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Lest we forget Iraq

Hi. Yasir Assam emailed me this piece, his debut for Webdiary. "I'm a freelance software developer living northern NSW," he wrote. "'m British, of Iraqi origin and a permanent resident. I'm not a professional writer, commentator, intellectual, academic or otherwise "qualified" to write serious articles, but I hope that doesn't make my piece less worthy of consideration." Certainly not!

Lest we forget Iraq

by Yasir Assam

When you vote in the coming election, how much will morality play when you make your choice?

I hear a lot about who’s better at managing tax, employment, health, education and so on. I refer to these as “practical” issues, every day issues that affect “me” the average voter, and in deciding which party is better at dealing with them, the question is largely one of self-interest.

Self-interest is fine, but what about morality? What about the issues that don’t necessarily affect me or my family directly? The assault on civil liberties and due legal process, the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, the treatment of Indigenous Australians, the effect that global warming will have on future generations (especially the poor abroad) are just some of the moral issues we face. I concede that to some extent all election issues have a moral content, but these latter ones have a much stronger moral flavour than the practical ones I mentioned earlier. I’d like to focus on one moral issue, though the others are no less important.

Australia’s 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was a clear act of unprovoked aggression against a country that posed no imminent threat to Australia or the US. According to recent estimates, 1.2 million Iraqis have met violent deaths since the invasion. We were told it was for WMDs, terrorism and democracy, but it’s clear the main reason for invading is a 3 letter word beginning with O and ending in L, as Alan Greenspan, General Abizaid and Brendan Nelson have admitted. And if their admissions aren’t convincing enough, consider the Iraq Oil Laws which the US have been keen to push through, allowing foreign companies to reap large profits from the massive, high quality, easily extractable and proven oil reserves.

Iraq is often portrayed as a “mess” in the media, implying (by some) that though the cause was noble, the execution was flawed. In other words, we had the moral right to invade, it’s just that those guys (Bush et. al.) were incompetent. But this argument evades the central fact: the invaders knowingly invaded a defenceless nation, without the consent of its people, in order to take control of its resources, leaving death and destruction in their wake. It is the supreme war crime.

What sort of morals does a government have, who are willing to invade a nation and kill countless people in order to control its resources? More importantly, are you willing to vote for them, even if you think their policies benefit you more than those of some other parties?

During the Nuremberg Trials, the Chief American Prosecutor Robert H. Jackson said:

To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole’, where the ‘accumulated evil of the whole’ includes the 1.2 million dead and 4.2 million displaced.

He also said:

We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well’ (my emphasis).

These words were echoed recently by another chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, Benjamin Ferencz, who in 2006 (whilst Saddam was on trial), said that Bush should also stand trial for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Although Australia’s presence in Iraq is minuscule compared with the US, our presence there gives substantial moral support and credibility to the US, and to an extent greater than its share of troops, Australia bears moral responsibility for the crime.

Let’s take a hypothetical situation. Suppose you were a parent able to pick which head teacher your school employed. You find a candidate: he’s a sharp operator, a real whiz. He has a great record from other schools: fantastic grades. But it turns out he’s a serial killer – he kills old ladies. He never murders children – your kids are safe – but he’s unrepentant and likely to kill again. Even though your kids are safe and assured fantastic grades under him, would you employ him, knowing he’s a killer?

Some may think the analogy outlandish or even offensive, but isn’t 1.2 million dead a tad more offensive? That’s murder on an unimaginable scale, and our leaders (with our consent) have participated in it lock, stock and barrel. What’s more, there’s every indication they’ll do the same again (Iran?).

In fact, my analogy doesn’t go far enough: the war in Iraq has undoubtedly increased the threat of terrorism to the very populations (e.g. Australia’s) it was claimed to protect. It has also sent a clear message to the rest of the world that the rules of international law and justice are irrelevant, that the strongest will invade the weakest at will. This unspoken yet clear message will undoubtedly lead to greater tensions internationally and the increase of nuclear proliferation: grim consequences for all of us.

They are war criminals, and whatever good they may (or may not) have done domestically does not lessen the severity of their crime. If we vote for them for any reason, we also share in that crime.

My point is, this one moral issue (and there others) trumps all the practical ones. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the present government really is better at managing the economy than anyone else, we must still not allow these murderous criminals to rule over us and commit crimes in our names. I for one would rather suffer the mother of all recessions than have my leaders spill innocent blood in my name. That’s what taking a moral stand means to me.

The vote was hard-won by our heroic forebears. Let’s not squander our inheritance. Think less what your country can do for you, and more on what its leaders will likely do unto others less fortunate than ourselves.


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All should be equal before the law.

A United Nations report on human rights abuses in Iraq says groups who deliberately target civilians are guilty of crimes against humanity and should be prosecuted.

The report from UNAMI (United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq) accuses Shia and Sunni groups of using suicide bombs and car bombs in a way that makes no distinction between civilians and combatants.

It says such attacks are tantamount to crimes against humanity and violate the laws of war.

The report acknowledges a marked decrease in violence in Iraq, but cautions against a rose-tinted view of the country now.

It highlights numerous instances of intimidation, threats, abduction for ransom, torture, assassination, and massive car and suicide bomb attacks.

Does this mean the NATO use of aerial bombing is a war crime?

Amnesty International is increasingly concerned at the escalating numbers of Afghan civilians killed and injured in the ongoing armed conflict in Afghanistan. In recent weeks scores of civilians have been killed during aerial and land attacks against Taliban insurgency by US, NATO and Afghan forces.

Are the soldiers involved in the killing of civilians going to be charged with war crimes?

American soldiers reportedly opened fire into crowds that had gathered around the scene of the explosion later that day, killing a truck driver and wounding another civilian. A US military spokesperson was reported to have said that the incident was caused by the accidental discharge of a soldierӒs weapon. This is not the first time, however, that American soldiers have let off gunfire in the direction of civilian crowds. On 4 March, following a suicide attack on a US convoy on the Jalalabad Highway in Nangahar province, US troops reportedly opened fire on the road which was packed with civilian cars and pedestrians. Up to16 civilians were killed and at least 24 were wounded.

If international law is to be applied to anyone all should be equal before the law.

Turks surge into Iraq.

Turkey has sent ground troops into Iraq as an escalation of their offensive against PKK guerrillas.

Washington is sharing intelligence with NATO ally Turkey on PKK movements in Iraq. It has urged Ankara to limit the campaign to precise rebel targets and to bring it to a swift conclusion.

Iraq's foreign minister criticised the bombing of several bridges and said Baghdad did not approve of Turkey's offensive.

"This is a limited military incursion into a remote, isolated and uninhabited region. But if it goes on, I think it could destabilise the region because really one mistake could lead to further escalation," Hoshiyar Zebari told the BBC.

The leadership of the largely autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq vowed strong opposition if civilians are attacked.

"Any attack on any citizen in Kurdistan or populated areas will be answered with massive resistance ... and all preparations have been made in this matter," a statement from the presidency of the Kurdish Regional Government said.

How much say did Iraq have in the matter?

On the surge:

Michael Kinsley.

Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail.

How much is it costing?

The Bush Administration was wrong about the benefits of the war and it was wrong about the costs of the war. The president and his advisers expected a quick, inexpensive conflict. Instead, we have a war that is costing more than anyone could have imagined.

The cost of direct US military operations - not even including long-term costs such as taking care of wounded veterans - already exceeds the cost of the 12-year war in Vietnam and is more than double the cost of the Korean War.

And, even in the best case scenario, these costs are projected to be almost ten times the cost of the first Gulf War, almost a third more than the cost of the Vietnam War, and twice that of the First World War. The only war in our history which cost more was the Second World War, when 16.3 million U.S. troops fought in a campaign lasting four years, at a total cost (in 2007 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) of about $5 trillion (that's $5 million million, or £2.5 million million). With virtually the entire armed forces committed to fighting the Germans and Japanese, the cost per troop (in today's dollars) was less than $100,000 in 2007 dollars. By contrast, the Iraq war is costing upward of $400,000 per troop.

Most Americans have yet to feel these costs. The price in blood has been paid by our voluntary military and by hired contractors. The price in treasure has, in a sense, been financed entirely by borrowing. Taxes have not been raised to pay for it - in fact, taxes on the rich have actually fallen. Deficit spending gives the illusion that the laws of economics can be repealed, that we can have both guns and butter. But of course the laws are not repealed. The costs of the war are real even if they have been deferred, possibly to another generation.

Money well, spent, and to be spent. Can't help thinking it could have been much better spent.

Abacus Diabolus

Eliot, I wouldn't dream of belittling Mr Ahmed Hassan Mohammed (well, certainly not to the extent that you belittle Mamdouh Habib).

Assuming he's not another Curveball, I've simply underlined some dissonances between his testimony (as sparingly reported) and the construction that you've placed upon it.

