Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Another Video



* EXCLUSIVE...Noam Chomsky on Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the
Assault on Democracy

The New York Times calls him "arguably the most important intellectual

The Boston Globe calls him "America's most useful citizen"

He was recently voted the world's number one intellectual in a poll by
Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines.

We're talking about Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the foremost critics of
U.S. foreign policy. Professor Chomsky has just released a new book titled
"Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy."


Arianna Huffington

20 Questions for President Bush About Iraq

March 27 -- As part of his latest PR push on Iraq, President Bush has been giving another round of speeches and -- wonder of wonders -- fielding questions from audience members and reporters alike. He even took a question from Helen Thomas for the first time in over three years -- a decision he later said he "semi-regretted."

Well, as long as he's in a question-answering state of mind (or is it a poll-driven state of desperation?), I thought I'd offer up a few questions of my own about Iraq for the president.

1.) Last week, you insisted: "I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong... it's simply not true." Yet source after source after source suggests otherwise, including your former Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neil, who has said that invading Iraq was a goal set out at your first National Security Council meeting, just ten days after your inauguration: "It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying 'Go find me a way to do this.'" Mr. President, is Paul O'Neil lying?

2.) Despite the fact that dozens of Iraqis a day are dying in sectarian violence, you continue to insist that Iraq is not in a civil war. How many dead Iraqis per day would it take before you'd be willing to concede that civil war has broken out?

3.) Speaking of civil war, your Iraq-is-not-a-civil-war assessment was directly contradicted by former prime minister Ayad Allawi, a man whose credibility you considered unimpeachable in 2004, saying: "He's a brave, brave man... You can't change the dynamics on the ground if you've criticized the brave leader of Iraq." Has your opinion of him changed now that he's no longer saying what you want to hear?

4.) Allawi has said: "We are losing each day, as an average, 50 to 60 people through the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is." Do you think this is something you might discuss with God next time you speak?

5.) You have steadfastly supported Secretary Rumsfeld, recently claiming: "He's done a fine job." Just how bad would things have to get before you'd be willing to downgrade that to "a so-so job"? What, in your eyes, would you consider "a really crummy job"?

6.) You have indicated that you now believe that there will be American troops in Iraq until at least 2009, saying the decision about withdrawing all U.S. forces will be made by "future presidents and future governments of Iraq." Given that, do you now feel that your May 2003 Mission Accomplished moment, during which you claimed "major combat operations in Iraq have ended," was a tad premature?

7.) Was the flight suit you wore intentionally one size too small?

8.) Yes or no, are we building permanent military bases in Iraq? If yes, how many?

9.) Total U.S. expenditures on the Iraq war have now been pegged at $320 billion. Assuming the war had never happened, what would we have done with that money?

10.) No one died as a result of Watergate, but thousands have died to rid the world of an imminent threat that wasn't. Will history declare your administration's actions in the lead-up to the war in Iraq a greater scandal than Watergate?

11.) You and several members of your administration have repeatedly said members of Congress saw "the same intelligence" as you did before the invasion. But in the Sept. 21, 2001 PDB, you were told that there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the September 11th attacks. And yet you never gave this information to Congress. Do you still believe they saw "the same intelligence" you did?

12.) In your opinion (as opposed to Halliburton's), has there been war profiteering in the Iraq war? Do you know how many billions have gone unaccounted for? Are you even curious?

13.) Do you agree with Harry Truman that war profiteering is treason?

14.) You have said America has no choice but to remain in Iraq to prevent Al Qaeda from using the country as a terrorist base. Would you say Al Qaeda's presence in Iraq has increased or decreased since we invaded?

15.) You claimed, in September 2002, that "you can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror." Did you really mean this?

16.) Can you not differentiate between a group of evil ultraradical Islamic fundamentalists who carried out the September 11 attacks and an evil secular nationalist who, despite the frantic efforts of your administration, has in no way been directly linked to 9/11?

17.) Given that you claim intelligence about Iraq was not manipulated, was intelligence that suggested Iraq didn't have WMD as welcome as intelligence that suggested it did? Could an intelligence official who brought you the former expect to advance as quickly as one who brought you the latter?

18.) You've said it is "preposterous" to claim that the diversion of troops and equipment to Iraq had anything to do with the government's delayed response to Hurricane Katrina, but a secret Pentagon report and the head of the National Guard say otherwise. Were people suffering and dying in Louisiana and Mississippi because so many of our National Guard members and so many billions of tax-payer dollars were diverted to Iraq?

19.) Given that you've made the Iraq war a top priority of your administration, have you ever discussed military service with your daughters? How would you feel if they enlisted?

20.) More than 2,300 American soldiers have been killed and over 17,000 wounded since the Iraq war began. Care to predict what these numbers will be at the end of the "long, hard slog"?

Mirror_Mirror--Steve Bell 033106

Mirror_Steve Bell 033106
Originally uploaded by AJ Franklin.
Click on image for a good laugh at full size!

Democrats unveil midterm election platform: a blueprint for endless war

By Bill Van Auken
31 March 2006

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

The following is a statement issued by Socialist Equality Party candidate for US Senate from New York, Bill Van Auken.

The Democrats unveiled the first major element of their campaign platform for the 2006 midterm elections Wednesday, making it plain that the party intends to cynically adapt to the mass hostility that exists within the American people to the US war in Iraq, while pledging to continue that war and even escalate the buildup of American militarism.

The statement, entitled “Real Security,” was presented at Washington’s Union Station by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, together with other Congress members, as well as Clinton’s former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former NATO commander and unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark—both of whom played key roles in the 1999 US war against Yugoslavia.

The thrust of this document, reiterated by the party’s Congressional leaders, is that the Bush administration has bungled the war in Iraq and the overall “global war on terror,” and that the Democrats can do a more competent job of waging both.

