Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Global Descent of America

Click title to link to this discussion article from The Black Commentator

Aijaz Ahmad

Now, more than ever, African Americans and people with sense must disconnect from the insane conversation that passes for news in the United States. Fortunately, the Internet exists, allowing us to connect with the global conversation, which is far different than the foul discourse we are drowning in, here at home. The U.S. has passed a point of no return, in terms of world reputation and leadership. No one is listening to the bizarre rantings of the Bush crew except his own crazed base in the heartland of racism and reaction, and the corporate media that urge us to leap into a Grand Canyon of lunacy – a kind of suicide. . .

Escape from the Universe

Click title to link

The universe is destined to end. Before it does, could an advanced civilisation escape via a "wormhole" into a parallel universe? The idea seems like science fiction, but it is consistent with the laws of physics and biology. Here's how to do it

Michio Kaku

The universe is out of control, in a runaway acceleration. Eventually all intelligent life will face the final doom—the big freeze. An advanced civilisation must embark on the ultimate journey: fleeing to a parallel universe.

In Norse mythology, Ragnarok—the fate of the gods—begins when the earth is caught in the vice-like grip of a bone-chilling freeze. The heavens themselves freeze over, as the gods perish in great battles with evil serpents and murderous wolves. Eternal darkness settles over the bleak, frozen land as the sun and moon are both devoured. Odin, the father of all gods, finally falls to his death, and time itself comes to a halt.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The power to resist

Harith Al-Dhari, head of the Muslim Scholars Association, spoke to Mohamed Al-Anwar in Baghdad about the US attempts to court Iraq's Sunnis. Click title to link to this Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly article.

Harith Al-Dhari comes across as a strong and imposing figure. Al- Dhari and his movement is one of the staunchest opponents of the fact that elections should be held while the country is labouring under the US-led occupation. The status of the Muslim Scholars Association rose to prominence in recent months when the movement championed a campaign to boycott the 30 January elections. Al-Ahram Weekly visited Al-Dhari at the association's headquarters in Um Al-Qura Mosque in western Baghdad.

Dr Phil meets Metallica

From the Green Left Weekly

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
By Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky


Heavy metal legends Metallica on the couch with Dr Phil? Well, not quite, but Berlinger and Sinofsky’s documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster is just as regrettable as any Dr Phil episode.

Metallica is widely credited with founding heavy metal music as it is known today. They delivered four classic albums during the 1980s — Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightening, Master of Puppets and ... And Justice For All — all instant cult releases of blistering riff-a-rama, fast heavy drum beats and aggressive singing.

Then something changed. The 1990s brought a new and improved Metallica. Fans deserted in droves as the band shed the customary long hair and denim jackets and began softening their musical approach.

In 2000, fans were further disappointed when drummer Lars Ulrich testified in US Congress against song-swapping website Napster for costing the multi-million-dollar band royalties.

Berlinger and Sinofsky’s Metallica: Some Kind of Monster casts light on the modern Metallica, and a monster is exactly what’s revealed.

Here’s the story: Metallica is in the studio attempting to record a new album — their first in five years — and their bass player of 15 years, Jason Newstead, has just quit the band. Personal and creative differences divide the three remaining members, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett, who are also at an all-time creative low. At the behest of their managers, Metallica does what any rock band would do in the situation — they enter group therapy. In the middle of the therapy/recording process, guitarist/vocalist Hetfield enters rehab for several months leaving the new album — St Anger — on ice.

The therapy process, led by $40,000-a-month “therapist/performance enhancement coach” Phil Towle, is farcical. One wonders if he is really a qualified therapist, as he and the band members engage in over two hours of pop-psych drivel, discussing their feelings to the point of dysfunctional absurdity.

It is clear from the get-go that the reason they can’t get it together enough to record the damn album is that there is no longer a creative reason for the existence of the band. So why do they persist? The band members themselves reveal the answer — Metallica is big business. The members, as well as their parasitical hangers-on (such as their managers, record company and therapist), all have a stake in the existence of the monster.

The creative dead-end is prevalent. The band turns up to record without a single song written. It’s painful to watch them sit around trying to concoct new material. Hetfield jams second-rate riffs and writes meaningless end-rhyme lyrics. Sometimes the others try to contribute. Hilariously, even therapist Towle writes some of the lyrics.

How did Metallica get to be like this? Berlinger and Sinofsky’s documentary provides many clues. We hear of Hetfield and Hammett’s hundreds of expensive guitars, see Hammett at his California ranch, watch Hetfield burn down roads in expensive cars and motorbikes, while Ulrich parades his private art collection worth millions of dollars. That’s right — they’re filthy rich.

After 140 minutes enduring these spoilt brats’ narcissism, psychobabble, power-tripping, greed and creative boredom, one can only agree with ex-bass player Newstead’s comment on hearing of the band’s entry into therapy: “This is lame. This is fucking lame and weak”. Indeed.

Letter From Baghdad

From the Atlantic Monthly

Life in the wilds of a city without trust

by William Langewiesche

Now that the roads into Iraq have effectively been closed to Westerners by banditry and insurgent attacks, the best way into Baghdad for ordinary civilians is by air from Jordan, aboard a decrepit airliner, an old Fokker that shuttles two or three times a day between Amman and Baghdad-that is, as long as the airport is open. The airplane is operated by Royal Jordanian, and is flown by a South African crew-people who for whatever reasons are willing day in and day out to risk ground fire and surface-to-air missiles in a thin-skinned machine with limited maneuverability and no active defenses. For passengers willing to share briefly in the same risk, the ticket price is stiff-about $1,500 round-trip, for a one-hour flight each way. Nonetheless, dozens of takers show up at Amman's airport every day, many lugging duffels heavy with booze and body armor. They filter silently through the dim, dingy terminal, and collect at the gate in an elongated waiting room that seems to have been chosen for its isolation. There they eye one another with a single paradoxical question in mind: What sort of fool would travel voluntarily to Iraq these days?

The answer varies. A few are elite Iraqis, heavyset men in old three-piece suits, sometimes with their wives, returning home as people strangely insist on doing, out of habit or perceived necessity, and quite possibly to die. Some are Western war correspondents, the real thing, young-looking and scruffy in their street beards and their rumpled shirts without epaulets, who are less concerned about missiles than about the daily challenge that awaits on the far side, of doing their work while somehow preserving theirnecks. Others seem to be engineers or technical consultants, and first-timers in war; they are middle-aged men with wedding rings, carrying briefcases and appearing unsure, as if they took a wrong turn somewhere and are surprised. Still others are returning Green Zone hands, trading certainties among themselves with a familiarity bred in the relative safety and isolation of their fortress lives within the sprawling American compound at the center of Baghdad. But most of the passengers on most of the flights are different again, visibly tough and muscular men, British, South African, and American, often tattooed and clean-shaven, with close-cropped hair-contract warriors among the thousands who have signed on to ride shotgun for the Iraqi infrastructure projects where so much American and Iraqi money has been ploughed into the ground. All these people are acutely aware of their destination. The trip lies ahead with the inevitability of a sentence that has been pronounced on them. The mood in the waiting room is not fearful, but it is decidedly fatalistic.

During the short bus ride across the tarmac the passengers stand for the most part silent. But then there is the flight itself, at the start of which a couple of pretty South African attendants maintain the pretense of normalcy, performing an ordinary airline welcome ("Thank you for flying Royal Jordanian") and advising the passengers on the standard safety rules-to fasten their seat belts, for instance, despite a sentiment in the cabin of "Why bother?" and the unavoidable contemplation of the effect of a missile strike. In a war like this one the battlefield takes so many innocent-looking forms. The airplane climbs over Amman and heads east at high altitude across a desert of tans and blacks. The desert is scarred by military works. At some point it becomes Iraq. The attendants serve coffee with smiles. There is a boxed snack that it is wise to avoid. The captain comes on with the weather ahead, which for most of the year is simply hot. Then the Euphrates appears below, and the irrigated fields of Mesopotamia, and finally the Tigris, and Baghdad itself-a sprawl of a city, hazy with dust. The airplane holds overhead the Baghdad airport at 15,000 feet, above the range of the insurgency. When cleared for the approach it descends rapidly, with the landing gear and spoilers out, in an aggressive left spiral that is intended to reduce exposure to ground fire but, given the proximity of insurgents, offers no guarantees. After a final left turn it immediately touches down. During the taxi to the terminal a flight attendant says, "Welcome to Baghdad," but has the grace at least not to wish the passengers a pleasant stay.

It is a strange sensation to be delivered alone and so quickly into the radical world of a shapeless war. The Baghdad terminal is a grandiose, nearly deserted edifice, roamed by heavily armed guards, and sometimes shaken by the distant thumps of outgoing artillery or incoming mortars-at first it is hard to tell which. The new Iraqi government provides a visa on the spot, and stamps the passengers through amid confusion and delay. They get their bags and go to the curbside, where U.S. government employees and contractors are picked up in armored convoys for the drive to the Green Zone. Those who do not qualify for such treatment-which now means mostly Iraqis and Western journalists-catch a minibus that takes them several miles to a heavily defended checkpoint at the airport perimeter, where presumably they have arranged for someone trusted to pick them up. If that person does not appear (a common problem in a place where telephone communication is inadequate at best), there is no choice but to return to the terminal and try somehow to get a message through from there. The alternative of taking a taxi, of which there are many in Baghdad, has become impossibly dangerous as criminality and the insurgency have intertwined and spread, and the street price for a captive American has risen to $25,000, or so it is said.