Frankly I wouldn't be surprised at anything that emerged in the course of legal proceedings in which the presumption of innocence was forfeit, and the chief defendant was already the proverbial dead man walking.

It might help the discussion if you were to address those 'dissonances' I've identified, rather than flailing incomprehensibly from Mamdouh Habib to Kurds and Shiites.

Then again, how you comment is your own affair.

Willie Nelson: Bring The Troops Home, Put Them On The Borders?

Ami Goodman and Juan Gonzalez at DemocracyNow! spends an hour fawning over country star Willie Nelson. Willie's all for Farm Aid, biodiesel, outlaw country music, the dropping of marijuana laws and the impeachment of George Bush.

It all sounds pretty good (and the show is entertaining) until he tells the audience that the troops should come home from Iraq and go straight to the Mexican and Canadian borders, to guard America's integrity.... Hoowwee, Wiillee's a boorderline whaackooo!!!

Musical Legend Willie Nelson on Farm Aid, Biodiesel Fuel, Outlaw Country Music, Marijuana Laws, the Impeachment of President Bush, the 9/11 Attacks & More

RealVideo | RealAudio | MP3 Audio

The name Willie Nelson is synonymous with the wide popularity country music enjoys in the United States and around the world. Yet Nelson’s career has very little traces of the conformity that often goes hand-in-hand with such widespread acclaim. No, the “Red Haired Stranger,” as he is known to his fans, has staked his legacy around challenging convention. Musically, he shunned the traditional Nashville country scene by pioneering his own subgenre, known as outlaw country. And over several decades he has been consistently involved in social justice causes.

He co-founded Farm Aid, the annual benefit and awareness-raising concert for small farmers. Nelson has entered environmental entrepreneurship, partnering in a biodiesel plant that fuels trucks with vegetable oil. He has been a vocal advocate for decriminalizing marijuana, co-chairing the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws advisory board. He has voiced support for progressive candidates like Dennis Kucinich, endorsing his run for the presidency in 2004. And he’s been a harsh critic of the Iraq war and the Bush administration, recently calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Advocatus Diabolus

Jacob, I've been thinking about the moral equivalence of 'lawful killing' with that of 'unlawful' killing.

Would an unlawful insurrection by the Shiites against Saddam be morally equivalent in its consequences, if innocent people died, compared to the lawful destruction of Shiite and Kurdish communities by Saddam, where the intended victims were innocent?

If I was being Advocatus Diabolus for Saddam, I'd certainly pursue the 'equivalence' line. It worked for Stalin.


A fine post Jacob. As to intended or unintended victims, if a state engages in acts of or a war of aggression, that is a matter of choice and will result in them committing unlawful killing. I suggest that disqualifies them from making distinctions between intended and unintended victims. Of course demonising their opponent is useful in trying to justify their illegal actions and fiendish devices such as supposed human shredding machines can be useful in this and a diversion from their own fiendish, and, in the examples I previously gave, far more effective devices.

Now for a reminder that some are not the victims of unprovoked actions.  Even of they like to think they are.

Gideon Levy - The Lights Have Been Turned Off.

One after another, the final lights are being turned off, and a moral gloom is falling upon us as we stand at the edge of an abyss. Just last week, three more lights were turned off. The Winograd Report did not come out clearly against the fact that Israel embarked on a pointless war; the Supreme Court authorized collective punishment and the attorney general concluded that the killing of 12 Israeli citizens and someone from the territories by the police does not warrant a trial. The final keepers of order, the lighthouses of justice and law, are reconciling themselves with the most serious injustices of the institutions of authority and no one so much as utters a word about it. The upsetting and depressing crop of a single week has drawn the moral portrait of the country.

Annoying. A torture victim who can still speak for himself

Jacob A. Stam: "So now you want to talk about Habib, do you Eliot? A pity, because we just might have got to the bottom of that human-shredder matter."

Mr Ahmed Hassan Mohammed has seen what's at the bottom of the shredding machine - blood, hair and tissue.

I see no reason to belittle him - even if he hasn't been able to sell his story to the Nine Network for a million bucks.

As for Habib, you can see from the link I provided, he does lots of talking for himself.

But you are correct. You cannot compare the efficiency of one shredding machine in Abu Ghraib (or wherever) with the deliberate gassing of entire villages.

As for the "branch of military 'science' that aims to predict levels of civilian casualties" from bombing, does that distinguish between unintended casualties on the one hand?

And the deliberate targetting of large populations of civilians, as in Saddam's Anfal genocide, on the other?

Missed opportunity

So now you want to talk about Habib, do you Eliot? A pity, because we just might have got to the bottom of that human-shredder matter.

Bob, you wouldn't be alone in drawing parallels between conventional weapons of war and the human-shredder. That is, assuming such a thing existed, about which I'm quite sceptical.

The central claim that cannot be substantiated is that such a thing was used as more or less a 'procedural' method for dispatching opponents of the regime on a day-to-day basis. The vignette in the news report, in which Eliot puts such store, proves nothing of the sort, of course; rather, it begs more questions than it answers.

As an instrument of terror, however, the human-shredding machine might have been quite effective, so it's odd that its purported use was not more widely known (there being, to my knowledge, only two eye-witness accounts of its use). One may also wonder how such horrors only became known around 2003, since the eye-witness testimony at Saddam's trial specifically places the alleged incident in 1982.

But Bob, your comparison with conventional weapons of war falls down, somewhat, when one considers that shredding a human being is an absolutely deliberative act perpetrated against an identifiable victim; whereas carpet bombing, say, a tract of tribal land in Afghanistan will almost certainly yield 'unintended' victims, who yet will conveniently remain anonymous - unless one actually does the body-counts, which as it happens "we don't do".

There's a branch of military 'science' that aims to predict levels of civilian casualties, given defined assumptions about the kind of weaponry 'delivered', the type of terrain, population density, etc. Insert these assumptions into the appropriate formulae and - presto! - all things being equal, you will have a useful estimate of the quantity of collateral damage you can reasonably expect. (We don't dwell on this area of scholarly study, because it would tend to make a nonsense of politicians' earnest prating about 'surgical' bombing/warfare.)

Still, even armed with such godlike knowledge, you are nevertheless statistically absolved of culpability for any given fatality, because you cannot predict just who will be on the business end of any particular bomb you might drop on any particular target zone. Any lingering vestiges of self-doubt are instantly neutralised with an agonised recitation of the mantra: "War is Hell."

What Mamdouh Habib saw in Egypt

Jacob A. Stam: "I'd be most interested in Eliot's views on this, and we really should get to the bottom of it."

I think the eye-witness testimony of Mr Ahmed Hassan Mohammed, which you have most thoughtfully provided, is at least as credible if not more so, than anything said by, for example, Mamdouh Habib.

And we have no trouble believing that, do we?

What could be more efficient ?

Or for that matter, what could be more efficient than chemical weapons, including mustard gas and the nerve agent GB, or Sarin tucked away nice and neat in canisters beneath the wings of specially modified MIG Twenty Fives?

The shredding machine was probably just a toy for Uday to help him calm the jittery nerves of reluctant nurses and kindy teachers on Valentine's Day.

In between handing out oil trading allocations to visiting foreign admirers from the anti-Sanctions arm of the peace movement.

A question of efficiency.

Jacob, on the matter of the alleged human shredding, perhaps some comparisons are in order. How effective would this alleged machine be to an American human shredding machine, for example, a B 52 bomber? 

Or what of other forms of human destruction such as cluster bombs, used by the US and others, which can tear apart bodies after hostilities have ceased? Children are often victims of these diabolical devices. 

Perhaps consideration to much slower methods of destroying bodies, such as the lingering effects of DU munitions. Or chemicals such as Agent Orange. Decade upon decade of human destruction possible with those. 

Human-shredding-machine hysteria

Following from Eliot Ramsey's robust retort ("Finally After Two Years") concerning the human-shredding-machine hysteria I'd raised on the Peak Coal thread, I thought it would be best to carry on the discussion on this thread.

I'm guessing Eliot had been "waiting for over two years" since the appearance of the article he cited.

In that article, Mr Ahmed Hassan Mohammed was relating what he allegedly saw upon being "seized and tortured after a 1982 attempt on [Saddam's] life in the Shiite Muslim town of Dujail."

Thus I'm further guessing that Mr Hassan is recollecting events that occurred over twenty years prior to his testimony, which was in a trial setting in which...

Hassan's testimony brought the charges chillingly to life after chaotic procedural wrangling during which former US attorney-general Ramsey Clark led a defence walkout over threats to the lawyers and a challenge to the legitimacy of the court.

More than twenty years prior, he had allegedly seen "a grinder with blood coming out of it and human hair underneath."

