Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Town Fun Forgot

The Town Fun Forgot

Swiftsure, Driftsure... I've lived in Victoria long enough to remember what the great annual regatta used to be and mean to the locals. Sadly passed, it's another case of our little burg's (d)evolution. But this attitude extends beyond us. I wrote the below a couple years back, and but for adding details like "our" government's further downward spiral towards militaristic fascism, it still holds true. - {lex}

The Town Fun Forgot
C. L. Cook
May 28, 2005

Been down to the Swiftsure yet?

I’m old enough to remember the raucous, mad, Bacchanalia that was Swiftsure. In those days, thousands of Victorians flocked to the inner harbour for the boats, buskers, and beer gardens. But a few years back a particularly heavy-handed Victoria City Police action, designed to make the popular event more tourist friendly, triggered a riot. Ever since, the police presence has grown, the fines become more costly and frequent, and the crowds dwindled.

What had once been the unofficial summer inaugural festival Victorians shared with visitors, is now just another opportunity to hawk cheesy t-shirts and mementos to the weekend owners of downtown Victoria. The locals now know, Victoria’s heart belongs to the tourists.

Another group of tourists will come to Canada this summer and the police have already put the word out. Yesterday, the RCMP announced Canadian soldiers have been given the ‘green light’ to shoot dead those with the temerity to protest the destruction of light, liberty, and the living world at the G8 meetings in Kananaskis, Alberta.

The men and women of the Canadian military, those newly returned from their War on Terrorism, will be lining their sights on Raging Grannies, Radical Cheerleaders, union leaders, and citizens concerned that the current economic paradigm, so ably represented by the corporate and government elite attending the G8 summit, is destroying the lives of millions around the world and will inevitably result in the destruction of the planet itself.

The message is clear: Kananaskis belongs to these others.

The dissoluton of our nation and its beliefs has been lightning fast. The election of Brian Mulroney and his delivery of our resources to foreigners; the crippling corporate trade deals; political surrender to the will of commerce; the abandonment of foreign policy and the laws that govern our constitution; and now our army used to enforce the will of George Bush and his criminal coterie. The RCMP’s message couldn’t be more clear: Canada doesn’t belong to you and we’re willing to kill to prove it.

My neighbour, a long time Canadian and Victoria resident remarked, “Swiftsure is dead, hardly a person about.” We talked a little about the old days and concluded, it doesn’t belong to us anyway.

Chris Cook
hosts Gorilla Radio, broadcast from the University of Victoria every Monday at 5pm on CFUV 102FM You can check out his blog here.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Iraqi "Wolf Brigade" Set to Pounce in Baghdad Lockdown

The tactics would be familiar to Palestinian and Lebanese that have experienced the civil warfare underlying Israel's blue-print for the Iraq occupation, their so-called "Rules of Engangment." This latest move by the American's and their collaborators in Iraq is almost certain to spark the Civil War they seem intent to start. It will be a bloody, long weekend for both Americans and Iraqis. But, who'll remember in a week? - {ape}

Sketchy Details
Dahr Jamail
May 27, 2005

** Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches **
** **

Yesterday Iraq’s Minister of Defense, Sadoun al-Dulaimi, announced that starting Saturday 40,000 Iraqi troops will seal Baghdad and begin to “hunt down insurgents and their weapons.” Baghdad will be divided into two main sections, east and west, and within each section there will be smaller areas of control. There will be at least 675 checkpoints and al-Dulaimi said this is the first phase of a security crackdown that will eventually cover all of Iraq.

Keep in mind that most of Iraq has remained in a “state of emergency” since the beginning of the siege of Fallujah, on November 8th.

“We will also impose a concrete blockade around Baghdad, like a bracelet around an arm, God willing, and God be with us in our crackdown on the terrorists’ infrastructure.”

Also at the press conference was Bayan Jabor, the Minister of Interior who added, “These operations will aim at turning the government's role from defensive to offensive.”

This is really, really bad news.

The Iraqi security forces already have an extremely bad name throughout much of Baghdad. I’ve had three Iraqi doctors tell me, in different hospitals at different times, that they call the Iraqi National Guard the “dogs of the Americans.”

Another close friend of mine in Baghdad, also a doctor, wrote me recently to say;

“Iraqi forces now have what they call “liwaa al deeb,” which means the Wolf Brigade. This is a very American name, and is an ugly name which gives the impression of violence. In the past the Iraqi troops held names of some famous Muslim and Arabic symbols which were more accepted. Anyway, the name wouldn’t matter if their behavior was straight….they now practice a kind of state sponsored terrorism.”

He went on to give an example of their not-so-straight behavior…

“Eyewitnesses in Al-Saydia area to the south of Baghdad told me that recently when a car bomb detonated and destroyed the area nearby, people were astonished to see the so-called police looting a destroyed mobile phone store that was nearby! The police now are a bunch of thieves. Many of then are already criminals who were released from Abu Ghraib prison before the war.”

When I was in Baghdad in January, I was shot at by Iraqi Police on two different occasions simply because our car drove too close to them.

Hence, out of concern for his family, Abu Talat has returned to Baghdad. He fears that his two youngest sons will be detained simply because they are of “military age,” according to the US military.

Even now in Haditha, where the US military is engaged in an operation called “Operation New Market,” (where do they get these names?) somewhat similar to the recent attack on Al-Qa’im, where around 1,000 troops are raiding homes.

They have set up sniper positions, and according to an Iraqi doctor I spoke with today that has colleagues in Haditha, “The Americans are detaining so many people there, any man between the ages of 16 and 25 years is being immediately detained without question.”

So Abu Talat is back into the fire…needless to say, I support his decision to go back to look after his family, but not without deep concern and sadness.

“What else can I do, habibi,” he asks me while holding up his hands today.

So we say goodbye yet again, which in this situation is always a difficult thing to do. Will I see him again? Will his family be alright? What if…?

Life in occupied Iraq. On any given day, anything can happen. It’s a numbers game.

He or any of my other friends there could end up like the three civilians who were shot dead by US soldiers yesterday while they were traveling in a minibus in al-Dora, Baghdad.

Lieutenant Jamie Davis, a spokesman for the US military, said of the slaughter, “The details are sketchy and we don’t know who was involved.”

According to AFP, the bus driver who survived the incident said US troops opened fire after he pulled over to get out of their way.

Now with over 675 checkpoints to be manned by the “dogs of the Americans,” we’ll all have to get used to countless more civilian deaths where “the details are sketchy.”

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Pollution and Profit

A new strategy for climate change
Tim Harford
24 - 5 - 2005

A market-based approach to pollution control pioneered in the United States suggests a way to overcome inadequacies in the European approach to climate change, and a model the whole world can join to the benefit of its poorest people.

In 1993 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States faced a familiar dilemma: sulphur emissions from coal-fired power stations were causing acid rain but the cost of cleaning up the emissions seemed to be impossibly expensive. The EPA estimated that to remove a single ton of sulphur dioxide from emissions would cost up to $1500.

The lobbying efforts of polluters were formidable. To overcome their objections the EPA used a clever piece of strategy. It gave polluters a choice: either install scrubbing technology to remove the sulphur from their emissions, or go to an auction and buy one of a limited number of “permits” to keep on polluting as before.

The surprising result was that not many companies wanted the permits at $1,500. A collective of protesting students bought one, but power companies demonstrated that they would rather install the scrubbers or burn cleaner coal than buy permits. Permit prices had to fall to $70 per ton before many polluters would consider actually polluting rather than cleaning up their act. Emissions fell dramatically, the government made money, and any power plant facing genuine difficulty meeting the emissions target had an escape, for a price.

The usual argument in favour of emissions permits is that they allow pollution reductions to be allocated efficiently. Nobody knows whether the most efficient way to reduce sulphur emissions is by consuming less electricity, using cleaner coal, installing scrubbers, or something else. Given the right price signal, though, the market will work it out.

The EPA had figured out that emissions permits also had a strategic, political advantage: permit auctions made transparent the fact that reducing pollution was much cheaper than most people had believed.

Now tradable permits are being used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through “cap and trade” schemes such as the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (ETS). The ETS, though, does not use an auction but simply hands out quotas for free and allows countries to trade them.

The ETS could work, but the trouble with such systems is deciding what the quota should be for each country. As Michael Grubb explains on openDemocracy, many governments are assigning themselves – or, more specifically, particular companies – generous quotas. If countries can decide what these quotas are then cap-and-trade is a charade. If they have to agree more serious quotas through a treaty, the likely outcome is stalemate, which is where Kyoto has finished up.

