Archive for April, 2005

Foreign affairs gem

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

Site worth reading …

Munir Umrani tirelessly tracks the most important stories in foreign policy and diplomatic relations

The Diplomatic Times Review does something very well most bloggers cannot manage, myself included — that is bring a wide scope of critical world stories to light every day. Munir has an uncanny ability to find the twists and turns in foreign affairs that helps a reader see the true picture of the world much more clearly than reading the news without him.

Not only that, the site deserves great kudos for design and readability.

I’ll just mention two items from Deep Blade Journal that would be enhanced with a parallel read of Diplomatic Times Review. First, check out this item on a Christian Science Monitor column ‘Take up the Western Man’s Burden’. Explains nicely the picture of Bush giving Iraq orders, that I blogged about yesterday.

Also, see Munir’s comprehensive references to British press accounts of Tony Blair’s Goldsmith memo fiasco. Go here and read backwards through the posts. Very nice work! Thank you Munir.

Deep Blade archives

Friday, April 29th, 2005

Bush to Iraqis: we are in command

Friday, April 29th, 2005

And you are not; president tells new government not to “politicize your military”

The first big clash between the US and the fledgling Iraqi government has occured because Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari and other Shiite officials desire to remove Baathist operatives from the Interior and Defense Ministries, and also disband brutal militias composed of former Saddam loyalists that were developed during the puppet regime of Ayad Allawi. See one, two recent posts in Deep Blade Journal for more details, including about Rumsfeld’s emergency trip to Iraq and Azerbaijan three weeks ago. (Added: Rumsfeld issued the same order to Iraq — don’t politicize your military — on April 12.)

Last night in the national press conference, Bush issued some marching orders to the Iraqis, telling them in no uncertain terms who will design and control their “chain of command.” These orders were given in the president’s response to a question about when US troops might be withdrawn.

BUSH: …Thirdly, a fundamental problem has been whether or not there’s an established chain of command, whether or not a civilian government can say to the military, here’s what you need to do — and whether the command goes from top to bottom and the plans get executed. And General Petreaus was telling me he’s pleased with the progress being made with setting up a command structure, but there’s still more work to be done.

One of the real dangers, David, is that as politics takes hold in Iraq, whether or not the civilian government will keep intact the military structure that we’re now helping them develop. And my message to the Prime Minister and our message throughout government to the Iraqis is, keep stability; don’t disrupt the training that has gone on — don’t politicize your military — in other words, have them there to help secure the people.

Could the message be more stark? US troops will be in Iraq for a long, long time. The elected government can hardly be considered truly sovereign under this occupation.

Secret UK pre-war legal memo

Friday, April 29th, 2005

Blair minions secretly were concerned about legality of Iraq conquest

Eager for war — will there be politcal consequences for his Bush embrace?

US tank rushing into Iraq, March 2003

For a couple of months now, discussion in the UK has been swirling about the evolution of official pre-war legal opinions and who in the Blair government was allowed to read them. Today, the full legal advice prepared by the UK’s Lord Goldsmith was released to the public.

Now we know why only a tight-knit group close to Blair had been privy to the full scope of the advice — advice on whether or not the then coming attack on Iraq, without a directly-enabling Security Council resolution, would be an illegal war of aggression. The reason the true advice in the now-revealed memo was hushed is that Blair lied through his teeth on March 18, 2003 when he reported a motion in the House of Commons that without equivocation noted

the opinion of the Attorney General that, Iraq having failed to comply and Iraq being at the time of Resolution 1441 and continuing to be in material breach, the authority to use force under Resolution 678 has revived and so continues today; believes that the United Kingdom must uphold the authority of the United Nations as set out in Resolution 1441 and many Resolutions preceding it, and therefore supports the decision of Her Majesty’s Government that the United Kingdom should use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction…

But in the now-public document, “It appears the attorney general did not give a clear and unequivocal opinion. We were led to believe that he gave such an opinion because one person stood up in each house of parliament and said so. We have been chasing a chimera all this time,” according to Jeremy Carver, a leading international lawyer and board member of Transparency International UK, who was quoted in The Guardian today.

The kicker, in my opinion, is that evidently behind the scenes at the time, Lord Goldsmith had totally rejected that the war could be legal because Iraq posed an imminent threat, justifying self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter. Officially, only convoluted logic — of UNSCR 1441 “reviving” some kind of automatic right of the US and the UK to enforce post-Gulf-War I Resolution 678 — separates the actions of the countries from those of the Nazis and the supreme crime of aggression.

