Your Progressive Opposition in Action

Written by Chris Floyd 06 December 2005 5693 Hits

Hillary Clinton is co-sponsoring a bill with Utah Republican Bob Bennett that will make it a crime to "desecrate" a U.S. flag. (The word "desecration" should always be put in quotes in this context – because the American flag is not a sacred object, for God's sake! It's a national emblem, not a religious relic.) The law would ban protestors from "intimidating any person by burning the flag, lighting someone else's flag or [']desecrating['] the flag on federal property." Clinton "has compared the act of flag-burning to burning a cross." [From Newsday]

A few questions raised by this interesting story:
When in the entire course of American history has a flag-burning protestor ever dragged someone from their house and lynched them, or burned down a church, or driven a family from their home, or proclaimed the God-ordained superiority of their race – and how could anyone with half a brain who was not shamelessly pandering to the worst instincts and most ignorant prejudices of the electorate in order to hoist themselves up the greasy pole of power make such an odious and frankly stupid comparison?

Next question: What exactly is the point of Democratic "leaders" who eagerly embrace right-wing policies like aggressive war, the destruction of the welfare system (thanks, Bill!), corporate deregulation, capital punishment (which was vastly expanded under Bill), and, in this case, utterly pointless lunatic fringe notions that address non-existent problems in the most ham-handed, un-Constitutional way?

Final question: "For what will it profit a woman if she gains the whole world, and loses her own soul?"

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Pit Boss:George Bush's Empire of Torture

Written by Chris Floyd 05 December 2005 15006 Hits

Mark Follman of proves an excellent Virgil in this harrowing tour through the sulphurous pit of George W. Bush's vast torture Hell. Bush has wrought a work of genuine evil in America's name, systematically and deliberately infecting society with moral corruption and subverting the very nature of law itself in an attempt to escape responsibility for his crimes.

I've been writing articles about Bush's use of torture since January 2002. I don't know what else to say about it. When I look at Bush's face -- however well-scrubbed, tanned and carefully made-up it is -- I can no longer see anything but oozing pustules and smears of blood, the ugliness of his spirit turned inside out.

There is no excuse or mitigation for Bush and his minons. They had ample investigative, enforcement, intelligence, military and prosecutorial tools already at their disposal to deal effectively with the problem of international terrorism by Islamic extremism -- if they had wanted to use them. They didn't want to. They are not actually serious about terrorism, except as a justification for the kind of unlimited executive power -- dictatorial power -- that Dick Cheney and his ilk have been openly dreaming about for decades. Bush and his minions wanted to torture people. They wanted to kill people. They wanted to wage war, break nations, loot and destroy. They exult in death. Their only God is power. They are the mirror-image of the oh-so-convenient "enemies" they affect to despise. Who can look on them and not be revolted?

The Salon story is behind the subscriber firewall, but you can read the entire piece on the continuation below. First though, a quick quote, from security expert Thomas Powers, to alert us to the fact that despite the increasing amount of attention being given to Bush's empire of torture, the worst is probably yet to come.

[Excerpt]: The rising backlash against torture today indicates more military and intelligence officers are realizing that the Bush administration is sinking the United States into an unprecedented moral quagmire -- one that could lead to an especially dire end. "The problems with this are huge and they're hitting home now," Powers says. "How do you let these people go, especially the ones deemed to be of no intelligence value, after they've been treated so badly? Are you just going to hold them forever? You have to ask whether or not they will eventually reach the stage of just summarily killing them. It may have happened already. This policy isn't just ineffectual -- it's complete madness." [End excerpt]

Madness, indeed. But summary execution is the logical conclusion -- the final solution -- of Bush's deliberately chosen policy. In the end, he will have to destroy the evidence of his foulest crimes: the bodies, the minds, the lives of his victims.

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Death Mask: The Deliberate Disintegration of Iraq

Written by Chris Floyd 01 December 2005 43882 Hits

This is an extended version of a column appearing in the Dec. 2 edition of The Moscow Times.

The recent revelations about the virulent spread of death squads ravaging Iraq have only confirmed for many people the lethal incompetence of the Bush Regime, whose brutal bungling appears to have unleashed the demon of sectarian strife in the conquered land. The general reaction, even among some war supporters, has been bitter derision: "Jeez, these bozos couldn't boil an egg without causing collateral damage."

