Saturday, January 06, 2007

Bush's Last Day

How long does Dubya Bush have left in his presidency? How many days, hours, minutes, seconds? Check out this website to find out and follow the count-down to Bush's last day:

Friday, January 05, 2007

Toronto Taxi Drivers Picket Sheraton Hotel

Please Come Out and Join the Toronto Coalition of Concerned Taxi Drivers:

Picket at the Sheraton Hotel (Queen and York, across from City Hall)
Monday January 8th 2007

Early in 2007 the City of Toronto's new Licensing and Standards Committee will meet under the direction of Chairman Howard Moscoe. One of the first items on their agenda will be to deal with the Toronto Coalition of Concerned Taxi Drivers demands for the City to address the issue of Bandit Limos operating illegally in the city.

The Toronto Coalition of Concerned Taxi Drivers is going to keep the pressure on the City with a picket in front of Toronto's busiest hotel.

Please Come Out and Support.

For More Information Contact Ahmet from the Coalition of Concerned Taxi Drivers at 416 271 8425

*** Background on the Bandit Limo Situation ***

In the City of Toronto bylaws permit limousine drivers to pick up passengers ONLY on a pre-arranged basis. However it is standard practice at Downtown Hotels for the management and doormen to accept money from limo drivers in exchange for lucrative fares. This freezes taxi drivers out of airport runs and forces them to either forget about the hotels or be prepared to pay for fares.

The City of Toronto and bylaw enforcement officers are constantly harrassing taxi drivers but refuse to enforce the limo bylaws.

MidEast Dispatches: Execution Memories Refuse To Go Away

In this MidEast Dispatch written for Inter Press Service, independent American journalist Dahr Jamail and Baghdad correspondent Ali al-Fadhily write about the ongoing controversy over the footage of Saddam's execution. The airing of the footage has further damaged the government of embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. All Iraqis have had enough of the war and occupation and the sectarian strife it has unleashed upon their country.

Execution Memories Refuse To Go Away

*Inter Press Service*

Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

*BAGHDAD, Jan. 5 (IPS) - The footage of the execution of Saddam Hussein has generated controversy in Iraq that is refusing to die down.*

Footage of Saddam's last moments, taken by an onlooker with a mobile phone, shows the former dictator appearing calm and composed while dealing with taunts from witnesses below him. The audio reveals several men praising the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Mohammed Bakr al-Sadr, founder of the Shia Dawa Party, who was killed by Saddam in 1980.

"Peace be upon Muhammad and his followers," shouted someone near the person who filmed the events. "Curse his enemies and make victorious his son Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada." These chants are commonly used by members of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia..

There has been a huge international backlash to the footage. In India millions of Muslims demonstrated against the execution being carried out during the sacred festival of Eid.

Across Iraq, Shias seem mostly pleased. "Of course things will be better now that Saddam is dead," Saed Abdul-Hussain, a cleric from the Shia dominated city Najaf told IPS in Baghdad. "It is like hitting the snake on the head and I hope his followers will hand over their weapons and accept the fact that they lost."

But few believe that Saddam was inspiring the armed resistance.

"Who is Saddam and why would he affect anything after his death," a 55-year-old teacher from Fallujah told IPS. "The idea of his leading the resistance from jail is too ridiculous for a sane man to believe. We know that Mujahideen (holy warriors) are the only ones who will kick the occupation out of the country."

Others believe unity between Iraqis is the only answer to the occupation.

"Saddam was terminated the day he was captured by occupation forces," Salah al-Dulaimy from Ramadi told IPS. "Things will continue to be as bad as they are for both Iraqis and Americans because nothing has really changed. A president who was removed from power four years ago is just an ordinary man although the way he was executed and the timing of the execution was a blessing to so many Iraqis, who realised the necessity of being united no matter what religion and sect they belong to."

Facing broadening criticism over release of the mobile phone footage, the Iraqi government arrested a guard accused of filming the execution. Iraqi officials said on Wednesday that the execution chamber was infiltrated by outsiders bent on inflaming sectarian tensions.

"Whoever leaked this video meant to harm national reconciliation and drive a wedge between Shias and Sunnis," National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, who was among 20 officials and other witnesses present at the execution at dawn last Saturday told reporters.

Rubaie later insisted that there was nothing improper about the shouting from the crowd, or the fact that executioners and officials danced around Saddam's body. "This is the tradition of the Iraqis, when they do something, they dance around the body and they express their feelings," he said in an interview to CNN.

A senior Interior Ministry official told reporters that the hanging was supposed to be carried out by hangmen employed by the Interior Ministry but that "militias" had managed to infiltrate the executioners' team.

The airing of the footage has further damaged the government of embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and possibilities of reconciliation between political and sectarian groups in Iraq.

On Thursday the Iraqi government postponed the hanging of two of Saddam Hussein's companions. Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikrit, Saddam's half brother and former intelligence chief, along with Awad Ahmed al-Bandar, head of Saddam's revolutionary court, were to have been hanged Thursday.

A senior official from Maliki's office told a reporter that the executions were postponed "due to international pressure."

U.S. Presidential press secretary Tony Snow, formerly of Fox News, dismissed calls to join international condemnation of Saddam Hussein's execution. "The government is investigating the conduct of some people within the chamber and I think we'll leave it at that," Snow told reporters. "But the one thing you got to keep in mind is that you got justice."

The U.S. military claims it had no control over the events at the execution, despite handing Saddam over to Iraqi authorities just minutes before the footage was taken. The U.S. military then transported the body to Tikrit where it was later buried.

Many Iraqis simply want the bloodshed and chaos that has engulfed their country to end.

"I just pray to Allah to stop the bleeding that started when those strangers came into our country," 65-year-old Ahmed Alwan from Baghdad told IPS. "There is no future for us to think about under such a mess, and killing Saddam will just add more hatred between Iraqis, especially with the savage comments that appeared on the video."

Most Iraqis seem skeptical of the current U.S.-backed Iraqi government, which has been unable to restore even basic services, let alone security.

"Our government thought they could fool us again by killing the man," 30-year-old grocer Atwan in the Hurriya district of Baghdad told IPS. "We have had enough and what we demand is a real change, or else we will take another course regardless of what our religious and political leaders tell us. What we want is a better life and real brotherhood between Iraqis."

(Ali al-Fadhily is our Baghdad correspondent. Dahr Jamail is our specialist writer who has spent eight months reporting from inside Iraq and has been covering the Middle East for several years.)

