Saturday, August 27, 2005

Bolton Rings in the End of the UK-US Alliance

Continuing our coverage of Operation Fuck Up the U.N., Bolton and Bush have now managed to piss off even England. Way to go! Here's the story...

Britain Heads for Clash with US
By Ewen MacAskill
The Guardian UK

Saturday 27 August 2005

Disagreement over America's bid to derail UN reform.

Britain will join an international alliance to confront George Bush and salvage as much as possible of an ambitious plan to reshape the United Nations and tackle world poverty next week .

The head-to-head in New York on Monday comes after the revelation that the US administration is proposing wholesale changes to crucial parts of the biggest overhaul of the UN since it was founded more than 50 years ago.

A draft of that plan had included a review of progress on the UN's millennium development goals - poverty eradication targets set in 2000 for completion by 2015 - and the introduction of reforms aimed at repairing the damage done to the UN's reputation by Iraq, Rwanda and the Balkans.

But it was revealed this week that Mr. Bush's new ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, was seeking 750 changes to the 36-page draft plan to be presented to a special summit in New York on September 14 to 16. Mr. Bolton's amendments, if successful, would leave the plan in tatters.

The Foreign Office confirmed yesterday that Britain was standing behind the original plan, putting it at odds with Mr. Bush.

The concern in British and other international circles is that the American objections, if adopted, would severely undermine the UN summit, the biggest-ever gathering of world leaders.

At least 175 world leaders have accepted an invitation to attend. The UN said yesterday that Mr. Bush had confirmed that he would be there.

A wide range of organizations, from aid groups to the anti-arms lobby, voiced dismay about Mr. Bolton's objections yesterday and expressed concern that the summit may end in failure.

The Make Poverty History campaign said there was a danger that the millennium development goals, the original reason for holding the summit, would be reduced to a footnote.

A source close to the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan said it was too early to declare the UN plan dead. "Bolton wants to knock down the plan and start from scratch," the source said. "He will find that his opinions are not shared by most of the rest of the world."

The president of the UN general assembly, Jean Ping from the Gambia, has been working on the draft, covering issues of poverty, climate change, genocide, small arms, the creation of a permanent UN peacekeeping capability and reform of the UN management structure, for the past year.

A Foreign Office spokesman said yesterday that the UK and the European Union, of which Britain holds the presidency, "are broadly content with the summit draft. It reflects the ambitious agenda thrown up by Kofi Annan".

The spokesman said it was "important that we do not row back from previous high-level summits", such as the G8 meeting at Gleneagles in July and the UN millennium summit in 2000.

He stressed that a lot of negotiation on the draft still lay ahead. "There is a long way to go before leaders meet in September."

As well as divisions about the agenda, the summit is in danger of being overshadowed by the publication of an internal UN report into the running of the organization's oil-for-food program in Iraq from 1996 to 2003, which was beset by scandal and corruption, by Paul Volcker.

UN officials are worried that Mr. Volcker's final report, tentatively scheduled for September 6, could severely damage Mr. Annan's reputation and raise questions over whether he could continue as secretary-general.

Mr. Bolton's comments provoked a negative reaction from many agencies involved in development work.

Martin Kirk, the public affairs adviser of Save the Children, said this year had promised so much for the world's poor, but, "instead of a breakthrough we are now looking at a possible retreat from the millennium development goals by the UN".

Nicola Reindorp, the head of Oxfam International's New York office, said: "We are less than three weeks away from the UN world summit and the next two weeks are crucial in determining the outcome ... If the US and other governments substantially weaken the outcome document, the summit will result in failure."

Posted by crimnos @ 6:39 PM :: (0) comments

On the Road with the Trent Lott Machine

Trent Lott, ever-lovable racist Senator, kicked off his book tour Thursday night in Reston, Virginia. We received a report from a local activist who went to see the Senator and ask him a question or two. Thanks to “George” for sharing with us:

“The event was scheduled for 7pm, but he showed up about 15 minutes early, went down the rows of seats, introduced himself, and shook hands with the people sitting in the chairs waiting (me included ). I told him my name and that I was from Texas, so I figured he would call on me later during the discussion period. I decided not to mention I was from Austin, because it’s liberal. A couple of real photographers were there as soon as he showed up, taking pictures of him shaking hands, and talking to people. Apparently some people he knew, or had worked with associates of his, were there. He talked to one guy about being on the Daily Show, with Lott commenting on how “quick” John Stewart was, and how tough that show is- “It has sacrilegious stuff on there”.