But what if the truth is even more sinister? What if this murderous chaos is not the fruit of rank incompetence but instead the desired product of carefully crafted, efficiently managed White House policy?

Investigative journalist Max Fuller marshals a convincing case for this dread conclusion in a remarkable work of synthesis drawn from information buried in reams of mainstream news stories and public Pentagon documents. Piling fact on damning fact, he shows that the vast majority of atrocities now attributed to "rogue" Shiite and Sunni militias are in fact the work of government-controlled commandos and "special forces," trained by Americans, "advised" by Americans and run largely by former CIA assets, Global Research reports.

We first reported here in June 2003 that the U.S. was already hiring Saddam's security muscle for "special ops" against the nascent insurgency and re-opening his torture haven, Abu Ghraib. Meanwhile, powerful Shiite militias – including Talibanic religious extremists armed and trained by Iran – were loosed upon the land. As direct "Coalition" rule gave way to various "interim" and "elected" Iraqi governments, these violent gangs were formally incorporated into the Iraqi Interior Ministry, where the supposedly inimical Sunni and Shiite units often share officers and divvy up territories.

Bush helpfully supplied these savage gangs – who are killing dozens of people each week, Knight-Ridder reports – with American advisers who made their "counter-insurgency" bones forming right-wing death squads in Colombia and El Salvador. Indeed, Bush insiders have openly bragged of "riding with the bad boys" and exercising the "Salvador option," lauding the Reagan-backed counter-insurgency program that slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians, Newsweek reports. Bush has also provided a "state-of-the-art command, control and communications center" to coordinate the operation of his Iraqi "commandos," as the Pentagon's own news site, DefendAmerica, reports. The Iraqi people can go without electricity, fuel and medicine, but by God, Bush's "bad boys" will roll in clover as they carry out their murders and mutilations.

For months, stories from the Shiite south and Sunni center have reported the same phenomenon: people being summarily seized by large groups of armed men wearing police commando uniforms, packing high-priced Glocks, using sophisticated radios and driving Toyota Land Cruisers with police markings. The captives are taken off and never seen again – unless they turn up with a load of other corpses days or weeks later, bearing marks of the gruesome tortures they suffered before the ritual shot in the head. Needless to say, these mass murders under police aegis are rarely investigated by the police.

Earlier this year, one enterprising Knight-Ridder reporter, Yasser Salihee, actually found several eyewitnesses willing to testify to the involvement of the U.S.-backed commandos in 12 such murders. The offer was shrugged off by the Interior Ministry's spokesman – an American "adviser" and veteran bones-maker from the Colombian ops. In the end, it didn't matter; Salihee was shot dead by a U.S. sniper at a checkpoint a few days afterwards.

The Bushists may have been forced to ditch their idiotic fantasies of "cakewalking" into a compliant satrapy, but they have by no means abandoned their chief goals in the war: milking Iraq dry and planting a permanent military "footprint" on the nation's neck. If direct control through a plausible puppet is no longer possible, then fomenting bloody chaos and sectarian strife  is the best way to weaken the state. The Bushists are happy to make common cause with thugs and zealots in order to prevent the establishment of a strong national government that might balk at the ongoing "privatizations" that have continued apace behind the smokescreen of violence, and the planned opening of Iraq's oil reserves to select foreign investors – a potential transfer of some $200 billion of Iraqi people's wealth into the hands of a few Bush cronies, the Independent reports.

The violence is already dividing the county intomore rigid sectarian enclaves, the New York Times reports, as Shiites flee Sunni commandos and Sunnis flee Shiite militias in the grim tag-team of their joint endeavor. It's all grist for the Bushist mill: an atomized, terrorized, internally riven society is much easier to manipulate. And of course, a steady stream of bloodshed provides a justification for maintaining a substantial American military presence, even as politic plans for partial "withdrawal" are bandied about.

