Saturday, May 31, 2008

Invitation to Steal: War Profiteering in Iraq

William D. Hartung | Foreign Policy In Focus, May 28, 2008

[Note: This essay was drawn from FPIF's latest book, Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding the Next War, published by Paradigm Publishers.]

The heavy reliance on private contractors to do everything from serving meals and doing laundry to protecting oil pipelines and interrogating prisoners has been a major factor in the immense costs of the Iraq war. By one measure, there may be more employees of private firms and their subcontractors on the ground in Iraq than there are U.S. military personnel.

One of the main rationales for using private companies to carry out functions formerly done by uniformed military personnel – a practice that has been on the rise since then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney commissioned a study that led to the contracting out of all Army logistics work to Halliburton in the 1990s – was that it would save money. But in Iraq, the combination of greedy contractors and lax government oversight has resulted in exorbitant costs, many of them for projects that were never completed.

The first sign that something was terribly wrong with the contracting process for the war was the awarding of a no-bid, cost-plus contract to Halliburton, allegedly to pay the cost of putting out oil fires in Iraq. Rep. Henry Waxman started asking questions about the contract after he learned that it could be worth up to $7 billion over x years. He rightly questioned how a no-bid deal justified on the basis of potential short-term emergencies could have such a long duration at such a high price. Only then was it revealed that the contract also covered the task of operating Iraq’s oil infrastructure. Given the long-term nature of this larger task, Waxman argued that this aspect of the work be taken away from Halliburton and subjected to competitive bidding. It was several years before his recommendation was implemented, and even then Halliburton received what at least one potential competitor – Bechtel –viewed as an unfair advantage.

While few contracts matched the size of Halliburton’s oil deal, the use of cost-plus awards was widely emulated. A cost-plus award is virtually an invitation to pad costs, as profits are a percentage of funds spent – in other words, the more you spend, the more you make. This problem has been compounded by a lack of auditors to scrutinize these contacts. For example, in one zone of Iraq, only eight people were assigned to oversee contracts worth over $2.5 billion.

Halliburton’s other major contract in Iraq is for the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP). Under this arrangement, Halliburton supplies virtually all of the Army’s non-combat needs in the field, from building and operating bases to repairing and maintaining combat vehicles. LOGCAP operates on a variation of the cost-plus contracts, and it has exploited this arrangement to the fullest. Among the overcharges engaged in by the company have been the following: overcharging by more than a dollar a gallon for fuel shipped into Iraq from Kuwait; billing the government for three times as many meals as it actually served the troops at several of the bases it runs; leasing SUVs for its personnel at a cost of $7,000 per month; and charging $100 each for doing a bag of laundry. These are just a few examples among dozens in which Halliburton took advantage of the “fog of war” to line its pockets. The company’s attitude was summed up by company whistleblower Henry Bunting, who indicated that when he raised questions with his supervisor about Halliburton’s lavish expenditures of government money he was told “don’t worry about it, it’s cost-plus.”

Continued . . .

Bush backs Musharraf as Pakistani leader's support wanes

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — President Bush reached out Friday to support longtime ally Pervez Musharraf, calling the embattled Pakistani president to assure him of continued U.S. backing.

Musharraf's demise is now considered almost a foregone conclusion in Pakistan, but Bush's intervention appeared to be a powerful signal that Washington wouldn't welcome Musharraf's exit.

"The president reiterated the United States' strong support for Pakistan, and he indicated he looked forward to President Musharraf's continuing role in further strengthening U.S.-Pakistani relations," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in Washington.

Pakistan is abuzz with speculation that Musharraf's attempts to cling to power have collapsed as his enemies step up their attacks and even his supposed allies have gone silent. The rumors reached fever pitch in the last few days with stories of a rift between the president and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, forcing Musharraf to deny any differences with the military.

"This (Bush call) is a shoring up, an effort to demonstrate continued support," said Dan Markey, a former State Department official who's now at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, a nonpartisan research center. "I have heard no serious rumblings of a change from the Bush administration on Musharraf. My impression is that they feel that there is not a lot to gain from losing this ally now, as they would get no credit for it."

Pakistan's fragile coalition government, which came to power after elections in February, has taken an increasingly hard line against Musharraf, who rose to power in a 1999 military coup.

Under Pakistan's original constitution, power is supposed to rest with the prime minister and his government, with the president merely a ceremonial head of state. Musharraf has balked at the government's attempts to cut the powers he's awarded himself, especially the ability to dismiss parliament and appoint the army chief.

Continued . . .

Can Truth Retain Its Independence?

By Paul Craig Roberts

30/05/08 "ICH' -- - J
ustin Raimondo has a good column this morning on It is written as a fundraiser. But what it shows is that journalists (and whistle-blowers) who tell the truth in America are more likely to be pummeled than rewarded, whereas those who lie for powerful interest groups live high on the hog.

It wasn’t just Bush, Cheney, and the neoconservatives who deceived us into an illegal war in behalf of a hidden agenda. It was the American media. Raimondo names some of the culprits who are complicit in the deaths of some one million Iraqis, an unknown number of Afghans, and thousands of American soldiers.

It was all for a lie. A lie told by the President of the United States and his handmaidens in the media.

Two of the worst handmaidens, Billy Kristol and Thomas Friedman, have been rewarded for their treachery to America by the New York Times, which pays these men, who have never been right about anything, to pontificate from columns on its pages. Others, such as Peter Beinart, are installed at the Washington Post and other publications.

Continued . . .

Cowardice of silence

The renewal of Aung San Suu Kyi's arrest casts shame on the Burmese junta's western sponsors

When I phoned Aung San Suu Kyi's home in Rangoon yesterday, I imagined the path to her door that looks down on Inya Lake. Through ragged palms, a trip-wire is visible, a reminder that this is the prison of a woman whose party was elected by a landslide in 1990, a democratic act extinguished by men in ludicrous uniforms. Her phone rang and rang; I doubt if it is connected now. Once, in response to my "How are you?" she laughed about her piano's need of tuning. She also spoke about lying awake, breathless, listening to the thumping of her heart.