Beyond the checkpoint the war is immediately all around. Indeed, the divided highway into town, though merely five miles long, is notorious for the frequency of lethal attacks. Western journalists generally negotiate it in ordinary Iraqi sedans, which are less likely than the American-style armored SUVs to draw the insurgents' fire, but by the same token cannot easily be distinguished as innocuous by the U.S. troops who have been given the tricky job of patrolling the road in their Bradley fighting vehicles and armored Humvees. It is prudent for people in the sedans, including the drivers, to raise their hands when passing one of those patrols, to show that they are empty. Of course the floors of the sedans these days are probably littered with loaded weapons-Kalashnikovs, pistols, and even grenades at the ready-and the soldiers know that, too. The soldiers are increasingly nervous
and ready to fire. Almost imperceptibly their discipline is fraying. One of the ironies for Westerners trying to reduce the dangers in Iraq by blending in, however partially, is that as the war worsens, they run an increased risk of attack from both sides. This is the danger that Iraqis face as well. If there is any relief in leaving the airport road and entering the deadly slow-moving traffic within the city, it is that at least the American patrols are less present.

Several days before the U.S. elections in November, American officials revised their count of hard-core insurgents upward to as many as 12,000-or 20,000 if active sympathizers were included. Leaving aside the question of how isolated bureaucracies can derive such numbers in the midst of a genuine and popular insurrection, the cap at 20,000 elicited grim disbelief among ordinary Iraqis, frontline soldiers, and others with a sense of a struggle on the streets that has spun out of control. There are six million people in Baghdad alone, and another 10 million in the angriest areas of central Iraq, and many are young men with a taste for war. Meanwhile, foreign fighters continue to arrive from throughout the Middle East, across borders that are unpoliceable not merely because they are long and wild but, more significant, because of the support these travelers receive once they cross the line and mix into the local populations. Moreover, though they probably number a few thousand, the foreign fighters constitute only a small fraction of the forces now arrayed against the United States. As for the tactics
involved, some are indeed crudely terroristic-the ongoing assassination of university professors, for instance, and the occasional car bombings of innocent market crowds in the cities. For the most part, however, the insurgents' attacks are less nihilistic than they are logical and precisely focused, whether against the American coalition and its camp followers or their Iraqi agents and collaborators. The truth is that however vicious or even sadistic the insurgents may be, they are acutely aware of their popular base, and are responsible for fewer unintentional "collateral" casualties than are the clumsy and overarmed American forces. Rhetoric aside, this is not a war on terror but a running fight with a large part of the Iraqi people. It is a classic struggle between the legions of a great power and the resistance of a native population. It is infinitely wider and deeper than officials can admit. And the United States is on the way to losing it.

Tragically, this was not the necessary outcome of the American invasion. After Baghdad fell, in the spring of 2003, the mood of the people was cautious but glad for the demise of Saddam Hussein, and open to the possibility that an American occupation would be a change for the better. By most measures it has not worked out that way. Though some of the blame lies with the immaturity and opportunism of the Iraqi people, these were factors that needed to be handled, and were not. The Iraqi people are far from stupid or unaware. But in the isolation and arrogance that have characterized the American occupation, never have we addressed them directly, explained ourselves honestly, humbly sought their support, respected their views of solutions, of political power, of American motivations, or of the history and future of Iraq. Even short of the killing we have done, we have broken down their doors, run them off the roads, swiveled our guns at them, shouted profanities at them, and disrespected their women-all this hundreds or thousands of times every day. We have dishonored them publicly, and within a society that places public honor
above life itself. These are the roots of the fight we are in. Now Saddam himself is re-emerging as a symbol of national potency.

There is more: faced with resistance, we have failed with both the carrot and the stick. Take the stick first. The mere presence of American troops may help prevent the outbreak of factional fighting, but the U.S. military is not a police force, and at no level of strength can it serve as one on Iraqi soil. The soldiers don't know the language, the culture, or the people, and they don't know who does know, or whom to trust. As measured by the personal risks they take they stay in the country too long, but in terms of understanding the human terrain they rotate out far too soon. Their mission amounts to driving around in armored vehicles from which visibility is poor, trying to protect themselves, and occasionally engaging in
politically disastrous assaults on neighborhoods and towns. The American success in Fallujah amounts to little more than a measure of American frustration. Across large swaths of central Iraq the insurgents exploit the troops adroitly. They fire on passing patrols from ordinary houses and slip away, counting on the Americans perhaps to pull back at first, but then to return in force to shoot, make arrests, and generally retaliate. The residents of the targeted neighborhoods understand the insurgents' trick, but it is the Americans they blame, as they blame them for drawing the insurgents' fire in the first place. Similarly, the insurgents get the
Americans to deliver their smart bombs to the wrong addresses-making a mockery of the conceit, already seen on Iraqi streets as a sign of American cowardice, that this war can be fought at standoff distances from the comfort of a combat jet. Then, of course, there are all the collateral dead: officially their numbers are not known, but they amount to a lot nonetheless, every one with family and friends.

On the carrot side of the American intervention are the infrastructure projects-fixing the electrical grid, for instance, and providing for clean water and sewage treatment, and upgrading the hospitals (into which the growing numbers of casualties are now carried). These projects were supposed to promote stability and provide Iraqis with better lives. Billions of dollars have been poured into them through the device of open-ended "cost plus" contracts, by which companies (almost all of them large and American) are reimbursed for the cost of the work, however they define that work, with an additional fee on top. There is no incentive to run efficient or discreet operations-to tread lightly on Iraqi soil. Indeed, quite the opposite. The main contractors base themselves in the Green Zone in grandly redundant style, with an abundance of people, equipment, and backup. Because of the
danger that exists on the outside, they have retreated from many of the reconstruction projects, but they remain in the country fully staffed, and continue to drink from public funds. Day to day much of their attention is taken up by complying with the arcane accounting requirements of the U.S. Federal Acquisition Regulations-a thicket of rules that do not limit the cost-plus profits so long as the columns are kept straight, and whose mandates serve, however unintentionally, to exclude potential low-cost competitors, particularly the Iraqis. In truth, the fact that the large contractors are sitting inefficiently in the Green Zone is of little direct consequence to the war outside. What is of consequence, paradoxically, is that they are not entirely inactive: despite the hazards, they continue to pursue some reconstruction projects in the city and beyond, and these
projects-intermittent, inconclusive, and unconvincing to the intended beneficiaries, ordinary Iraqis overwhelmed by anarchy-require visits by the contractors' expatriate technicians and construction managers. The visits, in turn, require the expatriates to travel to and from the sites, and this is done in the heaviest possible manner (where again one can see the cost-plus dynamic at play), in convoys of aggressively driven armored SUVs, typically three, with a team of as many as ten ostentatiously armed drivers and bodyguards. These are the personal-security details, made up of the private contract warriors who have been such a visible part of the American presence, and who operate outside any effective control, often in a hostile and undisciplined manner, sowing hatred wherever they move. With every trip to or from a reconstruction site they threaten and anger untold numbers of Iraqis on the streets. If the purpose of the infrastructure projects was to win the sympathy of Iraq, then this is one important reason why we have sunk into war instead.

In any case, the war has degenerated to the extent that the construction sites have become nothing more than symbols of the despised American presence. For the resistance they also serve as convenient collection points for identifiable collaborators-usually laborers-who can easily be hunted down and killed as a lesson for others. There is a lot of that sort of teaching going on these days. At just one sewage project in Baghdad, for example, as many as thirty Iraqi workers were shot in only three months late last year. It is an unusual record only because someone kept count. The assassination campaign is systematic. It is decimating American projects throughout central Iraq, and has taken a particularly heavy toll among Green Zone workers. So pervasive is the threat that Iraqis still working with the occupation do not dare speak English on the phone, even at home in front of
only their children, lest word leak out. When I call the Iraqis who work for me, a driver and a guard, my first question is whether they can talk. As often as not they answer by hanging up. This is new. It has gotten to the point where collaborators feel lucky if they are not killed at once but instead given a chance to mend their ways. That chance comes in the form of one of several standard letters.

To the brothers of the monkey and pig. Show your regret, or your destiny will be like that of your brother spies. You shall follow your brothers. You will not succeed before God's anger, and our own. You are the enemy of God and Country.


You, the Afterbirth, DO NOT sell your soul to the enemy. Because you are our brother in religion, we give you this one last warning before death.