George said that the event drew somewhere around forty people, and that, unlike Santorum and his recent appearances, Lott didn’t appear to really have a “machine” in place, though he did, of course, have security, for any “threats” that might appear:

”Security was very visible, at least 10 guys in suits were standing all around the area. One black security guy stood about 10 feet from him the whole time, the others were on the other side of the book stands, mostly big white guys.”

Lott then went on to speak for about 30 minutes while the crowd listened, respectful, “laughing occasionally at his quips, but no applause. He talked about the partisan atmosphere that has infected the Congress, but didn’t really point fingers. He said that the medicare bill was one of his two biggest mistakes on voting, that it was passed under deceptive numbers.”

Then came the kicker. George got a chance to speak, and he called him on his stances. Here’s what he said:

“I heard you mention that this is your first such event like this, congratulations, so let me start it off with the first question- I noticed in your book you describe how Frist and Bush “betrayed” you over your Strom Thurmond comments, but you gloss over your long record of voting against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the MLK Holiday, and you being the keynote speaker in 1992 for the Council of Conservative Citizens ( at which point he slightly nodded ), an overtly racist group which published your articles throughout the 90’s, isn’t the truth more like they wanted to distance themselves from your long record during an election year?”

He replied, almost dismissively - “I wasn’t a senator in 1968…”

To which I aggressively interrupted him, while pulling out a piece of paper and said “This is in the 90’s, I can go over your record if you’d like..”
He said “well I don’t think that legislation shouldn’t be in 11 states, and since then I’ve helped a black woman get elected in my state, but I support equal rights for all, etc, etc.” I kinda tuned out after the I support equal rights honestly. It was political b.s after that.

The next question started with “I’m a college student and I support all of your past record, are you running for president?”

In other words, the typical kissing up.

"He answered questions for about 20 minutes more. One guy asked a very valid question about why nothing that matters to the people is getting passed in Congress. He gave a non-answer. He also, as compared to Rove’s inflammatory suggestion, stated that the Democrats and Republicans came together after 9-11 to pass legislation."

Lott will be hitting up bookstores in the South that will include stops in Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., and Jackson, Miss., for anyone else who'd like to ask him a few questions about civil rights. Here are the only two confirmed dates and appearances that I could dig up:

8/31: Lemuria Books, Jackson, MS
9/10 (3:00 PM): Barnes and Noble 5501 West Broad St., Richmond, VA 23230

Get out there and have at it!

Posted by crimnos @ 11:24 AM :: (0) comments

Friday, August 26, 2005

More on Bolton: A Thorn in State’s Side?

Again I go to Talking Points Memo, because he’s been covering this so well. Here’s the meat of what’s really important:

The Bolton Civil Wars in the State Department may have just re-started.

For those who followed the Bolton battle from early March through August, one of the real issues with John Bolton is that he was constantly attempting to undermine Colin Powell, Richard Armitage and others but did so with Dick Cheney's blessing.

There is evidence bubbling to the surface -- not altogether clear -- but pointing to the possibility that Bolton has already stepped out of his holding pen and is undermining Condi Rice and Bob Zoellick -- again with Dick Cheney's blessing.

First of all, I’m intrigued by the connection to Dick Cheney and wonder – again – just what Bolton’s connection is to the whole WMD-Plame thing, and if Bolton was Cheney’s man in State, does that mean that Cheney is connected to the outing of Plame? It’s not like it would really surprise me.

Anyway, TPM goes on to say that they questioned Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nick Burns about the removal of any reference to Millennium Development Goals from the Bolton-edited Millennium Summit draft document, which I spoke about yesterday. They also make one point that I wasn’t aware of:

…the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are not firm targets and in the past, the U.S. has for the most part robustly supported these goals. The MDGs were agreed to by 190 nations in 2000 and reaffirmed in the Monterrey Consensus and referred to in the Gleneagles Declaration this summer.