The underlying premise is the same as that employed by the Bush administration to terrorize the American people into accepting an illegal and unprovoked war abroad and historic attacks on basic democratic rights at home: that there exists some omnipresent terrorist threat that makes “national security” the overriding priority to which all else must be subordinated.

The Democrats, no less than the Republicans, promote the big lie that the September 11, 2001 attacks—an event that has yet to be seriously explained or investigated—make it a matter of self defense for the US to carry out “preemptive” war against largely defenseless countries and to continue the vast expansion of American military might.

In a sense, in elaborating its 2006 election strategy the Democratic Party has turned inside out the cowardly policy that it adopted—to such disastrous effect—in the last midterm election in 2002. Then, the Democrats decided to ignore the looming war in Iraq—after trying to get the issue off the table by voting to authorize the war on the eve of the election—running strictly on a domestic agenda.

Now, they are attempting to make “national security” their preeminent issue, declaring that “the first responsibility of our government is the security of every American” and that the Democrats possess a policy that is “both tough and smart.”

The Democratic document indicts the Bush administration not for having launched an illegal and immoral war of aggression that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and over 2,300 American military personnel, but rather for failing to succeed in this criminal venture.

“The war in Iraq began with manipulated intelligence and no plan for success,” the document states. No, the war began with a massive propaganda campaign of lies, in which the Democratic Party leadership was a full and indispensable participant.

For Democrats to now complain that they were victims of “manipulated intelligence” is a patent fraud. Tens of millions of people around the world, and millions in the US, took to the streets to oppose the Iraq war because they understood perfectly well that the Bush administration’s claims about weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi terrorist ties were lies. That the Democratic leadership chose to accept and echo them was not a matter of gullibility, but rather of class interest.

The war in Iraq was a consensus policy within the American ruling elite: a conscious decision to utilize US military might to seize oil resources and strategic positions in the Middle East as a means of furthering the drive for US global hegemony at the expense of American capitalism’s economic rivals in Europe and Asia. What differences existed—and exist today—were strictly of a tactical character about how best such a war could be prepared and executed.

The Democrats will continue this war and have no intention of turning the 2006 midterm election into a referendum on whether US troops should be withdrawn. While polls indicate that not only a majority of the American people, but a majority of the soldiers deployed in Iraq as well, want an end to the war and a withdrawal of American troops, the Democratic Party is not proposing anything of the sort.

The party’s election statement calls only for “the Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country” and “the responsible redeployment of US forces.”

These ambiguous formulations are in no way distinguishable from the policy of the Bush White House. The call for “responsible redeployment” means that US troops will remain in Iraq until all resistance to the US takeover of the country is crushed. To the extent that a tactical shift is suggested, it is one in which American forces would be redeployed to permanent bases, utilizing air strikes and rapid reaction forces to suppress a hostile population. It is a prescription for a protracted colonial war which promises an even more horrendous death toll among Iraqi civilians.

The statement continues, vowing that the Democrats will “insist that Iraqis make the political compromises necessary to unite their country and defeat the insurgency.” How such insistence on what policies the Iraqis must follow is consistent with the document’s vow to ensure “full Iraqi sovereignty” is not explained. Clearly, the aim of the Democrats, just like the Republicans, is to install an obedient client state that will defend US interests, accept US bases and control of Iraqi oil fields and assist in repressing any popular opposition.

Nor does the Democratic plan stop at Iraq. It vows to “eliminate Osama bin Laden” and to “finish the job in Afghanistan, and end the threat posed by the Taliban.” In other words, the party proposes an escalation of the long simmering US war in Central Asia.

Moreover, it pledges to “redouble efforts to stop nuclear weapons development in Iran and North Korea.” While the document makes no mention of how the party intends to accomplish this goal, leading Democrats, such as New York’s Senator Hillary Clinton, have repeatedly attacked Bush from the right on this issue, demanding a more aggressive policy, particularly against Iran.

While laying the political foundations for still more US wars, the document also promises to make concrete preparations to execute them.

It pledges to “rebuild a state-of-the-art military by making the needed investments in equipment and manpower so that we can project power to protect America wherever and whenever necessary.”

The suggestion that the Bush administration, which succeeded this year in passing—with Democratic approval—a record $440 billion Pentagon budget, has failed to make “needed investments” in the military is breathtaking. The gargantuan Pentagon budget already amounts to more than the combined military spending of every other nation on the planet and has been fed through the systematic slashing of funding for vital social needs.

The “Real Security” plan proposes to “double the size of our Special Forces” and “increase our human intelligence capabilities.” In other words, it envisions a substantial increase in the US military’s waging of dirty wars against insurgent peoples—the specialty of the Special Forces—as well as a further expansion of US spying.

Significantly, in the entire document there is no mention of the Bush administration’s illegal domestic wiretapping operation—which after barely a month has been abandoned as an issue by the Democratic leadership—and indeed no statement pledging to uphold democratic rights at all.

In every election campaign, socialists take a principled position of rejecting the argument of voting for the Democrats as the “lesser of two evils” on the grounds that together with the Republicans this party is a key component of a two-party system that serves to defend the interests of the ruling elite. To back a supposedly less reactionary Democrat against a Republican only serves to derail the necessary struggle to establish the political independence of working people from both big business parties.

In 2006, however, as this document issued by the Democratic congressional leadership makes clear, the “lesser evil” argument fails on its face. To a large extent, the Democrats are challenging the Bush administration from the right.

There are some who are attempting to mount primary challenges to those like Hillary Clinton, who have functioned as willing accomplices of the Bush administration in launching and continuing the war in Iraq. They claim to be engaged in a struggle for the “soul of the Democratic Party.” The Socialist Equality Party says unequivocally to anyone contemplating support for such a campaign: don’t waste your time. The Democratic Party has no soul; it sold it, and at a good price.

