John "A Very Creative Intellect" Poindexter Canned

Topic(s): Pentagon
Date Posted: 07.31.03

Poindexter to Resign Following Terrorist Futures Debacle

WASHINGTON, July 31 — The Pentagon official who oversaw the development of a plan for the military to operate a terrorist futures-trading market is resigning under pressure, a senior defense official said today.

John M. Poindexter, a retired rear admiral who was President Ronald Reagan's national security adviser, is stepping down "in the next few weeks," the official said, following disclosure of a proposal that outraged lawmakers and embarrassed senior Pentagon officials. The plan was to create in essence an online betting parlor that would have rewarded investors who forecast terrorist attacks, assassinations and coups.

While Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld did not personally dismiss Admiral Poindexter, the defense official said, Mr. Rumsfeld agreed that the admiral's credibility was shot and it was time for him to go.

[Continue Reading]

Ayreen -- Ed Said: Blind Imperial Arrogance

Topic(s): Middle East
Date Posted: 07.31.03

Blind Imperial Arrogance - Vile Stereotyping of Arabs by the U.S.
Ensures Years of Turmoil

by Edward Said

The great modern empires have never been held together only by military power. Britain ruled the vast territories of India with only a few thousand colonial officers and a few more thousand troops, many of them Indian. France did the same in North Africa and Indochina, the Dutch in Indonesia, the Portuguese and Belgians in Africa. The key element was imperial perspective, that way of looking at a distant foreign reality by subordinating it in one's gaze, constructing its history from one's own point of view, seeing its people as subjects whose fate can be decided by what distant administrators think is best for them. From such willful perspectives ideas develop, including the theory that imperialism is a benign and necessary thing.

For a while this worked, as many local leaders believed - mistakenly - that cooperating with the imperial authority was the only way. But because the dialectic between the imperial perspective and the local one is adversarial and impermanent, at some point the conflict between ruler and ruled becomes uncontainable and breaks out into colonial war, as happened in Algeria and India. We are still a long way from that moment in American rule over the Arab and Muslim world because,over the last century, pacification through unpopular local rulers has so far worked.

[Continue Reading]

In Growth Spurt, Columbia Is Buying Swath of Harlem

Topic(s): New York
Date Posted: 07.30.03

July 30, 2003
In Growth Spurt, Columbia Is Buying Swath of Harlem

Columbia University, long starved for land at its campus in Morningside Heights, is buying up a 17-acre swath in West Harlem for its first major expansion in 75 years.

The university's long-range plan calls for removing the battered brick industrial buildings now in the area bounded roughly by Broadway, 125th Street, 12th Avenue and 133rd Street and replacing them with a new tree-lined campus of school buildings, performing arts centers, research labs, a jazz club and dormitories.

The proposed multibillion-dollar project, about half the size of Columbia's 36-acre campus in Morningside Heights, would be built in the coming decades and could become what the university regards as a link to its health sciences complex in Washington Heights. Aside from acquiring the rest of the land, Columbia also needs zoning changes that would allow high-rise development of nonindustrial buildings.

Columbia has crowded new buildings onto campus for years and erected towers on scattered sites in the surrounding area, but officials say it needs to expand if it is to continue to attract top professors, researchers and students.

[Continue Reading]

Truthout -- Fisk: Troops Turn Botched Saddam Raid Into A Massacre

Topic(s): Iraq
Date Posted: 07.30.03

Troops Turn Botched Saddam Raid Into A Massacre
By Robert Fisk
The Independent

Monday 28 July 2003

BAGHDAD - Obsessed with capturing Saddam Hussein, American soldiers turned a botched raid on a house in the Mansur district of Baghdad yesterday into a bloodbath, opening fire on scores of Iraqi civilians in a crowded street and killing up to 11, including two children, their mother and crippled father. At least one civilian car caught fire, cremating its occupants.

The vehicle carrying the two children and their mother and father was riddled by bullets as it approached a razor-wired checkpoint outside the house.

Amid the fury generated among the largely middle-class residents of Mansur - by ghastly coincidence, the killings were scarcely 40 metres from the houses in which 16 civilians died when the Americans tried to kill Saddam towards the end of the war in April - whatever political advantages were gained by the killing of Saddam's sons have been squandered. A doctor at the Yarmouk hospital, which received four of the dead, turned on me angrily last night, shouting: "If an American came to my emergency room, maybe I would kill him."

[Continue Reading]

John -- Rick MacArthur: Against Liberal Intervention

Topic(s): Human Rights
Date Posted: 07.29.03

By John R. MacArthur | 7.28.03
Against Liberal Intervention
During the early phase of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, I came across a scathing critique of the war in a suprising locale, written by the unlikeliest (or so I thought) accuser of the Bush-Blair axis of imperialism.

The publication was Conrad Black’s militantly right-wing, pro-war British weekly, The Spectator, and the author was named Hitchens—not the putatively “leftist” one named Christopher, but his supposedly “reactionary” brother, Peter.

In its high rhetorical pitch the essay was pure Hitchens, regardless of given name. But there was no confusing the brothers after the first paragraph. Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to Peter Hitchens, was a “left-wing war,” a destructive enterprise that provided “the excuse for censorship, organized lying, regulation, and taxation,” a “paradise for the busybody and the narc” that “damages family life and wounds the Church, all the while polluting the minds of millions with scenes of horror and death.”

[Continue Reading]

Deidre + John -- Pentagon Prepares a Futures Market on Terror Attacks

Topic(s): Pentagon
Date Posted: 07.29.03

Pentagon Prepares a Futures Market on Terror Attacks

WASHINGTON, July 28 — The Pentagon office that proposed spying electronically on Americans to monitor potential terrorists has a new experiment. It is an online futures trading market, disclosed today by critics, in which anonymous speculators would bet on forecasting terrorist attacks, assassinations and coups.

Traders bullish on a biological attack on Israel or bearish on the chances of a North Korean missile strike would have the opportunity to bet on the likelihood of such events on a new Internet site established by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

[Continue Reading]

John -- Three links on "The Fence"

Topic(s): Palestine / Israel
Date Posted: 07.24.03

The Map and the Fence
by Edward R.F. Sheehan
New York Review of Books, July 3, 2003

The Wall and the Eye: An Interview with Eyal Weizman:
Architecture and negative planning in the West Bank
by Jeffrey Kastner and Sia Najafi
Cabinet, Issue 9, Winter 2002/2003

[Continue Reading]

Ange -- The card up their sleeve

Topic(s): Capital
Date Posted: 07.22.03

The card up their sleeve

It sounds good - loyalty cards entitle us to freebies or cash simply for shopping at our local superstore. Of course, retailers get something in return: a heap of information about us we might prefer them not to know. That's before they get started on the new tags that track you and what you buy. Rachel Shabi investigates

Saturday July 19, 2003
The Guardian

Every time you reach the checkout in the two biggest supermarket chains, it's the same question: have you got a card? It can get irritating, but nonetheless we have willingly signed up to their reward schemes - in droves. According to market researchers TNS, around 85% of UK households have at least one loyalty card. We've accepted the membership rules of these innocent-looking, points-mean-prizes clubs: you show us some loyalty, say the retailers, and we'll give you nice bonuses in return.

That loyalty, on the face of it, is based on how much you spend with one particular retailer. Sure, the rewards aren't huge but, as Tesco likes to put it, "Every little helps." Besides which, we in the UK love bargains, and getting something for nothing even more. But the question is: how much does the nothing really cost? It is not simply a matter of choosing to be "loyal", now synonymous with "open your wallet", to one supermarket over another - the cost is in having your purchases scrutinised and analysed in staggering detail by the loyalty card retailers. You'd be amazed what they can do with a seemingly innocuous flow of till receipts, coupled with your loyalty card. Worse, having accepted the principles of these schemes so gamely, we have paved the way for the kind of surveillance technology that will turn your stomach once you realise that it is happening in real time and not in some implausible, futuristic film. Right now, we are the unsuspecting guinea pigs for comprehensive trials of new customer-tracking, shop spy technology.

[Continue Reading]

John -- New Encyclopedia Gives Cool-Hunters a Road Map for Ads

Topic(s): Media
Date Posted: 07.22.03

July 19, 2003
New Encyclopedia Gives Cool-Hunters a Road Map for Ads

Cayce Packard, the heroine of William Gibson's recent novel, "Pattern Recognition" (Putnam), has a serious problem. Corporate symbols and logos make her ill. A glimpse of the bulbous Michelin Man is traumatic; even trademarks on the buttons of her Levis have to be sanded off.

But her hypersensitivity to commercial insignias also makes her eminently qualified to be a "cool-hunter." She is hired by businesses to assess their logos and anticipate trends before they congeal into fads. She thus combines the cultural antennae of an advertising copywriter with the allergies of a Marxist: she helps create the very products that most disgust her.

