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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Letter from Code Pink
As we gather with our families and friends this Thanksgiving, let us take a moment to acknowledge how much we truly have to be thankful for. Love, health, an abundance of food on the table, a brand new Congress--all are worth cherishing and celebrating. At the same time, let's not forget how lucky we are to have our basic needs met--clean water, electricity, access to medicine and education. Let's remember that our sisters in Iraq are not always so fortunate.
In March, 2006, CODEPINK organized and sponsored a delegation of Iraqi women--women from all walks of life, from many of the religious and ethnic groups in that country--to come share their stories with the American public, to tell us what it's like to walk in their shoes. Dr. Rashad Zidan, a pharmacist and mother of four, was part of this delegation. Horrified by the devastation wrought by the war, Rashad founded the Knowledge for Iraqi Women Society to, in her words, "relieve the suffering of Iraqi women by providing financial, occupational, medical, and educational resources." K4IWS currently has 70 staff and more than 300 volunteers throughout Iraq.
In a recent note to CODEPINK's Gael Murphy, Rashad writes:
You know Gael, before the war I was having my simple life with my family. I was having just humble wishes to educate my children, to see them married, to see my grandchildren. I wanted to help poor people and to take care of my parents. You know all these things evaporated with this war.
I pray every day to God to keep my children alive. Education and marriage are now luxuries. And even when we do go to school or get married, it is colorless, as is everything in our lives. I am thinking day and night about those poor widows and orphans that were created by Bush's bringing his democracy to our country and I am doing my best to help them. (click to read the entire letter)Regards, Rashad
You can read learn more of her story in this interview, which includes these wise words: "In these last three years, the U. S. has just listened to its own voice, but I think it is time to listen to authentic Iraqi voices. If you listen to the people who are in the midst of the conflict, they will help you better understand how to end the violence and suffering because they have firsthand knowledge and experience."This Thanksgiving as we count our blessings, let's also remember to listen to Iraqi voices like Rashad's, and acknowledge the suffering of the Iraqi people under US occupation, a horrible repetition of the aggression and violence that marked the first Thanksgiving. Let's use this time of gratitude to pledge anew to work for peace. We will be sending funds raised by some of our locals to support Rashad's Knowledge for Iraqi Women Society; you can add to this by clicking here. If you contribute $100 or more, we will send you a copy of our new film, Iraqi Women Speak Out, co-produced with Deep Dish TV, featuring interviews with the Iraqi women's delegation. Thank you, wonderful CODEPINKers. We are grateful for your commitment to peace every single day.With love, peace, and endless thanks,Andrea, Anedra, Dana, Farida, Gael, Gayle, Jodie, Laura, Liz, Medea, Nancy, Patricia, Rae, Samantha, and Sonia

