Saturday, February 25, 2006

Six Killed in Saudi Oil Facility Attack

Two cars have exploded at the gates of Saudi Arabia's huge Abqaiq oil facility after security forces fired on suicide bombers trying to storm the world's biggest oil processing plant. Saudi security adviser Nawaf Obaid said security forces fired on three cars on Friday at the outer gates of the Abqaiq facility, 1.5km from the main entrance.

Oil prices jumped $2 a barrel upon news of this attack

Full Story

France Confirms Bird Flu

France has confirmed the presence of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu at a farm in the east of the country where thousands of turkeys have died. Saturday's declaration of the first case of the virus in domestic farm birds in the European Union threatened to deal a severe blow to France's struggling poultry industry, worth $7 billion a year. The outbreak was discovered on Thursday at the farm with 11,000 turkeys, where two cases of H5N1 had already been confirmed in wild ducks.
Full Story

EU to help Palestinians Avoid Penury

The European Union will seek ways to fund the Palestinian Authority when EU foreign ministers meet on Monday, to prevent its financial collapse now Israel is withholding PA tax revenue, EU officials said. "It is not in our interest to see the Palestinian Authority break down, especially when the Israelis have stopped disbursing customs duties," a senior EU diplomat said on Friday. The Palestinian Authority is dependent on foreign aid and on tax revenues collected by Israel on its behalf to pay its 140,000 employees and keep its ministries and institutions functioning. But the victory of the Islamist group Hamas in parliamentary elections last month has thrown the Authority's future funding into doubt. Israel has decided to stop handing over the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, worth $50 to $55 million a month, because Hamas remains committed by its charter to the destruction of the Jewish state. The EU, the Palestinian Authority's largest donor, cannot deal directly with Hamas because it has placed the group on its list of banned terrorist organisations.
Full Story

Judge: Identify Guantanamo Inmates

A US federal judge has ordered the Pentagon to release the identities of hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo Bay to The Associated Press. The move would force the government to break its secrecy and reveal the most comprehensive list yet of those who have been imprisoned there.
Full Story

Iraq Dispatches: Who Benefits?

February 24, 2006

Who Benefits?

The most important question to ask regarding the bombings of the Golden Mosque in Samarra on the 22nd is: who benefits?

Prior to asking this question, let us note the timing of the bombing. The last weeks in Iraq have been a PR disaster for the occupiers.

First, the negative publicity of the video of British soldiers beating and abusing young Iraqis has generated a backlash for British occupation forces they’ve yet to face in Iraq.

Indicative of this, Abdul Jabbar Waheed, the head of the Misan provincial council in southern Iraq, announced his councils’ decision to lift the immunity British forces have enjoyed, so that the soldiers who beat the young Iraqis can be tried in Iraqi courts. Former U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer had issued an order granting all occupation soldiers and western contractors immunity to Iraqi law when he was head of the CPA… but this province has now decided to lift that so the British soldiers can be investigated and tried under Iraqi law.

This deeply meaningful event, if replicated around Iraq, will generate a huge rift between the occupiers and local governments. A rift which, of course, the puppet government in Baghdad will be unable to mend.

The other huge event which drew Iraqis into greater solidarity with one another was more photos and video aired depicting atrocities within Abu Ghraib at the hands of U.S. occupation forces.

The inherent desecration of Islam and shaming of the Iraqi people shown in these images enrages all Iraqis.

In a recent press conference, the aforementioned Waheed urged the Brits to allow members of the provincial committee to visit a local jail to check on detainees; perhaps Waheed is alarmed as to what their condition may be after seeing more photos and videos from Abu Ghraib.

Waheed also warned British forces that if they didn’t not comply with the demands of the council, all British political, security and reconstruction initiatives will be boycotted.

Basra province has already taken similar steps, and similar machinations are occurring in Kerbala.

Basra and Misan provinces, for example, refused to raise the cost of petrol when the puppet government in Baghdad, following orders from the IMF, decided to recently raise the cost of Iraqi petrol at the pumps several times last December.

The horrific attack which destroyed much of the Golden Mosque generated sectarian outrage which led to attacks on over 50 Sunni mosques. Many Sunni mosques in Baghdad were shot, burnt, or taken over. Three Imans were killed, along with scores of others in widespread violence.

This is what was shown by western corporate media.

As quickly as these horrible events began, they were called to an end and replaced by acts of solidarity between Sunni and Shia across Iraq.

This, however, was not shown by western corporate media.

The Sunnis were the first to go to demonstrations of solidarity with Shia in Samarra, as well as to condemn the mosque bombings. Demonstrations of solidarity between Sunni and Shia went off over all of Iraq: in Basra, Diwaniyah, Nasiriyah, Kut, and Salah al-Din.

Thousands of Shia marched shouting anti-American slogans through Sadr City, the huge Shia slum area of Baghdad, which is home to nearly half the population of the capital city. Meanwhile, in the primarily Shia city of Kut, south of Baghdad, thousands marched while shouting slogans against America and Israel and burning U.S. and Israeli flags.

Baghdad had huge demonstrations of solidarity, following announcements by several Shia religious leaders not to attack Sunni mosques.

Attacks stopped after these announcements, coupled with those from Sadr, which I’ll discuss shortly.

Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, shortly after the Golden Mosque was attacked, called for “easing things down and not attacking any Sunni mosques and shrines,” as Sunni religious authorities called for a truce and invited everyone to block the way of those trying to generate a sectarian war.

Sistani’s office issued this statement:
“We call upon believers to express their protest ... through peaceful means. The extent of their sorrow and shock should not drag them into taking actions that serve the enemies who have been working to lead Iraq into sectarian strife.”

Shiite religious authority Ayatollah Hussein Ismail al-Sadr warned of the emergence of a sectarian strife “that terrorists want to ignite between the Iraqis” by the bombings and said, “The Iraqi Shiite authority strenuously denied that Sunnis could have done this work.”

He also said, “Of course it is not Sunnis who did this work; it is the terrorists who are the enemies of the Shiites and Sunni, Muslims and non Muslims. They are the enemies of all religions; terrorism does not have a religion.”

He warned against touching any Sunni Mosque, saying, “our Sunni brothers’ mosques must be protected and we must all stand against terrorism and sabotage.” He added: ‘The two shrines are located in the Samarra region, which [is] predominantly Sunni. They have been protecting, using and guarding the mosques for years, it is not them but terrorism that targeted the mosques…”

He ruled out the possibility of a civil war while telling a reporter, “I don’t believe there will be a civil or religious war in Iraq; thank God that our Sunni and Shiite references are urging everyone to not respond to these terrorist and sabotage acts. We are aware of their attempts as are our people; Sistani had issued many statements [regarding this issue] just as we did.”

The other, and more prominent Sadr, Muqtada Al-Sadr, who has already lead two uprisings against occupation forces, held Takfiris [those who regard other Muslims as infidels], Ba’thists, and especially the foreign occupation responsible for the bombing attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

Sadr, who suspended his visit to Lebanon and cancelled his meeting with the president there, promptly returned to Iraq in order to call on the Iraqi parliament to vote on the request for the departure of the occupation forces from Iraq.
“It was not the Sunnis who attacked the shrine of Imam Al-Hadi, God’s peace be upon him, but rather the occupation [forces] and Ba’athists…God damn them. We should not attack Sunni mosques. I ordered Al-Mahdi Army to protect the Shi’i and Sunni shrines.”

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, urged Iraqi Shia not to seek revenge against Sunni Muslims, saying there were definite plots “to force the Shia to attack the mosques and other properties respected by the Sunni. Any measure to contribute to that direction is helping the enemies of Islam and is forbidden by sharia.”

Instead, he blamed the intelligence services of the U.S. and Israel for being behind the bombs at the Golden Mosque.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that those who committed the attack on the Golden Mosque “have only one motive: to create a violent sedition between the Sunnis and the Shiites in order to derail the Iraqi rising democracy from its path.”

Well said Mr. Blair, particularly when we keep in mind the fact that less than a year ago in Basra, two undercover British SAS soldiers were detained by Iraqi security forces whilst traveling in a car full of bombs and remote detonators.

Jailed and accused by Muqtada al-Sadr and others of attempting to generate sectarian conflict by planting bombs in mosques, they were broken out of the Iraqi jail by the British military before they could be tried.

(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** Visit the Dahr Jamail Iraq website **
** Website by **

Friday, February 24, 2006

'In Less than Three Years': The cliché of U.S. sponsored "democracy"...

