Saturday, March 25, 2006

Katrina's Aftermath Transforms Work in the Gulf Region

Six months after Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Coast struggles with a new challenge - who will do the rebuilding? The region is awash in clean-up and reconstruction projects, but with more than 1.5 million people displaced by the hurricane, ready hands are in short supply.

Read more here.

Migration of Working-Age People Has Devastated Many Mexican Villages

Decades ago, before massive waves of young men fled north, Pedro Avila Salamanca helped his father harvest corn and fatten pigs. Avila is a part of the immigration debate that neither Mexican political leaders nor cheap-labor advocates in the United States like to talk about: heavy migration has all but emptied much of the Mexican countryside.

Read more here.

Little Time to Avoid Big Thaw

Global warming appears to be pushing vast reservoirs of ice on Greenland and Antarctica toward a significant, long-term meltdown. The world may have as little as a decade to take the steps to avoid this scenario.

Read more here.

Prominent Former Insider Breaking the Silence

Andrew Natsios has taken a lot of flak over his role in Iraq. In the ensuing three years, Natsios, a lifelong Republican, has played the loyal soldier for the administration, regularly defending the US reconstruction effort in Iraq. For the first time, Natsios publicly gave vent to his long-suppressed frustrations over the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq occupation. In an interview with Newsweek he harshly criticized the administration.

Read more here.

Women Wage Key Campaigns for Democrats

If the Democrats have their way, the 2006 Congressional elections will be the revenge of the 'Mommy' party. Democratic women are running major campaigns in nearly half of the two dozen most competitive House races, where their party hopes to pick up enough Republican seats to regain control of the House.

Read more here:

Tomgram: Nick Miroff on How George Bush Unified a Continent

Not quite a year ago, I wrote a piece called Moving Out of the Superpower Orbit. While the Bush administration, I suggested, was putting much effort into stripping the former Soviet Union, now Russia, of its Central Asian imperial "near abroad" -- that was the Russian term for it -- the U.S. "near abroad" in Latin American, our imperial "backyard," was quietly peeling away under the pressure of democratic "people power" movements. Both of these developments, I argued, revealed the essential weakening of the two superpowers that, for half a century, had held the world in a Cold-War grip.

Recently, a variety of writers have been exploring the stunning transformation of Latin America as it continues to be seismically shaken out of the U.S. orbit. To mention just a few examples: In Out of Fear, Ariel Dorfman considers whether the new, democratic Latin America can confront its most "endemic problems"; in Breaking Free of Washington's Grip, Noam Chomsky analyzes Latin America's emerging place in the regional blocs that seem to be coalescing in a post-Cold War world; while in Latin America Unchained, Mark Engler wonders whether there will be an independent economic (as well as political) path for Latin American debtor-nations trying to cut their ties with the International Monetary Fund and, implicitly, with Washington-oriented solutions to their desperate economic problems.

In the second piece posted here from the class I teach at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley (all of which will appear in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle Insight section), Nick Miroff offers the story of Latin America's transformation with a particularly striking twist. Tom

Che Rides Again (On a Mountain Bike)
By Nick Miroff

Has Latin America ever had such a unifying figure?

At political rallies, his visage is held aloft as a beacon to regional independence and self-determination. He's helped forge new trade partnerships to spur economic growth and alleviate poverty. And his leadership has fanned a gale-force electoral trend that's sweeping the hemisphere to topple one pro-Washington government after the next.

Who is this grand inductor of Latin American leftism? Venezuelan fireball Hugo Chavez? Blue-collar Brazilian Lula Ignacio da Silva? Bolivia's coca-farmer-cum-president, Evo Morales?

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

James Howard Kunstler on American Politics / The Long Emergency

American politics have fallen into a gothic family melodrama, and the theme is the same one being played out on the micro level all over the country: failed parenting. James Howard Kunstler explains...

Dead-Beat Dads and Mommies-With-a-Vengeance
by James Howard Kunstler

Politics is the way we work out our collective national psychology - if you believe in such a thing (and I do). The Republicans have made themselves into the Daddy Party and the Democrats have become Mommy - and both are failing.

George W. Bush is our "Ward Cleaver," the very visible head of the household with no apparent duties other than being visible. The mission of the Daddy Party is pure Daddy stuff: to prevent the daughters from getting in trouble (having fun) with boys, to grub as much money as possible via mysterious corporate activities to support the family, and to defend the household if necessary. So, we get the "right-to-life" campaign (which is becoming the anti-contraception and anti-sex campaign), and the tacit support for any kind of corporate mischief in pursuit of profits in the "marketplace," and the prosecution of war against "the terrorists."

