Saturday, October 29, 2005

Our Near Neighbour: Mars Makes a Near Pass

Mars will be a mere 69 million miles from Earth, and continue it's near orbit for the rest of the year. The "red planet" won't be this close to earth for another 13 years.

Planet Mars shone bright like red ruby, visible with naked eye
Chennai | October 31, 2005 2:43:49 AM IST

Skygazers were treated to a rare celestial event as Planet Mars shone like a bright red ruby during its closest encounter with Earth tonight.
In a rare phenomenon, the Red Planet, which was in the constellation of Taurus, came to a distance of about 69 million km from the Earth, making it visible with naked eye.

''It will take several years for Mars to appear this bright again,'' scientists said.

The Birla planetarium here made elaborate arrangements for the public to view the rare spectacle.


Twin Towers of Hypocrisy

Twin Towers of Hypocrisy: Israel and U.S. Express Outrage, Promise Action

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - Two of the planets most egregious rogue nations took to the international stage last week to proclaim their respective outrage against their perceived enemy's perfidy, and have promised "action" against them. In Israel's case, that promise is already being fulfilled, as residents of the Gaza Strip suffer an escalated IDF aerial bombardment campaign.

Twin Towers of Hypocrisy:
Israel and U.S. Express Outrage, Promise Action
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
October 29, 2005

At this hour, the Israeli Defense Force is conducting continued air operations over the Gaza Strip. The latest bombing attacks have knocked out an electricity generation plant, police stations, and left roadways cratered. Israeli jets are also flying lowing-level supersonic sorties over Gaza, a practice adopted several months ago, whose sonic booms smash windows and terrify civilians.

The collective punishment comes in the wake of suicide bombings that have killed Israeli civilians, and intensified "rocket" attacks against Israeli settlements. If there is any doubt these attacks are aimed directly at civilians and not, as Israel claims, at "rocket launch sites," the dropping of leaflets from IDF planes into Gaza clearly promise Palestinians more collective suffering should suicide bombings and rocket attacks continue.

Collective punishment is a war crime, as laid out by international law, but then international law has never been an impediment to Israel in the past. The country is the single most cited scofflaw at the United Nations, standing in defiance of dozens of U.N. orders in council. So, it's with more than a little irony Israel would now be petitioning the U.N. for sanction against Iran, whose president called for the erasure of Israel from the map.

President Mamoud Ahmadinejad's comments came in a speech to attendees of the "World Without Zionism" conference held last week. The Iranian government has tried to assuage international sensibilities since, seeing condemnation from America, and a rebuke from ally Russia, and assured the U.N. it has no intention of attacking Israel, but that has done little to placate Iran's antagonists in Washington and London. Tony Blair hinted earlier this week it was perhaps time to "do something" about Iran.

The military implication of his statement was clear.

Iran has long been a focus of George W. Bush's desire to "reshape" the middle east, and the dismantling of Iran's nascent nuclear energy program is seen by the administration and its supporters in Israel as of primary concern. Iran has denied their nuclear program is geared to, or will be used in the future for, weapons manufacture. U.N. inspectors granted access to the program agree. but, that's not sufficient assurance for either America, or Israel. Public threats and diplomatic pressure on Iran to abandon their nuclear ambitions have been a central policy point for Bush over the last few years, and are now intensifying. The Israeli air force destroyed Saddam Hussein's near complete nuclear power plant in the early 1980's, and a similar action remains a potent, if tacit, threat to Iran.

Meanwhile, the United States is threatening Syria due, they say, to the preliminary findings of a U.N. investigation of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Haririri. The findings of that incomplete, and suspect, investigation has the U.S. clamouring for sanctions against Syria (imagine, murdering a former head of state!) and thousands of Syrians in the streets. The Syria now says it will begin there own investigation into the suspiciously timed assassination.

The Bush administration, and its allies in Britain and Israel, having enjoyed a lawless romp across the planet these last years, now seem to think the world's population entirely devoid of memory. They must too believe none with a sense of irony survive, as they the same criminals behind the abominable Iraq war and occupation, the slo-mo pogrom against the Palestinians, and the plethora of immoral assaults they conduct as a matter of doing business across the globe go a-weedle to the United Nations, the very institution they deride, over minor, and concocted injuries they feel they've received.

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

Friday, October 28, 2005

Blair hints at military action after Iran's 'disgraceful' taunt

By Philip Webster, Political Editor

10/28/05 "The Times" -- -- TONY BLAIR gave warning last night that the West might have to take military action against Iran after worldwide condemnation of its President’s call for Israel to be “wiped off the map”.

Ending a one-day European Union summit, the Prime Minister called the explosive declaration by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday a disgrace. Promising discussions with Washington and other allies over how to react, Mr Blair said that he had often been urged not to take action against Iran.

But he added: “If they carry on like this the question people will be asking us is — when are you going to do something about Iran? Can you imagine a State like that with an attitude like that having nuclear weapons?”

It was the first time Mr Blair had even hinted at military action and his words are likely to alarm Labour MPs. Mr Blair, clearly angry at the President’s outburst, said that there were people in Iran’s leadership who believed that the world was sufficiently distracted that it could not afford to focus on the nuclear arms issue.

“They will be making a very big mistake if they do that. Those sentiments are completely unacceptable,” he said. “I have never come across a situation in which the president of a country has said they want to wipe out another country. That is unacceptable.”

Mr Ahmadinejad’s words triggered international condemnation, with Israel demanding Iran’s expulsion from the United Nations. “A country that calls for the destruction of another people cannot be a member,” Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, said.

Russia, which has been helping Iran to develop its nuclear programme, called the words unacceptable. Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, expressed dismay. The Bush Administration demanded that Iran behave as a responsible member of the international community.

Unlike the US, the EU has always emphasised the need to engage Iran diplomatically, but it also abandoned its more cautious stance yesterday. “Calls for violence and for the destruction of any state are manifestly inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community,” the leaders said in an agreed statement.

Iran’s chargé d’affaires in London was called to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to be told of Britain’s outrage. Iranian diplomats were subjected to similar protests in other capitals.

Mr Blair said of Iran: “Their attitude towards Israel, terrorism and nuclear weapons is not acceptable. If they continue down this path people are going to believe that they are a real threat to world security and stability. I feel a real sense of revulsion. It shows how much some of these places need to reform themselves. How can we build a more secure world with that type of attitude? It is a disgrace.”

The EU leaders said that the President’s comments would cause concern about Iran’s role in the region and its future intentions. That his comments were made on the same day as the attack on Israeli civilians at Hadera only reinforces the lesson that incitement to violence, and the terrorism it breeds, were “despicable and unacceptable acts”, they said.

Britain, France and Germany have been responsible for handling the EU’s relations with Iran in international forums, and have been notably careful in their diplomatic language, particularly in reference to the prospect of any military action against Iran. By contrast, Washington has conspicuously refused to rule out such action.

But fears in Western governments have grown since the removal last June of Mr Ahmadinejad’s predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, who had been much less hostile to Israel and of whom both Tony Blair and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, had hopes of a better relationship. His successor, the former mayor of Tehran, was an unknown quantity to the West. On Wednesday he made his hardline views clear when he cited the founder of Iran’s Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: “As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map.”

Fears about Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been augmented by worries about its activities in Iraq, where it has been suspected of supporting insurgents. There have been reports that high-ranking members of al-Qaeda have been allowed to roam freely in Iran. Tehran has denied any link to or support for the terrorist group.


‘Anybody who recognises Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury [while] any [Islamic leader] who recognises the Zionist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world . . . As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map’

President Ahmadinejad

Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.

Big Media: Caught in the Net

Big Media: Caught in the Net

PEJ News -
C. L. Cook - The captains of the great flagship newspapers and television networks are frantically changing course, hoping they've not missed the internet tide. It's a sea-change too swift apparently for Big Media, grown as it has fat and indolent, resting on the laurels of an overlong dominance of information and political influence. Now, it's a race to the rat-lines, and one rat is ahead of the pack.

