Saturday, March 11, 2006

"And the Oscar Goes to...." (Baghdad Burning blog's own nominees)

The Baghad Burning blog posted her own Iraqi version of the Oscars in her March 6 post, calling it "the 2006 Sayid Awards". River has some very good, well-deserving nominees indeed!

Read River's wonderful, intelligent, scathingly-honest, compelling post: "And the Oscar Goes to..."

ACLU: Senate Spy Deal, New Legal Action, Web Movie

This is the latest update from the ACLU:
Something is wrong in our country. The president is overreaching his authority with a vast program of illegal spying on Americans, and Congress, which is supposed to check executive power, is preparing to ratify his illegal surveillance program after the fact.

In a backroom deal announced this week, key Senate Republicans met with Vice President Dick Cheney and agreed to create legislation that would rewrite our laws by requiring less disclosure and less judicial power to check wiretaps than current law demands.

The message these partisans are sending to the people and the country is clear: partisans are willing to put party loyalty over fundamental and timeless values, such as the preservation of the Constitution and the rightful power of Congress as a check on the president. Many Americans are appalled that our President has not only ordered warrantless spying on Americans, but has unapologetically claimed that he has the power to break the law.

The question for us now is: What message will we the people send Congress?

The ACLU is asking you to join with us in declaring unequivocally that warrantless spying on innocent Americans is unacceptable.

It’s at moments like these that our system of checks and balances matters most. When the president asserts absolute power and the legislative branch abdicates its responsibilities, we must turn to the courts: the third pillar of our democracy.

Yesterday, the ACLU asked the judge in our NSA lawsuit to immediately block the illegal NSA spying program in order to prevent “concrete harm” to our plaintiffs — journalists, non-profit groups and other advocates — and to the American way of life. The ACLU v. NSA lawsuit aggressively challenges the Bush Administration’s abuse of power, charging that the spying violates all Americans' rights to free speech and privacy under the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution.

White House allies in Congress may be willing to help cover up this illegal program, and other lawmakers may be willing to stand on the sidelines, but when the president breaks the law, neither Congress nor the courts should give him a get-out-of-jail free card.

The ACLU urges Americans to stay involved as we work to end illegal government spying and restore the rule of law. The debate in Congress is far from over, and our legal challenge to the NSA has only just begun. We must stay vigilant if we want to preserve a democracy where the people are both safe and free.

Help us check the abuse of executive power and the complicity of Congress in warrantless surveillance on Americans:


Help us check the abuse of executive power and the complicity of Congress in warrantless surveillance on Americans:

Watch Our New Web Movie: "The Spies Have It"!
Share the movie with friends and ask them to get involved.

Support Us in Our Work
Become a card-carrying member or make a donation today.

Learn More
Read the latest on illegal government spying and the fight to restore the rule of law.

The State of Our Union Cannot be Strong if the President Continues to Violate the Law

Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Amnesty International Canada Action

Canada: Justice and accountability for Canadians detained abroad

Posted: 1 March 2006

Left: Ahmed Abou El-Maati. Right: Abdullah Almalki

The case of Maher Arar – transferred by the US to Syria (via Jordan) where he was interrogated and tortured – is now well known to Canadians. After much public pressure, the previous government opened a Public Inquiry into the role of Canadian officials which is due to issue its final report sometime this year. But as other cases of Canadians detained without charge and tortured in Syria and Egypt have come to light, the lack of official response has left more questions than answers about wider Canadian policy and practice.

Three other men, Muayyed Nureddin, Abdullah Almalki and Ahmed Abou El-Maati, were all of varying degrees of interest in the course of national security investigations in Canada. They were also all detained by the same branch of the Syrian military intelligence where they were interrogated and brutally tortured before eventually being released. None were ever charged with any crime. All of these men say their interrogations were based on information that they believe could only have originated with Canadian investigators.

In the fall of 2005, the United Nations Human Rights Committee called on Canada to hold a public and independent review to determine whether Canadian officials have in any way facilitated or tolerated the arrest and imprisonment, leading to torture and ill-treatment, of Canadian citizens held abroad. The government flatly declined to do so. Previous requests by Canadian organizations, concerned Canadians, and leading editorial commentary, among others have been met with the same reply. At best, Mr Nureddin, Mr Almalki and Mr El-Maati have been instructed to await the outcome of the Arar Commission – at which they were not granted full standing – and/or file complaints with the review bodies overseeing the RCMP and CSIS. Given the involvement of multiple security agencies and government departments in these cases, separate individual complaints would hardly be practical or effective.

The continuing failure to act leaves much at stake: justice and accountability for these men, the need to adopt preventative safeguards, and the importance of complying with international human rights obligations.

It’s time for Canada to launch a fair, independent, comprehensive and public review of the possibility of Canadian complicity in the detention, interrogation and torture of Muayyed Nureddin, Abdullah Almalki and Ahmed Abou El-Maati without further delay.


Please add your name in support of the March 1, 2006 open letter to the Prime Minister of Canada:
The Right Honourable
Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario. K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister,

Four months ago, the United Nations Human Rights Committee called on Canada to hold a public and independent review to determine whether Canadian officials have in any way facilitated or tolerated the arrest and imprisonment, leading to torture and ill treatment, of Canadian citizens held abroad. The previous government flatly declined to do so.

As you begin a term of new government, we are writing this open letter to you to emphasize how critical it is that you take action to comply with the UN’s recommendation and determine whether there was Canadian complicity in torture or unjustified detention and interrogation. A fair, independent, comprehensive and public review of the possibility of Canadian complicity in the detention, interrogation and torture of Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki, and Muayyed Nureddin must be launched without further delay. Much is at stake: justice and accountability for these men, the need to adopt any reforms needed to safeguard against similar cases occurring in the future, and the importance of Canada demonstrating firm resolve in its willingness to comply with its international human rights obligations.

Here is what these men have told Canadians about their terrifying ordeal of grave human rights violations in Syrian and Egyptian jails.

Mr. El Maati, a Kuwaiti born Canadian, was on his way to celebrate his wedding in Syria when he was detained at the Damascus airport on November 12, 2001. He was taken to the Palestine Branch of the Syrian Military Intelligence and kept in a dark, underground cell measuring only three by six by seven feet. He was repeatedly tortured and interrogated about information that could only have originated in Canada. He was forced to sign a false confession he was not allowed to read. On January 25, 2002, he was transported by air to Egypt, where he was subjected to further torture and interrogation until his release almost two years later on January 11, 2004. Mr. El Maati was never charged with any crime.

Mr. Almalki, a Syrian born Canadian, was on his way to visit family in Syria when he was detained at the Damascus airport on May 3, 2002. He was taken to the Palestine Branch of the Syrian Military Intelligence, where he was repeatedly tortured, interrogated about information that could only have originated in Canada, and forced to sign a false confession. He was held in a dark, underground cell measuring only three by six by seven feet for more than fifteen months until being transferred to another Syrian prison in August, 2003. Mr. Almalki was finally released on March 10, 2004, after more than twenty-two months in detention. Mr. Almalki was never charged with any crime.

Mr. Nureddin, an Iraqi born Canadian, was detained by Syrian officials on December 11, 2003 as he crossed the Iraqi-Syrian border on his way back to Canada after visiting family in northern Iraq. He too was taken to the Palestine Branch of the Syrian Military Intelligence, where he was repeatedly tortured and interrogated. Syrian interrogators asked Mr. Nureddin the same questions he was asked by officials in Canada, and forced him to sign documents he was not permitted to read. He was kept in an underground cell before being released on January 13, 2004, after thirty-four days in detention. Mr. Nureddin was never charged with any crime.

There are too many similarities between these cases and the case of Maher Arar to conclude that what happened was just a series of coincidences or unfortunate mistakes. Like Mr. Arar, Mr. El Maati, Mr. Almalki and Mr. Nureddin were all of varying degrees of interest in the course of national security investigations in Canada. All of these men were detained by the same branch of the Syrian military intelligence, and imprisoned in the same squalid and inhumane cells, in the same basement of the same building in Damascus. All of these men say they were interrogated and brutally tortured there. An independent fact finder at the Arar Commission has found their reports of torture credible and says he believes they all “suffered severe physical and psychological trauma while in detention in Syria.” All of these men say their interrogations were based on information that they believe could only have originated with Canadian investigators.

