24 April 2004

"The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same" ~~ Marie Beyle


"In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." ~~ George Orwell


"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction" ~~ Blaise Pascal


"The efficiency of the truly national leader consists primarily in preventing the division of the attention of a people, and always in concentrating it on a single enemy" ~~ Adolf Hitler

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Palestinian children die in Israeli raid 

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Thursday 22 April 2004 9:30 PM GMT

The Israeli attacks have left a trail of destruction

Five Palestinians including two young girls have been killed by Israeli occupation soldiers in the occupied Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Palestinian medics on Thursday said a four-year old girl died of tear gas inhalation while another girl, aged nine, and a teenager were killed by Israeli gunfire as its troops continued their raids into the Gaza for the third day.

The Israeli army claimed Palestinian fighters, operating near youngsters, had hurled grenades and fired automatic weapons and an anti-tank missile at the soldiers, who shot back at them and also used tear gas and rubber-coated bullets to disperse the stone-throwers.

"We did not fire at residential buildings or children," an Israeli army spokesman said.

Dr Mahmud al-Asali, director of Jabalya hospital in Gaza, said four-year-old Asma Jlaiq was admitted with respiratory problems.

"Her skin had turned blue as a result of her inability to breathe and she soon died," he said. "We have enough proof to declare that gas inhalation caused her death."

Medics said the nine-year-old girl who died was hit by a bullet that penetrated her home.

Israeli forces also killed three members of Yasir Arafat's Fatah movement early Friday at Kalkilya in the north of the West Bank.

The three were shot by a "special unit" disguised as Palestinians who arrived in an unmarked car, security sources said.

The dead, aged between 20 and 25, included two Fatah political activists, Muhammad Nazal and Muhammad Odeh.

Sharon's plea

Meanwhile, faced with dwindling support for his "disengagement" plan, the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a forceful plea to his ruling Likud party lawmakers to back him or risk losing unprecedented US assurances for Israel's cause.

"Whoever is opposed to the plan gives up all these achievements we had made…and will carry the responsibility of canceling all the US commitments," said Sharon.

Sharon's appeal came 10-days ahead of the crucial 2 May party referendum on his disengagement proposal, which entails a selective Israeli withdrawal from settlements on occupied Palestinian territories.

A poll in the Haaretz daily indicated that support for Sharon's plan within the ruling party had slipped to 44%. Forty percent opposed the plan.

The finding has set alarm bells ringing in Sharon's camp, which had thought victory in the Likud vote was a foregone conclusion.

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Photos of Military Coffins 

Photos of Military Coffins
(Casualties From Iraq)
at Dover Air Force Base

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Bush not feeling pain of troops' families 

Those of us who don't have friends or relatives in Iraq can't fully comprehend the anguish that these folks are enduring. The only ones who have had to sacrifice to fight this dubious war are the young men and women who volunteer to serve in the military and those who enlisted in the Guard or Reserve - and, of course, their families.

Dying mother says army refused to let her son come home
With maybe just weeks to live, Patrice Confer is driven by one overriding wish - that she survives long enough to see her son serving in Iraq.

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Many American still hold misperceptions about Iraq war 

Poll shows that 57 percent of Americans continue to believe that Saddam Hussein gave "substantial support" to al-Qaida terrorists before the war with Iraq, impression that "clear evidence" was found that Iraq worked closely with Osama bin Laden's network, and a majority believe that before the war Iraq either had weapons of mass destruction despite no known evidence that these statements are true.

Iraq crisis spurs call for US military draft
Pentagon straining to find troops to confront the popular resistance in Iraq, senior Republican legislator calls for the reinstitution of the military draft.

Bush Owes America Answers on Iraq
Sen. ROBERT BYRD: "The "Mission Accomplished" banner under which he [Bush] spoke so confidently on a May 1st, 2003, has come back to haunt us and to taunt us many times over."

How E-Voting Threatens Democracy
In January 2003, voting activist Bev Harris was holed up in the basement of her three-story house in Renton, Washington, searching the Internet for an electronic voting machine manual, when she made a startling discovery.

Clicking on a link for a file transfer protocol site belonging to voting machine maker Diebold Election Systems, Harris found about 40,000 unprotected computer files. They included source code for Diebold's AccuVote touch-screen voting machine, program files for its Global Election Management System tabulation software, a Texas voter-registration list with voters' names and addresses, and what appeared to be live vote data from 57 precincts in a 2002 California primary election.

Bush alienates moderate Arabs seeking the third way
Bush put a definitive end to the naivetÈ of moderate Palestinians who believed in the values that America stood for.

How the GOP Maniputlates the polls
Fear good. Facts bad. Frank Luntz reveals the Republican way.

House Bill would speed elections after an attack
"This bill will guarantee the failure of any terrorist attempt to decapitate the legislative branch of the United States," Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, after 306-97 vote.

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Conservative Ducking responsibility
Republicans have hectored single mothers on welfare, sexually active teenagers and disadvantaged minorities to stop blaming others and to take responsibility for their own lives.
So how come top Bush officials have refused to take responsibility for what they have or have not done?

Animated Cartoon: Iraq Quiz

Hospital occupation caused deaths: MSF
"If this hospital was working it would have saved a lot of lives," Medecins Sans Frontieres' Emergency Coordinator for Iraq Ibrahim Younis told reporters in London.

Since 1992, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has celebrated the birth and ideals of its namesake by calling attention to those who in the past year forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson's admonition that freedom of speech "cannot be limited without being lost."

Outrage as HHS joins MoveOn.org
Some conservatives on and off the Hill are angry that the Department of Health and Human Services has teamed up with critics of the Bush administration to hold a conference on global health and reproductive rights that will likely promote policies contrary to the president’s.

Rape, torture, and one million forced to flee as Sudan's crisis unfolds.
This is where some of the world's worst human rights abuses are occurring and nothing is being done to stop it.

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23 April 2004

Today's Headlines 

Stooping Low to Smear Kerry
When Bill Clinton was running against Republican war veterans in 1992 and 1996, the most important thing to GOP propagandists and politicians was that Clinton didn't fight in Vietnam. Now that Republican candidates who didn't fight in Vietnam face a Democrat who did -- and was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts while he was there -- the Republican machine wants to change the subject. (requires registration)

Vice President Dick Cheney is scheduled to deliver a speech in Missouri today attacking his political opponents for supposedly trying to cut defense spending in the 1980s and early 1990s. Yet, a look back at the record shows it was Cheney who repeatedly tried to cut defense spending at this time, even publicly attacking a president of his own party.

Iraq's Political Price Mounts
For all the politicians who have been stalwart supporters of President Bush's Iraq policy, the conflict is no longer just an abstraction — their constituents increasingly bear the burden of personal sacrifice for the mission.

The cost of supporting Bush
"Our objective is not to damage Blair politically but to strengthen the hand of those who feel as we do. Our voice will be heard."

Iraqi revolutionaries
Saddam may be out of the picture, but his methods are living on just fine in the new Iraq

A black and white case of US injustice
ose Padilla was a devout Muslim, born on the wrong side of the tracks. White, middle-class John Walker Lindh shared his religion but little else. Rupert Cornwell examines their unequal treatment before the law.

What Have Bush And Sharon Wrought?
One would have to be deaf, dumb and blind to be unaware that they [ events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ] have been driven by Sharon's efforts to bypass, undermine and destroy the Roadmap.

Bush's dangerous escape from the truth
"This 9-11 commission has become nothing more than a political witch hunt." So said Georgia Congressman Jack Savannah recently, in one of hundreds of Republican attempts to discredit one of America's most important government investigations in a generation.

Horror and humiliation in Fallujah
Radical Islam has risen against the West in response to its humiliation - intentional or not - at Western hands.

A War for Oil
Officials told the public that oil had nothing to do with the motives for the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. "The only interest the United States has in the region is furthering the cause of peace and stability, not in [Iraq's] ability to generate oil," White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said in late 2002. But a closer look at the administration's planning for the war reveals a very different picture.

Condi Rice's non-existant "meeting" with Democratic lawmakers.

The Human Cost
They were sent to fight for their country. But some GIs didn't have all they needed to protect themselves

Yes, We Can Handle the Truth
The bottom line: this government doesn't trust the people. The last thing it wants to do now is fight an image war at home

Computer Student on Trial for Aid to Muslim Web Sites
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a group of Muslim students led by a Saudi Arabian doctoral candidate held a candlelight vigil, and condemned the attacks as an affront to Islam. Now he stands in court, a victim of the Patriot Act's ambiguities. (requires registration)

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Find out just what the people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress ~~ Frederick Douglass

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Gearing Up For the Next Military Draft 

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by Jerome Tuccille

While most of us are preoccupied with the latest tales of mayhem and destruction emanating from Iraq, the Bush administration is quietly paving the way for the re-imposition of the ultimate form of slavery: a military draft to provide additional fodder for the so-called War on Terror. Without much fanfare, $28 million has been added to the 2004 Selective Service System (SSS) budget to prepare for a military draft that could start as early as June 15, 2005. SSS is charged with reporting back to Bush by March 31, 2005 (conveniently after the election), that the selective service system, which has lain dormant for decades, is ready for activation. If libertarians and traditional conservatives, who continue to regard Bush as the lesser of the major party evils, needed a convincing argument that it is long past time to get rid of this latter-day emperor in the making, this should be it. Libertarians can disagree on many issues, but on this one there is no room for equivocation; anyone who believes that the state has the right to compel its citizens to don battle gear and die for their country is no friend of liberty.