(c)2006 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

A U.S. view: Democracy, bought and paid for

This is one of the best articles I've read by an American about their so-called 'Democracy' in a long time. It was written by Midwesterner writer and former Illinois talk-show host Keith Gottschalk. He is angered at being "suckered" by the Democrats' "bait-and-switch again – sell peace in the campaign, support war once comfortably in power."

A U.S. view: Democracy, bought and paid for

Here is an excerpt:

What must happen for America to right itself and live out its creed is for people to realize how precarious our position both internally and externally is. Also, it would be instructive for every American to experience life as a typical Iraqi in Baghdad for just one day to see ourselves as others see us.

But when the mainstream media and the political system is bought and paid for by people with a vested interest in propagating the military industrial complex (oil) and all the wealth that comes with it, it's difficult for truth to penetrate the wall of denial that has been built for generations.

I'm angry at being suckered....

Click here to read this column.

Afghan MPs Predict 'Very Big War' / Progressives Shun Layton on Climate Change, more news

These a few of today's very interesting news items from You will also find good articles by some of my favourite columnists, notably Linda McQuaig, Thomas Walkom, Murray Dobbin:

Kabul — As a former senior Taliban commander and associate of Osama bin Laden, Mullah Abdul Salam Rocketi was a shining example of the warlords who seemed to be rejecting violence and embracing Afghanistan's new democracy. But the MP for the southern province of Zabul now typifies the anger and despair raging through this blood-soaked country.
> by Chris Sands

How many times have I heard people castigating Jack Layton for not “allowing” an arrangement where the NDP and Greens cooperate to not run candidates against each other in certain ridings? I know of multiple cases where Layton has personally been questioned on this — and where long-time activists go away shaking their heads about how he has sold out environmentalists to further the narrow electoral fortunes of the NDP. Does anyone ask Elizabeth May if she favours such an arrangement?
> by Ken Summers

If you want pillars to hold something up, four will do the job better than three. In his leadership campaign, Stéphane Dion relied on just three: economic prosperity, environmental sustainability and social justice. The missing pillar is surely democracy.
> by Duncan Cameron

George Bush's New Year's present to the world was the death of Saddam Hussein by hanging in Iraq on December 30. Of course the argument will be made that it wasn't the U.S. that hanged Saddam, but the Iraqi people who tried and found him guilty of crimes against humanity in an Iraqi court. Yeah, and the moon is made of green cheese, too.
> by Jerry West

The crazed materialism that has hijacked the meaning of the holiday is getting worse. In the U.S., but notably in New York, the large retail stores have taken to giving their staff special training to deal with Christmas season abuse by customers, added plainclothes security to control fights among customers, including outbreaks of near rioting, and taken to not putting out the hottest items if the supply is limited, lest they turn out to be like scraps of meat before a pack of wild dogs.
> by Ralph Surette

Far too often the analysis of elections and politics in general focuses almost exclusively on who “wins” formal power — that is, the biggest number of seats and the right to form a government. This kind of limited assessment leads to putting all the analytical eggs in one basket by asking which leader is the best — the most progressive, the most trustworthy, the most charismatic, the most visionary. > by Murray Dobbin

Count me as one of the ghouls who watched the 2½-minute video of Saddam Hussein's execution more than once. Why? “Such graphic violence plays to our most base instincts,” a media studies prof told the National Post. I don't agree.
> by Rick Salutin

Last month, NATO got a new top military commander, the general who formerly ran the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay. So Canadian troops in Afghanistan, will ultimately be under the command of a U.S. general who ran a notorious political prison in defiance of international law. This underlines how far Canada has moved in recent years embracing a new role as a prop for the U.S. in its “war on terror.”
> by Linda McQuaig

The world is hardly a reasonable place these days. All sorts of lamentable, preventable catastrophes wreak havoc, at home and abroad: self-dealing, dishonest wars, tax loopholes, deaths from needless disease, a climate that's going bananas. But just one day a year, could we pretend that some sort of natural justice might prevail on the planet (or at least in its economic sphere)?
> by Jim Stanford

Linda McQuaig, Thomas Walkom, Duncan Cameron, Rick
Salutin, Murray Dobbin, Jerry West, Keith Gottschalk,
Tricia Hylton, Lisa Rundle and others.

Become a member of
Put your money where your mouse is!

>> in cahoots <<
The coalition fighting to stop privatization and contracting out of services at Ontario’s hospitals has won a major victory.
> Canadian Union of Public Employees

How principles of feminism and same-sex marriage intersect.
> Association for Women's Rights in Development

Canadians are dying at a rate of five workers for each regular working day of the year as a result of accidents on the job and occupational diseases.
> National Union of Public and General Employees

No One Is Illegal Radio 2006 Archives

The No One Is Illegal-Montreal collective produces a monthly radio show which airs on CKUT community radio.

--> An archive of No One Is Illegal Radio's 2006 shows is available at:
Our 2006 shows include the voices of:

- Latifa Charkaoui: mother of Adil Charkaoui, one of the Secret Trial Five;
- Arnoldo Garcia: organizer with the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights in Oakland, California;
- Kahehti:io: Mohawk youth activist from Kahnawake, arrested at the Land Reclamation at Six Nations;
- Sherene Razack, author of "Looking White People in the Eye," and a witness at the People's Commission into Immigration "Security" Measures;
- Hassan Almrei: secret trial detainee at Guantanamo North Prison, detained without trial since 2001;
- Karen Coq: member of No One Is Illegal-Kingston, active in opposing the Guantanamo North prison;
- Amir Hodhod: a member of Solidarity Across Borders who marched to Ottawa from Montreal in June 2005, and is fighting a pending deportation from Canada;
- Hazel Hill: spokesperson for the Six Nations Land Reclamation;
- Kahentinehta: of Mohawk Nation News and a defender of Mohawk territory during the Oka Crisis of 1990;
- Roberta Keesick: elder, trapper and activist from the Grassy Narrows indigenous territory in Northwestern Ontario; the blockade against logging at Grassy Narrows is the longest blockade in Canadian history;
- Arash Aslani: refugee from Iran, and former 10-month detainee at the Laval Detention Center near Montreal;
- Teresa Hayter: author of "Open Borders" and organizer with the Campaign to Close Campsfield Detention Center in England;
- Aarti Shahani: anti-deportations and anti-detentions activist with Families for Freedom in New York City;
- Rasha Moumneh, of the Helem LGBT group in Beirut, Lebanon;
- Nay: activist with Aswat, a queer justice group in Palestine;
- Rafeef Ziadah: the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid in Toronto;
- Ashanti Alston Omowali: anarchist activist, former political prisoner, and member of the Black Panther Party;
- Biju Mathew: organizer with the New York Taxi Worker's Alliance;
- Trudy Miller: mother of indigenous Six Nations political prisoner Trevor Miller;
- Angel Smith: cousin of Trevor Miller;
- Khadija Bennis: twin sister of Mohamed Anas Bennis, killed by the Montreal police.

