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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Expressed views by Haifa Zangana.

The rhythm of death

On December 7 Tony Benn and others wrote to the UN and attorney general asking them to investigate breaches of the Nuremberg charter and the Geneva convention in Iraq.

Was it yesterday or the day before? At 2pm, in Parliament Square, a few metres away from Brian’s homage to the plight of Iraqi people under sanctions, war and occupation we were. Twenty men and women. Writers, filmmakers, activists, two Iraqi academics, two MPs, people from Arab satellite TV and David Wilson, Stop the War press officer.

Behind us there was a banner, a painting. A combination of a vertical section of Guernica with the word Falluja written on. An integral whole. A unified condemnation of two barbaric acts. George Steer, an eye witness to the first act wrote a report, which was published in the Times on April 28 1937. Here is an excerpt under the subtitle, Rhythm of Death:

It is impossible to state yet the number of victims. In the Bilbao Press this morning they were reported as "fortunately small" but it is feared that this was an understatement in order not to alarm the large refugee population of Bilbao. In the hospital of Josfinas, which was one of the first places bombed, all the 42 wounded militiamen it sheltered were killed outright. In a street leading downhill from the Casa de Juntas I saw a place where 50 people, nearly all women and children, are said to have been trapped in an air raid refuge under a mass of burning wreckage. Many were killed in the fields, and altogether the deaths may run into hundreds. An elderly priest named Aronategui was killed by a bomb while rescuing children from a burning house.

Death of a professor

There is now a systematic campaign to assassinate Iraqis who speak out against the occupation
In a letter to a friend in Europe, Abdul Razaq al-Na’as, a Baghdad university professor in his 50s, grieved for his killed friends and colleagues. His letter concluded: "I wonder who is next!" He was. On January 28 al-Na’as drove from his office at Baghdad University. Two cars blocked his, and gunmen opened fire, killing him instantly.
Al-Na’as is not the first academic to be killed in the mayhem of the "new Iraq". Hundreds of academics and scientists have met this fate since the March 2003 invasion. Baghdad universities alone have mourned the killing of over 80 members of staff. The minister of education stated recently that during 2005, 296 members of education staff were killed and 133 wounded. (...)

So much for illusions

Despite the election, ordinary Iraqis face a daily struggle to survive attacks, kidnappings and killings

Behind the facade of post-election political process, despite Tony Blair’s desire to move on and George Bush’s attempt to mend fences with Europe, in Iraq the atrocities continue to mount. Some, like the Hilla attack, are Zarqawi-style, with hundreds dead and wounded. Others are more mundane and sustained, like US warplanes bombing suspect houses in Ramadi, Hit, or Mosul, roadblock killings in Najaff, or post-curfew hunting by snipers in Sammara.

Despite all the rhetoric about "building a new democracy", daily life for most Iraqis is still a struggle for survival, with human rights abuses engulfing them. A typical Iraqi day begins with the struggle to get the basics: petrol, a cylinder of gas, fresh water, food and medication. It ends with a sigh of relief: Alhamdu ilah (thanks, God), for surviving death threats, violent attacks, kidnappings and killings. (...)

What drives the fighters in flip-flops

Falluja is not unique. Collective punishment is escalating in Iraq

In a statement that directly echoed George Bush, Qasim Daoud, Iraq’s interim minister of state for national security, told a news conference at the weekend: "Mission accomplished... Falluja has been liberated". He proudly recited the list of the dead - 1,400 terrorists, foreigners and Saddamists. And what about civilians, the women and children trapped in the fighting zone.

Any casualties? He avoided the question. (...)

Iraqis have lived this lie before

The British transfer of sovereignty in the 20s was equally meaningless
In Iraq, we have an expression: same donkey, different saddle. Iraq’s long-heralded interim government has now formally assumed sovereignty. Official labels and tags have duly changed.

The US administrator will now be an ambassador, while Sheikh Ghazi al Yawar and Iyad Allawi, US-appointed members of the former governing council, are to be known as president and prime minister.

To formalise the change, the UN has already issued a resolution under which "multinational forces" will replace "US-led forces". On the issue of control over US troops, the message is clear: the US forces are there to stay only because "Iraqi people" has asked them to. But which Iraqi people? Do they mean the new administration headed by the CIA’s Iyad Allawi? And why does all this sound strangely familiar?
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Alliance For Security - The British Occupation of Iraq
The British Occupation of Iraq. "Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies but as liberators"

British Colonialism and Repression in Iraq

Britain set up a colonial regime in Iraq after a long military campaign during World War I. In response to Iraqi resistance, including a country-wide uprising in 1920, British forces battled for over a decade to pacify the country, using airplanes, armored cars, firebombs and mustard gas. Air attacks were used to shock and awe, to teach obedience and to force the collection of taxes. Winston Churchill, as responsible cabinet minister in the early years, saw Iraq as an experiment in high-technology colonial control. Though officials in London sometimes had qualms about the violence, colonial administrators on the ground like Gertrude Bell expressed enthusiasm for the power of the imperial military enterprise.

Lessons To Be Learned:Iraqi Resistance to BritishOccupation 80 Years Ago
by Hussein Askary

In Iraq, as in many other places, history keeps repeating itself, sometimes with all the ironies and paradoxes of war and peace. In the view of this Iraqi author, the situation there, due to the foolish policy of the Bush Administration and the wicked plans of the war party of Cheney and his neo-conservative cronies, is moving rapidly towards a major confrontation all over the country. This most likely will recapitulate the 1920 Iraqi revolt against the British Empire. The resistance to the U.S. occupation in Iraq recently has been relatively limited to the so-called "Sunni triangle," in the capital and north and northwest of Baghdad. However, there is an increasing pattern of dismay and calls for confrontation among the Shi'ites in Baghdad and southern Iraq.

The Shi'a Muslims, who make up 65% of the 24 million Iraqi population, have been passively watching developments while politically organizing their communities around religious institutions. The Shi'ites, like the Kurds, have suffered enormously under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Ironically, most of the resistance to the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq in March-April this year took place in the south. Were the Shi'a defending Saddam Hussein? The answer is, of course, no. >>>cont

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A New Storm on the Pentagon's Horizon?

One particular cloud on the horizon might be no bigger than a fist right now, but everyone in the Pentagon knows that this cloud could explode with reputation-shattering thunder and lightning. That cloud has a name: H.R. McMaster.

On PBS' "Washington Week in Review" show earlier this evening, John Hendren, military correspondent for NPR, was asked about the "generals' revolt" against Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.


Bush "catapulting the propaganda so people will believe."

Condi, I Can Hardly Keep Up with Ye

Watching the always-poised Condi Rice this morning, I was reminded why I could never be a professional diplomat. And if you possess a normal respect for the truth and a minimal sense of the ridiculous, you probably couldn't be one,...


Iraqi Violence Escalates, Political Deadlock Continues...

Associated Press QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA April 15, 2006 at 07:00 PM

A car bomb killed at least seven people on a busy avenue Saturday as Shiite politicians floated a proposal to end the standoff over a new government by having Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari step down -- but only if his replacement comes from his own party.

The blast occurred at lunchtime outside an east Baghdad restaurant frequented by police officers, four of whom were among the 24 injured, Sgt. Sabah Mohsen said. All the dead were civilians, police said.


Exxon Playing Down News Of Its Record Profit For A US Company...

New York Times SIMON ROMERO and EDMUND L. ANDREWS April 15, 2006 at 01:11 PM

Exxon Mobil, aided by strong energy prices, disclosed Monday that it had set a record for profits among American companies, reporting $36 billion in annual income. But while most companies would be proud to trumpet record profits, Exxon Mobil did everything it could to play down the news.

For Exxon Mobil, which also handily widened its lead over Wal-Mart as the company with the largest revenues in the nation, the report was an embarrassment of riches. Anxious about criticism of the results, executives began laying the groundwork months ago to try to prevent a political reaction against the company and the energy industry.


Scientists Discover Massive Deep-Sea Volcano With "Moat Of Death"...

National Geographic Richard A. Lovett April 15, 2006 at 05:34 PM

Beneath the waves of the South Pacific lies a volcanic realm nearly as strange as that featured in TV's hit drama Lost.