Most Europeans would like to blame George Bush for the absence of the United States, but the problem is deeper. Bill Clinton, US president from 1993 to 2000, signed the Kyoto Protocol even though he knew that the US Senate would not ratify it. The Senate’s refusal was ostensibly because developing countries refused to restrict their emissions but also because the obligations on the US were especially challenging. Developing countries had an infinite quota and America’s quota was too small to be politically acceptable. The conflicting interests were too great.

Is there any hope that the United States and developing countries can come together to sign an agreement that could stretch far beyond the horizon of Kyoto? There is still time, but we need a more compelling focal point for the negotiations.

Some economists (including Peter Cramton and Suzi Kerr: How and why to auction, not grandfather) have suggested adopting the same political strategy as the EPA did. That is, emulate the sulphur dioxide auctions by doing away with national quotas altogether and simply fixing a global supply of emissions permits which would be sold to the highest bidders. The overall emissions would be the same as with a quota system, but instead of giving the emissions permits away as quotas, every ton of carbon dioxide would have to be paid for.

A global auction of emissions permits would raise a lot of money. How would it be spent? It’s tempting to argue that it should fund the United Nations and global poverty relief. But a simpler option with some appealing moral intuition is that the money should simply be shared equally between every person on the planet. (It might have to flow through governments, but it would be much better if the grants, which might be around $100 per person per year at current prices, went straight to the people.)

Such a system would immediately meet the concerns of the United States Senate that developing countries like China have some incentive to reduce emissions. At the same time, the Chinese would want to be included, because the money they received from the permit auction would be substantially more than the money they would have to spend on permits. Even a country like Ethiopia would gain from joining the agreement, and Ethiopians would have an incentive to adopt more energy-efficient technologies.

Richer countries, of course, would tend to pay more, and countries growing quickly would tend to face an increasing bill in the auction – yet those are precisely the countries which would be most able to afford to pay. These effects would be automatic, not the result of Byzantine negotiations. Most importantly, by raising the price of any activity which required carbon-intensive energy, the system would give every citizen of every country an incentive to reduce his or her carbon footprint.

Remembering the lesson of the EPA’s sulphur dioxide auction, we might also discover that a low-carbon energy system isn’t quite as expensive as we feared. Environmentalists have been asserting this for a long time. It’s time we all proved it together.

Correction: The Environmental Protection Agency contacted me to point out two errors in my piece: only a small share of the sulphur dioxide permits were auctioned; and the government did not retain the auction revenue but returned it to the industry. The EPA auction nevertheless demonstrated the power of an auction to reveal that the true cost of reducing pollution was very low. Apologies to the EPA and to Open Democracy readers -- Tim Harford

This article appears as part of openDemocracy‘s online debate on the politics of climate change. The debate was developed in partnership with the British Council as part of their ZeroCarbonCity initiative – a two year global campaign to raise awareness and stimulate debate around the challenges of climate change.

Blogwerk Now

Carl Bialik of the WSJ has an article on attempts to count various things about web logs, including how many there are, how many Americans read them, how much they are linked to, and what their readership is. Many of these questions are driven by Madison Avenue (i.e. US advertising firms) who are interested in the medium's advertising potential.

As I see it, the problem for advertisers is that blogging appears to be a form of narrow-casting. They like broadcasting. You place an ad on even a low-ranking cable television show like Star Trek Enterprise (while it was still limping along) and about 3 million people see it every week. You place an ad on even a popular weblog like MyDD and Blogads says that it has 146,000 page views a week. ( measures its popularity rather by looking at how many other blogs link to it.)

Many of the problems of measurement are probably intractable, but the advertising issue has already been solved by Henry Copeland of Blogads, with the concept of networked ads (which I prefer to call blog-casting). Any group of bloggers can set up a network, as the Liberal blogs have done. Altogether the Liberal Blog Advertising Network can provide an advertiser with a million or so page views a week in one fell swoop. The ads once taken out will appear on all the blogs maintained by members of the network, so they become a form of broadcasting, or blog-casting. Blog readership is demonstrably growing, and pretty soon such networks will be able to compete at least with cable television for ability to reach viewers.

Bialik says some advertisers want to measure unique hits rather than page views, because they don't want to pay for the same person to see the ad more than once in a week. Why? A weekly rate actually benefits advertisers. The ad is there continuously 24/7, rather than once for 30 seconds as in television, and it cannot be bad for readers to see it repeatedly. As for the page view issue, no one can be sure what it is measuring. Page views are counted every time a browser accesses a site (though at my server, my number for "referrals" or browsers coming to the site from elsewhere is higher than that for page views for some odd reason).

Lots of people read weblogs at university computer labs, internet cafes, or at offices with joint computers, so that one internet protocol number may in some cases actually represent several different persons over the day. Moreover, my understanding is that a lot of big service providers, such as Comcast, cache pages the first time they are accessed by a customer and thereafter tend to serve the page from their cache at their server, so that a lot of readers of a weblog may not reach all the way to the bloggers' original server, to be counted as a unique hit. And, it is now possible for readers to copy the entire page/entry and to email it as html, ads and all, to friends. A lot of that is done, and it is impossible to measure. Still, I think that between tools like and counting page views, some estimation of advertiser value can be arrived at that will make the business model work.

Do I worry about blog advertising corrupting the medium?

Not very much.

In my view, corporate news media have been harmed by media consolidation (having only a few owners, all of them big wealthy corporations) far more than by advertising. It is an editorial decision whether to insist that the news division make 15 percent profit or whether to keep it as a loss leader. They had advertising in Bill Paley's day, too, but at that time CBS news was a big, relatively independent operation. If you have only 5 CEOs making that decision for virtually all television news, and if they are competitors, then there is a real danger that they will all sacrifice news to profit.

But because the price of entry is so low, you can never have ownership consolidation in weblogging. It will always be a distributed medium and therefore very difficult to control. If professional bloggers emerged who came to be unduly beholden to their advertisers and started not covering certain stories or spinning them for the sake of their sponsors, other non-professional bloggers would just step into the breach. If corporate media bought up a few big bloggers, they would still have to compete against literally millions of independents, and if any of the independents was providing what the audience wanted better, the traffic would shift to them. In the world of weblogging, any form of censorship actually creates opportunities for those immune to it.

Technical limitations and expense make it almost impossible for anyone now to start up a new 24 hour a day news channel. But anyone can start a blog. I expect journalist cooperatives (both professional and amateur) to emerge over time that do podcasting, and eventually webcasting with video, finally breaking the current semi-monopoly in broadcast news.

So it seems to me that blog-casting with regard to advertising, but retaining lots of independent blogs is the best of all possible worlds. And advertising blog-casting may finally begin addressing a key problem in the business model, which is that blog advertising rates are ridiculously low. Bloggers are essentially offering a front-page panel for what a small classified ad would cost in a small town newspaper, and the circulation rates may be similar.

posted by Juan @ 5/26/2005 06:34:00 AM

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the Silver Bullet

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the Silver Bullet
Kurt Nimmo
May 26, 2005

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is dead, or maybe he is alive. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is wounded, but maybe he isn’t. “It remains unclear whether he is seriously wounded, whether he is in Iraq or elsewhere, and whether he has been replaced at least temporarily as leader of his group,” reports the BBC. Nobody knows much of anything about the mercurial Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and yet he is “blamed for many of the most deadly attacks and is the only widely-recognized leader in the insurgency,” even though he may be dead, seriously wounded, or not in Iraq. Considering the dearth of information on al-Zarqawi, how can the BBC and the corporate media claim he is the “only widely-recognized leader in the insurgency"?

The BBC continues: “Clearly, US commanders and the new Iraqi authorities believe that removing him from the scene would have a significant psychological and practical impact on the insurgency, at least temporarily,” and never mind that, as stated above, he may not even be on the scene, or alive for that matter. Claiming al-Zarqawi is dead, in a spider hole somewhere licking his wounds, or on vacation in the Bahamas will not have a “psychological and practical impact on the insurgency,” as claimed by the Pentagon. But fact of the matter is the Pentagon and its Iraqi version of the ARVN possess a dim view of what the “insurgency” actually is and the hobgoblin al-Zarqawi is a desperate attempt to put a face on the resistance. Or so it would seem.

“To capture or kill such a figurehead would also be a considerable symbolic and morale boost to US forces and the Iraqi administration,” the BBC claims. “But no-one believes it would be a silver bullet that would finish off the resistance.”

