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It's easy to see who is making a profit

The Progressive reports:

"I’ve been joking the last few years that if you invested in military stocks on January 20, 2001, you’d be sitting pretty right now.

Well, now I’ve got some more evidence to back up that not-so-funny joke.
Since the Iraq War began, aerospace and defense industry stocks have more than doubled.

General Dynamics did even better than that.

Its stock has tripled.

Banking on its Abrams tanks and Stryker troop transports, General Dynamics gobbled up $2.35 billion “in war revenue last year,” according to Bloomberg News.

“The war has been a huge benefit to almost all contractors,” William Hartung of the New America Foundation told Bloomberg.

War profiteering is not news, I suppose. But it is disgusting. And those who are profiting from the war are Bush and Cheney’s cronies in the corporate boardrooms. For them, war is not a bloody tragedy, it’s a golden opportunity. Bush’s “base” is doing just fine.

Almost 100 years ago, back in 1911, Fighting Bob La Follette, the pioneer …

An end to the Iraq War

Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. His most recent book is "Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower."

Writing an op-ed piece in The Washington Post "The Smart Way Out of a FoolishWar" Brezezinski reflects on the Iraq War and how the US can best extricate itself from what by all assessments has become a debacle on many levels, not the least the death and mayhem.

"Both Democratic presidential candidates agree that the United States should end its combat mission in Iraq within 12 to 16 months of their possible inauguration. The Republican candidate has spoken of continuing the war, even for a hundred years, until "victory." The core issue of this campaign is thus a basic disagreement over the merits of the war and the benefits and costs of continuing it.

The case for U.S. disengagement from combat is compelling in its own right. But it must be matched by a comprehensive political and d…

Self-defence or brutal occupation?

"Speaking honestly about Israel and Palestine has always been fraught. Contrary to popular perception, the official public voice of the Australian Jewish community is not without dissent among Jews around the country. Indeed, there is a belief among some that the mainstream view is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile with the facts, and that Israel and its supporters can no longer justifiably portray the Jewish state as victim, acting only in self-defence."

So begins a nuanced and balanced assessment in an op-ed piece in The Age [by Peter Slezak and Antony Loewenstein] of the position confronting both Israel and the Palestinians as Israel gets ready to celebrate it's 60th birthday and 41 years after Israel started its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

And:

"However, the true friends of Israel are not those who serve as propagandists for official myths but those who stand with the many Israelis to condemn not only the crimes of Palestinians, but also those…

Israeli poet speaks about boycotts, etc

When the announcement that Israel would attend the "Fiera del libro" of Turin, (*) came out, an immediate wave of protest arose in Italy; and many personalities supported the boycott call, made by the Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian Writers’ Associations (**).

In France, strangely enough, the same invitation, to the "Salon du livre" of Paris, did not make much noise. Alone, the Israeli poet Aharon Shabta├» has refused to participate in these events, contrary to the 39 Israeli writers who accepted to be part of the Israeli delegation to these two exhibitions. Aharon Shabta├» explains here why these events –which he qualifies as "promotion of propaganda" for Israel-, must be boycotted, as well as any cultural event where this apartheid State is celebrated.

Read the interview here.

Statistics.....ignored by the media

Figures released by Dr Mustafa Barghouthi’s office Almubadara 28 March 2008:

Israeli Violations in 4 months since Annapolis
(28 November 2007 - 27 March 2008)

Israeli military attacks: 1,466
(WB: 683; GS: 783)

Palestinians killed: 337 - 39 children
(WB: 36; GS: 301)

Palestinians injured: 1,158 - 76 children
(WB: 372; GS: 786)

Palestinians arrested: 2,117 - 24 children
(WB: 1,794; GS: 323)

Been there, done that!

Mike Carlton, in his weekly op-ed piece in the SMH, writes about an all too familiar [frustrating] scenario:

"In a moment of what I look back on now as wanton stupidity, I tried to ring the local branch of my bank the other day. A new PIN for a credit card was being sent there for me to collect.

To save an unnecessary trip, I wanted to make sure it had arrived.

No big deal, you would think. Look up number in phone book, call manager, ask question, get answer. Simple as that.

But not any more. Not in this brave new world of the information technology revolution it isn't. It would have been easier trying to get through to the Pope.

For starters, they don't list the local branch numbers nowadays. Either that or the branches have abandoned telephones. You have to ring a main switchboard number and submit to being bossed around, interminably, by a tinny digital recording which assumes that you have an IQ struggling for double figures.

It would be unfair to name the bank here. So let…

Bush and McCain's shared foreign policy approach

As the world, outside of America, watches the presidential candidates tussle for the "big prize" a consideration of the man who is now the GOP candidate, John McCain. What does he actually stand for? Is he anything different to George W and his cronies?

