Monday, January 31, 2005

The Salvadoran option

As Americans fail to noticeably react to the idea of using "the Salvadoran option" in Iraq, surely it's time to remind ourselves what that means.


Each morning, as the skies lightened over El Salvador's cities, people would rise to find corpses littering their streets: sometimes the bodies were headless, or faceless, their features obliterated with battery acid or a shotgun blast; sometimes limbs were missing, or hands or feet chopped off, or eyes gouged out; women's genitals were torn and bloody, bespeaking repeated rape; men's were often cut off and stuffed into their mouths.


Beyond the gaudy wounds, however, there were the "signatures." More often than not you would find, cut into the flesh of the back or the forehead or the chest of the victim, the telltale sign of the "death squad" that claimed the work: the Union of White Warriors, perhaps, or, more frequently, the Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez Brigade.


And so we come to the Mothers of the Disappeared and their terrible picture books. One notices first of all that they are many, these books, and that their pages are bound loosely, with spiral binders, to allow for the insertion of ever more photographs. For during those terrible years of 1979 and 1980 and 1981, as the cars without license plates cruised the streets of the capital each night and the bodies appeared on the streets each dawn, the numbers of dead went on mounting, until the photographers of the Human Rights Commission became unbearably busy -- for on the streets of San Salvador alone each month no fewer than eight hundred mutilated corpses could be found.

Against the urban infrastructure of the Left -- the network of political organizers, labor leaders, and activists who had put together the great demonstrations of the late seventies -- the death squad onslaught proved devastating. The Christian Democrats, in particular, saw their party decapitated, with the murder of several hundred activists. By the end, however, the killing had become less discriminating -- any "profile" that seemed to identity leftists would do; and so one morning a pile of corpses was found that proved to consist entirely of young women wearing tennis shoes and blue jeans: apparently, some intelligence officer had concluded that such a profile -- women dressing in this casual way-reliably separated out subversives, and thus the young women had been seized and tortured and liquidated with all the others.

One [...] officer, who eventually fled El Salvador, described to the American journalist Allan Nairn what went on between the time Salvadorans were seized and carried off by the hooded men, and their mutilated bodies discovered on San Salvador's streets: [...]


Such things do indeed "happen in war," but in El Salvador in the early 1980s they lay at the heart of a systematic and bloody response to a political rebellion, and in very rapid course this dirty war sent the country into a tailspin of lurid and very public violence. In March 1980, a death squad member shot down Archbishop Oscar Romero while he said Mass. Nine months later, four American churchwomen were sexually assaulted and murdered by Salvadoran soldiers, and buried in a shallow grave. The following month, the head of the Salvadoran land-reform agency and two of his American advisers were assassinated as they sat together in the cafe of the Sheraton hotel.

These very public atrocities, two of them involving the murder of American citizens, increased the squeamishness in Washington. President Carter, disgusted by the murder of the churchwomen, cut off funds; in January 198 1, however, faced with the unleashing of the guerrillas' highly touted "final offensive," the "human rights president" restored aid. [...] Carter's step made one thing clear: when it came down to a decision between supporting a bloody-minded, murderous regime, and risking a rebel victory by reducing aid, America's leaders -- Democrats as well as Republicans -- would always choose to support the devil they knew. Time and again throughout the Reagan years, as each new massacre was uncovered and each new aid budget approved, they would reaffirm that principle.

Read more....

Really, you must read how the Americans funded a totally disastrous operation that resembles our involvement in Iraq so closely, such as attempting to train the foreign government's army to attempting to direct its politics in national elections, that one could almost refer to our current operations there as a Salvadoran option.

Pictures of "the disappeared"

This is America's future

One in three U.S. high school students say the press ought to be more restricted, and even more say the government should approve newspaper stories before readers see them, according to a survey being released today.

The survey of 112,003 students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get "government approval" of stories before publishing; 51% say they should be able to publish freely; 13% have no opinion.

Asked whether the press enjoys "too much freedom," not enough or about the right amount, 32% say "too much," and 37% say it has the right amount. Ten percent say it has too little.

The survey of First Amendment rights was commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and conducted last spring by the University of Connecticut. It also questioned 327 principals and 7,889 teachers.


Although a large majority of students surveyed say musicians and others should be allowed to express "unpopular opinions," 74% say people shouldn't be able to burn or deface an American flag as a political statement; 75% mistakenly believe it is illegal.
  USA Today article

Nazis in America

From the Bush Family financial support of Nazis to the Nazi recruitment post-WWII, America's power base has had a close relationship with the Nazi regime.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 - The Central Intelligence Agency is refusing to provide hundreds of thousands of pages of documents sought by a government working group under a 1998 law that requires full disclosure of classified records related to Nazi war criminals, say Congressional officials from both parties.

Under the law, the C.I.A. has already provided more than 1.2 million pages of documents, the vast majority of them from the archives of its World War II predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services. Many documents have been declassified, and some made public last year showed a closer relationship between the United States government and Nazi war criminals than had previously been understood, including the C.I.A.'s recruitment of war criminal suspects or Nazi collaborators.


[Congressional] officials say the agency has sometimes agreed to provide information about former Nazis, but not about the extent of the agency's dealings with them after World War II. In other cases, it has refused to provide information about individuals and their conduct during the war unless the working group can first provide evidence that they were complicit in war crimes.

The agency's stance poses a sharp test between the C.I.A.'s deep institutional reluctance to make public details about any intelligence operations and the broad mandate set forth in the law to lift the veil about relationships between the United States government and Nazi war criminals.

Iraqi elections "irregularities"

Of course they were to be expected. There will be more reports. Here are some of the first.
Kurdish and Christian politicians charged that thousands were unable to vote in Nineveh province because of a lack of ballot papers, sparking riots in one town north of Mosul.


A Patriotic Union for Kurdistan official described a similar situation in Bashiqa district.


At the Al-Khazrajiya school in the city's old quarter, Najat Ridha, 48, was ushered into a classroom and handed two ballots, one for the national assembly and another for the local provincial council.

An election worker suggested she vote for list 285 headed by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and a local list headed by governor Duraid Kashmula.

She ticked the boxes obligingly and walked out - just as Zahra Ibrahim, 60, did before her.

"I really just did what they asked me to do," she said as the Iraqi national anthem crackled on a loudspeaker in the background.

Similar scenes unfolded at the Al-Fadhila school on the west side as men and women, perplexed over what the list numbers stood for, were offered suggestions and a helping hand by election workers.


The lists, which only bear numbers and not candidate names for the most part, were published only two days before.

At a polling station in the New Mosul neighbourhood, Mahasin Ahmed, 37, a school teacher, wanted to vote for Yawar, a tribal leader, but did not know that his list number was 255 and neither did the election worker helping her.

He suggested she vote for list 188 because it had "tribes" in the title.
  Australian article

"Activist" judge rules against U.S. Government

A U.S. judge ruled that a group of suspected terrorists held at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, can challenge their detention in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green rejected a request by the Bush administration to throw out lawsuits by 54 detainees protesting their imprisonment. Green said tribunals set up by the Pentagon to test whether the prisoners are "enemy combatants" violate the U.S. Constitution and in some cases the Geneva Conventions, which govern treatment of prisoners of war.

"It would be far easier for the government to prosecute the war on terrorism if it could imprison all suspected `enemy combatants' at Guantanamo Bay without having to acknowledge and respect any constitutional rights of detainees," Green wrote. "That, however, is not the relevant legal test."
  Bloomberg article

We won't tolerate tyrants

Sure. Read this Steve Clemons article that ends...
While this story came out in August 2001 -- I checked, and it's still raging. So, I would like to hear some arguments from reasonable people why America should not cut off Karimov totally -- and whether we ought not to hold firms like Coca-Cola accountable for their role in enriching the world's thugs.
More on Uzbekistan's torturing tyrant is here at The Memory Hole.

Karimov and Butthead

More on Iraq's "elections"

Juan Cole comments on the elections turn-out...
The Iraqi election commission backed off its initial estimate of 72% turnout rather quickly. It then suggested that 8 million voted, or 60%. I don't think they really know, and would be careful of using these figures until they can be confirmed as the vote is counted. I saw them on Arab satellite tv estimating the turnout in Irbil in the Kurdish north at 60 percent. The turnout in Irbil should have been very high, since it is Kurdish and security is good. If that figure is true and holds, it would be an argument against the overall voting rate being 60 percent.