In fact, nothing short of the U.S. leaving Iraq will “finish off the resistance” (or stop it from resisting) and the Iraqi ARVN, once abandoned by the Pentagon, will wither like Nguyen Van Thieu’s army did in Vietnam after the U.S. skedaddled. Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al-Duleimi will likely order his soldiers to fight on after the U.S. exits the stage and, like General Cao Van Vien, ARVN chief of staff, he will flee the country. Saadoun al-Duleimi’s Phuoc Long (probably the most decisive battle of the Vietnam conflict) is right around the corner.

“In Iraq, the insurgency remains a complicated tapestry. As it has gone on, it has got more sophisticated.”

Is it possible the corporate media (in Britain as well as the United States) is so blindsided and stupid? Of course the Iraqi resistance is “a complicated tapestry,” mostly because it stretches across the breadth of Iraqi society and is not, as Bush and Crew and the slavish corporate media would have us believe, simply a collection of former “Saddamists” (yet another meaningless term created by the corporate media), dead-enders, malcontents, criminals, and foreign terrorists. The Iraqi resistance is not “run” by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or any other single individual (even one who actually exists, since al-Zarqawi is dead). Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a contrivance, a monster face slapped on an anonymous resistance that cannot be defeated because it is indigenous and committed, not a sinister underground cabal of beheaders and suicide bombers as much at war with Shia Islam as the United States military, and not led by a half-witted and sadistic Jordanian Palestinian, a foreigner. “Rather than extremist foreign fighters battling to the death, the marines are mostly finding local men from Falluja who are fighting to defend their city from what they view as an illegitimate occupier,” Scott Ritter wrote earlier this year. “The motivations of these fighters may well be anti-American, but they are Iraqi, not foreign, in origin.”

Nonetheless, with reality staring story editors at the BBC dead in face, they write: “But trends like the increase in suicide bombings in Baghdad may be evidence of growing collaboration between the foreign elements and local Iraqi insurgents.” And, as well, it may be a military intelligence operation on the part of the Pentagon, increasing acts of savage violence engineered to make the undefeatable Iraqi resistance look bad and alienate possible supporters, a long-held objective of counter-insurgency for decades (for instance, insurgent “pseudo teams,” as organized by the British Special Branch in Malaya, worked to discredit the insurgency). As Chris Shumway points out, many Iraqis believe “the mythic Al-Zarqawi is part of a foreign strategy to divide Iraq's religious sects and political factions and justify a prolonged occupation… According to analysts and military documents obtained by the Associated Press, the most organized and active resistance cells consist mainly of native Iraqis: Sunni Muslims, Ba’ath party loyalists—many with experience in Saddam's military and intelligence services—and tribal men who are fighting for a bigger role for their group in Iraq. Although they may be influenced by fundamentalist Islam, they are not, many analysts insist, fighting for a Taliban-like Islamic state as Al-Zarqawi’s fighters purportedly are.”

Bush and Crew believe (or want us to believe) “the level of insurgent violence” is a “sign of increasing desperation,” when in fact, as the BBC allows, “it may be further evidence that the insurgency is stronger and more sophisticated than US commanders and intelligence have calculated,” or are willing to admit. In desperation, the Pentagon has once again deployed “more than 1,000 soldiers to flush out foreign fighters and Iraqi extremists from Haditha,” as the Los Angeles Times reports.

Even so, “the pace of suicide bombings, sabotage and assassinations has shown no signs of abating,” and will not do so until the United States gets out of Iraq, something they keep telling us they will not do, even though it is obvious that with every “sweep” through Iraqi “terrorist strongholds” the resistance not only grows, but increases its deadly effectiveness. As if on cue, following the now dog-warred Straussian master plan and shooting script, “U.S. and Iraqi officials accuse Syria of tolerating the use of their territory as a conduit for foreign fighters entering Iraq,” once again refusing to face reality, a totality that demands common sense be enlisted: the Iraqi resistance is indigenous, not cooked up in Damascus or Tehran.

Meanwhile, as if to admit the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi myth is on its last legs, an “Internet statement signed in the name of al-Qaida in Iraq said the group has appointed an interim leader for al-Zarqawi in light of his purported injury,” even though this was later disputed. As usual, the “statement, posted on a Web site known for carrying extremist material, could not be immediately authenticated,” although this hardly matters. “The back-and-forth on same Web site, known as a clearinghouse of Islamic militant material, could be a sign of confusion or competition within al-Qaida of Iraq. It follows speculation about the Jordanian-born militant that has been unusual in size and scope.” Of course, it makes absolutely no sense for al-Qaeda “in Iraq” to air its dirty laundry and admit this weakness publicly. But then, since the American people, who either directly or tacitly support Bush’s “war on terrorism,” are so easily fooled and are remiss when it comes to picking up on crucial details, this may not be much of a concern for the masters of war who are emboldened by the fact so few people actually care about their bald-faced lies and deceptions.

May 26, 2005

The Bush Gulag and Amnesty
International’s Annual Report

May 25, 2005,

It was a cold day in Hell. Scott McClellan, Bush’s intrepid White House spokesman, admitted the United States government condones “atrocious” human rights violations, “thereby diminishing its moral authority and setting a global example encouraging abuse by other nations,” as the New York Times reports, citing accusations leveled by Amnesty International.

“President Bush and the administration,” averred McClellan, “admit culpability and plan to make amends. As of eight PM Eastern Standard Time, the president has ordered the release of all detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and Bagram AFB in Afghanistan. Moreover, beginning immediately, the president has ordered a sweeping and comprehensive investigation of all allegations of abuse and the Justice Department will not rest until all who are guilty of such abuses are held to account for their behavior.”

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice … won’t get fooled again.

Actually, Scott McClellan said no such thing. In fact, Mr. McClellan reamed the human rights organization. “I think the allegations are ridiculous, and unsupported by the facts,” said McClellan. “The United States is leading the way when it comes to protecting human rights and promoting human dignity. We have liberated 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have worked to advance freedom and democracy in the world so that people are governed under a rule of law, that there are protections in place for minority rights, that women’s rights are advanced so that women can fully participate in societies where now they cannot.”

Not only have the batteries died in the dung-o-meter but somebody has disassembled the device and scattered its parts to the four corners of the empire. McClellan continued: “We’ve also—are leading the way when it comes to spreading compassion. The United States leads the way when it comes to providing resources to combat the scourge of AIDS.”

In fact, as Human Rights Watch documents, the Bushites are in the process of mixing apples and oranges when it comes to AIDS, thus allowing even more people to suffer horrible deaths. “The U.S. government is trying to withhold anti-HIV/AIDS funding unless both U.S.-based and foreign organizations adopt policies that explicitly oppose all forms of prostitution, Human Rights Watch and a group of more than 200 leading public and human rights experts and organizations said [on May 18] in a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush… ‘The U.S. government’s “anti-prostitution” pledge not only undermines its global efforts against HIV/AIDS,’ said Rebecca Schleifer, researcher with Human Rights Watch’s HIV/AIDS Program. ‘It also undermines the fundamental right of sex workers and trafficking victims to receive lifesaving information about HIV/AIDS. And it violates freedom of speech for anti-HIV/AIDS groups working with these high-risk groups.’”

According to the presbyopic religious fundies who advise and rule the Bush administration, AIDS in places such as Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia is best addressed through sexual abstinence. “In an age where five million people are newly infected each year, and women and girls too often do not have the choice to abstain, an abstinence-until-marriage programme is not only irresponsible, it’s really inhumane,” remarked US Congresswoman Barbara Lee last July, as the Bushites pedaled their simplistic notions at an international summit on the disease in the Thai capital Bangkok.

So really, when you think about it—and obviously millions of us here in the United States never do—the Bushcons cannot help but tell lies whenever they open their mouth, as McClellan demonstrated once again when he made the mistake of mentioning AIDS and the amiable behavior of the United States, a demented nation now run by a gaggle of right-wingers who essentially believe AIDS is God’s punishment for the wicked. ( “AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals,” once declared the bible-thumper Jerry Falwell. “To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharaoh’s chariotters.” )

And so it is with the torture and “rendition” of Muslims, who figure in the Bush constellation about the same as homosexuals, that is to say they are to be dealt with severely and then—for the consumption of somnolent consumers at home, or those with one eye open, affixed to the telescreen—this severity will be spin-dried as compassion or swept under the proverbial rug. In essence, no matter what Amnesty International says or does, it does not matter because most Americans are not paying attention and really don’t care, thank you very much. Paris Hilton and the “Spicy BBQ Burger” have more relevance.

