Friday, October 14, 2005
As the American toll in Iraq climbs toward 2,000 dead and 15,000 wounded, and the horror of those shortened or constricted lives continues to sink deep into American communities, various memorials to the fallen -- American soldiers, journalists, contractors, and sometimes Iraqis as well -- have sprung to life. Arrays of combat boots; labyrinths and candlelit displays for the dead; actual walls and "walls" on-line; newspaper "walls" as well as walls of words; not to speak of websites with ever-growing military and civilian casualty counts. The American Friends Service Committee, for example, has an exhibit, "Eyes Wide Open," that has long traveled the country, featuring "a pair of boots honoring each U.S. military casualty, a field of shoes and a Wall of Remembrance to memorialize the Iraqis killed in the conflict, and a multimedia display exploring the history, cost and consequences of the war." The exhibit began with just over 500 combat boots and now features almost 2,000.
Informal memorials and citizens' efforts are part of the growing movement against George Bush's Iraq War. Walls of every sort are being built. In Asheville, North Carolina, for example, as part of a "peace park," townspeople have been building their own Iraq Wall with each "sponsored" stone representing one American who has died there. Planned also is "a memorial to the Iraqi dead, presently estimated at over 100,000." Sometimes these projects are very personal, even individual, ranging from spontaneous displays of candles on beaches to, in the case of one reader who wrote in to Tomdispatch, a garden/labyrinth of the American dead built in her own backyard.
These "walls," each with its own character, all influenced by architect Maya Lin's Vietnam Wall in Washington (which movingly reflected a grim American disaster and defeat), are signs of a growing sense that this war is a horror and a dishonor to which the honorable have fallen (a sense backed strongly by the latest opinion polls).
But the particular dishonor this administration has brought down on our country calls out for other "walls" as well. Perhaps, for instance, we need some negative walls built, stone by miserable stone, to cronyism, corruption, and incompetence. In the next few weeks (as in the last few), we seem certain to see the dishonor of this administration spread around widely. In addition to the Iraq situation, ever devolving into further chaos and anarchy, there was, of course, the recent catastrophic failure of FEMA; then the squalid fall of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as "the Hammer" got hammered. There is the ongoing fiasco of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's sale of family stock in a "blind trust" just before its price plummeted. He's now under investigation for possible violations of insider trading laws and the SEC has just subpoenaed his "personal records and documents." Soon, it seems, there will be dishonor to go around as the expected Fitzgerald indictments in the Plame case come down. (Caught in the crosshairs of Plame case scandal is the New York Times, a paper tied in knots and at war with itself, which managed to loose both former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's famed op-ed on Saddam's nonexistent Niger yellowcake and Judith Miller, the near-neocon journalist whose reporting helped bring us to the edge of the Iraq War. To catch up on this aspect of things, make sure to read Jay Rosen's remarkable recent columns at his PressThink blog.)
With all this in mind, it seems a worthwhile endeavor to remind the world of those who opposed an administration whose actions, in the end, are likely to make the no-bid Teapot Dome Scandal of the 1920s look like a tempest in... well, a teapot in the no-bid Halliburton era. Bernard Weiner of the Crisis Papers blog has already written a kind of verbal "wall" to honor those -- mainly journalists and bloggers of every sort -- who fought to hold the line against this administration in media bad times and are here to watch the process of rollback happen. At Tomdispatch, we had another idea. Below Nick Turse has created the beginnings of a "wall" to quite a different legion of the fallen; in this case, the governmental casualties of Bush administration follies, those men and women who were honorable or steadfast enough in their government duties that they found themselves with little alternative but to resign in protest, quit, or simply be pushed off the cliff by cronies of this administration. Here are the first 42 names of those we thought might be put on such a wall (and brief descriptions of their fates). Tom
The Fallen Legion
Casualties of the Bush Administration
By Nick Turse
In late August 2005, after twenty years of service in the field of military procurement, Bunnatine ("Bunny") Greenhouse, the top official at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in charge of awarding government contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq, was demoted. For years, Greenhouse received stellar evaluations from superiors -- until she raised objections about secret, no-bid contracts awarded to Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) -- a subsidiary of Halliburton, the mega-corporation Vice President Dick Cheney once presided over. After telling congress that one Halliburton deal was "was the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career," she was reassigned from "the elite Senior Executive Service... to a lesser job in the civil works division of the corps."
Click here to read more of this dispatch.
10 Pledges to Demand from Democrats
By Stephen Pizzo
News for Real
Thursday 13 October 2005
If Dems win in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but fail to define what they stand for, the country will be no better off. Here's how Democrats can again become a great party.
The current issue of The Nation magazine contains an important essay by Bob Borosage, head of the Campaign for America's Future. Like many of us, Bob has spent the last few years watching in awe and shock as the Democrats triangulated themselves into irrelevancy. With there being no realistic hope a viable progressive third party will emerge, he and other progressive thinkers have been trying to figure out how to round up our wayward mule team and get it hitched back to the right wagon.
Bob's article, "A *Real* Contract With America", is an important step in that direction. In it he lays out a set of clear pledges Democrat candidates can embrace in the upcoming '06 and '08 races.
Such a "contract" is critical if Democrats are going to once again become a great party, and here's why. Democrats will regain some seats in both houses in coming elections. How could they not, considering the mess the GOP has made of things since becoming the majority party? And therein lies the entire current platform of the Democrat Party - "Vote for us because we are not them."
But winning only because the other team committed too many errors is not the same thing as governing. It's simply being the only other alternative - the lesser of evils. And that's not a foundation upon which greatness can be built.
You hear it every day in Washington: "Democrats have no ideas, no programs, no deeply held beliefs, no lines in the sand they will not cross." The only discernible passion Democrats display is a passion to be in power again. But in power to do what? You tell me. I have no friggin idea, and I deeply suspect neither do they.
That's why we need to force them to sign a contract with us this time. To put it bluntly, we don't trust them any longer. They've double-crossed at every major moment - on war, on taxes, on the environment, on health care. They took our votes and our hopes and bargained them away to the enemy for the political equivalent of nylons, smokes and chocolate bars.
So I took the points Bob listed in his article, "embellished" them and put them into the form of 10 contractual pledges Democrat candidates can and should embrace. (To see Bob's original - un-Pizzo'ed - list click here.) Here is my list, which began as Bob's list, and will hopefully become every Democrat's list:
A Progressive Contract with America
If elected to office I promise to fully, enthusiastically and aggressively work to pass legislation that achieves the following goals:
We Will Bring the Troops Home.
Our military has been stretched to the breaking point through a series of unwise deployments, particularly the war in Iraq. We will begin rebuilding America's all-volunteer military by first setting a date-certain for withdrawal from Iraq, beginning with National Guard and reservists. We will pass legislation requiring US troops begin leaving Iraq at the rate of 15,000 a month. We will work as closely as possible with Iraqi government officials to make this withdraw orderly while continuing to provide them the resources needed to train and equip their own soldiers and police forces.
We Will Crack Down on Corruption.
The revolving door between corporate lobbies and high public office must be closed. We will pass legislation prohibiting legislators, their senior aides and executive branch political appointees from lobbying for two years after leaving office. We will let the sun shine into the deepest corners by requiring detailed public reporting of all contacts between lobbyists and legislators and the timely posting of such contacts on the Web. We pledge to apply these rules to all, regardless of party, as one way to take big money out of politics.
We Will Make Public Officials Accountable.
When public officials fail to do their job, as in the pre-9/11 and WMD intellegence faliures, we will require an independent investigation be launched so that no official's actions, regardless of rank or position, escapes review. We will detail action on the urgent needs that this Administration has ignored: Improve port security, bolster first responders and public health capacity, and require adequate defense planning by high-risk chemical plants. And we will attack fraud, waste and abuse, beginning with the pork-barrel squandering of national security funds.
We Will Unleash New Energy for America.
We understand that the "age of oil," is nearing an end. Therefore we pledge to launch and fund a concerted drive towards real energy independence for America. We must approach this task with the same sense of urgency, funding and attention that the nation gave to the Manhattan Project. We will focus these efforts solely on mainstreaming renewable, non-polluting sources of energy such as hydrogen, wind and solar, with the goal of achieving total energy independence no later than 2020.
We Will Rebuild America First.
We will pass legislation rescinding Bush's tax cuts for the already wealthy and corporations in order to create more jobs here than overseas. We will accomplish that, in part, by using the additional tax revenue to create good-paying jobs rebuilding America's decaying infrastructure.
We Will Make Work Pay Once Again.
There are only three nations on earth with such a vast disparity between rich and poor, Russia, Mexico and the United States. It is a disgraceful effect of GOP economic policies that favor corporations and the wealthy while ignoring hard working Americans. While CEO pay has moved steadily upward, the pay of working Americans has fallen, in many cases below the official poverty level. We promise to reverse that trend, beginning by passing legislation raising the minimum wage to a level that reflects current economic reality. We will encourage workers, including white collar workers, to take a hand in their own destinies by joining unions, as well as becoming shareholders in the companies that employ them and fully participating in both union and shareholder activities. We will insist that any companies that receive government contracts pay the prevailing wage.
