Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Anxious Epic

In the wake of the release in America of Oliver Stone's new film `Alexander'. Here is a review from the Boston Globe examining cinema's take on empire. Click on the title to link. - PolPop.

By By J.D. Connor | November 28, 2004

WRITING ABOUT the Romans seen on film 50 years ago, the French theorist Roland Barthes saw in their sweaty brows the mythology of "man thinking." These days, however, our Greeks and Romans do not think, they remind. They remind themselves of their destiny. They remind their followers of the glory they might win. And their stories remind us a great deal of our current empire, and its strategic uncertainties. . .

"Nearly everything is for sale"

This is from the Dow Jones newswires. It is celebrating the privatisation of the Georgian economy from its own right-wing perspective. Could this be the future for the Ukraine - PolPop.

November 24, 2004

Georgia Goes Full Throttle With Privatization

Former Soviet Republic Hopes Sales Will Raise More Than $1 Billion

By Selina Williams
Dow Jones Newswires

As Georgia celebrates the first anniversary of its bloodless revolution, its leaders are telling foreign investors that nearly everything is for sale.

Airports, seaports and the country's entire telecommunications network are among 1,800 state-owned assets that will go on the block in the former Soviet republic over the next two years.

After spending much of the past year rooting out government corruption and renegotiating foreign debt, the free-market regime that swept to power on Nov. 23, 2003 hopes to raise more than $1 billion (€770 million) in a massive privatization program.

"Privatization is one of the main pillars of our economic reform and it's a real test for our government," said Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania.

As an incentive, in the next few weeks Georgia's parliament is expected to reduce the number of taxes on businesses to nine from 22 and lower some tax rates. The value-added tax will drop to 18% from 20%. The flat income-tax rate will fall to 12% from 20%. There also will be unrestricted repatriation of profits as well as a one-time amnesty program aimed at getting rid of the shadow economy that has plagued Georgia since its independence in 1991.

Investors are impressed, though some say it will take time before investors are willing to put their money back into Georgia. "The privatization plan is brilliant," says Peter Hopkins, managing director of U.K.-based Drum Resources Ltd., a risk management group that has cut back its Georgia staff to a single representative from 40 in 2000. But, he adds, "It's going to be a year at least before the banks start looking at Georgia."

Money poured into the country in the early 1990s, attracted by the pro-Western views of former president Eduard Shevardnadze. But, over the next decade, crime, corruption and bureaucracy prompted many companies to flee the country. Last year Georgia's biggest investor -- U.S. power company AES Corp., which had invested more than $250 million in Georgia -- sold its 75% stake in the Tbilisi electricity network at a loss for $23 million and pulled out. Privatization also never really got going under Mr. Shevardnadze's government, with revenue amounting to only $13 million last year.

After Georgia's people took to the streets and forced Mr. Shevardnadze's resignation, the administration of President Mikhail Saakashvili, a New York-trained lawyer, purged government ministries, streamlined regulatory agencies and simplified licensing procedures and the tax code. The privatization program is the next step.

In London on Nov. 11, ministers gave polished presentations about their economic overhauls to about 250 people who packed the offices of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which co-sponsored the event. The Georgians plan a similar event in New York in the next few months.

The message is one of opportunity. Sandwiched between Turkey, Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgia and its Black Sea ports form a transit corridor for trade between Central Asia and Europe and for oil and gas export pipelines from the landlocked Caspian states to European markets.

To spearhead the selloff, Mr. Saakashvili tapped an experienced business executive -- Economics Minister Kakha Bendukidze, a 48-year-old Georgian businessman -- rather than a politician, hoping that he will be able to press measures that could prove unpopular by contributing to unemployment. "What's important is to create a strong and sustainable foundation and not just a bubble for a couple of years," says Mr. Bendukidze, founder and general director of Russia's biggest heavy-engineering group, OMZ.

Georgia's goal of netting $1 billion from asset sales is ambitious. Privatization never really got going under Mr. Shevardnadze's government, with revenues amounting to only $13 million last year. In much-larger Romania, privatization revenues are forecast to be as high as €1.5 billion this year, including the sale of petroleum giant Petrom.

But anecdotal evidence suggests things are improving, albeit slowly, in Georgia. British Airways restored direct flights from London to Tbilisi on Nov. 1 after an 18-month hiatus, and they are typically packed. Business travelers say it's hard to find a hotel room these days in the Georgian capital.

Ukraine's youth take city centre military-style

This from Reuters news agency outlines how Pora movement have long been prepared and the assistance they receive from the West - Pol Pop.

By Elizabeth Piper

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's young democracy activists had worked out a military-style operation to take over the heart of Kiev long before the opposition accused the authorities of stealing last week's presidential election.

Activists from democracy group Pora -- "It's time" -- formed the core of the occupation, jumping to orders from their "commander" to claim territory with a sprawling tent camp along the city's main thoroughfare and blockades at government buildings. . .

PR Man to Europe's Nastiest Regimes

This is an article about John Laughland from Guardian G2 section today and I include it for the sack of trying to obtain an all round view of the situation. There is already a link to an article by Laughland (Western Aggression: How the West are Intervening in the Ukraine elections) on this site which you can also read. Click on the title to link to the page - PolPop.

David Aaronovitch
Tuesday November 30, 2004
The Guardian

Whenever, as this past week, eastern Europe is on the news, so too is a man called John Laughland. Last Sunday he was playing Ukrainian expert on the BBC's The World This Weekend, the day before he was here in the Guardian defending the Ukrainian election "result", and at the beginning of the month he was writing for the Spectator - also on Ukraine. . .

About Baghdad: Documentary Film Review

Here is a link (click title) to an interesting review and an interesting web site - PolPop

By Maureen Clare Murphy

We'll give [the Americans] a chance. If there's no freedom ... they know that the Iraqi people are revolutionary. We won't be silent if we are repressed," says an Iraqi man with a weathered face in the documentary About Baghdad, shot in July 2003. His sentiment is shared by many of the other Iraqis interviewed in the film. But one wonders what he would say today, after seeing the images that have come out of Abu Ghraib and Falluja, and now that it is apparent that the U.S. military has had no viable exit strategy. . .

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Fallujah, the 21st Century Guernica

This from Counter Punch. Click title to link


On November 12, as US jets bombed Fallujah for the ninth straight day, a Redwood City California jury found Scott Peterson guilty of murdering his wife and unborn child. That macabre theme captured the headlines and dominated conversation throughout workplaces and homes.