For instance, as the so-called Blair memo makes obvious, Bush fixed intelligence and facts around his long-held desire to bomb Iraq and kill a whole lot of Iraqis. “Bush had decided we’re going in, the memo said that Bush was going in, no matter what,” explains crack reporter Greg Palast. “This is what nailed Nixon in the end, not just Watergate, but it was fixing the intelligence.”

Unfortunately, the days when people actually gave two cents worth of a damn are long gone. Few of us care about the Blair memo or the torture and murder of innocent taxi drivers in Afghanistan or the slaughter of more than 100,000 Iraqis predicated on disgusting lies and more than a few of us consider Amnesty International no different than the French.

In other words, they can screw off.

Forgotten Occupation: Karzai to Washington

Afghanistan, the Forgotten Occupation

Karzai's Rude Awakening

Is there anyone who still believes in the independence of the American media? After the spectacle of embedded journalism, the evisceration of Dan Rather, the sordid saga of Judith Miller and the New York Times, and the emasculation of Newsweek Magazine, if you require further proof, look to the recent visit of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

By all appearances, President Karzai is an honest and sincere leader even though his presidency was made possible by the blessings and support of the White House warlords. At the initiation of the war in Iraq, Karzai wisely appealed to the United States Congress not to forget his nation, a nation already conquered and occupied by American led forces. Moved by his compassion, our congressional leaders posed for the cameras to give praise and a solemn promise: We will not forget.

Three years later, the forgotten occupation still seethes with civil unrest. Thousands have taken to the streets in protest. Afghani citizens still fall to American bombs, missiles and renewed military offensives. Tribal warlords still rule most of the country and protect the opium fields upon which Afghanistan still depends for survival.

Against this backdrop, it should not have been surprising that President Karzai had some harsh criticism for his American sponsors. It was time, he argued, for the Afghan government to gain control of military operations. It was not, he observed, the article in Newsweek concerning the desecration of the Koran that led to mass demonstrations across Afghanistan in which dozens of protesters were shot down for exercising their democratic rights; it was the conditions of occupation, a desperate economy, and a lack of progress under virtual military rule.

What was the administration response? The Department of Defense issued stern rebuke of President Karzai and his government for failing to control the opium trade.

What was the story in American media? The failure of the Afghan government to control the opium trade.

It is somehow assumed that the president of Afghanistan is misinformed or not familiar enough with his own people to rewrite a story that has already gone forth as an example of media malfeasance. After all, Newsweek has already accepted the blame. Newsweek has already taken the blood of the innocent on the hands of its reporters. Who is the president of Afghanistan to reassign culpability?

Now that Newsweek (a publication that might have been considered liberal a decade ago) has joined CBS in being humbled before the eyes of the meta-media world, President Karzai must also be bent to his knees by accepting blame for the Afghan opium trade.

Has it occurred to anyone in America's free press that without control of the military there is absolutely nothing Karzai can do about the opium trade? Has it occurred to any mainstream journalist that without the opium trade there is no Afghan economy?

Where is Christianne Amanpour when we need her? Would CNN even allow her to file a report?

Where are those congressional leaders who vowed never to forget? Does it occur to none that the welfare of Afghanistan is now America's burden? Under the circumstances, it was imperative for Karzai to submit the solemn truth: They do not need covert operations on the Pakistani border. They do not need military prisons filled with uncharged suspects. They need basic security and the rule of law. They need a well-supplied Afghan army and the disarmament of the warlords. Most critically, in the absence of the opium trade, they need massive economic assistance.

What Karzai foresaw three years ago, he must now accept in despair: That assistance, along with the dream of a free and peaceful Afghanistan, is not forthcoming.

Before he was muzzled and escorted from Washington, Karzai spoke the truth: The bare minimum a sovereign democratic government can expect is control over military operations within its own borders. If it is denied that minimal authority, it is nothing more than a figurehead for the occupying forces.

It is a rude awakening for a proud man who sincerely cares about the future of his people. The lesson he has learned is familiar to many throughout the world: America may be a partner but it is not a friend.

Jack Random is the author of the Jazzman Chronicles, the War Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) and Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press). He can be reached through his website:

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

And the Winner is... U.S.A.

And the Winner Is...U.S.A.: Amnesty's #1 Human Rights Abuser

Look out Uzbekistan, Myanmar, and China, there's a new player on the human abuses scene: And this newcomer is Number One, with a bullet. -{ape}

And the Winner is...U.S.A.

C. L. Cook
May 25, 2005

Well, it had to happen. Every champion has its day, and then is done. It seemed unlikely the seasoned brutes running places like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, North Korea, and Iraq (in the old days) would ever be knocked from their vicious podiums, but in just over four years George W. Bush and his gang have rocketed the charts to top spot in Amnesty International's list of global heavies. And there seems no turning back.

In just four short years, the United States has transformed itself from the Defender of Light and Liberty to become the Dark Lord of Empire. Just imagine the accomplishments another four years promise: Imagine it like a distant scream bellowed from the belly of Abu Ghraib; imagine its echo, ricocheting from Baghdad to Bagram, Gitmo to the unknown outposts of America's global network of proxy gulags; imagine it bouncing from bloodied stone walls, through iron bars and steel doors, inexorably making its way to the surface.

And now, breaking into the light, the scream reveals Lady Liberty naked and gore-flecked.

Of course, you sophisticates out there, well versed in Chomsky and Zinn will yawn at Amnesty's top prize winner: What about Southeast Asia, Central America, the Philippines? What about the destruction of the first "Americans," gifted poxy blankets, whiskey and steel? "What else," you may ask, gentle reader, "is NEW!" While all you say, and much more, is true and has been known for a long time, this time it's different.

While the eminent Mssrs. mentioned above have spent decades banging their typewriters against the stony silence of America's conscience to bring this point home, what's new now is this: America's high horse on human rights abuses has come up lame. Its notable competitors in outrage witness that nag's pasturing and are instructed: No more will the long, wagging finger of Uncle Sam's disaproval hamper their economic, or military interests.

Following the world leader as ever, the pilchards and fry practicing their piddling atrocities in the deep places far from the light, the degraders of dignity, neglectors of humanity's aspirations, are now freed. Never now will a discouraging word be heard coming from Sheriff Sam. Just listen to this laugher from AI's Secretary General, Irene Khan:

" In 1973 AI published its first report on torture. It found that: “torture thrives on secrecy and impunity. Torture rears its head when the legal barriers against it are barred. Torture feeds on discrimination and fear. Torture gains ground when official condemnation of it is less than absolute.” The pictures of detainees in US custody in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, show that what was true 30 years ago remains true today.

Despite the near-universal outrage generated by the photographs coming out of Abu Ghraib, and the evidence suggesting that such practices are being applied to other prisoners held by the USA in Afghanistan, Guantánamo and elsewhere, neither the US administration nor the US Congress has called for a full and independent investigation."

What this says to both the heinous regimes already out there, and those others contemplating the "Marquis de Sade Methodology of Governance" is: "Hey, go nuts! Nobody cares." Sure Italy, you can dispose of your constitution. Sure China, you can practice religious persecution. Sure Uzbekistan, put another pot on the fire! Goody Two-Shoe America is past; time to meet the new number one!

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, a weekly public affairs program, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. He's also a contributing editor to You can check out the Gorilla Radio blog here.

Unlamented Lacking: The Beeb Dims its Lights

The British (State) Broadcasting Corporation
– A Coalition of the Killing?

William Bowles, I'n'I
24 May 2005

NAGG:Me pap!

HAMM: Give him his pap.

CLOV: There’s no more pap.

HAMM (to Nagg): Do you hear that? There’s no more pap. You’ll never get any more pap.

I want me pap!
Samuel Beckett’s ‘Endgame’:

Yesterday, May 23, we had an entire day without the BBC’s blanket non-coverage of important events due to a strike by the three main unions over threatened redundancies. A blessing in disguise? Well maybe… And if I may strike a totally au contraire view of the BSBC’s plans for the future, perhaps laying off a few thousand comfortable pen-pushing peons for the state is long overdue? After all, without the complicity of those who prostitute themselves in return for a pension, perhaps they could put their hard-won skills to better use?

No doubt I’ll get dumped on for voicing the above but what the hell. Does not a single one of them, when perusing the flood of reports they no doubt receive (but never use) have even a single twinge of conscience about the fact that their masters instruct them to lie about the massive and on-going destruction of life and limb taking place in our name? A war crime of monstrous dimensions that should have all of us throwing up and throwing up our hands in collective horror at the scale of it, let alone that their job is to hide it all from those who pay their fucking wages!