Leading party officials have either been drawn from the ranks of the super-rich or—like the Clintons—have become immensely wealthy through connections forged with big business while in office. A prime example of the real interests represented by this party can be found in the person of California Senator Dianne Feinstein, whose husband Richard Blum owns major interests in firms that have reaped hundreds of millions of dollars from military contracts supporting the war in Iraq.

The unpostponable task posed before all those seeking a means to fight war, social reaction and attacks on democratic rights is a decisive break with the Democrats and the building of a new independent party of the working class, based on a perspective of socialism and internationalism.

This is the purpose of the Socialist Equality Party’s intervention in the 2006 election campaign. We will fight in this election to give voice to the mass antiwar sentiment, campaigning on a program demanding the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq, Afghanistan and the entire region. Our campaign demands that all those responsible for launching this unprovoked and illegal war be held accountable through prosecution for war crimes, and that the US government compensate both the Iraqi people for the death and destruction this war has inflicted upon their country, as well as the American soldiers wounded in this conflict and the families of those who have been killed.

We urge all those who support these demands to join in this fight. Contact the Socialist Equality Party and the World Socialist Web Site to become part of this campaign, participating in the petition drives to place SEP candidates on the ballot and organizing meetings to discuss our party’s program.

The purpose of this campaign is not merely to provide a means for those opposed to the war in Iraq to express themselves at the polls, but to lay the political foundations for the emergence of a new mass party fighting to put an end to militarism through the socialist transformation of American society.

Contact the Socialist Equality Party

See Also:
Socialist Equality Party announces candidates in New York, Michigan and California

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Blair in Australia-Steve Bell

Blair in Australia-Steve Bell
Originally uploaded by AJ Franklin.
Click on image to see full size.

Plan goes awry

Plan goes awry
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Be it recorded that the White House’s latest campaign to redeem its lost honor in Iraq began with a thunderous falsehood. In a made-for-FOX News moment during a recent press conference, President Bush took a question from Hearst columnist Helen Thomas for the first time in years. Like an aging actress taking a curtain call, the 85-year-old doyenne of the White House press corps performed exactly as expected. After playful banter, Thomas asked: “Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis.... Every reason given, publicly, at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is: Why did you really want to go to war?” Actually, it wasn’t a tough
question at all. Bush quickly denied the premise, as any experienced politician would. Why, no president wants war, he said. He launched into a familiar soliloquy about how 9/11 changed everything, how he’d vowed to protect the American people and how “the Taliban provided safe haven for al-Qa’ida.” “I’m talking about Iraq,” she interjected too sharply for GOP savants, who professed shock at her rudeness.

That’s when Bush got creative.

“I also saw a threat in Iraq,” he said. “I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That’s why I went to the Security Council; that’s why it was important to pass [U. N. Resolution ] 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said disarm, disclose or face serious consequences.... [W ] e worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him.”

Alas, this is false. Regardless of his other sins, Saddam did admit United Nations inspectors. Surely even the most perfervid Bush supporters recall the weeks leading up to the March 2003 invasion when self-styled patriots mocked U. N. weapons experts led by Swedish diplomat Hans Blix and Moroccan nuclear arms expert Mohamed ElBaradei. U. N. teams visited sites all over Iraq, finding no sign of forbidden weapons of mass destruction before Bush began his “shock and awe” bombing campaign.

All these events happened amid a uniquely American version of George Orwell’s “Two Minutes Hate,” with restaurant owners pouring French wine into gutters, french fries dubbed “freedom fries” and country singers in cowboy hats denouncing the Dixie Chicks for displaying insufficient reverence for Bush. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten, because you haven’t.

But has Bush himself forgotten? That’s an interesting question. It’s hard to know how deeply the visible world affects the president’s ideological obsessions. The New York Times has quoted British government memos depicting Bush telling Prime Minister Tony Blair in January 2003 that he was determined to invade whether U. N. inspectors found Iraqi WMD or not.

Once again, however, most of the White House press gave Bush a free pass, exactly as they did in July 2003, the first time he made the false claim about Saddam stiffing U. N. inspectors. Reporters appear to fear being shunned like Thomas.

It’s precisely the press’ unwillingness to confront Bush’s peculiar lapses, writes Eric Alterman in American Prospect, that explains “the air of unreality that appears to engulf almost all discussions of Iraq and the horrific situation Bush and company have wrought there.” The Washington Post even editorialized about how “authentic” Bush sounded, as if he were a contestant on “American Idol.”

Even so, the White House used Thomas’ impertinence to initiate a propaganda campaign against negative media coverage in Iraq. If only the TV networks would cover more Iraqi school openings and bake sales, administration spokesmen suggested, Americans would understand the progress toward democracy happening there.

A soldier’s wife at one of Bush’s Republicans-only town hall meetings—duly televised on CNN, of course—drew thunderous applause for suggesting that the biased news media only wanted to show bloodshed.

What planet do these people live on? Have they forgotten how the “embedded” media portrayed the Iraq war’s opening days as an extended Boy Scout Jamboree? The fawning coverage given Bush’s “Top Gun” aircraft carrier stunt in May 2003? Recent Iraqi elections drew highly favorable coverage, although no government’s been formed three months later.

Alas, when 30 beheaded bodies are found on Baghdad streets, that’s news. When police stations are overrun, and bombings and kidnappings prevent reporters from leaving their fortified compounds without military escorts—67 journalists have died in Iraq, and the Christian Science Monitor’s Jill Carroll remains in enemy hands—it’s impossible to pretend
that everything’s going according to plan. Having sold the Iraq war like a cinematic melodrama—a quick, decisive action/adventure revenge tale—the administration finds itself dealing with an American public ill-prepared for the dirty, bloody work of a prolonged occupation. Blaming the messenger’s not going to change that a bit.

