Saturday, April 23, 2005

Preemptive Relief: The Disaster Bonanza!

Preemptive Relief: The Disaster Bonanza!

The newest privatized marketplace is "relief" work. Once the domain of charities and concert promoters, rebuilding the social and physical infrastructure of war and natural disaster struck countries is just too lucrative to be left to the good-hearted. Now, the corporate boys are in the game, and as ever they're more effective than their lame predecessors; they don't wait for Disaster's cruel blow to get their rebuilding contracts. - {ape}

lookout by Naomi Klein

The Rise of

Disaster Capitalism

from The Nation - May 2, 2005 issue

Last summer, in the lull of the August media doze, the Bush Administration's doctrine of preventive war took a major leap forward. On August 5, 2004, the White House created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, headed by former US Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual. Its mandate is to draw up elaborate "post-conflict" plans for up to twenty-five countries that are not, as of yet, in conflict. According to Pascual, it will also be able to coordinate three full-scale reconstruction operations in different countries "at the same time," each lasting "five to seven years."

Fittingly, a government devoted to perpetual pre-emptive deconstruction now has a standing office of perpetual pre-emptive reconstruction.

Gone are the days of waiting for wars to break out and then drawing up ad hoc plans to pick up the pieces. In close cooperation with the National Intelligence Council, Pascual's office keeps "high risk" countries on a "watch list" and assembles rapid-response teams ready to engage in prewar planning and to "mobilize and deploy quickly" after a conflict has gone down. The teams are made up of private companies, nongovernmental organizations and members of think tanks--some, Pascual told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in October, will have "pre-completed" contracts to rebuild countries that are not yet broken. Doing this paperwork in advance could "cut off three to six months in your response time."

The plans Pascual's teams have been drawing up in his little-known office in the State Department are about changing "the very social fabric of a nation," he told CSIS. The office's mandate is not to rebuild any old states, you see, but to create "democratic and market-oriented" ones. So, for instance (and he was just pulling this example out of his hat, no doubt), his fast-acting reconstructors might help sell off "state-owned enterprises that created a nonviable economy." Sometimes rebuilding, he explained, means "tearing apart the old."

Few ideologues can resist the allure of a blank slate--that was colonialism's seductive promise: "discovering" wide-open new lands where utopia seemed possible. But colonialism is dead, or so we are told; there are no new places to discover, no terra nullius (there never was), no more blank pages on which, as Mao once said, "the newest and most beautiful words can be written." There is, however, plenty of destruction--countries smashed to rubble, whether by so-called Acts of God or by Acts of Bush (on orders from God). And where there is destruction there is reconstruction, a chance to grab hold of "the terrible barrenness," as a UN official recently described the devastation in Aceh, and fill it with the most perfect, beautiful plans.

"We used to have vulgar colonialism," says Shalmali Guttal, a Bangalore-based researcher with Focus on the Global South. "Now we have sophisticated colonialism, and they call it 'reconstruction.'"

It certainly seems that ever-larger portions of the globe are under active reconstruction: being rebuilt by a parallel government made up of a familiar cast of for-profit consulting firms, engineering companies, mega-NGOs, government and UN aid agencies and international financial institutions. And from the people living in these reconstruction sites--Iraq to Aceh, Afghanistan to Haiti--a similar chorus of complaints can be heard. The work is far too slow, if it is happening at all. Foreign consultants live high on cost-plus expense accounts and thousand- dollar-a-day salaries, while locals are shut out of much-needed jobs, training and decision-making. Expert "democracy builders" lecture governments on the importance of transparency and "good governance," yet most contractors and NGOs refuse to open their books to those same governments, let alone give them control over how their aid money is spent.

Three months after the tsunami hit Aceh, the New York Times ran a distressing story reporting that "almost nothing seems to have been done to begin repairs and rebuilding." The dispatch could easily have come from Iraq, where, as the Los Angeles Times just reported, all of Bechtel's allegedly rebuilt water plants have started to break down, one more in an endless litany of reconstruction screw-ups. It could also have come from Afghanistan, where President Hamid Karzai recently blasted "corrupt, wasteful and unaccountable" foreign contractors for "squandering the precious resources that Afghanistan received in aid." Or from Sri Lanka, where 600,000 people who lost their homes in the tsunami are still languishing in temporary camps. One hundred days after the giant waves hit, Herman Kumara, head of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement in Negombo, Sri Lanka, sent out a desperate e-mail to colleagues around the world. "The funds received for the benefit of the victims are directed to the benefit of the privileged few, not to the real victims," he wrote. "Our voices are not heard and not allowed to be voiced."

But if the reconstruction industry is stunningly inept at rebuilding, that may be because rebuilding is not its primary purpose. According to Guttal, "It's not reconstruction at all--it's about reshaping everything." If anything, the stories of corruption and incompetence serve to mask this deeper scandal: the rise of a predatory form of disaster capitalism that uses the desperation and fear created by catastrophe to engage in radical social and economic engineering. And on this front, the reconstruction industry works so quickly and efficiently that the privatizations and land grabs are usually locked in before the local population knows what hit them. Kumara, in another e-mail, warns that Sri Lanka is now facing "a second tsunami of corporate globalization and militarization," potentially even more devastating than the first. "We see this as a plan of action amidst the tsunami crisis to hand over the sea and the coast to foreign corporations and tourism, with military assistance from the US Marines."

As Deputy Defense Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz designed and oversaw a strikingly similar project in Iraq: The fires were still burning in Baghdad when US occupation officials rewrote the investment laws and announced that the country's state-owned companies would be privatized. Some have pointed to this track record to argue that Wolfowitz is unfit to lead the World Bank; in fact, nothing could have prepared him better for his new job. In Iraq, Wolfowitz was just doing what the World Bank is already doing in virtually every war-torn and disaster-struck country in the world--albeit with fewer bureaucratic niceties and more ideological bravado.

"Post-conflict" countries now receive 20-25 percent of the World Bank's total lending, up from 16 percent in 1998--itself an 800 percent increase since 1980, according to a Congressional Research Service study. Rapid response to wars and natural disasters has traditionally been the domain of United Nations agencies, which worked with NGOs to provide emergency aid, build temporary housing and the like. But now reconstruction work has been revealed as a tremendously lucrative industry, too important to be left to the do-gooders at the UN. So today it is the World Bank, already devoted to the principle of poverty-alleviation through profit-making, that leads the charge.

And there is no doubt that there are profits to be made in the reconstruction business. There are massive engineering and supplies contracts ($10 billion to Halliburton in Iraq and Afghanistan alone); "democracy building" has exploded into a $2 billion industry; and times have never been better for public-sector consultants--the private firms that advise governments on selling off their assets, often running government services themselves as subcontractors. (Bearing Point, the favored of these firms in the United States, reported that the revenues for its "public services" division "had quadrupled in just five years," and the profits are huge: $342 million in 2002--a profit margin of 35 percent.)

But shattered countries are attractive to the World Bank for another reason: They take orders well. After a cataclysmic event, governments will usually do whatever it takes to get aid dollars--even if it means racking up huge debts and agreeing to sweeping policy reforms. And with the local population struggling to find shelter and food, political organizing against privatization can seem like an unimaginable luxury.

Even better from the bank's perspective, many war-ravaged countries are in states of "limited sovereignty": They are considered too unstable and unskilled to manage the aid money pouring in, so it is often put in a trust fund managed by the World Bank. This is the case in East Timor, where the bank doles out money to the government as long as it shows it is spending responsibly. Apparently, this means slashing public-sector jobs (Timor's government is half the size it was under Indonesian occupation) but lavishing aid money on foreign consultants the bank insists the government hire (researcher Ben Moxham writes, "In one government department, a single international consultant earns in one month the same as his twenty Timorese colleagues earn together in an entire year").