But when United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 passed on November 8, 2002, no one except the US and the UK suggested that it contained such an outlandish legal theory. In fact, other member of the Council thought quite the opposite was true — that war could not be “automatic” without further action of the Council.

Evidently UNSCR 1441 was designed by it’s US promoters to buffalo reluctant member states into thinking they were going to have some say in whether or not the US would be allowed to take Iraq. The United States not only broke this promise inherent in UNSCR 1441 — that it would receive from the Security Council definition of “serious consequences” for “material breach” and definite authorization for any violence it would commit in Iraq — it has worn the tatters of international law that it shredded ever since.

The proof in the pudding, of course, is that there were no weapons in Iraq to trigger backwards in time to UNSCR 678 the “serious consequence” of war. And this was indicated at the time by the UNMOVIC inspectors, who on the very day Lord Goldsmith was issuing the secret memo — March 7, 2003 — were busily kicking huge bricks out of the US posture now symbolized by the swindle Former Secretary of State Powell gave to the Security Council the previous month. Deep Blade issued a piece about all this on March 12 of that year:

Then on March 7, Hans Blix threw more of Powell’s case out the window: “Intelligence authorities have claimed that weapons of mass destruction are moved around Iraq by trucks. In particular, that there are mobile production units for biological weapons. The Iraqi side states that such activities do not exist. Several inspections have taken place at declared and undeclared sites in relation to mobile production facilities. Food testing mobile laboratories and mobile workshops have been seen, as well as large containers with seed processing equipment. No evidence of proscribed activities has so far been found”….

…ElBaradei reported on March 7 that his agency had determined that documents said by the United States and Britain to support the allegations, and trumpeted during the fall of 2002 by Bush and Blair, were fraudulent, “Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents — which formed the basis for the reports of these uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger — are, in fact, not authentic,” he said.

So it was clearly evident at the time that there was no “material breach”, and it sure is clear now — given the last inspector’s null findings (really, really null findings, as reported just two days ago).

By the logic in official memos, then, the Iraq invasion was a war of aggression. It is not considered as such — yet — no matter how many war crimes the aggressors have subsequently committed. The power relationships in the world are such that the arrogant governments led by Bush and Blair have had their way and continue to. It will be for seekers of justice perhaps decades from now to attempt to right these wrongs.

Chalabi holding Iraq oil portfolio

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

“Former” Pentagon favorite for now in charge of the key resource

Ahmed Chalabi was an honored White House guest on January 20, 2004

Chalabi was a key Pentagon agent who helped the US Lie Factory produce its tainted case for war. Later, in May 2004, he became the subject of an orchestrated raid and accusations that he may also have been an agent for Iran.

The news today is that Chalabi for perhaps only a short while will mind Iraq’s oil. Hmmmm…he must still be a trusted figure deep within the Pentagon and Cheney’s office.

Bush uses deceit in energy message

Wednesday, April 27th, 2005

President wrongly implies his legislation means the US will be able to forgo foreign oil; nuke proposals come on strong

Should the oil in a conquered country or client state be called “foreign”? Foreign dependence will end only if the oil-containing countries all become property of the United States.

President Bush took care to separate bad “foreign” sources from good American ones in his energy speech today at the Washington Hilton Hotel. He linked current high fuel prices to “a foreign tax on the American people.” Then he said,

The problem is clear. This problem did not develop overnight, and it’s not going to be fixed overnight. But it’s now time to fix it. See, we got a fundamental question we got to face here in America: Do we want to continue to grow more dependent on other nations to meet our energy needs, or do we want to do what is necessary to achieve greater control of our economic destiny?

I made my decision. I know what is important for this country to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy, and that requires a national strategy. Now, when I first got elected, I came to Washington and I said, we need a national strategy. And I submitted a national strategy to the United States Congress. And it has been stuck. And now it’s time for the Congress to pass the legislation necessary for this country to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

Of course it is a ridiculous notion to think that the United States will be weaned from foreign oil, unless we redefine the oil appropriated from foreign countries with American military might as “domestic”. Michael Klare, writing in Foreign Policy in Focus for January 2004, laid out the true arc of US energy policy since the Cheney Task Force of 2001:

When first assuming office in early 2001, President George W. Bush’s top foreign policy priority was not to prevent terrorism or to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction — or any of the other goals he espoused later that year following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Rather, it was to increase the flow of petroleum from suppliers abroad to U.S. markets…. The energy turmoil of 2000-2001 prompted Bush to establish the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG).