Bush has succeeded in positioning himself as the enemy of everything libertarians esteem the most: free markets, peace, fiscal responsibility, and true liberty rooted in the principles outlined in the Bill of Rights. Even as our fundamental rights were being stripped away inexorably by this and past administrations, it seemed unthinkable that the most basic right of all – the right to life itself – would once again be jeopardized by a compulsory draft system that had seemingly been permanently interred more than thirty years ago. If Bush has taught us one lesson, it is that Barry Goldwater and Robert Taft-style Republicanism, with its classical liberal bent, bears as much resemblance to Bush’s Republican Party as Aristotle did to Plato.

If Bush is reelected in November and succeeds in his quest for a new military draft, it will surely be even more odious in its implementation than the one that existed before 1970. For one thing, the loopholes that allowed Bush to escape service in Vietnam during his own youth will be tightened nearly to extinction. Canada will no longer be a safe haven for Americans seeking refuge from this latest incarnation of American slavery as it was in the late 1960s, thanks to the "Smart Border Declaration," the Orwellian name given to a treaty signed by Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs John Manley, and U.S. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. This insidious document calls for a "pre-clearance agreement" of people entering and departing each country and, in an effort to make the draft more "equitable" along gender and class lines, also eliminates higher education as a shelter. It’s as though Bush examined the escape hatches that were available when he was threatened with enforced military duty and is determined to make sure they are no longer an option for the latest generation of draft-age Americans.

Unfortunately, the Democrats are not likely to offer much in the way of opposition to a new draft. New York City Congressman Charles Rangel only half-facetiously floated the idea himself a year ago in an effort to throw a monkey wrench into the Bush war machinery. John Kerry, who has been on so many sides of each issue that he is simultaneously right and wrong on all of them, doesn’t appear to have any ideological backbone whatsoever to prop him up. As Chris Matthews of "Hard Ball" asked of Don Imus during the Primary season, "Does anyone know where Kerry stands on any issue?" Kerry has positioned himself as Bush-lite on the subject of Iraq and is far from likely to take a firm stand, one way or another, on an issue as explosive as the military draft. That leaves Nader and the LP candidate, neither of whom is going to be our next president.

So it appears we are destined to suffer through the same old pro-draft/anti-draft arguments my generation was besieged with for the better part of three decades, roughly from the beginning of Word War II through the first year of the Nixon presidency. On one side a new generation of kids in their teens and twenties, along with their sympathizers, lined up against hordes of brainless self-styled "patriots" waving their American flags, denouncing the kids as "traitors" while they pledge their allegiance to God and Country. What a mindless and emotionally charged spectacle it was! How tedious and mind-numbing. And if Bush has his way, we will be able to thank the beady-eyed neo-conservative from Texas for visiting it on us all over again.

Perhaps I’m being paranoid. Perhaps it will never come to pass. But paranoia has always been my first line of defense, and it’s beginning to seem like déjà vu all over again.

Jerome Tuccille is the author of 21 books, including It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand, It Still Begins With Ayn Rand, and most recently of Alan Shrugged, a biography of Fed chairman Alan Greenspan. In 1974 he was the Free Libertarian Party candidate for governor of New York.

