Sunday, December 31, 2006
It is therefore more than heartening to read this positive report in the IHT out of sub-Saharan Africa:
"Even before workers hung the last wooden shutter on the new classrooms here, School H was overcrowded.
Makamba Keito, the new school's director, was expecting no more than 420 first through sixth graders. But as he opened registration on a sizzling Saturday in September, twice that many were already on the list, and those were only the students who had transferred from other jam- packed schools nearby.
Keito registered a few dozen more, then halted with a whopping 887 pupils, an average of 126 per teacher. "That's it," he recalled telling parents who were turned away. "You must go find some other place."
Finding places for millions of new students is one of sub-Saharan Africa's most overwhelming and gratifying missions.
After two decades of sluggish growth in enrollment rates, the region's 45 countries find themselves with an embarrassing number of eager schoolchildren.
Nearly 22 million more students flooded classrooms between 1999 and 2004, increasing the enrollment rate by 18 percent, more than in any other region of the world, according to Unesco. More than 6 out of 10 primary school-age children are now enrolled, and that ratio does not even include older students, like 14-year- old second graders, who have also streamed into schools."
But history will record that the Arabs and other Muslims and, indeed, many millions in the West, will ask another question this weekend, a question that will not be posed in other Western newspapers because it is not the narrative laid down for us by our presidents and prime ministers - what about the other guilty men?
No, Tony Blair is not Saddam. We don't gas our enemies. George W Bush is not Saddam. He didn't invade Iran or Kuwait. He only invaded Iraq. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead - and thousands of Western troops are dead - because Messrs Bush and Blair and the Spanish Prime Minister and the Italian Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister went to war in 2003 on a potage of lies and mendacity and, given the weapons we used, with great brutality."
Needless to say the above are the words of Robert Fisk in his introduction in an article in The Independent on the whole Saddam and Iraq situation - both now, the recent past and going back many years. Pay particular attention to Fisk's prognosis of things to come.....
Riverbend, a yound Iraqi blogger puts her thoughts about the situation in this moving way:
"You know your country is in trouble when:
The UN has to open a special branch just to keep track of the chaos and bloodshed, UNAMI.
Abovementioned branch cannot be run from your country.
The politicians who worked to put your country in this sorry state can no longer be found inside of, or anywhere near, its borders.
The only thing the US and Iran can agree about is the deteriorating state of your nation.
An 8-year war and 13-year blockade are looking like the country's 'Golden Years'.
Your country is purportedly 'selling' 2 million barrels of oil a day, but you are standing in line for 4 hours for black market gasoline for the generator. For every 5 hours of no electricity, you get one hour of public electricity and then the government announces it's going to cut back on providing that hour.
Politicians who supported the war spend tv time debating whether it is 'sectarian bloodshed' or 'civil war'.
People consider themselves lucky if they can actually identify the corpse of the relative that's been missing for two weeks.
A day in the life of the average Iraqi has been reduced to identifying corpses, avoiding car bombs and attempting to keep track of which family members have been detained, which ones have been exiled and which ones have been abducted.
2006 has been, decidedly, the worst year yet. No- really. The magnitude of this war and occupation is only now hitting the country full force. It's like having a big piece of hard, dry earth you are determined to break apart. You drive in the first stake in the form of an infrastructure damaged with missiles and the newest in arms technology, the first cracks begin to form. Several smaller stakes come in the form of politicians like Chalabi, Al Hakim, Talbani, Pachachi, Allawi and Maliki. The cracks slowly begin to multiply and stretch across the once solid piece of earth, reaching out towards its edges like so many skeletal hands. And you apply pressure. You surround it from all sides and push and pull. Slowly, but surely, it begins coming apart- a chip here, a chunk there.
That is Iraq right now. The Americans have done a fine job of working to break it apart. This last year has nearly everyone convinced that that was the plan right from the start. There were too many blunders for them to actually have been, simply, blunders. The 'mistakes' were too catastrophic. The people the Bush administration chose to support and promote were openly and publicly terrible- from the conman and embezzler Chalabi, to the terrorist Jaffari, to the militia man Maliki. The decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi army, abolishing the original constitution, and allowing militias to take over Iraqi security were too damaging to be anything but intentional.
The question now is, but why? I really have been asking myself that these last few days. What does America possibly gain by damaging Iraq to this extent? I'm certain only raving idiots still believe this war and occupation were about WMD or an actual fear of Saddam.
Al Qaeda? That's laughable. Bush has effectively created more terrorists in Iraq these last 4 years than Osama could have created in 10 different terrorist camps in the distant hills of Afghanistan. Our children now play games of 'sniper' and 'jihadi', pretending that one hit an American soldier between the eyes and this one overturned a Humvee.
This last year especially has been a turning point. Nearly every Iraqi has lost so much. So much. There's no way to describe the loss we've experienced with this war and occupation. There are no words to relay the feelings that come with the knowledge that daily almost 40 corpses are found in different states of decay and mutilation. There is no compensation for the dense, black cloud of fear that hangs over the head of every Iraqi. Fear of things so out of ones hands, it borders on the ridiculous- like whether your name is 'too Sunni' or 'too Shia'. Fear of the larger things- like the Americans in the tank, the police patrolling your area in black bandanas and green banners, and the Iraqi soldiers wearing black masks at the checkpoint.
Again, I can't help but ask myself why this was all done? What was the point of breaking Iraq so that it was beyond repair? Iran seems to be the only gainer. Their presence in Iraq is so well-established, publicly criticizing a cleric or ayatollah verges on suicide. Has the situation gone so beyond America that it is now irretrievable? Or was this a part of the plan all along? My head aches just posing the questions.
What has me most puzzled right now is: why add fuel to the fire? Sunnis and moderate Shia are being chased out of the larger cities in the south and the capital. Baghdad is being torn apart with Shia leaving Sunni areas and Sunnis leaving Shia areas- some under threat and some in fear of attacks. People are being openly shot at check points or in drive by killings… Many colleges have stopped classes. Thousands of Iraqis no longer send their children to school- it's just not safe.
Why make things worse by insisting on Saddam's execution now? Who gains if they hang Saddam? Iran, naturally, but who else? There is a real fear that this execution will be the final blow that will shatter Iraq. Some Sunni and Shia tribes have threatened to arm their members against the Americans if Saddam is executed. Iraqis in general are watching closely to see what happens next, and quietly preparing for the worst.