--> An archive of No One Is Illegal Radio's 2006 shows is available at:
You can tune to No One Is Illegal Radio on the 2nd Tuesday of every month, from 5-6pm, as part of the Open Conspiracy for Social Change on "Off The Hour." Our upcoming 2007 shows will be on January 9, February 13, March 13, April 10 ...

--> You can listen live in the MONTREAL-area at 90.3FM.
--> You can listen ANYWHERE online at

--> Or, contact to get regular updates about the organizing of No One Is Illegal-Montreal, including audio links to our upcoming shows.

No One Is Illegal-Montreal is part of a worldwide movement of resistance, fighting for justice and dignity, and the right to self-determination for migrants, refugees and indigenous people. Our campaign is in public confrontation with the Canadian state, denouncing and taking action to combat racial profiling, police brutality, detentions and deportations, exploitation and wage-slave conditions, as well as opposing the displacement and genocide of indigenous peoples on Turtle Island.

514-848-7583 --

Martin Luther King Day at Toronto's Deportation Factory, January 15!

Mon., Jan. 15, 12 Noon: Martin Luther King Day at Toronto's Deportation Factory

Join us on Martin Luther King Day at Toronto's Deportation Factory...

Support Canada's Secret Trial Detainees and Close Guantanamo North
Monday, January 15, 12 Noon
Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), 6900 Airport Road
Rides leave downtown Toronto at 11 am sharp (call 416-651-5800 to book a
seat or if you can drive folks up)

January 15 marks day 51 of a hunger strike by secret trial detainee Mohammad Mahjoub, currently being denied medical care at Kingston, Ontario's Guantanamo North facility. Fellow detainees Mahmoud Jaballah and Hassan Almrei will mark 40 days of their hunger strike, protesting their conditions of detention. Stockwell Day, minister responsible for the CBSA (which runs the Guantanamo North facility at Millhaven Penitentiary),
refuses to negotiate with the detainees, whose lives are once again at grave risk as the hunger strikes continues.


The facility at 6900 Airport Road is a factory that produces human misery: it's "enforcement" and "removals" units are responsible for rounding up many of the 12,000+ human beings who are forcibly deported from this country and returned to uncertain fates every year. It is here that agents of the CBSA daily work in defiance of the Convention Against Torture, which prohibits the deportation of ANYONE to face torture. All of Canada's secret trial detainees (and those under draconian bail conditions) face deportation to torture, yet the federal government continues efforts to deport them to Syria, Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco.

Our annual Martin Luther King day action is part of a series of national actions calling for an end to indefinite detention and deportation to torture that are taking place January 11-15. Join us in the loving spirit of radical, transformative justice that served as a cornerstone of the nonviolent civil rights movement!

"A time comes when silence is betrayal. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers and sisters." - Martin Luther King, Jr.


January 11, 2007 marks 5 years since the official opening of Guantanamo Bay, a detention and torture centre run by the United States in Cuba that has been a legal black hole for countless people swept up in the terror of war. While many have been released (after spending upwards of four or more years without being charged or given a trial), hundreds of others languish under illegal detention, facing inhumane conditions without access to the outside world.

Canada has its own Guantanamo Bay, located in Millhaven Penitentiary, Kingston. Here, three "security certificate" detainees who have been held upwards of seven years without charge on secret evidence, are fighting deportation to torture. All are currently on hunger strike protesting their conditions of detention, including denial of medical treatment. Two other men, also held between two and four years, are currently "out" on some of the most severe restrictions on human liberty ever imposed in a Canadian bail release. These draconian restrictions also curtail the freedoms of their entire families. They too continue to live under the threat of deportation to torture.

Human rights groups in the U.S. are calling for international actions on January 11 for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We join in that call, adding our own demand for the closure of Guantanamo Bay North, right here in Canada. Actions in Canada are planned from coast to coast between January 11 and 15.

Join us to demand that the Canadian government:

1. Immediately close Kingston Immigration Holding Centre (Guantanamo Bay North)
2. Immediately release Canada's secret trial "security certificate" detainees or provide them with a fair, transparent, open trial.
3. End all proceedings to deport the Secret Trial Five (Mahmoud Jaballah, Mohammad Mahjoub, Hassan Almrei, Mohamed Harkat, Adil Charkaoui)
4. Abolish security certificates and end deportation to torture.
5. Immediately condemn the illegal Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

Contact the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada at or
(416) 651-5800.

Tomgram: Dreyfuss on Bush's Wizard-of-Oz Iraq Plan

Every now and then, you have to take a lesson or two from history. In the case of George Bush's Iraq, here's one: No matter what the President announces in his "new way forward" speech on Iraq next week -- including belated calls for "sacrifice" from the man whose answer to 9/11 was to urge Americans to surge into Disney World -- it won't work. Nothing our President suggests in relation to Iraq, in fact, will have a ghost of a chance of success. Worse than that, whatever it turns out to be, it is essentially guaranteed to make matters worse.

Repetition, after all, is most of what knowledge adds up to, and the Bush administration has been repetitively consistent in its Iraqi -- and larger Middle Eastern -- policies. Whatever it touches (or perhaps the better word would be "smashes") turns to dross. Iraq is now dross -- and Saddam Hussein was such a remarkably hard act to follow badly that this is no small accomplishment.

A striking but largely unexplored aspect of Saddam Hussein's execution is illustrative. His trial was basically run out of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad; Saddam was held at Camp Cropper, the U.S. prison near Baghdad International Airport. He was delivered to the Iraqi government for hanging in a U.S. helicopter (as his body would be flown back to his home village in a U.S. helicopter).

Now, let's add a few more facts into the mix. Among Iraqi Shiites, no individual has been viewed as more of an enemy by the Bush administration than the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. American troops fought bloody battles with his Mahdi Army in 2004, destroying significant parts of the old city of Najaf in the process. American forces make periodic, destructive raids into the vast Baghdad slum and Sadrist stronghold of Sadr City to take out his followers and recently killed one of his top aides in a raid in Najaf. The upcoming Presidential "surge" into Baghdad is, reputedly, in part to be aimed at suppressing his militia, which a recent Pentagon report described as "the main threat to s! tability in Iraq."