I just came across this notable post on SmokeyMonkey:

After 3 Years in Iraq... A Stunning Condemnation
Thursday, February 23 2006 @ 11:22 AM
Contributed by: smokeymonkey
Views: 3
Global Affairs

This article by Ghali Hassan for the Centre for Research on Globalisation issues a stunning condemnation of the occupation of Iraq. I say stunning because the article shows the perspective of the occupied.

In less than 3 years of occupation, Iraq has been destroyed. Now, it appears civil war has started. The complete breakdown of negotiations to form a government has essentially occured with the primary Sunni party refusing to participate. This is surely a huge step back.
Read rest of this post

Corpses in the Garden

In this essay, Charles Sullivan takes a historical look at the American psyche. He posits that: "The torture and abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib are connected to the lynchings of the Deep South a century ago", and only the full acknowledgment of these events can emancipate Americans from the past.

Corpses in the Garden

By Charles Sullivan

02/24/06 "ICH" -- -- Knowing what I know about the history of my country, it is often difficult for me to fathom how my fellow countrymen have shaped their views. I have come to believe that they have created a mythical America that is not a real place. The perceived necessity of substituting a fantasy world for the real world suggests there is something terribly wrong with the American psyche. If there are corpses buried in our gardens, surely they must gnaw at our conscience and produce pathological behavior, even if we did not put them there. Subconsciously, we know they are turning in their graves trying to be free. We fear that they will awaken and climb out of their graves, forcing their way into our conscience, and revealing our complicity in the crimes committed in our name.

Read rest of this article from Information Clearing House

Anti-War Media Activism!

This is from, calling for a nationwide media protest against three years of media collusion and misinformation, on March 20-21. Various events are planned, including media forums and film screenings:

Dear colleagues, friends, collaborators and folks we admire,

We are writing to invite you and your organization to join and United For Peace and Justice on March 20-21 in media activism concerning the War in Iraq, as we protest three years of media collusion and misinformation.

We don’t have to tell you how awful the media coverage has been - jingoism has replaced journalism. The media helped sell the war and its reporting hasn’t changed much since its celebration of “shock and awe.”

For the first time, America’s leading anti-war coalition is taking on the media -- and we want you to be part of it. We need to press the press and move the media to Tell The Truth About The War.

It is time to encourage anti-war activists to also become media activists and challenge disgraceful propaganda posing as news. MediaChannel has been asked to invite media activists and groups to take a stand with us on this central, but often downplayed, war-related issue.

We are planning media forums and film screenings nationwide on March 20th. We are planning a forum in New York — venue to be announced — and want all media groups to take part in a teach-in and speak out on the issue. Your suggestions and help in planning and organizing events are welcome. We will be urging anti-war groups to mount similar events on that day nationwide.

On March 21, we will take action, launching an email campaign to media outlets and organizing meetings with news executives to confront them directly with irrefutable evidence of media complicity with the war and demands that it be ended. We will also honor the journalists killed in Iraq. (More have died in this war than in all of the Vietnam War.)

We are planning a mid-day mobile march on the headquarters of media outlets in New York and are looking to mobilize people to demonstrate at their local media offices nationwide. Long time media activist Priya Reddy has volunteered to coordinate this initiative that has the full support of United For Peace and Justice. (Contact:

Media mea-culpas are not enough, we want persistent and truthful coverage of the war, the deaths and casualties on all sides, and the work of the peace movement. We want to end the cover-up and demand media responsibility.

Will you take this stand with us and engage in this first of a kind national media protest day?

For more information visit:


The MediaChannel Team,

Danny Schechter,
Rory O’Connor,
David DeGraw,
Olivia Quinto ,
Priya Reddy,
Laila Mekkaoui,
And the 5000 people who endorsed our Tell The Truth campaign

Take Action: Demand Coverage of Able Danger

"What could be the biggest scandal of our lifetime."
-- Lou Dobbs, CNN

Action Alert for All Media For Democracy Activists:
The House Armed Services Committee recently held a hearing about the controversial Able Danger data-mining program. The secret intelligence program, which used advanced computerized link and pattern analysis techniques, purportedly identified four 9/11 hijackers a year before the worst terror attacks on American soil.

Analysts associated with the secretive Able Danger program, including Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer and Navy Captain Scott Phillpott also say their team passed on warnings to high officials at both Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Central Command (CENTCOM) about al Qaeda activity in Aden, Yemen before the October 2000 attack there on the USS Cole. Seventeen US military personnel were killed and thirty-nine wounded in the terror attack.

Republican Congressman Curt Weldon believes that the National Commission's work investigating the 9/11 attacks has proven “to be a disappointment and a failure, especially as it pertains to Able Danger.” Possible explanations for this, says Weldon, include “gross incompetence either on the part of the Commissioners or the Commission staff, or both,” or more alarmingly, “a deliberate cover-up that would make the Watergate scandal pale in comparison.”

“The origin of the plot is the key to the 9/11 Commission investigation,” says journalist Peter Lance, who wrote the best seller Cover Up. "I believe the Commission fix was in, however, and that a decision and a deal was made to limit the damage across three administrations to avoid blame and obscure accountability for massive intelligence failures…. The 9/11 Commission is looking more and more like the Warren Commission of our time—an official body that purposely limited the scope of its investigation, cherry-picked evidence, and allowed political considerations on the left and the right to influence its final conclusions."

Up until this point CNN's Lou Dobbs is one of the few in the mainstream media to cover this issue! Click below to send a message to the major news networks demanding that they cover "What could be the biggest scandal of our lifetime."

Send the network news companies a message demanding that they cover Able Danger!

Take Action: Demand Coverage of Able Danger

David DeGraw
Executive Director

Check out's Able Danger Media Monitoring report.

News Dissector Calls for March 21 Protests Against Media's Complicity in Iraq War

In this interview with Danny Schechter, Democracy Now! discusses his call for a protest on March 21st against the media's complicity in the Iraq War. Also, an excerpt of Danny's documentary is played.

* The News Dissector Danny Schechter Calls For March 21 Protests Targeting Media's Complicity in the Iraq War *

We are joined today in our Firehouse studio by Danny Schechter the News Dissector ­ veteran journalist, media critic and co-founder of, one of the largest online media issues network. Schechter discusses the upcoming anti-war and media protest day, dangers journalists face in Iraq, coverage of war and more. And we play an excerpt of his documentary "Weapons of Mass Deception."

Democracy Now!

Citgo Faces Congressional Inquiry

Naturally the pro-Bush, wealthy Republican Congressman from Texas doesn't want Venezuela's Citgo to take a bite out of Big Oil's American profits, even though Citgo's gesture would help poor Americans. One more blatant example of the great American divide between the rich and the poor.
* Venezuelan-Owned Citgo Faces Congressional Inquiry For Offering Discounted Oil to U.S. Poor *

Republican Congressmember Joe Barton of Texas has launched an investigation into one of the world's major oil companies - Citgo. The Venezuelan-owned company announced a discounted gas program for poor Americans last year.

We'll speak with Democratic New York Congressman Jose Serrano, one of the few members of Congress promoting this effort.

Democracy Now!

New Stations Broadcasting Democracy Now! Also Podcast & MPEG-4 Video

Radio Comunitaria Sendero 101.7 FM in Caracas, Venezuela (Guatire and
Guarenas neighborhoods) air Spanish HL at 10:30am M-F.

Peralta TV (Ch. 27 in Alameda and Berkeley, CA; Ch. 28 in Oakland,
Emeryville and Piedmont, CA) airs Democracy Now! at 5 a.m., M-F and 9 p.m.

Starting Wednesday, February 15th, CAN-TV19 in Chicago IL will air Democracy Now! at 7 a.m., M-F

Café Stereo, La Radio Bolivariana in Stockholm, Sweden airs headlines in
Spanish M-F 2:30pm on internet,
a webcast primarily for Colombian exiles.

= = = = = = = = =

NEW FEATURE: Democracy Now! now offers high-quality MPEG-4 video files for download through the BitTorrent protocol. To learn more, see: or get started at:

= = = = = = = = =

Now available as a "podcast"! Get the Democracy Now! daily show
automatically downloaded to your computer or portable audio player. Visit: to see how.

Daily Kos: Iraq FUBAR thread

The Daily Kos has an interesting Irag FUBAR Thread, with numerous comments, about the present situation in Iraq. Here is one of the 267 comments: "......we shifted focus away from stuff that's utterly irrelevant (i.e. the ports deal) to the fact that the whole world is burning down, beginning with Iraq. The stench of a civil war fills my nostrils."

Read the article excerpts and more comments here

It's Munich In America. There Will Be No Normandy.

