People with Disabilities Blocks Entry to Republican Affair, Cops Called

People with Disabilities Blocks Entry to Republican Affair, Cops Called

 author: gk

 Ten protesters stood outside Republican Rossi event, one attempted to get inside, knocked the wheelchair aside, and police showed up.

 Ten protesters and 3 children gathered outside a Republican Rossi event this morning at The Academy in Vancouver. Republican Rossi for Governor was billed for 11 a.m. Protesters were called by the Democrat Party to show Chris Gregoire for Governor signs. All did, except mine which read, "THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX, THINK GREEN PARTY. NO BUll SHit 2004." Although I left the Dems during the 1st 100 days of Clinton's 2nd administration, I got the message probably because I supported D. Kucinich.

A protester read off a list of Rossi's poor record. We visited. One said she voted Green, except for President. I invited her to the Clark County Green Party meetings. After 11:15 a woman came out of the building, and as she did so, she pulled out a Gregoire sign.

I asked her what was happening in there. She said Rossi was speaking at the moment. (The slime slipped in the back/side entrance.) I wanted to see, so I went up to the door. A wheelchair amputee blocked the entrance. I asked him to move twice. Each time there was no response. Then I asked him why he wouldn't move, and he said because I was not a part of "them." I asked him twice if he was a veteran because I cannot understand why a veteran would be Republican. When he again did not answer, I said. "No speech is also freedom of speech. Peace," and walked back to the Dem protesters.

I told them the entry was blocked and the woman who had just come out said she could get in. I followed her, 10' away. When the wheelchair guy wouldn't move for her, she moved him and and the chair. In the process there was a thud and banging noise. She stood in the hallway, but Repubs came up and hollered her out, saying, "Assault."

I walked back to the dems again, and when my back was turned I heard them say a Repub had hit the woman. Then they called the police on a cell phone, and all the protesters left, except me. 2 cop cars came, and I heard them ask us to stay, but nobody paid attention. I walked up to the driveway, waiting to see if the police would leave. I saw "Mr. Democrat" drive out, alongside the retired 49th Demo Legislator. She waved to me. Then the police left, so I did too, but not without chanting to the remaining Repubs, "Bomb Iraq, bomb N. Korea, bomb Iran."

Palestine: the assault on health and other war crimes

Palestine: the assault on health and other war crimes

Derek Summerfield, The Electronic Intifada, 21 October 2004

Does the death of an Arab weigh the same as that of a US or Israeli citizen? The Israeli army, with utter impunity, has killed more unarmed Palestinian civilians since September 2000 than the number of people who died on September 11, 2001. In conducting 238 extrajudicial executions the army has also killed 186 bystanders (including 26 women and 39 children). Two thirds of the 621 children (two thirds under 15 years) killed at checkpoints, in the street, on the way to school, in their homes, died from small arms fire, directed in over half of cases to the head, neck and chest--the sniper's wound. Clearly, soldiers are routinely authorised to shoot to kill children in situations of minimal or no threat. These statistics attract far less publicity than suicide bombings, atrocious though these are too.

Amnesty International has called for an investigation into the killing of Asma al-Mughayr (16 years) and her brother Ahmad (13 years) on the roof terrace of their home in Rafah on 18 May, each with a single bullet to the head. Asma had been taking clothes off the drying line and Ahmad feeding pigeons. Amnesty noted that the firing appeared to have come from the top floor of a nearby house, which had been taken over by Israeli soldiers shortly before. Amnesty suspects that this is not "caught in crossfire," this is murder.

Israeli military reoccupation of the West Bank and Gaza--a system of military checkpoints splitting towns and villages into ghettos, curfews, closures, raids, mass demolition and destruction of houses (more than 60 000), and land expropriations--has made ordinary life impossible for everyone, and is driving Palestinian society and its institutions towards destitution. Moreover, Israel has been constructing a grotesque barrier that, when completed, will total over 400 miles--four times longer than the Berlin Wall. Extending up to 15 miles into Palestinian territory, the real purpose of the wall is permanently to lock more than 50 illegal Israeli settlements into Israel proper. This is expansive, aggressive colonisation, in defiance of the International Court of Justice in The Hague and the United Nations General Assembly resolution of last July.

Last year a UN rapporteur concluded that Gaza and the West Bank were "on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe." The World Bank estimates that 60% of the population are subsisting at poverty level (#1.12; $2; 1.6 per day), a tripling in only three years. Half a million people are now completely dependent upon food aid, and Amnesty International has expressed concern that the Israeli army has been hampering distribution in Gaza. Over half of all households are eating only one meal per day. A study by Johns Hopkins and Al Quds universities found that 20% of children under 5 years old were anaemic, 9.3% were acutely malnourished, and a further 13.2% chronically malnourished. The doctors I met on a professional visit in March pointed to a rising prevalence of anaemia in pregnant women and low birthweight babies.

The coherence of the Palestinian health system is being destroyed. The wall will isolate 97 primary health clinics and 11 hospitals from the populations they serve. Qalqilya hospital, which primarily serves refugees, has seen a 40% fall in follow up appointments because patients cannot enter the city. There have been at least 87 documented cases (including 30 children) in which denial of access to medical treatment has led directly to deaths, including those of babies born while women were held up at checkpoints. The checkpoint at the entrance to some villages closes at 7 pm and not even ambulances can pass after this time. As a recent example, a man in a now fenced in village near Qalqilya approached the gate with his seriously ill daughter in his arms, and begged the soldiers on duty to let him pass so that he could take her to hospital. The soldiers refused, and a Palestinian doctor summoned from the other side was also refused access to the child. The doctor was obliged to attempt a physical examination, and to give the girl an injection, through the wire.

There are consistent reports of ambulances containing gravely ill people being hit by gunfire, or detained at checkpoints while drivers and paramedics are interrogated, searched, threatened, humiliated, and assaulted. Wounded men are abducted from ambulances at checkpoints and sent directly to prison. Clearly marked clinics are fired on, and doctors and other health workers shot dead on duty.

Physicians for Human Rights (Israel) have lambasted the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) for its silence in the face of these systematic violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which guarantees the right to health care and the protection of health professionals as they do their duty. Remarkably, IMA president Dr Y Blachar is currently chairperson of the council of the World Medical Association (WMA), the official international watchdog on medical ethics. A supine BMA appears in collusion with this farce at the WMA. Others are silenced by a fear of being labelled "anti-semitic," a term used in a morally corrupt way by the pro-Israel lobby in order to silence. How are we to affect this shocking situation, one which to this South African-born doctor has gone further than the excesses of the apartheid era.

Summerfield D. Sociocultural dimensions of war, conflict and displacement. In: AgerA, ed. Refugees. Perspectives on the Experience of Forced Migration. London: Cassell, 1999: 111-135.

Special rapporteur. The right to food. Commission on Human Rights. UN Economic and Social Council. E/CN.4/2004/10/Add2. 31 October 2003.

Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network. The Wall in Palestine. PENGON: Jerusalem 2003.

Amnesty International. The fence/wall violates international law. Index MDE 15/018/2004. 19 Feb 2004.

Amnesty International. Oral statement to 60th session UN Commission on Human Rights. Index IOR/012/2004. 6 April 2004.

Jewish American Medical 22 June 2004.

Palestinian doctors despair at rising toll of children shot dead by army snipers. The Guardian 2004 May 20:15.

Amnesty International. Israel/Occupied Territories: killing of children must be investigated. Index MDE 15/055/2004. 25 May 2004.

Barghouti M.(ed) Health and Segregation. The impact of the Israeli Separation Wall on access to health services. Ramallah: Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute, 2004.

Amnesty International. Israel must facilitate, not hinder, relief for the occupied population. Index MDE 15/036/2004. 2 April 2004.

B’Tselem/PHR Israel. Harm to Medical Personnel. The Delay, Abuse and Humiliation of Medical Personnel by the Israeli Security Forces. B’Tselem- The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories/ Physicians for Human Rights- Israel. December 2003.

Dyer O. Israeli Army accused of obstructing medical access to civilians. BMJ 2004; 328: 1278.

Physicians for Human Rights. A legacy of injustice: a critique of Israeli approaches to the right to health of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Israel: Physicians for Human rights, 2002. 145.pdf.

Summerfield D. Medical Ethics, the Israeli Medical Association, and the state of the World medical Association. Open letter to the BMA.. BMJ 2003; 327: 56.

Derek Summerfield is an honorary senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, London and can be reached via This article was first published in the British Medical Journal on 16 October 2004, which was sunsequently inundated with letters of protest -- in particular following an action alert by pro-Israel media lobby group "Honest Reporting". Reprinted with the author's permission.

© 2001-2004 unless otherwise noted.

Two U.S. soldiers to stand trial over Iraq abuse (with discussiion on the aljazeera website)

Two U.S. soldiers to stand trial over Iraq abuse

10/23/2004 11:00:00 AM GMT

A U.S. military court ordered 2 U.S. soldiers to stand trial over the abuses of Abu Ghraib.

A U.S. military court in Baghdad ordered two U.S. soldiers on Friday to stand trial over the sexual and physical abuses of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib detention facility.

Military judge Colonel James Pohl refused a request by the defense counsel for one of the soldiers, Sergeant Javal Davis, 26, to make Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld testify at his trial.