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Detective's obsession with murder case leads to remote Mexican village
By JULIANA BARBASSA, Associated Press Writer
Sunday, November 19, 2006 12:37 AM PST
MAMMOTH LAKES, -- At first, all Sgt. Paul Dostie had were handfuls of bones -- fragile, gnawed-on human bones.There was very little he could tell from the animal-ravaged remains found in a shallow grave in the Inyo National Forest in May 2003. Dostie only knew the victim was a petite woman who wasn't dressed for the rugged Sierra Nevada, judging by her size 5 shoes, lacy blouse and flimsy jacket.It appeared to be the third murder this ski resort town had seen in a quarter-century. But bones don't talk, and the 20-year police veteran realized that cracking this case would take more than old-fashioned detective work.Over the next 3 1/2 years, Dostie would comb the Internet for experts -- anthropologists, geneticists, linguists -- who would help him extract information from the remains. Won over by Dostie's dedication and aw-shucks good nature, they contributed their expertise, often for free.From the reports that trickled in, thick with jargon and footnoted references, Dostie slowly compiled intimate details of the victim's life story: where she was from, what she ate as a child, what she looked like, where she spent her last few months -- everything but her name.The search consumed him. He worked on it on days off; he spent hours scouring scientific papers and attending conferences of forensic experts in search of new technologies."I probably know more about her and how she lived and died than anyone else out there," he said.Dostie now believes he's weeks away from confirming the victim's identity. Only then will he be able to start the investigation he's waited years to pursue: the search for her killer.It began with a hiker walking his dog along the national forest's pine-edged trails. Something in the bushes grabbed the dog's interest.Curious, the hiker approached. It was a human skull defaced by scavenging animals.Police searched for other remains among the low-lying trails, but found nothing. A few days later, a hunch led a sheriff's deputy to clamber up a nearby hill -- a steep, dusty hummock with a view of Mammoth Lakes' main street.There, beneath the pines, Dostie was introduced to the victim who would come to define his career. Her cheap watch was still ticking, though it had spent the winter under snow. The skull had probably rolled downhill.The case got off to a good start: A week after police announced their find, an employee of the Mammoth Lakes Visitor Center came forward, saying she remembered a small woman who'd come in the previous fall. She had prominent cheekbones and straight black hair flowing past her shoulders.While her male companion was getting camping information, the woman took the employee aside and in her accented English said she was afraid of him -- a heavyset white man with a mustache and an abrasive manner.The employee handed the visitor a card from a local women's shelter, and the couple left.The medical examiner had said the victim might be Asian, but Dostie couldn't be sure it was the same person. Still, it was the only clue he had, and he pursued it.He asked about the couple at local hotels and campgrounds, distributed fliers with the woman's description, and placed ads in Asian-language newspapers as far away as Los Angeles."To me, if it's a homicide, you pull all the stops," he said.But it was a dead end. A year later, he was still empty-handed.Dostie was casting about for new ideas when he heard about DNAPrint Genomics, a Florida company that seemed to offer something new.DNA technology is typically used in criminal cases to match two samples -- connecting a suspect to evidence from a crime scene, for example. Instead of comparing two specimens, DNAPrint searches one person's DNA for clues about their racial makeup.Dostie decided to give it a try. Maybe he'd been looking for the wrong person.In May 2004, the detective sent the company a piece of skin. But it was tough and leathery after a rough winter at high altitude and couldn't be tested. So he sent a bone sample."It was striking," said Matt Thomas, the company's senior scientist. "It was 100 percent Native American. I don't see that many samples that are that clearly Native American."The finding still left a range of possibilities -- native peoples with similar genetic markers are found throughout the Americas, Thomas said. But it gave Dostie something to work with after so many discouraging months.He contacted a local band of Northern Paiutes and collected about 20 DNA samples from them. But no one had heard of the missing woman, and there were no genetic matches.He was also chasing another hunch."I took anthropology in college," he said. "I knew it was the key."So like anyone else with a question and Internet access, he turned to Google.He typed in "physical anthropology," and within minutes he was e-mailing Philip Walker, then president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists."Phil opened up a whole new world to me," he said. "His life's work is looking at bones."Walker's research concerned patterns of violence in ancient human populations, and he often found himself puzzling over the same questions vexing Dostie: Who is this person? How did they die? And what can we say about them when they were alive?Walker recruited colleagues -- an orthopedic surgeon, a forensic pathologist, an anthropologist with the Smithsonian Institution -- and gave Dostie a much clearer picture of the victim.She'd been repeatedly stabbed -- a fact that had escaped the medical examiner. She was likely a Native American from Mexico or Central America, between 30 and 35; and very small, no taller than 4-foot-9 and no more than 90 pounds.Scars along her pelvic bones showed that she'd delivered at least one child, and the poor state of her teeth told Walker she'd never seen a dentist. The reinforced connections between the bones and muscles in her shoulder girdle pointed to a life of hard physical labor."This is someone who normally would be forgotten," said Walker, explaining his motivation to work on the case for free. "This is clearly a disenfranchised person who was vulnerable. People think they can just kill someone like this with no chance of getting caught."To firm his hypothesis, Walker wanted to learn more about her diet and the water she drank -- clues to her ethnic background and geographical origin.They turned to Henry Schwarcz, a Canadian geologist who analyzes the chemical composition of ancient human remains to learn more about how people lived. He'd never been approached by law enforcement."It does seem like a natural fit," Schwarcz said. "You have a person who is unknown, and all you have to go on are the bones, teeth, maybe some hair. That's what I work with."Remains that were puzzling to Dostie spoke clearly to the Canadian professor."In her childhood, she had been living mostly on corn -- cornmeal, tortillas, up to a level that would be almost nutritionally unhealthy," Schwarcz said after analyzing the isotopes in her teeth.He also looked for oxygen atoms in her teeth. These are absorbed from the water a person drinks as a child, and since most drinking water comes from local rain, they can be a good indicator of a person's origin. In this case, she seemed to have been raised in southern Mexico, or even farther south.Schwarcz also looked at her bones and hair -- cells that regenerate over the years, incorporating new information throughout a person's life.These told a different story: In the last 18 months of her life, the woman still ate a lot of corn, but her protein intake was like that of a typical North American. There was also variation in the oxygen isotopes, suggesting she'd moved around as an adult -- possibly from the United States back to southern Mexico, before returning to California, where she died."She was hard to pin down," he said.Now that he knew what he was looking for, Dostie wanted to peer deeper into her genes.Walker had given him scientific papers on human leukocyte antigen genes, which can determine ethnicity. The detective called the co-author of one paper, Henry Erlich, head of the human genetics department at Roche Molecular Systems."I was struck by his commitment to the case," said Erlich, who also agreed to work for free. "This was one dedicated sergeant."His examination confirmed the victim's genotype is found more frequently in Mexico and Central America than anywhere else.Walker also recommended a look at the woman's mitochondrial DNA. This abundant form of genetic material holds information only about a person's maternal line, unlike most other DNA, which contains contributions by both parents.The sequence typed by Roche Molecular Systems was sent for comparison to two scientists who manage databanks mitochondrial DNA. One confirmed she could be from southern Mexico.The other had a hit.Among 3,000 specimens in his databank at the University of California, Davis, David Glenn Smith found a maternal relative of the victim: a Zapotec Indian living in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca."The mtDNA sequence which matched that of the Mammoth Lakes murder victim was collected in the village of San Mateo Macuilxochitl, in the district of Tlacolula," read the e-mail Smith sent to Dostie in March, nearly three years after the body had been found.With Smith's directions to the village in hand, his good wishes and his admonition -- "that's a heck of a long way to drive," he'd warned -- Dostie was ready to go.The only problem was that this small-town detective had never heard of Oaxaca, and didn't speak Spanish, much less Zapotec.Undaunted, Dostie set off for Los Angeles, home to a large Oaxacan immigrant community. Armed with his cheery goodwill and an armful of fliers