Saturday, May 06, 2006

Bush calls the fight against terror 'World War III'

US President George W. Bush said the September 11 revolt of passengers against their hijackers on board Flight 93 had struck the first blow of "World War III."

In an interview with the financial news network CNBC, Bush said he had yet to see the recently released film of the uprising, a dramatic portrayal of events on the United Airlines plane before it crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

But he said he agreed with the description of David Beamer, whose son Todd died in the crash, who in a Wall Street Journal commentary last month called it "our first successful counter-attack in our homeland in this new global war -- World War III".

Bush said: "I believe that. I believe that it was the first counter-attack to World War III.

In 2002, then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer explicitly declined to call the hunt for Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda group and its followers "World War III."

Source Here.

The self fulfilling prophecies of Monsieur megalomaniac strike again . Mr Bush you are not President Roosevelt,Zaqarwi is not Hitler and your operation 'Iraqi disintegration' will never stand along side D day in the great moments of democracy and freedom.

Breaking: US and UK soldiers killed in two seperate helicopter incidents (video)

A British helicopter has crashed in Basra, with the Ministry of Defence confirming there are "casualties". Police in the southern Iraqi city said the aircraft had crashed into a house after being hit by a rocket.

The MoD said there were casualties but could give no further details. Iraqi firefighters told Reuters news agency they had seen four bodies at the scene.

British soldiers deployed in the city sealed off the area as hundreds of Iraqis rushed to see the incident. The MoD said it was too early to know what had caused the crash, but they were investigating all possibilities.

Video footage from Iraqi television showed orange flames and large plumes of black smoke curling into the sky. British troops were seen running through the streets, firing shots into the air.

The footage also showed hundreds of Iraqis near the scene of the crash waving their arms in the air and throwing stones.
Video from BBC is just coming onto the news wire Here. (windows media player required)

Meanwhile Ten US soldiers have been killed after their helicopter crashed in Afghanistan late on Friday night, officials from the US-led coalition said. The CH-47 Chinook came down in Kunar province near a "mountaintop landing zone" 240km (150 miles) east of Kabul.

The soldiers were reportedly involved in operations against the Taleban, although military officials said the crash was not caused by enemy fire.


This site has just had its 100,000th visitor. So just a quick pause to thank all of you that have passed through to praise or complain about the work we do here. The number has far exceeded the few hundred we would have hoped to achieve so I am very grateful to all those of you who have popped in since the site opened in July 2005.

Friday, May 05, 2006

U.N. reminds U.S. 'Its your duty to answer " torture allegations

The United Nations urged the United States to set an example in combating torture, saying it must be more open is addressing allegations of prisoner abuse stemming from the war on terror.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture asked U.S. officials about a series of issues ranging from Washington's interpretation of a global ban on torture to its interrogation methods in prisons such as Abu Ghraib, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Andreas Mavrommatis of Cyprus, who chaired the session, praised the United States for its ''unique contribution'' in promoting human rights around the world, but said it has an obligation to be above reproach.

He said he could understand that intelligence matters needed careful treatment, ''but they are not excluded'' from scrutiny.

''If during intelligence activities there is a violation of the convention, it's our duty to investigate them and your duty to answer,'' Mavrommatis said.

State Department legal adviser John B. Bellinger III, leading the U.S. delegation in its first appearance before the committee in six years, insisted the U.S. government felt an ''absolute commitment to upholding our national and international obligations to eradicate torture.''

The committee submitted questions in advance to the U.S. government that covered such matters such as alleged secret CIA prisons and the ''rendition'' or transfer of terror suspects to other countries, where they allegedly could face torture.

Bellinger told reporters later that it was ''an absurd allegation'' to suggest that any U.S. intelligence flight in Europe might be carrying a detainee, because many carry analysts, officials and forensic information. But he added that it wasn't proper to provide details on intelligence activities.

The U.S. delegation told the committee, the U.N.'s watchdog for a 22-year-old treaty forbidding prisoner abuse, that mistakes had occurred in the U.S. treatment of detainees in the war against terrorism and 29 detainees in U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan had died of what appeared to be abuse or other violations of U.S. law.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Stimson said a total of 120 detainees have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, but none had died at Guantanamo. Most of the deaths resulted from natural causes, battlefield injuries or attacks by other detainees, he said.