We Will Make Healthcare Affordable.
We pledge to fix America's broken healthcare system, a to do so quickly. We will study and then propose a single-payer, universal, healthcare system to be in place no later than 2015. We will also immediately reverse the Republican shameful sellout to the pharmaceutical industry by empowering Medicare to bargain down drug prices andallowing people to purchase drugs from safe outlets abroad.
We Will Protect Retirement Security.
We pledge to strengthen Social Security. We will not risk Social Security by privatizing it. Instead we will modernize Social Security by, in part, recognizing that people live and work longer than they did 75 years ago.We will also modernize the ways the Social Security Trust Fund is invested to assure it always grows at least as fast as core inflation. We will also require companies to treat the shop floor like the top floor when it comes to managing their pensions and healthcare benefits.
We Will Keep the American Dream Alive.
We will immediately stop and reverse current GOP efforts to cut eligibility for college grants and to limit loans. Instead we will offer a contract to American students: If they graduate from high school, they will be able to afford college or the higher technical training needed to be successful in today's economy. We will pay for this by preserving the estate tax on the wealthiest multimillion-dollar estates in America.
We Will Provide Real Security for America.
We will foster and lead an aggressive international alliance to track down stateless terrorists, capture or kill them and confiscate their assets. Captured terrorists will be always be treated in accordance with international law. We will increase efforts and funding to track down and secure "loose nukes." We will detail action on the urgent needs that this Administration has ignored: Improve port security, bolster first responders and public health capacity, and require adequate defense planning by high-risk chemical plants. We will also affirm the reality that no nation can ever be secure as long as its borders are not. We will bring order and security to our borders by increasing border patrols and controls and by instituting a fair, manageable and humane guest worker program. We will also aggressively prosecute employers who employ or exploit illegal immigrant workers.
So, maybe you should email or mail this to your elected representative and let him/her know that, if they intend to run for re-election the price of your vote is their signature on this document.
Stephen Pizzo is the author of numerous books, including Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, which was nominated for a Pulitzer.
Campaign for America's Future(Our Future)
News for Real
By Tom Hayden
Tuesday 11 October 2005
The lack of critical media coverage at the beginning of the Iraq War is widely acknowledged. But the media's failure to cover Iraqi voices of opposition is arguably a greater default.
The mainstream media convey the impression that there are two categories of Iraqis-the handful of fanatical jihadist terrorists and the majority who showed their yearning to be free during January's election. In this paradigm, our troops are seen as defending, even cultivating, a nascent democracy. Not surprisingly, a Fox News poll in February revealed that 53 percent of Americans believed the Iraqis wanted our troops to stay while only 35 percent thought the Iraqis wanted us to leave.
To a public fed this distorted narrative and nothing more, the actual facts may be too jarring to believe. There has been little or no coverage of these realities:
A majority of Iraqis in polls favor US military withdrawal and an end of the occupation. At the time of January's election, 69 percent of Shiites and 82 percent of Sunnis favored "near-term withdrawal." Surveys done for the Coalition Provisional Authority in June 2004 showed that a 55 percent majority "would feel safer if US troops left immediately."
A recent summary of numerous Iraqi surveys, by the independent Project on Defense Alternatives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, concluded that a majority of Iraqis "oppose the US presence in Iraq, and those who strongly oppose it greatly outnumber those who strongly support it." The PDA report went on to say that "the fact that [these surveys] have played little role in the public discourse on the Iraqi mission imperils US policy and contributes to the present impasse."
The only Iraqis who strongly support the US occupation are the Kurds, less than 20 percent of the population whose semi-autonomous status is protected by the United States, and who are represented disproportionately in the Iraqi regime. By backing the Kurds and southern Shiites, the United States is intervening in a sectarian civil war. The US-trained Iraqi security forces are dominated by Kurdish and Shiite militias.
In mid-September of this year, the eighteen-member National Sovereignty Committee in the US-sponsored Iraqi parliament issued a unanimous report calling for the end of occupation.
In June, more than 100 members of the same parliament, or more than one-third, signed a letter calling for "the departure of the occupation." They criticized their regime for bypassing parliament in obtaining an extension of authority from the United Nations Security Council.
In January, US intelligence agencies warned in a "grim tone" that the newly elected Iraqi regime would demand a timetable for US withdrawal, which indeed was the platform of the winning Shiite party. After the election, nothing came of the worry. The winners simply abandoned the campaign pledge that helped elect them.
In June, the former electricity minister of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Aihim Al-Sammarae, created an organization to begin dialogue with eleven insurgent groups. The London Times reported that high-ranking US military officials joined one round of talks.
In 2004, twenty Iraqi political parties formed a National Foundation Congress to become a public voice for withdrawal. In May 2005 it held a second Congress, releasing a three-point platform demanding a withdrawal timetable, an interim international peacekeeping force, and internationally supervised elections.
Virtually none of these realities have been reported in the American media, with the exception of articles by Nancy Youssef of Knight-Ridder.
These various Iraqi peacemakers deserve to be heard by Congress and the American people. Some of them are risking their lives. Al-Sammarae reportedly discovered a car bomb next to his Baghdad home. Another high-status Iraqi leader, who asked that his name not be used, wrote of being "active in trying to bring the US & UK embassies to negotiate with heads of the opposition in Iraq...[but] unfortunately had been dismissed by representatives of both countries. He did meet with some of the US senators who visited Baghdad some time ago and suggested ideas but it seemed that no one was really interested in settling the issue and military force was believed to be the only means of stopping the uprising and insurgency."
What could account for the failure of the mainstream media either to report these facts or interview these respected opponents of the war? There are apologists like Charles Krauthammer, who falsely asserted in the Washington Post that "there is no one to negotiate with," as if military suppression is the only option. But what accounts for the failure of more objective reporters to notice what is before their eyes? Are they embedded in the biased assumptions of empire? Supportive of the American troops? Blinded by the paradigms presented them?
From its beginning, this war has been one of perception. Perhaps the media elites, whose collaboration with the Pentagon gave public justification during the 2003 invasion, now worry that if they report that a majority of the Iraqis we are supposedly "saving from terrorism" are actually calling for our departure, any remaining support for the war will collapse.
By John Pilger
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Thursday 13 October 2005
"The propagandist's purpose," wrote Aldous Huxley, "is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human." The British, who invented modern war propaganda and inspired Joseph Goebbels, were specialists in the field. At the height of the slaughter known as the First World War, the prime minister, David Lloyd George, confided to C P Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian: "If people really knew [the truth], the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don't know, and can't know."
What has changed?
"If we had all known then what we know now," said the New York Times on 24 August, "the invasion [of Iraq] would have been stopped by a popular outcry." The admission was saying, in effect, that powerful newspapers, like powerful broadcasting organisations, had betrayed their readers and viewers and listeners by not finding out - by amplifying the lies of Bush and Blair instead of challenging and exposing them. The direct consequences were a criminal invasion called "Shock and Awe" and the dehumanising of a whole nation.
This remains largely an unspoken shame in Britain, especially at the BBC, which continues to boast about its rigour and objectivity while echoing a corrupt and lying government, as it did before the invasion. For evidence of this, there are two academic studies available - though the capitulation of broadcast journalism ought to be obvious to any discerning viewer, night after night, as "embedded" reporting justifies murderous attacks on Iraqi towns and villages as "rooting out insurgents" and swallows British army propaganda designed to distract from its disaster, while preparing us for attacks on Iran and Syria. Like the New York Times and most of the American media, had the BBC done its job, many thousands of innocent people almost certainly would be alive today.
When will important journalists cease to be establishment managers and analyse and confront the critical part they play in the violence of rapacious governments? An anniversary provides an opportunity. Forty years ago this month, Major General Suharto began a seizure of power in Indonesia by unleashing a wave of killings that the CIA described as "the worst mass murders of the second half of the 20th century". Much of this episode was never reported and remains secret. None of the reports of recent terror attacks against tourists in Bali mentioned the fact that near the major hotels were the mass graves of some of an estimated 80,000 people killed by mobs orchestrated by Suharto and backed by the American and British governments.
Indeed, the collaboration of western governments, together with the role of western business, laid the pattern for subsequent Anglo-American violence across the world: such as Chile in 1973, when Augusto Pinochet's bloody coup was backed in Washington and London; the arming of the shah of Iran and the creation of his secret police; and the lavish and meticulous backing of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, including black propaganda by the Foreign Office which sought to discredit press reports that he had used nerve gas against the Kurdish village of Halabja.
In 1965, in Indonesia, the American embassy furnished General Suharto with roughly 5,000 names. These were people for assassination, and a senior American diplomat checked off the names as they were killed or captured. Most were members of the PKI, the Indonesian Communist Party. Having already armed and equipped Suharto's army, Washington secretly flew in state-of-the-art communication equipment whose high frequencies were known to the CIA and the National Security Council advising the president, Lyndon B Johnson. Not only did this allow Suharto's generals to co-ordinate the massacres, it meant that the highest echelons of the US administration were listening in.