Like Mr. Arar, these men are living with the psychological and physical impact of their ordeals. Unlike Mr. Arar, however, they have not been offered any viable means for determining answers about why this happened to them. We believe these men, and all Canadians, need those answers. Last year,former Minister of Public Safety, Anne McLellan, responded that these men should wait for Justice O’Connor’s report from the Arar Commission, due out this spring. Clearly it is our hope that Justice O’Connor will explore these issues as widely as possible. But his ability to do so is limited.

All of these men were refused full standing at the Arar Commission. Throughout the Inquiry, counsel for the Attorney General repeatedly refused to allow witnesses to respond to questioning about their cases, asserting that this Commission of Inquiry was limited to examining Mr. Arar’s case and his case alone. Former Minister McLellan had also suggested that Mr. El Maati, Mr. Almalki and Mr. Nureddin all file complaints with review bodies overseeing CSIS and the RCMP. However, it is clear that multiple security agencies and departments of government are involved, and requiring individual complaints to a number of different bodies would hardly be practical or effective.

Beyond the personal interest of these individuals, there is a clear Canadian public interest in determining whether there has been a pattern of providing information and acquiescing in procedures which resulted in torture and unjustified detention and interrogation.

Prime Minister, we urge you to act now and live up to what the United Nations has asked of Canada. As was done in the case of Maher Arar – the government of Canada must provide the prospect of justice and accountability for these men. Mr. Arar, these three men, numerous Canadian organizations, leading editorial comment in the country, and concerned Canadians have all been pressing the government to do so for many months. It is time to ensure there is full and impartial review of the circumstances of all such cases, and careful consideration of whether they were reflective of a wider Canadian policy or practice.


Warren Allmand
Solicitor General (1972-76)
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (1976-77)
Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (1977-79)

Lloyd Axworthy
Minister of Employment and Immigration (1980-83, 1993-96)
Minister responsible for the Status of Women (1980-81)
Minister of Transport (1983-84)
Minister of State, Canadian Wheat Board (1984)
Minister of Labour (1993-95)
Minister of Western Economic Diversification (1993-96)
Minister of Foreign Affairs (1996-2000)

Allan Blakeney
Premier, Province of Saskatchewan (1971-82)

Ed Broadbent
Leader, New Democratic Party of Canada (1975-89)

Joe Clark
Prime Minister of Canada (1979-80)
Secretary of State for External Affairs (1984-91)
Minister responsible for Constitutional Affairs (1991-93)
President of the Privy Council (1991-93)

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral
Member of Parliament (1993-2004)
Bloc Québécois Critic, Citizenship and Immigration (2000-04)

Marcel Gagnon
Member of Parliament (2000-06)
Bloc Québécois Critic, Senior Citizens (2000-06)
Member of Québec National Assembly (1976-85)

Flora MacDonald
Secretary of State for External Affairs (1979-1980)
Minister of Employment and Immigration (1984-86)
Minister of Communications (1986-88)

View the list of public signatories to Amnesty International's open letter. 1239 people have have added their names and personal commentaries so far.

Saint Bush

A friend of mine from Tennessee, Wayne, just sent me this wonderful Bush joke. I don't usually post jokes here, but this one is so good, that it's sure to bring a chuckle to some of the more progressive readers:

President George W. Bush was scheduled to visit the Methodist Church outside Washington as part of his campaign. Karl Rove made a visit to the Bishop and said to him, "We've been getting a lot of bad publicity among Methodists because of Bush's position on stem cell research and the like. We'd gladly make a contribution to the church of $100,000 if during your sermon you'd say the President is a saint."

The Bishop thinks it over for a few moments and says, "The Church is in desperate need of funds and I will agree to do it."

Bush pompously shows up looking especially smug and as the sermon progresses the Bishop begins his homily:

"George Bush is petty, a self-absorbed hypocrite and a nitwit. He is a liar, a cheat, and a low-intelligence weasel. He has lied about his military record and had the gall to put himself in a jet plane landing on a carrier posing before a banner stating 'Mission Accomplished.' He invaded a country for oil and money, and is using it to lie to the American people. He is the worst example of a Methodist I've ever personally known. But compared to Dick Cheney and the rest of his cabinet, George Bush is a saint."

Nuclear Plan Meltdown

The headline said it all: "Plan for new nuclear programme approaches meltdown after report." But it wasn't talking about the Ontario government's pending decision on whether or not to re-invest billions in tried-and-failed nuclear power. It was talking about the verdict of the British Sustainable Development Commission on that country's all-too-familiar proposal to once again place a high-risk bet on nuclear power to meet its future electricity needs.

According to The Independent newspaper, the British Commission found five "major disadvantages" in going nuclear:

* The lack of a long-term strategy for dealing with highly toxic nuclear waste;

* Uncertainty over the cost of new nuclear stations and the risk that taxpayers would be left to pick up the tab;

* The danger that going down the nuclear route would lock the UK into a centralized system for distributing energy for the next 50 years;

* The risk a new nuclear program would undermine efforts to improve energy efficiency;

* The threat of terrorist attacks and radiation exposure if other countries with lower safety standards also opt for nuclear.

Unfortunately, the only fundamental difference between the flaws identified in the British plan and the flaws in the Ontario plan are ones of scale and performance: Ontario is considering meeting a larger percentage of its electricity needs with nuclear power, and our current nuclear units have performed even worse than the aging British fleet.

David Suzuki and Paul McKay (author of Electric Empire: The Inside Story of Ontario Hydro) have similarly pointed out just how outdated the Ontario nuclear energy proposal (and its mirror-image British plan) really are. Comparing the centralized nuclear approach to continuing to rely mainly on mainframe computing in 2006, Suzuki and McKay argue that it is the equivalent of ignoring the existence of laptops and Blackberries.

You can read more about the Sustainable Development Commission report here.

You can read the David Suzuki-Paul McKay article here.

Ontario Clean Air Alliance
402-625 Church St, Toronto M4Y 2G1
Phone: 416-926-1907 ext. 245
Fax: 416-926-1601

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance is a coalition of health, environmental and consumer organizations, faith communities, unions, utilities, municipalities and individuals working for cleaner air through a coal phase-out and the shift to a renewable electricity future. Our partner organizations represent more than six million Ontarians.

The Secret War Against The Defenceless People Of West Papua

By John Pilger

In 1993, I and four others travelled clandestinely across East Timor to gather evidence of the genocide committed by the Indonesian dictatorship. Such was the depth of silence about this tiny country that the only map I could find before I set out was one with blank spaces stamped "Relief Data Incomplete". Yet few places had been as defiled and abused by murderous forces. Not even Pol Pot had succeeded in despatching, proportionally, as many people as the Indonesian tyrant Suharto had done in collusion with the "international community".
Read full ICH article here.

Gwynne Dyer: 'Logic out the Window at the White House'

London-based independent journalist Gwynne Dyer writes about US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, who was calmly proposing an illegal attack on a sovereign state (Iran), possibly involving nuclear weapons.
In this excerpt, Dyer states:
"So a “preemptive” American attack on Iran would ignite a general insurrection against the American presence in Shia-dominated areas of Iraq and trigger a global economic crisis. The use of nuclear weapons would cross a firebreak that the world has maintained ever since 1945, and convince most other great powers that the United States is a rogue state that must be contained. All this to deal with a threat that is no more real or “imminent” than the one posed by Iraq in 2003.
Read Gwynne Dyer's article here (from ICH)

Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story

Part I of CBC Television's documentary movie premiere about Tommy Douglas will air this Sunday, March 12th, at 8:00 pm. EDT.
Part II will be on Monday (the 13th) at the same time.
"You can lock up a mouse or a man, but you can't lock up an idea."

"My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea."

- Tommy Douglas

Free Grassy Narrows from Corporate Logging

Rainforest Action Network
Tough Love for Corporate America Free Grassy: Write A Letter To The Editor

This week, Grassy Narrows sent letters warning the chief executives of Weyerhaeuser and Abitibi-Consolidated to “immediately cease and desist from all logging and industrial resource extraction on our territory” or face a “fierce international campaign”.

The letter follows a decade of failed negotiations, lawsuits, environmental assessment requests, public protests, and a 3-year logging blockade. The letter asserts that decades of unsustainable logging has “poisoned our waters with mercury and other toxins, nearly eliminated our ability to practice our way of life, and robbed us of economic opportunities.”

Upon learning of Grassy Narrows' letter, newspapers in Canada, including the Canadian Associated Press and the Globe and Mail, wrote favorable stories about the Grassy Narrows issue. It's a start! But we need your help in turning the Grassy Narrows issue into the international media controversy we know it deserves to be! Now's your chance!