Davis will plead not guilty to charges including assault and maltreatment of detainees, his lawyer, Paul Bergrin, said. Judge Pohl has also rejected his request to move the trial to the United States.

Like others accused of the Abu Gharib abuse, Davis and Specialist Charles Graner argue that they were following orders to prepare the detainees for interrogation.

Graner, 36, named by another accused as a ringleader, faces up to 28 years in prison and other penalties on charges including cruelty, assault, committing indecent acts and adultery.

An army investigator has told another court that Graner had been named by fellow accused Private Lynndie England as the father of her baby born this month. The adultery charge comes from this relationship.

Graner is expected to stand trial on Jan. 7 and Davis on Feb. 1. Both defendants are army reservists.

Photos of U.S. soldiers abusing and humiliating naked detainees at the prison created worldwide outrage when they were revealed in April. Graner was photographed standing over a pyramid of naked, hooded detainees.

England was pictured holding a naked detainee on a leash.

"We are going to win. He was acting under fully lawful orders at the time," Graner's counsel, Guy Womack, told journalists at Friday's hearing at a U.S. base.

"The orders had been given to him by his superiors in the military police chain of command, military intelligence and civilian intelligence."

Witnesses in the court martial of the most top soldier accused of the abuse charges, Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick- who was sentenced to eight years in prison on Wednesday- said that the CIA sometimes ordered abuse.

The proof, from an officer and a chief warrant officer who served at the prison, is among the most important evidences so far that points to more senior involvement in the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Previously, the Pentagon has claimed that the violations were the work of a few "bad apples" acting on their own.

Besides Frederick, two other soldiers have been jailed for eight months and one year over the abuses. In total, seven army reservists working as military police and one intelligence soldier have been charged with the abuses.


discussion from mail website

we have a two-fold problem here. first, us soldiers "do not" have to follow orders, if those orders are contrary to human rights, and morality. second, the senior leaders who gave the orders, should be brought to justice. this i am afraid will be covered up, and only a select few will serve time. then again, many will not serve time, other than the what the media will know about. there is a good chance, they will be returned to duty, but maybe back in the states. personally, if it was me that a senior officer gave the orders to, i would have put him in the hospital, than suffered the consequences of my actions willingly and gladly. wouldn`t be the first time
 IP Address: carlo from us

i read an article from a psychologist on the issue of abuse in the abu agreb prison.he explained that the american soldiers were a small number compared to the prisoners and were living in the prison eating same food and in same conditions.they felt they had to do something so that they feel superior and intimidate the prisoners. however this is not an excuse because they not only abused but they also recorded and were having obviously a lot of fun doing it. every prison has abuse, but this is a military detaintion and the abuse was filmed as it was something to be remembered and be proud of. i think the reallly responsible are those who put this unexperienced and unprofessional personal to do the job in guarding prisoners.this is specific job not for weak and perverted minds. the soldiars are to pay, so must do those above them.
 IP Address: yana from bg

carlo from us, regarding your comment; us soldiers "do not" have to follow orders, if those orders are contrary to human rights, and morality. second, the senior leaders who gave the orders, should be brought to justice. i agree 100%. i served 10 years as a military policeman in germany and a combat medic during the first gulf war. considering the u.s. and it's allies took into custody nearly 100,000 iraqi pows' during the 1st gulf war without report of on single incident; this problem is isolated and blown completely out of proportion by people who detest the united states. people fail to understand that it was a u.s. soldier who reported the abuse to military officials. as a former soldier i can tell you we receive constant training on the rules of war and care of pows. such abuse by the u.s. is both isolated and unfortunate.
 IP Address: James B. from California USA

have you noticed there haven't been any officers put on trial---and there won't be. it's called american justice.
 IP Address: JOE from USA

well, james b, i go back to vietnam days, and it was different then, as far as military code and conduct, in the field. when us soldiers deliberately shoot innocent unarmed civilians, it makes me wonder. when i see soldiers cut off ears of women and children. it also makes me wonder. and dont tell me they were isolated incidents, because it went on for over 3 years. maybe now, things are just peachy. not then
 IP Address: carlo from us

No shooting please, we're British

Article22 October 2004

No shooting please, we're British

The storm over the movement of Black Watch troops in Iraq suggests the
British elite is happy to support a war so long as it doesn't have to
fight one.

by Brendan O'Neill

'Just say no.' That was the /Guardian/'s considered advice to the UK
government over the redeployment of British Black Watch troops from
Basra to central Iraq to take the place of Americans who have to go off
and fight insurgents. Defence secretary Geoff Hoon confirmed yesterday
that 500 troops and 350 support personnel will move to the US sector,
freeing up US soldiers to (allegedly) launch a new offensive against
Fallujah (1).

But it wasn't only sceptical-about-war newspapers that urged a 'no' to
the movement of Brits to a reportedly riskier part of Iraq; so did many
of those who said 'yes' to invading Iraq in the first place, including
members of parliament who voted for the war and military officials who
have overseen much of the war. Some in the British establishment seem
happy to support a war, so long as they don't have to fight in it.

The stink over the Black Watch redeployment reveals far more about the
state of mind in Westminster than it does about the state of affairs in
Iraq. Ministers, officials and journalists complain that the Brits will
be at greater risk in central Iraq than they were down south - but what
is the job of a soldier if not to take risks in a war setting,
especially one that his own leaders helped to create? It is a profound
uncertainty about the war at home, rather than any real rise in danger
in Iraq, that has caused such consternation about the Black Watch movement.

The Black Watch troops are not being asked to do anything especially
hairy, at least not by wartime standards. For all the talk of being
dragged into a quagmire or, in the words of one report, being 'sucked
into a Vietnam-style war' (2), in fact the soldiers are making a
temporary move, expected to last around two months, to patrol an area 25
miles south of Baghdad. The US sector may be less pleasant than Basra,
but the Black Watch are unlikely to come up against anything they
haven't been trained for.

One reason why such standard postwar ugliness - whether it's insurgents
firing at US troops in Fallujah or British troops being asked to patrol
hostile territory south of Baghdad - can be discussed in such
apocalyptic terms is because the coalition thought Iraq would be a walk
in the park. They prepared for a war without much fighting or bloodshed
or military engagement at all, with a strategy that stressed avoiding
risky action and hand-to-hand combat. As a result of such wishful
thinking, any kind of danger can come across as terrifying.

Consider Basra, where most of the Brits have been based for the past 18
months. Before the war coalition officials talked about Basra as a
pushover. They hoped that the city's Shias would welcome Western forces
with 'open arms', allowing the coalition to 'capitalise on any scene of
liberation and beam it to a sceptical world' (3). The reality - a
sometimes hostile and disgruntled population, with pockets of resistance
here and there - now appears overbearing, not because these forces are
any match for the British, but because the British didn't expect to
encounter many hostile forces at all.

Indeed, the British response to hostility in Basra has been to retreat
to barracks. In August and September, when there were clashes between
British troops and supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr, the /Daily Telegraph/
reported that 'after three [British] deaths in as many weeks, the
British army has stopped patrolling the streets of Basra'. They took to
moving around in armoured vehicles, 'on patrols not more than 100 yards
from base'. When Basra residents demanded the expulsion of 'al-Sadr's
people', British Major Ian Clooney said: 'I can understand what the
Iraqis are saying, but confronting violence with violence is not going
to work....' (4)

One American general has reportedly denounced the British approach as
'risk-averse' and 'institutionalised cowardice' (5). Yet for all the
claims that US forces are imposing their imperialist will on Iraq, their
campaign too has appeared faltering and defensive. Much of America's
occupation has been conducted from behind high walls or from helicopter

One report describes how hundreds of American troops spend their time in
Saddam's old palaces or guarding the 'Green Zone' in Baghdad, a
cordoned-off part of the city centre, massively guarded and for the
exclusive use of coalition officials, only occasionally venturing out.
Earlier this year a poll asked Iraqis what they thought of coalition
forces - 77 per cent said they had never had an encounter with a soldier
from the coalition (6). Indeed, it is striking that the supposedly more
gung-ho Americans should need 850 Brits as back up. The Americans have
135,000 troops in Iraq. Where are they all? What are they doing?

In both the American and British camps, the talk of quagmires, of new
Vietnams, of unacceptably risky redeployments, is not a rational
response to what's happening on the ground, which is not any more grisly
than what has occurred in other wars. Rather it's a product of the
coalition's misguided belief that it could fight a war with the war bit
taken out. This week the /Los Angeles Times/ reported that President
Bush apparently told televangelist Pat Robertson in private before the
war started that 'we're not going to have any casualties' in Iraq; if
this is true, it is hardly surprising that casualties, or injuries or
risky redeployments, are seen as both unexpected and unacceptable.

The fuss over the Black Watch redeployment also points to deep divisions
within the British elite over the war in Iraq. It appears that news of
the redeployment was leaked by the military itself to the BBC, a week
before the government planned to make an announcement, because military
commanders are concerned about the 'prospect of a movement of [British]
forces into the Sunni triangle', or of a 'sharp increase in military
fatalities' (7). (Perhaps they also believe, like Major Ian Clooney in
Basra, that violence solves nothing.)

