Rene -- Fisk -- One, Two, Three, What are they fighting for?

Topic(s): Iraq
Date Posted: 10.29.03


The worst problem facing US forces in Iraq may not be armed resistance but
a crisis of morale. Robert Fisk reports on a near-epidemic of indiscipline,
suicides and loose talk

Oct 24, 2003: (The Independent, UK) I was in the police station in the town
of Fallujah when I realised the extent of the schizophrenia. Captain
Christopher Cirino of the 82nd Airborne was trying to explain to me the
nature of the attacks so regularly carried out against American forces in
the Sunni Muslim Iraqi town. His men were billeted in a former presidential
rest home down the road - "Dreamland", the Americans call it - but this was
not the extent of his soldiers' disorientation. "The men we are being
attacked by," he said, "are Syrian-trained terrorists and local freedom
fighters." Come again? "Freedom fighters." But that's what Captain Cirino
called them - and rightly so.

Here's the reason. All American soldiers are supposed to believe - indeed
have to believe, along with their President and his Defence Secretary,
Donald Rumsfeld - that Osama bin Laden's "al-Qa'ida" guerrillas, pouring
over Iraq's borders from Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia (note how those close
allies and neighbours of Iraq, Kuwait and Turkey are always left out of the
equation), are assaulting United States forces as part of the "war on
terror". Special forces soldiers are now being told by their officers that
the "war on terror" has been transferred from America to Iraq, as if in
some miraculous way, 11 September 2001 is now Iraq 2003. Note too how the
Americans always leave the Iraqis out of the culpability bracket - unless
they can be described as "Baath party remnants", "diehards" or "deadenders"
by the US proconsul, Paul Bremer.

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John -- Human Rights Anyone?

Topic(s): Human Rights
Date Posted: 10.28.03

Tony Blair's new friend

Britain and the US claim a moral mandate - and back a dictator who boils victims to death

George Monbiot
Tuesday October 28, 2003
The Guardian

The British and US governments gave three reasons for going to war with Iraq. The first was to extend the war on terrorism. The second was to destroy its weapons of mass destruction before they could be deployed. The third was to remove a brutal regime, which had tortured and murdered its people.
If the purpose of the war was to defeat terrorism, it has failed. Before the invasion, there was no demonstrable link between al-Qaida and Iraq. Today, al-Qaida appears to have moved into that country, to exploit a new range of accessible western targets. If the purpose of the war was to destroy Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction before he deployed them, then, as no such weapons appear to have existed, it was a war without moral or strategic justification.

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Howe -- Edward Said: the traveller and the exile

Topic(s): Said
Date Posted: 10.24.03

Edward Said: the traveller and the exile
Stephen Howe
2 - 10 - 2003

In a major retrospective, Stephen Howe considers the life and work of the Palestinian scholar Edward Said

“We travel like other people, but we return to nowhere. As if travelling
Is the way of the clouds… We have a country of words. Speak speak so I can put my road on the stone of a stone. We have a country of words. Speak speak so we may know the end of this travel.”

Mahmoud Darwish, We Travel Like Other People

The clouds hung heavily over New York as Edward Said, the great intellectual traveller, took his last journey on 24 September. That oppressive weather seemed all too gloomly and grimly appropriate, matching the mood of all who had known Said or admired his work – but its sudden shifts, alternating torrential rain with bursts of brilliant sunshine, also felt apt for the passing of so intellectually mercurial a man, so varied in his passions and his interests.

Said was in both literal and metaphorical senses a constant traveller: one who, in the words of another great poet, Arthur Rimbaud, changed countries almost as often as shoes. Having lost a country, Palestine, in early youth, he wrote often that he never felt fully at home anywhere – except perhaps in the ‘country of words’.

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Rene -- What became of the Israeli left?