Burns ducked the question, so now suddenly the State Department has done an about-face on their stand regarding the MDGs. From TPM:

But when it came to the MDGs, it seems as if Burns…(was) coached to respond to any MDG issue by referring to the U.S. objection to the 0.7% target.
Reading between the lines – Burns…refused to stand up for Bolton or say more in support of this stance. (He) refused to say anything.

The implication that TPM draws, and that I agree with, is that Bolton went off on another rogue mission and State is refusing to back him up. The real kicker is here:

But my guess is that Bolton is drawing his energy and position from Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and only flirts part time with Bob Zoellick and Condi Rice.

Well put, and probably the truth. Personally, I think it’s very likely that the schizophrenic face of this administration is reflective of an internal power struggle that may have been going on from the beginning, and Bush is sort of the man caught in the middle. It would explain his inability to defend any given position and his irritability when called out on mistakes made by the administration – he simply refuses to come down on one side or another.

Does he do this because he’s trying to hold something together, or because he’s managed? Hm. That’s the real question, isn’t it?

This whole situation needs close attention. I’ll continue to cover it…

Posted by crimnos @ 8:28 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Bolton Comments the draft document for the Millennium Summit Have Leaked!

Way to go, Talking Points Memo. He got his hands on a draft copy of U.S. Comments on the draft document for the Millennium Summit in September. Here's what TPM has to say:

I have been informed that these are John Bolton's personal draft modification suggestions that appear on the document.

These suggested revisions are leaps and bounds more offensive, regressive, short-sighted, and dismissive of others than America's "bad guy" role in the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.

In short, the document does the following:

-knocks out entirely the Millennium Development Goals

-continues to undermine collective efforts against climate change

-knocks out targets and timetables for all goals and objectives

-guts any efforts toward further disarmament objectives and focuses exclusively on non-proliferation, while both had always been important objectives in the past

-strikes the section that states that countries will use force only as last resort

-and oddly, strikes out the need to establish a legal definition of terrorism, which the Bush administration has previously stated is a requirement before proceeding towards a U.N. Convention on Terorrism.

Holy shit, folks! This is the same Bush and Bolton that hate the fucking world! Just going from the first page, Bolton strikes "at its core" from "We reaffirm the vital importance of a multilateral system, with a strong United Nations at its core, in order to better address..." Sounds like we're going to using a haphazard arrangement of bi- and multi-lateral treaties for resolving international conflicts, which betrays Bush's real desire to gut the UN rather than reform it. This is especially chilling when you see that they want to strike out anything making force a last resort. What is their motivation here?

This bears some serious watching. I'm adding this to the list of topics I'll be covering as the summit draws closer.

Posted by crimnos @ 7:51 PM :: (0) comments

Sweet, the Dalai Lama has Spoken About Terror

Don't fight terror with terror: Dalai Lama

Ramananda Sengupta in Mumbai

'China, get out of Tibet', screamed a couple of posters next to the impromptu dais set up near the entrance of the small and cosy lounge in a swank Mumbai hotel on Thursday afternoon.

The strident tone of the posters, put up by the Bombay chapter of the Friends of Tibet, was in sharp contrast to the man occupying the dais, a man known for his stringent adherence to the non-violent credo. His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke instead of compassion and love, and how terror ought not be fought with terror.
Though he initially brushed off a question on China's recent promise of amnesty to those Tibetans abroad who returned voluntarily to Tibet, saying, 'later', he relented seconds afterwards, to say that this would happen only when some degree of autonomy was returned to Tibet. He stressed that he did not seek independence, but respect for the Tibetan way of life, which was being relentlessly suppressed and destroyed by China.

He also pointed out that now there was an elected representative of the Tibetan people to take the struggle forward, so he was taking some time out.

"I'm on holiday," he said with a grin.

Asked about his views on terrorism that so changed the world since 9/11, the Tibetan leader said that moments after hearing about the attacks on the US, he had written a letter to United States president George Bush, advising restraint in his reaction to the strikes. He had also lead a prayer meeting for the victims the very next day.

"The planning of this event took weeks, or months... so obviously the people who did this were smart, were intelligent... and therefore the chances were that they had been guided by negative emotions, caused by family, social, or even national difficulties," he said.