In Afghanistan, where the World Bank also administers the country's aid through a trust fund, it has already managed to privatize healthcare by refusing to give funds to the Ministry of Health to build hospitals. Instead it funnels money directly to NGOs, which are running their own private health clinics on three-year contracts. It has also mandated "an increased role for the private sector" in the water system, telecommunications, oil, gas and mining and directed the government to "withdraw" from the electricity sector and leave it to "foreign private investors." These profound transformations of Afghan society were never debated or reported on, because few outside the bank know they took place: The changes were buried deep in a "technical annex" attached to a grant providing "emergency" aid to Afghanistan's war-torn infrastructure--two years before the country had an elected government.

It has been much the same story in Haiti, following the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In exchange for a $61 million loan, the bank is requiring "public-private partnership and governance in the education and health sectors," according to bank documents--i.e., private companies running schools and hospitals. Roger Noriega, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, has made it clear that the Bush Administration shares these goals. "We will also encourage the government of Haiti to move forward, at the appropriate time, with restructuring and privatization of some public sector enterprises," he told the American Enterprise Institute on April 14, 2004.

These are extraordinarily controversial plans in a country with a powerful socialist base, and the bank admits that this is precisely why it is pushing them now, with Haiti under what approaches military rule. "The Transitional Government provide[s] a window of opportunity for implementing economic governance reforms...that may be hard for a future government to undo," the bank notes in its Economic Governance Reform Operation Project agreement. For Haitians, this is a particularly bitter irony: Many blame multilateral institutions, including the World Bank, for deepening the political crisis that led to Aristide's ouster by withholding hundreds of millions in promised loans. At the time, the Inter-American Development Bank, under pressure from the State Department, claimed Haiti was insufficiently democratic to receive the money, pointing to minor irregularities in a legislative election. But now that Aristide is out, the World Bank is openly celebrating the perks of operating in a democracy-free zone.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have been imposing shock therapy on countries in various states of shock for at least three decades, most notably after Latin America's military coups and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet many observers say that today's disaster capitalism really hit its stride with Hurricane Mitch. For a week in October 1998, Mitch parked itself over Central America, swallowing villages whole and killing more than 9,000. Already impoverished countries were desperate for reconstruction aid--and it came, but with strings attached. In the two months after Mitch struck, with the country still knee-deep in rubble, corpses and mud, the Honduran congress initiated what the Financial Times called "speed sell-offs after the storm." It passed laws allowing the privatization of airports, seaports and highways and fast-tracked plans to privatize the state telephone company, the national electric company and parts of the water sector. It overturned land-reform laws and made it easier for foreigners to buy and sell property. It was much the same in neighboring countries: In the same two months, Guatemala announced plans to sell off its phone system, and Nicaragua did likewise, along with its electric company and its petroleum sector.

All of the privatization plans were pushed aggressively by the usual suspects. According to the Wall Street Journal, "the World Bank and International Monetary Fund had thrown their weight behind the [telecom] sale, making it a condition for release of roughly $47 million in aid annually over three years and linking it to about $4.4 billion in foreign-debt relief for Nicaragua."

Now the bank is using the December 26 tsunami to push through its cookie-cutter policies. The most devastated countries have seen almost no debt relief, and most of the World Bank's emergency aid has come in the form of loans, not grants. Rather than emphasizing the need to help the small fishing communities--more than 80 percent of the wave's victims--the bank is pushing for expansion of the tourism sector and industrial fish farms. As for the damaged public infrastructure, like roads and schools, bank documents recognize that rebuilding them "may strain public finances" and suggest that governments consider privatization (yes, they have only one idea). "For certain investments," notes the bank's tsunami-response plan, "it may be appropriate to utilize private financing."

As in other reconstruction sites, from Haiti to Iraq, tsunami relief has little to do with recovering what was lost. Although hotels and industry have already started reconstructing on the coast, in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia and India, governments have passed laws preventing families from rebuilding their oceanfront homes. Hundreds of thousands of people are being forcibly relocated inland, to military style barracks in Aceh and prefab concrete boxes in Thailand. The coast is not being rebuilt as it was--dotted with fishing villages and beaches strewn with handmade nets. Instead, governments, corporations and foreign donors are teaming up to rebuild it as they would like it to be: the beaches as playgrounds for tourists, the oceans as watery mines for corporate fishing fleets, both serviced by privatized airports and highways built on borrowed money.

In January Condoleezza Rice sparked a small controversy by describing the tsunami as "a wonderful opportunity" that "has paid great dividends for us." Many were horrified at the idea of treating a massive human tragedy as a chance to seek advantage. But, if anything, Rice was understating the case. A group calling itself Thailand Tsunami Survivors and Supporters says that for "businessmen-politicians, the tsunami was the answer to their prayers, since it literally wiped these coastal areas clean of the communities which had previously stood in the way of their plans for resorts, hotels, casinos and shrimp farms. To them, all these coastal areas are now open land!"

Disaster, it seems, is the new terra nullius.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bush X

Fake Fights, Sleights of Hand and Sucker Punches


April 21, 2005

From the X-files of political conspiracy theory, here's a nasty thought: What if Bush and Karl Rove aren't really expecting to win on Social Security?

What if this whole campaign and road show is a grand diversion designed to keep Democrats, and especially progressives and the labor movement, all worked up and focused on saving Social Security, while the White House and congressional Republicans (and their quizling Democratic supporters like Joe Lieberman) do major damage in myriad other areas.

Notice how little effective opposition there was in Congress, and especially out in the street and in communities, over the bankruptcy bill, over the latest round of $82 billion in funding for the War against Iraq, over the restrictions on class action lawsuits.

Look at how the voting integrity issue, the question of fraud in the 2004 election, and drilling in the Artic Refuge, have all died away.

Look at how little attention is being paid to the Congressional assault on liberal judges.

When you consider that this president is among the least popular chief executives to have won a second term in the history of the White House (if he indeed won at all), and that his party's majority in both houses of Congress is thin, it's nothing short of astonishing that he's been having such an easy time of it, legislatively.

One might even argue that there's method to the madness of putting rabid dogs like John Bolton up for a nothing job like UN ambassador--a post that has traditionally been the equivalent of being put out to pasture. Like the campaign against Social Security, it gets the more progressive Democrats all riled up, but ends up having them waste time and energy opposing something that, in the grand scheme of things, is really rather meaningless.

The Democrats, who at this point stand for nothing, are particularly vulnerable to such a strategy of diversion, because, with nothing to campaign or stand for, they are looking for sound-bite friendly issues to bluster on about, without having to really do anything of substance.

The administration has handed them several of these non-issue issues to play with already.

Viewed this way, there is really no downside for the White House. If the president loses on Social Security, he can just say he tried. If the Democrats ultimately beat back the idea of private accounts in place of the current system for younger workers, and a compromise is found that involves offering private accounts on top of Social Security, the president will claim that as a victory (and he'll be correct).

As for Bolton, if his nomination is defeated with the help of one or two Republican votes, it will be a defeat for Bush but so what? The Democrats in Congress, being the wusses that they are, will not be emboldened by that victory to start blocking other more important appointments. More likely, they'll figure that they'd better avoid looking like obstructionists, and will support the next batch of right-wing hacks and charlatans the White House puts up for federal posts.

Bolton could, in other words, be like the helmet on a stick that gets held up during a trench war, so that a platoon can make a charge while the enemy is concentrating its fire on the empty hat.

As long as the Democratic Party continues to play defense, and refuses to challenge the underlying pro-corporate, anti-worker, imperial agenda of the Bush administration, Bush and Rove will be able to keep Congressional Democrats, mainstream Democratic voters and even the left running around from issue to issue like ants disoriented after the rock covering their home has been lifted.