Now her silence is complete. This week, the Burmese junta renewed her house arrest, beginning the 13th year. As far as I know, a doctor has not been allowed to visit her since January, and her house was badly damaged in the cyclone. And yet the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, could not bring himself to utter her name on his recent, grovelling tour of Burma. It is as if her fate and that of her courageous supporters, who on Tuesday beckoned torture and worse merely by unfurling the banners of her National League for Democracy, have become an
embarrassment for those who claim to represent the "international community". Why?

Continued . . .

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Grand Deception Of Selling War

Selling War -- "What WE Say Goes."

Gunnar Garbo

Introduction at the Conference on the Implications of Language for Peace and Development, (IMPLAN), University of Oslo, May2, 2008.

When Hitler’s troops invaded Norway in 1940, their bomber planes also spread leaflets declaring that the troops considerately came to protect the Norwegian people and secure our freedom and independence. In warfare lies like these are common. Recently two non-profit journalism organizations in the US documented that during the first two years after 11 September President Bush and his top officials issued at least 935 false statements about reasons for attacking Iraq. Bush led with 259 lies. [1]

But the tradition of leaders’ lying is older. Already Plato proclaimed the right of leaders to tell lies in order to deceive both enemies and their own citizens for the benefit of the state. A person who enthusiastically picked up Plato’s advice was the Chicago professor of philosophy Leo Strauss, who taught his doctrines to a number of the top people who joined the staff of the Bush administration. Abram Shulsky, who produced a considerable part of the misinformation about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, once said that he had learned from Strauss that cheating is the norm in politics. [2]

However, in his farsighted book 1984 George Orwell pointed out that it is not enough for authoritarian leaders just to tell specific lies. He found that their ultimate aim is to create a new reality in the minds of people, different from the real world. Orwell gave us illustrative examples like: WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. If the leaders can make most people internalize double-speak of this kind and believe that the new way of speaking depicts reality, they have actually changed the world in which we live. [3]

In connection with the first Gulf war President Bush, Sr., demonstrated that he had learned “the manufacture of consent”. Stating that the US had got a new credibility, the president proclaimed: What WE say goes.” The administration of his son is following in senior’s footsteps. A year after 9/11 Ron Suskind, a columnist who had investigated the White House for a number of years, happened to mention the intellectual principles of empiricism and enlightenment in a conversation with a presidential adviser. “That’s not the way in which the world really works anymore”, was the answer he got. “We are an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality, we’ll act again creating other new realities, which you can study too. WE are history’s actors, and all of you will be left to just study what we do.” [4]

This is the arrogance of power. It is the way empires talk. Dictatorial authority displaces arguments. The trick is to reduce the general public to a proper spectator role. As Noam Chomsky points out, the general population should be marginalized, each person isolated, deprived of the kinds of association that might lead to independent thought and political action. By constructing a grand edifice of lies terrorizing the domestic audience by images of menacing threats from “failed states” like Iran and North Korea they manufacture consent to military interventions - instead of trying to solve conflicts by peaceful means, which they are committed to by the UN Charter. [5]

Sometimes factual developments come in handily for the deceivers. Karl Rove, who for several years was President Bush’s closest adviser, recently said to an audience that “History sometimes sends you things, and 9/11 came our way.” In an article about Euphemism and American Violence Professor David Bromwich has pointed out how President Bush viewed the September 11 attack as an opportunity. The leadership should do far more than respond to the attack, he felt. Better to use it as an opportunity to “go massive”, as Donald Rumsfeld put it: “Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” [6]

That is what they did. Instead of treating the 9/11 attack as an international crime, which it was, they responded by launching what they called a global war on terrorism. This phrase was a carefully chosen example of double-talk. It might indicate something as harmless as “a war on aids” or “a war on poverty”. But it could also mean an aggressive use of military weapons. The US Congress willingly gave the president the authority he wanted to use military force wherever in the world he found persons that he determined had contributed to the 9/11 attack and who might repeat similar performances in the future. As we have seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, his war on terror became what John Pilger calls a war of terror. And it primarily hits masses of ordinary people who had nothing to do with 9/11. [7]

Terrorism is not an armed enemy. It is a concept naming a special way of fighting, the harassing of people in order to bend their leaders to the will of the harassers. Western governments tend to define it as a cruel tool solely used by rebels. But in fact militant states are terrorizing people much more devastatingly than insurgent movements.

But missiles and bombs can’t kill a concept. Extinguishing terrorism depends upon a change in the attitudes of common people and politicians all over the world. Not the kind of brainwashing which is facilitated by double-talk, but change promoted by ethical attention, rational reflection, open debate and popular mobilization. Terrorism may be overcome when all states at long last learn to respect human rights and international law. Especially it presupposes measures to remove those underlying causes of violence which the UN General Assembly twenty years ago rightly described as “misery, frustration, grievance and despair, and which cause people to sacrifice human lives, including their own, in an effort to effect radical changes.”. [8]

Of course the Western war leaders paid no attention to the UN resolution, if they had seen it at all. Neither did they care about the motives which Osama bin Laden gave for 9/11, quoting decades of Western support to oppression in Palestine, sanctions against Iraq and US bases in Saudi Arabia as reasons for the attack. This was obviously old-fashioned language, which did not conform to the new realities which Bush and Blair were creating with their rhetoric.

They used the 9/11 attack as an opportunity to launch a war against states in which they anyhow wanted to produce “regime change” as they call it. This notion must by all means be distinguished from forced interference through military aggression. According to President Bush the plane hijackers carried out their acts because they hated the freedom of the United States. To avoid further attacks on free societies it was not sufficient to fight terrorists. It was also necessary to limit the domestic freedoms which Bush and Blair were fighting for by restrictions on private integrity, on free travel, on legal protection and on the right to information.