The Americans worked closely with the British. The British ambassador in Jakarta, Sir Andrew Gilchrist, cabled the Foreign Office: "I have never concealed from you my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change." The "little shooting" saw off between half a million and a million people.However, it was in the field of propaganda, of "managing" the media and eradicating the victims from people's memory in the west, that the British shone. British intelligence officers outlined how the British press and the BBC could be manipulated. "Treatment will need to be subtle," they wrote, "eg, a) all activities should be strictly unattributable, b) British [government] participation or co-operation should be carefully concealed." To achieve this, the Foreign Office opened a branch of its Information Research Department (IRD) in Singapore.
The IRD was a top-secret, cold war propaganda unit headed by Norman Reddaway, one of Her Majesty's most experienced liars. Reddaway and his colleagues manipulated the "embedded" press and the BBC so expertly that he boasted to Gilchrist in a secret message that the fake story he had promoted - that a communist takeover was imminent in Indonesia - "went all over the world and back again". He described how an experienced Sunday newspaper journalist agreed "to give exactly your angle on events in his article . . . ie, that this was a kid-glove coup without butchery".
These lies, bragged Reddaway, could be "put almost instantly back to Indonesia via the BBC". Prevented from entering Indonesia, Roland Challis, the BBC's south-east Asia corres-pondent, was unaware of the slaughter. "My British sources purported not to know what was going on," Challis told me, "but they knew what the American plan was. There were bodies being washed up on the lawns of the British consulate in Surabaya, and British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops down the Malacca Straits so that they could take part in this terrible holocaust. It was only later that we learned that the American embassy was supplying names and ticking them off as they were killed. There was a deal, you see. In establishing the Suharto regime, the involvement of the IMF and the World Bank was part of it . . . Suharto would bring them back. That was the deal."
The bloodbath was ignored almost entirely by the BBC and the rest of the western media. The headline news was that "communism" had been overthrown in Indonesia, which, Time reported, "is the west's best news in Asia". In November 1967, at a conference in Geneva overseen by the billionaire banker David Rockefeller, the booty was handed out. All the corporate giants were represented, from General Motors, Chase Manhattan Bank and US Steel to ICI and British American Tobacco. With Suharto's connivance, the natural riches of his country were carved up.Suharto's cut was considerable. When he was finally overthrown in 1998, it was estimated that he had up to $10bn in foreign banks, or more than 10 per cent of Indonesia's foreign debt. When I was last in Jakarta, I walked to the end of his leafy street and caught sight of the mansion where the mass murderer now lives in luxury. As Saddam Hussein heads for his own show trial on 19 October, he must ask himself where he went wrong. Compared with Suharto's crimes, Saddm seem second-division.
With British-supplied Hawk jets and machine-guns, Suharto's army went on to crush the life out of a quarter of the population of East Timor: 200,000 people. Using the same Hawk jets and machine-guns, the same genocidal army is now attempting to crush the life out of the resistance movement in West Papua and protect the Freeport company, which is mining a mountain of copper in the province. (Henry Kissinger is "director emeritus".) Some 100,000 Papuans, 18 per cent of the population, have been killed; yet this British-backed "project", as new Labour likes to say, is almost never reported.
What happened in Indonesia, and continues to happen, is almost a mirror image of the attack on Iraq. Both countries have riches coveted by the west; both had dictators installed by the west to facilitate the passage of their resources; and in both countries, blood-drenched Anglo-American actions have been disguised by propaganda willingly provided by journalists prepared to draw the necessary distinctions between Saddam's regime ("monstrous") and Suharto's ("moderate" and "stable"). Since the invasion of Iraq, I have spoken to a number of principled journalists working in the pro-war media, including the BBC, who say that they and many others "lie awake at night" and want to speak out and resume being real journalists. I suggest now is the time.
John Pilger's book Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and its Triumphs is published in paperback by Vintage. To contact the Free West Papua Campaign, e-mail email@example.com or phone 01865 241 1200.
By Ed Merta
Wednesday 12 October 2005
Overshadowed by last month's hurricanes was the news that global warming is likely to accelerate much faster than feared, and it's already begun.
A number of news reports and commentary on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have linked the disasters to global warming. Almost nobody noticed a crucial scientific finding, two weeks earlier, that foreshadows disasters on a far greater scale in the decades to come.
According to August 11 articles in the magazine New Scientist and the British newspaper the Guardian, a pair of scientists, one Russian and one British, report that global warming is melting the permafrost in the West Siberian tundra. The news made a little blip in the international media and the blogosphere, and then it disappeared.
Why should anyone care? Because melting of the Siberian permafrost will, over the next few decades, release hundreds of millions of tons of methane from formerly frozen peat bogs into the atmosphere. Methane from those bogs is at least twenty times more potent as a greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide that currently drives global warming. Dumping such a huge quantity of methane on top of already soaring CO2 levels will drive global temperatures to the upper range of increases forecast for the remainder of this century.
According to the most recent forecast by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), compiled in 2001, human industrial emissions are on course to raise global temperatures between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. The IPCC models didn't account for methane releases from the Arctic, nor did they consider other natural sources of greenhouse gases that could be released by human activity. The agency judged Arctic methane releases to be a real but remote possibility, not likely to emerge for decades. Now we find that it could very well be happening today.
The news of melting Siberian permafrost means, in all likelihood, that global warming is accelerating much faster than climatologists had predicted. The finding from Siberia comes amidst evidence, presented at Tony Blair's special climate change conference last February, that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could be in danger of disintegrating - another warming-induced event once thought to be decades or centuries away.
Meanwhile, according to a September 29, 2005 report in the Guardian, scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder's National Snow and Ice Data Center have measured a drastic shrinking of ice floes in the Arctic Ocean. Arctic waters are now expected to be ice-free well before the end of this century.
How many more milestones will there be? The prospects of a worst case scenario, with a temperature increase approaching or exceeding 5.8 degrees Celsius, are increasing dramatically, with all the attending disasters that would entail - inundated coastlines, extreme storms and drought, disease pandemics, collapsing agriculture, massive environmental refugee flows.
And how far will it go? Climate forecasts have long noted that every increase in global temperature heightens the odds of runaway global warming, beyond any human control. Continued overheating could unlock more methane from Arctic regions beyond Siberia. It could cripple the vital ability of plants and oceans to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, turning them into gushing sources of new CO2 that accelerate the superheating even further. The ice caps that help cool the Earth by reflecting sunlight into space could vanish. In the end, the relentless rise in temperature could induce a cataclysmic venting of billions of tons of methane from the oceans.
A paper by British scientists Michael J. Benton and Richard J. Twitchett, published in the July 2003 issue of Trends in Ecology & Evolution, shows how this could happen. 251 million years ago, at the end of the Permian era, a release of carbon dioxide from volcanic eruptions apparently heated the Earth's atmosphere by about 6 degrees Celsius.
This initial increase in temperature triggered, in turn, a massive release of methane from Arctic tundra and the oceans. Research by Jeffrey Kiehl and others at the National Center for Atmospheric Research at University of Colorado, Boulder, tells us what happened next. According to their paper in the September 2005 issue of the journal Geology, the Earth's annual mean surface temperature rose by an additional 10 to 30 degrees Celsius.
The result of this runaway global warming was the greatest mass extinction since life emerged from the sea - 95 percent of all species in existence died. That from an initial temperature rise only 0.2 degrees Celsius more than what the IPCC says could occur by the end of this century. We now know that human industry is causing in our lifetimes the same kind of methane release that triggered the Permian extinction.
The news from Siberia means that putting a brake on climate change in our lifetimes, or our children's, is impossible. If the entire human race miraculously slashed industrial carbon dioxide emissions today by the most drastic feasible amount, the temperature would continue to increase for decades, maybe centuries, according to IPCC forecasts.
The Arctic methane driving the atmosphere toward runaway warming would thus continue to spew from the permafrost. In any case, the reality of human behavior is that we will almost certainly not cut our carbon emissions to zero, so long as current politics and paradigms endure. Unless something changes in the global zeitgeist, nations will debate and muddle along, and maybe eventually adopt some further showpiece compromises like the Kyoto protocol, and we'll tell ourselves it's enough.
By the time political and economic elites realize the ghastly scope of what's happening, the truly catastrophic changes in our climate and biosphere will probably be unfolding already.
It seems likely that we are staring down the barrel of the full force, worst-case scenarios studied by the IPCC and other research organizations. The future foreseen in those scenarios is hidden amidst a mind numbing tedium of graphs and scientific jargon. The language is bland, almost routine. Implicit in the abstract language, though, are real events and consequences that will devastate the lives of real human beings, on a scale no one has ever seen. Katrina was a harbinger. The future will be far worse.