Meanwhile, while they scurry around ineffectively, the U.S. economy is being hollowed out, health insurance is being terminated by even large corporate employers, the environment is being destroyed, schools are being turned into test centers, the country is getting dragged ever deeper into an endless war, cities are falling back into decay, the Constitution is being trashed, and corporations and the rich are getting ever richer.

It's all devilishly clever.

Dave Lindorff is the author of This Can't Be Happening. He can be reached at:

Hot Politics: Getting Ready for Climate Change

World leaders - prominent political and religious figures, and others - say climate change is one of the most serious threats facing humanity. All the evidence from scientists says they are right.

World leaders - prominent political and religious figures, and others - say climate change is one of the most serious threats facing humanity. All the evidence from scientists says they are right.

Tony Blair has put action on climate top of the agenda for the leaders of the G7 richest industrial countries plus Russia when they meet in Scotland in July, and has pledged to make it central to Britain's forthcoming presidency of the European Union, the world's biggest trading block. The other political parties in Britain say they are even more serious about climate change than Labour!

But what does all this professed seriousness really mean? Britain, for example, talks a good game, but is in a mighty row with the European Commission because it wants to weaken its obligation under the Kyoto targets. Energy and transport policy in this country are a mess. Our carbon emissions rose by 1.5% last year. The three big political parties dance around difficult questions like whether or not there's a role for nuclear power.

Are the politics of climate change an example of what the eminent philosopher Harry Frankfurt calls Bullshit?

The stakes could hardly be higher. Recently, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the culmination of four years of work by 1,400 experts from 95 countries, showed that human impacts on the environment that supports us are already seriously undermining health and well being for many hundreds of millions of people. Climate change is likely to make the situation much worse.

So there's plenty of room for gloom. Maybe even the death of environmentalism?

One British campaigner taking part in a roundtable in the forthcoming openDemocracy debate says that for fifteen years environmental activists like him have pursued a tried and tested model for effecting social change against a backdrop of increasingly serious warnings from scientists. "And yet", he writes, "there is still no vocal mass movement on climate change in any country. Where are we going wrong?" he asks.

Catastrophism is big business. Few people do it better than the best-selling writer Michael Crichton. But Crichton is on the other team. He compares believers in global warming to Nazi eugenicists. His recent blockbuster State of Fear paints a picture of a vast worldwide conspiracy of environmentalist evildoers, out to destroy civilization as we know it.

You may laugh at what one veteran scientist and campaigner has called Crichton's horrific assault on sanity. But it is not a joke. Crichton has the ear of key players in the American ruling elite. His books sell millions of copies.

But there are signs of hope too. New political coalitions and movements may emerge, not least in the United States.

One such may be what the influential blogger Andrew Sullivan recently called an alliance of three Hippies, Hawks and Holies. The Hippies are environmentalists. Hawks are those concerned about dependence on middle east oil. The Holies are leading voices among America's thirty million or so evangelical Christians and from a hundred million or so from other religious traditions, who last May joined in a National Religious Partnership for the Environment in signing a document titled "Earth's climate embraces us all: A plea from religion and science for action on global climate change"

I would add another H to the list - theHigh Tech types. That's the scientists, technologists and others who "get" it. This group may include John Brown, chairman of the oil company BP.

BP did its own internal version of Kyoto - the small first step in cutting emissions. The company found that it was able to reach its initial target of reducing emissions 10% below 1990 levels in four years and add $650m in stakeholder value in the process. The overwhelming message, said Lord Brown "is that efficiency can both pay dividends and reduce emissions".

As Lord Brown also knows, US consumers cannot get hold of Toyota's fuel efficient hybrid car, the Prius, fast enough. By 2004, Toyota's market capitalisation exceeded the big three indigenous American car makers combined. According to High-Tech guru Amory Lovins, if all cars in the US today were Priuses, they'd save 15% more oil than the US got from the Gulf in 2002.

There are interesting signs of recognition of the scale of challenge from China too. As Pan Yue, deputy director of China's Environmental Protection Administration says in an interview re-published in openDemocracy, "one of the mistakes we make is to assume that economic growth will give us the financial resources to cope with the crises surrounding China's environment, raw materials, and population growth. But there won't be enough money, and we are simply running out of time".

Chinese activists taking part in the openDemcocracy debate may agree with Pan Yue. Ironically they cannot be named.

So there are signs of gloom and signs of hope. What should one make of this? The apparent polarity can be imprisoning. Extremes create a sense of powerlessness that can in turn lead to cynicism.

One of the purposes of openDemocracy's debate on the politics of climate change is to help more people break through the sense of powerlessness or irrelevance, and find their own way to engage.

The challenges, I think, include a challenge to reason, and a challenge to imagine. Here's one example of each in will be a rich and broad debate.

First, reason. John Sterman of MIT will show how even highly educated adults ignore basic physical laws when thinking about climate change. Their beliefs make current "wait and see" policies seem entirely logical, but in fact violate basic principles of conservation of matter.

Second, imagination. Bill McKibben, author of the 1989 classic The Death of Nature will write about simply getting our heads around something as big as climate change. "It hasn't registed in our gut. It isn't part of our culture". Where, he asks, "are the books? The plays? The goddamn operas?"

Join scientists, writers, politicians, business people, activists and people who defy any category from China to Brazil, and from the US to Germany coming together on openDemocracy to propose and to challenge each other on the key issues. The debate runs from today until 10 June. Highlights will be presented to the G8 leaders at their summit in July.

To finish, a note of caution. We are, as Ian McEwan writes, a quarrelsome species. I'd like to think we resemble dancing blue footed boobies - an extraordinary bird in the Galapagos islands - as much as we do McEwan's parliament of rooks. But it's far from sure we can we agree amongst ourselves.

Can the Americans - with than one in four of the dollars in the world economy (albeit some of them borrowed from the Chinese) and less than one in twenty of the people of the world's people - see eye to eye with the Chinese - less than one in thirty of the dollars and more than one in five of the people?

As The Economist - these days an arch global warming sceptic - put it back in 1843,- "take part in a servere contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress"!

Caspar Henderson

OpenDemocracy's debate on the politics of climate change is at

( Apr 21 2005, 12:13:48 PM BST )

The Dead of Mada'in: Propaganda's Wet Work

Kurt Nimmo
April 21, 2005

In a brazen attempt to blame the “Sunni insurgency” for violence in Iraq, minus any substantial evidence, Bloomberg writes the following bit of questionable objectivity: “The killings [dozens of Shiite Muslims found floating in the Tigris] are the latest example of a shift in tactics by the Sunni insurgency to attacking civilians.” How does Bloomberg and the corporate American media know the “Sunni insurgency” is to blame? Because newly enshrined (by way of bogus elections) Iraqi president Jalal Talabani said so.

Even Agence France-Presse, usually a bit more circumspect than the corporate media in the United States, who are transparently slavish cheerleaders (with the New York Times and the Washington Post usually leading the charge) for Bush and Crew, gets in on the highly suspect action.

“The dead, 57 Shiite Muslims abducted by Sunni Muslim gunmen from al-Maidan, which lies on the Tigris, 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Baghdad, included women and children, Agence France-Presse reported, citing an unidentified Iraqi police lieutenant-colonel based in Suwayrah.”

Interesting how this works—since this police lieutenant-colonel is “unidentified,” there is no way to verify his story. But the corporate media does not need verification or corroboration because everybody knows the “insurgency” in Iraq is comprised of and run by blood-thirsty thugs and criminals, on one side by Saddam Hussein understudies, “dead-enders” and such, and on the other by Islamic serial murderers as exemplified by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

It is also interesting that this recent act of brutality comes at a time when Jalal Talabani is about to announce an amnesty (actually a public relations gimmick) for Sunni “insurgents,” a fig leaf gesture obviously doomed to failure since the only thing that will put an end to the resistance is a quick removal of U.S. occupation troops and elections held under sincere international monitor, minus all outside influence. Hell is likely to freeze over before this happens.