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A little decency is fine, but you wouldn't want to let it get out of hand.
~~~the FCC now also warns broadcasters against ‘‘profanity,'' an offense that includes blasphemy. In effect, the commission is deputizing itself to enforce religious propriety.

If Iraq unravels, Bush may follow
The spectre of Iraq spiralling out of control could have serious consequences for the US president's attempts to secure his seat in the White House for another four years.

Poll finds Americans fear U.S. losing terror war
More than 30 months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, two-thirds of Americans acknowledge some concern that terrorists may be recruiting faster than the United States can keep up.

Blair’s “Week from Hell“

British Premier Tony Blair is facing one of the toughest weeks of
his career: First he could suffer a major defeat in parliament Tuesday, followed by the Wednesday release of a report on the 2003 death of an expert on Iraq’s weapons.

US heading for another election fiasco as reforms fail
The United States may be on the way to another Florida-style presidential election fiasco this year because legislation passed to fix the system has either failed to address the problems or has broken down because of missed deadlines and unmet funding targets.

"And the second Boobie Prize of the Week goes to the Bush Administration for giving a gift to the Taliban of $43 million for joining the War on Drugs. In a pretty shrewd PR move, the Taliban have declared that opium-growing is against the will of God. So, even though they're cutting off girls' clits & hookers' heads, even though they're beating the women for showing an ankle & beating the men for not growing a beard, even though they're making the Hindus wear little Hindu patches so when it's time to round up all the Hindus & do Allah knows what, they'll know who they are, even though they're verging on Nazism here, hey, they've signed up to fight the WAR on DRUGS"

Right Wing Attacks 9/11 Commission, Commissioners and Witnesses
These conservative attacks follow the usual pattern: discrediting anyone who challenges the Bush Administration in any way. Just ask former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson or former Army Chief-of-Staff General Eric Shinseki.

Bush: U.S. a 'hard country to defend'
"Ariel Sharon came to America and he stood up with me and he said, 'We are pulling out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank,'" Bush said. "In my judgment, the whole world should have said, 'Thank you, Ariel. Now we have a chance to begin the construction of a peaceful Palestinian state.'"

Privatization in Iraq: ‘Contractors’ With Guns
Who were the "four U.S. contractors" who met their deaths in Fallujah? They were described in The Washington Post as "elite commandos … hired by the U.S. government to protect bureaucrats, soldiers and intelligence officers."

The contractors were employees of Blackwater Security Consulting, four of some 400 Blackwater employees in Iraq who are making up to $1,000 a day.

Press And Military

The American press needs to end its lovey-dovey relationship with the Pentagon. The Pentagon has provided ample evidence that it can propagandize the American people without the help of a lap-dog press.

With God on His Side...
By invoking a higher power, Bush sidesteps pesky constitutional issues

"The Americans promised us freedom, but they lied," Nassir al Asadi said, adding that he doesn't believe the Bush administration will return control of Iraq to its people on June 30 as scheduled. "Since they won't give it, we'll take it by force."

Earth to Bush: Come In

Attention Arab columnists who have trusted in, and written supportively of, President Bush’s efforts to bring freedom to Palestine and Iraq: If your readers are now inspired by the need to tear your reputation from limb to limb, and laugh you off the Op-Ed page, they would be fully justified in doing so. So commentary police, cuff me now.

The Other Blue Votes

We’re witnessing the collapse of marine wildlife, with more than 90 percent of our blue planet's large fish decimated by unrestrained fishing for the global seafood market. We’re seeing nearshore waters poisoned by toxic and nutrient runoff from factory farms and cities. Coastal sprawl is degrading and destroying the salt marshes, mangroves, seagrass meadows and barrier islands that act as the filters and nurseries of the seas, while fossil-fuel fired climate change is causing sea-level rise, beach erosion, coral bleaching and intensified hurricanes.

US judges urged to intervene on terrorist detainees
Lawyers for two Australian terrorist suspects have told the US Supreme Court that the Bush Administration is trying to create a "lawless enclave" at its military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Scientists Rebut Administration Response to Report on Its Abuse of Scientific Integrity
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a
point-by-point rebuttal yesterday to an April 2 White House
statement defending the Bush Administration against claims of
widespread manipulation of science and egregious conflicts of
interest in policymaking.

Congress urged: pass Patriot Act
George Bush has said he considers it vital for Congress to pass a permanent version of the USA Patriot Act, which has been criticised by some liberals and conservatives for giving the Government too much power in the name of fighting terrorism.

‘I am a symbol of the will of freedom’
MORDECHAI Vanunu emerged defiant from an Israeli prison yesterday after serving 18 years – 12 of them in solitary confinement – for revealing his country's nuclear secrets to the world.
Flashing victory signs and waving to cheering supporters, the 50-year-old former nuclear technician declared that he was proud of what he had done and condemned his jailers for treating him cruelly.

Woman loses her job over coffins photo
A military contractor has fired Tami Silicio, a Kuwait-based cargo worker whose photograph of flag-draped coffins of fallen U.S. soldiers was published in Sunday's edition of The Seattle Times.

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The carrot-and-kick policy 

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Kamran Shafi

Should we not tell the US in no uncertain terms that while we must take the most stringent action in this ongoing fight, idiotic and puerile noises coming from Zalamy Khalilzad can only make our work that much more difficult

While it is the ‘carrot-and-stick’ policy that the more powerful and the strong use on their weak hangers-on elsewhere, is it the case that Amreeka Bahadur (America the Brave) uses the ‘carrot-and-kick’ policy in its relations with the Islamic Republic? Which question becomes more pertinent by the day as new and ever harder kicks are administered to our behinds by Zalmay Khalilzad, United States Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and also, in that order: oil-industry consultant; Missy Rice buddy; and mentor and guide to the completely-at-sea George W Bush, the president of the United States of America, May God save her.

Witness: On April 5, 2004, Master Khalilzad who is an ethnic Afghan born and brought up in that country and who is a naturalised American now, had this to say about Pakistan’s efforts towards fighting terrorism: “We have told the Pakistani leadership that either they must solve this problem or we will do it ourselves”. Then, merely 10 days after retreating slightly following an angry response by our FO and a clarification in Pakistan’s favour by the US State Department’s spokesman, he insisted that Pakistan had become a sanctuary for the Taliban and Al Qaeda, that they got training in Pakistan and then returned to Afghanistan to harass the Afghans and their American guards!

Now, while our FO has, at long last stood up and has given to Master Khalilzad as good as he gave us, is it the case that he is merely a loose cannon, a bull in a China shop who says whatever comes into his head without thinking about the consequences? Is it the case that he says what he says because he is himself an Afghan with his own tribal and personal biases and prejudices when it comes to Pakistan? Is it the case that what he says is the result of the fact that he has hardly been schooled in ‘diplomacy’? Or is it simply the case that he says what he says as a well-thought out policy of the government of the United States of America: to give Pakistan a carrot and then follow it up by a well-aimed kick: what I call the carrot-and-kick policy?

Hang on there, now: I am aware of the soothing noises made by the State Department every time this man goes off the deep end; I am aware that Colin Powell himself has often praised Pakistan’s efforts in no uncertain terms; I am aware of the praise Bush has piled onto his ‘tight’ buddy General Musharraf. When I say ‘US Government’, I mean the real US government: the one run by ‘Uncle Dick’ Cheney; ‘Uncle Don’ Rumsfeld; Missy Rice, and the various and varied neo-con nutters: Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith And Friends Inc. Poor old Colin Powell and his State Department are neither here nor there, poor things. I mean, what sort of a Secretary of State is he, what sort of State Department is it when the Saudis learnt of the impending war on Iraq a full two days before the former got wind of it?

This is not all. Every day brings forth more evidence that Colin Powell is completely sidelined: most of the United States’ foreign policy is evidently being formulated at the White House by Missy Rice and her National Security wallahs guided by the super hawks at the Pentagon. Look at how the poor man was exposed at the United Nations Security Council; charts, photographs and all, as he tried to convince the world that Iraq had WMD, specially truck-mounted WMD! Look at the poor man’s discomfiture when he now tries to explain it all away as, what words did he use? ‘Something wrong’ or some such. Like Don Rumsfeld saying, ‘Stuff happens’ when asked why the US Occupation Forces did not draw up contingency plans to save Iraq’s great and priceless antiques and antiquities! But, I digress.

So, while Master Khalilzad deserves more than what he has got thus far: at different times the FO has called him: ‘Foolish and irresponsible’; ‘Immature diplomat’, and one with ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’, should the subject of our ire not be the United States government itself and not one of its minions? Shouldn’t the government of Pakistan aim a strong demarche straight at our ‘tight’ buddy, George Bush himself? Should we not point out to those who have the beautiful country of America in their life-threatening chokehold that if people like Master Khalilzad continue to further the agendas of the free fliers within the White House and the Pentagon it will become ever so difficult for us to do what we must in ridding our country of foreign terrorists. Should we not demand Master Khalilzad’s immediate reassignment?

Should we not tell them in no uncertain terms that while we must take the most stringent action in this ongoing fight, idiotic and puerile noises coming from Master Khalilzad can only make our work that much more difficult. Should we not tell the US government that it simply cannot know more about our country than we do ourselves; that we are the best placed to do what has to be done; that if it cannot help in terms of huge inflows of cash to settle the tribal areas through fast-track development, the very least it can do is to put the likes of Master Khalilzad on leash, to firmly tell them to ‘cock it up, brother’, as American movie gangsters used to growl in days gone by.

What the government of the Land of the Pure does or does not do I have no control over, but what I do know is that it is always the worst policy for a great power like the United States to send as its envoy a person who belongs to the country of his accreditation. The United States must realise that it is now such a massive power that a carelessly selected minion can cause it, and the world, much grief.

Kamran Shafi is a freelance columnist

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22 April 2004

Kabul and US working on amnesty for Taliban 

