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.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Al-Qaeda brands Bush 'a failure'
Ayman al-Zawahri, shown on a video aired by al-Jazeera on 17 June 2005
Zawahri has previously warned the US of interfering in the Middle East
Al-Qaeda's number two has called US President George W Bush a "liar" who is losing his war against the network.

In a video published on the Internet, Ayman al-Zawahiri called Mr Bush a "lying failure" and said al-Qaeda was stronger than ever.

The message follows a video issued for the anniversary of 9/11, in which Zawahiri said Western forces were doomed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the new message, he also spoke about Darfur and attacked Pope Benedict XVI.

The Egyptian militant, who is seen as the group's ideologue, has eluded capture despite a $25m bounty on his head.


In the latest video, Zawahiri said: "We have gained more strength and we are more insistent on martyrdom.

"Bush, oh failure and liar, why don't you be courageous for once and confront your people and tell them the truth about your losses in Iraq and Afghanistan."

He urged Muslims to fight a holy war in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur against "crusaders" masked as United Nations troops.

He also called Pope Benedict XVI a "charlatan" because of his remarks on Islam, Reuters reported.

"This charlatan accused Islam of being incompatible with rationality while forgetting that his own Christianity is unacceptable to a sensible mind," he said.

The Pope caused controversy earlier this month when he quoted a medieval text which said Prophet Muhammad had brought the world only evil.

He expressed regret following angry reactions from throughout the Muslim world to the words in a speech made in southern Germany.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Clinton fights back

Clinton fights back
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Something shocking and unusual happened recently on “FOX News Sunday.” A prominent Democrat took issue with host Chris Wallace’s cheap-shot interview techniques, made him look foolish and completely out of his depth, and left him whining about his subject’s bad manners. Unfortunately, that prominent Democrat was former President Bill Clinton, whose political career is history. Even so, after a week most Democratic officeholders spent huddled under their desks like schoolchildren in a 1960s nuclear bomb drill, seemingly fearful of challenging the Bush administration’s disgraceful advocacy of torture, it was bracing to see at least one Democrat speak his mind. Instructive, too. Apparently, Clinton’s had enough of right-wingers’ attempts to hoodwink voters by waving Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress all over again.

Two weeks ago, it was ABC’s fictive docudrama, “The Path to 9/11,” combining imaginary events with make-believe dialogue to make Clinton look soft on al-Qa’ida and George W. Bush full of manly resolve. History records something else: that it was Clinton who tried to kill or capture the al-Qa’ida leader and Bush who downgraded terrorism from a Category 4 threat to the equivalent of a tropical depression, waved off a presidential briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” with a flippant remark about the CIA’s need to “cover [its] ass,” then went fishing.

But let’s go to the tape. Clinton clearly anticipated Wallace’s tactics and took him head-on. Citing viewer e-mails, Wallace asked, “Why didn’t you do more to put [Osama] bin Laden and al-Qa’ida out of business when you were president ? There’s a new book out [by Lawrence Wright] called ‘The Looming Tower,’ and it talks about how the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, bin Laden said, ‘I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of U.S. troops.’”

Clinton immediately challenged the context of the question, putting Wallace on the defensive and keeping him there. After all, exactly why are we talking about something bin Laden reportedly said 13 years ago when he remains at large five years after 9/11? Clinton said the ABC docudrama “directly contradicted by the 9/11 Commission report.”

“All the conservative Republicans, who now say I didn’t do enough, [then] claimed that I was too obsessed with bin Laden,” Clinton said. “All of President Bush’s neocons thought I was too obsessed with bin Laden. They had no eetings on bin Laden for nine months after I left office.”

Then Clinton did something Bush rarely does when journalists irk him. He answered the question. See, for months, GOP propagandists have argued that Clinton emboldened Muslim terrorists by withdrawing after rebels dragged the bodies of U.S. soldiers through the streets of Mogadishu.

“There is not a living soul in the world,” Clinton pointed out, “who thought that Osama bin Laden had anything to do with Black Hawk down or was paying any attention to it or even knew al-Qa’ida was a growing concern in October of ’ 93.... All the people who now criticize me wanted to leave the next day.”

If anything, he went too easy on his antagonists. Indeed, Clinton, who inherited what began as a humanitarian mission in Somalia from the first President Bush, insisted upon holding fast for six months until an orderly transfer to U.N. peacekeepers could be arranged. He did it despite repeated calls from republicans like Sens. Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas for immediate retreat. Conservatives argued that Somalia was not in the national interest. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., predicted that Congress would withdraw funding.

Glenn Greenwald provides a selection of contemporaneous GOP statements about Somalia on his “Unclaimed Territory” Web site. They make interesting reading. So does an October 1993 speech by Clinton agreeing with Gen. Colin Powell that it would be a terrible mistake to, yes, “cut and run” from Somali warlords. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., argued against what he called Republicans’ “extraordinary sense of panic.”

Clinton said he regretted his failure to get bin Laden. But he also reminded Wallace that, contrary to the current GOP disinformation campaign, “people on my political right who say I didn’t do enough spent the whole time I was president saying... that [it] was ‘wag the dog’ when [we] tried to kill him.”

Indeed they did. Clinton’s 1998 cruise missile attack on an al-Qa’ida training camp in Afghanistan set off a torrent of abuse by Republicans who accused him of trying to divert their party’s laser-like attention from the presidential zipper to the terrorist threat. None of which excuses Clinton’s own spectacular indiscipline, which made it easy for them. What the FOX News episode did show, however, is how badly Democrats need to imitate Clinton, get out from under their desks, quit letting the GOP noise machine dictate the terms of the debate and force the Bush administration to confront its own epic failures.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Broken, De-Humanized Military in Iraq

By Dahr Jamail
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 26 September 2006

While the deranged chicken-hawks who "lead" the US continue their
efforts to wage another unprovoked war of aggression, this time against
Iran, what's left of their already overstretched military continues to
be bled in Iraq.

When the situation is so critical that even the corporate media is
forced to report on it, you know it's bad. Last week on the NBC Nightly
News, General Barry McCaffrey, now retired, said of the current state of
the US military, "I think, arguably, it's the worst readiness condition
the US Army has faced since the end of Vietnam." This isn't a big
surprise when we consider the facts that many soldiers are already into
their third combat tour, frequent deployments have cut training time at
home in half, and two thirds of all Army combat units are rated not
ready for combat.

The fact that 60% of National Guard soldiers have already reached their
limit for overseas combat is most likely not going to slow down the
Cheney administration's lust for more war. Most likely, they'll just
have Rummy change the Pentagon's policy that currently limits Guard
combat tours to two out of every five years.