bearing a reconstruction of the victim's face, he knocked on the door of Oaxacan restaurants, Catholic churches frequented by recent immigrants, and Spanish-language radio and TV stations.He also went back to the Internet."I'm not that smart myself," he said, "but I can find a lot of people who are."A UCLA linguist connected him to a Oaxacan graduate student, who introduced Dostie to the man who would guide him through the next phase of the investigation.Ray Morales, president of the Oaxacan Business Association, was the perfect link. He spoke English, Spanish and Zapotec, and ran a money-wiring business. Immigrants could bring cash to Morales' LA storefronts, and the company would deliver them to homes in Oaxaca -- even off-the-grid villages like San Mateo.Morales was intrigued by Dostie's perseverance."This is a guy who doesn't know Oaxaca, who doesn't speak the language, taking a case he could have easily filed away," Morales said. "He's brought the case so far. We're not going to stop now. No way."So in May 2006 Morales went to San Mateo."Oaxaca can feel pretty small, the communities are pretty tight knit," said Morales. "I thought it would be pretty easy."He spread word of the missing woman through the local media. He carried fliers with her picture, and made a big splash in the surrounding villages.Morales quickly found the DNA donor, but was surprised when the woman claimed she didn't know the victim. An mtDNA match shows a family connection, but it can be a very distant one. And no one in the village seemed to know of a missing woman who matched the description.By now, Morales felt a sense of responsibility -- to the woman, who seemed to have no one else, and to the detective who had brought the case this far."Why is science pointing to this town, but no one is filing a missing person report?" he asked.Morales went back to Oaxaca.This time, he went quietly. He spent time in the village, got to know the residents, had coffee with them. Slowly, rumors and implications began to weave together, forming a picture of a woman who might be their victim.Her mother had died when she was young, and she'd left the village for a nearby town with her father and stepmother. She'd married, but didn't fit the mold of the traditional, socially conservative women of the region."She made one bad choice after another," Morales said. "Married in another town, separated, remarried, had kids, tried to give them up. That's a real no-no in these areas."She'd returned to the village about 10 years ago, then made a scandalous exit to the United States with help from a married man in La Habra, in Southern California.Certain he was onto something, Morales collected DNA samples from an uncle and a half brother. But the results were inconclusive.He needed to collect DNA from a maternal relative. The woman's sister lived in another part of Mexico, and one of the victim's own children was said to be living in another Oaxacan village. Morales began to plan another trip.Then violence erupted in Oaxaca. A teachers' strike soon evolved into mass protests involving leftists, Indian groups and students all calling for the governor's resignation.He waited out the unrest, which lasted six months. He now has a ticket to return to the village on Dec. 20 -- just in time for the annual celebration of its patron saint, San Mateo, when immigrants return for a weeklong celebration. He's spread word in town that he's looking for the woman's sister.Dostie is excited at the prospect, but he's also patient."We've been in this over three years, just trying to get to day one -- to the day we can start figuring out who knew the victim, who could have killed her," he said. "We'll get there."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Martin Kettle
November 8, 2006 05:18 AM
America has spoken, George Bush told the nation this morning two years ago, and it had given him its trust and his confidence. He would continue his policies at home and abroad, buoyed by the public's endorsement. Now, two years further on, America has spoken again - but this time in a very different tone and with the opposite conclusion, issuing a direct warning to the leader it re-elected 24 months ago to change his policy in Iraq. The cheering can be heard not just in America itself but around the planet.
So the big question this morning and over the coming weeks and months is this: which George Bush will respond to the American voters' verdict in the 2006 midterms? Will it be the same apparently humble and responsive president who said he heard the popular verdict in 2004 and would act on it? Or will it be a defiant president, who opts to spend his final two years in office in conflict with the new legislature that Americans have chosen to represent them?
If Vice-President Dick Cheney is any guide, these will be two years of defiance. Speaking in Colorado Springs last Saturday, Cheney announced that the administration would continue "full steam ahead" with its policy in Iraq, irrespective of the results of yesterday's elections. "It may not be popular with the public," he told ABC News. "It doesn't matter, in the sense that we have to continue what he think is right. That's exactly what we're doing. We're not running for office. We're doing what we think is right."
Not a good start. But the Bush administration has never had to practice either humility or compromise before. For the past six years, it has had a Republican Congress on its side. But not any longer. Now it has to adapt or die. Last night, largely because of Iraq, the Democrats finally brought an end to the most partisan period of Republican legislative rule in modern American history. The tide of the Gingrich revolution which swept in in 1994 was swept back out yesterday, 12 years later. It is far too early to say whether this represents the final eclipse of the moral, fiscal and ideological conservatism of the last dozen years. But that often brutal conservatism has at last been pushed back at the federal level. This is therefore a historic moment in American domestic politics.
The loss of the House of Representatives was a decisive one, towards the upper end of Democratic expectations signalled by recent polls. The Republican House seats tumbled as predicted in many states - Indiana, Kentucky, Connecticut, New York, Florida and Colorado among them. The likely failure, at the time of writing, to recapture the Senate was of a piece with that result. The Democrats did very well there nevertheless, capturing Senate seats in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, edging close to victory in Montana and Virginia, and fighting off serious challenges in Maryland and New Jersey. But with Republicans battling hard to hold on in Missouri and Tennessee, the distant prospect of a Democratic double victory looked to be just out of reach.
Many conservatives will be in denial about these results this morning. They will be as angry in defeat as they have so often been angry in victory. They will try to dismiss them as a poor performance, falling short of Democratic expectations and thus in some bizarre way a vindication of the administration. But these elections have been a decisive rebuff not just to the president but also to the arrogance that has increasingly been the hallmark of both the Bush administration and the Republican congressional leadership.
Ugly triumphalism has been a central feature of the past dozen years. Too many Republicans have too often spoken and behaved as though their earlier electoral victories entitled them to ride roughshod over the very idea that large numbers of Americans passionately disagreed with their approach. The redistricting on which these elections have been fought was a case in point - a blatant gerrymander designed to prevent ethnic minorities and liberals from being properly represented in Washington. Rightly or wrongly, the new Democratic masters on Congress will be looking for some payback here.
As the results of the 2006 midterms begin to settle in, American politics will seamlessly move on to the next contest. The 2008 presidential stakes will get under way before Christmas, with John McCain announcing his bid for the Republican nomination and a clutch of other Republicans - Mitt Romney, Chuck Hagel, Bill Frist and Rudi Giuliani among them - all preparing to challenge him. On the Democratic side the big questions concern Hillary Clinton's real determination to stand (her husband has been telling friends that a run is by no means certain) and whether Barack Obama will try to translate his current wave of popularity into a White House run which many believe would be premature. This is not a revolutionary moment. Many of the Democrats who ousted Republicans in the House yesterday are strong moderates. Do not expect any important Democrat to stray very far from the centre-ground for the next two years.
In the final analysis this was, by common consent, an electoral defeat for George Bush and for his Iraq war. Nothing matters more to the world than for America to find and follow a new path in its relations with the nations with which it shares the planet. A planned withdrawal from Iraq is central to that necessary project and has been made likelier by these elections. Yet no one should delude themselves into imagining that the change of direction will be sudden, decisive or easy. Bush is a lame-duck president presiding over an unpopular war - yet it remains to be seen whether he will either wish or be forced into a reversal of the Iraq policy. Perhaps Donald Rumsfeld will ask to step down -- as the gossip in Washington has it that he will. America has indeed spoken. A new direction, the Democrats' cliche du jour, is the clear message. Bush would be mad not to listen. But the Iraq agony is not going to end any time soon.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