Klare then looks at the 2001 plan with an eye towards seeing if anything it says suggests America will ever be much less dependent on foreign oil. He found that the Energy Strategy

has allowed the White House to argue that the administration is committed to a policy of energy independence. However, careful examination of the Cheney report leads to an entirely different conclusion. Aside from the ANWR [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling] proposal, nothing in the NEP would contribute to a significant decline in U.S. dependence on imported petroleum. In fact, the very opposite is true: The basic goal of the Cheney plan is to find additional external sources of oil for the United States.

So while the spectre of foreign oil is real because the US imports a lot of it, the president invokes it merely as a ruse to whip up political support for the odious Energy Bill.

The president’s numbers do not add up. If the entire laundry list of technologies from ethanol to 75-watt refrigerators all came on the market swimmingly, hardly a drop of the 12 million barrels per day of US oil imports could be displaced. In fact, US oil imports are destined to grow. By the time ANWR is “eventually” (maybe in two decades) producing 1 million barrels per day (mbd), US lower-48 production of conventional oil will have depleted by two times that much, from over 4 million barrels per day to less than 1.5. In fact, total US oil production is in steep decline and will be barely half of the 6.5 mbd it is today by the year 2020.

This deceit is so transparent that it is easy to find, as John Stewart did on the Daily Show, self-contradictory passages within the speech itself — for example when the president touted our ability to increase foreign gas imports:

Today, we’re able to super cool natural gas into liquid form so it can be transported on tankers and stored more easily. Thanks to this technology, our imports of liquefied natural gas nearly doubled in 2003. Last year, imports rose another 29 percent.

Let’s not even mention that liquefied natural gas technology is more than six decades old.

Nuclear nightmares
The president talked big again about his long-standing onerous plan to resuscitate the dead nuclear power industry — this time with a twist. Bush now promises that the federal government will drive nukes down the throat of anyone who dares stand in their way on environmental or any sort of regulatory grounds. Don’t you get it that nuclear power is clean?

See if you can find today’s new wrinkles in the nuke plan when compared with the May 17, 2001 presentation.


Remarks by the President to Capital City Partnership River Centre Convention Center; St. Paul, Minnesota

America should also expand a clean and unlimited source of energy — nuclear power. Many Americans may not realize that nuclear power already provides one-fifth of this nation’s electricity, safely, and without air pollution. But the last American nuclear power plant to enter operation was ordered in 1973. In contrast, France, our friend and ally, gets 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power.

By renewing and expanding existing nuclear facilities, we can generate tens of thousands of megawatts of electricity, at a reasonable cost, without pumping a gram of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. (Applause.) New reactor designs are even safer and more economical than the reactors we possess today. And my energy plan directs the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to use the best science, to move expeditiously to find a safe and permanent repository for nuclear waste.


President Discusses Energy at National Small Business Conference

The first essential step toward greater energy independence is to apply technology to increase domestic production from existing energy resources. And one of the most promising sources of energy is nuclear power. (Applause.) Today’s technology has made nuclear power safer, cleaner, and more efficient than ever before. Nuclear power is now providing about 20 percent of America’s electricity, with no air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear power is one of the safest, cleanest sources of power in the world, and we need more of it here in America.

Unfortunately, America has not ordered a new nuclear power plant since the 1970s. France, by contrast, has built 58 plants in the same period. And today, France gets more than 78 percent of its electricity from safe, clean nuclear power.

It’s time for America to start building again. That’s why, three years ago, my administration launched the Nuclear Power 2010 Initiative. This is a seven-year, $1.1 billion effort by government and industry to start building new nuclear power plants by the end of this decade. One of the greatest obstacles we face to building new plants is regulatory uncertainty which discourages new plant construction. Since the 1970s, more than 35 plants were stopped at various stages of planning and construction because of bureaucratic obstacles. No wonder — no wonder — the industry is hesitant to start building again. We must provide greater certainty to those who risk capital if we want to expand a safe, clean source of energy that will make us less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

To do so, I’ve asked the Department of Energy to work on changes to existing law that will reduce uncertainty in the nuclear plant licensing process, and also provide federal risk insurance that will protect those building the first four new nuclear plants against delays that are beyond their control. A secure energy future for America must include more nuclear power.