But instead of a mysterious island, scientists have found a bubbling submarine volcano whose weird features include a swirling vortex, a host of strange animals, and a fearsome zone of toxic waters dubbed the Moat of Death.


Permission to Speak Freely, Sir

By Stephen Pizzo
News for Real

Saturday 15 April 2006

I am sorry that high school and college kids no longer have to face a couple of years of mandatory military service. That may be a strange thing to say for a guy who protested the draft back in the '60s. Maybe it's the inevitable aging process. Or maybe it's the perspective you get from the higher altitude of experience.

What got me thinking about this were the extraordinary statements being made by recently retired U.S. generals. Those who have never served in the military don't understand how extraordinary it is for career military officers to say the things these guys are saying about their former civilian superiors.

I hit Marine Corps bootcamp on July 7, 1965, a wimpy kid from suburbia. The first thing we were told was that we were the lowest forms of life on earth - and that meant lower than civilians. I was to learn as time went on that this was not just drill instructor blather. It was a genuine, deeply ingrained belief that permeated the highest ranks of the military for civilian control. We were repeatedly told that the lowest civilian we met on the street outranked the highest grade military officer. And that was not show. They believed it, not just as a principle, but a sacred trust.

Those who never served will likely see that as corny, empty rhetoric, window dressing, quaint - at best. But those who did serve know of what I speak. We get it. That's one reason I bemoan that two generations of kids have since been spared a stint in uniform. It changed my life in ways I now understand and appreciate in ways I could not back then.

This is not a column about reinstituting the draft. I just want to make the case that you pay close and respectful attention to the recent statements by retired top Pentagon brass. Because never in my life did I ever expect to hear these kinds of things coming out of the mouths of such men. Never. Here's a sampler:

"[Donald Rumsfeld] has proved himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically. Mr. Rumsfeld must step down."
-General Paul Eaton, who oversaw training of Iraqi army troops, 2003-2004

"I really believe that we need a new secretary of defense because Secretary Rumsfeld carries way too much baggage with him. Specifically, I feel he has micromanaged the generals who are leading our forces there."
-retired Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.

"I think we need a fresh start … We need leadership up there (the Pentagon) that respects the military as they expect the military to respect them."
-Maj. Gen. John Batiste, commander 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, 2004-2005

We won't get fooled again … Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach should be replaced."
-Marines Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, director of operations of Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2000-2002

"The problem is that we've wasted three years … absolutely, Rumsfeld should resign."
-Marines Gen. Anthony Zinni, former chief of U.S. Central Command

"A lot of them [other generals] are hugely frustrated. Rumsfeld gave the impression that military advice was neither required nor desired" in the planning for the Iraq war.
-Lt. Gen. Wallace Gregson, former commander of Marines forces in the Pacific Theater

"Everyone pretty much thinks Rumsfeld and the bunch around him should be cleared out. [Rumsfeld and his advisers have] made fools of themselves, and totally underestimated what would be needed for a sustained conflict."

-Army Maj. Gen. John Riggs

The administration is trying to counter these devastating statements by noting that none of the generals voiced such reservations during the lead-up to the war. And, because so many Americans now lack any direct experience with the military, the tactic may just work. After all, it's easy to dismiss these retired generals just that easily. "So, where were your qualms when we really need them, general?"

I know the answer to that question - and it's not the answer the Bushies want you to get.

When an officer has a particularly sticky problem with the actions or orders of a superior officer, s/he can "request permission to speak freely, sir."

Well, that was tried, by Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, who was promptly and unceremoniously "shit-canned." (Another term my fellow vets may find familiar.)

The Pentagon's civilian leaders sent a clear message to the rest of the Pentagon brass: "Do what we want, or we'll find a junior officer who will."

With the "permission to speak freely" option off the table, the brass was left only with their prime directive: Civilians rule.

So, their silence leading up to war was not cowardice or careerism, as some have suggested. It was instead the manifestation of that deeply ingrained principle that civilians not only outrank them, but that the most dangerous thing that can happen in a democracy is for the military to start preempting civilian leadership.

We can quibble over that notion, of course. We can wave around the Nuremberg principle that "just following orders" is no defense for wrongdoing. I agree. But let me tell you, my experience in the military left me with a deep respect for the way the American military views its place in our democracy. They really do believe civilians rule. I would have it no other way. And neither should you.

Which is why we old vets understand better than most how gut-wrenching it must have been for these recently retired officers to go public. I am certain it was not the way they wanted to end their lifetimes of service to their country. Because, as far as these men are concerned, under normal circumstances, such behavior smacks of treason.

Retired two-star Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the Big Red One (the Army's 1st Infantry Division) in Iraq until November, said Rumsfeld must go for ignoring and intimidating career officers. "You know, it speaks volumes that guys like me are speaking out from retirement about the leadership climate in the Department of Defense.(Full Story)

So, no one should take their statements lightly. This is serious business … especially at the very moment these same civilian leaders are grunting eagerly over satellite images of Iran.
Stephen Pizzo is the author of numerous books, including Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, which was nominated for a Pulitzer.

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Marines Suffer 2 Dead, 22 Wounded in Iraq

Two US Marines were killed and 22 wounded, two of them critically injured while fighting in western Iraq, the US military said Saturday. It was the largest number of American casualties reported from a single engagement in weeks.

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Wishing Everyone a Safe and Thought Provoking Easter. Peace

Coming home — disillusioned

Coming home — disillusioned

By Christopher H. Sheppard

04/14/06 "Seattle Times" -- -- Three years ago, I was a Marine Corps captain on the Iraqi/Kuwaiti border, participating in the invasion of Iraq. Awestruck, I heard our howitzers thunder and watched artillery rockets rise into the night sky and streak toward Iraq — their light bathing the desert moonscape like giant arc welders.

As I watched the Iraq war begin, I completely trusted the Bush administration. I thought we were going to prove all of the left-wing antiwar protesters and dissenters wrong. I thought we were going to make America safer. Regrettably, I acknowledge that it was I who was wrong.

I believed the Bush administration when it said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. I believed its assertion that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake uranium from Africa and refine it into weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear bomb. I believed its claim Iraq had vast quantities of biological and chemical agents. After years of thorough inspections, all of these claims have been disproved.

I believed the administration when it claimed there was overwhelming evidence Iraq was in cahoots with al-Qaida. In January 2004, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted that there was no concrete evidence linking Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida.

I believed the administration when it grandly proclaimed we were going to bring a stable, Western-style liberal democracy to Iraq, complete with religious tolerance and the rule of law.

We never had enough troops in Iraq to restore civil order and the rule of law. The Iraqi elections have produced a ruling majority of Shiite fundamentalists and marginalized the seething Sunni minority. Iraq dangerously teeters on the brink of civil war. We have emboldened Iran and destabilized the entire Middle East.

I believed the administration when it claimed the war could be done quickly and cheaply. It said the war would cost only between $50 billion and $60 billion. It said that Iraqi oil revenue would fund the country's reconstruction. I believed President Bush when he landed on the USS Lincoln and said "major combat operations have ended."

The war has cost the American taxpayers $250 billion and counting. The vast majority — 94 percent — of the more than 2,300 United States service members killed in Iraq have occurred since Bush's "Top Gun" proclamation. The cost in men and materiel has been far beyond what we were led to believe.

I volunteered to go back to Iraq for the fall and winter of 2004-2005. I went back out of frustration and guilt; frustration from watching Iraq unravel on the news and guilt that I wasn't there trying to stop it. Many fine Marines from my reserve battalion felt the same and volunteered to go back. I buried my mounting suspicions and mustered enough trust and faith in my civilian leadership to go back.

I returned disillusioned by what I saw. I participated in the second battle of Fallujah in November 2004. We crushed the insurgents in the city, but we only ended up scattering them throughout the province. The dumb ones stayed and died. The smart ones left town before the battle, to garner more recruits and fight another day. We were simply the little Dutch boy with our finger in the dike. In retrospect, we never had enough troops to firmly control the region; we had just enough to maintain a tenuous equilibrium.

I now know I wrongfully placed my faith and trust in a presidential administration hopelessly mired in incompetence, hubris and a lack of accountability. It planned a war based on false intelligence and unrealistic assumptions. It has strategically surrendered the condition of victory in Iraq to people who do not share our vision, values or interests. The Bush administration has proven successful at only one thing in Iraq — painting us into a corner with no feasible exit.