By way of contrast, for decades, the very same people assailed us with tales of woe about how various and sundry authoritarian states manipulated the news to their own advantage, ‘forcing freedom-loving’ journos into doing their bidding, until freed from the jackboot of the secret police etc, they were ‘free’ to manipulate the news for a new master. Well what goes around, comes around…

MediaLens , in yet another missive detailing the mis/non-reporting of the atrocities committed by the ‘coalition of the killing’, continues in its ever so polite manner to assail the hacks who operate on behalf of the British state. All good stuff no doubt and all power to them for doing what the bulk of British journalists should be doing but ain’t, namely taking the voice of the British state to task for its litany of lies.

But then, it’s not as if the B(S)BC is doing anything new, it’s been doing the job of pushing the state line for decades and extremely successfully until quite recently, that is.

What it does succeed in continuing to do is present a façade of objectivity, more through how it presents the news rather than the content per se. But most important of all is the fact that no matter how many missives MediaLens hurls at the managers or the number of letters sent by irate listeners/viewers, all it need do is ignore them, something it’s really quite good at doing and it has the advantage of costing the taxpayer absolutely nothing. Cursing Helen Boaden ( ), or Mark Thompson, BBC director general ( ), or Michael Grade, BBC chairman ( ), will, in all likelihood not even warrant a ‘thank your for your comments’ response, unless of course, they were to get thousands of such letters. Well, we live in hope…

And no doubt, with all due respect to the hardworking folks who produce the MediaLens critiques, it is rather like a gnat biting an elephant. And believe me, going through all the tripe the BSBC pours out 24/7 is not easy. It’s time-consuming and soul-destroying for anyone with a conscience let alone a political axe to grind, to meticulously vet the Goebellian newspeak these hardworking journos prepare for public consumption.

By contrast, last night TV Channel 4, ran an exposé (’Dispatches’) of how the Labour Party ‘spun’ the ‘news’ during the ‘election’ campaign, engineering fake public demos, mass-producing letters to the Editor from alleged members of the public but in reality, mostly from paid (and unpaid) hacks of the Labour machine. A refreshing change from the usual diet of house/garden/body/lifestyle/sex/ makeovers that the Brit public seem to avidly consume in lieu of a real life.

What then, is the responsibility of the journalists who work for the B(S)BC for the content they manufacture? And in what way does it differ from the hacks who peddled the Kremlin line or Saddam’s for that matter? Aside from style, not much really but then, style is all when there’s little in the way of content.

No doubt the proposed ‘down-sizing’ being advocated by the British state of its propaganda machine is due in no small part to the fact that the computer and the Internet has made the job of ‘manufacturing consent’ literally a manufacturing process, obviating the necessity for so many expensive, university brainwashed pros. No doubt ‘boiler-plating’ the ‘news’ can be performed under the direction of a handful of ‘spinmeisters’ and a small army of suitably trained simians, conditioned, Pavlovian-style, to push the right buttons on a keyboard. Isn’t progress wonderful, and think how much money it saves for yet more ‘makeovers’ and fake history programmes.

Yet, I must return to the subject of the responsibility of those who prostitute themselves on behalf of a criminal state. At what point does covering up the crimes of the state become too much to bear? Is it really good enough to argue that they have mortgages to pay and expensive, private schools to send their kids to? At what point does one’s personal responsibility, never mind conscience, kick in? Are we all so fucked in the head that there’s a rationale for any action?

If, as those of us who engage with the media on a daily basis argue, the media is now the main weapon of social control, then surely we have reached a point that is a step too far? What will these self-same pros do, when they wake up one day and find that their ‘nice’ neighbourhood is under a ‘lock down’? When it’s too late to protest even if ever so mildly and ever so politely?

Whilst the state with the active collaboration of the media tells us that we must accept responsibility for our actions, what of the responsibility of those who serve up the lies? We, on the left, are at great pains to make a distinction between those who serve and those whom they serve, yet so great is the power of the media to transform reality that a handful of individuals now wield immense power, as individuals. The media’s handmaidens have become ‘celebrities’ in their own write, so much so, that making that fine, ever so fine distinction between master and servant has all but dissolved.

Mr Galloway, are you proud of having got rid of one of the very few black women in Parliament? – Jeremy Paxman, BBC ‘Newsnight’

I quoted from one of my favourite playrights and plays, Samuel Beckett’s ‘Endgame’, at the beginning of this piece, the theme of which is; who is the master and whom is the servant? Judging by the performance that Jeremy Paxman delivered on ‘Election’ (
3.stm ) night, when interrogating the unfortunate George Galloway for defeating that pimp of the imperium, Oona King, the erstwhile Condi Rice of New Labour, it seems that there really is no difference between master and servant, they are now one and the same thing. Samuel Beckett would, no doubt, be quite proud of Paxman’s ‘performance’.

It’s my job to be provocative – John Sweeney, BBC ‘news’ meister

As I was informed by another flacking hack of the BSBC whilst in Blackburn recently, as he interrogated another unfortunate victim of the ‘war on terror’, a recently released prisoner of Guatanamo, and who I dared challenge for the way he attempted to set him up by asking him “why are you supporting Craig Murray, he isn’t a Muslim?”, I was informed that it was his job “to be provocative”. All pretence at news gathering or seeking after the ‘truth’ has been dumped as surplus to requirement. These pimps of the imperium are shameless in their display of power and in their sheer arrogance, seeing themselves not merely as messengers but as the message, bringing an entirely new meaning to the phrase ‘the medium is the message’.

But of course, the lure of money and celebrity status is powerful medicine, especially for people who would have been, in a previous age, nameless, faceless backroom boys and girls, beavering away on behalf of their paymasters in some cramped office on Portland Place. Now they travel the world, they have ‘access all areas’, courtesy the taxpayer. These are the new aristocracy of our times, wielding power formally the exclusive province of diplomats and overt politicians. Hence, they should be treated as media mercenaries, contract cameras, who consider themselves as not answerable to us, mere mortals. Their job is to sell us the New World Order. Of one thing we can be sure, that when the BBC ‘downsizes’, the Sweeneys and Paxmans have an assured future, their jobs are not on the line.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Lord Preserve US!

The Dark Side of the Empire:
Is Bush a Sith Lord?

May 24, 2005

The current episode of Star Wars is dynamite for the duplicitous Bush administration. Palpatine, a Sith Lord masquerading as a galactic Republican, becomes Chancellor of the Galatic Republic through deception. Palpatine uses wars that he instigates to elevate security over the power of the Senate and to become dictator.

In a moment of triumph, Palpatine tells the Senate: "In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society." The senators respond with sustained cheering and applause. Padme says, "So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause."

Sith lords use the powers of the dark side of the force. Jedi knights use the power of the good side. The Jedi are selfless and use their incredible powers to protect the Republic. Sith are evil and crave absolute power.

Palpatine, who is really Darth Sidious, manipulates the Senate and enlists the Jedi Council's patriotism to "defend" the Republic against a "separatist" army that he secretly directs. The purpose of the orchestrated war is to erode liberty in the name of security. The naïve Jedi catch on too late and are decimated. The Republic falls.

Bush's "war against terrorism" is no less orchestrated than Palpatine's war and has led to the same result: a society dominated by security concerns.

The top secret British government memo that was leaked to the London Times proves beyond all doubt that Bush invaded Iraq for none of the changing reasons that he has given a too-trusting public. Bush did not invade Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction or because he wanted to bring democracy to Iraq.

Why did Bush invade Iraq? No one, least of all the Bush administration, has come up with a believable reason. Yet, there is no shortage of patriotic Republicans who sincerely believe that Bush has made America safer by turning the Muslim world against us and stirring up a hornets nest of terrorists united by their hatred of America.

Moreover, like Palpatine's war, Bush's war in Iraq appears to be interminable. US military commanders say the US will be fighting in Iraq for years to come. Forecasts are that the war will have cost taxpayers $600 billion by 2010.

Meanwhile, Bush, like Palpatine, has brought civil liberties to a crisis. In the US civil liberties are everywhere biting the dust. Not content with the Orwellian-named "Patriot Act," the Bush administration is pushing for expanded secret police powers. Even conservative Republican Bob Barr (Washington Times, May 17) writes that provisions of the "Patriot Act" go far beyond fighting terrorism "and undermine our constitutional freedoms and Fourth Amendment rights."

Barr is chairman of a coalition, Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances. In other words, dear readers, the checks and balances are gone. Bush has enabled the police to bypass the courts. Executive power rules, and there are no Jedi knights.