Please write a letter to the editor (see sample below) to the Globe and Mail at expressing your support for the campaign to free Grassy Narrows from unwanted corporate logging by Weyerhaeuser and Abitibi on their territory and let them manage their land as they see fit.

The Letter to the Editor section is the most popular section of the newspaper; and it gives the paper a great indication of the level of interest the public has on certain issues.

Thank you!

Your efforts can create change!
Jess, David, Brianna and Brant
RAN's Old Growth and Communications Team

P.S. Keep your eyes and ears attuned to CBC Radio and Radio Canada for any stories on Grassy Narrows. If you hear a story make sure to call the radio station and express your opinion that Weyerhaeuser and Abitibi should stop logging on Grassy Narrows' land and allow the community to manage their land as they see fit.


I'm writing to respond to your article [please cite the article in full, including the date].

I strongly support Grassy Narrows First Nations struggle to kick logging corporations Weyerhaeuser and Abitibi off their land and regain the right to manage their land as they see fit.

The environmental and human rights violations that are taking place in Ontario on Grassy Narrows territory by multinational corporations is a tale that is being retold across Canada's vast, magical and ancient Boreal Forest, one of the largest intact forests in the world and home to about 600 indigenous communities. In fact, it's a story that's being played around the world.

Multinational corporations depend upon people like us to buy their products. It's time to support Grassy Narrows' struggle by boycotting all products that originate from endangered forests coming from their territory, including Trus Joist building products and Xerox copy paper

Enough is enough.


Affiliation (if any)

Click here to sign up for Rainforest Action Network!

Visit the web address below to tell your friends about Grassy Narrows and their stand against the illegal industrial logging of their land!

FOCUS | The Dubai Deal You Don't Know About

With midterm elections approaching, no politician wanted to go home and explain to voters why a company controlled by the government of Dubai was taking over operations at six US ports-without so much as a meow of protest from Congress. As it turns out, that won't be necessary. Dubai Ports World, the firm at the center of the controversy, announced today that it would give up its bid to manage US ports, agreeing to transfer the contracts to a "US entity."

...Read this article here

VIDEO SPECIAL | Rebecca MacNeice: Cindy Sheehan's Arrest at UN

On Monday, March 6th, Cindy Sheehan and three others were arrested while attempting to deliver a petition to the US Mission at the UN. t r u t h o u t's Rebecca MacNeice was on the ground and filmed the arrests.

Watch this VIDEO HERE

U.S. : The Human Rights "We" Care About

This comes to me from Danny Schechter, posted on his News Dissector blog (and is partially re-posted here, with the kind permission of Danny):


Its that time of the year when the State Department issues annual reports on human rights in other countries—not this one of course, or about any of our close allies. For example, this report by Human Rights First on Command Responsibility into the deaths of detainees in US custody is not cited.

Read it and weep:

What does the Condi Department of State care about?
”Countries in which power is concentrated in the hands of rulers that cannot be held accountable for their actions were among those cited as having the poorest records on human rights in the U.S. Department of State's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released March 8.

“Such regimes, which include the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea), Burma, Iran, Zimbabwe, Cuba, China, and Belarus, seriously restrict fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion and movement, the State Department said in the introduction to the report.

"The 2005 reports, which provide analyses of the human rights situations in 196 countries, are designed to assess human rights conditions worldwide. The reports, according to the introduction, demonstrate that the United States is committed "to working with other democracies and men and women of goodwill across the globe to reach an historic long-term goal: " 'the end of tyranny in our world.'"


This report from the AP was not in the US report either:
”Illegal Settlers Terrorizing Palestinians with Impunity, Attacking Children on their Way to School, and Destroying Farmers' Trees and Crops, According to a UN Report

GENEVA (AP) -- (Illegal Israeli) Jewish settlers are terrorizing Palestinians with impunity, attacking children on their way to school and destroying farmers' trees and crops, a U.N. expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict said in a report.

“John Dugard, a South African lawyer, called the withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip last summer a positive step. But the Jewish state effectively controls Gaza through targeted killings and sonic booms from warplanes flying over the region, Dugard said in a report prepared ahead of next week's annual meeting of the 53-member U.N. Human Rights Commission.

“Dugard said settler violence has been particularly egregious in the West Bank city of Hebron. His 22-page report made no reference to Palestinian resistance, but said Hebron settlers "terrorize the few Palestinians that have not left the old city and assault and traumatize children on the way to school."


Here’s how Arab News reports the threat according to Progressive Review:
"It is official. The elected leadership of the Palestinians will become targets for assassination if there is a suicide attack and Israel and Tel Aviv decides that Hamas is responsible. No evidence will be needed. Israel’s defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, has said so. This chilling threat demonstrates the contempt in which Israel and Washington hold the democratic process if the result of the election does not suit them."



Friday, March 10, 2006

Venezuela Slams U.S. Human Rights Claim

In the latest diplomatic spat between the two countries, Venezuela has declared that a US state department report, saying Hugo Chavez's government violated human rights, is nothing more than "toilet paper". The blunt riposte from Caracas is the culmination of weeks of arguments between the two countries which saw two diplomats expelled.
...Full Story

U.S. to Shut Down Abu Ghraib Prison

The US military will soon close Iraq's infamous Abu Ghraib prison and transfer its 4537 detainees to another detention facility, a US military spokesman said. The Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, was dreaded under Saddam Hussein's regime and gained further notoriety when it was revealed that US forces had abused Iraqi detainees there in 2003.
Full Story

Carter Calls for End to Occupation / Warmongers Admit They Were Wrong

Former President Jimmy Carter criticized the war in Iraq on Wednesday, urging a troop drawdown as the United States enters its fourth year of conflict in Iraq. "It was a completely unnecessary war. It was an unjust war," said Carter, the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
....Read this article here.

It has taken more than three years, tens of thousands of Iraqi and American lives, and $200 billion - all to achieve a chaos verging on open civil war. But, finally, the neo-conservatives who sold the United States on this disastrous war are starting to utter three small words: we were wrong.
....Read this article here.

Negative Perception of Islam Increasing According to US Poll

As the war in Iraq grinds into its fourth year, a growing proportion of Americans are expressing unfavorable views of Islam, and a majority now say that Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. (Read article and full poll results showing the questions posed.)

The Pakistan Risk

With the United States now embracing India as a key partner, Musharraf may turn to China and Russia for friendship. Read article about this on Open Democracy here.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Tomgram: Michael Schwartz on Disintegrating Iraqi Sovereignty

You know things are going badly indeed in Iraq when U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad chooses to use an image -- Pandora's box -- previously wielded only by that critic of the Iraq War, French President Jacques Chirac. Back in September 2004, Chirac compared American actions in Iraq to the famed box of myth, at a moment when Arab League head Amr Mussa was warning that the "gates of Hell" had been opened in that country (a comment assumed at the time to be but another example of overemotional Arab rhetoric). It took a year and a half, the blowing up the Golden Mosque in Samarra, and a near civil war, but now Khalilzad is ready to agree. In a Los Angeles Times interview, according to reporter Borzou Daragahi, he offered, "a far gloomier picture than assessments made in recent days by U.S. military spokesmen." In fact, he suggested the obvious -- if, that is, he weren't representing a government whose Vice President is still claiming that "progress in Iraq has not come easily, but it has been steady." He admitted that the "potential is there" for Iraq to fall into full-blown civil war and then he brought Chirac's image to bear. "We have opened," he said, "the Pandora's box and the question is, what is the way forward?"

You also know things aren't going well when the Pentagon issues an "Iraq Progress Report" (a "security and stability" assessment it is required to send to Congress every four months) indicating that "insurgent attacks in Iraq reached a postwar high in the four months preceding Jan. 20." You know things are not going well when, as that report notes, 88% of Iraqis in the Sunni areas of Tikrit and Bakuba, asked to describe "individuals attacking coalition forces," called them either "freedom fighters" or "patriots." (Don't even ask how that poll was taken.) Or when, surveying the ripples of chaos that George Bush's war has brought to the world, Brig. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, the Pentagon's deputy director for the war on terrorism, points to the plethora of terrorist groups popping into existence worldwide and states definitively, "We are not killing them faster than they are being created."