(I have a 'grinder' in my kitchen, but would be hard pressed to pass a human being through it, in the event I'd even want to.)

The originator of the human-shredding machine story, Ann Clwyd in the Spectatorsaid that "male prisoners were dropped into the machine 'designed for shredding plastic' and their minced remains packed into plastic bags before being used as 'fish food'."

So, was this machine something like a common meat-grinder, OR a machine purpose-designed for shredding plastic in industrial applications? Or what?

I'd be most interested in Eliot's views on this, and we really should get to the bottom of it.

Looking to the future...

Maybe the USA and all the others should just get out of Iraq. You know, just let them sort it out amongst themselves. And Afghanistan, too.

Once some new regime is in place in each country, presumably having replaced the elected, western backed regimes currently there in "spontaneous uprisings", we could just pay the new governments hefty reparations and win their affections that way.

Maybe make payments through the Bank of Tehran? Or the Bin Laden Group's holding company?

They have contacts in the region.

If the Kurds don't fit into the picture and get massacred all over again, they'll take it on the chin.

It wouldn't be the first time. And when have the Kurds ever fitted into anyone's picture.

Joseph Stalin had his Kurds exterminated, drawing on his personal experiences with them while Lenin's 'Commissar of Nationalities'.

Anyway, the USA could just adopt the Chinese and North Korean model when dealing with countries in the region.

Censor domestic American media about whatever's going on at any particular moment - and work directly with whichever Pithecanthropine thug that happens to be running the place.

This works fine for China in Sudan and various other parts of Africa, in Iran, for example, and elsewhere. I mean, Chavez does it, too, so how bad could it be?

There'd be other advantages.

The Americans could cut back on military expenditure and they'd become widely loved in the United Nations. They could join the 'Non Aligned Group'.

The, whoever ends up President this November could waffle on in the General Assembly about his or her commitment to the "struggle against global Zionist Imperialism" and some unspecified future "revolution" while maintaining a steady supply of helicopter gunships, nerve gasses and nuclear weapons technology to places like Syria and Kazachstan.

They might even win a Sydney Peace Prize for their efforts.

Kevin Rudd might even want to learn how to speak in English.

Continuing ...

Glenn Greenwald - Republicans have become the credibility- free party.

Stephen Zunes - Behind Obama and Clinton. 

Voters on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party are rightly disappointed by the similarity of the foreign policy positions of the two remaining Democratic Party presidential candidates, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama. However, there are still some real discernable differences to be taken into account. Indeed, given the power the United States has in the world, even minimal differences in policies can have a major difference in the lives of millions of people.

As a result, the kind of people the next president appoints to top positions in national defense, intelligence, and foreign affairs is critical. Such officials usually emerge from among a presidential candidate’s team of foreign policy advisors. So, analyzing who these two finalists for the Democratic presidential nomination have brought in to advise them on international affairs can be an important barometer for determining what kind for foreign policies they would pursue as president. For instance, in the case of the Bush administration, officials like Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle played a major role in the fateful decision to invade Iraq by convincing the president that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat and that American forces would be treated as liberators.

The leading Republican candidates have surrounded themselves with people likely to encourage the next president to follow down a similarly disastrous path. But what about Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton? Who have they picked to help them deal with Iraq war and the other immensely difficult foreign policy decisions that they'll be likely to face as president? 


How some people think(?) - William  Kristol examined. This is Part III of the series - there are links to Parts I and II.

Let's begin by looking at Kristol's treatment of those who opposed his and the administration's neocon fantasy "to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests."  Just two months before Congress was to vote on the Authorization to Use Military Force Against Iraq, and amidst a growing chorus of voices opposing the war, Kristol wrote:

The appeasers don't want the president to do a better job of explaining his policy. They don't agree with his policy...Reading the Scowcroft/New York Times "arguments" against war, one is struck by how laughably weak they are.

So, what were those crazy kids saying to make Kristol laugh?  The New York Times worried about the, "country's volatile mix of Shiites and Sunnis, Arabs and Kurds," while Brent Scowcroft argued that war in Iraq:

...is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism.

The United States could certainly defeat the Iraqi military and destroy Saddam's regime. But it would not be a cakewalk. On the contrary, it undoubtedly would be very expensive -- with serious consequences for the U.S. and global economy -- and could as well be bloody.

At a minimum, it would stifle any cooperation on terrorism, and could even swell the ranks of the terrorists.

And if you ignore the nearly five years of ethnic-cleansing and sectarian violence, the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden's continuing freedom, the $695 billion spent so far, the 3,943 U.S. military deaths and the increase of terrorists worldwide, those arguments were laughably weak.

Now to other matters.

Uri Avnery - From Stalingrad to Winograd.

Saree Makdisi - Strangling Gaza

More for consideratrion in re my SOTU question.

And think about this.

Candidates amd colonisers.

Juan Cole - Blowback from the GOP's holy war.

More on John McCain

An American colony

Review of some Israeli books

Keep this and similar material in mind if you contemplate answering my questions on the SOTU thread. 

Tribal awakening

Paul Morrella says "I can only hope that sanity prevails, and all Iraqis turn their collective backs on these lunatics (whatever religion)."

Oh, they have. Even the Sunnis. In fact, especially the Sunnis who got to deal with the malignant emotional bankrupts first hand.

People Of Good Will Can Only Hope For A Better Future

I thought the recent suicide bombing, and the use of two mentally retarded women as the unsuspecting bombers reaches are particular new low in human endeavour. I can only hope that sanity prevails, and all Iraqis turn their collective backs on these lunatics (whatever religion).

Angela is all heart, isn't she?

Angela Ryan asks:

Hey Eliot ,how is your invasion of Iraq going by the way?

"Dead? Maimed? Infrastructure destroyed? Freedoms? Life quality and expectancy? Ecological damage?  General health levels?  Education opportunities ? Depleted Uranium levels? Oil production? Power and influence increase to Iran and Saudi?  The latter in your Kurdish areas, so nice for the women there..  gee thanks Eliot for your support of that (and thanks says Israel too) and loss of important international allies."

Given your concern for the Kurds, Angela, and I'm sure it's sincere and heart-felt, you might like to read this article.

Apparently the former ruling class in Iraq is upset that the Kurds are getting too uppity and don't seem to know their place.

I know this has been a constant worry for a lot of folk who opposed the overthrow of Saddam's regime.

Any ideas you'd like to share with us about how to move forward?

Normal services resumed.

Having taken a break from this thread to pursue other matters, ie., following up Richard's suggestion that I do a thread on the SOTU*, I return here with material that does not fit that thread (nor Craig's lie list thread) although there will be similar behaviour exampled. Such as the following about two leading contenders for the Crawford Caligula's job:

Stephen Zunes - Hillary Clinton Again Lies about Iraq.

In Thursday night’s
Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton lied again
about Iraq.

At the forum in Los Angeles,
Hillary Clinton

, “We bombed them for days in 1998 because
Saddam Hussein threw out inspectors.”

That statement was totally
false. The bombing campaign had been planned for months and
the inspectors were not thrown out. They were ordered out by
President Bill Clinton in anticipation of the four-day
U.S.-led bombing campaign.

There are other accounts of what happened, so it is advisable to be think (and research and analyse) carefully before being overly impressed with any one account. Particularly if that account comes from someone who is an interested party.  

Justin Raimondo - The Madness of John McCain

McCain’s reputation as a maverick is no recent contrivance. The senator
first captured the media spotlight in September 1983, not long after
he’d been elected to his first term in the House, when he voted against
President Reagan’s decision to put American troops in Lebanon as part
of a multinational “peacekeeping” force. One of 27 Republicans to break
with the White House, the freshman McCain made a floor speech that
reads as if it might have been written yesterday—by Ron Paul:

fundamental question is: What is the United States’ interest in
Lebanon? It is said we are there to keep the peace. I ask, what peace?
It is said we are there to aid the government. I ask, what government?
It is said we are there to stabilize the region. I ask, how can the
U.S. presence stabilize the region?... The longer we stay in Lebanon,
the harder it will be for us to leave. We will be trapped by the case
we make for having our troops there in the first place.

can we expect if we withdraw from Lebanon? The same as will happen if
we stay. I acknowledge that the level of fighting will increase if we
leave. I regretfully acknowledge that many innocent civilians will be
hurt. But I firmly believe this will happen in any event.
Now insert “Iraq” where McCain said “Lebanon.” It’s
as if McCain the Younger foresaw our present predicament and taunted
his future incarnation, showing that wisdom doesn’t necessarily come
with age.

Things change.

To Iraq and there are claims about who perpetrated recent bombings. Again it is advisable to do do some research and not leap on the first account - unless there is an agenda at play. But doubts have been raised. And Chris Floyd on the matter.

Back to an older matter and what did Israel attack last September. And why?