from The Nation
[from theNovember 13, 2006 issue]

The Congressional campaign of 2006 slouches toward election day through a grotesque landscape of torture and excuses for torture, scabrous messages from a Congressman to young boys, a Congressional cover-up of the same, murder and countermurder every day in Iraq (a heart-stopping 655,000 Iraqis have died since the invasion, according to a Johns Hopkins study), and nuclear fallout from North Korea (of the political if not the literal kind).
The stakes, as President Bush likes to say--and on this point he is correct--could scarcely be higher. But they include one stake he never mentions: the future of constitutional government in the United States, which his presidency and his party have put in serious jeopardy. The old (lower case) republican system of checks and balances and popular liberties, you might say, is in danger of replacement by a new (upper case) Republican system of arbitrary one-party rule organized around an all-powerful presidency. That many-sided danger, of course, is the subject of this series of articles. It is simply impossible to know in advance when, in a great constitutional crisis, the decisive turning point--the irrevocable capsizing--might come. We are left wondering whether we are witnessing just one more swing of the familiar old American political "pendulum," bound by its own weight to swing back in the opposite direction, or whether this time the pendulum is about to fly off its hinge and land us with a crash in territory that we have never visited before. There are strong arguments on both sides of the question. Yet there can be little doubt that the election on November 7 will be an event of the first importance in the story. If, by handing one or both houses of Congress to the Democrats--something that current polls say is likely--the public breaks the Republican Party's current monopoly on government power, an important beachhead of resistance will have been gained. But if the public assents to the status quo--confirming and deepening the ratification of Republican one-party rule already conferred in 2002 and 2004 (we cannot count the election of 2000, since Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote that year), it will be hard to see where the path away from the precipice lies.
As the decision has neared, every important institution of the republican system--the Supreme Court, the presidency, the Congress, the press--has been swept into the crisis. Also critical is the President's bid to achieve global military dominance by the United States, presented to the public as a kind of colossal footnote to the war on terror. The interplay, enacted on the electoral stage, between the attempt at dominance abroad and one-party rule at home is probably the most important specific mechanism of the crisis. Its evolution so far has had many surprising twists, turns, sudden spurts forward and reversals; and some recent events, though each perhaps familiar in itself, reveal a striking new pattern. Of special note is a remarkable yearlong, step-by-step process of trial and error in which the Administration, far from concealing its abuses of power, including the torture of prisoners, wound up giving them top billing in its electoral strategy.
A Political Problem
For some time, the Republican Party has been aware that it has a political problem. All year, Bush has gotten unfavorable marks in the opinion polls on every issue but one--dealing with the terrorist threat. (In the most recent polls, even this measure has turned negative.) On everything else--for example, the state of the economy, healthcare, the environment, even "trust"--a majority or plurality of the public has consistently rated the Democrats higher. In such a situation the standard counsel of today's political technicians, whose unalloyed cynicism few scarcely bother even to notice anymore, is to attempt to "elevate" the single issue favorable to one's party at the expense of the other issues, thus "framing the election," or "controlling the agenda," as it is variously put. The aim is not to persuade the public that your party is right on any particular issue but to choose among many issues the one on which the election will turn. The technique is available mainly to the party in charge of the White House, possessor of a PR megaphone that all but drowns out opposition voices, leaving them to sputter in impotence or waste their energies battling on tilted rhetorical battlefields of the Administration's choosing.
As early as January White House chief strategist Karl Rove issued the template for the campaign to come in a speech to the Republican National Committee. "The United States," he said, "faces a ruthless enemy--and we need a Commander in Chief and a Congress who understand the nature of the threat and the gravity of the moment.... Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many Democrats." (He should have said "fortunately," for he planned to use his accusation--amplified and distorted--to renew the Republicans' lease on power in the fall elections.) As evidence of the President's successes, he cited the Iraq War. He stated, "This past year, we have seen three successful elections in Iraq. The Iraqi Security Forces are increasing in size and capability. Iraq's economy is growing.... In the words of the Commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq: '2005 has been a historic year in Iraq, and it marks the rebirth of an ancient nation.'" He added, "To retreat before victory has been won would be a reckless act--and this President will not allow it." And the Democrats? "We now hear a loud chorus of Democrats who want us to cut and run in Iraq." It was not the last time we would hear this expression.
The tactic was hardly new. As Rove noted in his speech, it had led to success in 2002 and 2004. But a new problem arose and grew more acute during the year. The public turned, slowly but decisively, against the Iraq War. In January, when Rove spoke, polls showed on average that some 50 percent thought the war was a "mistake." By midsummer the number was up to 54. The words of the Commander of the "Multinational" Corps in Iraq had not been persuasive to the American electorate. Civil war was breaking out in the country, and the "rebirth of an ancient nation" was drowning in blood. (In the most recent round of polls, approval of the war has sunk to 40 percent.) Nevertheless, as the campaign season began, the public's support for Bush's handling of terror generally was still at 55 percent. This was the political gold that had to be refined from the slag heaps of low poll numbers on other issues.
Fighting the Caliphate
Clearly, a tactical if not a strategic shift in the election plan was needed. The political riddle that now needed an answer was how to exploit the war on terror when its alleged main front, the war in Iraq, was rejected by the public as a mistake.
A first answer to the riddle was found: Define the general, global war on terror so sweepingly that the specific war in Iraq dwindled to just one front on the epic battlefield. Around Labor Day the Administration rolled out its new political line.
The centerpiece of the campaign was a series of speeches by Bush. Billed as stock-taking on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, they were in fact campaign speeches. The most eye-popping one was given to the Military Officers Association September 5, the day after Labor Day, the traditional beginning of election campaigns. Too strange to be captured in soundbites (although many of these, too, were supplied and recycled in the media), much of the substance of the speech curiously eluded coverage. For one thing, Bush couldn't stop citing Osama bin Laden, devoting four paragraphs to direct quotations from him and another dozen to paraphrases and citations of his words. The result for listeners was a queer impression that one had stumbled into an Al Qaeda videotape statement that somehow was being read out by the President. One almost expected to see Ayman Al Zawahiri sitting cross-legged beside him. (And, in fact, a recently released GOP ad actually does show bin Laden making his threats.)
In effect, Bush took Osama's evaluation of his own powers at face value. In his words, "America and our coalition partners have made our choice. We're taking the words of the enemy seriously." Bin Laden was aiming, Bush said in his own voice, at a "radical empire," a "totalitarian nightmare." Then, quoting bin Laden, he intoned, "'The whole world is an open field for us.'" If the United States didn't stop them, the President said, again speaking in his own, concurring voice, Sunni extremists would "remake the entire Muslim world in their radical image." They would do it in four stages. First, they would "expel the Americans from Iraq"; second, "establish an Islamic authority...and support it until it achieves the level of caliphate"; third, "extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq"; and, fourth, initiate "the clash with Israel." And that was not all: "This caliphate would be a totalitarian Islamic empire encompassing all current and former Muslim lands, stretching from Europe to North Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia."
But the Shiites were busy, too, in the President's portrait. The leader of Hezbollah, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, made a cameo appearance with an anti-American speech, also amply quoted by Bush. Iran and its nuclear program were brought into the ranks of America's Shiite enemies by this route.
But could Al Qaeda and/or Hezbollah actually accomplish all--or even any--of this? There are a multitude of evils that might befall Iraq if American troops withdraw (and an equal or greater number if they stay), but no reputable Middle East scholar thinks the conquest of the country by Al Qaeda is one of them. Experts assess the current fighting strength of Al Qaeda at several thousand at most. The serious contenders for power in non-Kurdish Iraq are the Shiite majority and the Sunni minority. As for an Al Qaeda-led totalitarian caliphate stretching from Baghdad to Jakarta, the idea was so outlandish that for days after the speech it went almost undiscussed, pro or con. What is more, the Shiites and the Sunnis, blurred into one menace by the President, are historic rivals and, in Iraq right now, mortal enemies (with the United States weirdly fighting on the Shiite side). Would a globe-spanning Sunni "caliphate" have the bomb? Or would it be the rival, Shiite, Iranian empire? Or maybe both?
Bush supplied no factual material for answering these questions. Instead, he summoned the ghosts of Hitler and Lenin back onto the historical stage. Hadn't the world "ignored Hitler's words" and wound up with "millions in the gas chambers" and a "world aflame"? And hadn't the world overlooked the pronouncements of Lenin in Zurich, and let him "establish an empire" that "killed tens of millions and brought the world to the brink of thermonuclear war"? So it would be with Osama, who now implicitly was menacing the world not only with a multinational totalitarian empire, genocide and world war but also with a thermonuclear holocaust.
With these stakes on the table, who would bother to take notice of the deaths of a few thousand American soldiers or even some few hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed in Iraq? Shortly, indeed, in a phrase that summed up the new strategy, Bush described that war as "just a comma" in history's grand sweep.
Such was the fare that the Bush Administration was offering as the election season began in September. The strategy had a historical pedigree that certainly was much on the minds of both parties. In 1972 Senator George McGovern had run against Richard Nixon on an anti-Vietnam War platform. At that time, too, a constitutional crisis was brewing--the one that turned into Watergate and Nixon's resignation of the presidency. The public agreed with McGovern about the war, yet returned Nixon to office in a landslide. It seemed that even as voters understood that the war at hand was a disaster, they didn't want to apply any lessons from the war to foreign policy as a whole. And so McGovern was successfully labeled "weak" and "soft"--a stain that the Democratic Party has tried to rub off for the past thirty-four years and still has not adequately dealt with. Indeed, calling Democrats weak and soft on this, that or the other thing became the stock in trade of Republicans for this entire period, including, of course, the 2002 and 2004 elections, and arguably was the chief reason for their successes.
Searching for a Rallying Point