Mr. Gibson, of course, is himself one of the prime cool-hunters of the age, a science-fiction writer so astute he coined the term cyberspace and envisioned virtual reality before its time. His current hunt also resonates: our world, like Cayce's, is saturated with logos and commercial images. Polo players on horseback, giant swishes and geometric medallions are elements in a cultural shorthand: invoked in novels, placed in movies, inscribed on clothing. The contemporary citizen is also a cool-hunter, literate in the symbols and allusions of advertising.

[Continue Reading]

John -- A Dialogue with Jürgen Habermas

Topic(s): Interviews
Date Posted: 07.22.03

An excerpt from
Philosophy in a Time of Terror
Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas
and Jacques Derrida
by Giovanna Borradori

A Dialogue with Jürgen Habermas

Borradori: Do you consider what we now tend to call "September 11" an unprecedented event, one that radically alters the way we see ourselves?

Habermas: Allow me to say in advance that I shall be answering your questions at a distance of three months. Therefore, it might be useful to mention my personal experience in relation to the event. At the start of October I was beginning a two-month stay in Manhattan. I must confess I somehow felt more of a stranger this time than I did on previous visits to the "capital of the twentieth century," a city that has fascinated me for more than three decades. It was not only the flag-waving and rather defiant "United We Stand" patriotism that had changed the climate, nor was it the peculiar demand for solidarity and the accompanying susceptibility to any presumed "anti-Americanism." The impressive American liberality toward foreigners, the charm of the eager, sometimes also self-consciously accepting embrace—this noble openhearted mentality seemed to have given way to a slight mistrust. Would we, the ones who had not been present, now also stand by them unconditionally? Even those who hold an unquestionable record, as I do among my American friends, needed to be cautious with regard to criticism. Since the intervention in Afghanistan, we suddenly began to notice when, in political discussions, we found ourselves only among Europeans (or among Israelis).

On the other hand, only there did I first feel the full magnitude of the event. The terror of this disaster, which literally came bursting out of the blue, the horrible convictions behind this treacherous assault, as well as the stifling depression that set over the city, were a completely different experience there than at home. Every friend and colleague could remember exactly what they were doing that day shortly after 9:00 A.M. In short, only there did I begin to better comprehend the foreboding atmosphere that already echoes in your question. Also among the left there is a widespread awareness of living at a turning point in history. I do not know whether the U.S. government itself was slightly paranoid or merely shunning responsibility. At any rate, the repeated and utterly nonspecific announcements of possible new terror attacks and the senseless calls to "be alert" further stirred a vague feeling of angst along with an uncertain readiness—precisely the intention of the terrorists. In New York people seemed ready for the worst. As a matter of course, the anthrax scares (even the plane crash in Queens)2 were attributed to Osama bin Laden's diabolical machinations.

[Continue Reading]

John -- Habermas + Derrida -- Europa, Europa

Topic(s): Europe
Date Posted: 07.22.03

Europa, Europa
The mixed-up debate over the new European patriotism

By Jefferson Chase, 7/20/2003

THE IRAQ WAR has made for some strange bedfellows, in philosophy no less than in politics. On May 31, Jrgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida issued a joint declaration, ''After the War: The Rebirth of Europe,'' in Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and France's La Libration. In it, the great theoretician of communication and consensus and the doyen of deconstruction put aside their considerable intellectual differences to call for a unified European response ''to balance out the hegemonic unilateralism of the United States.'' But what they were really after was the creation of ''a European identity,'' a sense of patriotism to rival that which, for better or worse, has dominated the United States since Sept. 11.

This was always going to be an uphill struggle in the fragmented Europe that the authors describe as a ''post-national constellation.'' While the two men's proposal attracted a chorus of supporters, from the American philosopher Richard Rorty to the Italian novelist Umberto Eco, European public opinion has thus far remained unimpressed, dismissing the declaration as containing, in the words of one Zurich pundit, ''too much cultural-historical abstraction and too little political substance.'' As George Bush Sr. found out at the end of the Cold War, it's one thing to say you have a vision, it's another thing to say what it is.

''After the War,'' which was written by Habermas and endorsed by Derrida, picks up on two main ideas expressed in ''Philosophy in a Time of Terror'' (Chicago), a recently published book of dialogues with the two men conducted by the Vassar philosophy professor Giovanna Borradori. The first idea is that Europe, in contrast to the United States, has overcome a history of national chauvinism and militarism and now favors international legal bodies over force as a means of resolving conflicts. The second is that Europeans define equality not just in the American sense of fair treatment (for Americans) before the law, but as a social contract including relative equality in standards of living, which it is the state's duty to maintain and which applies (at least in theory) to the world as a whole.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Žižek -- Will You Laugh for Me, Please?

Topic(s): Media
Date Posted: 07.22.03

By Slavoj ˇi˛ek | 7.18.03
Will You Laugh for Me, Please?

On April 8, Charles R. Douglass, the inventor of canned laughter—the artificial jollity that accompanies comical moments on TV shows—died at 93 in Templeton, California. In the early ’50s, he developed the idea to enhance or substitute live audience reaction on television. This idea was realized in the guise of a keyboard machine; by pressing on different keys, it was possible to produce different kinds of laughter. First used for episodes of The Jack Benny Show and I Love Lucy, today its modernized version is present everywhere.

The overwhelming presence of canned laughter makes us blind to its core paradox, even as it undermines our natural presuppositions about the state of our innermost emotions. Canned laughter marks a true “return of the repressed,” an attitude we usually attribute to “primitives.” Recall, in traditional societies, the weird phenomenon of “weepers,” women hired to cry at funerals. A rich man can hire them to cry and mourn on his behalf while he attends to a more lucrative business (like negotiating for the fortune of the deceased). This role can be played not only by another human being, but by a machine, as in the case of Tibetan prayer wheels: I put a written prayer into a wheel and mechanically turn it (or, even better, link the wheel to a mill that turns it). It prays for me—or, more precisely, I “objectively” pray through it, while my mind can be occupied with the dirtiest of sexual thoughts.

Douglass’ invention proved that the same “primitive” mechanism works also in highly developed societies. When I come home in the evening too exhausted to engage in meaningful activity, I just tune in to a TV sitcom; even if I do not laugh, but simply stare at the screen, tired after a hard day’s work, I nonetheless feel relieved after the show. It is as if the TV were literally laughing in my place, instead of me.

Yet before one gets used to canned laughter, there is nonetheless usually a brief period of uneasiness. The first reaction is of mild shock, since it is difficult to accept that the machine out there can “laugh for me.” Even if the program was “taped in front of a live studio audience,” this audience manifestly did not include me, and now exists only in mediated form as part of the TV show itself. However, with time, one grows accustomed to this disembodied laughter, and the phenomenon is experienced as “natural.” This is what is so unsettling about canned laughter: My most intimate feelings can be radically externalized. I can literally laugh and cry through another.

This logic holds not only for emotions, but also for beliefs. According to a well-known anthropological anecdote, the “primitives” to whom one attributes certain “superstitious beliefs,” that they descend from a fish or from a bird, for example, when directly asked about these beliefs, answer, “Of course not—we’re not that stupid! But I was told that our ancestors did believe that.” In short, they transfer their belief onto another. Are we not doing the same with our children? We go through the ritual of Santa Claus, since our children (are supposed to) believe in it, and we do not want to disappoint them; they pretend to believe not to disappoint us and our belief in their naiveté (and to get the presents, of course).

In an uncanny way, some beliefs always seem to function “at a distance.” For the belief to function, there has to be some ultimate guarantor of it, yet this guarantor is always deferred, displaced, never present in person. The subject who directly believes need not exist for the belief to be operative: It is enough merely to presuppose its existence in the guise of, say, a mythological founding figure who is not part of our reality.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Ranting Against Cant -- Harold Bloom

Topic(s): Interviews
Date Posted: 07.22.03

Ranting Against Cant

Harold Bloom, a staunch defender of the Western literary tradition, returns to Shakespeare, "the true multicultural author."


Hamlet: Poem Unlimited

Hamlet: Poem Unlimited
[Click the title
to buy this book]

by Harold Bloom
Riverhead Books
154 pages, $19.95

F or the past half century, the critic Harold Bloom has stood as something of a lone warrior in the literary world. In the 1950s, he battled T. S. Eliot's New Criticism, then the prevailing trend in literature classrooms. In the 1970s, he sparred with the Deconstructionists, a group of mostly European intellectuals who believed that language was essentially devoid of meaning. In the 1990s, after publishing his book The Western Canon, Bloom found himself facing off against literary feminists and multiculturalists. Most recently, Bloom incensed thousands of Harry Potter fans by expressing unambiguous disdain for the boy wizard in the op-ed pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Depending on one's ideology, Bloom can be perceived in one of two ways: as a Don Quixote tilting at the whirring blades of social progress or as a noble Sir Lancelot, defending a literary kingdom whose nobility includes Homer, Milton, and Dante. In this second paradigm, Bloom's King Arthur is undoubtedly William Shakespeare, the writer to whom he reverently refers as "my mortal god."