Whichever note he receives, a collaborator generally has forty-eight hours to stop working with the occupation, and somehow to make this very clear. If he does not stop, he will certainly die. As a result, almost everyone hastens to comply. A few of the most stubborn do not. They move with their families to new neighborhoods and houses. They change their names, and grow beards or shave beards off. They come up with new fictions to explain their days. They avoid at any cost traveling directly from home to work, and especially traveling directly back. For all this, though, they cannot escape an aura of doom; they are people who at best seem to have slowed the clock. Outside the Green Zone there is really no hiding from the insurgency

Nonetheless, some Westerners still live in the wilds of the city. They are reduced now mostly to a few journalists and the best of the contract warriors-people whose work requires them to maintain some sort of connection to the realities of the Iraqi street. This is difficult, because the realities are lethal quite particularly to them: they are being stalked, captured, tortured, and killed. The armed forces who sometimes pass by, whether Iraqi or American, will not or cannot protect them, and indeed pose significant threats of their own. Furthermore, there are no safe refuges in which to hunker down. Out of inertia the network-television crews, clumsy with bodyguards and equipment, remain nearly prisoners in the large hotels at the center of the city. The hotels have become famous even beyond Iraq-the Palestine, the Sheraton, and across the Tigris the Mansour. They are grim concrete structures-stale with tobacco smoke, bad food, and dust-that, though heavily protected and surrounded by blast walls and concertina wire, present obvious targets for the insurgents' attacks. They have been rocketed already, and it seems just a matter of time until one or another gets badly bombed. The television crews know it, too. They rotate through a few months at a time, and send out their Iraqi stringers to gather stories and video footage on the streets (a bomb here or there, the wounded and the crying), and do their "standups" with live backdrops of the city, and for their personal safety trust in luck.

Most of the print reporters rotate through as well. During the golden times of the summer and fall of 2003, before the insurgency gathered force, those who worked for the large newspapers and wire services left the big establishments and installed their "bureaus" in private houses, which were both more comfortable and less obvious than the hotels. Some had gardens and pools. Gradually, then, as the war deepened, they fortified those places with higher walls, steel doors, sandbags, iron grilles, wire mesh, and even safe rooms into which, in theory (if they moved impossibly fast), they could escape in the event of an assault. They hired guards with AK-47s, and then hired more. They hooked up TV cameras to watch the roofs, and the streets outside. They put a halt to the sort of partying that had gone on in the
early days, after Baghdad's fall. And they tried very hard to maintain low profiles. There were scares now and then, when one group or another would flee a house believed to have come under surveillance, but the security seemed to work fairly well-until the insurgents simply ignored it and began to invade houses, last fall.
It became clear then that the defenses had been an illusion all along. And so the reporters migrated again, or most of them did, this time into some of the small hotels, where they remain today, on the theory of the middle ground-the idea that such establishments may offer stiffer resistance to incursions than can private households, but nonetheless may appear too insignificant to waste rockets and car bombs on. These are wishful thoughts, of course, and they have already been proved wrong, but what else are people to do? The reporters spend much of their time now in earnest conversation over such fine-tunings, knowing full well, as they readily admit, that by any normal standards, even those of an ordinary war zone, in Baghdad there are no acceptable solutions.

The greater danger anyway is in driving through the city or beyond. The basics are clear. Discreet sedans, again, are the vehicles of choice. The armored versions of them, which some news organizations now have, might get you through a short gunfight, but they can kill you, too, particularly through the overpressure that results from the explosion of a rocket-propelled grenade that penetrates to the inside. A thin-skinned car won't stop rifle rounds, but it may allow a rocket grenade to pass right through. So pick your poison. It may help to wear body armor if it does not have a visible neck guard and can be hidden under a loose shirt. Conversely, helmets and ballistic sunglasses are far too showy. Of course, the goal is to avoid being attacked in the first place. There is no sure way to do this
and still get around. If you are staying in a hotel, you have to assume that you are being watched on the street both coming and going, and probably by the desk clerks as well. It is essential therefore to avoid set schedules and routines, to vary routes, and if possible occasionally to change cars. It is also important to have a skillful driver, who knows when to move fast and when not to, and who is aware of what is happening around him on the streets. The same goes for the guard, who needs to be good with a gun but, more important, to be smart. And, of course, it is important to have people you can trust.

Sadly, as the insurgency grows, trust is fading away. This is one of the most sensitive and dangerous aspects of life for reporters in Baghdad today: nearly every news organization is facing troubles with its Iraqi staff, and to various but increasing degrees is being held in some way hostage, out of fear of the consequences of disagreement or disciplinary action. You don't just go around laying off people in Iraq these days. Indeed, the very air of Baghdad seems thick with suspicions of betrayal. Even within the Green Zone, which is largely self-sufficient, many Americans now automatically distrust any Iraqi employee who has been there for longer than about two months. Why has this person not been assassinated, people wonder-or at least frightened off with a letter? The question is legitimate. Americans have awakened and found that the enemy is closer even than dreamed of before.

It is a new day in Iraq, yes. In the space of just a few months the interim government of Ayad Allawi has gutted many of the earlier reforms and has lost any hope of legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqi people, who see it as a flimsy construct propped up by the United States, and powerless in the face of their own disdain. Corruption is rife on every level, and with it cynicism. The courts are bowing to political pressure. The Iraqi security forces are riddled with insurgents, not because the vetting is poor, or because agents have been planted, but because hatred of America has grown within the ranks just as it has in Iraqi society at large. There is still some hope attached to the coming elections-if only because most Shiites have so far stayed out of the fray. People have different thresholds for crossing over into the resistance, and different capacities for violent action, but even some of my old friends, once so welcoming to me as an American, are telling me that they are approaching those lines. The question is no longer who is against the United States in Iraq but who is not.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Right to Resist Occupation

Counterpunch, January 21, 2005

The Anti-War Movement and the Iraqi Resistance


The Iraqi resistance to U.S. occupation is growing, as is its support among
ordinary Iraqis. Iraq's interim government recently admitted that the
insurgency involves at least 40,000 "hardcore fighters" and up to 200,000
active sympathizers--a far cry from the isolated 5,000 "Baathist remnants"
and "foreign fighters" the Pentagon initially claimed to be fighting.

A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted in March concluded, "The
insurgents...seem to be gaining broad acceptance, if not outright support.
If the [pro-U.S.] Kurds, who make up about 13 percent of the poll, are
taken out of the equation, more than half of Iraqis say killing U.S. troops
can be justified in at least some cases."

That was shortly before the first siege on Falluja, in which U.S. forces
killed over 600 civilians before the armed resistance drove them out.
Support for the resistance can only have grown now that U.S. bombs have
flattened Falluja, killing hundreds more civilians and driving 200,000
residents to live in the squalor of refugee camps--while dispersing the
resistance fighters to other localities.

In mid-December, for example, Knight Ridder reported on a 41-year-old Iraqi
woman, Kifah Khudhair, injured in a car bombing in Baghdad--whose rage was
directed not at the car bombers, but at the Americans. "What can we do?"
her son said. "These things happen every day, like looting and murder. I am
angry at the Americans because it is all their fault. This is all because
of them."

* * *

IRAQIS SUPPORT the resistance against the U.S. occupation of their country
for one simple reason: they want the Americans to get out--now.

Yet many in the U.S. antiwar movement have had difficulty accepting this
black-and-white reasoning, preferring to see the world in shades of gray.
"[Iraqi] jihadis or America's terror-using hypocrites? If we are truly to
stop the terrorists, the world must take sides against both," wrote New
Left veteran Steve Weissman recently on Truthout.

This argument by Weissman is faulty on two counts.

First, Weissman equates the 500-pound bombs and high-tech weapons used by
the world's biggest superpower occupying Iraq (at the cost of $7.8 billion
per month) to the rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs of those
resisting that occupation. One side aims to control Iraq to fulfill its
grand plan to dominate the Middle East and its oil. The other merely seeks
the right for Iraqis to determine their own future.

Some 100,000 Iraqi civilians are now estimated dead because of the war and
occupation. This followed the roughly 1 million Iraqis killed from the
deprivation caused by more than a decade of economic sanctions. And this
followed a death toll of up to 200,000 in the 1991 Gulf War. Choosing sides
should not be so difficult.
Without for a moment endorsing the tactic of targeting civilians, which is
used by parts of the resistance, the sheer magnitude of the death and
destruction inflicted by the U.S. upon ordinary Iraqis should dispel any
myth that the two sides in this war deserve equal condemnation.

Moreover, Weissman accepts at face value the Bush administration's absurd
characterization of the insurgency as dominated by "terrorists" and Islamic

On December 15, the Boston Globe published a report by Molly Bingham, who
lived from August 2003 until June 2004 in Baghdad researching the
resistance. She observed, "The composition of the Iraqi resistance is not
what the U.S. administration has been calling it, and the more it is
oversimplified, the harder it is to explain its complexity. I met Shia and
Sunnis fighting together, women and men, young and old. I met people from
all economic, social and educational backgrounds."

She continued: "The original impetus for almost all of the individuals I
spoke to was a nationalistic one--the desire to defend their country from
occupation, not to defend Saddam Hussein or his regime." Bingham's
conclusion should help focus the aims of every antiwar activist in the
U.S.: "The resistance will continue until American influence has
disappeared from Iraq's political system."

* * *

SUPPORT FOR the right of Iraqis to resist occupation must extend beyond an
abstract principle for the U.S. antiwar movement.

While recognizing "the right of the Iraqi people to resist as a point of
principle," Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies--in widely
circulated notes for a speech to the steering committee of United for Peace
and Justice (UFPJ) on December 18--argued, "We should not call for
'supporting the resistance' because we don't know who most of them are and
what they really stand for, and because of those we do know, we mostly
don't support their social program beyond opposition to the occupation."

To be meaningful, however, supporting the "right to resist" must include
support for that resistance once it actually emerges.