This change was apparently already expected by Lieutenant General Steven
Blum, of the National Guard, who told NBC, "If you think the National
Guard's busy today, I think we're going to look back and say 'these were
the good old days' in about three years." A comment to which General
McCaffrey responded: "More is being asked of them, particularly the
National Guard and reserve components, than they signed up to do. And in
the near-term, we think it's going to unravel."

That "near-term" seemed to be about 72 hours away from McCaffrey's
comments. On Monday, the Army announced that because it is stretched so
thin by the occupation of Iraq, it is once again extending the combat
tours of thousands of soldiers beyond their promised 12-month tours.
It's the second time since August (i.e., last month) that this has
occurred. The 1st Brigade Armored Division, which is having its tour
extended, just happens to be located in the province of Al-Anbar, which
the military has long since lost control of. Between 3,500 and 4,000
soldiers are affected by this decision.

The move prompted defense analyst Loren Thompson to tell reporters: "The
Army is coming to the end of its rope in Iraq. It simply does not have
enough active-duty military personnel to sustain the current level of

There are currently over 142,000 US soldiers in Iraq. Just last week
General John Abizaid, the top US commander in the region, said the
military is likely to maintain and possibly even increase its force
level in Iraq through next spring.

What does this look like for US troops on the ground in Iraq? Here is an
email I received just last week from a mother whose son is serving in
the US military in Ramadi:

/My son cannot bear what he is forced to do, and has probably through
sheer terror, confusion, and split-second decisions, killed innocent
civilians. He is well aware of this, and I have witnessed the
consequences first hand. He probably carries innocent blood on his
hands. The killing of innocent people is virtually unavoidable. He is in
Al-Anbar region. You are the ONLY person in the media who has responded
to my emails. The other emails I sent to news organizations questioning
why so little news out of Al-Anbar were unanswered. I believe that it is
because the US has lost that region, and is suppressing that news to the
American public. My son called me last week from Ramadi and said the war
is lost - they are just going thru the motions, again, forced to carry
out orders and risk their lives for an unobtainable and unjust goal. I
continue to read your web site, as well as others, while I pray for my
son's safe homecoming in spring./

Her anguish, the description of her son's mental state, and her son's
report of the conditions in Ramadi, tragic as they are, come as no
surprise. At the time of this writing, over 2,703 US soldiers have been
killed in Iraq, and over ten times that number wounded. This month, over
61 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq. With an average of over
2.5 killed daily this month, at the time of this writing it's already
the third bloodiest month this year in Iraq for occupation forces.

Another report released last weekend from the Veterans Health
Administration found that over one third of Iraq and Afghanistan
veterans seeking medical treatment are reporting symptoms of stress or
other metal disorders. This is a tenfold increase in the last 18 months
alone. The dramatic jump in cases is attributed to the fact that more
troops are facing multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is of course complicated by the fact that veterans' groups claim
that the VA is not able to meet the growing demand for services.
Already, veterans have had to deal with long waits for doctor
appointments (oftentimes over six months), staffing shortages, and lack
of equipment at medical centers run by the VA.

The woman who sent me the email about her son gave me permission to
publish another email that shows clearly how the over-stretch of the
military in Iraq and multiple tours are affecting her son:

/ I have established contact with my son, thank God, and he writes to me
daily about Iraqi atrocities, and how he wants to wax them all. His
morale is low and he has a weak LT who is unable to keep up with the
pace required. I would love to share these emails with you, but I am
afraid. I'm afraid of the implications should this ever get out. I want
to do nothing to endanger my communications with my son. My impression
through my readings and contact with soldiers is that the Iraqis are
generally good people. The American occupation seems to be only making
things that much worse for the average Iraqi. My impression is that Iraq
is a country with no hope. No matter what is done, they will never have
a stable government, no matter what form it might take. From my son, I'm
able to glean the complete CHAOS Ramadi is in. It is hopeless. As a
mother, I want him to do whatever is necessary to come home, and will
not sugar-coat my thoughts: that he should kill everything and come
home. Naturally, not someone who is obviously an innocent civilian, but
how do you tell? How do you know who is innocent and who is a threat?
Therefore, he feels that daisy-cutting the town is the only option. Of
course this will not happen, and he's blowing smoke. However, it is an
indication of how bad things are there ... the struggle between the
Marines and the insurgents is never ending. The type of bomb now
employed by the insurgents (whoever they are) is frightening ... a metal
plate on the ground: when the Marine steps on it, it connects the
circuit and that boy is blown up. My son is running missions thru back
alleys ... and is hauling a machine gun that is destroying his back. He
is a slender young man, and the gear he is carrying is affecting his
health. He can run for miles, but not with a hundred pounds on him.
Already I hear such a hardness in his emails, such low morale, such
hopelessness, and he has only just begun this deployment (hopefully his
last ... his third)./

/ America is a great nation, compassionate to many, and is my homeland.
I am sickened at what is happening, and what my son is being made to do
as a Marine. Ultimately we have morphed into an empire. It breaks my
heart that my son may die on foreign soil fighting a useless war that
will only lead to more death and destruction .../

The longer the occupation of Iraq continues, more death and destruction
are two things all of us can count on. Along with a broken, bleeding
military that is being stretched even further each day, and the anxious
families of those serving, whose nerves and hearts are also being
stretched further each day.

(c)2006 Dahr Jamail.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Opposition" Party defends Chimpo

Democrats defend “our president” against international criticism

By Patrick Martin
26 September 2006

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The pretense that the Democratic Party represents some sort of opposition to the Bush administration was punctured again last week when leading Democrats vociferously condemned the anti-Bush speech given by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to the United Nations General Assembly.

Chavez, who narrowly escaped being murdered in a US-backed military coup in 2002, denounced President Bush personally as “the devil” and criticized American foreign policy as militaristic and imperialist. He told reporters afterwards that Bush was not a legitimate president because he “stole the elections,” and “he is therefore a dictator.”

The day after his speech, Chavez addressed an appreciative audience in Harlem, where he announced the doubling of a Venezuelan aid program to distribute low-cost home heating oil to poor American families. Chavez reiterated his attacks on Bush, calling him “the genocide president” for invading Iraq and sanctioning the Israeli devastation of Lebanon.

Harlem’s Congressman Charles Rangel, one of the senior House Democrats, took the lead in denouncing Chavez. In a statement issued by his Washington office, Rangel said, “George Bush is the president of the United States and represents the entire country. Any demeaning public attack against him is viewed by Republicans and Democrats, and all Americans, as an attack on all of us.”