To imagine what it might be like is to invite charges of fear mongering, because it violates the scientific ethos of caution, restraint, and neutrality, the political and cultural norms of can-do optimism. But we've reached the point now where we have to start envisioning what we will face. We have to see the data and projections in human terms, if we hope to be ready for what our children and their children will have to endure. We have to start thinking clearly about what the numbers might mean.
For decades, the right derided environmentalists as doom-sayers. Environmental organizations themselves often hesitated, for fear of losing credibility, to put their case in stark, apocalyptic terms. It may not be politic to say so, but growing evidence suggests that the worst-case forecasts are coming true. The ability of our planet to sustain life is beginning to disintegrate.
The collapse will accelerate and intensify with each passing year. At some point, the cataclysm that ended Earth's Permian era, 251 million years ago, will repeat itself. During the decades or centuries of its recurrence, we will see the end of technological progress, the destruction of our civilization, and quite possibly the extinction of our species.
Preventing that outcome will, and should, override any other political and social issue. Quite literally, nothing else matters now. Every policy, every issue, must be viewed in terms of how it contributes to human survival. The impractical and the impossible are now imperative, whether we know it or not. We will have to eliminate carbon emissions. All of them. Post-carbon energy sources will be crucial to the eventual recovery of our climate, centuries or millennia from now.
In the meantime, the environmental collapse will continue regardless, over many human generations. Human societies face the task of riding it out as best they can, minimizing the death and misery their inhabitants must endure. In the end, they will have to redefine civilization.
It's time for progressives to face what's coming. Normal politics isn't enough anymore. Once, the left sought justice and plenty for everyone in the world of material abundance created by the Industrial Revolution. The task now is to save something decent and humane as the former things pass away.
What do we need to do, here and now? How can we do it? What comes next? Let the conversation begin here.
Ed Merta is a freelance writer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Legendary author and IWT Founding Committee member Gore Vidal talks about television news and the state of democracy. "There are so many questions that television refuses to take up -- much less answer." Watch now here:
And new IWT Founding Committee member and former CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent Tom Fenton talks about the opportunity for IWT: "I'm convinced that there's a real audience out there for what I call 'real news.' News of context, news that tells people what's coming down the road, things that could affect their lives."
There's lots happening on our web site this week, with highlights below. Join the discussion happening on our blog, and please help spread the word by forwarding this message to others. Or use our "tell a friend" page here:
"PURGING THE POOR" FROM NEW ORLEANS?
As an example of the kind of investigative reporting IWT will feature in our current affairs documentaries, author and IWT Founding Committee member Naomi Klein reports on the dramatic "demographic shift" taking place in New Orleans -- and explains how "70,000 of New Orleans' poorest homeless evacuees could move back to the city alongside returning white homeowners, without a single new structure being built."
LOBBYISTS ADVISE KATRINA RECONSTRUCTION ACT.
The Louisiana Katrina Reconstruction Act included "billions of dollars' worth of business" for the clients of lobbyists who sat on an advisory panel to Louisiana's senators, according to the L.A. Times. One advisory panel member is calling it "a huge injustice" to the state.
HAITI: POSTPONED ELECTIONS & GROWING VIOLENCE.
"Iraq's election morass is modest compared to Haiti's," Council on Hemispheric Affairs President Larry Birns says. And Znet's Aaron Mate details the growing list of recent killings involving Haiti's National Police and United Nations forces.
Paul Jay, Chair
Independent World Television
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Tomgram: Jonathan Schell on the Democratic Party's Urge to Lose
Remember when the Democrats were keeping their powder dry for the fierce battle against the President's still unknown second nominee to the Supreme Court -- and so, during the Roberts nomination hearings, didn't even ask the judge a question about his well-reported role in the Florida 2000 vote recount battle? They were, they swore, saving their "opposition" for the even worse candidate sure to come. Now she's here -- Harriet Miers, the President's lawyer, who contributed $5,000 to his Florida "Recount Fund" in 2000 and was running political/legal interference for the President and Vice President that year. She may also rate as the single most sycophantic candidate for just about any office in memory. (According to former Bush speechwriter David Frum, "She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met.") In essence, having passed on a man who, in at least a modest way, helped George grab the 2000 election via the Supreme Court -- not a Democratic senator even asked him if he'd recuse himself, should another such case ever reach the court -- they are now in the process of topping themselves by sending courtwards a family retainer; or rather, as on so many other issues (count the Iraq War as issue number one in this regard), they seem to be preparing yet again to stand aside and let the President willingly commit suicide, or, in the case of Miers, the right supposedly take her down. It could happen, but don't hold your breath waiting (despite all the recent press punditry about this).
Skip the social issues for a moment, the new Roberts/Miers Supreme Court will certainly be two things: the Unlimited Presidential Power Detention and Torture Court and the Property Court (or rather the Corporate Court). But what an interesting situation this would be if Miers were not confirmed and the President then had to deal with his base by nominating someone the Democrats are sworn to filibuster. You might find yourself with two nominations sunk, Sandra Day O'Connor still on the court, and deep into the 2006 election campaign. Now that could be something, but again, since it's the Democrats, don't hold your breath.
Opposition, as the Republicans knew in the Clinton era (and still know), is a habit. You don't save it up for a rainy day or you find yourself up on a roof waving a white cloth and calling hopelessly for rescue. Paul Hackett, the impressive ex-Marine Iraq vet, who almost wrested away a solidly Republican congressional seat in a district outside Cinncinnati this summer, commented recently, "The Democratic Party is like an addict. They're addicted to failure. I want to help the party. The question is, how do you help someone that doesn't want help?"
That's the question which, in another fashion, Jonathan Schell takes up in his latest "Letter from Ground Zero" for the Nation magazine (posted here thanks to the kindness of that magazine's editors). Tom
How to Lose an Election
By Jonathan Schell
As George W. Bush's approval ratings sink below 40%, and the GOP and all its projects, from the Iraq War to Social Security "reform" to Hurricane Katrina recovery plans, seem to be going to pieces, we are hearing on every side that it won't be enough for Democrats to rub their hands in glee (however discreetly). They must come up with their own plans. They must offer the country something positive to embrace. One response to this need comes from two former advisers to President Clinton -- William Galston, now of the University of Maryland, and Elaine Kamarck, now of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. They have produced a report called "The Politics of Polarization," a sequel to one they wrote in 1989 for the Democratic Leadership Council. Their main piece of advice, now as before, is that "seizing the center remains the key to victory."
The word "center," of course, has many possible meanings. One is simply the political space where most of the voters are, whatever their views. Defined thus, a centrist strategy is a mere tautology. Any party that wins over a majority of the electorate will have seized "the center": A winning strategy is one that wins. Since the contrary idea -- a jolly "let's persuade only 40% of the voters!" -- is highly unattractive, any "centrist" strategy has an obvious built-in appeal.
Click here to read more of this dispatch.
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Tuesday 11 October 2005
While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society's pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he's in.
-- Bob Dylan, "It's Alright, Ma"
My goodness, but I have been out of it these last several days. I've been in this tiny log cabin, see, at the end of five miles of dirt road up here in New Hampshire. There is a lake and a kayak and dogs and a fireplace and a television that gets one channel filled with little beyond cooking shows. I finally got a glacially slow dialup connection to the internet going, and decided to get caught up on the doings of the world beyond these woods. It seems things are moving briskly.
Mr. Bush has been tattooed about the head and shoulders for suggesting that God told him to invade Iraq. I can't imagine why anyone is surprised by this. George is the putative head of the fundamentalist evangelical wing of Protestant Christianity here in America, and has been for years. They are the source of his now-waning political strength. Pretending to be on armchair-to-armchair relations with the Almighty is the best way to keep the Christo-Talibanical wind at his back. It's either that or he is literally hearing voices in his head. Let us pray it is the former, as bad as that may be. The alternative is that the man with the finger on the button needs to be fitted with one of those coats that button up in the back.
It seems the horrifying threats of mass bombings and death in the New York subways were, in fact, a big fat hoax. I'm shocked, shocked, that a bogus yet spectacular warning was broadbanded the same day as word came down that Fitzgerald was about to drop the hammer. Funny how the worst possible terrors always seem to pop up on the grid whenever George and the boys get themselves into hot water. The individual who provided this false information is in the hands of Pakistani officials. Mayhap the false threat information came about after a round of torture? Perish the thought.
However the false threat came to be, it hasn't deflected the hard rain about to fall on the White House. New York Times reporter Judy Miller, once lionized by defenders of journalistic ethics for refusing to divulge a source under duress, now appears to be simply another dirty player in a filthy game. As if by magic, a notebook of hers filled with crucial information has suddenly materialized out of the ether. The notebook details a conversation between Miller and Cheney's right-hand man Scooter Libby, and indicates that Libby may well be the original source of the leak that put Valerie Plame on the public shelf. Simultaneously, an email from Karl Rove that puts him on the spot for outing a CIA agent likewise sprouted from nothingness. The walls are indeed closing in on these rotters.