Evan Osnos of the Chicago Tribune writes,

'In the Sunni-dominated cities of Latifiyah and Mahmoudiyah south of Baghdad, streets were largely free of violence, but voters said they were fearful of retaliation for voting. Polling centers were largely empty all day in many cities of the Sunni Triangle north and west of the capital, particularly Fallujah, Ramadi and Beiji, The Associated Press reported. In Baghdad's mainly Sunni Arab area of Adhamiyah, the neighborhood's four polling centers did not open, residents said.'
Dexter Filkins of the NYT wrote, ' In the town of Baji in northern Iraq, election officials did not show up. In Ramadi, where Iraqi officials set up a pair of polling places just outside the city, a total of just 300 ballots were cast, many of them by police officers and soldiers. '

The idea, mentioned by Condoleeza Rice on Sunday, that any significant number of Fallujans voted, is absurd and insulting. Most of the 250,000 Fallujans are still in exile, and the city is still occasionally the scene of fighting.
Explains the Mosul turn-out...
In eastern Mosul, where Turkmen and Kurds predominate, there was some turnout, but in the Sunni Arab western part of the city, firefights raged. The Arabs of Kirkuk appear largely to have boycotted the vote, whereas the Kurds came out enthusiastically (-al-Zaman).
And talks about the Ayatollah's designs and status...
Muhammad Bazzi at Newsday discusses Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's role in the recent elections and his likely role in crafting the new constitution. He writes:
'Al-Sistani is especially keen to have a role in shaping the new constitution, which is supposed to be drafted by mid-August and put to a national referendum by Oct. 15. He is concerned about two issues: the role of Islam in Iraqi society and the extent of the political autonomy that would be granted to Kurds in northern Iraq. The ayatollah wants Islam to be declared the country's official faith and Islamic law to infuse civil laws. He is also resistant to giving Kurds a veto power over the constitution, as they currently have under an administrative law put in place by the U.S. occupation. Part of the reason for al-Sistani's backing of the unified Shia slate is to assure him a key role in drafting the constitution.'

Rory Carroll of the Guardian reports from Najaf that rubble is everywhere and some think Allawi will survive as Prime Minister. He quotes a Western diplomat: ' "Sistani has played it brilliantly . . . By reining in his radicals and going for elections, power is falling into the Shia lap." '

In another post, Cole reminds us that The Oaf of Office originally, and for a good while, strongly opposed free and fair elections in Iraq. The fact that he is now gloating over the "success" of the farce and threatening to spread this success all over the world marks another ignominious milestone in a thoroughly disgusting career.
I'm just appalled by the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections in Iraq on Sunday. I said on television last week that this event is a "political earthquake" and "a historical first step" for Iraq. It is an event of the utmost importance, for Iraq, the Middle East, and the world. All the boosterism has a kernel of truth to it, of course. Iraqis hadn't been able to choose their leaders at all in recent decades, even by some strange process where they chose unknown leaders. But this process is not a model for anything, and would not willingly be imitated by anyone else in the region. The 1997 elections in Iran were much more democratic, as were the 2002 elections in Bahrain and Pakistan.

Moreover, as Swopa rightly reminds us all, the Bush administration opposed one-person, one-vote elections of this sort. First they were going to turn Iraq over to Chalabi within six months. Then Bremer was going to be MacArthur in Baghdad for years. Then on November 15, 2003, Bremer announced a plan to have council-based elections in May of 2004. The US and the UK had somehow massaged into being provincial and municipal governing councils, the members of which were pro-American. Bremer was going to restrict the electorate to this small, elite group.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani immediately gave a fatwa denouncing this plan and demanding free elections mandated by a UN Security Council resolution. Bush was reportedly "extremely offended" at these two demands and opposed Sistani. Sistani then brought thousands of protesters into the streets in January of 2004, demanding free elections. Soon thereafter, Bush caved and gave the ayatollah everything he demanded. Except that he was apparently afraid that open, non-manipulated elections in Iraq might become a factor in the US presidential campaign, so he got the elections postponed to January 2005. This enormous delay allowed the country to fall into much worse chaos, and Sistani is still bitter that the Americans didn't hold the elections last May. The US objected that they couldn't use UN food ration cards for registration, as Sistani suggested. But in the end that is exactly what they did.

So if it had been up to Bush, Iraq would have been a soft dictatorship under Chalabi, or would have had stage-managed elections with an electorate consisting of a handful of pro-American notables. It was Sistani and the major Shiite parties that demanded free and open elections and a UNSC resolution.

Naomi Klein "gets it"

I believe that Kerry's campaign was utterly morally bankrupt and I blame the Kerry campaign for the total impunity that the Bush administration is now enjoying.

First of all, I believe that an anti-war campaign could have won the election. But even if you think I'm crazy, I believe that an anti-war campaign would have done a better job at losing the election (laughs). Elections are also moments where issues get put on the national agenda. If there had been (an anti-war) candidate with courage, for instance, it would have been impossible for Bush to name Alberto Gonzales as his candidate for attorney general. It was Kerry's silence more than Bush's win that allowed Bush to make such a scandalous appointment.

When the siege in Fallujah happened (days after the election), and the violations of the Geneva Convention were at a completely new level, there were no questions raised in the mainstream press. The New York Times reported these incidents without even an editorial or interview of experts on international law about whether it was legitimate to attack all the medical care facilities and so on. This to me is Kerry's legacy. I blame Kerry for this more than Bush because we expect this from them. We expect them to do whatever they can get away with. And Kerry let them get away with it. An election campaign was the one time there was a real opportunity to put the war on trial. And even if a principled anti-war campaign had lost, these issues would still be on the agenda.
Of course Kerry took the war off the agenda. Kerry's Democratic party is.....say it with me....the other arm of the War Party.
So where does the anti-war movement go from here? What kind of rethinking is necessary now?
Read Naomi's answer here.

Falluja - a city destroyed

A couple of weeks ago a documentary was made in Falluja for a joint UK Guardian and Channel 4 News report, by an Iraqi doctor, Ali Fadhil, who compiled the first independent reports of Falluja after U.S. operations in November. I posted a link to the transcript at that time. Here's the video of the documentary (courtesy Journeyman TV), which is much more powerful simply by virtue of being visual.

All Falluja posts.

Ayatollah Sistani and the Iraqi elections

The original Bush plan was to install a puppet regime with the Americans holding the leash while a constitution was being written by a couple of policy wonks over at AEI and their best Iraqi pal, Ahmed "Hero in Error" Chalabi. But the Ayatollah quashed that without firing a shot: instead, he fired off a fatwa – the Muslim equivalent of a papal encyclical – that condemned the American plan as "fundamentally unacceptable" and demanded that the writing of Iraq's constitution be turned over to an elected assembly of Iraqis.


Having gotten his way, Sistani then set about cobbling together a pro-Shi'ite list of candidates, one that even included such ostensibly secular figures as Chalabi and some Sadrists, as well as the mainstream Shi'ite parties, SCIRI and Dawa. Sunday's election will mark the triumph of the Ayatollah's vision: all indications point to a victory for the Sistani list, made all the more overwhelming by a Sunni participation rate that looks (as of this moment: 2:52 PST on Sunday) to be somewhere very close to single digits.


Sistani made it a religious duty to vote, but didn't do so himself because he's a citizen of Iran, having been born there, in the holy city of Mashad in 1930. More than once during the campaign, Iyad Allawi's National Accord party denounced the Sistani-approved coalition as "the Iranian list," with Defense Minister Hazim Shaalan practically issuing a declaration of war as he pronounced Tehran the "most dangerous enemy of Iraq." Not Zarqawi, not the Ba'athists, but Iran – that's the big danger, and President Bush seemed to echo (or is it the other way around?) this fear of Iranian interference in the days leading up to the election.


The top candidate on Sistani's list is the former leader of the military wing of the SCIRI, the leading fundamentalist Shi'ite party that was headquartered in Tehran during Saddam's reign. He was armed and succored by the Iranian government for all those years, and there is no reason to believe that the relationship has ended, only that it is a little more discreet. The Dawa party has a similar history: given shelter by the Iranians during the years of Ba'athist rule, these groups never accepted American aid or direction and refused to gather under the Chalabi-led umbrella group of Iraqi exiles.