Rangel amplified on this position at a press conference, declaring, “You don’t come into my country, you don’t come into my congressional district and criticize my president.”

The language is noteworthy, since it is doubtful that there are more than a handful of residents of Harlem who share Rangel’s view of Bush. Most working-class New Yorkers, and particularly minority workers, regard Bush not as “my president” but as “their president”—i.e., the president of the wealthy and powerful. Installed in office in 2000 by the Supreme Court by methods that trampled on democratic principles, Bush is responsible for policies, from the war in Iraq to tax cuts for the wealthy, which serve corporate interests at the expense of working people.

Rangel’s defense of Bush took on the character of a nationalistic diatribe, as he added, “If there’s any criticism of President Bush, it should be restricted to Americans, whether they voted for him or not.” He told the news conference, “I just want to make it abundantly clear to Hugo Chavez or any other president: Don’t come to the United States and think, because we have problems with our president, that any foreigner can come to our country and not think that Americans do not feel offended when you offend our chief of state.”

Presumably Rangel feels that Afghans and Iraqis whose countries have been invaded, occupied and bombed by the US military, the victims of American-inspired aggression in Lebanon and Palestine, and those throughout the world who oppose the Bush administration’s foreign policy should all keep their mouths shut. These billions—the majority of the human race—have no right to voice their opinions of America’s “commander-in-chief.” This from a liberal Democrat who regularly postures as a friend of the Third World!

Rangel’s position was seconded by other House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who issued her own statement castigating the Venezuelan president. “Hugo Chavez fancies himself a modern-day Simon Bolivar, but all he is an everyday thug,” Pelosi said. She added that Chavez “abused the privilege that he had speaking at the United Nations.”

As a matter of fact, the leader of any state which is a member of the United Nations may, according to international law and US treaty obligations, go freely into New York City and address the General Assembly. It is a right, not a privilege, and Washington has no say in the matter.

Another black Democratic congressman, Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia, echoed Rangel’s tone of offended national pride, saying of Chavez, “His personal attacks and ridicule directed at the president of the United States are unacceptable.” The Reverend Jesse Jackson added his voice in defense of Bush, while saying he understood Chavez’s hostility to the administration. “Of course he feels that the US government is part of trying to pull a coup on him,” Jackson said. “But my appeal to him is get beyond the anger.”

The comments by leading Democrats added fuel to the media reaction against Chavez’s speech, which portrayed his characterization of Bush as beyond the pale. The tone was set by the New York tabloids, which denounced the Venezuelan leader as the “Caracas crackpot,” with screaming banner headlines telling Chavez to “ZIP IT!”

In an ominous footnote to the incident, Venezuela’s foreign minister was illegally detained for 90 minutes by customs and immigration officials at JFK International Airport when he attempted to leave the US Saturday to return home after attending the General Assembly session. Nicolas Maduro was threatened with strip-searching and a beating when he demanded that the US officials acknowledge his diplomatic status and act accordingly.

By one account, State Department officials went to the airport after Maduro was detained and supervised the provocation. Ultimately, the Venezuelan official was released without being searched, and he received a formal apology from the US government for his detention.

The uproar among the Democrats and the media is all the more revealing because the substance of Chavez’s remarks—except for the sarcastic barbs directed at Bush—was relatively conventional. Chavez criticized US foreign policy on issues where the overwhelming majority of the governments represented at the General Assembly share his opposition, if not his rhetoric.

He condemned Bush’s claim of a worldwide crusade for democracy, saying it was “a very original democracy that’s imposed by weapons and bombs and firing weapons.” He attacked Washington’s policy of demonizing foreign leaders such as Chavez himself, Bolivian President Evo Morales and others who head regimes that have, in one way or another, come into conflict with US foreign policy. He claimed to speak for people “who are rising up against American imperialism, who are shouting for equality, for respect, for the sovereignty of nations.”

Chavez also contrasted the feelings of the average people in America with those of the US government. The American people want peace, he said. However, “The government of the United States doesn’t want peace. It wants to exploit its system of exploitation, of pillage, of hegemony through war.”

Chavez’s remarks would have been considered quite within the norm of General Assembly sessions during the Cold War years, when both Soviet-bloc leaders and representatives of third-world countries frequently denounced the crimes of imperialism (while seeking to cut deals with Washington at the same time).

And the Venezuelan president’s proposals were hardly radical. He called for restructuring of the United Nations to expand the membership of the Security Council, end the veto powers of the World War II victors, and establish a more effective peacekeeping process. No enemy of capitalism, he represents a regime which sustains itself largely through commercial relations with the United States, supplying nearly 12 percent of American oil requirements.

One can safely predict that nothing will come of Chavez’s plans to reform the imperialist den of thieves at the United Nations, whether or not he achieves his immediate goal of a non-permanent seat for Venezuela on the Security Council. But the Venezuelan president’s appearance in New York had one beneficial effect: it brought out into the open for all to see the real solidarity of the Democratic Party with the Bush administration and its role as a diehard defender of American imperialism.

See Also:
A belligerent Bush addresses the UN: Washington threatens wider Middle East war
[20 September 2006]

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Would this be torture, Mr Bush?

Originally uploaded by AJ Franklin.
you mother fucker

Would this be torture, Mr Bush?

Originally uploaded by AJ Franklin.
you mother fucker.

Would this be torture, Mr Bush?

Originally uploaded by AJ Franklin.
you mother fucker.

Let's Make Abu Ghraib legal so Bush won't face war crimes charges

BOYS GONE WILD - Yahoo! News

NEW YORK--Right-wing Republicans are weird. When gays and lesbians want to
marry and raise kids in the suburbs, the right-wingers freak out. "Perverts!"
they scream at these bland strivers. But when supposedly straight soldiers in
the army, marines and

CIA engage in
male-on-male rape and other acts of homosexual sadism so bizarre and extreme
they turn off the average, gay-marriage-craving civilian, Republican legislators
think it's the best thing ever.

No one talked about it much at the time, but those now-forgotten photos of
torture and humiliation at

were the kind of extreme homoerotic kink your local porn
vendor keeps hidden under the counter. Iraqi inmates of mental asylums led
around like dogs on leashes. Iraqi prisoners, almost all later released as
innocent, stripped of their clothes and forced to pile on top of each other

Of course, America's state media censored the most disturbing images.
Hundreds of photos showed sex acts between and among soldiers and detainees.
Male prisoners were videotaped while being forced to masturbate and have sex
with one another. They were forced to wear women's underwear. U.S. soldiers, CIA
torturers and private mercenaries hired by the Bush Defense Department sodomized
them with flashlights and possibly broomsticks. They were kept naked for days at
a time. Some were smeared with feces.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Torture; Ending Habeas Corpus; Rendition to torture states; Bush, you little bastard.