Award-winning Indian writer and global justice activist Arundhati Roy got
to the heart of the issue in a San Francisco speech on August 16: "It is
absurd to condemn the resistance to the U.S. occupation in Iraq, as being
masterminded by terrorists," she said. "After all, if the United States
were invaded and occupied, would everybody who fought to liberate it be a

If we are waiting for the "ideologically pure" movement--assuming the
unlikely scenario that all those opposed to the war could agree on one--we
could be waiting forever.

As Roy explained, "Like most resistance movements, [the Iraqis] combine a
motley range of assorted factions. Former Baathists, liberals, Islamists,
fed-up collaborationists, communists, etc. Of course, it is riddled with
opportunism, local rivalry, demagoguery and criminality. But if we were to
only support pristine movements, then no resistance will be worthy of our

"Before we prescribe how a pristine Iraqi resistance must conduct their
secular, feminist, democratic, nonviolent battle, we should shore up our
end of the resistance by forcing the U.S. and its allied governments to
withdraw from Iraq."

Focus on the Global South's Walden Bello made a similar point in June.
"What western progressives forget is that national liberation movements are
not asking them mainly for ideological or political support," he wrote.
"What they really want from the outside is international pressure for the
withdrawal of an illegitimate occupying power so that internal forces can
have the space to forge a truly national government based on their unique
processes. Until they give up this dream of having an ideal liberation
movement tailored to their values and discourse, U.S. peace activists will,
like the Democrats they often criticize, continue to be trapped within a
paradigm of imposing terms for other people."

* * *

THE U.S. antiwar movement should heed this advice and expend less energy in
judging the character of the Iraqi resistance and more effort on building a
visible resistance to the Iraq occupation from inside the U.S.

When the U.S. invaded Falluja and the Abu Ghraib torture scandal broke in
the spring of 2004, the U.S. antiwar movement--already ensconced in its
misguided effort to elect prowar John Kerry--declined to mount a visible
response to these and other atrocities committed by the U.S. in Iraq,
effectively sparing the Bush administration from the need to account for
its war crimes.

The main challenge for antiwar activists in the United States is to rebuild
a visible, national antiwar movement. That means opposing the January 30
election--held under martial law, which will effectively exclude 50 percent
of the population--and supporting the resistance that exposes its utter

Is this strategy too ambitious--too far to the left for "mainstream"
America? That is unlikely, since a majority of Americans continue to oppose
the war.

U.S. troops are also divided, and we need to actively support those troops
who--at great personal risk--are resisting. The latest is U.S. Army Sgt.
Kevin Benderman, who refused to redeploy to Iraq earlier this month after
serving there from March to September 2003.

"The people that we are fighting now are for the most part people like you
and me, people who are defending themselves against a superior military
force and fighting to keep that which is rightfully theirs," Benderman
said. He added that the Iraqi people have the right to choose their own
form of government, "just like we did in America after the revolution."

The antiwar movement must not lose sight of the fact that its main enemy is
at home--and any resistance to that enemy deserves our unconditional support.

Iraq, Fallujah polls top-secret

Only 8,500 residents left in Fallujah and fighting continues. Click title to link.

Iraq News]: WASHINGTON - For their own safety, voters who dare to show up in the battered and mostly abandoned city of Fallujah will be among the last to know where to go to cast their ballots, the top Marine in Iraq said yesterday. "We have not even put the word out to the Iraqi people" on the locations of polling sites nationwide for the Jan. 30 elections, said Lt. Gen. John Sattler, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in charge of western Iraq.

That information will be even more closely guarded in Fallujah. . .

Why the emperor has no clothes

Click title to link

By Andre Gunder Frank

01/20/05 "Asia Times" -- Uncle Sam has reneged and defaulted on up to 40% of its trillion-dollar foreign debt, and nobody has said a word except for a line in The Economist. In plain English that means Uncle Sam runs a worldwide confidence racket with his self-made dollar based on the confidence that he has elicited and received from others around the world, and he is a also a deadbeat in that he does not honor and return the money he has received.

How much of our dollar stake we have lost depends on how much we originally paid for it. Uncle Sam let his dollar fall, or rather through his deliberate political economic policies drove it down, by 40%, from 80 cents to the euro to 133 cents. The dollar is down by a similar factor against the yen, yuan and other currencies. And it is still declining, indeed is apt to plummet altogether. . .

Arabs wary of Bush's 'freedom' speech

Click title to link to this Aljazeera story

George Bush's pledge to spread liberty around the globe has earned a frosty reception in the Arab world, with observers dismissing as hollow rhetoric his insistence on promoting freedom.

Friday, January 21, 2005

U.S. to Take Bigger Bite of Iraq's Economic Pie

Click title to link to full story

Emad Mekay

The United States is helping the interim Iraqi government continue to make major economic changes, including cuts to social subsidies, full access for U.S. companies to the nation's oil reserves and reconsideration of oil deals that the previous regime signed with France and Russia.

WASHINGTON, Dec 23 (IPS) - The United States is helping the interim Iraqi government continue to make major economic changes, including cuts to social subsidies, full access for U.S. companies to the nation's oil reserves and reconsideration of oil deals that the previous regime signed with France and Russia.

During a visit here this week, officials of the U.S.-backed administration detailed some of the economic moves planned for Iraq, many of them appearing to give U.S. corporations greater reach into the occupied nation's economy.

HISTORY OF SCIENCE: Lost in Translation?

A great review from Science magazine

A review by Stuart McCook*

Plants and Empire Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World by Londa Schiebinger
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2004. 318 pp. $39.95, £25.95, euro36.90. ISBN 0-674-01487-1.

In Plants and Empire, Londa Schiebinger uses an innovative analytical approach to revisit the familiar subject of natural history in the colonial Atlantic world. Her study seeks to understand the production of culturally induced scientific ignorance, or agnotology. "Ignorance is often not merely the absence of knowledge," she argues, "but an outcome of cultural and political struggle." In particular, she seeks to understand how and why knowledge of West Indian abortifacients was not
transferred to 18th-century Europe. The book explores the history of the silences, struggles, and structures that prevented this transfer.

The 18th-century West Indies were, in Schiebinger's words, a "biocontact zone." The region's inhabitants included people, plants, and animals from the Americas, Africa, and Europe. European bioprospectors scoured the region for new plants and animals of scientific, commercial, or medical value. Schiebinger, a historian of science at Stanford University, paints the 17th and 18th centuries as a period of relative openness in the world of European science. She provides vivid portraits
of representative European naturalists, such as the English physician Sir Hans Sloane, who worked in Jamaica, and the Dutch entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian, who worked in Surinam. European naturalists learned much about West Indian flora and fauna from indigenous and African informants, the names of whom are largely lost to history. Such exchanges of information did not take place on an equal footing and were fraught with cultural and social obstacles.

Schiebinger's study explores these exchanges and transfers by focusing on the history of one plant. The peacock flower (Poinciana pulcherrima) is a tropical shrub with seeds that have abortifacient properties. Its botanical origins remain obscure, but by the 18th century it was cultivated throughout the West Indies. Amerindian and African communities in the Caribbean had incorporated it into their
pharmacopoeia. Schiebinger situates the plant in the context of colonial racial and gender struggles, showing how Africans in particular used abortion as a form of anti-colonial resistance, robbing Europeans of potential labor. Europeans eventually learned about the peacock flower's abortifacient properties. Merian heard about it directly from slave women in Surinam, and she describes its role in slave resistance in her 1704 study of the insects of Surinam. Sloane independently learned about the plant's properties while working as a physician in Jamaica.

The peacock flower itself was first transferred to Europe in the late 17th century. It came to be cultivated in the continent's leading botanical gardens, including the Jardin du Roi in Paris and the Chelsea Physic Garden in London. Schiebinger carefully distinguishes between the transfer of the plant and the transfer of knowledge about the plant. With its flaming red and yellow flowers, Poinciana became well known to European gardeners as a favored ornamental. But knowledge of its abortive properties only rarely crossed the Atlantic and did not take
root in Europe.

Schiebinger explains this nontransfer of knowledge by situating the peacock flower in the context of 18th-century drug testing and comparing it with similar remedies that were taken up in Europe. During the 18th century, the regulation and systematic testing of drugs became more common. Approved drugs were listed in the official Pharmacopoeia of London, Paris, and Amsterdam. Neither the peacock flower nor any other West Indian abortifacient was ever included in 18th- century European
pharmacopoeia. Schiebinger shows that this exclusion did not reflect a European prejudice against drugs from the New World: European pharmacopoeias included many New World medicines, such as chinchona to treat malaria and guaiacum to treat syphilis. Nor did it reflect a prejudice against drugs related to women's reproduction. European physicians experimented extensively with emmenagogues--drugs designed to regulate the menses--including many from the New World. Nor were there
any official regulations or laws prohibiting the medical study of abortifacients.

The principal obstacle to inclusion was rooted in a broader shift in attitudes toward abortion and abortifacients that took place in the 18th and early 19th centuries. According to Schiebinger, "late eighteenth-century experimental physicians stood at a fork in the road with respect to abortifacients." Abortifacient plants were an integral part of traditional knowledges and practices, in both the Old and New Worlds. Physicians might have chosen to incorporate these plants into their pharmacopoeias, as they did with many other forms of traditional
knowledge, or they might have chosen "the road toward the suppression of these knowledges and practices." Almost universally, European physicians chose the latter.