I will never trust any of them again.

Christopher H. Sheppard is a former Marine captain who served two tours of duty in Iraq as a combat engineer. He currently is finishing his master's degree in mass communication and lives in Marysville.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

FOCUS | Report: Rumsfeld Directed Sexual Degradation of Detainee

Editor's Comment: The revelations regarding the sexual degradation of one detainee, Mohammad al-Qahtani, at the Guantanamo Bay prison in late 2002 and early 2003 do not stand alone. These are the practices that became the subject of the scandalous photographs that emerged from the Abu Ghraib prison facility a year later. This was the point at which sexual degradation became - at the direction of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Geoffrey Miller - a practice for US military interrogators.
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New Report: Rumsfeld 'Personally Involved' In Torture Allegations at Gitmo

Friday 14 April 2006

Salon reports new evidence that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was intimately involved in prisoner abuse at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

According to a Dec. 20, 2005 Army inspector general's report on Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the former commanding general in charge of Gitmo, Rumsfeld approved an interrogation plan for Mohammed al-Kahtani, the alleged 20th hijacker:

In a sworn statement to the inspector general, [Lt. Gen. Randall] Schmidt described Rumsfeld as "personally involved" in the interrogation and said that the defense secretary was "talking weekly" with Miller.

Rumsfeld developed an interrogation plan that required the Gitmo detainee to "stand naked in front of a female interrogator, was accused of being a homosexual, and was forced to wear women's underwear and to perform 'dog tricks' on a leash." Schmidt said that the open-ended policies Rumsfeld approved, and that the apparent lack of supervision of day-to-day interrogations permitted the wide-scale abuse to take place.

The report contradicts Rumsfeld's earlier statements.

The people down there at Guantanamo Bay, under the President's orders, have been treated humanely and they should be treated humanely…There's no torture going on down there and there hasn't been. [WPHT-AM Philadelphia, 6/21/05]

And let there be no doubt, the treatment of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay is proper, it's humane, it's appropriate, and it is fully consistent with international conventions. No detainee has been harmed, no detainee has been mistreated in any way. [DoD Briefing, 1/22/02]

Only relatively low-ranking military officials have been punished but the abuse of detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere started at the top.

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Dead Cities: The Fallujah Option in Iraq?

Saturday, 08 April 2006

Of all the war crimes that have flowed from the originating war crime of George W. Bush's unprovoked invasion of Iraq, perhaps the most flagrant was the wanton destruction of Fallujah in November 2004. Now, as ignominious defeat looms for Bush's Babylonian folly, some of the key players in fomenting the war are urging that the "Fallujah Option" be applied to an even bigger target: Baghdad.

What these influential warmongers openly call for is the "pacification" of Baghdad: a brutal firestorm by U.S. forces, ravaging both Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias in a "horrific" operation that will inevitably lead to "skyrocketing body counts," as warhawk Reuel Marc Gerecht wrote cheerfully last week in the ever-bloodthirsty editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. [Via Robert Dreyfus on TomDispatch.com.] Gerecht's war whoop quickly ricocheted around the rightwing media echo chamber and gave public voice to the private counsels emanating from a group whose members now comprise the leadership of the U.S. government: The Project for the New American Century.

As oft noted here, PNAC was founded by Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush, Zalmay Khalilzad, and the now-indicted Lewis Libby, among others. In September 2000, they publicly called for sending American forces into Iraq – even if Saddam Hussein was already gone – as well as planting new U.S. bases in Central Asia, putting weapons in space, building new nukes and funding a vast militarization of American society. Being such savvy inside players and all, they recognized that this lunatic program of aggression and world domination would not be accepted by the American people – unless, of course, the nation happened to be struck by a "catalyzing event" like "a new Pearl Harbor." Who says dreams don't come true?

Gerecht, an ex-CIA man, is a Senior Fellow at PNAC. He was one of the many munchkins who laid the groundwork for the mass deception that led to the war by constantly undermining any CIA report that failed to conform to the warmongers' highly profitable fantasies of America's imminent destruction by the broken, toothless regime of Saddam Hussein. The intelligence services' many caveats about this bogus threat were placed directly on Bush's desk, as the National Journal reports, but the P-Nackers in the White House tossed them aside. They dreamed of war, and they got it.

But the natives failed to play their part in the imperial masque macabre. As noted here last week, they have churlishly failed to show proper appreciation for being slaughtered, looted, tortured and controlled. Even the Shiites, hailed by the Bushists just a few weeks ago as salt-of-the-earth lovers of moderate democracy, are now denounced as hate-filled sectarians, even worse than the Sunni insurgents – who are suddenly being courted by Bush's man in Baghdad, the P-Nacker Khalilzad, the BBC reports.

Not that the Shiite death squads – backed by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government – have been all bad, mind you. Sure, they've been kidnapping Sunni civilians, drilling holes in their skulls, beheading them then dumping the corpses on city streets or burying them in schoolyards – but all of this been "healthy," says Gerecht, because it has made the Sunnis and Kurds fear "Shiite power." Or something. To be honest, Gerecht's column is filled with so many canards, delusions and logical inconsistencies that it often leaves the plane of rational discourse altogether. But its import is clear: by daring to defy Washington's edicts now and then, the Shiites have gotten too big for their britches and must be brought to heel – along with the rest of the scum who are making the Dear Leader look bad back home.

You think that's a joke, but it's not. One of Gerecht's main reasons for "pacifying" Baghdad in a hydra-headed war on every ethnic faction is because "the U.S. media will never write many optimistic stories about Iraq if journalists fear going outside" the city's fortified Green Zone. There you have the Bushist vision in a nutshell. The war is not actually happening in the real world, where real people are dying by the tens of thousands; no, it's really being fought on the monitors of Fox News, CNN and NBC, in the flimsy pages of the New York Times and Washington Post, and on the overheated airwaves of talk radio. Baghdad must be pacified – like Grozny, like Guernica – so that Americans can see a few more peppy stories on the tube on their way to the ballgame or the mall.

The fate of Fallujah provides a template of the grim fate awaiting Baghdad if Gerecht and the government P-Nackers have their way. Fallujah was encircled in a ring of iron; water, electricity and food supplies were cut off (a flagrant war crime). The city was bombed for eight weeks, then hit by an all-out ground attack with both conventional and chemical weapons – white phosphorous and napalm – which killed thousands of civilians and left more than 200,000 homeless. Among the first targets were Fallujah's hospitals and clinics (another flagrant war crime): some were destroyed, killing doctors and patients alike, others were seized and closed, all in order to prevent any stories about civilian casualties from reaching the Western media, the Pentagon's "information warfare" specialists told the New York Times. Once again, manufactured image trumped blood-stained reality.

Perhaps this cup will pass from Baghdad. Perhaps Bush and his P-Nackers will instead move forward with their frenzied plans for a nuclear strike on Iran, as the New Yorker reported last week. But Gerecht's article is a perfect snapshot of the depraved minds that now rule America. Somewhere, somehow – and soon – another city is going to die.

Chris Floyd/This is a version of an article appearing in the April 14 edition of The Moscow Times. Links to sources can be found below.

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A Missile, Not Flight 77

Cheney Made $8.8 Million Last Year...

Associated Press April 14, 2006 at 10:43 PM
READ MORE: George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Dick Cheney, Halliburton

President Bush reported adjusted gross income of $735,180 for last year, on which he paid $187,768 in federal taxes, according to the president's return released Friday by the White House. Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne reported a significantly higher adjusted gross income, largely due to exercising stock options.

In 2004, the president and first lady Laura Bush reported $784,219 in adjusted gross income and paid $207,307 in federal income taxes.

On their 2005 return the Bushes listed as income his presidential salary -- about $400,000 -- and investment income from trusts that hold their assets.


Exxon Chairman Paid Over $686 Million From 1993 To 2005...

New York Times JAD MOUAWAD April 14, 2006 at 10:30 PM

Soaring gas prices are squeezing most Americans at the pump, but at least one man isn't complaining.

Last year, Exxon made the biggest profit of any company ever, $36 billion, and its retiring chairman appears to be reaping the benefits.

Exxon is giving Lee Raymond one of the most generous retirement packages in history, nearly $400 million, including pension, stock options and other perks, such as a $1 million consulting deal, two years of home security, personal security, a car and driver, and use of a corporate jet for professional purposes.