As for the dead floating in the Tigris, history serves (again) —this is appears to be a classic “psywar” tactic. “The deliberate (and nominally selective) use of terror in psychological operations,” writes Michael McClintock, “figured prominently in the 1960s reassessment of Philippine tactics by the U.S. counterinsurgency establishment.”

McClintock, in his excellent gold mine of information on U.S. counterinsurgency (Instruments of Statecraft: U.S. Guerilla Warfare, Counterinsurgency, and Counterterrorism, 1940-1990), cites numerous examples of the “use of dead bodies” to terrorize potential resistance sympathizers and collaborators (that is to say, much of the civilian population). As McClintock notes, this macabre “psywar” tactic was a favorite of the French in Algeria. It was also put to use during the Hukbalahap rebellion, or simply the Huk rebellion (1946-54), in the Philippines:

[Intelligence officer Major Medardo Justiniano] explained its purpose [the use of dead bodies] as counteracting the Huk hold on “the minds of the masses” “by instilling greater fear of us.” On one occasion when “we killed a large number of Huks,” “we piled these dead Huks into a truck with the hands and feet dangling outside, a whole truck load of dead bodies, and we drove this truck clear around town, and through the area. A series of photographs submitted by Bohannan to Look magazine were identified with such captions as “Government troops pose with dead Huks dumped before them.”

In his introductory remarks to a June 1961 Fort Bragg seminar, [Major General, U.S. Air Force, Edward Geary Lansdale] describes his fellow speakers as “fellow gremlins.” The role of deception operations and psychological warfare tactics employing terror in the Philippines was a favorite topic of Lansdale’s, and the counterinsurgent as prankster, however macabre the joke, was a role he actively promoted. The vigorous claims of success for bizarre psy-war operations in the Philippines today comprise a large part of the opus of lessons learned from the Huk Rebellion.

Is it possible “bizarre psy-war operations” are under way in Iraq, especially now that Rumsfeld’s Strategic Support Branch (SSB) has been “operating in secret for two years—in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places” (as the Washington Post reported in January)?

As I wrote at the time, the Strategic Support Branch is essentially Rumsfeld’s own personal version of the CIA. “Pentagon officials said they established the Strategic Support Branch using ‘reprogrammed’ funds, without explicit congressional authority or appropriation. Defense intelligence missions, they said, are subject to less stringent congressional oversight than comparable operations by the CIA,” according to the Post (see previous link).

As I noted at the time, Rumsfeld’s SSB cooperates with the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), a clandestine unit run out of the Tampa-based U.S. Special Operations Command. “Although JSOC’s stated purpose is to provide a unified command structure for conducting joint special operations and exercises, it is widely reported that JSOC is actually the command responsible for conducting US counter-terrorism (CT) operations.

JSOC is reported to command the US military’s Special Missions Units (SMUs). These SMUs are tasked with conducting CT operations, strike operations, reconnaissance in denied areas, and special intelligence missions,” notes GlobalSecurity. “Much of the hunting for senior Taliban and al Qaeda members in Afghanistan is being conducted by a unit called Task Force 11, composed mostly of Delta Force soldiers and SEALs.”

SSB, JSOC, the CIA, et al, are warriors engaged in “war without rules,” as McClintock characterizes CT in the wake of World War II. “The real post-Vietnam revival of special warfare—as part of the new concept of ‘low-intensity conflict’ —came with the Reagan administration. The rollback of perceived gains made by the Soviet Union, notably in Central America, was the centerpiece of foreign policy during his first term in office. The apparent American slippage in the Cold War was taken up as a challenge that would justify a newly aggressive pursuit of special warfare,” McClintock writes. “Implying the legitimacy of a state’s turning to terror tactics as a utilitarian means to an end, the Reagan administration publicly extended the logic of covert counterinsurgency in internal conflicts to the sphere of international relations.

Despite Reagan’s overwrought rhetoric about terrorism, there was evidence that the United States had, indeed, experimented in perpetrating the very kind of terrorism it claimed to oppose…. The consensus of the special warfare experts then, as now, was that low-intensity conflict was intrinsically an ‘un-American way of war.’ The substance of the United States’ doctrine for these unpalatable, dirty wars, however, was to reaffirm the logic of the 1950s. The special warfare establishment would do whatever was necessary to prevail in secret, political warfare. The United States could wage dirty wars with the best (or worst) of them.” (Emphasis added.) As we know, the same Iran-Contra criminals, engaged in “dirty wars” against the people of Nicaragua and elsewhere, figure prominently in the foreign policy helm high up in the Bush II administration.

Once again, qui bono enters the equation.

Does the Iraqi resistance benefit from killing civilians—fellow Sunnis, or so we are told—or does the United States and its stage managed and emerging Shia government? Does it make sense for the Sunni-dominated resistance to kill its own base and grotesquely float dozens of their slaughtered bodies down the Tigris?

No, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, that is unless the resistance wants to send the following message: we are brutal mass murderers who kill our own and for no reason beyond sheer mindless terror. If in fact the resistance killed these hapless Sunni civilians, they are the most stupid resistance fighters in recent memory. Of course, they are not stupid and logic dictates they would not target civilians directly.

On the other hand, as history—generally ignored and glossed over, if mentioned at all by the corporate media—demonstrates, the United States has consistently employed terrorism in its “dirty wars” of “counterinsurgency” since the end of the Second World War. Obviously, the United States and its stage managed government in Iraq have more to gain from dead people floating downstream for all to see and fear than the resistance does.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Telling Truth to Terror

April 19, 2005

In essence, according to the “chief investigative correspondent” for ABC News, Brian Ross, the internet is a tool for neo-Nazi and racist whack jobs, “future Timothy McVeighs,” “ticking time bombs,” “lone wolves,” and “small cells” of vicious terrorists. Ross quotes Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, who warns about white supremacist nuts squirreled away “in their bedroom accessing bomb-making information on the Net, and accessing hateful rhetoric which empowers them.”

Of course, these isolated should-be mental patients, who call for the death of not only Jews but the president, are but an insignificant number of the people on the web, and I am more worried about spammers and virus writers than I am of James P. Wickstrom, chaplain of the Aryan Nation, considered by federal officials to rival Osama bin Laden and “has declared himself an enemy of the United States government,” according to Ross.

But never mind guys spewing hatred toward people of color from remote rural compounds. Last year “eco-terrorism—acts of violence, sabotage or property damage motivated by concern for animals or the environment—was the nation’s top domestic terrorism threat,” not gun-toting Nazi wannabes robbing banks or Christian zealots blowing up abortion clinics. The FBI told that Larry Copeland of USA Today last November that “eco-terrorists had committed more than 1,100 criminal acts and caused property damage estimated at least $110 million since 1976.”

Organizations such as the Earth Liberation Front and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty are far more dangerous than violent anti-Semites training for a confrontation against ZOG in the wilderness. In fact, as Rajib Mitra of Wisconsin discovered, broadcasting “sex sounds over police radios” is a form of domestic terrorism and will get you eight years in the slammer. “Mitra was one of the first defendants sentenced under guidelines [the PATRIOT Act] changed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The changes, effective Nov. 5, 2003, impose stiffer penalties for domestic terrorism. Under the previous sentencing guidelines, Mitra probably would have been sentenced to 18 to 24 months.”

