Rene -- Iraq: follow the money
This article is important, because it pokes into the dark cave that the US has excavated for itself. Of course the US has destroyed all possibility of a 'successful mission' by botching the reconstruction, but what seems clear is that they were never committed to reconstructing Iraq. But clearly in distributing the wealth of the Iraqi and American people. But of course, the article is not without its problems for me. Just as it tries to outline the near complete corruption of the American authorities reconstruction efforts, it sort of has this underlying logic that if the Americans had somehow given a 'better service', all would be ok. There is truth probably to this position and one would guess it is based on some reseach and experience there. The troubling thing is that there seems to be an underlying logic which converts citizens into consumers. 'Better service might yield happier customers.' This may not be the intent of the author, but could be the effect on the reader. The problems of this war go much further, they go to the heart of an overlapping set of motivations, economic dynamics, and contain a good hint of imperialist zeal. -gdr
Let’s hope they’re not waiting for the Americans to fix it’
Iraq: follow the money
US agencies in Iraq claim that extraordinary sums have been spent on reconstruction projects; that thousands have been completed and that many more are under way. But the cash (some of which was Iraq’s own) has gone to shady contractors who have done a bad job or none at all.
By Joy Gordon
The video downloads showed scenes of soldiers donating a generator to a health clinic or delivering shoes to Iraqi children. The soldiers said: “We came over to help the people of Iraq.” The people said: “Last year Fallujah looked like a demolition zone. Now I can see improvements everywhere. It is very beautiful in Fallujah”. Or: “This is a great day for my village. The coalition forces are doing great things here.”
The United States agency Usaid publishes Iraq Reconstruction Weekly Update: Reporting Progress and Good News, which presents reconstruction as a stream of projects doing wonders to improve the lives of admiring and grateful Iraqis. The US Defence Department and the agencies involved seem to be describing an alternative reality in their reports of progress. A recent update boasted that the department had spent $10.5bn so far for 3,500 projects, nearly all of which had been started and 80% completed (1).
Independent auditors have repeatedly pointed out that reports from these agencies are exaggerated or false. The State Department reported that 64 water and sanitation projects were complete and 185 were in progress; the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the claims were hugely exaggerated. The State Department could not even provide GAO auditors with a list of the completed projects, making it impossible to evaluate them (2). Again and again the agencies have been criticised for their incompetence.
A project for the construction of 150 urgently needed health clinics was a disaster. After two years and $186m, only six were completed — and the agency reduced the contractor’s obligation to providing only 20 public health centres, instead of 150 (3). When the contractor delivered medical equipment, none of the US government agencies involved inspected it or kept an inventory. When the auditors looked at the goods, it was obvious without even opening the crates that nearly half were damaged or had other problems. The equipment sat in a warehouse and there was no plan to distribute it (4).
On the Baghdad Police College, which was a $72m contract, the construction was so poor that the auditor found: “The government’s quality assurance programme was essentially non-existent in monitoring the contractor’s performance” (5).
Rene - A boycott by any other name ...
A boycott by any other name ...
James Bowen | Haaretz | April 13, 2007
In the late 19th century, changes in Ottoman law created a new class of large landholders, including the Sursuq family from Beirut, which acquired large tracts in northern Palestine. A similar situation had long existed in Ireland, where most land was controlled by absentee landlords, many of whom lived in Britain.
The 1880s, however, initiated dynamics that led the two lands in different directions. In 1882, the first Zionist immigrants arrived in Palestine, starting a process that subsequently led to the eviction of indigenous tenant farmers, when magnates like the Sursuqs pulled the land from under their feet, selling it to the Jewish National Fund.
In contrast, in 1880, Irish tenant farmers started a process that turned them into owner-occupiers. A former British army officer played a role in this drama, which introduced his name as a new word into many languages.
Western Ireland was again suffering near-famine conditions. The potato crop had failed for the third successive year. Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott, agent for Lord Erne, the absentee landlord of an estate in County Mayo, refused the request of tenants for a rent reduction and, instead, in September 1880, obtained eviction notices against 11 of them for failure to pay their rent.
Thirty years earlier, evictions had expelled huge numbers of Irish to North America. But times were changing: A nationwide tenants' rights movement, the Land League, had recently been formed, under the leadership of Charles Stewart Parnell, a scion of the landlord class, whose pro-tenant sympathies were inherited from his American mother, a woman whose grandfather had been one of George Washington's bodyguards. Speaking on September 19, 1880, Parnell outlined the strategy of the league:
"When a man takes a farm from which another has been evicted, you must shun him on the roadside when you meet him, you must shun him in the streets of the town, you must shun him at the shop-counter, you must shun him at the fair and at the market-place and even in the house of worship, by leaving him severely alone, by putting him into a sort of moral Coventry, by isolating him from the rest of his kind, as if he were a leper of old, you must show him your detestation."