There's nothing new in this; Bush is simply following a well-thumbed playbook. For example, in 1953 the CIA bankrolled Islamic fundamentalists and secular goon squads to destabilize the democratic government of Iran – which selfishly wanted to control its own oil – and pave the way for the puppet Shah, as the agency's own histories recountIn 1971, CIA officials admitted carrying out more than 21,000 "extra-judicial killings" in its "Phoenix" counter-insurgency operation in Vietnam. (The true number of victims is certainly much higher.) In 1979, the CIA began sponsoring the most violent Islamic extremist groups in Afghanistan – supplying money, arms, even jihad primers for schoolchildren – to destabilize the secular, Soviet-allied government and provoke the Kremlin into a costly intervention, as Robert Dreyfus details in his new book, Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. Later, Saudi magnate Osama bin Laden – whose family firm helped kick-start George W. Bush's business career – joined the operation, and his men were sent to America for "anti-Soviet" terrorist training, as Greg Palast reports And of course, these examples only scratch the scorched-earth surface of America's double-dealings in this deathly shadow world.

This bi-partisan policy has been remarkably consistent for more than half a century: to augment the wealth and power of the elite, American leaders have supported – or created – vicious  gangs of killers and cranks to foment unrest, eliminate opponents and terrorize whole nations into submission. The resulting carnage in the target countries – and inevitable blowback against ordinary Americans – means nothing to these Great Gamesters; it's merely the price of doing business. Bush's "incompetence" is just a mask for stone-cold calculation.


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Die Laughing: The Bush Way of Rehabilitation

Written by Chris Floyd 30 November 2005 23869 Hits

Orginally published in the Aug. 29, 2003 edition of The Moscow Times.

Here's a headline you don't see every day: "War Criminals Hire War Criminals to Hunt Down War Criminals."

Perhaps that's not the precise wording used by the Washington Post this week, but it is the absolute essence of its story about the Bush Regime's new campaign to put Saddam's murderous security forces on America's payroll.

Yes, the sahibs in Bush's Iraqi Raj are now doling out American tax dollars to hire the murderers of the infamous Mukhabarat and other agents of the Baathist Gestapo – perhaps hundreds of them. The logic, if that's the word, seems to be that these bloodstained "insiders" will lead their new imperial masters to other bloodstained "insiders" responsible for bombing the UN headquarters in Baghdad – and killing another dozen American soldiers while Little George was playing with his putts during his month-long Texas siesta.

Naturally, the Iraqi people – even the Bush-appointed leaders of the Potemkin "Governing Council" – aren't exactly overjoyed at seeing Saddam's goons return, flush with American money and firepower. And they're certainly not reassured by the fact that the Bushists have also re-opened Saddam's most notorious prison, the dread Abu Ghraib, and are now, Mukhabarat-like, filling it with Iraqis – men, women and children as young as 11 – seized from their homes or plucked off the street to be held incommunicado, indefinitely, without due process, just like the old days. As The Times reports, weeping relatives who dare approach the gleaming American razor-wire in search of their "disappeared" loved ones are referred to a crude, hand-written sign pinned to a spike: "No visits are allowed, no information will be given and you must leave." Perhaps an Iraqi Akhmatova will do justice to these scenes one day.

However, the sahibs' unabashed embrace of their soulmates in the Saddamite security forces did provide some sinister comedy in the Post story. The wary reporters and Raj officials displayed the usual hilarious delicacy in coming up with reality-fogging prose to protect the tender sensibilities of the American people, who must never be told what their betters are really getting up to.

For example, the American alliance with Saddam's killers – yes, the very ones who inflicted all those human rights abuses which, we're now told, was the onliest reason the Dear Leader attacked and destroyed a sovereign nation in an unprovoked war of aggression – was described demurely as "an unusual compromise." (As opposed to, say, "a moral outrage," or "a putrid stain on America's honor," or "a monstrous copulation of rapacious conquerors with bloodthirsty scum.") However, the Post hastens to assure us that the wise sahibs do recognize the "potential pitfalls" of hooking up with "an instrument renowned across the Arab world for its casual use of torture, fear, intimidation, rape and imprisonment."

Those kidders! Surely they know this "potential pitfall" is actually one of the main goals of the entire bloody enterprise: to intimidate the "Arab world" until they straighten up and fly right – i.e., turn their countries over to Halliburton, Bechtel and the Carlyle Group. That's why you buy an "instrument" like the Mukhabarat in the first place. You certainly don't employ professional murderers and rapists if you are genuinely interested in building a "decent, open, democratic society," as the Bushists claim in their imperial PR.