Topic(s): Palestine / Israel
Date Posted: 10.24.03

Ed. Note:
I am not sure how clear the author of this article is about the Occupation and its effects on the Palestinian population. Most glaringly, the author seems to miss the tragedy and futility of the current course of Israeli politics. (At least in the tone taken in this article) It seems as if he suffers from the same humor as those he comes in contact with. I do think about the question of "the Left" he poses often, and I think about who may exist within Israel who may offer more insight or other positions/narratives. There are many points in this article that I do not particularly agree with, but I must say that the distinction he makes between human rights and political rights is clear and noteworthy. (rg)

What became of the Israeli left?

Israel was founded by Europeans with socialist ideals and utopian
dreams. Now the embattled country is dominated by the right and
religious fanaticism is on the rise. What went wrong? Ian Buruma heads
for the cafes of Schenken Street in search of the answer

Thursday October 23, 2003
The Guardian

"The Israeli left is now at its lowest ebb", says Nissim Kalderon, a
magazine editor, academic and political thinker in Tel Aviv, and
smiles sadly. He should know. A few years ago, he organised a
conference on what was left of the left. The conclusion then was: not
much. It is even worse now. We are walking through Schenken Street,
past some of the coolest cafes in town, where young Israelis discuss
anything from soccer to postmodernism, happy in their collective
relief to be far away from the religious crazies in Jerusalem and the
fanatics in the occupied territories. Nissim points out some of the
architectural landmarks in the area, recognised this year by Unesco as
a world heritage site. Tel Aviv is known for its Bauhaus buildings,
designed in the 20s by European-trained architects such as Zeev
Rechter and Dov Carmi. Some of the houses, stark and elegant, were
restored recently. Others are visibly falling apart; the concrete is
not ideally suited to the humid and salty air. We walk past an empty
space, filled with rubble, where a fine Bauhaus building once stood:
the offices of Davar, an old leftwing newspaper, which closed down
five years ago.

Bauhaus represents something vital in the development of Israel. This
was a state founded by Europeans, many of them with high socialist
ideals, who wanted to break away from being a persecuted minority, but
also from the religious customs and narrow horizons of east European
shtetl life. In Israel, they had hoped, a new man would be born, as
modern and rational as the Bauhaus buildings of Tel Aviv. In the words
of a Zionist song of the 40s, Israel would be "dressed in concrete and
cement". Zionism, as the British historian, Hugh Trevor-Roper,
observed, "was an invasion of a new culture in an old world".

So what happened to that brave, new Zionist world, those socialist
dreams of concrete and cement? Religious fanaticism is growing. The
Labour party, which is hardly socialist at all, and Meretz, which
still is in parts, have little chance of coming back to power
soon. The role of the kibbutzim is much diminished. Histradut, the old
trade unionist backbone of Israeli society, is reduced to one-third of
its old membership. The upper ranks in the army, once a stronghold of
Labour-supporting ashkenazim, are now filled more and more with
religious sephardic Jews with roots in Casablanca or Baghdad instead
of Krakow or Minsk.

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Jeffrey -- The Philippine Model

Topic(s): Phillipines
Date Posted: 10.24.03

ZNet Commentary
The Philippine Model October 21, 2003
By Stephen Shalom

Addressing a joint session of the Philippine Congress on Saturday, President Bush said to skeptical critics of his Iraq policy, "Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions of democracy. The same doubts were once expressed about the culture of Asia. These doubts were proven wrong nearly six decades ago, when the Republic of the Philippines became the first democratic nation in Asia."

Much in Bush's speech was utter nonsense -- such as his claim that the war in Iraq had resulted in the closing down of a terrorist sanctuary, when in fact the U.S. "has taken a country that was not a terrorist threat and turned it into one," in the words of terrorism expert Jessica Stern. But Bush was right when he suggested that looking at the U.S. record in the Philippines can help to illuminate what is in store for Iraq.

What does the historical record tell us about the U.S. commitment to promoting democracy?

A hundred years ago, the United States defeated the Spanish colonizers of the Philippines only to take over the islands for itself. (In Bush's speech on Saturday this was summarized as "Together our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule." And in the words of presidential press secretary Scott McClellan, national hero Jose Rizal's martyrdom in 1896 inspired the Philippines: "And later, revolution broke out and Asia soon had its first independent republic."