It may be difficult for people to understand the need to suppress freedom in order to promote it. You will first grasp its logic when you internalize double-speak.

After the hijackers on 11th September 2001 killed three thousand persons, including themselves, history was seen by the war leaders to begin anew. Neither the Bush administration nor the main media paid much attention to the fact that nearly one hundred thousand people were killed through the more trivial practice of murder in the United States during the first six years after the attack. [9] Neither were they much shocked by the fact that international acts of terrorism increased sevenfold after Bush started his war on terrorism. [10]

Rushing to the defence of USA in Central Asia Norwegian governments have exposed even Norway to the possible risk of terrorist retaliation. But the supreme commander of the Norwegian defence forces, General Diesen, has tried to calm down public opposition to war by his own contribution to the double-speak vocabulary. He states that offense is defence. Civilian assistance to rebuilding Afghanistan is according to him offensive. Military operations against Afghan resistance are on the other hand defensive. The general’s problem is to convince Afghans about the reasonableness of turning front to back. Ignorant local people may believe that words still mean what they used to do.

To demonize the enemies as evil people the way Bush did with his Axis of Evil speech is of course a valuable contribution to the new way of thinking, which also happens to be old one. Groups who oppose the US in Afghanistan or Iraq are regularly called Taliban or al-Qaida, who are seen as outlaws and free game. We are told that in Iraq a huge part of them are foreign intruders, though 98 to 99 per cent of the prisoners which the occupiers have interned are Iraqi citizens. The al-Sadr militia is vilified as “criminals” or “criminal gangs”. More than one half of the US occupying forces are mercenaries, hired by the occupier. They are referred to as contractors or security missions.

There is a striking similarity between the language used by the aggressors. When the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 they portrayed the invasion as a humanitarian intervention. They did not come to conqueror anyone. Their aim was to prevent the establishment of a terrorist regime and to protect the people against genocide. Eleven years later the US and the UK also invaded Afghanistan, this time to protect themselves against terrorism, which also happened to be in the best interest of the Afghan people. They wanted namely to promote democracy and human rights in the Middle East. “We are not conquerors”, declared Bush, “we are liberators.”

Both invasions were proclaimed to be in conformity with international law, though none of them were. Governments on both sides called on their peoples to “back our troops”, who were fighting for a noble cause. In both cases the invaders paid much less attention to the huge number of Afghan victims than to their own losses. And in both cases the invaders warned that premature withdrawal of their troops would lead to catastrophic conditions for the local people. At long last the Soviet forces did all the same retire, and the Afghan people seem to have suffered somewhat less under the rule of Taliban. The USA and NATO are on their part escalating the war in order to avoid “losing face” or, to put it in proper language, not to expose the war-stricken population to the loss of peace and freedom.

Just as destroying vegetation in Vietnam was called pacification and invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq were presented as defence against terrorism or atomic weapons, US acts of torture in Abu Ghraib or elsewhere are termed interrogation in depth. One of the means of questioning which president Bush has reserved the right to allow is named waterboarding. This means starting to drown a suspect, but humanely interrupting the drowning before the victim dies.

We find the same preference for euphemism in a number of other cases. When Norway participated in NATO’s war over Kosovo our prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik described it as a peace operation. To make the attack seem in conformity with international law the Government produced false testimonies to Parliament.

We are dealing not only with double-language, but also with double moral standards. While Iran and North Korea are being threatened not to acquire weapons of mass destruction, Israel, which has long ago produced atomic bombs and quietly threaten its neighbours with them, is never blamed. And while Iraq was forced by war to withdraw from Kuwait no pressure is being put on Israel to return to the Palestinians the land of theirs which Israel has occupied and annexed as its own.

Mainstream media have gone along with all this misuse of power, practically without opposing it. A few fine journalists, like Robert Fisk and John Pilger, have stood out as rare exceptions, focusing on the impact of the military violence on the victims in the form of dead or crippled corpses, suffering relatives and homeless refugees, collateral damage as this is called by the double-speakers. Even the main media have attended to impacts on the ground, but with an enormous difference between the attention shown towards the casualties of one’s own armies than towards far greater losses of human life inflicted upon the populations of the countries which are exposed to our pacification.

How shall we disclose and counter the double-language of the war-mongers? That is a job for all of us, not least for educators. People need to learn more about the ways in which the meaning of words may be twisted. Words may be used to express thoughts, to hide thoughts or to hide lack of thoughts. They may also be used to lie, to misinform and to fabricate a false consciousness. People should be less impressed by authorities. In most cases political leaders don’t understand more than common people, though they pretend to be in the know. We need the ability to listen critically, to distinguish between proven facts and dubious assertions and to make use of alternative means of information and communication.

Above all this is a challenge for journalists. To-day they tend to defend themselves as professional, when they are in fact giving priority to writing and programming which produce that audience and further those profits which owners and advertising corporations are insisting on. Media professionalism ought to be something very different, namely to provide information which shows readers and listeners the realities behind political and commercial rhetorics and to tell people what they need to know in order to check their masters and influence the forming of our societies. A leading Norwegian journalist, Ragnar Wold, many years ago said that when Hitler stated that he wanted peace with all his neighbours, newspapers should not simply quote the dictator, but announce that now Hitler had produced one more of his lies.

That is still a good advice.


[2] Gunnar Garbo: Verken ny eller liberal. Kolofon forlag, Oslo, 2008, side 66.

[3] George Orwell: 1984.. A Signet Classic published by New American Library 1977. Page 16

[4]Christian Salmon: Scheherazade in the White House. Le Monde Diplomatique, April 2008

[5] Noam Chomsky: “What we say goes”; The Middle East and the New World Order. Z Magazine, May 1991.

[6] David Bromwich: Euphemism and American Violence. Ney York Review of Books, April 3 2008

[7] Joint Resolution S.J. RES. 23, 107th Congress. To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.