Behind the Black Watch controversy lurks a clash between the government
and the military. According to John Kampfner, political editor of the
/New Statesman/: 'For all the public show of agreement between officers
and their political masters, rarely in the recent history of the British
armed forces can the disdain of the top brass towards ministers have
been so open as it is now.... What exercises them more than anything is
the idea that they are seen as willing tools of a prime minister who
uses the military as the vehicle for his "delusions of international
grandeur". These last words are not mine.' (8)

This is a quite extraordinary state of affairs - a government that
apologetically redeploys troops while its apparently anti-violence
military tries to scupper the plan. This shows the extent to which it
was doubt and uncertainty at home that made the movement of a few
hundred troops abroad into the storm of the month.

*Read on:*

spiked-issue: War on Iraq

(1) US welcomes US troop deployment
, BBC News, 22 October 2004

(2) Black Watch ordered to join US cordon for assault on Fallujah
/Independent/, 22 October 2004

(3) Taking Basra key to strategy
/LA Daily News/, 18 March 2003

(4) British trapped in Basra vacuum
/Daily Telegraph/, 30 August 2004

(5) A very British occupation
, BBC News, 19 October 2004

(6) See Another dodgy dossier
Brendan O'Neill, /Guardian/, 25 March 2004

(7) Redeployment of our troops may be the final nail in coffin
, Glasgow /Herald/, 22
October 2004

(8) Redeployment of our troops may be the final nail in coffin
, Glasgow /Herald/, 22
October 2004

Reprinted from :

Clare Short: How Tony used me to offer Gordon a deal

Clare Short: How Tony used me to offer Gordon a deal
In this first extract from her new book, Clare Short reveals how the Prime Minister took her aside during a trip to Africa and asked her to pass on a message to the Chancellor
22 October 2004
'An Honourable Deception?': Exclusive extracts

In February 2002 Tony Blair made his first real visit to Africa, to demonstrate his commitment to the continent. I was invited to accompany him on a visit which was to take in Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone. We travelled in the first-class section of a British Airways plane, which was funded by a troop of political journalists who travelled in the rear.

Travelling with such a large group of journalists meant that everything had to be orchestrated and there was very little chance to stop and talk informally and learn as we went. Every single activity was pre-scripted and planned. An official from No 10 had undertaken the journey in advance so that there would be no hitches and all the correct clothing was prepared for each part of the journey. The rest of us carried on all day in the clothes we started off in, but when, for example, we visited cocoa growers in a village in Ghana and a photo opportunity was provided, the Prime Minister and Alastair Campbell had changed from suits into casual clothing and then changed back again.

The Prime Minister is, of course, enormously good at presentation. He always looks good and smart and appropriately clothed. But travelling with him reveals how much effort goes into this. As we approached landing, his staff gathered around. He donned make-up and hairspray. His jacket was put on and brushed, Lady Morgan [director of government relations] scrutinised the outcome and then stooped down to remove a little mud from the heel of his shoe. The journalists had to leave the plane first. We must wait, and then the Prime Minister exits so that the pictures will come out as planned. Probably this kind of behaviour is necessary in a modern political leader, but it is the enemy of spontaneity, and such pressure generates politicians with the characteristics of actors rather than political thinkers.

I also noticed, as Tony engaged in Africa, how he has to talk as if he knows everything. He was new to Africa; he appointed Liz Lloyd as his special adviser on Africa because she had worked for him for years, but she had no background on Africa. There are constant demands for briefing but little open-minded discussion. I think it is a form of insecurity that Tony Blair always has to talk and behave as though he knows more than anyone else on any subject and is therefore very poor at drawing on the knowledge and experience of those who know more.

It was on this trip that Tony asked me to eat with him on the plane, and initiated an interesting conversation. He was very relaxed, and showed his preoccupation with his legacy by musing about what he was most proud of. He suggested it might be peace in Northern Ireland or our contribution to development. I was astonished by the latter because he had taken so little interest in development in his first term and the achievements of the department had often been made despite, rather than because of, the position of No 10.

He then went on to say that he knew I always preferred it when he and Gordon were working together (this was a reference to previous conversations) but he really needed Gordon to help him more. He then went on to say, in a confidential manner, that he really did not want a third term but he wished Gordon would work more closely with him so that he could make progress on the euro and, if he did so, he would then be happy to hand over to Gordon.

The conversation then moved on to Africa and other things. I remember how he kept referring to "my people", meaning people who worked with him in No 10. I was struck by this and found it odd, given that Tony was so dominant across the Government. It is another indication of his need to work with his own inner group. I said at the end of the meal that if he ever wanted me to say anything to Gordon, he should say so. He then made it quite clear that he wanted me to tell Gordon what he had said.

After Senegal, I left the Prime Minister's party and flew across to Kenya because I was going on to visit Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to try to help drive forward the peace process. I telephoned Gordon Brown from my hotel and said that I needed to meet him. The two of us met for lunch early the next week in his dining room in No 11 Downing Street. I conveyed my message and Gordon then said I was not the first to be asked to bring this message: two other members of the Cabinet had been asked to bring the same offer. Gordon's answer was that, first, such deals were not worth talking about because previous agreements had not been kept; and second, he would not contemplate recommending that we join the euro in order to advance his own position rather than advance the economic interest of the country.

• Much has been written about how, after John Smith's tragic heart attack in 1994, it was agreed that Blair rather than Brown should be his successor. Brown was unlucky. He had always been the senior partner in the relationship since they had come together through sharing an office in 1983. Brown was steeped in Labour history, intellectually strong and a strategic thinker. He had also shone in the House of Commons and in his various Shadow Cabinet jobs. I think that the reason he lost out to Blair was that as a loyal shadow chancellor to John Smith as leader, he had been very tough on the Shadow Cabinet in stopping them from making spending commitments, and this had bruised many egos. Blair had recently come to greater prominence as shadow Home Secretary with his famous policy of "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime", which, it is said, was coined for him by his friend Gordon Brown.

The upshot of their conversations was that the decision was made that Blair rather than Brown would run. Whether or not Blair had promised to hand over to Brown we will never know for sure, but the election went ahead. Blair won with 57 per cent of the vote, and three years later became Prime Minister, with Brown as Chancellor.

The pledge to live within Tory spending plans for the first two years resulted in lower capital spending on public services in Labour's first term than in any comparable period in recent decades. The figures were shocking, but Brown and his highly influential political assistant, Ed Balls, later chief economic adviser at the Treasury, were playing a long game. They intended to expunge Labour's reputation for poor financial management ­ and the memory of every previous Labour government trying to spend and then being hit by financial crisis ­ to be able to pursue goals with a solid economy behind them.

By the time of Blair's second term, however, it became clear that neither Blair nor New Labour had any significant guiding principles, philosophy or values. The achievements of the Government on economic management, public expenditure and tackling child poverty were flowing largely from the Treasury. Gordon Brown, originally part of the New Labour project, was increasingly distanced from it. That distance remained in the run-up to the war.

On 22 November 2002 I wrote in my diary: "Had startling discussion with GB this week. Said not too worried re economy but sick of fighting against bad proposals: removing child benefit from parents whose children truant; foundation hospitals; top-up fees ... No 10 briefing against him would get worse and nasty. He wouldn't take any other job. Was in a hurry to move forward on extra $50bn oda [ie increase in international aid] because he did not know how long he would have ... TB doesn't listen to him any more and was listening only to non-Labour voices and thinking about his reputation in history."

A few weeks earlier, however, my diary records: "I had discussion with GB and said Iraq would divide Government and party and affect world economy ­ inflame the Arab world. We needed a better strategy ... I told him TB also said must go into euro before election and still meant what he said on trip to West Africa about not wanting a third term ... GB said he would think and get back, but on the euro it would take time to converge the economy. He also said No 10 had already asked Geoff Hoon to make 20,000 troops available."

As war neared, the Cabinet closed ranks, including Blair and Brown. On 13 March, I wrote in my diary: "GB spoke animatedly about what France was saying ­ no to everything. Jack Straw also anti-France. John Reid silly contribution about no members leaving the party. David Blunkett said we must stand by the PM and Chirac was reckless (silly man). Felt hopeful of progress ... Talked to GB. He had had dinner with JP and TB. Said would do media ... said he didn't want me to go but if I did make sure preparing for reconstruction so can return. I said preparing anyway."

John Prescott had brought Tony Blair and Gordon Brown together for dinner and Gordon had agreed to help Blair. It is also now clear that they had agreed their best way forward was to blame the French. Later, I had tabled a Commons statement on humanitarian preparations. There had been a request for interviews and I decided to do a few. Alastair Campbell told my press officer he was not keen for me to do interviews, so, as my diary records: "I rang TB. He said it would be good. GB thinks we should make more of commitment to UN for reconstruction. I said very pleased you and GB talking. He said I feel really boosted."

Abridged extract from "An Honourable Deception?" (Simon & Schuster, 2004) published on 1 November, priced £15.© Clare Short 2004

The Truth of Joseph Goebbels

The Truth of Joseph Goebbels

October 22 2004
Walter Brasch

The CIA said there was no connection. The 9/11 Commission said there was “no credible evidence.” Counter-terrorism expert Richard Clarke, advisor to four presidents, said there was no link. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, “We made serious mistakes.” Even Donald Rumsfeld grudgingly said there probably wasn’t “any strong, hard evidence.”