This is because now, Saddam no longer represents himself or his regime. Through the constant insistence of American war propaganda, Saddam is now representative of all Sunni Arabs (never mind most of his government were Shia). The Americans, through their speeches and news articles and Iraqi Puppets, have made it very clear that they consider him to personify Sunni Arab resistance to the occupation. Basically, with this execution, what the Americans are saying is "Look- Sunni Arabs- this is your man, we all know this. We're hanging him- he symbolizes you." And make no mistake about it, this trial and verdict and execution are 100% American. Some of the actors were Iraqi enough, but the production, direction and montage was pure Hollywood (though low-budget, if you ask me).
That is, of course, why Talbani doesn't want to sign his death penalty- not because the mob man suddenly grew a conscience, but because he doesn't want to be the one who does the hanging- he won't be able to travel far away enough if he does that.
Maliki's government couldn't contain their glee. They announced the ratification of the execution order before the actual court did. A few nights ago, some American news program interviewed Maliki's bureau chief, Basim Al-Hassani who was speaking in accented American English about the upcoming execution like it was a carnival he'd be attending. He sat, looking sleazy and not a little bit ridiculous, his dialogue interspersed with 'gonna', 'gotta' and 'wanna'... Which happens, I suppose, when the only people you mix with are American soldiers.
My only conclusion is that the Americans want to withdraw from Iraq, but would like to leave behind a full-fledged civil war because it wouldn't look good if they withdraw and things actually begin to improve, would it?
Here we come to the end of 2006 and I am sad. Not simply sad for the state of the country, but for the state of our humanity, as Iraqis. We've all lost some of the compassion and civility that I felt made us special four years ago. I take myself as an example. Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.
Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.
Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? I don't think so.
Just because Americans die in smaller numbers, it doesn't make them more significant, does it?"
Friday, December 29, 2006
Hicks has had five years in and out of wire cages and solitary confinement, John. That's 60 months, Philip. Or more than 1800 days, Alexander. Though treated as cruelly as any criminal on earth, Hicks has never been formally charged -- let alone convicted -- of anything. And his term of imprisonment shows no sign of ending. Best estimate? Another two years before Hicks has his day in some parody of a court. But we can't bring him back here, can we, gentlemen? Because there's no appropriate crime on the Australian statutes with which to charge him. So Australia remains complicit in a gross breach of human rights, not to mention ethics, morality and common decency."
Phillip Adams, writing in The Australian, fairly and squarely addresses the situation of two people with totally opposite positions as far as the Americans go - Fidel Castro in Cuba, and David Hicks, also in Cuba, but imprisoned by the Americans with the active and shameful complicity of the Australian Government.
"We hear a lot about Australian values these days. Yet the substance behind the slogan remains more difficult to pin down than a core promise in a non-election year.
Aussie values are an abstraction which normally becomes concrete only when some group - Muslims, refugees, inner-city "elites" - need to be beaten into submission with them. Once the values have served their purpose they revert to being conceptual gas.
As the education minister, Brendan Nelson famously tried to pin the values tail on Simpson's donkey. It appears he wasn't fully aware that Simpson, unarmed angel of Gallipoli, was also an illegal immigrant, army deserter and socialist with a pro-union bent, a lazy streak and food stains on his collar.
There are those of us who may appreciate Simpson even more for all that. But it seems Nelson did get the wrong end of the shtick, if not the donkey. If the guy in charge of education had trouble getting it right, it's not surprising that the rest of us are confused. Or cynical."
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Shake your head, but you gotta read this and believe how outrageous some of these people are.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
This is nowhere more true than in Washington, where one of the most powerful men in President Bush's inner circle, a man who helped conceive, plan and execute the Iraq war, has managed to escape scrutiny for steering his country into one of the greatest strategic catastrophes of his generation.
I am referring, although nobody else does, to Paul Wolfowitz. Remember Wolfowitz, best known to readers of this and other newspapers as the "chief architect of the Iraq war"? Before the war, he was hailed by many as one of the great foreign policy intellectuals of our time. He was a leading defense strategist, a former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia and the former dean of the School of Advanced Studies at Johns Hopkins University, a man whose views on democracy and the Middle East were taken seriously by both his admirers and his critics. In 2001, Wolfowitz, then 58, was named deputy secretary of Defense, serving as top aide to Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld."
So writes Sonni Efron an editor on the opionion page of the LA Times. Read the full piece here. Oh yes, when will Wolfowitz at the very least address or answer for the Iraq War he was so instrumental in bringing about?
It looks like Hamas were spot on. In a move which can only be regarded as madness and spitting into the face of the Palestinians, the IHT reports today:
"Israel has approved the construction of a new settlement in the occupied West Bank for the first time in a decade, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry and settler groups speaking Tuesday.
The announcement comes days after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel met for a first substantive meeting with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and is bound to embarrass the Palestinian leader, already being criticized by political rivals in Hamas for carrying out an Israeli and American agenda with little to show for it."
As The Age reports:
"Days after the Defence Department launched an inquiry into fears that criminals have gained access to army shoulder-fired rocket launchers, the Auditor-General has found it cannot adequately account for inventory and "repairable items" worth $3.9 billion.
An annual investigation of government agencies by the Australian National Audit Office concludes that Defence has breached federal financial management controls.
The Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, also criticised the $8.7 billion Defence Materiel Organisation, the body responsible for managing defence equipment."
So, should the ATO knock on your door and you be unable to produce an elusive receipt or explain some transaction because the paperwork isn't readily accessible, you can always point to the Defence Department as your "defence" - in the truest and strictest sense of the word!!!
As Noam Chomsky writes on ZNet, an event with significance occured in South America with little or no reporting of it:
"There was a meeting on the weekend of December 9-10 in Cochabamba in Bolivia of major South American leaders. It was a very important meeting. One index of its importance is that it was unreported, virtually unreported apart from the wire services. So every editor knew about it. Since I suspect you didn't read that wire service report, I'll read a few things from it to indicate why it was so important.