Meanwhile, the top Iraqi general in charge of security in Baghdad, such as it is, was killed in ambush this week; mosques continue to be attacked; Amnesty International announced that the U.S. still holds at least 14,000 (undoubtedly angry) Iraqis in its prisons; Iraqi oil production continues its steady decline to, at present, about 1.5 million barrels a day (almost a million barrels below where it was just before the American invasion began in March 2003); up to 50 employees of a Sunni-owned Iraqi security firm in Baghdad are kidnapped by unknown gunmen in police paramilitary uniforms in broad daylight; and Baghdad's morgue director flees the country in fear of assassination after revealing that "more than 7,000 people have been killed by death squads in recent months." Referring to these staggering figures, John Pace, the outgoing head of the UN human rights office in Iraq, who has clearly put in time at "the gates of Hell," commented, "The vast majority of bodies showed signs of summary execution -- many with their hands tied behind their back. Some showed evidence of torture, with arms and leg joints broken by electric drills."

In one of the understatements of our moment, Khalilzad offered the following summary of the situation in Iraq, "Right now there's a vacuum of authority, and there's a lot of distrust." He should know. He's the one in Baghdad's Green Zone scuttling between near-warring parties in the vague hope that "once a national unity government is formed, the effort to provoke a civil war will face a huge obstacle."

Michael Schwartz, a Tomdispatch regular, takes up the very issue of that "vacuum of authority" in Iraq in a major two-part piece for this site. He focuses on the strange, powerless state in which Iraq exists, in which Khalilzad's "national unity government" -- if it is ever formed -- will continue to exist. When you are used to living in a sovereign nation, it's easy to forget what a fragile thing sovereignty can be -- and, once destroyed, how hard it can be for anyone to reconstitute it. Tom

A Government with No Military and No Territory
Iraq's Sovereignty Vacuum (Part 1)

By Michael Schwartz

President Bush marked the Iraqi election of December 2005 as the beginning of a new era. A freely selected permanent government would begin asserting its sovereignty over the country, building an administrative infrastructure, and rising to the challenge of governing an unruly and often violent constituency.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Iraq Dispatches: See Dick Loot

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

Wednesday 08 March 2006

Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) have been making hay in the burning Iraqi sun for years now. It is, of course, no coincidence that the man sitting as vice president played a key role with his influence in obtaining the lion's share of contracts in Iraq for the company he was CEO of prior to his self-appointed position. Yet none of this is news.

What is news, however, is that the ties that bind Cheney to Halliburton also link him to groups with even broader interests in the Middle East, which are causing civilians on the ground there, as well as in the US, to pay the price.

Cheney had much more at stake than pure altruism in making sure Halliburton/KBR obtained so many no-bid contracts in occupied Iraq. Despite his claims of not having any financial ties to Halliburton, the fact is that in both 2001 and 2002 he earned twice as much from a deferred salary from his "old" company as when he was CEO.

But that wasn't the beginning. When Cheney was US Secretary of Defense in the early 1990's under Big Bush, Halliburton was awarded the job of studying, then implementing, the privatization of routine army functions such as cleaning and cooking meals.

Following this study, when Cheney was finished with his job at the Pentagon, he scored the job as CEO of Halliburton, which he held until nominating himself for the position of Little Bush's running mate in 2000. Remember, it was Cheney who was given the task of finding a running mate for Bush. After searching far and wide across the US, Cheney ended up generously offering his own services for the job.

As if Cheney didn't already have enough conflicts of interest, it is important to note that he assisted in founding the neo-conservative think tank, the "Project for the New American Century (PNAC)", whose goal is to "promote American global leadership," which entails acquiring Iraqi oil. Complimenting this, Cheney was also part of the board of advisers to the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) along with John Bolton, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz (all PNAC members) before becoming vice president. JINSA, self-described as a "nonsectarian educational organization," does things like nominate John Bolton for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize and works to "explain the role Israel can ... play in
bolstering ... the link between American defense policy and the security of Israel."

Their Mission Statement adds, "The inherent instability in the region [Middle East] caused primarily by inter-Arab rivalries and the secular/religious split in many Muslim societies leaves the future of the region in doubt. Israel, with its technological capabilities and shared system of values, has a key role to play as a US ally in the region," which happens to be quite similar to the stated goals of the
PNAC for the region, but I digress.

By the end of 2002, Cheney owned at least 433,000 unexercised Halliburton stock options worth over $10 million. And that was before the invasion of Iraq, when the games really began.

In March 2003, the month the invasion began, Halliburton was awarded a no-bid contract worth $7 billion from the Pentagon. The blatant awarding of this "reconstruction" contract to Halliburton even led Representative Henry Waxman to comment, "The administration's approach to the reconstruction of Iraq is fundamentally flawed. It's a boondoggle that's enriching private contractors."

Of course the invasion and occupation of Iraq aren't only about oil.

Remember, it was Cheney himself who, at a VFW convention in August 2002, said "Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon. Just how soon, we cannot really gauge."

Cheney then, solely in the interests of protecting the American and Iraqi people of course, made sure the US would go into Iraq and take care of that nuclear trouble-maker Saddam Hussein.

Just to be safe, Halliburton was paid $40 million for providing housing and transportation for teams searching for non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. For with each contract Halliburton is and was awarded, Cheney's bank account grows.

The one place where there were remnants of a nuclear program in Iraq, albeit over 20 years before the 2003 US invasion, was the Osirak Nuclear Research Facility on the outskirts of Baghdad. US-made Israeli warplanes bombed it back on June 7, 1981, and when I visited the place in January 2004, all I found were empty warehouses which the American military wasn't concerned about enough to prevent from being looted.

Villagers in nearby al-Tuwetha, ignorant of radioactive waste stored in old drums, looted them in the chaos following the invasion and had been using them as water containers - thus irradiating the entire village.

One example of what it looks like on the ground in Iraq when Halliburton fails to fulfill its contractual obligations is the life of Adel Mhomoud. The 44-year-old beekeeper in al-Tuwetha told me, "I have cancer, and I know I'm dying. My white blood cell count is 14,000, and I don't have enough red blood cells. We are all sick; our joints ache, my hips are killing me, and my blood is bad. But nobody will help us here."

Certainly not Halliburton.

Cheney, who received no less than five military deferments during the Vietnam War despite being a supporter of that war (Sound familiar?), had shamelessly told the veterans at the VFW, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

So that was the door Cheney took to bring Iraq his Halliburton.

And of course, once through that door, Halliburton promptly went to work.

Aside from the aforementioned awarding of no-bid contracts worth billions of US taxpayer dollars, as early as December 2003, the US Army found out Halliburton was overcharging the government $61 million for fuel transportation and $67 million for food services in Iraq. I remember being in Baghdad when this occurred - seeing the enormously long gas lines at petrol stations whilst knowing Halliburton, not only
failing to provide Iraqis with their own petrol, was even charging the US taxpayer three dollars per gallon for fuel that local companies could have imported for under one dollar.

But that was barely the beginning.

Let's take a brief glance at some of the more recent Halliburton/KBR rogueries:

* 27 February 2006 - US Army decides to reimburse KBR nearly all of its disputed costs on a $2.41 billion no-bid contract to deliver fuel and repair equipment in Iraq, despite Pentagon auditors identifying over $250 million in charges as "potentially" excessive.

* 17 February 2006 - KBR executive hired to fly cargo into Iraq pleads guilty to inflating invoices by $1.14 million to cover fraudulent "war risk surcharges."

* 6 February 2006 - KBR employee in Iraq, speaking on condition of anonymity, says "We pay our locals [in Iraq] $5 to $16 dollars a day and you can see where [KBR] put it down [on the military requisition] as $60 a day ." Military requisitions reveal KBR to be paying between $5-$16 per day in wages to
third world laborers in Iraq whilst billing US taxpayers between $50-$80 per day.

* 30 January 2006 - Bush administration settles dispute between Pentagon and Halliburton by agreeing to pay company $199 million in disputed gasoline charges in Iraq. To date KBR has been awarded nearly $16 billion in total revenue from Iraq contracts.

* 23 January 2006 - Halliburton fails to alert American troops and civilian contractors at US base in Ramadi that their water was contaminated. Despite allegations which came from Halliburton's own water quality experts, the company denies there was a contamination problem.

* 27 December 2005 - KBR, linked to human trafficking-related concerns via its work in Iraq (such as forced prostitution and labor), Halliburton benefits from Defense Department's refusal to adopt policy barring human trafficking.

* 1 December 2005 - UPI reports KBR workers in Iraq ("third country" nationals) found to be paid as little as 50 cents an hour.

* 5 November 2005 - UN auditing board finds that US should repay Iraqi government $208 million from Iraqi oil revenue for fraudulent contracting work.

Then there is how these "policies" Halliburton is following in Iraq affect US soldiers and contractors, including its own employees.

With contracts in Iraq now worth up to $18 billion, there is nothing stopping Halliburton from abusing the lack of oversight and obvious conflict of interest between their free reign and their ties to the vice president.