•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.

Lily Tomlin said it best. "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up."

Australian parliament embraces Blair’s lies and hypocrisy

By James Cogan
29 March 2006

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

The address by Tony Blair to the joint-sitting of the Australian parliament on Monday underscored the fact that the British prime minister functions as one of the most cynical defenders of the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. The reaction to his speech, however, demonstrated once again that no section of the Australian political and media establishment is prepared to challenge the lies used to legitimise these criminal acts.

In the course of his 20-minute speech, Blair made no mention of the original casus belli for the invasion of Iraq—the false claim that the regime of Saddam Hussein possessed stockpiles of “weapons of mass destruction”. Blair played a crucial role in both manufacturing and propagating this campaign. One need only recall the British dossier of September 2002, in which the British prime minister alleged that Iraq “could deploy nuclear weapons within 45 minutes”.

At the time, Blair knew this statement to be nonsense. As the Downing Street memos demonstrated, Blair was advised by his foreign secretary in July 2002 that Iraq’s WMD capacity was “less than that of Libya, North Korea and Iran”—none of which had nuclear weapons—and he was informed by Richard Dearlove, head of MI6, that the Bush administration was intent on war and that the “intelligence and facts were being fixed” around this decision.

Listening to Blair on Monday, however, someone who had just awoken from a coma could be forgiven for believing WMDs had never been an issue in 2002 and early 2003. The US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were presented to the Australian parliament as part of a struggle by a “global alliance”, headed by the United States, fighting for the “universal values” of “democracy”, “the rule of law”, and “justice” against the “immediate threat of Islamic extremism”.

Numerous strategic documents dating back to the 1970s testify to the long-held US and British ambitions to establish direct control over the oil resources of Central Asia and the Middle East. But Blair attempted to portray the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq as motivated by the noblest of aims—aiding long-suffering people to free themselves from a “legacy of oppression, stagnation and servitude”. He made no mention of the US-vetted constitutions in both countries, which elevate Islamic law at the expense of secular rights and, in the case of Iraq, obliges all future governments to open up the state-owned oil industry to the free market and foreign ownership.

Instead, Blair referred to the US-led occupations as enjoying the “full support of democratically elected governments”. The reality is that the regimes in Kabul and Baghdad are puppet states made up of individuals who are prepared to serve as local collaborators for Washington. They remain in power solely due to the presence of foreign troops, who are carrying out the brutal repression of the popular resistance to their presence. To describe such regimes as “democratic” is the same as labeling the various governments installed by the Nazis in occupied Europe as legitimate representatives of the population.

The occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq have produced nothing resembling democracy. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and the countries left in ruins. In Iraq, sectarian divisions, directly encouraged by the Bush administration, threaten to trigger a civil war.

Moreover, in the three years since the Iraq invasion, the hysteria over terrorism consciously whipped up by the Blair government has been used to push through unprecedented inroads into the democratic rights and civil liberties of the British population and erect the legislative framework for a police-state.

As for the “rule of law”, the elaborate fabrication of a case that Iraq had WMDs was carried out precisely because an unprovoked invasion to overturn the government of a sovereign state was a direct violation of international law. Blair was advised in July 2002 by his attorney general that the “desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action”. Against the will of the British people, Blair nevertheless deployed forces in an illegal war of aggression. To put it bluntly, the British prime minister, his cabinet and his key advisors are war criminals.

A new “white man’s burden”

There was nothing new in the content of Blair’s speech to the Australian parliament or in the sanctimonious tone with which it was delivered. In the nineteenth century, defenders of the British Empire justified imposing colonial rule and the capitalist market on much of the world as the “white man’s burden” to bring “civilisation” to backward peoples. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Blair has repackaged this ideology to portray the so-called western democracies as fighting a global struggle for progress. The essential difference is that, whereas Britain was the predominant world power in the past, the British ruling elite today is desperately seeking to protect its global financial and corporate interests by serving as a junior partner to the US.

Thus the greatest danger, Blair told the Australian parliament, was not that the agenda of the Bush administration was to intervene anywhere in the world where its interests were threatened, but the prospect of the United States deciding to “pull up the drawbridge and disengage”. Blair denounced “anti-Americanism” in Europe and elsewhere as “madness” when “set against the long-term interests of the world we believe in”. Behind this statement lay Blair’s recognition that without US backing, Britain and other American allies such as Australia would carry little weight on the international arena. The role of the US, he declared, was vital to achieving beneficial agreements on climate change and a “decent trade round” to open up world markets.

In the context of rising international tensions over access to energy and markets, Blair’s “struggle for values” amounts to a blanket justification for future wars. It provides the ruling elite in countries such as Britain and Australia with the necessary propaganda to justify aligning with US aggression and concealing their real predatory motives.

Universal support

In the Australian parliament, Blair’s rhetoric found a receptive audience. The main reason is that the government of Prime Minister John Howard is no less guilty of war crimes than the US and British administrations. On the basis of the same lies about WMDs, Australian troops were dispatched to the 2003 invasion of Iraq in order to guarantee US backing for Australian interests. Australian forces remain in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Unsurprisingly, therefore, Howard welcomed Blair to the joint sitting of parliament as a “man of courage, of moral purpose, of high intelligence and of a capacity to articulate with great clarity the challenges of the contemporary world”.

Blair was embraced in equally sycophantic terms by the Labor opposition and the Greens. Labor leader Kim Beazley told Blair that “we stand shoulder to shoulder with you and with Britain in the war against fundamentalist terror” and hailed him as a “man who put values at the centre of your public life”.