But like vaudeville troupers of old, the media-sashib double act saves the best gag for last. First the Postmen present the seamy Bush-Mukhabarat humpa-humpa as some great spiritual agon – "an ongoing struggle between principle and…the practical needs of the occupation" – instead of what it is: business as usual for the American security apparatus, which happily incorporated scores of its Nazi brethren into the fold after World War II, and over the years has climbed into bed with many a casually raping and murdering thug – such as, er, Saddam Hussein, who spent a bit of quality time on the CIA payroll.

In fact, the entire Baathist organization – including the Mukhabarat – was midwifed into power by not one but two CIA-backed coups, as historian Roger Morris reports in the NY Times. And shall we mention the intimate relations between Saddam's regime and American intelligence services back when Saddam was merrily gassing his own people – and the Iranians – with the eager connivance of Ronald Reagan, George Bush I and their "special envoy" to Baghdad, Donald Rumsfeld? Yes, let's.

So the new alliance is no "struggle": it's a veritable Bush family reunion, a happy homecoming for Rummy and his old Mukhers. But "this eternal blazon must not be to ears of flesh and blood" – or to Post readers, anyway. Our vaudevillians, eager to keep the fleecy Homeland flock nestled comfortably in its cozy amnesia, skip the history and go straight to the punchline: Raj officials say that it's OK to hire the most hardcore killers, rapists and torturers – as long as you "make sure they are indeed aware of the error of their ways."

You guys! What yocks! "So, Mr. Mukhabarat Man, are you indeed aware of the error of your ways?" "Oh yes, boss, I got my mind right!" "Not going to rape or torture anybody anymore?" "Oh no, boss, no – not unless you tell me to!" "Okey-dokey then! You're hired! Get on over to Abu Ghraib – you've got some interrogating to do!"

What? It's not funny? What do you mean? Look at those Iraqi kids over there, those American soldiers – they're grinning from ear to ear! No, wait – that's just their skulls. The new Bushabarat are using them for soccer practice.

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Citizen McCain:Hugging the Hard Right Shore

Written by Chris Floyd 29 November 2005 6124 Hits

This Nation article ("The Real McCain") is a good antidote for all those naïfs out there who believe that John McCain is some kind of "maverick," a genuine alternative to the hard-right Bushist machine. If anything, McCain's rock-ribbed conservative credentials have long been more solid than Bush's. Read McCain's gushy, cringing praises of his Glorious Leader below and you will know exactly what we have here: another Colin Powell, riding a media-concocted image of bipartisan statesmanship to national prominence, but when the chips are down, falling dutifully into line behind the ruthless agenda of the predatory Right. God save us from any more such poseurs.

[Excerpt] But the senator...projected a far more conciliatory image than the trash-talking maverick portrayed in the national media. Before the event he had endorsed teaching "intelligent design" alongside evolution in public schools, and he had expressed support for a rigid state ban on gay marriage that denies government benefits to any unmarried couple. After brief opening remarks, McCain took questions for more than two hours, referring to Reagan as "my hero," invoking the support of other conservatives on issues such as stem-cell research and immigration, and strenuously defending President Bush's Iraq policy....

 He has met with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whom he denounced as one of the religious right's "peddlers of intolerance" after the 2000 South Carolina primary... he reversed positions and supported a procedural repeal of the estate tax. He has endorsed conservative Republican Ken Blackwell for Ohio governor. At the suggestion of conservative activist and longtime nemesis Grover Norquist, he campaigned for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's failed referendum initiatives in California, particularly the "paycheck protection" provision targeting unions' political activities.

In late September, as Bush's presidency tailspinned, McCain headlined a dinner of conservative intellectuals sponsored by The American Spectator magazine. "Campaigning with George W. Bush was one of the proudest moments of my life," McCain declared. "McCain spoke fervently and with obvious sincerity about how much he admires Bush and the job he has been doing," wrote Michael Barone of US News & World Report...

McCain has urged deep cuts to nondefense and non-homeland-security-related spending--cuts that Democratic Senate minority leader Harry Reid dubs "immoral." At a recent appearance before the ultraconservative Heritage Foundation, McCain described himself as a "Barry Goldwater Republican" who "revere[s] Ronald Reagan and his stand of limited government."