Katherine Harris Getting Crushed In Florida Senate Race...

Political Wire April 14, 2006 at 11:09 PM

Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) continues to struggle in her bid to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), according to a new Rasmussen Reports poll.

Nelson currently leads Harris by an astonishing 30 points, 57% to 27%. These numbers have Nelson "counting down the days until May 12," the Florida filing deadline which would ensure a Nelson-Harris match-up should no other candidates enter the race.


Prosecutors Say Emails Show "Highly Inappropriate" Relationship Between Abramoff And Bush Official...

By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 4 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - A batch of 278 e-mails between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a Bush administration official show a highly inappropriate relationship where gifts and business interests mixed freely and frequently, federal prosecutors said Friday.

The prosecutors hope to use the e-mails in the criminal case against David Safavian, who is accused of lying and obstruction of justice in connection with investigations of an Abramoff-sponsored golf outing to Scotland in August 2002.

The e-mails show that Abramoff and Safavian, then chief of staff at the General Services Administration, were in frequent contact, played golf often and traded workplace gossip. Abramoff showered Safavian with offers of meals, invitations to parties as well as the trip to the fabled St. Andrew's golf course in Scotland.

One message from Abramoff, sent July 23, 2002, asks Safavian, "golf Friday? golf Sunday? golf Monday? golf, golf, golf!!"

At the same time, Abramoff is peppering Safavian with questions and requests for his help on a variety of projects, including obtaining parcels of federal land that were managed by GSA for Abramoff's charitable groups.

"The e-mails demonstrate that Mr. Safavian's relationship with Mr. Abramoff was highly inappropriate," prosecutors wrote in a court filing accompanying the e-mails.

Prosecutors and Safavian's attorneys are engaged in a legal fight over how much of this material should be shown to the jury during Safavian's upcoming trial, which is scheduled to begin May 22.

Barbara Van Gelder, a lawyer for Safavian, described the court filing as "a press release that allows the government to place inadmissible hearsay documents into the public record right before trial."

Van Gelder said that while Abramoff offered Safavian meals, trips and sports tickets, the "evidence shows that Mr. Safavian either declined the offers or paid for the expense with his own money. There is no conspiracy. There is no agreement. This is the government's attempt to inflate a flat case with hot air."

Sometimes Safavian responds to Abramoff with an invitation of his own, insisting in one instance that they play golf at Safavian's club in Springfield, Va. On another occasion, just after the Scotland trip, Safavian told Abramoff that he recommended the lobbyist to an architectural and engineering firm that wanted to become eligible for federal contracts. He titled his e-mail, "Client Development."

When Abramoff invited Safavian and his wife to have their anniversary dinner at Abramoff's Signatures restaurant in downtown Washington, Safavian declined, saying he was preparing veal cutlets a la suisse at home.

Van Gelder has said that the government has been trying to pressure Safavian to provide information about Abramoff and others who are part of the wide-ranging investigation of lobbying fraud and public corruption.

Abramoff is cooperating with federal investigators. He pleaded guilty in January to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud.

The e-mails also reveal that in early 2002 Safavian thought about leaving his congressional staff job for Abramoff's firm, Greenberg Traurig. Abramoff strongly supported that idea, but Safavian apparently never received an offer, according to the e-mails.

"Just spoke with Fred. He asked what I am going to do. I told him I was leaning towards GSA, but was waiting to hear back from GT. Unfortunately he didn't talk any numbers," Safavian wrote Abramoff on April 30.

An hour later, Abramoff replied: "This is crap. Should I call Fred right now? you should get a ... offer!!! Idiots over here!!"

Instead, Safavian moved from Congress to the General Services Administration.

The two men also looked for opportunities to get Abramoff together with GSA Administrator Stephen A. Perry. Safavian tells Abramoff the GSA July 4 party would be a good place to meet Perry. Abramoff at one point suggests bringing Perry along to Scotland. Perry was not part of that trip.

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U.S. Building Massive Embassy in Baghdad

By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent
Fri Apr 14, 4:58 PM ET

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future.

The new U.S. Embassy also seems as cloaked in secrecy as the ministate in Rome.

"We can't talk about it. Security reasons," Roberta Rossi, a spokeswoman at the current embassy, said when asked for information about the project.

A British tabloid even told readers the location was being kept secret — news that would surprise Baghdadis who for months have watched the forest of construction cranes at work across the winding Tigris, at the very center of their city and within easy mortar range of anti-U.S. forces in the capital, though fewer explode there these days.

The embassy complex — 21 buildings on 104 acres, according to a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee report — is taking shape on riverside parkland in the fortified "Green Zone," just east of al-Samoud, a former palace of Saddam Hussein's, and across the road from the building where the ex-dictator is now on trial.

The Republican Palace, where U.S. Embassy functions are temporarily housed in cubicles among the chandelier-hung rooms, is less than a mile away in the 4-square-mile zone, an enclave of American and Iraqi government offices and lodgings ringed by miles of concrete barriers.

The 5,500 Americans and Iraqis working at the embassy, almost half listed as security, are far more numerous than at any other U.S. mission worldwide. They rarely venture out into the "Red Zone," that is, violence-torn Iraq.

This huge American contingent at the center of power has drawn criticism.

"The presence of a massive U.S. embassy — by far the largest in the world — co-located in the Green Zone with the Iraqi government is seen by Iraqis as an indication of who actually exercises power in their country," the International Crisis Group, a European-based research group, said in one of its periodic reports on Iraq.

State Department spokesman Justin Higgins defended the size of the embassy, old and new, saying it's indicative of the work facing the United States here.

"It's somewhat self-evident that there's going to be a fairly sizable commitment to Iraq by the U.S. government in all forms for several years," he said in Washington.

Higgins noted that large numbers of non-diplomats work at the mission — hundreds of military personnel and dozens of FBI agents, for example, along with representatives of the Agriculture, Commerce and other U.S. federal departments.

They sleep in hundreds of trailers or "containerized" quarters scattered around the Green Zone. But next year embassy staff will move into six apartment buildings in the new complex, which has been under construction since mid-2005 with a target completion date of June 2007.

Iraq's interim government transferred the land to U.S. ownership in October 2004, under an agreement whose terms were not disclosed.

"Embassy Baghdad" will dwarf new U.S. embassies elsewhere, projects that typically cover 10 acres. The embassy's 104 acres is six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York, and two-thirds the acreage of Washington's National Mall.

Original cost estimates ranged over $1 billion, but Congress appropriated only $592 million in the emergency Iraq budget adopted last year. Most has gone to a Kuwait builder, First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting, with the rest awarded to six contractors working on the project's "classified" portion — the actual embassy offices.

Higgins declined to identify those builders, citing security reasons, but said five were American companies.

The designs aren't publicly available, but the Senate report makes clear it will be a self-sufficient and "hardened" domain, to function in the midst of Baghdad power outages, water shortages and continuing turmoil.

It will have its own water wells, electricity plant and wastewaster-treatment facility, "systems to allow 100 percent independence from city utilities," says the report, the most authoritative open source on the embassy plans.

Besides two major diplomatic office buildings, homes for the ambassador and his deputy, and the apartment buildings for staff, the compound will offer a swimming pool, gym, commissary, food court and American Club, all housed in a recreation building.

Security, overseen by U.S. Marines, will be extraordinary: setbacks and perimeter no-go areas that will be especially deep, structures reinforced to 2.5-times the standard, and five high-security entrances, plus an emergency entrance-exit, the Senate report says.

Higgins said the work, under way on all parts of the project, is more than one-third complete.

Associated Press news researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.

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Britain took part in mock Iran invasion

Pentagon planned for Tehran conflict with war game
involving UK troops

Julian Borger in Washington and Ewen MacAskill
Saturday April 15, 2006
The Guardian

British officers took part in a US war game aimed at preparing for a possible invasion of Iran, despite repeated claims by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, that a military strike against Iran is inconceivable.

The war game, codenamed Hotspur 2004, took place at the US base of Fort Belvoir in Virginia in July 2004.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman played down its significance yesterday. "These paper-based exercises are designed to test officers to the limit in fictitious scenarios. We use invented countries and situations using real maps," he said.