The Mommy Party wants everybody to feel good and for all outcomes to be fair, even if Mommy has to use force to make it happen. Since the Mommy Party is not afraid of appearing cultivated and is in charge of the family's education, the Mommy Party has taken defacto control of the universities, where justice and fairness are the main courses of study. Mommy's discipline there is very severe for those who cross Mommy - ask Larry Summers over at Harvard. The men of the Mommy Party are uniformly
"whipped" and must submit to an ideology that regards gender confusion as an achievement - because all daddies are such losers.

The Daddy Party has entered a zone of failure both frightening and abject. Daddy has mismanaged the family finances so badly that the repo man may take the house away. He's on a rampage against his daughters (some of whom remain romantically infatuated with Daddy and still wish to please him at all costs). He's addicted to a petroleum-based smack and refuses to consider any behavioral changes that might get him off the stuff. And he's gone and poked a stick into the largest hornets' nest in his drug dealer's 'hood."

The Mommy Party doesn't want to talk about the mismanagement of the household and its relations with other households. The Mommy Party is excessively concerned with appearances (sometimes at the expense of the truth). The Mommy Party gets around these inconveniences by focusing on everybody's feelings. The Mommy Party is like an Oprah show that never ends and resolves nothing.

Because Daddy is failing so badly, and the family anxiety level is so high, the children allied with Mommy have fantasized a dark Daddy alter ego that they transfer their fears to. That's Vice-president Dick Cheney. Daddy's activities may be mysterious, but his alter ego's duties are clear: to keep those corporate systems running things in the background happy and productive by any means necessary. Nobody doubts the alter ego's power and influence in these matters. He is considered as adept as Daddy is inept. If you cross him, he might even blow your head off, so watch

With the Daddy Party entering what appears to be terminal failure, all eyes are now turned to the Mommy Party and its presumed figurehead, Mommy-with-a-vengence, Hillary. There is still the hope that she can carry on as the head of a single-parent family, keep the corporate flywheels spinning, and even look after the family's security from the thugs coming into the 'hood.

My own guess is that actual conditions in the household may be too far gone for even Mommy to set things right. Our situation with oil and natural gas are much more dire than the kid's realize. Dad's investments were idiotic and his portfolio is shredded. Not only is the house about to be repossessed, but the car and the home theater will be going with it. The bad 'hoods around the world are set to explode. The kids are going to have to grow up fast. Some will just go feral. Some will become Mommies
and Daddies themselves, and they will try to form new households with the remnants of the old one. Maybe they can cobble together something like an American common culture out of whatever's left, and recreate some organizing principles for a family life that make sense.

Let's just hope that social services doesn't have to come in to clean up the mess.

James Kunstler has worked as a reporter and feature writer for a number of newspapers, and finally as a staff writer for Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1975, he dropped out to write books on a full-time basis.

You can get more from James Kunstler - including his artwork, information about his other novels, and his blog - at his Web site:

The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century
by James Kunstler

Kunstler established a writing career criticizing American suburbia, and his animosity against his bete noire does not abate here. It's a wide-casting, statistics-studded ramble through energy production and technologies, world economic and political history, and climatology that culminates in predictions that the suburbs are doomed. Discerning an imminent future of protracted socioeconomic crisis, Kunstler foresees the progressive dilapidation of subdivisions and strip malls, the depopulation of the American Southwest, and, amid a world at war over oil, military
invasions of the West Coast; when the convulsion subsides, Americans will live in smaller places and eat locally grown food.

To get your copy, click here: The Long Emergency

Note: The above information is from the Daily Reckoning's weekend edition (March 25), to which I subscribe, finding it an interesting, entertaining, highly-informative newsletter.

The Daily Reckoning is a free, daily e-mail service brought to you by the authors of the NY Times Business Bestsellers: "Financial Reckoning Day", "Demise Of Dollar", and "Empire Of Debt".

To learn more or subscribe, see:

Ex-Halliburton Staff in Saudi Kickback

A former employee of a Halliburton subsidiary has pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks from a Saudi subcontractor that was awarded a $14.4 million US military contract to provide dining facilities for soldiers in Kuwait. Stephen Lowell Seamans, a former Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) Services Inc. manager in Kuwait, pleaded guilty on 10 March to wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money, a US Attorney's office announced on Thursday after unsealing court documents.
Full Story

Argentina Marks Coup Anniversary

Families of the 30,000 people believed killed during Argentina's Dirty War have led commemorations to mark the 30th anniversary of the coup that brought the military to power.

