Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Mouse on Steroids

I've really come to admire Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, a man who puts his money where his mouth is and really sets out to help the poor - even the poor of a country thats leadership seems to find him the root of all evil.

I'm, of course, referring to his work through the gas company, Citgo, that has been supplying discounts of up to 60 per cent on heating oil to poor communities in the U.S. So far he is supplying Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

New York now plans to allow Citgo to supply Upper Manhatten.

Citgo now says it has supplied over 180,000 of America's poor with discounted heating.

Chavez also announced that the program will be doubled next year from its current level of 40 million gallons. "No one should believe that this is just a momentary interest," Chavez told the group. "Leave at ease and tell your neighbors of the communities you represent that the program will continue; it has just begun," he said.

Chavez insisted that the program was not designed to buy support in the US, as many critics claimed, but is rather an example of corporate responsibility, because Citgo, which is now making large profits in the US, is now giving back to communities in which it does business.

"Citgo has done good business in the US. We believe companies, along with making a profit. need to have social responsibilities for the people they sell to," said Chavez.

Chavez pointed out that in the 20 years Venezuela has owned Citgo, it never paid dividends to the Venezuelan state. Only in 2004 and 2005 has it begun to repatriate some of its profits to Venezuela, he said.

He also cited the program as "an example of his government's efforts to move towards socialism, in which countries relate to each other on the basis of cooperation, solidarity, and complementarity."
None of this is likely to win him any new friends in the White House, especially as he refers to President Bush as a "terrorist", however, what no-one could have foreseen is that certain Republicans would object to what he was doing.
Enter Congressman Joe Barton, the powerful Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This stalwart recipient of some $2 million in campaign contributions from the energy industry announced he would launch an investigation into possible antitrust violations by a major oil company.

No, not ExxonMobil or Chevron, but - wait for it - Citgo.
So at a time of skyrocketing fuel bills they have chosen, rather to take affirmative action that might bring prices down, to take task with "a charitable donation of heating oil to relieve the suffering of a few thousand American families."

You couldn't make that up.

Oh, and Congressman Barton recieved $2 million in campaign contributions from the energy industry. But I'm sure that's got nothing to do with his impending investigations.

Full marks to Chavez for exposing them as the partisans that they are and, more importantly, for engaging in the kind of misty eyed old Socialism that no politician in the US would ever dare aspire to.

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MUST READ - Chicago Says No to Chavez Offer

Military Inquiry Is Said to Oppose Account of Raid

In February and March of this year a US military investigator found that the US marines accounts of what happened in Haditha did not add up with the evidence that he was confronting.

Most beguiling was the fact that the death certificates of these supposed victims of a roadside bombing all contained details of gunshot wounds, mostly to the head and chest.

"There were enough inconsistencies that things didn't add up," said the senior official, who was briefed on the conclusions of Colonel Watt's preliminary investigation.

The official agreed to discuss the findings only after being promised anonymity. The findings have not been made public, and the Pentagon and the Marines have refused to discuss the details of inquiries now underway, saying that to do so could compromise the investigation.
The White House has meanwhile confirmed that all the details of the enquiry will be made public.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said he had been assured by the Pentagon that this would happen.

"We'll have a picture of what happened," Mr Snow said.

He said President Bush was "allowing the chain of command to do what it's supposed to do in the department of defence, which is to complete" their inquiries.

The enquiry is not only in to the shooting but also into the alleged cover up that is said to have taken place afterwards.

One of the marines in Haditha that day, Lance Cpl Roel Ryan Briones of Hanford, California, told the Los Angeles Times he had taken photos and carried bodies out of homes as part of a clean-up crew: "They ranged from little babies to adult males and females. I'll never be able to get that out of my head. I can still smell the blood."

Whilst it is right that we condemn the actions taken by these marines on that day, we must never forget that such actions always take place when people are placed into the cauldron of war.

The crime of putting young soldiers into Iraq based on a series of lies is, to me, a larger crime than that committed by these young men.

The marines are being set up to be hung out to dry, but the men who lied to ensure that they ended up there will walk free.

That's the real scandal of Haditha.

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Lecturers' union supports boycott of 'apartheid' Israel

Britain's largest lecturing union, the 69,000-strong NATFHE, has voted to boycott Israeli universities over what they call Israel's "Apartheid" policies towards the Palestinians.

In a move that is guaranteed to cause international outrage the motion was passed by 106 votes to 71 (with 21 abstentions) at the conference in Blackpool.

Tom Hickey, a philosophy lecturer from Brighton University proposing the motion, said there were "important and ringing similarities" between the policies of the Israeli government and the apartheid regime in South Africa.