"This is it, folks. This is the scenario our Founders lost sleep over. This is the day they prepared us for." Writes political science professor David Michael Green in this compelling essay about his views of the direction in which Bush's America is heading.

Quoting Churchill, he sagely opines:
"It is, I’m afraid, Munich in America, and now we must decide whether to appease the bullies and pray for happy endings, or fight back to preserve a two hundred year-old experiment in democracy. Despite all its flaws and failures, Churchill was still right about it: Democracy is the worst system of governance except for all the others. And that makes it worth fighting for."

Read full article from Common Dreams

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond.

March 18: Troops Out of Iraq and Afghanistan, Let the War Resisters Stay


The Toronto Coalition to Stop the War is calling for a massive demonstration on the 3rd Anniversary of the War on Iraq. This demonstration will take place on March 18th at 1:00 pm, in front of the U.S. Consulate, 360 University Avenue, Toronto.

March 18: Troops Out of Iraq and Afghanistan
The tide has turned on the war on Iraq and attacks on civil liberties. Federal politicians in the US and UK are openly calling for the impeachment of Bush and Blair. 60% of US citizens now oppose the war. There was a recent International Peace Conference in London, UK, which brought together peace activists from the US, UK, Canada, Iraq, and many other places around the world. Events like this are leading to improved coordination and collaboration among the anti-war movements around the world. The global peace movement is getting stronger and the warmongers are on the defensive. We need to build on this momentum to finally end the war, and let the Iraqi people decide their own future. While there are those who claim that elections have brought democracy to Iraq, how would daily aerial bombings in civilian areas and 150,000 foreign soldiers in the streets affect your voting habits?

March 18, 2006 will mark the 3rd anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. People around the world are preparing for a global day of action to stop the war, and to hold the war criminals accountable. The Toronto Coalition to Stop the War is organizing towards this day of action, and we invite you to join us in doing so.

Let the War Resisters Stay
We need to intensify our efforts to ensure that war resisters are able to stay in Canada. Already over 2,000 US soldiers, and well over 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the war. 5,500 American soldiers are AWOL (Absent With Out Leave) within the US. Many are seeking refuge in Canada, and by helping them stay Canadians can make a unique contribution to ending the war.

The campaign for the War Resisters has had two recent important victories with court decisions to grant the Federal appeals of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. Hinzman's appeal at Federal Court will be heard on February 7, 2006. While these are huge successes, we still need to press for a political solution, which would apply to all War Resisters, both present and future. For more information on what you can do, visit

Toronto Coalition to Stop the War

Deaths Soar in Iraq Shrine Clashes

More than 130 people are reported to have been killed in sectarian violence that has swept Iraq in the wake of a bomb attack on a major Shia shrine. In the worst single incident, officials said 47 people who had taken part in a joint Sunni and Shia demonstration in Baghdad against Wednesday's bombing were hauled from their cars and shot dead.
Full Story

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Iraq's Burning Season

From: Open Democracy
Paul Rogers
23 - 2 - 2006

United States strategy in Iraq is increasingly powerless in the face of intensifying insurgency and sectarian violence.

Iraq's slow burn of the last six weeks has been occurring behind the backs of most of the western media. The bombing on 22 February of one of Shi'a Islam's holiest shrines, the al-Askari mosque (the "golden mosque") in Samarra, has reignited the world's attention. But how does this latest incident, and the retaliatory attacks it has provoked, fit into the unfolding story of Iraq's conflict and United States strategy for the country?

The Samarra assault, conducted by a dozen men dressed in paramilitary uniform who subdued the mosque's guards before detonating a bomb underneath the shrine's gold-plated dome, occurred on the third day of intense violence targeted both at the Iraqi security forces and at Iraq's majority Shi'a population.

On 20 February, a bomb in a Mosul restaurant frequented by police officers killed five people and injured twenty-one, and a suicide-bomb in a market in the (Shi'a) Khadamiyah district of Baghdad killed twelve and injured dozens more. A day later, the bombing of a market in the al-Doura area of southern Baghdad killed twenty-two people and injured thirty.

The Samarra attack, however, is especially significant, for two reasons. First, the potent symbolism of the target: the mosque contains the remains of two of Shi'a Islam's twelve revered imams, Ali al-Hadi (died 868 bce) and Hassan al-Askari (died 874 bce). (The latter's son, Mohammed al-Mahdi, is the famed "hidden imam" the idea of whose reappearance to deliver justice to the world – devoutly expected by Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, among others – plays a crucial role in Shi'a Islam's belief-system.)

Read rest of this article here.

opendemocracy.netThis article originally appeared on under a Creative Commons licence. To view the original article, please click here.

Tomgram: Mark Engler on the Real Costs of the War in Iraq

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse -- the al-Askariya shrine, the Golden Mosque of Samarra, one of Shia Islam's most revered sites, was invaded by gunmen in police uniforms (possibly from Zarqawi's al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia group, though no one has yet taken responsibility), bombed, and thoroughly desecrated, as photos make shockingly clear. Shia across Iraq reacted in anger, in Najaf to chants of: "Rise up Shia! Take revenge! " At last report, in twenty-four hours at least 90 Sunni mosques -- the Muslim Scholars Association claims the number is already 168 -- were burned, desecrated, attacked, or taken over by armed Shia militiamen; three Sunni imams were killed and another kidnapped; possibly hundreds of ordinary Iraqis have died in all sorts of reprisal attacks and executions along with 26 year-old Atwar Bahjat, a well-known journalist, and two of her crew from al-Arabiya TV news. In Samarra, "shops closed and muezzins recited prayers from the loudspeakers of nearby mosques and blamed the United States for the turmoil, saying ‘God is Great, death to America which brought us terrorism.'"

The Americans, including our ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, who tried to apply some American financial pressure to the Shiite coalition in the Green Zone earlier in the week, still fancy themselves part of the solution, not part of the problem in that chaotic, semi-occupied, increasingly fractious land. Now, they are forced to listen to claims that they were at least partially responsible for the latest horrific violence. More is still to come on what looks like a slippery slope toward a larger version of the quiet civil war that has been ongoing in Iraq.

This website has long attended to the "costs" of George Bush's decision to invade Iraq -- especially in human lives -- both to American troops sent into action there and to the Iraqis who have suffered grievously. Less attention has been paid here (and elsewhere) to the literal costs of the war, not just to who is being bled, but to what is being bled dry. Mark Engler, who has previously written on the business community and the war for Tomdispatch, now takes up the financial costs of war and pursues the subject vigorously.

While it is true that perhaps a million Americans turned out before the invasion of Iraq to protest the war to come, it is also a grim reality of our world that, had neocons dreams -- those flower-strewn paths and an eternal, placid occupation of Iraq -- actually come true, we would not today be speaking of the costs of war (no matter what they were to Iraqis). As in Vietnam, so here, those costs only really come into focus when the possibility of victory fades from sight. Engler makes good sense of the various escalating cost calculations so far offered on this war. No one, however, can make sense of the cost of what we are incapable of imagining or predicting (including the bombing of the Golden Mosque and everything that will flow from that act). My own guess is that, in the end, the cost of George's Bush's war of choice will prove incalculable in all sorts of frightening ways. Tom

How Costly Is Too Costly?
Finding the tipping point for Vietnam -- and for Iraq

By Mark Engler

In the center of the home page, an upward-racing ticker, presented in a large, red font, keeps a steady tally of the money spent for the U.S. war in Iraq. Every time I visit, it takes a moment to sort through the counter's decimal places and make sense of it. The hundreds of dollars fly by too quickly to track. The thousands change a little faster than once a second. As I write, the ticker reads $239,302,273,144.

It is worth staring at the site for a while to see the vast sums accumulate. Yet this exercise in wartime accounting quickly becomes unsatisfying. First of all, few Americans have any frame of reference for evaluating a number like $239 billion. The National Priorities Project, the organization hosting the counter, attempts to remedy this by allowing visitors to compare war costs with expenditures on pre-school, health care, and public housing, noting, for example, that this much money could provide basic immunizations for every child born worldwide in the next 79 years. Even then, the incomprehensibly large number ticking away on screen turns out to be no measure at all of what we will eventually pay for the war. Depending on what estimate you use, it could be off by almost a factor of ten. After all, it lacks a place for the trillions.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


Report: Nearly 100 Dead in US Custody

Nearly 100 prisoners have died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002, the Human Rights First organisation has said ahead of publication of a new report. At least 98 deaths occurred, with at least 34 of them suspected or confirmed homicides - deliberate or reckless killing - the group of US lawyers told BBC television on Tuesday.
Full Story

NYC: Conversation between Norman Mailer and Son, March 2nd

For those in the NYC area! More seats just made available and the price? FREE!