"Terrified" Big Media Grasps at Net
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
October 28, 2005

Fitting that the fattest rat of them all should be the leader of the pack scurrying off traditional media's sinking ship. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has proven nothing less than phenomenal. Not only did the Outback outsider crack American media's Network guardians, but he's come, in a few short years to dominate. But, Rupert's victory could prove Pyrrhic if current trends continue.

Just as newspapers, magazines, and publishers (tentacles all of Murdoch's vast empire) watched circulation ebb, television viewers too are increasingly abandoning the TV for the PC. At the recent Internet Advertising Bureau conference, chief executive Martin Sorrell of WPP, one of the world's most influential advertising and marketing firms, said what everyone was thinking: The times are changing fast in media, and those that don't keep up will be left behind.

"I think there's a certain amount of panic among media owners... Most of these companies, ours included I suppose, are run by 50- or 60-year-olds who have trouble getting it, and who really don't want to see change on their watch."

Never one to wait, News Corp. is now plying all waters, casting broad nets, and snapping up internet media properties as though they were the last of the cod. It's a move Sorrell says seems "almost willy-nilly." Already this year, News Corp. has shelled out more than $1.3 billion on Intermix Media, IGN Entertainment, and Scout Media. With promises of more to come. BSkyB, the British satellite broadcaster and 37 percent controlled by News Corp. is reportedly on the hunt for broadband provider Easynet for an easy 211 million British Sterling.

If the King of Fox's deep pockets has his smaller media moguls fretting, they needn't bother. According to Microsoft head Bill Gates, also attending the IAB conference, such "distinctions" between mediums will soon be "obsolete" notions.

Cold comfort perhaps.

Gates' vision of the future is one where ALL content is distributed online. A timely epiphany, considering Microsoft's imminent release of a 'paid search system' geared to advertisers interested in hyper-specific consumer targeting. MSN's new Advertising Center is due to launch in November.

As seductive a picture a great scuttling of the "mainstream" info/tainment juggernauts is, it's unlikely they'll do so on the meagre dead-heads currently providing alternative information and the much prized "content" Bill craves. More likely, those ship that will come aground atop the tide-surge of tsunami's Bill and Rupert, leaving those of us seeking respite from both no better off.

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

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Taken from Vancouver Hospital to face U.S. Marijuana Charge

by "Captain"

PEJ News

Cotober 17, 2005

"Totally out of control" is how one writer describes US and Canadian law enforcement, after an outrageous incident in which the RCMP enabled the "kidnapping" of a Vancouver hospital patient, who was turned over to US officials at the border to face marijuana charges.

According to an AP story that appeared late last week, a US army veteran, Steven W. Tuck, who fled to Canada to avoid prosecution for growing marijuana to treat his chronic pain, was taken from a hospital, driven to the border with a catheter still attached to his body, and turned over to U.S. officials.

According to his lawyer, he then went five days with no medical treatment and only ibuprofen for the pain. Tuck, 38, was still fitted with the urinary catheter when he shuffled into federal court last Wednesday for a detention hearing.

"This is totally inhumane. He's been tortured for days for no reason," the lawyer stated.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue issued a temporary release order so that Tuck could be taken to a hospital for treatment. But by the time the judge issued his order, King County jail officials had received a detainment request from Humboldt County, California, so Tuck was not released.

"I can't believe we've run into another snag here," the lawyer said.

Tuck suffered debilitating injuries in the 1980s when his parachute failed to open during a jump. Those injuries were exacerbated by a car crash in 1990, said the lawyer, and Tuck was using marijuana for chronic pain.

In 2001, while living in McKinleyville, California, his marijuana operation was raided for the second time. He fled to British Columbia to avoid prosecution but asylum was denied. Tuck checked into a Vancouver hospital for prostate problems and was arrested there by Canadian authorities shortly thereafter.

Richard Cowan, a friend, said he was with Tuck at the hospital when authorities arrested him. "I would not believe it unless I had seen it," Cowan said. "They sent people in to arrest him while he was on a gurney. They took him out of the hospital in handcuffs, put him in an SUV, and drove him to the border."

Tuck was turned over to Whatcom County Jail officials, who called federal marshals. The marshals took him to the King County Jail in Seattle.

Although Tuck has taken morphine -- as prescribed by doctors -- for about 16 years to help with his pain, he was given no painkiller or treatment at the jail other than ibuprofen, the lawyer stated. Tuck appeared emaciated in court, and the lawyer explained he had been sick from morphine withdrawal.

King County Jail officials did not return a call from AP seeking comment, and the RCMP had no comment.

Tuck is charged federally with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Judge Donohue agreed to release him on the condition that he face the charge in California upon his release from the hospital.

The conservative (and becoming more so) US Supreme Court ruled last June that people who smoke marijuana to ease pain, even on on the advice of their physicians, can still be prosecuted for violating federal drug laws, even in states like California that have laws permitting medical marijuana use.

But where does it say in Canadian law that a hospital patient may be kidnapped by our law enforcement authorities and, without an extradition hearing, returned to the US?

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Unspeakable Crimes: For Those to Follow

The Epic Crime That
Dares Not Speak Its Name
John Pilger

10/27/05 "ICH " -- -- A Royal Air Force officer is about to be tried before a military court for refusing to return to Iraq because the war is illegal. Malcolm Kendall-Smith is the first British officer to face criminal charges for challenging the legality of the invasion and occupation. He is not a conscientious objector; he has completed two tours in Iraq. When he came home the last time, he studied the reasons given for attacking Iraq and concluded he was breaking the law. His position is supported by international lawyers all over the world, not least by Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, who said in September last year: "The US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN Charter."

The question of legality deeply concerns the British military brass, who sought Tony Blair's assurance on the eve of the invasion, got it and, as they now know, were lied to. They are right to worry; Britain is a signatory to the treaty that set up the International Criminal Court, which draws its codes from the Geneva Conventions and the 1945 Nuremberg Charter. The latter is clear: "To initiate a war of aggression... is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

At the Nuremberg trial of the Nazi leadership, counts one and two, "Conspiracy to wage aggressive war and waging aggressive war", refer to "the common plan or conspiracy". These are defined in the indictment as "the planning, preparation, initiation and waging of wars of aggression, which were also wars in violation of international treaties, agreements and assurances". A wealth of evidence is now available that George Bush, Blair and their advisers did just that. The leaked minutes from the infamous Downing Street meeting in July 2002 alone reveal that Blair and his war cabinet knew that it was illegal. The attack that followed, mounted against a defenceless country offering no threat to the US or Britain, has a precedent in Hitler's invasion of Sudetenland; the lies told to justify both are eerily similar.

The similarity is also striking in the illegal bombing campaign that preceded both. Unknown to most people in Britain and America, British and US planes conducted a ferocious bombing campaign against Iraq in the ten months prior to the invasion, hoping this would provoke Saddam Hussein into supplying an excuse for an invasion. It failed and killed an unknown number of civilians.

At Nuremberg, counts three and four referred to "War crimes and crimes against humanity". Here again, there is overwhelming evidence that Blair and Bush committed "violations of the laws or customs of war" including "murder... of civilian populations of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war".

Two recent examples: the US onslaught near Ramadi this month in which 39 men, women and children - all civilians - were killed, and a report by the United Nations special rapporteur in Iraq who described the Anglo-American practice of denying food and water to Iraqi civilians in order to force them to leave their towns and villages as a "flagrant violation" of the Geneva Conventions.

In September, Human Rights Watch released an epic study that documents the systematic nature of torture by the Americans, and how casual it is, even enjoyable. This is a sergeant from the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division: "On their day off people would show up all the time. Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC [prisoners'] tent. In a way it was sport... One day a sergeant shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a mini Louisville Slugger that was a metal [baseball] bat. He was the fucking cook!"