And back even further - an attempt was once made to  discredit Jimmy Carter and his book about an apartheid system being applied by Israel on the Palestinians. Here is another piece on the matter. The footnotes are of particular interest.

*Thanks, Richard. 


Security and justice? Bombs away!

Tom Engelhardt on the little reported US bombing surge in Iraq.

Pepe Escobar - The state of the (Iraqi) union.

Michael Shank - False Sense of Security in Iraq.

Stephen Zunes - Arming the Middle East.

Another signing statement.

President Bush yesterday signed the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after initially rejecting Congress’s first version because it would have allegedly opened the Iraqi government to “expensive lawsuits.”

Even though he forced Congress to change its original bill, Bush’s
signature yesterday came with a little-noticed signing statement,
claiming that provisions in the law “could inhibit the President’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations.” CQ reports on the provisions Bush plans to disregard:

One such provision sets up a commission to probe
contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another expands protections
for whistleblowers who work for government contractors. A third
requires that U.S. intelligence agencies promptly respond to
congressional requests for documents. And a fourth bars funding for permanent bases in Iraq and for any action that exercises U.S. control over Iraq’s oil money.

No limits, constitutional or otherwise, for the Crawford Caligula.

Here is a story set in the US that relates to activities in Iraq. Justice for some, license for others. 

Last week in Currituck County, N.C., Superior Court Judge Russell
Duke presided over the final step in securing the first criminal
conviction stemming from the deadly actions of Blackwater Worldwide,
the Bush administration's favorite mercenary company. Lest you think
you missed some earth-shifting, breaking news, hold on a moment. The
"criminals" in question were not the armed thugs who gunned down 17
Iraqi civilians and wounded more than 20 others in Baghdad's Nisour
Square last September. They were seven nonviolent activists who had the
audacity to stage a demonstration at the gates of Blackwater's
7,000-acre private military base in North Carolina to protest the
actions of mercenaries acting with impunity -- and apparent immunity --
in their names and those of every American.

The arrest of the
activists and the subsequent five days they spent locked up in jail is
more punishment than any Blackwater mercenaries have received for their
deadly actions against Iraqi civilians. "The courts pretend that
adherence to the law is what makes for an orderly and peaceable world,"
said Steve Baggarly, one of the protest organizers. "In fact, U.S. law
and courts stand idly by while the U.S. military and private armies
like Blackwater have killed, maimed, brutalized and destroyed the
livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis."

A matter of priorities. 


Blood and guts.

Tom Engelhardt presents Dahr Jamail on missing Iraqi voices.

From a hospital

On saving Bush's legacy

Just a few items to keep in mind when listening to or reading Bush's State of the Union address. Which, I presume, will be dealt with somewhere. 

Richard:  Bob, why not do a piece on it? 

More crime watch.

They like to claim they are the "good guys", but "goodfellas" is more appropriate.

James K Galbraith on the NATO preemption suggestion

Five former Nato generals, including the former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, John Shalikashvili, have written a "radical manifesto" which states that "the West must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the 'imminent' spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction."

In other words, the generals argue that "the west" - meaning the nuclear powers including the United States, France and Britain - should prepare to use nuclear weapons, not to deter a nuclear attack, not to retaliate following such an attack, and not even to pre-empt an imminent nuclear attack. Rather, they should use them to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons by a non-nuclear state. And not only that, they should use them to prevent the acquisition of biological or chemical weapons by such a state.

Under this doctrine, the US could have used nuclear weapons in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, to destroy that country's presumed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons - stockpiles that did not in fact exist. Under it, the US could have used nuclear weapons against North Korea in 2006. The doctrine would also have justified a nuclear attack on Pakistan at any time prior to that country's nuclear tests in 1998. Or on India, at any time prior to 1974.

The Nuremberg principles are the bedrock of international law on war crimes. Principle VI criminalises the "planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression ..." and states that the following are war crimes:

"Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation of slave labor or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity."

To state the obvious: the use of a nuclear weapon on the military production facilities of a non-nuclear state will mean dropping big bombs on populated areas. Nuclear test sites are kept remote for obvious reasons; research labs, reactors and enrichment facilities need not be. Nuclear bombs inflict total devastation on the "cities, towns or villages" that they hit. They are the ultimate in "wanton destruction". Their use against a state with whom we are not actually at war cannot, by definition, be "justified by military necessity".

"The west" has lived from 1946 to the present day with a nuclear-armed Russia; no necessity of using nuclear weapons against that country ever arose. Similarly with China, since 1964. To attack some new nuclear pretender now would certainly constitute the "waging of a war of aggression ..." That's a crime. And the planning and preparation for such a war is no less a crime than the war itself.

 More on the Edmonds issue.

To Gaza (and related matters):

Uri Avnery.

Sami Moubayed - The Gaza 'tea party'.

Ghada Karmi.

Ramzy Baroud

But it does go on ... and on.

Crime watch.

Defeat in Iraq? The essential problem was the victory of
irrationality over logical behaviour and we are still living
with the consequences.

From Claire Spencer - The acid test

The kind of irrationality and belief-led
approaches that Jonathan Steele's painstaking

depicts have much in common with a book
by another contributor to the Guardian, Francis
Wheen. In

How Mumbo-Jumbo conquered the world: A Short History
of Modern Delusions
, published in 2004, Wheen
charts the widespread retreat in modern politics and
culture from the hard-won achievements of the Age of
Enlightenment. In a series of amusing, yet chilling
accounts, Wheen describes how superstition and an
appeal to the occult have dominated the
decision-making processes of trans-Atlantic
policy-makers since the era of Reagan and Thatcher.

Tarot cards and
personal soothsayers have since been replaced by the
more mainstream, and publicly acceptable, religious
convictions of the authors of the 2003 Iraq
invasion. Yet the essential problem - of
irrationality driving their behaviour - remains.
Misconstrued ventures such as Iraq were almost
entirely devoid of a hard-nosed assessment of the
facts as a necessary precursor to the formulation of
realistic and feasible action linked to achievable
goals. Perhaps worse, in the years since 2003, level
headed logic has continued to play a secondary role
in the all-too-limited attempts to challenge and
correct the past and continuing delusions that Wheen
and Steele describe. We are still cajoled by the
language of fanaticism and barbarism pervading the
planet, as though none of these forces is rooted in
any kind of locally-determined reality.

Until the day he
left office, Tony Blair could see no inconsistency
in reaffirming his personal belief that he had done,
and had continued to do the "right thing" in Iraq
whilst studiously avoiding any casual link with the
very real and human consequences of having chosen to
act on that belief. Interviewers probing him about
Iraq have dwelled far more on his motivations than
on tackling the much more critical question of his
public duty to accept and assume responsibility for
his actions, however well-intentioned. If good
intentions have a habit of paving the path to hell,
then in Iraq, the very fact that the onset and
conduct of the war continue to be debated in
ideological and motivational terms should tell us
everything we need to know about likely future

Three extracts from Steele's book are at the end of the article. 


From DemocracyNow!:

In a national TV broadcast exclusive, we spend the hour with Abu Ghraib
whistleblower and former Army sergeant, Samuel Provance. From September
2003 to the spring of 2004, Provance ran the top-secret computer
network used by Military Intelligence at Abu Ghraib. He was the first
intelligence specialist to speak openly about abuse at the prison and
is the only Military Intelligence soldier listed as a witness in the
Taguba report. Among the abuses he lists is the torture of a
sixteen-year-old Iraqi boy in order to make his father talk. After
Provance spoke out, the Army stripped him of his security clearance,
demoted him and threatened him with ten years in jail. [includes rush


Where is the justice? 


Following on ...

As Chris has shown an interest in the 935, we have follow ups from DemocracyNow! - after that, clock on Next Story for more, in this case:

We speak with Los Angeles Times reporter Bob Drogin about his new book,
“Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War.” It examines
how a former Iraqi taxi driver helped build the Bush administration’s
case for war by making false claims about Saddam Hussein’s alleged
biological and chemical weapons programs.

Also on the site is a story on the Gazans  stocking up in Egypt, followed by one on where the leading presidential candidates stand on Israel/Palestine.

Whilst on the subject, Kathleen Christison - The Myth of International Consensus.

And Jeff Halper - Power to the (Palestinian) People!

Philip Weiss reviews Jacob Heilbrunn's They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons.


935, so far.

A count of false statements has been compiled.

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

And it never stops. And sets a bad example.

Part 2 of Mark Perry's article

Chris Floyd on dirty deeds.The CIA, then and now.

Following up yesterday's NATO article - Paul Craig Roberts

Philip Giraldi on the Sibel Edmonds matter

Gazans make an entry point to Egypt

Revisiting an old article - Manuel Valenzuela The Untermensch Syndrome: Israel's Moral Decay.