Fitzgerald's investigative ticket expires at the end of the month, so if something is going to happen, it will happen soon. It is all-important, as the Byzantine details unspool, to remember the main point.
Rove, Libby, along with others within the administration as well as the now-compromised Ms. Miller, were involved in one thing and one thing only: selling the American public a budget of lies to justify the now-catastrophic invasion and occupation of Iraq. Ambassador Joseph Wilson exposed Bush's "Uranium-from-Niger-in-Iraq" nonsense in the public prints back in the summer of 2003, and the attack on his wife was meant to deflect and destroy that criticism. Ultimately, the purpose behind this was to maintain the rationale for war.
It isn't about perjury, or contempt, or any other low-rent charge. These people are responsible for nearly 2,000 American military deaths, thousands of American military wounded, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, and the looting of the American treasury to the tune of several hundred billion dollars. In other words, they have committed premeditated first-degree murder on a massive scale, assault, conspiracy to commit same, with grand larceny thrown in to boot. In Texas, you get a spike in your arm for that, and a quick trip to Somewhere Else.
The larger picture developing here was captured by, of all publications, the London Daily Mirror over the weekend. "Americans are the planet's biggest flag wavers," wrote veteran Mirror correspondent Dermot Purgavie. "They are reared on the conceit that theirs is the world's best and most enviable country, born only the day before yesterday but a model society with freedom, opportunity and prosperity not found, they think, in older cultures. They rejoice that 'We are No.1,' and in many ways they are. But events have revealed a creeping mildew of pain and privation, graft and injustice and much incompetence lurking beneath the glow of star-spangled superiority."
"America's sense of itself - its pride in its power and authority, its faith in its institutions and its belief in its leaders - has been profoundly damaged," continued Purgavie. "And now the talking heads in Washington predict dramatic political change and the death of the Republicans' hope of becoming the permanent government." This sentiment was echoed in a Washington Post article from Monday by Charles Babington and Chris Cillizza, who wrote, "Republican politicians in multiple states have recently decided not to run for Senate next year, stirring anxiety among Washington operatives about the effectiveness of the party's recruiting efforts and whether this signals a broader decline in GOP congressional prospects."
An epic electoral reversal for the GOP in 2006 may be in the offing, but there is a larger game afoot. We are sliding back into the kind of ideological malaise endured during the late 1970s. The end days of the Carter administration saw skyrocketing gas prices, economic stagnation, the humiliating hostage crisis in Iran, the shock and disgust derived from the crimes of Watergate and the resignation of a sitting President, and let's not forget the lingering sting of a lost war in Vietnam. All of that balled together left the country at a loss. The belief that we were special took a furious beating, and only the superlative shyster salesmanship of Ronald Reagan was able to restore faith in the desiccated mythology.
Americans, by and large, have a fundamental need to feel like they are part of something great, above the fray and beyond the rest of the world. They are fed American exceptionalism with mother's milk, and will fight like rabid wolverines to avoid being forced to believe otherwise. Anyone mystified by the public support Bush has enjoyed until very recently, despite the endless litany of disasters that have befallen us, can look to this bone-deep need as the main reason for that support. It isn't just about 9/11. Americans need to feel good about America in the same way fish need water. Americans need to believe, and will thrash around like boated marlin if that belief is undercut. That belief serves as a kind of ideological Prozac, shoving bad thoughts to the background.
Iraq. Afghanistan. The continued freedom enjoyed by Osama bin Laden. Katrina. Abu Ghraib. Frist and insider stock trading. DeLay and a handful of indictments. Rove and Libby staring down the barrel of more indictments. Bush's approval ratings are plummeting, and the entire country is beginning to wilt under the depressing reality that we are, in fact, getting screwed with our pants on. Any conceits of moral authority being put forth by the White House and the Republican Party have been washed away in a flood of graft, death, lies and corruption.
Our supply of Prozac is running short. The belief in American excellence so desperately necessary to the mental balance of the populace is being eroded by the hour, and there will be hell to pay because of it.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Solnit's initial essay on hope at this site, written in May 2003 just after much of the antiwar movement had folded its tent in despair, only a month after Baghdad fell to U.S. troops, became Hope in the Dark (due to appear in a revised edition in January), the only book for which Tomdispatch can claim responsibility. She suggested then that, when it came to history, "it's always too soon to go home." History, she added, "is like weather, not like checkers. A game of checkers ends. The weather never does." As we know, the weather also regularly holds surprises in the way a game of checkers never can; and in the unexpected lurk all sorts of fears, but always hope as well. Over two years later, she returns to this theme. What follows is the sort of essay you might expect from a writer whose newest book, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, explores the pleasures of disorientation. Given the year so far, perhaps by late December there will be five or six or seven events from out of the American blue to consider, with all sorts of added surprises, and an updated piece to be written. Tom
Three from Out of the Blue
Surprises of 2005 (So Far)
By Rebecca Solnit
"The smart thing is to prepare for the unexpected" said my most recent fortune-cookie advisory. Many people presume that the future will look more or less like the present, though that's the one thing we can assume isn't true. If some Cassandra had come to us in 1985 and declared that the death squads and dictators of Latin America would be replaced with left-leaning elected regimes and populist insurgencies, if she had prophesied the vanishing of the Soviet Union and the arrival of AIDS retrovirals, same-sex marriage and the Red Sox World Series victory, if she had warned us of pandemic fundamentalism and more dramatic climate change sooner, who would have heeded her? From the vantage point of 1985, 2005 is already wilder than science fiction and less credible, rife with countless small but deep changes as well as many sweeping ones. Of course who in 1965 would have imagined the real 1985, so like and yet unlike Orwell's 1984, with spreading information technologies,! shrinking public spheres, and changed social mores? Even from near at hand, the future throws curveballs, for few if any in the gloom of post-election 2004 anticipated the wild surprises of the first nine months of 2005.
Despair is full of certainty, the certainty that you know what's going to happen; and many seem to love certainty so much that they'll take it with despondency as a package deal. Think of those who, waiting for someone long overdue, habitually talk themselves into believing in the fatal crash or the adulterous abandonment -- atrocities they prefer to the uncertainty of a person shrouded in the mystery of absence. In the hangover after last November's election, many anti-Bush Americans almost seemed to prefer their own prognostications of doom and an eternally triumphant Republican party to preparing for the unexpected. Many were convinced that it was all over and George Bush would be riding high forever -- a somewhat perplexingly unlikely ground for despair.
After all, even had his ratings continued to fly high, his reign will, without a coup, only last through 2008. There always has been a future beyond that, even though much can be ravaged irrevocably in four years. But as it turns out we didn't have to wait those four years for the nightmarish moment of November 2004 to mutate into something unforeseen. The present may not be less dreadful for us, but it's certainly more so for Bush, and many things have changed in unexpected ways.
Out of the Woods: The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
Click here to read more of this dispatch.
Revise and Conquer: Bush Family History Makes Strange Bedfellows
Originally published in June 6, 2003 edition of The Moscow Times.
Holocaust revisionism took decades to rear its ugly head, but the whitewashers of war crimes in the Bush Regime are trying to pervert the facts of history mere weeks after their Leader triumphantly declared "mission accomplished" in the war on Iraq. "Weapons of mass destruction?" Never heard of 'em. Never mentioned 'em. Maybe we'll find some. Not that important. Time to move on. Hey, how about a tax cut?
But even as revisionist-in-chief George W. Bush was staging his somber photo-op in Auschwitz last week, the web of lies he and his little buddy Tony Blair concocted to "justify" launching an act of military aggression – on the very Hitlerian grounds of "preventive war" – was being shredded by their own intelligence services. In an unprecedented move, U.S and British spies went public to denounce the cartoonish manipulation of professional intelligence data by the war-hungry leaders. Reports of Saddam's "imminent threat" were "sexed up" on Blair's order, said UK spooks, while American agents said Bush was spoonfed a stew of uncorroborated confabulation by a "special team" of ideological hatchet-men overseen by Pentagon honcho Don Rumsfeld. Congressional and Parliamentary probes are now afoot.
In the end, the "weapons of mass destruction" that the Christian Coalition had sworn were "armed and ready" to unleash unspeakable carnage on the world turned out to be – by Bush's own admission – a couple of trucks, which contained not a speck of hazardous material. Not exactly the fearsome arsenal the Dear Leader had invoked, in ever-increasing detail, throughout the long buildup to aggression. The actual CIA report which Bush cited was even more – or rather, less – revealing, noting that the trucks' designs were in fact consistent with their stated purpose: the production of hydrogen for weather balloons, Slate.com reports.
Thus revisionism – panicky, cynical, maladroit – was the order of the day. Rumsfeld – whose smirking rictus of iron certainty was a mainstay of the drive to war – began backing off big-time. Maybe there weren't any WMD, he shrugged; maybe Saddam destroyed them before the war. Unfortunately, the UK press dug up a quote from St. Tony himself on the subject: "We are asked to accept Saddam decided to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd." But to be fair, Blair's broadside was fired long ago, practically in cave-man times: March 18, 2003, to be exact. It's certainly irrelevant in our go-go modern world, where history is written with water and each day is a new blank page.