About the only ones who believe Saddam Hussein and Iraq had any connection to the terrorist attacks upon the United States are George W. Bush, Dick Cheney—and two-fifths of all Americans.

A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll conducted this month found that 42 percent of all Americans erroneously believe Saddam was involved in the attacks three years earlier. A hard-core one-third of Americans, according to the poll, believe Saddam was directly involved in the planning. More startling is that 61 percent of all persons who identify themselves as Republicans believe Saddam was involved in the attacks, up from 56 percent just three months earlier.

In attacking Iraq in March 2003, the Bush administration initially led Americans to believe that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks. Lie Number 1. Then, it declared Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could be used against the United States or to provide world-wide terrorists with nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. Lie Number 2. When the administration-led “coalition of the willing” tore up the entire country, imprisoned and tortured thousands of Iraqis to find those non-existent weapons, Bush declared the world is a safer place without Saddam in power. Lie Number 3. Along the path to chaos were dozens of other errors and lesser lies, but space doesn’t permit listing all of them.

Almost every credible source says that Iraq was more concerned with Iran than with the United States. Extensive evidence also indicated that Saddam, who had a long-standing distrust of al-Qaeda, had no intention of working with the international terrorist organization, now in more than 60 countries. The evidence, available to even the most junior government employee, revealed that the sanctions of the previous 12 years were effective in keeping Saddam and Iraq from building WMD, and that not only didn’t Iraq have WMD it had no plans to build any such weapons.  

For more than a year leading up to “shock-and-awe,” followed quickly by the “Mission Accomplished” propaganda fiasco, the Bush administration selectively picked its facts, no matter how questionable, to justify its political philosophy.   But, without a compliant press, even the most biased political agenda would have been lost.

In their jingoistic hyper-ventilation for war, and a need to unfurl their patriotism, the establishment press relegated the growing antiwar movement to that of a sideshow. Dozens of reporters and columnists for the alternative press, and a few from the establishment dailies, pointed out errors and inconsistencies in the President’s arguments, but they weren’t respected by most of the establishment press.

In February, media analyst Michael Massing, writing in the New York Review of Books, pointed out that American reporters “were far too reliant on sources sympathetic to the administration [while] those with dissenting views . .  . were shut out.” Most of the prewar reporting, according to a study conducted by the Center for International Security Studies, confirmed that not only had the media unquestioningly taken down and transmitted whatever the administration was spewing, but failed to provide a “critical examination of the way officials framed the events, issues, threats, and policy options.”

Even with overwhelming evidence that massive errors were made, one year after “shock-and-awe” the American media, parroting the Bush administration statements, declared how much better the world was with Saddam out of power.

And then Rick Mercier of The Free Lance-Star, a 44,000 circulation newspaper in Fredericksburg, Va., pushed the truth in front of his fellow journalists. “There’s one thing they forgot to say,” wrote Mercier about the anniversary rapture. What they forgot to say was “We’re sorry.” In a blistering 1,700-word news analysis, Mercier said the media forgot to say, “Sorry, we let unsubstantiated claims drive our coverage. Sorry we were dismissive of experts who disputed White House charges against Iraq. Sorry we let a band of self-serving Iraqi defectors make fools of us. Sorry we fell for Colin Powell’s performance at the United Nations. Sorry we couldn’t bring ourselves to hold the administration’s feet to the fire before the war, when it really mattered. Maybe we’ll do a better job next war.” Mercier concluded it was “absurd to receive this apology from a person so low in the media hierarchy. You really ought to be getting it from the editors and reporters at the agenda-setting publications, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.”

Two months later, the Times finally apologized for acting more as the mouthpiece for politicians than as a watchdog for society. “Coverage was not as rigorous as it should have been . . . .Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper,” the Times declared, acknowledging it gave minimal play to stories that challenged the administration claims. “We wish we had been more aggressive,” whined the repentant Times.

Almost three months later, the Washington Post, one of the most hawkish papers for war, finally acknowledged its own pre-war hysteria and lack of journalistic competence. “We were so focused on trying to figure out what the administration was doing that we were not giving the same play to people who said it wouldn’t be a good idea to go to war and were questioning the administration’s rationale,” wrote Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. By the time the USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll determined two-fifths of all Americans believed there was a strong link between Saddam and al-Qaeda, the media had begun retreating and have been issuing regular mea culpas. But, it is far too late.

In Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky point out that the media long ago abrogated their roles of “watchdogs,” which the Founding Fathers believed necessary for the American republic to thrive, and have slowly replaced it with their role as unquestioning propagandists for the establishment. Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, said if you tell a lie often enough, and with enough conviction, the people will believe it as truth. The Bush administration, aided by an acquiescent media, proved the truth of Goebbels’ words.

Walter Brasch, professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, is an award-winning syndicated columnist and the author of 15 books, most of them about social issues, the First Amendment, and the media. His forthcoming book is America’s Unpatriotic Acts; The Federal Government’s Violation of Constitutional and Civil Liberties. You may contact Brasch at or at

Two Journalists Killed; French Reporters Remain Captive

The Media
Two Journalists Killed; French Reporters Remain Captive

Report, CPJ

20 October 2004

In occupied Iraq, journalists have become an increasingly unwelcome presence. Since January 2004, insurgents have abducted at least 20 journalists and US-led coalition authorities have shown an indifference to media safety concerns despite the deaths of close to 50 journalists and media staff since March 2003, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Hostile conditions have forced many foreign media outlets to "bunker down" in high-security compounds protected by thick walls. There is a widespread perception among Iraqis that foreign journalists are "spies" or collaborators with coalition forces. In August 2004, Italian freelance journalist Enzo Baldoni was abducted and killed by insurgents who demanded that Italy withdraw its troops from Iraq.

These conditions have forced many foreign media to become increasingly reliant on Iraqi reporters and media staff to report the news. Not surprisingly, locals have become particularly vulnerable to attacks, says CPJ.

On 15 October 2004, two journalists became the latest victims. Dina Mohammed Hassan, a correspondent for Al-Hurriya TV, was gunned down outside her home in Baghdad as she was leaving for work. In the northern city of Mosul, Karam Hussein, a photographer for the German-based European Pressphoto Agency (EPA), was killed by four men who opened fire on him as he exited his home.

CPJ, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) have condemned the murders and called on authorities to conduct immediate inquiries.

The motives for the attacks are unclear. Hassan's employer, Al-Hurriya, is owned by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a party that enjoys friendly relations with the United States. Neighbours and friends of Hassan claim that she had been told by unidentified individuals to stop working for Al-Hurriya and to wear an Islamic headscarf, CPJ notes. EPA's editor-in-chief, Cengiz Seren, said he was unaware of any threats against Hussein.

In another incident, Australian freelance journalist John Martinkus was abducted by insurgents on 17 October in Baghdad. He was released the next day after convincing his captors that he was not a spy for coalition forces.

Meanwhile, the fate of two French journalists and a Syrian guide who were kidnapped two months ago by insurgents remains unknown. "Figaro" correspondent Georges Malbrunot, Radio France Internationale contributor Christian Chesnot and Mohammed Al-Joundi have been held captive since 20 August. IFJ, RSF, CPJ and other press freedom groups have called for their immediate release.

Read a CPJ article on Iraq written by a reporter stationed there:


- CPJ Reports on Iraq:

- IFJ:

- RSF:

- Index on Censorship:

- International News Safety Institute:

- Media Guardian:

© 2003 Electronic Iraq/, a joint project from Voices in the Wilderness and The Electronic Intifada. Views expressed on this page may or may not be representative of Electronic Iraq or its founders. For website or publication reprint permission, please contact us. All other forms of mass reproduction for educational and activist use are encouraged. Page last updated: 20 October 2004, 15:21.

British Troops to Die for America in Latifiyah


British Troops to Die for America in Latifiyah
By Joe Vialls
Oct 21, 2004, 06:48

The media never told you American forces suffered a staggering defeat south of Baghdad on October 9, and Wolfowitz is now demanding that Tony Blair send British troops into the same lethal Republican Guard killing grounds at Al-Latifiyah and al-Yusufiyah

All paragraphs printed in italics are direct reports from 'Mafkarat al-Islam' journalists, who are permanently embedded with the Republican Guard and Mehdi Army across Iraq. For security reasons, the individual counter-insurgency units Mafkarat al-Islam accompany are referred to only as "The Resistance"

20 October 2004

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is desperate because he has a very big problem, and desperate men like Mr Blair do desperate things. The problem poor Tony faces is called the illegal invasion of Iraq, a staggering Zionist war crime he is intimately involved in, and which threatens to have him thrown out of office when elections are held in Great Britain next year. His defeat seemed inevitable until New York's Neocons, led by Paul Wolfowitz, hinted that they could get Blair across the line by use of sophisticated and undetectable subliminal techniques on British television. Genuine George Orwell stuff brought to life twenty year after 1984, but there would be a price to pay in advance, because there always is. When Wall Street does you a favor, it expects your unquestioning obedience for life.