Still, the unpopularity of the war in Iraq had left a gap in the formula that needed to be filled. For electoral purposes, the President's "caliphate" speech (he returned to the bizarre theme a few times in later statements, then dropped it) amounted to a framework without a content, a kind of splendid platter with no food on it. ("Stop the caliphate!" would make a bewildering bumper sticker.) Some specific rallying point for the campaign was needed, some concrete proposal related to the war on terror, but not to Iraq, on which Republicans would vote yea, the Democrats nay and the voters would side with the Republicans. Two candidates were found. One was the disclosure by the New York Times of the warrantless wiretapping of calls between Americans and foreigners, a program Bush had ordered in secret. This was in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, passed by Congress in 1978, which set up a system requiring warrants for all such taps. Before the order's disclosure, Bush had flatly lied to the public about its existence. In April 2004 he had said, "Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires--a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution." But when his new program was revealed and he was caught out in his lie, Bush, instead of expressing contrition, went on the offensive, asserting that it was not his act but the Times's decision to reveal it that was "shameful" and announcing that he had not only ordered the warrantless wiretapping program but renewed the order some thirty times. The Administration's political calculation was that any public concern about his lying and secret lawbreaking would be trumped by its fear of terrorism. Karl Rove duly included a defense of the warrantless wiretapping in his election-year blueprint in January.
A pattern had been established. Actions taken in pursuit of the war on terror but in violation of the law would be exploited for political advantage.
The second and more significant candidate concerned the handling of detainees, including their abuse and torture. In the unfolding constitutional struggle, the Supreme Court, though containing a majority of Republican-appointed Justices, had struck out on an independent course in a series of decisions. In the case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the Court ruled that the President had no right to designate someone an "enemy combatant" on his own authority but must accept the participation of courts in the matter. It was this decision that produced Sandra Day O'Connor's memorable declaration that "a state of war is not a blank check for the President." In Rasul v. Bush, the Court ruled that detainees at Guantánamo must be granted habeas corpus rights. Finally, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the most important and sweeping of the decisions, the Court ruled that military tribunals that Bush had set up on his own, self-granted authority were unconstitutional. In arriving at this decision, the Court set forth a wholesale rejection of Bush's aggrandizement of his own powers. The Bush order had placed the detainees outside any existing framework of law, domestic or international. Now the Court ruled that he had no authority to set up the tribunals independent of Congress--thus restoring a traditional check on executive power. Second, it declared that, contrary to Administration claims, the rules for treatment of detainees contained in the Geneva Conventions applied to detainees in the war on terror. In other words, international law applied. Third, it ruled that "the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction," including the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which forbids torture as well as "cruel and unusual punishments." So domestic law applied too. It was by now well-known that in a program ordered by Bush, the CIA had used waterboarding and other tortures and abuses, all of which, though not mentioned specifically by the Court, now had presumably been forbidden by its decision.
When the Hamdan decision came down, many liberal hats were thrown in the air. But where liberals saw judicial rout, the White House again saw political opportunity. (Others, including David Brooks of the New York Times, agreed that the abuse issue could be used by the Republicans to gain advantage.) Now an extraordinary chapter in American politics began to unfold. According to the Supreme Court, the President had committed grossly unconstitutional acts. If anyone cared to notice, he had almost certainly committed impeachable offenses as well.
Constitutional rulings, not impeachments, are the business of the Supreme Court, but in the wake of its rulings, it was clear that the case that the President, even if judged by the strictest standards, has committed impeachable offenses was greatly strengthened. Articles of impeachment were drawn up against President Richard Nixon for illegal wiretapping and for lying to the public. Ordering torture and other abuses in secret, with self-given authority, would appear to fall even more clearly into the category of impeachable "high crimes and misdemeanors." The legality of a war based on false evidence of danger, though not addressed by the Court, must be considered another prime candidate. But impeachment is a political process par excellence, and the fact is that a will to impeach President Bush, though increasing among the public, is still very weak in Congress, where impeachment must take place. Certainly one of the prime reasons for this is that the less drastic remedy for abuses, an election, is at hand. And one of the peculiarities of the present moment is that abuses for which impeachment of the President is the logical response are now to be faced by the oblique method of an election of members of Congress.
Yet once again, Bush, rather than expressing regret, or even defending himself, went on the attack. In obedience to the strategy of drawing a distinction between Republicans and Democrats on a non-Iraq issue relating to terrorism, he sought to make just these abuses, including the practice of torture, the core of his party's appeal in the Congressional election. If successful, it would be as if when President Nixon had been accused of illegal wiretapping, lying and obstruction of justice, he had, instead of being subjected to articles of impeachment and thrown out of office, beaten the charge by muscling Congress into legislative complicity with his high crimes and then gone on to lead his party to victory in the next Congressional elections. (In actuality, of course, the Democrats won in a landslide in 1974.)
Torture as Politics
Bush placed the detainee issue, with its de facto defense of torture, at the center of his attack. The White House hastened to send a bill to Congress before its adjournment so that the necessary distinction between the parties' votes could be dramatized in the campaign. In a press conference, the President pinpointed the heart of the issue. Whatever Congress did, it must protect "the program." The program was the CIA program he had ordered in which forms of torture, such as waterboarding, had been practiced. ("Unfortunately," he said, "the recent Supreme Court decision put the future of this program in question. That's another reason I went to Congress. We need this legislation to save it.")
If anyone doubted that Bush was standing up for the practice of torture (though of course without embracing the word "torture"), those doubts should have been put to rest by the following infamous exchange between him and NBC journalist Matt Lauer.
Lauer: But it's been reported that with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, he was what they call waterboarded.Bush: Um, I'm not going to talk about techniques that we use on people. One reason why is because we don't want the enemy to adjust. The American people need to know we are using techniques within the law to protect 'em.
The President of the United States, given a chance to repudiate the practice of a form of torture, refused to comment. Apparently, the need to keep suspects confused regarding the degradations that awaited them was more important than the American people's right to know what outrages were being committed in their name.
But were the White House political strategists right? Would de facto advocacy of torture be an election-year winner? A debate followed. A phalanx of retired military leaders came out in favor of continued observance of the Geneva Conventions and against the abuses. So did Colin Powell. Unexpectedly, a trio of gallant-seeming Republican senators--Lindsey Graham, John Warner and John McCain--put up a fight against the White House. That resistance temporarily spoiled the political strategy, for a wedge between Republicans and Democrats had been wanted, not a wedge between two Republican camps. But as all the world knows, the trio folded, and the bills that passed in Congress, with the support of a sizable minority of Democrats in both houses (apparently fearful that Rove's electoral strategy would succeed), gave the White House almost all it wanted. Habeas corpus was denied to detainees; no appeal by prisoners to federal courts would be allowed. (Senator Arlen Specter said the denial of habeas corpus set back the rule of law "900 years," to the time before the signing of the Magna Carta. Then he voted for the bill.) No citation of the Geneva Conventions as a defense against abuses would be permitted. Violations of the law committed by officials, including the President, would be forgiven retroactively.
No sooner had this torture-baited electoral trap been set by the Congressional vote than it was sprung. The Republican Party stood up as one to accuse the Democrats of being soft on terrorists. Speaker of the House Denny Hastert charged that the Democrats were "in favor of more rights for terrorists," whom they wanted "coddled." (What the Democrats who voted for the bill were really soft on, really coddling, was the Bush Administration.) Republican House majority leader John Boehner found it "outrageous" that the Democrats "continue to oppose giving President Bush the tools he needs to protect our country." Soon Bush joined the chorus, charging that "five years after 9/11, Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing." Then he once again sounded the familiar refrain that the Democrats were the "party of cut and run."
Acampaign fought out on this ground would at least have had the virtue of revolving around the questions that are actually the most important this year. For the torture question really does, in addition to its immense intrinsic importance, roll into one package many or most of the key features of the crisis of the Republic. There is the establishment of a globe-spanning system of secret offshore concentration camps, including those in "the program," serviced by CIA Gulfstream jets ferrying sedated, hogtied abductees from one place to another--say, from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to Guantánamo, or, as in one case, from Stockholm to Cairo. There was also the concentration of power in the executive, already mentioned. There was the abdication by Congress of its checking and balancing in obedience to Republican Party fiat, leaving the executive to do what it wanted unhampered or, when Congress was called on to act by the Supreme Court, passing compliant legislation. There was the many-sided assault on the rule of law, domestic and international. There was the assault on basic rights and the separation of powers in the name of the war on terror. There was the brutalization and the flouting of ordinary human decency by the highest officials, exemplified by the torture itself--and, to give just one other example, by the President's comments on the Geneva Conventions' prohibition on "outrages upon personal dignity." "It's very vague," he said in a mocking tone. "What does that mean, 'outrages upon human [sic] dignity'?"
In the form of the Congressional detainee bill, the crisis of the Republic thus did in fact move, just it should have, to the center of the election of 2006. But the opposition, still cowed by Rove's strategy, had scarcely dared to raise the issue. The malefactors had done so.
As it happened, however, at just the moment that this crucial debate was about to be joined (or might have been joined if the Democrats had been ready to take a stand), the media kaleidoscope twirled, and an item that Rove never wanted to see anywhere near the "agenda" flooded the media. This of course was the story of Congressman Mark Foley's salacious messages to House pages and the House Republican leadership's history of failure to stop the abuse. And then the kaleidoscope twirled again, and in a replacement of the trivial with the apocalyptic, North Korea's atomic test eclipsed Foley's follies. Everyone started saying that the President's voice had grown inaudible. For the time being, events had jostled the big megaphone from his hands.
By now, what is uppermost in the minds of the voters--as distinct from the news media--or what will be uppermost by election day, is hard to say. But let the record show that as the election season began, the leaders of the Republican Party, in charge of both the presidency and Congress, were trying to turn the election into a referendum on torture, which they favored. And let voters remember that record on November 7, when by pulling the right lever in the voting booth they can throw this party out of office.