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Rene -- Iraq Rebuilding Cash 'Goes Missing'

Topic(s): Iraq
Date Posted: 10.24.03

A new Iraq scandal erupted today as a report claimed billions of dollars earmarked for rebuilding the country have vanished after being handed to the United States-controlled governing body in Baghdad.

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Rene -- Hitchens -- A few words of fraternal admonition to "Norm" Finkelstein

Topic(s): Internal Affairs
Date Posted: 10.20.03

A few words of fraternal admonition to "Norm" Finkelstein
which is a riposte to the essay on Finkelstein's website

editorial note:

rg: we posted the finkelstein article a few weeks ago, and after reading this, I thought it was an interesting rebuttal. Clearly Hitchens has not lost his sense of humor, nor his sharp wit; furthermore, this text shows a remarkable capacity to address points raised by Finkelstein, while at the same time dodging the larger question of his own intellectual/political turn. Of course, he likes to point out that to remain the same is more conservative than changing, but really, who can really follow that line of thinking when the change is in lock step with the most reactionary and conservative minded people in this country? What is also missing is a response to the larger question of what exactly prompts his repudiation of (if not his entire past, at the very least) his position and critiques against the US for intervening in Iraq in the first Gulf War. Nevertheless, worth a read.

          In his delightful memoir of his father, Alexander Cockburn recalls Claud’s method of dealing with unwelcome bills, and with the ominous red-tinted follow-up letters that often succeeded them. The old man composed a fantasy-response, informing his creditors that every six months he would throw all his unpaid bills into a basket, stir them with a stick, and then take out or two or three and pay them at random. "One more nasty letter from you and you’re out of the game."
          I could spend a lot of my time replying to attacks on my person, but I now play a version of the Cockburn roulette. (I don’t respond to assaults from the "Counterpunch"source at all: this is because I like Alexander and his family, and because I think there’s something satisfying in having him much more fascinated by my writing than I can any longer be by any of his.) Every now and then, though, kind friends hasten to send me a collector’s item of abuse and the recent one from the Norman Finkelstein website is a keeper. Out of the basket it comes.
          It is headed "Fraternally yours, Chris", which is supposedly the way that I "used to sign off" my correspondence. I very often still do end my letters with the old salutation of the British Labor movement, but it’s usually without the "yours" and I have never signed a letter "Chris" in my life - chiefly because it isn’t my name. I tried everything I knew to stop Norman calling me "Chris" but I couldn’t get him to desist. This is a detail, but it does indicate a man who - even his friends would agree on this - was a slightly more ardent talker than listener.
          The essay is a study in apostasy and will apparently form part of a new introduction to Finkelstein’s book "The Rise and Fall of Palestine." Since that’s a serious subject, I’m hoping that its publisher sees this in time and avoids the embarrassment of conflating Finkelstein’s ill-argued personal grudges with the fate of a struggling people.

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Jevy -- Manila's War on Terror

Topic(s): Phillipines
Date Posted: 10.16.03

Meanwhile, in Manila Bush's war on terror has internationalized internal conflicts on the archipelago.
By Luis H. Francia

This is the first article in a series examining how the Bush Administration's war on terror has transformed politics, reshuffled alliances and altered the dynamics of local conflicts around the world. -The Editors

Eight days after September 11, 2001, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, like a pilot fish astride a whale shark, became the first Asian leader to endorse the Bush Administration's global war on terrorism. By doing so, she internationalized her country's two internal conflicts, facilitated the revival of US proprietary aims on the archipelago (an American colony from 1899 to 1946) and opened what was then termed the "second front" in the war. Since February 2002, US troops have been deployed on the islands for a series of joint exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-dubbed "Balikatan," or "Shoulder-to-Shoulder"-apparently in violation of the Philippine Constitution, which prohibits the presence of foreign troops in the country (the government contends that the deployment is allowed by the Visiting Forces Agreement of 1998). Just recently, responding to Bush's appeal to the United Nations for help, Arroyo offered to send more Philippine troops to Iraq, in addition to the ninety-five already there as observers.