Three days later, court officials attempted to serve Boycott's eviction notices on the tenants, and the Land League policy went into effect. Within two months, Boycott's name had become a synonym for ostracism, he had left the estate, and both landlords and government had discovered the power of ordinary people. Within a year, legislation at Westminster provided government finance for tenants wishing to purchase their farms.
Anjalisa -- No fairytales allowed
No fairytales allowed
Lawyer Clive Stafford Smith has 36 clients in Guantánamo and has
visited many times. In this powerful extract from a new book he argues
that secrecy in the camp is a disease
Saturday April 21, 2007
I had visited several times and there was something nagging at me. I
could not work out what left me uniquely unsettled about the place. It
was not the depressing environment; few prisons are inspirational. It
was not the occasional intimidation. Eventually it came to me: I could
not remember being lied to so often and so consistently. In
Guantánamo, lying was a disease that had reached pandemic proportions.
Former "detainee" Binyam Mohamed [British resident arrested in
Pakistan] viewed the whole military commission process as a con, a lie
that was meant to deceive the world. In June 2006 the supreme court
said the same, in more temperate terms, and struck down the
commissions as illegal. It rejected Donald Rumsfeld's assurance that
the trials would be fair, accusing the administration of "jettisoning"
In Guantánamo, the military began with smaller lies and worked
upwards. I was visiting Camp Echo one day and they had messed up the
visitation schedule. The client I was meant to see was not there,
although I had sent the schedule for my visits several weeks before. I
thought I might as well go ahead and see Shaker Aamer [British
resident captured in Afghanistan], whom I was not meant to meet until
later in the week. So I asked the SOG (the sergeant of the guard, in
charge of the camp) whether Shaker was in his normal cell. "No, he's
not here," the SOG replied. I settled down for another wasted hour,
waiting for the military to bring over someone I could see. It was hot
even under the umbrella at the "picnic table" - the area behind one of
the cells in Camp Echo where they made lawyers wait. I watched a
lizard crawling up the green mesh on the wire fence. I thought about
the spider in Robert the Bruce's cave, continually battling to spin
its web and teaching patience to the early Scottish nationalists.
The next day I saw Shaker. "Were you here yesterday?" I asked. "Yeah,
of course. I've been here for weeks," he replied. So why did the SOG
lie to me? He could have said, "Sorry, sir. I am not permitted to
speak about that," or "Yes, sir, he is here, but I am afraid we cannot
deviate from the schedule." Instead he looked me in the eye and lied.
It was unsettling. He had seemed a clean-cut, well-mannered sort of
Rene -- Brian Holmes -- Risk of the New Vanguards?
In answer to the questions fromulated by Chto Delat (What Is To Be Done), for a debate in Paris on the actuality of the avant-garde:
1. How can we understand autonomy in reference to art in today’s context?
2. Is it possible to talk of the avant-garde without Vangaurdism; a conceptualization of political subjectivity which has been understandably been discredited by historical experience and the failed event of 1917? In what ways could the avant-garde open possibilities of alternative futures or pose structures of “life to come?”
3. Are we talking the avant-garde again because of the possibility of a new political event post-Seattle? What new social subjects have emerged through this event who could inspire contemporary avant-garde gestures?
We are confronted today with the emergence of a global society, a society of constant mobility and interchange, marked by a violent paradox: just when this world begins to come together, it begins to fall apart, in a double movement. This is a risk society that exalts and rewards creativity, with the result that it is saturated in art. It is exemplified on the subjective level by the so-called creative class, it runs on invention power, and innovation has become its productive norm. For those very reasons, it denies the existence of artistic vanguards, just as it denies and represses anything like a political avant-garde. The globalizing process itself should be the only vanguard. Let’s try to look beyond that double denial.
What characterizes the autonomy of a vanguard formation? At the very least, these traits: rupture with the established definitions of art and politics, priority of experimentation, renewal of perception and expression, constructive aspiration and the desire for another life. The most expressive elements of the new social movements that emerged around the turn of this century have partially fulfilled this agenda, in a process marked by its extraordinary transculturalism and transsubjectivity. But this is a moment of latency and regathering for those movements; and so, before the next G8 at least, maybe we can try to determine the rupture on which their expressive renewal and constructive aspiration is based, in hopes of taking it further.