An exclusion wall had been built in Palestine to separate the communities, which led to unequal development for the two.

"We are asking our members to consider should we or should we not work with Israeli institutions or individuals who turn away from what is happening in Palestine," he said.

One Israeli school had been fired on in the past six years, but the number of Palestinian schools targeted was 185, he said.

In addition, 14,400 Palestinian homes had been partly destroyed and 2,200 totally destroyed."Silence, as Edmund Burke once so memorably observed, is all that's needed for evil to be done," Mr Hickey added.

I have long argued against Israel's policies towards the Palestinians, however, for me this boycott seems to be coming at a very strange time. The Kadima party have been elected with a mandate to evacuate the West Bank, albeit unilaterally, and to establish an Israeli border for the first time since 1967.

Surely this is the very time that we should be engaging with the Israelis rather than trying to isolate them?

Anything that isolates the Israelis will encourage them to behave unilaterally and will ensure that the final status of the borders will not have been negotiated with the Palestinians which will lead to further violence rather than encouraging peace which I believe is, at this moment, tantalisingly close.

Both Israel and the US have promised that any final status of Israel's borders will have to be approved internationally.

Now is the time for the international community to engage, not to disengage.

For that reason, I find this boycott unwelcome.

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Bloodiest month: UK suffers largest post-war losses

The month of May 2006 represented the bloodiest month yet for UK forces since they invaded Iraq three years ago, leaving 11 troops dead and many more injured.

Calls for troops withdrawal are now coming even from former defence officials.

Doug Henderson, a former defence and foreign minister, called for an "orderly withdrawal" of British forces. " It is very difficult for our troops. There is no sense of the job being done," he said.

Peter Kilfoyle, a former armed forces minister, added: "A decision has to be made very shortly whether we are serving any useful purpose in Iraq any longer. I don't believe that is the case."
Defence Secretary Des Browne has spoken of a "spike" in violence in the region and admitted that it is a "major concern."

However, Browne seemed unable to explain the sudden rise in violence saying it was either related to the hiatus of political control since the Iraqi elections or a sustained increase in resistance.

No matter what explanation they choose to give, the simple fact is that the establishment of a new Iraqi government has not produced the calm that Blair and Bush predicted. Indeed, the violence appears to be increasing rather than diminishing.

Listed below are the grim reality of life for the British troops in Iraq circa May 2006:
Bloodiest Month

Saturday, 6 May

A Lynx helicopter crashes in Basra, killing five British troops. They include:

Flight Lieutenant Sarah-Jayne Mulvihill, 32, first woman killed in action

Wing Commander John Coxen, 46, the most senior British officer killed in Iraq

Lieutenant Commander Darren Chapman, 40

Captain David Dobson, 27

Marine Paul Collins, 21, all of the 847 Naval Air Squadron in Yeovilton

Saturday, 13 May

A roadside bomb explodes just outside Basra, killing two soldiers

Private Joseva Lewaicei, 25

Private Adam Morris, 19, both from the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment

Monday, 15 May

In the heaviest attack on British troops for many months, three female Privates receive shrapnel injuries when the small British camp in Maysan is pounded by 56 mortars and rockets. An officer describes the scene as " carnage". A fourth

soldier is seriously injured and taken to military hospital. Five more female soldiers are treated for shock.

Saturday, 20 May

Two British soldiers are wounded by an early-morning roadside bomb attack while on patrol in north-west Basra, their unit ambushed with bombs, grenades and petrol bombs. A mob surrounds the burning vehicle - one Iraqi brandishes a British helmet.

Sunday, 28 May

An armoured Land Rover on routine patrol in Gizayza, north west Basra is struck by a roadside bomb. Two are killed.

Lieutenant Tom Mildinhall, 26

Lance Corporal Paul Farrelly, 27, both of the 1st Queen's Dragoon Guards (The Welsh Cavalry)

Monday, 29 May

Two British TV journalists are killed in a car bomb attack in Baghdad. Their colleague, Kimberly Dozier, is critically injured.

Soundman James Brolan, 42, of Tufnell Park, north London.

Paul Douglas, 48, of Wootton, Bedfordshire.

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Bush sends 1,500 more troops to Iraq and dashes hopes of withdrawal

Hopes of an early withdrawal of troops from Iraq were dashed yesterday as George Bush ordered a further 1500 into the embattled region.

The soldiers from a reserve force based in Kuwait were deployed in Anbar province, an insurgent stronghold stretching from Baghdad to the Syrian border. The deployment was described officially as "short-term".