The Sith, however, are everywhere. In our day the Sith masquerade as neoconservatives. Neocons deal in absolutes. They believe the end justifies the means. As the Jedi master Obi-Wan tells Anakin, who is turning to the dark side and emerging as Darth Vader, "only a Sith Lord deals in absolutes." Anakin to Obi-Wan: "If you're not with me, you're my enemy."

Palpatine is able to manipulate the Galactic Senate with the clever use of words that play upon emotions. People want to feel secure. They want their side to prevail and will do whatever it takes to win, including trading their Republic for an Empire. Palpatine prevails because people deceive themselves.

Republicans have become adept at self-deception. They will believe any argument that justifies Bush and no news report that casts doubt on Bush's war. The leaked British government memo is dismissed as just more anti-Bush propaganda from the liberal media, like Dan Rather and Newsweek.

Newsweek's retraction of its story that US soldiers flushed a Koran down a toilet proves to Republicans that the only problem is an anti-American liberal media. The fact that Newsweek was absolutely correct in reporting desecration of the Koran by US troops--and only got wrong the particular way in which the holy book was desecrated--has been totally ignored by Republicans.

Republicans believe everything Bush says. When he tells them he needs a police state to save them from terrorists, they believe him.

Who will save us from Bush's police state?

Just as Child Protective Services has had to frame innocent parents and child care providers as child abusers in order to justify its budgets and a massive bureaucracy, the vast Homeland Security apparatus will have to "find" terrorists. Otherwise, there is no point to all the expanded police powers and the huge budget.

Just as the indignities of Airport Security and its assorted searches fall on loyal American citizens, the police state measures will also fall on loyal American citizens.
With the courts bypassed, a terrorist is whoever the secret police say is a terrorist. The US government is already committing the crime of kidnapping people mistakenly identified as terrorist suspects and flying them to brutal regimes to be tortured.

Police states have an insatiable need for enemies. In Stalin's time, the secret police conducted "street sweeps." People waiting for buses and shopping for food were carted off to prison, where they were tortured until they implicated others. Thus was the Gulag filled with innocents.

"It can't happen here," but the beginnings of it already have. The US prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is full of mistaken identities and people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time-including, according to the Associated Press, a chicken farmer and an invalid. Bush's brand of democracy--a regime that holds people in prison for three years without charges-does not have civil liberties at heart.

Republicans are cheering. According to news reports Congress has passed-and Bush is about to sign-a law requiring a national identity card (Real ID) containing invasive digital information about the person.

How long will it be before the card specifies whether the person is a gun owner? If it is dangerous for air travel to permit a passenger to have a toothpick or nail clippers, how can a terrorist-threatened society permit mass gun ownership?

If the constitutional protections of civil liberties can be suspended in order to better fight terrorism, the Second Amendment doesn't have a chance. A government that spies on its citizens will not trust them with guns. When gun control becomes an essential feature of Homeland Security, the National Rifle Association and talk radio conservatives will be as astounded as Bail Organa and Padme when they hear Palpatine declare "an empire . . . and a sovereign ruler chosen for life."

Paul Craig Roberts has held a number of academic appointments and has contributed to numerous scholarly publications. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. His graduate economics education was at the University of Virginia, the University of California at Berkeley, and Oxford University. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:

Monday, May 23, 2005

Ex Maple Flag

Israeli F-16s to participate at Maple Flag XXXVIII
Posted by Lieven on May 13, 2005 - 07:15 AM

For the first time, the IDF/AF [1] is dispatching fighter jets to Canada to participate in the Maple Flag exercises which will take place May 15-June 24. They will have 10 F-16s and about 150 air crew in Alberta.

[2]The Israeli air force [3] confirmed that it had accepted a Canadian invitation to participate in the annual war games and was sending F-16 Fighting Falcons there. The move follows a policy by the IAF to participate in more international air exercises. The IAF has trained with the Italian, Romanian, German, Polish and Turkish air forces. It has also said it will hold a joint exercise with the Indians, but no date has been set.

Reports from Canada said that the IDF/AF [4] was sending 10 F-16s and about 150 air crew to Alberta.

More than 5,000 military personnel from 11 nations and a NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control (AWACS) contingent will participate in exercise Maple Flag XXXVIII. In addition, seven nations will observe the exercise as part of the International Observer Program (IOP). The exercise stretches over three two-week periods through May and June:

Period 1: 15 May - 27 May
Period 2: 29 May - 10 June
Period 3: 12 June -24 June
Maple Flag XXXVIII "Blue Air" Friendly Forces

[5]The following forces are scheduled to participate in this year's air combat exercise as "Blue Air." They will deploy to provide conventional ground attack, air superiority, SEAD (suppression of enemy air defence), tactical resupply, reconnaissance, air-to-air refueling, and AWACS (airborne early warning and control):
Canadian Forces
Belgian Air Force
German Air Force
French Air Force
Israeli Air Force
NATO AWACS (airborne early warning and control contingent)
Royal Air Force
Royal Netherlands [6] Air Force
Royal New Zealand [7] Air Force
Republic of Singapore [8] Air Force
Swedish Air Force
United States Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps
Maple Flag XXXVIII "Red Air" Opposing Forces

The following forces are scheduled to participate in this year's coalition exercise as "Red Air." They will deploy to provide air and ground threat:
14 CTS (United States Air Force)
64th AGRS (United States Air Force aggressor squadron)
266th Range Squadron (United States Air National Guard)
A number of Arab countries have been invited, but none is sending active aircraft. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates [9], which is currently receiving the F-16 Block 60 [10], are sending observers.

Maple Flag XXXVIII Observing Nations

The following nations are sending military members who will observe but not participate in the exercise:
United Arab Emirates
The Cold Lake range spreads across more than 11,000 of northern Alberta bush land. With civilian traffic banned from the area, military pilots have free rein to practice combat skills.

The range contains dozens of mock targets for planes to attack, including airfields, industrial complexes and military installations.

A number of different combat and combat support aircraft will be participating in this year?s exercise, including: Mirage F-1 and Mirage 2000N, F-15 Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, CF-18 Hornet, EA-6B Prowler, Tornado GR4, B-1B Lancer, E-3 Sentry AWACS, Transall C-160, C-130 Hercules, B-707.

Exercise Maple Flag is a Canadian variation of the United States Air Force Red Flag exercise, held several times a year at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Both exercises were developed in response to a Vietnam War finding that 90 percent of aircraft losses took place during the first ten combat missions. Aircrew who survived these critical first ten missions were more likely to survive the remainder of their combat tour.

The IDF/AF has long been a participant in the US Red Flag exercise.

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I'll Bet it All, Alex

by Norman Solomon

Monday, May 23, 2005

The endless show that seems to fill America's every waking moment -- and many of its nightmares -- could be called "Media Jeopardy!"

Before proceeding, here's a reminder of the rules: Listen to the answer and then try to come up with the question.

Let's get started.

The first category is "Media Untouchables."

* They're an ideological pair and stylistic opposites. On television, one is a slathering fount of bombast, the other is icy cerebellum, but both are widely syndicated columnists dedicated to helping the right wing of the Republican Party. One had a role in the scandal involving the Bush administration's payback "outing" of a critic's wife who was a CIA undercover agent.

The other has been guilty of numerous ethical lapses, from unacknowledged conflicts-of-financial-interest to utilizing debate-prep papers stolen from the Carter White House to coach then-challenger Ronald Reagan in the fall of 1980. Yet neither man seems to suffer professional or legal consequences.

Who are Robert Novak and George Will?

* This cable network, partly owned by a major Pentagon contractor, has been trying to "outfox Fox" ever since the start of the Iraq invasion.

What is MSNBC?

Our next category is "Prejudice and Jingoism."

* He has spewed out vile bigotry against Arabs on his morning show that's nationally simulcast on radio and television. Yet network managers don't seem to mind, and many politicians across the narrow liberal-to-conservative spectrum never seem to tire of cozying up to him on the air.

Who is Don Imus?

* While tributes are often paid to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who lose their lives in Iraq, these human beings are rarely mourned in the mainstream American media.

Who are Iraqi people?

Now it's on to "Not-So-Public Broadcasting."

* This network is now under so much effective political pressure from the Bush administration that alarm has spread across the nation. In a May 2005 editorial (headlined "A Publicly Funded Fox News?"), the St. Petersburg Times expressed concern that the network is apt to "increasingly find itself at the mercy of government and corporate masters with deep pockets and hidden agendas."

Yet the current media debate rarely mentions that -- for more than a quarter of a century -- this network has done very little to challenge those masters ... and much to help them.

What is PBS?

We're now in Double Jeopardy.