Amid simmering resentment over the lack of punishment of top military officers involved in the 24 March 1976 coup, thousands descended on the Plaza de Mayo square in central Buenos Aires on Friday.
Full Story

Kabul Under Pressure in Convert Case

Afghanistan appears to be bowing to massive Western pressure after a senior official said a man facing a possible death sentence for converting to Christianity would probably be released from jail. Top government officials will meet on Saturday to discuss Abdul Rahman, 41, who was denounced by his own parents and arrested under Islamic Sharia law on his return to Afghanistan from Germany two weeks ago.
Full Story

Walter Mosley's Search for Context

AlterNet's Marie Louise Tucker writes about Walter Mosley and his latest non-fiction book here. She does a great interview which high-lights some of the author's provocative ideas:
The famed author of the Easy Rawlins crime novels makes politics personal in his new nonfiction monograph, 'Life Out of Context.'

Walter Mosley's latest monograph, "Life Out of Context," is a cognitive journey that tackles the big questions many of us have furtively attempted to answer. How can we make a difference in a topsy-turvy world where average citizens seem so powerless? What can be done to help the masses of people suffering in poor nations? Is there an effective way for us to individually fight for global justice in a corporatized, corrupted world?

Mosley invites readers into his thought process as he attempts to answer these questions over a series of sleepless nights. He wonders how he, or anyone, can respond to the forces of globalization, exploitation and racism. In taking on such a large task, he thankfully starts from a perspective that many can relate to. He is not part of a movement; his life, he writes, is "filled with contradictions and seemingly nonsensical juxtapositions," just like the rest of us. And that's exactly why Mosley's words resonate.

As the title suggests, Mosley searches for a political context, beginning within his own professional life and moving on to the tragedies of the African continent. Ruminating on the idea of context, Mosley writes: "I am living in a time that has no driving social framework for a greater good. There are many, many disparate notions about how to make a better world, but these are just so many voices singing a thousand songs in different keys, registers and styles -- a choir of bedlam."

He argues that it's irresponsible and dangerous to leave the fate of the world up to political leaders because they "are just as likely to mislead as they are to lead." He rightly points out that our political experts "are not interested in the truth. Their only goal is to prove a point of view."

As for Mosley, he focuses on asking questions, imagining change and prompting others to use what they have -- their vote, their voices, their profession, their talents and ability to protest -- to challenge the forces of economic globalism and exploitation. Among his suggestions are the formation of a Black Party and a House of Representatives comprised of elected officials representing identity groups -- gay people, blacks, angry white men, the elderly, etc. -- rather than geographical areas.

In essence, he asks that we all re-envision ourselves and our own political context -- and he begins with himself:

Click here to read Maria Louise Tucker's interview.

Canada to Hand Over Suspects to Kabul

Terrorist suspects captured by Canadians troops in Afghanistan will go to Afghan prisons instead of into the U.S. detention system under a new pact signed between the Canadian and Afghan militaries. However, according to Amir Attaran, a law professor at the University of Ottawa: "[Gen.] Hillier is placing rank-and-file Canadian troops, unwittingly, in the position of very likely being accessories to torture and, therefore, war criminals under international and Canadian law."

Prof. Attaran will be hosting a symposium on whether Canada's military is "complicit in torture in Afghanistan".

Kabul's treatment of prisoners has been harshly condemned.

Read more in this Globe and Mail article.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Tomdispatch: Chad Heeter, Breakfasting on Valvoline

Part of every spring, I venture out to the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley and get myself attached, as an editor, to a group of young journalists. In the course of a semester, they learn something about writing -- and rewriting -- from me, while I learn much that's surprising about our world (and technology I'll never be able to handle) from them.

The initial set of pieces my class has produced, covering a remarkable range of subjects, will appear this Sunday in the Insight section of the San Francisco Chronicle, a thrill for everyone involved. As last year, I get to preview two of the pieces that fit best with Tomdispatch's obsessional interests. The first of these is Chad Heeter's exploration of just how much the phrase "you are what you eat" (even for breakfast) catches our "peak oil" moment.

While attending journalism school, Heeter has also been a researcher for Michael Pollan, author of The Botany of Desire, who appeared in an interview at Tomdispatch a year ago. (By the way, Pollan's new book, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, debuts in a couple of weeks and, given how much I liked his last one, I plan to be at the head of the line when it hits my local bookstore.) Now, get your spoon ready -- or should it be your dipstick? -- and, before you dig into your first meal of the day, check out whether or not you're low on oil. Tom

My Saudi Arabian Breakfast
By Chad Heeter

Please join me for breakfast. It's time to fuel up again.

On the table in my small Berkeley apartment this particular morning is a healthy looking little meal -- a bowl of imported McCann's Irish oatmeal topped with Cascadian Farms organic frozen raspberries, and a cup of Peet's Fair Trade Blend coffee. Like most of us, I prepare my breakfast at home and the ingredients for this one probably cost me about $1.25. (If I went to a café in downtown Berkeley, I'd likely have to add another $6.00, plus tip for the same.)