Nonetheless at the crucial moment in the execution what did some of the Interior Ministry guards do? They chanted: "Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada!" In all press reports, this has been described as a "taunting" of Saddam (and assumedly of Iraqi Sunnis more generally). But it could as easily be described as the purest mockery of George W. Bush and everything he's done in the country. If, in such a relatively controlled setting, the Americans couldn't stop Saddam's execution from being "infiltrated" by al-Sadr's followers -- who are also, of course, part of Prime Minister Maliki's government -- what can they possibly do in the chaos of Baghdad? How can a few more thousands of U.S. troops be expected to keep them, or Badr Brigade militiamen out! of the streets, no less the police, the military, and various ministries?

Consider the "new way forward," then, just another part of the Bush administration's endless bubbleworld. And check out exactly what madness to look forward to in next week's presidential address via Robert Dreyfuss, a shrewd reporter and the author of the indispensable Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. Tom

The Surge to Nowhere

Traveling the Planet Neocon Road to Baghdad (Again)
By Robert Dreyfuss

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

So, this is Winter, and what have we done...?

Global News Ch. 3 reporter Jackson Proskow was out at my house in Brampton, Ontario early this evening with his camera crew, and did a short piece about my budding pussy-willows out front, as part of his series about our amazing 'winter'... The camera showed Jackson talking, with me beside him holding a small branch covered in buds ... The apple tree in my back garden also has tiny buds, my crocuses are pushing out of the soil, the grass is greening, and my neighbour's maple is coming back to life... I think some of the birds are returning early from their Southern winter havens, and many haven't even left... They think spring has arrived -- or fall has never left...

Today's Toronto Star has a good Opinion article by some of our top green activists who are calling on political leaders to turn Canada from a 'global laggard into a world leader' in 2007. They list numerous valid reasons for taking climate change very seriously, among them the recent predictions by NASA indicating that most ice in the Arctic will disappear in the next few decades! That's decades, not centuries as some sceptics like to think.

And this article: 2007 to be hottest year ever: Report ( - News)

Yet some meteorologists are content to say that our strange weather patterns are caused by an 'El Niño effect', and not global warming...

So this is winter in some parts of Canada and the U.S.!

CNN has this to say about it: (They are among the sceptics!)

So ... you call this winter?

CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- Crocuses are pushing out of the ground in New Jersey. Ice fishing tournaments in Minnesota are being canceled for lack of ice. And golfers are hitting the links in Chicago in January.

Much of the Midwest and the East Coast are experiencing remarkably warm winter, with temperatures running 10 and 20 degrees higher than normal in many places.

...Read rest of article here.

My thought on this is that we have already passed the point of no return and our footprint has caused irreversible damage. But it is not too late to ACT NOW to lessen the impact. Failure to do so will have dire consequences to our life as we know it, and not in the distant future, but within our lifetime. We must DEMAND our politicans do more than pay lip service and make empty election promises they fail to keep. It is up to us, people of the world, to make a difference!

Report: UN peacekeeping troops in south Sudan raping children

This was published in the "Victoria News Daily", cover, in Victoria, BC (January 3, 2006).


UN troops in south Sudan raping children - report

03 Jan 2007 00:50:06 GMT
Source: Reuters

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 2 (Reuters) - The Daily Telegraph of London reported on Tuesday that U.N. peacekeepers and civilian staff were raping and abusing children as young as 12 in southern Sudan.

The newspaper, in a story posted on its Web site, said it had gathered accounts from more than 20 young victims in the town of Juba of U.N. civilian and peacekeeping staff forcing them to have sex.

(...article continues):

Reuters AlertNet

TORONTO: Raise the Rates Assembly



Steelworkers Hall 25 Cecil St(South of College,East off Spadina)

In October 2006 OCAP and the Health Providers Against Poverty began Round II of special diet clinics. These special diet clinics are being organized under strict government regulations designed to block access to this money. The government failed.

The special diet is a government provision that allows people on welfare and disability to receive funds for dietary needs when prescribed by a nurse or doctor. In 2005 OCAP began publicizing and organizing clinics with health providers for people on assistance to get the special diet. Forty million dollars later the City and Province began attempting to shut us down. For ten months we were unable to hold clinics and thousands of people lost much needed money.

ROUND II Begins!

In three months close to 1000 people have gone through our clinics. We face a government reaching the end of its term that has raised assistance rates by just 5%- an insulting fraction of what it would take for rates to be livable. We face government at each level that intentionally deny people the means to get by.

But the government faces communities that refuse to go back to the old choices between dignity or rent. They face people who have joined the fight for a decent income, who are demanding it from their welfare workers, their city councillors and their MPPs. They face people willing to fight for what they deserve.

Please support us - Come out to hear from the people making this struggle happen.

For more information please contact OCAP.

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
10 Britain St. Toronto, ON M5A 1R6

Burlington, Ontario: KAIROS Event January 20th





Date: Sat Jan 20 2007 Time: 9:00 AM TO 1:00 PM



For more information contact JOY WARNER 905-521-0017 Email:

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

MidEast Dispatches: Democracy Now! interview about Lt. Watada

Lt. Ehren Watada became the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to the unlawful war and occupation in Iraq. Now the U.S. Army is trying to force independent American journalists Dahr Jamail and Sarah Olson to testify in the court-martial of Lt. Watada. In this interview, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! speaks with the two journalists, who explain why forcing journalists to testify against their sources is a chilling new attack on journalism and free speech in the U.S.

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

January 2, 2007 - Democracy Now! Interview: U.S. Army Tries to Force Sarah Olson and Dahr Jamail to Testify Against Ehren Watada

Lt. Ehren Watada, for those who don't already know, became the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to the unlawful war and occupation in Iraq. While doing this on June 22, 2006, Watada said, "As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must refuse that order."

Despite the fact that independent journalist Sarah Olson's reporting of Lt. Watada's statements are publicly available, the U.S. Army has subpoenaed her to testify in the court-martial of Lt. Ehren Watada.

Even though Dahr Jamail simply transcribed and published one of Ehren Watada's speeches - which was recorded and available anyway - Dahr Jamail has been placed on the witness list and may also be forced to appear.

In this interview, Amy Goodman speaks with the two journalists. Sarah and Dahr explain why forcing journalists to testify against their sources is a chilling new attack on journalism and free speech in the US.

Interestingly, this was followed by this announcement as reported in the Democracy Now! headlines today, January 3:

* Journalist Avoids Watada Hearing, Remains Prosecution Witness*

And finally, this update on a story from yesterday’s broadcast – a judge has ruled independent journalist Sarah Olson does not need to testify at Thursday’s pre-trial hearing for First Lieutenant Ehren Watada. Watada is facing six years in prison over his refusal to deploy to Iraq. Olson is challenging her subpoena to testify based on her interview with Watada earlier this year. On Tuesday, Olson was told she will not need to appear at the pre-trial hearing but will remain on the prosecution’s witness list.

