sight of our democratic ideals. Thucydides wrote of Athens expanding empire and how this empire led it to become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home. The tyranny Athens imposed on others it finally imposed on itself. If we do not confront the lies and hubris told to justify the killing and mask the destruction carried out in our name in Iraq, if we do not grasp the moral corrosiveness of empire and occupation, if we continue to allow force and violence to be our primary form of communication, if we do not remove from power our flag-waving, cross-bearing versions of the Taliban, we will not so much defeat dictators such as Saddam Hussein as become them.

Chris Hedges has been a war reporter for 15 years most recently for the New York Times. He is author of "What Every person Should Know About War," a book that offers a critical lesson in the dangerous realities of war. He's also author of "War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning."

The views expressed herein are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of Online Journal.

Copyright © 1998-2005 Online Journal™. All rights reserved.

The Bards to Power

Listen to these men - Bush, Blair and their two bards - and you could forget that the rich nations had played any role in Africa's accumulation of debt, or accumulation of weapons, or loss of resources, or collapse in public services, or concentration of wealth and power by unaccountable leaders. Listen to them and you would imagine that the G8 was conceived as a project to help the world's poor. {GM}

Bards of the Powerful
Far from Challenging the G8's Role in Africa's Poverty,
Geldof and Bono are Giving Legitimacy to Those Responsible

June 21, 2005

George Monbiot

'Hackers bombard financial networks", the Financial Times reported on Thursday. Government departments and businesses "have been bombarded with a sophisticated electronic attack for several months". It is being organized by an Asian criminal network, and is "aimed at stealing commercially and economically sensitive information". By Thursday afternoon, the story had mutated. "G8 hackers target banks and ministries", said the headline in the Evening Standard. Their purpose was "to cripple the systems as a protest before the G8 summit." The Standard advanced no evidence to justify this metamorphosis.

This is just one instance of the reams of twaddle about the dark designs of the G8 protesters codded up by the corporate press. That the same stories have been told about almost every impending public protest planned in the past 30 years and that they have invariably fallen apart under examination appears to present no impediment to their repetition. The real danger at the G8 summit is not that the protests will turn violent - the appetite for that pretty well disappeared in September 2001 - but that they will be far too polite.

Let me be more precise. The danger is that we will follow the agenda set by Bono and Bob Geldof.

The two musicians are genuinely committed to the cause of poverty reduction. They have helped secure aid and debt-relief packages worth billions of dollars. They have helped to keep the issue of global poverty on the political agenda. They have mobilized people all over the world. These are astonishing achievements, and it would be stupid to disregard them.

The problem is that they have assumed the role of arbiters: of determining on our behalf whether the leaders of the G8 nations should be congratulated or condemned for the decisions they make. They are not qualified to do so, and I fear that they will sell us down the river.

Take their response to the debt-relief package for the world's poorest countries that the G7 finance ministers announced 10 days ago. Anyone with a grasp of development politics who had read and understood the ministers' statement could see that the conditions it contains - enforced liberalization and privatization - are as onerous as the debts it relieves. But Bob Geldof praised it as "a victory for the millions of people in the campaigns around the world" and Bono pronounced it "a little piece of history".

Like many of those who have been trying to highlight the harm done by such conditions - especially the African campaigners I know - I feel betrayed by these statements. Bono and Geldof have made our job more difficult.

I understand the game they're playing. They believe that praising the world's most powerful men is more persuasive than criticizing them. The problem is that in doing so they turn the political campaign developed by the global justice movement into a philanthropic one. They urge the G8 leaders to do more to help the poor. But they say nothing about ceasing to do harm.

It is true that Bono has criticized George Bush for failing to deliver the money he promised for Aids victims in Africa. But he has never, as far as I can discover, said a word about the capture of that funding by "faith-based groups": the code Bush uses for fundamentalist Christian missions that preach against the use of condoms.

Indeed, Bono seems to be comfortable in the company of fundamentalists. Jesse Helms, the racist, homophobic former senator who helped engineer the switch to faith-based government, is, according to his aides, "very much a fan of Bono". This is testament to the singer's remarkable powers of persuasion. But if people like Helms are friends, who are the enemies? Is exploitation something that just happens? Does it have no perpetrators?

This, of course, is how George Bush and Tony Blair would like us to see it. Blair speaks about Africa as if its problems are the result of some inscrutable force of nature, compounded only by the corruption of its dictators. He laments that "it is the only continent in the world over the past few decades that has moved backwards". But he has never acknowledged that - as even the World Bank's studies show - it has moved backwards partly because of the neoliberal policies it has been forced to follow by the powerful nations: policies that have just been extended by the debt-relief package Bono and Geldof praised.

Listen to these men - Bush, Blair and their two bards - and you could forget that the rich nations had played any role in Africa's accumulation of debt, or accumulation of weapons, or loss of resources, or collapse in public services, or concentration of wealth and power by unaccountable leaders. Listen to them and you would imagine that the G8 was conceived as a project to help the world's poor.

I have yet to read a statement by either rock star that suggests a critique of power. They appear to believe that a consensus can be achieved between the powerful and the powerless, that they can assemble a great global chorus of rich and poor to sing from the same sheet. They do not seem to understand that, while the G8 maintains its grip on the instruments of global governance, a shared anthem of peace and love is about as meaningful as the old Coca-Cola ad.

The answer to the problem of power is to build political movements that deny the legitimacy of the powerful and seek to prise control from their hands: to do, in other words, what people are doing in Bolivia right now. But Bono and Geldof are doing the opposite: they are lending legitimacy to power. From the point of view of men like Bush and Blair, the deal is straightforward: we let these hairy people share a platform with us, we make a few cost-free gestures, and in return we receive their praise and capture their fans. The sanctity of our collaborators rubs off on us.

If the trick works, the movements ranged against us will disperse, imagining that the world's problems have been solved. We will be publicly rehabilitated, after our little adventure in Iraq and our indiscretions at Bagram and Guantánamo Bay. The countries we wish to keep exploiting will see us as their friends rather than their enemies.

At what point do Bono and Geldof call time on the leaders of the G8? At what point does Bono stop pretending that George Bush is "passionate and sincere" about world poverty, and does Geldof stop claiming that he "has actually done more than any American president for Africa"? At what point does Bono revise his estimate of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as "the John and Paul of the global-development stage" or as leaders in the tradition of Keir Hardie and Clement Attlee? How much damage do Bush and Blair have to do before the rock stars will acknowledge it?

Geldof and Bono's campaign for philanthropy portrays the enemies of the poor as their saviors. The good these two remarkable men have done is in danger of being outweighed by the harm.

For more information on George Monbiot, go to

© 2005 Guardian Newspapers, Ltd.