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KABUL: Afghanistan and the United States are working on an amnesty scheme for Taliban members and followers of wanted terrorist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a Kabul-based diplomat said on Monday.

The plan, which envisions allowing Afghanistan’s former rulers and Hekmatyar supporters to return to the political scene, is being drawn up jointly by US army officers and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s cabinet, the diplomat said.

Under the scheme, members of Afghanistan’s deposed hardline Taliban and followers of Hekmatyar’s radical Hezb-i Islami organisation would be divided into three categories. “First is a blacklist of criminals and terrorists, around 100 to 150 who could not in any case benefit from amnesty,” the diplomat said. Among them are the Taliban’s spiritual leader Mullah Omar, who has never been captured, and Hekmatyar, who is on the US list of wanted terrorists. A second list of 200 people “could be forgiven under condition, after being jailed or sentenced” the diplomat said.

A third category lists fighters, militants and soldiers who had not been involved in a criminal case or terrorist activity who would receive an unconditional amnesty. The militants would have to surrender their weapons in exchange for a small sum of money, the diplomat said.

Afghan police and international peacekeepers raided a compound in the capital early on Monday, arresting eight men with suspected links to Al Qaeda and a group loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a spokesman for the peacekeepers said. Elsewhere, five rockets slammed into a US army base in Khost at the weekend but caused no casualties, police said.

Powerful ethnic Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum arrived in Kabul on Monday for talks with President Hamid Karzai after recent unrest in northern Afghanistan blamed on his armed militia, his aide said. Dostum also met with US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

ECO moot: Afghanistan will promote investment-friendly policies, encourage the private sector and ease visa restrictions to boost economic activities, the Afghan government said in a statement issued after the Economic Cooperation Organisation’s (ECO) trade and investment conference ended on Monday. “The conference was held in a good environment and concluded successfully,” ECO General Secretary Ashkar Aruzbai told reporters at a news conference here. “It is the Afghan government’s responsibility to create a conducive atmosphere for investment and ensure security for the investors,” he added. —Agencies

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Iraq dilemma stirs Japanese resentment of US ties 

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TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has survived a crisis over civilian hostages in Iraq with his popularity ratings unscathed, but the five-decade-old US-Japan security alliance may not be so lucky.

Beneath the relief at the release of the five hostages, resentment is simmering over what many Japanese see as an unequal alliance in which Washington calls all the shots, including Japan’s dispatch of troops to Iraq.

“The mood at the moment is that Japan has to hang on to the alliance with America, but this is tinged with resentment among those who most advocate it,” said Columbia University political science professor Gerald Curtis.

“The feeling on the right is that Japan has to say ‘yes’ to what America wants because it’s not strong enough to say ‘no’.” With its military constrained by a pacifist constitution drawn up during the US Occupation after World War Two, Japan relies on the US alliance for a security umbrella.

During the hostage crisis, Koizumi held firm in his refusal to pull Japan’s nearly 550 ground troops from Iraq, despite threats from militants to kill three civilian hostages unless the soldiers were recalled from their reconstruction mission. The three Japanese hostages arrived home on Sunday and another two, captured last week, were also heading home.

A solid majority of voters — 65 percent according to a survey published on Monday — backed Koizumimi’s firm stance, a welcome result for the ruling coalition ahead of parliamentary by-elections next Sunday.

Support for Koizumi’s cabinet stood at 51 percent, up one point from March, according to a poll by the Mainichi newspaper. The Japanese public, however, remains deeply divided over the mission, Japan’s riskiest military operation since World War Two and one, which both supporters and critics say is stretching the pacifist constitution to breaking point. Forty-seven percent of respondents to the Mainichi poll said they approved of the dispatch, down three points from a March poll, while 46 percent said they did not.

Unhappy allies: Koizumi has stressed the need to back the United States in Iraq to ensure Washington comes to Japan’s aid in the event of an attack by its unpredictable neighbour, communist North Korea.

“Japan is no longer confident that America will pull its chestnuts out of the fire, no matter what,” Curtis said. The vast majority of Japanese voters opposed the US-led war on Iraq and a poll taken on Friday by the liberal Asahi newspaper showed that more than 70 percent still thought the US policy in Iraq was misguided. Of those who did not back Koizumi’s tough stance during the hostage crisis, by far the biggest group — 43 percent — said they thought the prime minister was paying too much heed to cooperation with the United States, the Mainichi poll showed. .

Irritation with Washington is likely to fan the fervour of politicians who advocate revising the constitution’s pacifist Article Nine and bolstering the military — moves that have already gained momentum in both Koizumii’s Liberal Democratic Party and the main opposition Democratic Party. “The neo-nationalists seem more solid day by day,” said University of Tokyo political science professor Takashi Inoguchi.

“If anti-American sentiment grows, it could be that Japan will seek autonomy away from the United States.”

Tougher test ahead: Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda on Monday steered clear of any criticism of Spain, whose new prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has ordered the nation’s 1,400 troops to be brought home as soon as possible.

“Each country must decide autonomously how it will support the reconstruction of Iraq,” Fukuda told a news conference.

At least 10 Spanish military personnel have been killed in Iraq since August. Zapatero took power in an election held after train bombings in Madrid — suspected to be linked to Al Qaeda — that killed 191 people on March 11. .

It is difficult to predict how public opinion would react should Japanese troops, engaged in reconstruction work in Samawa, southern Iraq, suffer casualties or if the population at home comes under attack. Some foresee an outburst of nationalistic sentiment.

But in line with the constitution, a law enabling the military deployment limits the troops activities to “non-combat zones”. Critics say that concept is already meaningless in the increasingly violent country and casualties would clearly support that position.

Dutch troops exchanged fire with Iraqis on Saturday near Samawa, wounding one Iraqi but no Dutch soldiers. “Japan hasn’t been tested in the sense that they haven’t suffered a tragedy like Spain,” Curtis said. —Reuters

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A Threatening Leaflet, a Threatening Mr. Bush 

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The NewStandard, 19 April 2004
Dahr Jamail

Baghdad, April 15 -- Save us from the horrendous rumor mill of Baghdad. Yesterday we heard a good one: that the Mehdi militia is spreading leaflets around sections of Baghdad instructing people to inform them of any westerners residing in their area.

Almost everyone I know, including most of the NGOs, is leaving now the first chance they get. I've still been able to work yesterday and today, but when that becomes impossible, there is no use in my staying here any longer. The biggest threat is, of course, being kidnapped.

One can work around the fighting -- just stay away from it. But the randomness of the kidnapping is another story. We are all completely powerless over that situation.

Fortunately I was able to work some today. Over in Adhamiya we had an interview with Professor Adnan Mohammed Salman al-Dulainy at the Diwan Wakfa-Sunni. He is the director of the board in charge of all of the Sunnis in Iraq, with over 10,000 Imams under his control, who also serve as the Friday prayer speakers in the mosques.

He has been a teacher for 51 years. His first words to us were, "Our situation is bad. We are struggling now." He went on to tell us that in the past few days, three mosques in Baghdad have been attacked by the Americans: Abu Hanifa, which I reported on yesterday, and two others on Palestine Street.

He discussed the obviousness of the problems: high unemployment and the dissolving of the Iraqi Army by Bremer as being two huge problems caused by the American occupation that need to be resolved promptly if there is to be any stability here.

He went on to say, "Mr. Bush declared Iraq will be the example of democracy for the Middle East. What has happened here does not give that impression."

His deep frustration with the fact that so many Sunni Imams have been killed, as well as many detained by the Americans, is obvious.

Afterwards I was at an internet cafe run by the son of a good friend. Ali speaks English well, and walked up to me with a leaflet he said had just been passed to him by a car that was distributing them throughout Baghdad. It read:

"To our people of Baghdad. Please do not leave your houses. Do not go to schools, colleges, offices or markets. Close all commercial shops. This is in effect from April 15-April 23.

Because your brothers of the mujahedeen from Ramadi, Khaldia and Falluja will bring the resistance to the capital of Baghdad, to help their brothers the mujahedeen from the Mehdi Army to liberate you from the occupation.

We told you.

Signed, Mujahedeen Troops"

Threatening leaflets similar to these were distributed around Baghdad last fall, causing a three-day rest in the city when the majority of people followed its instructions. While there were some attacks, it ended up being not too big of a departure from the usual resistance to the occupation.

While this leaflet is quite disturbing, it does seem a bit hard to believe that any of the mujahedeen from Falluja would decide to leave there to come fight in Baghdad as they more than have there hands full at home for the time being.

Nevertheless, in Baghdad today chaos, uncertainty, fear and anxiety reign. Everyone is on pins and needles awaiting the outcome in Falluja and Najaf. Everyone I've spoken with here feels that if the U.S. launches an attack on either city, this already horrendous situation will explode in a way most don't want to even think about.

Yet Mr. Bush has discussed that America cannot fail here, and that he will use any means necessary to bring "democracy" to Iraq.

Does anyone else feel like the Bush Administration is pushing us as fast it can towards the abyss of unbridled violence and chaos in Iraq and beyond?

As the purported "ceasefire" in Falluja continues, U.S. war planes are bombing homes, and the bodies of women, children and other unarmed civilians are reported by hospitals there to be piling up.

I recently wrote another version of my Falluja story for The Nation's website. The piece has since been attacked by a couple of right-wingers, one questioning my credibility and even insinuating that I may have not have even gone to Falluja. Amazing that someone sitting behind a desk in America would have the gall to even suggest this of anyone who is willing to work in this mayhem of Iraq.

It feels like the calm before the storm today. Aside from the Sheriton Hotel being hit by another rocket not long ago, it's been strangely quiet in Baghdad today.

Dahr Jamail is Baghdad correspondent for The NewStandard. He is an Alaskan devoted to covering the untold stories from occupied Iraq. You can help Dahr continue his crucial work in Iraq by making donations. For more information or to donate to Dahr, visit http://newstandardnews.net/iraqdispatches. The above text is ©2004 Dahr Jamail and The NewStandard.