[8] Measures to prevent international terrorism. General Assembly A/RES/¤”/159, 7 December 1987

[9] Bob Herbert: America’s Other Kind of Terror. N.Y. Times August 18, 2007.

[10] Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank: The Iraq Effect: War Has Increased Terrorism Sevenfold Worldwide. A Mother Jones’ Study at the Center on Law and Security at the N.Y. University.

Gunnar Garbo (b. 1924) has been a prominent public figure in Norway. His career covers a wide range of activities, in journalism, politics and diplomatic service. In 1960s- and 70s he was one of the most noticeable political activists in Norway. As a Member of Parliament for Venstre (Liberal Party) 1958-1973, and the chairman of Venstre 1964-1970, he, later on, held different position in the United Nations and also served as Norway’s ambassador to Tanzania 1987-1992. He has written a number of books on political and international issues.

Israel destroyed 200 West Bank buildings

Khaleej Times, May 30, 2008

JERUSALEM - Israel demolished 208 buildings in the occupied West Bank last year, a UN agency said on Friday, adding that the Defence Ministry corrected its previous figure of 107.

Most of the houses were torn down under demolition orders issued because there were no construction permits, which Israeli authorities only seldom grant to Palestinians.

The buildings are located in the so-called Area C, which makes up more than 60 percent of the West Bank and is under full Israeli control.

‘We have been informed that according to the records of the Israeli Ministry of Defence the number of structures demolished in Area C of the West Bank in 2007 is not 107, as reported earlier, but 208,’ the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

In the first quarter of this year, Israeli authorities demolished 124 structures in the West Bank, the UN agency said.

US Soldiers Launch Campaign to Convert Iraqis

Some U.S. military personnel appears to have launched an initiative to covert thousands of Iraqi citizens to Christianity by distributing Bibles and other fundamentalist Christian literature translated into Arabic to Iraqi Muslims.

A recent article published on the website of Mission Network News reported that Bible Pathway Ministries, a fundamentalist Christian organization, has provided thousands of a special military edition of its Daily Devotional Bible study book to members of the 101st Airborne Division of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, currently stationed in Iraq, the project "came into being when a chaplain in Iraq (who has since finished his tour) requested some books from Bible Pathway Ministries (BPM).”

“The resulting product is a 6"x9" 496-page illustrated book with embossed cover containing 366 daily devotional commentaries, maps, charts, and additional helpful information," the Mission Network News report says.

Chief Warrant Officer Rene Llanos of the 101st Airborne told Mission Network News, “the soldiers who are patrolling and walking the streets are taking along this copy, and they're using it to minister to the local residents.”

"Our division is also getting ready to head toward Afghanistan, so there will be copies heading out with the soldiers," Llanos said. “We need to pray for protection for our soldiers as they patrol and pray that God would continue to open doors. The soldiers are being placed in strategic places with a purpose. They're continuing to spread the Word.”

Continued . . .

Cluster bomb ban to be adopted

Israel dropped thousands of cluster munitions during a 2006 war in Lebanon [GALLO/GETTY]

Al Jazeera, May 30, 2008

Countries from around the world are set to ban the use of current designs of cluster bombs in a treaty human rights workers have described as a "monumental achievement".

Delegations from 111 countries are preparing to formally accept the deal at a ceremony in Dublin, the Irish capital, on Friday after almost two weeks of negotiations.


Cluster bombs

The convention, agreed on Wednesday, requires signatories to eliminate stockpiles of cluster munitions within eight years.

Marc Garlasco, a military analyst with Human Rights Watch, said the treaty was a "monumental achievement".

Garlasco told Al Jazeera that although the US and other nations have not committed to signing the agreement, he expects the treaty will stigmatise cluster munitions and so deter those nations from using them.

"We will now see a future in which not only will these weapons not be used, but [the treaty] also provides for victim assistance as well as clearance of weapons that have been used in the past," he said.

Ban opposed

The US, along with Israel, Pakistan, China and Russia, who are among the main producers and stockpilers of the weapons, have opposed the ban.

A third of recorded cluster munitions
casualties are children [EPA]

Cluster munitions release small "bomblets" in mid-air which spread over a large area, but many of the bombs do not detonate and remain dangerous, injuring and killing civilians after periods of conflict have ended.

A central problem in negotiations was how the armed forces of those nations signing any treaty would work alongside nations who have not signed up.

It was decided that the treaty will allow signatories and non-signatories to work together in military deployment.

Additionally, it allows the use of future cluster bombs which pick targets more precisely and contain self-destruct technology.

Norway spearheaded talks in February 2007 to end the use of the bomb.

The convention is due to be signed in Oslo on December 2-3. States will then have to ratify the pact.

Falling out with the President: the devious world of George Bush

As presidential spokesman until 2006, Scott McClellan had the task of defending some of the administration's most unpopular decisions. But his new book reveals what he really thought of his master

By Rupert Cornwell, The Independent, May 29, 2008

Getty Images
For the 43rd President, a decision once taken is always right. The approach reflects not only Mr Bush's ingrained stubbornness but his ability to deceive not only others, but also himself.

    Caste protesters seeking to be downgraded blockade Delhi

    Thousands of protesters from India's Gujjar tribe brought Delhi to a standstill yesterday, paralysing trains by squatting on tracks and setting up a ring of burning tyres around the perimeter of the city.

    The Gujjars, traditionally nomadic farmers, demand to be socially downgraded in order to gain government jobs and university places. Thousands gathered at major intersections around New Delhi, setting up road blocks.

    Paramilitary forces and police were drafted in to stop violence but most stood by, wary after a week of bloodshed in northern India which left 39 people dead - 38 of them shot by security forces. Only when the mob threatened to surge past police lines did forces fire teargas to quell the stone-throwing crowds.

    Community leaders have been demanding special status for several years. The Gujjars, already considered disadvantaged, want to be reclassified further down the Hindu hierarchy.