The report describes how the people of Fallujah, the scene of numerous American atrocities, regard the 82nd Airborne as "the Murdering Maniacs". Reading it, you realise that the occupying force in Iraq is, as the head of Reuters said recently, out of control. It is destroying lives in industrial quantities when compared with the violence of the resistance.

Who will be punished for this? According to Sir Michael Jay, the permanent under-secretary of state who gave evidence before the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee on 24 June 2003, "Iraq was on the agenda of each cabinet meeting in the nine months or so until the conflict broke out in April". How is it possible that in 20 or more cabinet meetings, ministers did not learn about Blair's conspiracy with Bush? Or, if they did, how is it possible they were so comprehensively deceived?

Charles Clarke's position is important because, as the current British Home Secretary (interior minister), he has proposed a series of totalitarian measures that emasculate habeas corpus, which is the barrier between a democracy and a police state. Clarke's proposals pointedly ignore state terrorism and state crime and, by clear implication, say they require no accountability. Great crimes, such as invasion and its horrors, can proceed with impunity. This is lawlessness on a vast scale. Are the people of Britain going to allow this, and those responsible to escape justice? Flight Lieutenant Kendall-Smith speaks for the rule of law and humanity and deserves our support.

First published in the New Statesman -

Siccing the Bulldog: Patrick Fitzgerald Gets the Rove Treatment

Pre-Emptive War Against Patrick Fitzgerald

Rep. John Conyers

Huffington Post
October 25, 2005

As if spin and character attacks were a viable justification for a massive breach of national security, Republicans have already decided to smear Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald rather than take responsibility for their own misdeeds. Prevailing wisdom expects grand jury indictments to be issued this week. Any criminal charges will likely reach deep into the White House.

Over the weekend, the GOP spin machine gave us a preview of what we can expect from the Republican Party when we finally learn who outed CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson.

The New York Times reports that “allies of the White House suggested Sunday that they intended to pursue a strategy of attacking any criminal charges as a disagreement over legal technicalities or the product of an overzealous prosecutor” and that, in what appears to be a coordinated Congressional and White House attack, “allies of the White House have quietly been circulating talking points in recent days among Republicans sympathetic to the administration, seeking to help them make the case that bringing charges like perjury mean the prosecutor does not have a strong case."

Before the Congress and the American people can consider the possibility of a White House cover up, it will have to penetrate the smokescreen of character assassination and RNC talking points. This sort of misdirection is nothing new to this White House. The weapons they will use will be the same used to defame Ambassador Joe Wilson; in the words of a Republican Congressional aide months ago, “it’s slime and defend.”

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson was tapped to test drive the strategy on this weekend’s edition of “Meet the Press.” As if insider trading were at all comparable to alleged treason, Senator Hutchinson attempted to draw parallels between the Fitzgerald investigation and the Martha Stewart trial: mere perjury under oath shouldn’t really bring criminal sanctions, she argued, "where they couldn't find a crime and they indict on something that she said about something that wasn't a crime." Senator Hutchinson further expressed her hope that the grand jury would not “go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars."

Much like the war in Iraq and the clumsy smear of Joe Wilson, the campaign against Patrick Fitzgerald appears doomed from the outset. First and foremost, if the grand jury does choose to bring indictments, neither Senator Hutchinson and her band of White House apologists nor the general public yet know what the scope of those indictments will be. It is quite possible that Patrick Fitzgerald could indict under the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to disclose classified information to someone not authorized to received it. The smear artists are already arguing about technicalities-as if perjury under oath were somehow not criminal behavior. Is espionage enough of a crime for Senator Hutchinson? Is conspiracy? Is outright treason?

If senior White House advisors are, in fact, charged with perjuring themselves, why isn’t that enough for Republicans? It was enough for Senator Hutchinson to vote to remove President Clinton from office, when she said “Lying is a moral wrong. Perjury is a lie told under oath that is legally wrong....[t]o say otherwise would be to severely lower the moral and legal standards of accountability that are imposed on ordinary citizens every day. The same standard should be imposed on our leaders....I will not compromise this simple but high moral principle...” The American people are simply smarter than Senator Hutchinson gives them credit-we remember the high moral principles brought to bare against the Clinton Administration. We will not be fooled by terms like “perjury technicality.”

What about President Bush, whose Administration is being so disingenuously defended? When the story first broke, the President told the nation: “If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of." The President did not make a distinction between some crimes and other crimes.

And how do those who claim Patrick Fitzgerald is an overzealous prosecutor reconcile that view with the statements made by the President they so ruthlessly seek to protect? Not one week ago, President Bush again addressed the country: “The special prosecutor is conducting a very serious investigation. He's doing it in a very dignified way, by the way, and we'll see what he says."

The American public should be outraged-not surprised, but truly indignant-if the grand jury has uncovered evidence that the advisors closest to the President placed politics and petty revenge over national security. Time will tell. The only certainty, it seems, is that Republican leaders are less willing to confront the facts on the ground then they are to smear the character of a decent and dedicated public servant.

Representative John Conyers, Jr. was re-elected in November 2002 to his nineteenth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is the second most senior member of the House and was re-elected by his Congressional Colleagues to remain the first African-American Democratic Leader of the pivotal House Committee on the Judiciary. Congressman Conyers is also a founding member and Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus. Most recently, he led efforts to investigate irregularities in the Ohio presidential election.

© 2005 The Huffington Post

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Red Cross, Black History

A Bait-and-Switch Charity

The Scandalous History of the Red Cross
October 20, 2005

In recent years, the image of the Red Cross has been tarnished. The worst scandal came after the September 11 attacks, when it was revealed that a large portion of the hundreds of millions of dollars donated to the organization went not to survivors or family members of those killed, but to other Red Cross operations, in what was described by chapters across the country as a "bait-and-switch" operation.

Recently, long-simmering concerns about the Red Cross' disaster relief operations were expressed by Richard Walden, of the humanitarian group Operation USA, in the Los Angeles Times--prompting a vitriolic response by the Red Cross.

But these recent scandals are nothing new for the Red Cross. In fact, the whole history of the organization is one gigantic scandal--stretching from its racist policies toward African Americans to its corporate mentality toward human beings.

It is a tribute to the feebleness of the U.S. media--and the Red Cross' powerful Republican allies--that an institution with such a dubious history continues as the symbol of "humanitarian leadership," when it should have been replaced by a far more effective agency decades ago.

* * *

The Red Cross was founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, who became famous during the Civil War for organizing the distribution of food and medical supplies to Union Army soldiers.

The Red Cross is specifically mandated, according to its Congressional charter adopted in 1905, to "carry out a system of national and international relief in time of peace, and apply that system in mitigating the suffering caused by pestilence, famine, fire, floods and other great national calamities, and to devise and carry out measures preventing those calamities." The organization was also to carry out its work in accordance with the Geneva Conventions concerning the treatment of prisoners of war. Later, the Red Cross would also be entrusted with control of a large part of the nation's blood supply.

But who got relief after disasters has always been affected by the racism that has been part of the Red Cross' long history.

For example, during the Great 1927 Flood that destroyed large parts of the Mississippi Delta and Louisiana, Black farm laborers and sharecroppers without a doubt suffered the most. As John Barry documents in his epic history of the flood, Rising Tide, delta plantation owners refused to evacuate them out of the region for fear--rightly--that most wouldn't return to their miserable, slave-like conditions.

The Red Cross came in to provide temporary housing and food aid. What African Americans of the Delta got was prison-like camps where they were routinely beaten by white, racist National Guardsmen. Food distributed by the Red Cross was given to whites first, and if anything was left, it went to Black survivors.

On the eve of the Second World War, the Red Cross stockpiled large amounts of blood because of techniques developed by the brilliant African American scientist Dr. Charles Drew. Drew himself became director of the Red Cross's Blood Bank in 1941, but resigned his position after the War Department ordered that the blood of Black and white donors be segregated.