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Saudis learned of Iraq war plan before Powell 

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* Bush authorised Cheney and Rumsfeld to show Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan secret war plan map

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Colin Powell learned about President George W Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq after Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States had already been informed, journalist Bob Woodward said on Sunday.

Woodward, author of a new book entitled, “Plan of Attack,” said in a CBS’ “60 Minutes” interview that Bush told national security leader Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were the first to know about his decision to go to war in January 2003. “He told Condi Rice. He told Rumsfeld. He knew Cheney wanted to do this. And they realised they haven’t told Colin Powell,” said Woodward, who described Powell as being opposed to the war.

But before Bush called Powell to the Oval Office, he gave Cheney and Rumsfeld permission to inform Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan about his decision for war. They even showed him a top-secret map of the war plan, Woodward said.

“They describe in detail the war plan for Bandar,” he told “60 Minutes” reporter Mike Wallace.

Bandar “says to Cheney and Rumsfeld, ‘So Saddam this time is going to be out, period?’ And Cheney, who has said nothing, says the following: ‘Prince Bandar, once we start, Saddam is toast’.” Bush later confirmed to Bandar what Rumsfeld and Cheney had said, telling the Saudi royal: “Their message is my message.”

Rice denied Powell learned about Bush’s decision for war after the Saudi ambassador, telling CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday the secretary of state was called to the White House to learn Bush’s feeling that diplomacy was not working.

“I just can’t let this impression stand. The secretary of state was privy to all of the conversations with the president, all of the briefings for the president,” she said.

But Woodward, who first earned fame in the early 1970s by helping to break open the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation, presented details of the meeting between the president and his secretary of state.

“Powell says to him somewhat in a chilly way, ‘Are you aware of the consequences?’ because he’d been pounding for months on the president, on everyone — and Powell directly says, ‘You know you’re going to be owning this place.’

And the president says, ‘I understand that’.” In the end, Powell agreed to support the president’s decision for war. “And then the president says, ‘time to put your war uniform on’,” Woodward related.

His book, which follows embarrassing insider accounts of the Bush White House by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and former counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, was based on interviews with 75 people, including Bush. Like O’Neill and Clarke, Woodward says in his book that Bush showed an early interest in taking the United States to war with Iraq — in this case, telling Rumsfeld in November 2001 to draw up a fresh war plan for Saddam Husseinn’s ouster.

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Bush ordered plans for Iraq war in 2001, Woodward claims 

Bush ordered plans for Iraq war in 2001, Woodward claims


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9/11 commissioner: 'I've received threats'


Israel to target Hamas in exile
Following this weekend's killing of the Hamas leader, Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, the Israeli Government plans to resume targeting enemies living in countries beyond its control, according to reports from the Israeli cabinet.


Kill imam at your peril, Shiites warn US
Shiite voices, from the grass roots to the most senior levels of their leadership, have warned of the direst consequences if Sadr were arrested or killed.


Treatment of terror captives diminishes U.S. values


Whitehall's private anger won't abate
Military chiefs and diplomats are seething at US conduct in Iraq


Australian left pledges new vote on monarchy
Four years after Australians voted "no" in a referendum on severing ties with the British monarchy, the republic is back on the agenda.


Tribunal set up for Saddam trial
Iraq's interim leaders have set up a tribunal to try Saddam Hussein and other members of his regime.


Supreme Court Appears Divided over Guantanamo Detention
Justices questions the Bush administration's detention of "enemy combatants" at what their lawyer calls a "lawless enclave" at Guantanamo Bay, without access to the courts.


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21 April 2004

Bush tapestry of policy woven with prayer draws concerns 

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Mon, Apr. 19, 2004

By William Douglas and Maria Recio
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - At a recent news conference and in a new book by Bob Woodward, President Bush conveys a sense that when it comes to foreign policy, he's on a mission from God.

"I also have this belief, strong belief, that freedom is not this country's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world," Bush said during a news conference last week. "And as the greatest power on the face of the Earth, we have an obligation to help spread that freedom."

Nearly four years into his presidency, Bush's strong Christian beliefs are well known. But through Woodward's book, and the president's own words, Americans are learning how Bush's faith drives his decisions, political and religion experts said.

"Clearly what I'm hearing ... is a sense of religious calling, and not even around the mission or goal of the country," said Robin Lovin, a Southern Methodist University ethics professor and former dean of the university's divinity school. "But a sense of religious calling for the policies of this president."

In "Plan of Attack," Woodward's book, Bush describes praying after giving the go-ahead to launch the war against Iraq. The president told Woodward he wasn't praying to "justify war based upon God."

"Nevertheless, in my case I pray that I be as good a messenger of his will as possible," Bush told Woodward.

The president's revelations have made some uneasy. Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on Monday called Bush a "Messianic militarist" for mixing religion and policy in his public statements and interviews about the U.S. role in Iraq.

"He's an unsuitable officeholder," Nader said. "Talk about separation of church and state; it's not separated at all in Bush's brain. We want him to make decisions as a secular president."

White House officials dismissed Nader's claims. "The president talks about the principle of the separation of church and state and how it is a bedrock cornerstone of our democracy," said Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman. "He does believe that deeply. Having said that, he has a strong personal faith, but he leaves that at the residence before he enters the Oval Office."

The danger of injecting God into the Iraq war, Nader said, is further angering a Muslim world that already distrusts U.S. policies and motives. "Anybody with a stable approach to this would keep his mouth shut," Nader said.

Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, Bush angered many in the Muslim world by calling the war on terrorism a "crusade," which they equated to the medieval efforts by Western Christian crusaders to stem the spread of Islam.

The White House said the president regretted using the term. But it resurfaced last month in a Bush-Cheney campaign letter that praised the president for "leading a global crusade against terrorism."

Bush-Cheney campaign Chairman Marc Racicot acknowledged the letter Sunday and stressed that its intent was "focused upon the single-minded efforts of the president ... to undertake a mission to liberate people and protect the cause of freedom."

Bush's mix of religion and policy could be harming the United States' ability to get more international help in Iraq, according to James Hudnut-Beumler, the dean of Vanderbilt University's Divinity School.

"It probably further damages prospects for the internationalization of the Iraq solution," Hudnut-Beumler said. "Almost nowhere else would a head of government actually speak about the Almighty being the reason for the push of a foreign policy aim. While (Bush's) words just about passed unnoticed here, I guess in places as close as Ottawa, they clunked."

American presidents who infuse religion into politics aren't new. Thomas Jefferson, a stickler for the separation of church and state, wrote of "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" in the Declaration of Independence.

On the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln spoke of a neutral God. "It's quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party," he said.

In more recent times, Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter were known for their deep religious conviction. In his second inaugural address, Wilson mentioned God three times and noted that he prayed for wisdom and the "prudence to do my duty."

But Bush appears to be taking religion and policy in a different direction, said John Kenneth White, a political science professor at Catholic University.

"It certainly seems as though when you read the statements that God is using him for a particular purpose," White said. "It's a very fine line between church and state, and (Bush is) coming up to the very edge."

© 2004 KR Washington Bureau and wire service sources.

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The Top 19 Dumbest Statements of the Past Week 

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by Harry Browne

April 20, 2004

Politicians are a continual source of empty rhetoric, rosy promises that are never fulfilled, meaningless mom-and-apple-pie clichés, and outright lies.

Last week was a particularly fertile one for such inanities. Here are the week's 19 dumbest political statements. At the end of the list, I'll tell you who said them.

19. "Iraq will either be a peaceful, democratic country, or it will again be a source of violence, a haven for terror, and a threat to America and to the world."

Right now Iraq is "a source of violence" and certainly "a haven for terror." Or are all those bloody scenes we see on television just reruns from Miami Vice? And, of course, Iraq was never a threat to the America.

18. "Our nation honors the memory of those who have been killed, and we pray that their families will find God's comfort in the midst of their grief. . . . we will finish the work of the fallen."

In other words, Americans will continue to die as a tribute to those who have already died.

17. "We seek an independent, free and secure Iraq."

. . . Independent and free so long as it conforms to the conditions the U.S. government has laid down.


16. "We are a liberating power, as nations in Europe and Asia can attest."

Don't forget the liberated Haitians, on whom we forced Aristide. And the liberated Iranians, on whom we forced the Shah. And the Philippines, on whom we forced Marcos. And the Dominican Republic, on whom we forced the Trujillos. And Indonesia, where the U.S. government helped Suharto liberate tens of thousands of East Timorese from the burden of living.

And what about those liberated Iraqis — carrying identity cards, going through road blocks and checkpoints, liberated from freedom of the press and freedom of assembly, occupied by a foreign power, their towns ringed by barbed wire, subject to raids and attacks without warrants by the U.S. military, liberated from the right to carry a gun and defend oneself against murderers and rapists?

15. "The nation of Iraq is moving toward self-rule . . . We're working closely with the United Nations envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, and with Iraqis to determine the exact form of the government that will receive sovereignty on June 30th."

I'm sorry I must have misunderstood. I thought "self-rule" meant that people determined their own form of government — not a government determined by the U.S. government or the United Nations. This sounds more like the "self-rule" the Soviet Union gave to Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary at the end of World War II.