Several months ago when the proposition was first put to him, Tony Blair was almost scornful, but his New York minders advised him to watch Australia very carefully. At that time, new Australian opposition leader Mark Latham was way ahead in the opinion polls, primarily by exposing Prime Minister John Howard's multiple lies and deceptions about Iraq, and by promising to pull Australia's forces out of the Middle East before Christmas. Mark Latham was a certain winner, with Howard on the fast track to political oblivion.

The lead narrowed somewhat within two weeks of the election, but it was during the last seven days than an invisible miracle started to work its magic on the minds of Australian television viewers. All of a sudden, little bald lying John Howard didn't seem quite so bad, and people started to actually like him, or at least their brains told them they did. On election night the invisible magic proved its worth, with Howard's unpopular sitting government regaining office by virtue of an impossible uniform nationwide voter swing towards his party.

At no time in Australian and British political history has a sitting government, even a popular one, received a nationwide uniform voter swing in its favor. In the past, sitting governments have managed to return with more individual seats, normally because of charismatic candidates or boundary changes, but that is quite different from an entire nation suddenly going all warm and cuddly about a short fat man who had continually lied to them, abused their political and human rights, sent their loved ones off to fight as mercenaries in an illegal invasion, and, oh yes, signed up with Wall Street for a trade deal that would deny them and their families revenue from their farms and small businesses, and largely deny them subsidized hospitals and medicines.

It will come as no great surprise for most readers that the Australian Election was held on October 9, the very same day that neocon Wolfowitz sent thousands of heavily-armed Marines and other US servicemen into Al-Latifiyah and al-Yusufiyah, south of Baghdad. Wolfowitz knew the results would be catastrophic for the Americans because this was Republican Guard heartland, but he really did not care. This clinically insane neocon had an equally insane plan to suck more British and Australian troops up into central Iraq, thereby allowing him to later clear a western exfiltration route through Fallujah and Jordan for select American and Israeli personnel.

"Al-Latifiyah and al-Yusufiyah were the scene on Saturday of fierce fighting. All types of weaponry were employed by the sides. Mafkarat al-Islam correspondents in the area reported that the battle raged during the day for 10 hours, beginning at 6:30 am. Major fighting died down at around 4:00 pm. More than 3,000 US Marines took part as well as all types of helicopters and airplanes in the attack on al-Latifiyah and al-Yusufiyah, but the Resistance was prepared for them and fired back with Grad, Tariq SPG9, C5K, Katyusha, and Strela rockets, 60mm, 82mm, 120mm mortars and fired RPG7s and BKCs at the aggressors. US Cobra helicopters bombarded the northern part of al-Yusufiyah, and took part in the assault on al-Latifiyah, destroying 25 houses and numerous private cars and killing 12 Iraqi civilians."

Naturally enough at this stage, Tony Blair had no idea this suicidal strike was taking place, because that same night he was sitting in London drooling over the Australian election results. It had gone exactly as predicted by Wall Street several months before, and even if Blair had known about the advanced pulse-modulated 'mood altering ' brain frequencies interlaced with the political advertising on Australian television, he would not have cared.

For all practical and visible purposes "the people had spoken", as required by the highly questionable rules of the phoney two-party democratic system. Tony Blair had already been a de facto dictator for several years, had grown to like it, and intended to stay on no matter what it cost the British people or their sons and daughters in the Middle East. Without further ado, Blair sold his soul to Wall Street the very next morning.

Despite the savagery of the combined American air and ground assaults on the largely-civilian populations of Al-Latifiyah and al-Yusufiyah, it soon became obvious that this would be no casual walk through Central Park. Though the fast attack jets were effectively invulnerable to ground fire, the helicopters were within easy range, as were the ground troops Wolfowitz had so casually thrown into this diversionary battle for geopolitical reasons.

"Mafkarat al-Islam witnessed more than 400 Resistance fighters in al-Latifiyah and al-Yusufiyah in numerous detachments made up of eight to 10 men each. They took part alternately in attacks on the US forces, in such a way that the barrage on the Americans never ceased. Six rockets or mortar shells struck the Americans every 10 minutes. The correspondents observed the Resistance fighters moving around the field, eight men to a vehicle, and each vehicle equipped with a rocket launcher, some fixed to the car, others for use on the ground.

"The reporters observed several Katyusha launchers, capable of firing more than 30 rockets at one time. Mafkarat al-Islam observed that the Resistance fired 50 high powered Tariq rockets and more than 75 Grads. More than 250 other rockets were fired, including Cobras, Congresses, SPG9s CETs C5Ks and RPG7s. For their part the Americans used heavy artillery, sophisticated rockets and guided missiles in their attacks."

Are you surprised that the prestigious 'New York Times' failed to report even a single column inch about this massive firefight raging just to the south of Baghdad? Perhaps the journalists were all watching American football, while the editorial management team lunched extravagantly somewhere on Wall Street. If ever there were a prize offered for proof of the American and British media's utter subservience to the Zionist Cabal, this unseen and unheard battle would win that prize in a flash.
You may consider Mafkarat al-Islam's later claims of the total number of Americans killed as pure propaganda, though it is difficult to see what they would gain from it, because their reportage is essentially for internal consumption. But even if they got a little over enthusiastic and doubled the number of actual dead on the battlefield, the total number of body bags would still be mind-numbing for Americans at home, fed as they are on a daily diet of lies and deceit by their own media.

Never forget that when this is all over, and a proper phone poll is conducted of all those who have lost a loved one in Iraq, the final number will be approximately double that publicly admitted by the American Government. Five days ago, accurate sources inside the Pentagon were estimating 2,172 dead against the publicly declared 1,080.

"In al-Yusufiyah, the US lost four amphibious armored vehicles and one Abrams tank destroyed. The Abrams was dragged by another armored vehicle away from the scene of the fighting. Three other tanks were disabled as were 3 troop carriers. Seven Humvees were destroyed. Twenty-seven US troops were killed and five others captured by the Resistance.

"In al-Latifiyah, four Abrams tanks, two Bradley armored vehicles, six Humvees, three troop carriers, and one small troop transport were destroyed, killing 54 Americans in all there. The Resistance lost between 25 and 30 fighters killed as a result of Cobra missile attacks on their vehicles."

Thousands of miles away in London, the dribbling Mr Blair waited to receive his orders from Wall Street, because he too was determined to be as 'popular' as Prime Minister Howard in Australia when he own election came around. The orders arrived in surprisingly mild form, as a request for "British troops from Basra to be deployed in an operation to help United States troops poised for an assault on the rebel stronghold of Fallujah." Apparently the troops were to used as relatively low-risk 'back fill', i.e. all they had to do was stand there and hold and water the horses, while the brave American soldiers went after the hard cases in Fallujah, known locally as The City of Mosques. Unsurprisingly perhaps, neither Blair nor Defence Minister Hoon would say exactly where they would be going, apart from "not to Baghdad or Fallujah".

It was left to The Independent, Robert Fisk's newspaper in London, to break the news in a very low profile report on 18 October, which stated, "British troops may be deployed to one of the most violent flashpoints in Iraq in an operation to help United States troops poised for an assault on the rebel stronghold of Fallujah. Soldiers from the Black Watch may be deployed to Iskandariyah (between al-Latifiyah and al-Yusufiyah), south of Baghdad, an area that has seen militants mount sustained attacks on US and Iraqi government forces, as well as the kidnap and murder of foreigners and Iraqis. The Americans claim to have 'pacified' the area in a military operation after it passed into the hands of insurgents for months. But it remains highly volatile."

Naturally enough, this meant nothing to the British public or to relatives of members of the Black Watch Regiment, because news about the massive battle just nine days earlier in that precise location was suppressed by the western media on orders from Wall Street. For those not familiar with British regiments, the Black Watch have already been threatened with disbandment, making them natural targets for the feral Geoff Hoon. Political blackmail is normally disarmingly simple, and this was no different. Hoon has effectively told the Black Watch to 'prove their worth' by deploying 650 men outside Basra under direct American [for which read 'Wolfowitz] command, or face their own accelerated regimental disbandment, disgrace, and unemployment.

During the same time frame Wolfowitz laid the same hard word on the Australian Government, demanding that John Howard dispatch another 500 Australian troops to 'help out' in central Iraq, for which once again you should read al-Latifiyah and al-Yusufiyah. This of course should have been out of gratitude for being subliminally helped across the line at the Australian Election on October 9. Unfortunately for Wolfowitz, the Australian Government justifiably seemed more afraid of the Australian military than of Wall Street this time, and on October 18 a stuttering and visibly shaken Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said that Australia could not spare any more men.

Clearly Howard and Downer have made a mistake, because when Wall Street makes a request of a subordinate nation like Australia, it is not really a request at all, but an imperial decree from the Zionist Cabal. There will be serious payback for this gross disobedience, though it will be a while before the neocons figure out exactly how to punish Australia. Perhaps they will shoot or behead a handful of Australian soldiers already in Iraq, or perhaps they will decide to plant one of those nice ersatz 'al-Qaedà bombs in Sydney. At this point in time it is impossible to say which one is the more likely, because no sane analyst in the world can possibly work out the deranged thought patterns of clinically insane Zionists.