Military officials quoted anonymously yesterday said it should last no more than four months, but it was a blow to the Bush administration's hopes of bringing troops home after the formation of the new government in Baghdad. There were about 130,000 US troops in Iraq before the deployment and that figure is unlikely to change for several months, military officials said.

"The situation in al-Anbar province is currently a challenge but is not representative of the overall security situation in Iraq, which continues to improve as the Iraqi security forces increasingly take the lead," Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Martin-Hing said yesterday.

Meanwhile the violence in Iraq shown no sign of abating as a further 46 people were killed yesterday when two bombs exploded in Husseiniyah and Hillah.

The simple truth is that troops levels in Iraq is increasing at a time when one could expect the opposite to be happening. After all, both Bush and Blair have always claimed that the resistance was attempting to stop the formation of a new Iraqi government. Now that the government have been formed one would expect the violence to abate.

That it has not done so is simply another example of the size of the lie we were told.

The problem in Iraq is simple to describe, there is a Sunni minority that for many years held the reins of power who have suddenly been disenfranchised of that power and who fear that the majority are now going to punish them for their years of dominance.

Democracy does not deal with this problem, it exacerbates it, as the demographics ensure that democracy means the Sunnis will never again be in a dominant position.

This would not be the case were people to vote for candidates who would be best suited to run the country rather than candidates who shared their ethnicity, but this is the expected consequence when an outside power imposes democracy before a nation is ready for it.

The only realistic way to ensure that Iraq survives is to split it into three separate regions, Kurd, Sunni and Shia, and give all three states an equal share in Iraq's future oil wealth.

Sadly, this sensible solution is the very thing that the new Iraqi Constitution has gone to great lengths to avoid.

So we can expect troops to be there for a long while if we insist on remaining until the Iraqis can take over.

For when the mostly Shia army takes control of the streets, all hell will break loose.

Back story

Iraq has taken more troops to occupy than to invade. About 100,000 US soldiers and marines (alongside 26,000 British troops) entered in March 2001; neo-cons in Washington who pushed for the war assumed most would be home by the end of 2001. More than three years on, there are 130,000 US and 7,200 British troops in the country, and the insurgency shows no sign of waning after December's elections and last week's new government. However, the US is down from a peak of 150,000 troops in January last year.

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Gore: Bush is 'renegade rightwing extremist'

At long last someone has said it. I've become sick of Bush being allowed to portray himself as someone who is somehow "above politics" as his henchmen, led by Rove, smear and conduct character assassinations on anyone who dares speak out against this extreme administration.

Well, at last Al Gore has stopped playing the Democratic game of declining to make any comment that might be labelled "extremist" by your opponents and has called a duck a duck.

He has stood up and called the Bush administration, "a renegade band of rightwing extremists".

Which is exactly what this bunch of non fiscal, constitution ripping, conservatives are.

One only has to look at the ignoring of FISA in order to conduct illegal wiretapping of American citizens, the previously unheard of power that Bush claims belongs to his office, the holding of foreign suspects without trial in Cuba in a deliberate attempt to keep them in a legal black hole, and the setting up of rendition flights in order that suspects may be captured on foreign soil and flown to country's where they may be tortured to realise that "extremists" is the polite way to describe the current occupants of the White House.

When one thinks of DeLay and Libby the word criminal also comes to mind.

Good on Gore for saying. And for being so restrained in his choice of words.

In an interview with the Guardian today, the former vice-president calls himself a "recovering politician", but launches into the political fray more explicitly than he has previously done during his high-profile campaigning on the threat of global warming.

Denying that his politics have shifted to the left since he lost the court battle for the 2000 election, Mr Gore says: "If you have a renegade band of rightwing extremists who get hold of power, the whole thing goes to the right."

But he claims he does not "expect to be a candidate" for president again, while refusing explicitly to rule out another run. Asked if any event could change his mind, he says: "Not that I can see."

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Guardian's interview with Al Gore.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Egyptian Police Accused of Torturing Protester


Police in Egypt have been accused of torturing and sexually abusing a man after he was arrested last week at a peaceful demonstration.

The few people who have been allowed to see Mohammed el-Sharqawi since he was arrested have said that every inch of his body is covered with bruises, cuts and welts.

One of his lawyers, Gamal Eid, told reporters that the defense team nearly cried when they saw him on the night he was arrested - he was a different person than the man they had seen that morning.

"We could not see his eyes because they were so swollen. He could barely speak through his battered mouth. There were shoe prints on his neck and chest," said Eid.

The lawyer says Sharqawi was examined by a doctor Sunday, after 72 hours in police custody, but has received no medical treatment. His injuries are believed to be severe, and possibly life-threatening.