Bloom's newest book, Hamlet: Poem Unlimited, is essentially a love letter to Shakespeare and his most famous creation. The book was born out of Bloom's dissatisfaction with his own 1999 work, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. After devoting a lengthy chapter to Hamlet's themes and origins, Bloom realized that most of his true feelings about the play had not made it into print. To remedy this mistake, he wrote Poem Unlimited, a slim volume that strips away history and theory to reveal Bloom's most personal responses to his favorite work of literature.

At seventy-three, Bloom lives with his wife, Jeanne, near the campus of Yale University, where he is the Sterling Professor of Humanities. He leads a proudly anachronistic existence. A highly prolific writer (he has written nineteen books of his own and penned introductions for over 350 others), Bloom abhors e-mail and fax machines. He still listens to records on a turntable and wears white shirts with red suspenders. Like an affectionate grandfather, he addresses everyone as "my dear"—a publisher on the telephone, a visiting graduate student, the mailman. But for all his old-fashioned geniality, Bloom remains a powerful warrior on the literary field, always ready to raise his lance in the name of the Western tradition.

I spoke with him at his home in New Haven, Connecticut.

—Jennie Rothenberg

[Continue Reading]


Topic(s): US Analysis
Date Posted: 07.21.03

More than half of the U.S. Army's combat strength is now bogged down in
Iraq, which didn't have significant weapons of mass destruction and wasn't
supporting Al Qaeda. We have lost all credibility with allies who might
have provided meaningful support; Tony Blair is still with us, but has lost
the trust of his public. All this puts us in a very weak position for
dealing with real threats. Did I mention that North Korea has been
extracting fissionable material from its fuel rods?

How did we get into this mess? The case of the bogus uranium purchases
wasn't an isolated instance. It was part of a broad pattern of politicized,
corrupted intelligence.

Literally before the dust had settled, Bush administration officials began
trying to use 9/11 to justify an attack on Iraq. Gen. Wesley Clark says
that he received calls on Sept. 11 from "people around the White House"
urging him to link that assault to Saddam Hussein. His account seems to
back up a report last September, headlined "Plans for Iraq Attack
Began on 9/11," which quoted notes taken by aides to Donald Rumsfeld on the
day of the attack: "Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

But an honest intelligence assessment would have raised questions about why
we were going after a country that hadn't attacked us. It would also have
suggested the strong possibility that an invasion of Iraq would hurt, not
help, U.S. security.

So the Iraq hawks set out to corrupt the process of intelligence
assessment. On one side, nobody was held accountable for the failure to
predict or prevent 9/11; on the other side, top intelligence officials were
expected to support the case for an Iraq war.

The story of how the threat from Iraq's alleged W.M.D.'s was hyped is now,
finally, coming out. But let's not forget the persistent claim that Saddam
was allied with Al Qaeda, which allowed the hawks to pretend that the Iraq
war had something to do with fighting terrorism.

As Greg Thielmann, a former State Department intelligence official, said
last week, U.S. intelligence analysts have consistently agreed that Saddam
did not have a "meaningful connection" to Al Qaeda. Yet administration
officials continually asserted such a connection, even as they suppressed
evidence showing real links between Al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia.

[Continue Reading]

Valerie --Safire -- Grass roots fight media gigantism

Topic(s): Media
Date Posted: 07.21.03

Friday, July 18, 2003

Grass roots fight media gigantism

WASHINGTON -- General managers of 75 stations owned and operated by the Big Four television networks swept into a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. Big Media's lobbying purpose was to squelch the bipartisan movement in Congress to nullify the Federal Communications Commission's cave-in to the networks' lust to gobble up more independent stations.

Before the vote, the majority whip Roy Blunt, on Tom DeLay's orders, leaned on GOP members to allow the FCC cave-in to be financed. The National Association of Broadcasters, which had been supporting its many independent members against the networks' expansion, flip-flopped in panic because NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox threatened to bolt the lobby.

But to everyone's amazement, the networks' power play was foiled. Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia urged his GOP colleagues to vote their consciences, and an amendment to hold the cap on a huge conglomerate's ownership to 35 percent of the national TV audience was passed by a vote of 40-25.

Here is what made this happen. Take the force of right-wingers upholding community standards who are determined to defend local control of the public airwaves; combine that with the force of lefties eager to maintain diversity of opinion in local media; add in the independent voters' mistrust of media manipulation; then let all these people have access to their representatives by e-mail and fax, and voila! Congress awakens to slap down the power grab.

Or at least half of it. In Sen. Ted Stevens' rollback-to-35-percent bill approved by the Senate Commerce Committee, an amendment protecting localism had been added to stop the growth of cross-ownership of TV stations and newspapers in single cities. But that amendment won't fly; as the Commerce chairman, John McCain, told me, "The fix is in on cross-ownership." Media General and The New York Times Co. are becoming more influential nationally, and The Tribune Co. dominates news coverage in Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Long Island.

I scorn all polls except those that support my views. According to this week's Pew Research poll about the FCC plan (to break the ownership barrier and permit media crossover), "By roughly 10 to 1 (70 percent-6 percent), those who have heard a lot about the rules change say its impact will be negative." Nearly half of those polled had heard about this issue, despite conflicted media coverage.

[Continue Reading]

Kevin -- Real IRA men threaten new hunger strike

Topic(s): Ireland
Date Posted: 07.21.03

The Scotsman
Sat 19 July 2003

Real IRA men threaten new hunger strike


THE spectre of republican hunger strikes yesterday loomed over Northern Ireland‚ as inmates on a "dirty protest" planned new action.

Inmates linked to the Real IRA and other dissident terror organisations, who are staging their protest by smearing excrement over cell walls in Maghaberry prison, were prepared to die, supporters insisted.

Fears have also been raised for the lives of prison officers as the crisis deepens.

It is understood that the campaign - the republicans want to be separated from loyalists at the high-security complex near Lisburn, Co Antrim - is set to intensify and spread to Magilligan prison, Co Londonderry.

Even though the authorities are confident the segregation attempt does not have widespread backing, inmates at the second jail are plotting wrecking sprees or
temporary fasts in a show of solidarity, sources said. But nearly three weeks into the protest, there was a growing threat of a first full-blown hunger strike in two decades.

Marian Price, the chairwoman of the Real IRA-linked Irish Republican Prisoners‚Äō Welfare Association, said that the protesters were determined.

"They told me they will take it as far as they need to. I didn‚Äōt pursue that because I knew what they meant," she said.

In 1981, IRA men inside the Maze prison went on a fast to gain political status. Ten of them died.

Ms Price, a former Provisional activist who was jailed for her part in the 1973 IRA bomb attacks on London, went on hunger strike herself in protest at being kept in an English jail. She was released in 1980.

Ms Price warned: "If one of these young men dies in prison there are going to be consequences, and it doesn't bear thinking about. Lives will not be lost on just one side."

A rally planned for west Belfast today will show how much support there is among republicans on the outside for inmates, who are demanding segregation for supposed safety reasons.

But Edwin Poots, a Democratic Unionist councillor in Lisburn, said he feared the protest could lead to attacks on staff.

[Continue Reading]

John -- Chosmky: Collateral Language

Topic(s): Interviews
Date Posted: 07.21.03

Collateral Language
An Interview With Noam Chomsky

David Barsamian


Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor in the Department of Linguistics and
Philosophy at MIT. He is the author of scores of books-his latest are
Power and Terror and Middle East Illusions. His book 9-11 was an
international bestseller.

BARSAMIAN: In recent years, the Pentagon, and then the media, have
adopted this term "collateral damage" to describe the death of
civilians. Talk about the role of language in shaping and forming
people's understanding of events.

CHOMSKY: Well, it's as old as history. It has nothing much to do with
language. Language is the way we interact and communicate, so,
naturally, the means of communication and the conceptual background
that's behind it, which is more important, are used to try to shape
attitudes and opinions and induce conformity and subordination. Not
surprisingly, it was created in the more democratic societies.

The first coordinated propaganda ministry, called the Ministry of
Information, was in Britain during World War I. It had the task, as they
put it, of controlling the mind of the world. What they were
particularly concerned with was the mind of America and, more
specifically, the mind of American intellectuals. They thought if they
could convince American intellectuals of the nobility of the British war
effort, then American intellectuals could succeed in driving the
basically pacifist population of the United States, which didn't want to
have anything to do with European wars, rightly, into a fit of
fanaticism and hysteria, which would get them to join the war. Britain
needed U.S. backing, so Britain had its Ministry of Information aimed
primarily at American opinion and opinion leaders. The Wilson
administration reacted by setting up the first state propaganda agency
here, called the Committee on Public Information.