Naturally enough it is reasonable to ask what the exact reason is behind arranging a giant bloodbath for British and Australian troops in a Republican Guard stronghold where the defenders dispatched 81 American soldiers in a single day, and are just itching to dispatch 81 more Americans, Brits or Ausralians if any are stupid enough to get in range. Well, Wolfowitz's exfiltration route west to Jordan is extremely important to the neocons as a whole, requiring a massive diversion that will pull Republican Guard fighters in from as far away as Ar Ramadi and Fallujah, thereby minimizing the risks to a very special convoy leaving Baghdad for Israel, via Jordan.

Since America first illegally invaded Iraq, special neocon mercenary teams have been quietly pillaging and stockpiling gold and other bullion reserves, plus precious gems and some art work. There was always a risk that America might not be able to hold Iraq, or even successfully steal its oil reserves, so the neocons built in a fall back plan to take care of their retirement needs, including false passports and any overseas properties needed to escape trial and execution at the forthcoming War Crimes Tribunal.

The original plan was to fly the booty out in small shipments, but flying out of Baghdad at all suddenly became too risky. Then road convoys became too risky, leading to a large and unwieldy accumulation of booty in Baghdad.

As of June this year the neocon teams had accumulated just over six tons dead weight of gold and other bullion, precious gems, and assorted works of art. By now that total is probably closer to eight tons, and the neocon thieves know only too well that America cannot hold out in Iraq for much longer.

The intent is to split the bullion into two separate fast convoys [no heavy armor], both intended to head west well to the north of Fallujah when the diversionary attacks are in full swing. For any members of the Republican Guard reading this, beware of Apache attack helicopters flying at low level. Convoy air protection will consist solely of Apaches carrying full loads of Hellfire missiles, stationed at fuel dumps pre-positioned along the classified convoy route.

So, in the end, we will be left wondering exactly what this illegal invasion was all about. Why were American troops ordered to illegally invade a sovereign nation, and why did their spineless senior officers obey illegal orders and allow it to happen? Sadly the problem in America is' Old Glory'. Children are taught to salute and respect the inanimate American flag to the point where the flag itself becomes both the excuse and rallying point for staggering war crimes including Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq.
All that Wolfowitz and his cheap neocon crooks needed was find a big impressive version of Old Glory, claim superior rank based on size and quality of cloth, and then tell the rest of America what to do. The entire pathetic charade reminds me of the Pied Piper of Hamlyn.

Copyright Joe Vialls, 20 October 2004

Arkansas Travelers: Guard Unit's Life in Iraq


Arkansas Travelers: Guard Unit's Life in Iraq


A year after hundreds of embedded journalists broadcast the hustle and muscle of United States troops in Iraq, two filmmaking brothers have found a brave and apt use for the military's languishing program of allowing tag-alongs.

In "Off to War," Craig and Brent Renaud not only trudge behind enemy lines with newly called up National Guard members from Arkansas, but also follow wives and mothers playing a desultory waiting game back home. In this startling, understated three-part documentary, all of which will be shown tonight, soldiers and their families voice feelings of confusion and estrangement.

Like their subjects, the Renauds are young (in their early 30's) and also hail from Arkansas. This kinship has sparked some worthwhile candor, in this most intimate and memorable look at Americans in the Iraqi conflict. "I really don't want to be here," one soldier says when he has heard that another gunner in his convoy has shot an Iraqi who was driving a car. The Iraqi had brandished what appeared to be gun but was merely a cigarette lighter.

To complicate matters, a pregnant passenger in the Iraqi's car went into labor after the shooting. "Every time we leave this truck, it's a terrifying experience," another soldier says.

Before one patrol, a chalk talk from a superior includes these instructions: "Be polite. Be professional. And be prepared to kill." But sometimes sarcasm seems their only armor: "Another wonderful day" or "O.K., let the good times roll." A reading of Psalms keeps an officer's mind on a higher path. Soldiers make an effort to smile amid throngs of Iraqis, some of whom are peddling pornographic DVD's. The troops offer bottles of Gatorade to little boys because "if we're winning the hearts and minds of these kids, in the future they won't be shooting at us," First Lt. Brian Mason says.

Many of the Guard members come from farm backgrounds, and one soldier notes that an Iraqi prison that they have taken over is grim and inadequate this way: "I wouldn't put my dog or a horse in a pen like this." And though they possess ample firepower, the captors often come off as captives. In barracks that resemble a tightly packed trailer park, they put on Kevlar vests and huddle in cramped bunkers when incoming mortar fire interrupts their sleep.

The filmmakers are never seen or heard in the footage, but they are attentive to vulnerability. A turkey farmer's wife and daughter assume his chores while he's away, but the women's arms lack the oomph to toss chicks out of their crate.

One sardonic soldier, Matt Hertlein, comes off as a latter-day Yossarian, cracking wise about futility and fear in the ranks as well as his new camel-calling skills. A frustrated military wife tells members of her support group, "My husband sent me the truth about Muslims: they like candy." She vows to send Fireballs.

In an especially graceful sequence, a minister-turned-soldier records a video letter to his family, and ends with a tearful "I miss you greatly." When his wife and kids watch the tape in their living room, it feels like a new era of connectedness during wartime, aided by audiovisual technology but with all the poignancy of those Civil War letters that Ken Burns once dramatized. "Off to War" commits not merely to telling war stories, but also to understanding families and their sacrifices. "Mama, Mama, can't you see/ What this Army's doing to me?" the soldiers chant while running. The closing scene is a Mother's Day phone call, captured on both ends of the conversation. Like the worried mother, the filmmakers perceive dangers large and small: as the soldier climbs a ladder to get better reception on a rooftop, the laces of his high-top basketball shoes are not tied.

'Off to War'

DISCOVERY TIMES, tonight at 6, Eastern and Pacific times; 5, Central time.

Jon Alpert, executive producer; Craig Renaud and Brent Renaud, producers, reporters, camera and audio.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times



By J. Grant Swank, Jr.
Oct 22, 2004, 09:45

Sheikh Hassan Al-Sheikh, the imam of the Prophet’s Mosque, led Muslims in ceremonies involving recent religious observances. In his statements he warned about those who would seek to liberate Muslim women from their present state. "The condition of women in Islam is far better than in other cultures," he said, adding that Islam holds them in high honor and protects their rights.

When looking at Afghanistan, for instance, one realizes that Sheikh Hassan’s statement is utterly false. Amnesty International broadcast their findings that women’s rights in that country "have barely improved since the fall of the Taliban."

Note Amnesty International report entitled "Afghanistan: 'No one listens to us and no one treats us as human beings': Justice denied to women". . .

"Crimes of violence continue with the active support or passive complicity of state agents, armed groups, families and communities. This continuing violence against women in Afghanistan causes untold suffering and denies women their fundamental human rights.

"The criminal justice system is too weak to offer effective protection of women's right to life and physical security, and itself subjects them to discrimination and abuse. Prosecution for violence against women, and protection for women at acute risk of violence is virtually absent.

"Those women who overcome powerful barriers and seek redress are unlikely to have their complaints considered, or their rights defended.

"In certain regions of Afghanistan, women accused of adultery are routinely detained, as are those who attempt to assert their right under Afghan law and international standards to marry a spouse of their choice.

"Protection and shelters for women at risk have not been created, and legal aid provision remains entirely inadequate.

"A number of reports have highlighted the specific effects on women of the lack of security and effective law enforcement in many parts of Afghanistan, and the failure to curtail abuses by powerful regional commanders.

"Women and girls are vulnerable to rape, sexual violence and abduction. The burning of a number of girls' schools has demonstrated the threat to provision for the realization of the rights of women. Many organizations have drawn attention to the insufficient international security provision.

"The prevailing insecurity has directly impacted on attempts by women to engage in political activities and ensure integration of women's rights in the process of reconstruction.

"Amnesty International researchers investigated the needs of women for justice, security and redress which are unmet by the existing criminal justice system. The organization researched patterns of violence against women and obstacles faced by women in seeking access to justice. Direct testimony on issues of violence against women is difficult to obtain. Statistical data on levels of violence against women is also lacking.

"Violence against women in the family has been recognized as a leading cause of death and suffering around the world. The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action substantiate measures that states must take to eliminate all forms of violence against women, including violence perpetrated within the family.

"Women and girls in Afghanistan are threatened with violence in every aspect of their lives, both in public and private, in the community and the family. Violence against women in the family including physical abuse and underage marriage is widely reported. Forced and underage marriage also occurs when women and girls are given in marriage as a means of dispute resolution by informal justice mechanisms. Rape of women and girls by armed groups continues to occur. The prevalence of violence against women and girls constitutes a grave threat to their right to physical and mental integrity. Amnesty International's research indicates there is a threat to the right to life of women and girls from violence in the family; women and girls have been killed and driven to suicide while the state has failed to take action.

"Significant numbers of underage marriages, incidents of physical abuse in the family and other forms of violence were reported to Amnesty International. The vast majority had not been reported to the criminal justice system, and almost none had been subject to investigation or prosecution. Women were largely unsupported when suffering violence, and had very few means to leave violent situations.

"Amnesty International's research indicates impunity for such violence on a vast scale. Such impunity perpetuates violence since perpetrators are free to consider their actions as normal and acceptable.

"’If they didn't beat us, we wouldn't be afraid of them and do what they want.’