My breakfast fuels me up with about 400 calories, and it satisfies me. So, for just over a buck and half an hour spent reading the morning paper in my own kitchen, I'm energized for the next few hours. But before I put spoon to cereal, what if I consider this bowl of oatmeal porridge (to which I've just added a little butter, milk, and a shake of salt) from a different perspective. Say, a Saudi Arabian one.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Syrian Forces Re-arrest Dissident Writer

Syrian security forces have arrested a dissident writer after at least four other people including his son were detained for speaking out against the government, rights activists say. Both the Syrian Human Rights Organisation and Anwar Bunni, a human rights lawyer, said Ali Abdullah, who spent five months behind bars last year, had been arrested at his home for "unknown reasons".
Full Story

ICH: BBC Video: Aftermath Of A Massacre

Have American troops been killing unarmed civilians in Iraq?

Must watch BBC Reports

This is the account of a nine year old survivor. "I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest then in the head, then they killed my granny.
Watch VIDEO here.

9/11 & Bush's 'Negligence'

The U.S. government's pursuit of the death penalty against al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui has inadvertently shown that even a mildly competent George W. Bush could have headed off the attack that killed almost 3,000 people and sent the nation off on a dangerous mission of revenge. If Bush had reacted aggressively to the CIA's Aug. 6, 2001, warning, he could have energized the FBI and CIA to put together the final pieces of the puzzle. Instead, he went fishing and called no meetings until after Sept. 11.

For the full story on this fateful case of government "negligence," go to

Afghan Boy Dies Despite Canadian Help

An Afghan boy who received cancer treatment through the generosity of Canadian soldiers and a church in Edmonton has died.

Spain Cautiously Welcomes ETA's Ceasefire Offer

ETA, the Basque separatist group believed responsible for more than 800 deaths in Spain in the last 45 years, said Wednesday that it was imposing a "permanent ceasefire" in its quest for an independent homeland.

RCMP Cofirms Involvement in Freeing Three Western Hostages

The RCMP have confirmed to CBC News that they were involved in freeing three Western peace workers held hostage in Iraq, but neither the prime minister nor the Department of National Defence is commenting on details of the dramatic rescue.

AIUSA: Arms Trade Action Alert

Halt Arms Trafficking into the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The profitable and illegal flow of arms to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s tragic war continues to pose a major threat to the protection of fundamental human rights in the DRC and the wider Great Lakes region.

Please urge the U.S. Secretary of State to encourage compliance with the arms embargo on the part of Congo’s neighboring countries, and to investigate and prosecute the international network of clandestine profiteers who sell these weapons and make their fortunes from Congo.

Other News and Updates:

Don’t Miss Activities Focused on the Global Arms Trade at Amnesty's Annual General Meeting

At this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Portland, the Military, Security, Police Transfers Working Group (MSPWG) will host a workshop and a break between program sessions on Saturday, April 29th.

At the morning workshop, you will experience the ease at which arms merchants funnel arms to human rights abusers at a fictitious arms bazaar and learn about arms trafficking into the DRC. You will also learn about activities to encourage the United States to help stop troublesome international arms transfers at the UN in June/July.

Later that afternoon from 12pm until 4pm, there will be an opportunity to participate in other interactive activities while you enjoy light refreshments. If you will be at the AGM and are interested in helping out with the bazaar or the break, please contact us at:

Get Educated: New Study Explores U.S. Position on UN Small Arms Conference
As you prepare for activities to encourage the United States to support global principles on the transfer of small arms and light weapons at the UN this summer, it is essential to have an understanding of the U.S. position. A new study, written by Rachel Stohl with the Center for Defense Information, identifies key U.S. policies and attitudes about the global effort to establish global principles. The paper also details U.S. arms export laws and how they match the Control Arms Campaign proposed global principles. Read the study here.
Please note that listing of a link to a non-AI site is not an endorsement of its contents by Amnesty International.

Join the Military, Security, Police Transfers Working Group
AIUSA’s Military, Security and Police Transfers Working Group (MSPWG) seeks to curb human rights abuses that are made possible via the international arms trade. The group focuses in particular on the export of weapons and military training from the United States that contribute to violations of human rights. Currently, the working group and staff are collaborating on a joint AI-Oxfam-IANSA campaign to help stem the flow of small arms to human rights violators and promote an international treaty to regulate the arms trade. Submit your application.

Amnesty International USA

Amnesty International: Case of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

22 March 2006
Afghanistan: Case of Abdul Rahman underlines urgent need for judicial reform

Amnesty International today called on the Afghan authorities to urgently commit themselves to judicial reform and the upholding of international standards as Abdul Rahman, 41, reportedly faces calls for his execution in connection with his reported conversion from Islam to Christianity.