The disclosure of Britain's participation came in the week in which the Iranian crisis intensified, with a US report that the White House was contemplating a tactical nuclear strike and Tehran defying the United Nations security council.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, who sparked outrage in the US, Europe and Israel last year by calling for Israel to be wiped off the face of the Earth, created more alarm yesterday. He told a conference in Tehran in support of the Palestinians: "Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation. The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm."

The senior British officers took part in the Iranian war game just over a year after the invasion of Iraq. It was focused on the Caspian Sea, with an invasion date of 2015. Although the planners said the game was based on a fictitious Middle East country called Korona, the border corresponded exactly with Iran's and the characteristics of the enemy were Iranian.

A British medium-weight brigade operated as part of a US-led force.

The MoD's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, which helped run the war game, described it on its website as the "year's main analytical event of the UK-US Future Land Operations Interoperability Study" aimed at ensuring that both armies work well together. The study "was extremely well received on both sides of the Atlantic".

According to an MoD source, war games covering a variety of scenarios are conducted regularly by senior British officers in the UK, the US or at Nato headquarters. He cited senior military staff carrying out a mock invasion of southern England last week and one of Scotland in January.

However, Hotspur took place at a time of accelerated US planning after the fall of Baghdad for a possible conflict with Iran. That planning is being carried out by US Central Command, responsible for the Middle East and central Asia area of operations, and by Strategic Command, which carries out long-range bombing and nuclear operations.

William Arkin, a former army intelligence officer who first reported on the contingency planning for a possible nuclear strike against Iran in his military column for the Washington Post online, said: "The United States military is really, really getting ready, building war plans and options, studying maps, shifting its thinking."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The foreign secretary has made his position very clear that military action is inconceivable. The Foreign Office regards speculation about war, particularly involving Britain, as unhelpful at a time when the diplomatic route is still being pursued."

After the failure of a mission to Tehran on Thursday by Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Russia announced a diplomatic initiative yesterday. It is to host a new round of talks in Moscow on Tuesday with the US, the EU and China.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

West Point Graduates Against The War


To help reclaim the honor of the United States Of America

Instilled by the Cadet Honor System with a fundamental, longstanding respect for truth, we graduates of the United States Military Academy believe that honor is a basic attribute of character. That we are no longer cadets is irrelevant. We stand appalled by the deceitful behavior of the government of the United States and, in particular, its widely known malefactors. Lying, cheating, stealing, delivering evasive statements and quibbling not only has demeaned these deceivers and the United States of America, but has placed vast numbers of innocent people in deadly peril. We will not serve the lies.

The war in Iraq was launched illegally. It has since killed tens of thousands of innocents, causing incalculable damage to Iraq and the Iraqi people, as well as the reputation of the United States of America. We will not serve the lies.

When we West Point graduates took our commissioning oath of office one past June morning, we swore to protect our nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The deceitful connivances of the current administration have resulted in a war catastrophic to our nation’s interests: politically, economically, militarily, and morally. We now stand to protect our nation from these deceivers. We will not serve their lies.

We seek justice for all victims of this illegal war, both servicemen and servicewomen, and the citizens of Iraq.

To our purpose we invoke the words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence

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U.S. Buys Back Stolen Data by Afghan Base

By DANIEL COONEY, Associated Press Writer
Fri Apr 14, 2:50 PM ET

BAGRAM, Afghanistan - American investigators armed with a "box full" of cash have paid thousands of dollars to buy back stolen computer drives — many of which contain sensitive military data, shopkeepers outside the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan said Friday.

But dozens are still on sale, including memory sticks with information ranging from U.S. troop resumes to photographs of Air Force One during President Bush's visit last month.

The surfacing of the stolen computer devices has sparked an urgent probe to discover how security could have been breached at the heavily guarded Bagram base, which coordinates the fight against Taliban and al-Qaida militants and includes one of the military's main detention facilities for suspected terrorists.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Mike Cody said he could not comment because an investigation was ongoing.

Shopkeepers let an Associated Press reporter review about 40 of the drives on a laptop computer Friday. Most were blank or did not work, but three contained data, including a soldier's military discharge certificate, troop resumes and photographs of Air Force One during Bush's visit to Afghanistan last month.

One shopkeeper, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of retribution, said soldiers went around the market outside the base Thursday carrying "a box full of afghanis (the Afghan currency), buying all they could find."

He said he sold about 50 for $2,000, roughly $40 each. A day earlier, he was selling them for about half that price.

"They said they wanted them all and price wasn't important," the shopkeeper said.

The troops hadn't returned to the market by Friday afternoon despite dozens of the flash drives still being available. Another shopkeeper, who declined to be identified for the same reason, said the troops promised to return.

Included on some memory drives seen by AP earlier this week were the Social Security numbers of hundreds of soldiers, including four generals, and lists of troops who completed nuclear, chemical and biological warfare training.

The Los Angeles Times also reported that some drives had classified military secrets, including maps, charts and intelligence reports that appeared to detail how Taliban and al-Qaida leaders have been using southwestern Pakistan as a planning and training base for attacks in Afghanistan.

The documents, which seemed to be based on conversations with Afghan informants and official briefings, outlined how the U.S. military came to focus its search for militants on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, according to the newspaper.

The Times also said the drives appeared to contain the identities of Afghan sources spying for U.S. Special Forces that operate out of Bagram.

The shopkeepers have said they were not interested in the data and were only selling the drives for the value of the hardware.

They say the drives were stolen by some of the 2,000 Afghans employed as cleaners, office staff and laborers at Bagram. Though workers are searched coming in and out of the base, the flash drives are the size of a finger and can easily be concealed on a body.

The memory sticks seen Friday included photographs of mine clearing vehicles that appeared to have been damaged by explosions.

There were several performance reviews of troops, which included their Social Security numbers. One review reprimanded a soldier for misplacing his weapon.

U.S. commander Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry has ordered a review of policies and procedures relating to the accountability of computer hardware and software at Bagram, outside which hundreds of shops have sprung since the Americans took it over in 2001 after ousting the Taliban for harboring al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

The leaked data wasn't the first time secret information has been discovered electronically by reporters in Afghanistan.

Shortly after U.S.-led troops invaded Afghanistan in late 2001, a journalist for The Wall Street Journal bought a computer in Kabul that had belonged to al-Qaida. It contained memos of the terrorist group's chemical and biological weapons program, justifications for killing civilians and a propaganda video made from footage of people fleeing from the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11 attacks.

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Ken Mehlman Running - But Can't Hide - From GOP Phone-Jamming Scandal...

The Washington Post Thomas B. Edsall and David A Fahrenthold April 14, 2006 at 11:59 AM

A three-year-old political scandal in New Hampshire -- where Republican operatives conspired to jam Democratic get-out-the-vote phone lines on Election Day 2002 -- has suddenly become a national headache for GOP leaders, who are being pressed to explain why one author of the scheme was repeatedly calling the White House.

A Democratic activist group, combing through evidence from a trial last year in which the former New England regional director of the Republican National Committee was convicted, uncovered 22 calls from New Hampshire officials to the White House political office on Nov. 5-6, 2002. During the same time, according to prosecutors, state GOP officials started -- and then frantically sought to stop -- a plan to have a telemarketer bombard the phone banks of Democrats and a local firefighters association that was offering voters rides to the polls.


Like A Man On A Treadmill, Bush Has Gotten Nowhere Making Iraq Speeches Last Seven Months...

USA Today Richard Benedetto April 14, 2006 at 10:52 AM
READ MORE: George W. Bush, Iraq

Like a man on a treadmill, President Bush has gotten almost nowhere making speeches over the past seven months to boost public support for the war in Iraq.

Since Bush began a round of Iraq speeches last fall, approval for his handling of Iraq has remained stuck, with about a third of the nation approving what he's doing.


Baghdad Morgue Overflowing Daily

Inter Press Service
Dahr Jamail and Arkan Hamed

*BAGHDAD, Apr 14 (IPS) - As sectarian killings continue to rise in Iraq,
the central morgue in Baghdad is unable to keep up with the daily influx
of bodies. *

The morgue is receiving a minimum of 60 bodies a day and sometimes more
than 100, a morgue employee told IPS on condition of anonymity.

"The average is probably over 85," said the employee on the morning of
April 12, as scores of family members waited outside the building to see
if their loved ones were among the dead.