14. "Iraqi's neighbors also have responsibilities to make their region more stable."

And they will shortly receive the appropriate ultimatums to inform them of their responsibilities.

13. "Over the last several decades, we've seen that any concession or retreat on our part will only embolden this enemy and invite more bloodshed."

I haven't seen any concessions or retreats by the U.S. government. What I have seen are invasions of Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq; U.S. troops stationed at over 700 foreign bases; ultimatums to foreign countries to do what American Presidents demand; resources confiscated from American taxpayers and given to brutal foreign dictators to oppress their subjects. I've yet to see any concessions or retreats, but I have seen a lot of innocent people die.

12. "We serve the cause of liberty, and that is, always and everywhere, a cause worth serving."

Speaking of liberty, have you been in an American airport lately?

Changing the World

11. "We're changing the world. And the world will be better off. . . . there's an historic opportunity here to change the world."

Which clause of the Constitution discusses the U.S. government's responsibility to change the world?

10. "[President Bush] went to the U.N., as you might recall, and said, either you take care of him, or we will. Any time an American President says, if you don't, we will, we better be prepared to. . . . And the credibility of the United States is incredibly important for keeping world peace and freedom."

In other words, the President can make any stupid threat he wants, and all Americans are obligated to back up that threat with their money and their lives. That, I guess, is how "we serve the cause of liberty."

9. "The United Nations passed a Security Council resolution unanimously that said, disarm or face serious consequences. And [Hussein] refused to disarm."

The fact that Hussein had nothing to disarm apparently is irrelevant. He should have hurried over to the nearest 7-Eleven, bought some WMDs, and then disarmed.

8. "[Hussein] had long-range missiles that were undeclared to the United Nations; he was a danger."

Yes, those "long-range" missiles could travel 111 miles — 18 miles over the allowable limit set by the UN. Think of the devastation they could have wreaked on New York City!

7. "The oil revenues are — they're bigger than we thought they would be at this point in time. I mean, one year after the liberation of Iraq, the revenues of the oil stream is [sic] pretty darn significant."

But we were promised that the Iraqi oil revenues would pay for most of the reconstruction. Instead, we're paying hundreds of billions of dollars to reconstruct in Iraq what the U.S. military destroyed.

The Monster

6. "[The Iraqis are] really pleased we got rid of Saddam Hussein. And you can understand why. This is a guy who was a torturer, a killer, a maimer; there's mass graves."

Ah yes, the mass graves. No one ever explains who is in those mass graves or how they came about. Do they contain Iraqis who died during U.S. bombings? Or Iraqis and Iranians who died in the Iraq-Iran war? Or the Iraqi soldiers who were plowed under with U.S. bulldozers at the end of the Gulf War? No one seems to know. But all anyone has to do is mention the "mass graves" — and we know immediately that no amount of money, no loss of American lives, no cost of any kind is too great for having rid the world of the man who created those "mass graves."

And speaking of torture, I seem to recall conservative commentators telling us not too long ago that American agents should be permitted to torture suspected terrorists. And, in fact, the American military tortured detainees in Afghanistan. But I guess that was different; that was "good guy" torture, not "bad guy" torture.

5. "The world is better off without Saddam Hussein."

Tell that to the 700 Americans and thousands of Iraqis who have died in the American invasion of Iraq. Tell that to the 200 Spaniards who died in a terrorist attack triggered by the Spanish government's support of the American invasion of Iraq. These people are dead! How are they better off?

And tell it to the Iraqis who now live in daily fear of being killed by a stray shell from a U.S. tank or from the rifle of a U.S. soldier who barks orders in English that an Iraqi can't understand and obey. "The world is better off" is one of those empty clichés that require no explanation, no examination, no support. But isn't it about time we did examine it?

Who's in Charge Here?

4. "[President Bush is] the ultimate decision-maker for this country."

Then the politicians are right: the world really is a dangerous place.

3. "Sometimes we use military as a last resort, but other times we use our influence, diplomatic pressure."

"Diplomacy" by the U.S. government consists of telling other countries "You're either for us or against us; now here's what you must do or we'll flatten your country."

"Influence" means using taxpayer money to bribe foreign leaders to join the "Coalition of the Willing."

2. "Free societies are peaceful societies."

If that's true, America obviously is not a free society. We have been at war continually since 1941, and the American military has been involved in some kind of foreign conflict in 80 of the past 100 years. A "peaceful society" doesn't invade Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, or Iraq. So, if it's true that "free societies are peaceful societies," America obviously isn't a free society.

The Wellspring of Wisdom

So who said all these dumb statements?

Every one of them was made by George Bush — "the ultimate decision-maker for this country" — at his press conference last Tuesday, April 13.

And here is the #1 dumbest political statement of the week — straight from that same press conference . . .

1. "As the greatest power on the face of the Earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom. We have an obligation to help feed the hungry . . . we're providing food for the North Korea people who starve. We have an obligation to lead the fight on AIDS, on Africa. And we have an obligation to work toward a more free world. That's our obligation. That is what we have been called to do."

So this is what it means to live in a "free society." We have obligations to virtually everyone in the world — to help the spread of freedom, to fight AIDS, to provide food to North Korea. Not to take care of our own lives, not to be free to keep the money we earn or make our own decisions — but instead to dutifully carry out obligations imposed on us by El Presidente.

I don't know about you, but I don't believe George Bush has the faintest idea what freedom means. The only thing he understands is power — the power to say anything he feels like without consequence, the power to lock people up and throw away the key, the power to impose his will on any country in the world, the power to define our obligations for us.

When will we be liberated?
Harry Browne is the Director of Public Policy for the American Liberty Foundation , and was the Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000

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CNN to Al Jazeera: Why Report Civilian Deaths? 


Action Alert, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 19 April 2004

15 April 2004 -- As the casualties mount in the besieged Iraqi city of Fallujah, Qatar-based Al Jazeera has been one of the only news networks broadcasting from the inside, relaying images of destruction and civilian victims-- including women and children. But when CNN anchor Daryn Kagan interviewed the network's editor-in-chief, Ahmed Al-Sheik, on Monday (4/12/04)-- a rare opportunity to get independent information about events in Fallujah-- she used the occasion to badger Al-Sheik about whether the civilian deaths were really "the story" in Fallujah.

Al Jazeera has recently come under sharp criticism from U.S. officials, who claim the Iraqi casualties are 95 percent "military-age males" (AP, 4/12/04). "We have reason to believe that several news organizations do not engage in truthful reporting," CPA spokesman Dan Senor said (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/14/04). "In fact it is no reporting." Senior military spokesman Mark Kimmitt had a suggestion for Iraqis who saw civilian deaths on Al Jazeera (New York Times, 4/12/04): "Change the channel to a legitimate, authoritative, honest news station. The stations that are showing Americans intentionally killing women and children are not legitimate news sources. That is propaganda, and that is lies."

Acting as the substitute anchor on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, Kagan began the interview by asking Al-Sheik to respond to those accusations, citing U.S. officials "saying the pictures and the reporting that Al Jazeera put on the air only adds to the sense of frustration and anger and adds to the problems in Iraq, rather than helping to solve them." After Al-Sheik defended Al Jazeera's work as "accurate" and the images as representative of "what takes place on the ground," Kagan pressed on: "Isn't the story, though, bigger than just the simple numbers, with all due respect to the Iraqi civilians who have lost their lives-- the story bigger than just the numbers of people who were killed or the fact that they might have been killed by the U.S. military, that the insurgents, the people trying to cause problems within Fallujah, are mixing in among the civilians, making it actually possibly that even more civilians would be killed, that the story is what the Iraqi insurgents are doing, in addition to what is the response from the U.S. military?"

CNN's argument that a bigger story than civilian deaths is "what the Iraqi insurgents are doing" to provoke a U.S. "response" is startling. Especially in light of official U.S. denials of civilian deaths, video footage of women and children killed by the U.S. military is evidence that needs to be seen.

And Al Jazeera is not alone in reporting a reality very different from the one U.S. officials describe. Authorities have been able to keep a tight rein on the information flow from Fallujah, with only one small television network pool in the city that "travels and operates" under the watch of the Marines (Television Week, 4/12/04). (It's noteworthy that the U.S. has reportedly demanded, as a condition for lifting the siege of Fallujah, that Al Jazeera cameras be removed from the city-- IslamOnline.net, 4/9/04.)

But independent journalists reporting from Fallujah have described a scene consistent with the one broadcast by Al Jazeera. Rahul Mahajan, a U.S. journalist in Fallujah, estimated that of the 600 Iraqis killed in Fallujah, 200 were women and 100 young children, with many of the adult male casualties also non-combatants. He reported witnessing "a young woman, 18 years old, shot in the head" and "a young boy with massive internal bleeding" at a clinic (CommonDreams.org, 4/12/04). Mahajan recounted that during the "cease-fire," "Americans were attacking with heavy artillery but primarily with snipers"-- with ambulances among the targets. The sniper activity was also reported by U.S. journalist Dahr Jamail (NewStandardNews.net, 4/11/04): "Fallujah residents say Marines are opening fire randomly on unarmed civilians and have attacked clearly marked ambulances."

When reports from the ground are describing hundreds of civilians being killed by U.S. forces, CNN should be looking to Al Jazeera's footage to see if it corroborates those accounts-- not badgering Al Jazeera's editor about why he doesn't suppress that footage.

ACTION: Please tell CNN that there is no bigger story in Fallujah than the deaths of civilians. Ask the network to report the reality of the siege-- including eyewitness accounts and video footage shot by non-embedded journalists-- before dismissing civilian victims as the responsibility of the resistance.

CONTACT: CNN Wolf Blitzer Reports wolf@cnn.com

As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously if you maintain a polite tone. Please cc fair@fair.org with your correspondence.

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No peace in our time
The Bush-Sharon love fest will unfortunately confirm the Muslim world's belief the U.S. has become their principal enemy, and that Israel's far right pulls the Bush administration's strings.