Drew called the order "a stupid blunder," but the Red Cross complied and imposed Jim Crow in the blood supply. The Red Cross even initially refused to accept the donation of blood by African Americans at the beginning of the war effort--though it was willing to accept cash donations from them. Throughout the war, the NAACP investigated complaints by Black servicemen of racist treatment by Red Cross.

The Red Cross desegregated the blood supply after the Second World War nationally, but it allowed its Southern chapters to continue segregating blood through the 1960s.

People who think of the Red Cross as a "private charity" would be shocked to discover its actual legal status.

Congress incorporated the Red Cross to act under "government supervision." Eight of the 50 members of its board of governors are appointed by the president of the United States, who also serves as honorary chairperson. Currently, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security are members of the board of governors.

This unique, quasi-governmental status allows the Red Cross to purchase supplies from the military and use government facilities--military personnel can actually be assigned to duty with the Red Cross. Last year, the organization received $60 million in grants from federal and state governments. However, as one federal court noted, "A perception that the organization is independent and neutral is equally vital."

The leading administrators and officials of the Red Cross are almost always drawn from the corporate boardroom or the military high command. Among the past chairs and presidents of the Red Cross are seven former generals or admirals and one ex-president.

The current president Marty Evans is a retired rear admiral and a director of the investment firm Lehman Brothers Holdings. Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, the chair of the Red Cross, is also CEO of Pace Communications, whose clients include United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and AT&T--a group of companies known for their vicious treatment of workers.

The Red Cross has become particularly tied up with the Republican Party in recent decades. Both McElveen-Hunter and Evans are Bush appointees--for her part, McElveen-Hunter has donated over $130,000 to the Republican Party since 2000.

* * *

THOUGH IT is technically a nonprofit, the Red Cross is run more like profit-hungry corporation than what most people think a "charity" would act like. The most deadly example of this was the Red Cross' criminally negligent response to the early stages of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

The Red Cross has been for many decades, and remains today, the largest blood bank in the country. In 1982 and especially 1983, when it would have possible to contain the outbreak--or at least stop the spread of the disease through infusions of infected blood--major blood banks, led by the Red Cross, opposed national testing of blood for HIV.

The Red Cross' opposition was based on the financial cost. As investigative journalist Judith Reitman wrote in her book Bad Blood: "It appeared it would be cheaper to pay off infected blood recipients, should they pursue legal action, than to up the Red Cross blood supply."

Earlier this year, the Canadian Red Cross pleaded guilty to distributing contaminated blood supplies that infected thousands of Canadians with HIV and hepatitis C in the 1980s. This scandal is a large part of why the Canadian Red Cross was removed from running the country's blood supply in the late 1990s--but not the American Red Cross.

Enron-style bookkeeping, deceptive advertising and outright theft of funds have also been a big part of the Red Cross' recent history.

For years, the organization has been criticized for raising money for one disaster, and then withholding a large chunk of it for other operations and "fundraising." For example, the Red Cross raised around $50 million for the victims of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake in San Francisco, but it's estimated that only $10 million was ever turned over to the victims.

Similar charges were made against the Red Cross following fundraising operations after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and a San Diego fire in 2001. There was also a huge scandal involving the embezzlement of millions of dollars in donations in the New Jersey chapter in the late 1990s.

These scandals and the potentially embarrassing political fallout from them were muffled by the media and the Red Cross' political allies. But the truth couldn't be contained after September 11.

Soon after the attacks, Dr. Bernadine Healy, who was appointed president of the Red Cross in 1999, appealed for donations to help survivors and the families of those killed. In record-breaking time, the organization raised nearly $543 million.

Then the controversy began. A congressional investigation revealed that--though it had promised that all 9/11 donations would all go to victims' families--the Red Cross held back more than half of the $543 million. During congressional hearings, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.)--soon to become a lobbyist for Big Pharma--declared: "What's at issue here is that a special fund was established for these families. It was specially funded for this event, September 11. And it is being closed now because we're told enough money's been raised in it, but we're also told, by the way, we're going to give two-thirds of it away to other Red Cross needs."

Healy was forced to resign, and her successors promised to allocate all of the money to September 11 survivors and their families.

* * *

THE HURRICANE Katrina catastrophe on the Gulf Coast has revealed the same old problems with the Red Cross. In late September, the organization was ordered out of a suburban Atlanta relief center because, according to the New York Times, its "application process had resulted in long lines and the group had made false promises of financial payments."

In an even more bizarre incident in Chicago, students were turned away from volunteering for a multi-agency relief center because they refused to sign a loyalty oath to the U.S. government!

Some more scrutiny of the Red Cross is beginning to take place. As Richard Walden, of Operation USA, wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "Its fundraising vastly outruns its programs because it does very little or nothing to rescue survivors, provide direct medical care or rebuild houses."

Walden noted (and the Red Cross now confirms) that the organization has raised $1 billion in pledges and gifts for hurricane relief. He also revealed that "FEMA and the affected states are reimbursing the Red Cross under pre-existing contracts for emergency shelter and other disaster services. The existence of these contracts is no secret to anyone but the American public."

How many people would donate to the Red Cross if they knew all this?

In the richest country in the history of the world, it is a travesty that such an organization is responsible for lifesaving. We deserve so much better.

Joe Allen writes for the Socialist Worker.

Berlusconi Behind Fake Yellowcake Dossier

Double-Dealers and Dilettantes--
the Men Behind Nigergate Were All Italians

Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo

October 26, 2005 - 1:24pm.
Source: La Republica via Nur al-Cubicle

The military intervention in Iraq was justified by two revelations: Saddam Hussein attempted to acquire unprocessed uranium (yellowcake) in Niger (1) for enrichment with centrifuges built with aluminum tubes imported from Europe(2). The fabricators of the twin hoaxes (there was never any trace in Iraq of unprocessed uranium or centrifuges) were the Italian government and Italian military intelligence. La Repubblica has attempted to reconstruct the who, where and why of the manufacture and transfer to British and American intelligence of the dodgy dossier for war.

They are the same two hoaxes that Judith Miller, the reporter who betrayed her newspaper, published (together with Michael Gordon) on September 8, 2002. In a lengthy investigative piece for the New York Times, Miller reported that Saddam could have built an atomic weapon with those aluminum tubes. These were the goods that the hawks in the Bush administration were expecting.

The "war dance" which followed Judith Miller’s scoop seemed like "carefully-prepared theater” to an attentive media-watcher, Roberto Reale of Ultime Notizie (The Latest News).

Condoleezza Rice, who was then White House Security Advisor, said on CNN: We don’t want the smoking gun to look like a mushroom cloud. A menacing Dick Cheney told Meet the Press that We know with absolute certainty that Saddam is using his technical and commercial capacities to acquire the material necessary to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon. This was the beginning of an escalation of fear.

26 September 2002: Colin Powell warns the Senate: The Iraqi attempt to acquire uranium is proof of its nuclear ambitions.

19 December 2002: The information on Niger and the uranium is included in the three-page President’s Daily Briefing prepared each day by the CIA and the Department of State for George W. Bush. The ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, added his stamp of approval: Why is Iraq dissimulating its purchase of Niger uranium?

28 January 2003: George W. Bush pronounced the 16 words, which amountd to a declaration of war. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

The beans in that bag are Roman

In the general haze of events which precede the invasion of Iraq, Italian involvement is prefigured by a single, grotesque protagonist: Rocco Martino, son of Raffaele and America Ventrici, born in Tropea (Province of Catanzaro) on September 20, 1938.

Unmasked by the British press (The Financial Times, The Sunday Times) in the summer of 2004, Rocco Martino spills the beans: It’s true, I had a hand in the dissemination of those (Niger uranium) documents, but I was duped. Both Americans and Italians were involved behind the scenes. It was a disinformation operation.