Greens leader senator Bob Brown told the media prior to the parliamentary session that there was “a very big difference” between Bush and the British leader because “Tony Blair doesn’t have a prison camp with Australians held illegally against global laws”, referring to Guantánamo Bay. Brown went as far as to describe Blair as a “very good example to our weak-kneed prime minister [Howard]” as he had secured the release of British citizens from Guantánamo and was “pulling 400 troops out of Iraq”.

Blair’s litany of lies and falsifications in the parliament was not challenged at any point by any Labor or Green parliamentarian. Instead, it was greeted with a standing ovation. In 2003, the two opposition parties raised certain limited tactical differences with the Iraq invasion. Labor declared that Australian military forces should only be deployed with explicit UN support, while the Greens argued Australian troops should not be sent because they might be needed for operations closer to home, in the Asia-Pacific region. Three years on, they openly welcome Blair’s call for wars for “progress” and “democracy” as the means by which they can finally abandon their token opposition.

The reaction to Blair in the so-called liberal press was no less contemptible. The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age both published his speech without editorial comment and confined their coverage to uncritical reports.

By contrast, the pro-war Murdoch-owned Australian hailed Blair as a powerhouse of world politics. Paul Kelly, the editor-at-large, gushed that the British leader had offered “eloquence, vision and guts” and described him as a champion of “democracy, diversity, tolerance and open markets”. The paper’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan labelled him “the most articulate neo-conservative in the world” who “believes that the promotion of democracy internationally is the key to long-term security”.

The refusal of any Australian politician or journalist to take a public stand against Blair’s demagogy constitutes a sharp warning that the entire official establishment is preparing to line up with the next act of great power aggression—whether against Iran, Syria or some other target. In order for the widespread antiwar war sentiments of millions of Australian workers and youth to find genuine expression, an independent and socialist political movement must be developed.

See Also:
Britain: Blair sets out ideological justification for new wars of aggression
[24 March 2006]

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Steve Bell Dog 032506

Steve Bell Dog 032506
Originally uploaded by AJ Franklin.
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Happy 3rd Anniversary!

Happy 3rd Anniversary!
Originally uploaded by Why Not Studios.
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Arianna Huffington

Apocalypse What?

READ MORE: Iraq, 2006, George W. Bush

March 21 -- Did you catch Bush's evangelical-deer-caught-in-the-political-headlights moment Monday?

It came during the Q & A session following his speech on Iraq. The first question came from a woman who asked: "[Author Kevin Phillips] makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the apocalypse? And if not, why not?"

The president was clearly taken aback. He reacted as if he'd just seen a burning bush -- or had just been asked a really hard math question.

First he hemmed. Then he hawed. Then he hemmed some more.

"Um... uh... I... The answer is, I haven't really thought of it that way," he finally spit out. "Here's how I think of it. The first I've heard of that, by the way. I guess I'm more of a practical fellow." He then abruptly Left Behind the question at hand and went off on a long, standard-issue answer about 9/11 and fighting terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them over here.

It was the least convincing performance since, well, since the why-I'm-optimistic-about-Iraq speech that preceded it.

I mean, come on. The man is a born again, evangelical Christian whose favorite political philosopher is Jesus, has let it be know that God speaks to -- and through -- him, believes "in a divine plan that supercedes all human plans"... and he wants us to buy that he's never even heard of, let alone thought about the biblical implications of terrorism in relation to the apocalypse?

Sorry if I find this Revelation just a little hard to swallow.

After all, the notion that we are fast approaching the end of the world is not being espoused by some street corner Jeremiah wearing a "The End is Nigh!" sandwich board. Roughly 50 million Americans believe in some form of End-Time philosophy. And check out the best-seller lists: the apocalyptic Left Behind series of books have repeatedly been among the country's best selling titles, with over 70 million copies sold.

End-Timers have also spawned a mini-industry of imminent doomsday Web sites like and The latter features a Rapture Index that, according to the site, acts as a "Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity" and a "prophetic speedometer" (the higher the number, the faster we're moving toward the Second Coming). For those of you keeping score, the Rapture Index is currently 156 -- an off-the-chart mark of prophetic indicators.

Questions about Bush having an apocalyptic worldview have been bandied about for years. So much so that his chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, felt compelled, at a 2004 conference, to dismiss the idea that the invasion of Iraq had anything to do with goosing the Rapture: "The president is not reading [Left Behind author] Tim LaHaye for his Middle East policy," he sniffed.

So why the president's over-the-top, "first I've heard of that" denial? If he really hasn't given any thought to the idea that the war on terror, which he has so frequently described as a battle between "good" and "evil," is in any way connected to the Biblical battle of Armageddon, wouldn't a simple "Hell no" have sufficed?

Friday, March 24, 2006

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **

** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website **

*Operation Swarm of Lies*
By Dahr Jamail
t r u t h o u t | Report

The stated mission of Operation Swarmer, launched late last week in an
area just northeast of Samarra, in Iraq, was to "break up a center of
insurgent resistance" and to disrupt "terrorist activity," according to
the US military.

Comprised of over 1,500 US and Iraqi soldiers, 50 US attack and
transport helicopters airlifted the bold force into a flat area of
farmland filled not with fighters belonging to the "center of insurgent
resistance," but with impoverished farmers, cows, goats and women baking
bread. The first drop of soldiers onto the ground from this
air-operation doubled the meager population of 1,500 souls living in the
50 square-mile area.

US troops acted bravely, snatching up 48 "suspected insurgents," then
promptly releasing 17 of them. They were precise in their operations,
and did not detain a single cow or goat.

What did the military say about why no resistance was met?

"We believe we achieved tactical surprise," said Lt. Col. Edward Loomis,
the spokesman for the 101st Airborne Division.