An insight into the man, and his policies, came in what was billed as a major foreign policy speech earlier this week. Glenn Greenwald, writing on Salon.comanalyses the content:

"On Wednesday, John McCain delivered what was billed as a "major foreign policy" speech and today, David Brooks gushed that it was "as personal, nuanced and ambitious a speech as any made by a presidential candidate this year." In particular, Brooks said that the speech demonstrates just how different McCain's foreign policy approach is from that of Bush/Cheney: "Anybody who thinks McCain is merely continuing the Bush agenda is not paying attention."
The reality is exactly the opposite. Thematically, …

A day in a Guantanamo detainee's life

The LA Times publishes a piece giving a rare insight into life at Guantanamo Bay:

"Visitors to the Guantanamo Bay detention center get few, brief glimpses of the detainees. But in reporting trips over the last three years, details have emerged through tours of the camps, conversations with lawyers, chance encounters, and the military commission proceedings that offer outsiders their only sanctioned opportunity to see the prisoners."

Iraq and Cheney: So?

The longer he remains in office VP Cheney looks more and more like the awful man he is. Rigid, one-eyed, of questionable integrity and some would say downright evil...... probably learned during his years in the Nixon White House and something dealt with by Marie Coco in his piece "Nixon's Heir" on truthdig.com:

"Some days, there’s just no forgetting that Dick Cheney is still the vice president of the United States. We’ve had a few of these recently, with Cheney traveling to Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East on what might be called a goodwill mission, if the person making the trip were not Dick Cheney.

Many startling comments tumbled from the vice president’s lips. His verbal jousting with ABC’s Martha Raddatz over the recent National Intelligence Estimate conclusion that Iran had stopped trying to build a nuclear weapon around 2003 is one scary discussion. Examining this back-and-forth, you cannot help but conclude that Cheney does not put much stock in the NI…

A terrifying day in Tibet

The Washington Postreports:

"In the moment, Canadian backpacker John Kenwood recalled, he was "young and stupid, and it was all adrenaline." He was running, one in a mob of 200 or so, screaming, "Free Tibet!" and chasing riot police down a narrow street in downtown Lhasa in the early afternoon of March 14.

It was a heady feeling, being part of a howling pack that had forced police to turn tail and run, some dropping their shields as they fled a barrage of rocks. Then the Tibetans in the crowd slowed and began turning back, grinning and patting one another on the back.

The ebullient mood did not last long. The pack broke into smaller groups, gathering rocks and pulling out knives, looking for the next target.

"There was no more crowd to be part of. It looked like they were turning on everybody," said Kenwood, 19, describing the scene to reporters last week when he arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal, after 10 days in the Tibetan capital. "It wasn't about…

Zimbabwe: That's no election

Robert I. Rotberg is director of the Kennedy School's Program on Intrastate Conflict at Harvard University and president of the World Peace Foundation.

Writing in the IHT he reflects on the so-called election presently underway in Zimbabwe in a piece "Dark Clouds over Zimbabwe".

"Zimbabweans will have to brave heavy odds and the veritable horsemen of the apocalypse to oust Mugabe and turn their once proud country into a reborn Botswana."

Memo to DFAT: Get a map!

Australia may have had a change in Government, but its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade [aka DFAT] is seemingly stuck in a time warp.....or in need of "new" blood or at least some up to date maps.

Crikey has a note today:

"When filling out an online passport renewal application you must indicate the country where you're currently residing. It reads like a Cold War atlas listing the USSR, FYROM, and the Ukrainian SSR just to mention a few. Memo to DFAT - buy a map. The world's changed since 1992."

A road.....and apartheid in action

Remember the onslaught when Jimmy Carter, and others, faced a while back when accusing Israel of actions akin to apartheid in South Africa? In fact, the accusation by author Antony Loewenstein [My Israel Question - Second Edition, MUP] on the ABC TV Lateline program in July 2006 that the restrictions on Palestinians using roads limited to the use by Israelis was apartheid in action brought forth condemnation.

Well, here are the facts, on the ground, as reported by the IHT:

"Ali Abu Safia, the mayor of this Palestinian village, steers his car up one potholed road, then another, finding each exit blocked by huge concrete chunks placed there by the Israeli Army. On a sleek highway about 100 meters away, Israeli cars whiz by.

"They took our land to build this road, and now we can't even use it," Abu Safia says bitterly, pointing to the highway with one hand as he drives with the other. "Israel says it is because of security. But it's politics."