The only way to overcome these negative emotions was through love, compassion and respect for each other, he said. As for the future of Tibet, he said he was 'optimistic'.

"China," he said, "was changing and these changes were likely to ensure that gradually the rule of law, democracy, freedom of the press became a reality there."

There is a new leadership emerging, and he hoped that it would take a more flexible position on the status of Tibet. Asked whether he felt safe in India, his first response was that of incredulity. He then pointed out that he had memorised many Indian sacred texts when he was about 10 or 11.

"And besides, I have spent the better part of over 43 years of my life here in India. I'm practically Indian," he said.

Posted by crimnos @ 2:30 PM :: (0) comments

Thanks, American Legion, for hating our freedoms!

NEW YORK The American Legion, which has 2.7 million members, has declared war on antiwar protestors, and the media could be next. Speaking at its national convention in Honolulu, the group's national commander called for an end to all “public protests” and “media events” against the war, constitutional protections be damned.

"The American Legion will stand against anyone and any group that would demoralize our troops, or worse, endanger their lives by encouraging terrorists to continue their cowardly attacks against freedom-loving peoples," Thomas Cadmus, national commander, told delegates at the group's national convention in Honolulu.

The delegates vowed to use whatever means necessary to "ensure the united backing of the American people to support our troops and the global war on terrorism."

Cadmus added: "It would be tragic if the freedoms our veterans fought so valiantly to protect would be used against their successors today as they battle terrorists bent on our destruction.”

Without mentioning any current protestor, such as Cindy Sheehan, by name, Cadmus recalled: "For many of us, the visions of Jane Fonda glibly spouting anti-American messages with the North Vietnamese and protestors denouncing our own forces four decades ago is forever etched in our memories. We must never let that happen again….

"We had hoped that the lessons learned from the Vietnam War would be clear to our fellow citizens. Public protests against the war here at home while our young men and women are in harm's way on the other side of the globe only provide aid and comfort to our enemies. "

Resolution 3, which was passed unanimously by 4,000 delegates to the annual event, states: "The American Legion fully supports the president of the United States, the United States Congress and the men, women and leadership of our armed forces as they are engaged in the global war on terrorism and the troops who are engaged in protecting our values and way of life."

Cadmus explained, "No one respects the right to protest more than one who has fought for it, but we hope that Americans will present their views in correspondence to their elected officials rather than by public media events guaranteed to be picked up and used as tools of encouragement by our enemies…
"Let's not repeat the mistakes of our past. I urge all Americans to rally around our armed forces and remember our fellow Americans who were viciously murdered on Sept. 11, 2001."

Posted by crimnos @ 8:35 AM :: (2) comments

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bush Just Will Not Give It Up

Okay, yeah, I’ve been hitting Bush hard a lot this week. And for good reason – he’s a JERK.

I really just cannot believe the levels to which he will stoop to be a complete asshole, and this man is supposed to represent the dignity of our nation. What does it say when a person in such a position behaves the way he does? What does that say about us and our nation?

Yeah, he’s refusing to speak to Cindy Sheehan again. Pretty standard fare, and I’ve already covered his idiotic remarks about Sunnis, but here’s what else he had to say:

"I think those who advocate immediate withdrawal from not only Iraq but the Middle East are advocating a policy that would weaken the United States."

I just cannot see his connection here. What the hell is this war already doing? We’re already in a vulnerable, weakened state, with our soldiers frayed and scattered, our military stretched to our limits, and our own citizens at each others’ throats. How could it get any worse, all-out civil war?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "has made a commitment to fight off the violence because he understands a democracy can't exist with terrorist groups trying to take the law into their own hands," he said.

This is just a false dichotomy. You can certainly have a functioning democracy with “terrorist groups”. I note that Oklahoma City didn’t make our democracy come crumbling to the ground.

Bush, in his session with reporters, pointed out that he had met with Sheehan and that she had a recent discussion with Deputy Chief of Staff Joseph Hagin and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley at the Texas ranch. He added that he "strongly supported" the right of Sheehan and others to demonstrate, and said he understood the anguish she has experienced.