Fallaciously hailed as the largest air assault in Iraq since the
Anglo-American invasion three years ago, Lt. Col. Loomis said that two
days into the operation his forces "continue to move" through the area,
and "tactical interviews began immediately." According to Time magazine
<,8599,1174448,00.html> reporters:

"Four Black Hawk helicopters landed in a wheat field and dropped off a
television crew, three photographers, three print reporters and three
Iraqi government officials right into the middle of Operation Swarmer.
Iraqi soldiers in newly painted humvees, green and red Iraqi flags
stenciled on the tailgates, had just finished searching the farm
populated by a half-dozen skinny cows and a woman kneading freshly risen
dough and slapping it to the walls of a mud oven. But contrary to what
many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no
means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war. ("Air
Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting
troops into an area.) In fact, there were no air-strikes and no leading
insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military
analysts described as little more than a photo op. What's more, there
were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the
US and Iraqi commanders."

Of course, the US military claimed that two local leaders of the group
led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were to have been in the area, but alas,
they were not to be caught up in Operation Swarmer or any of the
"tactical interviews."

Meanwhile on Sunday, fresh from a relaxing weekend at Camp David, Mr.
Bush said of Iraq, "I'm encouraged by the progress," while talking to
reporters on the South Lawn of the White House.

Bush, his comments sticking to the talking points of his administration
which surround this three year anniversary of the launching of Operation
Iraqi Freedom, nearly mirrored those made recently by General Peter
Pace. Pace, as you recall, when asked on "Meet the Press" about Iraq,
said things were "going very, very well from everything you look at."

Operation Swarm of Lies is part of yet another Cheney administration
media blitz to put a happy face on this horrendously failed misadventure
in Iraq. All too aware of the plummeting US public support for the war
effort, and with approval ratings for the so-called president at an all
time low, Bush had been sent out on the campaign trail to apply fresh
gloss to the tattered sheen of the US occupation of Iraq. Sticking with
their talking points of having Iraqi forces take over security
responsibilities, the primary purpose of Operation Swarm of Lies was
obviously to send the message to Americans that the US military are
allowing Iraqis to "take the fight to the enemy."

But this operation of mass distraction has served other purposes as well.

Operation Swarm of Lies served well in diverting media attention in the
US from US/UK covert operations in Iran last Friday.

Even the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported
<> that
Iran's national police chief, Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddamm, accused US and
British agents of playing a role in the deaths of 21 people in
southeastern Iran. Moghaddamm accused the intelligence services of both
the US and UK of encouraging attacks by Iranian rebel groups against

Operation Swarm of Lies also effectively distracted media attention from
the arrest of an American "security contractor" in Tikrit last week.
According to the Joint Coordination Center between the US and Iraqi
military in Tikrit, "the man is described as a security contractor
working for a private company," and he "possessed explosives which were
found in his car" when he was arrested last Tuesday

This incident was also reported on al-Sharqiyah Television on March 14th
, where they added that the man was arrested during an imposed curfew,
and "he had explosives in his car, noting that contacts are being held
between officials in Salah al-Din Governorate and US Army officials
regarding the incident."

Meanwhile back in the Motherland, "Vice" President Cheney said this past
weekend that Iraq is not in a civil war, but that terrorists there were
involved in desperate tactics to stop Iraq's move towards democracy.

"What we've seen is a serious effort by them to foment a civil war,"
Cheney said during an interview on the CBS program "Face the Nation"
recently, "But I don't think they've been successful."

He's right - the Iraqi people have thus far managed, miraculously, to
thwart the ongoing attempts by the occupiers to "foment civil war."

Because the recent incident in Tikrit is but one example of many which
have shown who the real terrorists are in Iraq. Even just last
September, two undercover British SAS soldiers were detained by Iraqi
police in Basra. The Brits were dressed as Iraqis, traveling in an
unmarked civilian car, and "Iraqi security officials ... accused the two
Britons they detained of shooting at Iraqi forces or trying to plant
explosives. Photographs of the two men in custody showed them in
civilian clothes."

According the same article by the Washington Post
the British military promptly razed the Iraqi jail in order to free
their two soldiers. In response, Mohammed Walli, the governor of the
province, told news agencies that the British assault was "barbaric,
savage and irresponsible."

Barbaric, savage and irresponsible are words that can also be used to
describe the true nature of Operation Swarm of Lies.

Just this past Sunday, the Director of the Monitoring Net of Human
Rights in Iraq (MHRI), Muhamad al-Deraji, issued an appeal to the UN
mission in Baghdad regarding violations committed by the US military
operation near Samarra.

"We have received information from citizens and human rights activists
in Samarra stating that the region, under American and Iraqi military
operation ... is witnessing dangerous human rights violations, which is
confirmed by the following:

1 - The Red Crescent aiding missions are not allowed to enter the region.

2 - [Independent] Press and media are, as well, forbidden from entering
the region.

3 - Women and children are not allowed to leave the region of military

4 - Receipt of news indicates presence of violations and assault for
citizens aiming to terrorize them and forces them to emigrate from this
region, through arresting the men and forcing women and their horrified
children to escape later, on and leave the region aiming to build a
military base there."

Most importantly, however, is the human tragedy which Operation Swarm of
Lies has both generated as well as diverted attention from.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, via the
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) reported on Sunday,
"Hundreds of families displaced
due to major offensive."

The report says "hundreds of families have fled the city of Samarra" as
the result of Operation Swarmer. Barakat Muhammad, a resident and father
of five who lives in Samarra told IRIN, "When they started to hit our
city I didn't take anything. I just took my family and ran like hell. We
don't have anything to eat or wear."

Despite claims by the US military that no shots were fired, obviously
bombs were dropped on civilians.

The IRIN report adds that "local doctors say that at least 35 civilians,
including women and children, have been treated at the local hospital
with injuries caused by the air strikes. In addition, 18 bodies had been
taken to the hospital since 17 March."