    Continued . . .

    Barnsby on Fidel Castro


    Dr George Barnsby, May 29. 2008

    Undoubtedly the most remarkable politician alive today is Fidel Castro.
    The longest lived head of state in the world survivor of more than 200
    attempts to assassinate him by George Bush and his Neo-Cons. A corner of his
    tiny island occupied by American imperialists since the fall of the Spanish
    Empire in 1898. The builder of the first Communist state in South America.
    Thought to have died when he had to have intestinal surgery in 2007.

    Literally, ‘risen from the grave’ to write the most important book of 2007
    in which he discusses lucidly and logically statespersons of the past as well
    as offering a blue-print of the new, multicultural world now arising from
    the ruins of capitalism. This is the man I wish to discuss today because of
    a statement that might well rank as the most important he has ever made.
    Fidel puts questions for Obama in today’s Guardian, which I admire for
    publishing something from Fidel which I doubt if other papers have done. So,
    although the editor was a party to the closure of Bilston Community College
    and refuses to publish anything by me in his paper it is particularly
    important and one of the reasons I continue to buy it even if it is part of
    the Commentariat lashed by Media Lens this week.

    Fidel writes: It would be dishonest of me to remain silent after hearing
    Barack Obana’s speech delivered at the Cuban American National Foundation
    last Friday. I feel no resentment towards him, for he is not responsible for
    the crimes committed against Cuba and humanity.

    Fidel, never one to burke an issue, he used to give twelve hour speeches
    in day gone by, so he puts the full charge brought by Obama against Cuba. He
    goes on to say, what were Obama’s statements. Throughout my entirel life,
    there has been injustice and repression in Cuba. Never in my lifetime have
    the people of Cuba known freedom. Never in the lives of two generations of
    Cubans have the people known democracy … I won’t stand for this injustice . . . I
    will maintain the embargo. Oh, dear! here goes the lynchpin of my,
    ‘Irreversible Rise and Rise of the Ethnic Invincibles, since everyone knows
    that the United Nations and more countries every year oppose the blockade.
    However, let’s go on paraphrasing Fidel. Obama, portrays the Cuban revolutions
    as anti-democratic. It is the same argument that US administrations have for
    years justified crimes against Cuba. The blockade is an act of genocide. I
    don’t want to see US children inculcated with these shameful values.
    No small and blockaded country such as ours would have been able to
    hold its ground for so long on the basis of deceit, ambition and vanity or
    the abuse of power that its powerful neighbour has. To state otherwise is an
    insult to our heroic people. I am not questioning Obama’s great
    intelligence, his debating skills or his work ethic. He is a talented orator
    and is ahead of his rivals in the presidential race.

    Nevertheless I am obliged to raise a number of delicate issues. I do
    not expect answers. I wish only to raise them for the record. Is it right
    for the president of the United States to order the assassination of any
    individual in the world? Is it right for the president to order the torture
    of other human beings? Should state terrorism be used by a country as
    powerful as the US as an instrument to bring peace to the planet?
    Is an Adjustment Act applied as a punishment to only once country in
    the world, Cuba, in order to destabilise it good and honourable when it
    costs the lives of innocent women and children? Are the brain drain and the
    continuous theft of the best scientific and intellectual minds in poor
    countries moral and justifiable? Is it fair to stage pre-emptive attacks?
    Is it honourable and sane to invest billions of dollars in the
    military-industrial complex to produce weapons that can destroy life on
    earth several time over? Is that the way in which the US expresses its
    respect for freedom, democracy and human rights?

    Before judging our country Obama should know that our country with its
    educational,health, sports culture and science programmes, implemented not
    only in its own country, but also other countries throughout the world,
    All this in spite of the economic and the aggression of its powerful
    neighbour is proof that much can be done on very little. Cuba has never
    subordinated cooperation with other countries to ideological requirements.
    We offered the US help when hurricane Katrina lashed the city of New
    Orleans. Our revolution can mobilises tens of thousands of doctors and
    health technicians and an equal number of teachers and citizens who are
    willing to travel to any corner of the world to fulfil and noble purpose,
    not to usurp rights or take control of raw materials.

    The goodwill and determination of people constitutes limitless
    resources that would not fit in the vault of a bank. They cannot spring from
    the hypocritical politics of an empire.

    End of statement. Surely no reasonable person could deny that Fidel
    has won the day.

    If Fidel does not expect a reply it is because to reply would lead to
    argument that the opponent cannot win. This is so with our statement to
    David Cameron that he will never be Prime Minister while he supports the war
    in Iraq. He refuses to answer us presumably because he knows that he is in
    the wrong. But we persist in requiring answers particularly from Richard
    Cross, the chief executive of Wolverhampton, who refuses to answer our
    question of Who Runs Wolverhampton. The same thing applies to our request
    to Gordon Brown that he ceases support for the war in Iraq and brings the
    troops home NOW. So although we now have acknowledgments of the Prime
    Minister and Harriett Harman of our messages, we will share the fate of
    Fidel in not expecting a reply. And this we will treat as a badge of honour.

    Thursday, May 29, 2008

    UN hails dawn of republic in Nepal

    Hindustan Times, May 29, 2008

    The dawn of a new republic in Nepal, ending its 239-year-old royal dynasty that had become a symbol of oppression, has been hailed by the UN, which called the event historic and urged for the speedy formation of a new government.

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office in New York issued a statement early Thursday congratulating the people of the new republic of Nepal for successfully holding the first meeting of its constituent assembly Wednesday and voting overwhelmingly to turn King Gyanendra into a commoner and ask him to vacate the royal palace in 15 days.

    "The people of Nepal have clearly spoken for peace and change through the April 10 assembly election," the statement said. "The secretary-general encourages all parties to continue working in a cooperative manner and to form a new government as soon as possible."

    Ban's special representative for Nepal Ian Martin, who attended the near-midnight proclamation of republic Wednesday, called the meet an achievement and said the UN was proud to have assisted in the election of the "most inclusive body Nepal has yet known".