[Continue Reading]

Deidre -- Sassen -- Africa and the Warlord

Topic(s): Africa
Date Posted: 07.17.03

Africa and the Warlord
Global protests did help poor countries over drugs and Aids. But the counterattack has begun.

by Saskia Sassen
July 11, 2003
Print-Friendly Version
Email This Article To A Friend

Warlords. They have a bad name but not all they do is bad. Their basic premise is that a good gun is better than a good law. Then there is the horsetrading: you give me oil, I will get you aid for Aids treatment; horsetrading can work when bureaucrats fail. Some warlords are grubby, others are imperial: as in Liberia, the warlord can descend from the heavens and declare it's time for the old order to go. Then there is the domestic warlord: the cowboy or the caudillo, always riding something - a horse, a tank - to an unknown destination.

Although warlordism is not new, it has had to adjust to new settings, like international treaties and whatnot. And it has had to become far more complex and indirect in its horsetrading. Bush is becoming a warlord who can handle it all. Two cases come to mind. One is the current visit to Africa, where Bush wants access to oil and the installation of US military bases and troops to make the region secure against terrorism. The second is the Bush administration's handling of the World Trade Organisation Doha declaration giving poor countries the right to override pharmaceutical patents in public health emergencies.

At the top of the list for horsetrading in Africa are oil and military bases or, at the least, troop stations. In return, Bush is offering aid for Aids victims and enhanced access to US markets. This is horsetrading at its best. The fine print on the offer of US market access has some notable features: the benefits for African producers are actually neutralised by the distortions resulting from US government subsidies to its farmers; these subsidies are larger than many African economies, and they are three times as large as total US aid to Africa as a whole.

US investment in oil production is being presented as a tool for development. This is not the first time this has happened, so we have some evidence on the matter. Again, the fine print does not look as good as the headlines. Oil has been a devastating fact for development in Africa: it has concentrated wealth and produced disincentives for any other type of development. Nor has it helped democracy, since entrenched elites lose much more than office if they lose control over the government. The economic shadow effect of oil is largely negative, and it all winds up creating more poverty. Oil-rich Nigeria and its 100m poor are exhibit number one.

What does the US get out of it? Today the US relies on Africa for 15% of its oil imports. The estimates are that by 2005 this will rise to between 20% and 25% of US oil imports. To this we should add the high quality of some of the African oil and the better transport distance from the Atlantic coast compared to the Middle East. Finally, if the US can also set up military bases and station troops to make sure everything is quiet, even if not peaceful, then we have a nice military- economic linkage.

[Continue Reading]

Francois -- All Spin All The Time

Topic(s): US Analysis
Date Posted: 07.17.03

All Spin All The Time

New York-based Russ Baker is an award-winning journalist who covers
politics and media.

Viva Nihilism! It must be great working in the Bush White House. Zero
accountability. It's All Spin, All the Time. Nothing matters but
politics, hence no unfounded claim requires correction or apology.
Unless, of course, they are pushed to the end of the plank, as they were
recently with the tale about Niger and nuclear materials.

Take those elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction. Despite the failure of
the concentrated might of the U.S. military-intelligence complex to find
anything that might qualify in the remotest possible way, the
administration labels critics "revisionist historians" and imperturbedly
moves on. The initial assertions and touted "discoveries" usually get
more attention than does the sound of a balloon deflating. That's why
polls find a sizable chunk of the American public still under the
impression that WMD have been found.

Whatever Saddam's interest in WMD, the administration didn't know what
he had and didn't have solid evidence to make the claims it did -- much
less to launch a war over them. For those amateur "revisionist
historians" out there, here is a partial, unscientific reconstruction of
the claims that fizzled.


"Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bombmaking and poisons and deadly
gases... [which] could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without
leaving any fingerprints." - President Bush, Oct. 7, 2002.

The alleged Al Qaeda training camp, which Colin Powell described to the
United Nations in February, is later revealed to be outside Iraq's
control and patrolled by Allied warplanes. By late June, Michael
Chandler, the head of the U.N. team monitoring global efforts to counter
Al Qaeda tells Agence France Press : "We have never had information
presented to us -- even though we've asked questions -- which would
indicate that there is a direct link."

State Dept. spokesman Richard Boucher responds: "Secretary Powell
provided clear and convincing evidence of the links between Iraq and Al


"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought
significant quantities of uranium from Africa," Bush declares in the
State of the Union address.

In March, Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), tells the U.N. Security Council that the
documents substantiating the claim of alleged Iraqi efforts to buy
uranium in Niger were fakes (and bad ones at that) and that "these
specific allegations are unfounded." The unnamed ex-ambassador whom the
CIA sent to check out the story tells The New Republic : "They knew the
Niger story was a flat-out lie."

Pass the buck, finally 'fessing up in a White House statement delivered
on July 7 that Bush should not have used the uranium allegations in his


U.S. officials present evidence suggesting that Iraq tried to buy
aluminum tubes for use in centrifuges for the uranium enrichment

IAEA's ElBaradei later reports that extensive investigation "failed to
uncover any evidence" that Iraq intended to use the tubes for any
project other than the reverse engineering of rockets.

Powell releases a contradictory interpretation of the tubes, then the
matter disappears.

In early April, the Pentagon "confirms" discovery of a biological and
chemical weapons storage site near the town of Hindiyah, complete with
suspected sarin and tabun nerve agents.

Fourteen barrels of liquids are reassessed to be pesticide.

[Continue Reading]

John -- The spies who pushed for war

Topic(s): Iraq
Date Posted: 07.16.03

From the Guardian:

The spies who pushed for war

Julian Borger reports on the shadow rightwing intelligence network set up in Washington to second-guess the CIA and deliver a justification for toppling Saddam Hussein by force

Thursday July 17, 2003
The Guardian

As the CIA director, George Tenet, arrived at the Senate yesterday to give secret testimony on the Niger uranium affair, it was becoming increasingly clear in Washington that the scandal was only a small, well-documented symptom of a complete breakdown in US intelligence that helped steer America into war.
It represents the Bush administration's second catastrophic intelligence failure. But the CIA and FBI's inability to prevent the September 11 attacks was largely due to internal institutional weaknesses. This time the implications are far more damaging for the White House, which stands accused of politicising and contaminating its own source of intelligence.

According to former Bush officials, all defence and intelligence sources, senior members of the administration created a shadow agency of Pentagon analysts staffed mainly by ideological amateurs to compete with the CIA and its military counterpart, the Defence Intelligence Agency.

[Continue Reading]

John -- Palestinian Mob Attacks Pollster Over Finding on 'Right of Return'

Topic(s): Palestine / Israel
Date Posted: 07.14.03

July 14, 2003
Palestinian Mob Attacks Pollster Over Finding on 'Right of Return'

RAMALLAH, West Bank, July 13 — A mob attacked an eminent Palestinian political scientist today as he prepared to announce a striking finding from a regionwide survey of Palestinian refugees: Only a small minority of them exercise a "right of return" to Israel as part of a peace agreement.

The political scientist, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, the director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research here, had intended today to discuss for the Arabic-language press the tensions and complexities of Palestinian society. Instead, struck, shoved and pelted with eggs but not seriously injured, he wound up starkly illustrating them.

From the wreckage of his office here, as workers swept up the broken glass and shampooed the carpet, Dr. Shikaki offered a political analysis of the attack. He said the dozens of rioters — who came prepared with their own news release, in Arabic and English — were hijacking his news conference as a signal to the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas.

[Continue Reading]

Conor -- Interview with Imprisoned PFLP General Secretary Ahmad Saadat

Topic(s): Palestine / Israel
Date Posted: 07.11.03

Fight Back News Service

From the Summer 2003 Edition of Fight Back! Newspaper


Fight Back! interviewed the imprisoned General Secretary of the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Ahmad Saadat,
on May 20. At a time when the eyes of the world are focused on the
Middle East, we are grateful for the opportunity to bring you, our
readers, the thoughts of one of the key leaders of the Palestinian
resistance in his own words.

The PFLP is the second largest political group within the Palestine
Liberation Organization (PLO). It is a revolutionary, Marxist-
Leninist organization that advocates the creation of a democratic,
secular Palestine. Formed in 1968 by Dr. George Habash and other
leading members of the Arab Nationalist Movement (ANM), the PFLP has
been at the forefront of the Palestinians' political and armed
struggle for national liberation, the right of return and an end to
the illegal Israeli military occupation of Palestine.

Following the Israeli assassination of PFLP leader Abu Ali Mustafa
in August 2001, the Central Committee of the PFLP elected Saadat as
his successor. In retaliation for the murder of Mustafa, a special
unit of the PFLP shot the racist Rehevam Ze'evi, the Israeli
Minister of Tourism who openly promoted the killing and exile of

Acting under pressure from the United States and Israel, Saadat and
four other members of the PFLP were arrested by the Palestinian
Authority for the killing of Ze'evi in January 2002. In exchange for
lifting the military siege on Palestinian president Yasser Arafat's
compound, the Palestinian Authority gave in to Israel's demand that
the five be transferred to a prison in Jericho under the supervision
of the Palestinian Authority - with the oversight of U.S. and
British military personnel.