Yet there have been ongoing air strikes north/northeast of Baghdad since
at least last Wednesday.

According to the aforementioned Iraqi NGO MHRI, as well as AP reporters,
"eleven people - most of them women and children - have been killed
after US forces bombed a house during a raid north of Baghdad." The US
military acknowledged <> the raid
which occurred near Balad, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, but said
only four people were killed - a man, two women and a child.

Relatives, however, said 11 bodies wrapped in blankets were driven in
the back of three pickup trucks to the Tikrit General Hospital, about 40
miles north of where the air strike occurred.

As usual, reality contradicted the claims by the US military of only
four dead, when AP photographs showed the bodies of two men, five
children and four other covered figures arriving at the hospital
accompanied by grief-stricken relatives.

Even a police captain from nearby Samarra, Laith Mohammed, said that
American warplanes and armor were used in the strike which flatted the
house, killing all 11 people inside.

An AP reporter at the scene of the bombing in the rural area of Isahaqi
said "the roof of the house collapsed, three cars were destroyed and two
cows killed."

Riyadh Majid, the nephew of the head of the family who was killed, told
the AP that US forces landed in helicopters and raided the home early
last Wednesday. Ahmed Khalaf, the brother of the deceased head of the
household, said nine of the victims were family members who lived at the
house and two were visitors.

"The killed family was not part of the resistance, they were women and
children," said Khalaf, "The Americans have promised us a better life,
but we get only death."

As per their now standard operating procedure, the US military claimed
the strike targeted an individual "suspected" of supporting al-Qaida.
And as usual, the military claimed they were under attack from the house.

"Troops were engaged by enemy fire as they approached the building,"
according to Tech. Sgt. Stacy Simon, "Coalition forces returned fire
utilizing both air and ground assets."

And the al-Qaida suspects killed by this particular air strike were of
the younger variety
this time around, again as usual
for the US military in Iraq.

But of course, all of this was effectively overshadowed by Operation
Swarm of Lies.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

New York Times details secret US military torture operation

By Joe Kay
23 March 2006

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A New York Times report on March 19 details the operations of Task Force 6-26, a highly secret US Special Operations Unit whose members have reportedly engaged in torture and assassination in Iraq and Afghanistan. The existence and a hint of the operations of the unit—previously known as Task Force 121 and since renamed Task Force 145—have been reported in the press before, however there has never been a complete public accounting for its illegal activities.

Based on new interviews with military and government officials, the Times piece (“Before and After Abu Ghraib, a US Unit Abused Detainees,” by Eric Schmitt and Carolyn Marshall) provides some additional information about the unit, particularly with regard to its widespread practice of torturing Iraqi prisoners. However, the newspaper does more to conceal than to reveal the real significance of TF 6-26, which has been closely integrated with a policy of torture and assassination approved at the highest levels of the American government To this day, TF 6-26 continues to operate, but in an even more secretive environment than it did during the period covered by the Times article.

According to the Times and previous media reports, TF 6-26/TF 121 was originally formed in the summer of 2003, a few months after the invasion of Iraq. Its ranks were filled with highly-trained Special Operations forces, including from the Army Delta Force and the Navy Seals, and also included intelligence agents from the Defense Intelligence Agency It has also worked closely with the CIA, the FBI and foreign intelligence agencies.

The main task of TF 6-26 was to develop methods to defeat the insurgency, which during the months following the invasion became more intense than American military planners had anticipated. The group also had the task of capturing Saddam Hussein, which it did in December 2003. The grisly methods it used to meet these objectives were developed in a small compound known as Camp Nama, located adjacent to the Baghdad International Airport. It also apparently used Abu Ghraib prison as something of an outsourcing post, where it would drop off and pick up prisoners that it wanted interrogated. TF 6-26 primarily dealt with “high value” detainees—individuals considered to be closely involved in the insurgency or with the former Baathist government.

The Times reports that much of the interrogation at Camp Nama was done in the “Black Room,” a “windowless, jet-black garage-size room” where “some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball.” The Black Room was “nearly bare but for several 18-inch hooks that jutted from the ceiling, a grisly reminder of the terrors inflicted by Mr. Hussein’s inquisitors,” the Times notes. “Jailers often blared rap music or rock ’n’ roll at deafening decibels over a loudspeaker to unnerve their subjects.”

The newspaper reported that the soldiers posted placards reading, “NO BLOOD, NO FOUL.” “The slogan, as one Defense Department official explained, reflected an adage adopted by Task Force 6-26: ‘If you don’t make them bleed, they can’t prosecute you for it.’” The newspaper quotes another Pentagon official, “The reality is, there were no rules there.” The prisoners who entered Camp Nama disappeared, having no contact with anyone, including the Red Cross, which by international law must have access to all prisoners.

In January 2004, TF 6-26 captured the son of one of Saddam Hussein’s bodyguards. According to the Times, “The man told Army investigators that he was forced to strip and that he was punched in the spine until he fainted, put in front of an air-conditioner while cold water was poured on him and kicked in the stomach until he vomited.”

According to the Times, evidence of abuse at Camp Nama includes the period during which the infamous photos at Abu Ghraib were taken, but extends farther, into early 2004—after the Abu Ghraib photos were released. This included the beating of an 18-year-old man who was suspected of selling cars to a group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Then, “on June 25, 2004, nearly two months after the disclosure of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, an F.B.I. agent in Iraq sent an e-mail message to his superiors in Washington, warning that a detainee captured by Task Force 6-26 had suspicious burn marks on his body. The detainee said he had been tortured.”

Shortly after this incident, TF 6-26 moved to a more discrete location in Balad, 45 miles north of Baghdad.

According to previous reports, TF 6-26 also developed a method of seizing the wives of men it wanted to capture, holding them as ransom. This is another clear violation of international law.