In the cases of the 29 deaths from suspected abuse, Stimson said, ''these alleged violations were properly investigated and appropriate action taken.''

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Barry Lowenkron said the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib ''sickened the American people - just as they appalled people around the world. They were inexcusable, they were indefensible.''

The U.S. conducted more than 600 criminal investigations into allegations of mistreatment and more than 250 people had been held accountable for abusing detainees, Lowenkron said.

But Fernando Marino Menendez of spain cited Human Rights Watch as claiming that only a small number received prison sentences.

The United States is taking its turn as one of the 141 signatories to the Convention Against Torture in submitting to a periodic review by the 10 independent members of the committee.

Article Source here.

Rumsfeld gets rumbled (video)

Ray McGovern stood up for sanity today and decided it was about time Mr Rumsfeld answered some honest questions . Who is Ray McGovern well he is not exactly your run of the mill protester. He has spent twenty seven years working for the CIA and it seems he has just about had enough.....

Watch the Video Here

Check out the source from the excellent Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Oh, Say, Can You See Xenophobia in a Land of Immigrants?

by John Chuckman

"One of the important things here is that we not lose our national soul"

Was George Bush speaking of some truly shattering event in American affairs? Perhaps the imprisonment and torture of thousands of innocent people? Perhaps the lack of democratic legitimacy in his own coming to power?

No, what Bush was describing is a version of the American national anthem in Spanish "Nuestro Himno [Our Anthem]—which was played on American Hispanic radio and television stations recently

Now, in many countries with multi-ethnic populations, most people would see this as charming and flattering. Canada's anthem has two official versions, French and English, and were a group of immigrants to offer it in Ukrainian or Mandarin, most Canadians would be tickled. It would undoubtedly be featured on CBC.

But in America, the broadcast of a Spanish version of "The Star Spangled Banner" has aroused a somewhat different response. Charles Key, great-great-grandson of Francis Scott, offered the immortal words, "I think it's despicable thing that someone is going into our society from another country and...changing our national anthem."

"This is evoking spirited revulsion on the part of fair-minded Americans," offered John Teeley, representative of one of innumerable private propaganda mills in Washington commonly dignified as think-tanks. Mr. Teeley continued, "You are talking about something sacred and iconic in the American culture. Just as we wouldn't expect people to change the colors of the national flag, we wouldn't expect people to fundamentally change the anthem and rewrite it in a foreign language."

A foreign language? There are roughly 30 million Spanish speakers in the United States. The analysis here is interesting: an immigrant singing an anthem in his own language resembles someone changing the national flag. This argument does, perhaps unintentionally, reveal the real concern: Hispanics are changing our country, and we don't like it.

So it is not surprising that the American low-life constituency's political and moral hero, George Bush, should declare: "I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English, and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English."

Never mind that the American Constitution says nothing about language. Never mind that waves of immigrants from Europe about a hundred years ago founded countless private schools and cultural institutions in the United States where German or Italian or Hebrew were the languages used and promoted. Never mind that after a generation or two, minority immigrants always end up adopting the language of the majority, something which is close to an economic necessity. And never mind that xenophobia in a land of immigrants should have no place.

An entertaining historical note here is that Francis Scott Key did not write the important part of "The Star Spangled Banner," its music. Key wrote a breast-swelling amateurish poem whose words were fitted to an existing song. The existing song, as few Americans know, was an English song, "To Anachreon in Heaven," a reference to a Greek poet whose works concern amour and wine. "The Star Spangled Banner," in any version, only began playing a really prominent role in America during my lifetime, that is, with the onset of the Cold War. In Chicago public schools during the early 1950s, we sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," another breast-sweller, written not many years after Key's, by another amateur poet, Samuel Smith, sung to the music of the British national anthem, "God Save the King."

It shouldn't be necessary to remind anyone in an advanced country that things change, and they change at increasing rates. Even in the remote possibility, a century or two from now, Spanish or some blend of Spanish and English were to become the dominant language of the United States, what would it matter to today's angry and intolerant people? After all, the English language came from another land, and it grew out of centuries of change from Latin to early versions of German and French layered onto the language of Celtic people.