The South American leaders agreed to create a high-level commission to study the idea of forming a continent-wide community similar to the European Union. This is the presidents and envoys of major nations, and there was the two-day summit of what's called the South American Community of Nations, hosted by Evo Morales in Cochabamba, the president of Bolivia. The leaders agreed to form a study group to look at the possibility of creating a continent-wide union and even a South American parliament. The result, according to the AP report, left fiery Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, long an agitator for the region, taking a greater role on the world stage, pleased, but impatient. It goes on to say that the discussion over South American unity will continue later this month, when MERCOSUR, the South American trading bloc, has its regular meeting that will include leaders from Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Paraguay and Uruguay."
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Aboud is a small village northwest of Jerusalem, five kilometers from the Green Line, Israel's pre-1967 border. The Christian history of Aboud is said to date from when Jesus and the Holy Family passed through Aboud en route from the Galilee to Jerusalem. There are remains of nine ancient Christian Churches here that are visited by pilgrims from around the world."
This piece in the IHT provides a graphic account of life for a village slowly being strangled by that awful wall which Israel is building around, across and through Palestinian land, villages and towns in Gaza and the West Bank.
"Massachusetts lawmakers are set to launch a blizzard of investigations in the new Congress, probing issues such as wartime contracting, post-Katrina housing assistance, and the Bush administration's relationship with Cuba and other countries in Latin America.
In what could be closely watched proceedings, two members of the Massachusetts delegation -- representatives William D. Delahunt of Quincy and Martin T. Meehan of Lowell -- are planning joint committee hearings to examine the administration's Iraq war policies, particularly the reasons for the military's lagging efforts to train Iraqi troops. Delahunt is in line to become chairman of the House International Relations Committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations, and Meehan will take over the same subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee."
Interesting to speculate how this will all play out........
Whoever said technology isn't getting better and better?......
Monday, December 25, 2006
"It's Christmas in South Melbourne. Amid the smoke and the heat, Father Bob Maguire is pausing to collect his thoughts for his own style of Christmas message. It's not like the Queen's with her autocue and good manners — Father Bob's is more robust, from the heart, the yuletide thoughts of Melbourne's unorthodox social commentator.
"A nice bloke said to me the other day 'It's Christmas time, I wonder what I should be doing'. And I said 'Well, maybe you could look after others'. And he paused as if I'd said something very profound and he said 'What others?' He didn't know what the word meant. I said 'Well, go home and Google it'."
Read the full piece, in The Age, about the priest and his views on a whole range of issues.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
The questions are pointedly raised by Colonel Ann Wright, Retired, this piece on truthout:
"On January 11, 2002, the first detainees from Afghanistan arrived at the prison in the US Naval Base, Guantanamo, Cuba. In the succeeding five years, Guantanamo has symbolized to the world the Bush administration's abandonment of international and domestic law, and the development of a policy of inhumane treatment and use of torture. These claims have been linked to military and CIA operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and in an unknown number of secret prisons.
More than 775 detainees have been held in Guantanamo since January 11, 2002. After five years, no Guantanamo detainee has been convicted of a criminal offense. According to an American Forces Information Service News article dated October 17, 2006, "Bush Says Military Commissions Act Will Bring Justice," the majority of the detainees held in Guantanamo will not face military commissions. "Only detainees who will be charged with law-of-war violations and other grave offenses - about 75 detainees, officials estimated - will be subject to the commissions."
So what has happened to the other 700 detainees during these five years - those who will not be prosecuted by military commissions?"
Fisk is visiting the US. He writes here:
"I call it the Alice in Wonderland effect. Each time I tour the United States, I stare through the looking glass at the faraway region in which I live and work for The Independent - the Middle East - and see a landscape which I do no recognise, a distant tragedy turned, here in America, into a farce of hypocrisy and banality and barefaced lies. Am I the Cheshire Cat? Or the Mad Hatter?"
Fisk's observations, as always, are acute and to the point. Some would say uncomfortably blunt!
"Carter's book exposes little about Israel. The enforced segregation, abject humiliation and spiraling Israeli violence against Palestinians have been detailed in the Israeli and European press and, with remarkable consistency, by all the major human rights organizations. The assault against Carter, rather, says more about the failings of the American media -- which have largely let Israel hawks heap calumny on Carter's book. It exposes the indifference of the Bush Administration and the Democratic leadership to the rule of law and basic human rights, the timidity of our intellectual class and the moral bankruptcy of institutions that claim to speak for American Jews and the Jewish state.
The bleakness of life for Palestinians, especially in the Gaza Strip, is a mystery only to us. In the current Israeli campaign in Gaza, now sealed off from the outside world, almost 500 Palestinians, most unarmed, have been killed. Sanctions, demanded by Israel and imposed by the international community after the Hamas victory last January in what were universally acknowledged to be free and fair elections, have led to the collapse of civil society in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as widespread malnutrition. And Palestinians in the West Bank are being encased, in open violation of international law, in a series of podlike militarized ghettos with Israel's massive $2 billion project to build a "security barrier." This barrier will gobble up at least 10 percent of the West Bank, including most of the precious aquifers and at least 40,000 acres of Palestinian farmland. The project is being financed in large part through $9 billion in American loan guarantees, although when Congress approved the legislation in April 2003, Israel was told that the loans could be used "only to support activities in the geographic areas which were subject to the administration of the Government of Israel prior to June 5, 1967."
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Meanwhile, Mahler's Prodigal Son is off wandering parts of the globe. That doesn't mean that this blogger will be off the air during the next weeks.....only that there won't be quite the regular postings each day.
In a December in which bumblebees, butterflies and even swallows have been on the wing in Britain, European brown bears have been lumbering through the forests of Spain's Cantabrian mountains, when normally they would already be in their long, annual sleep.
Bears are supposed to slumber throughout the winter, slowing their body rhythms to a minimum and drawing on stored resources, because frozen weather makes food too scarce to find. The barely breathing creatures can lose up to 40 per cent of their body weight before warmer springtime weather rouses them back to life.
But many of the 130 bears in Spain's northern cordillera - which have a slightly different genetic identity from bear populations elsewhere in the world - have remained active throughout recent winters, naturalists from Spain's Brown Bear Foundation (La Fundación Oso Pardo - FOP) said yesterday.