"Violence against women in the home by husbands, male family members and, on rarer occasions, female family members was widely reported in the focus groups as well as by NGOs active on gender issues. Some women perceived violence as a means of control, while others saw it as caused largely by economic difficulties.

"The issue emerged starkly in certain focus groups where some women spoke openly of routine abuse. In one focus group, women reported violence that was socially sanctioned. The participants described how a mullah in a local mosque reportedly preached that it was acceptable for a man to beat his wife if she was behaving badly, but that he should restrain himself if she was behaving well.

"Provincial departments of the MoWA and women's NGOs have also been approached for assistance by women experiencing severe domestic violence. An NGO outlined to Amnesty International the circumstances of a woman experiencing sustained violence from her husband. When the woman sought help, her husband attempted to injure her, tearing out her hair in order to prevent her leaving the house. The woman persisted in seeking help from the NGO who assisted her in taking her case to court, where a conviction of the husband and divorce were secured.

"Few cases of abuse, however, are reported either to the authorities or NGOs. The extent of the problem emerges more clearly in hospitals than in any other state institution, when severely injured women seek treatment. According to one woman doctor interviewed by Amnesty International, ‘domestic and physical violence are normal practice – we have a lot of cases of broken arms, broken legs and other injuries. It is common practice in Afghanistan – it is not something we should say is not in our region because most Afghan men are using violence.’

"A foreign doctor working in a hospital spoke of women victims of severe domestic violence undergoing hospital treatment at a rate of about one each week. No monitoring of domestic violence issues is undertaken in the hospital and the doctor stated that she believed domestic violence often went unrecognized as the cause of less serious injuries.

"When asked about solutions to the problem of domestic violence, women in certain focus groups clearly perceived the impact of making such acts illegal and subject to punishment. As one focus group participant said, ‘Men would learn it is wrong and would stop beating us.’

"Amnesty International received reports of women and girls killed by family members. These included the shooting of a woman by her father for refusing his choice of husband. The district governor of the woman's village attempted to bring the alleged killer to justice, but was frustrated in his efforts when the alleged killer was given sanctuary by members of an armed group to whom he is reportedly affiliated. Amnesty International also received unconfirmed reports in focus groups of two 12-year-old girls killed by their husbands.

"Amnesty International's research indicated that in some parts of the country custom or tradition is used to legitimize the violent deaths of women. Amnesty International was repeatedly informed in Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan, that where women and girls are alleged to have committed adultery or eloped, the family would deal with the situation by killing the girl or woman involved. In some parts of Afghanistan, adultery, ‘running away from home’ and unlawful sexual activity are referred to as zina crimes and are subject to criminal prosecution. Some women in such circumstances are also at risk of being killed if released. The following quotes from women participants in focus groups indicate the diverse circumstances where women may be at risk:

"’A man killed his wife when he found her with a cousin. No one did anything about the case because he had strong reasons.’

"’When a woman is killed [in a case of alleged adultery] it is the family of the woman who carries out the killing…These things are secret, they are happening inside homes.’

"’They [family members] will kill man and woman [in certain cases of rape]. If married she should go back to her father, because her husband will not keep her… If unmarried she will be killed.’

"’Where a father kills his daughter, he will never go to court, no one will be aware because it is a big shame and no one can bear it.’

"’If a woman or girl doesn't want to respect what her family is saying, of course she will commit suicide or her family will do this to her [kill her and make it appear as suicide].’

"Physical violence against women in the family is an abuse of their human rights. The Committee on the Elimination of Violence against Women has stated, ‘Family violence is one of the most insidious forms of violence against women. It is prevalent in all societies. Within family relationships women of all ages are subjected to violence of all kinds, including battering, rape, other forms of sexual assault, mental and other forms of violence, which are perpetuated by traditional attitudes. Lack of economic independence forces many women to stay in violent relationships. The abrogation of their family responsibilities by men can be a form of violence, and coercion. These forms of violence put women's health at risk and impair their ability to participate in family life and public life on a basis of equality.’

"’A girl should have her first period in her husband's house and not her father's house.’

"The legal age for marriage in Afghanistan for men is 18 and for women is 16 years of age. Clear data on actual marriage age is lacking as provisions to register marriage and birth are absent in many areas, and many people do not know their exact age. Age of marriage varies between urban and rural areas and according to ethnic background and economic circumstances.

"However, a clear pattern of widespread underage marriage of girls emerges, particularly in rural areas. It appears relatively rare for girls to remain unmarried by the age of 16. Amnesty International asked focus groups of women about the typical age of marriage in their communities. All groups gave the age at which girls married as typically between 12 to 16 years. A women's shura (traditional Afghan decision making body) in Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan reported marriage age for girls to be between 10 and 12 years in the region.

"On occasion, girls are forced into marriage below the age of puberty, sometimes at extremely young ages. Such cases include that of ‘Fariba’, aged eight, who was given in marriage to a 48-year-old man. The father of the girl reportedly received 600,000 Afghani for his daughter. Fariba was reported to have suffered sexual abuse by the husband. A relative approached government officials and Fariba was removed from her husband's home and placed in an orphanage. However, at the time that this case was brought to the attention of Amnesty International, no criminal charges had been brought against either the girl's father or her husband, and a divorce had not been granted by the judge who heard the case to determine the status of the marriage.

"Few girls have the opportunity to express their distress. "Fatima", aged 17, is a rare example of a girl who fled a situation of underage marriage. Fatima related to Amnesty International how she was sold by her father into marriage to a much older man at the age of 14. Her father used the proceeds to buy a car. Her new husband lived far away and, since he was from a different ethnic group, spoke a language with his family that she could not understand. Fatima described how she had been given presents and clothes by her family but did not understand at first that she was to be married. When she realized she tore off the wedding clothes and protested, but could not prevent the marriage. She also related how she was raped by her husband.

"Fatima left her husband and returned to her father's house. She is now in a desperate situation where her husband's family and father's family are negotiating over financial arrangements related to her marriage situation. Fatima told Amnesty International that she would definitely go to a shelter if there was one in her area, and wants to seek training to be able to support herself. She is being supported by a woman NGO leader who lives near her and whom she visits frequently.

"Women in focus groups described marriage practices that denied them the right to choose a spouse. A husband would be chosen by the father or another close male relative, and the marriage imposed upon girls and women, if necessary in the face of protest and against their will. By the time of the formal ceremony of marriage, usually attended by three male witnesses, any resistance would have been progressively overcome, and a girl or woman would have great difficulty refusing. This oppressive process reflects in part the fact that girls and women are treated as an economic asset, with families receiving a price from the family of the groom on marriage in all communities where Amnesty International conducted research. They are also reflective of the pervasive control exerted by husbands and male relatives on women's lives.

"Amnesty International considers that underage marriage amounts to denial of the right to physical and mental integrity, and may also amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Underage marriage is a breach of Afghan law and Afghanistan's international obligations. Amnesty International considers that forced marriage of women is a denial of the right to mental and physical integrity. Forced marriage is also a breach of Afghan law and Afghanistan's international obligations. The ICCPR provides that no marriage should be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses. ‘State parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of man and woman: (a) the same right to enter into marriage; (b) the same right to freely choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent’.

"’Every life matters, whether it be an American life or the life of an Afghan girl.’

"Doctors, NGOs and focus group participants in certain regions reported to Amnesty International a pattern of suicide by women made desperate by sustained violence in the family. A common form of suicide is self-immolation (death by fire). No data is kept by the authorities, but one NGO Amnesty International met has written up the circumstances of a number of suicides by women.

"A doctor in Jalalabad hospital reported seeing about one case of suicide by self-immolation each month in the main hospital. She said that ‘after they die we understand from the family that this is because of cruelty or violations they suffered from the husband or his family.’ The incidence of such cases was reported at around two each week by a doctor working in Herat hospital.

"Amnesty International documented several individual cases of suicide arising from violence against women. An international organization working with community groups in Afghanistan reported the case of a young girl whose father beat her so much that she killed herself by self-immolation. In another case a woman fell in love with someone that her family did not approve of. Her brother became aware of this, and was reported to have beaten her so severely that she committed suicide by taking an overdose of tablets.

"Although the exact rate of such suicides remains unknown, their apparent frequency reflects the very few options and forms of assistance available to women experiencing physical violence in the home. A group of school teachers Amnesty International spoke to expressed the opinion that suicide was more common than divorce in their area of the country.

"The abuses of the human rights of girls resulting from underage marriage illustrate how this practice sustains discrimination and the subordination of women. In a situation where girls are married without full consent or at an age where they are too young to give meaningful consent to sex, the risk of sexual assault and rape is clear. Amnesty International research also indicates a particular vulnerability among underage brides to physical abuse.

"The extent to which the autonomy and freedom to make major life choices is denied to women and girls by the practice of forced marriage is striking. It denies them the right to physical integrity and often infringes their right to health and education.

"Discrimination in access to education results from early marriage. Few communities where Amnesty International conducted research in rural areas reported girls receiving schooling after they reach the age of around 12. Focus groups reported that girls generally end their schooling on marriage. This is confirmed by a study of school drop out ages undertaken in Bamiyan province, central Afghanistan. School drop out ages for girls were found to be between 11 and 14 years.