A unique and unforgettable opportunity to join Norman Mailer and his son, John Buffalo Mailer, for an intergenerational sparring match as they discuss their new book, The Big Empty: A Dialogue on Politics, Sex, God, Boxing, Morality, Myth, Poker and Bad Conscience in America.

A book signing of The Big Empty will follow the event

Thursday, March 2nd, 7:00 p.m.

The New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 West 64th Street at
Central Park West, New York City

Doors open 6:00 p.m.


Presented by Nations Books and co-sponsored by The New York Society for Ethical Culture.

UAE, Port Security & the Hariri Hit

With the United Arab Emirates poised to take over six key U.S. ports, the reputation of its own chief port as a smuggling center used by arms traffickers, drug dealers and terrorists is drawing new attention. A key lead in the year-old investigation of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri also runs through the UAE as the transshipment point for the van used by terrorists to blow up Hariri and his entourage in Beirut.

For the full story about whether UAE port security is up to the task, go to

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Avian Flu Virus Hits 7th EU Nation, Hungary

Tests confirmed H5N1 in three birds found dead in Hungary, making the country the seventh EU nation with an outbreak of the deadly strain of bird flu, officials said today.

Bird flu hits Hungary

AVIAN flu has reached Hungary after three dead wild swans found in Bács-Kiskun County last week tested positively for the deadly H5N1 virus. Another two were found this Monday (Feb 20), the government announced after an extraordinary meeting in Parliament.
Full story from The Budapest Sun

Haiti Rights Spokesperson Begins Canadian Speaking Tour

For immediate release
February 22, 2006

Haitian political rights leader Patrick Elie begins speaking tour in Canada, speaks out against harassment of his travel rights by Canadian government agencies

Canada Haiti Action Network News

Haitian political rights leader Patrick Elie arrived here last night from Port au Prince, Haiti for the beginning of a six-week speaking tour across Canada.

He described the purpose of his speaking tour in an interview with reporters for this news service.

"Haiti's history and its social and political realities are systematically misrepresented in much of the mainstream press and by the majority of politicians and so-called experts," he said. "The courageous struggle of the Haitian people for democracy and social justice is similarly presented in an inaccurate and often malicious way."

"As a result, the people of Haiti is deprived of the much needed sympathy and solidarity which it deserves. The objectives of this speaking tour is to deploy a people-to-people diplomacy and to cut through the web of lies and half-truths. If Canadians are correctly informed about Haiti, it will be more difficult for the government of Canada to engage in policies that constitute a violation of Haiti's hard won sovereignty and of the will of the Haitian people."

Elie is an outspoken critic of the right-wing coup and foreign invasion that ousted Haiti's elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and sent him into exile in February, 2004. He condemns the massive human rights violations that have occurred in Haiti in the two years since.

A United Nations-sponsored political and military force has occupied Haiti since the coup. The Canadian government has been a full participant in this force. Killings and jailings of opponents of the coup have been widespread during this time.

Elie says the February 7 presidential election in Haiti offers the hope of putting Haiti back on the road of social justice.

"The popular will as expressed in the election is very clear," he said. "The people want their country's sovereignty back, they want an end to the foreign occupation, and they also want a return of the social reforms that President Aristide and his government sought to implement."

"We expect the international community to give President-elect Préval every assistance and co-operation in carrying out his mandate."

It seems that officials of the Canadian government are not pleased with Elie's message. Upon arrival at Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport last night, he was grilled for two hours by Canadian customs officials and agents of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

"It was scandalous," he declared. "First the customs officials inspected all my belongings, including my agenda book and a video camera I was carrying.

"Then CSIS questioned me. They asked me such things as who was sponsoring my speaking tour in Canada and what was the content of my last talk with President

"Of course, I refused to answer. This is none of their business. And if they want to know the views of President Aristide, then they should read his speeches and his writings."

"I hope people in Canada will raise a protest about my treatment."

Elie is a Canadian citizen. He was a minister in the first government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, 1991-96 where he served as National Coordinator for the Fight Against Drug Trafficking, 1991-94, and Secretary of State for National Defence, 1994-95. While serving in the latter post, he was instrumental in creating the Haitian National Police and disbanding the Haitian Army.

Following the February 29, 2004 coup, Elie helped to found S.O.S. (Sant Obsèvasyon Sitwayen), a citizen watchdog group whose motto is, "Politics is too important to be abandoned to the politicians". The group was part of a human rights investigation on
February 1 in the Cite Soleil district of Port au Prince looking into the role of United Nations forces there. A summary of the group's findings was published by the Haiti Information Project on February 10 and is available upon request.

For more information on Elie's speaking tour see or contact one of the following tour organizers:

Jean Saint-Vil, Canada Haiti Action Network (819) 661-8474
Yves Engler, Haiti Action Montreal (514) 219-9185
Roger Annis, Haiti Solidarity BC (778) 858-5179

AI Canada: Urgent Action: Peru: Bring Former President Fujimori to Justice

Action Alert from Amnesty International Canada


Alberto Fujimori was President of Peru from 1990 to 2000. He has been in Japan since abandoning his post in November 2000. On November 7, 2005 he arrived in Chile and was detained on the request of the Peruvian authorities. The Peruvian authorities requested the extradition of Alberto Fujimori on charges of corruption and grave human rights violations, including killings, forced disappearances and torture.

Amnesty International considers that the widespread and systematic nature of the human rights violations that were committed under his government constitute crimes against humanity under international law. Therefore, Amnesty International considers that the Chilean authorities must either honour the extradition request from Peru, or exercise their duty to investigate and prosecute Alberto Fujimori in Chile.

Amnesty International is campaigning to ensure that the crimes committed during Fujimori’s term in office do not go unpunished. A recent report details a number of the human rights violations of which Fujimori is being accused by the Peruvian State. They include the massacre of 15 women, men and children in Barrios Altos, Lima, in 1991 and the forced disappearance and murder of nine students and a lecturer from La Cantuta University in 1992.


On 7 December 2005 the Spanish Section of Amnesty International launched a web action to collect as many signatures as possible to support a call to the Chilean authorities either to extradite Fujimori to Peru or to investigate him in Chile, according to Chile's obligations under international law. More than 12,800 signatures have already been collected. Please ensure we reach 100,000 by the end of February 2006 by adding your name to the petition.

Click here to go to the Amnesty International Canada website and follow the links there to launch the petition on the Spanish Section web site.

** Be sure to read the translation of the names of key text fields.

For further information about this petition, please email:

Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International Canada (ES)
14 Dundonald Street, Toronto, Ontario M4Y 1K2
Phone: 416-363-9933 Fax: 416-363-3103

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Jimmy Carter: Don't Punish the Palestinians

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is a wise, good man. No wonder I've always liked and admired him. He had this to say about the present Palestinian situation:
"It would not violate any political principles to at least give the Palestinians their own money; let humanitarian assistance continue through UN and private agencies; encourage Russia, Egypt and other nations to exert maximum influence on Hamas to moderate its negative policies; and support President Abbas in his efforts to ease tension, avoid violence and explore steps toward a lasting peace."

Read full article from here.

UFPJ Announces U.S. Actions to Mark 3rd Anniversay or Iraq War

For readers who live in the U.S., I have posted this information from United for Peace and Justice about action events that will be taking place to mark the 3rd anniversary of the Iraq War.

Canadians can find United for Peace Groups here.

Have you made plans yet to mark the third anniversary of the Iraq War?

From time to time, our movement gathers in mass mobilizations (as we will on April 29 in New York City). As dramatic and inspiring as those events are, the heart and soul of the peace movement is community-based, local work, which is why United for Peace and Justice has called for nationally coordinated local actions on the third anniversary of the Iraq War.

On the first anniversary of the Iraq war, events were held in at least 319 communities nationwide. Last year, for the second anniversary, that number more than doubled, with at least 765 communities throughout the United States hosting peace events. This year, the third anniversary of the Iraq War, is a crucial opportunity to deepen and broaden that grassroots work still further … and make this the last anniversary of this war that never should have happened.

It's not too late to organize something -- or to expand your existing plans. Below is a list of ideas for activities you can undertake locally to mark the third anniversary of the war from March 15-22.

Many activities are already being planned, from the Veterans and Survivors March for Peace and Justice From Mobile to New Orleans to Philadelphia's "Mourning to Resistance" vigil and peace ceremony to the Peaceful Priorities human chain protest in Boise, Idaho. Visit UFPJ's third anniversary calendar to find out what's in the works for your city or town -- and be sure to post any event you know about, however large or small, so we can have a full tally of the remarkable work being done nationwide, and to get the word out about your activities to potential participants and to the media.