In fact, McCain has always been far more conservative than either his supporters or detractors acknowledge. In 2004 he earned a perfect 100 percent rating from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum and a 0 percent from NARAL..He has opposed extension of the assault-weapons ban, federal hate crimes legislation and the International Criminal Court. He has supported school vouchers, a missile defense shield and private accounts for Social Security. Well before 9/11 McCain advocated a new Reagan Doctrine of "rogue-state rollback."

The turning point came when McCain not only endorsed Bush for re-election but made more than twenty campaign appearances with the President and defended his Iraq policy at the Republican National Convention....McCain campaigned with Bush on his push for Social Security privatization last spring...McCain strongly supported all three of Bush's Supreme Court picks.

"I admire the religious right for the dedication and zeal they put into the political process," McCain told Larry King recently. [End excerpt]

Oh yes, he was also hip deep in one of the most sordid bribery scandals in modern Senate history -- the Keating Five -- and barely escaped the hoosegow by the skin of his teeth. If this is your big bipartisan hero, the visionary statesman who will "bring us together" (as long as we all agree to live in locked-down, hard-right bliss) -- you "muscular liberals" can have him.

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Truth:A Weapon of Mass Instruction

Written by Chris Floyd 28 November 2005 5983 Hits
A soldier speaks the truth - now watch the Beltway cowards and their blogger brigades tremble. From a letter to Stars and Stripes, via Buzzflash:

Capt. Jeff Pirozzi
Camp Taqaddum, Iraq

Weapons of mass destruction? I'm still looking for them, and if you find any give me a call so we can justify our presence in Iraq. We started the war based on a lie, and we'll finish it based on a lie. I say this because I am currently serving with a logistics headquarters in the Anbar province, between the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. I am not fooled by the constant fabrication of "democracy" and "freedom" touted by our leadership at home and overseas.

This deception is furthered by our armed forces' belief that we can just enter ancient Mesopotamia and tell the locals about the benefits of a legislative assembly. While our European ancestors were hanging from trees, these ancient people were writing algebra and solving quadratic equations. Now we feel compelled to strong-arm them into accepting the spoils of capitalism and "laissez-faire" society. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching Britney Spears on MTV and driving to McDonald's, but do you honestly believe that Sunnis, Shias and Kurds want our Western ideas of entertainment and freedom imposed on them? Think again.

I'm not being negative, I'm being realistic. The reality in Iraq is that the United States created a nightmare situation where one didn't exist. Yes, Saddam Hussein was an evil man who lied, cheated and pillaged his own nation. But how was he different from dictators in Africa who commit massive crimes again humanity with little repercussion and sometimes support from the West? The bottom line up front (BLUF to use a military acronym) is that Saddam was different because we used him as an excuse to go to war to make Americans "feel good" about the "War on Terrorism." The BLUF is that our ultimate goal in 2003 was the security of Israel and the lucrative oil fields in northern and southern Iraq.

Weapons of mass destruction? Call me when you find them. In the meantime, "bring 'em on" so we can get our "mission accomplished" and get out of this mess.
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We Give Thanks for our Freedom

Written by Chris Floyd 24 November 2005 7006 Hits

This AP picture shows Hiram Myers, 74, of Edmond, Oklahoma, being hauled off by armed officials for the heinous crime of sitting in a county-owned ditch in Crawford, Texas, to protest the war in Iraq. It is of course simply intolerable to think that President Bush's holiday repose might be disturbed in the slightest by the presence of such miscreants in the proximity of his own sacred person.

This is freedom in America today. This is what our forefathers fought and died for. This is why generations of American families have given the blood of their children on behalf of the nation: so some cowardly, ignorant, bloodthirsty little creep can cram his bowels with turkey and dressing without being reminded of the tens of thousands of people he has murdered, maimed and tortured in a war of agression based on deliberate lies and murderous deceit. This is America today: truth-tellers in chains, murderers enthroned.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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The Betrayed Mothers of America

Written by Chris Floyd 24 November 2005 4520 Hits

We were remiss in not putting up this testimony, gathered by Robert Fisk in New York City during the recent Veteran's Day remembrances. Remember these good people whenever you see the hideous smirking rictus of Cheney or Bush defending the monstrous crime they have wrought.