An incomplete confession but close to the truth

Martino conceals the identify of the architects behind the “operation” and appears to be merely a pawn, like his partners in crime. So who is the puppeteer pulling the strings behind their sordid adventure? To find out, we’ll start with that funny-looking fellow who came to Rome from Tropea...

Rocco Martino is a dishonest cop and a crooked spy. He’s got the aura of a rogue about him even if you don’t know his background. A captain of politico-military intelligence between 1976 and 1997, he was let go for “conduct unbecoming”. In 1985, he was arrested for extortion in Italy. In 1993, he was arrested in Germany in possession of stolen checks. Nevertheless, according to a Defense Ministry official, Martino worked for SISMI until 1999 as a double agent.

Martino rents a place at No. 3 rue Hoehl in Sandweiler, Luxemburg. He gets a fixed salary from French intelligence and uses a consulting firm as cover: Security Development Organization. In other words, he also works for French intelligence. Serving two masters, Rocco tries his best. He sells information on the Italians to the French and information on the French to the Italians. That’s my job. I sell information.

In 1999, the pleasure-seeking Rocco is running out of cash. When he’s down to his last dime, he hatches a plot of his own. He's convinced that he’s got a brilliant and risk-free idea. What illuminates the light bulb is the problem the French are encountering in Niger.

In brief, between 1999 and 2000 the French realize that someone is working abandoned mines to generate a brisk clandestine trade in uranium. Who is purchasing the smuggled uranium? The French are looking for an answer and Rocco Martino senses an opportunity.

So he asks for help form an old colleague at SISMI: Antonio Nucera. A Carabinieri (cop) like Rocco, Antonio is the Deputy Chief of the SISMI center in viale Pasteur in Rome. He’s chief of the 1st and the 8th divisions (weapons and technology transfers and WMD proliferation counterespionage, respectively, for Africa and the Middle East.

This section is very busy section at the end of the 1980s tailing the many agents whom Saddam has deployed around the world prior to the invasion of Kuwait. “With some success”, according to an Italian intelligence official who at the time worked for the division. The official recalls: We succeeded in getting our hands on Niger code books and a telex from Ambassador Adamou Chékou to the Niger Foreign Ministry informing Niamey that Wissam al-Zahawie, the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican, would be coming to Niger as a representative of Saddam Hussein.

But that wasn’t all. We confiscated maraging steel (ultra-high strength steel) in the port of Trieste. We thought it was destined for a series of centrifuges used to separate uranium. We exchanged information on Iraqi nuclear proliferation at the end of the eighties with the British of MI6—the cream of the crop. A sincere friend of Italy worked there: Hamilton MacMillan. MacMillan mentored Francesco Cossiga [Interior Minister, in charge during the kidnapping and murdering of Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades] in Cossiga's introduction to the mysterious ways of espionage when he was "resident" in Rome.

Nucera decided to give a hand to his old friend, Rocco. Rocco quickly briefs him on the job. Isn’t there anything you can give me—Info? A good Niger contact? I’ll take anything you have! The French are as dry as people lost in the desert. They want to know who is buying their uranium under the table. I’m prepared to pay well to find out.

In the archives of Nucera’s SISMI division, there are documents that could be useful in pawning off a half-baked frittata and making a few bucks. There’s the telex from the Niger ambassador. Further needs might be met at the Niger Embassy at No. 10 via Baiamonte in Rome. SISMI director Nicolò Pollari confirms to La Repubblica: Nucera wanted to help out his friend. He offered him the use of an intelligence asset—no big deal, you understand--one who was still on the books but inactive--to give a hand to Martino. The asset worked at the Niger Embassy in Rome. She was in bad shape. She barely eked out a living in the back of the espionage shop. She didn't get a monthy sum from Italian intelligence. In other words, she was a contractor.

Information and cash were exchanged. It was only chickenfeed—a few hundred thousand lira notes. But that was a lot of money in 2000, when Martino was really desperate. He was on a slow slide to destitution—nothing to spy on and nothing to sell.

La Signora

You should have seen her, "La Signora". Sixty years old if she was a day! A face that once was pretty—now it looked a crinkled leaf. You could call her a gofer for the Niger Embassy. She looked like my old auntie. A French accent. A complicit wink. Always spoke in a whisper. Even when she said “hello”, her voice was like a tiny, mysterious flute, ready to reveal a thousands secrets. But even "La Signora" was in need of cash.

Nucera arranged the meeting. Rocco and La Signora don’t take long. He going to get what he came for. But wasn’t Nucera her official contact at SISMI? Then why wasn’t she supposed to know that it was SISMI who wanted the favor? And why was the item useful to the Agency?

With the blessing of Nucera, Rocco and La Signora, a pair of clever snake oil vendors, conclude a bargain. There would be a few sheets of paper available for sale. But the help of a Niger national was needed. La Signora points him to the right man. He’s First Embassy Counselor Zakaria Yaou Maiga. As Pollari told us, that Maiga spent six times more than he earned.

The gang of spendthrift bunglers, short on cash, is ready to go into action. Rocco Martino, La Signora, Zakaria Yaou Maiga. Nucear retreats into the shadows. They wait for the embassy to close its doors for New Years 2001. They simulate a break-in and burglary. When on January 2, 2001, bright and early, the Second Secretary for Administrative Affairs Arfou Mounkaila reports the burglary to the Carabinieri of the Trionfale station, he has to admit with a grin that the burglars were half asleep. A lot of trouble and effort for nothing. Mounkaila is unable to report missing what he doesn’t know is gone: Letterhead, and official stamps. In the hands of the snake oil vendors, useful stuff with which to assemble a dodgy dossier.

Old documents are extracted from the SISMI division’s archives where Nucera is deputy chief of section: code books, letters, contracts and a memorandum of understanding between the government of Niger and Iraq “concerning the supply of uranium on 5 and 6 July 2000 in Niamey”. The memorandum has a 2-page attachment entitled “Agreement”. Rocco hands over the “package” to agents from the French Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure. They hand him some banknotes which he spends in Nice. Rocco loves the Cote d’Azur.

Up to this point, a caper worthy of Stan Laurel, Goofy and Cruella deVille. But it's an innocuous swindle. The French take the documents and toss them in the dumpster. One of the agents remarks, Niger is a French-speaking place and we know how things are there. But nobody would have confused one minister with another they way they did in that useless piece of garbage.

Case closed, then? No! The burlesque imbroglio is transformed into a very grave matter—along comes September 11th and Bush immediately starts to think about Iraq and requests proof of Saddam’s involvement in the attacks.

SISMI recalls the via Baiamonti squad to into action. A new director, Nicolò Pollari, arrives at Forte Brasco. And Col. Alberto Manenti, the new man on the job, is placed in charge of WMD. A well-prepared officer but completely incapable of saying "No" to a superior, says a SISMI official with whom he worked. Col. Manenti had Nucera on his staff for a time and knew him well. Manenti, who knows that Nucera is about to retire, asks him to stay on as a consultant.

SISMI is straining at the bit. It's got room for maneuver like it’s never had before in the history of Italy. Berlusconi asks Pollari for a feat on the international stage which will catapult Italy to the first among US allies. A request along the same line comes in from the CIA station chief in Rome, Jeff Castelli. News, information, useful scraps of intelligence are needed. Now! On the double! Washington is looking for proof to use against Saddam.

The White House (in particular, Cheney) puts pressure on the CIA to hop to it. The absence of proof isn’t proof of absence, philosophizes Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. In that kind of climate, with their phony dossier, the snake oil salesmen of via Baiamonti, (Rocco Martino and Antonio Nucera) would be useful. So what do they do in the fall of 2001? Rocco Martino describes it this way: At the end of 2001, SISMI handed the yellowcake dossier to the British of MI6.

They hand over a dossier devoid of scrutiny. They claim only that they got it from “a reliable source.” Then they make a small tweak: SISMI wanted to disseminate the Niger documents to allied intelligence but at the same time, did not want its collaboration in the operation known. These are allegations which Palazzao Chigi vehemently denies. The government tells a bald-faced lie. After the war reveals the WMD chicanery, the Italian Government swears that no uranium dossier was handed over or made to be handed over to anyone, either directly or through intermediaries.