Friday, October 27, 2006



But...This is just way too good not to share witheveryone...
This is a re-post from Ralph Nader's myspase bulletin:
"If you think the worst thing Congress doesn't protectyoung people from is Mark Foley, wake up and smell theburning planet. The ice caps are cracking, the coralreefs are bleaching, and we're losing two species anhour. The birds have bird flu, the cows have mad cow,and our poisoned groundwater has turned spinach into aside dish of mass destruction. Our schools areshooting galleries, our beaches are cancer wards, andunder George W. Bush -- for the first time in 45 years-- our country's infant mortality rate actually wentup.Read the labels on your food. It turns out thehealthiest thing you can put in your body is MarkFoley's penis. He was probably the first fruit thosepages ever came into contact with that wasn't drenchedin pesticide.But that's America for you -- a red herring culture,always scared of the wrong things. The fact is, thereare a lot of creepy middle-aged men out there lustingfor your kids. They work for MTV, the pharmaceuticalindustry, McDonald's, Marlboro and K Street. Andrecently, there's been a rash of strangers makingtheir way onto school campuses and targeting ourchildren for death. They're called militaryrecruiters.More young Americans were crippled in Iraq last monththan in any month in the past three years. And thescandal is that Mark Foley wants to show them a goodtime before they go? When will our closeted gaycongressmen learn? Our boys aren't for pleasure.They're for cannon fodder. They shouldn't be anothernotch on your bedpost. They should be a comma inBush's war. If I hear a zipper, it had better be on abody bag.Why aren't Democrats and the media hammering awayevery day about who we're supposed to be fighting forover there and what the plan is. Yes, Mark Foley waswrong to ask teenagers how long their penises were --but at least someone on Capitol Hill was askingquestions. We're the predators. Because we have anentire economy built on asking young people what theywant, making the cheapest, sleaziest form of itthey'll accept, and selling it to them until theychoke on it and die.You know who's grabbing your kids at too young an age?Merck, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, by convincing youthey're depressed, hyperactive or suffering fromattention-deficit disorder and so they must all getmedicated. The drug dealers hooking your kids aren'tin South America, they're in the halls of Congresshanding out campaign donations to your congressmen.Mark Foley says he never slept with those kids, and Ibelieve him, because American children are so hoppedup on pills I doubt any of them could get it up.From 1995 to 2002, the number of children prescribedantipsychotic drugs increased by over 400 percent.Either our children are going insane -- which we mightlook on as a problem -- or, more likely, we have, forprofit, created a nation of little junkies. So stopalready with the righteous moral indignation aboutpredators -- this whole country is trying to getinside your kid's pants because that's where he keepsthe money Daddy gave him to stay out of his hair.I don't care if Mark Foley had been asking boys todescribe their penises because I have some sad newsfor you: Your kid is so larded out on Cheetos andYoo-hoo, he can't even see his penis. We live in acountry where the ultimate consumer is an obese16-year-old hooked up at one end to a Big Gulp and atthe other to a PlayStation. So many of our kids todayare fat drug addicts, it's almost as if Rush Limbaughhad had puppies.In conclusion, we can pretend that the biggest threatto "our children" is some creep on the Internet, or wecan admit it's Mom and Dad. When your son can't findFrance on a map, or touch his toes with his hands, orunderstand that the ads on TV are lying -- includingthe one in which the Marine turns into Lancelot --then the person fucking him is you."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Anti-Genocide Activists,
Tonight, CBS’ “60 Minutes” will air a report by journalist Scott Pelley about the continuing genocide in Darfur — along with the remarkable story of a boy’s schoolbooks found in the ashes of his burned home.
Pelley, denied a visa by Sudan, sneaks across the border from Chad in search of the boy, swept into the heart of the first genocide of the twenty-first century.
Watch a preview of the report.
The episode will air tonight at 7:00 PM Eastern/Pacific. For more information, check the CBS website.
A Call to Action
We hope that this report inspires you to continue advocating for the people of Darfur. On Tuesday, you’ll have an excellent opportunity, as we join with Africa Action, American Jewish World Service and the Darfur Rehabilitation Project in a national call-in day for Darfur.
On Tuesday, help us tie up all 1,000 White House phone lines for one hour to show our dedication to an effective UN peacekeeping force in Darfur. Please reserve just a few minutes between 12 noon and 1:00 PM Eastern (9:00 and 10:00 AM Pacific) on Tuesday and call (202) 456-1414.
We’ll remind you again on Tuesday — but please mark your calendar!
Sam Bell, Director of Advocacy, Genocide Intervention Network


From Genocide intervention Network
Violence continues in North Darfur where government aircrafts dropped bombs killing an eight-year-old child. In El Fasher, Janjaweed fighters clashed with members of the former rebel Sudanese Liberation Movement. Clashes crossed the border into Chad, where at least 10 villages have been attacked in the last two weeks. Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir, unyielding to international pressure, renewed his refusal of the employment of a UN peacekeeping force during US Special Envoy Andrew Natsios' visit to Sudan. Members of the rebel National Redemption Front say they are prepared to begin new peace talks, in hopes of gaining autonomy for the Darfur region.

The crisis in Darfur continues in North Darfur where, the United Nations reports, a government aircraft dropped bombs
killing an eight-year-old boy. Further trouble occurred in El Fasher where Janjaweed fighters and members of Mini Minawi's rebel Sudanese Liberation Movement clashed.

Such recent violence has left refugees in Darfur
requesting greater protection. Additional protection from the Janjaweed is also needed for civilians in eastern Chad, says Amnesty International. In the past two weeks at least 10 villages of Chad have been attacked leaving over 100 dead and 3,000 displaced, say UN officials.

An UN report states that
malnutrition levels have largely stabilized in Sudan, warning nevertheless, that increased insecurity has dramatically reduced the number of families who can reach food aid centres. Aid flow and aid workers themselves are still facing insecurity threats evidenced by the arrest of two aid workers in southern Sudan as well as an armed attempt to break into an NGO compound in West Darfur.

Jan Pronk, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, reports that the government of Sudan has
lost two recent battles against National Rebel Front (NRF) rebels in the towns of Umm Sidir and Karakaya. The Sudanese government is reportedly responding military defeats and low soldier morale by mobilizing additional armed forces.


Tuesday: National Call-In Day for Darfur
Call President Bush on United Nations Day for Darfur
— Tuesday, Oct. 24!
Help us tie up all 1,000 lines at the White House for a whole hour. Call (202) 456-1414. If you have trouble getting through to the switchboard, help us fill up the White House voicemail by calling the comment line at (202) 456-1111.
"President Bush, Today, on United Nations Day, we are calling for you to put Darfur at the top of the U.S.'s agenda at the Security Council. The U.S. has the power to protect. Move beyond words to take action to stop genocide in Darfur by implementing UN Resolution 1706."
Sign a Companion Petition on Darfur from Africa Action

Friday, October 20, 2006


Some Things You Need to Know Before the World Ends

Thursday, 19 October 2006
by William Blum

The jingo bells are ringing"Who really poses the greatest danger to world peace: Iraq, North Korea or the United States?" asked Time magazine in an online poll in early 2003, shortly before the US invasion of Iraq. The final results were: North Korea 6.7%, Iraq 6.3%, the United States 86.9%; 706,842 total votes cast.[1] Imagine that following North Korea's recent underground nuclear test neither the United States nor any other government cried out that the sky was falling. No threat to world peace and security was declared by the White House or any other house. It was thus not the lead story on every radio and TV broadcast and newspaper page one. The UN Security Council did not unanimously condemn it. Nor did NATO. "What should we do about him?" was not America Online's plaintive all-day headline alongside a photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Who would have known about the explosion, even if it wasn't baby-sized? Who would have cared? But because all this fear mongering did in fact take place, was able to pose the question -- "North Korea's Nuclear Threat: Is It Time For An International Economic Blockade To Make Them Stop?" -- and hence compile a 93% "yes" vote. It doesn't actually take too much to win hearts and mindless. Media pundit Ben Bagdikian once wrote: "While it is impossible for the media to tell the population what to think, they do tell the public what to think about."