Indeed, Peterson "news" all but drowned out the US military's claim that successful bombing and shelling of a city of 300 thousand residents had struck only sites where "insurgents," had holed up. On November 15, the BBC embedded newsman with a marine detachment claimed that the unofficial death toll estimate had risen to well over 2000, many of them civilians.

As Iraqi eye witnesses told BBC reporters he had seen bombs hitting residential targets, Americans exchanged viewpoints and kinky jokes about Peterson. One photographer captured a Fallujah man holding his dead son, one of two kids he lost to US bombers. He could not get medical help to stop the bleeding. . .

British and US link to Coup Plot

Click on title to link to full article

How much did Straw know and when did he know it?

The Foreign Secretary has to explain why he apparently did nothing when London was told of the alleged coup plot in Equatorial Guinea

Antony Barnett, Martin Bright and Patrick Smith in Malabo

Sunday November 28, 2004

The Observer

Just before last Christmas, a cable was passed to British intelligence marked 'strictly confidential'. On its front page was a map of a tiny West African country, its name - Equitorial Guinea - in giant letters, its offshore island capital, Malabo, given similar emphasis . . .

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Western aggression:

How the US and Britain are intervening in Ukraine’s elections

by John Laughland

This from The Spectator, Nov 5. Click on Title to link to article.

Ukraine and the Caspian

This is an issue paper from the Rand Institute written in 2000. Rand is a right wing think tank from the US which unabashedly supports US imperialism. Click on the title for the full article which might help us understand how Ukraine got into this situation.

An Opportunity for the United States

Olga Oliker

The United States has said that the Caspian region, and the development of its energy resources, is a key national security interest. It has also made clear its commitment to the independence of Ukraine. But current options for Caspian oil transport are beset with political and logistical problems and, therefore, fall far short of guaranteeing the safe, secure export of Caspian oil in the short or long term. At the same time, Russia's increasing stranglehold on Ukraine's energy imports does not bode well for the smaller country's ability to maintain its hard-won sovereignty, and it increases the risk that Ukraine will call on the United States and its NATO allies to stand behind it against Russia. The development of an export route for Caspian oil through Ukraine is a cheap and effective means of ameliorating both problems, and thus an approach that Washington should support. . .

How I Became a Threat to National Security

There was a story in The Standard yesterday by a corporate lawyer who had been randomly stopped driving along Embankment by these new Community Support-type police doing `terrorist checks' and ended up spending hours in a cell getting abused after they found a swiss multi-tool army knife in his briefcase. The story linked to here is from the US youth magazine Left Hook (click the title) and is about a young pacifist Quaker's brush with the authorities - PolPop.

US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev

Click on the title to link to the full story

Ian Traynor
Friday November 26, 2004
The Guardian

With their websites and stickers, their pranks and slogans aimed at banishing widespread fear of a corrupt regime, the democracy guerrillas of the Ukrainian Pora youth movement have already notched up a famous victory - whatever the outcome of the dangerous stand-off in Kiev. Ukraine, traditionally passive in its politics, has been mobilised by the young democracy activists and will never be the same again.

But while the gains of the orange-bedecked "chestnut revolution" are Ukraine's, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.

Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box. . .

Media challenged over Ukraine image

This preliminary report of the BHHRG's observers on the controversial second round of the Ukrainian presidential elections challenges the widely-disseminated media image of government-sponsored fraud at the expense of an untainted opposition on the basis of first-hand reporting. Click on title.

Friday, November 26, 2004

`It's Hard to See Each Individual Murder'

The Occupation of Iraq is the Root of the Problem


The longer and stronger it gets, the more obvious it becomes that the Iraqi resistance is a broad front of Iraqi groups and individuals determined to chase the US occupiers from their nation. Some of its members use methods that are reprehensible and difficult to defend, but are in actuality no more gruesome than the methods used by US (and their Iraqi accomplices) forces. Like a friend of mine who was in Vietnam for two tours and, after getting out of the service, became the New England coordinator of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), likes to say: "When you're killing dozens of people at a time using incredibly vicious weapons, it's a lot harder to see each individual murder." Blowing up a whole building with people in it is much more murderous than picking off individual soldiers. It's all too easy to forget this as the US body count climbs at an increasing rate and the Iraqi dead are not even counted.

When the US invaded Iraq in March 2003, the world was told that the reasons for this invasion were to find the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein's government was developing and to capture Saddam Hussein. As virtually everyone knows, there were no WMD, and Hussein is in prison somewhere. In other words, the reasons for the invasion no longer exist. Yet, the US continues to kill Iraqis at an alarming rate and now insists that it wants to impose democracy on the people of that country.

Most people in the world knew that there were no WMD before the US and its "coalition" invaded. In addition, they did not consider Saddam Hussein's capture worth going to war over. Many of these same people were convinced that the real reason for the US war on Iraq had a lot to do with oil, global capitalism, and Israeli plans for expansion. This perception rings truer every passing day. It is also the perception shared by most of the resistance.

That is why the Iraqi resistance is right. They are defending their cities and towns against an invader whose primary reason for being in country is to make it safe for exploitation by foreign capital. They are also fighting an aggressor whose propaganda tells the individual soldier that the Iraqi is subhuman and consequently has less right to live than the soldier. Why else do you think the Iraqis are being tortured in the POW camps and killed even though they are wounded and unarmed? The resistance is right because it refuses to sit by while their country is destroyed meter by meter in the name of something called American democracy. They are right because they oppose their places of worship and their cultural symbols being destroyed and molested by the occupiers. They are right because they refuse to allow the murders of their family members to go unanswered. They are right because they are exercising their fundamental political right to oppose an illegal and
unjust occupation. The Iraqi resistance is right because they know the history of Western colonialism and imperialism and they will fight any attempts to return their country back to those days when they were the colony. They are right because the United States and its allies are wrong.

If you believe that the indigenous peoples of the Americas were right to oppose the European invaders, then you should agree that the Iraqis are right to resist the US and its allies. If you believe that the Indian and African peoples were right to oppose the European colonizers, then you should agree that the Iraqis are right to resist the US and its allies. If you believe that the Chinese were right to oppose the British and the Japanese invaders, than you should believe that the Iraqis are
right to resist the US and its allies. If you believe that the Vietnamese were right to oppose the French, and then the US invaders, then you should believe that the Iraqis are right to resist the US and its allies. If you believe that the Palestinians are right to resist the Israeli occupiers, then you should believe that the Iraqis are right to oppose the US and its allies.