The next move was predictable. The Italian Government and SISMI build a dike between Forte Braschi and the footprints of the via Biaimonte squad. But its denial does not hold up. It is a known fact that in fall of 2001, SISMI monitored Rocco Martino’s every move in London. This is confirmed to La Repubblica by SISMI chief Nicolò Pollari. We monitored Martino and photographed his meetings in London. Would you like to see the pictures? So why didn’t Rome put the lie to its ex-agent and snake oil salesman? Especially since the information in the dossier was vouched for by Pollari to Jeff Castelli, CIA station chief. It is a known fact that a report on the bogus, made-in-Rome dossier ended up at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence—in the Office of Strategic, Military and WMD Proliferation Affairs.

Strategic Affairs is not a big place. At the time, 16 analysts worked there under the direction of Greg Thielmann. Thielmann tells La Repubblica: I received the report in fall of 2001. We thought that Langley acquired it from their field officer in Italy. The agent in the field reports that Italian intelligence permitted him see some papers documenting the attempt by Iraq to acquire 500 tons of uranium ore from Niger. So, SISMI purported the truth of documents it knew to be false to the CIA. There’s a second confirmation. At Langley, Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson was assigned the mission to verify the Italian “story” of the 500 tons of uranium.

Says Wilson: The report was not very detailed. It’s not clear if the agent who signed the report materially saw the peddled documents or whether he heard it from another source.

We'll have to modify the sequence of events:

Fall 2001: General Pollari’s SISMI is in possession of a phony dossier assembled by Rocco Martino and Antonio Nucera. They show it to the CIA while Rocco Martino delivers it to Sir Richard Dearlove’s MI6. This is only the beginning of the Great Italian Yellowcake Scam.

Galloway Gauntlet Down - Again!

PEJ News - C. L. Cook - Not content perhaps with the mauling he received courtesy of British Respect Party MP George Galloway during testimony to his senate committee investigating U.N. Oil for Food Programme improprieties, U.S. Senator Norm Coleman is again sending accusatory salvos across the Atlantic charging Galloway did indeed personally profit the United Nation's much maligned Iraq aid scheme. And, true to form, George Galloway is answering with a challenge of his own.

Galloway Gauntlet Down - Again!
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
October 26, 2005

The feud between the two trans-Atlantic legislators began last May when, Senator Coleman publicly charged (and extra-judicially convicted) newly minted independent Respect party MP George Galloway with profiting, through his charity organization, Mariam's Appeal, by siphoning off funds and oil contracts for himself. Coleman made the charge as part of the Senate proceedings he chairs, the "Oil For Influence: How Saddam Used Oil to Reward Politicians and Terrorist Entities Under the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme."

Coleman had used the committee hearings to slander others, assured of the impunity afforded by Senate committee rules: Much like the House of Commons, slurs, lies, and slander are not considered in the "public domain" so legal action cannot be taken in defense of charges made there. So, when Galloway offered himself to testify under oath to the committee Coleman may have had sugar plum headlines dancing in his fancy; but, like so much undertaken by the Bush administration and its proudly mediocre apparatchiks, Coleman too was unprepared for what was to come.

Galloway arrived to a media-circus, replete with the neo-con's favoured performing poodle, fellow-Brit Christopher Hitchens, strategically placed to throw off the "bruising" parliamentarian, but he had arrived a man on a mission, inured to the too familiar intimidation meted to domestic opponents of the Bush administration. Galloway had come to fight.

What followed for Coleman and his committee was a 47 minute humiliation, an absolute dressing down of not only the gruel-thin "evidence" supporting his slanderous claims, but too a blistering critique of the blatant illegality of the Bush war in Iraq and its outrageous mendacity. As Galloway pointedly suggested, the committee's mandate to uncover "sanctions-busting" oil deals might be better served investigating American corporations operating throughout the U.N. sponsored embargo of Iraq with a wink and a nod from both the Clinton and Bush Administrations.

Clearly, Coleman now believes he has the goods on Galloway, claiming in another defamatory attack, he now has the "evidence" he claimed and failed to prove the first go-around. To which Galloway has responded with a "bring it on" challenge to Coleman to debate the "merits" of the charges in his home state of Minnesota.

Galloway says Coleman's latest charges, that he lied under oath to the Senate committee are politically motivated, and expressed doubt Coleman would have the courage to repeat those allegations outside the legal bubble of the Senate.

"If they say they are going to charge me I'll head for the airport and I'm calling for them to do so, begging them to do so. The charge against me in this sneak attack is that I lied under oath in front of the Senate when I went there in May and trounced this group of lickspittle pro-war Bushites. I am unequivocally stating here and now I'll head for Heathrow now, pausing only to pick up my toothbrush, if they will promise to charge me with perjury. It is very clear what they said, I lied under oath. It is a criminal offence which is what they told me when I swore the oath. It is put up or shut up time. See you in court Senator Coleman."

At issue here are specific assertions made by Coleman that Galloway personally benefited through eight oil allocations, totalling 23 million barrels of oil between the years 1999 and 2003.

Galloway says: "We want to take the fight to the enemy," but he believes Coleman is unlikely to agree to an open debate, saying: "I have no confidence that Coleman will charge me. That would require [Tariq] Aziz (the former Iraqi deputy prime minister being held in jail in Iraq and one of the senate committee's alleged sources) and others appearing in court," adding, Coleman would be "terrified of that."

The impetus of Coleman's recent attack seem to be timed to coincide with this week's expected report from former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker on his UN investigation into abuses of the Oil for Food Programme by companies and individuals. That report is expected to repeat allegations against Mr. Galloway, though deeming those inadequate due to a lack of evidence he received any money, a claim Galloway has consistently repeated.

Galloway successfully sued British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph for libel for their printing of similar accusations in 2004. A ruling on the Telegraph's appeal of that ruling is also imminent. Figuring prominently in that case were the finding of an indepedent Charity Commission inquiry into the Mariam Appeal's finances that found no improprieties.

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

George Galloway and the US senate
(Guardian UK)

Galloway accused of lying to US Senate
25.10.2005: Senate presents new claims against Galloway
25.10.2005: 'In everything I said, I turned out to be right'
18.05.2005: Galloway and the mother of all invective
18.05.2005: Ewen MacAskill: Mr Galloway goes to Washington
17.05.2005: Galloway defends himself at US Senate
13.05.2005: Galloway to face US hearing
12.05.2005: Galloway faces renewed claims over Saddam oil
12.05.2005: Galloway offers to answer Iraq oil

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Liars, Jihadists, and Spooks! Oh My!

Voting in Afghanistan;

warlords, jihadis, and Iranian-agents

By Mike Whitney

10/24/05 "ICH " -- -- The western media rarely explores the failures of the Afghanistan war. That's unfortunate, because the conflict tells us a great deal about the suicidal direction of American foreign policy.

95% of the American public supported the war in Afghanistan, feeling that something had to be done in response to the attacks of September 11. Something was done; we invaded a sovereign nation, toppled the fanatical Taliban, and cobbled together an American-friendly regime that has never had any real authority and never provided even minimal security for its people.

The toxic effects of the conflict are now tragically evident in the unexpected results of the parliamentary elections. The Sept. 18 elections for the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House) show that warlords and ex-Taliban commanders won over half of the seats in the new parliament. Many of those elected are among the most extreme human rights abusers in the country; certainly not what President Bush imagined when he began his "global democratic revolution". Now, former jihadis, Islamic fundamentalists, and warlords will control a majority of the seats in Parliament ensuring that the security of the Afghani people will continue to be at risk.

For all practical purposes, the country has returned to its brutal pre-Taliban days where the nation was divided into fiefdoms controlled by regional warlords. Many of the candidates participated in the civil war during the 1990's that devastated much of the country. They are now in a position to challenge the power of the central government and obstruct efforts to further integrate the country.