So it was most apt that the only question Bush was heard to ask during his Auschwitz tour actually dealt with Holocaust revisionism: "Do people challenge the accuracy of what you present?" he asked his guide, the New York Times reports. This might seem a rather bizarre question at first glance – but then, Bush has a personal stake in the cultivation of historical amnesia. His own family fortune was built in part by a long and profitable collusion with the Nazis – an ugly story oft told here, and raked up again by Newsweek Poland during the presidential visit.
Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush, and Prescott's father-in-law, George Herbert Walker, helped finance the rise of the Nazi Party through their intimate entanglements with Nazi industrial, shipping and banking interests. This long (and well-documented) collaboration continued even after America was at war with Nazi Germany. It seems the blood money was just too good to pass up – even if it had to be dug out of the corpses of young American soldiers and innocent civilians throughout Europe and North Africa.
The Walker-Bush cabal's Nazi partners also helped finance – then profited from – the Auschwitz camp. Finally, in 1942, the U.S. government seized the Walker-Bush Nazi assets under the Trading With the Enemy Act. But the well-connected clan managed to bury the news in the back pages: brief mentions of the companies involved, but no names of the Establishment grandees behind them. They also pulled strings to keep their American assets from being seized as well, even though the profits from these enterprises were inextricably mixed with their Nazi loot. Prescott later cashed in these tainted assets for millions, a nest egg that helped launch him into the Senate and his son and grandson into the White House.
So perhaps George Walker Bush felt uneasy treading on the bone-ash that lies beneath the soft, green grass of Auschwitz. Or perhaps not. For quietly buried in the back pages last week was news that the Walker-Bush tradition of war profiteering carries on. A small brief in the Financial Times revealed that Bush-connected "reconstruction" firms Halliburton and Bechtel, now in control of Iraq's oil fields, want to raise massive bank loans using future oil profits as collateral. In other words, these Establishment grandees will pocket billions in free money that will have to be paid back later by the Iraqi people, if and when their oil fields are returned.
Both companies made millions with Saddam during the dictator's murderous heyday: Bechtel helped build Saddam's mustard-gas plants, while Halliburton, under Cheney, pocketed $23 million working with Saddam's UN-sanctioned regime after the first Gulf War. Meanwhile, Halliburton – which still pays Cheney a tidy annual sum – was handed yet another no-bid Iraq contract last week: $400 million in government grease this time.
That's the way of the war profiteers, these men of "honor and integrity" who build their family fortunes, their corporate treasuries and their political dynasties on bone-ash. The grass they tread is always soft.
posted by Chris Floyd at 1:05 PM - on his New EMPIRE BURLESQUE website
**Read more of Chris Loyd's excellent articles and commentary about "High Crimes and Low Comedy in the Bush Imperium" at EMPIRE BURLESQUE
**Please note these changes and Chris Floyd's NEW website**
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
A Change is Gonna Come: The New Empire Burlesque
THE ALL-NEW EMPIRE BURLESQUE
As we noted here a few weeks ago, a new upgraded version of Empire Burlesque has been in the works for some time, designed by open-source wizard Richard Kastelein, of V.O.F. Expathos. Rich has packed it with so many enhancements and capabilities that I haven't got a handle on all of them yet, so new features will still be appearing in the weeks and months to come. But the site itself is good to go, as they say, so we're launching -- now.
The plan is for this current site to run in tandem with the new blog for awhile; but I don't know how long that will actually be practical. So if you are a regular reader -- or have just wandered in here looking for jpegs of Gypsy Rose Lee – why not make the transition now? In addition to the usual stemwinding blather from your correspondent, you'll also find music, a 24-hour news feed, streaming media, membership benefits and more. It's the all-new Empire Burlesque. As the man says: "Don't you dare miss it!"
What's that new address again?
posted by Chris Floyd at 4:20 PM on his ALL-NEW EMPIRE BURLESQUE blog
** NOTE: Chris Floyd's articles are published here with the kind permission of the author. ---- Annamarie Deneen
Jonathan Schwarz is back and loaded for bear over at Tiny Revolution, with a takedown of the tissue of lies that Colin Powell disgorged in an interview with ABC News last month. Powell's reputation as "one of the good guys" in the Bush Administration has been one of the most enduring mysteries of our sad, demented times. He was not only one of the chief enablers of Bush's war crime in Iraq, but his entire career has marked him out as a bagman for a bloody elite, ever willing to turn a blind eye -- or pitch in directly -- when there is dirty work to be done, from the My Lai massacre to Iran-Contra to the murderous excursion in Panama to the warm embrace of Saddam Hussein to his final apotheosis as Imperial Handmaiden in his sick-making appearance at the UN in February 2003, when he "made the case" for war.
Now, of course, Powell goes around with furrowed brow, dramatically declaiming how he was "betrayed" by unnamed intelligence agents into prostituting his (entirely vaporous) credibility at the UN. But as Jon shows, Powell knew full well that he was lying to the world during his UN fan-dance, claiming that his baseless assertions about Iraq's non-existent WMD were iron-clad gospel truth -- when, as we now know, those very same "unreliable" intelligence agencies had told Powell, in writing, that his charges lacked a solid foundation.
Jon has the goods, and promises that this is just part of an ongoing project "that will examine Powell's mendacity in all its glorious detail." For some historical context, you might examine this column that I wrote -- in May 2002 -- drawing on the excellent historical research of Robert Parry: General Principles: Colin Powell, Bagman.
By Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque
Monday, October 10, 2005
The Los Angeles Times
Monday 10 October 2005
My brother died to buy a bit of time.
There he was, 30 days into his tour, hunkered down on a hot May evening. Reconnaissance reported enemy troops dug in just steps beyond the ridge line, patiently waiting for dark to overrun and kill everyone in my brother's company.
The sun was setting. The order came to charge. My brother flew over the ridge, an anonymous new guy to the men who covered his attack.
Amped, no doubt, on adrenaline, he must have struggled to recall his basic training. M-16 on automatic, he descended into the crossfire of two rattling machine guns. Bullets shredded his body, no part spared. That charge and two others before dawn did what they were meant to do. They showed force. They scattered the enemy into the hills. They bought some time.
The price of that night in Vietnam? Nine dead Marines, one of them my brother. The war in Iraq, with its horrifying body counts and obituaries, has set me to contemplating the bizarre calculus of military life and death.
My brother was no raging patriot, and he didn't pay much attention to the public policy that trapped us in Southeast Asia. He was a tough kid doing his best to escape a violent, tyrannical father and the family economics that kept us teetering on the edge of poverty. He had no appetite for college, and he joined the Marines in frustration when the Navy turned him down for a shot at becoming a vehicle mechanic. His biggest dream was to use what he could save from his Marine Corps pay to buy a Ford Shelby Cobra when he returned from Vietnam.
Still, boot camp infused him with the gung-ho desire to prove himself a worthy warrior. He came home one evening after advanced infantry training with his inhibitions loosened by a pint of Early Times whiskey. Dying was on his mind. "Tell Mom and Dad that if I get killed, they'll never phone or send a telegram," he said. "Someone will always come to the door."
I tried deflecting this uncomfortable line of conversation, but he insisted. "Is it true they're having money problems again?" I told him yes. He said that if he was killed the family would get a $10,000 insurance payment and funeral expenses.
Was that gratifying thought on his mind as his life drained down the ridge? Probably not. My guess is that he was angry about getting himself shot.
Today, I'm struck by the extent to which I cannot bring myself to believe that Jim's rationale for becoming a Marine factored in the grand ideals of dying for America's freedom, of liberating the oppressed or the other noble causes touted then and now.
Rather, I think he naively accepted the warrior worship he'd been fed by superiors about all of those so-called heroes who preceded his trip home in a coffin.
I miss Jim unremittingly, and wish I could ascribe a higher purpose to his death.
But I know now, having shared many long emotional conversations with Marines who were there that night, having watched another three decades of history unfold, that he died for this cause only: To buy time.
Jim and those eight other young men bought another night for their fellow Marines. That was honorable.
But their deaths, combined with all those thousands of others, also bought more months for the American civilian and military leaders to harass a determined insurgent enemy; for then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to lose faith that the war was winnable, let alone justified; for Henry Kissinger to muddle through the Paris talks toward Richard Nixon's "peace with honor."
And now, each time I read about another soldier blown apart by a roadside bomb, I recoil from this sickening paradox: That it took all those sons' and brothers' deaths to buy enough time for Americans to finally weary of politicians' pep talks and end a pointless war.
Paul Vandeventer runs a community development organization in Los Angeles and lives in Eagle Rock.
The Washington Post
Saturday 08 October 2005
David Frost joins new international television network.
Al-Jazeera, which is launching an English-language network with Washington as a major hub, has landed its first big-name Western journalist: David Frost. And the veteran BBC interviewer says he's perfectly comfortable with the unlikely marriage.