The change is affecting female bears with young cubs, which now find there are enough nuts, acorns, chestnuts and berries on thebleak mountainsides to make winter food-gathering sorties "energetically worthwhile", scientists at the foundation, based in Santander, the Cantabrian capital, told El Pais newspaper."
Need anything more be said about global warming and climate change? Read this article, in The Independent, about a sad situation on how we are hurting even the animals in not addressing climate change on a massive scale around the globe.
He puts forward the proposition in this op-ed piece in The Age that Ministers in the Howard Government may well have breached international law in their handling [or non-handling] of the Hicks matter:
"Davis Hicks has been accused of some ill-defined war crimes. But is he the victim of a policy promoted by the Australian Government that is itself a war crime?
In September last year Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said: "We have been pressing the American Government to get on with the trial of Mr Hicks." He has frequently repeated this view, and Prime Minister John Howard and other ministers have also expressed it.
This stance would not only fail the "fair go" section of any proposed citizenship test, it also ignores our commitments under international law and may be a grave contravention of Australia's criminal law.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court came into force for Australia on September 1, 2002, and since that date the International Criminal Court has had jurisdiction to exercise its functions and powers in Australia over persons within Australia."
Friday, December 22, 2006
The LA Times has published this op-ed piece "Why they deny the Holocaust" in the course of which piece Ali says:
"Western leaders today who say they are shocked by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's conference this week denying the Holocaust need to wake up to that reality. For the majority of Muslims in the world, the Holocaust is not a major historical event that they deny. We simply do not know it ever happened because we were never informed of it.
The total number of Jews in the world today is estimated to be about 15 million, certainly no more than 20 million. On the other hand, the world's Muslim population is estimated to be between 1.2 billion and 1.5 billion. And not only is this population rapidly growing, it is also very young.
What's striking about Ahmadinejad's conference is the (silent) acquiescence of mainstream Muslims. I cannot help but wonder: Why is there no counter-conference in Riyadh, Cairo, Lahore, Khartoum or Jakarta condemning Ahmadinejad? Why are the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference silent on this? "
Things in Iran might just be changing, even a tad, as this piece in the NY Times reports:
"As protests broke out last week at a prestigious university here, cutting short a speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Babak Zamanian could only watch from afar. He was on crutches, having been clubbed by supporters of the president and had his foot run over by a motorcycle during a less publicized student demonstration a few days earlier.
But the significance of the confrontation was easy to grasp, even from a distance, said Mr. Zamanian, a leader of a student political group."
As this piece on ABC Radio National's Breakfast program reports:
"The drought is certainly hitting our rural communities hard this Christmas. For many people on the land, this will be the worst ever.
But a small town in Victoria is hoping that city folk will come to the rescue.
Stanhope, in the Goulburn Valley, wants people to sponsor a cow, so local dairy farmers can buy feed for their livestock.
Currently, 3,500 dairy cows are being slaughtered every week. at just one local abattoir. But, there is hope.
Bob Holschier is chairman of the Stanhope and District Development Committee and the brains behind this scheme."
Listen to this interview for an insight into how hard people on the land are doing it through the drought. Oh yes, you can even adopt a cow too!
Thursday, December 21, 2006
"So, David Hicks has been locked up in Guantanamo Bay for nearly five years. Britain and the US pulled their citizens out years ago, but John Howard doesn't see any need to avoid a trial by the US military commission that Britain, justifiably, feared would not try its citizens fairly. And how would someone react to five years of hellish, seemingly unending captivity? In particular, someone who, judging by his decision to fight alongside the Taliban, probably wasn't exactly tip-top mentally to begin with? Well, they'd have enormous problems. Which is why when I ask whether David Hicks knows it's Christmas, I don't mean it in the Band Aid sense of "can he, in his suffering, recognise that this is supposed to be the season of goodwill towards others". I'm asking whether, given his evident mental disintegration, he is even aware it's Christmas.
The news today is that he won't talk to his long-suffering, endlessly supportive Dad, which must be enormously hard for the man who's been tireless in his efforts to get something to happen. Clearly, David's doing it tough. And he's in solitary confinement, which is gruelling for anybody – let alone someone who's been locked up for five years and doesn't even get to contend with a normal, sensible, fair trial process."
In his latest piece in truthdig he writes:
"The stark reality of Gaza, however, has failed to penetrate the consciousness of most Americans, who, when they notice the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, prefer to debate the merits of the word “apartheid” in former President Jimmy Carter’s new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” It is a sad commentary on the gutlessness of the U.S. press and the timidity of the Democratic opposition that most Americans are not aware of the catastrophic humanitarian crisis they bear so much responsibility in creating. Palestinians are not only dying, their olive trees uprooted, their farmland and homes destroyed and their aquifers taken away from them, but on many days they can’t move because of Israeli “closures” that make basic tasks, like buying food and going to the hospital, nearly impossible. These Palestinians, after decades of repression, cannot return to land from which they were expelled. The 140-plus U.N. votes to censure Israel and two Security Council resolutions—both vetoed by the United States—are blithly ignored. Is it any wonder that the Palestinians, gasping for air, rebel as the walls close in around them, as their children go hungry and as the Israelis turn up the violence?"
This is a must-read piece - sobering and revealing, on so many levels, on the plight of the Palestinians and what is being wrought by the Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank. If this isn't apartheid what is it?
"The tragedy unleashed by the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq defies description."
"Basic foods and necessities are beyond the reach of ordinary Iraqis because of massive inflation. "A gallon of gasoline cost as little as 4 cents in November. Now, after the International Monetary Fund pushed the Oil Ministry to cut its subsidies, the official price is about 67 cents," the New York Times notes. "The spike has come as a shock to Iraqis, who make only about $150 a month on average -- if they have jobs," an important proviso, since unemployment is roughly 60-70 percent nationally.
October 2006 proved to be the bloodiest month of the entire occupation, with more than six thousand civilians killed in Iraq, most in Baghdad, where thousands of additional U.S. troops have been sent since August with the claim they would restore order and stability in the city, but instead only sparked more violence. United Nations special investigator Manfred Nowak notes that torture "is totally out of hand" in Iraq. "The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein." The number of U.S. soldiers dead is now more than 2,900, with more than 21,000 wounded, many severely.