Plenty to chew on there.

The deaf and blind and those who aspire to rule.

David Bromwich - Staying Innocent about Iraq.

Let us recount the figures. Out of a nation of 26 million, two and a half
million are refugees in Syria, Jordan, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, and Turkey.
Hundreds of thousands have been killed, and more than two million forced to
flee their homes within Iraq. The middle class: destroyed. American forces and
mercenaries (called "contractors"), over five years turned one of the world's
great cities into a free-fire zone. There is scarcely an Iraqi in all of the
south who has not had a friend or family member killed by Americans. And the
exact measure of our concern is this: from 2005 to the end of 2007, fewer than
a thousand Iraqis have been admitted as immigrants to the United States.

All this, the world sees and wonders at. But to judge by the presidential
campaign, none of it has happened. The surge (a word evocative of soft drinks
and internet carriers) has sealed off the images of smashed doorways and
roadside explosions. The Republican primaries are taking place in a different
country from the United States, a country that never had a constitution and
that (except for occasional reminders from Ron Paul) never gave a thought to
the inalienable rights of citizens. In that country, the motto "Live free or
die" has been replaced by "Live safe and punish."

On the subject of Iraq, the Democratic contest is a series of lies of omission.
Recall that in the presidential campaign of 2004, the words Abu Ghraib never
passed the lips of John Kerry. This year, following a similar path, Hillary
Clinton and Barack Obama and John Edwards seem to have resolved not to mention
Abu Ghraib, Haditha, or Falluja. The war, they say (Edwards more forthrightly
than the others), was a bad miscalculation which we are reviewing now. Give us
time, and trust us to count more honestly than President Bush. By their tact
and delicacy, Clinton and Obama are allowing people to conclude that their
disagreement with our Middle East policy is a matter of know-how. They have not
addressed the imperial assumptions that guided the war, or explained, with the
necessary patience, why this is a war we should never have fought; why, in the
nature of the conflict, it cannot be "won"; why a continued American presence
in the region is a surer breeder of terrorism than anything Americans say or do
on our own continent.

The failure of nerve is ominous. For unless these points are made soon, and
convincingly, the Democrats will have laid themselves open to be attacked as
defeatists in the face of a "success" which will leave the U.S. as the largest
militia on the ground in support of a puppet government. General Petraeus is
going to tell Congress in March that he needs time and money and commitment to
turn the corner in Iraq. They laughed at McCain's 100 years, but when Petraeus
says five-to-ten, will Clinton or Obama be ready with a reply? They have not
begun to educate the public whom they expect to mobilize.

On the conduct of the occupation, Part 1 (of 2) from Mark Perry on the divide between the Pentagon and the WH and State.

On the conduct of "contractors"

A  radical proposition for NATO

The west must be ready to resort
to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the “imminent”
spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction,
according to a radical manifesto for a new Nato by five of the
west’s most senior military officers and strategists.

Calling for root-and-branch reform of Nato and a new pact
drawing the US, Nato and the European Union together in a “grand
strategy” to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal
world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain,
Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a “first strike”
nuclear option remains an “indispensable instrument” since there
is “simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world”.

Chris Floyd's response.

A taste:

Five former military
headmen from the United States, Britain, Germany, France and Holland
have issued a "radical manifesto" calling for "root-and-branch reform"
of NATO and a new "grand strategy" yoking the United States, NATO and
the European Union more tightly together in a military behemoth under
Washington's dominion, the Guardian reports.

Mighty Five – who wrote their report "following discussions with active
commanders and policymakers, many of whom are unable or unwilling to
publicly air their views" – were adamant in their insistence that a
"nuke first, ask questions later policy" was "indispensible" in fending
off any of the lesser breeds who want a piece of the action. "The first
use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation," say
the big brass.

(Who show a delightful talent for turning a
phrase, by the way. "Quiver of escalation!" Fine stuff indeed,
capturing both the minatory image of weapons at the ready – and the
psychosexual thrill that all militarists feel at the thought of a good

order to "prevail" over the dusky hordes, the brass also call for: "an
overhaul of NATO decision-making methods;" eliminating consensus votes
and national vetoes; doing away with the right of member nations to
restrict how their troops will be used in an operation; "the use of
force without UN Security Council authorization," and setting up a "new
directorate" of leaders who can bypass "EU obstructions" (i.e.,
objections to America's will) and "respond rapidly" when Washington

poetic chieftains don't phrase the latter point quite so crudely, of
course, but it is obviously one of the main objects of the exercise. A
"streamlined" NATO, operating without the need for broad consensus
among members – and free of even the pretense of seeking UN approval –
will inevitably be an even more pliable instrument for its most
overwhelmingly dominant member, the United States. And with "imperial
overreach" badly straining U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and around
the world, a "reformed" NATO would be a very handy tool for extending
the Pentagon's scope.

Today NATO ...

Meanwhile, and far from the above masturbatory excesses, realignments are occurring in the face of realities - M K Bhadrakumar and Conn Hallinan.

On Gaza and the US does it again.

The United Nations Security Council will not approve a
resolution condemning Israel over the closure of the Gaza Strip,
due to pressure applied by the United States.
The council will instead issue a Presidential Statement on the
matter when it meets to discuss the situation in Gaza.

According to a draft of the statement obtained by Haaretz, the
Security Council will express "its deep concern about the
deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian

"The Security Council also expresses concern in particular about
the steep deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the
Gaza Strip, due to the continued closure of all of the Gaza
Strip border crossings and the recent decision by the Israeli
government to reduce fuel supplies, to cut off electric power,
and to prevent the delivery of food and medical supplies to the
Gaza Strip," the draft says.

"The Security Council calls upon Israel to abide by its
obligations under international law including humanitarian and
human rights law and immediately cease all its illegal measures
and practices against the Palestinian civilian population in the
Gaza Strip," continued the draft statement.

Rice stuck her nose in, of course:

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday she had
spoken to the Israeli officials and urged them to avert a
humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

"Nobody wants innocent Gazans to suffer and so we have spoken to
the Israelis about the importance of not allowing a humanitarian
crisis to unfold there," Rice told reporters traveling with her
to Berlin for a meeting on Iran.

Rice said ultimately Hamas was to blame for the situation in
Gaza. She said the Israelis were dealing with an "intolerable"
situation, with the firing of rockets and the anxiety and terror
that came with that.

Well, if you overlook what Israel has done for the last 60 years. 

From DemocracyNow!.

The United Nations is accusing Israel of collectively punishing the
Palestinian population in Gaza by cutting off fuel supplies as part of
a blockade of the Gaza Strip. In the midst of the deepening crisis, we
speak with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists Yonatan Shapira and
Bassam Aramin. They are from a group called Combatants for Peace that
is made up of former fighters from both Israel and the Occupied
Territories. Shapira is a former captain in the Israeli Air Force and
Black Hawk pilot squadron. Aramin was an armed member of Fatah and
spent seven years in an Israeli prison. His ten-year-old daughter Abir
was shot dead by an Israeli soldier last year. [includes rush

An extract:

YONATAN SHAPIRA: We were not the first Israeli refusers. We
were not the first Israelis to say we are not going to be part of these
war crimes anymore. But it’s the first time that a pilot organized and
did something like that. And in Israel, which, as you know, it’s a very
militaristic society, when the pilots are saying something like that,
it broke a lot of—people were pissed off. People saw it as a rebellion.
That was more than four years ago.

Later on, we decided that it’s important to refuse, but just
refusing to be part of something illegal and immoral and just refusing
to be part of war crimes is not enough. You have to try to fix the
wrongdoing that you were part of. And then, with many other people who
refused to military service and to be part of the occupation in the
Israeli side and Palestinian ex-fighters in the Palestinian side,
people who were many years in Israeli prisons, we formed this group,
which we called “Combatants for Peace.” In Arabic, it’s [Arabic
translation]; and in Hebrew, [Hebrew translation]. I know the name is a
bit militaristic itself, but the idea is that we are going to have a
joint struggle this time. And, in a way, the Israelis who woke up, the
ex-fighters, are joining the Palestinian nonviolent struggle for
liberation. And this is something that didn’t happen before. We have a
lot of organizations of Israelis and Palestinians that are struggling
together against the occupation, but not as former fighters.

Way past time the crimes were stopped -about 60 years - but when you have a powerful backer then the darker angels prevail. Let us hope that the efforts of those such as in the above piece succeed.

To Angela, good to see you back, and thanks for comments elsewhere. Plenty for you in the above. On another comment elsewhere - about governments lying - happens far too often and is aided and abetted by some in the media. Even by those who should know better. Hard to know how to apportion contempt.



Richard Tonkin says:

 "Anyway, trying to associate Osama with Iraq  is old-hat stuff..  There are few people left who believe a connection, as you know."