(c)2006 Dahr Jamail.
All images, photos, photography and text are protected by United States and international copyright law. If you would like to reprint Dahr's Dispatches on the web, you need to include this copyright notice and a prominent link to the website. Website by photographer Jeff Pflueger's Photography Media. Any other use of images, photography, photos and text including, but not limited to, reproduction, use on another website, copying and printing requires the permission of Dahr Jamail. Of course, feel free to forward Dahr's dispatches via email.

More writing, commentary, photography, pictures and images at

**Dahr Jamail's MidEast Dispatches are reprinted on my site with Dahr's kind permission.

Labour website of the year - 10th annual competition

If you are in a union, you will be interested in these updates from Be sure to nominate your union's website for the Labour Website of the Year - every trade union website is eligible!


What's the best union website in the world? Is it your union's?

For the 10th year in a row, LabourStart is sponsoring the Labour Website of the Year competition and every trade union website is eligible. Last year, nearly 7,000 of you voted; this year we expect an even larger turnout.

To cast your vote, go here:

And make sure to spread the word in your union!



The IUF is calling for a massive world-wide protest against Coca-Cola's vicious attacks on trade union rights in Pakistan. For full details, and to send off your message, go here:



Another LabourStart campaign draws to a successful conclusion as the independent union of workers in Russia's GM-AVTOVAZ tells us that the company management is now beginning discussions of the situation with its European employees forum. The union is asking us to suspend the campaign for now, but we will resume it if the company does not respect workers' rights. All our remaining active campaigns in all languages can be found here:



Radio LabourStart has been relaunched in a new and more accessible format. You can now listen to labour radio broadcasts on your PC or MP3 player (such as an Apple iPod) in three different ways:

1. Go to and follow the instructions to listen to our podcast, or
2. Go to the same page and just click on any of the broadcasts to beginning listening, or
3. Hear any of these stories just by clicking on them when you spot them in LabourStart's main news pages

We'll be expanding Radio LabourStart over the next few days and weeks, so if your union had produced audio content in MP3 format, let us know.



With the holiday season behind us, it's now time to get the gifts we really want -- which is why we're resuming LabourStart's book of the week feature. By buying books from our unionized partners, you are helping to support LabourStart's work in in 2007.

This week our featured title is "Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds, and Riffraff," a guide to films about labour. It's by Tom Zaniello who is himself a guide to films about labour -- and this book is the expanded edition that includes not only the films you know (e.g., "Norma Rae") but the ones you don't. If you love films, you must own this book. Click here for more details and to order copies for yourself and your fellow trade unionists:

Arrested on the Golden Gate Bridge for the 3,000 US Dead

This article was published on Tuesday, January 2, 2007 by Obviously the U.S. has not learned its lessons from the Vietnam War...

by Ret. Col. Ann Wright

On New Years Day, sixty peace activists organized by Codepink Women for Peace gathered on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge to walk across one of Americas great landmarks in vigil for the 3,000 US servicemen and women killed in Iraq and for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died since the US invasion and occupation.

California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers blocked the pedestrian walkway on the San Francisco side of the bridge saying that we did not have a permit for a demonstration. We responded that we were not demonstrating but only wanted to walk peacefully across the bridge to commemorate the 3,000 deaths. Initially the CHP allowed tourists to pass through our group and begin their walk on the bridge. We complained that this was our bridge and we could not be denied access. The CHP then stopped all walkers.

After an hour, a group of ten walkers in pink came into sight. They had come from the Marin County side of the bridge walking peacefully and respectfully to honor those who have died. Finally after two hours CHP announced that the bridge was closed to pedestrians and we had to leave, which we did not do. Ten of us were then arrested for trespass.

In October 2005, several of us were arrested in front of the White House when the US death toll hit 2,000. Now on January 1, 2006, we were arrested to commemorate 3,000 US deaths.

It was ironic that I, as a retired US Army Colonel, was arrested on the Golden Gate Bridge in sight of the Presidio of San Francisco, a former US Army base. The Presidio was my first assignment in the Army almost forty years ago. I served at the Presidio during the Vietnam War when anti-war protesters rocked the city of San Francisco and the nation when hundreds of thousands marched from the Bay to the Ocean. Thousands of GIs went AWOL from the Vietnam War and lived in the Haight Asbury area of San Francisco. When they were picked up by military police in the city, they were taken to the notorious Presidio Stockade. In 1968, twenty seven of these imprisoned soldiers protested the shotgun killing of a mentally disturbed prisoner by a guard. They sat in the prison courtyard, sang We Shall Overcome, and were charged and tried for mutiny which carried a possible death sentence. The image of GIs facing the electric chair for singing "We Shall Overcome" caused a national uproar and after the first several mutineers to be tried got 14, 15, and 16 years each, disillusionment about the military and the war grew in the civilian community and especially within the ranks of the military. Many historians consider the Presidio 27 incident as one of the first major GI resistance actions of the Vietnam War.

Forty years later our military faces another unpopular, unwinnable war thrust upon the military by an administration that did not think out the consequences of invading and occupying a country that had done nothing to the United States. GI resistance to the war is increasing. AWOLS are increasing. War resisters are speaking out and are willing to go to prison rather than participate in an illegal war of aggression. Over 1500 active duty soldiers have signed an appeal for redress to the Congress asking for the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. They will go to Washington and deliver the appeal to individual Congressmen and women on January 15.

We must bring extraordinary pressure on the new Congress to stop the funding to this war and bring our troops home. Join us in Washington, DC January 3 and 4 and January 27-29 to tell Congress: STOP THIS WAR and BRING OUR TROOPS HOME!

Colonel (Retired) Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army veteran. She also was a US diplomat for 16 years and served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.

For continually updated news and articles go to:

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - No New Year's hangover for top CEOs

... and these guys need tax cuts???? (Please follow the link, and pass it on)


I recommend this web page from the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - No New Year hangover for top CEOs. You should check it out at

"Private Crime Prevention Practitioners"

The US is increasingly using private security firms to supplant - and often supplement - local police forces. These private contractors are armed and not always trained in police procedures, yet they can make arrests. And, there have been abuses...

With the sleeve patch on his black shirt, the 9mm gun on his hip and the blue light on his patrol car, he looked like an ordinary police officer as he stopped the car on a Friday night last month. Watt works, though, for a business called Capitol Special Police. It is dozens of private security companies given police powers by the state of North Carolina - and part of a pattern across the United States in which public safety is shifting into private hands.