Throughout history, fascism is closely associated with xenophobia, but then we find many other unpleasant aspects of fascism—from illegal spying to recording what people read in libraries, from torture to illegal invasion—feature in George Bush's America.

Article Source Here.

Success is not the transition to death by electric drill

The Iraqi occupation has made a bad situation worse, with real political power passing to violent militias on the streets

By David Clark.

It has long been clear to all bar its most stubborn advocates that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been the mother of all foreign policy disasters. Three years ago this week, President Bush flew on to the USS Abraham Lincoln to announce that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended". In a display of premature triumphalism that quickly came to symbolise the hubris and folly of US policy, the banner over his head declared: "mission accomplished".

But judging failure and holding those responsible to account has been complicated by a lack of clarity about what exactly that mission was. So many justifications for war have been offered that its supporters have found it relatively easy to respond to the collapse of one by seeking refuge in another.

It is only comparatively recently that they have run out of places to hide. The WMD case was beginning to unravel even before Bush declared victory. As the most recent US state department report demonstrates, terrorism is a greater threat than ever. There has been no "democratic domino effect" sweeping across the Middle East. And even the claim to have liberated Iraqis from a cruel and despotic regime now seems increasingly forlorn.

The failure to achieve these war aims would be bad enough in view of the enormous cost in blood and treasure, but there is now considerable evidence to suggest that in most respects the invasion has made a bad situation worse. That there was no Iraqi WMD threat, or even the prospect of one, is less of a problem than that the risks of proliferation have increased. The Blair-Bush-Gadafy axis of desperation may have delivered Libya's paltry WMD programme in exchange for international rehabilitation, but in the far more serious case of Iran, the Iraq quagmire means that Washington has few good options for preventing the mullahs going nuclear.

More broadly, Iraq has served to dramatically weaken the deterrence effect of American military power. Post-cold war American military planning had been based on a two-war standard: the ability to fight two medium-sized wars in separate theatres simultaneously. Iraq has revealed America's inability to contain even a single low-intensity insurgency without absorbing a large proportion of its available strength. Tied down, Gulliver-like, America today gives potential rogue states little reason to fear its wrath.

The argument that the invasion of Iraq was a natural extension of the war on terror was always weak. In fact, Iraq is a much bigger terrorist threat now that Saddam has gone. Claims of a link between Ba'athism and al-Qaida have become self-fulfilling as Islamists have been able to position themselves in the vanguard of opposition to the occupation. Furthermore, Iraq provides an ideal laboratory for perfecting the kind of terrorism al-Qaida wants to export to the west. Unlike Afghanistan, which was little more than a jihadi playground, Iraq supplies an urban setting, an active theatre of operations and a steady supply of western targets.

In a report last autumn, a leading expert on counter-terrorism, Anthony Cordesman, identified 39 "major adaptations" in the tactics and capabilities of the insurgency. Many of these skills and the people who have perfected them could easily be used to bring violence to our own streets. It is a horrifying thought, but it is perhaps only a matter of time before suicide bombers carrying backpacks are replaced by Baghdad-style car bombs that are much harder to detect and are capable of killing hundreds instead of dozens.

The idea that the removal of Saddam's regime would unleash a wave of democratic sentiment across Iraq and the wider Arab world had its brief, heady moment of apparent realisation last year with elections in Egypt, Palestine and Iraq. How different things look in 2006. With the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and the theocratic Shia parties the main beneficiaries of the vote, the triumphalist "end of history" assumption that democracy will always replicate pro-western outcomes has been exposed for the wishful thinking it always was.

Meanwhile, the pro-democracy movement in Iran - the Middle Eastern country where it stood probably the greatest chance of indigenous success - has been suppressed as part of an authoritarian backlash against the perceived threat of American influence on its borders. The politics of national security always favour the demagogue, and President Ahmadinejad should be counted as one of the main beneficiaries of the Iraq war.

In many parts of Iraq real political power has passed to the street, where militias aligned to the ruling parties enforce their own laws, using violence against opponents of the regime, women who refuse to wear the veil and shopkeepers who sell alcohol. Much has been made of the suggestion that the supposedly moderate prime minister designate, Jawad al-Maliki, intends to disband the militias. Yet Maliki, deputy leader of the Islamist Dawa party, has promised to do no such thing. His plan is to merge the militias into the security forces, giving official sanction to their already widespread penetration of police and army. Whether it is in the ministries of Baghdad or on the streets of Basra, Iraq is now ruled by people who in any other context would be denounced by liberal hawks as Islamofacists.