    Continued . . .

    John Bolton Escapes Citizen’s Arrest

    John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, has escaped an attempted citizen's arrest as he appeared at the Hay Festival.

    By Stephen Adams, Arts Correspondent | The Telegraph, May 28, 2009

    George Monbiot is held off by security guards as he attempts to arrest John Bolton
    George Monbiot is held off by security guards

    Security guards blocked the path of columnist and activist George Monbiot, who tried to make the arrest as Mr Bolton left the stage.

    The former ambassador - a key advisor to President George W Bush who argued strongly in favour of invading Iraq - had been giving a talk on international relations to more than 600 people at the literary festival.

    Mr Monbiot was blocked by two heavily-built security guards at the end of the one-and-a-half hour appearance, before he could serve a "charge sheet" on him.

    After being released by the guards the columnist - a fierce critic of the 2003 American-led invasion - made a dash through the rain-soaked tented village in a failed attempt to catch up with Mr Bolton.

    A crowd of about 20 protestors, one dressed in a latex George Bush mask, chanted "war criminal" as Mr Bolton was ushered away.

    Mr Monbiot said moments later he was "disappointed" that he had been blocked from making the citizen's arrest.

    "This was a serious attempt to bring one of the perpetrators of the Iraq war to justice, for what is described under the Nuremberg Principles as an international crime," he said.

    During Mr Bolton's talk, to a packed-out audience, Mr Monbiot had asked Mr Bolton what difference there was between him and a Nazi war criminal.

    Continued . . .

    Stopping the War Machine: Military Recruiters Must Be Confronted

    Posted on May 28, 2008
    Kovic protest
    AP Photo/Reed Saxon

    Disabled Vietnam War veteran and antiwar activist Ron Kovic, subject of the film “Born on the Fourth Of July,” reaches out to touch fingers with an admirer during a massive protest against U.S. involvement in Iraq. The demonstration occurred in downtown Los Angeles in September 2005.

    By Ron Kovic

    As a former United States Marine Corps sergeant who was shot and paralyzed from my mid-chest down during my second tour of duty in Vietnam on Jan. 20, 1968, I am sending my complete support and admiration to all those now involved in the courageous struggle to stop military recruitment in Berkeley and across the country.

    Not since the Vietnam War protests of the late 1960s has there been a cause more just than the one you are now engaged in. Who knows better the deep immorality and deception of military recruiters than those of us who, decades ago, entered those same recruiting offices with our fathers, believing in our hearts that we were being told the truth—only to discover later we had been deceived and terribly betrayed? Many of us paid for that deceit with our lives, years of suffering and bodies and minds that were never the same again. If only someone had warned us, if only someone had had the courage to speak out against the madness that we were being led into, if only someone could have protected us from the recruiters whose only wish was to make their quota, send us to boot camp and hide from us the dark secret of the nightmare which awaited us all.

    Continued . . .

    Scott McClellan accuses Bush White House of deceit over Iraq invasion

    Outgoing White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan (R) passes behind U.S. President George W. Bush.

    There was astonishment in Washington that a man who served Mr Bush with intense loyalty should have turned on the President with such venom

    President Bush veered “terribly off course” and pursued an aggressive “propaganda campaign” which obscured the truth in selling the Iraq war to the American public, according to his former White House press secretary.

    In a new book, Scott McClellan said the likely verdict of history would be that “the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder”, adding: “War should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary.”

    He accused Mr Bush of managing “the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force would become the only feasible option” — while also failing to be “open and forthright” about the reasons for military action.

    The White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said yesterday: “Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience in the White House. For those of us who fully supported him before, during and after his time as press secretary, this is puzzling and sad. This is not the Scott we knew.”

    Mr Bush, she added, had more pressing matters with which to deal than comment on Mr McClellan’s 341-page book, entitled: What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception. Indeed, there was astonishment in Washington yesterday that a man who served Mr Bush with intense loyalty for seven years should have turned on the President with such venom.

    In his time as press secretary Mr McClellan was regarded widely as a likeable, if somewhat hapless, member of a tight inner circle of advisers — the so-called “Texas mafia”. When he left the White House in 2006 Mr Bush even promised that there would come a time when they would be both “rocking on chairs in Texas, talking about the good old days” as he assured his departing aide: “I will feel the same way then that I feel now [and] that I can say to Scott, ‘Job well done’.”

    Continued . . .

    Archbishop Tutu meets devastated Gaza family

    By Donald Macintyre in Beit Hanoun | The Independent, May 29, 2008

    Change font size: A | A | A

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu walked from his car and, his head lowered, paused for a moment's silent prayer or reflection at the alley where so many of the Athamneh family had been killed.

    Then he stepped forward to the warm embrace of a tearful Saad Athamneh, 55, who lost three of his sons, all of them fathers, 18 months ago. "The siege is continuing," he told the venerable South African in a short speech of welcome outside the family home. "The US is controlling the Middle East. The Israelis killed my children while I was praying. Please come in and see what happened."

    The Archbishop was visiting the still ravaged house in this northern Gaza town 17 months later than he had intended. He was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the Israeli shelling that killed 21 civilians – 18 of them Athamneh family members – on 8 November 2006.

    The mission intended to visit a month later but were refused Israeli entry visas, and it is only now they have been able to enter through Egypt and the southern Rafah crossing.

    Continued . . .

    Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    Bush Aide Scores White House War Propaganda

    John Nichols | The Nation, May 28, 2008

    The Bush administration employed propaganda techniques, political spin and deception to promote and then justify a war with Iraq that was unwise and unnecessary.

    And a "too-deferential" national press corps allowed the president and his aides to get away with it.

    Who makes this devastating, if not entirely new, charge?

    The man responsible for spinning the story of the Bush presidency, former White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

    In a memoir that will be published Monday, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, the veteran campaign and White House aide to George W. Bush portrays his former boss and those around him as permanent campaigners who frequently sacrificed the good of the country to achieve dubious political and policy goals.