The family of a man named Ashraf who had been taken away by the Iraqi
police Feb. 16 anxiously searched through digital photographs inside the
morgue. He then found what he was looking for.

"His two sons were killed when Ashraf was taken," said his uncle,
50-year-old Aziz. "Ashraf was a bricklayer who was simply trying to do
his job, and now we see what has become of him in our new democracy."

Aziz found that the body of Ashraf was brought to the morgue Feb. 18 by
the Iraqi police two days after he was abducted. The photographs of the
body showed gunshot wounds in the head and bludgeon marks across the
face. Both arms were apparently broken, and so many holes had been
drilled into his chest that it appeared shredded..

A report Oct. 29, 2004 in the British medical journal The Lancet had
said that "by conservative assumptions, we think about 100,000 excess
deaths or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq."

In an update, Les Roberts, lead author of the report said Feb. 8 this
year that there may have been 300,000 Iraqi civilian deaths since the

Such findings seem in line with information IPS obtained at the Baghdad

Morgue official said bodies unclaimed after 15 days are transferred to
the cemetery administration to be catalogued, and then taken for burial
at a cemetery in Najaf. As he spoke, three Iraqi police pick-up trucks
loaded with about 10 bodies each arrived at the morgue.

At the cemetery administration, an official told IPS: "From February 1
to March 31, we've logged and buried 2,576 bodies from Baghdad."

Requests by IPS to meet with administration officials at the Baghdad
morgue were turned down for "security reasons."

Several surveys have pointed to large numbers of civilian deaths as a
result of the U.S.-led occupation.

Iraqiyun, a humanitarian group affiliated with the political party of
interim president Ghazi al-Yawir reported Jul. 12 last year that there
had been 128,000 violent deaths since the invasion. The group said it
had only counted deaths confirmed by relatives, and that it had omitted
the large numbers of people who simply disappeared without trace..

Another group, the People's Kifah, involved hundreds of academics and
volunteers in a survey conducted in coordination with "grave-diggers
across Iraq." The group said it also "obtained information from
hospitals and spoke to thousands of witnesses who saw incidents in which
Iraqi civilians were killed by U.S. fire."

The project was abandoned after one of the researchers was captured by
Kurdish militiamen and handed over to U.S. forces. He was never seen
again. But in less than two months' work, the group documented about
37,000 violent civilian deaths up to October 2003.

The Baghdad central morgue alone accounts for roughly 30,000 bodies
annually. That is besides the large number of bodies taken to morgues in
cities such as Basra, Mosul, Ramadi, Kirkuk, Irbil, Najaf and Karbala.

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BTW, Do I Have Any Polyps..?

I often suspect some filings in court cases go unread.In this case, every document and filing, Libby's too, are examined from every which way and angle!

posted by Patrick J. Fitzgerald at 3:08 PM

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How to Avoid Cleanup Costs

By Bradford Plumer
April 14, 2006

Increasingly, corporations are filing for bankruptcy to get out of their environmental liabilities

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Hawks Declare War on Iran

Matthew Yglesias points out that the Weekly Standard is gearing up for war with Iran. As he notes, the two articles he cites are a combination of fantasy (would air strikes actually destroy Iran's nuclear program? No one knows. Oh well…) and insanity (thousands and thousands of people could die? Oh well…) But for sheer nuttery, it's hard to top William Kristol's editorial on the subject:

Given Iranian president Ahmadinejad's recent statements and actions, it should be obvious that it is not "a sign of humanity's moral progress"--to use Blum's phrase--to appease the mullahs. It is not "moral progress" to put off serious planning for military action to a later date, probably in less favorable circumstances, when the Iranian regime has been further emboldened, our friends in the region more disheartened, and allies more confused by years of fruitless diplomacy than they would be by greater clarity and resolution now.Virtually no one, of course, thinks it's unequivocally moral or non-problematic to "appease the mullahs," as Kristol terms it.

The people making the case for engagement just think it's the rational thing to do—the thing that will get fewer people killed and cause fewer catastrophes. (Plus, engagement is far more likely to help Iran eventually liberalize than bombs and sanctions will—we've seen how well that worked for Cuba.) Sometimes foreign policy just doesn't have a "pretty" choice that will make everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside. But notice also that Kristol says we need to act right this very instant. Bombs can't wait. Yet right before that, he says this:

That action would be easier if the situation in Iraq improved--which implies an urgent push to make progress there, with the deployment of more troops if necessary. Planning for action in Iran would be somewhat easier if the president finally insisted on a far-too-long-delayed increase in the size of the military. It would be easier, too, under the leadership of a new, not-discredited defense secretary in whom the president would have confidence, since he has surely (if privately) lost faith in the current one.

That's a nice fantasy. Set aside the fact that there aren't "more troops" we can magically send to Iraq, and even if they were, they likely wouldn't do much good—the ongoing civil war almost certainly isn't something that "more troops" can quell. But how on earth would an "increase in the size of the military" help with Iran? Training troops and expanding the active service takes years and years. If we need to act immediately, as Kristol demands, then any expansion of the military is completely irrelevant. Iraq isn't going to get better immediately. A newfound invasion force isn't going to materialize immediately. I can't tell if Kristol's truly insane or just badly confused, but either way, it's disturbing that this sort of stuff gets taken seriously.

Posted by Bradford Plumer on 04/13/06 at 02:23 PM

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Kristol ClearBill Kristol, PNAC, 9/11 & The Media
An Exposé By TvNewsLIES.org

“… While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

A Report of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), Rebuilding America's Defenses - September, 2000

To understand Bill Kristol, you have to examine his modus operandi – his devious ways of plying a nefarious art. Bill Kristol is a master neocon, a heartless warmonger and an accomplished charlatan. But Bill Kristol works behind the curtain. He sets the stage and pulls the strings, while others do his dirty work. And Bill Kristol, with little fanfare or publicity, is one of the most influential architects of George W. Bush’s wars.

To know the man, you have to look behind his overt persona. Bill Kristol makes no secret of his views or his philosophy. He has never hidden his affiliation with of the Project for a New American Century PNAC), of which he is a founder. And yet, when introduced to the public, he is never, ever connected to that organization. He is always presented as the editor of the Weekly Standard, as benign an introduction as can be.

Neither Kristol nor the magazine is ever tied to PNAC by the corporate media. The dots are never connected. The truth is never told, and the facts behind the story remain hidden. But just this week, a slight slit appeared in the mask. A recent feature article in Kristol’s Weekly Standard gave this editor food for thought. Some signs of anxiety and concern on the part of the always-smiling, always-suave Bill Kristol may just be seeping through. See if you can follow me.

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9/11 Dust Is Called Fatal

In the cold, clinical language of the autopsy report of a retired New York City detective that was released this week, there were words that thousands of New Yorkers have come to anticipate and to fear.

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Seymour Hersh: Bush Administration Planning Possible Major Air Attack

This is not wild speculation. It's simply a fact that the planning has gone beyond the contingency stage, and it's gone into what they call the operational stage, sort of an increment higher. And it's very serious planning, of course. And it's all being directed at the wish of the President of the United States.

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Poetry For The Hell Of It

Fly Away

If you see this child,
Do not mourn me. Do not grieve.
No goodbye should make you cry,
For what you don't believe.

See me not in this place.
Close your eyes and dream.
Fly with me in outter space.
Meet me by mountain streams.

Do not fear that I shall fade.
For in you my blood is found.
Fly away, love, fly away.
And never touch the ground.

Forget we ever were apart.
For even one single day.
Forgive me of my mortal sins.
And for all I could not say.

Fly away now, fly away.
You must fly away from me.
Go higher still and never land.
Then I, too, shall be free.

Christy Cole


Dead Sea tourism hit by fears of nearing ecological disaster

By Nir Hasson, Haaretz Correspondent

All a Dead Sea visitor has to do to witness an ecological disaster is peek through the fence separating the Ein Gedi beach from its former holiday village. Eight years after a staff person fell into a sinkhole here, the place look like it has been blitzed. Huge holes litter the area, into one of which the reception office has sunken with room keys still hanging on the walls. Desiccated tamarisk trees emerge from the scorched and cracked earth and pipes, once buried, hang in mid-air.