So sometime in the future, the world might, or might not, have nine states possessing nuclear weapons instead of eight. So what? Do you know of all the scary warnings the United States issued about a nuclear-armed Soviet Union? A nuclear-armed China? And the non-warnings about a nuclear-armed Israel? There were no scary warnings or threats against ally Pakistan for the nuclear-development aid it gave to North Korea a few years ago, and Washington has been busy this year enhancing the nuclear arsenal of India, events which the world has paid little attention to, because the United States did not mount a campaign to tell the world to worry. There's still only one country that's used nuclear weapons on other people, but we're not given any warnings about them. In 2005, Secretary of War Rumsfeld, commenting about large Chinese military expenditures, said: "Since no nation threatens China, one wonders: Why this growing investment?"[2] The following year, when asked if he believed the Venezuelans' contention that their large weapons buildup was strictly for defense, Rumsfeld replied: "I don't know of anyone threatening Venezuela - anyone in this hemisphere."[3] Presumably, the honorable secretary, if asked, would say that no one threatens North Korea either. Or Iran. Or Syria. Or Cuba. He may even believe this. However, beginning with the Soviet Union, as one country after another joined the nuclear club, Washington's ability to threaten them or coerce them declined, which is of course North Korea's overriding reason for trying to become a nuclear power; or Iran's if it goes that route. Undoubtedly there are some in the Bush administration who are not unhappy about the North Korean test. A nuclear North Korea with a "crazy" leader serves as a rationale for policies the White House is pursuing anyway, like anti-missile systems, military bases all over the map, ever-higher military spending, and all the other nice things a respectable empire bent on world domination needs. And of course, important elections are imminent and getting real tough with looney commies always sells well.Did I miss something or is there an international law prohibiting only North Korea from testing nuclear weapons? And just what is the danger? North Korea, even if it had nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and there's no evidence that it does, is of course no threat to attack anyone with them. Like Iraq under Saddam Hussein, North Korea is not suicidal.And just for the record, contrary to what we've been told a million times, there's no objective evidence that North Korea invaded South Korea on that famous day of June 25, 1950. The accusations came only from the South Korean and US governments, neither being a witness to the event, neither with the least amount of credible impartiality. No, the United Nations observers did not observe the invasion. Even more important, it doesn't really matter much which side was the first to fire a shot or cross the border on that day because whatever happened was just the latest incident in an already-ongoing war of several years.[4]

Operation Because We Can. Captain Ahab had his Moby Dick. Inspector Javert had his Jean Valjean. The United States has its Fidel Castro. Washington also has its Daniel Ortega. For 27 years, the most powerful nation in the world has found it impossible to share the Western Hemisphere with one of its poorest and weakest neighbors, Nicaragua, if the country's leader was not in love with capitalism. From the moment the Sandinista revolutionaries overthrew the US-supported Somoza dictatorship in 1979, Washington was concerned about the rising up of that long-dreaded beast -- "another Cuba". This was war. On the battlefield and in the voting booths. For almost 10 years, the American proxy army, the Contras, carried out a particularly brutal insurgency against the Sandinista government and its supporters. In 1984, Washington tried its best to sabotage the elections, but failed to keep Sandinista leader Ortega from becoming president. And the war continued. In 1990, Washington's electoral tactic was to hammer home the simple and clear message to the people of Nicaragua: If you re-elect Ortega all the horrors of the civil war and America's economic hostility will continue. Just two months before the election, in December 1989, the United States invaded Panama for no apparent reason acceptable to international law, morality, or common sense (The United States naturally called it "Operation Just Cause"); one likely reason it was carried out was to send a clear message to the people of Nicaragua that this is what they could expect, that the US/Contra war would continue and even escalate, if they re-elected the Sandinistas.It worked; one cannot overestimate the power of fear, of murder, rape, and your house being burned down. Ortega lost, and Nicaragua returned to the rule of the free market, striving to roll back the progressive social and economic programs that had been undertaken by the Sandinistas. Within a few years widespread malnutrition, wholly inadequate access to health care and education, and other social ills, had once again become a widespread daily fact of life for the people of Nicaragua.Each presidential election since then has pitted perennial candidate Ortega against Washington's interference in the process in shamelessly blatant ways. Pressure has been regularly exerted on certain political parties to withdraw their candidates so as to avoid splitting the conservative vote against the Sandinistas. US ambassadors and visiting State Department officials publicly and explicitly campaign for anti-Sandinista candidates, threatening all kinds of economic and diplomatic punishment if Ortega wins, including difficulties with exports, visas, and vital family remittances by Nicaraguans living in the United States. In the 2001 election, shortly after the September 11 attacks, American officials tried their best to tie Ortega to terrorism, placing a full-page ad in the leading newspaper which declared, among other things, that: "Ortega has a relationship of more than thirty years with states and individuals who shelter and condone international terrorism."[5] That same year a senior analyst in Nicaragua for the international pollsters Gallup was moved to declare: "Never in my whole life have I seen a sitting ambassador get publicly involved in a sovereign country's electoral process, nor have I ever heard of it."[6] Additionally, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) -- which would like the world to believe that it's a private non-governmental organization, when it's actually a creation and an agency of the US government -- regularly furnishes large amounts of money and other aid to organizations in Nicaragua which are opposed to the Sandinistas. The International Republican Institute (IRI), a long-time wing of NED, whose chairman is Arizona Senator John McCain, has also been active in Nicaragua creating the Movement for Nicaragua, which has helped organize marches against the Sandinistas. An IRI official in Nicaragua, speaking to a visiting American delegation in June of this year, equated the relationship between Nicaragua and the United States to that of a son to a father. "Children should not argue with their parents." she said.With the 2006 presidential election in mind, one senior US official wrote in a Nicaraguan newspaper last year that should Ortega be elected, "Nicaragua would sink like a stone". In March, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, the US Ambassador to the UN under Reagan and a prime supporter of the Contras, came to visit. She met with members of all the major Sandinista opposition parties and declared her belief that democracy in Nicaragua "is in danger" but that she had no doubt that the "Sandinista dictatorship" would not return to power. The following month, the American ambassador in Managua, Paul Trivelli, who openly speaks of his disapproval of Ortega and the Sandinista party, sent a letter to the presidential candidates of conservative parties offering financial and technical help to unite them for the general election of November 5. The ambassador stated that he was responding to requests by Nicaraguan "democratic parties" for US support in their mission to keep Daniel Ortega from a presidential victory. The visiting American delegation reported: "In a somewhat opaque statement Trivelli said that if Ortega were to win, the concept of governments recognizing governments wouldn't exist anymore and it was a 19th century concept anyway. The relationship would depend on what his government put in place." One of the fears of the ambassador likely has to do with Ortega talking of renegotiating CAFTA, the trade agreement between the US and Central America, so dear to the hearts of corporate globalizationists.Then, in June, US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said it was necessary for the Organization of American States (OAS) to send a mission of Electoral Observation to Nicaragua "as soon as possible" so as to "prevent the old leaders of corruption and communism from attempting to remain in power" (though the Sandinistas have not occupied the presidency, only lower offices, since 1990). The explicit or implicit message of American pronouncements concerning Nicaragua is often the warning that if the Sandinistas come back to power, the horrible war, so fresh in the memory of Nicaraguans, will return. The London Independent reported in September that "One of the Ortega billboards in Nicaragua was spray-painted 'We don't want another war'. What it was saying was that if you vote for Ortega you are voting for a possible war with the US."[7] Per capita income in Nicaragua is $900 a year; some 70% of the people live in poverty. It is worth noting that Nicaragua and Haiti are the two nations in the Western Hemisphere that the United States has intervened in the most, from the 19th century to the 21st, including long periods of occupation. And they are today the two poorest in the hemisphere, wretchedly so.