If one opposes the war and occupation, then at the very least, they can't honestly oppose the resistance. It is the fight that the Iraqi resistance is waging that is the correct one. In order for their actions to end, the occupiers must remove their men and women from the country. Only then can the Iraqis begin working towards a just peace. As has been said before, the US and its sham regime in Baghdad are no longer part of the solution (if they ever were), they are the root of the problem. It is time for them to get the hell out.

Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs' essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch's new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

Eyewitness: Farewell to Falluja

US forces are consolidating their hold over the Iraqi city of Falluja, scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks. The BBC News website spoke by phone to Fadhil Badrani, an Iraqi journalist and resident of Falluja who reports regularly for Reuters and the BBC World Service in Arabic.

Click on the title to link to this page

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The truth about Trotsky, Lenin - and Jack Straw

Click on the title to link to this comment piece by Mark Steel in the Independent today. I have been following the letters by Jack Straw about Trotsky and this is a funny reply. Unfortunately, at the moment there is only the first couple of paragraphs available. - PolPop

Marxists and the conflict in the Ukraine

A good analysis of what's going on in the Ukraine. Click on the title to link to the full article - PolPop.

Both sides are reactionary! Fight for a workers’ alternative!

By Fred Weston

The situation in the Ukraine is extremely tense. Viktor Yanukovich was declared the winner in Sunday’s presidential second round elections. He is seen by all as the pro-Moscow man. Viktor Yushchenko, the openly pro-Western candidate, has challenged the results. It seems clear that significant levels of fraud may have taken place in the elections.

It is an indication of the position that the Ukraine occupies that the major candidates in the presidential elections are seen as either pro-Russian or pro-Western. As the BBC has reported “it is seen as an east-west showdown”. This reveals the weakness of the ruling elite in the Ukraine. It cannot follow an independent road of development and becomes a mere pawn in the struggle between stronger powers. Thus within the ruling circles there is a conflict over which way the country should turn: either build closer links with Russia or openly espouse the West. This is also reflected in the geographic spread of support for the two candidates, with the East leaning towards Russia and the West towards the European Union and the USA . . .

Does Money Buy Happiness

Interesting bit of research from the weblog `Critical Montages'. Just click on the title for the external link - PolPop.

Three Films

Three recent political films reviewed by Stopwar.ca the Vancouver-based peace/anti-war coalition - PolPop.

Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire

This film examines how a radical fringe of the Republican Party used the trauma of the 9/11 terror attacks to advance a pre-existing agenda to radically transform American foreign policy while rolling back civil liberties and social programs at home. The documentary places the Bush administration's false justifications for war in Iraq within the larger context of a two-decade struggle by neoconservatives to dramatically increase military spending in the wake of the cold war, and to expand American power globally by means of military force. At the same time, the documentary argues that the Bush administration has sold this radical and controversial plan for aggressive American military intervention by deliberately manipulating intelligence, political imagery, and the fears of the American people after 9/11.

Narrated by Julian Bond, Hijacking Catastrophe features interviews with more than twenty prominent political observers, including Pentagon whistleblower Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who witnessed first-hand how the Bush administration set up a
sophisticated propaganda operation to link the anxieties generated by 9/11 to a pre-existing foreign policy agenda that included a preemptive war on Iraq.

At its core, the film places the deceptions of the Bush administration within the larger frame of questions seldom posed in the mainstream: What, exactly, is the agenda that drove the administration's pre-war deceptions? How is 9/11 being used to sell this agenda? And what are the stakes for America, Americans, and the world if this agenda succeeds in being fully implemented during a second Bush term?

Breaking the Silence

While President Bush refers to the US attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq as two 'great victories', Pilger asks"Victories over whom, and for what purpose?" Pilger describes Afghanistan as a country "more devastated than anything I have seen since Pol Pot's Cambodia". He finds that Al-Qaida has not been defeated and that the Taliban is re-emerging. And of the "victory" in Iraq he asks: "is this Bush's Vietnam?"

"Astonishing... should be required viewing in every home, school and office" The Guardian (UK).

Palestine is Still the Issue

In a series of extraordinary interviews with both Palestinians and Israelis, John Pilger weaves together the issue of Palestine. He speaks to the families of suicide bombers and their victims. He sees the humiliation of Palestinians imposed on them at myriad checkpoints and with a permit system not dissimilar to apartheid South Africa's infamous pass laws. He goes into the refugee camps and meets children who he says, "no longer dream like other children, or if they do, it is about death."

Continually asking for the solution, John Pilger says that it is time to bring justice, as well as peace, to Palestine.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Scambusters - Telephone Visa Scam

Here is an e-mail I received recently outlining another scam - PolPop

Dear all,

Thought you might be interested in this. The information was received from a C&E employee in the Derby Office. Please pass it on as you see fit.

A Friend in the Halifax Visa team reported the following: Visa and MasterCard Scam. A friend was called on the telephone this week from ‘VISA’ and I was called on Thursday from ‘MasterCard’.

It worked like this: Person calling says, ‘this is Carl Patterson', (any name) `and I’m calling from the Security and Fraud Department at VISA. My Badge number is 12460. Your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I’m calling to verify. Did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Company a device/any expensive item, for £497.99 from a marketing company based in (any town?.' When you say ‘No’. The caller continues with, ‘Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching and the charges range from £297 To £497, just under the £500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (they give you your address), is that correct?’

You say, ‘Yes’. The caller continues . . ‘I will be starting a fraud investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 0800 number listed on your card and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this Control number. They then give you a 6-digit number. ‘Do you need me to read it again?
Caller then says he ‘needs to verify you are in possession of your card’ (this is where the scam takes place as up until now they have requested nothing!). They then ask you to turn your card over.

There are 7 numbers; the first 4 are 1234 (or whatever, as they have your number anyway).

The next 3 are the security numbers that verify that you are in possession of the card’ (these are the numbers they are really after as these are the numbers you use to make internet purchases to prove you have the card).
‘Read me the 3 numbers.’ When you do he says ‘That is correct. I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions? Don’t hesitate to call back if you do.’

You actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell you the Card number. But after we were called on Wednesday, we telephoned back within 20 minutes to ask a question. Are we glad we did! The REAL VISA security department told us it was a scam and in the last 15 minutes a new purchase of £497.99 WAS put on our card. Long story made short.

We made a real fraud report and closed the VISA card and they are reissuing us a new number. What the scam wants is the 3-digit number and that once the charge goes through, they keep changing every few days. By the time you get your statement, you think the credit is coming, and then it’s harder to actually file a fraud report.
What makes this even more remarkable is that on Thursday I got a call from ‘Jason Richardson of MasterCard’ with a word for word repeat of the VISA Scam. This time I didn’t let him finish. I hung up. We filed a police report (as instructed by VISA), and they said they are taking several
of these reports daily and to tell friends, relatives and co-workers so please pass this on to your friends................

Scambusters - Personal Numbers Scam

As part of an occasional service we have decided to reveal scams that are going around so that our readers do not fall victim to them. Here is one I found on the internet but I am not sure how current it is - PolPop

Personal numbers are known as 'find me anywhere' numbers. They always begin with the prefix 070. They are an important service, as users can forward calls to specified telephone numbers, including mobile phone numbers. The charge for calling personal numbers can be higher than the cost of a normal call.

The most common scam is to induce people to call a personal number where the tariff has been set at a higher rate. Businesses have been asked to fax documents to an 070 number e.g. Estate Agents have been asked for details of houses on their books, and individuals have returned a missed call logged on a mobile phone. When the caller faxes the papers requested or returns the missed call they unknowingly run up a large bill, much of which goes to the company owning the number.

Five telephone numbers logged on work mobile phones recently were:

07044 670726
07044 665943
07044 665610
07044 665074
07044 668924

Colleagues have received these as missed calls and when they have returned the call, they have heard the message "We are trying to connect you, please hold." The phone then appears to be being connected but we think the callers are in fact listening to a recording and being charged premium rate for the privilege.

Oftel, the Office of Telecommunications, have informed us that all five of these numbers have been allocated to the same company as they all begin with 07044 6. Oftel will contact the company to explain that what they are doing is in breach of regulations. Oftel now have powers to fine these offenders which they will implement with repeat offenders.

Oftel is taking action to stop the growing numbers of cases where people use personal numbers to run scams and the message from Oftel is…if you don't recognise the caller…don't return the call… especially on a mobile…think before you dial!

Our advice is:

If your work or personal mobile phone shows a missed call and the number begins with 070, do not return the call.
If you receive a missed call that begins with 070 but the next numbers are not 446, this number may have been allocated to a different company to the one we have identified.

My Dinner With Andre

As this is listed as one of my favourite films I have included a link to a page on the Philosophical Films web site which discusses some of the issues raised by the film (click on the title). Next year will be 25 years since it was released and maybe some kind of festival should be organised to celebrate the fact - PolPop.

US Risks A Downhill Dollar Disaster

This from the Guardian as the case of the declining dollar hots up.

by Larry Elliott
November 23, 2004
The Guardian

George Bush's foreign policy is simple: don't mess with America. The same, it appears, applies to economic policy as well. On Friday, the dollar fell sharply against the euro. That was unsurprising, since the downward lurch followed comments from Alan Greenspan which - by his own cryptic standards -
were unambiguous.

"It seems persuasive that, given the size of the US current account deficit, a diminished appetite for adding to dollar balances must occur at some point," Greenspan said. This was hardly a novel statement for the Federal Reserve chairman but the timing was interesting. It came on the eve of a meeting of the G20 - a conclave of developed and developing nations - in Berlin at which the recent fall in the dollar was a hot topic.

Moreover, it came three days after John Snow, US treasury secretary, poured cold water on the idea that the world's central banks might get together to arrest the dollar's fall. The history of "efforts to impose non-market valuations on currencies is at best unrewarding and chequered", he said in London.


Europe got the message. Eurozone policymakers are growing increasingly alarmed about the fall in the value of the dollar, since it threatens to choke off exports - the one area of growth in the 12-nation single currency zone. They would like nothing more than to wade into the foreign exchanges in concert with the Fed and the central banks of Asia to put a floor under the greenback, but they know that Washington has no interest in such a move.

Joaquin Almunia, Europe's monetary affairs commissioner, said last week:

"The more the euro rises, the more voices will start asking for intervention. It has to be a coordinated effort but it seems that our friends across the Atlantic aren't interested."

John Pilger - Iraq: the unthinkable becomes normal

An article by John Pilger who is always worth reading. First paragraph and link included (just click on the title).

Mainstream media speak as if Fallujah were populated only by foreign “insurgents”. In fact, women and children are being slaughtered in our name.

Edward S Herman's landmark essay, “The Banality of Evil”, has never seemed more apposite. “Doing terrible things in an organised and systematic way rests on 'normalisation’”, wrote Herman. “There is usually a division of labour in doing and rationalising the unthinkable, with the direct brutalising and killing done by one set of individuals ... others working on improving technology (a better crematory gas, a longer burning and more adhesive napalm, bomb fragments that penetrate flesh in hard-to-trace patterns). It is the function of the experts, and the mainstream media, to normalise the unthinkable for the general public.”

US to deploy "Star War" system in Europe within five years

This from the People's Daily Online (China)

According to British newspaper The Independent, US plans to deploy "Star War" missile defence system in Europe within five years, which can house at least ten missiles. Meanwhile, the US Defence Ministry has also decided to build a new missile defence base in Europe, which is now being planned.

The commander of US Missile Defence Troops officially unveiled the plan in a press interview that the US will purchase missiles next October for a new missile defence base in Europe and decide in which country the base is likely to be set up. He also noted that UK is trying its best to win the bid, which irritated some opposition parliamentarians and national defence analysts saying the British government intentionally hides truth from the parliament and voters.

US President George W. Bush has spent 10 billion US dollars on the construction of missile defence system to prevent the US continent and its European alliances from any possible missile attacks by the so-called "rogue countries". The establishment of a missile base in Europe is a key to this plan. In the past, the US has had two such bases in the states of Alaska and California.

It is reported that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made an informal guarantee to Bush last month allowing the US to deploy missiles in UK. However, the US commander insisted on his knowing nothing about that. "We are now currently negotiating with some countries on the relevant issues of setting up the third missile defence base. Besides the UK, we are also making contacts with other countries", added the US commander.