According to press reports, Abdul Rahman has been charged in a lower court with converting to Christianity over 15 years ago, while working in Peshawar, Pakistan, where he worked with a foreign NGO assisting Afghan refugees. Abdul Rahman has reportedly been accused of converting to Christianity by estranged members of his family, possibly in connection with a dispute over the custody of children.

State prosecutors, apparently relying on Article 130 of Afghanistan’s constitution, have charged Abdul Rahman for his alleged conversion. Article 130 enables prosecutors to bring forward cases of alleged crimes about which there is no codified law “in accordance with the Hanafi jurisprudence”. The same article, however, calls on courts to rule “within the limits of the constitution” and “in a way to serve justice in the best possible manner”.

Article 7 of the Constitution declares, moreover, that “the state shall abide by the UN Charter, international treaties, international conventions that Afghanistan has signed, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the government of Afghanistan is bound to uphold Article 18, which provides that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and that “this right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice”. In its General Comment on this Article, the Human Rights Committee, the panel of independent UN experts which examine states’ implementation to the ICCPR, has stated* that “the freedom to ‘have or to adopt’ a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one's religion or belief”. It further stated that “the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to their religious beliefs […], to recant their religion or belief or to convert” is prohibited.

Amnesty International believes that for "justice to be served in the best possible manner", as required by Article 130 of the Constitution, the authorities should ensure that international standards of justice, including human rights law are accorded a primary place, as guaranteed by the Article 7 of the Constitution.

If Abdul Rahman has been charged solely because of his religious beliefs, Amnesty International would consider him a prisoner of conscience and would call for his immediate and unconditional release. The charges against him should be dropped and if necessary he should be protected against any abuses within the community.

The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Amnesty International unconditionally opposes its imposition in all cases. Death sentences passed by primary courts are required to be upheld by higher courts and President Karzai for them to be implemented.

More on the Death Penalty

* See UN document entitled General Comment No. 22: The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Art. 18); CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4,30 July 1993.

You may repost this message onto other sources provided the main text is not altered in any way and both the header crediting Amnesty International and this footer remain intact. Only the list subscription message may be removed.
Past and current Amnesty news services can be found at

Visit for information about Amnesty International and for other AI publications.

Contact if you need to get in touch with the International Secretariat of Amnesty International.

Marjorie Cohn: Israel, al Qaeda and Iran

Marjorie Cohn writes that since George W. Bush gave his "axis of evil" speech, he has invaded Iraq, changed its regime, and created a quagmire reminiscent of Vietnam. His administration is now sending clear signals that Iran is next in line for regime change. The raison d'etre: Iran's nuclear program, an al Qaeda connection, and protecting Israel.

Read this truthout Perspective here.

Cindy Sheehan: Volunteers for Endless War

Cindy Sheehan: "Being on the road constantly and being in the trenches for peace leaves me little time (and, if truth be told, little inclination) to keep up with George's dishonest and often incoherent ramblings; nonetheless, this week, two of his more calculated comments caught my attention."

Read full article here.

Bush Changes Direction With India

By signing a nuclear co-operation agreement with India, George W. Bush broke with a policy that had been the United States' for over fifty years and that was supported by Republicans as well as Democrats: the refusal to encourage nuclear proliferation.

Read this article from Libération here.

Christian Peace Group Calls for End to Iraq Occupation

While the Christian Peacemakers Teams expressed joy at their colleagues' sudden rescue from captivity in Iraq today, the peace activists took the opportunity to also call for an end to the US-led occupation of Iraq.

Read about it here:

Norman Solomon | Blaming the Media for Bad War News

With the current war less popular than ever, it's never been more important for war backers to blame the media. The myth of the liberal media is an umbrella canard that shelters the corollary myth of anti-war media, writes Norman Solomon.

Read article here:

New Mexico Democrats Call for Bush Impeachment

The New Mexico Democratic Party is calling for President Bush's removal from office. Party Chairman John Wertheim said Tuesday that delegates to Saturday's state party convention supported a call for the president's impeachment largely because of "perceived abuses of power and corruption in the Bush administration."

Read more here:

Is War the Real National Pastime?

In his provocative documentary "Why We Fight," director Eugene Jarecki asks whether Washington's foreign policy is overly preoccupied with the idea of military supremacy, and if the military has become too important in US life. Jarecki interviews subjects from across the political spectrum.

Jarecki interviews subjects from across the political spectrum, including Wilton Sekzer, a retired New York police officer whose son died in the Sep. 11 attack on the World Trade Centre; Bill Kristol, editor of the neo-conservative Weekly Standard; Gore Vidal, a prominent author and liberal commentator; James Roche, secretary of the US Air Force; and US pilots identified as Fuji and Tooms, who dropped the first bombs over Baghdad when the Iraq war broke in 2003.