Other political detainees say they are going on a hunger strike until he is treated, and until the people who beat him are held accountable.

VOA's phone calls to several Interior Ministry spokesmen went unanswered. The ministry has issued terse statements to a few other news organizations denying the allegations of torture.

Sharqawi and his colleague Karim el-Shaer were arrested Thursday after a peaceful demonstration. Both men had been released from prison only days earlier, after being jailed for participating in earlier anti-government protests.

Eyewitnesses said both of them were beaten severely in the street by plainclothes security agents known locally as baltagaya, or thugs.

The prosecutor has ordered that they be held in custody for 15 days.

Sharqawi has managed to sneak a note out of prison that is being circulated on the internet.

Another activist, Ahmed El-Droubi, shared a cell with Sharqawi for 28 days before they were both released last week. He visited his old cell mates in prison on Saturday, after a bruised and battered Sharqawi had re-joined them.

"And I saw him. He was physically destroyed. Psychologically, he was very roughed-up ... He is urinating blood. They actually stomped and kicked his sexual organs until he peed blood right there while they were torturing him. But after all that, he is still strong. He still smiles. Definitely, he was broken inside, but he still believes in what he is doing, and he will not stop," he said.

El-Sharqawi is a member of a group called Youth For Change, an offshoot of the reform movement known as Kifaya, which is Arabic for Enough.

Kifaya leader George Ishak denounced the treatment of Mohammed el-Sharqawi. "This thuggery … these crimes will not stop us. If we remain silent in the face of these violations, then we are all violated," he said.

More than 500 activists have been arrested during the past five weeks for participating in demonstrations in support of the independence of the judiciary.

Even having heard of all of this, the Bush administration - despite the protestations of some House appropriations committee members over Egypt's human rights record - is backing renewing the $1.7-billion economic and military aid package for Egypt that the US provides, saying that good relations with Egypt are vital to the US's economic interests.

Well, at least he's not a hypocrite. We should be thankful for small mercies. He can hardly condemn others for emulating the same practices employed by his security forces.

Two soldiers, two civilians: another day of death in Iraq

The death toll in Iraq continued it's inexorable rise yesterday with the death of two more British soldiers and two journalists.

The soldiers, from the Queen’s Dragoon Guards, were killed by a bomb that tore through the limited armour plating on their Land Rover.

The journalists, a cameraman and soundman working for CBS, the American network, were the victims of a car bomb.

The killings brought to 11 the number of British deaths this month — the highest toll since the invasion in 2003 — and the total number of attacks on British troops this year to nearly 300.

In Basra province alone, there were 180 incidents between January and mid-May. Military sources said that all involved enemy fire of some kind, including roadside bombs, mortar fire and rocket-propelled grenade attacks.

The deaths of the journalists highlights why so few remain in Iraq today.

This is an article from a fellow journalist who knew one of the CBS journalists who was wounded in the attack very well.

It is worth reading as it highlights the courage of those who collect news on our behalf.

Click title to do so.

Israel to Hamas officials in J'lem: Quit group or leave the city

Israeli interior Minister Roni Bar-On has issued an extraordinary threat to four members of Hamas who live in East Jerusalem, telling them that they must either leave the party or be expelled from the city.

This is a puzzling way for a democracy to behave. I have nothing but contempt for members of the BNP and the National Front, but I accept that in any healthy democracy all ideas must circulate freely, not just my own.

Apparently this rule does not apply in the Occupied Territories.

In the wake of the announcement, Abu Arafa said "we didn't do anything to violate Israeli law, and there is no legal reason for this decision. The interior minister is motivated by his desire to Judaize Jerusalem. We will fight the decision and will defeat it via legal means."

Abu Tir said, "No one can deport residents of the holy city from their lands. We will fight this erroneous decision every way we can via the Israeli legal system, the international courts, Palestinian public opinion and the Arab world opinion - in order to defeat these Israeli intentions."

Abu Tir has been detained repeatedly by Jerusalem police for political activity in the city.

The issue is likely to end up in the Supreme Court. Human rights groups say Israel has no right to revoke Jerusalem residency rights from Palestinians who live there.

The three parliament members registered for the Palestinian elections and ran as "independent candidates" rather than as Hamas members or as members of the Hamas-affiliated "The Reform and Change Party."

A senior West Bank Hamas official who did not want his identity revealed said Israel was using its powers unfairly.