    McClellan is sharply critical of the Bush White House's handling of definitional domestic policy challenges, particularly Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

    But nowhere is the former press aide so devastating in his critique of his former boss as on the issue of how the United States was steered into the quagmire that is Iraq.

    Bush, he writes, is guilty of a "failure to be open and forthright on Iraq and (of) rushing to war with inadequate planning and preparation for its aftermath."

    Continued . . .

    Sixty years of human rights failure – governments must apologize and act now

    Amnesty International, 27 May 2008

    Amnesty International today challenged world leaders to apologize for six decades of human rights failure and re-commit themselves to deliver concrete improvements.

    “The human rights flashpoints in Darfur, Zimbabwe, Gaza, Iraq and Myanmar demand immediate action,” said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, launching AI Report 2008: State of the World’s Human Rights.

    “Injustice, inequality and impunity are the hallmarks of our world today. Governments must act now to close the yawning gap between promise and performance.”

    Amnesty International’s Report 2008, shows that sixty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations, people are still tortured or ill-treated in at least 81 countries, face unfair trials in at least 54 countries and are not allowed to speak freely in at least 77 countries.

    Continued . . .

    CIA Documents on Torture: Treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas

    Global Research, May 27, 2008

    The CIA turned over the documents in response to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by the ACLU and other organizations seeking documents related to the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas. Government lawyers informed the ACLU today that a federal judge has also "preliminarily overruled" claims by the CIA that other documents it continues to withhold are exempt from the FOIA.
    ACLU Obtains Heavily Redacted CIA Documents Regarding Waterboarding (5/27/2008)

    Judge's Preliminary Ruling May Force CIA To Hand Over Additional Documents

    NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today obtained several heavily redacted documents concerning the CIA's use of waterboarding as well as a CIA Office of Inspector General report on the CIA's interrogation and detention program. The CIA turned over the documents in response to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by the ACLU and other organizations seeking documents related to the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas. Government lawyers informed the ACLU today that a federal judge has also "preliminarily overruled" claims by the CIA that other documents it continues to withhold are exempt from the FOIA.

    "Even a cursory glance at these heavily-redacted documents shows that the CIA is still withholding a great deal of information that should be released," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "This information is being withheld not for legitimate security reasons but rather to shield government officials who ought to be held accountable for their decisions to break the law."

    One of the documents obtained by the ACLU today is a heavily redacted version of a report by the CIA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on its review of the CIA's interrogation and detention program. The report includes information about an as yet undisclosed Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion from August 2002. This opinion appears to be the same OLC memo authorizing specific interrogations methods for use by the CIA that is being withheld by the CIA as a classified document in the ACLU's FOIA litigation. However, the OIG report refers to this document as "unclassified."

    In addition to the documents obtained by the ACLU today, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York has preliminarily overruled the CIA's claims that other documents relating to the treatment of detainees are exempt from disclosure under the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit. In January 2008, Judge Hellerstein ordered the CIA to provide him with a sample of the withheld documents so he could determine for himself whether they should be made public. The documents that could be made public in response to Judge Hellerstein's ruling include:

    • A September 17, 2001 CIA Presidential Directive setting up secret CIA detention centers abroad;
    • An August 2002 OLC memo authorizing the CIA to use particular interrogation methods; and
    • CIA documents gathered by the CIA's Inspector General in the course of investigations into unlawful and improper conduct by CIA personnel.
    "We welcome the court's preliminary ruling rejecting the CIA's attempt to withhold records relating to its unlawful treatment of prisoners," said Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "If sustained, this ruling would be a historic victory that could compel the CIA to publicly disclose for the first time meaningful records relating to its use of torture."

    Judge Hellerstein is still considering the ACLU's motion to hold the CIA in contempt of court for destroying hundreds of hours of videotape depicting the abusive interrogations of two detainees in its custody.

    In addition to Jaffer and Singh, attorneys on the case are Alexa Kolbi-Molinas and Judy Rabinovitz of the national ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; Lawrence S. Lustberg and Melanca D. Clark of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons P.C.; and Shayana Kadidal and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

    The documents released today are available online at:

    Other information on the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit is at:


    US businessman says he gave Olmert $150,000 in cash-stuffed envelopes

    · Money given over 15 years to Israeli leader, court told
    · Financier believes it was spent on luxury lifestyle

    Israeli PM Ehud Olmert visiting an Israeli navy base in Haifa, Israel

    Israeli PM Ehud Olmert visiting an Israeli navy base in Haifa, Israel. Photograph: Moshe Milner/Getty images

    A US businessman at the centre of a high-profile corruption investigation told an Israeli court yesterday he gave thousands of dollars to Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, in envelopes stuffed with cash, some of which he claims was spent on expensive hotels, holidays and cigars.

    Morris Talansky, a long-time supporter and friend of Olmert, said he gave at least $150,000 (£75,000) over 15 years, including the years when Olmert was a government minister and mayor of Jerusalem. There are no records of how the money was spent and Talansky admitted he was "disturbed" when Olmert specifically asked for cash rather than cheques.

    Talansky's testimony yesterday at the Jerusalem district court comes as a major embarrassment to Olmert in this the fifth, and most serious, corruption investigation brought against him. But Talansky said he received no personal gain from the money he gave Olmert - who has denied any suggestions of corruption, adding he would resign if charges were brought against him.

    Israeli prosecutors are investigating whether Olmert broke campaign finance laws in the years before he became prime minister in 2006. But yesterday's court appearance was not part of a trial. Talansky, 75, who is also a rabbi and a long-time fundraiser, lives in Long Island, New York, and the Israeli authorities wanted to take his testimony before he leaves for the US in case he did not return to Israel.

    Continued . . .