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Avi -- Hass -- IDF redefines Palestinians west of the fence

Topic(s): Palestine / Israel
Date Posted: 10.16.03

IDF redefines Palestinians west of the fence
By Amira Hass

One of the questions raised immediately after it became clear that for the most part, the separation fence would not be built along the length of the Green Line, but in fact somewhere to the east of it, was the fate of the Palestinians living to the west of the fence. As of now, this fate is shared by approximately 12,000 persons living in 15 Palestinian villages and towns, from Salim in the northern West Bank to Mas'ha, to the south of Qalqilyah (near the settlement of Elkana). They are shut in between the separation fence to the east, and the Green Line to the west. As construction of the fence continues, deep into the territory of the West Bank, more Palestinians will find themselves in this situation.

Additionally, the fence affects the lives of tens of thousands of other people, whose homes are east of the fence, and whose land, on which they earn their livelihood, is to the west. All told, according to the findings of the Palestinian Department of Negotiations, the route that the first stage of the fence will take (up to Elkana on the south) has so far cut off from the West Bank about 100,000 dunams (25,000 acres) of Palestinian-owned land, some of which is settled, most of which is farmland. The issues are real; already, the most serious concerns have been proven true. Even before the Palestinians had a chance to come to terms with the loss of their land for the sake of the series of fortifications that is known as the "obstacle," they discovered that their ordinary lives had been completely disrupted - that it was possible to further disrupt their already disrupted reality of internal closures in the West Bank, curfews on cities and villages and military attacks.

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Avi -- Hass -- The army will decide who's a resident

Topic(s): Palestine / Israel
Date Posted: 10.16.03

The army will decide who's a resident
By Amira Hass

The route of the separation wall in those areas where it has already gone up and where it is planned proves once again that the Israeli security-settlement establishment never misses an opportunity to exploit the self-evident need of Israelis to feel safe in their state to expropriate huge tracts of Palestinian lands and annex them de facto to the state of Israel.

Since the route is not on the Green Line, but runs deep into the Palestinian areas, a new zone has been created between the wall and the state of Israel. It is known as "the seam area," a euphemism that prettifies and blurs the flagrant annexation process. But a small problem remains, in the form of the tens of thousands of Palestinians who live and work in the area that has been annexed de facto and will be annexed de facto in the future.

Some new military orders, circulated last week in the villages in the "seam area" show that the lawyers working in the service of the security-settlement establishment have solved the problem. They created a new, separate legal category of Palestinians, distinct from the category of Jews who have already settled those areas or those who will want to move there in the future. The new category also distinguishes those Palestinians who fall into it, from Palestinians who live two meters east, on the other side of the route.

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And This Year's 'No Shit!' Award Goes to...

Topic(s): Iraq
Date Posted: 10.15.03

Iraq War Swells Al Qaeda's Ranks, Report Says
34 minutes ago Add World - Reuters to My Yahoo!

By Peter Graff

LONDON (Reuters) - War in Iraq (news - web sites) has swollen the ranks of al Qaeda and galvanized the Islamic militant group's will, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Wednesday in its annual report.

The 2003-2004 edition of the British-based think-tank's annual bible for defense analysts, The Military Balance, said Washington's assertions after the Iraq conflict that it had turned the corner in the war on terror were "over-confident."

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Rene -- Israel Demands Withdrawal of Food Report

Topic(s): Palestine / Israel
Date Posted: 10.11.03

Israel Demands Withdrawal of Food Report

.c The Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) - Israel on Thursday demanded the withdrawal of a United
Nations report on the food situation in the Palestinian territories,
claiming the author is politically biased.

Yaakov Levy, Israel's ambassador in Geneva, wrote to the chairwoman of
the U.N. Human Rights Commission demanding that Jean Ziegler's report
be ``deemed unfit for presentation'' to the commission when it meets
in the spring.