Fight Back!: Could you tell us a bit about your history with the
PFLP? How and when did you join, and why did you feel the need to
join a revolutionary organization at that time in your life?

Saadat: I began my life in the national resistance in 1967, the year
of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In that
year, I joined the PFLP-led Palestine Student Union, and then
officially became a member of the PFLP in 1969. The motive to join
the national struggle was to fight against the Zionist occupation.
At that time, the general Palestinian milieu was strongly influenced
by Nasser's nationalist thoughts, which helped me choose the PFLP
over other organizations.

Although nationalist sentiments and hatred towards the occupation
were the overriding motives to join any nationalist organization, my
social class as a refugee who suffered the consequences of the
Palestinian Catastrophe, Al Nakba [the founding of the state of
Israel and the exile of 750,000 Palestinians], and being the son of
a poor worker led me to the socialist, Marxist thoughts that were
spreading throughout the PFLP's mass organizations. This spread of
Marxist thought was a step forward, a progressive development of ANM
[Arab Nationalist Movement] theories, and a consequence of the
Israeli defeat of Arab nationalist, bourgeois forces in the 1967

I should also say that the time spent in prison in my early years of
activism [Saadat was jailed by the Israelis many times, spending a
total of over 10 years in prison] also introduced me to Marxism and
helped consolidate my commitment to the PFLP and the national

Fight Back!: You have been imprisoned in Jericho for over a year
now. The Palestinian High Court has deemed the arrest illegal under
Palestinian law. Why do you feel that the Palestinian Authority -
the PA - refuses to release you and your comrades?

Saadat: Since the so-called `Jericho Agreement' placed us - the five
prisoners - under the supervision of Israel, the U.S., the PA and
England, the only way that we could be released would be to
terminate the agreement. The PA cannot take this position,
especially after the Israeli invasion of the West Bank in April of
last year and the siege of Al Moqata'a - the PA and Arafat's
headquarters. Now the PA accedes to all Israeli and American demands.

The `Jericho Agreement' is one of the demands that the PA sees as
commitments, which might be more important to Israel and the U.S.
than the appointment of a prime minister or a new minister of
finance or interior.

Therefore, my release and the release of my four comrades require a
solid Palestinian position that refuses to continually submit to
American-supported Israeli demands. The issue of our release,
therefore, is very difficult and is not solely in the hands of the

In conclusion, I want to speak to the PA's claim that we are being
detained for our safety: this is utter nonsense used to justify the
PA's compliance and submissiveness to Israeli security demands.

Fight Back!: The war and occupation in Iraq seems to be an effort by
the U.S. government to institute an imperialist plan to consolidate
its hegemony over the entire Arab world. What are the specific plans
of the U.S. for the Arab world, and how do the conditions in Iraq
affect Palestinian aspirations for national liberation and
independence? Is there a real danger that Israel may implement a
policy of forced removal, or `transfer,' of Palestinians from their
homes and land?

Saadat: The U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, declared that the
American scheme for the Arab region will be nothing less than the re-
drawing of the political map of the region to best serve American
interests. Additionally, controlling the oil reserves in the region
is the central link that will enable the U.S. to control the world,
and therefore enforce the American view of the international order
in this stage of imperialism. This scheme was made possible by post-
September 11th conditions - because prior to 911, it was resisted in
UN Security Council negotiations.

Although the first step in the scheme was to provide political cover
and international support for Sharon and Israel's criminal war
against the Palestinian people, the central target was always Iraq.
Powell's declaration provided the political framework for the
scheme, uncovering the American program to `democratize' the Arab
region and `protect human rights' in the Middle East in general, and
the Arab region in particular. The American imperialist scheme is
not simply based on politics, economy, or military strength. Even
culturally and ideologically, the U.S. intends to control and re-
shape the region, with Israeli partnership, to acquire long-term
security for its imperialist interests.

Fight Back!: The PFLP has its two top leaders in prison. Many others
from its Central Committee and the Political Office, as well as mid-
level leaders, have also either been arrested or killed. Why does
Israel see the PFLP as such a major threat to its control over the
Palestinians, and why hasn't the public been made aware of these
devastating attacks in the same way that we hear about the attacks
on Hamas, the Islamic Jihad or Fatah?

Saadat: Objectively, and without any narcissistic assessment of my
experience, there is published testimony from the leaders of
Israel's security apparatus, the Shabak, and from journalists close
to and affiliated with the Shabak, like Ze'evi Sche've, that
describe the reasons for Israel's concentrated repression of the

The Israelis discovered in the 1980's and during the first Intifada
of 1987-1993, that the PFLP has a solid, ideological and unyielding
organizational structure. It was impossible for them to detect the
secret activities of the PFLP, or defeat the will of the PFLP's
cadre and members, even with their brutal and illegal interrogation
methods. The PFLP also has a very dynamic organizational structure
that can transform and modify itself quickly, especially in
emergency situations.

The continuous attacks by the Israelis against the PFLP, especially
between 1991 and 1995, together with the severe financial crisis it
faced beginning in 1994, led the Shabak to assume that the PFLP had
gone from the proverbial intensive care unit to the grave. So, the
speed in which the PFLP reconstructed its resistance apparatus after
the 6th Congress and the beginning of the September 2000 Intifada
surprised Israel and the Shabak.

This surprise explains why the first Israeli assassination attempt
against the PFLP targeted Abu Ali Mustafa. The assumption was that
murdering Abu Ali would drive the PFLP back to the intensive care
unit. But, instead, the PFLP responded with similar force by killing
the racist Rehevam Ze'evi, one of the members of Sharon's cabinet.

Although most of the PFLP's activities are absent from mainstream
media outlets, the Israeli Shabak knows these activities well, and
has greatly stepped up its attacks on us. The media, concentrating
on the competition between the PA and the Islamic forces, may ignore
us, but the enemy does not. And even though the PFLP lacks the
backing of a regional, political power, and relies mainly on the
local support of working and poor people, its actions and political
significance are recognized throughout the region.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Recent Clashes Open New Fault Lines in Iran

Topic(s): Iran
Date Posted: 07.11.03

On June 10, Iranian students began demonstrating against a plan to
privatize universities. By the end of June, the Iranian authorities
reported that over 4,000 people had been arrested, including hundreds
of students, in connection with what had developed into the most
violent unrest in Iran since July 1999. The protests have opened new
fault lines in Iran's already fractious society.

Monarchist-oriented satellite television channels based in the United
States helped fan the protests in Iran with intensive coverage of the
upheaval. Protests ebbed by June 20, but the violence opened a window
on the tug-of-war occurring within the country's political
establishment. This volatile atmosphere has prompted reform-minded
supporters of President Mohammed Khatami's administration and their
conservative opponents to strive to develop new political tactics in
Iran's ongoing domestic leadership struggle.

Khatami has titular control over the Law Enforcement Agency and
Ministry of Intelligence. However, conservative forces have developed
parallel institutions that, as recent events underscore, are capable
of acting beyond the administration's control. The Revolutionary
Guards and the Judiciary Department's security corps, which are both
loyal to conservative forces, have formed a loose, burgeoning network
of plainclothes operatives, informers and interrogators. They maintain
their own jails, courts and interrogation chambers.

On June 15, the Law Enforcement Agency filed an unprecedented claim
against pro-conservative plainclothes agents for attacking Allameh
Tabatabai University students in their dormitories. This charge broke
a longstanding taboo against prosecuting security operatives linked to
conservatives. However, the move prompted an immediate riposte.
Quasi-autonomous security bodies, euphemistically called `parallel
security centers,' reportedly acting on orders from conservative
officials, rounded up activists and student leaders.

On June 27, Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran's conservative prosecutor-general,
raised the stakes by indicating that students had named several
members of parliament as accomplices, possibly clearing the way for
the lawmakers' arrest. Mortazavi also told the Iranian Student News
Agency that his office was investigating the conduct of several
newspapers in connection with the protests. This high-stakes game
underscores the inability of reformists and conservatives to

The detention of students by conservative-oriented vigilante groups
appears to contravene a June 11 edict issued by the Supreme National
Security Council - legally the country's highest decision-making
office concerning security matters. That measure gave the country's
Ministry of Intelligence the authority to make arrests in connection
with the unrest.

Initially authorities did not reveal information concerning the number
of those arrested and their whereabouts. Under mounting pressure from
President Khatami and his political allies, Iran's Prosecutor-General
Abdulnabi Namazi disclosed that as of June 27, over 4,000 people had
been detained, roughly 2,000 of whom were still in custody at that
time. Speaking at a news conference, Interior Minister Abdolvahed
Mussavi-Lari formally protested the way these detentions occurred.