Schiebinger argues carefully that knowledge of the peacock flower and other abortifacients was not overtly suppressed or proscribed. She shows, instead, how the cultural and political structures of 18th-century Europe collectively impeded the transfer of knowledge about abortifacients. She concludes that the "agnotology of abortives among Europeans was not for want of knowledge collected in the colonies; it resulted from protracted struggles over who should control women's
fertility." Europe's mercantilist states were anxious to increase their populations, both at home and in the colonies. National wealth and national strength depended on healthy and increasing populations. Most naturalists and physicians were part of these imperial enterprises to encourage population growth. Even when European naturalists and physicians in the West Indies did learn about new abortifacients, they chose not to disseminate their knowledge. Their counterparts in Europe, similarly, had little incentive to promote the use of abortifacients, or even to study them. Limiting population was simply anathema to the prevailing goals of late 18th-century science and government.

The book does leave some questions unanswered. Religious groups play a central role in contemporary debates over contraception and abortion, so their absence from Schiebinger's account is striking. Some explanation of organized religion's involvement (or non-involvement) in the 18th-century debates would have been helpful. This reservation aside, Plants and Empire presents a subtle and compelling explanation for why knowledge of West Indian abortifacients was not taken up by scientists in Europe. More broadly, Schiebinger illustrates the explanatory power
of agnotology. Her study of scientific ignorance demonstrates that understanding what scientists do not know is just as important as understanding what they do know.

The reviewer is in the Department of History, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, N1G 2W1, Canada.

Volume 307, Number 5707, Issue of 14 Jan 2005, pp. 210-211. Copyright © 2005 by The American Association for the Advancement of Science. All rights reserved.

Marxism and the Call of the Future

Click title to link to the first chapter of this book published on line

Conversations on Ethics, History, and Politics

The Revolutionary Worker is proud to feature an excerpt from the forthcoming book Marxism and the Call of the Future: Conversations on Ethics, History, and Politics by Bob Avakian and Bill Martin.

Published by Open Court—whose titles run the gamut from works on analytic philosophy to philosophical studies of The Sopranos and Buffy the Vampire Slayer—this provocative new book will be available in March.

Marxism and the Call of the Future is a wide- ranging dialogue between two provocative thinkers: Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and Bill Martin, a radical social theorist and professor of philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago. The two address the relevance and challenges before Marxism in the contemporary world; imperialism and the state of world humanity; secularism and religion; animal rights; the prospects for revolution; and much more. They discuss philosophers like Heidegger, Sartre, and Derrida—and along the way make contact with diverse figures like Tecumseh and Bob Dylan.

Marxism and the Call of the Future is a lively exchange that often goes in unexpected directions. In the chapter we are printing, "Calculation, Classes, and Categorical Imperatives," Bob Avakian and Bill Martin explore people’s "objective interests" in replacing the current system, the role of "the ethical" or "the good" in the revolutionary process, and the nature of ethics itself. The 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant and his view that people should be treated as an end and never only as a means is an important point of reference in the discussion.

We thank Open Court for their cooperation in making advance publication of this chapter possible.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Conservatives Pick Soft Target: A Cartoon Sponge

NY Times, January 20, 2005


WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 - On the heels of electoral victories barring same-sex marriage, some influential conservative Christian groups are turning their attention to a new target: the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants.

"Does anybody here know SpongeBob?" Dr. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, asked the guests Tuesday night at a black-tie dinner for members of Congress and political allies to celebrate the election results.

SpongeBob needed no introduction. In addition to his popularity among children, who watch his cartoon show, he has become a well-known camp figure among adult gay men, perhaps because he holds hands with his animated sidekick Patrick and likes to watch the imaginary television show "The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy."

Now, Dr. Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity."

The video's creator, Nile Rodgers, who wrote the disco hit "We Are Family," said Mr. Dobson's objection stemmed from a misunderstanding. Mr. Rodgers said he founded the We Are Family Foundation after the Sept. 11 attacks to create a music video to teach children about multiculturalism. The video has appeared on television networks, and nothing in it or its accompanying materials refers to sexual identity. The pledge, borrowed from the Southern Poverty Law Center, is not mentioned on the video and is available only on the group's Web site.

Mr. Rodgers suggested that Dr. Dobson and the American Family Association, the conservative Christian group that first sounded the alarm, might have been confused because of an unrelated Web site belonging to another group called "We Are Family," which supports gay youth.

"The fact that some people may be upset with each other peoples' lifestyles, that is O.K.," Mr. Rodgers said. "We are just talking about respect."

Mark Barondess, the foundation's lawyer, said the critics "need medication."

On Wednesday however, Paul Batura, assistant to Mr. Dobson at Focus on the Family, said the group stood by its accusation.

"We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids," he said. "It is a classic bait and switch."

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Chemical Brothers: Packing serious beats

Click title to link to full story

The new album contains their most political moment to date. Even dance music can't ignore the real world, they tell Fiona Sturges

Published : 19 January 2005

They may be the biggest thing in dance music since the mixer was invented, but you'd be hard pushed to spot The Chemical Brothers - aka Tom Rowlands, 33, and Ed Simons, 34 - in a crowd. It's probably a result of all that time spent indoors realigning his hard drive that Simons could easily pass for a computer salesman or a schoolteacher - almost anything, in fact, except one half of a world-famous dance duo. Rowlands, who has finally abandoned his long indie-kid tresses in favour of a more sensible crop, is at least vaguely recognisable in his trademark tinted specs, though he, too, retains the look of someone who could do with getting out more. . .

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Click title to link to full article in The New Yorker

What the Pentagon can now do in secret

George W. Bush’s reëlection was not his only victory last fall. The President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state. Bush has an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that control—against the mullahs in Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorism—during his second term. The C.I.A. will continue to be downgraded, and the agency will increasingly serve, as one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon put it, as “facilitators” of policy emanating from President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. This process is well under way. . .

Bush’s Grand Plan: Incite Civil War

Click title to link to full article on ZNet

by Mike Whitney

The Bush Administration is intentionally steering Iraq towards civil war. The elections are merely the catalyst for igniting, what could be, a massive social upheaval. This explains the bizarre insistence on voting when security is nearly nonexistent and where a mere 7% of the people can even identify the candidates. (This figure gleaned from Allawi’s Baghdad newspaper, Al-Sabah) Rumsfeld is using the elections as a springboard for aggravating tensions between Sunnis and Shiites and for diverting attention away from the troops. It’s a foolhardy move that only magnifies the desperation of the present situation. The Pentagon brass expected a “cakewalk” and, instead, they’ve found themselves mired in a guerilla war. . .

Trouble In Our Back Yard

From the Washington Post

In Latin America, Democracy Is Faltering

By Jackson Diehl
Monday, January 17, 2005; Page A17

The Bush administration expects to focus much of its attention in a second term on promoting a political transformation of the Arab Middle East. But it may also have to spend some time on a parallel problem: preventing the unraveling of the democratic change the United States successfully nurtured a generation ago.

As Ronald Reagan began his second term 20 years ago, the United States was struggling to foster democracy in Latin America. Amid deep skepticism in Washington, Reagan's team promoted imperfect elections in Central America while trying to train the feckless army of El Salvador to defeat insurgents. Meanwhile, it pushed dictators with whom the United States had once been friendly, such as Chile's Augusto Pinochet, toward holding democratic elections. In the end, democracy
did sweep the region, extending to every country but Cuba. When several challenges to the new order were successfully turned back during the 1990s, it appeared irreversible.

Now Latin America's buried tradition of authoritarian populism is making a comeback, fueled by sluggish economic growth, corruption and weak leadership. In the past few weeks, what had been a slowly deteriorating situation has begun to snowball:

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez has responded to his victory in a controversial recall referendum by aggressively moving to eliminate the independence of the media and judiciary, criminalize opposition, and establish state control over the economy. He is also using his country's surging oil revenue to prop up the once-beleaguered Cuban dictatorship of Fidel Castro, sponsor anti-democratic movements in
other Latin countries and buy influence around the region. Last week he literally declared war against privately owned farms, sending troops to occupy one of the country's largest cattle ranches.

In Bolivia, the Chavez-funded Movement Toward Socialism has already driven one democratically elected president from office through violent protests. Last week it was working on his successor, Carlos Mesa, who faced paralyzing strikes by the leftists that closed off roads to the capital for two days.

In Ecuador, another populist president, Lucio Gutierrez, used his slim majority in the national legislature last month to pack the country's judiciary, including the Supreme Court, Constitutional Tribunal and Supreme Electoral Council.

Nicaragua's president, Enrique Bolanos, avoided a de facto coup last week only by striking a deal with former Sandinista ruler Daniel Ortega, who has threatened to use a corruptly assembled alliance to alter the constitution and transfer power from the presidency to the Sandinista-run legislature. Though polls show that an overwhelming majority of Nicaraguans oppose him, Ortega is closer to regaining
power than at any time since Nicaragua rejected his Marxist dictatorship and returned to democracy in 1990.