If you're not already part of a local anti-war group, now's a great time to join one -- check out our online directory of peace and justice organizations. There are also many ways you can take action as an individual.

We'll be posting additional suggestions for action and organizing resources on our website in the days to come, so be sure to check for more ideas.



To subscribe, visit

MCPJ Meeting to Organize for International Call to Action


Mississauga Coalition for Peace and Justice

There will be a meeting next Sunday, February 26 to organize the GTA West's part of the international call to action against the occupations (Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine), on the 3rd anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.

Please join us to organize and coordinate activities, and support each other's efforts.

We will be meeting between 2 and 5 pm at Palestine House, located at 3195 Erindale Station Rd., just north of Dundas.

All welcome, and please get the word out!

Peter Votsch
Mississauga Coalition for Peace and Justice-

L.A.'s Iranian Expats Want 'Regime Change'

While watching the BBC News on CBC Newsworld just now, a short segment drew my attention. In it, they were talking about the "City of Angels" (Los Angeles) where about 600,000 expatriate Iranians reside. The topic of questioning was: "Regime Change in Iran". They interviewed one Iranian expat woman who said she "couldn't wait for the bombs to fall on Iran's nuclear installations". Another person interviewed was a producer at NITV-LA, which is a station for Iranian expats and dissidents. As expected, he too was all for "regime change" and "bringing democracy to Iran". A couple more TV personalities were also interviewed, parroting the same slogans. Finally, Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah, faced the cameras, from his unnamed American residence. Not surprisingly, he'd like nothing more than to be reinstated as Iran's ruler -- although he did not say it, it was implied.

So now the BBC has joined some of the others in making rumbles about "regime change" in Iran, by only interviewing Iranian expat dissenters, without giving voice to other opinions. At the conclusion of the interviews, the BBC correspondent made some remark about the apathetic Iranian expats living the good life in L.A. and not really working cohesively, hard enough, to foment a real change in their homeland (Iran).

I wonder how many more such "liberal" mainstream media organizations will be beating the war drums on the "bomb Iran" bandwagon soon. Music to the ears of Bush and his cohorts, no doubt! Like they did in Iraq, these warmongers will use the discordant voices of Iranian dissidents and malcontents -- aided and abetted by a slavish, sycophantic media -- to add fuel to their case for another illegal, disastrous war.

I would like to hear readers comments about this (including comments by expats), and if you managed to find the link to this segment, please let me know.

(I looked at the online version of BBC News, but could not find this story. Here is the BBC News online link for those who are more adept at article searches than I am. Sorry, I didn't catch the segment title either. It was on CBC Newsworld at 6:30 pm EST, Feb.21.2006)

US Threatens to Cut Aid To Iraq if New Government is Sectarian

At the outset, Iraq's elections were touted by the U.S. as a move toward "democracy". However, far from helping to stabilise the volatility in the country, the elections which took place two months ago are causing more problems as evidenced by the escalating sectarian violence. Now the U.S. is threatening to cut financial aid.

The US and Britain are pressuring Iraq's dominant Shia community to relinquish two key ministries in negotiations for a new government, as the country was hit by a wave of bombings that killed at least 24 people.
Failure to establish a unity government that includes a strong role for Sunnis would fail to undermine the Sunni-dominated insurgency and could delay plans for a phased withdrawal of the 138,000 American troops and the 8,000 British soldiers in Iraq.

Read more from the Independent UK here.

Avian Flu and Hysteria: The Myths and the Realities

As fears of a global pandemic grow, Independent UK writers Terry Judd and Jeremy Laurance answer valid questions about the realities and dispel the myths of the H5N1 avian flu virus, in this Science & Technology article.

By Terri Judd and Jeremy Laurance
Published: 20 February 2006
Is it inevitable that H5N1 will reach Britain?

No, but the Government have admitted that the discovery of a dead bird near Lyon has made it more likely that it could. Government advisers say the risk is low but warn that we must remain vigilant.

From the Far East, a Lesson in How to Beat Bird Flu

With Britain braced for disease's imminent arrival, Vietnam, the world's worst-hit country, is first to defeat it.
By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor, in Hanoi
Published: 20 February 2006

As avian flu advances across Europe towards the UK, public health experts in the Far East claimed the first significant victory against the H5N1 virus since the current outbreak began two years ago.

Vietnam, the worst affected country in the world with 93 human cases and 42 deaths, has become the first to successfully contain the disease that threatens to become a global human pandemic, according to the World Health Organisation.

Read full article from the Independent UK here

Disease Takes Wing

"Judging from our reckless disregard, we humans seem to imagine that we can have a destiny independent of the earth on which live; even that word ''on" suggests the problem, since the truth is that we humans are the earth. It is more than where we come from, where we go. Indeed, we get our name from ''humus," the word for earth. Did we think we could forget that and not suffer for it?", ponders James Carroll in this article.

If birds are not a friend to the human species, where in all of nature is friendship to be found? Each day come more reports of the dispersal of diseased poultry and fowl, moving from east to west, Asia into Europe, and alarms begin to sound.

The grandeur of winged migration has become a niche for deadly disease. With the threat of avian flu comes a change in the way the flight of birds must strike the human eye.

Read full article from Common Dreams here

(James Carroll's article was first published on Monday, February 20, 2006 by the Boston Globe.)

Free U.S. Captives or Charge Them

Finally, the Toronto Star is speaking up about the U.S. detainees in Guantanamo Bay. This Star Editorial was published in Common Dreams, where you can read the full article.

Published on Monday, February 20, 2006 by the Toronto Star (Canada)
Free U.S. Captives or Charge Them

At many levels, Gitmo is an affront to human rights and the rule of law. The U.S. and its allies can fight terror without abandoning core values.

Five years is long enough. The American prison camp for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be shut down. And its 500 detainees should be set free or put on trial in a credible court.

That is the view of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and UN Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour, a former justice of Canada's Supreme Court. Both believe "Gitmo" should be closed in the light of a UN report that describes the camp as an unlawful holding tank where prisoners are denied basic rights and are abused. The European Parliament, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch agree.

So should Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government.

Read rest of this editorial here

Bush's Mysterious 'New Programs'

George W. Bush's steady expansion of his own power has bred deep suspicions among Americans about how far he and his neoconservative administration intend to go down the path of authoritarianism. One Republican senator has helpfully suggested that Bush target "Fifth Column" Americans who allegedly sympathize with terrorists. The administration also is refusing to explain why its plan for special detention centers says the facilities may be needed for "rapid development of new programs."

For the full story of whether these fears are examples of paranoia or realism, go to

ConsortiumNews in the midst of their winter fund-raising drive. If you value independent journalism as much as I do, please consider a tax-deductible donation either by credit card at the Web site or by sending a check to Consortium for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Suite 102-231, 2200 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201.

Without donations from readers, intrepid, hardworking independent news sites such as cannot keep up with the site costs needed to provide us with their excellent news and commentay.

The Progressive Magazine's Interview with Cindy Sheehan

In this latest Issue (March 2006) of The Progressive Magazine, you will find David Barsamian's fascinating interview with Cindy Sheehan.
Sheehan has joined Alice Walker, Susan Sarandon, Barbara Lee, Eve Ensler, and international activists to launch a global Women Say No to War campaign. They have planned major actions for International Women’s Day on March 8. “The pain this war has caused people all over the world is unimaginable,” Sheehan says. “I’ve met women from so many different countries who are ready to stand together to make our leaders end this madness, and it doesn’t matter that we speak different languages—our hearts understand the pain and needless loss that have been caused by this war.”

Cindy Sheehan Interview
By David Barsamian
March 2006 Issue
I will never, ever forget the night of April 4, 2004, when I found out my son Casey had been killed in Iraq,” Cindy Sheehan recalls. “I will also never forget the day when we buried my sweet boy, my oldest son. If I live to be a very old lady and forget everything else, I will never forget when the general handed me the folded flag that had lain on his coffin, as his brother and sisters, standing behind me, sobbed.”

The first thing that strikes you about Cindy Sheehan is she is genuine. There is no artifice, power play, or lexical wizardry. She is without affectation. And that has enabled her to make an impact. She has reached beyond intellectual formulations to get to the heart of the matter.

Her August vigil at Bush’s Texas ranch rejuvenated a somewhat moribund peace movement. People in the thousands drove to Crawford in solidarity. Hundreds of Camp Caseys sprang up all over the country.