Following are excerpts from a recent interview IPS conducted with the award-winning filmmaker.

Read interview excerpts here:

Thursday, March 23, 2006

VIDEO SPECIAL | Why Did We Go to War?

George Bush finally let Helen Thomas ask him a question after four years of ducking her. She asked him a simple question: "Why did we go to war?" Three years after the start of the war, he still has no answer that makes sense, and he gets Afghanistan and Iraq mixed up, again, by talking about al-Qaeda and the Taliban, in answer to the Helen's question. With lots of arm-waving and incoherent rambling, he finally manages to get back on track, giving childishly inept, inane answers.

Watch it here:

VIDEO SPECIAL | Latino March for Peace

A Film by Scott Galindez and Ted Sapphire

On March 12, 2006, Fernando Suarez del Solar and Pablo Paredes started a march with a coalition of the willing across 240+ miles in a quest for peace that aims at raising the Latino voice of opposition to the war in Iraq. The March will run from Tijuana, Mexico, all the way to the mission district of San Francisco, making strategic, symbolic and ceremonial stops along the way. The 241-mile march is inspired by Gandhi’s 1930 Salt March protesting British imperialism and will serve as a loud cry for an end to the bloodshed in Iraq.

Watch it here:

Tomdispatch Interview: Chalmers Johnson on Our Fading Republic

In Part 1 of his interview, Chalmers Johnson suggested what that fall-of-the-Berlin-Wall, end-of-the-Cold-War moment meant to him; explored how deeply empire and militarism have entered the American bloodstream; and began to consider what it means to live in an unacknowledged state of military Keynesianism, garrisoning the planet, and with an imperial budget -- a real yearly Pentagon budget -- of perhaps three-quarters of a trillion dollars. Tom

What Ever Happened to Congress?
A Tomdispatch Interview with Chalmers Johnson (Part 2)

You were discussing the lunacy of the 2007 Pentagon budget…

Chalmers Johnson: What I don't understand is that the current defense budget and the recent Quadrennial Defense Review (which has no strategy in it at all) are just continuations of everything we did before. Make sure that the couple of hundred military golf courses around the world are well groomed, that the Lear jets are ready to fly the admirals and generals to the Armed Forces ski resort in Garmisch in the Bavarian Alps or the military's two luxury hotels in downtown Seoul and Tokyo.

What I can't explain is what has happened to Congress. Is it just that they're corrupt? That's certainly part of it. I'm sitting here in California's 50th district. This past December, our congressman Randy Cunningham confessed to the largest single bribery case in the history of the U.S. Congress: $2.4 million in trinkets -- a Rolls Royce, some French antiques -- went to him, thanks to his ability as a member of the military subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to add things secretly to the budget. He was doing this for pals of his running small companies. He was adding things even the Department of Defense said it didn't want.

This is bribery and, as somebody said the other day, Congress comes extremely cheap. For $2.4 million, these guys got about $175 million in contracts. It was an easy deal.

The military is out of control. As part of the executive branch, it's expanded under cover of the national security state. Back when I was a kid, the Pentagon was called the Department of War. Now, it's the Department of Defense, though it palpably has nothing to do with defense. Hasn't for a long time. We even have another department of the government today that's concerned with "homeland security." You wonder what on Earth do we have that for -- and a Dept of Defense, too!

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Former GOP Strategist Kevin Phillips on American Theocracy

The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century

The Bush electorate is probably 50 to 55% people who believe in Armageddon and probably more or less the same numbers who believe that the Antichrist is already on earth, according to Kevin Phillips, longtime Republican strategist and author of several books.

Read Amy Goodman's interview with Kevin Phillips here.

Bush's Lies, Again

At a televised news conference, George W. Bush was at it again -- lying about how Saddam Hussein supposedly blocked United Nations weapons inspectors in 2003, leaving Bush no choice but to invade Iraq. And the U.S. press corps played its role, too, failing to challenge the President on his favorite canards that were again presented to the American people as undisputed facts.

For the full story about Bush's revisionist history, go to

Brother of Afghan man shot by troops wants Canadian citizenship for family

The family of Nasrat Ali Hassan, who was accidentally shot dead by Canadian troops at a military checkpoint in Kandahar, should be compensated with an offer of Canadian citizenship according to his brother. This has the backing of a local Kandahar politician.
The family's bid to immigrate has the backing of Mohammed Yousef Hussaini, a local Kandahar politician running for Afghanistan's parliament.