The bizarre aspect of all this is that it now looks like Chalabi was an Iranian agent all along, and is going to pop up as a high official in the new government, perhaps interior minister or even president.


Although results are not in, and won't be for at least 24 hours, preliminary figures indicate a turnout of anywhere from half to 60 percent of registered voters, especially heavy in Shi'ite and Kurdish regions. The voter registration list consisted of nearly 14 million names in the food-ration public-distribution database, and the implication that if you didn't vote you didn't get your ration card renewed was less than subtle. As Khalid, a young Iraqi blogger, related:

"[T]he way the voting happened, is that you go to the voting center, and you go to the man that is your ration dealer, the one that you take the ration from him every month, so you tell him that you are gonna vote, he marks your name on his list, and then you vote!!!
that way the goverment will know exactly who voted and who didnt, two dealers said that the next years' card won't be given to those who didnt vote.."


(I wonder about the relatively large number of absentee votes from Iran, as opposed to the U.S., England, and Australia, as shown in this graph.)


I wouldn't be surprised if Allawi is marginalized by these elections and the U.S. puts its chips on their old partner-in-crime, Ahmed Chalabi. American officials are already starting to "reach out" to Chalabi, as New York Times reporter Judith Miller put it on MSNBC's Hardball, offering him all sorts of plum positions in the new Iraqi Cabinet.
  Justin Raimondo article

Chalabi, for Crissakes!
There is a tragic nobility in the determination of so many Iraqis to defy threats of terrorism and bravely show up to cast their votes, clearly and visibly inspired by Western ideals and the desire to live normal, decent lives in spite of everything. The tragedy is that they are being manipulated by cynical politicians and their foreign paymasters, who are conspiring to dismantle the Iraqi nation – and with the fragments kindle another war.

Elections viewed by one Iraqi

From Raed in the Middle:
It is well known all over Iraq now that if you didn't go to vote, the government will cut your monthly food rations. EVERYONE is talking about this, and EVERYONE believes it too!!! and this is one of the main reasons of why millions of poor and destroyed Iraqis were dragged out of their homes today and sent to election centers in the middle of explosions and bullets. They don't give a damn about elections, they want food. Millions of Iraqis don't have the possibility of testing whether this rumor is true or false, this is about surviving. They are ready to put their lives in danger to go get their monthly food rations.

Even the orders of sistani are not enough to get them out of their homes to go vote. They don't give a damn for bushy freedom.

"I will go and drop a blank ballot, I just want my family's food rations", a friend of my brother Khalid told him a couple of days ago in Baghdad. I called khalid in Baghdad twice today to see what was happening, and he said the same thing i heard on the BBC, that an explosion was happening every two minutes!!

The bush gang, trying to complete their pathetic play in Iraq are dying to add more lies to their long history of deceit.

The "Iraqi government" is announcing confusing and wrong numbers to the public. Instead of announcing the ratio of Voters to the Eligible Voters, the numbers announced are the ratio of the Voters to the Registered Voters!!!!

For example, the number of Iraqis that registered their names in Jordan are less than 20% of the eligible voters living in Jordan, so when 90% of the registered voters go to vote, it means that less than 18% of the total number voted... 90% is not the real number that should be announced to people!!!!!

liars liars liars!!!!!!!

The numbers announced inside Iraq are all fake. The registered voters in Tikrit governorate for example are a couple of thousands out of hundreds of thousands of residents, if one thousand people went to vote today, it doesn't mean at all that the turnout is more than 50%

liars liars liars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The fake government in Iraq announced that 72% of Iraqis voted today. Later they announced that 8 million Iraqis voted, which means that around 56% voted because the number of Eligible voters inside Iraq is more than 14.27 million.

A parody of an election

The logistical mayhem involved in all aspects of the election process and the utter lack of security are among the many obstacles and grounds for questions that will haunt the results for decades to come. And this is to ignore the congenital defect of a sloppy election conceived by, and under, military occupation and lacking even the façade of any international body that might guarantee its legitimacy. [...] That the international monitors who are supposed to ensure the fairness of these elections will carry out their task in Amman, Jordan, hundreds of miles away from the Iraqi border, underlines just what a parody is going on.


The irony of ironies is that distance seems to endow the electorate with added weight. Iraqis living in, for example, London or Detroit, most of whom are unlikely to return to Iraq anytime soon, if at all, can have a say in these elections. But many of those living (and dying) in Falluja, Mosul and other towns and cities in the provinces lumped under the so-called Sunni triangle, and who are much more likely to be immediately affected by the results of these elections than those of us living abroad, will not be able to vote even if they want to do so.


It is not only Fallujans, Mosulites or even predominantly Sunnis who will boycott the elections or be unable to vote. There is a very diverse and representative block of voters, numbering almost 100,000, none of whom will cast a single ballot. The dead, unless they live in Florida, cannot vote.


The United States is "not interested" -- those were Colin Powell's words -- in the numbers of civilian deaths.

"We don't do body counts," said General Tommy Franks, the war hero.

Not only that, the Iraqi Health Ministry was ordered to stop its own count. What else would one expect from a government that works very hard to shield the citizenry from the sight of its own soldiers' coffins returning home.


I [...] sometimes silently address the 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians: Had you been birds, your disappearance might have caused much more outrage. You could have flown en masse over a metropolis and clouded its skies for a few hours in protest. Meteorologists and bird- watchers surely would have noticed. Had you been trees, you would have made a beautiful forest the destruction of which would have been deemed a crime against the planet. Had you been words, you would have formed a precious book or manuscript the loss of which would be mourned across the world. But you are none of these. And you had to pass quietly and uneventfully. No one will campaign for you in these elections. No one cares to represent you. No absentee ballots have been issued or sent. You will have to wait decades for a monument, or a tiny museum. If you are lucky in provoking retroactive guilt your names will be inscribed on a wall somewhere. But until then, you may welcome more to your midst and form a vast silent chorus of ghosts, condemning the spectators and the actors.
  Sinan Antoon at Al-Ahram

AIDS news

Is it good news?

The FDA has approved a generic "cocktail" that other countries have been using for years. Empire Notes comments:

This is of particular significance because of George W. Bush's "Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief." Of his vaunted $15 billion over five years for AIDS relief, only a little over $1 billion has been given to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (this is expected to rise to a little over $2 billion by 2009). The rest goes to his "Emergency Plan," which focuses on 13 African countries, Haiti, Guyana, and Vietnam, and only allows the use of FDA-approved drugs. Thus, while, over the past two years, people have been dying in unprecedented numbers, the administrators of Bush's plan have insisted on paying exorbitant prices for brand-name drugs.

One might even have been forgiven for thinking that the emergency plan was just a cynical scam perpetrated for two reasons:
* To undercut the international Global Fund (initiated by the U.N., although you'd have a bloody hard time finding the phrase "United Nations" on its website)

* To provide a boondoggle for American pharmaceutical companies that are running out of places to market their insanely overpriced drugs.

Somehow, though, things are changing slowly, probably out of a need to appear slightly more multilateral. The FDA approval for the cocktail was fast-tracked by the Bush administration and the company that got the approval, Aspen Pharmaceuticals, is actually a South African company, not an American one.

Don't get too excited, though. We still don't know at what price this generic cocktail will be sold. And, says the Global AIDS alliance,
This approval, a full two years after the President’s declaration of a global AIDS emergency, is a positive development. But, the product that was approved is not a fixed-dose combination, and, as a result, is not as easy to take. Also, the company would not have gotten its drug approved without cozy relationships with several brand name companies, something not all producers of essential, generic medications enjoy. As a result, while many more generics are urgently needed to simplify treatment and make it more cost-effective, this might not be replicated any time soon.
Anyway, so pathetic is the state of worldwide mobilization against the most immediate global crisis and one of the most severe that even this counts as good news.