This is the stupidest thing I’ve heard from Conservatives. “But the President already met with her!” Well, yeah, genius, that’s the whole point of her protest. She didn’t felt she was heard when she met with him, and she didn’t feel he’d honored a commitment he made to her during that meeting. Conservatives don’t get it, and Bush doesn’t get it. Oh, and that “strongly supported” bit is rich, considering how the protestors were harassed and shuffled around. Ugh, I loathe this man.

The whole story is at the Post.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:26 AM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Goddamn, Bush, What the Hell?

Asked about the possibility of Sunnis rejecting the Iraqi Constitution, Dubya said Iraq's Sunnis had to decide what kind of society they wanted to live in. "This talk about Sunnis rising up, I mean the Sunnis have got to make a choice. Do they want to live in a society that's free, or do they want to live in violence?" he told reporters in Idaho.

Yeah, a free society where they're very likely to be oppressed. Clear out of the way, genius at work!

Posted by crimnos @ 7:29 PM :: (0) comments

Pat Robertson Calls for Chavez' Death

Televangelist Calls for Chavez' Death
Aug 22 11:06 PM US/Eastern


Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson called on Monday for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, calling him a "terrific danger" to the United States.

Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America and a former presidential candidate, said on "The 700 Club" it was the United States' duty to stop Chavez from making Venezuela a "launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

Chavez has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President Bush, accusing the United States of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have called the accusations ridiculous.

"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson said. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

Electronic pages and a message to a Robertson spokeswoman were not immediately returned Monday evening.

Venezuela is the fifth largest oil exporter and a major supplier of oil to the United States. The CIA estimates that U.S. markets absorb almost 59 percent of Venezuela's total exports.

Venezuela's government has demanded in the past that the United States crack down on Cuban and Venezuelan "terrorists" in Florida who they say are conspiring against Chavez.

Robertson accused the United States of failing to act when Chavez was briefly overthrown in 2002.

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said.

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Posted by crimnos @ 8:29 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, August 22, 2005

Continuing the "Bad News From the Middle East" series...

Under US noses, brutal insurgents rule Sunni citadel

Guardian gains rare access to Iraqi town and finds it fully in control of 'mujahideen'

Omer Mahdi in Haditha and Rory Carroll in Baghdad
Monday August 22, 2005
The Guardian

The executions are carried out at dawn on Haqlania bridge, the entrance to Haditha. A small crowd usually turns up to watch even though the killings are filmed and made available on DVD in the market the same afternoon.

One of last week's victims was a young man in a black tracksuit. Like the others he was left on his belly by the blue iron railings at the bridge's southern end. His severed head rested on his back, facing Baghdad. Children cheered when they heard that the next day's spectacle would be a double bill: two decapitations. A man named Watban and his brother had been found guilty of spying.

With so many alleged American agents dying here Haqlania bridge was renamed Agents' bridge. Then a local wag dubbed it Agents' fridge, evoking a mortuary, and that name has stuck.

A three-day visit by a reporter working for the Guardian last week established what neither the Iraqi government nor the US military has admitted: Haditha, a farming town of 90,000 people by the Euphrates river, is an insurgent citadel.

That Islamist guerrillas were active in the area was no secret but only now has the extent of their control been revealed. They are the sole authority, running the town's security, administration and communications.

A three-hour drive north from Baghdad, under the nose of an American base, it is a miniature Taliban-like state. Insurgents decide who lives and dies, which salaries get paid, what people wear, what they watch and listen to.

Haditha exposes the limitations of the Iraqi state and US power on the day when the political process is supposed to make a great leap - a draft constitution finalised and approved by midnight tonight.

For politicians and diplomats in Baghdad's fortified green zone the constitution is a means to stabilise Iraq and woo Sunni Arabs away from the rebellion. For Haditha, 140 miles north-west of the capital, whether a draft is agreed is irrelevant. Residents already have a set of laws and rules promulgated by insurgents.

Within minutes of driving into town the Guardian was stopped by a group of men and informed about rule number one: announce yourself. The mujahideen, as they are known locally, must know who comes and goes.

The Guardian reporter did not say he worked for a British newspaper. For their own protection interviewees cannot be named.

There is no fighting here because there is no one to challenge the Islamists. The police station and municipal offices were destroyed last year and US marines make only fleeting visits every few months.