"The right to health of girls is also compromised by the early onset of pregnancy and childbirth. Information from a group of women teachers provided in the course of Amnesty International's research indicates the possible impacts. The group stated that at least half of young women in their area die in childbirth, owing to lack of facilities and young age. The impact on adolescent girls of childbirth before full physical maturity has been noted by the CRC. Detrimental effects on the health of mother and child in the case of early marriage have also been shown by research, and highlighted in particular in the case of Afghanistan."

Information from AI INDEX: ASA 11/023/2003

Copyright ©2000-2004. All Rights Reserved.

A Call-up to the Ballots


A Call-up to the Ballots

October 22, 2004
By Andrea Noll

If I fool you once - shame on me; if I fool you twice - shame on you.

One day after the first Bush/Kerry debate I saw this cartoon in a German newspaper: Bush and Kerry standing behind their respective desks, Bush matching the much taller Kerry in height because the President has stepped on a box. Kerry points a reproachful finger at the forbidden device. But at a closer look the box turns out a coffin with the inscription: 'over 1000 soldiers dead'. That's how many Germans perceive this 43rd President of the United States: as a man recklessly sacrificing American lifes for his political career - and not only American lifes.

I can't remember any election campaign of any foreign leader ever been covered so closely in the German media as these upcoming American presidential elections. And I can't remember our professional liars in the mainstream media ever twisting their tongues so hard to tell the truth. Smells like 'glasnost'.

Some weeks ago, I walked out of Michael Moore's impressive 'Fahrenheit 9/11'. In the cinema hall I talked to two young guys. "How did you like the film?" I asked. "Well, it was okay, but 'Bowling for Columbine' was better..." "Yes, more information", the other agreed. "But there was lots of information in the film," I said.

"Well, but no real new information. We knew that all from the TV news: the WMD hoax, the humiliation and unnecessary killing of Iraqi civilians..." "And that the war was all about oil was clear from the start, wasn't it?" "What idiot would believe that Saddam had anything to do with al-Qaida or Osama?" Both laughed, shaking their heads. It turned out that the only thing they hadn't known beforehand was the connection between the Bush family and the bin-Laden clan. Yes, living in Rumsfeld's Old Europe for the past two years leaves you well-informed.

"Jimmy Carter fears, there will be irregularities in Florida" ran a headline in my local newspaper (citing the Washington Post). Well, Florida isn't supposed to be a democratic state - like Venezuela - isn't it? And Jeb Bush isn't Hugo Chavez. Don't trust American-style democracy - but especially not, when it's an export: A week before the elections in Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai was asked by journalists about concerns of double and triple voting. "Well," Mr. Karzai laughed. "Voting is a democratic practice and the more you practice, the better you get" - washable ink seems to help. Perhaps a good idea for Bush too.

A typical example for this glasnost phenomenon in our media when it comes to the US election on November 2nd is the German network n-tv - a CNN partner. Early this month n-tv not only disclosed figures of the current US deficit but showed an impressive statistics about the bad economic performance of all Republican Administrations of the last 20 years - compared to the performance of Democrats in the White House. And you can bet those figures to be realistic.

But, why this sudden love for objectivity by our professed mainstream liars?

This is a rare case when the interests of German (political, economic) elites and those of the overwhelming majority of people fall together: All want Bush to disappear.

In early October an international conference of the BND - the German secret service - took place in Berlin. It was on "The Globalisation of Terrorism and organised Crime". August Hanning, head of the German intelligence, warned that Iraq could well drown in "chaos", and become another "hotbed" for international terrorism. Asked, what may become of Iraqi scientists and experts with the knowledge of how to build WMDs and whether he believed, there was a realistic chance that international terrorists could profit from this knowledge, Hanning answered: "We don't know."

What bitter irony that the Bush/Blair invasion has drastically increased the threat of Iraqi WMDs! A few days ago Muhammad al-Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), sent a dramatic appeal to the UN. Satellite pictures were showing that the Tuweitha nuclear power plant, south of Bagdad, has been partially dismantled by looters. Nuclear material and equipment has "disappeared". Terrorists could profit from this material to built "dirty bombs", al-Baradei warned and called on the international community to act up.

Back to the BND conference. Ernst Uhrlau, secret service coordinator for the German Chancellor's Bureau, warned in Berlin: the knowledge of Iraqi WMD experts may well become a weapon against the Coalition forces in Iraq. And Hanning from the BND pointed to another worrying fact:

"I perceive a generally anti-West sentiment in Muslim states (and this sentiment is) on the rise." Fine, so the "new Middle East" Bush/Blair have started creating, turns out to be even more anti-West.

How could that happen? Here again Hanning is astonishingly outspoken:

"Air raids are no battle strategy," he stated, if the goal was to diminish sympathies for the terrorists. Giving the Iraqi people a sense of humiliation was "ideal agars" for organisations like al-Qaida, he said.

German media commentators unambigously state the irreversability of the Bush Administration's alienation towards EU Europe.

And this serves not only for Rumsfeld's 'Old Europe'. More and more of Bush's former allies, even Berlusconi and Blair, are becoming increasingly "neutral" towards Bush. New Europe is licking its wounds over the Iraq quagmire, hostage crises, embarassing troop withdrawals a.s.f.. "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse", Tony Blair's eyes seem to beg, every time someone asked him about his "partner" Bush.

If American voters decide for a second Bush term, this may lead the US into total isolation - and this isolation may not be a "splendid" one. As for Germany, even the Conservatives, who two years ago so vehemently criticized Chancellor Schröder and his Socialdemocratic/Green coalition for being part of the "coalition of the unwilling", is completely hushed. No voice is heard in defense of Bush or Blair. From a EU European perspective there's absolutely no argument pro Bush - except maybe John Kerry.

Old Mr. Lincoln

Remember the film: 'Young Mr. Lincoln', staring a lanky Henry Fonda? Kerry's PR team seems to have cast the Democratic candidate in the role of old Mr. Lincoln, pointing his moral finger stiff and steady at Bush. But, what will the American people really get when they unwrap their 'Uncle Sam' package?

German media have called Kerry "the sphinx". The millionaire with the social agenda, the saluting war hero who has been an outspoken critic of the Vietnam war sends a very mixed message over the Atlantic. What does the anti-Bush really stand for?

Will Kerry lead America to peace? Or will he rather reinforce the "war on terrorism" - the 'Likudization of the World', as Naomi Klein put it in one of her recent essays (

Will he intensify the crazy bombardment of civilian neighborhoods or put an end to the escalating war in Iraq (what's to be made of his talk about an "international council on Iraq"?)? One of Kerry's steady criticisms in regard to his opponent is that Bush had led the nation "into isolation". That America should have acted together with its allies. Does this imply that he wants to start a Nato war on Iran, Syria, or North Korea? Neither Old Europe nor even New Europe would follow George Bush to another battle-field. But perhaps the leaders of these countries might join forces with a new President. Especially the overambitious German Government, seeking a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

As November 2nd nears Europe is more than ever concerned about America's future.

And you will hardly find any Europeans in favour of a second Bush term. There are those - on the right and the left - who argue, that we should stay neutral, that criticizing America was inappropriate, that Kerry was winning anyway or that Kerry was 'Bush lite' and therefore no real alternative (which I tend to agree to). But, even Europeans who don't sympathize with Kerry don't want four more Bush years, and fear the possibility of an escalating war in the Middle East. So, even if you don't like Kerry's "ketchup" concept, you should vote for him - to prevent Bush!

A letter to Old America

Dear Mr. Rumsfeld. In 2003 you called my country part of "Old Europe". The future belonged to "New Europe", you crowed, to those courageous Italians, British, Spaniards and Eastern Europeans who joined forces with you to invade a defenseless country that posed no threat to you or me or the world. Now it's our turn to call you "Old America". You can't teach an old dog new tricks, they say, and your Administration proved the saying right. You haven't learned your lesson from the first Gulf War, nor from the second (or are we already in the midst of a third war on Iraq?).

Even if you now publicly scratch your head over the nonexistence of WMDs, it didn't occur to you once that the whole invasion was a crime. If the American people should grant you another term in office, your 'try and error experiments' will go on and leave the world in ruins. We all know, our Western plutocracies are an insult to the concept of democracy. But there is one great difference between a plutocracy Western style and a dictatorship: In our plutocracies people are entitled to cast their votes.

Every once in a while they get their big chance to bring the machinery to a (brief) halt. I don't like comparisons between Bush and Hitler. One fundamental difference between these two megalomaniacs lies in the fact that American troops won't "weitermarschieren" (march on), "bis alles in Scherben liegt" (till all lies in ruins) like Hitler's army - because the people of America can prevent it. And I trust the American people to show you and your boss the red light at the ballot box - this time - Mr. Rumsfeld.

Kerry may not be the best alternative, but he is the only realistic one. If he becomes your new President, there will be changes at the top and you, Mr. Rumsfeld - having sucked enough young people's blood - can retire to your Transylvanian vaults. Perhaps the new Administration will pause and think for a moment. Without a loss of face Kerry can turn the steering wheel of American politics around before the vessel is ultimately hooked on the reef of international isolation.

On November 1st, the eve of the US presidential election, Michael Moore's 'Fahrenheit 9/11' is scheduled on German TV on prime time (Pro 7, 8:15 pm, Central European Time).