Iraq elections and the TV news

Yesterday, CNN had cameras around the U.S. where Iraqi expats were correspondent mentioned that only 26,000 Iraqi exiles out of nearly a quarter million eligible to vote even bothered to register, a remark completely ignored by the glossy, Desperate Housewives-looking anchor, who chirped something about the "pride" beaming from every face. Dan Rather couldn't have sounded more positive about what was unfolding, talking about the blue ink on the thumbs of voters bearing the indelible sign of freedom, etc., not that such inspirational talk will do him a damn bit of good with his fanged detractors. Peter Jennings also highlighted the most positive developments taking place, with none of the raised eyebrows or sardonic undertones for which he's always accused. No, despite all the talk of the Liberal Media or the MSM sympathizing with the insurgents and rooting for disaster, the coverage was geared for good news. Robert Fisk, in the Independent UK:
"The media boys and girls will be expected to play along with this. 'Transition of power,' says the hourly logo on CNN's live coverage of the election, though the poll is for a parliament to write a constitution and the men who will form a majority within it will have no power.

"They have no control over their oil, no authority over the streets of Baghdad, let alone the rest of the country, no workable army or loyal police force. Their power is that of the American military and its 150,000 soldiers whom we could see at the main Baghdad intersections yesterday.

"The big television networks have been given a list of five polling stations where they will be 'allowed' to film. Close inspection of the list shows that four of the five are in Shia Muslim areas - where the polling will probably be high – and one in an upmarket Sunni area where it will be moderate. Every working class Sunni polling station will be out of bounds to the press. I wonder if the television lads will tell us that today when they show voters 'flocking' to the polls."

Which is not to take away from the bravery of the Iraqi people who did make it to the polls, particularly in the most dangerous cities.


What I dread is how this day will be used by the new centurions. The Iranian blogger Hoder, with whom I had the pleasure to lunch when he visited New York (something I haven't mentioned previously, for worry it would ruin his rep and get him de-linked by certain sulky bloggers), sensibly, succinctly observes today, "On the one hand I'm really excited that Iraqi people have been able to start the path to a potentially democratic political system, on the other hand I'm really upset that this will embolden neoconservatives and will be seen as a confirmation of their dangerous plans for the world."

The Iraqization of Iraq, the democratization of Iran--it's all part of the same endless, widening bombing run.
  James Wolcott post


Staying the course

The United States has rebuffed pleas to join a European diplomatic drive to persuade Iran to give up any ambitions to add nuclear bombs to its arsenal, U.S. officials and foreign diplomats say.

For months, Britain, France and Germany have hoped to improve their bargaining power with the Islamic republic by involving Washington in a proposed accord over an end to its uranium enrichment activities.

That effort has intensified since President Bush's re-election in November, culminating last week with ministerial visits to Condoleezza Rice days before she took up her new post as secretary of state, they said.

So far, the Americans show no sign of giving ground.


The United States takes a harder line than the Europeans and wants Iran, which Bush grouped in an "axis of evil" with pre-war Iraq and North Korea, to be reported to the U.N. Security Council for possible international sanctions.


The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Friday urged the United States to look to join the talks.

The United States has mixed tough talk with a few modest hints that diplomacy may yet work, but few analysts see any fundamental change in Bush administration policy.

"The administration is pleased with its policy and sees no reason to change," said Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which has close ties to Iran's arch-foe Israel.

The stance was a "gamble" that Iran's hard-line rulers would be overthrown before they acquired a bomb, he said.

On Sunday, Rice told CBS' Face the Nation: "We really do believe ... that this is something that can be dealt with diplomatically. What is needed is unity of purpose, unity of message to the Iranians, that we will not allow them to skirt their international obligations and develop nuclear weapons under cover of civilian nuclear power."
  Yahoo News article

See how that works? We say we believe in diplomacy. She must be talking about that "transitional diplomacy" she mentioned in her confirmation hearings. I didn't understand what that meant. It obviously doesn't mean that we are going to join in diplomatic negotiations. It seems our "message to the Iranians" is going to be delivered on the backs of bombs. Maybe "transitional diplomacy" is what other countries do while we are preparing the ground for invasion.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Where's the money?

THE United States’ occupation authority in Iraq lost track of nearly £5 billion it transferred to government ministries which lacked financial controls, security, communications and adequate staff, it emerged today.

American officials relied on Iraqi audit agencies to account for the funds, but those offices were not even functioning when the funds were transferred between October 2003 and June 2004, according to an investigation by a US inspector general.


The audit report was released by Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. Bowen issued several reports on the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the US occupation government that ruled Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004.


Some of the transferred funds may have paid "ghost" employees, the inspector general found.

CPA staff learned that 8206 guards were on the payroll at one ministry, but only 602 could be accounted for, the report said. At another ministry, US officials found 1417 guards on the payroll, but could only confirm 642.


The inspector general said the occupying agency disbursed the money to Iraqi ministries "without assurance the monies were properly accounted for".

US officials, the report said, "did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial and contractual controls".

There was no way to verify that the money was used for its intended purposes of financing humanitarian needs, economic reconstruction, repair of facilities, disarmament and civil administration.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the authority was hamstrung by "extraordinary conditions" under which it worked throughout its mission.


[T]he official who led the CPA, Paul Bremer, made a blistering, written reply to the findings, saying the report had "many misconceptions and inaccuracies" and lacked professional judgement.

Bremer complained the report "assumes that Western-style budgeting and accounting procedures could be immediately and fully implemented in the midst of a war".
  Scotsman article

Yeah, but where's the money?
US Treasury Missing $ Trillions

From Department of Defense (DoD)...
"We reported that DoD processed $1.1 trillion in unsupported accounting entries to DoD Component financial data used to prepare departmental reports and DoD financial statements for FY 2000."


How fast does $1.1 trillion disappear in a year? [Click here.]


From Housing & Urban Development (HUD)...
"At the time we discontinued our audit work... An additional 242 adjustments totaling about $59.6 billion, were made to adjust fiscal year 1999 activity."


Trillions of dollars in "unsupported adjustments" means trillions of dollars unaccounted for. [...] How much more has gone missing? Is this happening in the other government agencies too? What would happen if a corporation failed to pass an audit like this? Or a taxpayer? Who is responsible for this? Who can we trust to fix it?

Where is that money?

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Iraqi elections

President Bush called Sunday's landmark Iraqi election a "resounding success" and said Iraqis have rejected the anti-democratic ideology of terrorists.


While acknowledging "terrorists and insurgents will continue to wage their war against democracy," Bush promised that the United States will continue to "support the Iraqi people in their fight against them."

Although participation estimates varied, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iraqis defied expectations to turn out in large numbers. At least 35 people were killed in militant attacks throughout the day.


The fact that Iraq's first multi-party election in half a century occurred despite an unrelenting wave of deadly attacks by insurgents is an important boost to Bush's vision of a democratic Middle East.

It was seen at the White House as validation of Bush's strategy in Iraq and as new impetus to pursue his broader goals in the region.
  Reuters article

Full steam ahead.
Confusion surrounds turnout statistics in Iraq's election, with the country's election commission backtracking on a statement that 72% had voted and top politicians insisting the turnout was high.

The commission said its initial tally had been little more than a guess based on local estimates.

"Turnout figures recently announced represent the enormous and understandable enthusiasm felt in the field on this historic day," a commission statement said.

"However, these figures are only very rough, word-of-mouth estimates gathered informally from the field. It will take some time for the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq to release accurate figures on turnout."

Commission spokesman Farid Ayar indicated that around eight million people may have voted, or about 60% of registered voters. That would still be more than many had expected.


Speaking to Aljazeera from the northern city of Mosul, Mustafa Ibrahim, an independent Iraqi journalist, said the turnout in Mosul had been "fair" despite some problems.

"There was a fair attendance compared to the expectations of many in the city.

"In general, the election held in Mosul was a surprise to all as the number of voters was more than expected when considering the daily messages and posters threatening voters with death if they went to polling stations," Ibrahim added.

By contrast, heavily fortified polling centres were deserted and streets empty as Iraqis in the Sunni Muslim city of Samarra stayed home on Sunday, too frightened or angry to vote in the election.

"Nobody came. People were too afraid," Madafar Zeki, in charge of a polling centre in Samarra, said.

According to preliminary figures provided by a joint US and Iraqi taskforce that safeguarded the vote, fewer than 1400 people cast ballots in the city of 200,000.

The figure includes votes from soldiers and police, most of whom were recruited from the Shia south.
  Aljazeera article

The popular wisdom in Baghdad is that the 275 assembly members have already been chosen.


I went over to the IECI office this morning for an interview with Fareed Ayar, the commission's spokesman. I arrived to find him readily accessible in the lobby of the building and shouting at anyone willing to listen.