You win the prize if you noticed that it is no longer important to mention how easy it is to handle nuclear waste, and that it is just fine for the nuclear industry to be a public-backed economy with 100% public risk and 100% private profit. Let’s just chart the progress of those “four” new plants, and see who’d like to get ’em in their own backyard.

Let’s talk some more about numbers that don’t add up — referring this time to the nuclear/hydrogen proposal I have blogged about in the past. In contrast to most of what he was saying, the president was refreshingly honest about where he figures the hydrogen for his hydrogen car proposal will come from — nuclear reactors. The president said,

To help produce fuel for these cars, my administration has also launched a Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative, an effort to develop advanced nuclear technologies that can produce hydrogen fuels for cars and trucks. My budgets have dedicated $35 million over the past three years and will continue this effort.

But there is a big problem with this little hydrogen nuke plan — even if it works, and that is doubtful, it’s not the least bit scalable. Right now, American cars and trucks consume 12 million barrels of oil per day. This is pretty close to a 1000-gigawatt rate of energy use. Even if advanced vehicles and a nuclear-hydrogen fuel cycle two or three times more efficient than current petrol engines could be developed, hundreds of gigawatt-sized nukes would have to be built to make a dent in the current petrol-based transportation system. Uranium resources are subject to supply considerations just like oil. What happens to the uranium market when America’s cars depend on it for fuel?

There are so many more fallacies to cover in the president’s energy story. The best possible outcome for now on the energy bill would seem to be continued gridlock, while Bush and the Democrats see who can talk the most about our “dangerous dependence on foreign oil.”

The good news front on Saudi oil

Tuesday, April 26th, 2005

Bush has a sitdown with Crown Prince Abdullah

Enjoying the company of a man (White House photo by David Bohrer)

There is no doubt that the White House has taken care to posture its handling of Saudi relations along a front of good news. From statements issued by officials from the meeting between Bush and de facto Saudi leader Crown Prince Abdullah in Crawford, Texas, you could hardly tell that there has been a year-long undercurrent of doubts about the Kingdom’s ability to increase oil production.

According to the main news releases on the event, Bush has “pressed” (“jawboned”) Saudi Arabia to “help curb skyrocketing oil prices that are hurting the budgets of American families and businesses.” An impression that the Saudis are in complete control of taps to essentially limitless oil tanks under their Kingdom is one both the White House and the Saudis wish to cultivate. Then it’s just a matter of the strong figure of Bush presenting arguments to a reluctant friend. Carefully calibrated messages are heard by the publics in both countries and, very importantly, by the global oil market.

On the other hand, there is some of the stark realism of the situation presented if one reads deeper into the stories. Namely, significant Saudi capacity increases will be long-, rather than short-term. In the account cited from the Washington Post, Saudi will “invest $50 billion over five years in a plan that would eventually increase the kingdom’s oil production capacity by close to 50 percent.” Even if it is true that Saudi is eventually capable of sustained 12.5 to 15 million barrel per day output after this huge investment, five years from now is not worth much in salving a brewing crisis that looks more immediate every day.

It was rare, but a few stories today indicated that the Saudis would do nothing in the near term to provide gas price relief. For example, the Washington Post reported today, Bush, Saudi Fail to Reach Deal to Lower Gas Prices. But Australian public broadcaster SBS really broke dictation of the good news front with this story:


Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz has rejected a request from US President George W Bush to help limit soaring oil prices by increasing production.

Instead, both sides urged energy markets to consider a Saudi plan, unveiled in February, to raise its oil output gradually, to 12.5 million barrels per day over the next few years and possibly up to 15 million if needed….

Last week President Bush promised to get a “straight answer” on how much more oil Saudi Arabia could get to the market.

But on Monday officials from both sides wouldn’t confirm that he sought such information.

The US leader, who has said he does not have a “magic wand” to reduce oil prices, has seen his job approval ratings drop sharply over the past few months as American consumers pay higher prices at the gas pump.

A senior Saudi official said Riyadh believes global oil prices were too high but boosting the kingdom’s output would not necessarily lead to lower US gas prices.