The underlying trend is clear: Each day the occupation continues, life gets worse for most Iraqis. Rather than stemming civil war or sectarian conflict, the occupation is spurring it. Rather than being a source of stability, the occupation is the major source of instability and chaos."
"......according to one of the world's leading economists, that is just a fraction of what Iraq will actually wind up costing American taxpayers. Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, estimates the true cost of the war at$2.267 trillion. That includes the government's past and future spending for the war itself ($725 billion), health care and disability benefits for veterans ($127 billion), and hidden increases in defense spending ($160 billion). It also includes losses the economy will suffer from injured vets ($355 billion) and higher oil prices ($450 billion)."
*** The Australian Financial Review reports that the Chairman and CEO at Goldman Sachs Group [in New York] is eligible for a US$87 million [A$111 million] bonus this year after his firm shattered Wall Street's profit record
*** The Epicure section of The Age reports that a barrista working in Sydney can earn $100,000 per annum
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
So, it is interesting to read this blast at the past, as reported in the IHT:
"President Traian Basescu of Romania on Monday formally condemned the Communist dictatorship that ruled his country for more than four decades, the first time a Romanian head of state had officially denounced the Soviet-era system.
"The regime exterminated people by assassination and deportation of hundreds of thousands of people," Basescu told his country's Parliament. He based his assessment on a 660-page report compiled by a presidential commission charged with analyzing the country's Communist past."
Just think! On 1 January Romania joins the European Union.
That was then. As James Button reports in this piece in The Age:
"At the United Nations summit in Nairobi last month, ministers from France to Denmark to Bangladesh lined up to praise Stern and pledge their commitment to the cause.
But in Britain this month, Chancellor Gordon Brown released his pre-budget report. The document would normally hold little interest, except that it was hyped in advance as a visionary statement of what Brown will do if and when he becomes prime minister next year.
The report was brown all right. Green was hard to find. It marginally increased taxes on airlines and fuel and introduced a stamp duty exemption on a minority of new homes that are carbon-neutral. But it adopted none of Stern's proposals, notably those for targeted green taxes and more money for research into clean technology - a change Stern says is critical."
By the way, significantly, Stern has resigned from his government position.
On the other side of the Atlantic, blogger Rob McKay, as reported on The Huffington Report, writes:
"It is 60 degrees on December 18th in New York City. I'm hardly relieved I didn't have to bundle up my daughter and trudge with her through ice and now to go see "The Nutcracker" today. The temperature is terrifying. I want to crack some sense into the nuts who tell us there's nothing to worry about....
..Bush won't even use the term "global warming." He occasionally makes reference to the world's "climate change." Conservative politicians and pundits chalk up global warming to the next liberal bully pulpit, a rehash of "political correctness" or outcries from the "feminazis"...
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Accepting that to be the fact, one certainly would not be telling those pesky terrorists what our thinking is and what plans are afoot to combat the terrorist threat.
Not so! Be gob-smacked that the US Department of Defence [ie the Pentagon] has published its 282-page counterinsurgency war-fighting manual on line.
Yep folks, all of us, terrorists and others, can read it here via IraqSlogger. Dumb!!!
"Systematic injustice stokes searing humiliation and resentment, turning many Afghans against President Hamid Karzai's government and his foreign backers. Nostalgia for the ruthless rule of the Taliban is growing as the line between judges and criminals blurs. When they can't find justice in the courts, Afghans are tempted to turn back to what they've trusted most for a generation: their weapons."
Looks like it's the same sort of democracy we are witnessing in Iraq - not!!!!
"What is a human life worth? You may not want to put a price tag on a it. But if we really had to, most of us would agree that the value of a human life would be in the millions. Consistent with the foundations of our democracy and our frequently professed belief in the inherent dignity of human beings, we would also agree that all humans are created equal, at least to the extent of denying that differences of sex, ethnicity, nationality and place of residence change the value of a human life."
For Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, the ideal of valuing all human life equally began to jar against reality some years ago, when he read an article about diseases in the developing world and came across the statistic that half a million children die every year from rotavirus, the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children. He had never heard of rotavirus. “How could I never have heard of something that kills half a million children every year?” he asked himself. He then learned that in developing countries, millions of children die from diseases that have been eliminated, or virtually eliminated, in the United States. That shocked him because he assumed that, if there are vaccines and treatments that could save lives, governments would be doing everything possible to get them to the people who need them. As Gates told a meeting of the World Health Assembly in Geneva last year, he and his wife, Melinda, “couldn’t escape the brutal conclusion that — in our world today — some lives are seen as worth saving and others are not.” They said to themselves, “This can’t be true.” But they knew it was."
This year it's all very different, as Nora Ephron, somewhat tongue in cheek, writes on The Huffington Post:
"It never crossed my mind that when I was finally named Person of the Year by Time Magazine, which I seem to have been, I would find it out by reading the morning newspaper on the actual day Time Magazine appeared. It never occurred to me that they would be able to assemble an entire article about me without even calling."
Monday, December 18, 2006
"Last week, I awoke to the persistent stammering of my 2-year-old son Yousuf: "I think today the crossing will open mama!" After we had waited at the border for over two weeks, Yousuf's prediction came true. Israel finally opened the border for a few hours.
Amidst chaotic crowds of thousands of stranded travelers, my son and I managed to squeeze through Gaza's Rafah crossing from Egypt to reach our home in the Gaza Strip.
However, the hardships persist for thousands of Palestinians on both the Egyptian and Gaza sides of the passage who were unable to cross during those fleeting hours. They now must wait until the Israeli government temporarily opens the border again."
What is less well-know, is that apart from grinding its cofffee-beans, Starbucks also "grinds" down the producers in Ethiopia who grow the actual coffee beans.
As Le Monde reports [reproduced on truthout]:
"Coffee is by far Ethiopia's main resource. It represents between 40 and 60 percent of the country's exports and assures the survival of about 15 million people, essentially the families of poor farmers. In an attempt to increase its income and protect itself from the catastrophic collapse of prices, like the one that took place between 2000 and 2003, Addis Ababa is trying to register the brand names for the regions where its most well-known coffees - Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, and Harar - are produced, much the way cognac or Roquefort are registered.