If the feds will prosecute and lock up a guy with a warped sense of humor, imagine what they will do to the “black helicopter crowd,” that is to say those of us who are less than happy with the actions of our government. “‘The “black helicopter” crowd is still out there,’ says Wisconsin federal prosecutor Tim O’Shea, referring to extremists who distrust and abhor the federal government,” writes Larry Copeland. “

Many [so-called militia group] members believed the federal government was secretly setting up concentration camps for dissident Americans and was planning a takeover of the United States by United Nations troops as part of a ‘new world order.’ Many also said that mysterious black helicopters were conducting surveillance in the West, according to the ADL.” In short, if you distrust the government—and as history demonstrates, there are literally thousands of reasons to distrust and fear the federal government—you are some kind of nut case.

Never mind that Jonathan Turley, in an article published in the Los Angeles Times, documented in August, 2002, then AG John Ashcroft’s desire to build “camps for U.S. citizens he deems to be ‘enemy combatants,’” an idea that was once a “political embarrassment” that morphed into “a constitutional menace” overnight. “Since the nation will never be entirely safe from terrorism, liberty has become a mere rhetorical justification for increased security,” writes Turley. “Ashcroft is a catalyst for constitutional devolution, encouraging citizens to accept autocratic rule as their only way of avoiding massive terrorist attack,” for instance “eco-terrorist” groups and “future Timothy McVeighs” on the internet. Is it possible Turley experienced a “black helicopter” visitation?

Of course, since most people don’t pay attention, and “investigative” journalists working for corporate news operations go unchallenged when they write gibberish or make outlandish, undocumented claims, relatively recent historical events are never mentioned, for instance Reagan’s Rex 84 Program. As Harry Helms writes (Inside the Shadow Government: National Emergencies and the Cult of Secrecy), the expansion of FEMA’s mandate during the first Reagan administration included “capabilities to detain American citizens, as had happened to Japanese-American citizens in World War II. This plan developed during a military exercise known as Readiness Exercise 1984, or ‘Rex 84′ …

The first reports about Rex 84 appeared in the Miami Herald on July 5,1987 (this is the report referred to by Representative Brooks). According to the Herald, the plan the Rex 84 group produced called for the detention of up to 400,000 undocumented immigrants in internment centers at military bases around the country. (These would eventually become known as the “Rex 84 camps.") If necessary, U.S. military forces, including the National Guard, would be deployed for domestic law enforcement, and state and local military commanders could assume control of state and local governments if so directed by the president. Rex 84 also included plans for suspension of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution for the duration of the national emergency. While undocumented immigrants were the only ones targeted for detention during the Rex 84 exercise, the logistics of interning American citizens would essentially be the same.

Oliver North was the principal author of the Rex 84 plan…

Yep, that’s the same Oliver North who is a “syndicated columnist, former host of the radio’s Common Sense and the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel,” according to Premiere Speakers Bureau. “Assigned to the National Security Council Staff in the Reagan administration, Colonel North was the United States government’s Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, was involved in planning the rescue of medical students on the Island of Grenada…” It was during his tenure at the NSC that North plotted against the Constitution of the United States and helped devise plans to kill not only harmless peasants in Grenada but evil communist school teachers in Nicaragua as well.

It should be noted that former FEMA director Louis Guiffrida’s deputy, John Brinkerhoff, who handled the martial law portion of Rex 84, works for “the highly influential Anser Institute for Homeland Security,” according to TBR News.

Following a request by the Pentagon in January 2002 that the U.S. military be allowed the option of deploying troops on U.S. streets, the institute in February 2002 published a paper by Brinkerhoff arguing in defense of the legality of this. He alleged that the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which has long been accepted as prohibiting such deployments, has simply been misunderstood and misapplied. The preface to the article also provided the revelation that the national plan he had worked on, under Giuffrida, was “approved by Reagan, and actions were taken to implement it".

Obviously, Harry Helms and the editors of TBR were also visited by a black helicopter in the middle of the night. Maybe they were also abducted by aliens working for the “new world order.”

In Bushzarro world (and the Reaganzarro and Clintonzarro worlds), criminals are rewarded (North was convicted of illegally supporting the mass murdering [mostly school teachers and Sandinista petty bureaucrats] Contras in Nicaragua; he received a three-year suspended prison sentence, two years probation, 1,200 hours’ community service with inner city drugs projects and a $150,000 fine, but all of this was overturned by appellate judges when it was discovered some of the trial witnesses had seen him on TV). According to the Bushzarro world corporate media, white supremacists and “eco-terrorists” take solace in a lawless internet and history runs back in time about fifteen minutes.

Rex 84, of course, is not the first time the government has plotted to use the Bill of Rights and the Constitution as a doormat. Problem is most people are too distracted by the hobgoblins of ter’ism, continually splashed across our collective consciousness, thanks to the likes of Fox News where felons convicted of plotting against the Constitution hold down cushy jobs, perpetually distracting us from the real criminals in the White House and the Pentagon. It is no mistake the same Iran-Contra criminals who entered into a criminal conspiracy with Oliver North are now running things.

But then I guess I am part of the “black helicopter crowd” for pointing out such realities.

Curious News: Two Tortured Tales from Iraq

Curious News
C. L. Cook
PEJ News
April 20th, 2005

U.S. Forces Take Control of Mada'in

If there's still left anyone expecting to get a truthful picture of the situation in Iraq through the U.S. media, or their operating surrogate government there, I have an acre of beachfront property in Kansas to sell. {ape}

A tale of two atrocities in Iraq is currently unfolding across the newswires and should, true to form, play big on the networks tonight.

The first involves the discovery of dozens (numbers vary, but the media-agreed toll is 50) of bodies floating in the Tigris river. This year's Interim President, Jalal Talabani blamed the insurgency, saying: "We have the full names of those who were killed and those criminals who committed these crimes.'' As there have been no arrests, no reports of kidnappings from Mada'in itself, and accounts of the condition of the corpses found, ascertaining the "full names" of each of these unfortunates and the identities of their killers stretches credulity.

Stranger yet is the fact that, if Talabani is to be believed, this mass slaying of men, women, and children would mark a distinct departure for the Resistance. While civilian women and children are killed daily by stray bullets, car bombs, and criminal activity, up to now they haven't been targeted for execution in the gruesome manner ascribed by Talabani to the bodies found in the Tigris.

And then there's Falah al-Naqib. He's last year's Interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi's soon to depart Interior Minister. He's blamed the rumours of the mass kidnappings on Iranian intelligence. Note: His accusation concurs with the majority opinion in both Mada'in, and throughout Iraq that the kidnapping story was just that: A story! Likely, a further effort to create a sectarian fissure in Iraq. A day after al-Naqib's verbal pratfall voila, dozens of horribly mutilated bodies start hitting the shore downstream of the city.

But, even that's not clear. Bodies beaching themselves at the feet of those living down river of Iraq's cities has been a daily occurrence since at least February. But now it appears, someone cares and has all the answers (pending publication) about who these dead are, who killed them, and why. Curious!

Our second story is no less grim, and it too is a crime solved by the Interim administration almost before it occurred.

Today, the bodies of 19, (or perhaps 20, depending on your news source) Iraqi men were discovered in the soccer stadium at Hidath, a satellite city not far from Baghdad. They had apparently been lined up, St. Valentine's Day Massacre style and mowed down by machine guns. None of the unfortunates were in military uniform, according to Associated Press (AP) reports, being ripped and read by every news agency from Dallas to New Dehli, but they have been "identified" as being members to a man of the Iraqi National Guard.

What's immediately odd about this account is the location. Soccer stadium executions are usually identified with the ruling power. But in this instance, the AP asserts the insurgents have beaten the ruling power to the punch.

Haditha has been ruled continuously by pro-Occupation factions, with at least one Mayor of the town paying for the privilege with his life. So, what we have here is the kidnapping of a platoon of National Guard soldier/police in the heart of a pro-Occupation town, their subsequent transit to the local football stadium and execution. And all this in a town that saw multiple car-bomb attacks against U.S. forces exactly one month ago yesterday.