Click here to read David Barsamian's interview.

Tomgram: Shining a Quailish Light on a Cakewalk

War of the Quailhawks
By Tom Engelhardt

Over a week ago, Vice President Cheney managed to put a couple of hundred pellets of buckshot into his 78 year-old friend and Texas Republican Party builder, Harry Whittington. As the event turned into a national joke, edged with anger, and a late night spectacle, it was natural that the subject of Iraq would arise. After all, given the sorry state of affairs in that country, the thought that the Bush administration (like the Vice President in Texas) shot first and looked only later came quite naturally to mind; but there are other ways in which Dick Cheney's strange encounter of a quail kind on the 50,000 acre Armstrong ranch in Texas might help put the invasion of Iraq in a new light.

Let's start with the quail on what the New York Times calls that "game rich property." (How could it be otherwise when so much of the "game" is raised and released there?) Fragile looking little birds, usually with ET-like plumes dangling off their tiny heads, they hang out in flocks -- coveys, to be exact -- and, unlike the Republicans who bag them at the Armstrong ranch, aren't high fliers. Now, hunting is generally a highly ritualized activity, no small part of which should be consumed with finding your prey or waiting (sometimes fruitlessly) for it to appear -- but this doesn't apply to the fair-weather version of fowl hunting the Vice President tends to practice, as he did to a storm of criticism in December 2003 at a private game club in Pennsylvania. There, "more than 500 farm-raised ring-necked pheasants were released for the vice-president and companions. Cheney shot 70 of the birds, plus some mallard ducks and had them plucked and vacuum-packed before returning to work in Washington." A companion that day, Texas Senator John Cornyn described it as more "Tyson's" than hunt -- that is, a slaughter.

Due to the accident at the Armstrong ranch, a Mecca for top Republicans including the President ("rivaling Hyannisport, Kennebunkport, and the Hamptons as a setting where important relationships [among the corporate and power elite] have been nurtured"), we know a good deal about what this kind of hunting entails. The ritual seems to be that you spend your time with high-toned, well-connected friends (in Cheney's case, Party-builder Whittington, ranch owner and lobbyist Katherine Armstrong, a Bush-Cheney "Pioneer," which means she raised $100,000 for the last presidential campaign, and ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein Pamela Pitzer Willeford, old Bush family friend and a somewhat more modest contributor to Republican campaigns); you're served a catered lunch (sweetbreads, "charbroiled nilgai, an Asian antelope... raised and shot on the Armstrong spread," and jicama salad); you kick back with a beer or two, "freshen up" back at the ranch house, climb into a jeep or SUV, drive across the fields to the spot where you already know the birds will be located -- and you know because you're on a ranch that raises just these birds for you to kill and has two groups of "outriders on horseback" and "about a dozen American pointers and Labrador retrievers" already locating them for you. Some of the hunters remain in the vehicles; others step out for the "hunt." Eventually, the dogs flush the quail. They panic and fly -- not very high or very far -- and you blast away with your fancy gun (in Cheney's case, an Italian 28-gauge Perazzi shotgun). In fishing terms, imagine that someone put a bluefish on your hook just before you dropped your line over the side.

The Cheney threesome had already bagged some 40 of the 45 quail allowed by 5:30. They were following their final covey when the accident occurred. Normally, according to Richard Serrano of the Los Angeles Times, hired crews would then be "paid to clean the dead birds and pack them in dry ice for the flight back to Washington." This experience, we're told, gives the Vice President his major release in life. In hunting terms, if you don't happen to shoot your friend instead of a quail, you might even think about calling this experience a "cakewalk" -- the term that some neocons used when describing what an invasion of Iraq might be like.

Let's also remember that among the earliest images to come out of George Bush's mouth after the 9/11 attacks -- along with his Wild West, vigilante-style, Osama "wanted, dead or alive" pronouncement -- were those of the hunt. He said repeatedly that we would "hunt down" the terrorists, that we were going to "smoke them out." And soon enough, the Vice President himself was out there (along with other top officials), vigorously and repeatedly connecting Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 killers, while pumping up his imminent threat to America, and next thing you know, in March 2003, the "hunt" switched to Iraq -- and, of course, we invaded.

Fighting a War against Sheep, Turkey, Fish, and Deer

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Iran 'Clarifies' Remarks on Israel

Comments attributed to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President, saying he wanted to see Israel "wiped off the map" were taken out of context, according to his foreign minister. Manouchehr Mottaki, the Foreign Minister, told reporters in Brussels on Monday: "Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned."Speaking in English, after addressing the European Parliament, Mottaki said that comments from Ahmadinejad made in October referred to the current Israeli regime which Tehran does not "recognise legally". Ahmadinejad caused a storm of condemnation after Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted him as telling a conference: "Israel must be wiped off the map". Mottaki's comments came as he sought to assure the EU that Tehran had no ambitions to make nuclear weapons, despite widespread mistrust in Europe and the US of the reasons behind Iran's nuclear programme. Iran says it is for energy production only. Mottaki also acknowledged the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed by Nazi Germany, despite Ahmadinejad saying in December that it was a myth.
Full Story

Monday, February 20, 2006

Fair Vote Canada Newsletter / bulletin d'information - February / fevrier

This is the latest newsletter from Fair Vote Canada. I posted it here as I've received it, in both English and French.

February 2006 / février 2006

For the latest news on voting system reform, visit

Pour les dernières informations sur la réforme du système électoral, visitez le site Internet

In this issue:

· Distorted election results spawn cabinet controversy

· FVC volunteers make a big splash during election

· PR is now “all the rage in Canada”

· Federal reform: regroup and prepare

· Ontario announcement expected soon

· 2006 AGM set for April 21-22 in Ottawa


The first day of the new government exploded in controversy as the new Prime Minister tried to compensate for a regionally skewed caucus created by the first-past-the-post voting system.

With not one Conservative elected in Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver, Mr. Harper used the lack of government MPs from those cities to justify Cabinet appointments for Michael Fortier, a Montreal-based party operative whose name did not appear on any ballot, and David Emerson, a Vancouver-based MP who just weeks ago presented himself to voters as champion of a different party and political agenda.
“Had the same votes been cast in a fair voting system, Conservative voters would have elected approximately nine MPs in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto,” said Wayne Smith, President of Fair Vote Canada, “creating a pool of legitimately elected representatives for cabinet consideration. But our voting system failed us again, and so our new government is built on backroom brokerage.”


Thanks again to the FVC members and supporters who volunteered during the federal election campaign. Volunteers distributed 50,000 leaflets in January and collected petition signatures. They attended countless candidates meetings asking questions about electoral reform, often to applause from audiences, and sometimes eliciting surprising support (e.g., Bill Graham, after being dogged constantly at candidate meetings, signed the FVC petition). FVC volunteers had many excellent letters and articles published in daily and weekly newspapers across the country and also managed to get on major radio shows, such as Cross Country Checkup, and viewer input portions of The National.

These grassroots initiatives, along with our national media relations campaign, helped boost web traffic to by more than 80%. In January, more people joined FVC online than in any prior month.


For the first time ever, the leaders debate included a question on electoral reform, after FVC widely circulated a call for the debate’s broadcast consortium to dedicate debate time to electoral reform. The call was endorsed by a long list of prominent Canadians.

FVC also called on the national media, through a news release and letters to media presidents, to apply five guidelines to their election reporting. The first guideline was to “anchor your commentary and analysis on what voters have actually said with their ballots, rather than blindly reporting the number of seats won by each party.” On election night and afterward, we did see a shift in that direction.

Media coverage in general was much better this time. Three Globe and Mail columnists wrote positively about proportional representation, as did reporters and columnists in numerous other papers across the country, including a spectacular two-page feature in the Ottawa Citizen. ran several good articles in their Reality Check section.

But most enjoyable of all was a post-election quote from Globe columnist Doug Saunders, who dislikes PR and FVC, but noted “suddenly, after Monday night, everyone is a democracy activist…proportional representation has become all the rage in Canada.”


[Note: the January 24 FVC news release on the election results was previously emailed to all members. Visit for election news and stories.]

With another minority government in Ottawa, the situation is highly dynamic, and Fair Vote Canada will remain alert to any possible openings as the new Parliament begins its work. Meanwhile, FVC President Wayne Smith reminded supporters we will likely be back to the polls for another federal election within 18 months to two years.
“I have no doubt our campaign will grow stronger, so we’ll have even more impact in the next election,” said Smith. “I’m delighted to see new interest in voting reform among Liberal MPs. Even former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan said she thinks it’s time for some type of PR.”