The argument of last resort for those who supported regime change has always been that at least Saddam has gone and the torture chambers have been closed. Even that has turned out to be an illusion, with the news that the director of the Baghdad morgue has had to flee Iraq under threat of death for revealing that thousands of Iraqis are being killed by death squads, many of them linked to the interior ministry. Some of the victims have apparently been tortured to death with electric drills. The build up to war was full of contested claims about Saddam's secret police feeding his opponents into industrial shredders. Is our success to be measured in the transition from shredders to electric drills?

The final line of defence is to question the priorities of those who continue to raise Iraq, and dismiss the issue as a bore. Most of us would gladly move on from Iraq, be we should not do so on the self-interested terms demanded by those who led us to this disaster. Not while the people of Iraq continue to suffer the consequences. Not while those responsible remain in power. Not while there is the remotest chance that it might happen again.

· David Clark is a former Labour government adviser

Article Source : Here.

Author contact

French PM rules out force on Iran

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has said that military action is not the solution to the international standoff over Iran's nuclear program.

"My conviction is that military action is certainly not the solution," Villepin said at a monthly news conference. "We have already lived through this type of scenario and we know that not only does it settle nothing, but it can raise risks. We have seen this in the most clear way with Iraq."

Villepin -- who made a famed speech at the United Nations against the war in Iraq in 2003 when he was French foreign minister -- urged "unity" and "firmness" within the international community in dealing with Iran.

Saying Iranian statements about its growing nuclear capabilities were "worrying," Villepin said Russian and Chinese support for any U.N. resolution was necessary "for the credibility of our action, the pressure on Iran."

France and other western nations circulated a U.N. Security Council resolution Wednesday that would demand Iran abandon uranium enrichment or face the threat of unspecified further measures -- a possible reference to sanctions. China and Russia oppose the measure.

The resolution is the latest effort to pressure Iran to stop what the United States, France and others say is a clandestine nuclear weapons program. Iran says it is developing nuclear technology purely for energy.

Source : Here.

With France ( China and Russia) holding a permanent position on the United Nations security council it seems we can be assured that the only way that military force is going to be used against Iran is by an illegal attack by the United States or Israel. Still at least they will find this one easier to justify if only by replacing the Q with an N and using the same excuses we heard with Iraq.

As per usual in this very strange political climate it seems we will be depending on China,France and Russia to bring sanity to the debate.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Iraq, Afghanistan among `failing states'

Despite large-scale US support, a study shows that Iraq and Afghanistan rank among the world's most vulnerable states.

In its second annual "failed states" index, Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace concluded that Sudan is the country under the most severe stress because of violent internal conflict.

Eleven of the 20 most vulnerable countries of the 148 nations examined in the survey are in Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast, both chronically volatile in recent years, ranked second and third.

A "failing state" was described as one in which the government lacks effective control over its territory, is not perceived as legitimate by a significant portion of its population, does not provide domestic security or basic public services to its citizens and lacks a monopoly on the use of force.

Sudan received low grades in virtually all areas surveyed, including protection of human rights, "group grievances" against the government and numbers of refugees and displaced people. The western Sudanese region of Darfur has generated well over two million displaced since 2003.

According to the review, the situation in Iraq (fourth) and Afghanistan (10th) deteriorated since last year, the first year the survey was taken.

"For Iraq, the index category that worsened most was human flight," the report says. "The exodus of Iraq's professional class has accelerated, leaving the country without the trained citizens it needs to staff important posts."

Iraq's instability was underscored in a State Department report last week that said 30 percent of all terror attacks worldwide last year occurred in Iraq.

In terms of available human resources, Afghanistan faces a somewhat different problem from Iraq. The report says while educated Afghan exiles have been slow to return since the US-led overthrow of the Taleban government in 2001, overwhelmingly poor Afghan refugees have returned in large numbers from Iran and Pakistan.

"The result is a capital city busting at the seams but short of trained administrators."