They did it but don't want to be blamed for it...the story of War Criminals worldwide, and Bush

Bush administration denies responsibility for torture of Canadian
Bush administration denies responsibility for torture of Canadian
By Patrick Martin
22 September 2006

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

On the same day that President Bush lectured the United Nations on democracy and threatened Iran and other countries, and White House and congressional leaders continued their negotiations over the exact language of new legislation to legalize torture by the CIA, the Bush administration’s chief law enforcement officer publicly denied responsibility for the well-documented torture of a Canadian citizen who was seized by US agents in New York City four years ago.

Maher Arar, then 31 and a computer engineer, was detained by US immigration officials in October 2002 as he changed planes at John F. Kennedy International Airport on his way home to Montreal. He was questioned in the US for more than a week, based on a false description from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) labeling him an Al Qaeda associate.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

George W Bush the inner punk

George W. Bush and the inner punk
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Generally speaking, the more people tell you how tough they are, the harder they’re working to convince themselves. George W. Bush is no exception. The president’s authoritarian impulses, on display during an amazingly petulant Rose Garden press conference, so clearly derive from his own fundamental weakness of mind and character that it’s become increasingly embarrassing to watch him perform. The more strenuously he struggles to hide his inner punk, the more clearly it emerges. Consider his childish response to NBC News’ David Gregory’s question about the administration’s pre-election efforts to legalize torture. Bush’s testy attitude toward the tall newsman he calls “Stretch” goes back a long way. After Gregory, covering a joint news conference in Paris in 2002, asked President Jacques Chirac a question in French, Bush sneered, “The guy memorizes four words and he plays like he’s intercontinental.” Last week he mockingly told Gregory, “You’re looking beautiful, Dave.”

Gregory’s challenging questions seemingly set Bush’s teeth on edge.

“Mr. President,” he began, “critics of your proposed bill on interrogation rules [ask ]... if a CIA officer, paramilitary or special operations soldier from the United States were captured in Iran or North Korea and they were roughed up, and those governments said, ‘Well, they were interrogated in accordance with our interpretation of the Geneva Conventions,’ and then they were put on trial and they were convicted based on secret evidence that they were not able to see, how would you react to that as commander-in-chief?”

Bush ducked the question.

“My reaction is that if the nations such as those you name adopted the standards within the Detainee Detention Act, the world would be better.... We’re trying to clarify law. We’re trying to set high standards, not ambiguous standards. And let me just repeat: We can debate this issue all we want, but the practical matter is, if our professionals don’t have clear standards in the law, the program is not going to go forward.”

Bush repeated the threat several times. Either Congress grants him police state powers or it’ll be tantamount to surrender in the “war on terror.” Among the unambiguous high standards the White House apparently has in mind are subjecting suspects to nakedness, threats of violence against their families, sleep deprivation, hypothermia (dousing them with icy water) and simulated drowning.

Bush also proposes setting up military tribunals despite two recent Supreme Court decisions defining terror suspects’ legal rights, courts that could admit hearsay and evidence gathered by force and where individuals could be sentenced to death without being allowed to see or rebut evidence presented against them. In short, the kinds of courts that gave Stalinism a bad name. Heaven help the poor Afghan or Yemeni whose name sounds like somebody in al-Qa’ida or whose neighbor covets his wife or camel.

Asked about former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s concern that legalizing torture would make other countries doubt the moral basis of U. S. policy, Bush grew downright apoplectic.

“It’s unacceptable to think that there’s any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective,” he blustered.

Of course, nobody, least of all Powell, made that comparison. But then Bush has no interest in legality. This entire degrading farce is about two things: his own country-club tough-guy act and an election-year appeal to the instincts of the GOP “base” whose knowledge of the outside world is confined to two-dimensional TV melodramas and whose concept of citizenship is basically tribal.

Beard? Turban? String ’em up.

To the kinds of voters whose passions the White House is trying to arouse between now and November, for Powell or anybody else to invoke what Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, called “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” may be tantamount to treason. Or, for that matter, to David Gregory’s ability to speak French. Who cares what foreigners or “pointyheaded intellectuals” think? An obsession with striking virile poses has preoccupied a substantial proportion of the electorate ever since the Confederacy lost the Civil

How large a proportion we may be about to learn. The original purpose of this entire pointless exercise—even as currently constituted, the Supreme Court won’t jettison due process or condone “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is forbidden by the Constitution—was to craft an election-year bill that republicans could rubber-stamp and Democrats would resist, laying their patriotism open to question.

But the principled resistance of military men like Powell and Arizona Sen. John McCain, as well as of Southern senators like Virginia’s John Warner and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, has done more than complicate White House arithmetic. It also has altered the symbolism, threatening to expose torture for what it is: a bully’s tool for generating fear, unworthy of a free and democratic people. Mideast governance Voices letter writer Larry H. Gentry recently challenged an assertion in this column that no Muslim countries are currently governed by Islamic extremists. “What about Iran, Syria and Lebanon?” he asks.
Here’s the answer. Lebanon has an elected government. Its current prime minister is a Christian. Syria is a Baathist (i.e., secular ) military dictatorship. Iran has a very complicated government. Its president is elected, but the ultimate power is held by Shiite clerics. By definition, they’re as hostile to al-Qa’ida as Americans are. None of these countries had anything whatsoever to do with 9/11.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bush Asks Blair to Join the Party

Steve Bell in the Guardian-London

A symbol of American manufacturing’s decline

Ford to slash 44,000 jobs

By Kate Randall
16 September 2006

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

Ford Motor Company on Friday announced a plan to drastically downsize its North American operations, cutting about a third of its salaried employees and offering buyouts to all of its hourly workers in the United States. The move—an acceleration and intensification of the company’s “Way Forward” plan announced in January—is aimed at cutting annual operating costs by $5 billion.

Ford will eliminate 14,000 white-collar jobs, instead of the 4,000 proposed in the original plan. This is in addition to 4,000 salaried jobs eliminated in 2005. Buyouts and early retirement options will be extended to all 75,000 hourly workers. Two additional plants not previously targeted for closure—the Maumee Stamping Plant (Ohio) and the Essex Engine Plant (outside Windsor, Ontario)—have been added to the list of seven already named in January.