The category is "Real Live Journalists."

* As a Newsday reporter specializing in science and health, this journalist broke new ground with books and countless articles. She won the Peabody, the Polk and the Pulitzer prizes. In February 2005, resigning from the Newsday staff, she left a memo to colleagues that noted the recent evolution of the newspaper's ownership, first with management changes at the top of Times Mirror and then the purchase by the Tribune company.

"Ever since the Chandler Family plucked Mark Willes from General Foods, placing him at the helm of Times Mirror with a mandate to destroy the institutions in ways that would boost dividends, journalism has suffered at Newsday," the reporter wrote. What's more, she added, "The deterioration we experienced at Newsday was hardly unique.

All across America news organizations have been devoured by massive corporations, and allegiance to stockholders, the drive for higher share prices, and push for larger dividend returns trumps everything that the grunts in the newsrooms consider their missions."

Who is Laurie Garrett?

* This intrepid journalist broke many stories about the Iran-Contra scandal during the 1980s when he worked for The Associated Press. Years ago, he founded the website, which features ongoing investigative journalism.

Who is Robert Parry?

* She has covered the White House for longer than anyone else alive. Now, as a syndicated columnist, she is so insightful that President Bush goes out of his way to prevent her from asking questions at news conferences.

Who is Helen Thomas?

Now, we're moving into Final Jeopardy. Our ultimate question is in the category of

"Use It or Lose It."

* They're just a few words. And these days, many people in top positions of government power don't seem to have the foggiest notion what they mean. But those words express the most crucial principle that journalists and the rest of us are depending on to preserve a constitutional system in the United States.

Time's up. Can I see your answer please?

That's correct. The First Amendment.

Norman Solomon's latest book, "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death," will be published in early summer. His columns and other writings can be found at:

Galloway on Victory

An Exclusive Interview with George Galloway:
How to Build a Successful Progressive Alliance

At the Dirksen Senate Office Building this Tuesday, a pack of reporters followed George Galloway, Respect Coalition Minister of Parliament for Bethnal Green, London, before and after his testimony at the Government Committee on Investigations.

He had offered to go before the committee to clear his name. His electrifying testimony and subsequent cross-examination - by senators Coleman and Levin as well as by a gathering of broadcast reporters from the U.S. and Europe - has been aptly described by many progressive reporters.

Sadly, few of the reporters gathered that day asked Galloway about his newsworthy victory as a Respect candidate in the seat of Bethnal Green, a seat of immigrants and working class people in east London. What's more, the progressive reports of Tuesday's hearing have largely focused on his refutation of the charges and rhetorical prowess, not his historic success as a Respect candidate.

We caught up with Galloway and his team at Union Station, in a restaurant on a circular platform towering above the busy station. As he puffed a cigar, we asked him about the victory of Respect and its applicability to the problems faced by American activists.

* * *

Esther Sassaman: The questions I'm going to ask u are basically a totally different ball of wax from what others have asked today. These are organizing questions, because you just won the holy grail recently in Bethnal Green. We need help from you guys.

George Galloway: Oh yeah, definitely.

ES : Respect is an innovative alliance between Muslim and socialist forces. Why was it instituted and why was it successful, especially in Bethnal Green?

GG: Well, I have been quite central to the development so I guess I'm well placed as anyone to comment on it. I have long felt the things that divide us, the left and the Muslim community, were much less important than the things which united us. That's not to say the things are not important, just that they're much less important than the things that divided us. I have felt that one of the reasons why in places like France the Muslims were impotent and weak, and the left was impotent and weak, was because no fusion existed between them. Not even a fringe seemed to link them - over time, really dating back to the role of religion in the time of the French Revolution. Well, the role of religion has changed since the French Revolution. And nowadays most religious people are on the same side as most progressive people on these really core issues of war, peace and exploitation and the domination one by another, Zionism, the war, and so on.

So I've long felt that this alliance could be built -- in the Stop the War movement, in which I was one of the leaders, which was really a precursor of Respect, we achieved that. We had people under the same roof,people marching in the same demonstrations. We had Trotskyists, Stalinists, social democrats, liberals, Jews, Muslims, Christians, people of all kinds, who united around the basic demands of our movement, which were: No war on Iraq, freedom for Palestine.

And out of that experience was born Respect. And everyone thought that it would be an unholy alliance, But actually it has worked incredibly well. We not only won a seat, coming from nowhere, one of the most historic results in British political history, but we came second in three others, and we were third in another, and fourth in four seats. Four of the ten best results of the night were scored by us.

All over east London, and in the center of Birmingham, where the poor people live, where the immigrant people live, where students live, we showed that we are the real challengers of New Labour, except where we beat them. And that alliance is holding fast.

And I commend it to other countries. You can't transfer one political model all around the world - heaven knows the left's made mistakes along that line - long before us. But basic truth, seeking unity of those forces that are against war, imperialism, occupation and globalization must be there. And if that means that you have your view on abortion and I have mine, then I think that's a price worth paying.

ES: That moves me onto the next question - which is, you know, as an American, a little bit of a selfish question, but very useful to us - You already said that such an alliance can prosper in the US. My question is - how? One of the main problems we have here as progressive Muslim and non-Muslim activists in the US is we have trouble mobilizing the larger Muslim community due to an atmosphere of fear after September 11th. How - how do we overcome that?

GG: Well, ithats understandable, and at the beginning you will only be able to mobilize the most courageous and the best established. There's a clear difference between someone who - whose "jacket is here on a shaky nail" as we say, and someone who was born here, of Muslim extraction. That person is likely to be more courageous in facing up to the prevailing atmosphere - than someone who has just arrived or thinks that that they might be just a transient here. But of course the local population is, more and more, the second generation population. And that's where I'd start. I'd start with the most politically advanced of the older generation and I'd start targeting the younger generation. And say to them: politics can change things. Democracy can change things. The extremists .... the Salafids, they argue that voting is haraam, that elections are haraam, that working with what they call the kufr, the unbelievers, is haraam. We say, no, it's vital. And, it works. And Bethnal Green is a good example of it.

ES: These questions to follow are more about the political culture problems we have here in the US.

Tom Nagy: The problem we have here in the us is that the right wing - on media, communications skills, and finances - is so far ahead of the progressives. Like, Esther and I were only two of the small number of progressive people here to cover the hearing.

ES: And the only two [progressives] from the United States, I believe.

TN: Do you have any suggestions for us? It's a problem throughout the United States.

ES: How do we catch up?

TN: They've got a thirty year advantage, all the institutions.

ES: The think tanks, the newspapers...

GG: But, the Muslim community here is a very substantial one, and it's very prosperous. And it must be fought for with assiduous work. If I can help in any way I'll try to, -- to tap the kinds of fund raising that would allow you to get started with a project. I've been in three taxi cabs since I've been here. All of them were driven by Muslims. All of them recognized me immediately. And all of them were huge supporters of everything I stand for. Eh, extraordinary! And really encouraging. Two Pakistanis and one Afghan. And that's before you even touch the Arab-American community, which is likely to be better-established and even more prosperous. So I think that it's important that this get started. Maybe I'll come and do something, some speaking around the United States.

TN: That would be great.

ES: On a tangent I do know these folks in Cleveland that would be overjoyed to host and hear you, I'll get contact info to your folks.

GG: Thank you

ES: I'm going to ask the epistemology question - epistemology, for the people who may not know that fifty cent word that are reading this, is the science of knowing - what kind of theory of knowledge is out there. And it's my personal belief that the Republican Party and to a larger and larger extent, the Democratic Party - is inventing its own epistemology. Basically, instead of having a rigorous investigation of facts, for example at your hearing today, they just make an assertion. And because they say it in this vertically integrated media machine, it's true! And the problem is, if that epistemology spreads across the United States, then we have a huge disadvantage because even the facts won't save us if they can invent their own facts, How do we fight that?

GG: Well that's a brilliantly formed question.

ES: Thank you.

GG: I have no easy answer to it. Beyond - nobody ever said it would be easy. We are, in our two countries, fighting against an imperialist monster...that thinks nothing of massacring large numbers of people. And this is Jack Londons Iron Heel. And it may be that in my lifetime, Tom's lifetime, I hope not in yours - that we do not break through. We may move forward. We may merely stop them from pushing us back as far as they might have done if we weren't here. But we have a duty to try. What else are we here for, but to fight for the truth and fight for justice? In the end, if we're talking about epistemology, all we're asking for is justice! Justice - We believe in a society of justice in the world. Justice for the Palestinians and justice for everybody. That's all we're asking for. Now, there are a number of constituencies who are predisposed, if stripped of anything that gets in the way, predisposed to the idea of justice. And religious people, many religious people, are amongst those. I think of the Cardinal Archbishop of Detroit. who came to Baghdad a couple of times.... The Roman Catholic Church - I speak as a Catholic - the Roman Catholic Church, even in right wing countries like this, is seeded closely with ideals of justice. Black churches, black Christians, must be open to the ideals of justice.