Smith noted in the coming 12 to 18 months, FVC will focus on strengthening our grassroots base by recruiting more supporters, signing up more members, and organizing more chapters.


In some parts of the country, provincial reform campaigns will also be quite active in the coming year. In Ontario, the government is expected to announce in February details on the Ontario citizens’ assembly for electoral reform. Assuming the assembly recommends a new voting system, Ontarians will likely be voting in a referendum in conjunction with the October 2007 provincial election.

Several years ago, FVC launched the Fair Vote Ontario campaign. Ontario members of FVC will be hearing more as the campaign gets underway this year.


The fifth Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held in the Parliament buildings on Friday evening, April 21 and Saturday, April 22. Further details will be available next month.

An email notice about the National Council election will be circulated in the coming weeks, including the deadline for declaring candidacy. Ontario members will also be notified of details on the election of at-large positions on the Fair Vote Ontario campaign council.

All FVC members in good standing who have joined before February 21, 2006 are eligible to vote and run for office. If you have friends who may wish to join and vote in the upcoming election, they can still join online at by February 21 and acquire full voting rights in Fair Vote Canada.


· Les résultats faussés des élections déclenchent une controverse entourant la composition du Conseil des Ministres.

· Les volontaires du REC ont fait sensation au cours de la campagne électorale.

· La RP «fait rage» au Canada.

· La réforme fédérale: se regrouper et se préparer.

· L’Ontario fera connaître sa décision bientôt.

· L’Assemblée générale annuelle aura lieu les 21 et 22 avril prochains à Ottawa.


Dès le premier jour, le nouveau gouvernement est l’objet d’une controverse lorsque le Premier Ministre tente de corriger le manque de représentation régionale au sein du caucus, un phénomène créé par le système électoral dit «du vainqueur emporte le tout» ou système nominal à un tour.

N’ayant aucun candidat conservateur élu à Toronto, Montréal et Vancouver, le Premier Ministre a utilisé cette situation pour justifier les nominations au Conseil des Ministres de Michael Fortier, un agent du parti à Montréal et dont le nom n’apparaissait pas sur aucun bulletin de vote, et de David Emerson, un élu de Vancouver qui, il y a à peine quelques semaines, représentait un autre parti et défendait un tout autre agenda politique.
«Si nous avions un système électoral équitable, les électeurs conservateurs auraient élu environ 9 députés dans les agglomérations urbaines de Montréal, Vancouver et Toronto», a déclaré le président de REC Wayne Smith, «créant un réservoir suffisant de représentants légitimement élus pouvant devenir membre du Conseil des Ministres. Encore une fois, le système a failli de sorte que le nouveau gouvernement a été construit sur la base de tractations faites dans l’ombre».


Merci à nouveau aux membres et supporters du REC qui se sont portés volontaires au cours de la campagne électorale. Les volontaires ont distribué en janvier 50,000 feuillets d’information et amassé des signatures pour la pétition. Ils ont assisté à un très grand nombre de rassemblements électoraux, posé des questions sur la réforme électorale provoquant des applaudissements de l’audience. Quelques fois, ils ont sollicité et obtenu des appuis inattendus comme celui de Bill Graham qui, poursuivi constamment, a finalement signé la pétition du REC. Les volontaires du REC ont fait parvenir d’excellentes lettres et articles qui ont été publiés dans les divers quotidiens et hebdomadaires à travers le pays. Ils sont également parvenus à participer aux principales émissions radiophoniques telles que «Cross Country Check Up» et à la portion réservée aux auditeurs dans le cadre du bulletin d’information «The National», toutes deux diffusées par le réseau anglais de Radio-Canada.

Ces initiatives issues de la base ainsi que notre campagne nationale de relations auprès des médias ont eu pour effet d’augmenter de 80 % l’achalandage sur le site Internet En janvier dernier, le nombre d’adhésions au mouvement REC n'a jamais été aussi élevé.


Pour la première fois, le sujet de la réforme électorale faisait partie des questions adressées aux leaders politiques lors des débats des chefs après que le REC a demandé aux membres du consortium des diffuseurs de consacrer du temps à cette question de la réforme électorale. Cette requête avait d’ailleurs été endossée par de nombreuses personnalités canadiennes.

Le REC avait également demandé aux médias nationaux via un bulletin d’information et des lettres aux présidents, d’adopter cinq lignes de conduite au cours de la soirée consacrée aux résultats des élections. La première était «de diffuser commentaires et analyses sur ce que les électeurs ont signifié par leurs bulletins de vote plutôt que de rapporter aveuglément le nombre de sièges remportés par chacun des partis». Le soir même des élections et les jours suivants, nous avons effectivement pu observer un changement dans cette direction.

La «couverture» des médias en général a été meilleure cette fois. Trois chroniqueurs du «Globe and Mail» ont écrit d’une façon positive sur la question de la représentation proportionnelle ainsi que des journalistes et chroniqueurs de nombreux journaux à travers le pays comprenant un spectaculaire documentaire de deux pages publié dans le «Ottawa Citizen». Le site Internet a reproduit plusieurs bons articles dans la section «Reality Check».

Le moment le plus agréable fut de constater que le chroniqueur du «Globe and Mail» Doug Saunders, hostile à la représentation proportionnelle et au mouvement REC, écrivait que «soudainement, suite à lundi soir (23 janvier) que tout le monde était devenu partisan de la démocratie… la représentation proportionnelle fait rage au Canada».


(Nota: le 24 janvier dernier, le bulletin d’information du REC portant sur les résultats électoraux, a été envoyé par courriel à tous les membres. Visitez le site Internet pour consulter ces informations et commentaires.)

La venue d’un autre gouvernement minoritaire à Ottawa rend la situation hautement favorable. Représentation équitable au Canada demeure en alerte alors que le nouveau gouvernement amorce ses travaux. Entre temps, le président du REC Wayne Smith rappelle aux membres qu’il est probable que nous serons appelés aux urnes pour de nouvelles élections fédérales d’ici 18 ou 24 mois.
«Il n’y a aucun doute que notre mouvement prendra de l’ampleur de sorte que nous aurons encore plus d’impact lors des prochaines élections», a déclaré M. Smith. «Je suis enchanté de constater chez les élus libéraux l’intérêt grandissant qu’ils portent à la réforme électorale. Même l’ancienne vice Première Ministre Anne McLellan affirmait qu’il est temps d’instaurer une certaine forme de représentation proportionnelle.

M. Smith fait remarquer qu’au cours des 18 ou 24 mois, le REC concentrera ses efforts à élargir sa base en accentuant le recrutement, l’inscription de nouveaux membres et l’organisation de nouvelles Sections.


Ailleurs au pays, les campagnes provinciales en faveur de la réforme électorale vont bon train. En Ontario, le gouvernement doit annoncer en février les détails concernant l’Assemblée des citoyens sur la réforme électorale. Présumons que l’Assemblée recommande la mise en place d’un nouveau système électoral, il est vraisemblable que les Ontariens se prononceront sur cette réforme par voie de référendum au même moment que les prochaines élections provinciales prévues pour octobre 2007.

Il y a plusieurs années, le REC avait lancé la campagne Représentation équitable en Ontario. Les membres ontariens du REC seront de plus en plus informés au fur et à mesure que la campagne progressera.


La cinquième Assemblée générale annuelle aura lieu dans les Édifices du Parlement à compter du vendredi soir 21 avril pour se poursuivre samedi le 22 avril. Plus de détails vous parviendront le mois prochain.

Un avis relatif aux élections au Conseil national vous parviendra au cours des prochaines semaines par courrier électronique; celui-ci vous informera de la date limite pour déposer les candidatures. Les membres ontariens seront également informés des détails des postes disponibles au sein du conseil responsable de la campagne de Représentation équitable en Ontario.

Tous les membres en bonne et due forme de Représentation équitable au Canada et qui ont adhéré au mouvement avant le 21 février, peuvent voter et se porter candidats aux postes de direction vacants. Si vous connaissez des amis qui désirent adhérer au mouvement et voter lors des prochaines élections, ils peuvent nous rejoindre en ligne au

Fair Vote Canada
26 Maryland Blvd.
Toronto, ON M4C 5C9
Ph: 416-410-4034
Fax: 416-686-4929

International Women's Day: Documentary Video Festival in Brampton, Ontario on March 9th

In commemoration of International Women's Day, Amnesty International is holding a Documentary Video Festival. There will be videos shown about violence against women, including the powerful "Lives Blown Apart" and "Justice for Our Daughters: Ciudad Juarez" and also "Forgotten Voices: Afghan Women Speak Out". If you live anywhere in the Peel Region, please show your support by attending this event.