A decade ago Latin America's stronger democratic leaders could be counted on to rally against such authoritarian movements with the help of the United States, using the vehicle of the Organization of American States. Just three years ago the OAS adopted a democracy charter that allows for collective action against member states that violate such principles as an independent judiciary. But even the
strong democracies, like Brazil and Chile, have grown weaker: Both have leftist presidents who frequently strike poses against President Bush's policies but have little stomach for taking on a menace such as Chavez. Even if they were to challenge the Chavistas, the Latin democrats would find few followers in the OAS assembly. Venezuela has bought off a raft of governments with subsidized supplies of oil.

All of this puts the Bush administration in a difficult position. If it assertively challenges the anti-democratic leaders, it may find itself alone, shunned by Latin leaders and accused by liberals in Washington of reviving Yanqui imperialism. Working from Castro's playbook, Chavez already uses Bush as a foil and excuse for
persecuting democratic opponents. But quiet diplomacy doesn't work either. The Bush team has tried to quietly reach out to Chavez in recent months while urging his neighbors to stand up to him -- only to see his reckless "revolution" accelerate. Ignoring the trouble in Ecuador and Bolivia hasn't made it go away.

So what can be done? One option is simply to wait for Chavez and his populist imitators to crash and burn, as they have throughout Latin American history, while seeking to shore up democratic Latin governments in the meantime. But that could take a long time, especially if oil prices remain high; and a Venezuelan collapse could be costly, given the country's position as the supplier of 13 percent of U.S. oil. The alternative is a long, arduous and carefully calibrated program to rally support for democratic freedoms and convince Latin leaders that they cannot afford to allow their neighbors to subvert them. That would require deep engagement by Bush
and his new secretary of state -- in other words, a reversal of the administration's neglect of Latin America during the past four years. It doesn't seem likely; but the way things are going, there may be little choice.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Falluja on Film: "City of Ghosts"

Click title to link to full story

Guardian Films and Channel 4 News produced a film on Falluja. You can watch the film and read its transcript at the websites of Channel 4 and Journeyman Pictures:

Falluja: The Fall and Fall Out (January 10, 2005)

Fallujah: The Real Fall (January 11, 2005)

The film follows an Iraqi doctor Ali Fadhil, as he interviews Fallujans in refugee camps and inside Falluja itself. It opens with a tragicomic episode:

Fallujah has been closed as a city for two months. Nahida is one of the first Fallujans to go back since the the Americans occupied the city.

She wanted to show me what had been left behind.

"Look at it ! Furniture, clothes thrown everywhere! They smashed up the cupboards, and they wrote something bad on the dressing-table mirror." -- Nahida Kham

She doesn’t speak English so I explained to her what the words mean: "FUCK IRAQ AND EVERY IRAQI IN IT!"

"I knew it. I knew these words were insulting." -- Nahida Kham (emphasis added, January 11, 2005)

Once inside the city, Fadhil "could smell bodies beneath the rubble" (January 11, 2005). Rotting corpses have been "eaten by hungry dogs," the source of "a serious outbreak of rabies" (January 11, 2005). Falluja, once "the City of Mosques," is now "the City of Rubble," where "over 300,000 people have lost their homes" (January 11, 2005) and every Fallujan is required to obtain an ID card from the US military to enter his own city: "They took prints of all my fingers, two pictures of my face in profile, and then photographed my iris. I was now eligible to go into Falluja, just like any other Fallujan" (Ali Fadhil, "City of Ghosts," The Guardian, January 11, 2005). . .

Bush inauguration: don't look him in the eye

By: Joan Lowy

Scripps Howard

WASHINGTON - The nation's 55th presidential inauguration, the first to be held since 9/11, will take place this month under perhaps the heaviest security of any in U.S. history.

Dozens of federal and local law enforcement agencies and military commands are planning what they describe as the heaviest possible security. Virtually everyone who gets within eyesight of the president either during the Jan. 20 inauguration ceremony at the U.S. Capitol or the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue later in the day will first go through a metal detector or receive a body pat-down.

Thousands of police officers and military personnel are being brought to Washington from around the country for the four-day event. Sharpshooters will be deployed on roofs, while bomb-sniffing dogs will work the streets. Electronic sensors will be used to detect chemical or biological weapons.

Anti-abortion protesters have been warned to leave their crosses at home. Parade performers will have security escorts to the bathroom, and they've been ordered not to look directly at President Bush or make any sudden movements while passing the reviewing stand.

"It's going to be very different from past inaugurals," said Contricia Sellers-Ford, spokeswoman for the U.S. Capitol Police, which is responsible for the Capitol and grounds. "A lot of the security differences will not be detected by the public - there will be a lot of behind the scenes implementation - but the public will definitely see more of a police presence."

The Department of Homeland Security has designated the inaugural a National Special Security Event under a protocol introduced by President Bill Clinton that calls for especially heavy security during events of national significance at which large numbers of government officials and dignitaries are present.

There have been 20 previously designated special security events, including Bush's first inaugural, last year's Democratic and Republican conventions, former President Ronald Reagan's funeral and the 2002 Super Bowl.

Under the protocol, the Secret Service takes the lead in drawing up the security plan, while the FBI gathers intelligence and the Federal Emergency Management Agency oversees response scenarios to possible terror attacks.

The Secret Service also works closely with the Defense Department, the National Park Service, and local police agencies, especially the Washington police department and the Capitol police. About 40 agencies are involved.

The Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region, which was created two years ago to bring coordination to the many disparatemilitary units in the Washington area, will provide more than 4,000 troops to help.

Washington, D.C., police chief Charles Ramsey has sent invitations to police departments across the country inviting them to send squads of officers to help with inauguration security. The federal government is paying for officers' hotels, meals and air travel.

Several thousand officers are expected, Ramsey said. That includes squads from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, Bradenton, Fla., Charlotte and Greensboro, N.C., the North Carolina state highway patrol, several law enforcement agencies in Texas and other parts of the country.

"This is the first post 9/11 (inauguration) so obviously there are some more security concerns this time than in past years," Ramsey said.

The extra officers from around the country will free up Washington police officers so that they can form "mobile platoon civil disturbance units" to prevent protest demonstrations from getting out of hand, Ramsey said.

Groups planning demonstrations during the inauguration festivities are already smarting from security restrictions. Anti-war protesters with the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition have complained that large sections of the parade route have been set aside for Bush's political contributors and supporters and will be closed to the general public.

The anti-abortion Christian Defense Coalition, which is also planning a demonstration, has threatened to sue the government because the Secret Service recently added crosses to its list of objects that are banned from the parade route.

"I think it's censorship no matter how you look at it," said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the defense coalition.

Besides weapons, other items on the banned list include coolers, folding chairs, bicycles, pets, papier-mache objects, displays such as puppets, mock coffins, props and "any items determined to be a potential safety hazard."

Parade performers said they also have been warned to expect unprecedented security.

"They've told us right out that it's going to be very, very tight," said Peter LaFlamme, executive director of the Spartans Drum and Bugle Corps in Nashua, N.H. LaFlamme said he has been receiving almost daily phone calls from inaugural organizers to apprise him of new security procedures.

Thousands of performers - marching bands, color guards, pompon dancers, hand bell-ringers, drill teams on horseback and Civil War re-enactors - will be bused early in the morning to the Pentagon parking lot across the Potomac in Virginia. While performers disembark and go through metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs will search the buses.

Then everybody will get back on the buses for a trip to the National Mall, where they will spend most of the day in heavily guarded warming tents. Participants have been warned that they will not be allowed to leave the tents except to go to portable toilets accompanied by a security escort.

Other instructions given performers include a warning not to look directly at Bush while passing the presidential reviewing stand, not to look to either side and not to make any sudden movements.

"They want you to just look straight ahead," said Danielle Adam, co-director of the Mid American Pompon All Star Team from Michigan, which also performed in the 2001 inaugural parade.

"Last time we went security was really tight," Adam said. "This time we got almost like a book of things we needed to fill out beforehand."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


ZNET update - Jan.11 -

By Andre Vltchek

Resting in a comfortable seat of super-express speeding towards northern Japan, I was admiring the snow-covered beauty of the rural countryside.It was getting dark and the wheels of the train were gently drumming against the rails in a monotonous and reassuring rhythm. The worldseemed harmonious and safe.

Then suddenly my eyes caught sight of the letters of a news bulletin passing through the digital display above the door. Strong earthquake shook northern Sumatra. There were dozens of casualties. Just that - no further information was provided. I checked the news, one hour later, on the internet in my hotel in Sendai. It seemed that hundreds of people lost their lives in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. An earthquake off the coast of Aceh, reaching magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale, was followed by a tsunami - a monstrous 10 meters high tidal wave - which crashed mercilessly and with unimaginable force against the shores of several unfortunate countries.

In the next few days the number of victims grew to thousands, then to tens of thousands. Whole villages and entire towns disappeared from the map. Hundreds of thousands of refugees hit what was left of the roads, but the roads were leading nowhere; as bridges were washed away/ Floods were fragmenting the entire North of Sumatra Island. Electricity and water supply collapsed (limited and unreliable everywhere in Indonesia even before the disaster); there was no food, no blood for the injured and no medicine. There was no reliable information either, since the
foreign press was banned from traveling to the province, "for its own safety".

The Army - a tremendous contingent of it based in the province in order to suppress insurgency - did close to nothing. It was ordered to clean corpses and it cleaned some, but it otherwise showed no initiative, leaving a desperate population with almost no help.