"Israel is using blackmail to force Hamas to make concessions, this is against international law," he said.
Whether or not the men are members of Hamas seems to me an irrelevance when it comes to the issue of whether or not they may continue to live in East Jerusalem. If they have committed a crime, they should be arrested; but you cannot tell someone that their dwelling rights are contingent on any beliefs that they may or may not hold.

That would appear to me to be the antithesis of democracy.

Hare: I was wrong about Powell. He lied

Sir David Hare has rewritten his play "Stuff Happens", because he no longer feels that Colin Powell who was "represented as a liberal hero", is deserving of that role.

"In the [subsequent] US production he was a tragic hero. I now believe that Powell was lying when he presented [the weapons of mass destruction] evidence to the UN.

"This is, I admit, very contentious, and is in the face of repeated denials by Powell," he added. "But I think he had grave reservations about whether the 45 minutes claim was true ... he was tricked into going to the UN by George Bush."

The role of Colin Powell is one that historians will long argue over.

I, like many others on the left, had always regarded him as the acceptable face of the Bush administration.

However, when the moment for genuine dissent came, he rolled over and played dead.

Now I know, from reading many of Powell's statements, that he puts loyalty to leadership before any other quality. As an ex-army man there may even have been some honour in his mind to holding such a position.

However, there were many of us who admired his apparent stance to stand up to the lies of Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz. The disappointment when he capitulated and went to the UN with such shaky "evidence" was profound.

There are times when loyalty is a good and honourable thing, but there are times when dissent would serve the greater good.

At the defining moment of his life, Powell's nerve failed him.

He remains, in my opinion, a good and noble man; but in order to be a great man would have required him to put conscience before duty.

He didn't. And that failure will forever taint the memory of his time in public office.

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US faces new challenge after riots in Kabul puncture illusion of calm

It started with a simple traffic accident.

But the riots it sparked ended with eight people dead and over a hundred injured.

For the accident took place in Kabul, where many locals are angry at the slow pace of reconstruction and the apparent wealth of foreign visitors - and the driver of the vehicle which caused the accident was a member of the US military, who have long angered locals with their aggressive driving technique, a method the US say is necessary for the security of their personnel.

In this case, the accident caused the death of one Afghani and the riots it sparked off killed seven more.

It was also an alarming day for an American military, already battling large-scale violence in Iraq and squaring up to an emboldened and nuclear-minded Iran. Now the future of Afghanistan, often trumpeted as a triumph for US foreign policy, is coming under increasing scrutiny.

Yesterday the US-led coalition said it killed up to 50 Taliban fighters in a bombing raid on a village in Helmand province, where 3,300 British troops are deploying. The air strikes took the death toll from the past two weeks to more than 350, according to the highest estimates.

Afghan police and soldiers rapidly deployed as rioters smashed police posts, flung rocks at US Humvee troop carriers and marched on the presidential palace, some chanting "death to America!"

Vehicles were set ablaze, businesses ransacked and aid agencies looted. Residents cowered inside their homes until a measure of calm returned in the late afternoon.
In a televised address last night Mr Karzai appealed to Afghans' painful memories of the country's destructive civil war in the 1990s in a call for people to "stand up" to the rioters. "These people are the enemies of Afghanistan," he said. "You should stand up against these agitators and not let them destroy our country again."

The disturbances spread quickly to central districts frequented by foreigners and close to American and Nato military bases. Protesters tore down a billboard poster of Mr Karzai, burned a US flag and torched the offices of the aid agency Care International. "I'm pretty shaken," said Care's director, Paul Barker, speaking to the Guardian by telephone from inside the US embassy. "About half our office has been burned and everything inside destroyed."

It seems increasingly clear that, even in Afghanistan, there is a time limit on how long any local population will continue to view any foreign intervention as benign.

This must surely draw a question over Bush's plans to build permanent military bases in Iraq - a much more volatile area - as much as it raises doubts over how long the Afghanis will allow the bases that have been set up there to protect the oil pipeline.

Foreign intervention will only be condoned as long as the local population feel they have something to gain.

In Afghanistan, they are starting to question what is in it for them. In Iraq they have already decided that they want the US to leave.

How desperately the US require their new military bases will have a lot to do with the future stability of both countries.

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Anti-U.S. Rioting Erupts in Kabul; at Least 14 Dead

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Torture flights: our role in US brutality shames Britain

Continuing with the campaign to highlight torture as the anti-torture month of June approaches, we now, sadly, must examine the role that our own country are playing in this worldwide disgrace.

IF and when the so-called war on terror ever ends, our grandchildren or our great-grandchildren may well look back in disbelief and wonder how it could have been that, at the turn of the 21st century, the two nations that waged a global conflict under the banner of democracy could have so blatantly flouted that principle.