Global society is a risk society: it embraces all forms of instability and calculates them as potential profit or loss. This kind of calculation is evident in the financial sector, which despite its tumultuous swings has become the guiding force of global development. If the figure of the artist has emerged as this society’s ideal subjectivity, it is not only because aesthetic production is required to cover up all the proliferating vectors of capitalist depredation with a fascinating gloss of spectacle. It is also, even above all, because the artist is seen to embrace instability on the psychic level, and then to escape that moment of subjective risk by shedding it off its image as a finished product, i.e. a commodity. The expressive valence of the artistic commodity then becomes a source of psychic instability for others, continually relaunching the productive cycle among the creative classes (which is a new name for the transformed middle classes of the earlier Keynesian period). Through this continual risk and reification of the self, the artist is able to realize a profit on the oscillating curves of his or her own subjectivity, reconceived as “human capital.” Here we have the fountainhead of invention power.
Rene -- Kangaroo Tribunals Give a Kafkaesque Edge to Guantanamo
Kangaroo Tribunals Give a Kafkaesque Edge to Guantanamo
Sunday, April 15, 2007 by The San Francisco Chronicle
by H. Candace Gorman
The prisoners at Guantanamo Bay ' or Azkaban, as one of my clients, a
Harry Potter fan, calls it ' have had no access to a hearing in a court
of law. Instead, Guantanamo's inmates are subjected to two kangaroo
procedures: Combatant Status Review Tribunals and Administrative Review
The tribunals determine whether an individual is an enemy combatant.
Needless to say, the cards are stacked against the prisoner from the
get-go. The tribunals are allowed to rely on hearsay evidence and
information acquired though coercion. Any evidence deemed `secret' is
withheld from the prisoner. Can you imagine trying to defend yourself
against evidence kept secret from you?
Amazingly, my client Abdul Al-Ghizzawi (a Libyan who ran a bakery in
Jalalabad, Afghanistan, before being handed to Americans for a bounty
in late 2001), was found to have no ties to terrorism and not to be an
enemy combatant. Unfortunately, the higher-ups intervened and the
tribunal's judgment was overturned six weeks later upon the miraculous
discovery of `new evidence.' I saw the classified proceedings of my
client's tribunals, and I can assure you that no new material was
considered. Mark and Joshua Denbeaux, authors of the study `No-Hearing
Hearings,' have discovered that some prisoners went through as many as
three hearings before the tribunals made the `correct' determination
that a prisoner had ties to terrorism.
The second procedure in this Kafkaesque process, the administrative
review board, is an annual (and usually meaningless) ritual in which
the military assesses an enemy combatant's status. In several
now-infamous cases, the board darkly noted that the prisoner owned a
Casio wristwatch (which could conceivably be used to time explosives).
At one such hearing, the prisoner in question noted that American
military personnel also wear Casio watches and sardonically asked if
they too were terrorists. Similarly, karate skills, knowledge of
computers and participation in the pilgrimage to Mecca have also been
considered factors supporting `continuing detention.' When the review
board recommends the release of an individual, there is never an
apology or an acknowledgment that a mistake has been made. In order to
save face (and thwart possible lawsuits), the U.S. government insists
that a release `does not equate to innocence.'
Last year I was invited to submit a letter on behalf of Al-Ghizzawi to
the review board. The government did everything possible to prevent me
from meeting and communicating with my client and yet, in a phony
gesture, they invited me to represent this man who at the time I had
Greg -- Petition on behalf of Norman Finkelstein & Susan Greene
These are two cases, one academic and another art, in which the individuals who attempt to present a critical relation to Israel or an affirmative relation to Palestinians come under attack by Zionist supporters. -gdr
a. Norman's Petition
b. Muralist Susan Greene asks your support
a. Norman's Petition
SCHOLARS FOR INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM IN SUPPORT OF DR. NORMAN FINKELSTEIN
for more info:
April 2, 2007
The Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., Ed.D.