But Ethiopia runs up against Starbucks. The multinational makes liberal use of Ethiopian names to sell its beverages and does not want to hear about paying for trademarks. Oxfam, the English organization that preaches fair trade, has accused the American group for months of depriving Ethiopian farmers of at least $90 million of additional income per year. "Harar and Sidamo coffees are sold for as much as $24 to $26 a pound by Starbucks. The farmers who grow them receive between 60 cents and $1.10 per pound," explains Oxfam's Seth Petchers."
As Mother Jones reports, it's not just the exiles who have their sights on Havana. Whilst Fidel Castro evidently nears death, an insight into the thinking in the US looks at past and future American policy towards the island nation Castro has ruled for fifty years.
"The United States is losing the war in Iraq but sending more troops to Baghdad is not the best way to change course, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Face The Nation.
Powell said he agreed with the assessment of the Iraq Study Group co-chairmen, Lee Hamilton and James Baker, that the situation in Iraq is "grave and deteriorating," and he also agreed with recently-confirmed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that the U.S. is not winning the war.
"So if it's grave and deteriorating and we're not winning, we are losing," Powell told Bob Schieffer in an exclusive interview. "We haven't lost. And this is the time, now, to start to put in place the kinds of strategies that will turn this situation around."
Sunday, December 17, 2006
So, how do you report it? That was the dilema of the the BBC reporter in Iran.
"Iran has been severely criticised for hosting a conference questioning the Holocaust. Delegates included not only some of the world's best-known Holocaust deniers, but also white supremacists and anti-Semites.
Iran frequently plays host to those who criticise Israel.
In the BBC there's a lot of talk about impartial broadcasting. I've always wondered how that would work if you were the BBC correspondent in Nazi Germany reporting on Hitler.
Would you not have to take sides? Well I got closer than ever before to this problem reporting on Iran's Holocaust conference."
It is interesting, in an Australian context, as John Howard seeks to have new immigrants adopt "Australian values " - including those coming to Australia given to understand that women must be treatly equally to men - the situation for women in Iraq is getting must worse than it was under the Saddam regime.
The Washington Post reports:
"As Islamic fundamentalism seeps into society and sectarian warfare escalates, more and more women live in fear of being kidnapped or raped. They receive death threats because of their religious sects and careers. They are harassed for not abiding by the strict dress code of long skirts and head scarves or for driving cars.
For much of the 20th century, and under various leaders, Iraq was one of the most progressive Middle Eastern countries in its treatment of women, who were encouraged to go to school and enter the workforce. Saddam Hussein's Baath Party espoused a secular Arab nationalism that advocated women's full participation in society. But years of war changed that."
The women of Iraq must really be grateful for the "liberation" the George, Tony and John inspired war in Iraq has brought them!!!
The world is turning though. Despite the sceptics, the evidence is almost overwhelming that we are faced with innumerable challenges, on all levels, unless we, now, deal with climate change. To ignore what is happening around us, and faces future generations, would be totally irresponsible.
It is is not only governments who must take action. Everyone has a role to play:
"Research out of the Max Planck Institute in Germany suggests how we might help ourselves evolve. We behave as better environmental citizens when educated about the science of global warming, and when our individual actions are visible to those around us -- a phenomenon known as "social facilitation." Perhaps if we're vigorously informed of how global warming endangers our neighborhoods, we'll individually forego the McMansions and the Hummers and make other sustainable choices. Anything less compromises our children's future."
This piece on AlterNet puts the whole subject into context - and what the "man in the street" thinks about it.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
"Predictably, some are accusing Carter of anti-Semitism. Carter is closely following the responses, including on the Internet, and responding to his critics. He is prepared to lecture for free about his views - but Jews don't want to hear, he complains. An Israeli reader won't find anything more in the book than is written in the newspapers here every day.
Carter has much praise for the public discourse in Israel, saying that it is more open to debate over a withdrawal to the Green Line than is the public discourse in America. It's become something of a fashion there lately to claim that the Jewish lobby stifles all criticism of Israel; in fact, it isn't difficult to find criticism there, too. Surveys show that a majority of Jews in America support a withdrawal in return for peace, as do at least half of the inhabitants of Israel. Carter isn't calling for anything more than that."
"The Government's case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony Blair lied over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.
In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests."
As the report NY Times reports, the whole "structure" of entry and departure from the US now looks more than a tad ridiculous:
"In a major blow to the Bush administration’s efforts to secure borders, domestic security officials have for now given up on plans to develop a facial or fingerprint recognition system to determine whether a vast majority of foreign visitors leave the country, officials say.
Domestic security officials had described the system, known as U.S. Visit, as critical to security and important in efforts to curb illegal immigration. Similarly, one-third of the overall total of illegal immigrants are believed to have overstayed their visas, a Congressional report says.
Tracking visitors took on particular urgency after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when it became clear that some of the hijackers had remained in the country after their visas had expired."
"Alexander Downer and Brendan Nelson were in Washington this week. A greater pair of ministerial impostors representing Australia at the very hub of US military and political power is hard to imagine. What must Americans really think of two such characters from the other side of the world? Do they see the joke, you wonder? Or is the Bush Administration, with its frightening caricature of a President, grateful for any visitors, particularly those forever genuflecting, who continue to tell it how right it is and what staunch "mates" it has in the land of the kangaroo?".
And as Ramsay goes on to write, this quite extraordinary statement from Lord Downer of Baghdad:
"Foreign Minister Downer, speaking on future Iraq policy to reporters in Washington on Tuesday: "Our view is, first of all, it's not [about] timetables. It's not the haste with which the President makes his decisions. It's the quality of the decisions that counts. And, you know, our view is he should make the decisions when he feels comfortable he's got the right formula in place. That's what history will judge him by."
George Bush and "decisions of quality?"
Try to keep from your jaw dropping as you read the complete article here.
Friday, December 15, 2006
"If Lieberman's pronouncements are to be taken seriously--and there is no obvious reason they should not be--a Lieberman government would exclude some Arab citizens from Israel, would expel others who refuse to sign a loyalty-to-Zionism oath, would turn Gaza into Grozny and would execute Arab members of the Knesset who talk to Hamas or mark Israel Independence Day as the anniversary of the displacement of the Palestinians in 1948.