The company will also shut or sell all 17 plants in the US and Mexico taken over by Ford in October 2005 from parts maker Visteon and reorganized as Automotive Components Holdings (ACH). Ford made that move last year in an effort to prevent Visteon, which Ford had spun off in 2000, from going bankrupt.

The news of the expanded downsizing program came ten days after the announcement that Bill Ford (great-grandson of the company’s founder), who had run the automaker for five years, was being replaced as chief executive officer by former Boeing executive Alan Mulally.

Ford expects to eliminate about 44,000 hourly and salaried employees in North America—or more than a third of its workforce. The cuts will devastate communities across the country, with job losses and reductions in tax revenues whipsawing through local economies and blighting working class neighborhoods. The blow will strike particularly hard in Michigan, where Ford headquarters are located and many of the company’s plants are concentrated. Michigan already has the highest jobless rate—7.1 percent—of any state in the country.

Ford now plans to implement the cuts in its “Way Forward” plan by the end of 2008, instead of 2012 as originally envisioned. The Detroit News reported on Thursday that Ford’s global operations will post a pretax loss of $5.6 billion to $5.9 billion this year. With restructuring costs figured in, the loss could widen to $9 billion. The company does not expect to see full-year profitability in North America before 2009.

The restructuring plan signals an end to Ford’s status, for nearly a century, as one of the world’s two largest auto giants. Ford’s share of the US market has plummeted from more than 20 percent in 2002 to 17 percent last month. At a press conference held Friday morning and televised by all three local TV channels, company officials acknowledged that their goal, following the implementation of the downsizing program, was to control a far more modest 14 to 15 percent of market share. As recently as the late 1990s, Ford controlled close to a quarter of the North American market.

The company has been hard-hit by a decline in sport utility and pickup truck sales, which generate high profit margins and upon which Ford has relied to counteract a long-term decline in its competitive position. The company’s short-sighted reliance on such fuel inefficient vehicles further undermined its position when the bottom fell out of the market for pickups and SUVs as a result of soaring gasoline prices.

Ford’s overall sales through August of this year are down 10 percent from the same period in 2005, compared to a rise of 11 percent for Toyota, which will soon pass Ford as No. 2 in the US, behind General Motors.

Wall Street’s verdict on Ford’s new downsizing plan was decidedly negative. The consensus of the big banks and investment entities that dominate the stock market was that the company’s announcement did not go far enough. There was criticism of Ford’s failure to immediately sell off its high-end Jaguar and Land Rover brands, and disappointment that only two additional plant closures had been announced.

Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy wrote in a note to clients, “The plan does not address the tremendous losses at Jaguar or asset sales. It does not materially accelerate product introductions... It does not cut capacity deeper. It’s missing a lot.” The investment house cut the automaker’s rating from “neutral” to “sell.”

Ford shares suffered a punishing 13 percent drop on Friday, its biggest single-day decline since trading resumed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

That Wall Street responded so coolly to Ford’s bloodletting should be taken by workers as a warning of the unprecedented scale of the attacks on jobs and living standards that are coming, as American capitalism seeks to place the burden of its crisis squarely on the backs of the working class. These attacks will hit very broad sections of the working population, as demonstrated by Ford’s decision to slash an additional 10,000 white collar jobs, over and above the number it announced in January. These jobs are to be cut within a mere six months.

By the end of 2008, Ford will seek to shed 25,000 to 30,000 of its hourly workers. In a deal reached with the United Auto Workers (UAW) bureaucracy, all of Ford’s North American hourly employees will be offered buyout deals ranging between $65,000 and $140,000. Workers will not know details of the buyouts until mid-October, and those accepting will have to leave by September 2007.

Ford will cut its North American manufacturing capacity to 3.6 million units by the end of 2008, down 26 percent compared to 2005. In addition to the two additional plant closures announced Friday, the seven factories previously targeted include: Atlanta Assembly (Georgia), Batavia Transmission (Ohio), Norfolk Assembly (Virginia), St. Louis Assembly (Missouri), Twin Cities Assembly (Minnesota), Windsor Casting (Ontario) and Wixom Assembly (Michigan).

According to the company’s press release on Friday, by the end of 2012 Ford plans to cease production at a total of 16 North American manufacturing facilities.

New CEO Alan Mulally, 61, was brought in by Ford in an effort to stave off a catastrophic downward spiral and accelerate the plant closures, job cuts and other cost savings. A 37-year veteran of the aerospace industry, he is credited with the turnaround of Boeing’s commercial airplane division. For his services at Ford, Mulally will reportedly haul in a total compensation package of $20.5 million in the first year.

Contrary to Mulally’s comments on a local Detroit radio station that he is “absolutely not Mr. Ax Man,” his record says otherwise. After 9/11, with Boeing facing the effects of downsizing at US airlines and stiff competition from Airbus, he slashed 30,000 jobs and reduced commercial airplane models from 14 to 4.

Tom Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists, negotiated two contracts with Mulally at Boeing. He said that during Mulally’s tenure, “The company came at the workforce with a meat cleaver.” Nonetheless, Buffenbarger said that he and the former CEO “always had the ability to communicate.”

At Ford, the United Auto Workers union has been instrumental in aiding the company’s cost-cutting attacks on its workers. Besides agreeing last year to unprecedented give-backs in health benefits and pensions, the union bureaucracy has negotiated concessionary local agreements that undermine whatever remains of work rules, job classifications, safety and health provisions and protection against speedup and forced overtime.

The UAW has collaborated with the company in playing off workers at different facilities against each other in a bidding war to “save” their plant by accepting ever more onerous concessions. Just last Sunday, workers at the Buffalo Stamping Plant in New York approved work rule changes allowing Ford more flexibility.

According to Ford’s press release, “new competitive operating agreements have been ratified by UAW locals in 30 different US Ford and ACH facilities—and nearly $600 million in annual savings is projected to be realized.”

Typical were the comments of Jerry Sullivan, president of UAW Local 600, which represents workers at the Dearborn Truck plant at Ford’s Rouge complex south of Detroit. “We’re trying to be as cost-competitive as possible so we can secure our jobs and our future,” Sullivan said. “We don’t intend to just sit back and lose business.”

Top UAW bureaucrats met behind closed doors for two days prior to the Ford restructuring announcement to hammer out the details of the buyouts being offered hourly workers. Through the offers, Ford aims not only to wipe out UAW members’ jobs, but to create the conditions for their replacement with low-paid younger workers not entitled to “legacy costs” in terms of health care, pensions and other benefits currently earned by autoworkers.