Pakistan (ninth) is another troubled country. Its inability to police the tribal areas near the Afghan border helped lead to one of the sharpest declines in overall score of any nation on the index.

The analysis debunks the notion that steady growth rates in China are making the country more stable. China lost ground last year and showed at 57th on the list.

Pauline Baker, president of the Fund for Peace, said the major factors behind China's vulnerability are inequality and corruption that led to about 87,000 peasant protests last year.

Source : Here

Moussaoui jury reject death penalty

' Al-Qaeda plotter' Zacarias Moussaoui is to face life in jail, rather than execution, for his role in the 9/11 attacks, a US jury has decided. The prosecution had called for the death sentence, arguing that "there is no place on this good Earth" for him.

But defence lawyers successfully argued he should face life in prison, rather than martyrdom through execution. The judge is bound to hand down the jail sentence. Moussaoui is the only man prosecuted in the US over 9/11. Although he was in jail at the time of the attacks, prosecutors claimed he told lies to allow the plot to continue.

Crazy Terrorist or simply mentally ill ?

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin offered his immediate anylasis of the verdict

"His connection to the attacks is -- it's not zero, as the jury found -- but it's not that strong. And the thing that got him convicted or got him to this stage -- he pleaded guilty -- is his insane, self-defeating testimony that may have been some sort of bid for martyrdom.But the actual evidence that the government presented was really not that strong."

"One interpretation of that is that he's simply crazy. Another interpretation is that he is simply an al Qaeda soldier who wants to see Americans die and he's acting perfectly rationally. This is one of the issues very much in front of the jury."

Torture "widespread" under US custody: Amnesty

Torture and inhumane treatment are "widespread" in U.S.-run detention centers in Afghanistan,Iraq, Cuba and elsewhere despite Washington's denials, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

In a report for the United Nations' Committee against Torture, the London-based human rights group also alleged abuses within the U.S. domestic law enforcement system, including use of excessive force by police and degrading conditions of isolation for inmates in high security prisons.

"Evidence continues to emerge of widespread torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of detainees held in U.S. custody," Amnesty said in its 47-page report.

It said that while Washington has sought to blame abuses that have recently come to light on "aberrant soldiers and lack of oversight," much ill-treatment stemmed from officially sanctioned interrogation procedures and techniques.

"The U.S. government is not only failing to take steps to eradicate torture, it is actually creating a climate in which torture and other ill-treatment can flourish," said Amnesty International USA Senior Deputy Director-General Curt Goering.

The U.N. committee, whose experts carry out periodic reviews of countries signatory to the U.N. Convention against Torture, is scheduled to begin consideration of the United States on Friday. The last U.S. review was in 2000.

It said in November it was seeking U.S. answers to questions including whether Washington operated secret detention centers abroad and whether President George W. Bush had the power to absolve anyone from criminal responsibility in torture cases.

The committee also wanted to know whether a December 2004 memorandum from the U.S. Attorney General's office, reserving torture for "extreme" acts of cruelty, was compatible with the global convention barring all forms of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.

In its own submission to the committee, published late last year, Washington justified the holding of thousands of foreign terrorism suspects in detention centers abroad, including Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, on the grounds that it was fighting a war that was still not over.

"Like other wars, when they start, we do not know when they will end. Still, we may detain combatants until the end of the war," it said.

The U.S. human rights image has taken a battering abroad over a string of scandals involving the sexual and physical abuse of detainees held by American forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.

In its submission, Washington did not mention alleged secret detention centers.

Amnesty listed a series of incidents in recent years involving torture of detainees in U.S. custody, noting the heaviest sentence given to perpetrators was five months in jail. This was the same punishment you could get for stealing a bicycle in the United States, it added.

"Although the U.S. government continues to assert its condemnation of torture and ill-treatment, these statements contradict what is happening in practice," said Goering, referring to the testimony of torture victims in the report.

Source : Here.

Grandmother deployed to Iraq

A grandmother in eastern Iowa is getting one last call to duty.

Janet Grass, 52, had planned to retire from the military in about 10 months after spending 19 years in the U.S. Navy Reserve. Instead, she has been ordered to leave her job as a special-education teacher in Cascade to do security work in the Middle East.