The government did close to nothing. Instead of ordering special military units to travel immediately to the province, instead of using hundreds of military helicopters and aircraft to supply food and medicine, instead of ordering all seaworthy vessels to the area of disaster, the President of Indonesia urged the citizens to "scale down New Year's celebrations and pray instead."

Huge transport planes were sitting on runways all over Java, waiting for the order to take off - an order which never arrived.

Instead of employing professionals trained to cope with emergency situations, vice president Jusuf Kalla used military planes and commercial aircraft to shuttle Muslim militants (they called themselves "volunteers") from Majelis Mujahedeen Indonesia and Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Muslim - better known as its acronym FPI - militant Muslim group from Jakarta devoted to enforcing Islamic law against drinking, gambling, and prostitution), a fact later reported by The New
York Times. Then Laskar Jihad, one of the most militant Muslim groups in Southeast Asia made inroads into the province. Hundreds of Christians, mainly of Chinese origin, were forced to flee Aceh.

The presence of "volunteers" - directly sponsored by the government - had one main purpose: to secure Indonesian and religious order (already the strictest in entire Indonesia) in the province which was fighting for independence for almost thirty years, at enormous cost. Practically speaking, these untrained urbanites were only taking precious space in scarce flights to the province, although the propaganda machine fired the stories how some of them single- handedly managed to restore
electric supplies and telecommunications in Banda Aceh.

And the dead kept mounting, diseases were spreading, hunger began to kill those who miraculously survived the brutality of the nature.

At one point the refusal to help Aceh began to look like a vengeance killing by the government and the military. Then Aceh suddenly appeared in the spotlight of interest of the international community and after some hesitation, the government "benevolently" allowed foreign aid and some international press agencies to enter the province.

The results were almost immediate. International organizations and foreign military flew in and began building infrastructure from scratch. Not to rebuild it - there was not much social infrastructure even before the tsunami - but to construct provisory hospitals, food supply centers, shelters for the homeless. It was not enough, but it was at least something; definitely more than the state did in the last three decades when it came to investment in social infrastructure.

While this was happening, the Indonesian government was bragging that the disaster would not jeopardize predicted economic growth for the year 2005 (the lowest in the region even before the tsunami).

The Finance Minister openly declared that it expects foreigners to rebuild the area, while not diverting any substantial funds from state coffers. He was also quick to point out that vital oil production (the main reason for the occupation and the main income of the province - basically controlled by foreign multi-nationals after corrupt deals signed by Suharto's government few decades ago) suffered only a minor setback, although some inside reports suggest the contrary.

The government also suggested that Aceh is an outskirt of Indonesia; therefore its plight will have no major impact on the economy. In fact, it argued with no scruples, Indonesia could benefit, because it may attract thousands of tourists who will be avoiding damaged holiday resorts in Thailand.

To put the situation into perspective, the social system in Indonesia collapsed during the years when Suharto, supported by the West, fully controlled the political and economic life of Indonesia. This was also a period when Indonesians went through rigorous religious indoctrination which was supposed to reinforce the culture of obedience, which in turn served the regime.

Almost all public services were privatized, the quality of education nose-dived and life expectancy stagnated at around 64 years (one of the lowest in the region). Indonesia has, per capita, one of the highest numbers of orphans anywhere in the world and one of the worst records of child prostitution in the region. The poor have no safety net and justice is for sale. Indonesia, according to "Transparency
International", is one of the most corrupt nations on earth.

The Indonesian military had been involved in a massacre of Sukarno's supporters after the coup in 1965 (up to 3 million people were butchered in a matter of months), it led genocidal war in East Timor (one of the most horrific barbarities of the 20th Century, happily applauded by the West), and caused gross human rights violations in Papua, Ambon, Aceh and elsewhere. It was and still is much better trained in raping and torturing civilians than in any sort of humanitarian assistance.

This compassionless, paralyzed and morally corrupt society was now facing one of the most terrible natural disasters in human history. Government officials and their business associates smelled a tremendous influx of foreign aid, which could, if unchecked, easily meet the same fate as the money from former foreign loans originally intended for development, infrastructure, and social programs but which disappeared in the deep pockets of elites, never reaching the impoverished majority
of Indonesians.

As foreign governments were trying to outdo each other in pledging hundreds of millions of dollars for reconstruction of disaster stricken areas, Indonesian officials and military on the ground in Aceh were openly sabotaging relief efforts.

Food and medicine were piling in Medan and Banda Aceh, while almost no help was reaching desperate communities. A chartered Boeing 737 hit a buffalo after landing, shutting down for hours the only runway in the then only functioning airport in all of Aceh. Apparently it was not worth it to assign the military to guard this vital lifeline. But was it really an accident?

"One of the consequences of the lack of distribution of aid and medical assistance to several refugee camps has been the death of many refugees, especially women and children", says Yulia Evina Bhara from SEGERA (Alliance-Solidarity Movement For the People of Aceh). "This has occurred in Mata Le, Ulee Kareng, and large part of Pidie and Aceh Jeumpa... It is evident that the government has not taken any cooperative steps in terms of allowing easy access to areas in which aid needs to be distributed. If this continues to be the case, it means that the government is effectively disregarding the much needed humanitarian solidarity..."

Shortly after the tsunami hit the coast, GAM (Free Aceh Movement) declared a ceasefire. Few days later there were reports that Indonesian military continued with its operations. Sporadic exchanges of fire erupted in several places of Aceh. With no shame and no hesitation, the President of Indonesia began accusing GAM of breaking the ceasefire.

Foreign mainstream press (traditionally friendly to the post-1965 Indonesian regime), which initially concentrated its coverage strictly on disaster itself and later on the foreign relief operations, began asking some uncomfortable questions. Although still omitting information concerning the horrific human rights record of the Indonesian state, it couldn't fully ignore voices of Acehnese people who were accusing the government of sabotaging relief operations.

Sharp criticism of Indonesian government and military also came from foreign aid workers.

That seemed to be unacceptable for the establishment. On January 9th, the government began tightening restrictions on the movement of foreigners in the province. Reuters reported that on the 11th of January all good will vanished. Indonesia restricted foreign aid workers to two large cities because of "militant threats".

Indonesian army chief - General Endriartono Sutarto - declared that GAMmight soon attack foreign aid workers or troops in Aceh. All aid agencies and NGOs operating in the province were urged to provide a full list of their staff.

GAM responded by denying all accusations made by the government,claiming that it never intended to cause harm to those who came to help, be it foreigners or locals. Foreigners operating in Aceh confirmed that they felt no threat from the independence movement.

A crackdown on independent sources of information by the Indonesian state is becoming inevitable. As in East Timor, Papua, and Aceh (before the disaster) it will be done under the cover of "protecting" the lives of the foreigners. The question is what will happen to Acehnese people afterwards. Even now, several members of Indonesian NGOs claim that the government actions (or more precisely - inaction) are responsible for at least 50 thousand out of 100 thousand known victims of disaster.

Is Aceh going to become another East Timor? Is the present situation just a result of impotence and incapability of the government, military, and the whole system, or of something much more sinister? Is it revenge; an extermination campaign design to break and secure this economically vital province?

Acehnese are proud and tough people. When Javanese elites were selling their country to foreigners, when most of the islands of today's Indonesia were accepting the presence of Dutch colonizers; Aceh fought bitterly for independence. "Under the Dutch, Java used to send assassins to break Aceh", said Pramoedya Ananta Toer, the greatest Indonesian writer and intellectual father of Indonesian state. "We have so much to learn from them!"

Recently, exploited by foreign multinational companies and by new Javanese elites, the people of Aceh began to fight again, against all odds. This time they fought against the Indonesian state - against one of the largest military forces on earth. 10 thousand men, women and children died in almost three decades of the conflict; maybe many more.

One of "profound" religious interpretations of this disaster in Indonesia was that God punished the people of Aceh for fighting for their independence. Official media even managed to find some Acehnese who declared it on the record. "If we don't stop fighting, we'll all go to hell."

Those who always suspected that there are no eternal flames, those who respect human life above anything else always knew that Aceh was already going through hell for many years. But "hell is the others" - those who fight innocent civilians, those who torture, those who are blocking help from the suffering people in their moment of tremendous need and catastrophe.

If those who are using disaster and human suffering for their own political, economic and military goals are not stopped soon, the entire country of Indonesia may soon go to hell. Not to some hell depicted by religious books - but to a real hell which is life in a society which has lost all basic moral human values; which allows small minority of people vulgarly lavish lifestyles at the expense of tens of millions who are starving and desperate.

Aceh is bleeding and the worst may still be ahead. Those who are arriving in Aceh should know that they are not only entering a land devastated by horrific natural disaster; they are entering a territory which was brutalized and exploited for decades and which still is. It doesn't only need aid - it needs solidarity, protection, and determined long-term help; and it needs it now! It needs a referendum and if it decides to vote for it - freedom. Anything will be better than the present situation - from here Aceh can only go to heaven!