ES: Yeah I sing in a Baptist gospel choir.

GG: All right, you'll know that then. And the Muslim community, however many millions it is in America, is definitely predisposed towards justice - both because Islam expounds the idea of justice, in a very powerful way, more powerful actually than the other religions, and because most of the people suffering injustice in the world on the international level are Muslims. You can speak to Kashmiris about injustice very easily. You can speak to Arab-Americans about injustice very easily.

ES: But there's often been a problem spreading that outside of their national interests. How do you purport to overcome that? That's something definitely that we've got to work on here.

GG: Yeah. I think that the task is to demonstrate that this injustice is a system. It's not an accident, it's a system. And the system requires that injustice. Injustice is its currency. People ask me, in mosques and so on, why are Muslims hated so much by the powerful governments? And I say, 'You don't have to be a Muslim to be hated.' Cuba is hated. Second, they [the US] quite like the Saudi royal family, and they pray five times a day. What they hate is the command in Islam that the believer must hate injustice and must struggle against it and must refuse tyranny. And, that these people are the tyrants. And their currency is injustice. Inevitably, that puts them on a collision course with Islam - with genuine believers in Islam. So, it is possible to generalize from the specific. There are some specifics that are more specific than others. For example, an Egyptian is equally outraged about what happens in Palestine as a Palestinian. A Kashmiri might not be so quickly and totally able to pass their feelings about one to another. But it's definitely not beyond us to try and to make progress.

ES: One example of that would be in Iran, which is a really good example of non-Arabs, Persians in this case, having a strong solidarity with Palestine and the people of Palestine.

GG: There are no Shi'ites in Palestine.

ES: Right.

GG: None at all.

ES: Yeah.

GG: But the people of Iran are deeply committed to the Palestinian cause.

ES: So that's a good sign.

GG: Yeah, after the revolution they took over the Israeli embassy and gave it to the PLO! Alhamdulilah! And, they called the street in which the British Embassy was in Bobby Sands Boulevard!

TN: Wow, that's real solidarity.

ES: And that sort of thing really has a cultural currency, and these symbolic gestures really spread all over the world.

GG: Sure they do.

ES: And that's something that we on the left really need to catch up on. The right is really dominating the field.

GG: I think - talking as a leftist, to leftists - let me say, the first hang up we have to get over is that somehow religion is a reactionary thing.

ES: Hear, hear.

GG: Whether you believe in God or not, it can hardly be a bad thing that people want to live their lives by a value system of peace, which is what in the end religion is. Religions say, don't harm other people. Treat people as you would wish to be treated. Don't steal. Don't kill people. And so on and so on. Well there's nothing wrong with that. Even if you don't believe in God there's nothing wrong with that. And a person who sincerely believes that sort of thing is the kind of person that can be won to a broader progressive agenda.

Esther Sassaman is a freelance journalist and Palestine solidarity activist. Tom Nagy is a anti-sanctions and anti-imperialist activist and writer. They can be reached at:

Rejecting Lady Liberty

The Real Newsweek Scandal
By Stephan Richter
The Globalist

WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 20, 2005 — Over the decades, a subscription to the international edition of Newsweek or Time Magazine has been a near-indispensable tool for many high school and college students in Europe, Asia and Latin America who were interested in the United States — and wanted to attend a U.S. university.

The assumption had always been that the international editions of these renowned magazines were a "best of" compilation of articles on the events and people driving the U.S. debate on key domestic and international issues.

Relying on the editors' good judgment, the reader could count on finding articles that best explained complex issues, that did not shrink away from covering controversial topics — and that ultimately equipped a foreigner with a solid understanding of Americans' current thinking.

It must be a sign of the times that the basic assumption — that you get to read a selection of the most interesting features read by Americans themselves in the domestic edition of the weekly magazine — no longer applies.

The current "Newsweek scandal" is all about the White House's charge that Newsweek besmirched the image of the U.S. military with a careless and inaccurate article alleging desecration of the Koran. As many others have pointed out, much of the Bush Administration's criticism is wrongheaded and hypocritical.

Dream on, America

Put in the broader context of how Americans view their role in the world, the truly disconcerting scandal at Newsweek took place several months ago — at the end of January 2005.

In the January 31, 2005 issue, Newsweek International — edited very capably by Fareed Zakaria — treated its readers around the world to a courageous, well-written and extensively researched cover story. It was principally authored by Newsweek columnist and Princeton University political scientist Andrew Moravcsik — and entitled "Dream On America."

An American problem

The article begins by describing just how out of tune President Bush's second inaugural address on January 20 was with how the United States is perceived in many countries around the world.

But the piece quickly moves beyond discussing global anti-Bush sentiment. Rather, the author lays out — in great detail and supported by numerous on-the-record quotes and detailed polling data — that it is the American model itself that many foreigners have become disillusioned with.

And Mr. Moravcsik also quickly dispels any notion that his article is merely a dressed-up anti-Bush rant: "A President Kerry would have had to confront a similar disaffection."

As he puts it, "Americans are living in a dream world. Not only do others not share America's self-regard, they no longer aspire to emulate the country's social and economic achievement."

The American model — discredited?

This global disaffection with America described in the feature stretches from the U.S. political system (too much money and influence peddling), to its economy (Americans are getting a raw deal in terms of working hours, social protection and health insurance) and social model (racial tensions, high incarceration rates and gun violence).

But the hardest blow to America's self-image may be Mr. Moravcsik's detailed description of how newly democratic countries around the world opt in favor of Europe's political model rather than America's.

Pretending to have a debate

In short, it is an article that shows that the author has his finger on the pulse of how people around the world feel about the United States at the beginning of the 21st century.

And it is decidedly not an anti-American manifesto. Rather, it is an article that must have given hope to the many friends America still has around the world who read it in Newsweek International.

"Finally," these pro-American Europeans, Asians and others must have thought, "the U.S. debate is moving in the right direction. America's self-corrective mechanism can now get to work and ultimately restore the true American leadership the world still needs."

Except, of course, that this was not the case. This uniquely well-argued article — with additional reporting from locales around the world — never made it into Newsweek's U.S. edition.

But why?

Would the article have made any huge difference in the domestic U.S. debate? Maybe, maybe not. But the simple fact that Newsweek's editors decided against publishing such an important and illuminating article speaks volumes.

One can only guess what their motives may have been: Maybe there wasn't enough room for such a rather lengthy feature, which would be a poor excuse at best.

Cutting readers out of the loop

Another reason might be that the magazine did not want to upset its corporate advertisers with an article that is highly critical of corporate lobbying and other excesses of the U.S. political and economic systems.

Or maybe the editors simply thought that their readers were not interested in, or simply did not want to hear, the article's uncomfortable message — the worst possible reason for not running it.

So contrary to what most people outside of the United States think, Newsweek — and Time, for that matter — are cutting some readers out of the loop. But it's not the foreigners who are being kept away from some of the best and most provocative stories.

Rather, the most pointed pieces are often commissioned by — and printed in — the magazines' international editions. Doing so gives international readers an impression of a vigorous U.S. debate that, sadly, does not always take place.

Telling truth to power

This is all the more appalling given that the real audience for the essay was not the readership abroad, but Americans at home.

It would have been a powerful contribution to journalism's highest function — telling truth to power — to make the article available to its intended audience, especially if it does not like to hear that truth.

The real crisis

What we have to contend with is a situation where the problems of American journalism extend far beyond the admittedly too widespread use of anonymous sources. The real crisis is about an increasing unwillingness to tell hard truths it when it really matters.

In that sense, the current Newsweek scandal has it backwards. Newsweek's editors surely do not deserve all the blame that was heaped upon them in the wake of the Koran story.

But the real con job on the American people took place in January, when the same editors apparently decided that — for whatever reason — the "Dream On America" essay should not be published in their magazine.

— Stephan Richter is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Globalist, the daily online feature service on the global economy, politics and culture. Mr. Richter is also founder and president of TransAtlantic Futures, Inc., a Washington-based global strategy, media and education firm, which was established in 1989.Mr. Richter is also a monthly columnist for Les Echos, France's leading financial daily, and writes regularly for the Financial Times Deutschland.