"This is stupid! I don't have anywhere to meet the press! I have these men who follow me everywhere [gesturing at the three private security guards] but I have no office!"

One of the guards, a guy from Kentucky, gave Ayar a patronizing, kindergarten-teacher smile.

"A good journalist can do an interview anywhere," he said softly to Ayar, looking over to me and a couple of guys from Kuwait TV. "And I'm sure these people here are super journalists."

Another sugary smile, this time for the press.

"He hates us now, but he'll love us when someone starts shooting at him," the guard said [...]


The votes will be counted by hand. I asked Ayar how long he expected it would take. (The oft-reported figure is 10 days.)

"Less than 10 days," he said. "Maybe six, maybe seven. Six, seven... nine."


All over town there are billboards offering a $25 million reward for Zarqawi. I've heard more than one Iraqi mention that there are probably better ways to spend that $25 million.

(I also noticed that despite Ayar's lack of digs, someone had taken the time to make coasters with the IECI logo, which sat nicely on the coffee table in the office he borrowed.)

Other billboards, likely not designed by Iraqis, feature burning cars or dead bodies, presumably intended to generate ill-feeling toward the "terrorists". I doubt Iraqis need to be reminded of what dead bodies look like. More often than not, the ads are torn down or defaced by the resistance. (When I speak about the "resistance," I would like to make clear that I am not trying to legitimize their aims or means, but let's call a spade a spade. One of my favorite things to do during interviews with members of the new government is to purposely use the word resistance and wait for them to correct me.)
  Mother Jones article

I love this town

New Orleans had a jazz funeral for democracy and wake for peace on inauguration day. More photos in the galleries here.

Bush Dodge Ball

It won't be long now

HITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va., Jan. 29 - Republican members of the House and Senate turned their attention to the politics of changing the tax code and the lessons of President Bush's campaign on Saturday, the second day of a party retreat here.

Party leaders and White House officials who gathered at the Greenbrier resort also discussed a new rhetorical twist in their campaign to remake Social Security. In meetings on Friday, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow and Representative Bill Thomas of California, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, discussed redirecting public attention on 2008 as an imminent danger point for the Social Security trust fund because baby boomers will begin retiring, people present said. Even the most dire analyses say the fund will remain solvent for a decade or longer after that.


In another presentation, Senator John Thune of South Dakota introduced senators to the meaning of "blogging," explaining the basics of self-published online political commentary and arguing that it can affect public opinion.
  NY Times article

That should put the fire under internet reform. And not in a good way either, Martha.

The enemy


A draft dodger from Viet Nam recalls the stockade

I was woken by the military police pounding on the door, was arrested and taken into the stockade, where the verbal berating and physical manhandling began. I had knowingly broken federal and martial laws but was not prepared for the degradation I would face. They bundled me out of my clothes and into a large shower room, where I was disinfected, power-hosed, shorn, shaved, inspected and processed before being put in an isolation cell where I would spend eight days.


In “the box” we were kept in our underwear, exposed to the biting night air that blew in off the North Pacific through the open barred windows. As the saying goes, “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco”. We slept on inch-thin mattresses on ridged metal shelves, covered by a single sheet. Three of the cells had the 24-hour glare of bare light bulbs; the other two, painted black and facing a wall, were lit only by sun and moonlight. With no commodes in the cells, our toilet needs were met at the whim of the guards (too bad if you couldn’t hold it).


[They beat] the farm boy from Utah. Cowering in my isolation cell, I heard his whimpering and the sickening sound of punching. Earlier that day, the kid had got hold of a scalpel and slashed his wrists. They closed his wounds, but twice he reopened them. Now they had him in a straitjacket, lashed to his bed, and periodically beat him. The other four of us in the isolation block, although we could not see each other, took turns reading aloud from our Bibles. It got us through that dreadful night.


In the stockade my vow was sealed never to comply with this army. I saw a very dark side of our system. We were America’s own, but we were still cannon-fodder to a ruthless military and industrial machine. After ten weeks I was court martialled, but it was another 14 weeks before my Undesirable Discharge came through (“under conditions other than honourable”). It was very desirable to me.


Nine months after my release, a prisoner, 19-year-old Private Richard Bunch, was shot and killed by a guard in the stockade. All day he had been asking other prisoners how best to kill himself. Approaching a guard, he asked him, “If I run, will you shoot me?” The guard told him, “Why not run and find out?” “Aim for my head!” shouted Bunch, running. And, without a warning shout, the guard shot him at close range. The army judged this “justifiable homicide”.


Ensuing military and Congressional investigations into prison conditions in the Presidio revealed gross overcrowding, underfeeding, sadism, institutionalised racism (white on black, black on white), suicide and attempted suicide, and now even murder. If America can do it to its own citizens, should we be surprised if it does worse to those it identifies as its enemy?
  Information Clearinghouse article

Troops Out Now!

Here it is, folks...March on Central Park on the two-year anniversary of the occupation, March 19....
[...] January 30th is a diversion as the really important date is March 19th, the two year anniversary of the illegal, and un-necessary invasion, and subsequent occupation of Iraq--including, but not limited to, the selling off of Iraq's infrastructure and assets.

Leaving the Iraqi people in the dark, literally, as electricity (among other needed services) is still very limited and sporadic at best.

So, let us all get ready and prepared for March 19th. Please read the IAC call for and on the 19th of March actions around the country. Lets raise such a loud voice it will be impossible for the Bush Brigade to ignore us any longer. We must join together if we are to stop this madness Bush and Company have unleashed upon us, and the world.
  Jack Dalton article at POAC
On Saturday, January 15, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, activists and representatives from dozens of labor, community, anti-war, and international solidarity organizations joined veterans clergy and military family members on the steps of New York City Hall to announce their intention to march to Central Park on March 19 under the slogan, "Troops Out Now!"

Nearly one hundred activists assembled at City Hall despite the bitter cold, carrying placards with pictures of Dr. King and the words "Troops Out Now! March on Central Park, March 19!"

Speakers included NY City Council member Charles Barron, Brenda Stokely, President of DC 1707, Larry Holmes of the International Action Center, Rev. Herbert Daughtry, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Chris Silvera, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamster Local 808 and President of the Black Teamsters Caucus, Leilani Dowell of Queers for Peace and Justice, Kim Rosario, mother of a soldier currently stationed in Iraq, Amos Hoff of the New York AIDS Housing Network, Nora Soul of Artists and Activists United for Peace, Mel Stephens of ACT UP, Nellie Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Council, and others.

The coalition announced its plans to march to Central Park on March 19 to demand the immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Speakers also stressed the importance of ending, not only the war in Iraq, but the war against working people here in the U.S. and the ongoing occupation of Haiti, Afghanistan, and Palestine.

To sign up for updates, go to
  International Action Center article

Founded by Ramsey Clark, Former U.S. Attorney General

Citywide outreach mobilization Help build March 19--Central Park

Saturday 12 noon + International Action Center 39 W. 14th St. #206 (between 5th & 6th Aves.)

March 19 is only 7 weeks away! We need your help to get the word out.

On the weekend of March 19-20, the second anniversary of the beginning of the war against the people of Iraq, the global antiwar movement has called for demonstrations to demand an end to the illegal occupation.

The Troops Out Now Coalition is organizing a massive march and rally on March 19 in Central Park to demand the immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. occupation forces from Iraq.

Activists, students, veterans, working people, church groups, and military families are organizing all over the eastern U.S. to participate in this massive regional demonstration.

In the face of Bush's inauguration sermon, in which he claimed a mandate for endless war, it is vitally important that the antiwar movement turn out by the tens of thousands in a massive, united display of our opposition to the Bush Agenda of war, racism, and repression.

Saturday outreach will start at 12 noon this Saturday at the International Action Center, and every Saturday until March 19. We have thousands of March 19 leaflets and cards to get out, and we need your help. Activists and volunteers will meet at the IAC and then set out in teams to distribute literature in the parks, on the subways, and on the streets.