Criminal proceedings against detainees could begin in the coming days
and weeks. In the meantime, reformists have expressed concern that
conservative authorities may exert pressure on detainees to make
forced confessions implicating reformists and `foreign forces' in an
elaborate plot to overthrow the government. Such confessions could
strengthen the conservatives' efforts to hinder democratization
initiatives supported by many Khatami loyalists. The unconfirmed
reports of videotaped confessions, and hardliners' swift efforts to
bar reporters from the protests, have reinforced this suspicion.

Reformist leaders are divided over political strategy. Some,
including the five-member Students' Caucus in parliament, want to
closely align with the students' cause. Another faction, led by
Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karrubi, maintains that too much solidarity
with students could hamper reformists' overall efforts to gain
concessions on free speech and independent media from the

[Continue Reading]

Avi -- Court and fear of return

Date Posted: 07.08.03

Court and fear of return
By Meron Benvenisti

A few days ago, yet another round came to an end in the struggle of the people of Ikrit, who have been fighting for more than half a century to return to their demolished village. The High Court turned down their petition and ruled that the state's position, which rejects their return, touches on affairs in which the government has great latitude "and the arena of reasonableness granted to it is very broad."

The government's position was expressed in October 2001: "The issue of the refugees and the Arab demand to return the refugees came up intensively at the Camp David talks, at Taba, and in the violent wave that followed, and sharpened the ramifications that could result from a decision on this issue. The precedent of returning the uprooted to their village will be used for propaganda and political purposes by the Palestinian Authority ... [and] invite a considerable number of suits from all those who want to `reopen' the War of Independence and its results."

The High Court therefore relied on reasons of state - or, in the words of the government, its "broad political considerations" - to reject the petition. The court even emphasized that, saying "it would be appropriate - if there is a change in the political situation - to consider another solution that would allow the petitioners to settle in the same area [as their village]."

What is the connection between the petition by the people of Ikrit and the "right of return?" The people from Ikrit, by rejecting every offer for compensation or alternative land and by insisting on the principle of returning to their land, have turned the matter into a symbol. Thus, they strengthen the government position, which refers to a precedent that will be followed by more communities of "absent present" ("internal refugees"), who will make similar demands.

But the problem of some 200,000 internal refugees, who are citizens of Israel and were uprooted from their homes between 1947-1952 and remained inside the country, is not about the right of return, which is presented as a conspiratorial plot to change the demographic balance and turn the Jewish people into a minority in their homeland. The internal refugees - including the people of Ikrit - are already Israeli citizens. There is nothing in the return to their land that would strengthen the demand for a right of return for Palestinians overseas.

True, the Ikrit case can be regarded as a precedent in the matter of about half a dozen villages that were also forcibly removed from their land without legal authority after the end of the War of Independence, and have been given High Court verdicts allowing them to return to their homes, like the people of Ikrit.

But who said such a precedent must be negative? On the contrary, a precedent that would provide a solution to the material and symbolic demands of these Israeli citizens, who are supposed to have equal rights, would be a signal that their case can become a model for solving the problems of refugees in the countries where they reside - especially the Arab states. Therefore, "political considerations" should actually make the government respond positively to the aspirations of the people of Ikrit to be allocated the small amount of empty land they need to establish a community settlement on their own land.

[Continue Reading]

Avi -- Hass -- No end to the growing settlements insult

Topic(s): Palestine / Israel
Date Posted: 07.08.03

No end to the growing settlements insult 

By Amira Hass

The news reader on the Voice of Palestine called the movement of IDF forces in the Gaza Strip a "withdrawal," even though Omar Asour, commander of the National Security Forces, had told him it was merely the opening of the road to Palestinian traffic at four points along the highway that had been sealed off for two years.

Israelis were reminded of the spring of 1994, when uniformed Palestinians first took up positions in the area as Israeli forces moved out of the cities and camps to the margins of the Gaza Strip. Back then, IDF forces remained in about 20 percent of Gaza Strip territory, in fortifie positions. This is the same territory that is designated for the expansion of the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip - 20 percent of the territory for 0.5 percent of the Strip's residents.

This was the justice of the "withdrawal" of 1994 that was called "the peace process." Before 2000 there was talk that it "wasn't logical" to leave the settlements, especially the isolated ones, in the most densely populated area of the world.

All the talk was hot air, and settlers continued to dictate how the Palestinians would live - where a water pipe would not be, where a refugee camp would not expand, where cars would not drive and where a sewage treatment plant would not be built.

Now the talk is mainly about quiet and respite. Israelis yearn for a long respite from suicide terrorism inside the Green Line and the firing of Qassam rockets, a lull in the anxiety about sons and daughters serving in the territories.

Palestinians yearn for a lull in shooting at anyone found walking among the destroyed houses of Khan Yunis and Rafah or on the land that has been cleared along the edges of the orchards. They want a break from tank invasions of residential neighborhoods, from missiles fired at cars on bustling city streets. And of course, they yearn for the resumption of some sort of normality with the opening of the road that runs the length of the Gaza Strip.
People will get to work and school on time, raw materials will be delivered to construction sites. Palestinian Authority officials are hoping these immediate improvements will be an important factor in ensuring its control of various military groups.

Nevertheless, the Israeli defense establishment is skeptical about the chances of success. They know why. The army is well aware that for the Palestinians in the West Bank to feel a change as well the army will have to remove all roadblocks and barricades between villages and cities, and rescind all traffic restrictions. These are intended to ensure the well-being of Israeli citizens living in the West Bank settlements, which have proliferated in the past ten years. In the meantime, it all seems a near-fantasy.

Will the Kalandiya roadblock be dismantled, will the barbed-wire fences around the villages south of Ramallah be removed? Will the fences that shut in Kalkilya, Tul Karm and Nablus be moved to nearby IDF bases? Will Palestinians be permitted to drive on the highways, the "bypasses?"

[Continue Reading]

Naeem -- Roma Women Organize to Fight Triple Bias

Topic(s): Roma
Date Posted: 07.08.03

Roma Women Organize to Fight Triple Bias
Run Date: 07/03/03
By Mindy Kay Bricker
WeNews correspondent

Roma women are banding together to fight the triple bias that increases their
rates of poverty and shortens their life span by as much as 17 years. The new
organization of Roma women is the first to involve representatives from
across Europe.

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (WOMENSENEWS)--Soraya Post does not want to
be assimilated into her community in Goteborg, Sweden. She just wants to be
accepted by it.

"We are very strong and proud of our culture," Post said of Europe's estimated
7 million to 9 million Roma, Sinti and Gypsies, the largest and fastest growing
minority group on the continent. "And we are proud as women. We are going
to work with one voice."

Post, 46, was named in March president of the International Roma Women's
Network, based in Goteborg. The network has Romany women leaders from
28 Southern, Central and Eastern European countries and, Post said, it is the
first of its kind to involve such broad representation for Roma women's rights.

"We will lobby governments and make them listen to us--not only to recognize
the problems, but admit them. They have closed eyes when it comes to Roma
women. We have to wake them up and show them that we are normal
people," she said.

Poverty Rates Sometimes More than 10 Times that of Non-Roma

A recent study by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
High Commissioner for National Minorities found that the life expectancy of
Romany women is between 10 and 17 years lower than the general
population. This includes Europe's more developed countries, such as
Ireland. Infant mortality among Bulgaria's Roma in 1989 was six times the
national average.

The causes of the health crisis range from poverty to poor housing. In Central
and Eastern Europe, poverty rates for Roma are sometimes more than 10
times that of non-Roma.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- God Save the Shah: American Guns, Oil and Spies in Azerbaijan

Topic(s): Caucuses
Date Posted: 07.03.03

ed. note: one of the more interesting and provocative pieces of investigative reporting on the conflict in Karabakh (the first of the post-communist wars to brew between neighbors). It is speculative in nature, but enough corroboration to make it a compelling narrative. It tells the tale of greedy oil folks who may or may not have been acting on behalf of the American government, hastily recruited Afghan soldiers from Peshawar, and foretells a future that will involve even more "transparent" US involvement in the region.

God Save the Shah
American Guns, Oil and Spies in Azerbaijan

By Mark Irkali, Tengiz Kodrarian and Cali Ruchala


Amid the polite applause that one might expect from an audience of
diplomats, a member of the audience coughed loudly. His harsh, gasping
rasp was embarrassingly on cue. He covered his mouth with a balled-up
fist. The speaker - Azeri president Heydar Aliyev, whose appearance
dispelled yet another rumor circulating through Baku and Tbilisi that he
was dead - continued without acknowledging it.

The speech was broadcast live on television - such is the importance of
a new pipeline in the Caucasus.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline (or BTC, as insiders call it) did
indeed begin as a dream during the early 1990s, and the Americans
considered its approval their top priority in the whole of the region.
The idea was to get the massive deposit of oil beneath the Caspian Sea
to market without having to rely on the goodwill of either Russia or
Iran, the two regional heavyweights. Today, more than ten years later,
construction is finally underway.