    Israeli demolition threatens 3,000 Palestinian homes: UN

    AFP, May 27, 2008

    JERUSALEM (AFP) - Thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank risk being displaced as the Israeli authorities threaten to tear down their homes and in some cases entire communities, a UN agency said on Wednesday.

    "To date, more than 3,000 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank have pending demolition orders, which can be immediately executed without prior warning," the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report.

    "At least 10 small communities throughout the West Bank are at risk of being almost entirely displaced due to the large number of pending demolitions orders," OCHA said.

    Most of the orders were issued because there were no construction permits, which Israeli authorities only seldom grant to Palestinians.

    The buildings are located in so-called Area C, which makes up more than 60 percent of the West Bank and which is under full Israeli control.

    In the first quarter of 2008, Israeli authorities demolished 124 structures as compared with 107 for the whole of 2007, leading to the displacement of 435 Palestinians, 135 of them children, OCHA said.

    "Children are frequently disproportionately affected by the demolition of their homes and the subsequent displacement of their families," the study said.

    Over 94 percent of applications for building permits in Area C submitted by Palestinians between January 2000 and September 2007 were denied, according to official data.

    During this period 5,000 demolition orders were issued, and over 1,600 Palestinian buildings were actually demolished.

    "The denial of permits for Palestinians on such a large scale raises the fear that there is a specific policy by the authorities to encourage a 'silent transfer' of the Palestinian population from Area C," the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said in a recent report.

    In the 2000 to 2007 period, 2,900 demolition orders were issued against Israeli settlers in the West Bank, but just seven percent were implemented, according to Peace Now.

    Some 283,000 settlers live in Area C, which is also home to 70,000 of the 2.3 million Palestinians who live in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

    What the U.S. wants in Afghanistan

    The U.S. has held up a country's terrible history of poverty, repression and inequality as the pretext for a war that only aggravates poverty, repression and inequality.

    An Afghan girl looks on as U.S. troops carry out a mission

    A U.S. Marine Corps general has decided not to bring criminal charges against two officers who led their unit on a March 2007 killing spree that left 19 Afghan civilians dead and 50 more wounded.

    The decision infuriated Afghanis. "This is too much," said Kubra Aman, an Afghan senator from Nangarhar. "First, they say it's a mistake, and after that, they let them go without charges."

    A United Nations spokesperson, Aleem Siddique, made the same point in more diplomatic language. "It is disappointing that no one has been held accountable for these deaths," said Siddique. The UN "has always made clear that there must be increased transparency and accountability of all parties to this conflict if we are to retain the trust and confidence of the Afghan people."

    Continued . . .

    Asia Times: Bush 'plans Iran strike by August'

    By Muhammad Cohen | Asia Times, May 28, 2008

    NEW YORK - The George W Bush administration plans to launch an air strike against Iran within the next two months, an informed source tells Asia Times Online, echoing other reports that have surfaced in the media in the United States recently.

    Two key US senators briefed on the attack planned to go public with their opposition to the move, according to the source, but their projected New York Times op-ed piece has yet to appear.

    The source, a retired US career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community, speaking anonymously, said last week that the US plans an air strike against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The air strike would target the headquarters of the IRGC's elite Quds force. With an estimated strength of up to 90,000 fighters, the Quds' stated mission is to spread Iran's revolution of 1979 throughout the region.

    Targets could include IRGC garrisons in southern and southwestern Iran, near the border with Iraq. US officials have repeatedly claimed Iran is aiding Iraqi insurgents. In January 2007, US forces raided the Iranian consulate general in Erbil, Iraq, arresting five staff members, including two Iranian diplomats it held until November. Last September, the US Senate approved a resolution by a vote of 76-22 urging President George W Bush to declare the IRGC a terrorist organization. Following this non-binding "sense of the senate" resolution, the White House declared sanctions against the Quds Force as a terrorist group in October. The Bush administration has also accused Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program, though most intelligence analysts say the program has been abandoned.

    Continued . . .

    Tuesday, May 27, 2008

    Provocations as Pretexts for Imperial War: From Pearl Harbor to 9/11

    Global Research, May 25, 2008

    Wars in an imperialist democracy cannot simply be dictated by executive fiat, they require the consent of highly motivated masses who will make the human and material sacrifices. Imperialist leaders have to create a visible and highly charged emotional sense of injustice and righteousness to secure national cohesion and overcome the natural opposition to early death, destruction and disruption of civilian life and to the brutal regimentation that goes with submission to absolutist rule by the military.

    The need to invent a cause is especially the case with imperialist countries because their national territory is not under threat. There is no visible occupation army oppressing the mass of the people in their everyday life. The ‘enemy’ does not disrupt everyday normal life – as forced conscription would and does. Under normal peaceful time, who would be willing to sacrifice their constitutional rights and their participation in civil society to subject themselves to martial rule that precludes the exercise of all their civil freedoms?

    The task of imperial rulers is to fabricate a world in which the enemy to be attacked (an emerging imperial power like Japan) is portrayed as an ‘invader’ or an ‘aggressor’ in the case of revolutionary movements (Korean and Indo-Chinese communists) engaged in a civil war against an imperial client ruler or a ‘terrorist conspiracy’ linked to an anti-imperialist, anti-colonial Islamic movements and secular states. Imperialist-democracies in the past did not need to consult or secure mass support for their expansionist wars; they relied on volunteer armies, mercenaries and colonial subjects led and directed by colonial officers. Only with the confluence of imperialism, electoral politics and total war did the need arise to secure not only consent, but also enthusiasm, to facilitate mass recruitment and obligatory conscription.

    Since all US imperial wars are fought ‘overseas’ – far from any immediate threats, attacks or invasions - -US imperial rulers have the special task of making the ‘causus bellicus’ immediate, ‘dramatic’ and self-righteously ‘defensive’.

    To this end US Presidents have created circumstances, fabricated incidents and acted in complicity with their enemies, to incite the bellicose temperament of the masses in favor of war.

    C0tinued . . .