Call 212-633-6646 for more information.

posted 1/27/2005

International Action Center
39 West 14th Street, Room 206
New York, NY 10011
En Espanol:
phone: 212 633-6646
fax: 212 633-2889
To make a tax-deductible donation,
go to

The Libyan friendship payoff

US oil companies Occidental Petroleum, Amerada Hess and ChevronTexaco were awarded the majority of the 15 exploration licences issued by Libya on Saturday in a move that clears the way for US companies to return to the north African country for the first time since 1986.
  Financial Times article

Election Day

THE BUSH administration appears eager to characterize today's Iraqi elections as a milestone. "If people are given a right to express themselves in a ballot in a ballot box, in the public square, and through a free and open press, it'll lead to peace," President Bush has said.
  SF Gate article
We could disprove that theory real fast by meeting those conditions in this country. Is the Israeli press free and open? How long have they been voting?
There are plenty of [...] reasons why Americans should be wary of any "democracy worked!" proclamations from the White House if the voting at 5,000 precincts goes relatively smoothly today. Among the concerns on the horizon:

-- The legitimacy of the outcome is almost certain to come under challenge, assuming the Sunni boycott of the election occurs as threatened. The Sunnis still may have the opportunity to block a new constitution, which would be put to a national referendum on Oct. 15. A proposed constitution would be vetoed if rejected by just three of Iraq's 18 provinces. The Sunnis dominate four of them.

-- Significant victories by Iraqi Shiites could lead the new government to nurture ties with Iran, a Shiite-Muslim majority state on its eastern border, at a time when tensions between Washington and Tehran are approaching a critical stage.

-- With a multitude of candidates and parties -- bringing conflicting tribal, religious and political loyalties -- common ground may be hard to come by in the Transitional National Assembly.

But the challenge of the day is to provide security at the nation's 5,000 voting places.

Like Cagan, McConnell says the perception of "success" or "failure" in today's election will influence public support for the war - and the momentum of the anti-war movement - in the short and long term. Both, however, believe public support will ultimately hinge on the numbers of American dead.

"As the bills come in and the carnage continues, the American public is going to be increasingly opposed," said Dobbs of United for Peace.

(In a CBS/New York Times national poll this month, 55 percent of Americans said they disapproved of the way the administration has handled the war, though 51 percent said U.S. troops should stay, while 42 percent said they should withdraw immediately.)

A coalition of anti-war organizations, including United for Peace and the American Friends, are planning nationwide protests during the weekend of Feb. 19-20.

But this is what's disturbing about Americans. They have to be suffering before they stop making other people suffer. Which is why the only hope for the rest of the world is to make us suffer.

Meanwhile, in Iraq on election day
Aljazeera articles

The Independent Iraqi Election Commission has set up 5500 polling centres around the country to offer Iraqi people the chance to vote, but election day has been marred by bombs and mortar attacks.

The latest figures indicate at least 41 people have died in attacks throughout Iraq.

At least eight bombs exploded outside Baghdad polling stations, killing at least 28 people. Seven of the bombers walked up to the voting stations on foot and one used a car bomb.

Another car bomb exploded outside the justice minister's house; one security guard was killed and four others injured.

A mortar attack on a polling station killed one woman, and wounded another and her child.

A mortar shell landed near a polling station in al-Dhubbat neighbourhood, killing and injuring some people.

A US military base north of Baquba city came under Katyusha rocket attack.

A mortar attack killed one person.

Three mortars were fired into the main airport, which is now a US army base. There were no reported casualties.

Mortars struck two voting stations. US troops killed one attacker and arrested 15 others.

Six explosions, but no reported casualties.

Tal Afar, west of Mosul
One man was wounded in fighting between Iraqis and US forces.

Al-Duluiya, 70km north of Baghdad
Attacks were reported from voting stations in the city, no reported casualties.

Al-Mahawil, 80km south of Baghdad
Five people killed and 14 wounded when a bomb tore through a bus carrying voters to a polling station.

One Iraqi civilian killed and three policemen injured in mortar attack.

Polish military sources report another incident involving an explosion aboard a bus transporting voters. Three Iraqis reported killed.

Al-Muqtadiya, 100km north of Baghdad
Two attackers blew themselves up in front of voter stations

No citizens have voted because of poor security conditions.
As polls opened across the country, early signs showed a poor turnout of voters in Mosul. US soldiers were seen driving around city blocks asking why residents were not voting.
Is that subtle pressure or is that stupidity? Or both?
Voter turnout was heavy in Al-Qadisiya district of the city, however. A polling station for the city's Kurdish population is located in the heart of the district.

Polling stations in several towns in Iraq have not opened five hours after nationwide voting started on Sunday, the country's electoral commission said.

"In Latifiya, Mahmudiya and Yusufiya, polling stations have not yet opened their doors," commission spokesman Farid Ayar told reporters.

"As you know, Latifiya, Mahmudiya and Yusufiya are hotspots. We have allowed residents of these areas to vote in the nearest polling station" to the towns, said another member of the commission.

In war-ravaged Falluja, nearly all residents stayed at home despite the presence of five polling stations. Only one man was reported to have voted.

"Nobody will vote in Samarra because of the security situation," said Taha Husain, the head of Samarra's local governing council.


Kurdish areas are expected to register the highest turnout in Iraq.


Unlike the rest of Iraq, it is not the first time Kurds in the three northern provinces have had the chance to vote in a free election. In 1992, just after the first Gulf war, they elected a regional parliament, and in 1999 they elected three provincial councils.

And they would also like to be independent, and even to have their territory expanded. I've read that some of the Kurds are voting under the assumption that they will be getting Kurdish independence from Iraq.

Kurds voting

A US marine was killed in action in Anbar province west of Baghdad on Sunday, the US military said in a statement.
That's code for Falluja.

Previous Falluja posts
A Chronicle of Genocide

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Who said this?

"This so-called ill treatment and torture in detention centers, stories of which were spread everywhere among the people, and later by the prisoners who were freed ... were not, as some assumed, inflicted methodically, but were excesses committed by individual prison guards, their deputies, and men who laid violent hands on the detainees."

Answer here.

(Thanks to Tex at AntiWar blog for the link.)

Fasten your seat belts

One by one, the world's leaders rise. Solemnly, sincerely, they call for absurd measures - every one of which involves grand larceny. A few billion for this project...a few more billion for another. And not a penny of it out of the pockets of the great and good who, when not pompously grandstanding, are enjoying the caviar and champagne at Davos - usually, at someone else's expense. With a few notable exceptions, such as Bill Gates, none of those present has ever done anything but make the planet worse. They call for an end to world hunger - but none has planted a single turnip. They want to raise the Africans out of poverty - but who among them has started a business or built a bridge on that Dark Continent? They say they are for peace, but nearly everyone proposes some form of meddling in the affairs of others - almost sure to provoke an outbreak of violence at some point.

No, dear reader, these people are not doing good. They are doing very well - for themselves.

But, our beat is money; we have to keep reminding ourselves. And yesterday, the world of money seemed to stand still

The dollar is holding at $1.30 per euro.

The Dow is holding around 10,400.

Gold is holding near $425.

Meanwhile, the United States is holding its course to financial doom. And U.S. consumers are holding the bag!


The big news out of Davos was the speech we reported yesterday - Chinese economist Fan Gang told the world that the dollar's days are numbers. The greenback won't stop "devaluating," he said. So, China will look elsewhere to place its reserves.

America desperately needs China's cooperation. U.S. current account deficit is at a record high of about $650 billion; that is, it is greater than it was before the dollar fell. And the U.S. federal deficit is on course for a new record too - at about $427 billion for this year. And according to most recent reports, 83% of this shortfall is financed by foreign central banks. The overseas banks already hold more than $1 trillion of U.S. Treasury debt, $906 billion of which is just two places - Tokyo and Beijing.

There is a limit, said Alan Greenspan a few months ago, "to the willingness of foreign governments to finance U.S. current account deficits." Fan Gang seemed to be saying that the limit had been reached.
  The Daily Reckoning article

China's central bank denied Friday that Beijing plans to soon loosen the link between its currency and the U.S. dollar, though remarks by economists suggesting a change was imminent briefly shook financial markets.

A member of the monetary policy committee at the central bank, Yu Yongding, told journalists attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that given the dollar's recent weakness, "now is the time to revalue ... We need more flexibility. That means revaluation."

However, an official in the People's Bank of China's information office said Friday that Yu was an academic adviser, not an official, and that his opinion did not reflect official policy.