The move follows an interview with Ziegler on French television
channel LCI, in which he said he was a member of the board of
directors of the Tel Aviv-based Alternative Information Center, which
describes itself as ``a Palestinian-Israeli organization which
disseminates information, research and political analysis ... while
promoting cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis based on the
values of social justice, solidarity and community involvement.''

Levy wrote in his letter that ``Ziegler showed his true colors. He
openly admitted for the first time to membership in a politically
biased non-governmental organization.''

Ziegler, a Swiss sociology professor and former lawmaker, is the
U.N.'s independent expert on the right to food. He visited Israel and
the Palestinian territories in July and later said the Palestinians
had been ``reduced to begging'' by Israeli security measures.

``There is a permanent, grave violation of the right to food by the
occupying forces. There is a catastrophic humanitarian situation, and
really it is absurd,'' he said at the time.

``Markets don't function, peasants don't go to the field, and they are
humiliated in a very, very shocking way.''

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Rene -- British Artist Brings Guantanamo Bay to Manchester

Topic(s): Art World Stuff
Date Posted: 10.09.03

British Artist Brings Guantanamo Bay to Manchester

By Gideon Long

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - A British artist is building a
life-size copy of Guantanamo Bay's Camp Delta in a bid to make Britons
aware of the conditions in which detainees are being held at the
U.S. military base on Cuba.

The camp will cover an area about the size of a soccer pitch on
wasteland in the northern city of Manchester.

Like the original, it will have a guards' mess, a prisoners'
dormitory, a parade ground, floodlights, a sentry post and a perimeter
fence topped with barbed wire.

Loudspeakers will be used to play the U.S. national anthem each
morning and the Islamic call to prayer three times a day.

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Rene -- Fuentes -- Power, names, and words

Topic(s): US Analysis
Date Posted: 10.06.03

Power, names, and words
by Carlos Fuentes (Mexico) - AUTODAFE n°3 - Spring

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare asks in Romeo and Juliet. George Orwell answers in 1984: Exactly the opposite of what we think. WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

Since classical times, names have been the emblems of personality. To emphasize this, they have often been accompanied by qualifying epithets: Ulysses is “the prudent Ulysses,” and his wife Penelope shares that adjective as well. A wide range of monarchs are known by such qualifiers: Pepin the Short, Philip the Fair, and a whole cast of Charles’s: the Bald and the Well-Beloved of France, the Bold of Burgundy, the Bad of Navarre, the Lame of Sicily. In post-independence Latin America, these names-of-names have been heroic (Bolívar the Liberator, Juárez the Worthy), pejorative (Leonardo Márquez, the Tiger of Tacubaya; Manuel Lozada, the Tiger of Álica), definitive (Francia, El Supremo of Paraguay), or ridiculous (Santa Anna, His Serene Highness; Trujillo, Benefactor and Father of the New Fatherland).
The totalitarian dictators of the twentieth century gave themselves heroic titles (Führer, Duce) or modest ones (First Secretary of the Party). What distinguishes them is not so much the name but the word, which brings us to another Shakespearean quotation, Hamlet’s “Words, words, words.” There on the terrain of words (Roman Jakobson’s parole, the surface of speech, its linear, irreversible, synchronic sequence), the language of the city (the language of politics) is like Ulysses on his return to Ithaca: It either shows itself or hides.

Despots Great and Small

There is a radical difference, to cite the supreme example, between the languages of Hitler and Stalin, the two bloodiest dictators of the twentieth century. Hitler never hid his political intentions with words. He not only revealed his intentions, but underlined them, converting words into action. “Judaism is a plague on the world,” he said from 1924 on, culminating in his order for the final solution, the Holocaust, in 1941: “We must destroy every Jew, without exception. If we don’t succeed in exterminating the biological basis of Judaism, the Jews will destroy the German people some day.”
Stalin, on the other hand, took cover behind a social-humanist philosophy, Marxism, which he never fundamentally renounced, only seasoning it with a Leninist sauce. If communism was the proletariat in power (the final victory of the wretched of the earth), then the Party -- Stalin claimed -- was “the highest form of the proletariat.”

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