“It will not make a difference if Saudi Arabia ships an extra million or two million barrels of crude oil to the United States. If you cannot refine it, it will not turn into gasoline and it will not turn into lower prices,” he said.

Indeed, the crude price did pull back some the last couple of days to $54.12 per barrel from $55.39 at the Friday close. But this is a weak signal considering the way the profile of the issue was raised by the Bush-Abdullah meeting. Many market players remain skeptical, according to quotes in the Bloomberg story cited.

To illustrate the height of the profile the oil price issue has achieved, a Press Briefing from Crawford Monday featured National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Hadley covered the good news about the Saudi “plans in the next decade to increase that over time to about 15 million barrels a day in order to help stabilize the market and ensure an adequate supply at a reasonable price….” Emphasis — There is nothing the Saudis can do about today, all this remarkable capacity is in the “next decade”.

Then came this exchange, which shows who Hadley thinks is boss, that the super-duper Saudi plan won’t help in the short term — or maybe not even in the long term — while he offered no resistance to the notion that the era of oil below $30 is over:

Q: Steve, what did the President ask the Crown Prince, in terms of boosting oil production? Is he satisfied with the number you gave, 12.5 million? And, also, is the administration disappointed that the Saudis, according to their spokesman, are no longer able to keep their pledge of reducing the price of oil from $28 to $22 a barrel; he says it’s no longer realistic?

MR. HADLEY: Well, two things. One, the Saudis really came with a plan, which was briefed in some detail to the Vice President yesterday. So they came with a plan of what they intended to do, went through it in some detail. Their oil minister was here. And it is, again, seemed a very good plan

Q: Do you believe that the plan will lower oil prices anytime in the near term?

MR. HADLEY: It’s hard to say. Obviously, though, you know, when you increase the capacity of a significant amount — which they are talking about — that can’t help but have a positive downward affect on prices and deal with some of the volatility in the market …

… The Saudis have some questions about refinery capability on our side and what they can do on their side with respect to refinery capacity. I think there is more discussion that needs to be done on that issue. But it was addressed; more attention needs to be paid to it. What really came was a plan for increasing production through substantial investment, to the tune of about $50 billion over time. So it’s a major initiative that they’ve undertaken.

Condi chipped in, “that we have not a short-term problem, but a long-term problem” that it will take the president’s energy bill to address, even though Bush himself conceded last week that it will not lower gas prices.

Kerry fires a few shots at the Energy Bill
John Kerry awoke yesterday long enough to light up the screen on CSPAN-2 with a speech blasting the Bush energy plan now working its way into the Senate after passing the House last week. I’d like to have a buck for every time Kerry uttered “dependence”, “dependency”, “foreign oil” and how “dangerous” it all is:

[Americans] are not going to see Washington taking the necessary steps to end our dependency on foreign oil. Instead, people will see President Bush meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, a stark reminder of our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and how much that dependence threatens our economy as well as our national security.

In the last days, the administration has conceded “changes to production, consumption, imports and prices are negligible under the plan submitted to the Congress.” Frankly, Washington has danced around this statement for a year now. But last week, President Bush himself acknowledged the truth. He said: [The] energy bill wouldn’t change the price at the pump today. I know that and you know that. So if we all know that, why pass this Energy bill along in its current form when real solutions are staring us in the face…

Kerry did throw in the following very interesting details supporting the fact that he is right — the oil-based life we enjoy has huge costs and perilous dangers:

In recent years, U.S. forces have had to help protect the Cano Limon pipeline in Colombia. Our military had to train indigenous forces to protect the pipeline in Georgia. We plan to spend $100 million on a special network of police officers and special forces units to guard oil facilities around the Caspian Sea and to continue to search for bases in Africa so we can protect all of the facilities there. Our Navy patrolled tanker routes in the Indian Ocean, South China Sea, and the Western Pacific.

The reality is, we have to protect oil because that is what protects our way of life today. This is a serious issue, with real consequences, because of the unstable nature of conflict-ridden, oil-producing areas which challenge our security.

In the spring of 2004, insurgents attacked an Iraqi oil platform. There was violence against oil workers in Nigeria. The result was to press global oil output and record-high gasoline prices. We were helpless to stop it. I do not think any American wants to be helpless where national security is concerned. Our dependence on foreign oil creates just the sort of alliances that George Washington warned against in 1796. These alliances with foreign suppliers leave us more vulnerable, and they can crumble the foundations of our economic and national security.