Some of the Taliban leaders who won spots in the new government are Wakil Mutawakil, former Foreign Minister for the Taliban, and Maulavi Qalamuddin, the head of the Dept. for the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue; the fanatical agency that enforced Sharia Law through severe forms of punishment and physical abuse. It is widely believed that Tehran is directly supporting the more extreme members in the fledgling parliament. This tells us that Iran is developing a base of political support in Afghanistan as it has in Iraq. Ironically, the US is currently defending Iran-friendly regimes in both countries it has chosen to invade.

After 4 years of occupation, we can see that the administration's promises for Afghanistan were all lies. The military has never tried to liberate the countryside from the tyranny of the warlords, nor has Bush's promise of a Marshall Plan ever materialized. The Karzai government is a feeble puppet-regime with no popular base and with no real power beyond the confines of Kabul. Judging by its inability to address any of Afghanistan's urgent problems; security, drug-trafficking, sanitation, human rights abuses, we can conclude that Karzai and his American overlords are a serious obstacle to Afghanistan's rehabilitation. There's really no chance of meaningful recovery or development in Afghanistan until Karzai is replaced by someone with a broader popular mandate.

The increasing attacks on American forces are a sign of the widespread frustration with the American occupation. The public no longer believes that the US will honor its original commitments to rebuild or stabilize the country and that is causing growing discontent and violence. Life in Afghanistan is an endless cycle of sporadic attacks, bureaucratic ineffectiveness, and grinding poverty. The specter of occupation only adds to the sense of hopelessness.

The window of opportunity for the US to demonstrate its good intentions has long since passed. The reported incidents of prisoner abuse and even death are fueling the rising restlessness and anger. The recent broadcast of the US troops burning the bodies of Taliban fighters is just the latest, and most obscene, affront to the cultural sensitivities and religious beliefs of the Afghanistan people. The shock-waves from this incident will undoubtedly be felt for years to come.

Things will only get worse in Afghanistan until the United States leaves. We are no longer trusted by the people, nor can we claim the moral authority to know what is in their best interest. The sad fact is that American troops are no longer guarantors of the peace but, rather, are the main instigators of the continuing hostilities. According to Stars and Stripes magazine, "the recent surge in fighting (in Afghanistan) could be attributed more to American aggressiveness than anything Al Qaida is doing." Just like in Iraq, the American tendency to "shoot now, and ask questions later" is the primary source of the burgeoning violence.

The western media has scrupulously kept Afghanistan off the front page of America's newspapers. That spot has been reserved for the spurious charges against Syria so that Washington can drum-up support for its next war. But, thoughtful American's should take a second look at Afghanistan and judge for themselves whether any of the administration's goals have been realized or if the conflict has been a dismal failure. The recent parliamentary elections demonstrate beyond a doubt that America's involvement has only strengthened the most reactionary and brutal elements in Afghani society. This is a clear sign that it is high-time for us to withdraw our troops and to reconsider the use of military force as the primary means for achieving foreign policy objectives.

Let Justice Be Done, Though the Heavens Fall

Justin Raimondo

Fiat justitia, ruat coelum.

"Let justice be done, though the heavens fall."

The above Latin quotation – usually attributed to Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, a Roman statesman and Julius Caesar's father-in-law – succinctly summarizes both prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's view of the law and the possible consequences of its application in the case of the CIA leak investigation.

In Washington, D.C., the heavens will surely fall on the heads of several prominent players, including not only the vice president's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, but also the president's top national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley; John Hannah, the vice president's chief national security adviser; and David Wurmser, the VP's chief of Middle Eastern affairs. The fate of the more high-profile Karl Rove is in some doubt: he's probably looking at obstruction of justice and/or perjury charges, but the others – including, perhaps, a number of unindicted co-conspirators – are looking at some real jail time.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Gorilla Radio for Monday, October 23, 2005

This week on GR: Film maker and journalist Kevin Pina and 'Haiti: The Untold Story.

And; Janine Bandcroft bringing us up to speed on all that's good to do in and around Victoria this week.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Monday, 5-6pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, 104.3 cable, and on the internet at: He also serves as a contributing editor at the progressive web news site:

Gorilla Radio for Monday,
October 23, 2005
C.L. Cook

In April of 2004, the duly elected President of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide was ousted from office and sent into exile. Since, the poorest nation in the Americas has suffered an occupation similar in style if not scope to that experienced by the unfortunate citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, Haitians live in fear of brutal “government” repression aided by a ruthless “coalition” of willing foreign soldiers and mercenaries. What differentiates the Haitian occupation from those in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine is the participants.

Of course, the United States is playing the leading role and is, in reality, the de facto ruler of Haiti; but the “boots on the ground” are filled with the Blue Helmeted soldiers and police of the United Nations; a contingent which includes Canadians.

Kevin Pina is an American film maker and journalist living in Haiti. He was in Victoria last week to screen his film, ‘Haiti: The Untold Story,’ a grim and gripping look at the reality of international intervention in Haiti’s democracy, and the complicit role the United Nations and Canada have played in atrocities occurring there.

On today’s show, Kevin Pina and a special one hour examination of Haiti: The Untold Story.

And, Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with all that’s good to do in and around Victoria this week.

But first, Kevin Pina, telling Haiti’s story.

You can check out the GR blog at:

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the mainstream media.

Some past guests include: M. Junaid Alam, Joel Bakan, Maude Barlow, David Barsamian, William Blum, Luciana Bohne, Vincent Bugliosi, Helen Caldicott, Noam Chomsky, Michel Chossudovsky, Diane Christian, Juan Cole, David Cromwell, Jon Elmer, Reese Erlich, Anthony Fenton, Jim Fetzer, Laura Flanders, Chris Floyd, Susan George, Stan Goff, Robert Greenwald, Denis Halliday, Chris Hedges, Sander Hicks, Julia Butterfly Hill, Robert Jensen, Dahr Jamail, Diana Johnstone, Kathy Kelly, Naomi Klein, Anthony Lappe, Frances Moore Lappe, Dave Lindorff, Jim Lobe, Jennifer Loewenstein, Wayne Madsen, Stephen Marshall, Linda McQuaig, George Monbiot, Loretta Napoleoni, John Nichols, Kurt Nimmo, Greg Palast, Michael Parenti, William Rivers Pitt, Sheldon Rampton, Paul Craig Roberts, Paul de Rooij, John Ross, Danny Schechter, Vandana Shiva, Norman Solomon, Starhawk, Grant Wakefield, Paul Watson, Bernard Weiner, Mickey Z., Dave Zirin, and many others.

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Lambs of God: A Child's Crusade

Lambs of God:

A Child's Crusade
C. L. Cook

PEJ News
October 22, 2005

It's perhaps fitting that the leader of the new crusades should be seen as a simpleton. Almost childlike, George W. Bush has, over the tragic course of his reign, displayed a Fontleroian personality perfectly suited to one who would muster the young on a grand adventure. His foot-stamping insistence the game continue until he takes the ball home bodes ill for the young siblings of the soldiers now serving. Georgie likes this game and won't quit while he's winning. Losses? Aren't there are always more tin soldiers? Hasn't there always been more for George?

Across the world, in a place America's children are bound to, other children wait their arrival. Already, thousands have perished; scorched and rent by fire and steel, whithered by hunger and disease. Killed before knowing first love; torn apart from life; extinguished children, slain by children. Murdered to remain forever; not "lost," or even "stolen," not "preserved," or "delivered," but dead, gone forever promises never to be fulfilled. Finished.

Omar al-Ibadi, writing for Reuters today told of another child, finished on the side of a Baghdad highway with two bullets in his back.

"Adel Abed Hammed was a skinny 31-year-old so withdrawn he sometimes went days without talking to anybody and would let only his mother touch him. Mentally ill since childhood, he used to wander the streets of Baghdad alone. One day he chanced on some American soldiers who shot him dead after he took fright at a bullet fired over his head."