Sure, I'll hang, bated-breathed for the 6 O'Clock News and other fictions ready to erupt from the network pens!

Or, maybe I'll just watch a Simpsons rerun.

Chris Cook
hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada and is a contributing editor at News.

Check out
the Gorilla Radio Blog too!



Outgoing Interior Minister Warns on Iran, Badr Corps

Sunni guerrillas had taken over 100 Shiites hostage at Mada'in

Associated Press Writer

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Canadian Healthcare's Unlikely Corporate Defenders

Canadian Healthcare's Unlikely Corporate Defenders

In a time of corporate hostility to anything smacking of old time socialism, especially something as subversive as socialized medical care, an unlikely champion rings in from south of the border to defend our system. And, these guys are super heavyweights. - {ape}

What's Good for Canada is Good for General Motors
Dave Lindorff
Monday, April 18, 2005

[NOTE: This article appeared originally in the May 9 issue of In These Times]

What a difference a border makes.

General Motors executives say soaring health costs in their U.S. plants are forcing them to seek health benefits give-backs from unionized workers, yet they insist national health care is not an appropriate solution for America. As a company spokeswoman puts it, "GM thinks there has to be closer cooperation between the government and the private sector, but we don't advocate a single-payer system for the U.S."

Yet just across the Detroit River in Ontario, the company's subsidiary strongly endorses Canada's national health system.

"The Canadian plan has been a significant advantage for investing in Canada," says GM Canada spokesman David Patterson, noting that in the United States GM spends $1500 per car on health benefits. Indeed, with the nation's taxpayers sharing 75 percent of the cost of Canadian health care, it's no surprise that GM, Ford and Chrysler have all been shifting car production across the border at such a rate that the name "Motor City" should belong to Windsor, not Detroit.

Just two years ago, GM Canada's CEO Michael Grimaldi sent a letter co-signed by Canadian Autoworkers Union president Buzz Hargrave to a Crown Commission considering reforms of Canada's 35-year-old national health program which said, "The public health care system significantly reduces total labour costs for automobile manufacturing firms, compared to their cost of equivalent private insurance services purchased by U.S.-based automakers." That letter also said it was "vitally important that the publicly funded health care system be preserved and renewed, on the existing principles of universality, accessibility, portability, comprehensiveness and public administration," and went on to call not just for preservation but for an "updated range of services." CEOs of the Canadian units of Ford and DaimlerChrysler wrote similar encomiums endorsing the national health system.

How can the same corporations that in Canada recognize the bottom-line logic of a national health system be so opposed to the idea here?

One answer is ideology. The notion of having the government take over an industry that represents about 15 percent of the U.S. economy gives U.S. executives the willies. But in backing insurance company interests, GM runs counter to both its own business interests and the sentiments of many customers.

Polls have long shown a majority of Americans favor some kind of national health system. Now, with studies suggesting that the cost of health benefits has reached $6800 per employee, corporate executives may join the broader public in finally taking a look the Canadian model. "Is there a private sector solution to the rapidly increasing cost of healthcare? Probably not," says Deloitte Consulting’s Jon Erb. "There would be huge resistance to a wholesale national solution because the tentacles of the healthcare industry reach into all sectors of the economy, but I suspect you’ll see business's strategy will be to sneak a single-payer system in a little bit at a time."

Back in 1970, a year before Canada switched from an employer-based, insurance company-administered health system like that in the United States to a national single-payer model, both countries were devoting about 7 percent of GDP to health care. Today, Canada devotes 9.1 percent of GDP to health care, while the United States devotes a whopping 15.1. Meanwhile, Canada boasts better health statistics and all of its citizens are fully covered, even for catastrophic illnesses like cancer or AIDS. In the United States, some 15 percent of people have no insurance coverage at all and medical costs are the leading cause of bankruptcy (though that may change now that Congress and the president have made declaring bankruptcy far more difficult).

U.S. conservatives routinely attack the Canadian system for its allegedly long waits and for driving many Canadians across the border for treatment. In fact, however, Canadians love their health system, and keep electing candidates who back it. Moreover, Canadians say U.S. criticisms are gross exaggerations. A study by Steven Katz et al in the magazine Health Affairs found that in fact the only real Canadians using U.S. healthcare were "snowbirds" and resident aliens, while a number of U.S. patients were going to Canada to get cheaper care for such uncovered treatments as LASIK eye surgery.

According to GM Canada spokesman Stew Low, the charge that Canadians endure terrible delays in getting treatment is also overblown. "It comes from people with an axe to grind," he says. "In general, people here have ready access to health care."

Meanwhile, in the United States, health insurance coverage is worsening. The New York Times reported recently that the percentage of companies paying 100 percent of employee insurance premiums had "plummeted" over the last four years, from 29 percent to only 17 percent. Worse yet, many employers are simply dropping health benefits altogether.

Before long, health care benefits in the United States will be the exception, not the rule.

Maybe Congress should invite GM Canada's Grimaldi down to talk about how Canada deals with the problem.

9:02 am pdt

Monday, April 18, 2005

It's Confirmed: Bolton A Nutter!

It's Confirmed: Bolton A Nutter!

George Bush's nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton is currently suffering confirmation hearings. Every day, the voices of the many people he's stepped on during his grotesque career are rising, painting a portrait of a pathological liar with sociopathic tendencies. -{ape}

John Bolton: At the Heart of Power

It's Confirmed: Bolton A Nutter!

C. L. Cook
Pej News
April 18, 2005

It seems everywhere John Bolton goes he leaves a trail of bullied and embittered subordinates. Any who contradict his often fantastical conclusions, or merely question his confabulations, are immediately berated, belittled, and find themselves the objects of smear campaigns designed to ruin their careers.

Consider the case of Melody Townsel. Ms. Townsel still feels the sting more than a decade later. So much so, she presented a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee weighing the nomination. She claims, while working with US AID in Kyrgyzstan she ran afoul of Bolton. She'd written a letter to complain about the many problems with the contractor carrying out the aid contract. At the time, Bolton represented as legal counsel one of the contractors named. Townsel goes on to describe what happpened next.

John Bolton in his own words.

"Within hours of sending a letter to US AID officials outlining my concerns, I met John Bolton, whom the prime contractor hired as legal counsel to represent them to US AID. And, so, within hours of dispatching that letter, my hell began. Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel - throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman. For nearly two weeks, while I awaited fresh direction from my company and from US AID, John Bolton hounded me in such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats."

"When US AID asked me to return to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in advance of assuming leadership of a project in Kazakstan, I returned to my project to find that John Bolton had proceeded me by two days. Why? To meet with every other AID team leader as well as US foreign-service officials in Bishkek, claiming that I was under investigation for misuse of funds and likely was facing jail time. As US AID can confirm, nothing was further from the truth."

"As a maligned whistleblower, I've learned firsthand the lengths Mr. Bolton will go to accomplish any goal he sets for himself. Truth flew out the window. Decency flew out the window. In his bid to smear me and promote the interests of his client, he went straight for the low road and stayed there. John Bolton put me through hell - and he did everything he could to intimidate, malign and threaten not just me, but anybody unwilling to go along with his version of events. His behavior back in 1994 wasn't just unforgivable, it was pathological."

Serious charges, but coming from a self-described "whistleblower" easily brushed aside. But there's more. As an officer of the U.S. government, Bolton has consistently lied and schemed to further his own ambitions, sacrificing his sworn duties to his superiors. Unnamed insiders say Bolton, during his term as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security actively blocked intelligence reports from reaching his boss, Colin Powell, and Powell's successor, Condoleezza Rice.