Workers will be offered early retirement, a leave of absence before retirement, and other incentives. The Ford program is similar to the one offered to 113,000 hourly workers at General Motors earlier this year, where about 35,000 workers accepted the deal.

Including both Ford and GM, some 200,000 autoworkers in the US have been offered incentives to leave their jobs this year. This is but one indication of the hemorrhaging of US auto jobs in recent decades at the “Big Three,” including Chrysler, which since 1979 have shed an astounding 600,000 jobs.

The current crisis at Ford Motor Company has immense historical significance. For much of its 102-year history, Ford was a symbol of the industrial might of American capitalism. “Fordism” became a catchword in the early decades of the last century for revolutionary innovations and advancements in production methods, most notably the assembly line.

Ford’s fall from the No. 2 spot is an expression of the ongoing crisis and decay of American capitalism, which finds sharp expression in the auto industry, but can be seen across the economy—in the airlines, the steel industry, mining, and all basic manufacturing. In the US, corporate greed and incompetence play a particularly insidious role in this vast industrial decline.

In every aspect of economic life, the jobs and living standards of working people are held hostage to the domination of a financial and corporate oligarchy.

See Also:
Ford's job massacre: A corporate crime
[16 September 2006]
Michigan auto union officials convicted in extortion scheme: The UAW in microcosm
[12 July 2006]

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Museum Tabblo

Friday, September 15, 2006

I've seen the future

Tabblo: I've seen the future

Necessary stretch in the sun rays ... See my Tabblo>

Howard Kurtz - Political Death Wish? -

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dumpr Tabblo

A Homeless Man is Kicked out from under a bridge.
I wonder who owns the land? The people or the fascist state installed to protect and serve?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fucking Bush White House Picks fight with the (RIGHT) Couple!

White House picked fight with wrong couple

Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Because journalists are almost as prone to flatter their audiences as politicians, the staggering ignorance of the American public about matters crucial to democratic self-governance is discreetly ignored. Get this: According to a Zogby poll conducted early this month, almost half (46 percent ) of respondents agreed that “there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terror attacks.” Among Republicans, fully 65 percent believe that Iraq played a role in al-Qa’ida atrocities. Almost two-thirds! Sometimes it’s tempting to wonder if contemporary Republicanism hasn’t turned into a cult. The poll was taken days after President Bush, during a televised news conference, peevishly confessed that Saddam had “nothing” to do with the 2001 attack. He then denied that anybody in his administration “ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.” But why pick on deluded Bush cultists? When it comes to anything touching even remotely on their own prerogatives, there’s scant evidence that the courtiers of the
Washington press are capable of consecutive thought. Consider conventional wisdom about the revelation in David Corn and Michael Isikoff’s book, “Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War,” that columnist Robert Novak’s initial source in the betrayal of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s covert identity was State Department insider Richard Armitage.

Because Armitage is a confidant of Colin Powell’s rather than a White
House operative, pundits pretended that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation is overblown. The Washington Post editorialized, “It follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House—that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame’s identity—is untrue.”

Exactly how it follows is a puzzler. According to the Post’s own reporting, Fitzgerald has said the “grand jury has collected so much testimony and so many documents that ‘it is hard to conceive of what evidence there could be that would disprove the existence of White House efforts to “punish” Wilson.’ ”

Armitage knew about Plame (although reportedly not anything about her covert status ) only because of a State Department report created at the behest of Dick Cheney’s office and dated more than a month before her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, went public with his revelations about Bush’s claims regarding Iraq’s mythical nukes.

The Post even blamed the destruction of Plame’s 20-year CIA career on her husband. Before challenging the president, see, Wilson “ought to have expected that both those [Bush administration ] officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission [i. e., to determine if Iraq had sought uranium ore in Africa] and that the answer would point to his wife.”

Translation: Laws be damned. Challenge the Godfather, expect the shiv.
The Post’s take was a faithful paraphrase of Cheney’s angry notes on a copy of Wilson’s offending New York Times column,“Have they [CIA officials ] done this sort of thing before? Send an Amb[assador ] to answer a question?” Cheney scrawled. “Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?”

One expects The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard to parrot the party line. For The Washington Post to follow is a recent, and shameful, development
But here’s the real news in Corn and Isikoff’s book. The biggest mystery in the Plame-Wilson affair has always been why the White House panicked over a newspaper column by a relatively unknown figure like Joe Wilson. And the answer appears to be that, far from being the low-level munchkin GOP propagandists have depicted, Plame headed the agency’s Joint Task Force on Iraq, or JTFI, which was charged with finding Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.

Under terrific pressure from the White House, including visits to CIA headquarters by Cheney himself, the task force failed to produce the hard evidence demanded. “Valerie Wilson and other JTFI officers were almost too overwhelmed,” Corn writes, “to consider the possibility that [they were]... coming up with the correct answer: There was no intelligence to find on Saddam’s WMDs because the weapons did not exist.” Is that how Cheney knew Plame’s identity, and is that why the White House reacted so rashly to her husband’s exposing just one of the Bush administration’s pre-war propaganda stratagems? Both sides were playing a game with much higher stakes than anybody outside the intelligence establishment realized. In a White House eager to blame its own catastrophic bungling on bad intelligence, discrediting Wilson while intimidating Plame’s CIA colleagues into silence may have seemed a clever ploy. Unfortunately, it picked a fight with the wrong couple.

(If you ask me (AJ) they picked a fight with the RIGHT couple, fortunately…the fucking bastards)

9-11 by Martin Rowson for Guardian London

Click on image to see full size

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Texas Raccoons Return to Roost on my Roof!

Arianna Huffington:

Memo to Democrats: Stop Buying into the GOP Framing on Iraq

Dick Cheney's answers to Tim Russert on Sunday revealed that he has a very clear picture of what completing the mission in Iraq would look like: "Victory in Iraq will be a situation in which there is a viable government representative of the people of Iraq... It'll be an Iraq that is not a threat to the United States in terms of being a safe haven for terrorists.

It'll be an Iraq where al-Qaeda has been pretty well eliminated, where in fact the Iraqis are able to govern and deal with the difficult political situations, obviously, that exist inside Iraq, given their history. Those are all things that need to happen, and I think we're well on the way to doing it."

Given his sunny assessment (loved that his response to the Iraqi prime minister visiting Iran was a chipper, "It's a neighbor."), if the VP had had more time he might have added that completing the mission in Iraq would include purple unicorns taking sips from the Euphrates, and Sunnis and Shiites flying hand-in-hand down the streets of Baghdad on magic carpets on their way to that happiest place on earth, Disney Fallujah.