ANDRE VLTCHEK, writer, political analyst and filmmaker lives and works
in Southeast Asia and South Pacific and can be reached at:

"Why I Refused A 2nd Deployment To Iraq"

22 More At Ft. Stewart Refuse To Deploy So Far

By: Sgt. Kevin Benderman, Published in `Project For The Old American

First a brief forward from POAC co-editor Jack Dalton: I received an email a few moments ago from Kevin's wife Monica. In it she has told me a total of 22 people in Sgt Benderman's unit have refused to deploy to Iraq.

17 have gone AWOL and 2 have attempted suicide. The status of the remaining 3 is unknown at this time. We at the POAC fully support the decision to refuse deployment to Iraq which has been made by Sgt Benderman, and the others in his unit.

I am Sgt Kevin Benderman and these are the chronological events that led me to conclude that I had no other choice than to refuse the deployment order to Iraq.

I was deployed to Iraq in March 2003 and returned in September 2003; while I was there I was with the 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. We staged our vehicles in Kuwait and then proceeded to move out into Iraq.

We were carried on the back of heavy equipment transporters to about fifty miles south of Baghdad and then we downloaded the vehicles. We were in the vehicles while they were on the trucks, which I thought was a little odd considering that in the garrison environment those types of actions are considered unsafe and are therefore not allowed.

During the road march north through the country I saw the effects of what war does to people, those effect are such; homes were bombed, people were living in mud huts, people were obtaining their drinking water from mud puddles along the side of the road and were catching rain in buckets when it did rain, they begged us for food and water and we had enough, we would share it with the people that were there, the kids looked especially hungry and thirsty. The commander told us to stop
giving the people food because they would get food from other sources after the trucks started bringing in relief supplies.

Somewhere along the route there was this one woman standing along side the road with a young girl of about 8 or 9 years old and the little girl's arm was burned all the way up her shoulder and I don't mean just a little blistered, I mean she had 3rd degree burns the entire length of her arm and she crying in pain because of the burns. I asked the troop executive officer if we could stop and help the family and I was told that the medical supplies that we had were limited and that we may need them, I informed him that I would donate my share to that girl but we
did not stop to help her.

When we were there, the command elements ordered the unit to perform all types of actions that are considered unsafe to soldiers, such as, having military vehicle maintenance personnel retrieve missiles that were present in our area of operations using a M88 recovery vehicle and transport them to sites to be destroyed by the explosive ordnance personnel.

They also ordered mortar personnel to enter into a compound that held various types of munitions that the Iraqi army had left behind and to load these munitions onto trucks. When these personnel were not working fast enough for the 1SG he ordered them to throw the mortar rounds onto the trucks whereupon one of rounds exploded and inflicted shrapnel wounds on two soldiers.

We were using an old custom building that was located in the middle of the town that we were in for the troop HQ and naturally that attracted the attention of the local populace. Small children would come up to the wall that surrounded the place before we had a chance to apply concertina wire along the top of the wall and they would toss small pebbles at us inside the walls.

We would tell the children to get down from the wall and leave the area, one day the troop commander saw us telling the children top get down from the wall and he told everyone there that if the children came back at any time after that to shoot them if they were to climb back onto the wall.

I was in charge of a group of soldiers that were in their late teens through their early twenties and I had to constantly tell them to keep their heads down because they thought that the war was like the video games that they played back at the barracks. War is not like that at all and until you have the misfortune to engage in it for yourself you cannot begin to understand how insane it all is.

There are no restart buttons on reality and that is why I cannot figure out why now we are pursuing such a policy in this day and age. War should be relegated to the shelves of history, as was human sacrifice. If you stop to think about it you become aware that war is just human sacrifice. There is no honor in killing as many as you can as quickly as you can.

We, in America refer to ourselves as civilized and people from other countries still living the simple life are backwards and un-civilized, but what is civil about the capability to create atomic weapons? What is civil about being able to kill over 100,000 people with just one bomb?

We may be more technologically advanced but are we more civilized? I think the answer is no. War has to be considered the absolute enemy of mankind. Where we would be without it?

I would presume that we as a nation would be out of debt if we were to apply as much energy to pursuing sound economics as we do pursuing war, we would never get sick if we spent as much on preventive medicine as we do on war, the elderly would get affordable prescription medication if we were to use the resources that are spent on war to work for that purpose, there would not be un educated children if we were to buy new classrooms and books for schools instead of new weapons systems, social security would be a lot more secure with some of the money that war costs.

Why do we want to train the young people in the world that the only way we can settle our differences is to kill one another?

Why shouldn't we train them to become surgeons or homebuilders? Why shouldn't we train to become anything but killers? I think that the world would be better off if we were to do that instead.

I have talked to veterans from every war from WWII on and their opinion is that the wars they fought were to be the last war ever fought. How many more are we going to fight before we realize that the act of war is for small minded people that are intent in only satisfying their own needs and not the needs of the people in general?

I do not want to be killed because I am living in a place that has a ruler that wants to go to war with any one.

The only way to bring peace to the world is to let the people of the world decide for themselves what they want to spend their efforts on. I feel that in this day and age governments start wars, and not people, and since the governments want the wars then why don't we let the government fight the war? All of the politicians that want to fight a war are free to trade places with me at any time.

I will gladly go and learn war no more.

There are activities that I have been involved in that have led me to these new and developed beliefs, and they are numerous but I can tell you some of them.

When you walk in the woods and you see a deer stand and look at you, or you are on the river in the morning and the mist rises off the water while you hear the morning calls of the river birds, and the otters just lie there as you glide past in your boat and don't even move, you know that there is a better way.

When you can find solitude in the woods that are so filled with peace and the wildlife that is all around you, you feel the better way all around. A person must acknowledge the fact the we are a part of the universe and the universe does not want to be out of sorts with itself, so why do we spend so much effort on trying to be out of sorts with others of the human race?

I have been to the war zone and I have seen the devastation it causes. Why can't everyone agree that war is the most repugnant of all human endeavors? Why is it considered noble to be able to look through the sights of a rifle and kill another human being from 300 meters away? Why are you a hero if you can throw a hand grenade farther than the next guy in the foxhole?

Shouldn't these young men and women that are in the army be throwing footballs or baseballs or softballs instead? It would impress me a lot more to see someone make the winning free throw at the basketball game or kick the winning extra point at the football game, or knock in the winning run at the World Series than to see them be able to shoot more humans from 300 hundred meters.

I would rather they spend their time at the golf course or the tennis courts or in college, any where but in the war zone trying to survive and having to kill to do it. It just doesn't make sense to me.

A Brief History of Sgt Kevin Benderman's Military Service

I first entered the army on 27 Jan 1987 and received basic training at Ft. Bliss, TX. I received advanced individual training at Ft. Sam Houston, TX. My military occupational specialty was designated as 91R10 Veterinary Food Inspection Specialist which is basically the equivalent to a U.S.D.A. Food Inspector.

My first duty assignment was Ft. Leavenworth, Ks. Where I worked in the commissary and my duties included; inspecting poultry and dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, canned goods, and the general sanitation of the facility. My mission was to ensure the health of the soldiers. Was a part if the United States Army Medical Dept. Activity or USA MEDDAC.

I received an Army Achievement Medal while serving on the unit fund counsel, which utilized funds, raised through various activities to help provide for soldiers that were not able to get home during Christmas. I received another AAM for assisting during an increased workload due to personnel shortages during the Persian Gulf War. I also received my first Good Conduct Medal during this enlistment.

I received an honorable discharge from the Army after the Persian Gulf War on 24 Apr 1991. I re-entered the Army 26 Jun 2000 and was awarded the MOS of 63M10, which is a Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanic. Re-took basic training at Ft. Knox, KY and went the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY

Received AAM for being honor graduate from the Class.

First duty assignment after completion of training was Ft. Hood, TX. Unit was 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. Also known as the Buffalo Soldiers.

Went to Iraq with the 4th I.D. in March 2003 returned to Ft. Hood Sep 2003. Re-enlisted with choice of duty station of Ft. Stewart, GA.


Venezuela Mayor Orders Private Land Seized

Associated Press Writer

Article published Jan 11, 2005

The mayor of Venezuela's second-largest city ordered the government to seize two swaths of abandoned private lands Tuesday, saying the property would be used for projects to benefit the entire population.

Giancarlo Di Martino, Maracaibo mayor and staunch supporter of President Hugo Chavez, told The Associated Press the lands include 62 acres within the city and an abandoned industrial zone running along the shore of lake Maracaibo about 20 miles to the southeast.

Di Martino's order coincides with a sweeping land reform being led by Chavez to turn over "idle" farmlands to the poor. Chavez declared on Monday that the government would survey farmland across the country and gradually redistribute unused acreage.

Despite Venezuela's position as a major global producer of oil, a majority of its people live in poverty.

"We have embarked on a process under the law for the expropriation" of the lands, Di Martino told the AP in the telephone interview.

The mayor said the lands are partly owned by a bank and a hotel, which has been closed for decades.

The city of 1.7 million people plans to build public housing, a center for street children and a public sports center on the lands, Di Martino said.

He said the owners would be paid fair compensation. The owners couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Asked if the land seizures in Maracaibo were part of the president's effort, Di Martino said: "Politically the moment is favorable for this."

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

What is the debt crisis?

Click title to link to the Jubilee Debt Campaign

Billions of people in the world's poorest countries are held captive by debts that can never be repaid. Year after year their governments struggle to pay back millions of pounds - with little hope of ever clearing their debts. . .