The object o…

Holy Man

Given the turmoil in Tibet and the Chinese Government accusing the Dalai Lama of stirring up the riots, this piece in The New Yorker"Holy Man" is rather timely:

"Last November, a couple of weeks after the Dalai Lama received a Congressional Gold Medal from President Bush, his old Land Rover went on sale on eBay. Sharon Stone, who once introduced the Tibetan leader at a fundraiser as “Mr. Please, Please, Please Let Me Back Into China!” (she meant Tibet), announced the auction on YouTube, promising the prospective winner of the 1966 station wagon, “You’ll just laugh the whole time that you’re in it!” The bidding closed at more than eighty thousand dollars. The Dalai Lama, whom Larry King, on CNN, once referred to as a Muslim, has also received the Lifetime Achievement award of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. He is the only Nobel laureate to appear in an advertisement for Apple and guest-edit French Vogue. Martin Scorsese and Brad Pitt have helped com…

Noose tightened on bloggers in China

Reporters Without Bordersreports:

"Reporters Without Borders is worried about the future of blogging in China after the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) yesterday closed down 25 websites that allowed video-sharing. The SARFT said they were “obscene”, “violent” or threatened “national security or national interest.”

Thirty-two other websites including Tudou.com, one of China’s most popular video-sharing sites, were given warnings. This is the first time the authorities have applied a law concerning the regulation of audio and video files that was adopted on 31 January.

“Videos filmed by Chinese citizens are not welcome,” Reporters Without Borders said. “You now need a government licence to put videos online. Furthermore, this measure cannot be circumvented by using proxies. It has come just when it was needed by a government that is trying to control the dissemination of video footage of the unrest in Tibet. This law is a threat to news and information.”

Whew!....and ouch!

No wonder there is what is now called the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US and talk of recession not only in America but also in other parts of the world......

SMH Business Day reports that Goldman Sachs in the US estimates the losses caused by the sub-prime mortgage debacle at a cool US$460 billion.

"Wall Street banks, brokerages and hedge funds may report $US460 billion ($503 billion) in credit losses from the collapse of the subprime mortgage market, or almost four times the amount already disclosed, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Goldman said the credit losses it foresees may ''result in a substantial tightening in credit conditions as these institutions pull back on lending to preserve their reduced capital and to maintain statutory capital adequacy ratios.''

Profits will continue to wane, other analysts said.

''There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it is still rather dim,'' Goldman analysts including New York-based Andrew Tilto…

Blackberry and iPod "illness"

"There’s a new kind of addiction out there, to which many of us are currently vulnerable, and from which some of us may be suffering right this moment: According to one Dr. Jerald Block, writing in the American Journal of Psychiatry, excessive e-mailing and text messaging could be a form of mental illness."

So it is reported on truthdig.com.

"The article, by Dr Jerald Block, said there were four symptoms: suffering from feelings of withdrawal when a computer cannot be accessed; an increased need for better equipment; need for more time to use it; and experiencing the negative repercussions of their addiction.

Dr Block said that although text messaging was not directly linked to the Internet, it was a form of instant messaging and needed to be included among the criteria.

“The chief reasons I see to consider it are motor vehicle accidents that are caused by cell phone instant messaging, stalking and harassment via instant messaging, and instant messaging at social, edu…

Free Countries Must Defy Chinese Blackmail and Greet the Dalai Lama

With calls by people like the French President for a boycott of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing in August, others suggesting disruption of the Olympic torch as it wends its way around the globe and some for a complete boycott of the Olympiad, a piece in AlterNet [reproduced from The Guardian's Comment is Free] "Free Countries Must Defy Chinese Blackmail and Greet the Dalai Lama":

"Last week, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised to meet the Dalai Lama when he comes to Britain in May. So should all other leaders of free countries, whenever the opportunity arises. Anything less would shame us all. And it wouldn't help China either.

We face at least three difficulties in reacting to the unfolding tragedy of the Tibetans. We don't know enough about what's really going on, because the Chinese authorities are determined to prevent us finding out by expelling journalists, ratcheting up their customary censorship of the Internet, and telling lies…

Slowly, ever so slowly, the facts emerge

It probably won't come as a surprise to anyone who is across the way the White House operates - start with illegally and then think of anything else untoward - but The Washington Post reports [reproduced on CommonDreams] on a book which details the actions of George W and Co. as they tried to drum up support for the now ill-fated Iraq War:

"In the months leading up to the US-led invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration threatened trade reprisals against friendly countries who withheld their support, spied on its allies, and pushed for the recall of UN envoys that resisted US pressure to endorse the war, according to an upcoming book by a top Chilean diplomat.

The rough-and-tumble diplomatic strategy has generated lasting “bitterness” and “deep mistrust” in Washington’s relations with allies in Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere, wrote Heraldo Munoz, Chile’s ambassador to the United Nations, in his book “A Solitary War: A Diplomat’s Chronicle of the Iraq War and Its Lessons,…

Are You Happy?