Many Israelis--and many Americans--are sleeping through the rise of Lieberman. Others are through their actions facilitating the ascendance of fascist ideas in Israel. Lieberman is more than kosher as far as Washington is concerned. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice welcomed him at the State Department on December 11, a day after he was featured at a forum, sponsored by the Brookings Institution's Saban Center, that also included Bill Clinton, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and several other members of Congress."
Carter, to one of the questions, says:
"So the book applies to the Palestines. Secondly I use that word deliberately and it's an accurate description of the circumstances there because I wanted to provoke an almost non-existent debate and discussion in my own country.
Where rarely is any sort of presentation of the conflicting points of view that I see everyday when I'm is Israel, in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or when I'm in an Arab country obviously or Europe. So I wanted this book to be somewhat provocative and that's why I used a deliberately provocative word."
"That the US tortures, routinely and systematically, while prosecuting its "war on terror" can no longer be seriously disputed. The Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project (DAA), a coalition of academics and human-rights groups, has documented the abuse or killing of 460 inmates of US military prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay. This, it says, is necessarily a conservative figure: many cases will remain unrecorded. The prisoners were beaten, raped, forced to abuse themselves, forced to maintain "stress positions", and subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation and mock executions."
This most disturbing piece is a must-read for it shows the level of depravity and inhumanity the US has employed in its treatment of many people, said to be terrorists, not even charged with any offence. As Monbiot concludes in his piece:
"President Bush maintains that he is fighting a war against threats to the "values of civilised nations": terror, cruelty, barbarism and extremism. He asked his nation's interrogators to discover where these evils are hidden. They should congratulate themselves. They appear to have succeeded."
Meanwhile, those 2 clowns, Ministers Downer and Nelson, have demeaned and disgraced themselves, and Australia, by in Washington this week trumpeting wholesale support for the war-effort of the US in Iraq. Not a word, apparently, about the release of David Hicks. Let's not forget that Lord Downer of Baghdad is the Foreign Minister of Australia whose department, DFAT, is repsonsible for Oz citizens overseas.
So begins this light-hearted piece "Cheat to geek guide" in The Age - but nevertheless a quick guide on all one at least needs to know about what all those seemingly geeky terms mean and being in the loop......
Thursday, December 14, 2006
“The question we writers are asked most often, the favorite question, is:
Why do you write? I write because I have an innate need to write! I write because I can't do normal work like other people. I write because I want to read books like the ones I write. I write because I am angry at all of you, angry at everyone. I write because I love sitting in a room all day writing. I write because I can only partake in real life by changing it. I write because I want others, all of us, the whole world, to know what sort of life we lived, and continue to live, in Istanbul, in Turkey. I write because I love the smell of paper, pen, and ink. I write because I believe in literature, in the art of the novel, more than I believe in anything else. I write because it is a habit, a passion. I write because I am afraid of being forgotten. I write because I like the glory and interest that writing brings. I write to be alone. Perhaps I write because I hope to understand why I am so very, very angry at all of you, so very, very angry at everyone. I write because I like to be read. I write because once I have begun a novel, an essay, a page, I want to finish it. I write because everyone expects me to write. I write because I have a childish belief in the immortality of libraries, and in the way my books sit on the shelf. I write because it is exciting to turn all of life's beauties and riches into words. I write not to tell a story, but to compose a story. I write because I wish to escape from the foreboding that there is a place I must go but—just as in a dream—I can't quite get there. I write because I have never managed to be happy. I write to be happy."
Now, with this newly proposed "test" for applicants for citizenship in Australia, Howard has attempted - poorly and incoherently one might add - to not only say what "Australian values" are but what he sees as the larger picture about immigrants to the country.
Interviewed on AM [the ABC's Radio National program] a couple of days ago, Howard said:
"I haven't used the word [ie multiculturalism] a lot. We're not sort of formally abandoning words. You don't make announcements about that, you just, over a period of time you use the language which best expresses the feelings you have, and I prefer to use the expression "integration". But I, side-by-side with that, continue to emphasise that we have a non-discriminatory immigration policy, and it will continue to take people from all around the world, irrespective of their ethnicity, irrespective of their race, their religion, or their nationality."
So "integration" is the buzz-word and objective - whatever that might mean. Read the full transcript of the interview here - and then ponder whether this is the new Tampa-type election-issue looming on the horizon.
But who is Arianna Huffington? Some formidable woman by all accounts, as the Guardian Unlimited describes her in this interesting "portrait" of the blogger:
"She's the Blackberry-toting, Bush-baiting Queen of the Blogosphere who has made her two-year-old website the most potent force in American politics. Paul Harris links up with Arianna Huffington to discover what makes the ultimate Net worker click".
If you want to see Huffington's "work" in action take a load of this great put-down of Congressman Tom De Ley and his blog:
"First let me say, welcome to the blogosphere -- always nice to have a new voice in the mix. So good to know you have access to a computer in jail (oh, sorry, you dodged that bullet). And thanks for the link.
But since you're a newbie blogger, I want to give you a hand by pointing out some rookie mistakes your site made in its diatribe about me and the Huffington Post today."
"The Israeli supreme court has overturned part of a 17-month-old blanket ban by the government on Palestinians seeking compensation for harm inflicted by the Israel Defence Forces.
The decision reopens the way for at least some law suits in the Israeli courts by Palestinians who suffer bereavement, injury or property damage at the hands of the Israeli military in Gaza or the West Bank, by cancelling a section of an amendment approved by the Knesset in July 2005."
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
He writes [in an op-ed piece in The Age] of 5 lessons he has learned as the "head" of the UN:
"Nearly 50 years ago, when I arrived in Minnesota as a student fresh from Africa, I had much to learn - starting with the fact that there is nothing wimpish about wearing earmuffs when it is 15 degrees below zero. All my life since has been a learning experience. Now I want to pass on five lessons I have learned during 10 years as Secretary-General of the United Nations that I believe the community of nations needs to learn as it confronts the challenges of the 21st century."
Crikey has exposed the most outrageous "complaint" [really?] about an educational simulation conducted at a Sydney High School - and then the immediate backdown [capitulation?] by the NSW Education Department:
"I recently reported for Crikey on alleged anti-Israel bias of educational simulations on the Israel/Palestine conflict conducted by Macquarie University’s Centre for Middle East and North African Studies. The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and The Australian have both conducted a campaign to stigmatise the simulations as pro-terrorist, pro-Palestinian and anti-US (though the simulations ended late last year.)