Private firms with outright police powers have been proliferating in some places - and trying to expand their terrain. The "company police agencies," as businesses such as Capitol Special Police are called here, are lobbying the state legislature to broaden their jurisdiction, currently limited to the private property of those who hire them, to adjacent streets. Elsewhere - including wealthy gated communities in South Florida and the Tri-Rail commuter trains between Miami and West Palm Beach - private security patrols without police authority carry weapons, sometimes dress like SWAT teams and make citizen's arrests.

Private security guards have outnumbered police officers since the 1980s, predating the heightened concern about security brought on by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. What is new is that police forces, including the Durham Police Department here in North Carolina's Research Triangle, are increasingly turning to private companies for help. Moreover, private-sector security is expanding into spheres - complex criminal investigations and patrols of downtown districts and residential neighborhoods - that used to be the province of law enforcement agencies alone.
....Read The Private Arm of the Law (

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

MidEast Dispatches: 'Illegal' Execution Enrages Arabs

In his latest MidEast Dispatch, independent journalist Dahr Jamail writes about the angry reaction in Iraq and across the Middle East to Saddam's execution during the Eid al-Adha festival on what is held to be a day of mercy and feasting in the Islamic world.

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

'Illegal' Execution Enrages Arabs

*Inter Press Service*

Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily

*BAGHDAD, Jan 2 (IPS) - The execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein carried out at the start of the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha has angered Iraqis and others across the Middle East.*

Saddam Hussein was hanged on what is held to be a day of mercy and feasting in the Islamic world. It is usually celebrated with the slaughter of a lamb, which represents the innocent blood of Ishmael, who was sacrificed by his father, the prophet Abraham, to honour God.

Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin, the Kurdish judge who had first presided over Saddam Hussein's trial told reporters that the execution at the beginning of Eid was illegal under Iraqi law, besides violating the customs of Islam.

Amin said that under Iraqi law "no verdict should be implemented during the official holidays or religious festivals."

While Iraqi Shias, particularly those in the U.S.-backed Iraqi government, view the execution as a sign that Allah supports them, many Sunnis across Iraq and the Middle East now see Saddam Hussein as a great martyr.

"Saddam Hussein is the greatest martyr of the century," Ahmed Hanousy, a student in Amman in Jordan told IPS. A 50 year-old man in Baghdad said "the Americans and Iranians meant to insult all Arabs by this execution."

Others see the execution in all sorts of ways. Sabriya Salih, a 55-year-old man from Baghdad who was evicted from his home by Shia death squads told IPS "I am happy for this end. I have too much to worry about now, but look what a holy death Saddam received."

Salih paused and added: "He died at the holiest moments of the year with pilgrims just finishing their pilgrimage ceremonies hailing "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) as if God meant to give him that glory."

In official expression of anger, Libya denounced the timing of the execution and announced three days of official mourning. Eid celebrations were cancelled. The government of Saudi Arabia also condemned the timing of the execution.

Many Iraqis said they were disturbed by the footage just before the execution. "They surprised us by showing the video," 40-year-old Um Sammy told IPS in Baghdad. "I was busy preparing sweets for my guests when I heard my little kids crying in terror. All the children were terrified."

A nine-year-old girl from Fallujah who is a refugee in Baghdad said she cried when she saw the footage on television. "Why did they do it in Eid? Why did they put it on TV to scare us?"

Later, shots of the execution taken by a witness from a mobile phone showed Saddam being taunted by his executioners in his final moments. The video has exacerbated tensions between Sunnis and Shias, who follow Islam in different ways.

First broadcast by al-Jazeera Sunday, the shots recorded someone praising Muhammad Bakr al-Sadr. Al-Sadr, founder of the Shia Dawa party and an uncle of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, was executed by Saddam in 1980.

This, coupled with images of Saddam smiling at those taunting him from below the gallows, has evidently drawn widespread sympathy for Saddam. The Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars issued a statement condemning the execution. The Association said this was an execution carried out by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "for the Americans."

The fact that those hanging Saddam praised al-Sadr is evidence that the Mehdi Army militia of Muqtada al-Sadr controls at least a large portion of Iraq's security forces. This underscores Sunni views that the security forces have been deeply infiltrated by Shia militias.

A member of Saddam's defence team, Najib al-Nuaimi, told reporters the day after the execution that no Sunni lawyer was allowed among the witnesses at the execution. "This is not within normal procedures," al-Nuaimi said. He added that the execution was an act of revenge and carried out for political purposes.

"It is rather stupid of those in government and their American allies," a Sunni cleric in Ramadi told IPS. "They gifted Saddam the best death at the best moment of the year and enlisted him a hero by all measures."

Others were deeply offended by the move. A garbage collector who gave his name as Ali said he wept when he heard the news. "How could there be killing on such a day," he said. "He was 69 years old, and they could have just left him to die in his jail for God's sake."

Some Shias objected to the timing for their own reason. "They spoiled my pleasure of his execution by killing him like that," Ilwiya, a 35-year-old Shia woman from Washash village west of Baghdad told IPS. "Now he will be called a martyr because of the bad timing."

Thus far, violence continues unabated across Iraq following the execution. The U.S. military has been placed on high alert in anticipation of retaliatory attacks.

More than 3,000 U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq, and according to the Pentagon, the U.S. military is facing more than 100 attacks a day.

(c)2006 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

Tomgram: On the Imperial Path in 2007

[Note to readers: Tomdispatch returns in the New Year ready to roll and with a year-inaugurating theme. Consider today's piece an introduction to a January-long exploration of America's imperial mission, the Pentagon's role in it, and the militarization of our society. Though Robert Dreyfuss will, this week, be laying out Iraq policy options, and Elizabeth de la Vega as well as David Swanson will soon survey this season's legal and investigatory landscape, a number of upcoming posts will focus on our militarizing future. Look forward to: Nick Turse on urban war-fighting plans for 2025; a Michael Klare two-parter on the global militarization of energy policy; Frida Berrigan on the weaponry in our future; and Chalmers Johnson on our imperial fate. Tom]

Let's Do It Again!

Doubling Down on the Imperial Mission in 2007
By Tom Engelhardt

Okay, folks, it's time for a year-opening sermon. And like any good sermon, this one will be based on illustrative texts, in this case from 2006, and inspirational passages plucked from them. Its goal, as in any such quest, will be to reveal a world normally hidden from us in our daily lives.