"We used to count them, but now there are too many," says Shimon Shukrun, who has lived and worked here since the 1960s. "It was a garden of Eden, now it's ruined."

The place is a popular stop for politicians touring the area, where one can truly appreciate the size of the disaster that has hit the Dead Sea. Shukrun begs the photographer, seeking a better shot, to be careful. He says the sink holes are bell-shaped, so one could bepeering into one while standing on a thin crust that could suddenly give way. We leave in a panic after Sh

Shukrun discovers a new hole  half-a-meter across and at least 20 meters deep.

Geologists agree that the reason accounting for the appearance of the sink holes is the drop in the Dead Sea level, combined with the flow of fresh ground water that dissolves the salt in the soil. More than 1,000 holes have appeared since the phenomenon was first identified in the mid-1990s. The Geological Survey of Israel has published a map of risk areas for sink holes that includes the entire eastern coast of the Dead Sea, from the Qalia beach to the Masada area and including large parts of the road along the Dead Sea.

The situation is expected to worsen as the sea continues to sink.

Ein Gedi has been hit the worst. Even after the Israel National Roads Company spent millions of shekels in 2002 shoring up the road, the holes began to take bites out of it, threatening both of Kibbutz Ein Gedi's enterprises, the beach concession and the date plantation.

"We'll make a living in the end, but what lies ahead? We have a global resource and we are destroying it," says Kibbutz spokesperson Merav Ayalon.

Further south is the Ein Gedi Hot Springs spa which, when it was built in 1984, was only a few meters from the water's edge. Today, it is two kilometers away. "They told us not to build too close to the water, because in a few years the Med-Dead canal would be finished and the water level would rise," Merav says cynically. Swimmers catch a shuttle down to the shore comprised of prickly, salt-and-mud flats. Every few years another section of path is paved for the shuttle. "Pretty soon we'll need a visa to get into the water," Ayalon says, referring to the fact that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan lies on the otherside of the lake.

Ten minutes' drive further south, the Dead Sea turns into a narrow channel leading water from what has become its northern lake to the evaporation pools of the potash production facility, the Dead Sea Works  all that is left of the southern portion of the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea's posh resort hotels are built along the largest of the pools serving the facility Pool 5. The level of the pool has been rising 20 centimeters every year as salt sinks to the bottom, and the biggest concern is that the water will rise so high it will flood the hotel's foundations and cause them to collapse. Regional Council engineer Avi Rotem says the area's sewage system is already folding due to flooding. He does not picture a catastrophic structural collapse, but imagines that the day will come when the buildings would become so dangerous as to be condemned.

One solution  a hugely expensive one, is to dredge up the salt. The second is to create a dam to protect the hotels. The third is to demolish the hotels, with a concomitant loss of 4,000 jobs  basically the entire tourism industry. The hotel owners have recently petitioned the
High Court to force the state to find a solution.

Geologist Danny Wacks, who has studied the phenomenon of sink holes, is not optimistic: "We foresee ecological disaster. It might end up like Gaza  we may withdraw from here in the end, too. The question is only how much more we want to suffer."

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Man who comandeered bus after Katrina indicted....

I will remember the Hero, When a Government didn't give a shit

By Michael Perlstein
Staff writer

The hero-to-villain odyssey of Jabar Gibson took another nose-dive Thursday when the 21-year-old was indicted on federal drug and gun charges, less than eight months after he gained national acclaim for driving a group of Hurricane Katrina evacuees from New Orleans to Houston in a commandeered school bus.

Gibson faces from 5 to 25 years behind bars if convicted on charges of cocaine trafficking, heroin trafficking and possessing a gun while dealing drugs. Authorities said Gibson was carrying 1.7 grams of cocaine, an undisclosed amount of heroin and a .357-caliber revolver when he was caught by New Orleans narcotics detectives and federal agents on Jan. 7.

At the time of his arrest, Gibson was facing heroin charges in an unrelated case from November in which police said he tried to ditch the drugs while being pursued by officers in the Fischer public housing complex, the place where Gibson's 15 minutes of fame was launched in Katrina's aftermath.

It has been a steep slide for Gibson since he was applauded as a renegade hero.

He corralled a movie deal and coast-to-coast media attention after he stole a yellow Orleans Parish school bus and ferried 60 Fischer residents from Algiers to the Astrodome in Houston. After a wild 12-hour ride filled with breakdowns, mishaps and close calls with the law, Gibson arrived in Houston well ahead of the caravan of FEMA-sanctioned buses carrying evacuees from the Superdome and New Orleans Convention Center.

With a rap sheet that already included jail time for car theft and pending cocaine charge, Gibson's hometown reputation as a thug was quickly discovered. But with his cargo of poor, bedraggled New Orleans evacuees - ranging from grandmothers to a week-old-infant - he became a media darling, with several feel-good stories casting him as a hustler-turned-Good Samaritan.

"Everybody does wrong things. But right now I feel like I done something right," Gibson said after his arrival in Houston. While he was never charged for commandeering the bus from a school bus yard, he didn't waste much time reverting to his earlier troubled ways, police said.

Gibson's heroin arrest on Nov. 25 arrest came shortly after he returned to the city from his temporary home in a Houston hotel. He was out on bond when he returned to Fischer and, according to police, resumed his drug-dealing lifestyle.

Gibson freely acknowledged his past mistakes while basking in the media floodlights after his Katrina bus escapade, but he always added the disclaimer that those days were gone.

"All that's behind me now," he said in one interview. "I'm trying to be a new me...I feel like the Lord, all the problems I was going through, he just turned it around for me."

Michael Perlstein can be reached at mperlstein@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3316.

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Oil man's half a BILLION dollar bye-bye (OMG!)

By Jad Mouawad
April 14, 2006

Lee Raymond … plus golf fees paid.

LAST year's high oil prices not only helped Exxon Mobil report $US36 billion in profit - the most ever for any corporation - they also allowed Lee Raymond to retire in style as chairman of Exxon Mobil.

Mr Raymond received a compensation package worth about $US140 million last year, including cash, stock, options and a pension plan. He is also still entitled to stock, options and long-term compensation worth at least another $US258 million, according to a proxy statement filed by Exxon with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The total sum for Mr Raymond's golden years comes to at least $US398 million ($545 million). The compensation is among the richest known and is certain to provoke criticism of profiteering from oil prices - though oil companies say fluctuations in prices are outside their control.

The biggest payout ever is the $US550 million to Michael Eisner, the former head of Walt Disney, in 1997.

Exxon's board also agreed to pick up Mr Raymond's country club fees, allow him to use the company aircraft and pay him another $US1 million to stay on as a consultant for another year. Mr Raymond agreed to reimburse Exxon partly when he uses the company jet for personal travel.

"When is enough, enough?" asked Brian Foley, an executive compensation consultant in White Plains, New York. "This looks like a spigot that you can't turn off."

Mr Raymond, 67, spent 43 years at Exxon, including 12 as chairman. He orchestrated the merger between Exxon and Mobil in 1999, making it the largest oil company in the world as well as the most profitable. He was widely recognised for his financial acumen and focus on cost-cutting, whether in good times or bad. Some of the company's recent success, of course, can also be attributed to the doubling of oil prices over the past two years, higher refining margins and record high demand.

While Exxon showed record earnings, the total return to shareholders over the past five years averaged just under 8 per cent a year, about the same as the industry average.

"The numbers reflect the long-term nature of Mr Raymond's leadership at the corporation and a long and distinguished career," Mark Boudreaux, a spokesman for Exxon, said. "The compensation committee considered his performance and the fact he guided the company to industry-leading earnings for multiple years."

Exxon's proxy filing also showed that Rex Tillerson, the current chairman and chief executive, received $US13.4 million in 2005, about a third more than he got the previous year. That includes $US1.67 million in salary; a $US1.25 million bonus, restricted shares worth $US8.75 million, and an incentive payout of $US1.73 million. He also realised $US2.3 million by exercising stock options he held.

Mr Raymond owns 3.26 million restricted shares worth a total $US183 million as of December 31.

Those shares produced a separate windfall of $US3.1 million in cash dividends. Mr Raymond also owns 4.15 million options that hold a potential value of $US69.6 million.

Upon retiring in December, Mr Raymond collected his pension benefits as a $98 million lump sum.