At the rate al-Qaeda in Messpotamia is having it's arse kicked, it won't be long before that statement is true.

At least Omar's not pretending his dad didn't do the September 11 massacre. That's a nice change.

And if it was an act of "war", then that's the complete vindication of the "War on Terror".



Yes, We Have No Osamas

Eliot, you've left out Omar's justification for this statement, which was "Before they call it war, now they call it terrorism."

Anyway, trying to associate Osama with Iraq is old-hat stuff... There are few people left who believe a connection, as you know.

Omar bin Laden chats with CNN

Osama bin Laden's son Omar chats with CNN and explains that the September 11 attacks were "not terrorism" and that his dad was only trying to "help" people.

"I try and say to my father: 'Try to find another way to help or find your goal. This bomb, this weapons, it's not good to use it for anybody'," he said in the interview filmed in Cairo where he lives.

We have no choice but to support the Iraqi resistance

"Throughout George W. Bush's rape of Iraq, which was launched on a sea of lies and spin, the warmakers and their innumerable sycophants and transcribers in the media have relentlessly downplayed the number of Iraqis being killed in the conflict..."

Throughout Saddam Hussein's rape of Iraq, which was sustained for decanded on a sea of lies, spin and Soviet funding, the warmakers and their innumerable sycophants and transcribers in the media were paid off in Oil For Food credits through phoney 'charities'.

They downplayed the numbers of Iraqis killed by the dictator and played up instead Saddam's press releases about the number of kids dying "because of the sanctions" on his regime, recycling this spin as gospel.

They did everything they could to prevent his overthrow. And then publicly supported the Iraqi "resistance" militias.

How's that going, by the way?

The score sheet stands rather starkly for Eliot

Hey Eliot ,how is your invasion of Iraq going by the way?

Dead? Maimed? Infrastructure destroyed? Freedoms? Life quality and expectancy? Ecological damage?  General health levels?  Education opportunities ? Depleted Uranium levels? Oil production? Power and influence increase to Iran and Saudi?  The latter in your Kurdish areas, so nice for the women there..  gee thanks Eliot for your support of that (and thanks says Israel too) and loss of important international allies.

You see if you argue that the Ends justifies the Means (illegal war and invasion and enabling conspiracy and deception of the people of the nations involved ,huge costs human and financial strucutural and ecological and international relations severely damage and US debt unpayable )then let us examine what the "ends" and the cost of these are. 

I'm not to impressed with that score sheet.

Perhaps it would have been better to accept the exile of Saddam as was apparently offered. Hmmm.   Imperial Forces have such a burden don't they ? Lucky it was all done in defence eh Eliot?

But then better for whom eh?  Some are very pleased with this result, like Eliot it appears. Enjoy.

Some are a little more fixed in reality and a little less into the Balkanisation theory for security. 


Vindication? A load of Old Cobblers'

Eliot Ramsey: "And if it was an act of "war", then that's the complete vindication of the "War on Terror"

With repect, you need to spend more time away from the White House website.  Retaliating against Osama is not vindication of invading Iraq.  Never was, never will be, no matter what the Bush/Cheney interpretation might be.

I worry about you sometimes.


G'day Craig, ideological blindness indeed, and a disastrous case of delusion - and quote without conscience. Some do have consciences - including some at the sharp end.

At an event in Watertown, New York on Saturday, members of Iraq Veterans Against War charged that war crimes against civilians were encouraged by unit commanders.

"The killing of innocent civilians is policy," said veteran Mike Blake. "It's unit policy and it's Army policy. It's not official policy, but it's what's happens on the ground everyday. It's what unit commanders individually encourage."

Veteran Matt Howard concurred: "These decisions are coming from the top down," Howard said. "The tactics that we use, the policies that the military engages, will create situations, create dynamics, create -- ultimately -- atrocity."

Of the damage done, well, if a set of figures is unhelpful, they can always be questioned, however dishonestly as this article claims.

Or, earlier, this from Andrew Cockburn which is part of this from Chris Floyd.

In an age where Hitlerian wars of aggression are considered standard practice for "healthy" democracies (with only the "competence" of their execution being a fit subject for debate), it is difficult, if not impossible, to single out a single element of the grotesque carnival as the most macabre. But surely the warmongers' game-playing with the death toll of slaughtered Iraqis is a prime candidate.

Throughout George W. Bush's rape of Iraq, which was launched on a sea of lies and spin, the warmakers and their innumerable sycophants and transcribers in the media have relentlessly downplayed the number of Iraqis being killed in the conflict -- when they deign to notice the darker-hued dead at all, that is. Bush and his accomplices have been tossing around a number of 30,000 to 50,000 for a long time; these figures -- more than 10 times the number of people killed in the 9/11 attacks -- are obviously considered a perfectly acceptable amount of "collateral damage" for such a noble crusade. 

The last paragraph of this article says much. And to the neocons, Iranians also would not count.

Daniel Ellsberg asks why the Sibel Edmonds issue is not being covered by the US MSM.

It's not as if they are unaware:

It’s impossible to believe that they — or Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal — could not have acquired documents and testimony that Murdoch’s London paper reports on today. Now the challenge to them is to end their silence on that reporting and do their job.

Oh well, there is a whole ocean in between.

Of the Crawford Caligula can take a trip to the ME - cap in hand and uttering bs - then we can look at what some others are saying.

Uri Avnery - Look Who's Talking. Olmert starts saying what Uri's been saying for decades - but does he mean it?

Chris Hedges - The Lessons of Violence.

Omar Barghouti on Europe's acquiescence.  

And for the West Bank?

Something for the neocons to think about.

A failure to think

Johnathon Steele on commentisfree today:

Five years after he launched it, George Bush's invasion of Iraq looks even more disastrous than it did at the end of the first year. Not only did it uncover no weapons of mass destruction. The invasion has led to a collapse in millions of ordinary Iraqis' personal security, producing a human rights nightmare and annual rates of killing that dwarf the atrocities of Saddam Hussein's three decades of power.

The damage to the United States has been enormous. As well as the loss of around 4,000 soldiers' lives, America's image and reputation in the Middle East have been severely harmed. For Bush and the neocons, the invasion has brought political defeat. Their project for Iraq to become a secular, liberal, pro-western bastion of democracy lies in ruins. The country is run by a narrow-minded group of Shia Islamists with close control over a sectarian army and police force. Many of them are linked to Iran.

As a result, Bush is now forced to run around the Arabian states along the Persian Gulf in an effort to build an anti-Iranian alliance and find a pretext for keeping a strategic presence in the region.


The lessons of the neocons' defeat in Iraq are clear enough - except to the neocons themselves. If they now proceed to attack Iran, it will be another triumph of ideological blindness over the need to get the facts, and think.

An excerpt, setting the agenda and a cover up?

An excerpt from a book about the Crawford Caligula this time.

Glenn Greenwald on  Michael Gordon trying to set the agenda.

The New York Times' Michael Gordon -- a long-time, vigorous
proponent of both the Iraq War and the Surge while masquerading as a
"reporter" (he was once publicly admonished for admitting his pro-Surge views) -- has an article today
lambasting Democratic candidates for advocating an end to our
occupation of Iraq. Citing pro-war arguments from both anonymous
military officers and his standard list of pro-war Serious Experts (Michael O'Hanlon and Anthony Cordesman),
Gordon argues that the Only Serious Option is to remain in Iraq for a
long, long time, and any politicians who refuses to accept this is
being -- for that reason alone -- irresponsible and Unserious.

Andrew J Bacevich on the surge

As the fifth anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom nears, the
fabulists are again trying to weave their own version of the war. The
latest myth is that the "surge" is working.

In President Bush's pithy formulation, the United States is now "kicking ass" in Iraq. The gallant Gen. David Petraeus, having been given the right tools, has performed miracles, redeeming a situation that once appeared hopeless. Sen. John McCain
has gone so far as to declare that "we are winning in Iraq." While few
others express themselves quite so categorically, McCain's remark
captures the essence of the emerging story line: Events have (yet
again) reached a turning point. There, at the far end of the tunnel,
light flickers. Despite the hand-wringing of the defeatists and
naysayers, victory beckons.

From the hallowed halls of the American Enterprise Institute
waft facile assurances that all will come out well. AEI's Reuel Marc
Gerecht assures us that the moment to acknowledge "democracy's success
in Iraq" has arrived. To his colleague Michael Ledeen, the explanation
for the turnaround couldn't be clearer: "We were the stronger horse,
and the Iraqis recognized it." In an essay entitled "Mission
Accomplished" that is being touted by the AEI crowd, Bartle Bull, the
foreign editor of the British magazine Prospect, instructs us that
"Iraq's biggest questions have been resolved." Violence there "has
ceased being political." As a result, whatever mayhem still lingers is
"no longer nearly as important as it was." Meanwhile, Frederick W.
Kagan, an AEI resident scholar and the arch-advocate of the surge,
announces that the "credibility of the prophets of doom" has reached "a
low ebb."