An example of this is Jim Spiri, who was hired by Halliburton/KBR in January 2004 to work as a logistics coordinator. Sent to Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq, he worked the flight line handling passenger movements, as Spiri had 20 years of aviation experience.

"During my time there, I assisted nightly with medevac [medical evacuations] operations and was highly respected among all military medical folks," he told me this week. "I had a good name throughout the theatre."

But problems were immediately apparent to him.

"I witnessed much alcohol abuse, in an environment where alcohol is strictly prohibited. I made note of this and reported it to my superiors, who actually were the ones abusing the system. It was obvious that the fox was guarding the hen house, so to speak."

He told me his entire flight line operation was "run in a gang-like manner" and "the work was never done in an efficient manner." Instead, according to Spiri, the motto was, "Do as little as possible for as much as you can, for as long as you can."

On February 5th of this year, while working the night shift which he had for the last two years, Spiri witnessed something that made the thought of continuing to work for KBR intolerable.

After watching a fallen soldier loaded onto a plane without the proper ceremony of honor, Spiri told me he "wrote an account of what I experienced that night." After this, "It was published, and ... all hell broke loose about 36 hours later."

Spiri was fired by KBR after writing an article detailing the event and criticizing Halliburton's policies in Iraq.

Now he wants to shine light on how KBR operates in Iraq. "What they don't want to let out is the type of workers they have over there, that it's the largest gravy train operation, it's the largest welfare system I've ever seen in my life. It's pathetic," Spiri said in a recent interview while adding that over half the people KBR employed in Iraq were "grossly under-qualified and highly over-paid."

His work entailed three people, but by the time he left there were 10 people on his team, most of whom "sat around listening to their iPod's and DVD players."

Yet firing an employee for raising awareness about corruption and his questioning of policy is minor compared to the treatment of Iraqis meted out by the company.

When I was in Amman last May, I met Ahlam al-Hassan, a young Iraqi woman who had worked for KBR in Diwaniyah.

Two gunshots by assailants who attacked her for collaborating with occupation forces left her blind, and her former employers would not return her calls or requests for assistance.

For her three months of work for KBR she was paid $475, having taken the job to support her family. "My two bosses at KBR, Mr. Jeff and Mr. Mark, were very good and gentle with me," she explained to me in Jordan, "They told me it wasn't dangerous to work for them." But after spending months in hospitals for what happened to her on her way to work, "After this, they have made no attempts to contact me."

Note that on May 31, 2004, an Army Corps of Engineers email revealed that Cheney's office "coordinated" Halliburton's multi-billion dollar Iraq contract. Cheney, like most common criminals, denied having anything to do with the no-bid contract.

More recently, on January 26th of this year, Halliburton announced that its 2005 profits were the "Best in our 86-year history," as all six of its divisions posted record results. Halliburton stock price doubled in the last year, and Dick Cheney's tax returns indicate that he earned $194,862 from his Halliburton stock in just the last year.

Loot Dick, Loot!

Is that clear enough?

All of this begs the question: Do you approve of your tax dollars being used in this fashion?

If not, then what are you willing to do about it?

(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 DahrJamailIraq 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 **

Note: All of Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches are reprinted on my
site with the kind, explicit permission of the author.

International Women's Day 2006: Opinion by Amnesty Secretary-General

ACT 77/005/2006 (Public)
8 March 2006

International Women's Day 2006: Opinion piece by Irene Khan, Amnesty International Secretary-General

“Surviving an abusive relationship is like surviving torture -- the future narrows down to getting through the next few hours, the next day.”
- A family counsellor describes violence against women in the family

In January, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia became the first woman head of state in Africa, and Michele Bachelet the first elected woman President of Chile. Just a few months beore that Angela Merkel was chosen as the first female Federal Chancellor in Germany.

For two years running, in 2003 and 2004, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to women: Shirin Abadi, a lawyer from Iran, and Wangari Matthai, an environmental activist from Kenya. The New York Stock Exchange is now headed by a woman, as is the London Business School – as indeed, is Amnesty International!

Women around the world are breaking social and economic barriers. Yet despite these remarkable achievements, women and girls are still being subjected to violence at shocking levels.

Unlike the so-called “war on terror”, the “war on women and girls” is not on the global political agenda. It takes its toll in battlefields, bedrooms and backstreets -- the greatest hidden human rights scandal of our times, made all the more scandalous by being present in every part of the world and in almost every aspect of life.

It starts before birth with sex-selective abortions, which has reached worrying proportions in countries like India. It is followed after birth by female infanticide and the sexual, emotional and physical abuse of girls -- including through child prostitution, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

In adulthood, violence takes the form of stalking, rape, intimate partner violence, sexual abuse and harassment by colleagues and relatives, “honour” crimes, and dowry and bride-price related abuses. At home or at work, women are not safe.

In some communities, a woman’s “honour” is seen as a commodity to be used to settle family debts or as a means of punishing a family. In Afghanistan, for example, rape and forced marriages are often used as a means of settling disputes between families or tribes.

Traditionally, human rights discourse has focused on how to protect citizens against the unreasonable and unlawful use of violence and coercion by the state, not on what the state can or should do to prevent violence by private actors. The private sphere, especially the family, was excluded -- considered outside the reach of the state.
Read more here

Ontario Clean Air Alliance: Nuclear Not Popular

Nuclear among least popular electricity options

Ontario voters want an electricity plan that emphasizes efficiency and clean renewable power instead of nuclear energy, a public opinion poll conducted for the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) has found.

A strong majority of voters believe that the OCAA is on the right track with its proposal to increase efficiency, develop more clean renewable power and use high-efficiency natural gas-fired power plants as a bridging technology, with 65% supporting this approach. Only 12% of Ontario voters are opposed to the OCAA's strategy.

By comparison, fewer than 10% of those surveyed thought that the province should turn to nuclear power first to meet its electricity needs. New nuclear power plants were ranked just ahead of new coal plants at the bottom of the list of options for meeting Ontario's electricity needs.

Close to half of Ontario's voters (48%) also said they would be more likely to support a party in the 2007 provincial election that planned to meet Ontario's electricity needs without building new nuclear power plants. Only 11% said they would be more inclined to support a party that was committed to new nuclear power plants.

Ontarians remain committed to phasing out dirty coal power, with 55% endorsing the government's 2009 phase-out deadline and 70% saying that coal emissions were harmful to health in the province. But the overall poll results indicate that they also want the province to emphasize efficiency and renewable power to get the greatest benefit from the coal phase-out.

"Clearly Ontario voters are rejecting the Ontario Power Authority's plan that would increase our electricity consumption by 20% over the next 20 years, and that calls for meeting 60-80% of our incremental electricity needs by re-investing in nuclear power," says Jack Gibbons, Chair of the OCAA.

The full polling results are available on our website at

Please pass this message on to your friends.

Thank you.

Jessica Fracassi
Communications & Membership Manager
Ontario Clean Air Alliance
402-625 Church St, Toronto M4Y 2G1
Phone: 416-926-1907 ext. 245
Fax: 416-926-1601

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance is a coalition of health, environmental and consumer organizations, faith communities, unions, utilities, municipalities and individuals working for cleaner air through a coal phase-out and the shift to a renewable electricity future. Our partner organizations represent more than six million Ontarians.

News Release from the Portage Community Peace Coalition

Stop The Wars, Stop The Lies 3rd Anniversary of US Aggression & Occupation in Iraq

The Portage Community Peace Coalition will be joining with millions around the globe in protesting the ongoing war and occupation in Iraq. Traveling to Columbus OH March 18th for a Statewide Rally - March 19th sponsoring a march and rally in Kent OH.

(PRWEB) March 8, 2006 -- The Portage Community Peace Coalition will be joining with millions around the globe in protesting the ongoing war and occupation in Iraq.

Saturday, March 18th, Kent area residents will be traveling to Columbus for a statewide rally at the Ohio Statehouse. A carpool will leave from 257 N. Water St in Kent at 10:30am. The "Three Years of War in Iraq. End the Iraq War Now!" Rally will begin at 2pm.

Sunday, March 19th, the Portage Community Peace Coalition will be sponsoring a Rally and Sidewalk March to mark and protest the 3rd anniversary of the Iraq war and occupation in Downtown Kent. The rally will begin at 5pm, at the gazebo at the corner of Main and Franklin in Kent and will be followed by a sidewalk march thru downtown. The march will end back at the gazebo for the weekly vigil for peace and justice.