Every day, it seems, essential choices are being made in our names by our top officials, civilian and military, many of whom, as the year ended, only reaffirmed that our country is headed down an imperial path in the Middle East and elsewhere, a path based on dreams of domination and backed, above all else, by the principle of force. No matter their disagreements over the administration's Iraq catastrophe, on this, agreement has remained so widespread as to make all discussion of the basics seem beside the point. Despite recent failures on the imperial path, consideration of other paths remains almost inconceivable.

Naturally, the continual act of choosing the path we are on, and the hardly noticed Pentagonization and Homeland Securitization of our own society that goes with it are never presented to Americans as such. If no alternatives to what we are doing are ever suggested, then logic is with the doers, no matter the staggering problems on the horizon.

In fact, what we do in the world -- how, for instance, we choose to garrison the planet -- is seldom presented as a matter of choice at all. Either it's been forced on us by "them" -- the rogues, the jihadis, the madmen, the evil ones -- and so is the only path to our obvious safety (as defined by our betters in Washington); or it's so obvious that nothing needs to be done but reaffirm it. As in all Washington debates at this moment, what's truly important is simply to decide how to make that imperial path less rocky and those dreams of domination that pass for American "security" more achievable (or even, as in Iraq, less noticeably catastrophic).

End of introduction to sermon. Now to the illustrative texts and examples.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

What My Brother Is Fighting for

Emily Miller, a member of Military Families Speak Out, an organization of more than 3,100 military families opposed to the Iraq war, wrote this poignant piece which was published today by the Long Island NY Newsday. I found it on where you can read the entire article. Emily's brother is a soldier in Iraq because "he believes his duty is to defend our Constitution and our democratic ideals".

Here is what my brother, a member of the Army National Guard, told me as he prepared to serve in Iraq this year:

The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is who controls the armed forces. Civilian command of the Army is a cornerstone of our democratic system.

My brother told me that he takes his oath to defend the Constitution seriously and that he will fight and die if necessary to honor his commitment. Asked if he would be offended if I participated in activities opposing the war, he said it was not only my right but my obligation and the obligation of all civilians opposing this war to try to change bad policy. "Give us good wars to fight," he said.

Emily Miller is concerned about her brother's life and about all the troops fighting in a war that is unwinnable. This was also the conclusion of the the Iraq Study Group. She asks her fellow Americans if they will take responsibilty for her brother staying in Iraq. In her conclusion, Emily implores the American people:

My family begs of you: Do not ask this of him. Do not ask this of us. My brother is doing his constitutional duty. Now it is time for us to do ours.

Read her short article here.

AIUSA: Speak Out Against Five Years of Lawlessness

On January 11, 2002, the US transferred the first detainees to the US Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Five years later, despite widespread international condemnation, hundreds of people of more than 30 nationalities remain there. We will mark Thursday, January 11, 2007 as a day to show our opposition to the prolonged indefinite and arbitrary detention of those held at the prison facilities in Guantánamo Bay.

There are lots of ways you can get involved. We are asking individuals and groups to plan a vigil or rally at a highly visible location such as in front of your local or federal courthouse, a town square or college campus to educate the public, gather signatures on the America I Believe In pledge, and demand that the US government close the facilities in Guantánamo Bay. Already, we know that groups in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco are mobilizing to protest the harsh conditions of confinement, lack of due process and indefinite detentions.

To make things easy, we have provided you with a guide (PDF) for planning your events. The Close Guantánamo Action Guide includes guidelines for event planning, fact sheets, a sample flyer and actions you can use to mark five years of unlawful detentions.

In addition to events all across the country and around the world, we will hold a press conference and rally in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC demanding access to justice and human dignity for all.

Don’t have time to rally or attend a vigil? Then sign the America I Believe In pledge and write a letter to the editor. The voice of human rights activists in local media is critical to building a movement opposed to the conditions at Guantánamo Bay. Find out how to write your letter so that there’s a better chance of having it published.

Visit our Denounce Torture page to stay connected to upcoming actions and events. Because the America we believe in would close Guantánamo Bay.

Please make sure to let us know if you are planning an event as it will assist us in keeping track of all the amazing events and ensure that our message to Close Guantanamo are heard by many. Thank you for your continued participation!


Suha Dabbouseh
Project Manager
Denounce Torture Initiative

P.S. Amnesty International USA will be featured on's politics page, and will be hosting a discussion on Guantanamo Bay. Join this conversation, post your questions, and Advocacy Director Jumana Musa will respond on January 11th.

Six Nations: Council House Retaken

Six Nations Haudenosaunee are celebrating 2007 by moving back into the old Confederacy Council house in Ohsweken at Six Nations.

The Council House, built in 1864 is 140 years old and predates Confederation. The building served as the council house for the Six Nations Confederacy Council until 1924 when the council was ousted by the Canadian government and an elected band council imposed.

This is truly a great way to start the new year! I hope that finally, after all the years, the Six Nations will get back what is rightfully theirs. And I also hope that this year will begin an honest effort by our governments to resolve the many long outstanding native land-claims and right the injustices perpetrated upon all our First Nations Peoples.

On the first day of the New Year Six Nations people will mark a turning point in their collective history by returning the building to the Haudenosaunee Chiefs in a ceremony at the building. The move is being heralded as a peaceful movement to begin the healing process and restore Haudenosaunee identity to Six Nations.

For background on the retaking of the council house and the special article, go to the ocap blog:

DN!: Jan 12-14: National Conference on Media Reform

National Conference on Media Reform
Memphis, TN
Jan 12-14, 2007

Join Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez, and thousands of others at the 3rd National Conference on Media Reform, sponsored by Free Press.
Activists, media makers, educators, journalists, policymakers and concerned citizens are gathering in Memphis this January to mobilize for better media.

The National Conference for Media Reform is for anyone who is concerned about the state of our media and committed to working for change. This energizing weekend will present ideas and strategies for winning the fight for better media and connect you with thousands of media reformers from across the nation.

Consider coming to this critical conference, Jan 12th -14th, 2007, in Memphis, TN.

Amy Goodman will give the keynote address on Thurs, Jan 11th at the Midsouth Peace and Justice Center in Memphis . Democracy Now! will be broadcasting from Memphis.

For more details, go to
Or call 877-888-1533 x15

Online registration ends at the end of the day, Thurs., Jan 4th. Registration will be available on-site as well.