Two groups share power. Ansar al-Sunna is a largely homegrown organisation, though its leader in Haditha is said to be foreign. Al-Qaida in Iraq, known locally by its old name Tawhid al-Jihad, is led by the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. There was a rumour that Zarqawi, Washington's most wanted militant after Osama bin Laden, visited early last week. True or not, residents wanted to believe they had hosted such a celebrity.

A year ago Haditha was just another sleepy town in western Anbar province, deep in the Sunni triangle and suspicious of the Shia-led government in Baghdad but no insurgent hotbed.

Then, say residents, arrived mostly Shia police with heavyhanded behaviour. "That's how it began," said one man. Attacks against the police escalated until they fled, creating a vacuum filled by insurgents.

Alcohol and music deemed unIslamic were banned, women were told to wear headscarves and relations between the sexes were closely monitored. The mobile phone network was shut down but insurgents retained their walkie-talkies and satellite phones. Right-hand lanes are reserved for their vehicles.

From attacks on US and Iraqi forces it is clear that other Anbar towns, such as Qaim, Rawa, Anna and Ramadi, are to varying degrees under the sway of rebels.

In Haditha hospital staff and teachers are allowed to collect government salaries in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, but other civil servants have had to quit.

Last year the US trumpeted its rehabilitation of a nearby power plant: "The incredible progress at Haditha is just one example of the huge strides made by the US army corps of engineers."

Now insurgents earn praise from residents for allegedly pressuring managers to supply electricity almost 24 hours a day, a luxury denied the rest of Iraq.

The court caters solely for divorces and marriages. Alleged criminals are punished in the market. The Guardian witnessed a headmaster accused of adultery whipped 190 times with cables. Children laughed as he sobbed and his robe turned crimson.

Two men who robbed a foreign exchange shop were splayed on the ground. Masked men stood on their hands while others broke their arms with rocks. The shopkeeper offered the insurgents a reward but they declined.

DVDs of beheadings on the bridge are distributed free in the souk. Children prefer them to cartoons. "They should not watch such things," said one grandfather, but parents appeared not to object.

One DVD features a young, blond muscular man who had been disembowelled. He was said to have been a member of a six-strong US sniper team ambushed and killed on August 1. Residents said he had been paraded in town before being executed.

The US military denied that, saying six bodies were recovered and that all appeared to have died in combat. Shortly after the ambush three landmines killed 14 marines in a convoy which ventured from their base outside the town.

Twice in recent months marines backed by aircraft and armour swept into Haditha to flush out the rebels. In a pattern repeated across Anbar there were skirmishes, a few suspects killed or detained, and success was declared.

In reality, said residents, the insurgents withdrew for a few days and returned when the Americans left. They have learned from last November's battle in Falluja, when hundreds died fighting the marines and still lost the city.

Now their strategy appears to be to wait out the Americans, calculating they will leave within a few years, and then escalate what some consider the real war against a government led by Shias, a rival sect which Sunni extremists consider apostasy.

The US military declined to respond to questions detailing the extent of insurgent control in the town.

There was evidence of growing cooperation between rebels. A group in Falluja, where the resistance is said to be regrouping, wrote to Haditha requesting background checks on two volunteers from the town.

One local man in his 40s told the Guardian he wanted to be a suicide bomber to atone for sins and secure a place in heaven. "But the mujahideen will not let me. They said I had eight children and it was my duty to look after them."

Tribal elders said they feared but respected insurgents for keeping order and not turning the town into a battleground.

They appear to have been radicalised, and condemned Sunni groups, such as the Iraqi Islamic party and the Muslim Scholars' Association, for engaging in the political process.

The constitution talks, the referendum due in October, the election due in December: all are deemed collaboration punishable by death. The task now is to bleed the Americans and destabilise the government. Some call that nihilism. Haditha calls it the future.

· Omer Mahdi was in Haditha for a Guardian Films project before security precautions forced it to be suspended.

Posted by crimnos @ 12:04 PM :: (0) comments

Krugman says 2006 and 2008 elections are in danger

From the New York Times:

By running for the U.S. Senate, Katherine Harris, Florida's former secretary of state, has stirred up some ugly memories. And that's a good thing, because those memories remain relevant. There was at least as much electoral malfeasance in 2004 as there was in 2000, even if it didn't change the outcome. And the next election may be worse.