From the Independent (via Information Clearing House). Excerpts:

...Sue's voice rises in indignation above the noise of the New York diner, angry and brave and drowning out the joshing of two vets at the other end of the table. "I remember very clearly my son's last words before he went back after his two weeks' vacation. 'I don't know who my enemy is,' he said. 'It's a worthless, senseless war, a war of religion. We'll never win it.' He wasn't killed. He was murdered. He was murdered by the US administration. He was out looking for IEDs. He found one, stopped his convoy and was blown up. I regard it as a suicide mission."

...Celeste's son Sherwood was killed on 26 April last year, his end as tragic as it was unnecessary. He was protecting a group of military inspectors hunting for President Bush's mythical weapons of mass destruction when a perfume factory they were searching in Baghdad suddenly exploded.

"He was getting out of the cab of his truck to help the wounded when some debris came crashing out of the sky and hit him," Celeste says..."I will always remember that my son died just a month after George W Bush made that videotape in front of the press - the one where he made a joke about looking for weapons of mass destruction and pretended to search under his desk for the weapons. He was making fun of the fact he hadn't found them - but my son died looking for them and they didn't exist."

...At the other end of our table, Alex Ryabov, who served in R Battery, 5th Battalion, 10th Marines, in the original 2003 invasion force, says he was against the war from the start, refusing to believe there were any weapons of mass destruction.

"When I got into Iraq, I saw what our artillery rounds did to people. I had to go up front to see where the rounds were falling and I saw whole Iraqi cities engulfed in flames. There were Iraqi dead on the sides of the roads - I couldn't tell if they were men or women."

...I say goodbye to this little group of brave American men and women - the ex-soldiers have no jobs, no future save their enthusiasm for their own campaign against the Iraq war - and leave their table with its sad, gold-fringed American flag and head off into the fumes and noise of Times Square. Up on a giant television screen, Vice-President Cheney - he who went on lying about the non-existent links between Saddam and 9/11 long after the invasion - is solemnly bowing his head in the Arlington cemetery. Ah yes, he is honouring the fallen. And I wonder if he will ever understand his betrayal of the men and women back on 44th Street.

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The Madness of King George

Written by Chris Floyd 23 November 2005 7321 Hits

This week, the UK's Daily Mirror ran a story about a leaked UK government document that apparently detailed an astounding episode from 2004: George W. Bush planning to bomb the Al-Jazeera headquaters in Qatar – a U.S. ally – and Tony Blair managing to talk him out of it. Downing Street refused to comment on the memo, and British officialdom tried to laugh it off, literally – an anonymous Blair spokesman said Bush had just been joking.

But there is obviously some fire beneath all that smoke. Several MPs took it seriously indeed, including Blair's former defence minister, Peter Kilfoyle, who called for the document to be made public. Then late yesterday, the Blair government unleashed Britain's draconian Official Secrets Act – which is far in excess of anything in the US – threatening to prosecute any paper that published the actual contents of the memo. (The Mirror story was a paraphrase.)

This is highly unusual, given the fact that the Blair camp did not invoke the Secrets Act to stop the extremely embarrassing "Downing Street Memos" which revealed the cynical pre-invasion machinations by Bush and Blair to "fix the intelligence around the policy" of aggressive war.  In fact, as the Guardian points out today, "the [Blair] government has never prosecuted editors for publishing the contents of leaked documents." The invocation of the Secrets Act in this case essentially confirms the substance of the Mirror's allegations; if it was all fluff, just a "joke," why try to quash it in such a heavy-handed fashion?

It seems likely then that the story is true: Bush seriously contemplated launching an attack on Al-Jazeera's headquarters – in the business district of Doha, Qatar's capital – and had to be dissuaded from this madness by Blair. [UPDATE: As you might expect, Juan Cole has more on the story, including its historical context, including two other deadly attacks on Al Jazeera offices launched by Bush in Afghanistan and Iraq.]

Below are some details from the various stories on the matter in the UK press: [Excerpts]: The five-page transcript of a conversation between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair reveals that Blair talked Bush out of launching a military strike on the station, unnamed sources told the daily which is against the war in Iraq. The transcript of the pair's talks during Blair's April 16, 2004 visit to Washington allegedly shows Bush wanted to attack the satellite channel's headquarters. Blair allegedly feared such a strike, in the business district of Doha, the capital of Qatar, a key western ally in the Persian Gulf, would spark revenge attacks…

Al-Jazeera had sparked the anger of the US administration by broadcasting video messages from al Qaida head Osama bin Laden and leaders of the insurgency in Iraq, as well as showing footage of the bodies of US servicemen and Iraqi civilians killed in fighting.