So Kerry was right to decry how America projects its power to protect its oil, but he left out any direct mention of the costs paid by or anger generated in people upon whose heads America lands and bombs in order to keep the oil flowing.

But he does offer some alternatives:

It is time now for America to make its next transition in fuel, to move to a mix of solar and wind and biomass and fuel cells and clean coal and other wonders of American ingenuity. We have huge reserves of coal. But despite all the rhetoric, the administration hasn’t even adequately funded the clean coal technology program. We need to tap America’s strength.

I’d like to take a look for myself at the numbers and pitfalls. I’m not as immediately sanguine as Kerry is. Coal? Will a solar/coal program solve the “dangerous dependence”? I’ve read Matt Savinar and his numbers suggest not. I need to find out for myself. It will be a big project.

Meanwhile in Edinburgh
The Guardian reports today (Tuesday) on a conference in Edinburgh on oil resources that formed an alarming counterpoint to the Saudi-White House good news front. It quotes heavily from Matt Simmons, an energy industry analyst who is concerned about the true status of the Kingdom’s production capacity and author of the upcoming book, Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy. The Guardian quotes Simmons from Monday, just as President Bush and Crown Prince Abdullah were sharing their stroll through the garden:

One of the world’s leading energy analysts yesterday called for an independent assessment of global oil reserves because he believed that Middle Eastern countries may have far less than officially stated and that oil prices could double to more than $100 a barrel within three years, triggering economic collapse.

Matthew Simmons, an adviser to President George Bush and chairman of the Wall Street energy investment company Simmons, said that ‘peak oil’ – when global oil production rises to its highest point before declining irreversibly – was rapidly approaching even as demand was increasing.

“This is a new era,” Mr Simmons told a conference of oil industry analysts, government officials and academics in Edinburgh. “There is a big chance that Saudi Arabia actually peaked production in 1981. We have no reliable data. Our data collection system for oil is rubbish. I suspect that if we had, we would find that we are over-producing in most of our major fields and that we should be throttling back. We may have passed that point.”

I don’t know. What is real? Obviously the good news front has some shakiness, as nothing the Saudis or White House officials say suggest large additional quantities of oil can come quickly onto the market in any sustainable way. In the long term, are the Saudi promises of 15 million barrels realistic, or even enough? Simmons says no. And no one now making cheery official pronouncements will be in any position where they could be held responsible when it comes time to find out the truth.

HOPE Festival 2005

Sunday, April 24th, 2005

A few determined people acting together can build a growing and amazingly successful community of peace

Banner welcoming visitors to the 11th Annual HOPE Festival outside University of Maine Field House on April 23, 2005

The HOPE Festival is sponsored by the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine

Since 1995, the HOPE Festival (Help Organize Peace Earthwide) has welcomed spring and Earth Day in the Bangor, Maine area. The event offers each year a wide variety of information, education, and entertainment for adults and children. This year there were eighty local non-profit organizations represented with information tables and displays. It’s always a fun day for everybody with great music and other entertainment, an extensive children’s program, food, special events, and much more.

The HOPE Festival lets us have fun while changing the world — and we have changed the world. It is one of the big reasons our community is great.

Please click this link to reach a small set of photos from Saturday’s very successful event.

US-sponsored militias and death squads in Iraq

Sunday, April 24th, 2005

US program unleashes ex-Baathist enforcers

Why was Rumsfeld ordering the new Iraqi govenment to back off these militias during his whirlwind trip last week?

Everyone should read this story posted on NYC Indymedia:

Let a Thousand Militias Bloom
By A.K. GuptaIn trying to defeat the Iraqi insurgency, the Pentagon has turned to Saddam Hussein’s former henchmen. Under former Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, U.S. officials has installed many of the hated Baathists who tormented Iraq in high-level posts in the interior and defense ministries. But the new Iraqi government, overwhelmingly composed of Shiites and Kurds who suffered the most under Hussein, have announced that they are going to purge the ex-Baathists, putting them on a collision course with the United States.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made one of his surprise visits to Baghdad last week, warning the new government not to “come in and clean house” in the security forces. The official line is that the U.S. is worried about losing the “most competent” security forces. But there is a deeper concern that purging the security forces could feed into sectarian tensions and explode in civil war.