A rather perennial question of "Are You Happy?" is dealt with in a piece in the New York Review of Books by Sue Halpern:

"Chances are if someone were to ask you, right now, if you were happy, you'd say you were. Claiming that you're happy—that is, to an interviewer who is asking you to rate your "life satisfaction" on a scale from zero to ten—appears to be nearly universal, as long as you're not living in a war zone, on the street, or in extreme emotional or physical pain. The Maasai of Kenya, soccer moms of Scarsdale, the Amish, the Inughuit of Greenland, European businessmen—all report that they are happy. When happiness researcher Ed Diener, the past president of the International Society of Quality of Life Studies, synthesized 916 surveys of over a million people in forty-five countries, he found that, on average, people placed themselves at seven on the zero-to-ten scale."

How Lethally Stupid Can One Country Be?

"Watching George W. Bush in operation these last couple of weeks is like having an out-of-body experience. On acid. During a nightmare. In a different galaxy.

As he presides over the latest disaster of his administration, (No, it’s not a terrorist attack - that was 2001! No, it’s not a catastrophic war - that was 2003! No, it’s not a drowning city - that was 2005! This one is an economic meltdown, ladies and gentlemen!) bringing to it the same blithe disengagement with which he’s attended the previous ones, you cannot but stop and gaze in stark, comedic awe, realizing that the most powerful polity that ever existed on the planet twice picked this imbecilic buffoon as its leader, from among 300 million other choices. Seeing him clown with the Washington press corps yet once again - and seeing them fawn over him, laugh in all the right places, and give him a standing ovation, also yet once again - is the equivalent of having all your logic circuits blown simultaneously. Truly, the u…

www.censorship.com

The ABC's Unleashed on-line forum has an interesting piece on censorship on the net - as some countries try to curb access to and use of the world wide web.

Read the piece, "www.censorship.com" and reflect on what the www. can and does represent in our daily lives......provided there is free an ready access to it.

Wrong-headed and missplaced friendship and support

Gideon Levy - op-ed writer for Haaretz - is never short of telling Israelis, and the world, how things really are. Nothing mealy-mouthed about Levy's opinions and assessment of the state-of-play in Israel, the Palestinians and the wider-world.

Today's opinion-piece is not exception as Levy reflects on all those international visitors to Israel, their seeming embrace of all it does, etc. etc. But is it all something akin to an allusion? - and Israelis deluding themselves?

"The amount of support being shown for Israel these days is almost embarrassing. The parade of highly-placed foreign guests and the warm reception received by Israeli statesmen abroad have not been seen for quite some time. Who hasn't come to visit lately? From the German chancellor to the leading frontrunner for the American presidency. And the secretary-general of the United Nations is on his way. A visit to Israel has become de rigueur for foreign pols. If you haven't been here, y…

George W: All the 'Good News' From Iraq

Here is a different dimension from AlterNet to what many are increasingly calling the fool US president George W:

"I bet you guys didn't really listen to President Bush this week. Too bad, because for once he told the truth. I listened, heard the truth and checked it out. And, as he promised, it was a real eye-opener.

It happened at one of Bush's fake "town hall meetings" this week. An Army wife asked Bush why the mainstream media only focuses on "the bad news" from Iraq and never reports "the good news." Bush furrowed his brow and nodded in agreement. Earlier in the week the administration launched a Vietnam-era-style "blame the media" campaign to explain plummeting public support for both the war and Bush himself.

The woman's question offered Bush an opportunity for another anti-media riff on that theme. He sympathized with her distress and suggested (pay attention -- here comes the truth part) that she should turn to alternative…

A new literary dimension

"Japanese is now the top language of the blogosphere, with roughly 37 per cent of posts worldwide, according to a 2007 survey by blog search engine Technorati. About 70 million people in Japan use mobile phones daily to surf the net, many during notoriously long commutes. Inevitably, some have started to read, and write, novels on their handsets. In 2007 half the top 10 novels originated from the (very) small screen, and the top three were written by novice mobile authors. Several young stars have emerged, including 21-year-old Rin, whose high-school love story, If You... has sold half a million copies since it was published last year."

So writes The Independent in reporting a new dimension to the blogosphere.

Drip, drip, drip....

Notwithstanding the sceptics, climate change is seeing the world's weather thrown on its head. For instance, many parts of Australia are experiencing severe drought. On the other hand, some countries have just had, and continue to have, very bad winter-weather, even if it's supposed to be spring.

As if the globe doesn't already face enough problems, The Independent reports on what is looming as a crisis involving water and sanitation:

"The world faces a future of "water wars", unless action is taken to prevent international water shortages and sanitation issues escalating into conflicts, according to Gareth Thomas, the International Development minister.

