Thursday, February 10, 2005

Nato Divvies Afghan Pie

Though brushed with a patina of respectability by the United Nations, the invasion and subsequent ongoing occupation of Afghanistan is as illegal as those in Iraq and Palestine. Today, the Canadian government reiterated its support for Anglo-American wars in foreign lands, outside of international jurisprudence, promising to increase the country's military presence in Afghanistan. This, in conjunction with Canadian complicity in the overthrow of the democratically elected Aristide government in Haiti and it's support of the current Prime Minister, well-known criminal, Gerard Latortue threatens to undermine Canada's international reputation- {ape}

NATO ministers agree to expand security force operations in Afghanistan
February 10, 2005

NICE, France (CP) - NATO defence ministers agreed Thursday on a major expansion of the alliance's peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan by sending troops to the west of the country, a key step in a plan to extend NATO's mission across the whole country.

Ministers also narrowed differences that have stalled the allied training mission in Iraq, with several nations offering to contribute instructors operating either inside or outside the country.

Defence Minister Bill Graham, speaking from Nice, said he spoke of Canada's participation in Afghanistan with the other ministers.

"I pointed out Canada's role there. I made it clear that we would be opening a new PRT (provincial reconstruction team) in August this year and that we are looking at the possibility next year of furnishing additional troops there," Graham said in a telephone interview.

"I had a bilateral discussion with Britain and the Netherlands about the possibility of collaboration with those two countries in Afghanistan and we'll be pursuing those discussions with other countries as well."

Agreement on the Afghan mission came after Italy, Spain and Lithuania committed hundreds of troops to support U.S. forces that will switch to NATO command. The deal ends months of delay while allied military planners sought the extra forces.

"NATO will now proceed to further expand the International Security Assistance Force into the west," said alliance Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. "We have the resources we need to expand."

The western deployment will double the area of Afghanistan under NATO's command, to cover just over half the country.

De Hoop Scheffer told a news conference 900 troops would deploy to Herat and three other western cities, including 500 fresh troops and 400 deploying from elsewhere in Afghanistan. NATO currently operates only in Kabul, where the force includes several hundred Canadians, and the north with 8,400 troops.

French Lt.-Gen. Jean-Louis Py, who commands the NATO force, said the move to the west should be completed at least one month before nationwide Afghan elections expected by July.

De Hoop Scheffer said there was a broad agreement that NATO's mission would gradually cover the whole country, integrating with the separate U.S.-led mission currently fighting remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaida. Allied military experts hope that could be completed by early 2006.

Washington has long sought such a fusion, hoping to free up the thousands of frontline troops it still has in Afghanistan. However the U.S. will keep some units in Afghanistan, serving with NATO or hunting Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders believed hiding along the mountainous Afghan-Pakistani border.

Several allies offered to contribute more to NATO's training mission for Iraq's armed forces, which has been held up by a lack of instructors.

De Hoop Scheffer said he wants to announce that all 26 were participating in that operation - either by training inside or outside the country, or by funding - by Feb. 22 when NATO leaders meet in Brussels.

The goal is to turn out 1,000 Iraqi officers a year.

France, Germany, Spain and other governments that opposed the Iraq war have refused to send troops to Iraq for the training mission but will train Iraqi security forces outside the country.

On Wednesday, France repeated an offer to train Iraqi military police in Qatar, and Spain said it would invite Iraqi officers for training at a demining centre outside Madrid. Germany is already training Iraqi soldiers in the United Arab Emirates.

NATO has 110 instructors from 10 countries in Baghdad and is hoping to increase that to 160, backed by around 200 support staff by the end of the month. Diplomats said tentative offers to help either inside or outside Iraq had come from Greece, Canada, Norway, Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Romania.

The progress in both Iraq and Afghanistan comes amid a drive by the new Bush administration to rebuild relations still smarting from Iraq war divisions. U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld welcomed the allied moves and expressed understanding that some countries did not want to sent troops to Iraq.

"There are 26 countries. One has to expect there'll be different perspectives," he told a news conference after the meeting. "Everyone does not have to do everything."

Despite the improved atmosphere at the meeting, some differences remained.

French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie stressed France's training offer for Iraq was "bilateral" rather than being part of NATO's efforts. And she insisted further expansions of NATO's mission in Afghanistan should go gradually.

"Some want to go quickly; others take account of the realities on the ground," she told a news conference.

Gannon or Guckert: No Wonder Nobody Noticed This Guy! He Fit Right In
Dave Lindorff
Feb. 10, 2005

The real question the public should be asking in the l'Affaire "Jeff Gannon" is why it was so easy for a Republican shill posing under a false name (he's really James Guckert) as a journalist to last so long hiding out among the members of the legit White House press corps., and why it took bloggers to expose him.

The answer is that his puffball questioning of the president was not that different from the questions that are routinely asked by the mainstream reporters in that gaggle of fine suits and well-coifed hair.