"(Yu Yongding's) remarks are only his personal view, and the opinions of an academic. It does not represent the central bank's policy," an official in the central bank's information office said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity.


Earlier this week at Davos, another prominent Chinese economist said Beijing has lost faith in the dollar's stability.

China's first priority was to broaden the exchange rate from the dollar to a more flexible basket of currencies, said Fan Gang, who as director of the National Economic Research Institute at the China Reform Foundation is also not a government official.
  Forbes article

The EU gained ground without the slightest help from its central bankers. Kurt Richebacher explains:

"During the past few years, there has not been the slightest effort in Europe to stimulate the economy with artificially low interest rates because we don't believe in this. It's not because we are stupid, but because we don't believe in it.

"Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has boosted its deficit over this time by 7% of GDP. In Europe the deficit today is the same as five years ago."

Americans cut rates to increase consumption. In the span of four years, 2000-2004, consumption increased more than 100% of GDP growth. They actually consumed more than they made, with the extra consumption coming from imports. If you consume more than you produce, you have nothing left over to build factories, develop infrastructure improvements and make the kind of investments that lead to higher wages and real economic growth. Not surprisingly, real wages fell in 2004. Americans grow poorer.
  The Daily Reckoning article


AP Photo/Ron Edmonds

Badger Badger Badger

Thanks to Apostropher, you too can now enjoy the greatest music video made yet.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Bush's proposal for new federal employee rules

[T]his is the kind of issue that makes one's eyes glaze over, but it also defines the balance of power in the bureaucracy and is therefore an issue we ought to care about. Especially since it concerns far more than just DHS. Rewards for merit and performance are good, and there are certainly reasons to rethink the old, calcified pay grades, but the Bush scheme does not seem the proper way to go about it and might introduce real danger and political trouble into our civil service.
Boffoblog explains the "Bush scheme".

First charges in the Oil-for-Food scandal

[January 2005]

An Iraqi-born American citizen has pleaded guilty to accepting millions of dollars in a plot to skim money from the U.N. oil-for-food program.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said the case against Samir Vincent sends a clear message to both Americans and Iraqis: "Corruption will not be tolerated. It will be prosecuted."
  Pittsburgh Channel article

[October 2004]

[T]he one company that helped Saddam exploit the oil-for-food program in the mid-1990s that wasn’t identified in Duelfer’s report was Halliburton, and the person at the helm of Halliburton at the time of the scheme was Vice President Dick Cheney. Halliburton and its subsidiaries were one of several American and foreign oil supply companies that helped Iraq increase its crude exports from $4 billion in 1997 to nearly $18 billion in 2000 by skirting U.S. laws and selling Iraq spare parts so it could repair its oil fields and pump more oil.


U.N. documents show that Halliburton's affiliates have had controversial dealings with the Iraqi regime during Cheney's tenure at the company and played a part in helping Saddam Hussein illegally pocket billions of dollars under the U.N.’s oil-for-food program.


Halliburton subsidiaries, Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll Dresser Pump Co., sold water and sewage treatment pumps, spare parts for oil facilities and pipeline equipment to Baghdad through French affiliates from the first half of 1997 to the summer of 2000.


During the 2000 presidential campaign, Cheney adamantly denied that under his leadership, Halliburton did business with Iraq. While he acknowledged that his company did business with Libya and Iran through foreign subsidiaries, Cheney said, "Iraq's different." He claimed that he imposed a "firm policy" prohibiting any unit of Halliburton against trading with Iraq.

"I had a firm policy that we wouldn't do anything in Iraq, even arrangements that were supposedly legal," Cheney said on the ABC-TV news program "This Week" on July 30, 2000. "We've not done any business in Iraq since U.N. sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1990, and I had a standing policy that I wouldn't do that."
  Halliburton Watch article

...hey, do what you will anyway.

Meanwhile in Iraq

Insurgents hit the U.S. embassy with an audacious rocket strike on Saturday that killed two Americans and wounded four, and also killed 17 Iraqis and an American soldier on the eve of Iraq's landmark election.

Militants who have sworn to turn the poll into a bloodbath and kill anyone who dares to vote frequently fire rockets and mortars at Baghdad's fortresslike Green Zone, but Saturday's attack was the first in months to cause Western casualties.


Even as U.S.-trained security forces barricaded streets, sealed land borders and closed Baghdad airport, more than a dozen polling stations were attacked and bloodshed continued to overshadow the final electoral countdown.
  Reuters article

War News for Saturday, January 29, 2005

Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed by small arms fire in Baghdad ambush.

Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi soldiers killed, four wounded in rocket attack near Duluiyah.

Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi soldiers, five civilians killed by suicide bomber near Khanaqin.

Bring ‘em on: Three US soldiers killed, one wounded by roadside bomb in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqis killed by car bomb at Baghdad power plant.

Bring ‘em on Six Iraqi soldiers killed in Ramadi ambush.

Bring ‘em on: One US soldier killed, three wounded by roadside bomb in Baghdad.

Bring ‘em on: Heavy fighting reported in Samarra.

Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi policeman killed in multiple attacks on Kirkuk polling stations.

Bring ‘em on: Mosul election center heavily damaged by car bomb.

Bring ‘em on: Insurgents execute three Iraqi contractors near Balad.

Bring ‘em on: Four polling stations in Basra bombed.

Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi soldier killed, one wounded in mortar attack near Suwayrah.

Two US soldiers killed in helicopter crash near Baghdad.
  Today in Iraq

Advice to Democrats

What can one say about a party that learns from the miserable militaristic "John Kerry reporting for duty" campaign loss the lesson that they should "ease up" on abortion, an issue on which the public is already with them, start talking about what good Christians they are, which nobody will believe even if it's true, and completely forget the word "Iraq," except in a retrospective sense?


Two-thirds of Senate Democrats voted to approve the appointment of [Condoleezza Rice] who was accused by other Senate Democrats of being a flagrant liar. And, to boot, the charge is obviously correct.

So, we have a party that's under ferocious attack from a force that controls all three branches of government, nearly controls broadcast media, and is constantly scheming to increase its power, effectively isolating and rejecting fairly important people in its own ranks when they happen to tell the obvious truth.

As Marx would say, the Democratic Party may be a party of itself, but there is precious little evidence that it's a party for itself. If this doesn't change, well, it's not hard to predict the outcome of a war in which one side doesn't fight.

So, a propos of all that, some advice. Let me preface it by saying clearly this is an outside view. I'm not a Democrat and I can't stand the Democrats. If this advice is followed, I still won't be a Democrat. This is advice not from a left perspective (mine), but simply from the perspective of the party's survival as a party.

First, your biggest problem is not that you will be labelled "obstructionist" (although you will) but that you will be crushed by a force that doesn't believe there should be any limits to its power. Thus, fighting back even when you're going to lose is important.


Second, and most important, don't just play defense. It's important to go out and attack the Republicans. [...] It seems impossible in this climate to go after Bush or Cheney and pointless to go after an appointed member of the executive branch (except in cases, like Rumsfeld, where again it's impossible). So go after a prominent legislator on ethics charges -- maybe Tom Delay? Create a situation where the Republicans have to either openly sanction corruption or acquiesce in the elimination of one of their own. If this works, lather, rinse, repeat.


. Your current strategy of curling up in a ball and hoping the Republicans don't kick you just encourages them to kick you.

Any readers out there who have more contact with the Democrats than I do, please feel free to pass on this advice.

  Empire Notes

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

A mole in the progressive movement?

David Corn has frequently served as a Neo-Con Lite version of someone who dismisses those who have investigated the crimes of the U.S. government. Corn's attacks against Greg Palast for his coverage of the very real and demonstrably criminal vote fraud in Ohio in 2004 and Florida in 2000 is a case in point. Palast relied on good old pavement-pounding to discover the fraud. The same cannot be said for Corn and his dismissal of the Palast's story. The same situation occured with Corn's attacks on the book Forbidden Truth, published by his Nation magazine's very own publisher. Never mind the fact that the United States had been negotiating with the Taliban just prior to 9/11 as highlighted in the book. Corn's unforgivable attack against the late investigative journalist Gary Webb was an all time low for someone who seems to relish launching broadsides against those who may represent some perceived competition.

Corn's contributor status with Fox News Channel and his almost constant use of that tag line is also problematic. It's certainly not in Rupert Murdoch's interest to have independent journalists running around throwing stones at his man in the White House.
David Corn's blog at The Nation.