The minister's warning came as a coalition of 27 international charities marked World Water Day, by writing to Gordon Brown demanding action to give fresh water to 1.1 billion people with poor supplies. "If we do not act, the reality is that water supplies may become the subject of international c…

Merkel in Israel

Two interesting pieces dealing with Angela Merkel, Germany's PM, in Israel as well as addressing the Knesset the other day:

"If the German chancellor really cared for Israel's security as she claimed, she would not have been able to hold a speech like the one she presented on March 18 in front of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Israel is one of the most insecure countries in the world. Why is that? According to Merkel's speech Hamas, Hizbollah, Syria and Iran seem to be responsible. Those are criticized by her for their attitude towards Israel. The chancellor said that Israel has been fighting for 60 years against threats and for peace and security, with the values of freedom, democracy, and human dignity. Is that so? Then why are Jewish intellectuals inside and outside Israel--Holocaust survivors among them--vehemently and increasingly deploring the moral decay, militarization of the society, and the self-destructive policy of the country? People like Ilan Pappe,…

The woman who nearly stopped the War

Hard to believe, but this rather fascinating piece on NewStatesman records how one woman nearly stopped the Iraq War:

"Of all the stories told on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War, there is one important episode that took place during the build-up to the conflict that has gone largely unreported. It concerns a young woman who was a witness to something so outrageous, something so contrary to the principles of diplomacy and international law, that in revealing it she believed war could be averted. That woman was Katharine Gun, a 29-year-old Mandarin translator at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham."

Bush's "notable cause"...and the Bush/Blair? Howard legacy

Bush, Blair and Howard are, so they claim, good Christians.

So, on this Good Friday, the 3 of them ought to reflect on what George W the other day spoke of the Iraq War as being a "noble cause". It may not be a view so readily shared in downtown Baghdad.

Ali, a painter and a student at the academy of art in north Baghdad, tells The Guardian, about life in Baghdad:

"I ask myself why life in Iraq is so cheap. We are living in a nightmare. It is like there is a camera recording us and by its light we see images of death and carnage everywhere. The Iraqi have good hearts, but we are living in a state of hysteria."

There goes the fish and chip wrap?

As we know, in some countries today's newspaper is tomorrow's wrap for fish and chips from the local fish and chip shop.

But, if these two reports are correct, that newspaper of yours may be headed the way of the do-do. Journalism, as we know it, is certainly under severe strain and threat.

The Pew Research Centre for the People & the Pressreports:

"The financial crisis facing news organizations is so grave that it is now overshadowing concerns about the quality of news coverage, the flagging credibility of the news media, and other problems that have been very much on the minds of journalists over the past decade.

An ever larger majority of journalists at national media outlets -- 62% -- says that journalism is going in the wrong direction, an increase from the 51% who expressed this view in 2004. Half of internet journalists and about the same proportion of local journalists (49%) also take a negative view of the state of their profession.

Soaring economic worries und…

Sheridan, Bolt and Co: the real butchers of Iraq

Crikey, rightly, puts at least two journalists, Greg Sheridan [of The Australian] and Andrew Bolt [of the Herald-Sun] in their place as people who were back when the Iraq War got underway, and since then, so way off-the-mark in their analysis and commentary to make them laughable. In fact, why are they retained by the Murdoch press- and no less importantly, why does anyone read their scribbling let alone take it seriously?

Smoking gun?

To outsiders the American love of and for firearms and their widespread use - with all the mayhem and carnage that causes - is hard to fathom.

The die-hards claim they have a constitutional right to bear arms. But do they? The US Supreme Court heard argument on the very issue earlier this week, as the Washington Postreports in this rather "revealing" piece on the "thinking" of the justices:

"A majority of the Supreme Court indicated a readiness yesterday to settle decades of constitutional debate over the meaning of the Second Amendment by declaring that it provides an individual right to own a gun for self-defense.

Such a finding could doom the District of Columbia's ban on private handgun possession, the country's toughest gun-control law, and significantly change the tone and direction of the nation's political battles over gun control.

During oral arguments that drew spectators who had waited for days to be in the courtroom, there was fa…

Lethal Injustice .....American style!

The "story" is astounding......and a sorry reflection on the American justice system.

AlterNet reports:

"Troy Anthony Davis is an innocent man on Georgia's death row. His lawyers believe it, his supporters believe it, even most of those who sent him to die believe it. Accused of killing a police officer in Savannah, Ga., in 1989, his conviction was based solely on eyewitness accounts from people who claimed to have seen Davis, then 20 years old, shoot police officer Mark Allen MacPhail to death in a Burger King parking lot. No murder weapon was ever found and no physical evidence linked him to the crime. Nevertheless, he was found guilty in 1991 and sentenced to die. Troy Davis would spend the next decade and a half on death row insisting on his innocence. Last summer, less than 24 hours before his scheduled execution, someone finally listened.