Crikey has now discovered that the popular simulations were cancelled after only one complaint. I have obtained the initial letter that was sent to the headmaster of Killara High School in mid-2004. It alleged "pro-Palestinian bias" and concern that "pro-Israeli or pro-US [roles] are given a negative connotation". The parents contacted the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies with their complaint, and the Board then demanded a meeting with the school’s principal (which he granted.)"
As you read the entire piece be concerned how McCarthyism takes hold in Australia. We will all be the losers in one way or another.
The Media award is a most deserving one. Let Crikey hit the mark in one:
"There is no more polished, professional or practiced media operator in Australia than the host of Radio National’s must-listen-to daily breakfast news feast, Fran Kelly. She’s personally on air for almost two hours from 6am, a solo act (with a patently outstanding production staff supporting her) juggling something like eight issues each morning, in addition to regular slots on sport, business and politics. She is the master of the brief – actually more like a dozen briefs each day – and her consistency across those subjects is spectacular. Whether it’s a complex breaking foreign story, an economics issue, a human interest tale or her own area of expertise, national politics, she handles them all with a sense of apparent knowledge and deep interest. Not only has she has filled some large shoes in this demanding slot, she has made Radio National Breakfast more mandatory for anyone interested in issues than at any time before. Few journalists anywhere can match Fran Kelly for sheer professionalism – or listenability."
Oh yes.....do listen in the morning. It's gold, gold, gold!
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
"Not surprisingly, the Bush administration is already backing away from most of the proposals put forth by the Iraq Study Group. The New York Times, with unintended comic irony, noted it this way: "Administration officials say their preliminary review of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group's recommendations has concluded that many of its key proposals are impractical or unrealistic." Thank God we have George Bush to protect us from doing anything impractical or unrealistic in the Middle East.
But there is one thing in the proposal we can be sure Bush will take from the report -- the slogan. Bush may not be into things like facts, truth, or reality, but he loves a good slogan.
So while Bush may not like any of the Group's 79 proposals (so impractical and unrealistic), he's ready to adopt its slogan, "New Way Forward." Newsweek says that next week "Bush is expected to announce what he calls 'The New Way Forward,' his latest plan to salvage the mission in Iraq."
Yet, good ol' George, ever delusional and seemingly living in the Washington version of Disneyland is quoted in NY Daily News thus:
"I'll be dead when they get it right," he said during an Oval Office meeting last week.
Read the rest of the analysis of Georges' past week here.
The Guardian has this op-ed piece by Peter Preston [re-published today in The Age] on the subject:
"This injunction couldn't be clearer. "The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts." Notice that "must" word. Tony Blair says it again and again. If you don't cut out the cancer of hatred, loss and retribution, then nothing good will happen. There will be no rest for Iraq, no spread of democracy, no rapprochement with Tehran - and no breakthrough in the campaign against terrorism (including, Blair might add, the wild and woolly recruitment of suicide teenagers from Leeds to Lahore).
Dig deeper in the Baker report text to discover what such "commitment" involves. "For several reasons, we should act boldly: there is no military solution to this conflict. The vast majority of the Israeli body politic is tired of being a nation perpetually at war. No American administration - Democratic or Republican - will ever abandon Israel. Political engagement and dialogue are essential in the Arab-Israeli dispute because it is an axiom that when the political process breaks down there will be violence on the ground."
The Israeli PM has now blown it! - as reported here by the Israel News Agency:
"According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel's Channel 10 TV news, Reuters and The Washington Post, Israel has publicly announced it's possession of nuclear weapons.
In a story attributed to The Jerusalem Post staff and Post reporter Anshel Pfeffer, Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert admitted this evening that Israel possessed nuclear weapons.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons,but few international experts ever questioned the Jewish state's presence on the world's list of nuclear powers. Its nuclear capability is arguably the most secretive weapons of mass destruction program in the world.
Unlike Iran and North Korea - two countries whose alleged nuclear ambitions have recently come to the fore - Israel has never signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, designed to prevent the global spread of nuclear weapons. As a result, it is not subject to inspections and the threat of sanctions by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency."
As Patrick Cockburn writes in this piece in AlterNet [from The Independent]:
"During the Opium Wars between Britain and China in the 19th century, eunuchs at the court of the Chinese emperor had the problem of informing him of the repeated and humiliating defeat of his armies. They dealt with their delicate task by simply telling the emperor that his forces had already won or were about to win victories on all fronts.
For three and a half years White House officials have dealt with bad news from Iraq in similar fashion. Journalists were repeatedly accused by the US administration of not reporting political and military progress on the ground. Information about the failure of the US venture was ignored or suppressed.
Manipulation of facts was often very crude. As an example of the systematic distortion, the Iraq Study Group revealed last week that on one day last July US officials reported 93 attacks or significant acts of violence. In reality, it added, "a careful review of the reports ... brought to light 1,100 acts of violence."
Cockburn's recently written book "The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq (Verso Books,
2006] deals with the mismangement of the Iraq War and includes these sometimes quite remarkable, and prevously unreported facts:
"One place where the US might have hoped for a sympathetic hearing was among the brokers on the Baghdad stock exchange. But in 2003 control of the exchange was given to a 24-year-old American whose main credential for the job was his family’s contributions to the Republican Party. He allegedly failed to renew the lease on a building housing the exchange, which consequently stayed shut for a year."
"None of the succulent tomatoes or the crisp cucumbers grown in Iraq made it into the salad bar. US Government regulations dictated that everything, even the water in which hot dogs were boiled, be shipped in from approved suppliers in other nations. Milk and bread were trucked in from Kuwait, as were tinned peas and carrots. The breakfast cereal was flown in from the United States: made-in-the-USA. Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes at the breakfast table helped boost morale."
"Within weeks [of ‘liberation’], Iraqis found they were being ruled by a classic colonial occupation. Young Americans, whose only credentials were their links to the Administration, poured into Baghdad. The country became a feeding trough for politically well-connected American companies and individuals. No money could be spent without an American counter-signature. In one mental asylum patients did not eat for a day because the appropriate American could not be found to permit the spending of US$360 on food."