As for the issue of missile purchase next year, the US commander said "in the year of 2006 we will get a large amount of military expenditure budget, which will be enforced from October 2005."

Currently, the US missile defence institution is conducting the "technology assessment" on the possible location of the system to see whether it is appropriate for the construction of missile launching silo and whether the electric facilities and road conditions are feasible. The countries selected by the organization are Poland, Czech and Hungary, but the US Defence Ministry and other foreign affair departments insist on the missile defence base be built in UK.

By People's Daily Online

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Cameraman's open letter to Marines

This is from the blog of the cameraman who showed a Marine killing a wounded Iraqi in a mosque and takes the form of an open letter to the company he was embedded with - PolPop.

The Marines have built their proud reputation on fighting for freedoms like the one that allows me to do my job, a job that in some cases may appear to discredit them. But both the leaders and the grunts in the field like you understand that if you lower your standards, if you accept less, than less is what you'll become.

There are people in our own country that would weaken your institution and our nation –by telling you it's okay to betray our guiding principles by not making the tough decisions, by letting difficult circumstances turns us into victims or worse…villains.

I interviewed your Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Willy Buhl, before the battle for Falluja began. He said something very powerful at the time-something that now seems prophetic. It was this:

"We're the good guys. We are Americans. We are fighting a gentleman's war here -- because we don't behead people, we don't come down to the same level of the people we're combating. That's a very difficult thing for a young 18-year-old Marine who's been trained to locate, close with and destroy the enemy with fire and close combat. That's a very difficult thing for a 42-year-old lieutenant colonel with 23 years experience in the service who was trained to do the same thing once upon a time, and who now has a thousand-plus men to lead, guide, coach, mentor -- and ensure we remain the good guys and keep the moral high ground."

I listened carefully when he said those words. I believed them.

So here, ultimately, is how it all plays out: when the Iraqi man in the mosque posed a threat, he was your enemy; when he was subdued he was your responsibility; when he was killed in front of my eyes and my camera -- the story of his death became my responsibility.

The burdens of war, as you so well know, are unforgiving for all of us.

China tells US to put its house in order

Front page of today's Financial Times is a story about how China has warned the US about its ballooning trade deficit and how it will not be rushed into revaluing its currency despite pressure from Japan, Europe and America.

`China's custom is that we never blame others for our own problem,' said Li Ruogu, the deputy governor of the People's Bank of China. `For the past 26 years we never put pressure or problems on to the world. The US has the reverse attitude, whenever they have a problem, they blame others.'

This looks like becoming a big source of tension in international politics and is worth monitoring - PolPop.

So Solidarity Crew

When a bunch of rappers started protesting about Colombia's bloody civil war, they ended up on the front line. Julia Stuart meets Zona Marginal

In the wake of George Bush's visit to Colombia this feature about a young Rap Group from that country in today's Independent makes a handy anti-dote. Just click on the title which will take you to the story - PolPop.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Beyond Fallujah - A year with the Iraqi resistance


Check out this must read story from US journal Harpers for a fuller picture of the nature of the people struggling against the forces of occupation in Iraq - PolPop.

Holiday in Falluja - GI Blogger Tell It Like It Is

Picked this out because it makes a very interesting read. I cannot vouch for its authenticity but would go along with much of its sentiment and it certainly scans as if from someone very near the action - PolPop

Friday, November 19, 2004 2:03 PM

Holiday in Falluja

These are ugly times for the US military in Iraq. It seems everywhere you turn, more and more troops are being killed and maimed in vicious encounters with determined rebel fighters. The insurgency is mounting incredibly in such places as Baghdad, Mosul, and Baquba; using more advanced techniques and weaponry associated with a well-organized guerilla campaign. Even in the massively destroyed city of Falluja rebel forces are starting to reappear with a callous determination to win or
die trying. Many critics and political pundits are starting to realize that this war is, in many aspects, un-winnable.

And why should anyone think that a complete victory is possible? Conventionally, our US forces win territory here or there, killing a plethora of civilians as well as insurgents with each new boundary conquered.

However, such as the recent case in Falluja, the rebel fighters have returned like a swarm of angry hornets attacking with a vicious frenzy.

I was in Falluja during the last two days of the final assault. My mission was much different from that of the brave and weary infantry and marines involved in the major fighting. I was on an escort mission, accompanied by a squad who's task it was to protect a high brass figure in the combat zone. This particularly arrogant officer went to the last battle in the same spirits of an impartial spectator checking out the fourth quarter of a high school football game.

Once we got to the marine occupied Camp Falluja and saw artillery being fired into town, the man suddenly became desperate to play an active role in the battle that would render Falluja to ashes. It was already rumored that all he really wanted was his trigger time, perhaps to prove that he is the toughest cowboy west of the Euphrates.

Guys like him are a dime a dozen in the army: a career soldier who spent the first twenty years of his service patrolling the Berlin Wall or guarding the DMZ between North and South Korea. This sort of brass may have been lucky to serve in the first Gulf War, but in all actuality spent very little time shooting rag heads. For these trigger-happy tough guys, the last two decades of cold war hostilities built into a war frenzy of stark emptiness, fizzling out almost completely with the
Clinton administration. But this is the New War, a never ending, action packed "Red Scare" in which the communist threat of yesteryear was simply replaced with the white knuckled tension of today's "War on Terrorism".

The younger soldiers who grew up in relatively peaceful times interpret the mentality of the careerists as one of making up for lost opportunities. To the elder generation of trigger pullers, this is the real deal; the chance to use all the cool toys and high speed training that has been stored away since the '70s for something tangibly useful.and its about goddamn time.

However, upon reaching the front lines, a safety standard was in effect stating that the urban combat was extremely intense. The lightest armored vehicles allowed in sector were Bradley tanks. Taking a glance at our armored humvees, this commander insisted that our section would be fine. Even though the armored humvees are very stout and nearly impenetrable against small arm fire, they usually don't hold up well against rocket attacks and roadside bombs like a heavily armored tank

The reports from within the war zone indicated heavy rocket attacks, with an armed insurgent waiting on every corner for a soft target such as trucks. In the end, the overzealous officer was urged not to infiltrate into sector with only three trucks, for it would be a death wish during those dangerous twilight hours. It was suggested that in the morning, after the air strikes were complete, he could move in and "inspect the damage".