Presumably Kagan and his comrades would have us believe that recent
events vindicate the prophets who in 2002-03 were promoting preventive
war as a key instrument of U.S. policy. By shifting the conversation to
tactics, they seek to divert attention from flagrant failures of basic
strategy. Yet what exactly has the surge wrought? In substantive terms,
the answer is: not much.

And Juan Cole follows up Bacevich.

Back to the Sibel Edmonds and nuclear secrets issue - the Sunday Times  has a story about an alleged FBI cover up. Pieces about it here and here.

Much ado about nothing? Remember that Israeli air raid on Syria?


But according to an investigation
by B. Michael on the Jewish website Ynet.news.com, Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad likely told the truth when he said
the raid hit an "unused military building" and blew
up "nothing of consequence."

First, recently released photos
indicate that U.S. intelligence had known about the place since
at least 2003, making it far more likely that the U.S. told the
Israelis rather than visa-a-versa.

Second, the moment people got
a chance to look at the photos, the nonsense about its "remote"
location began to disassemble. The Dewar az Zawr facility is
just over one mile from the major tourist magnet at Halabiya,
where rafting trips down the Euphrates are organized.

Third, as Michael points out,
"This 'reactor' is not surrounded by any fence. There is
no wall there either, no watchtowers, no residential structures,
no patrol roads, no anti-aircraft positions, and no barracks."
There is not even a guard post.

The Israeli explanation for
this rather casual approach to security is that the facility
was so secret, not even the Syrian Army knew about it, hence
the lack of defensive measures. Michael acidly suggests, "this
reactor was so secretive that nobody in Syria knew about its
existence. Only the Israelis knew."

Fortunate that tourists taking rafting trips weren't construed as terrorists training to attack ships.


Weekend reading.

Some ideas for future reading - James Wolcott looks at some books about the Crawford Caligula.

Most people fear death. It’s something they’d prefer to skip, if possible, or at least put off to a later date. President George W. Bush entertains a more laid-back, come-what-may attitude toward the big D, and not, I suspect, because he’s assured of a pre-boarding pass to heaven. It’s because death provides the most unassailable of alibis, the perfect getaway. It lets him off the hook, providing an escape hatch for personal accountability while history deliberates on the lasting achievements and ruinous legacies of his presidency. No matter how lousy his approval ratings, how low America’s esteem sinks in the world, how hacktacular his political appointments, Bush takes comfort in the knowledge that posterity takes a long time to deliver its final draft (“There’s no such thing as short-term history as far as I’m concerned,” he told NBC’s Brian Williams on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina), and by then he’ll be compost. It’s difficult to think of any modern inhabitant of the Oval Office who has contemplated his own mortality aloud more often than Bush, or drawn more consolation from its graveyard perspective. On the last page of Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack (2004), Bush, asked how history would judge the war in Iraq, verbally shrugs: “History. We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.” And on the first page of Robert Draper’s Dead Certain (2007), Bush cautions, “You can’t possibly figure out the history of the Bush presidency—until I’m dead,” then inserts a piece of cheese into his mouth. This exit clause isn’t something he invokes only to reporters. In Bill Sammon’s The Evangelical President (2007), an aide confirms to the susceptible author that Bush doesn’t brood about the petty setbacks that bedevil less serene souls: “His attitude is a very healthy one. He says, ‘Look, history will get it right and we’ll both be dead. Who cares?’ ” If only the estimated 1.5 million Iraqis displaced by the war and driven into Syrian exile could adopt such a healthy outlook, maybe they too would learn how not to sweat the small stuff.

Of course he has already made "we'll all be dead" only too true for a lot of people.

He set records as governor of Texas, so this aspect of his visit to Saudi Arabia must have been a joy.

And when it was not a sword in his hand, it was his cap.

Those Ungrateful Saudis.

Some want him gone - and give reasons.

There are those who will not like some of the material in this article - they have managed to either remain ignorant of or ignore the possibilities for 5 years.

The Wrong Conversation About Iraq.

Iraq War: 1,760 Days and Counting.

So much blood and treasure ... and costs yet to be borne.

The corpse and the terrorists.

From Tom Engelhardt The Corpse on the Gurney.

Paul Craig Roberts - Leader and Vassal

Hey, they try to tell us they are the good guys. 

Another Successful Day Talking To The Gods

Bob Wall: “The Crawford Caligula's ramble around the ME has come to an end, there will perhaps be much rejoicing.”


Having successfully crossed the Strait of Hormuz on a combined Arabian naval flotilla on top his horse; Texas Rose (the newly appointed Senator from New Orleans), President Caligula hailed the trip as his easily finest. President Caligula quoted as saying "Gawd damn boy that was hoot". "The only down side was the twenty one suicide bomber salute was a slight disappointment". It is reported that at least two human bombs failed to detonate. A Presidential spokesperson was quoted as saying "yes that was problem; however, the bomb maker and his entire circle of family and friends are now being ritually crucified so that does go someway to making amends". President Caligula it is rumored to have also taken away with him a Filipino monkey that can converse in English. A Presidential spokesperson quoted as saying "Gawd damn there boy it is the darndest thing I ever did see". "Yeeeeehaaaawwwww"

Going home ... and should.

The Crawford Caligula's ramble around the ME has come to an end, there will perhaps be much rejoicing. A couple of views on what - or wasn't - achieved:

M K Bhadrakumar.

Hannah Allam.

Armed and dangerous.

A suggestion that others also leave.

Others do what they want, regardless.

And people keep dying.

Yes to Law of the Sea, no to Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty

Craig Rowley: "What does Article 25 of the Convention state, Eliot?"

Well, Craig, it says this:

Article 25
Rights of protection of the coastal State
1. The coastal State may take the necessary steps in its territorial sea to prevent passage which is not innocent.

2. In the case of ships proceeding to internal waters or a call at a port facility outside internal waters, the coastal State also has the right to take the necessary steps to prevent any breach of the conditions to which admission of those ships to internal waters or such a call is subject.

3. The coastal State may, without discrimination in form or in fact among foreign ships, suspend temporarily in specified areas of its territorial sea the innocent passage of foreign ships if such suspension is essential for the protection of its security, including weapons exercises. Such suspension shall take effect only after having been duly published

Are you now saying Iran has suspended passage through the Straits of Hormuz? Only half of which is actually in its territorial waters?

Have they anywhere announced this? 

Iran? That champion of international treaty obligations (not counting the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and various Human Rights conventions of course)?

This is just getting absurd.

It is perfectly clear the Iranian Republican Guard, in a particularly stupid exercise, was trying to test the battle readiness if the US ships in the straits.

The whole incident was captured on video and audio and shown to the world. It was a stupid move, regardless of who your talking monkeys are. Or what was in the white packages dropped in the water.

Once again, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's supporters and admirers in the west are in the absurd position of having to deny what everyone in the world saw with their own eyes?

They have to invent talking monkeys and various other phantasmagoria about the Straits of Hormuz, twisting and turning themselves to the point of popping inside out and blowing feathers out their butts just to protect the reputation of their beloved Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Well, I guess they know now how Paul Burrell must have felt in the Old Bailey yesterday!

Inventing "supporters and admirers"

In response to a simple question about what an article of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Eliot Ramsey mentions "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's supporters and admirers in the west".

I don't know who he's talking about, but I know it can't be anyone making comments on Webdiary because everyone making comments on the Iran-US stand-off to date has made it clear they do not support or admire Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Yankees go home - and take CC with you.

William Blum looks at Iraqi opinion - Oh, By the Way, the Iraqis Don't Really Want Us.

Did you miss this? It should have been the lead story in every newspaper and radio and TV program in America. In the Washington Post it was on page 14. In virtually all of the rest of the media it was on page zero, channel zero, 0000 AM or 00.0 FM.

The US military in Iraq hired firms to conduct focus groups amongst a cross section of the population. A summary report of the findings was obtained by the Post. Here are some of the highlights of the report as disclosed by the newspaper:

* Until the March 2003 US occupation Sunnis and Shiites coexisted peacefully.

* Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the US military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them.

* After the United States leaves Iraq, national reconciliation will happen "naturally."

* A sense of "optimistic possibility permeated all focus groups ... and far more commonalities than differences are found among these seemingly diverse groups of Iraqis."

* Dividing Iraq into three states would hinder national reconciliation. (Only the Kurds did not reject this option.)

* Most would describe the negative elements of life in Iraq as beginning with the US occupation.

* Few mentioned Saddam Hussein as a cause of their problems, which the report described as an important finding, implying that "the current strife in Iraq seems to have totally eclipsed any agonies or grievances many Iraqis would have incurred from the past regime, which lasted for nearly four decades -- as opposed to the current conflict, which has lasted for five years."