"I love new frontiers and new challenges," Frost, 66, said yesterday from London. He said the new network, al-Jazeera International, has promised him "total editorial control" and that he had checked out the company with US and British government officials, "all of which gave al-Jazeera a clean bill of health in terms of its lack of links with terrorism."
But the Bush administration has repeatedly denounced al-Jazeera. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has accused the Qatar-based operation of promoting terrorism and "vicious lies" and has banned its reporters from Iraq. The State Department has complained about "false" and "inflammatory" reporting.
Said Frost, who will host a weekly interview program: "For all the people who think it's anti-American, there are various countries in the Middle East who think it's too pro-Western. I would say the jury's out on al-Jazeera. Obviously, we all suffer from the handicap of not being able to sit there and watch in Arabic."
The Thursday announcement of the hiring of Frost, who will continue to work for the BBC, comes as al-Jazeera is looking for a few good Americans - anchors, correspondents and producers - for the network as it prepares to launch early next year. From a nondescript office building on K Street, where an armed guard mans the lobby, staffers have been calling television agents about their clients. But a number of those approached, including several well-known personalities whose agent would not identify them by name, have quickly rebuffed the overture.
"Some are a bit leery," said Nigel Parsons, the former staffer for BBC and Associated Press Television News who is running al-Jazeera International. "There is an image problem to be overcome."
Al-Jazeera's reputation wasn't helped when a Spanish court last month sentenced former correspondent Taysir Alouni to seven years in prison on charges of collaborating with al Qaeda.
But such developments have not deterred some recruits. Josh Rushing, a former Marine spokesman for the US Central Command in Qatar who was featured in the documentary "Control Room," is joining as a reporter, as first reported by USA Today.
Parsons dismisses the US criticism and says Rumsfeld wrongly accused the network of airing pictures of beheadings.
"We're certainly not anti-West or anti-American," he said. Parsons said the network is "not always the first recipient" of Osama bin Laden's videotaped threats, and while it does air what it deems newsworthy excerpts, "it's slightly hypocritical to say we run them and no one else does." As for Middle East coverage, "people forget most Arabs had never seen an Israeli before al-Jazeera, and we allow Israelis to give their side of the story."
At a minimum, al-Jazeera offers a different perspective. Recent stories on its English-language Web site were headlined "Al-Qaeda in Iraq says two marines killed," "Israel accused of skewing elections" and "Hamas: US, Israel provoking tensions." An article on Alouni says he was the only journalist based on Afghanistan "to show the world what the US war machine was doing to one of the world's poorest countries."
Al-Jazeera International plans for the Washington bureau to broadcast four hours of programming each day, with London, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, and Doha, Qatar, handling the rest of the load.
Parsons sees no problem in hiring the 40 staffers envisioned for the Washington office: "By and large, people have been approaching us. We have well over 4,000 applications for editorial jobs from people who've worked at CNN, BBC, Fox, Sky News and Australian television."
As for salaries, Parsons said, "some people expect us to be handing out gold bars. We're not awash with petrodollars." He says that while more than half of the network's funding comes from the emir of Qatar, the government has never tried to interfere with programming.
One journalist who will anchor a Washington call-in program is Riz Kahn, a former BBC staffer and CNN International host.
Kahn said he is aware of al-Jazeera's reputation in the United States but views this as a "new channel" staffed by credible journalists, including his friend Parsons. "Any concern people have that it's going to be slanted one way or anti-American, they'll be appeased once they realize it's a proper international channel," he said.
Parsons has taken his case to Washington, paying courtesy calls on such skeptics as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Cheney, the vice president's daughter, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who was not persuaded.
"They've become a platform for a bunch of nuts and radical Islamists that are damaging to the United States and put our people at risk," Rohrabacher said. "Al-Jazeera is anathema to people who believe in responsible journalism . ... It is hate-based reporting."
Clifford May, president of the advocacy group Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said any American who goes on al-Jazeera "is misguided. He thinks he'll be able to tell the truth. I think he's going to be used and be seen as a useful idiot."
Even without al-Jazeera's controversial reputation, it will be difficult for the new network - which has deals to be carried in Europe, Asia and Africa - to get widespread access to US cable and satellite outlets. "We don't expect to be on in 25 or 30 million homes on Day One," Parsons said. "I'll be delighted if we've got 5 million homes and can build on that."
Al-Jazeera claims to be the world's fifth-most recognizable brand. But Parsons concedes that US cable operators may make the commercial decision that their audience isn't terribly interested in foreign news.
"We feel America has a fairly poor understanding of the outside world, and the outside world has a fairly poor understanding of the United States. ... All we're asking is to be judged on our own merits," he said.
Frost, who added to his considerable fame in America nearly three decades ago by conducting the first post-Watergate interviews with Richard Nixon, said he finds the new channel "a perfectly friendly environment" because there are so many ex-BBC staffers.
Frost said he had seen a script for a promotional tape that contains some supportive comments from Bill Clinton. Clinton spokesman Jay Carson said these must have been taken from a recent al-Jazeera interview with the former president, and that since Clinton never does commercial promotions, his office would send a cease-and-desist letter if the network used excerpts for that purpose.
"I'm not an apologist for al-Jazeera Arabic," Frost said. "I think it's good to have another 24-hour news network in the world bringing a different point of view, a 360-degree point of view."
The Washington Post
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Israel-Palestine: The spoilers
By Gwynne Dyer
10/08/05 "Trinidad Express" -- -- Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has had a good couple of months. In August, his policy of forced withdrawal from the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, which he imposed on his own Likud party despite bitter opposition, was carried out far faster and with much less violence than most people expected. On Monday, he successfully repelled a leadership challenge within the party by his most dangerous rival, former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. So now he is going to do-nothing.
Nothing, that is to say, on the "peace'' front. Sharon removed the 8,500 Jewish settlers from amidst the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip unilaterally, without any meaningful negotiations between the Israeli government and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, because Sharon does not want to enter into real negotiations over territory. The point of pulling out of Gaza, as Sharon's closest aide, Dov Weisglass, said last year, is to "place the peace process in formaldehyde.''
Gideon Saar, Likud's leader in the Knesset (parliament), says exactly the same thing. "Sharon will do nothing. He cannot afford to do anything if he is to retain control of the party and stay in power. Anyone who thinks it is Gaza first is mistaken. It is Gaza only.'' As Sharon has been trying to explain to the thicker Likud members, by giving up the Gaza settlements (which were untenable in the long run anyway), his government can claim credit for a major step towards peace and win freedom from outside pressure for years while it gets on with expanding the West Bank settlements and builds a "security fence'' to create a new de facto border.
Sharon's problem was that the devious and hugely ambitious Netanyahu was trying to exploit the gap between what he could say in public and what he actually intended to do, accusing him of selling out to the left (i.e. those who believe in the possibility of a negotiated peace with the Palestinians). Faced with Netanyahu's leadership challenge, Sharon had to give explicit assurance to the Likud rank-and-file.
This assurance had to be given out loud, since Likud is a mass movement of sorts, which is why people like Weisglass and Saar were allowed to discuss Sharon's real strategy openly. The danger, you might think, is that foreigners can hear them too, and would see through Sharon's game- but the only foreigners who count for Sharon's government are in the United States. He can count on the Bush administration not to raise any objections to his real policy, and the US media are generally pretty reluctant to question either their own or the Israeli government's intentions.
So on Monday night Sharon narrowly defeated Netanyahu's challenge in the 3,000-member Likud central committee, and he now has a clear run down to the election due in November of next year. The number of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank grew by 12,000 in the past year to 250,000, while the new wall and the proliferating new Jewish suburbs in eastern Jerusalem (population now 200,000) are more and more cutting off the Arab part of the Old City from the West Bank. Behind a smokescreen of good intentions, the project continues.
And just in case the majority of Israelis who want peace negotiations might think of putting pressure on Sharon, the Palestinian radicals who share his determination to avoid a compromise peace are lending him a hand. On Saturday, Hamas fighters launched a shower of Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip at the Israeli town of Sderot, which gave Sharon an excuse to start launching air-strikes against Gaza and making mass arrests in Palestinian towns in the West Bank again. Which was, of course, exactly what Hamas wanted him to do. In effect, they are allies.
The air-strikes continue, the ceasefire itself is at risk, and there is every chance that next Sunday's scheduled summit between Sharon and Abbas will be cancelled. That will further undermine Abbas's position, and increase the likelihood that in next January's election disillusioned Palestinians will vote for Hamas and other groups that fundamentally oppose the whole notion of a negotiated peace with Israel.
Hamas might even win that election. That would suit Sharon too, since he could then say even more persuasively that he has no credible Palestinian negotiating partner. The two are strategic enemies, but most of the time they are tactical allies, each manoeuvring to defeat and isolate those in their own camp who want to negotiate a deal with the other side.