On the night of July 16, 2007, Troy Davis was facing death by lethal injection when he won a last-minute stay of execution b…

A very, very troubling poll

In a piece "Most Palestinians favor violence over talks, poll shows" the IHT reports on a poll which ought to trouble anyone interested in where things are at - let alone headed - in the on-going Palestinian-Israeli conflict:

"A new poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians support the attack this month on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem that killed eight young men, most of them teenagers, an indication of the alarming level of Israeli-Palestinian tension in recent weeks.

The survey also shows unprecedented support for the firing of rockets on Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip and for the end of the peace negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

The pollster who conducted the survey, Khalil Shikaki, said he was shocked because it showed greater support for violence than any of the surveys he had conducted over the past 15 years in the Palestinian areas. Never before, he said, had a majority favored an end to negotiations or the firing of rockets …

5 years on: "No regrets" and "significant gains".......lies and more lies

Today is the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. We all know the toll, in human and material ways, has been horrendous.

Overnight, George W declared that there had been "significant gains" in war-torn Iraq, things were on track to victory and that he had "no regrets" for the War. See the NY Times report here. Mmm!

All too sadly the whole Iraq fiasco is based on a raft of lies - as Middle Eastern expert JuanCole points out so clearly in this piece in Salon:

"Each year of George W. Bush's war in Iraq has been represented by a thematic falsehood. That Iraq is now calm or more stable is only the latest in a series of such whoppers, which the mainstream press eagerly repeats. The fifth anniversary of Bush's invasion of Iraq will be the last he presides over. Sen. John McCain, in turn, has now taken to dangling the bait of total victory before the American public, and some opinion polls suggest that Americans are swallowing it, hook, line and si…

Robert Fisk: Lessons unlearnt

It takes someone of the calibre of veteran writer and journalist Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, to put into context the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion [was it anything else?] and how lessons which ought to have been learnt from history clearly weren't:

"Today, we are engaged in a fruitless debate. What went wrong? How did the people – the senatus populusque Romanus of our modern world – not rise up in rebellion when told the lies about weapons of mass destruction, about Saddam's links with Osama bin Laden and 11 September? How did we let it happen? And how come we didn't plan for the aftermath of war?

Oh, the British tried to get the Americans to listen, Downing Street now tells us. We really, honestly did try, before we absolutely and completely knew it was right to embark on this illegal war. There is now a vast literature on the Iraq debacle and there are precedents for post-war planning – of which more later – but this is not the point. Our predica…

Iraq: An Arab perspective

arab news, which bills itself as the Middle East's Leading English Language Daily, in a piece "How to Destroy a Country and Get Off Scot-Free" reflects on the Iraq War:

"Think about it for a moment. The warmongers invaded, crushed and occupied a country that was no threat to anyone. They stood by as it was looted, exacerbated sectarianism, flattened entire towns, tortured untold numbers of innocents, brought in gum-chewing, tattooed foreign mercenaries and paid crony companies billions of dollars for mythical reconstruction projects.

They then pretended to hand over sovereignty to that country while at the same time constructing permanent bases and the biggest US Embassy in history resembling a small town. They said they had no interest in Iraq's oil, yet they are putting immense pressure on the Iraqi government (sic) to sign into law a bill that permits foreign (read American) oil companies to lock up decades-long deals. Let's be frank. Iraq wasn't a blun…

Remember Chalabi?

UN weapon's inspector in Iraq, Scott Ritter, writing on truthdig.com in "Dinner with Ahmed" reflects on a blast from the past, Ahmed Chalabi:

"As we approach the fifth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, I find myself thinking back on how we got ourselves into this predicament. Like many who played a direct role in the issues surrounding Iraq in the years leading up to the decision to invade, I have wrestled with the demons of history, wondering about the specific impact my actions (or inaction) may have had on the course of human affairs. I’ve also wondered whether or not I have been witness to any events that, if more fully reported, might enable others to have a better understanding of the events that shape our world today, for better or for worse. As I examine where we are today and contemplate our future and those who are positioning themselves to play a role in Iraq, it seems to me that there is at least one such incident, a dinner party I atten…

From Abu Ghraib to secret CIA custody

One horrendous outcome of the Iraq War has been all that is associated with Abu Ghraib, renditioning and Guantanamo.