"If Canada does not agree to this, then Canada is not our friend, Canada is our enemy," he said through a translator.

Read full article here.

Tomdispatch Interview: Chalmers Johnson on Our Military Empire

[Note to Tomdispatch readers: This is the sixth in an ongoing series of interviews at the site. The last three were with Juan Cole (parts 1 and 2), Ann Wright, and Mark Danner. Tom.]

Cold Warrior in a Strange Land
A Tomdispatch Interview with Chalmers Johnson (Part 1)

As he and his wife Sheila drive me through downtown San Diego in the glare of mid-day, he suddenly exclaims, "Look at that structure!" I glance over and just across the blue expanse of the harbor is an enormous aircraft carrier. "It's the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan," he says, "the newest carrier in the fleet. It's a floating Chernobyl and it sits a proverbial six inches off the bottom with two huge atomic reactors. You make a wrong move and there goes the country's seventh largest city."

Soon, we're heading toward their home just up the coast in one of those fabled highway traffic jams that every description of Southern California must include. "We feel we're far enough north," he adds in the kind of amused tone that makes his company both alarming and thoroughly entertaining, "so we could see the glow, get the cat, pack up, and head for Quartzsite, Arizona."

Chalmers Johnson, who served in the U.S. Navy and now is a historian of American militarism, lives cheek by jowl with his former service. San Diego is the headquarters of the 11th Naval District. "It's wall to wall military bases right up the coast," he comments. "By the way, this summer the Pentagon's planning the largest naval concentration in the Pacific in the post-World War II period! Four aircraft-carrier task forces -- two from the Atlantic and that's almost unprecedented -- doing military exercises off the coast of China."

That afternoon, we seat ourselves at his dining room table. He's seventy-four years old, crippled by rheumatoid arthritis and bad knees. He walks with a cane, but his is one of the spriest minds in town. Out the window I can see a plethora of strange, oversized succulents. ("That's an Agave attenuata," he says. "If you want one, feel free. We have them everywhere. When the blue-gray Tequila plant blooms, its flower climbs 75 feet straight up! Then you get every hummingbird in Southern California.") In the distance, the Pacific Ocean gleams.

Johnson is wearing a black t-shirt that, he tells me, a former military officer and friend brought back from Russia. ("He was amused to see hippies selling these in the Moscow airport.") The shirt sports an illustration of an AK-47 on its front with the inscription, "Mikhail Kalashnikov" in Cyrillic script, and underneath, "The freedom fighter's friend, a product of the Soviet Union." On the back in English, it says, "World Massacre Tour" with the following list: "The Gulf War, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Angola, Laos, Nicaragua, Salvador, Lebanon, Gaza Strip, Karabakh, Chechnya… To be continued."

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Iraq Dispatches: Operation Swarm of Lies

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

Monday 20 March 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We have received information from citizens and human rights activists in Samarra stating that the region, under American and Iraqi military operation ... is witnessing dangerous human rights violations, which is confirmed by the following:
1 - The Red Crescent aiding missions are not allowed to enter the region.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To view more photos of the results of the US air-strike on the home in Balad, click 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 is an independent journalist who spent over 8 months reporting from occupied Iraq. He presented evidence of US war crimes in Iraq at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York City this January. He writes regularly for, Inter Press Service, Asia Times, TomDispatch, and maintains his own website

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

Monday, March 20, 2006

UN to Afghan refugees: 'Please don't come home'

Since the Taliban were supposedly toppled in 2001, life in Afghanistan is worse, with the country still dominated by warlords, their militias and the opium trade, and Afghan refugees warned not to return to their homeland.

"IN ONE of the most blunt assessments of post-Taliban life in Afghanistan, a high-ranking United Nations representative has warned refugees not to return home because security is so dire.

The comments came as the fugitive Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, vowed to launch a ferocious offensive against US-led forces."

Meanwhile, in a statement attributed to him, Omar said last week that a stream of young Afghans were volunteering for suicide missions.

Indeed, it looks like a very long, turbulent road ahead toward a functioning country for the Afghanis, and an increasingly dangerous mission for the US-led NATO forces.

Read more in the Sydney Morning Herald article here.

Tomgram: Iran and the Irrationality Factor

Ira...[fill in the letter of your choice]
Connecting the Dots, Bush-Style

By Tom Engelhardt

As readers flee news on the printed page for an on-line life and classified ads head out the door for Craigslist and points west, the Washington Post became just the latest major newspaper to announce significant staff cuts. With fourth-quarter revenue down 3% from the previous year, eighty jobs -- 9% of the Post's newsroom –- are to be shed in the next twelve months. According to the New York Times, Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie, Jr. "said other cost savings could come from having foreign correspondents cover broad topics -- terrorism, say -- rather than cover specific countries, thus allowing for the elimination of some [Post] foreign bureaus."