The “extraordinary renditions” programme, which breaches every law on international human rights, sees the United States target suspected terrorists anywhere in the world, kidnap them, drug them, cuff and blindfold them, bundle them on to a secret CIA jet and whisk them off to a “friendly” nation such as Egypt, Uzbekistan or Morocco, where “friendly” secret policemen can torture, rape and murder them.

The UK colludes happily with this. We allow the CIA’s fleet of jets to come in and out of UK airports to refuel and get other logistical support while they ferry their captive human cargo around the world. Scotland has the proud distinction of being the most popular stop-off point for CIA flights on the gulag-and-torture- chamber-express.

The argument that this is a necessary evil in a war against Islamic terrorists who want to blow you and your children to bits does not bear scrutiny. When the US arrests these people, it has no proof that they are terrorists. It is working on suspicion. No court will ever hear the accusations or test the evidence. These people are being “disappeared” by Western democracies.

To make the matter even more Orwellian, many of those taken captive come under suspicion only because some poor soul in a Middle-Eastern torture chamber named them to stop the beating they were enduring.

What we are engaged in is a 21st-century version of the mediaeval witch-hunt. When a suspected witch was being tortured, she’d be asked who her co-conspirators were. Of course, there were no co-conspirators, but just to stop the torture, the woman would have named someone, anyone ...

But Britain and America aren’t just sending these suspects to torturers and then walking away. We are effectively in the torture chamber with the victim. Testimony from captives who have been “rendered” suggests that British and American intelligence officers are often in the same detention centre while the prisoner is being beaten and abused. Reports claim that once the torture stops, or sometimes before it starts, they drop in for a chat, and that British and American intelligence officers will give precise questions for their proxy torturers to put directly to the captive.

As we show today in our investigation into renditions, the CIA officer who developed the programme, Michael Scheuer, had not planned that it would be used in this way.
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Jon Stewart exposes more of Bush's lies

Jon Stewart exposes more of Bush's lies.

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Young Iraqi Girl Tells of Haditha

Iraqi Girl tells of US Attack- Haditha: A City Crushed under the Occupation The American troops, accompanied by the Iraqi National Guards, are waging the most ferocious attack against our town, for three days now. They violated our blood, honor, and peaceful houses where not a single piece of weapon, fighters, or armed men were found. They killed old people, women and children; they bombed the houses with airplanes. We swear by the name of God that there was not a single piece of weapon in them.

U.S. Urges Financial Sanctions On Iran

The Bush regime is now seeking to impose financial restrictions on the Iranians if diplomatic efforts fail to stop the Iranian nuclear enrichment programme.

The plan is designed to curtail the financial freedom of every Iranian official, individual and entity the Bush administration considers connected not only to nuclear enrichment efforts but to terrorism, government corruption, suppression of religious or democratic freedom, and violence in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories. It would restrict the Tehran government's access to foreign currency and global markets, shut its overseas accounts and freeze assets held in Europe and Asia.

The United States, which has imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran for nearly three decades, would shoulder few of the costs of its ambitious new proposal. But internal U.S. assessments suggest that the sanctions could not hurt Tehran without causing significant economic pain for Washington's friends. That calculation has made the plan a difficult sell, especially in capitals such as Rome and Tokyo, which import significant quantities of Iranian oil.

This is further proof, were any needed, that the Bush regime really don't have any plan for dealing with the Iranians.

It is highly unlikely that anyone, apart from zealots like Blair, would be persuaded to vote for such a plan.

Many country's are highly reliant on Iranian oil and also fear that the US is simply sucking them into another war in the Middle East.

Moreover, this insane plan seems to ignore the Iranian ability to respond. Perhaps Bush is insane enough to want such a response in order to justify further conflict.

It seems unlikely that the rest of the world will be insane enough to facilitate his wish.

Indeed, Europeans are urging America to hold face to face talks with Iran on this issue, a move that the Bushites have always rejected.

One European, speaking on condition of anonymity said, "The sanctions could make Iran miserable, and Iran can respond by making everyone miserable back. In the end, the whole world is miserable and Iran gets to keep its nuclear program."

As I say, Bush actually has no plan at all.

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Bush 'planted fake news stories on American TV'

The Bush administration has gone to previously un-scaled heights to get their message across to the American public by simply manufacturing their own news and having American stations play it without informing the public that the government is actually the manufacturer of the "news" they are watching.

The report, by the non-profit group Centre for Media and Democracy, found that over a 10-month period at least 77 television stations were making use of the faux news broadcasts, known as Video News Releases (VNRs). Not one told viewers who had produced the items.