The next speaker also underlined the importance of the BTC to America.
US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham - rewarded for losing his seat in
the Senate with a cushy cabinet appointment - took the podium and read a
statement from President George W. Bush.

It was a typical snowjob, though the prestige of an American president
gracing the Caucasus region, even if by proxy, forced the man with the
raspy cough to bite down hard on his knuckles. Bush intoned via Abraham
that building the snaking pipeline from the Azeri capital of Baku to the
Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan would have a number of astonishing
including "enhancing global energy security" and "strengthening the
sovereignty and independence of countries in the Caspian Basin."


DEPENDING ON WHO you talk to, the BTC is either the reason for the
extensive American involvement in the Caucasus, which began in the 1990s
and has been slammed into overdrive since 9/11, or simply a pretext for
increasing American military presence in the geopolitically important
southern extremities of the former Soviet Union. Two things are beyond
America has, for the moment at least, wrested control of most of the
independent states of the Caucasus from Russia's sphere of influence,
and there are now American military forces on the ground.

The latter is something that Georgia and Azerbaijan have long desired as
the easiest way to acquire western military hardware and training, but
not to protect them from Russia. The weapons and know-how will almost
certainly be used first to subdue several ethnic statelets which broke
away in the early part of the 1990s: Abkhazia, South Ossetia and, from
Azerbaijan, Karabakh.

When completed in 2005, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan will cross more than 1,000
miles of territory. Construction will cost around two and half billion
dollars, give or take a few hundred million. Skeptics scoffed - and
continue to scoff - at the project; one contacted for this story called
it "the most expensive playground ever built," and disputed that there
would ever be enough demand to justify such an expenditure.

But the cost cannot just be measured in dollars and lari. American
influence in the Caucasus has been a painful, often sordid affair. Back
in the 1970s, the American government invited dissidents to dinner to
show their support for human rights in the USSR. In the 1990s, two men
feted for their courage on such occasions were overthrown by dinosaurs
from the Communist Party who, in Soviet times, had been their chief
persecutors. American support has flowed to the former apparatchiks as
these two former disciples of Leonid Brezhnev unleashed a column of fire
on their own people, guided by American advisors, their positions
buffeted by American aid.

And it can only get worse. The Caucasus has become the new Central
America: a place crawling with CIA agents and other shady characters
dispatched to back two of the most repressive, unstable regimes in the
former Communist Bloc.

Over the last twelve years, Israel is the only country in the world
which has received substantially more aid than Georgia. The CIA trained
President Eduard Shevarnadze's security detail, while jails and
cemeteries filled with his opponents. In the Spring of 2002, America
took the plunge and dispatched a contingent of Special Forces to
train-and-equip the Georgian army in
"anti-terrorist" operations, using the pretext that al-Qaeda fighters
had been spotted in the country (their existence was disputed at a
Washington press conference by no less an authority than the Georgian
Defense Minister, obviously a man not in on the plan).

American support for Shevardnadze in Georgia, guardian the vulnerable
central link of the BTC, has at least been public. The same cannot be
said for the efforts of America in Azerbaijan. In the early 1990s, with
a war in the breakaway province of Karabakh, the country seemed to be on
the verge of disintegration. The first independent government was headed
by Soviet
fossils; the primary apparatchik was Ayaz Mutalibov, noted as the only
head of a Soviet republic to welcome the hardline coup against Mikhail

With the army battered by the Armenians of Karabakh, and the government
criticized by an increasingly hostile public, the Azeri president turned
to the few Americans in his country for help. Three men with backgrounds
out of a spy novel lent him their services. Over the course of the next
two years, the company they founded procured thousands of dollars worth
of weapons and recruited at least two thousand Afghan mercenaries for
Azerbaijan - the first mujahedin to fight on the territory of the former
Communist Bloc.

And they did it under the guise of an oil company.

This story is the culmination of more than a year of investigation and
dozens of interviews in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Pakistan, as well as the
United States. It's a story about money, oil, weapons and the lengths
that some men will go to control the "new energy sources" that American
politicians have so often called for. Whether they were working for
themselves or for their country, the men behind the energy company with
the Orwellian name - MEGA Oil - wrecked havoc in the Caucasus, pursuing
goals which were remarkably in tune with America's primary aim in the

We will state up-front that we have discovered no documentary evidence
to tie MEGA Oil, as an entity, definitively to the United States
government. There is however considerable evidence that all three prime
movers in the company - former Iran-Contra conspirator Richard Secord,
legendary Air Force special operations commander Harry "Heinie"
Aderholt, and the man known as either a diabolical con-man or a
misunderstood patriot, Gary Best - were in the past involved in some of
the most infamous activities of in the history of the CIA.

In fact, the MEGA Oil debacle followed the model of the Iran-Contra
Affair with uncanny accuracy, down to the formation of shell companies
and, possibly, the use of private sector companies to contravene both
the letter and the intent of American law. Together with Oliver North,
Secord had pioneered this model in the 1980s to fund the Nicaraguan
Contras and make
themselves millionaires in the bargain. By a remarkable coincidence or a
cunning design, the MEGA Oil enterprise would have served the same purpose.

How much of it can be assigned to coincidence and how much to design is
left to the reader to decide.


AS IN THE Middle East, the most bitter conflict in the Caucasus was not
fought over oil, but rather over the single bit of territory in the
region which is comparatively bereft of it.

The Karabakh War was an ethnic war, in some ways corresponding to the
fighting in the Balkans, in other ways at odds with it. About 20 percent
of Azerbaijan's territory is presently - and probably permanently -
occupied by Armenian forces. The fighting in the first years of the
post-Soviet era was centered in the "Mountainous Black Garden" -
Nagorno-Karabakh - but the
Armenians presently control considerable territory outside the enclave
as well.

This conflict must form the backbone of any narrative of Azerbaijan's
lost decade, as mounting military debacles and successive tidal waves of
terrified refugees washing through the cities spurred on popular revolts
and undermined two presidents, further plunging the republic into
economic catastrophe.

The post-Communist years will be known as the darkest years in
Azerbaijan's history. In the 1990s, one in every seven Azeris became a
war refugee. And yet, incredibly, the 1990s have been characterized by
some people in the West as an Azerbaijani Golden Age. Citing the
enormous untapped oil reserves discovered in the twilight of the Soviet
Union, these individuals gloried in the bright future of Azerbaijan and
produced impressive charts showing how much money American industries
were already pouring into the country in preparation for the great oil

Their numbers are not many, and the Americans who trumpet the "Baku
Boom" and the Azerbaijani Golden Age are among the few who can speak (or
do speak, regardless of ability) about Azerbaijan. Among them are
familiar faces from the American political establishment, such as James
Baker and John Sununu, both of whom have been employed as lobbyists by
the Azerbaijani government or various energy companies favourable to
improved relations between Azerbaijan and America. Unfortunately (and
predictably, to long term observers of the Middle East), little of the
money which has come to Azerbaijan has trickled down to the poor.

The oil rush of the 1990s was not the first that Azerbaijan has seen.
The first came in 1870 and attracted the cosmopolitan crowd of
investors, hucksters and fanatics that seem drawn by the heavy waft of
crude. By the turn of the century, Azerbaijan's oil exports exceeded
those of the entire United States.

The oil industry in Azerbaijan fell into decline during the Soviet
years, for reasons which parallel the American experience: it was
cheaper to bring oil to market from the fertile Siberian fields than to
dilly with a thousand small deposits in the Caucasus. The landscape of
Azerbaijan is littered with the red and black piping of abandoned wells
last tapped back in the 1960s.

In 1991, when the immense size of the Caspian oil shelf became known,
the derelict wells seemed even more antiquated, compared to the glossy
pictures of offshore platforms in the briefcases of chubby Texans in the
two Intourist Hotels that bookended Baku's Lenin Square. But to a group
of American investors with a background out of a spy novel, these scraps of
industrial decay smelled like an opportunity - or a suitable pretext,
depending on who you believe. And this is when our story begins.


GARY BEST HAS made it his business not to be found. A self-described
"electronics importer," he has left a long trail of anecdote and
innuendo of past misdeeds but few testifying witnesses. He was a
marginal figure in one of the many subplots of the Iran-Contra Scandal,
though how exactly he was related to the activities of Oliver North and
his co-conspirators is
unclear. His importing business was concentrated primarily in Southeast
Asia, but somehow brought him into contact with the Afghan Mujahedin,
Iran-Contra conspirator Richard Secord and legendary Air Force special
operations commander Brigadier General Harry "Heinie" Aderholt. His
current mailing address, and his current profession, are unknown.