United for Peace and Justice
Three years of persistent anti-war organizing are having a significant political impact. A majority of people in the United States now agree with the peace movement that this war never should have happened, and calls for immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq are growing. More members of Congress, retired generals and state department officials, newspaper editorial boards and people from all walks of life are demanding the truth and calling for an end to the war.

But the horrors continue. Three years of war have resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 U.S. service people, and thousands have come home with horrific wounds they will carry for the rest of their lives. Estimates of Iraqi deaths number in the tens of thousands, and more Iraqis are killed every day. The schools, hospitals and homes hard hit by the U.S. military have not been rebuilt. Foreign investors like Halliburton - not the Iraqi people - control the Iraqi economy while the IMF and World Bank "give" a $100 billion loan to Iraq, intent on locking the economic future of that country into the same policies that have punished people around the world.

The war has already cost well over $200 billion in U.S. taxpayer money, and there is no end in sight. At the same time, the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have yet to receive the resources they need to recover from Hurricane Katrina and communities around the country are impacted every day by drastic cuts in social spending. And the war has brought new assaults on civil liberties and democratic rights.

The Bush administration is on the run as the foolhardiness and arrogance of their "stay the course" policy has been exposed.

March 19th will mark the third anniversary of a war that never should have happened -- a war based on lies that continues to devastate the lives of thousands, both in Iraq and the United States.


Press Contact: Sue Jeffers
Company Name: Portage Community Peace Coalition
Email: email protected from spam bots
Phone: 330-673-1416

Press Release from Mississauga Coalition for Peace and Justice


Mississauga to participate in International Day of Action: March 18 2006

Mississauga, ON – On Saturday, March 18, citizens of Mississauga and Brampton will have the opportunity to join the world in participating in the International Day of Action. This date marks the third anniversary of the US/UK led invasion of Iraq.

The Mississauga Coalition for Peace and Justice (MCPJ) along with student, community and faith groups throughout the city are anticipating a large turnout to this year's peace march and rally to be held at 10:30 a.m. with participants meeting at the southeast corner of Hurontario and Dundas. Transportation will be provided to participants from the Mississauga rally to the Toronto demonstration, to be held at 1 p.m. at the U.S. consulate, 360 University Ave.

MCPJ hopes to generate awareness about Canada's increased, aggressive role in Afghanistan, its role in overthrowing a democratically elected government in Haiti, as well as the renewed government interest in missile defense. The group also encourages the welcoming of war resisters who seek refugee status in Canada. "We’ll stand united in sending a loud and clear message to all levels of government regarding our strong opposition to Canada's role in an illegal and immoral invasion that has already claimed over 100 000 lives," says Fizza Mir, one of the organizers of Saturday's peace demonstration. "Blatant civil liberty violations, rampant racial profiling, illegal detentions, increased militarization, cuts in social programs and environmental neglect are among the pressing domestic issues facing our communities."

Keynote speakers at Saturday's peace demonstration include former Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish, among other prominent individuals from the Peel Region. For more information about this event, contact the MCPJ at

Guantánamo and back: an interview with Moazzam Begg

British Muslim Moazzam Begg was arrested by the United States and detained without trial for three years, much of it at Guantánamo Bay. A year on he is ready to tell his story and Jane Kinninmont listens.

Former Guantánamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg is devastatingly reasonable. He is calm, well-spoken, highly articulate, and small; when imprisoned by the US army in Afghanistan, he says, his hands were small enough to slip out of their cuffs when the guards were absent.

Begg was imprisoned for three years without charge or trial. A British citizen, he was picked up by US intelligence officials in Pakistan in January 2002; they accused him of being a member of al-Qaida, which he denies.

At first, Begg was taken to the Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan, where, he says, he went a year without seeing sunlight. From January 2003, he was moved to Guantánamo Bay. Most of his time there was spent in solitary confinement.

....Read rest of Jane Kinninmont's Open Democracy article here

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Tomgram: Weaponizing the Shark and Other Pentagon Dreams

Shark and Awe
From the Annals of Full-Spectrum Dominance

By Tom Engelhardt

We already have "stealth" aircraft, but what about a little of the stealth that only nature can provide?

Navy Seals, move over -- here come the Navy sharks. According to the latest New Scientist magazine, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA, the blue-sky wing of the Pentagon, has set yet another group of American scientists loose to create the basis for future red-in-tooth-and-maw Discovery Channel programs. In this case, they are planning to put neural implants into the brains of sharks in hopes, one day, of "controlling the animal's movements, and perhaps even decoding what it is feeling." In their dreams at least, DARPA'S far-out funders hope to "exploit sharks' natural ability to glide quietly through the water, sense delicate electrical gradients and follow chemical trails. By remotely guiding the sharks' movements, they hope to transform the animals into stealth spies, perhaps capable of following vessels without being spotted."

So far they've only made it to the poor dogfish, "steered" in captivity via electrodes keyed to "phantom odors." As it happens though, DARPA-sponsored plans are a good deal lustier than that: Next stop, the blue shark, which reaches a length of 13 feet. Project engineer Walter Gomes of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island claims a team will soon be putting neural implants "into blue sharks and releas[ing] them into the ocean off the coast of Florida." To transmit signals to the sharks, the team will need nothing less than a network of signaling towers in the area. This has "anti-ballistic shark system" written all over it.

Actually, it's not the first time the military has invested in shark technology. As Noah Shachtman of pointed out last July, "The Navy has tapped three firms to build prototype gadgets that duplicate what sharks do naturally: find prey from the electric fields they emit." One of them, Advanced Ceramics Research, Inc., limned the project's potential benefits this way: "If developed, such a capability might allow for the detection of small, hostile submarines entering a seawater inlet, harbor or channel, or allow objects such as mines to be pinpointed in shallow waters where sonar imaging is severely compromised." And then there's that ultimate underwater dream, the Microfabricated Biomimetic Artificial Gill System, that could lead to all sorts of Navy breakthroughs, perhaps even -- if you'll excuse a tad of blue-skying on my part -- blue shark/human tracking teams, or if not that, then lots of late-night-TV Aquaman jokes.

Of course, the Navy has been in nature's waters in a big way for a while with its Marine Mammal Program in San Diego. There, it trains bottlenose dolphins as "sentries" and mine detectors. Such dolphins were "first operationally deployed" in Vietnam in 1971 and a whole Dolphin patrol (like, assumedly, the shark patrol to come) is now on duty in the Khor Abd Allah waterway, Iraq's passageway into the Persian Gulf. To the embarrassment of the Navy, a dolphin named Takoma even went "AWOL" there in 2003, soon after the invasion of Iraq began.

As Nick Turse has pointed out, DARPA funds research into weaponizing creatures that inhabit just about any environmental niche imaginable -- including bees capable of detecting explosives; "eyes" patterned after those of flies that might someday make "smart" weaponry even smarter; gecko wall-climbing and octopi concealment techniques; and electrode-controlled rats capable of searching through piles of rubble. In addition, between nature and whatever the opposite of nurture may be, there's been an ongoing military give-and-take. Consider, for instance, BigDog, highlighted in the same issue of New Scientist. Compared to a pack mule, goat, or horse, this "robotic beast of burden" is being developed by Boston Dynamics to haul over rough terrain at least 40 kilograms of supplies soldiers won't need to carry, while being able to take a "hefty kick" in the legs without crumpling to the ground.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Iraq Dispatches: Conduct Unbecoming of the Commander-In-Chief

'Conduct Unbecoming of the Commander-In-Chief', written by Paul Kamen for the Forum section of examines perspectives on the historical origins of the systematic torture of Iraqis at US hands. This well researched piece also addresses:

-To date, the steady influx of Iraqi detainees has increased 20 percent from 2004, causing the U.S. Military Police to continue to operate at surge capacity, in violation of Army doctrine. Estimated total inmates stands at 17,000, although records and classifications remain mismanaged, making it extremely difficult to compile accurate records of the widespread incarceration of the Iraqi male population in a country of 25 million people.

-Dr. John Pace, U.N. Human Rights Chief, who served in Iraq for two years admitted, “Yes, torture is happening now, mainly in illegal detention places. Such centers are mostly being run by militia that have been absorbed by the police force.” Dr. Pace estimates that over 23,000 Iraqis are being held in detention centers of which 80 to 90 percent are innocent.

-Any U.S. soldier sworn to follow the president’s orders when the president is in accordance with his oath of office, is not obligated to follow such orders by a negligent president in violation of his executive office. If they do so, they put themselves in direct violation of Article 91 and 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and are liable to be court-martial before a military tribunal that recognizes the providence of the oath of a commander-in-chief of the United States
Armed Forces which unwaveringly upholds the constitution, the democratic lifestyle of the American people, and which each soldier vows to give his life to defend.