"We know we only had partial access to these VNRs and yet we found 77 stations using them," said Diana Farsetta, one of the group's researchers. "I would say it's pretty extraordinary. The picture we found was much worse than we expected going into the investigation in terms of just how widely these get played and how frequently these pre-packaged segments are put on the air."

The use of such propaganda against an unsuspecting populace inevitably reminds one of the old Soviet regime rather than the brave new world. It's really not an exaggeration to say that Goebbels would be applauding the Bush regime as faithful followers of his finest work.

Of course the danger to US citizens is far more acute than it was to, say, the Soviets or the Germans. If you live under a dictatorship you learn to be sceptical about what the government claims. The beauty, for Bush, under the American system, is that people believe they have a free press. It would be inconceivable to many Americans that they could be being manipulated in this way.

The range of VNR is wide. Among items provided by the Bush administration to news stations was one in which an Iraqi-American in Kansas City was seen saying "Thank you Bush. Thank you USA" in response to the 2003 fall of Baghdad. The footage was actually produced by the State Department, one of 20 federal agencies that have produced and distributed such items.
There is also proof that many large corporations are manufacturing "news" items which are, in reality, no more than sophisticated adverts for their products.

The FCC was urged to act by a lobbying campaign organised by Free Press, another non-profit group that focuses on media policy. Spokesman Craig Aaron said more than 25,000 people had written to the FCC about the VNRs. "Essentially it's corporate advertising or propaganda masquerading as news," he said. "The public obviously expects their news reports are going to be based on real reporting and real information. If they are watching an advertisement for a company or a government policy, they need to be told."

So now we have propaganda the Nazis would have applauded, detention camps that remind one of Soviet Gulags, and widespread wiretapping of US citizens that even Orwell would have regarded as far fetched.

Add to that heady mix a President who claims that the law is what he says it is; and we have to conclude that, under Bush, the American dream is withering.

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Sixty attacks a month on British forces as 1,000 soldiers go Awol

Attacks on British troops in Basra have risen to 60 a month since the start of the year, representing an increase of 26% on last years figures.

This coincides with reports, denied by the government, that large numbers of British troops are going AWOL.

The BBC reported that more than 1,000 soldiers have gone awol for more than 30 days since Iraq was invaded in 2003, and that about 900 have not been found. In 2005, 377 went AWOL and are still missing.

The Ministry of Defence vehemently denied that Iraq has caused a sharp increase in the number of soldiers deserting or going absent without leave. They claimed that the numbers going AWOL in 2004-05 were the lowest since 2001.

Tony Blair has attributed the upsurge in violence to desperation on the part of terrorists who had hoped to prevent the formation of Iraq's first elected government.
Blair has devised a formula regarding Iraq that he sticks to no matter what reality exists on the ground. It is bizarrely Orwellian.

He claims that the violence is by people opposed to democracy. Therefore the nearer we get to a democracy, the greater the violence will become.

With this sleight of hand Blair is able to project defeat as success, the more the carnage grows - the nearer we must be to victory. You have to admire the sheer chutzpah of his position. He has devised, as only he could, a way of reversing reality. He asks you to look at hell on Earth and applaud the chaos, for that very chaos is supposed to be a sign of impending victory. Indeed, the greater the chaos, the nearer the victory becomes.

Orwell would have been proud of him.

However, even Blair will one day have to face the inevitable.

An Iraqi government has now been formed. Democracy established. Surely by Blair's tortured logic the violence should now be seen to be receding?

The fact that it is not will simply be ignored.

Both Bush and Blair now live in such a rose tinted garden that reality actually has no chance of reaching either of them.

The failure that is Iraq is so uniquely theirs that it would be foolish to ever expect them to see it.

That's why there should be an effort made to remove both Bush and Blair from office post haste.

Very little real progress can ever be made whilst these two men remain in their positions.

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Out of Eden

I've spoken before about the long struggle endured by the people of Diego Garcia to be allowed to return to their island paradise, which was cruelly sold from under them by Harold Wilson to the Americans, who then invented various reasons as to why the islands had to remain uninhabited.

John Pilger elequently takes up the tale of this paradise lost.

In long-forgotten archives in London and Mauritius is rare film of a community of contented people. The grainy, flickering images, full of movement of children playing on sandy beaches, and proud young women presenting their newborn for christening, and men setting out to fish, their dogs swimming alongside, are glimpses of a true paradise. There are thriving villages, a school, a hospital, a church, a light railway, set in a phenomenon of natural beauty: strings of coral atolls, floating in the turquoise of the Indian Ocean.