Even as the sun was setting over the hazy orange horizon, artillery was pounding away at the remaining twelve percent of the already devastated Falluja. Many units were pulled out for the evening in preparation of a full-scale air strike that was scheduled to last for up to twelve hours. Our squad was sitting on top of our parked humvees, manning the crew served machine guns and scanning the urban landscape for enemy activity. This was supposed to be a secured forward operating area, right on the edge of the combat zone. However, with no barbed wire perimeter set up and only a few scattered tanks serving as protection, one was under the
assumption that if someone missed a minor detail while on guard, some serious shit could go down.

One soldier informed me that only two nights prior an insurgent was caught sneaking around the bullet-ridden houses to our immediate west. He was armed with a rocket-propelled grenade, and was laying low on his advance towards the perimeter. One of the tanks spotted him through its night vision and hastily shot him into three pieces. Indeed, though it was safe enough to smoke a cigarette and relax, one had to remain diligently aware of his surroundings if he planned on making it through
the night.

As the evening wore on and the artillery continued, a new gruesome roar filled the sky. The fighter jets were right on time and made their grand appearance with a series of massive air strikes. Between the pernicious bombs and fierce artillery, the sky seemed as though it were on fire for several minutes at a time. First you would see a blaze of light in the horizon, like lightning hitting a dynamite warehouse, and then hear the massive explosion that would turn your stomach, rattle
your eyeballs, and compress itself deep within your lungs. Although these massive bombs were being dropped no further than five kilometers away, it felt like it was happening right in front of your face. At first, it was impossible not to flinch with each unexpected boom, but after scores of intense explosions, your senses became aware and complacent towards them.

At times the jets would scream menacingly low over the city and open fire with smaller missiles meant for extreme accuracy. This is what Top Gun, in all its glory and silver screen acclaim, seemed to be lacking in the movie's high budget sound effects. These air-deployed missiles make a banshee-like squeal, sort of like a bottle rocket fueled with plutonium, and then suddenly would become inaudible. Seconds later, the colossal explosion would rip the sky open and hammer devastatingly into the ground, sending flames and debris pummeling into the air. And as always, the artillery-some rounds were high explosive, some were illumination rounds, some were reported as being white phosphorus (the modern day napalm).

Occasionally, on the outskirts of the isolated impact area, you could hear tanks firing machine guns and blazing their cannons. It was amazing that anything could survive this deadly onslaught. Suddenly a transmition came over the radio approving the request for "bunker-busters". Apparently, there were a handful of insurgent compounds that were impenetrable by artillery. At the time, I was
unaware when these bunker-busters were deployed, but I was told later that the incredibly massive explosions were a direct result of these "final solution" type missiles.

I continued to watch the final assault on Falluja throughout the night from atop my humvee. It was interesting to scan the vast skies above with night vision goggles. Circling continuously overhead throughout the battle was an array of attack helicopters.

The most devastating were the Cobras and Apaches with their chain gun missile launchers. Through the night vision I could see them hovering around the carnage, scanning the ground with an infrared spotlight that seemed to reach for miles. Once a target was identified, a rapid series of hollow blasts would echo through the skies, and from the ground came a "rat-a-tatting" of explosions, like a daisy chain of supercharged black cats during a Fourth of July barbeque. More artillery, more
tanks, more machine gun fire, ominous death-dealing fighter planes terminating whole city blocks at a time.this wasn't a war, it was a massacre!

As I look back on the air strikes that lasted well into the next morning, I cannot help but to be both amazed by our modern technology and disgusted by its means. It occurred to me many times during the siege that while the Falluja resistance was boldly fighting us with archaic weapons from the Cold War, we were soaring far above their heads dropping Thor's fury with a destructive power and precision that may as well been nuclear. It was like the Iraqis were bringing a knife to a tank fight.

And yet, the resistance toiled on, many fighting until their deaths. What determination! Some soldiers call them stupid for even thinking they have a chance in hell to defeat the strongest military in the world, but I call them brave. It's not about fighting to win an immediate victory. And what is a conventional victory in a non-conventional war? It seems overwhelmingly obvious that this is no longer within the United States hands.

We reduced Falluja to rubble. We claimed victory and told the world we held Falluja under total and complete control. Our military claimed very little civilian casualties and listed thousands of insurgents dead. CNN and Fox News harped and cheered on the television that the Battle of Falluja would go down in history as a complete success, and a testament to the United States' supremacy on the modern battlefield.

However, after the dust settled and generals sat in cozy offices smoking their victory cigars, the front lines in Falluja exploded again with indomitable mortar, rocket, and small arm attacks on US and coalition forces.

Recent reports indicate that many insurgents have resurfaced in the devastated city of Falluja. We had already claimed the situation under control, and were starting to turn our attention to the other problem city of Mosul. Suddenly we were backtracking our attention to Falluja. Did the Department of Defense and the national press lie to the public and claim another preemptive victory? Not necessarily so. Conventionally we won the battle, how could anyone argue that? We
destroyed an entire city and killed thousands of its occupants. But the main issue that both the military and public forget to analyze is that this war, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is completely guerrilla.

We should have learned a lesson in guerrilla fighting with the Vietnam War only thirty years ago, but history has a funny way of repeating itself. The Vietnam War was a perfect example of how quick, deadly assaults on conventional troops over a long period of time can lead to an unpopular public view of the war, thus ending it.

What our military and government needs to realize is that every mistake we make is an advantage to the Iraqi insurrection. Every time an innocent man, woman or child is murdered in a military act, deliberate or not, the insurgent grows stronger. Even if an innocent civilian is slain at the hands of his/her own freedom fighter, that fighter is still viewed as a warrior of the people, while the occupying force will ultimately be blamed as the responsible perpetrator.

Everything about this war is political.every ambush, every bombing, every death. When a coalition worker or soldier is abducted and executed, this only adds encouragement and justice to the dissident fervor of the Iraq public, while angering and demoralizing the occupier. Our own media will prove to be our downfall as well. Every time an atrocity is revealed through our news outlets, our grasp on this once secular nation slips away. As America grows increasingly disturbed by
the images of carnage and violent death of her own sons in arms, its government loses the justification to continue the bloody debacle. Since all these traits are the conventional power's unavoidable mistakes, the guerrilla campaign will surely succeed. In Iraq's case, complete destruction of the United States military is impossible, but through perseverance the insurgency will drive us out. This will prove to be the inevitable outcome of the war.