Gupta writes about a very disturbing aspect of this US-backed program:

…one militia in particular–the “special police commandos” — is being used extensively throughout Iraq and has been singled out by a U.S. general for conducting death squad strikes known as the “Salvador option.” The police commandos also appear to be a reconstituted Hussein security force operating under the same revived government body, the General Security Directorate, that suppressed internal dissent.

The Pentagon evidently is betting on Saddam’s old enforcers to contain the anti-American resistance. Therefore, the new government will not be allowed to purge the program as it was developed by the puppet regime of Ayad Allawi.

It should be made clear that the existence of US-sponsored death squads in Iraq is not a new story. For example, see Seymour Hersh’s piece on “preëmptive manhunting” from December 2003 where he compares the US Special Forces Task Force 121 to the Vietnam era Phoenix Program. In January 2004, Robert Dreyfuss wrote about a quiet $3 billion appropriation slipped during the fall of 2003 into the special war funding bill. The funds were to be used for “the creation of a paramilitary unit manned by militiamen” and the “bulk of the covert money will support U.S. efforts to create a lethal, and revenge-minded, Iraqi security force.”

So Rumsfeld was very keen to preserve these perceived covert “successes” from Shiite meddlers entering the new Iraqi goverment.

Also striking in the Gupta piece is discussion of a TV program called “Terrorism in the Hands of Justice” broadcast in Iraq by a US propaganda network. This show evidently has become somewhat popular with Iraqis, giving the Americans some actual traction with the population. It has been reported in US stories over the last couple of months pretty much as straight-up news about an Iraqi “reality show”, without much delving into what really is behind it. But Gupta cites the better reporting on the subject:

Gay Orgies
The police commandos have been supplying suspects who confess their crimes on the TV show, “Terrorism in the Hands of Justice.” Described as the Iraqi government’s “slick new propaganda tool,” the program runs six nights a week on the Iraqiya network, which was set up by the Pentagon and is now run by Australian-based Harris Corp. (a major U.S. government contractor that gave 96 percent of its political funding, more than $260,000, to Republicans in 2004). According to the Boston Globe, camera crews are sent “wherever police commandos make a lot of arrests.”The show features an unseen interrogator haranguing alleged insurgents for confessions. Virtually every press account notes that the suspects appear to have been beaten or tortured, their faces bruised and swollen. The London Guardian states “some have… robotic manners of those beaten and coached by police interrogators off-camera.” The Boston Globe observed, “The neat confessions of terrorist attacks at times fit together so seamlessly as to seem implausible.” And then there’s the nature of the confessions. Many suspects admit to “drunkeness, gay orgies and pornography,” according to the Guardian. The Financial Times reported that, “One long-bearded preacher known as Abu Tabarek recently confessed that guerrillas had usually held orgies in his mosques.” Another preacher giving a confession says he was fired for “having sex with men in the mosque,” the Globe account stated that suspects “frequently admit to rape and pedophilia.”

Lovely. The Americans, after many months of trying, have finally found a television propaganda hook into Iraqi sensibilities in order to draw viewers into a Fox-News-like swamp of lies.

For some more links posted previously in Deep Blade, please see this post.

Dynamite interviews from Democracy Now!

Sunday, April 24th, 2005

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales probe the truth about Iraq and the war aims of the Bush Administration

A commenter on some previous posts has recommended recent interviews broadcast on Democracy Now! I agree that these are terrific and terrifically disturbing interviews. With regard to Iraq as I have been harping over a few posts now, mainstream covereage does not report the whole truth of the situation, and is infected with the US military propaganda front of faux optimism.

Here is a list of these that I have found quite striking — with links into the very useful Democracy Now! website, excerpts, and a few of my own comments. Most interviews are archived with audio, video, and transcript.

Thursday, March 3rd, 2005
Iranian Labyrinth: Author Dilip Hiro Talks About the U.S. Threats Towards Tehran

AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Dilip Hiro, who wrote a piece in The New York Times, “Allah and Democracy Can Get Along Fine.” There is a big discussion going on in the United States right now, maybe in Britain, as well, Dilip Hiro, that Bush is bringing democracy to the Middle East. Your response.