"They're changing my career just as I'm retiring," she said. "I guess they wanted to try one more thing for me."

Grass boarded an airplane Thursday at the Dubuque Regional Airport amid emotional goodbyes from her family, which includes four children and six grandchildren. Grass will train in California and Texas before deploying to Iraq for 12 to 18 months.

"Being over there is being in a different world," said her son Tim, who has also served in the military. "It's about being mentally strong to face things that will confront her. She's good. She'll do fine."

Grass, a petty officer first class, recalled how her son had also served in Iraq in 2003.

"I'm taking over for Tim," she said, smiling as she prepared to board the airplane. "I get to play in the big sandbox and teach them to play nice. That's the teacher in me."

Grass said the toughest part of shipping out was saying goodbye to 300 youngsters at Cascade Elementary School, where a send-off assembly was conducted in her honor. "It was a rough one," she said.

As Grass prepared to board the airplane, a grandson grabbed her leg in embrace. She smiled at the boy. "I'll be back," she said.

Her sisters Julie Small and Jolene Petesch stood nearby, sobbing and holding each other in support. Tim Grass, holding a small American flag, watched his mother pass through the terminal gate as other family members questioned the timing of the deployment.

"I think it's wrong," Jolene Petesch said, noting that her sister was about to retire from the military. "The military screwed up there, and I'm angry about it.

"It's another Vietnam. We don't belong there, but I still support our troops."

Source : Here.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Once more unto the breach

This article is the work of Scott Ritter (The former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, 1991-1998.)The original can be found at the source Here

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has just released a report concerning Iran's nuclear programme, in which it notes that Iran has failed to comply with the UN security council's demands to cease its nuclear enrichment programmes. The IAEA report finds that Iran has, in defiance of the security council, in fact carried out a successful test to enrich uranium to the low levels needed in the production of nuclear energy. The IAEA also found that Iran had failed to provide a level of cooperation and transparency necessary for the IAEA to exclude the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme being carried out under the guise of civilian nuclear energy activities.

While the IAEA's report has underscored Iran's disturbing disregard for responding to the concerns of both the IAEA and the UN security council, it does not certify Iran as a clear and present danger, requiring a strong and immediate response from the international community. And yet the IAEA report has generated rhetoric from both the United States and Europe that seems well beyond that which the content of the report seems to merit. The British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, has joined US officials in condemning the Iranian government for its failure to halt its nuclear enrichment efforts, and has called for the UN security council to "increase the pressure on Iran". Many officials in Europe have echoed the UK position, believing, it seems, that such action represents a manifestation of President George Bush's stated objective of resolving the Iranian matter "diplomatically and peacefully".

Just how naive can Europe be? While public sentiment against the US-led invasion (and ongoing occupation) of Iraq remains high, manifesting itself in the reduction of the original "coalition of the willing" to pathetic levels, Europe ("old" and "new") continues to behave as if the current conflict with Iraq and the potential of future conflict with Iran remain two separate and distinct issues.

It is shocking to see European officials, skilled in the heavily nuanced world of EU diplomacy, accept without question the sophomoric equivocation by the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice that "Iran is not Iraq". This phrase has been used repeatedly by Rice to deflect any query as to whether or not there are any parallels between the current US "diplomatic" stance on Iran and the "diplomacy" undertaken in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, which has widely been acknowledged as representing little more than a smokescreen behind which the Bush administration prepared for a war already decided upon.

Iran may not be Iraq, but these two nations are inextricably linked through the Machiavellian machinations of a US national security strategy that not only embraces the legitimacy of pre-emptive war, but also the notion of America's inherent right to pursue a policy of "regional transformation" in the Middle East, a policy that has as its core operational thematic pre-emptive military action to remove the regimes of so-called "failed" and "rogue" states. In the 2006 version of this national security strategy, Iran is named 16 times as the leading threat to the national security of the United States. I would hope every European diplomat has read this document, and takes its contents to heart. The national security strategy of the United States, circa 2006, can leave no doubt as to what the true intent of the Bush administration is regarding Iran: regime change. The current "crisis" regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions represents nothing more than an emotionally-charged facilitator for war.