We lost many soldiers in the final battle for Falluja, and many more were seriously wounded. It seems unfair that even after the devastation we wreaked on this city just to contain it, many more troops will die in vain to keep it that way. I saw the look in the eyes of a reconnaissance scout while I talked to him after the battle.

His stories of gore and violent death were unnerving. The sacrifices that he and his whole platoon had made were infinite. They fought everyday with little or no sleep, very few breaks, and no hot meals. For obvious reasons, they never could manage to find time to email their mothers to let them know that everything turned out ok. Some of the members of his platoon will never get the chance to reassure their mothers, because now those soldiers are dead. The look in his eyes as he told some of the stories were deep and weary, even perturbed.

He described in accurate detail how some enemy combatants were blown to pieces by army issued bazookas, some had their heads shot off by a 50 caliber bullet, others were run over by tanks as they stood defiantly in the narrow streets firing an AK-47. The soldier told me how one of his favorite sergeants died right in front of him. He was taking cover behind an alley wall and as he emerged to fire his M4 rifle, he was shot through the abdomen with a rocket-propelled grenade. The grenade itself exploded and sent shrapnel into the narrator's leg. He showed me where a chunk of burned flesh was torn from his left thigh.

He ended his conversation saying that he was just a dumb kid from California who never thought joining the army would send him straight to hell. He told me he was tired as fuck and wanted a shower. Then he slowly walked away, cradling a rifle under his arm.

Negotiators Add Abortion Clause to Spending Bill

From the New York Times. It seems the newly emboldened Republicans are wasting no time getting their assault underway - PolPop.

November 20, 2004

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 - House and Senate negotiators have tucked a potentially far-reaching anti-abortion provision into a $388 billion must-pass spending bill, complicating plans for Congress to wrap up its business and adjourn for the year.

The provision may be an early indication of the growing political muscle of social conservatives who provided crucial support for Republican candidates, including President Bush, in the election.

It would bar federal, state and local agencies from withholding taxpayer money from health care providers that refuse to provide or pay for abortions or refuse to offer abortion counseling or referrals. Current federal law, aimed at protecting Roman Catholic doctors, provides such "conscience protection'' to doctors who do not want to undergo abortion training. The new language would expand that protection to all health care providers, including hospitals, doctors, clinics and insurers.

"It's something we've had a longstanding interest in," said Douglas Johnson, a spokesman for the National Right to Life Committee. He added, "This is in response to an orchestrated campaign by pro-abortion groups across the country to use government agencies to coerce health care providers to participate in abortions."

The provision could affect millions of American women, according to Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, who warned Friday that she would use procedural tactics to slow Senate business to a crawl if the language was not altered.

"I am willing to stand on my feet and slow this thing down," Ms. Boxer said. "Everyone wants to go home, I know that, and I know I will not win a
popularity contest in the Senate. But they should not be doing this. On a huge spending bill they're writing law, and they're taking away rights from women."

Ms. Boxer said that she complained to Senator Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican who is the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, but that he told her that House Republican leaders insisted that the provision, which was approved by the House in July but never came to the Senate for a vote, be included in the measure.

"He said, 'Senator, they want it in, and it's going in,' " Ms. Boxer recalled.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Stevens, Melanie Alvord, said her boss would have no comment on the spending bill because House and Senate negotiators had not settled on the final language.

Some lawmakers and Congressional aides interpreted the House leaders' insistence as reflection of the new political strength of the anti-abortion movement and of Christian conservatives, who played an important role in re-electing Mr. Bush this month.

"They are catering to their right wing doing this," said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa. "It doesn't make it right. I think this is the first step."

Mr. Harkin said he intended to try to force a vote next year on support for upholding the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion. "I think it is time the women of America understand what ishappening here," he said.

The spending measure, called an omnibus bill, was the main reason Congress returned to Washington after the election, and members of both parties say that despite Ms. Boxer's warnings, it is likely to pass with the abortion language intact.

The alternative is to let government funding for a wide array of agencies - like the F.B.I., the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency - run out, in effect causing a partial government shutdown.

Lawmakers in the House and the Senate intended to vote on the omnibus bill on Saturday, when a stopgap spending measure is set to expire at midnight. Congress failed to pass 9 of its 13 required spending bills before recessing for the election, leaving much of the government - with the exception of the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security - to operate under the interim measure.

Children Pay Cost of Iraq's Chaos

Malnutrition Nearly Double What It Was Before Invasion

By Karl Vick
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, November 21, 2004; Page A01

BAGHDAD -- Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government.

After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to a study conducted by Iraq's Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway's Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from "wasting," a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.

Suad Ahmed's 4-month-old granddaughter, Hiba, has chronic diarrhea, a common ailment among Iraqi children under 5. (Karl Vick -- The Washington Post)

"These figures clearly indicate the downward trend," said Alexander Malyavin, a child health specialist with the UNICEF mission to Iraq.

The surveys suggest the silent human cost being paid across a country convulsed by instability and mismanagement. While attacks by insurgents have grown more violent and more frequent, deteriorating basic services take lives that many Iraqis said they had expected to improve under American stewardship.

Iraq's child malnutrition rate now roughly equals that of Burundi, a central African nation torn by more than a decade of war. It is far higher than rates in Uganda and Haiti.

full: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A809-2004Nov20.html

Eyewitness: Fear remains after assault

As US forces say they have overall control of Falluja, the BBC News website spoke by phone to Fadhil Badrani, an Iraqi journalist and resident of Falluja who reports regularly for Reuters and the BBC World Service in Arabic.

The city is calmer now - but the fear is still there and some fighting. I have seen some strange things recently, such as stray dogs snatching bites out of bodies lying on the streets.

US forces say that they have overall control of Falluja. Meanwhile, people forage in their gardens looking for something to eat. Those that have survived this far are looking gaunt.

The opposite is happening to the dead - left where they fell, they are now bloated and rotting.

Many of the fighters have escaped or been killed. A few have stayed on to fight.

Scared to move

US forces control most of the city now, except for some areas in the south. We keep hearing that aid has arrived at the hospital on the outskirts of the city, which is now in the hands of the Americans. But most people in this area are too weak or too scared to make the journey, or even to leave their homes.