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US marines offer Babylon apology

The disrespect for Iraq's past and culture is beyond disgusting.

By Jonathan Charles BBC World affairs correspondent

Babylon was home to one of the ancient world's Seven Wonders A senior US marine officer says he is willing to apologise for the damage caused by his troops to the ancient Iraqi site of Babylon.
US forces built a helicopter pad on the ancient ruins and filled their sandbags with archaeological material in the months following the 2003 invasion.

Colonel Coleman was chief of staff at Babylon when it was occupied by the First Marine Expeditionary Force.

Babylon's Hanging Gardens were among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Roof collapsed

Col Coleman told the BBC that if the Iraqis wanted an apology for the destruction caused by his men he was willing to give one.

The 2,000 troops who were deployed there did immense damage as they set up camp amidst the ruins of old temples.

A helicopter pad was constructed at the site. The vibration from landings led the roof of one building to collapse.

The soldiers also filled their sandbags with archaeological artefacts, just because they were lying around and easy to pick up.

The head of the Iraqi State Board for Heritage and Antiquities, Donny George, is angry and says the mess will take decades to sort out.

Col Coleman argues that whatever his troops did, the alternative would have been far worse.
If they hadn't moved in, Babylon would have been left at the mercy of looters, he says.

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17 Iraqi Officers Are Killed In Ambush of Police Convoy

A convoy of 50 to 60 police cars were all destroyed

BAGHDAD, April 13 -- Gunmen ambushed a large police convoy in a rural area north of the capital on Thursday, killing at least 17 officers, according to a police lieutenant. Elsewhere, an attack on a Shiite Muslim shrine and the assassination of a Sunni Arab politician's brother threatened to further inflame sectarian tensions as Iraqi factions struggle to form a national government.

The brazen assault on a convoy of 50 to 60 police cars erupted outside the town of Taji, 12 miles north of Baghdad, said 1st Lt. Mouayiad Shukor, an officer with the police rapid reaction force in Najaf province.

Shukor said approximately 90 officers from four stations in Najaf had just picked up new cars in Taji and were traveling south to get new weapons and ammunition when they found the main road blocked by U.S. troops. The Americans told the Iraqis that they had discovered a bomb on the road and told them to take a detour through the countryside. The Americans followed them part of the way before letting them go on alone, Shukor said.

A roadside bomb then exploded, and attackers hiding in the orchards and farmhouses flanking the road opened fire on the convoy with Kalashnikov assault rifles and RPK machine guns. Over the course of a two-hour firefight, all the police cars were destroyed, Shukor said, and survivors fled to a nearby military base on foot and by hitching rides.

Shukor said that only five of the 22 men in his unit returned to Najaf alive. The governor of Najaf, Asad Sultan Abu Gulal, and the police chief for the area, Brig. Gen. Abbas Moadal, both confirmed that an attack had taken place, but neither official would say how many police officers had been killed.

As ambulances loaded with wounded policemen trickled back into Najaf, a team of special police commandos guarded the entrance to the local hospital and refused to allow journalists inside.

In eastern Baghdad, gunmen also killed Mahmoud al-Hashimi, the brother of Tariq al-Hashimi, the secretary general of the Iraqi Islamic Party, as he was driving with a friend, the Associated Press reported.

Baha Aldin Naqshabandi, a party official, confirmed the attack in a telephone interview. "An Opel car came close to his car and shot him and his colleague," he said.

The assassination occurred as Tariq al-Hashimi and other Iraqi politicians are embroiled in negotiations over formation of a new government. Sunni and Kurdish politicians oppose the nominee for prime minister chosen by the Shiite coalition with the most seats in parliament, leaving the political process stalled. Both sides have accused each other of engaging in talks while still secretly sponsoring attacks on their rivals.

In Baqubah, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, three nearly simultaneous explosions destroyed the Sharif Ridha shrine, a spokesman for the Diyala province Joint Coordination Center said. The attack did not kill or injure anyone but left the Shiite shrine's dome in ruins.

The attack was similar to the bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra in February, which also took no lives but touched off a sustained wave of sectarian violence in Iraq. Though the site in Baqubah was less prominent than the one in Samarra, it honored Sharif Ridha, the eighth of the 12 imams revered by Shiite Muslims.

A car bomb exploded near a market in the small town of Sabea al-Boor, north of Baghdad, killing at least 15 people, according to Mustafa Kamil, a physician at the Kadhamiya Hospital in Baghdad. A witness, Ali Hussein, said bystanders prevented a second car bomb from detonating by stopping the driver and forcing him from his Kia sedan. U.S. troops later detained the man, Hussein said. >>>cont

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New Orleans Rebuilding Plans Stir Controversy

The Old Gentilly Landfill outside New Orleans has become a repository for all manner of debris left by Hurricane Katrina. Environmentalists say the grounds are "a Superfund site waiting to happen," and a legal challenge is planned. A state official defends the use of the site and says few options exist.

Rebuilding of New Orleans Slap in Face of Environmentalists
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Fox News

Wednesday 12 April 2006

New Orleans - In the rush to rebuild, this hurricane-smashed city is dumping its debris into the swamps by the truckload - and throwing away an opportunity to turn America's costliest natural disaster into the nation's greatest recycling effort, environmentalists say.

Every day, trucks rumble down the streets on their way to the Old Gentilly Landfill, a municipal dump in the swampiest part of the city, to unload the debris that homeowners and contractors have piled up on the curbs throughout New Orleans.

With large-scale home demolitions now beginning, there are no comprehensive, citywide plans to salvage and recycle building materials - things such as cypress and cedar boards, bricks, cinderblocks and roof tiles.

"We don't have the time," said John Rogers, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality's recycling specialist. He cited the sheer volume of debris created by Katrina - 30 years' worth of the stuff, officials say.

But environmentalists say that in the seven months since Katrina hit, there has been plenty of time for city, state and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to draw up contracts to recycle debris, buy recycling equipment and put people to work sorting through the rubble.

"I'm getting woken up every morning with demolition crews hauling off cedar beams, good stuff," complained Oliver Houck, a Tulane University environmental law professor. "Once again, we're a day late, a dollar short."

Katrina generated about 25 million cubic yards of "green waste" - tree limbs, trunks, leaves, dead bushes - or enough to fill the Louisiana Superdome nearly twice. Some of that is being incinerated, and some is being used as cover at landfills.

But other eco-friendly ideas have been shot down, or gone nowhere.

Among them: a proposal to put debris at the Old Gentilly Landfill into a plasma furnace capable of generating energy-producing gas.

Some things are, in fact, being recycled. So far, flooded vehicles like cars, vans and trucks and hundreds of thousands of refrigerators, washing machines and other appliances have yielded about 280,000 tons of steel, according to the state.

As for the rest of the debris, some builders, restoration experts, artists and grass-roots organizations have seen value in it, but they are taking only a tiny bite out of the mountain of waste.

Stefano Velacka, a French Quarter jeweler fond of using recycled material, is making earrings, brooches and necklaces out of a copper roof that Katrina blew into the street.

"I'm set for 100 years," Velacka said of all the trash in the city. The damage Katrina did is "ugly," he said, "and I'm trying to bring the ugly back to beauty."

In the Lower Ninth Ward, crews and volunteers with relief groups like Mercy Corps and AmeriCorps are "deconstructing" homes: salvaging bathroom fixtures and cypress wood. The material can be used to repair historic homes or give new places an old-world feel.

"It's good lumber," said Mercy Corps carpenter Preston Brownings. "If it's kept dry, it will last forever."

In the Ninth Ward, a nonprofit recycling center called the Green Project is bustling these days, selling cut-rate lumber, furniture, lamps and other material taken from demolished homes and debris piles.

Doors have become hot commodities, said Sean Wilkerson, a 33-year-old donor who drove up with a load of wooden doors he had picked up on the streets. "All the doors (in the city) were kicked down by pet rescuers. Everybody's looking for doors."

As landfills grow higher, environmentalists worry that Louisiana is creating new problems for itself.

After Katrina struck, city, state and federal officials waived many environmental regulations governing such things as landfills, asbestos removal, oil refinery operations. The city's environmental chief was also laid off; the post has since been refilled.

"We're creating a massive environmental liability for the future," said Forest Bradley-Wright of the Alliance for Affordable Energy in New Orleans

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