This piece is required reading for those wanting a deeper understanding of detention and torture policy in Iraq, as well as legal ramifications of all those involved...including Mr. George W. Bush.

Read this important piece here

(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 DahrJamailIraq 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 **

Video Shows Iraq Hostage Appeal

A videotape of three of the four kidnapped Christian Peacemaker activists shows the men asking their governments and countries in the Gulf to work for their release.
Full Story

International Women's Day: Stop Violence Against Women in Darfur

We must end violence against women in Darfur. Please take action today.

Please join Amnesty International on March 8, International Women's day, in taking action to end human rights abuses against women in Darfur, Sudan. Amnesty International is alarmed by escalating violence in the Darfur region of western Sudan between the Sudanese army, government-backed militias and armed opposition groups.

Much of the violence perpetrated in the Darfur conflict has resulted in grave human rights violations against women. These violations against women and girls include abductions, rape and forced displacement. Take action today to stop violence against women in Darfur.

Learn more about the state of women's rights in Darfur during our online discussion with Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, M.D. from 1:00-2:00 PM EST on March 8th. Rev. Dr. White-Hammond currently serves as the National Chairperson of the Million Voices for Darfur campaign and has made multiple trips to war-torn southern Sudan since 2001.
» Submit a question in advance
» Learn more

Amnesty International USA

Bodies Still Being Found After Katrina

Six months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, dead bodies are still being pulled out of destroyed, rotting homes. Firefighters in hard hats with dogs found the latest victim on Monday in a house that had been inspected months ago, though apparently not well enough. The Chief of Special Operations for the New Orleans Fire Department said it was the second corpse found since recovery efforts resumed last Friday.

And the next hurricane season is not far away...

Read more here

Irag's New Government Delayed Again

Further delays have threatened to hinder the formation of Iraq's new government as one of the country's two vice-presidents opposed the president's attempts to convene parliament for the first time next week. Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president, announced on Sunday that he would order parliament to convene on 12 March in a move designed to force a showdown in the dispute over the candidacy of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Shia prime minister, for a second term in office. However, Talabani, a Kurd, was unable to count on the support of one of his vice-presidents, Adel Abd al-Mahdi, a Shia who narrowly lost in his own bid for the prime minister's job by one vote.

The Shia faction decided to close ranks on Monday and Abd al-Mahdi has refused to sign for the moment. Talabani had secured the backing of his other vice-president, Shaikh Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir, a Sunni who was out of the country. The delay may seriously hinder Iraq's attempts at forming a new government and increase speculation about whether the fledgling democratic process will be able to withstand continuing sectarian violence.
Full Story

Jury Selected in Moussaoui Case

A jury has been selected that will decide whether the only September 11 terrorist suspect to be tried in the US is to be executed. At the start of the trial of confessed al-Qaida member Zacarias Moussaoui in Alexandria, Virginia, on Monday, the district judge, Leonie Brinkema said that the jury should be guided by "reason and your sense of justice".Moussaoui, 37, was arrested the month before the 11 September 2001 attacks which killed about 3000 people, after arousing suspicion at a flight school. As he has pleaded guilty to the six charges against him, three of which carry the death penalty, the jury has been selected solely to decide the defendant's punishment.
Full Story

Australia Considers Selling Uranium to India

Late on Sunday, Australia's Prime Minister said he will consider selling uranium to India, if he is convinced about New Delhi's commitment to follow global nuclear safeguards for its civilian reactors. Howard's comments came as he began a four-day visit to that country, and days after Bush sealed his nuclear deal which is expected to give India access to the global market for fuel and reactors to meet its soaring energy needs.

Australia has nearly half of the world's known uranium resources.

Full Story

WHO: Bird Flu Risk Unprecedented

Bird flu, feared as the source of a possible human flu pandemic, is unprecedented in scope as an animal disease, the World Health Organisation says. The body is urging nations to sharpen their plans for preventing widespread disease among people.
Full Story

Monday, March 06, 2006

Canada's 'Phantom Aid' in Afghanistan

How much of Canada's funding in Afghanistan actually reaches those in need, or the programmes for which it was slated? How much is going to clean water and how much to the military? And how much is eaten up by 'phantom aid', which is briefly explained here:
...."phantom aid": aid that does not help the people it is intended for in the donor country. Phantom aid includes spending on overpriced technical assistance, aid tied to spending in the donor country, double-counted debt relief, and other aid that never materializes for poor countries."...

Read this article in The Dominion: Canada's Phantom Menace In Afghanistan.

AFSC: Help Commemorate the Iraq War's Third Anniversary

From March 14-22, people will gather in their hometowns to lift candles, signs, banners, and their voices to say “End the war in Iraq!” AFSC will join its partners in justice and peace who are urging the U.S. Congress, the media, and the rest of the country to end the war by cutting off its funding.

Our online registration system will help you organize or participate in an event that can demonstrate the strength of the pro-peace majority. Please add your name to the growing list of people who are taking this stand for peace in Iraq.

Find or register an event near you >

American Friends Service Committee

U.S. Rejects Iraq 'Pullout' Reports

Reports that Britain and the US are planning to withdraw all their forces from Iraq by the spring of 2007 are "completely false", the US military in Iraq has said, reiterating there is no timetable for withdrawal. Two British newspapers reported in their Sunday editions that the pull-out plan followed an acceptance by the two governments that the presence of foreign troops in Iraq was now a large obstacle to securing peace. But a spokesman for the US military in Iraq reiterated previous statements by US and Iraqi officials that foreign troops would be gradually withdrawn once Iraqi security forces were capable of guaranteeing security.
Full Story

Sunday, March 05, 2006

ICH: Chomsky " Nuclear exchange is inevitable"

World in peril, Chomsky tells overflow crowd

"Under the current U.S. policies, a nuclear exchange is inevitable," the 77-year-old MIT professor said in his presentation, "Imminent Crises: Paths Toward Solutions." He spoke to an over-capacity crowd in BU's Osterhout Concert Theater.

Read article by Brian Liberatore for the Press & Sun-Bulletin on the Information Clearing House website

My thanks to Tom Feeley of ICH for sending this wise quote:

"Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war.

The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another’s throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell.

The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives."

-- Eugene Debs : 16 June 1918: The speech was given to about 1,200 people and was later used against Debs to make the case that he had violated the espionage Act. The judge sentenced Debs to ten years in prison.

Tomgram: Dahr Jamail Follows the Trail of Torture

The other day on Jerry Agar's radio show, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld responded to accusations about American atrocities at our prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He accused the detainees there of manipulating public opinion by lying about their treatment. He said, in part:
"They're taught to lie, they're taught to allege that they have been tortured, and that's part of the [terrorist] training that they received. We know that torture is not occurring there. We know that for a fact… The reality is that the terrorists have media committees. They are getting very clever at manipulating the media in the United States and in the capitals of the world. They know for a fact they can't win a single battle on the battlefields in the Middle East. They know the only place they can win a battle is in the capitol in Washington, D.C. by having the United States lose its will, so they consciously manipulate the media here to achieve their ends, and they're very good at it."

Statements like this have been commonplaces from an administration whose President repeatedly insists it doesn't do "torture," while its assembled lawyers do their best to redefine torture out of existence. Here's how, for instance, our Vice President has described the lives of detainees at Guantanamo Bay: "They're living in the tropics… They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want. There isn't any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we're treating these people."

As a matter of fact, the record of detainee abuse, humiliation, and torture at Guantanamo and elsewhere is by now overwhelming -- and it's been laid out by a remarkably wide-ranging set of sources. In June 2005, for example, Time Magazine released excerpts from official interrogation logs on just one Guantanamo prisoner, Mohammad al-Qahtani, reputedly the 20th September 11th hijacker who never made it into the U.S. This stunning record of mistreatment over time so threatened the detainee's health that it should certainly have qualified as torture under this administration's definition ("must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death") in its famed "torture memo" of 2002.

Or let's remember two years' worth of blistering memos and e-mails by disgusted FBI agents stationed at Guantanamo Bay (obtained and released by the American Civil Liberties Union) laid out styles of detainee mistreatment that should have staggered someone's imagination:
"'On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water,' the FBI agent wrote on Aug. 2, 2004. ‘Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18 to 24 hours or more.' In one case, the agent continued, ‘the detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night.'"