Amnesty International


International Women's Day

with a

Documentary Video Festival

9th March, 2006

Location: Bramalea Civic Centre, Central Park Drive south of Queen, north of Clark Blvd., (just east of the Bramalea City Centre) at lower level Library Meeting Room (take elevator A)

Time: 7 pm (doors open at 6:45 pm)

Introduction: Stop Violence Against Women Campaign

1st Screening: Lives Blown Apart (20 min)
2nd Screening: It's in Our Hands: Stop Violence against Women (15 min)


3rd Screening: Justice for our Daughters: Ciudad Juarez (23 min)
4th Screening: Forgotten Voices: Afghan Women speak out (10 min)


5th Screening: Defending Women Defending Rights (32 mins)

Closing Remarks


For further details, please contact:
Annette at: or,
Annamarie at:

Land of the Puppet People

"We live in a nation of gluttonous stupor and comfortable surroundings, easily distracted by the cocktail of materialism that lines our homes....", says Valenzuela in his compelling article critical of America's excesses and the Bush regime's pre-conditioning of the American citizenry toward its acceptance of a war with Iran, which was posted on his website on February 15, 2006.

It is partially republished here with the kind permission of its author. You will find a permanent link to Valenzuela's Veritas here on my site in my links column.

I am presently reading Manuel's poignant, fast-paced book, "Echoes in the Wind", which is available from

"Echoes in the Wind" is a powerful, absorbing book, delving into the human condition like few books ever have. It is presented as a work of fiction designed to educate, enlighten and entertain. It will leave the reader thinking from the very beginning until long after you've put it down.

If you enjoy Manuel Valenzuela's compelling articles, I suggest you read this book.


American Heroin

It oftentimes boggles the mind to try and understand the ease with which the Establishment can manipulate the American citizenry into another warmongering escapade, this time an ominous foray into the Persian lands of Iran, a nation rich in history, culture, location and most importantly to the Evil Empire, oil and gas. Yet upon further inspection it is easy to comprehend this phenomenon, for we live, as Gore Vidal has labeled it, inside the United States of Amnesia, a country where all semblance of the yesterday becomes but a haze of blatant forgetfulness and convenient whitewash, a black hole of Alzheimer’s-like darkness from where no recollection of past lessons, mistakes, errors or history can be seen or touched.

We live in a nation of gluttonous stupor and comfortable surroundings, easily distracted by the cocktail of materialism that lines our homes. We are trained to live to work, not work to live, sacrificing love of life for love for the Almighty dollar, becoming worker bees and soldier ants, selling our souls to the demons of capitalism in exchange for the happiness and stress-free lives of yesteryear, needing pharmaceutical drugs to escape the depression of our daily lives, willingly choosing to indebt our present and future in order to possess the vast array of adult toys marketed to manipulate our emotions, wrongly thinking this or that product will reincarnate lost happiness. America is the land of plenty, where waistlines expand, stress increases, mental problems grow, work hours increase and vehicles get bigger and bigger, a land addicted to the devil’s excrement, like a heroin user injecting black gold into its ever thirsty veins, becoming a violent, warmongering junkie when the perpetual case of cold turkey arises.

Read rest of this article here

Manuel Valenzuela is a social critic and commentator, international affairs analyst, current events observer, Internet columnist and author of "Echoes in the Wind", a novel now published by The novel is now available on and Barnes and, as well as other online book sellers. If preferred, the novel can also be ordered at any local brick and mortar bookstore worldwide through the book’s ISBN number, 1418489905. His articles appear regularly at his blog, and at Information Clearing House as well as at other alternative news websites from around the globe. His unique style and powerful writing is read internationally and seeks to expose truths and realities confronting humanity today. Mr. Valenzuela welcomes comments and can be reached at A collection of his work can be found visiting his archives and by searching the Internet.

Twisted Firestarter

"Making a virtue of necessity, the Bush administration has used the exposure of its illegal wiretap scheme to ratchet up the level of terrorist scaremongering, accelerate its drive toward a military attack on Iran and publicly proclaim its long-held covert doctrine of executive dictatorship." Thus writes Chris Floyd, writer/author extraordinaire, in this compelling article published on his Empire Burlesque website. A shorter version of this article was also published in the Moscow Times.

Saturday, 18 February 2006

This is an expanded version of the column published in the Feb. 17 edition of The Moscow Times.

The kindling has been piled high, stuffed with tinder and doused with gasoline. The match has been lit. All it will take is the slightest flick of the wrist to set off the conflagration. We are now living in the interval, the few heartbeats left before the great flame ignites.

The heap of kindling has been a long time building, but in recent weeks, the work has intensified to a fever pitch. With relentless urgency, the American people are being habituated to the prospect of several interrelated upheavals -- new war, new terror attacks -- and the predetermined result of these events: the final, open establishment of presidential tyranny, a militarized "commander state" where executive power is beyond the law, and endless war endlessly prolongs the "emergency measures" of the authoritarian regime.

Making a virtue of necessity, the Bush administration has used the exposure of its illegal wiretap scheme to ratchet up the level of terrorist scaremongering, accelerate its drive toward a military attack on Iran and publicly proclaim its long-held covert doctrine of executive dictatorship. Of course, "commander rule" is already the de facto state of the union, as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made clear to the Senate last week, when he refused to deny the notion that the president can contravene any law he chooses under his authority as commander-in-chief. And we have often detailed here the tyrannical powers that President George W. Bush has already bestowed upon himself without objection from the U.S. political establishment, including the power to jail anyone without charges, hold them indefinitely and have them tortured -- or simply murder them in an "extrajudicial killing." The scope of Bush's claimed powers -- arbitrary sway over the life and liberty of every person on earth -- far surpasses that of the most megalomaniacal Roman emperor or totalitarian dictator.

But a militarist state must have war: to justify its draconian rule (and those $550 billion "defense" budgets), to find new fields for dominion and swag, and to seal with blood its illegitimate compact with the people, seeking to make them complicit in its crimes, which are committed in their name, for their "security." We see the latter clearly with the transgression in Iraq, where even mainstream opponents of the illegal war can be heard to cry: "Oh, it's all so dreadful, but we've gone too far to turn back now, sacrificed too many lives; we've got to see it through." This is, of course, just a pale echo of militarists' own position, that dazed and hollow moral nullity induced by greed and murder, best expressed by the ancient Scottish "Commander-in-Chief," Macbeth: "I am in blood stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er."

Fortunately for the militarists, Bush has promised war in abundance. Just this month, the Pentagon released its new strategy, heralding the newly dubbed "Long War" against terrorism, where U.S. forces will be deployed, openly and covertly, "in dozens of countries simultaneously" for decades to come. The plan is designed to "ensure that no foreign power can dictate the terms of regional or global security" -- except, of course, for the dictatorial foreign power emanating from the Potomac. This is the constitution of the new commander state: the eternal "emergency," fomenting endless bloodshed, strife, atrocity -- and reprisals, the terrorist blowback that is the essential lubricant for the war machine.

And a new terror strike on the "homeland" is inevitable. The ground for this attack has been carefully prepared -- whether wittingly or unwittingly is irrelevant now. For whatever the Bush faction's intentions, their actual policies have demonstrably and indisputably stoked the fires of Islamic extremism to new heights of virulence...
Read the rest of Chris Floyd's article here.

Note: Chris Floyd's articles are re-posted on my site in length, thanks to the kind permission of the author.

WWIII or Bust: Implications of a US Attack on Iran

Witnessing the Bush administration's drive for an attack on Iran is like being a passenger in a car with a raving drunk at the wheel, according to Heather Wokusch.
"Both the US and Iran have presidents who arguably see themselves as divinely chosen and who covet their own country's apocalypse-seeking fundamentalist voters. And into this tinderbox Bush proposes bringing nuclear weapons."

Her conclusions are chilling and foreboding:
So the white-knuckle ride to war continues, with the administration's goals in Iran very clear. Recklessly naïve and impetuous perhaps, but clear: stop the petro-euro oil bourse, take over Khuzestan Province (which borders Iraq and has 90% of Iran's oil) and secure the Straits of Hormuz in the process. As US politician Newt Gingrich recently put it, Iranians cannot be trusted with nuclear technology, and they also "cannot be trusted with their oil."

But the Bush administration cannot be trusted with foreign policy. Its military adventurism has already proven disastrous across the globe. It's incumbent upon each of us to do whatever we can to stop this race towards war.

Yes, indeed it is.
Read this compelling article in its entirety here

Bloggers of Ontario Unite!

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