Europe continues to act as if the American policy objective of regime change is nothing more than the irresponsible blathering of rightwing media pundits. The self-delusion that encompasses this way of thinking holds that Europe's stance vis-รก-vis Iran serves more as a brake toward conflict, than the accelerant it actually is. As such, the European nations taking the lead on the Iranian issue - the UK, France and Germany - will meet on May 2 in Paris with representatives from Russia, China and the United States as a precursor for a meeting of the security council on May 3. The United States has already made clear its intent to introduce a draft resolution under Chapter VII of the UN charter, elevating Iran's obstinacy to the level of a clear and present danger to international peace and security, and paving the way for the imposition of stringent economic sanctions against Iran. The United States will be lobbying quite hard for such a resolution, and is looking to a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Paris group in New York on May 9 as the time and place for bringing this issue to a head.

While such measures appear on the surface to represent sound, measured diplomatic responses, the reality is that once the United States introduces a Chapter VII resolution, even in draft form, war with Iran is all but assured. Russia and China, both permanent members of the security council with veto powers, have made clear their collective objection to any Chapter VII action against Iran. However, by endorsing the transfer of the Iranian issue from the International Atomic Energy Agency to the security council, as well as the original security council "warning" against Iran, both Russia and China have played into the hands of US policy-makers, who have and will continue to use these actions as a clear endorsement of their position that Iran and its nuclear programme represents a threat to international security.

If the Russians and Chinese balk over the imposition of Chapter VII-linked measures against Iran, as they have indicated they will, then the Bush administration will simply declare that the security council has become impotent and irrelevant in dealing with threats that it has itself declared to exist, and, as such, the United States, not wanting to have its own national security interests so hijacked, will have no choice but to move forward void of any security council endorsement or authorisation. This model of action directly parallels that undertaken by the US and UK regarding Iraq, and has been strongly alluded to in recent statements made by Vice-President Cheney, the US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, and Rice.

The United States has positioned itself masterfully in this regard. But the sense of urgency being pushed by the Bush administration does not match the reality painted by its own director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, who recently testified before the US Congress that Iran was, at best, 10 years away from having a nuclear weapons capability. As such, there is no need for the security council to pursue this matter under the guise of a Chapter VII resolution. In fact, there is no need for the security council to be engaged on this issue at all, at least at this time.

The one real hope of side-stepping this mad rush towards war with Iran lays in a statement made by the Iranian government, offering to deal openly and transparently with the concerns listed in the IAEA's report within a matter of weeks, if the Iranian nuclear issue is transferred away from the security council and back to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The best thing the Europeans could do at this time would be to join ranks with the Russians and Chinese to take up the Iranian offer, defusing a very tense and dangerous situation that, as it currently stands, seems to be spinning close toward yet another needless war in the Middle East.

Most US young people can't find Iraq on map

Most American young people can't find Iraq on a map, even though U.S. troops have been there for more than three years, according to a new geographic literacy study released on Tuesday.

Fewer than 4 in 10 Americans aged 18-24 in a survey could place Iraq on an unlabeled map of the Middle East, a study conducted for National Geographic found. Only about one-quarter of respondents could find Iran and Israel on the same map.

Sixty-nine percent of young people picked out China on a map of Asia, but only about half could find India and Japan and only 12 percent correctly located Afghanistan.

"I'm not sure how important it is that young adults can find Afghanistan on a map. But ... that is symptomatic of the bigger issue, and that's (U.S. young adults) not having a sense that things around the world really matter that much," said John Fahey, president of the National Geographic Society.

The study results confirm Fahey's concern: 21 percent said it was "not too important" to know where countries in the news are located.

Half of respondents said it was "absolutely necessary" to know how to read a map, but a large percentage lacked basic practical map-reading skills.

For example, most young people were able to locate a port city on a fictitious map, but one-third would have gone in the wrong direction in the event of an evacuation.

In general, natural disasters appear to have a limited impact on young Americans' view of the world, the study found.

Only 35 percent identified Pakistan as the country hit by a catastrophic earthquake last October, killing over 70,000 people; 29 percent thought it happened in Sri Lanka.

Most respondents could find Louisiana and Mississippi, but still more than one-third failed to find those two states that were the subject of daily news coverage after the onslaught of hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year.