Don't look back. The cartoon awfulness of the Bush crime syndicate's foreign policy is enough to make Americans nostalgic for almost anything that came before. And as Bill Clinton parades around the country and the world associating himself with "good" causes, it's enough to evoke yearnings in many people on the left who should know better. So here's a little reminder of what Clinton's foreign policy was composed of. Hold on to it in case Lady Macbeth runs in 2008 and tries to capitalize on lover boy's record.

Yugoslavia: The United States played the principal role during the 1990s in the destruction of this nation, republic by republic, the low point of which was 78 consecutive days of terrible bombing of the population in 1999. No, it was not an act of "humanitarianism". It was pure imperialism, corporate globalization, getting rid of "the last communist government in Europe", keeping NATO alive by giving it a function after the end of the Cold War. There was no moral issue behind US policy. The ousted Yugoslav leader, Slobodan Milosevic, is routinely labeled "authoritarian" (Compared to whom? To the Busheviks?), but that had nothing to do with it. The great exodus of the people of Kosovo resulted from the bombing, not Serbian "ethnic cleansing"; and while saving Kosovars the Clinton administration was servicing Turkish ethnic cleansing of Kurds. NATO admitted (sic) to repeatedly and deliberately targeting civilians; amongst other war crimes.[8] Somalia: The 1993 intervention was presented as a mission to help feed the starving masses. But the US soon started taking sides in the clan-based civil war and tried to rearrange the country's political map by eliminating the dominant warlord, Mohamed Aidid, and his power base. On many occasions, US helicopters strafed groups of Aidid's supporters or fired missiles at them; missiles were fired into a hospital because of the belief that Aidid's forces had taken refuge there; also a private home, where members of Aidid's political movement were holding a meeting; finally, an attempt by American forces to kidnap two leaders of Aidid's clan resulted in a horrendous bloody battle. This last action alone cost the lives of more than a thousand Somalis, with many more wounded.It's questionable that getting food to hungry people was as important as the fact that four American oil giants held exploratory rights to large areas of Somali land and were hoping that US troops would put an end to the prevailing chaos which threatened their highly expensive investments.[9]Ecuador: In 2000, downtrodden Indian peasants rose up once again against the hardships of US/IMF globalization policies, such as privatization. The Indians were joined by labor unions and some junior military officers and their coalition forced the president to resign. Washington was alarmed. American officials in Quito and Washington unleashed a blitz of threats against Ecuadorian government and military officials. And that was the end of the Ecuadorian revolution.[10] Sudan: The US deliberately bombed and destroyed a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum in 1998 in the stated belief that it was a plant for making chemical weapons for terrorists. In actuality, the plant produced about 90 percent of the drugs used to treat the most deadly illnesses in that desperately poor country; it was reportedly one of the biggest and best of its kind in Africa. And had no connection to chemical weapons.[11] Sierra Leone: In 1998, Clinton sent Jesse Jackson as his special envoy to Liberia and Sierra Leone, the latter being in the midst of one of the great horrors of the 20th century -- an army of mostly young boys, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), going around raping and chopping off people's arms and legs. African and world opinion was enraged against the RUF, which was committed to protecting the diamond mines they controlled. Liberian president Charles Taylor was an indispensable ally and supporter of the RUF and Jackson was an old friend of his. Jesse was not sent to the region to try to curtail the RUF's atrocities, nor to hound Taylor about his widespread human rights violations, but instead, in June 1999, Jackson and other American officials drafted entire sections of an accord that made RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, the vice president of Sierra Leone, and gave him official control over the diamond mines, the country's major source of wealth.[12] Iraq: Eight more years of the economic sanctions which Clinton's National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, called "the most pervasive sanctions every imposed on a nation in the history of mankind",[13] absolutely devastating every aspect of the lives of the Iraqi people, particularly their health; truly a weapon of mass destruction.Cuba: Eight more years of economic sanctions, political hostility, and giving haven to anti-Castro terrorists in Florida. In 1999, Cuba filed a suit against the United States for $181.1 billion in compensation for economic losses and loss of life during the first forty years of this aggression. The suit holds Washington responsible for the death of 3,478 Cubans and the wounding and disabling of 2,099 others. Only the imperialist powers have the ability to enforce sanctions and are therefore always exempt from them.As to Clinton's domestic policies, keep in mind those two beauties: The "Effective death penalty Act" and the "Welfare Reform Act". And let's not forget the massacre at Waco, Texas.

Three billion years from amoebas to Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security would like to remind passengers that you may not take any liquids onto the plane. This includes ice cream, as the ice cream will melt and turn into a liquid."This was actually heard by one of my readers at the Atlanta Airport recently; he laughed out loud. He informs me that he didn't know what was more bizarre, that such an announcement was made or that he was the only person that he could see who reacted to its absurdity.[14] This is the way it is with societies of people. Like with the proverbial frog who submits to being boiled to death in a pot of water if the water is heated very gradually, people submit to one heightened absurdity and indignation after another if they're subjected to them at a gradual enough rate. That's one of the most common threads one finds in the personal stories of Germans living in the Third Reich. This airport story is actually an example of an absurdity within an absurdity. Since the "bomb made from liquids and gels" story was foisted upon the public, several chemists and other experts have pointed out the technical near-impossibility of manufacturing such a bomb in a moving airplane, if for no other reason than the necessity of spending at least an hour or two in the airplane bathroom.
[1] Time European edition online:
[2] Washington Post, June 4, 2005
[3] Associated Press, October 3, 2006
[4] William Blum, Killing Hop: US Military & CIA Interventions Since World War II (2004), chapter 5
[5] Nicaragua Network (Washington, DC), October 29, 2001 -- and New York Times, November 4, 2001, p.3
[6] Miami Herald, October 29, 2001
[7] The remainder of the section on Nicaragua is derived primarily from The Independent (London), September 6, 2006, and "2006 Nicaraguan Elections and the US Government Role. Report of the Nicaragua Network delegation to investigate US intervention in the Nicaraguan elections of November 2006" -- also: "List of interventions by the United States government in Nicaragua's democratic process." --
[8] Michael Parenti, "To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia" (2000)Diana Johnstone, "Fool's Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions" (2002) William Blum, "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower" (2005), see "Yugoslavia" in index.
[9]Rogue State, pp. 204-5
[10] Ibid., pp. 212-3
[11] William Blum, "Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire", chapter 7
[12] Ryan Lizza, "Where angels fear to tread", New Republic, July 24, 2000
[13] White House press briefing, November 14, 1997, US Newswire transcript
[14] Story related to me by Jack Muir