Along with countering Cheney's claims that "we're well on the way" to achieving this "victory" and that Iraq is "better off "because of "what we've done to date" (as Jay Rockefeller did), Democrats need to make sure they don't undercut their strongest '06 issue by buying into the GOP's "we need to stay the course" framing on the war.

But that's exactly what Hillary Clinton did during the Senate debate on Don Rumsfeld, when she took to the floor and, in a single statement, showed why, despite everything that is going wrong in Iraq, Democrats aren't getting more traction on the issue.

"We went to war with the secretary of defense we had," she said. "Now is the time to complete the mission with a new secretary of defense that we need."

As a soundbyte it was a winner: pithy, sarcastic, and a nice callback of a Rummy classic.

But as a message it was a total loser: "..complete the mission." "Mission"? Labeling the directionless chaos in Iraq a "mission" gives it legitimacy and a sense of purpose it tragically lacks. It's a wholesale acceptance of the White House framing, playing into the notion that this is a mission that can, with a little perseverance, be "completed" -- and, indeed, that we are "well on the way" to completing.

Please tell us, Sen. Clinton: what mission are you talking about? Avoiding getting caught in the crossfire of a sectarian civil war? That's looking more and more like Mission Impossible. Bringing a stable democracy to Iraq? Even if we replace Rummy with a very young man with a lifetime in which to complete this mission, democracy won't be delivered at the end of a bayonet.

But Hillary was on a rhetorical mission -- using the term to describe Iraq four [tk] more times during her remarks, including the idea that by replacing Rumsfeld the Senate could "redeem this mission", and "give it a chance for success."

By linking the notion of mission, redemption, and success in Iraq to her criticism of Rummy was Hillary, as usual, trying to have it both ways? If so, it was, sadly, Mission Accomplished.

How bad is he? | Salon News

How bad is he? | Salon News

No one predicted just how radical a president George W. Bush would be. Neither his opponents, nor the reporters covering him, nor his closest campaign aides suggested that he would be the most willfully radical president in American history.

In his 2000 campaign, Bush permitted himself few hints of radicalism. On the contrary he made ready promises of moderation, judiciously offering himself as a "compassionate conservative," an identity carefully crafted to contrast with the discredited Republican radicals of the House of Representatives. After capturing the Congress in 1994 and proclaiming a "revolution," they had twice shut down the government over the budget and staged an impeachment trial that resulted in the acquittal of President Clinton. Seeking to distance himself from the congressional Republicans, Bush declared that he was not hostile to government. He would, he said, "change the tone in Washington." He would be more reasonable than the House Republicans and more moral than Clinton. Governor Bush went out of his way to point to his record of bipartisan cooperation with Democrats in Texas, stressing that he would be "a uniter, not a divider."

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **

** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website **
** Website by **

Fallujah Under Threat Yet Again

*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

*FALLUJAH, Sep 11 (IPS) - After enduring two major assaults, Fallujah is
under threat from U.S. forces again, residents say.*

"They destroyed our city twice and they are threatening us a third
time," 52-year-old Ahmed Dhahy told IPS in Fallujah, the Sunni-dominated
city 50km west of Baghdad.

"They want us to do their job for them and turn in those who target
them," he said.

Dhahy, who lost 32 relatives when his father's house was bombed by a
U.S. aircraft during the April 2004 attack on the city, said the U.S.
military had threatened it would destroy the city if resistance fighters
were not handed over to them.

"Last week the Americans used loudspeakers on the backs of their tanks
and Humvees to threaten us," Dhahy said. Residents said the U.S. forces
warned of a "large military operation" if fighters were not handed over.

A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said he had no reports of such action.

Fallujah was heavily bombed in April 2004 and again in November that
year. The attacks destroyed 75 percent of city infrastructure and left
more than 5,000 dead, according to local non-governmental groups.

But following the heavy assaults, resistance fighters have continued to
launch attacks against U.S. and official Iraqi forces in the city.
Fallujah remains under tight security, with the U.S. military using
biometric identification, full body searches and bar-coded ID's for
residents to enter and leave their city.

"The Iraqi resistance has not stopped for a single day despite the huge
U.S. army activities," a city police captain speaking on condition of
anonymity told IPS.

"The wise men of the city explained to U.S. officials that it is
impossible to stop the resistance by military operations, but it seems
the Americans prefer to do it the hard way."

The police captain said anti-occupation fighters had increased their
activities in the face of sectarian violence in which Shia death squads
have killed thousands of Sunnis in Baghdad. Many residents of Fallujah
have relatives in the capital city.

Lack of reconstruction, and the U.S. military's failure to pay due
compensation to victims' families have added to the unrest, the captain

"There used to be resistance attacks against the U.S. and Iraqi forces
in Fallujah daily," added the captain. "But now they have increased to
several per day. Many soldiers have been killed and their vehicles
destroyed. So it is clear that the security measures they have taken in
Fallujah have failed."

Several residents told IPS that all sorts of killings have been taking
place over the past eight months. Religious leaders have been targeted
regularly, with no group claiming responsibility.

On Sunday Sep. 10, former chief of traffic police Brigadier Ahmed Diraa
was shot dead in his car. Residents in Fallujah told IPS that Diraa had
quit his post a month earlier.

In the face of killings, and now threats of a new attack, residents
remain defiant of the occupation forces. The hardships that people have
endured seem to have strengthened rather than weakened them.

"There are so many arrests and killings, and collective punishments such
as random shootings, violent inspection raids, repeated curfews and
deliberate cutting of water and electricity," Mohammed al-Darraji, head
of an Iraqi human rights group in Fallujah called The Iraqi Centre for
Human Rights Observation told IPS.

"What is going on in this city requires international intervention to
protect civilians and to punish those who seriously damaged Fallujah
society and committed serious crimes against humanity," al-Darraji
added. His group has been monitoring breaches of the Geneva Conventions
in the city since the April 2004 siege.

"There is a long list of collective punishments that have turned the
city into a frightful detention camp," he said.

Another human rights campaigner in Fallujah who asked to be referred to
as Khalid said human rights activists in Iraq felt betrayed by the
United Nations.

The UN had played ignorant "by leaving U.S. troops to act alone in the
city," Khalid, who works with Raya Human Rights, a non-governmental
organisation in the city told IPS. "This was after the media exposed the
enormity of the violence and human rights violations during the last
three years."