After presenting this evidence of systematic torture by TF 6-26, the Times article proceeds to exonerate the Defense Department officials from any responsibility. “The tensions laid bare a clash of military cultures,” the authors write. “Combat-hardened commandos seeking a steady flow of intelligence to pinpoint insurgents grew exasperated with civilian interrogators sent from Washington, many of whom were novices at interrogating hostile prisoners fresh off the battlefield.” At one point, the newspaper writes, “one of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s top aides, Stephen A. Cambone, ordered a subordinate [Lieutenant General William Boykin] to ‘get to the bottom’ of any misconduct.”

This attempt to present the history of TF 6-26 as a case of military commandos gone awry, in the face of opposition and concern from Bush administration officials, turns reality on its head. It represents an attempt to cover for the administration’s policy of torture, either on the part of the Times, the Times’s sources, or a combination of the two. Rumsfeld, Cambone and Boykin were among the principal architects of this policy.

The increased role and power of the Special Operations Command, operating within the framework and direction of the Department of Defense, has been a specific policy aim of Rumsfeld since at least 2003. Rumsfeld has championed the idea of small, secretive military units engaged in “manhunts” and other operations, and has sought to increase the role of military intelligence—as opposed to the CIA or FBI—in gathering information in Iraq and elsewhere.

In carrying out this policy, he has relied heavily on Stephen Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence. This post, which Cambone assumed in March 2003, was created by Rumsfeld for the purpose of increasing the role of the military in intelligence-gathering. The necessity of this move was particularly important for Rumsfeld following the disputes that arose between the Bush administration and the CIA over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Cambone has worked closely with Boykin, a Christian fundamentalist who has proclaimed that the war in Iraq is a part of a conflict between Christianity and Islam, and had said that President Bush was “not elected,” but rather “appointed by God.”

Seymour Hersh, in a May 15, 2004, article in the New Yorker, tied the abuse at Abu Ghraib to this new policy. Citing American intelligence officials, Hersh reported on a Pentagon operation that “encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq.” He cited a “senior CIA official” who “said the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the CIA.”

Hersh wrote that Rumsfeld “authorized the establishment of a highly secret program that was given blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate ‘high value’ targets... A special-access program, or sap—subject to the Defense Department’s most stringent level of security—was set up.” After an earlier dispute within the Pentagon, Cambone had been given authority to control all special-access programs relevant to the “war on terrorism,” which would include those in Iraq.

Hersh’s sources claimed that this new program was eventually transferred to Abu Ghraib and the attempt to defeat the Iraqi insurgency. This provoked opposition from sections of the CIA, who had been working with the program but feared that its transfer to Iraq, accompanied by the inclusion of military forces that had not been trained to operate clandestinely, would disrupt the operation and lead to a situation such as happened in 2004, when photographs of torture were made public.

While Hersh did not mention TF 6-26 in his original article, the task force appears to have been closely involved in these operations. A document released by the ACLU in January of this year was filed by an army investigator who said he could not continue to pursue an investigation into the torture of the son of Saddam Hussein’s former bodyguard because the unit accused of the torture, TF 6-26, was part of a special access program.

The ACLU reported, “A memorandum included in the report states that ‘fake names were used by the 6-26 members’ and that the unit claimed to have a computer malfunction which resulted in the loss of 70 percent of their files. The memorandum concludes, ‘Hell, even if we reopened [the investigation] we wouldn’t get any more information than we already have.’” A separate report, dated April 8, 2005, said that the Army investigation could not pursue 23 criminal cases “due to the suspects and witnesses involvement in Special Access Programs and/or the security classification of the unit they were assigned to during the offense.”

There is other evidence that has been reported linking TF 6-26/121 to Abu Ghraib. In the fall of 2003, when the insurgency in Iraq was intensifying, Major General Geoffrey Miller, who was at the time in charge of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp, was sent to Iraq under the direction of Cambone. It later came to light that his main task was to “Gitmoize” interrogation procedure in Iraq, i.e., transfer the techniques used in Cuba to Iraq. In September, new methods were approved by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the military commander in Iraq, for use at Abu Ghraib. These methods came directly from TF 6-26/121.

According to a New York Times piece on August 27, 2004, a classified and unreleased section of a military report on Abu Ghraib, known as the Fay report, “says that a July 15, 2003, ‘Battlefield Interrogation Team and Facility Policy,’ drafted for use by Joint Task Force 121 ... was adopted ‘almost verbatim’ by 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, which played a leading role in interrogations at Abu Ghraib.” The Times wrote at the time that the policy “endorsed the use of stress positions during harsh interrogation procedures, the use of dogs, yelling, loud music, light control, isolation and other procedures used previously in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Prior to being shifted to Iraq, the 519th MI Battalion had worked closely with TF 121 in Afghanistan, the classified section of the Fay report said. It is well known that during the time of the abuse at Abu Ghraib there were many unidentified military personnel, dressed in civilian clothes, who drifted in and out of the prison, and who Janis Karpinski, then commander of the military police unit at the facility, could not identify. These individuals were likely involved with military intelligence, TF 121, or otherwise involved in the secret interrogation programs set up under the direction of the Pentagon.

The true role of outfits like TF 6-26 have been systematically covered up by the military, both big-business political parties and the media. All the investigations carried out by the government and the military have been so many attempts to whitewash the crimes of the Bush administration in ordering and directing the use of torture in Iraq and elsewhere. The handful of convictions that have been handed down—Including the recent conviction of an army dog-handler—have targeted only low-level soldiers, while leaving the actual architects of this policy to remain at large, indeed to retain their posts in the highest offices of the government.

See Also:
CBS’ “60 Minutes” expose on killings in Afghanistan
Former aide to Powell: authorization for torture came from “the very top”
[7 March 2006]