The Washington Post added this note:

"Outside of the military, some of the most widespread polling in Iraq has been done by D3 Systems, a Virginia-based company that maintains offices in each of Iraq's 18 provinces. Its most recent publicly released surveys, conducted in September for several news media organizations, showed the same widespread Iraqi belief voiced by the military's focus groups: that a U.S. departure will make things better. A State Department poll in September 2006 reported a similar finding."

This just in: The US has found the perfect way to counteract such foolish attitudes of the Iraqi people. On January 10, the Associated Press reported: "U.S. bombers and jet fighters unleashed 40,000 pounds of explosives on the southern outskirts of Baghdad within 10 minutes Thursday in one of the biggest air strikes of the war, flattening what the military called safe havens for al-Qaida in Iraq." There was no mention of whether the planes had also dropped pamphlets saying: "We bomb you because we care about you."

 Uri Avnery on Bush and Olmert.

Chris Hedges - The End of the Road for George W. Bush.

And the type of person he listened to.

Juan Cole on a would be successor.

A rum crew indeed.

Filipino Monkey- A Fraud With A Theme Song

From the New York Times:

Ah yes, the Filipino Monkey … that’s actually one of the things I was referring to on Ch. 16. It’s not one person, as Navy Times suggested, but a “radio call” passed around by many people … sing-song … in terms of musical notes, think of it as sung to “c-c-c-G-e,” e.g, “Fi-li-pi-no MON-key.” You start hearing it off the coast of North Africa, usually by Egypt, and then a lot more as you head through the Red Sea and (mostly) into the Gulf. It’s usually a fairly obscene, crudely humorous call and response … one person will start it, then everyone else will chime in: “Filipino Monkey!”

It’s actually pretty funny in a sophomoric way, although the Filipino slur part of it is obviously pretty loathsome.

One night in the Gulf, in the middle of the night, the radio was strangely quiet, so I (against protocols) just clicked the bridge-to-bridge mike button out of boredom in the tell-tale “monkey” pattern: click-click-click-click-click, click. Which of course set off a round of “Filipino Monkey!” calls from local radio operators all around us, probably from guys as equally as bored as we were.

[Kansas City Star extract]

“I don’t think it was the Iranians. It was not related. It was someone spoofing. It was someone getting on your circuit and trying to interfere with military operations,” said Rick Hoffman, retired captain of the USS Hue City, who listened to the tirades during tours in the Gulf between 1982 and 2002.

In the early 1980s, the source of the tirades became known as the “Filipino Monkey” because he slurred Filipinos with the term, according to Navy officials who have heard the broadcasts. Since then, the transmissions — all on Channel 16, the open frequency for maritime traffic — have spawned a legion of copycats who are collectively known as the Filipino Monkey, because no one has discovered the identity or origin of any of them. All the transmissions come from somewhere around the Gulf.

So who used the Monkey to try and start a war?

Now there's a twist...

Richard: "Do you reckon the boats might have been spotted by US satellites as well, Eliot?  All I'm going to say is that if I wanted to keep my troops (and public) motivated then this would be a great way of going about it."

Yeah, that could be it. Alternatively, they may have been voices from Mars.

Richard:  I was considering the idea of satellite-gathered info being used by ground-based operatives.  

Couple of things...

Article 38 of the Convention states:

all ships and aircraft enjoy the right of transit passage, which shall not be impeded; except that, if the strait is formed by an island of a State bordering the strait and its mainland, transit passage shall not apply if there exists seaward of the island a route through the high seas or through an exclusive economic zone of similar convenience with respect to navigational and hydrographical characteristics

Regarding "Duties of ships and aircraft during transit passage", Article 39 of the Convention states:

Ships must comply with generally accepted international regulations, procedures and practices for safety at sea, including the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea;

Article 41 of the Convention states:

States bordering straits shall clearly indicate all sea lanes and traffic separation schemes designated or prescribed by them on charts to which due publicity shall be given.

Two things:

The USA has signed, but Congress has not ratified the Convention

Iran is a signatory to the convention, and is therefore obligated to "not impede" ships in transit through the Straits.

Richard:  If a country doesn't ratify a treaty they signed 25 years ago, are they a participant?  Do they have the rights offered under its auspices?   If not...

Now there's a spin

What does Article 25 of the Convention state, Eliot?

And a Doosra ...

Did Iran ratify UNSCO?

Richard: ... and did the US ?  (pdf)


It's really very funny to see Eliot Ramsey's theories about Filipino Monkey, Iranian propaganda and movements in the oil price, when also reading the breaking news about Israeli PM Ehud Olmert once again pointing to the big stick "on the table" (just like Dick Cheney does every so often):

Meir Javedanfar, an Israel-based Iran analyst, said Olmert refused to rule out a military option "in order to increase the urgency to find a diplomatic solution."

"I think this is Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's way of making sure that the international community stays alert on the Iranian nuclear issues," Javedanfar said. "The concern in Israel is that after the NIE report, the world is just going to sit and watch Iran continue with its nuclear weapons program."

What nuclear weapons program? The one the NIE report says there is no evidence of? The one the hawks in Washington and Tel Aviv keep talking about as if it is some imminent threat?

Rights of passage.

An article on the legal status of the Straits of Hormuz.

Tension spiked markedly last week when
Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)
speedboats were involved in an "incident" with
three US Navy vessels, which claimed they were
international waters.

Yet there is no
"international water" in the Strait of Hormuz,
straddled between the territorial waters of Iran
and Oman. The US government claimed, through a
Pentagon spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the
three US ships "transiting through the Strait of
Hormuz" were provocatively harassed by the
speedboats. This was followed by the Pentagon's
release of a videotape of the encounter, where in
response to Iran's request for ship
identification, we hear a dispatch from one of the
US ships stating the ship's number and adding that
"we are in international waters and we intend no

Thus there is the issue of the
exact whereabouts of the US ships at the time of
the standoff with the Iranian boats manned by the
IRGC patrolling the area. According to Vice
Admiral Kevin Cosgiff, the US ships were "five
kilometers outside Iranian territorial waters".
Yet, this is disputed by another dispatch from the
US ships that states, "I am engaged in transit
passage in accordance with international law."

Given that the approximately
three-kilometer-wide inbound traffic lane in the
Strait of Hormuz is within Iran's territorial
water, the US Navy's invocation of "transit
passage" harking back to the 1982 UN Convention on
the Law of the Sea, (UNCLOS) is hardly surprising.

Although the US has yet to ratify the
UNCLOS, it has been a strong advocate of its
provisions regarding navigational rights, thus
explaining the US officers' availing themselves of
"international law". [2]

Read on.

Hi there Navy Boys! So who's taking your wife home tonight?

Richard: "Let's not dismiss the possibility that "Filipino Monkey" could be working for either side.  There's a Navy TImes reprint at that link that may be of interest."

Say, that Navy Times item is interesting. Take this bit:

In recent years, American ships operating in the Middle East have had to contend with a mysterious but profane voice known as the "Filipino Monkey," likely more than one person, who listens in on ship-to-ship radio traffic and then jumps in, shouting insults and jabbering vile epithets.

 So, quite apart from knowing the exact bearing, speed, timing and location of Iranian Republican Guard speedboats during the action, and the appropriate broadcast frequency, there's a whole bunch of shore based "Monkeys" shouting ongoing insults at Americans in the Persian Gulf?

Golly? Who could it be behind these mysterious broadcasts?

Really, to the extent that Islamo-Romanticism has replaced pro-Communism in the hearts of anti-American extremists, it's local spokespersons now also need to rationalise the more obvious stuff-ups of nutters like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a degree that hardly differs from their Cold War era fellow travellers' ability to ignore 'show trials', the Berlin Wall and the Cultural Revolution?

What next? Boasting about tractor production quotas in Syria?

Richard: Do you reckon the boats might have been spotted by US satellites as well, Eliot?  All I'm going to say is that if I wanted to keep my troops (and public) motivated then this would be a great way of going about it.  The situation has Rendonesqe hallmarks.

Good question.

A very good question, Richard, where is Ausaid's money (or rather the Aus taxpayers') being spent? Despite the "progress" spin, conditions are still quite chaotic in Iraq and this hampers progress on what is an enormous job. Remembering that the damage has not just been inflicted since the invasion - the previously detailed US bombing campaign against Iraq's civilian infrastructure from 1991 on and the effects of the sanctions played a part. Then there is the corruption and profiteering by some - as you know so well. As to Ausaid - needs further research.

And the children - who can forget Madeleine Albright's response when the 500,000 child deaths figure was raised with her in 1996?

My mind harks back to Glenn Greenwald's words, as posted on Saturday.

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