Amnesty International Australia reports on the outrage and consequences of renditioning:

"One man's story illustrates the global reach of the USA's secret detention network and provides chilling allegations of the deliberate and persistent use of torture and other ill-treatment. It is the story of a man who has never been charged with any crime, but who spent nearly three years in U.S. custody as a victim of enforced disappearance.

Khaled Abdu Ahmed Saleh al-Maqtari, a 31-year-old Yemeni, was transferred out of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) secret detention program in September 2006. He had been held at Abu Ghraib before being sent to CIA "black sites" in Afghanistan and an unidentified third country, where he was held in utter isolation."

Its' the economy stupid!

As the world becomes increasingly jittery about the seeming financial tsunami sweeping the globe - and talk of recession a la 1929 - some pieces for sober reflection:

- Editor at Large at Fortune [on CCN Money]:

"The standards that rule most businesses - avoiding excessive leverage, reining in rampant pay and the massive dilution that goes with it - didn't apply to Wall Street. So what if investors didn't understand all those arcane instruments and sophisticated hedging strategies? Wall Street was the black box on the Hudson that worked its own brand of magic.

Today, the magic is fading fast. It's time to step back and analyze how financial firms actually operate.

The truth is that they've been relying on a highly-flawed business model for years. Put simply, Wall Street firms used towering leverage to make tons of money in a long-running bull market that blatantly underpriced risk. At the same time, they handed a huge chunk of the gains to employees in the form o…

Some people aren't equal

It is nothing new that the Americans regard non-Americans - think Africans, Arabs or Asians - as not equal to themselves. Remember the response by the Americans to the query how many Iraqis had been killed in the Iraq War? "We don't count them!".

TomDispatch.comreveals another disturbing approach of the Americans in a piece "BlowingThem Away Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry" - this time in relation to Somalia.

Meanwhile, back in time in relation to My Lia CommonDreamsreports in "My Lai Probe Hid Policy that Led to Massacre".

A Minister of War

Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz:

"Defense Minister Ehud Barak is a bitter disappointment. He was the first statesman who dared suggest brave, though lacking, solutions. Now, he has turned into the chief saboteur of any chance for a calm in the fighting, a cease-fire or diplomatic progress. Barak has long forsaken talk of peace. He certainly does not believe in Olmert's peace initiative and istrying his best to destroy it.

If you fear Likud Chair Benjamin Netanyahu, how much worse can his potential damage to the peace process be than Barak's? Their rhetoric, as well as their actions, have now become indistinguishable. If calm seems at hand, Barak gives the go-ahead for a silly and dangerous assassination attempt in tranquil Bethlehem; just to rekindle the fire, lest there be a lull.

If there's a lull in Qassams fired, then Barak does everything he can to ensure their renewal to justify the "large-scale op" in Gaza he intends to make. IF Palestinian Authority Pr…

Iraq 5 Years on

It's 5 years this week since the Coalition of the Willing invaded Iraq.

Different perspectives:

"Five rears after the invasion of Iraq the US and the Iraqi government both claim that Iraq is becoming a less dangerous place, but the measures taken to protect Mr. Maliki told a different story. Gun-waving soldiers first cleared all traffic from the streets. Then four black armored cars, each with three machine gunners on the roof, raced out of a heavily fortified exit from the Green Zone, followed by sand-colored American Humvees and more armored cars. Finally, in the middle of the speeding convoy, we saw six identical bullet proof vehicles with black windows, one of which must have carried Mr. Maliki.

The precautions were not excessive since Baghdad remains the most dangerous city in the world. The Iraqi prime minister was only going to the headquarters of the Dawa party to which he belongs and which are only half a mile from the Green Zone but his hundreds of security guards acte…

Keeping up to date on Tibet

We all know that relying on anything reported by the Chinese about what is happening in Tibet will be skewed, patently wrong and manipulated. Access by Western reporters to Tibet isn't easy either - let alone getting reports out to the world.

Go to the Free Tibet web site, here, to keep up to date with what is actually happening.

The Decider shows how loco he is!

Maureen Dowd, always pithy and acerbic, in her op-ed piece in the NY Times "Soft Shoe inHard Times" tries to fathom where the Decider [Pres. George Shrub] is at:

"Everyone here is flummoxed about why the president is in such a fine mood.

The dollar’s crumpling, the recession’s thundering, the Dow’s bungee-jumping and the world’s disapproving, yet George Bush has turned into Gene Kelly, tap dancing and singing in a one-man review called “The Most Happy Fella.”

“I’m coming to you as an optimistic fellow,” he told the Economic Club of New York on Friday. His manner — chortling and joshing — was in odd juxtaposition to the Fed’s bailing out the imploding Bear Stearns and his own acknowledgment that “our economy obviously is going through a tough time,” that gas prices are spiking, and that folks “are concerned about making their bills.”