"I stayed up all night crying, waiting for him outside the house. I pictured him dead, with blood coming from his face."

Adel Abed's mother was waiting at home anxiously, as all who live there wait when minutes of missed appointments hang heavy with dread. Her wandering, curious "child" was overdue, she couldn't know his body had been scooped up by the boys who killed him, a little "claims card" left by the place he fell notifying kith and kin of his body's whereabouts.

“I wouldn’t feel such misery if he wasn’t so sick but that makes it double for me,” said his mother. “He was like a child.”

Almost childlike, Adel Abed's life held little promise for his aging parents. He would likely never know a love affair. He would never know achievement, or ponder the mysteries of the universe beyond his neighbourhood. Yet, the misery his grieving mother describes doubles because he was innocent. Innocent as the thousands finished before him yes, but innocent too to the knowledge of the greed and ambition, cunning and ruthlessness that ultimately killed him.

Adel Abed's mother sits with her family, wondering at the fate for her two living sons.

"He always used to go walking for hours." she says. "When he came home he used to tell me about what he saw on the road. I used to take him to the bathroom and wash him."

It was Adel Abed's neighbours, who witnessed his death, that brought the dire confirmation of Adel's fate to the Hammed household. They told her it happened this way:

"I saw Adel coming walking slowly towards the Americans from the other side. They fired a warning shot over his head. Adel panicked and ran to the other side of the highway. He’d just started running when they shot him with a couple of bullets. Then he fell to the ground. Four soldiers approached his body and checked him, then they carried his body to a Humvee and put him inside and took him away."

Shot from behind as he fled, Adel Abed Hammed finished.

The neighbours begin paying their condolence visits to the Hammed's for the mourning rituals; rituals that ring daily across benighted Iraq with unnatural frequency. And, across the world, another child whines for more toy soldiers to keep the game going.

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

Dovetailing Wars: Drugs and Conquest

Gainspotting:Terror War Meets Drug War
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Chris Floyd

Empire Burlesque
Thursday, 20 October 2005

Here is some eminent good sense from Norm Stamper, former police chief of Seattle on how to vastly reduce crime – and America's scandalously high prison population – and, not incidentally, stanch the relentless spread of corruption throughout government and the business world, while helping to heal some of the nation's most greivous racial and class divides. What's the secret? It's simple: legalize drugs.

The Los Angeles Times is to be applauded for publishing such a provocative piece, which flies in the face of deeply entrenched (and deeply profitable) conventional wisdom – and to be condemned for trying to undercut it at the same time with a headline designed to set middle-class teeth on edge: "Let Those Dopers Be." As Stamper makes clear, you don't have to be a "doper" to see the incalcuable damage being done to American society and politics by the horrendously stupid and counterproductive "war on drugs."

Then feel free to take a hit of the piece below. This is the first installment of several excerpts from the book, "Empire Burlesque: High Crimes and Low Comedy in the Bush Imperium, 2001-2005," that we will be running in the week ahead, while your correspondent trots the globe. This is from November 2001, and shows the connection between the 30-year-old "war on drugs" and the "war on terror," then in the first bloody bloom of youth.

Gainspotting: Terror War Meets Drug War
November 30, 2001

Among the isolated, out-of-step losers who dare open their mouths to mutter "doubts" about America's military campaign in Afghanistan, you will sometimes hear the traitorous comment: "This war is just about oil."

We take stern exception to such cynical tommyrot. No one who has made a clear and dispassionate assessment of the situation in the region could possibly say the new Afghan war is "just about oil."

It's also about drugs.

For, although we must now hail the warlords of the Northern Alliance as noble defenders of civilization, the fact is that for some time they have also functioned as one of the world's biggest drug-dealing operations. Indeed, one of the main sticking points between the holy warriors of the alliance and their ideological brethren in the Taliban has been control of the profitable poppy, which by God's grace grows so plentifully in a land otherwise bereft of natural resources. (Always excepting the production of corpses.) ....

In the good old days, when the brethren were united against the Soviet devil, all shared equally in the drug-running trade, under the benevolent eye of that great lubricator of illicit commerce, the CIA. When the Northern Alliance was driven from Kabul – having killed 50,000 of the city's inhabitants during their civilized rule – the Taliban seized the lion's share of Afghanistan's opium production. The noble warlords managed to hold on to several prize fields in the north, however, and together with avaricious Talibs, they helped fuel a worldwide rise in heroin traffic.

Earlier this year, the Bush administration bribed the Taliban to stop growing opium – a most effective use of baksheesh, according to the UN, which found that Afghan opium production dropped from 3,300 tons annually to less than 200. But the Northern Alliance leapt manfully into the breach, engineering a threefold rise in opium output on their territory this year.

Now the bountiful southern fields are also theirs for the plucking. For war-ravaged Afghan farmers, the "market realities" are clear: they can plant wheat, and get 50 bucks an acre, or plant opium and pull down $8,000 in hard cash for the same plot of land. Needless to say, the poppy replanting has already begun. Come harvest time, the drug lords – sorry, the noble warlords – will take their cut and ship the dope off to pollute the minds of decadent infidels in the West. Ah, the spoils of victory!

Hey, maybe their CIA buddies will help coordinate the shipments. Those guys are killer when it comes to covert logistics.

After all, as Attorney General "Jailin' John" Ashcroft tells us, the "war on terrorism" is just like "the war on drugs" – that is to say, a never-ending fount of profitable corruption for the ruthless, the murderous and the well-connected.

Certainly, the "war on drugs" makes little sense otherwise. We all know that if the ingestion of various arbitrarily chosen substances were no longer prosecuted, the level of violence, crime and repression in society would be reduced immeasurably. "Substance abuse" would then become what it is now for drugs like alcohol and nicotine: a matter of personal character and private consequence.

Crack addicts, for example, could have their nightly pipe in the safety of their own home, for the same price as a six-pack of beer, a carton of cigarettes or the latest Disney video. They wouldn't need to resort to crime to feed an expensive criminalized habit. And their resulting stupefaction would be no more harmful to the public good than that of millions of their fellow citizens sitting slack-jawed in front of the tube.

But decriminalization will never happen. Illegal drugs are simply too profitable for the various powerful criminal elements known as "mafias," "warlords" – and "intelligence agencies." For drug-running is the perfect way to fund your black ops – no budget restraints, no legal niceties, no pesky legislators looking over your shoulder.

That's how they did it back in those high old Iran-Contra days, as investigator Robert Parry reports on Buried in the papers of that thwarted investigation are outright admissions of CIA connivance with the drug dealers who helped finance the murderous Reagan-Bush terrorist network in Latin America.

This is – in part – what G.W. Bush is covering up with his recent autocratic edict sealing past presidential papers. That, and the fact that his Daddy lied about his own involvement in the criminal enterprise – lies which he drowned certain fathoms deep by pardoning his co-conspirators. Some of these criminal connivers with drug-running now hold high office in the new Bush administration.

You know, the one that "restored honor and integrity" to the White House.

Bottom Line
Let's connect the dots. Drugs help stoke war. Defense firms sell the weapons of war – to governments, warlords, terrorists, whoever will pay. The investors and owners of defense firms – like, say, the Bush family and the bin Ladens – are directly enriched by war. And so the wars go on.

For every American soldier killed, for every Afghan child murdered, George W. Bush adds a few more dollars to his inheritance. His former business associates, the bin Ladens – whom he protected by stifling FBI investigations into their activities, while also crippling probes into Saudi funding of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups – will do quite nicely as well.

Nu, what can you say? Such is the eternal way of the world, where "oft 'tis seen, the wicked prize itself buys out the law." So it was in Babylon, so it was in Rome; so it was in Moscow, Mecca, Peking and Thebes. The ruthless, the murderous and the well-connected carry it away.