There were some positive signs: young people who go online for news and who use two or more different news sources show a greater knowledge of geography, the study found.

Source Here

Neil Young 'Living with the war' (full album)

Listen to the whole album Here

Monday, May 01, 2006

Rare interview with Moqtada al-Sadr

Newsweek has been granted a rare interview with the populist Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. A year ago the US military wanted him captured dead or alive. Just over twelve months later, Sadr, who has more than three million supporters holds the balance of power in the new Iraqi parliament.

Sadr is no friend of the West , in fact he has clearly stated that he will use his militia to attack any country that uses force against Iran or any other neighbouring Muslim country.

Below are some excerpts from the interview with the firebrand cleric who has transformed his position from one of being wanted for the murder of US and UK soldiers to that of a major player in the new Iraqi government.

NEWSWEEK: In 2003, the Americans and various Iraqi parties described you and your followers as a minor force. Clearly no one would say that now.

SADR: Time elapsed; things became clear and resulted in the Sadr trend—a powerful, loyal political and military force. At the same time, I reach out my hand to cooperate [and] to make peace in Iraq, to drive away the shadow of the armies of darkness. The occupation is the creator of all problems. I pray to Allah to take away the problems and their creator.

At one point the U.S. military and [American] political spokesmen said it was their aim to "kill or capture" you. Your reaction now?

Their threats are still on, and my life is cheap as a price for the service of Islam. America is baring its teeth against Shiite mosques and sanctuaries.

What happened to the murder warrant issued against you and some other people in the matter of Ayatollah [Abdel Majid] al-Khoei [Khoei was killed in April 2003]?

The arrest warrant was issued by the occupation, not by the Iraqi courts, and this is not legal. Many people were arrested over this matter, and they were released. This is true evidence that they are innocent.

It is said that you have made some contacts with Sunni resistance figures. Do you still have such relationships with them in the wake of the [attack on the Askariya shrine in Samarra]?

There is no Sunni or Shia resistance; there is an Iraqi Islamic resistance. But I address the Sunnis through NEWSWEEK: One, they should specify their stance toward attacks on civilians. After the attack in Samarra, the Sunnis didn't have a clear stance. Two, their stance toward Takfiris [adherents to the extremist ideology espoused by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi] is not clear. Three, they should specify their stance toward the Shia. Are we Muslims or not? Four, they should demand the execution of Saddam Hussein. And five, they should specify their stance toward families who have been displaced.

You blamed the Askariya shrine bombing on the Americans, in part. Can you explain your thinking?

There is only an incomplete sovereignty in Iraq, which means that the occupation is the decision maker. Any attack is their responsibility. The U.S. ambassador and Rumsfeld have ignited the sectarian crisis here

The Mahdi Army is supposedly the only faction that hasn't signed on to an agreement to incorporate militias into governing bodies. Can you explain why?

The Mahdi Army is not a militia. I issued a statement recently limiting the Mahdi Army personnel to cultural, social and religious acts.

Many people claim that Mahdi Army militiamen have been responsible for sectarian attacks in recent weeks. Others say they're simply defending their neighborhoods. What do you say?

Mahdi Army personnel are not sinless. But they are integrating themselves despite the harsh circumstances they live in.

You've become part of the political establishment now. Are you more moderate?

Everyone builds Iraq the way he sees fit. The most important issue is the timetable for the U.S. withdrawal. We know there will be no justice under occupation, at any time and any place. In fact, there will be no stability for anyone, since Iraq defines the destiny of the world. You can see the families of U.S. soldiers waiting for their sons, brothers, men to return home peacefully. Where is the distribution of justice and peace there?

Your partners in the ruling coalition are very much against insisting that the Americans leave immediately from Iraq; [they think] it would be a disaster.

We want to build our country by our own hands. I demand a timetable. Even if it is for a long time, it doesn't mean it isn't possible to have a timetable for it.

Isn't it true that American advisers are not allowed into the ministries you control?

Yes, it is forbidden, and it is prohibited for anyone to deal with them. Otherwise he will be disobedient to God and I will have no relation with him.

Can you tell us something about yourself personally? Married? Children?

I am married; I have no children. I was 25 when my father was assassinated. If he were alive, the U.S. would never have been able to come to Iraq.