In 1985, Gary's business was headquartered in Marietta, Georgia. What
exactly his company did, and how he spent his days, is a mystery. Bob
Fletcher, another figure on the periphery of Iran-Contra, claims that in
1985, Gary Best became a partner in his toy company, which he and other
Iran-Contra figures planned to use as a cover for illicit weapons
transfers of the sort that made Ollie (and Secord) famous. There's been
no convincing evidence that this is true, and Fletcher has since built
an inspiring career as a first-class conspiracy kook. He later became a
spokesman for the Militia of Montana, fondly remembered by law
enforcement for issuing liens on strangers' property, the glare from
their giant belt buckles and their tense stand-offs with federal marshals.

But for his other activities in the late 1980s, Gary Best might be
considered somewhat less credible than a run-of-the-mill crank babbling
about weather control technology. Knowing people in his business in
Southeast Asia (whatever it was), and with his connections to the
not-yet-victorious Mujahedin in Afghanistan (however he got to know
them), Best was in an advantageous position to capitalize on one of the
great popular delusions of 1980s America: the search for missing
American prisoners of war in Vietnam.

Though the evidence in favour consisted solely of the plotline in the
movie Rambo, many veterans and their widows hoped that the
liberalization taking place in the USSR under Gorbachev would lead to
the release of some of America's lost POWs. Their hopes were cruelly
bolstered when Stephen Morris, a right-wing Australian academic, claimed
to have found a document in the
KGB archives in Moscow which referred to "thousands" of imprisoned
American POWs, rather than the hundreds the North Vietnamese claimed to
be holding during the Paris Peace Talks. It came at an inopportune time,
delaying America's long-awaited normalization with Vietnam for several
months before the document was exposed as a forgery.

Meanwhile, "Russia's Vietnam" - the Afghan War - was just winding down
(the last Red Army tanks crossed the northern frontier of Afghanistan
only in 1989). Russian widows, wives and mothers of servicemen who had
not returned with their battered units also harboured hopes of securing
their loved ones' release. The two superpowers - America and the USSR -
were stymied in getting any answers from their former adversaries, but
both had relatively good relations with the other country's enemies.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Man Gets Life in Prison for Spitting

Topic(s): Prisons
Date Posted: 07.03.03

Ok, this is possibly the stupidest article one could send about prisons. But I suppose I thought the sentence was so unbelievable that it merited being read. This person could spend the rest of their life in prison for spitting on a police officer.

[Continue Reading]

Kevin -- Finucane murder inquiry flawed, human rights court rules

Topic(s): Ireland
Date Posted: 07.03.03

Independent UK

Finucane murder inquiry flawed, human rights court rules

By David McKittrick, Ireland Correspondent

02 July 2003

The case of the murdered solicitor, Pat Finucane, came back to haunt the
Government yet again yesterday when the European Court of Human Rights declared the official investigation into his death inadequate.

The court in Strasbourg ruled that Britain was in breach of the European
Convention on Human Rights in the case of the solicitor, who was shot dead by loyalists in Belfast in 1989. The circumstances of the murder gave rise
to suspicions that the security forces had colluded with his killers.

The Government, which was ordered to pay his widow, Geraldine Finucane,
Ū43,000 (£30,000) for costs and expenses, said: "The Government takes
European Court decisions very seriously and will want to give careful
consideration to this decision."

The development was the latest in a complex saga which has generated much
legal and political concern. It was welcomed by the Finucane family and by
groups such as Amnesty International. Campaigners said they would continue
to press for a full public inquiry.

The judges unanimously upheld Mrs Finucane's complaint that there had been
no effective investigation into the death. The court also disapproved of the
fact that the investigation had been carried out by the Royal Ulster
Constabulary, declaring: "It had been conducted by officers who were part of
the police force suspected by the applicant of making death threats against
her husband.

"There had therefore been a lack of independence, which raised serious
doubts as to the thoroughness or effectiveness with which the possibility of
collusion had been pursued."

It further said the inquest had not involved any inquiry into the
allegations of collusion, and that Mrs Finucane had been refused permission
to make a statement about threats to her husband.

The European judges noted that while the Metropolitan Police Commissioner,
Sir John Stevens, is currently carrying out an investigation, the Government
had admitted that, taking place some 10 years after the event, it could not
be regarded as having been carried out promptly and expeditiously.

[Continue Reading]

Kevin -- All eyes on the spy from the FBI

Topic(s): Ireland
Date Posted: 07.03.03

All eyes on the spy from the FBI

by Suzanne Breen, Irish Times

Suzanne Breen reports on the sensational claims made this week by FBI agent David Rupert in the Michael McKevitt case.

It's one of the most controversial trials in the history of the State, involving highly paid espionage, sensational allegations about paramilitary life, and two men nobody is likely to forget.

At 6 feet 5 inches and 280 lbs, David Rupert is a giant of a man. The FBI agent just about squeezes into the witness box in the Special Criminal Court. When he stands up, he towers as high as the first-floor jury box. He looked every inch the professional businessman in a range of well-cut suits and silk ties. He delivered 14 hours of evidence this week in a remarkably relaxed manner, even cracking the odd joke. All eyes were fixed on him.

By contrast, Michael McKevitt, the alleged Real IRA leader, who sits just a few feet away, melts into the courtroom background. With gold-rimmed glasses, a sharp dark suit, and a serious expression, he listens intently to proceedings and takes copious notes.

Only the prison officers on either side of him indicate he is the defendant, not a defence solicitor. The Dundalk man showed no emotion as Rupert gave evidence of his alleged terrorist involvement.

His only physical displays were to wave or blow a kiss to his wife, Bernadette Sands McKevitt, who attended every day. He is pleading not guilty to charges of membership of the IRA and directing terrorism.

When delivering his evidence, Rupert's gaze remained firmly on the three judges. He never once looked around the court. Only at the end, when the prosecution asked him to identify McKevitt, did his eyes momentarily meet those of the defendant.

In the 1980s trials involving informers in the North, they tended to be highly-charged with pickets outside the outbursts by relatives of the accused inside.

Proceedings in the Special Criminal Court are calm. But there are complaints about the poor acoustics in the public gallery (most journalists are forced to sit there too).

Up to 20 plain-clothes FBI and Special Branch officers sit or stand in the recesses of the court. Security is tight on entering the building. A helicopter overhead signals Rupert's arrival and departure.

In his evidence, the agent portrayed McKevitt (53) of Blackrock, Co Louth, as a smart, resourceful paramilitary leader with a wide range of contacts nationally and internationally. The court was told of a ruthless republican, determined to make the Real IRA a major threat in the 21st century, who unwittingly trusted the FBI agent.

Rupert (51) was born into a family of seven in the village of Madrid, in upstate New York, near the Canadian border. He had a religious, non-drinking Protestant upbringing. He left school at 16 and over the next three decades became involved in various businesses including haulage, insurance, construction and catering.

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Turkish teachers risk jail for protest at Armenian massacresconference

Topic(s): Turkey
Date Posted: 07.02.03

Turkish teachers risk jail for protest at Armenian massacres

ANKARA, July 1

A Turkish court Tuesday began hearing a case against seven teachers
who face jail for questioning the country's official line on the
massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire and for disrupting a
conference on the issue, the Anatolia news agency reported.

The incident occurred last month in the southern city of Kilis during
a conference given by a scholar, who argued that the Armenians --
forced out of eastern Anatolia after revolting against their Ottoman
rulers during World War I -- were not massacred on orders of the

The scholar said the Armenians had instead died while being
transferred to the deserts of Syria because of bad weather or because
of raids by local Kurdish tribes.

But Hulya Akpinar, a teacher attending the gathering, contested the
figure of 250,000 Armenian victims given the scholar, and said
800,000 were killed in massacres orchestrated by the state.

She also asked what Turkey might do if more countries decided to term
the massacres a genocide.

The scholar chided the woman, who -- joined by six colleagues --
walked out in protest.

Prosecutors contend the seven defendants, who face up to three years
in jail if convicted, "committed a collective crime by disrupting the
order of a meeting," Anatolia said.

The massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire is a highly
controversial issue in Turkey and which can arouse strong nationalist

Turkey categorically rejects claims of genocide, saying that 300,000
Armenians and thousands of Turks were killed in what was a civil
strife during World War I when Armenians joined forces with Russian
invaders against the Ottomans.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen were massacred in
orchestrated killings and have for years sought to have the killings
acknowledged as genocide.

In 2001, France triggered a storm in its relations with Turkey when
its parliament passed a resolution describing the massacres as

[Continue Reading]

Rene -- Cramming It All In at the Venice Biennale

Topic(s): Art World Stuff
Date Posted: 07.01.03

An ordinary, rather straight review of the biennale, but the mention of the video from Armenia was a nice tie in to 16Beaver, since David Kareyan presented at the space this last December. Congrats to him! And if folks are still planning to go, should try to see the pavillion. + some other artices on the biennale

[Continue Reading]

June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003