He began by laughingly calling the latest news on the economic meltdown “a interesting moment” and ended by saying that “our energy policy has …

Yes....talk, talk, talk!

The Guardian reports "Top Blair aide: we must talk to al-Qaida":

"Western governments must talk to terror groups including al-Qaida and the Taliban if they hope to secure a long-term halt to their campaigns of violence, according to the man who for more than a decade was Tony Blair's most influential aide and adviser.

Jonathan Powell, who served as Blair's chief of staff from 1995 to 2007 and is widely regarded as having been instrumental in negotiating a settlement in Northern Ireland, said his experience in the province convinced him that it was essential to keep a line of communication open even with one's most bitter enemies.

Powell said: "There's nothing to say to al-Qaida and they've got nothing to say to us at the moment, but at some stage you're going to have to come to a political solution as well as a security solution. And that means you need the ability to talk."

We all know that, eventually, people will have talk. But in the…

Iraq: War Five Years On

There are many aspects of the Iraq War which will not be soon forgotten. The idiotic statements of Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush. Rupert Murdoch encouraging the invasion because the price of a barrel of oil would come down to US$20. Last week it hit US$110. The cost of the War would be between $US100,000 to $200,000 million. The estimated cost is now US$3 trillion. The tag "Shock and Awe" as the Coalition of the Willing [a silly name in itself] pounded Baghdad. And the people of Iraq did not welcome the Coalition in the streets as predicted.

It is 5 years this week that the War got underway.

"To mark this week’s fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the[NY Times] Op-Ed page asked nine experts on military and foreign affairs to reflect on their attitudes in the spring of 2003 and to comment on the one aspect of the war that most surprised them or that they wished they had considered in the prewar debate."

Read what various people, such as…

From Lhasa.....

Today's news of the actions of the Chinese in Tibet is disturbing.

Global Voices has "reports" from bloggers in Lhasa.

"Just looking for any word from bloggers in the Lhasa area on what the situation is there as of Friday local time; The unrest coincides with the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan people's unsuccessful uprising against the PRC occupation of the former theocracy, and comes the day after what was being called the worldwide Tibetan people's uprising was stopped at the Indian border. Updates will be added here as further blog posts are found. The Time China blog brings us one European tourist's writing, photos and video from Lhasa earlier this week."

Out of their mouths.....

Israel seeks peace? Israel respects its neighbours? Israel strives for some sort of rapprochment with the Palestinians?

Israel's actions speak for themselves - as do the words of their leaders:

"There is no such thing as a Palestinian people... It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn't exist."
-- Golda Meir, statement to The Sunday Times, 15 June, 1969.

"We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question, What is to be done with the Palestinian population?' Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said 'Drive them out!"
-- Yitzhak Rabin, leaked censored version of Rabin memoirs, published in the New York Times, 23 October 1979.

"[The Palestinians] are beasts walking on two legs."
-- Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, speech to the Knesset, quoted in Amnon Kapeliouk, "Begin and the 'Beasts,"' New Statesman, June 25, 1982.

"I would have joined a terror…

What Foreign Policy Agenda?

It isn't too hard to be rather bored by all the campaign "news" on the Democratic Party presidential nomination presently underway in the US - except that the outcome could have a bearing for the world at large. All too sadly the myriad of missteps and failures in American foreign policy [some would question what policy?] affect many around the globe, and then, mostly, not necessarily in a positive way.

In an op-ed piece in the NY Times "What Foreign Policy Agenda?" Andrew Kohut reflects on how America is looking inwards and essentially ignoring the world:

"Issues have hardly played a dominant role in the nominating races, especially on the Democratic side. Still, the public has a clear domestic agenda for the next president. Fix the economy, reduce health care costs, improve the environment, reform education, deal with rising energy costs and so on. This hearty appetite for an assertive domestic approach arises in no small part from the discontent tha…

A lone voice...with a real political ticker

"Unlike earlier in the day, nobody applauded - though I wished I could have. Many Australians, too, had they been present, surely would have wanted to acknowledge such a speech of such honesty and sensibility, about the Israelis as much as it was about the Palestinians. Ley put the grovelling Rudd and Nelson to shame. The truth is there is no real debate in this country about the travesty of what is happening in the Middle East, and there are those in the community who, with their money and influence, do all they can to ensure no such open debate occurs, either in the national Parliament, in the media or anywhere else."

Alan Ramsay, writing in the SMH "Blinkers off for the other side of story" deals with a lone voice [MHR Sussan Ley] in the midst of the pro-Israel love-fest which occupied the Federal Parliament for 15 minutes this past week.

Read the Ramsay piece here. As he says:

"The Howard government did not "honour" Israel's 50th anniversar…