DILIP HIRO: Yeah. I think actually, I would say a part of a spin because, of course, we know about the disaster the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq has caused, and so they aren’t latching on to what happened in Iraq. The important point to remember about election in Iraq is that it — whatever happened, the credit for that goes to a gentleman or I should say an ayatollah, a Grand Ayatollah, Ali Sistani. He is, in my view, the most powerful person in Iraq today, and I have been saying this for the past two years.

Thursday, April 7th, 2005
Iraq’s New President Jalal Talabani: Ally of CIA, Iranian Intelligence and Saddam Hussein

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you join us. Can you talk about the new government of Iraq?

DILIP HIRO: Yes, certainly. I can give you a very quick biographical sketch of Jalal Talabani…. He has changed sides so often that I think it would be very boring for me to go through each twist and turn….I notice that he is being described as a greater leader who fought Saddam Hussein. I can tell you, Amy, that after this 1991 Gulf War, when there were uprising of Kurds which was suppressed by Saddam’s regime, he then later on went to head a Kurdish delegation, and in June 1991, actually, they made a deal with Saddam Hussein, and I have a picture of him, Jalal Talabani, kissing the cheeks of Saddam Hussein. That picture appears in my book, Desert Shield, Desert Storm.

Thursday, April 7th, 2005
Washington’s Trojan Horse in the New Iraqi Government: Vice President Abdel Mahdi

AMY GOODMAN: …Antonia Juhasz, let’s go you to. You write about the former Iraqi Finance Minister, now one of the deputy presidents, Abdel Mahdi. Can you talk about him?

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Sure. Thanks for having me this morning. Basically Abdel Mahdi is an economist and a politician who currently serves as the finance minister of Iraq and also served on the Iraqi Governing Council. He was the leader of the United Iraqi Alliance ticket, the Shiite Party pegged to be the prime minister of Iraq. Then through the negotiations that happened after January 30, he, as you said, has become one of the vice presidents and part of the Presidency Council. He can be considered the Bush administration’s economic man on the ground in Iraq. After Paul Bremer, who was the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority of the US Government of occupied Iraq, left, Abdel Mahdi essentially took over to implement the economic transformations that Paul Bremer had set into place in his 100 Bremer orders which fundamentally restructured the Iraqi economy. Mahdi essentially implemented those ideas and moved them forward.

Wednesday, April 20th, 2005
Naomi Klein On The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

AMY GOODMAN: …On August 5, 2004, the White House created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, headed by former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Carlos Pascual. Its mandate is to draw up elaborate post-conflict plans for up to 25 countries that are not as of yet in conflict….Can you [Naomi Klein] talk about these plans that – well, this is the first time that they’re really coming out?

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, this happened in August, but it wasn’t reported anywhere in the US press. And really, this is the flipside of an administration totally committed to preemptive deconstruction and destruction, which means that they now have a standing office of preemptive reconstruction, where they have these fast-action, civilian teams, who are private companies like Bechtel and Halliburton; think tanks, obviously right-wing think tanks committed to free market ideology; large NGOs ready to swoop in on pre-signed contracts and rebuild countries that don’t even realize they’re in conflict yet. They don’t even realize they’re on these watch lists. And the real issue here is that there is a growing consensus and understanding that countries that have just experienced a seismic event, like a war or a natural disaster, are, in the language of torture, “softened up” for what Pascual describes as a reconstruction that is more about tearing down the old than rebuilding it….We don’t know everyone who is on that list. But for instance, a country like Nepal we’ve heard is definitely on the list. But we don’t — it’s not public. It’s intelligence information. But they are saying there’s a 25-country list.

Great! If the US decides it wants to infiltrate and dominate a country on its “deconstruction list, it’ll just wait for a natural disaster. If the country is important enough and time’s up, like Iraq, there is no more waiting. The US military will just create the disaster by bombing and invading. Watch out Iran! You’re next! Or will it be Syria? I want to thank my old friend Jeff for emailing a couple of weeks ago the link to this Klein article in The Nation.

Wednesday, April 20th, 2005
Should U.S. Troops Withdraw Now From Iraq? A Debate Between Naomi Klein & Erik Gustafson

I already quoted from this interview here.

Thursday, April 21st, 2005
U.S. Funding Iraqi Militias Led by Baathists As Part of Counter-Insurgency Operation

This is an amazing story that puts the big lie to nearly every public pronouncement US officials have ever made about what the US purpose really is in Iraq. Read this story and see the next post for details.