This, of course, is the route that the TV news followed long ago, shedding foreign bureaus like so much flaky skin. Anyone who loves his or her daily dose of news in print should be dismayed at the thought of news bureaus abroad closing. It's just another way in which American isolation is likely to increase, as our bubble world, so prized by the Bush administration, continues to morph into something more permanent.

On the brighter side, though, assigning more reporters to "broad topics" might have an unexpectedly salutary effect. After all, one of the strangest aspects of the news in the Bush years has been its unwillingness to connect regional or global dots. In most cases, foreign reporting has consisted of stories about only one country (at most two) at a time.

Not so long ago, we lived in a world that the media regularly told us was being connected in ever more complex ways -- think of all that reporting on globalization in the 1990s. But for the last several years, "just disconnect" might have been the reigning news motto. If you read about the Iraq War, you get Iraq, and generally little else. No Turkey, no Israel, few Syrians, no Saudis, nor Egyptians. Reports on our little Afghan war give you Afghanistan, but certainly nothing about the fighters that, according to Syed Saleem Shahzad of Asia Times on-line, the resurgent Taliban, based in Pakistani border areas, has been sending to Iraq for training in the new ways of guerrilla warfare. (Think: IEDs and car bombs.) You would never know from stories in the American press that Iran bordered Afghanistan, or that both India and Russia have complex interests and connections there. And forget about the ‘Stans of Central Asia.) Why exactly this has been so, I leave others to analyze. That it has left our major papers strangely demobilized when it comes to offering us a picture of our world and so in an unequal contest with the Bush administration is hard to deny.

After all, the administration's top officials have had a vision of American geopolitical dominance that has been nothing if not grandly global in nature. In their version of the Great Game, they seldom even bother to deal with one country at a time -- often, as in Iraq, to their detriment. It wasn't by happenstance that they named their "war" of choice the Global War on Terror (GWOT) or that they regularly label the Iraq War not a war at all but a "theater" in their GWOT. In military, political, or energy terms, they have never hesitated to connect the dots in a vast region they once termed the "arc of instability" -- basically, the planet's oil heartlands -- into patterns of imperial dominance.

Where newspaper reporting saw individual countries that happened to have enormous oil or natural gas reserves, this administration has, from the beginning, seen global energy flows. In many ways, Bush's top officials seemed to recognize no traditional boundaries at all. No wonder they were surprised by an insurgency largely based on gut feelings about national sovereignty.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

MCPJ: 'Give Peace a Chance'

Mississauga News Staff photo by Nick Perry

Sundus Zuberi joined demonstrators who rallied in Mississauga yesterday. The protest was held to mark the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Braving the bone-chilling, wintry winds, peace activists from Brampton joined with their counterparts in Mississauga yesterday morning, in a peaceful anti-war, anti-occupation demonstration. Among the speakers present was former Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish.

After their morning rally, many of the peace activists went to downtown Toronto to join with other peace, anti-war, student and union groups for a rally in front of the U.S. Consulate, where speeches were given by several people, among them William Payne of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, and a 15-year-old Iraqi girl who still had family in that besieged country and told of their ordeal there.

Then a large procession of peaceful demonstrators marched throughout downtown Toronto.

About the Mississauga rally:

The message: Give peace a chance.

Members of the Mississauga Coalition for Peace and Justice congregated in the heart of Cooksville today to protest the occupation of Iraq by American and British forces.

On the third anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq, they banded with students, members of the labour movement, various religious groups and other community, braving cold and windy conditions to vent their frustration.

The protest that unfolded at the old four corners of Dundas and Hurontario Sts. was one of many such demonstrations being staged simultaneously around the world.

Former Mississauga Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish, a vocal critic of the President George W. Bush's administration and U.S. foreign policy, joined the protesters in chanting anti-U.S. and anti-war slogans.

Parrish said she supports rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, but was critical what she termed was Canada's increasing military role in the war-torn country.

Read more from the Mississauga News Online here.

Toronto Demonstration

A picture of the Toronto demonstration, with Peter Votsch (left) and myself (right) trying to hold on to our Mississauga Coalition for Peace and Justice banner during an exceptionally strong gust of wind.

This is the article in The Star about the Toronto demonstration:
Anti-war protestors hit streets
Peaceful march marks third anniversary of Iraq invasion

The Star erroneously reported (perhaps to downplay the event) that the demonstrators totalled several hundred:
"Several hundred anti-war protestors marched through the city's downtown core yesterday to mark today's third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq."

I know that the correct number was much closer to over 2,000 demonstrators, as I was there as a participant. (I was also among the Mississauga group.)

Read full Star article here.

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