In his recent book "Steal This Vote" - a very judicious work, despite its title - Andrew Gumbel, a U.S. correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, provides the best overview I've seen of the 2000 Florida vote. And he documents the simple truth: "Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election."

Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably Ms. Harris's "felon purge," which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.

But few Americans have heard these facts. Perhaps journalists have felt that it would be divisive to cast doubt on the Bush administration's legitimacy. If so, their tender concern for the nation's feelings has gone for naught: Cindy Sheehan's supporters are camped in Crawford, and America is more bitterly divided than ever.

Meanwhile, the whitewash of what happened in Florida in 2000 showed that election-tampering carries no penalty, and political operatives have acted accordingly. For example, in 2002 the Republican Party in New Hampshire hired a company to jam Democratic and union phone banks on Election Day.

And what about 2004?

Mr. Gumbel throws cold water on those who take the discrepancy between the exit polls and the final result as evidence of a stolen election. (I told you it's a judicious book.) He also seems, on first reading, to play down what happened in Ohio. But the theme of his book is that America has a long, bipartisan history of dirty elections.

He told me that he wasn't brushing off the serious problems in Ohio, but that "this is what American democracy typically looks like, especially in a presidential election in a battleground state that is controlled substantially by one party."

So what does U.S. democracy look like? There have been two Democratic reports on Ohio in 2004, one commissioned by Representative John Conyers Jr., the other by the Democratic National Committee.

The D.N.C. report is very cautious: "The purpose of this investigation," it declares, "was not to challenge or question the results of the election in any way." It says there is no evidence that votes were transferred away from John Kerry - but it does suggest that many potential Kerry votes were suppressed. Although the Conyers report is less cautious, it stops far short of claiming that the wrong candidate got Ohio's electoral votes.

But both reports show that votes were suppressed by long lines at polling places - lines caused by inadequate numbers of voting machines - and that these lines occurred disproportionately in areas likely to vote Democratic. Both reports also point to problems involving voters who were improperly forced to cast provisional votes, many of which were discarded.

The Conyers report goes further, highlighting the blatant partisanship of election officials. In particular, the behavior of Ohio's secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell - who supervised the election while serving as co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio - makes Ms. Harris's actions in 2000 seem mild by comparison.

And then there are the election night stories. Warren County locked down its administration building and barred public observers from the vote-counting, citing an F.B.I. warning of a terrorist threat. But the F.B.I. later denied issuing any such warning. Miami County reported that voter turnout was an improbable 98.55 percent of registered voters. And so on.

We aren't going to rerun the last three elections. But what about the future?

Our current political leaders would suffer greatly if either house of Congress changed hands in 2006, or if the presidency changed hands in 2008. The lids would come off all the simmering scandals, from the selling of the Iraq war to profiteering by politically connected companies. The Republicans will be strongly tempted to make sure that they win those elections by any means necessary. And everything we've seen suggests that they will give in to that temptation.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:12 AM :: (0) comments

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Abbreviate Update: Zarqawi may have Jordan front

Note: I’m in a race to the finish line with the first draft of my book now: my drop-dead for the first draft is September 1, so I’m going to be finishing that up in the next week or so. I’ll still be posting updated entries, but I may not have as much to say. Think of it as a sort-of vacation. I should be back properly on 9/1. I chose this as the first article, because it indicates just how well we're doing in the Middle East. Hint: not very well.

Aqaba attack may signal new Zarqawi front in Jordan

By Suleiman al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) - A rocket attack which narrowly missed two U.S. warships in Jordan may be a signal Iraq's al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi has opened a new front against Washington's closest Arab ally, security experts said on Sunday.

The two U.S warships were likely to be carefully chosen targets, the experts said. The vessels are among those that have been regularly docking and unloading supplies in the Red Sea port of Aqaba since the U.S. led the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Jordanian intelligence experts say the attack using Katyusha rockets indicates Zarqawi may favor expanding military attacks to pro-U.S. ally Jordan to hurt Washington's war effort in Iraq.

Posted by crimnos @ 11:57 AM :: (0) comments