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The children keep dying 

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By Shahid Javed Burki

For a Pakistani resident at a place a long way from the country - in my case the United States - every visit to the homeland brings forth some new and unexpected revelation. What I observe during my frequent visits to the country may not have entered the full consciousness of the citizenry.

This is not because I lay claim to some exceptional sense of observation not found among ordinary residents of the country. What I may be able to see with some acuteness compared to those who live here is simply because I am not a constant part of the local milieu.

Change is always hard to discern by those who are part of the environment in which it is occurring. After all, earthlings are not conscious of the fact that the planet on which they live is in constant motion.

Change is always more perceptible to those who are not embedded within the situation that affects it. The transformation of the Pakistani society I began to notice during this recent visit to Pakistan could have enormous implications for the country's future. My particular worry at this time concerns what Pakistani women are doing to themselves.

A large number of them, having received instruction from religious institutions that are pursuing highly conservative objectives, are deliberately withdrawing from active participation in economic, social and political activities.

They are being taught that their salvation lies not in putting their shoulders to the wheel in order to improve their well-being and that of their families. They have, instead, to commit their lives to understanding and following the word of God and that of his Prophet (PBUH) as interpreted for them.

There are two unfortunate aspects to this development. This movement - it is nothing less than that since it is being pursued with enormous energy and the commitment of a large amount of financial resources - is affecting the segment of the society that is supposed to lead the country towards modernity and economic development.

The second problem with this development is that for centuries women have been pushed into an inferior situation by men. This time if women stay in the background, condemned to an inferior status in society, a large part of the blame will have to be assigned to them. There is, however, one sliver of a silver lining that is becoming visible, something I will mention in the concluding part of this article.

It is now common for development economists to assert that for economic modernization to occur, women's view of life must first change. They must modernize not in the sense that word is sometimes interpreted by religious conservatives. Modernization from the perspective of development economics does not mean casting off one form of dress for another.

It does not mean listening to music, or going to the movies, or getting photographed. It does not even imply attending coeducational institutions rather than those that separate boys from girls. Modernization means changing the way individuals look at the world - to move towards rational thought and away from the line of thinking embedded in obscurantist ways.

Islamic radicals are busy persuading their followers that the West has lost its way and left the path laid out by God in the various scriptures revealed by Him to his Messengers. For those who are more rational in the way they look at world history it is hard to deny that industrial countries have progressed way beyond what has been achieved by the world of Islam.

We don't have to go much deeper than look at the copious amount of data and information provided by the annual editions of the UNDP's Human Development Report to note how far Muslim countries have fallen behind in terms of providing their citizens with a good quality of life.

The UNDP has a modest definition of human development: literacy rates, life expectancy and income per head of the population. After reviewing these simple statistics it is hard to accept the view that the West has gone astray.

It is unfortunately the teachings of those who believe in a version of Islam not found in the Holy Book that is leading astray Muslim societies. Nowhere is this more significant than the way some parts of the Muslim world are defining the role of women in society.

When Islam came to the Indian subcontinent via both Arabia and Central Asia, one thing that it brought to that vast place was respect for women. One of the ways that distinguished Hinduism from Islam is the way the latter treated women. Muslims viewed with abhorrence "sutti" - the gruesome practice of killing widows on the burning pyres of their deceased husbands - in most of Hindu India.

Even those who did not participate in this rite condemned widows to an inferior status for the rest of their existence by forcing them to withdraw from life. Islam, on the other hand, not only permitted widows to remarry, but encouraged them to do so.

Although sutti was banned by the British, the Indians continued to discriminate against women. A recent chronicler of India despaired at the way modern India continued to treat its women. India: Facing the Twenty-First Century, a book published some ten years ago by the journalist Barbara Crosette, painted a grim picture of women's situation in the country.

The author worried that "most women in India cannot read; a few have control of the size of their families. The majority of Indian girls are denied choices in careers or marriage partners. Women, as well as men, are further restricted by the persistent stranglehold of caste.

Girls are hemmed in by social or religious traditions that inhibit their freedom and personal growth. The attitude towards women cannot be separated from larger discussions now going on in India about how to winnow out of a rich heritage those mindsets and instincts out of step with twenty-first century thinking while saving the core of an important cultural and spiritual legacy."

Much has improved in India since these words were written. Women have decided to take the lead in forcing society to bring about a change in their situation. A number of them have gained international recognition by espousing not only women's causes but focusing on a number of other issues that should be of concern to all developing societies.

A good example of this kind of leadership is that provided by the world-acclaimed novelist, Arunadhati Roy, the author of the award-winning novel, The God of Small Things. A large number of Pakistani women who could play similar roles have chosen instead to withdraw into religion. It would be hard to argue that such behaviour conforms to the will of God Who wants His creation to strive to improve their condition.

By no stretch of imagination can I claim to be a scholar of Islam. However, what I have read about major world religions tells me that Islam was the first faith of significance to bring women out of extreme backwardness into a near equal status with men. Fourteen centuries later, an obscurantist brand of Islam is being increasingly associated with pulling women back into extreme backwardness.

The images left in many minds by the short-lived Taliban regime in Afghanistan is that of denial of most basic rights to women. A picture that gets viewed repeatedly on the television of the West is of an Afghan woman in a burqa being shot in the head in a public place for having allegedly engaged in adulterous behaviour. This was not the society that the Prophet of Islam wanted to create for those who chose to follow the Word of God.

That the women of Pakistan have a long way to go before they can close the gap that exists between them and men have been very ably demonstrated by a team of social scientists headed by Akmal Hussain in their recent study for the UNDP. In Pakistan: National Human Development Report, 2003, Hussain and associates provide a wealth of rich but depressing information on how far behind Pakistani women have fallen. I will use a few of the report's statistics to illustrate this point.

Female literacy is only 29 per cent compared to 55 per cent for men. Only 47 per cent of girls are immunized against childhood diseases compared to 52 per cent of boys.

Households of middle and lower income groups spend considerably less on women than on men. Women's participation in the labour market is adversely affected by restrictions on women's mobility and occupational segregation. Consequently, only 13.7 per cent of women participate in remunerative employment compared to 70.4 per cent men of working age.

The rate of participation is higher for lower income groups but declines significantly for families in higher income brackets. Even when women are paid for their labour, they earn much less than men doing comparable work. In intra household decisions related with children and food purchase, over 50 per cent of women report participation. However, when decisions are made about women's work outside the home, only 38.5 per cent have any say in them.

There cannot be any doubt that Pakistan will have to make a concerted effort to improve the lot of its women. A society that condemns its women to backwardness is choosing backwardness for itself.

To help women improve their social, economic and political situation they, along with other segments of society, will have to overcome three serious obstacles that now exist against their betterment. One of them has been around for a long time, not only in Pakistan but also in all societies: the belief that women are inferior to men.

It has taken the West a long time to overcome some of these deeply ingrained attitudes. Women in America had to fight long and hard before they were given the right to vote. Their struggle for complete equality continues; even in modern professions, women face what is called a "glass ceiling" - an invisible barrier - in making advances in their careers. The other two obstacles are peculiar to Pakistan and the Muslim world.

In the eighties, the administration of Ziaul Haq, by putting on statute books laws that discriminated against women, made it exceptionally hard for women to improve their situation. Among these was the Hudood Ordinance that prescribed severe punishments for offences that would be treated mildly, if at all, in civilized societies.

It is heartening that a group of women in the national legislature have begun a serious move to soften the impact of this ordinance, if not to repeal it altogether. The bill titled "The Protection and Empowerment of Women Bill" if passed would vindicate one of President Musharraf's strongly held beliefs.

He has argued that by increasing significantly the presence of women in the legislative assemblies his administration was providing an opportunity to this important segment of the population to fight for its legitimate rights. The position his administration takes on this bill will indicate whether that belief is being translated into practice.

The real obstacles to improving the lot of the Pakistani women will be the position they themselves take concerning their role in society. If they withdraw from society in accordance with certain interpretations of Islam, as some appear to be doing now, they will be doing themselves a lot of damage. Not only that, they will also be dealing a profound blow to progress and modernization in Pakistan.

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20 April 2004

"The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny."~~ Wole Soyinka

"There never was a good war," said [Ben] Franklin. There have indeed been many wars in which a good man must take part, and take part with grave gladness to die if need be, a willing sacrifice, thankful to give life for what is dearer than life, and happy that even by death in war he is serving the cause of peace. But if a war be undertaken for the most righteous end, before the resources of peace have been tried and proved vain to secure it, that war has no defense, it is a national crime~~ Charles Eliot Norton

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Bush's dangerous arrogance  

Somewhere in the mesmerising performance by Robert S. McNamara, the former US Defence Secretary, in the film The Fog of War, he says: 'America has no friends, only allies.' MORE