And they are winning again. In the long term, however, it is Hamas and its friends who benefit most from this perverse alliance. Israel's security ultimately depends on achieving a real peace with its Arab neighbours while it still enjoys its present advantages of overwhelming military superiority, a nuclear-weapons monopoly, and a close alliance with the United States, but none of these things is forever. As time passes, the incentives for Palestinians and other Arabs to make peace with Israel will probably dwindle.
That is precisely Hamas's calculation. Why isn't it Sharon's? Perhaps because most of Hamas's leaders are men little more than half Sharon's age (77), which gives them a different perspective on the meaning of the phrase "long term''.
Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
Copyright 2005 All rights reserved. Trinidad Express
Source: Information Clearing House
America's sense of itself - its pride in its power - has been profoundly damaged
By Dermot Purgavie
10/08/05 "Daily Mirror" -- -- This week Karen Hughes, long-time political adviser to George Bush, began her new mission as the State Department's official defender of America's image with a tour of the Middle East.
She might have been more help to her beleaguered president had she stayed at home and used her PR skills on her neighbors. At the end of a cruel and turbulent summer, nobody is more dismayed and demoralized about America than Americans.
They have watched with growing disbelief and horror as a convergence of events - dominated by the unending war in Iraq and two hurricanes - have exposed ugly and disturbing things in the undergrowth that shame and embarrass Americans and undermine their belief in the nation and its values.
With TV providing a ceaseless backdrop of the country's failings - a crippled and tone-deaf president, a negligent government, corruption, military atrocities, soaring debt, racial conflict, poverty, bloated bodies in floodwater, people dying on camera for want of food, water and medicine - it seemed things were falling apart in the land where happiness is promoted in the constitution.
Disillusioning news was everywhere. In the flight from Hurricane Rita, evacuees fought knife fights over cans of petrol. In storm-hit Louisiana there were long queues at gun stores as people armed themselves against looters.
America, which has the world's costliest health care, had, it turned out, higher infant mortality rates than the broke and despised Cuba.
Tom De Lay, Republican enforcer in the House of Representatives, was indicted for conspiracy and money laundering. The leader of the Republicans in the Senate was under investigation for his stock dealings. And Osama bin Laden was still on the loose.
Americans are the planet's biggest flag wavers. They are reared on the conceit that theirs is the world's best and most enviable country, born only the day before yesterday but a model society with freedom, opportunity and prosperity not found, they think, in older cultures.
They rejoice that "We are No.1", and in many ways they are.
But events have revealed a creeping mildew of pain and privation, graft and injustice and much incompetence lurking beneath the glow of star-spangled superiority.
Many here feel the country is breaking down and losing its moral and political authority.
"US in funk" say the headlines. "I am ashamed to be an American," say the letters to the editor. We are seeing, say the commentators, a crumbling - and humbling - of America.
The catalogue of afflictions is long and grisly. Hurricane Katrina revealed confusion and incompetence throughout government, from town hall to White House.
President Bush, accused of an alarming failure of leadership over the disaster, has now been to the Gulf coast seven times for carefully orchestrated photo ops.
But his approval has dropped below 40 per cent. Public doubt about his capacity to deal with pressing problems is growing.
Americans feel ashamed by the violent, predatory behavior Katrina triggered - nothing similar happened in the tsunami-hit Third World countries - and by the deep racial and class divisions it revealed.
The press has since been giving the country a crash course on poverty and race, informing the flag wavers that an uncaring America may be No.1 on the world inequities index.
It has 37 million living under the poverty line, largely unnoticed by the richest in a country with more than three million millionaires.
The typical white family has $80,000 in assets; the average black family about $6,000. It's a wealth gap out of the Middle Ages. Some 46 million can't afford health insurance, 18,000 of whom will die early because of it.
The US, we learn, is 43rd in the world infant mortality rankings. A baby born in Beijing has nearly three times the chance of reaching its first birthday than a baby born in Washington. Those who survive face rotten schools. On reading and math tests for 15-year-olds, America is 24th out of 29 nations.
On the other side of the tracks, 18 corporate executives have so far been jailed for cooking the books and looting billions. The prosecution of Mr Bush's pals at Enron - the showcase trial of the greed-is-good culture - will be soon.
But the backroom deal lives on and, in an orgy of cronyism, billions of dollars are being carved up in no-bid contracts awarded to politically-connected firms for work in the hurricane-hit states and in Iraq.
The war, seen as unwinnable, is becoming a bleak burden, with nearly 2,000 American dead. Two-thirds think the invasion was a mistake.
The war costs $6billion a month, driving up a nose-bleed high $331billion budget deficit. In five years the conflict will have cost each American family $11,300, it is said.
Mr Bush says blithely he'll cut existing programs to pay for the war and fund an estimated $200billion for hurricane damage. He won't, he says, rescind his tax cuts. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel says Mr Bush is "disconnected from reality".
Americans have been angered by a reports that US troops have routinely tortured Iraqi prisoners. Some 230 low-rankers have been convicted - but not one general or Pentagon overseer. Disgruntled young officers are leaving in increasing numbers.
Meanwhile, further damaging Americans' self image, there's Afghanistan. The White House says its operations there were a success, yet last year Afghanistan supplied 90 per cent of the world's heroin.
America's sense of itself - its pride in its power and authority, its faith in its institutions and its belief in its leaders - has been profoundly damaged. And now the talking heads in Washington predict dramatic political change and the death of the Republicans' hope of becoming the permanent government.
© 2005 The Daily Mirror UK
Source: Information Clearing House
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2005
CANBERRA -- The wider consequences of the Iraq conflict are unfolding, but not in the way that the United States and its allies had expected. While stability, security and consolidated democracy continue to elude the Iraqis, an alarming outcome looming on the horizon is the sharpening of the historical division between the two main sects of Islam in the region: Sunnis and Shiites.
The traditional power equation in the Gulf is rapidly shifting in favor of Shiite Islam, which has a majority of followers in only three Middle Eastern countries - Iraq, Bahrain and Iran - and whose leadership is claimed by Iran. This has deeply concerned the regional Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, which champions the cause of Sunni Islam that is dominant in most Muslim countries.
If the present trend continues, the Iraq conflict could cause wider sectarian hostilities across the Muslim world, with a devastating impact on the region and beyond.
Historically, Iraq has had an Arab national identity but a majority Shiite population, ruled by a succession of minority Sunni-dominated elites. The U.S.-led invasion, and Washington's aim of installing a protégé government without affecting Iraq's Arab identity, changed all this.
The Sunnis' loss of political power drove many of their elements to join forces with Islamic extremists to mount a formidable resistance, preventing Washington from transforming Iraq and the region in the U.S. image. As result, the Bush administration has become increasingly dependent on its traditional minority Kurdish allies and responsive to the Shiite majority in Iraq as the best way of defeating the resistance.
In the process, however, America failed to see that its approach could also achieve what it had never intended: the empowerment of Iraq's Shiites and the diluting of Iraq's national identity, which had historically been forged within the Sunni-dominated Arab world.
The first development unquestionably strengthened the position of Iran, given the close sectarian ties between the two sides at both leadership and popular levels. This, together with Iran's support of the Lebanese Shiites in Hezbollah and its close political relationship with Damascus, has now given rise to a Shiite-dominated strategic entity, enabling Tehran to influence not only the course of events in Iraq but also the geostrategic situation in the region as a whole.
Given the traditional rivalry between Arabs and Iranians, the second development could only irritate the neighboring Arab states, all of whose governments have close links with the United States. Although most Iraqi Shiites are of Arab origin, Iraq's Arab neighbors fear that the sectarian affiliation of these Shiites could diminish Iraq's Arab identity by driving it more and more toward Iran.
This fear has lately prompted Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, to echo a common Arab concern in sharply criticizing what he alleges to be Iran's meddling in Iraqi affairs. Yet such criticism also had the effect of presenting the current government of Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, as an Iranian puppet. Further, it could make Iraq's Shiites turn even further away from the Arab world. The tragic outcome for Iraq and the region could be that both Arabs and Iranians might enhance their assistance to their respective sectarian allies in Iraq in what is shaping up as a fight by proxy.
These are the very developments that the Bush administration and its allies had wanted to avoid. But they are now confronted with them as a fait accompli. The occupying forces can no longer really trust either the Iraqi Sunni or Shiites. The only friends on whom they can count are the Kurds. No wonder President Jalal Talabani, the most prominent Kurd in the present Iraqi leadership, is desperately trying to persuade the United States and Britain against any early withdrawal of their troops.
The situation has become so tenuous that Washington and London feel that they need urgently to counterbalance the growing Shiite and Iranian influence in the region. Hence President George W. Bush's and Prime Minister Tony Blair's lambasting of the Iranian regime for helping the resistance in Iraq and for seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.
Unless Bush and Blair succeed in opening direct negotiations with the Iraqi resistance and enlist the support of Iraq's neighbors, especially Iran and Syria, as well as the Arab League, the Iraq conflict is set to grow into a bigger and longer-term regional crisis.
(Amin Saikal, a professor of political science, directs the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University.)
International Herald Tribune