Anyone who watched the press crew at the staged session back in 2003 when Bush announced his invasion of Iraq would have to agree that there is little difference between the reporters for our so-called Fourth Estate and this poseur. Instead of questions about why the U.S. would be invading a country that posed no threat and that had not attacked or threatened to attack America, and about how this enormous diversion of military resources would affect the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, reporters asked the president about his faith and family! Not only that--the legitimate press corps allowed the White House to decide in advance which reporters would get to ask questions, after first requiring them to submit their questions in writing. Uppity members of the group, including Helen Thomas, were forced to go to the back of the room behind the potted palms.

In a group of real reporters, Gannon would have stood out like a sore thumb, but there aren't too many real reporters operating in Washington these days.

Just getting to the point where you can be trusted with a plum Washington reporting assignment requires so much boot and ass licking in the corporate media, so much compromise and selling-out of basic journalistic principles, that it's a wonder any decent reporting gets done at all.

As I.F. Stone explained many years ago, the culture of Washington is so much built around the party circuit and concepts of “access” that most big-league reporters end up being chums with the people whose feet they should be holding to the fire. (It's hard to look under rocks if you're standing on them sipping cocktails.)

Of course, Stone was talking about the press as it was in the early 1970s. Things have gotten much worse now. Back then you didn't have a network like Fox that is simply a PR organ for the administration, and many newspapers still were not media conglomerates more worried about their licensed TV holdings and their good relations with the Federal Communications Commission than with digging up the news.

What I keep wondering is why the Bush administration has gone to such incredible, unprecedented and unprincipled lengths to control the media spin. We now know that they hired at least three journalists under the table to write favorable articles about Bush education policy, Bush social policy and Bush war policy, and no doubt these three are just the tip of a huge iceberg. We know that they put out fake news reports which they managed to get aired on regular TV news programs as though they had been generated by a real news organization. We know that they at least tried to set up--and probably secretly have set up--a department of disinformation in the Pentagon to create and distribute fake news globally. And we know now too, that they inserted a shill into White House press briefings to manipulate the coverage of the president and his policies.

And yet they've been getting such airbrushed coverage ever since 9/11 from the mainstream press you have to wonder what they were worried about. Heck, most of the mainstream media hasn't even reported on this latest outrage!

The other thing I keep wondering is why the public isn't up in arms about all this deception and fraud (all accomplished, I might add, at taxpayer expense). Just imagine, for a moment, if any one of these things had been done by the Clinton administration.

8:50 am pst

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Academic Freedom is Almost a Thing of the Past
Dave Lindorff

Amid all the controversy over the observations of University of Colorado professor and leftist Indian political activist Ward Churchill concerning the military justifiability of the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center, it's easy to overlook the fact that freedom of academic expression on American university campuses is already virtually dead.

Churchill, who holds a tenured position at his university, is actually in an unusually strong position. With his tenure, the only way that the lynch mob out to fire him can get rid of him without facing a huge damage suit in court for breach of contract would be to prove a case of moral turpitude or dereliction of teaching duties or something equally heinous.

But for many teachers on American campuses--indeed for most teachers on some campuses and all at some--tenure is a thing of the past. Increasingly, universities large and small, famous and unknown, are turning to contract hires to do the teaching. These virtual professors are only offered "folding chairs" that carry a contract--one year, two years, three years, or maybe five years. At that point, they have to be renewed. They cannot be considered for tenure. Many other teachers are simply adjuncts, hired on a year-to-year or semester-to-semester basis to teach one or two classes. They have no contract at all to protect them.

Clearly, a person who has no job security has no freedom of expression. Such professors and adjuncts are no better off than the worker in a Wal-Mart or a General Electric factory--which means they have no more freedom of speech than a 12th century serf. They speak out at their own risk. If any adjunct or contract-hire teachers spoke out politically the way Churchill did and roused the wrath of the unwashed masses and the loofahed and lathered Bill O’Reilly, they'd be gone in a flash--if not the next day, then certainly at the end of the term.

At Temple University, a unionized urban institution here in Philadelphia, for instance (where teachers have been working almost a year without a contract because of management intransigence and demands for givebacks in the area of faculty governance), increasing numbers of professors are working on a contract basis. At Alfred University, where I taught journalism for a year, tenure is a bad joke. Although awarded after a typically exacting process of peer review, it has to be renewed every five years following a new peer review, thus providing as much academic freedom protection as a felt body-armor vest.

There is no question that the lack of tenure makes for less outspokenness, iconoclasm and strength of conviction. I remember when I was working as an adjunct journalism instructor at Cornell University back in 1989, going to an assistant professor colleague who was on the tenure track, looking for support for a proposal I wanted to make regarding the department's minority students, whom I had found were having trouble with my and other teachers' coursework and were then being asked to leave the school, instead of being offered remedial or preparatory assistance. He said, "Oh, that's a controversy I can't get involved in until I get my tenure."

With the bloodhounds of the right getting into full McCarthy lynching mode these days, including organized groups of student yahoos who monitor their teachers' lectures and backed by a phalanx of right-wing media mouths ready to amplify any complaint about non-mainstream viewpoints expressed by teachers in or outside the classroom, the fight for academic freedom has become more than academic. Yet instead of working to strengthen this important and historic tradition not just of tenure but of the very culture of free expression on campus, administrators are caving in to political pressure and undermining both.

Ward Churchill is a fighter, and will go down slugging. Most academics, I'm afraid, will just shut up and become conventional thinkers.

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