WASHINGTON -- With an eye on a large number of symbolic gatherings, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is forming a new government task force to better coordinate public and private security -- and hopefully prevent the next terrorist attack.


UNITED NATIONS, Apr 15 (IPS) - The U.S.-led occupation of Iraq and the three-year-old Israeli-Palestinian confrontation in the West Bank and Gaza are threatening to de-stabilise the economies of most Middle Eastern nations, according to a U.N. report released Thursday.


Attention Must Be Paid

The greatest economic injustice in America isn't corporate malfeasance, anemic job growth or the outsourcing of jobs, as the mainstream media suggests. The biggest scandal is the highway robbery committed against hard-working families who can't make ends meet despite playing by the rules. While the press has chronicled the crimes of Dennis Koslowski, Martha Stewart and Andrew Fastow, it consistently fails to describe the forces shutting workers out of the broad middle-class. MORE

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On Bush, drugs and hypocrisy 

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Bob Fitrakis
April 15, 2004

When President George W. Bush signed the Drug-Free Communities Act in 2002, he asserted, "If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terror in America." During the 2002 Superbowl, in the aftermath of 9/11, Bush's Office of National Drug Control Policy aired two TV ads asking the simple question, "Where do terrorists get their money?" The answer: "If you buy drugs, some of it might come from you."

Many marijuana activists have argued that growing your own weed is counterterrorist activity. Still, this line of thinking concedes Bush's simple-minded assertion.

The better response to the terrorist money question should be from Friends and Family of Bush (FOBs). The terrorist network responsible for 9/11 was primarily financed by opium profits from the Golden Crescent where Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran come together. The Reagan and Bush administration policy was to allow the opium lords to launder their drug money through the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) as long as some of the proceeds went to finance the fight against the Soviet Union. Ironically, all of this is documented in a Senate Report, "The BCCI Affair," chaired by Senator John Kerry.

The Bush family is close friends with Texas' Bath brothers. James R. Bath was an investor in George W.'s Arbusto Oil Company. Bath was also an investor in BCCI. The Senate Report also documents that Sheikh Abdullah Bahksh of Saudi Arabia not only held 16% of the stock of Harken Energy, a company that later bought up George W.'s Spectrum 7 oil company, but also was a key investor in BCCI. George H.W. Bush, former director of the CIA, maintained ties with BCCI despite its narcotics trafficking during both the 1970s and 80s.

Legal documents show that James Bath served as the U.S. business representative for Salem bin Laden, brother of Osama, beginning in 1976, the same year that George the Elder took over the directorship of the CIA.

So, where did the terrorist money come from? The FOBs. A good book on the subject is False Profits: The Inside Story of BCCI, the World's Most Corrupt Financial Empire, by Peter Truell of the Wall Street Journal, and Larry Gurwin, award-winning business reporter. Another resource is Chapter eleven: "Making Afghanistan Safe for Opium" of Alexander Cockburn's and Jeffrey St. Clair's Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press.

Cynics might sneer that these connections are pre-1991, when Osama bin Laden broke with his CIA allies. Yet, the Bush family's relationship with opium runners remains odd. Initially, Bush the Younger's administration gave Afghanistan's Taliban $43 million to eradicate opium crops. The fact that the Taliban was harboring Osama and were one of the most repressive regimes on Earth did not sit well with critics.

Following September 11, 2001, however, the Bush administration's drug policy toward Afghanistan changed dramatically. The UN issued a report documenting continued opium production in Afghanistan and advised the U.S.-led coalition to act quickly to destroy the bumper crop of opium. The UN report determined that: "Afghanistan has been the main source of illicit opium: 70 percent of global illicit opium production in 2000 and up to 90 percent of heroin in European drug markets originated from Afghanistan."

"The global importance of the ban on opium poppy cultivation and trafficking in Afghanistan is enormous," concluded the UN report.

Charles R. Smith, writing for NewsMax.com, reported the grumblings from anonymous sources on Capitol Hill in late March 2002 when the Bush administration reversed its policy and decided not to push for the destruction of Afghanistan's opium crops. The CIA argued that the destruction of the opium crop might destabilize General Pervez Musharraf's Pakistani government. After all, Americans wouldn't want that.

Musharraf is everything that Saddam longed to be, but could never accomplish. He's a military dictator referred to by the American mainstream press as a "self-appointed" president. He has nuclear weapons; he harbors an effective terrorist network including Osama bin Laden and key Al Qaeda figures; he's responsible for giving North Korea radioactive material to build their nuclear bombs; and despite all of this, he is still a friend of the U.S. and, more importantly, a FOB. By the way, scientists in his government offered Saddam Hussein nuclear material, which the Iraqi leader turned down, according to The New York Times.

Who are we to challenge the CIA? Wasn't it necessary for them to allow their Contra allies to run cocaine into the United States in the 1980s? Wasn't it the height of patriotism when they allowed Air America to transport opium into U.S. military bases in the 1960s and 70s? But all that concerned the Cold War, national security and geopolitical strategy.

But what about the President's own actions in the war against drugs? In 1999, our President has steadfastly maintained that he hadn't done cocaine in the last seven years, no wait, fifteen years, or possibly since 1974, all reported in Time magazine. As Governor of Texas, he announced that people "need to know that drug use has consequences." Apparently, bad memory may be one of those consequences. As governor, Bush signed legislation that authorized judges to sentence first-time offenders with less than a gram of cocaine to a maximum 180 days in jail instead of automatic probation.

During the height of the notorious Blowgate scandal, George W. scrambled back to his ancestral home in Columbus, Ohio to proclaim "I'm going to tell people I made mistakes and that I've learned from my mistakes." His mistakes most likely cost him his flight status in the National Guard when he failed to take a medical exam following the military's adoption of a mandatory drug testing policy.

If hemp activists want to stop the insane and authoritarian War on Drugs, they've got to admit their mistakes. The movement's biggest problem appears to be lack of connections with the CIA, bin Laden, the Bush family and other known terrorists.

Dr. Bob Fitrakis is Senior Editor of The Free Press

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The Wrong War 

Follow me, said the president. And, tragically, we did.

With his misbegotten war in Iraq, his failure to throw everything we had at Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and his fantasy of using military might as a magic wand to "change the world," President Bush has ushered the American people into a bloody and mind-bending theater of the absurd. MORE


Rumsfeld Saw Post-Sept. 11 `Opportunity,' Book Says

April 18, (Bloomberg) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 terror attacks that ``this is an opportunity to take out Saddam Hussein, perhaps. We should consider it,'' said Bob Woodward, a Washington Post editor who's written a new book on Bush's Iraq policy. MORE


Pope John Paul brands Hamas leader’s killing ‘inhuman’

* Says such acts are contrary to the will of God
* Urges hostage-takers in Iraq to release captives
* UN rights panel may hold special session

VATICAN CITY: The killing of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi and the hostage-takings in Iraq were “inhuman acts,” Pope John Paul II said in his weekly angelus at the Vatican on Sunday.

“I am following with great sadness the tragic news coming from the Holy Land and Iraq. The shedding of blood by brothers must end. Such inhuman acts are contrary to the will of God,” he said. The pope did not mention Rantissi by name but authorities here said he was referring to the killing of the Palestinian leader. John Paul also “implored” the hostage-takers in Iraq to “show humanity” by releasing their captives. MORE


Of all the sacrifices faced by Americans during the US campaign against terrorism - casualties in two wars, tougher airport checks, higher federal spending - the most difficult may be in giving up a few basic liberties and rights.


TEHRAN Iran said on Sunday that America’s iron-fisted policies and the lack of security undermined Iranian efforts to bring calm to Iraq and that it would no longer cooperate with Washington on those endeavors.


The Pentagon as Global Slumlord

The young American Marine is exultant. "It's a sniper's dream,' he tells a Los Angeles Times reporter on the outskirts of Fallujah. "You can go anywhere and there so many ways to fire at the enemy without him knowing where you are."

"Sometimes a guy will go down, and I'll let him scream a bit to destroy the morale of his buddies. Then I'll use a second shot."

"To take a bad guy out," he explains, "is an incomparable "adrenaline rush." He brags of having "24 confirmed kills" in the initial phase of the brutal U.S. onslaught against the rebel city of 300,000 people. MORE

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The 2004 Presidential Election: The Fix Is In 

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On 60 Minutes Sunday night, Bob Woodward reported to Mike Wallace that his new book contains an account of Saudi Arabian Ambassador, Prince Bandar, promising Bush that he would win the election because Saudi Arabia would manipulate the oil prices prior to the election to help strengthen the Bush economy. Saudi Arabia has had long-time personal business arrangements with the Bush family.

60 Minutes Excerpt

"Prince Bandar enjoys easy access to the Oval Office. His family and the Bush family are close. And Woodward told 60 Minutes that Bandar has promised the president that Saudi Arabia will lower oil prices in the months before the election - to ensure the U.S. economy is strong on election day.

"Woodward says that Bandar understood that economic conditions were key before a presidential election: Theyre [oil prices] high. And they could go down very quickly. That's the Saudi pledge. Certainly over the summer, or as we get closer to the election, they could increase production several million barrels a day and the price would drop significantly."

About Bush's Iraq war, Bush told Woodward that he, Bush, was God's messanger as he commited the United States to war. Bush did not ask the Sec. of Defense, the Sec. of State, his War Council, or the United States Congress. Bush did ask Condi Rice and Karen Hughes, reports Woodward

Woodward writes of a White House meeting on Dec. 21, 2002, attended by CIA Director George Tenet and his top deputy John McLaughlin, who briefed the president and the vice president assuring them that Saddam Hussein definitely possessed weapons of mass destruction.>p? Woodward writes in his book, "The presentation was a flop. The photos were not gripping. The intercepts were less than compelling. And then George Bush turns to George Tenet and says, 'this is the best we've got?'"

Says Woodward: "George Tenet's sitting on the couch, stands up, and says, 'Don't worry, it's a slam dunk case." And the president challenges him again and Tenet says, 'the case it's a slam dunk.'"

Hey, Hey, GWB, How Many Kids Are History?

"How will history see your decision to go to war against Iraq?" asked Woodward of Bush.

"History? History? We won't know. We'll all be dead," responded Bush.

--Politex, 04.18.04

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