(c)2006 Dahr Jamail.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Worsening food insecurity in Africa

By Barry Mason
6 September 2006

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

A report by the development charity Oxfam, “Causing Hunger: An Overview of the Food Crisis in Africa,” finds that the food crisis in Africa is continuing to worsen. In the 1960s Oxfam provided part of the impetus to set up the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation’s (FAO) Freedom from Hunger Campaign, aimed at reducing food insecurity. That campaign has failed miserably in Africa.

According to the Oxfam report, whilst the average “developing world” figure for under-nourishment is 17 percent, in sub-Saharan Africa the figure is 33 percent. For Central Africa it is 55 percent. On average the number of African food emergencies per year since the mid 1980s has tripled.

The report acknowledges that the situation is not going to improve. It states, “Another failure is on the horizon. The commitment ... to halve hunger by 2015, as part of the Millennium Development Goals, will not be met by in Africa at current rates of progress.”

The central reason why the situation has not improved, according to Oxfam, is the major powers’ failure to respond speedily and appropriately to the emergency food situations. Citing Niger as an example, the report observes, “Although the earliest warnings came in late 2004, it was only when pictures of suffering children were shown on television in June 2005 that the international community was galvanised into action. By the time aid arrived, 3.6 million people were suffering from hunger.”

It is a regular occurrence that emergency financial appeals by bodies such as the United Nations get a slow and partial response. “Most UN emergency appeals receive only 30 percent of the requested funds in their first month,” explains the report.

For example, earlier this year the UN launched the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) so that the response to future emergencies could be immediate—under the previous setup, the funds had to be collected before any action could be taken. The UN suggested that $500 million was needed, but Oxfam agues this figure should be at least $1 billion. According to a recent UN news report, the fund has raised just over $260 million.

The Oxfam report notes, “The UN estimates that 16 million people are at immediate risk in ten neglected and under-funded emergencies in Africa, which include the prolonged tragedies of northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Most of the aid provided to Africa is given as food, and related non-food needs are generally not met. It can take four to five months for food to be delivered. While purchasing food locally would be a cheaper and more efficient method of giving aid, the governments of donor countries have their own reasons for shipping food instead: “For some donor countries it has been a useful way of offloading their own agricultural surpluses and providing commercial benefits to their own agricultural and shipping companies: 79 percent of total food aid is sourced in donor countries. In the case of rice and wheat, for example, the buying up of food stocks for use as foreign aid is a form of domestic subsidy, and can actively harm farmers in the developing world.”

Increasing poverty is a key factor in the hunger crisis—in some food crises food may be available but is simply unaffordable. Since 1981 the number of those living on less than a $1 a day in sub-Saharan Africa has increased twofold to over 310 million people. A food crisis which emerged in the northeast of Kenya in 2005 particularly affected pastoralist peoples. While the country saw a 15 percent increase in the harvest yield and a 5 percent rise in GDP, the proportion of the population living on less than $1 a day had risen to 66 percent, up from 40 percent in 1990.

Over the last two decades sub-Saharan Africa has had “inadequate debt cancellation, declining and poor quality development aid, flawed advice from donors, conditions attached to aid that forced countries to adopt damaging agricultural policies, and unfair trade rules . . ”

The report finds that the root cause of Africa’s ongoing food insecurity is the lack of investment in agricultural production. Sub-Saharan Africa has a predominantly rural economy, with 70 percent of the population living in rural areas and providing the livelihoods of two-thirds of the population. Whilst immediate food aid from the West has been increasing, aid for agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa dropped by 43 percent in the 1990s.

According to the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), it would require an investment of $18 billion a year into the rural infrastructure to achieve the World Food Summit goal to cut hunger by 50 percent. Much of African agriculture remains rain-fed only, and those irrigation schemes that do exist are concentrated in large commercial agribusiness estates.

Another major factor in the food crisis is the continuing AIDS epidemic, which interacts with food insecurity giving rise to so-called “new variant famine.” The sub-Saharan region has 26 million people living with the virus and this led to nearly 2.5 million deaths in 2005.

A vicious circle has been established as the disease hits young adults who work on the land. “Death prevents parents passing on vital agricultural or other skills to their children,” the report notes. “Those ill from the disease are debilitated, reducing their ability to tend the land and so leading to food insecurity which in turn exacerbates the symptoms of the disease.”

“Maize production on communal farms fell by 54 percent between 1992 and 1997, largely because of AIDS-related illness and death,” Oxfam explains.

In spite of the devastating effects of the disease, the response from the major powers has been minimal “Only one in every ten Africans needing AIDS medicines was receiving them in 2005. It will cost at least $55 billion over the next three years to provide prevention, treatment and care.... Donors must dramatically increase their financial assistance.”

The report also found that international trading polices had a substantially negative effect on the African continent. “Rural poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is exacerbated by dependence on the export of a small number of agricultural commodities, many of which face volatile and falling world prices. In 2002-2003 .. a collapse in coffee prices contributed to the Ethiopian food crisis that same year.”

Development charities such as Oxfam generally believe that “fair trade” policies are a way to tackle poverty in the undeveloped countries. This featured heavily in the Make Poverty History campaign around the Gleneagles G8 summit held last year in Britain. The recent collapse of the Doha round of World Trade talks, however, means that “fair trade” is no longer even formally on the agendas of the world’s major powers.

Another factor exacerbating the crisis of food production on the African continent is global climate change. Research carried out by the British government’s International Development Department on the effects of climate change in Africa predicts that by the year 2050 there will be severe changes in southern Africa, the Sahel, Great Lakes, and the coastal strips of west and east Africa.

The department’s chief scientific advisor, Gordon Conway, was quoted by the Independent: “It is a phenomenon that occurs in a world that is already challenged. This is especially true of Africa where the existence of widespread poverty, hunger and poor health already affect millions of people. All prognostications suggest climate change will make their lives even worse.”

According to the Oxfam report a temperature increase of 2.5 degrees centigrade by 2080 will put an estimated 60 million additional people in Africa at risk of hunger. A higher rise would put 80 million at risk. A separate report by Christian Aid estimates that climate change in Africa could lead to a further 185 million deaths from disease by the end of the century.

The Oxfam report ends with an appeal to the major powers to commit greater emergency assistance more rapidly, to purchase food locally, and to secure more long-term aid for agricultural investment. However, as Oxfam itself demonstrated in a recent report on last year’s Gleneagles G8 summit, most of the promises made by Western governments failed to materialize. Their current appeal will also fall on deaf ears.

See Also:
US policy threatens war in Horn of Africa
[23 August 2006]
Africa: Reports expose fraud of G8 pledges of aid and debt relief