President, DePaul University
55 East Jackson Boulevard, 22nd Floor
Dear Rev./Dr. Holtschneider:
As scholars and teachers in various institutions throughout the U.S.
and abroad, we are writing to inquire about Dr. Norman Finkelstein's
tenure case. We have seen a memo, dated March 22, 2007, from Chuck
Suchar, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to the
University Board on Tenure and promotion, recommending against tenure
for Dr. Finkelstein, despite favorable votes at two levels of faculty
review. Dean Suchar justifies his recommendation on the ground that
Dr. Finkelstein's scholarly work, though sound in its content, is
often uncivil, disrespectful, mean-spirited, inflammatory, and so on,
in its tone. We object to this weighting of criteria, especially when
a scholar's polemical style is cited as evidence that he lacks "values
of collegiality." The American Association of University Professors
has explicitly challenged the use of criteria such as "collegiality"
in tenure and promotion evaluations, precisely because these terms are
subject to a wide range of interpretations. The AAUP rightly notes
that criteria of this sort are often used to mask retribution as well
as disciplinary or other biases. We note that they often stand in for
political disagreement. The likelihood increases, in our view, when
the criteria are couched as vague institutional principles, such as
"personalism" and "Vincentian values."
As scholars in various disciplines, ranging from political science,
history, literature, women's studies, ethnic studies, we know that any
teaching and writing about culture, and politics can seem
controversial. This is especially so in fields such as Latin American
studies, women's studies, ethnic studies, and Middle Eastern studies.
In such areas of intense debate, a polemical tone is not unusual, and
does not discredit the underlying scholarship. Tenure exists precisely
to allow scholars the pursuit of candid intellectual inquiry, even the
most controversial fields, without fear of retribution. To challenge
the status quo of Zionist historiography in the U.S., as Finkelstein
has done in his scholarship, most certainly ignites controversy; but
his ability to address the subject with thorough documented evidence
that encourages readers to see the subject of Palestine and Israel
anew is precisely why scholars around the world value his work. While
researchers-like diplomats and heads of state-cannot avoid appearing
polemical given the highly charged nature of fields such as Dr.
Finkelstein's-it is imperative that we, as scholars and
administrators, protect the right of research scholars and teachers to
work in this field unhindered by fears of retribution.
Faculty specialists are the most reliable judges of a peer's teaching,
research and service contributions. Dean Suchar's overriding of
faculty assessments, using malleable and subjective criteria, is a
clear violation of the principle of intellectual freedom that is a
hallmark of higher education. Without the protection of this valued
principle the integrity of higher education is irreparably harmed.
The professional reputation of DePaul University also stands to
suffer, if an internationally recognized and reputable faculty
member's tenure is denied on such reasoning.
As fellow academics, we respectfully request that you investigate the
matter at hand to intervene into Dean Suchar's dangerous precedent
that, inevitably, sends the signal that arts and sciences is now
endangered at DePaul University and in the American academy in
general. In this tenure case, there appear to be gross violations of
very basic professional protocol (e.g., such as the Dean's decision to
reference to a possible lawsuit as further evidence of Dr.
Finkelstein's lack of "personableness"). Many academics are following
this case and are legitimately interested in the outcome as our own
careers, and the very mission of the academy, also rest in the
New Left Review -- Mike Davis -- THE DEMOCRATS AFTER NOVEMBER
From the NEW LEFT REVIEW ..
Was the November 2006 midterm election an epic political massacre or
just a routine midterm brawl? In the week after the Democratic
victory, partisan spinmeisters offered opinions as contradictory as
those of the protagonists in Rashomon, Kurosawa's famously
relativistic account of rape and murder. On the liberal side, Bob
Herbert rejoiced in his New York Times column that the `fear-induced
anomaly' of the `George W. Bush era' had `all but breathed its last',
while Paul Waldman (Baltimore Sun) announced `a big step in the
nation's march to the left', and George Lakoff (CommonDreams.org)
celebrated a victory for `progressive values' and `factually
accurate, values-based framing' (whatever that may mean).  On the
conservative side, the National Review's Lawrence Kudlow refused to
concede even the obvious bloodstains on the steps of Congress: `Look
at Blue Dog conservative Democratic victories and look at Northeast
liberal gop defeats. The changeover in the House may well be a
conservative victory, not a liberal one.' William Safire, although
disgusted that the `loser left' had finally won an election,
dismissed the result as an `average midterm loss'. 
Anjalisa -- 'I am plotting a new Russian revolution'
'I am plotting a new Russian revolution'
London exile Berezovsky says force necessary to bring down President
Ian Cobain, Matthew Taylor and Luke Harding in Moscow
Friday April 13, 2007
The Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky has told the Guardian he is
plotting the violent overthrow of President Putin from his base in
Britain after forging close contacts with members of Russia's ruling
In comments which appear calculated to enrage the Kremlin, and which
will further inflame relations between London and Moscow, the
multimillionaire claimed he was already bankrolling people close to
the president who are conspiring to mount a palace coup.