Just in the last week, the administration that doesn't do torture found itself in court fighting hard for a torture exemption from the McCain anti-torture amendment, thanks to extreme force-feeding methods being used on a prisoner on a Guantanamo hunger strike. According to Josh White and Carol D. Leonnig of the Washington Post, "Bush administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, yesterday argued that the new law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody does not apply to people held at the military prison. In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain... to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as ‘systematic torture.'"

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

U.S. Opens Iran Propaganda Office

New US focus on promoting democracy in Iran:

The US State Department has created an office dedicated to Iran to reflect the Bush administration’s new focus on promoting democracy in the Islamic republic, officials said on Thursday.

Read article from Information Clearing House

ACLU: As Patriot Act Fight Continues Americans Reject Expansive Presidential Powers

Update from the ACLU:

The Senate voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act this week, failing to include common sense reforms to bring that law in line with the Constitution by restoring checks and balances and ensuring the protection of the fundamental freedoms and privacy of all Americans. The House is expected to adopt a bill next week to amend the Patriot Act reauthorization bill conference report it passed last December.

The ACLU applauds the efforts of those Senators who sought to include much-needed reforms in the Patriot Act reauthorization bill and stood firm in their commitment to protect our freedoms.

All this takes places as Americans across the political spectrum express increasing concern about the reckless policies of President Bush and his Administration. A new poll of over 1000 Americans shows that a majority reject the President's illegal program of warrantless domestic surveillance, and doubt that he acted within the bounds of the law.

The American people reject the White House's assertion that the President has the authority to act outside of the law whenever and however he deems necessary. We've posted results and selected questions from the survey online so you can give your own opinions and see how they compare to our nationwide poll of voters across the political spectrum.

Thanks to your efforts, the Patriot Act reauthorization process has been a debate over fundamental freedoms, not the quick rubber-stamp the White House hoped for last spring, and real momentum for reform is still alive in Congress.

The fight to reform the Patriot Act is far from over, as Congress is planning hearings to investigate the massive increase in National Security Letter (NSL) record requests, an issue the ACLU continues to fight, and win on, in the federal courts. But the fact is, until the Bush Administration chooses the rule of law over its pattern of abuses of power, any new reforms may simply go ignored under this President's extreme views of unlimited executive authority.

Your active involvement will help us continue to make a difference in the fight.

See the Faces of Surveillance

Stop the abuse of power. Sign our Demand for the Truth petition here.

Get updates from Capitol Hill and links to related news on our Patriot Act Blog.

The ACLU has just announced the results of a new poll that reveals American voters' attitudes on presidential powers and spying. See how your answers compare to those in the national poll. Take our survey.

Civil Liberties and Two Oscar Nominated Films

An Uncanny Resemblance to Brokeback Mountain

Though they were in a committed and loving relationship, Sam Beaumont and Earl Meadows were not the types to march in a gay pride rally. “We had a real nice, quiet life together,” Sam said of their life in Bristow, Oklahoma.

That ended when Earl died two years ago. Now Sam is not only facing life without his other half, but also the very real possibility of losing the home they built and lived in together for 23 years. Unfortunately, the notarized will Earl drafted to leave everything to Sam had only one witness -- Oklahoma requires two. To make matters worse, almost all the couple's assets were in Earl's name.

If Sam and Earl could have married, the property would have passed to Sam automatically. But since Oklahoma law doesn't recognize same-sex relationships, the home Sam and Earl shared went to Earl's disapproving cousins who rarely spoke to Earl when he was alive and had never even set foot on the property. Meanwhile, Sam is struggling to hold on to what little he has left.

Brokeback Mountain is a powerful drama that tells the story of a romantic relationship between two male ranchers. The film has been nominated for eight Academy Awards and draws attention to the struggles of same-sex relationships when there are little or no legal protections.

To read more about Sam and Earl, go here.

Good Night and Good Luck Tells Story of Free Press

Good Night and Good Luck tells the story of five journalists who exercise their basic freedoms to expose Sen. Joe McCarthy, who they felt would destroy those freedoms in an effort to defend them. Sen. McCarthy was famous for "naming" people as Communists and bullying. Edward R. Murrow led the group of journalists that confronted McCarthy. Murrow and his team eventually brought McCarthy down, but it was not without a fight. Congressional hearings that were supposed to expose Communists ended up exposing McCarthy and his effort to suppress free speech.

The film is a true representation of the complexities the journalists face when trying to tell the truth.

To read more about McCarthyism and the ACLU, go here.

Excerpt from "McCarthyism Lives: The Case of David Horowitz":
"Right-wing ideologue David Horowitz provides living proof that McCarthyism is alive and well. His latest tirade is the just-published book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics. It would be laughable, if not for the fact that a lot of people accept his assertions as “fact” and, even worse, embrace the name-calling and demonizing style of discourse that Joe McCarthy perfected and David Horowitz continues.

Like McCarthy, Horowitz attacks as “dangerous” anyone who offers a critical thought about the United States."

U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Review Federal Abortion Ban Ruling

Three decades of legal precedent to protect women's health should be the guide as the U.S. Supreme Court hears the case of Carhart v. Gonzales. Brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the case is one of three challenges to the Federal Abortion Ban signed into law by President Bush in 2003.

"The Supreme Court struck down a nearly identical state ban only six years ago in part because it failed to include protections for women's health. Congress deliberately defied that ruling when it passed the federal ban," said Talcott Camp, Deputy Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

Late last month, two federal appeals courts also held the ban unconstitutional. In a challenge brought by the National Abortion Federation and seven individual physicians, the Second Circuit affirmed that the ban requires a health exception and asked for further legal briefings to determine how to remedy the violation. On the same day, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision striking down the ban in a challenge brought by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (Planned Parenthood v. Gonzales).

Congress passed the federal ban despite the numerous court decisions, including a decision in 2000 by the Supreme Court in Stenberg v. Carhart, striking down similar state bans. Courts have consistently struck down the bans for two reasons: their broad language prohibits abortions as early as 13 weeks in pregnancy, and they lack exceptions to protect women's health.

For more information, go here.

New Documents Provide Further Evidence That Senior Officials Approved Abuse of Prisoners at Guantánamo

Newly acquired documents obtained by the ACLU show that senior Defense Department officials approved aggressive interrogation techniques that FBI agents deemed abusive, ineffective and unlawful.

"We now possess overwhelming evidence that political and military leaders endorsed interrogation methods that violate both domestic and international law," said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU attorney. "It is entirely unacceptable that no senior official has been held accountable."

Included in the release is a memorandum prepared by FBI personnel on May 30, 2003, which supplies a detailed discussion of tensions between FBI and Defense Department personnel stationed at Guantánamo in late 2002. According to the memo, Defense Department interrogators were encouraged by their superiors to "use aggressive interrogation tactics" that FBI agents believed were "of questionable effectiveness and subject to uncertain interpretation based on law and regulation."

While some of the documents indicate that FBI personnel objected to Defense Department interrogation policies at Guantánamo, others raise serious questions about the FBI's own policies -- and particularly about the agency's response to the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. In one e-mail, dated January 24, 2004, the FBI's on-scene commander in Baghdad discusses whether the FBI should investigate the abuse or whether it should leave the task to military investigators. The e-mail, which was sent to senior FBI officials at FBI headquarters, advises that the FBI should decline to investigate. "We need to maintain good will and relations with those operating the prison," the e-mail states. "Our involvement in the investigation of the alleged abuse might harm our liaison."

To date, more than 90,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The ACLU has been posting these documents online at

U.S.: New Coalition Website Fights Government-Funded Religious Discrimination

The religious liberty of Americans is under attack.

Under the guise of the so-called "faith-based initiative," some members of Congress and the Bush Administration are campaigning to allow taxpayer funds to be used for religious discrimination.

Their proposals seek to grant religious social service providers -- who have long provided admirable and essential services to America's communities -- the right to discriminate, proselytize and play by different rules than other charities while spending tax dollars. If these efforts are successful, social workers, psychologists, counselors, teachers and others seeking to work in tax-funded social service programs could be denied jobs solely because of their faith.

This would be a radical shift away from the American tradition of religious freedom.

The ACLU is a member of the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination, a group of religious, civil rights, labor, education, health and advocacy organizations who believe in defending the First Amendment and the religious liberty of all Americans. With these groups, we are fighting to protect the Constitution.

Lawmakers need to hear from members of the clergy and religious leaders, and from social service providers or professionals who believe that government funding of religion and religious discrimination is wrong. If you are a religious leader or service provider, now is the time to make your voice heard.

Visit the new coalition website at to sign an open letter to the president and Congress.

Bloggers of Ontario Unite!

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