According to the Mirror's source, the transcript records a conversation during Mr Blair's visit to the White House on April 16 last year, in the wake of a failed attempt to root out insurgents in the city of Fallujah, in which 30 US Marines died…
A source told the Mirror: "The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush. He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Blair replied that would cause a big problem. There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do -- and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it."

Another source said: "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men."

…Former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle - a leading Labour opponent of the Iraq War - called for the document to be made public. "I think they ought to clarify what exactly happened on this occasion," he said. "If it was the case that President Bush wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in what is after all a friendly country, it speaks volumes and it raises questions about subsequent attacks that took place on the press that wasn't embedded with coalition forces."

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell told PA: "If true, then this underlines the desperation of the Bush administration as events in Iraq began to spiral out of control. On this occasion, the Prime Minister may have been successful in averting political disaster, but it shows how dangerous his relationship with President Bush has been." [END excerpts]

Or as Shakespeare said: "Madness in great ones must not unwatched go."

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Why We Fight

Written by Chris Floyd 23 November 2005 5482 Hits

Why do we fight in Iraq? To defend an Iranian-allied government that wants us to leave and says it's perfectly legitimate to kill American soldiers. That's why. And if that doesn't make any sense to you, we're sure Dick Cheney can explain it.

From Bloomberg: [Excerpt] Iraqi leaders, meeting at a reconciliation conference in Cairo, urged an end to violence in the country and demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq.

``The Iraqi people look forward to the day when the foreign forces leave Iraq, when it's armed and security forces will be rebuilt and when they can enjoy peace and stability and get rid of terrorism,'' the leaders said in the statement…The final statement also stated that ``resistance is a legitimate right for all people.'' The conference almost collapsed earlier today when Sunni leaders objected to the definition of ``resistance,'' al-Jazeera said. [End excerpt]

Actually, there is a very logical reason why American soldiers are dying – and dealing out wholesale death – in Iraq: $200 billion in oil wealth that these same Iraqi "leaders" are about to sign over to Dick Cheney's oil-bidness cronies, as the Independent reports.

[Excerpt] Iraqis face the dire prospect of losing up to $200bn (£116bn) of the wealth of their country if an American-inspired plan to hand over development of its oil reserves to US and British multinationals comes into force next year.

The Iraqi government has announced plans to seek foreign investment to exploit its oil reserves after the general election, which will be held next month. Iraq has 115 billion barrels of proved oil reserves, the third largest in the world.

According to the report, from groups including War on Want and the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the new Iraqi constitution opened the way for greater foreign investment. Negotiations with oil companies are already under way ahead of next month's election and before legislation is passed, it said.

The groups said they had amassed details of high-level pressure from the US and UK governments on Iraq to look to foreign companies to rebuild its oil industry.... Yesterday's report said the use of production sharing agreements (PSAs) was proposed by the US State Department before the invasion and adopted by the Coalition Provisional Authority. "The current government is fast-tracking the process. It is already negotiating contracts with oil companies in parallel with the constitutional process, elections and passage of a Petroleum Law," the report, Crude Designs, said. [END excerpt]

So why did your son have to die from an IED on the side of the road in Mosul? Why was he turned into a war criminal raining chemical fire on non-combatants in Fallujah? They died, they killed to make Dick Cheney and his little band of corporate lords richer than they already are. That's it. That's all of it. They don't care if American soldiers die, they don't care how many Iraqis are killed. They don't care if their war increases terrorism, empowers crooks and extremists, bankrupts the nation and destroys the American army. They just want to hang on long enough to get those oil rights locked in. That's all they care about now.  And they don't care how much cannon fodder -- American soldiers, Iraqi civilians -- they have to churn through to get them.

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The Gates of Hell

Written by Chris Floyd 22 November 2005 26184 Hits

Behind the Phosphorus Clouds are War Crimes Within War Crimes (Guardian)

Although George Monbiot gives perhaps undeserved short shrift here to the Italian documentary that reignited the controversy over the American use of incendiary weapons in Fallujah, he has unearthed – along with blogger Gabriele Zamparini – smoking gun evidence of even more barbarity in the Bush-ordered destruction of the city: the use of thermobaric weapons, whose effects are even more horrendous and uncontrollable than white phosphorus.