BushCo's PROMIS to the world

In this electrifying timeline-driven report, Wall Street whistleblower Indira Singh lays out the connections between the providers of this advanced software (derived from the PROMIS software stolen from the Inslaw corporation in the 1980s by the US Justice Department and others) and the network of terrorist financing (sustained with US blessing) that has pervaded U.S covert operations for years. That deep-political relationship is at its strongest in the Bush administration, whose Saudi and Pakistani ties go back decades.

Dick Cheney, James Baker, GHWB, Dubya, and the people in and around the once and future American ruling junta have financially live links to the Muslim Brotherhood milieu that formed part of BCCI and, more recently, al Qaeda (this is also the context of a fascinatingly influential relationship among Kermit Roosevelt, GHWB, and Adnan Khashoggi). Nazis and their admirers are the third piece in the triangle, connected to Islamists since the Muslim Brotherhood's creation in 1928 by Hitler ally Hasam al-Banna, and connected to the Bush clan through decades of interdependence with American oil and intelligence elites - including the Rockefellers (Standard Oil) and the Harrimans (Brown Bros. Harriman / Kellogg Brown and Root / Halliburton).2

Viewed in this context, the Ptech story is a chilling reminder that this network is still in charge; that it facilitated the 9/11 attacks that murdered thousands and destroyed the health of thousands more; and that "our" American defenses against sabotage are woefully dependent upon the goodwill of saboteurs (both foreign and domestic).

  PTECH, 9/11, and USA-SAUDI TERROR - Part I: PROMIS Connections to Cheney Control of 9/11 Attacks Confirmed

The computational power of the Ptech evolution of PROMIS represents a daunting new surveillance-and-intervention capability in the hands of the same elites who planned 9/11, prosecute the subsequent resource wars, and are presiding over what may become a full economic and military disaster for the resource-consuming citizens of America and the world. Since the "War On Terror" and the coming dollar/fossil fuel collapse will necessitate new levels of domestic repression, this is just the capability those elites require. Ptech is the functional equivalent of Total Information Awareness.


The issue of Saudi complicity in the attacks of 9/11 has played out into two different views. The first is the idea that the Saudis were solely responsible. This has been pumped up by Fox News and largely accepted as gospel in certain parts of the mainstream media. The second view is that the Saudis were set up to take the fall for having pulled off 9/11, covering up U.S. complicity. Neither view is correct, and both depend on a mistaken view of that country as a monolithic, homogeneous actor on the world stage. The opposite is true.


Like virtually all Islamic states, Saudi Arabia has been the target of ongoing efforts by American intelligence aimed at suppressing any stirrings of incipient secular leftism. This is opposed, we believe, to what may be convenient and clandestine support for "al-Qaeda" terrorists (i.e. fundamentalists), acting as US proxies, who might destabilize the kingdom in advance of the US carving off only those regions with oil reserves.


The Ptech story is of intense interest for its implications about US government guilt in 9/11. As Ralph Schoenman, Michel Chossudovsky, Paul Thompson and others have argued, "al Qaeda" is not only traceable to CIA activity in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the Soviet period, it is also a current tool of American imperial ambitions.


Beneficiaries of the Ptech-connected MAK charities, the young men in Hezbollah and Hamas are fighting in land disputes, not heady ideological quests. They are also bitter, bereaved, murderous bigots with all the psychic rigidity and hysteria found in fundamentalists from Oklahoma to Hebron to Jeddah. Their hatred of the American national security state is surely absolute, but they are also beneficiaries of the Pentagon's need for an Enemy. That means that they can expect the United States to provide covert help of some kind at crucial points in the game. And the most despicable element in the American side of that process is the Bush-Cheney junta itself, which used its own assets inside the terrorist network associated with Osama bin Laden to murder three thousand civilians in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania as a pretext for unending warfare. This was done for reasons of state. But it was also done for personal gratifications including vast sums of money, permanent blackmail over those involved, and a heroin-like rush of criminally insane individual power. Sophisticated or naïve, cynical or grandiose and idealistic, each person involved betrayed humanity. And the apparatus that permitted this remains in place - as do most of the personnel.


The solution to the Ptech problem is not just to get all that creepy software the hell off the computers. The bigger solution is transparency and disclosure, de-militarization and political internationalism; localization of production and exchange; and a more equitable distribution of resources and opportunity.


And though all ideals are warped by the rigors of practice, this was the point of President Kennedy's de-escalation in Laos, his Alliance for Progress in Latin America, and his refusal to invade Cuba:

What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children--not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women--not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.

  PTECH, 9/11, and USA-SAUDI TERROR PART II:    * The FAA & Ptech; * Debriefed by Secret Service - looking for a PROMIS; * Muslim Brotherhood, Christian Cultists, and Nazis
And we know what happened to Mr. Kennedy.

These excerpts are from summaries of stories online at From the Wilderness that are available only to subscribers. Michael Ruppert used to provide his website completely free. Now, some things are and some aren't. It's too bad that it isn't all free, but the man is an investigative reporter, and he can't work for nothing.

Here are some other links to information about PROMIS, including this interesting article:

"The Americans, through Hadron, sold Promis to a number of countries, including Britain, Australia, South Korea, Iraq, and Canada. Many of the secrets of those nations' intelligence agencies were read through the Promis trap door by the Americans." [...] The Israelis, through Degem, sold Promis to the East Bloc and other countries, including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Nicaragua. An abridged version of Promis, including the trap door, was also sold by Degem to Credit Suisse in 1985. [...] Maxwell's Degem even sold Promis to the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. [...] When the Soviets expressed a desire to have Promis, Degem technicians fitted it to the IBM computers, complete with the tell-all trap door. In early 1991, before the coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet military intelligence, GRU, was still using Promis. So whether he knew about the trap door or not, Maxwell gave the Americans a direct line into Soviet military intelligence.

I believe that one of the reasons I was arrested in 1989 on a trumped-up arms charge was that I, on behalf of the Israeli government, threatened to expose what the Americans were doing with Promis if they continued their support of chemical weapons being supplied to Saddam Hussein's Iraq.


The question is, why was Bin Laden recently provided with a copy of this software? [...] Now his men which were trained by the CIA can travel freely with no fear of reprisal. George Bush Sr. was vice president when the software was developed, and is a definite insider of this faction of government that sent Promise worldwide. He is connected to the Bin Laden family through the Carlyle Group, which means that both the Bin Laden fortune and the Bush fortune are greatly increased with every military act.


Newer computer operating systems have "background housekeeping". This means that, at times, the computer will do things you didn't tell it to, such as building indexes. But it could also be performing surveillance on you.

Windows, from 95 up, is bugged. This means that it contains a trapdoor, and the NSA has a key.

To probe this further, search for "windows NSA key" in a search engine.

Not only Windows, but all newer OS may be bugged.

A Mac expert informed me that the Mac OS is bugged from version 9 up. A Unix expert informed me that Unix is probably bugged too - even Open Source Unix. It would be possible to bug it because it's so complex, and written in the cryptic language "C".

Don't trust encryption; and back up your OS & data regularly.

How Big Brother can keep info on your computer.

But for better protection, switch to Mac or Unix - Department of Homeland Security Standardizes on Mac OS 10 (X)

Bin Laden's Magic Carpet - Secret U.S. PROMIS Software

America’s Spy Software Scandal, Courtesy of the U.S. DOJ

America’s top spy-catcher has suddenly resigned in the middle of investigation into how Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden obtained state-of-the-art US computer software

One last thing...this paragraph from a short Michael Ruppert article written in September of 2001:

A final question: Why, in light of all the information we now know the government had about imminent attacks, did the Bush Administration gift the Taliban with $43 million in May of this year? The move by the White House, sorely criticized by columnist Robert Scheer in the May 22, 2001 Los Angeles Times, was an alleged reward by the U.S. for the Taliban's destruction of Afghan opium crops in February. Now, the U.S. government is rushing to mate with a Pakistani regime that sustains itself by, and derives liquid currency from, the drug trade. The result of that is that opium production will surely blossom again in Afghanistan - under U.S./CIA control. The obvious suggestion here is that the U.S., directly or indirectly, helped to fund the WTC attacks.
This is certain: opium production surely blossomed again in Afghanistan.