This selective use of information concerning matters of State urgency are more than reckless, more than simply a case of individual ambition; these are treasonous offences that kept vital information regarding U.S. strategies for dealing with Iran and their alleged nuclear program; issues that could see another war in the middle-east.

The anonymous officials go on to cite a dozen examples of Bolton's "back channeling" information while serving as the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. And worse, Bolton not only held on to information that didn't jibe with his world view, he also created "intelligence" that furthered those views. Remember Cuba's chemical weapons program? That hoary bit of nonesense came straight from the horse's mouth.

And now, the man who so famously said the U.N. building could lose ten stories and it wouldn't matter is poised to be the United States' top man? Only
if he can outrun the hordes he's stepped on during his illustrious rise to power in George Bush's America!

Chris Cook hosts 'Gorilla Radio' a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada and serves as a contributing editor at News.

The Truth Held Hostage in Medain

Baghdad Burning
April 18, 2005

The Hostage Crisis...

I'm sure many people have been following the story of the moment in Iraq: Dozens of Shia hostages taken by Sunni insurgents in a town called Medain?

The first time we heard about it was a couple of days ago. I was watching the news subtitles on Arabiya but the subtitle was vague. It went something like this, "Sunni guerrillas capture 60 hostages in Iraqi town and will kill them if all Shia do not leave the town." It said nothing about which town it was, who the guerrillas claimed to be representing and just how the whole incident happened.

We kept watching the channels and hoping for more information. I remember reading that subtitle and feeling my heart sink with worry. I kept checking other news channels and then finally decided to check the internet. There was another vague news article on Yahoo. This one had a few more details- the town was Madain, south of Baghdad and the person who had called in the hostage situation was some sort of high-profile Shia politician.

News channels were still being vague about it. The only two channels who were persistently talking about the hostage situation were Arabia and Iraqia- but the numbers had risen. It was now 150 Shia hostages in Medain and the Iraqi National Guard and the American army were taking their positions on the outskirts of the town, preparing for a raid.

Medain is a town of Sunnis and Shia who have lived together peacefully for as long as anyone can remember. The people in the town come from the local "Ashayir" or tribes. It's one of those places where everyone knows everyone else- even if only by name or family name. The tribes who dominate the town are a combination of Sunni and Shia. Any conflicts between the townspeople are more of the tribal or family type than they are religious.

The whole concept of a large number of Sunni guerrillas raiding the town and taking 60 – 150 of its members (including women and children) was bizarre, frightening and by the second day of the rumor, a little bit suspicious.

People in Baghdad didn't believe it. Most of them waved a hand dismissing the report and said, "They just want to raid Medain." It's a town that has been giving the Americans quite a bit of trouble this last year, a part of the Sunni Triangle . Many attacks were reported to have come from the area, but at the same time, it's not like Falloojeh, Samarra, or Mosul- it's half Shia. It wouldn't be as easy or politically correct to raid.

Yesterday, there were actually Shia demonstrators from the town claiming that the rumors were false and the town was peaceful and there was no need for a raid or for door-to-door checks.

The last few days, Iraqi officials have been on television claiming that the whole hostage situation was "under control" and things were going to be sorted out, except that apparently, there's nothing to sort out. There have been no reports of hostages, even from the majority of Shia residents themselves. Someone mentioned that it was possible a couple of people had been abducted, but it had nothing to do with Sunni guerrillas chasing out Shia.

Now, Associated Press is claiming,

"The confusion over Madain illustrated how quickly rumors spread in a country of deep ethnic and sectarian divides, where the threat of violence is all too real."

Uhm, no. Not really. See, this whole thing didn't start out as a rumor. Rumors come to you through actual people- the guy who brings you kerosene spreads rumors, that neighbor next door brings you rumors, the man you get your rations from spreads rumors. This came to us, very decidedly, from a news source. It first made its debut as breaking news and came from an "Iraqi Shia official who wished to remain unnamed". The official should have to answer to the rumor he handed over to the press.

And now…

Shiite leaders and government officials had earlier estimated 35 to 100 people were taken hostage, but residents disputed the claim, with some saying they had seen no evidence any hostages were taken.

We know a lot of our new officials and spokespeople are blatantly lying and it's fine to lie about security, reconstruction and democracy- we've gotten used to it. In fact, we tell jokes about it and laugh about it at family gatherings or over the telephone. To lie about something as serious as Sunni-Shia hostage taking is another story altogether. It's unacceptable and while Sunnis and Shia were hardly going to take up arms against each other over this latest debacle, but it was still extremely worrisome and for people who wish to fuel sectarian violence, it was a perfect opportunity.

We have an Iraqi government that bans news channels and newspapers because they *insist* on reporting about such routine things as civilian casualties and raids, yet the Puppets barely flinch over media sources spreading a rumor as dangerous and provocative as this one.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Canada Saves the World: 11 Monkeys?

How "Socialist" Medical Lab in Canada Saved the World from a New Flu Pandemic - {DL}

A Sickening Error
April 13, 2005

Philadelphia, Penn.

It's enough to make you sick isn't it?

Some $40 billion spent on "Homeland Security" in 2004 and another $50 billion going into the same sinkhole in 2005, with billions of those dollars specifically targeting "bio terror," and a mistake (or stupid decision) by a biological lab made last fall had a deadly flu virus capable of creating a global pandemic getting mailed out to several thousand unsuspecting testing labs.

If just one of those test kits were to infect just one person who then went home on a rush-hour bus or subway, we could in no time have millions of people dying of flu-against which most people have zero immunity.

And how was this accidental terror "device" detected?

Not by the alert folks at Tom Ridge's or Mike Chertoff's Homeland Security Department, but by an alert technician working for the "socialist health care system" in Manitoba, Canada, who tested the virus in the kit and determined that it was the same strain of flu virus that caused a worldwide flu pandemic in 1957 and who immediately alerted the World Health Organization and the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

The alert Canadian lab detected and identified the virus sample on March 25, but thousands of the samples have been shipped over the past six months.

I should note that this WHO, which so efficiently set about notifying labs in the 16 countries that had received shipments of the kits containing the deadly flu strain, is the same WHO that has been regularly criticized--and had its funding threatened--by the fundamentalist, anti-abortionist Bush White House and the Schiavo-obsessed Republican-led Congress.

If it were up to the Homeland Security folks to look out for our health and safety, the dreaded H2N2 Asian flu virus strain unleashed by Newtown, Ohio-based Meridian Bioscience Inc.'s error might be spreading around the globe already, infecting and killing millions.

Compounding the irony of this still active threat (hundreds of the shipped test kits are still unaccounted for) is the fact that years of cuts in public health spending, with the resulting shuttering of public clinics in poor neighborhoods, years of cuts in Medicaid funding for low-income families, and the ongoing trend of companies dropping health coverage of their employees (every year for the past four years, another four percent of U.S. employers terminate health benefits for employees, while many more drop coverage for dependents), are leaving millions of Americans with no access to a physician. This situation makes it all the more likely that any flu epidemic, when it strikes, will spread like wildfire in the US, as people will be less likely to get treatment early and more likely to continue working and transmitting their disease to others.

This latest accident, which makes a joke of all the worry about the continuing threat of bird flu in Asia, shows clearly how our terrorism-obsessed political leadership is missing the real issues while wasting vast amounts of money and energy focusing on terrorism instead of on society's real issues.

Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can't be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at

He can be reached at:

Tempor Temporaneous, Temporarily Finished

Future Shock
Chris Floyd
The Moscow Times
Apr. 15, 2005

Global Eye

One thing we can all admire about U.S. President George W. Bush is his consistency. From the day he hornswoggled his way into office, Bush has relentlessly -- if not robotically -- followed a preset hard-right agenda of crankery and cruelty, empowering ignorance, greed, aggression, deceit, corruption and malice with every appointment and policy decision. In fact, his dogged adherence to this wicked creed is so predictable that you can practically write tomorrow's news stories today. So why wait? Let's bend an ear to some echoes from the future:

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2006 -- President George W. Bush signed legislation today banning all federal funding for flu research, citing the "rampant use of unsound science" in current work on infectious diseases.

"Our investigations have shown that present research methods dealing with the causes and treatment of influenza are actually based on the theory of evolution -- how the virus supposedly mutates and evolves into new, more virulent forms," Bush said. "But as we all know, the jury is still out on this evolution thing. We cannot, we must not and we will not trust the precious health of our good citizens to an unproven theory. The American people deserve better than that."

The ban is immediate, wiping out approximately $3 billion in flu funding to clinics, laboratories, universities and all federal research institutions. Bush said this "swift, pre-emptive action" is necessary to confront the growing menace of the bird flu epidemic that began its inexorable spread from Southeast Asia in late 2005 and has now claimed more than 5 million lives. The worldwide death toll could reach as high as 100 million or more if a vaccine is not found, experts say.

Bush said the $3 billion will now be given to a consortium of faith-based groups, coordinated by the Center for Human Intelligence and Moral Purpose (CHIMP), an anti-evolution think tank based in Seattle. CHIMP is a leading proponent of "Intelligent Design" -- the idea that only the guiding, purposeful hand of a divine power could account for the creation and complexity of the universe. Since 2004, advocates of ID have been successful in getting several U.S. school systems to teach the doctrine in science classes alongside the theory of evolution.

CHIMP spokesman Michael Behehehe said the center had "72 scientists with real degrees and everything" now combing the Bible -- "both the Old and New Testaments, and even those Catholic bits" -- for a cure. "It only stands to reason," Behehehe said. "Since God Almighty created this bird flu, the cure will not be found in test tubes or Darwinian tracts, but in the Lord's own science textbook. We're seeing some very promising results from the burnt offering of goats right now."

FORT KENNEBUNKPORT, Iraq, April 15, 2007 -- The war in Iran has finally "turned the corner" and victory is now in sight, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today during a lightning visit to the permanent headquarters of the United States' Middle East Security Service (MESS).

Rumsfeld, who spent 15 minutes at the sprawling military base on his way to open the first annual Kabul International Arms Exposition, issued his upbeat assessment the day after a U.S. victory at Abadan. U.S. forces managed to advance their trench lines 50 feet toward the border town following a 19-day battle that saw more than 200,000 casualties on both sides.

Rumsfeld denied persistent rumors that the United States plans to use nuclear weapons to break a nine-month stalemate along the 1,400-mile front. "Goodness gracious granny me, there's no need for nukes," he told a cadre of MESS troops, most of them recently arrived draftees in transit to the battlefield. "Saturation bombing will do the trick. Our destruction of Iran's civilian infrastructure is sharply degrading the enemy's ability and will to fight. They're gonna roll up like a Persian carpet any day now."

CRAWFORD, Texas, April 15, 2008 -- At a gala ceremony that mixed down-home barbeque and high affairs of state, President George W. Bush signed the controversial "Tools for Yoking Resources to Address National Threats" (TYRANT) Act at his ranch here today.

The 500-page bill, passed by both houses of Congress last week after a vigorous three-minute debate, gives the president broad powers to "override bureaucratic obstacles in carrying out his sacred duty to preserve the nation from all threats, foreign and domestic." The "bureaucratic obstacles" defined in the bill include "all rules, regulations, procedures, processes, laws and judicial decisions" at the "federal, state and local levels."

An obscure provision on page 417 of the act also lists "elections" as "a potential threat to civic order and national stability in wartime." The measure allows the president to cancel any election and "appoint officials of his own choosing to all legislative, judicial and administrative bodies." Congressional Democrats said they hadn't noticed the provision when they voted for the act, but they withdrew their objections after Bush promised to use the new power sparingly, "only when somebody gets way out of line."

Canceling the upcoming 2008 presidential election is "out of the question," Bush assured reporters today. "I have no desire to remain in office, and the people's right to choose their leader will never be infringed -- as long as they choose wisely, of course."

Administration officials later clarified the president's remarks, noting that while the November vote would not be canceled, it would be postponed due to America's ongoing military actions in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba and Nigeria. "Once the president has seen us through to victory in these battles for freedom," an aide said, "he'll gladly step aside for someone younger, like his brother, or maybe his nephew."


Nobel Scientist Warns on Bird Flu
The Guardian, April 13, 2005

The Bird Flu: On a Wing and a Prayer
The Observer, March 20, 2005

From Genesis to Dominion: The True Goals and Financial Supporters of the Discovery Institute
Church and State, July/August 2000

The Discovery Institute: The Genesis of 'Intelligent Design'
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, May 2002

George W. Bush, the Last Relativist, Oct. 31, 2000

19 U.S. States Question Teaching Evolution
United Press International, March 14, 2005

Oil, Geopolitics and the Coming War with Iran, April 11, 2005

A June Attack on Iran? Year Four in the Five-Year Plan
CounterPunch, Feb. 28, 2005

Not Intelligent, and Certainly Not Science
Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2005

Let's Have Fun with It!

PEJ News: Two separate inquiries into the shooting of journalists, one in the United States, the other in Israel, have effectively given the green light for the targeting and killing of members of the media. -{lex}

Let's Have Some Fun with It!


When It's O.K. to Kill
C. L. Cook
pej news
April 14, 2005

Korea 1950-'52

Baghdad, March
6th, 2005- They were singing and laughing in the car, happy to be heading home to Italy. Giuliana Sgrena, corrospondent for Italy's 'Il Manifesto' newspaper had endured weeks of mortal fear, not knowing who her kidnappers really worked for, or what they might do to her. She was an old Iraq hand, having covered the invasion and occupation from a uniquely feminine perspective, living with and documenting the effects of the conflict on Iraqi women and children. And her reports were uncompromisingly critical of America and it's so-called coalition.

It was Sgrena's unflagging sympathy with the Iraqi people that finally led to her release. That, and the negotiating skill of Nicola Calipari. Calipari had negotiated the release of two Italian humanitarian aid workers and three other Italians kidnapped in Iraq. Calipari, Sgrena, and their driver were now homefree, past the last military roadblocks with the airport in sight less than half a mile away. Then the shooting started.

An American tank, purportedly put along the route as "extra security' for the expected visit of U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, swung it's turret around and opened fire on the car carrying the Italians. When the shooting stopped, Calipari was dead, Sgrena wounded, and the driver left, miraculously, only slightly wounded in the bullet riddled car. In Italy, the reaction was outrage.

The press in Italy had followed the drama of one of the country's best-known journalists, as it had the case of the "two Simona's," Simona Pari and Simona Torreta. And the story the U.S. military tried to sell on the incident, contradicted by the surviving Sgrena, made matters worse.

Today, a "joint Italian-U.S. investigation" found no fault on the part of the soldiers. In a released statement, the crack investigative team merely reiterated the military's original, already discredited story. End of story.

And in Israel today, nearly two years afer her husband, British filmmaker, James Miller was gunned down by an Israeli officer, the Israeli Defense Force ruled no fault was to be found. End of story.

But the story doesn't end here. There will be more journalists targeted and killed in this way. Today's double homicide rulings merely make it O.K.

Chris Cook
is an editor with PEJ News and hosts Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. Check out his blog at


U.S. soldiers reportedly have been cleared of wrongdoing in the shooting of an Italian journalist and an intelligence agent last month in Baghdad.



An Israeli soldier accused of shooting a British cameraman dead has been cleared by a judge of any wrongdoing.