For now, the best option is to stay put. I would like to escape Falluja, but I fear I will end up getting killed if I try.

A group of journalist friends left the city by car last week as the assault was starting. I have no idea what happened to them. Not one of their mobile phones works and I fear the worst.

Food and water are all but finished. I have enough dried dates and water to last me another few days. If, in five days' time, it is still impossible to leave the city or get any supplies, I might have to raid my neighbour's vacant house for food and water. I can enter their place by jumping from our roof onto theirs.

I am completely out of touch with the situation in the rest of Iraq.

Looking at Falluja now, the only comparisons I can think of are cities like Beirut and Sarajevo.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Here is a great essay I found on the web and thought worth sharing. It calls for the development of a new anti-greed morality. I have included the authors executive summary and a link to the full article.

by Julian Edney (1)

An essay concerning the origins, nature, extent and morality of this destructive force in free market economies. Definitions. Paradoxes and omissions in Adam Smith's original theory permit - encourage - greed without restraint so that in a very large society over two centuries it has become an undemocratic force creating precipitous inequalities; divisions in this society now approach a kind of wealth apartheid, and our values are quite unlike Smith's: this is an immensely wealthy society but it is not a humane society. Wealth and poverty are connected, in fact recent sociological theory shows our institutions routinely design inequality in, but this connection is largely avoided in texts and in the media, as is the notion that greed is a moral wrong. Problems created by greed cannot be solved by technology. We are also distracted by already-outdated environmental rhetoric, arguments that scarcities and human suffering follow from abuse of our ecology. Rather, these scarcities are the result of what people do to people. This focus opens practical solutions.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

George, what big teeth you have!

By way of response to the`optimistic view’ on Bush's second term

The war on terrorism has been a useful but increasingly irritating distraction for George W. Bush and his neo-conservative friends in the White House but his re-election gives them an opportunity to get back to the really big issues that were obliged to take a back seat during his first term. The biggest of these, from a non-domestic point of view, is the deployment of a National Missile Defence System.

Known amongst the Bush clique as the `Ring of Confidence’ after the long-time Colgate toothpaste slogan, and in the media as `Son of Star Wars’, it is hoped that NMD will allow the US to bare its perfectly polished, if rather large, teeth to the rest of the world with impunity and give it the ability to act more unilaterally than ever before. It is designed to make wannabe nuclear states give up the ghost and those who have already got them wonder why they bothered. It works on the premise that Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles armed with nuclear warheads can be shot down by interceptor missiles relatively early on in their flight.

Of course, the Democrats argued that 9/11 showed that NMD was an irrelevance in the face of the new realities of global terrorism that required robust but multilateral action amongst all nations to combat. But with Al Qa’ida and other like-minded groups now holed up in small enclaves in Afghanistan and Iraq and this achieved, virtually, unilaterally, it will now be possible to re-focus on the real enemy. For the neo-realist theorists of international politics who inhabit Bush’s White House when it comes to the real enemy `it’s other states, stupid’. In fact, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the War on Iraq, rather than demonstrating the dangers of unilateralism and global terrorism, has merely confirmed to the Bush camp just how traditional in form and just how many enemies there are out there. From Iran to North Korea, to China and Russia and even France and the EU, potential enemies are everywhere frustrating US power projection.

This is all very ironic in the face of post-election opinion poll analysis which suggests that voters voted four-to-one Democrat if they thought Iraq was the most important issue but overwhelmingly for the Republicans if terrorism topped their concerns. Such was the strange dialectic of the presidential campaign. Actually, perhaps not so strange as Bush had successfully, and without scruple, managed to manipulate public opinion in the wake of 9/11 in to supporting his already existing policy of attacking Iraq on the grounds that it supported Al Qa’ida. Bush’s so-called War on Terrorism is a sham and the fact that a January deadline has been set for democratic elections in Iraq, despite the obvious need for a great deal more ground work, shows just how anxious the Bush team are to move on to next business. Witness the criminal assault on Falluhjah born of impatience. This is why the War on Terrorism, whilst initially useful, has now become an irritation preventing triumphalism over the fall of Saddam and making it more difficult for Bush to fulfil his original programme of taking on the increasing number of `rogue states’. This will not however prevent him from trying. The Bush spin-machine now believes it is capable of selling sand to the Arabs. His claim that he wants to unite America will surely prove as hollow as Mrs Thatcher’s promise to bring harmony where there was discord and is far more dependent on a brutal foreign policy to cover up an assault on the vulnerable at home.

Returning to the question of NMD, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence with all the myriad treaties and institutions that go along with it was, in its own way, as physical a structure to emerge during the Cold War as the Berlin Wall used to be. When first elected Bush vowed to tear this institution down just as comprehensively as the wall had been. He declared NMD to be `an important opportunity for the world to re-think the unthinkable, and to find new ways to keep the peace’. Bush was announcing America’s intention to escape the constraints of this institution with its financial and politico-military constraints and go it alone. America no longer wanted alliances only followers. It would no longer accept other states placing limitations on its right or ability to act. It had won the Cold War and it wanted to realise that victory in the fullest possible way. Democrats, by clinging on to outdated institutions were preventing this from happening.

NMD immediately puts in to doubt the validity of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its verification system designed to prevent cheating, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties and a host of separate agreements between the US and Russia designed to prevent proliferation and to help manage decommissioning. It jeopardises by-product agreements on chemical and biological weapons which prevent their being substituted for nuclear weapons but more importantly in reintroduces the inability of even allies to trust each other into the international system. Bush is determined to reshape the international order to America’s, or more precisely the neo-conservative’s, taste and NMD, in his second term, will play a much bigger propaganda and instrumental role in realising this end than it did in his first.

When Bush and Blair first met they discussed NMD behind closed doors and when asked what he thought he had in common with the British Prime Minister, Bush cryptically replied that they both used Colgate toothpaste. An agreement, we later found out, had been struck to incorporate the RAF Fylingdales Base into proposals for planned NMD system. Little did we know at the time that that agreement went much, much further and allowed for the stationing of US interceptor missiles on British soil. Not only do they use the same toothpaste, it appears, but they share the same tooth brush as well.

Those who expect a more moderate Bush in his second term are living more through hope than experience and I think it is safe to predict increasing global conflict from this belligerent President.