= = = = = = = = =
Democracy Now! airs on over 420 radio and TV stations, including Pacifica, NPR, community, and college radio stations; on public access, PBS, satellite TV stations (DISH network: Free Speech TV ch. 9415 and Link TV ch. 9410; DIRECTV: Link TV ch. 375); on the World
Radio Network's European Service and on the Community Broacasting Association of Australia service; as a "podcast", automatically downloaded to your computer or portable audio player; and streams live
M-F at 8am EST at
= = = = = = = = =

Now real-time CLOSED CAPTIONED on TV!
You can also view/listen/read all Democracy Now! shows online:
To bring Democracy Now! to your community, go to:

Where Gerald Ford Went Wrong

The eulogies for Gerald Ford have been filled with glowing tributes to a self-effacing Midwesterner who helped the nation bind its wounds after Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal and the U.S. defeat in Vietnam.

But Ford's two-plus years in the White House can be divided into two parts, an early reform period that tried to rein in the imperial presidency and a second half in which political pressures forced Ford to reverse course -- and begin the comeback for the all-powerful executive.

To read this special report on how and why Gerald Ford's presidency changed direction, go to

Sunday, December 31, 2006

MidEast Dispatches: Lebanon Destroyed, Destabilised,Desperate for Change

In this MidEast Dispatch, independent American journalist Dahr Jamail writes about the devastation of Lebanon caused by the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah. The country is heavily damaged, politically destabilised, with dim
hopes for a better future in the new year.

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

Lebanon Destroyed, Destabilised, Desperate for Change

*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail*

*BEIRUT, Dec. 31 (IPS) - The 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah has left Lebanon heavily damaged and politically destabilised, with hopes for a better future only dimming as the New Year approaches.*

Before Jul. 12 this year when the war broke out, many people in this nation of four million situated north of Israel believed they were finally shaking away the last of the dust from the 15-year civil war 1975-90 which decimated the country. That civil war was fought between extreme Muslim and Christian groups. Lebanon is now believed to be about 60 percent Muslim.

In years of recovery from that civil war, tourism was up, business was finally improving, Syrian occupation troops had left - even though it was after the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri Feb. 14 last year -- and hope for a united Lebanon seemed at least a possibility.

All this changed dramatically after a Hezbollah paramilitary raid this summer in which two Israeli soldiers were captured and three others killed near the Israel border. The attack was similar to other clashes along the heated border between the two countries, but this raid provoked a devastating response from the Israeli military.

Less than 24 hours after the Israeli soldiers were captured, the Israeli military bombed Beirut's Rafik Hariri international airport, enforced a punishing air and naval blockade, and began massive aerial bombardments across much of the country.

Israel's chief of staff Dan Halutz told reporters at the beginning of the war: "If the soldiers are not returned, we will turn Lebanon's clock back 20 years." Halutz made good on his promise.

Hezbollah leader Sayed Hassan Nasralla had planned to use the captured Israeli soldiers as bargaining chips to free some of the thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared the Hezbollah raid an "act of war" and responded with an all-out attack on Hezbollah positions that destroyed much of capital Beirut and other cities.

By the time a ceasefire was implemented on Aug. 14, 1,200 Lebanese civilians had been killed and another 4,500 wounded. About 250 Hezbollah fighters were killed. A third of the Lebanese civilians killed were children below 13 years of age.

On the Israeli side, 43 civilians were killed and another 1,350 were wounded. The Israeli military lost 119 soldiers, with more than 400 injured.

More than a million Lebanese and as many as 300,000 Israelis were displaced from their homes, and normal life ceased to exist across all of Lebanon and most of northern Israel.

The war dragged on with diplomatic support for Israel from the governments of the United States and Britain. According to a poll taken two weeks into the war, only 8 percent of the Lebanese felt they had support from the U.S.; 87 percent said they supported Hezbollah.

By the time the UN-brokered ceasefire went into effect, a move which finally led Israel to lift its naval blockade of Lebanon Sep. 8, much of the country's civilian infrastructure had been destroyed.

About 70 bridges and 94 roads were destroyed, along with all major ports. Electrical power plants, 20 gas and fuel stations, 350 schools, food factories, dams, churches, mosques, hospitals, ambulances and a UN base were bombed, according to the UN and the government of Lebanon.

Israel's air force flew over 12,000 combat missions, its navy fired 2,500 shells, and the army fired more than 100,000 shells. On Jul. 26 Israeli forces destroyed a UN observer post. Israel later described the attack as an accident, though UN officials made repeated calls to alert Israeli forces of the danger to the UN observers, all four of whom were killed. Rescuers who then attempted to reach the post were shelled.

About 15,000 civilian homes were destroyed; the estimated cost of infrastructure damage exceeded 15 billion dollars, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Air strikes on oil tanks on the coast led to spillage of 10,000 tons of heavy oil that polluted 80km of Lebanon's coast, destroying the fishing and tourism industry.

The Israeli military later admitted to using banned weapons such as white phosphorous and cluster bombs. To date, much of southern Lebanon remains uninhabitable due to unexploded cluster bombs. As of Dec. 1, a quarter of a million Lebanese remain internally displaced as refugees within their own country.

Hezbollah in turn launched thousands of rockets into northern Israel, and engaged invading Israeli soldiers in a guerilla war in southern Lebanon. Over 4,000 rockets fired into Northern Israel killed scores of civilians, and damaged homes and businesses, forcing people to live in underground bomb shelters for days on end.

War crimes were committed by both sides, with indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas.

UN Resolution 1701 was approved Aug. 11, calling for Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, for Hezbollah to disarm and for a more effective UN force in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah, however, has not disarmed.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, head of a fractured and largely impotent government, is now facing a crisis as Hezbollah withdrew its ministers from government positions following demands for a "unity" government free from "western influence."

Having emerged from the war with claims that it is the victor, the group has flexed its newfound political muscle in making these demands to pressure what it sees as a U.S.-backed government.

A southern Beirut victory demonstration late September brought over a million supporters on the streets - a quarter of the entire population of Lebanon. The demonstrators later reassembled to carry out continuing protests against the Siniora-led government.

Portrayed as sectarian by most western media outlets, or as supporters of a coup attempt engineered by Hezbollah allies Iran and Syria, the demonstrators are really Lebanon's poor and disenfranchised, mostly the Shia community. They are seeking a government that gives them both representation and basic services.

Hezbollah, now in a position to provide these demands more than ever following the war, promises to deliver.

As forces outside Lebanon continue to influence internal politics, the people in Lebanon seem caught in the middle once again. But to avoid a sectarian divide this time, Hezbollah has allied itself with Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian politician who promises to "clean up" the corrupt Lebanese government.

Unless the Siniora government makes large concessions to include the massive and growing power of Hezbollah and its followers, instability in Lebanon could build up in 2007.

* Dahr Jamail reported the Lebanon war and its consequences extensively for IPS.

(c)2006 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 MidEast Dispatches are republished on my site with Dahr's kind permission.

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