"We need to use force to change this regime," he said. "It isn't
possible to change this regime through democratic means. There can be
no change without force, pressure." Asked if he was effectively
fomenting a revolution, he said: "You are absolutely correct."
Although Mr Berezovsky, with an estimated fortune of £850m, may have
the means to finance such a plot, and although he enjoyed enormous
political influence in Russia before being forced into exile, he said
he could not provide details to back up his claims because the
information was too sensitive.
Last night the Kremlin denounced Mr Berezovsky's comments as a
criminal offence which it believed should undermine his refugee
status in the UK.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin's chief spokesman, said: "In accordance
with our legislation [his remarks are] being treated as a crime. It
will cause some questions from the British authorities to Mr
Berezovsky. We want to believe that official London will never grant
asylum to someone who wants to use force to change the regime in
Avi -- Gideon Levy -- Israel doesn't want peace
Israel doesn't want peace
By Gideon Levy
The moment of truth has arrived, and it has to be said: Israel does not want peace. The arsenal of excuses has run out, and the chorus of Israeli rejection already rings hollow. Until recently, it was still possible to accept the Israeli refrain that "there is no partner" for peace and that "the time isn't right" to deal with our enemies. Today, the new reality before our eyes leaves no room for doubt and the tired refrain that "Israel supports peace" has been left shattered.
It's hard to determine when the breaking point occurred. Was it the absolute dismissal of the Saudi initiative? The refusal to acknowledge the Syrian initiative? Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's annual Passover interviews? The revulsion at the statements made by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, in Damascus, alleging that Israel was ready to renew peace talks with Syria?
Rene -- Hunger Strike Breaks Out at Guantánamo
Hunger Strike Breaks Out at Guantánamo
By TIM GOLDEN and MARGOT WILLIAMS
A new, long-term hunger strike has broken out at the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, with more than a dozen detainees subjecting themselves to daily force-feeding to protest their treatment, military officials and lawyers for the detainees said.
Lawyers for several hunger strikers said their clients’ action were driven by harsh conditions in a new maximum security complex to which about 160 prisoners have been moved since December.
The 13 detainees now on hunger strikes is the highest number to endure the force-feeding regimen on an extended basis since early 2006, when the military broke a long-running strike with a new policy of strapping prisoners into “restraint chairs” while they are fed by plastic tubes inserted through their nostrils.
The hunger strikers are now monitored so closely the they have virtually no chance to starve themselves. Yet their persistence underscores how the struggle between detainees and guards at Guantánamo has continued even as the military has tightened its control.
“We don’t have any rights here, even after your Supreme Court said we had rights,” one hunger striker, Majid al-Joudi, told a military physician, according to medical records released recently under a federal court order. “If the policy does not change, you will see a big increase in fasting.”
A military spokesman at Guantánamo, Cmdr. Robert Durand of the Navy, played down the significance of the current hunger strike, describing the prisoners’ complaints as “propaganda.”
Nettime -- Chernobille-sur-Loire, or the announced French nuclear meltdown...
A nuclear power plant catastrophe in France - which will affect a large
part of Western Europe, if not beyond - is not a question of if, but of
when. This has little to do with the intrinsic technicalities of nuclear
electricity production, but a lot to the current dictates of
neo-capitalist flexible accumulation.
France is very much dependent on nuclear energy and has a large number
of nuclear power plants scattered all over the country (*), all
owned by the French state company EDF (Electr=E9cit=E9 de France).
EDF is currently th= e object of a heated privatisation debate.
Whatever its outcome, the result remains the same: EDF is increasingly
structured and run like a public limited company, and subjected to the
'discipline' of the market(s).
Flexibility, profitability, efficiency, and competitiveness are key
words here. They have displaced, if not replaced altogether, the
ancient notion of public service, which was very strong in France,
and near-exalted in state initiated technologicaly path-breaking
enetrprises like telecoms, high speed railways - and nuclear energy.
The latter had also to deal wit= h the reality of heightened risks -
which have become graphically clear after the Chernobyl catastrophe.
Security however has, within the neo-capitalist mode of production,
been operationalised into yet another cost, to be factored within
an insurance-type envelope of considerations, whose coverage and
provision might well be diminished in the measure that its possibly
negative (read here catastrophic) outcomes can be pushed back into
the future - that is beyond, usually one, and rarely more than a few,