Of course, the Pentagon has now admitted the use of WP as an attack weapon in Fallujah – after lying about this for more than year – although they say that no civilians were deliberately targeted. But surely the main point of the entire scandal is that American forces knowingly used these chemical weapons in populated areas – a practice that was bound to kill civilians, whatever the tactical intention might have been. And since Monbiot notes that there were some 30,000 to 50,000 civilians in the city – which the Americans openly treated as a "free-fire zone," pretending that it was empty of non-combatants – it is difficult to see what his problem is exactly with the WP angle of story, beyond some disagreement with some of the Italian documentary's more subjective claims. For in the end, the basic facts seem clear, and Monbiot is in agreement with them: The Americans used white phosophorus and thermobaric weapons in areas teeming with civilians during the attack on Fallujah.

In any case, here are some of the hot goods unloaded by Monbiot and Zamparini.

Excerpts: The Pentagon argues that white phosphorus burns people, rather than poisoning them, and is covered only by the protocol on incendiary weapons, which the US has not signed. But white phosphorus is both incendiary and toxic. The gas it produces attacks the mucous membranes, the eyes and the lungs. As Peter Kaiser of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the BBC last week: "If ... the toxic properties of white phosphorus, the caustic properties, are specifically intended to be used as a weapon, that of course is prohibited, because ... any chemicals used against humans or animals that cause harm or death through the toxic properties of the chemical are considered chemical weapons."

The US army knows that its use as a weapon is illegal. In the Battle Book, published by the US Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, my correspondent David Traynier found the following sentence: "It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets."

…. But we shouldn't forget that the use of chemical weapons was a war crime within a war crime within a war crime. Both the invasion of Iraq and the assault on Falluja were illegal acts of aggression. Before attacking the city, the marines stopped men "of fighting age" from leaving. Many women and children stayed: the Guardian's correspondent estimated that between 30,000 and 50,000 civilians were left. The marines treated Falluja as if its only inhabitants were fighters. They levelled thousands of buildings, illegally denied access to the Iraqi Red Crescent and, according to the UN's special rapporteur, used "hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population".

I have been reading accounts of the assault published in the Marine Corps Gazette. The soldiers appear to have believed everything the US government told them. One article claims that "the absence of civilians meant the marines could employ blast weapons prior to entering houses that had become pillboxes, not homes". Another said that "there were less than 500 civilians remaining in the city". It continued: "The heroics [of the marines] will be the subject of many articles and books."

But buried in this hogwash is a grave revelation. An assault weapon the marines were using had been armed with warheads containing "about 35% thermobaric novel explosive (NE) and 65% standard high explosive". They deployed it "to cause the roof to collapse and crush the insurgents fortified inside interior rooms". It was used repeatedly: "The expenditure of explosives clearing houses was enormous." 

The marines can scarcely deny that they know what these weapons do. An article published in the Gazette in 2000 details the effects of their use by the Russians in Grozny. Thermobaric, or "fuel-air" weapons, it says, form a cloud of volatile gases or finely powdered explosives. "This cloud is then ignited and the subsequent fireball sears the surrounding area while consuming the oxygen in this area. The lack of oxygen creates an enormous overpressure ... Personnel under the cloud are literally crushed to death. Outside the cloud area, the blast wave travels at some 3,000 metres per second ... As a result, a fuel-air explosive can have the effect of a tactical nuclear weapon without residual radiation ... Those personnel caught directly under the aerosol cloud will die from the flame or overpressure. For those on the periphery of the strike, the injuries can be severe. Burns, broken bones, contusions from flying debris and blindness may result. Further, the crushing injuries from the overpressure can create air embolism within blood vessels, concussions, multiple internal haemorrhages in the liver and spleen, collapsed lungs, rupture of the eardrums and displacement of the eyes from their sockets." It is hard to see how you could use these weapons in Falluja without killing civilians. 

This looks to me like a convincing explanation of the damage done to Falluja, a city in which between 30,000 and 50,000 civilians might have been taking refuge. It could also explain the civilian casualties shown in the film. So the question has now widened: is there any crime the coalition forces have not committed in Iraq?

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