These were some of the 2,000 people who once lived on the Chagos archipelago, the majority on Diego Garcia, an atoll the shape of a tiny Italy, 14 miles long and six miles wide. Their ancestry went back to the 18th century, when the French brought slaves from Mozambique and Madagascar to work a coconut plantation.

After Napoleon's defeat in 1815, the islands passed from French to British rule; about 20 years later, slavery was abolished.
Chagossian society continued to grow with the arrival of indentured labourers from India in the mid-19th century.

By the 20th century they had developed a distinct language that was a lilting variation of French Creole. There were now three copra factories, supplying the coconut oil that lit street lamps in London, and a coaling station for ships en route to and from Australia; by the 1960s, there were plans for tourism. The workers received a small wage or payment in kind with commodities such as rice, oil and milk. They supplemented this by fishing in the abundantly stocked coastal waters, growing tomatoes, chilli, pumpkins and aubergines, and rearing chicken and ducks.

As if celebrating a perfect vision of empire in such a place, a Colonial Office film from the 1950s describes the population as "born and brought up ... in conditions most tranquil and benign". The camera pans across a laughing woman hanging out clothes to dry in a coconut grove while her children play around her. This is Charlesia Alexis.

I met Charlesia recently, 50 years after she was filmed. She was sitting in the shade of her small, sparsely furnished house on the edge of Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, more than 1,000 miles from her home.

I asked her for her fondest memories of Diego Garcia. "Oh, everything!" she replied. "The sense of wellbeing is my fondest souvenir. My family could eat and drink what they liked; we never lacked for anything; we never bought anything, except clothes. Can you imagine that?"

"Why did you leave?"

"I left in 1967. My husband was very ill and I decided to take him to Port Louis to get the special treatment he needed.

When we were ready to return, we went to Rogers & Company [they ran the boats] and asked for our tickets. They said they had instructions not to let us go back. They said Diego had been sold."


"Yes, that's what they said. We were tricked. Looking back, the day before we left, the administrator told us to take a lot of fruit with us. They tricked us in so many ways, and when this game had run its course, they deported everyone, just like that. I was the fourth generation. Diego was my bird in the sky that was taken from me. I was sent to live in a slum, in rooms previously inhabited by goats and pigs. That's how they saw us."

What happened in the Chagos Islands was so searing, it may seem barely credible.

Indeed La Lutte, as the Chagossians call their struggle for justice and freedom, arose from a crime that allows us to glimpse how great power works behind its respectable, democratic facade and how governments justify their actions with lies.
During the 1960s and 1970s, British governments, both Labour and Tory, tricked and expelled the entire population of the Chagos, a British colonial dependency, so that their homeland could be given to a foreign power, the United States, as the site for a military base.

This "act of mass kidnapping", as one observer describes it, was carried out in high secrecy, along with the conspiracy that preceded it.

For almost a decade, neither parliament nor the US Congress knew anything about it, and no journalist revealed it.

BBC newsreaders still refer to US aircraft flying out to bomb Afghanistan and Iraq from the "uninhabited" island of Diego Garcia. Not only was the Chagossians' homeland stolen from them, but they were taken out of history. This scandal is unresolved today - even though the high court in London has twice ruled that the islanders' "wholesale removal" was an "abject legal failure".

The year was 1961. Two men strode up the jetty on Diego Garcia, filmed by missionaries unaware of the significance of their visitors. One was Rear Admiral Grantham of the US Navy, the leader of an American advance survey team whose objective was to find an island suitable for a military base that would allow Washington to dominate the Indian Ocean and beyond.

For the next three years, British and American planners and engineers inspected the Chagos group. Finally, they selected the nearby island of Aldabra.
Their secret decision leaked out to the scientists of the Royal Society in London, who were horrified. Together with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, this formidable establishment body mounted a campaign that saw off the Ministry of Defence and Admiral Grantham.

The island's precious wildlife, including the giant land tortoise and the last flightless bird, were safe.

The second choice, however, was not. T

his was Diego Garcia which, although rich in terrestrial and marine life, was not unique enough to excite the collective indignation of naturalists.
As for the presence of a flourishing human population, this was "not an insurmountable problem", advised the Foreign Office, for people could be "removed" and "the outside world [presented] with a scenario in which there were no permanent inhabitants on the archipelago".

In February 1964, a secret Anglo-American conference was held in London, at which the final decision was taken. Again, parliament was not informed. The following April, Anthony Greenwood, the colonial secretary in Harold Wilson's Labour government, flew to Mauritius, then a British colony that included the Chagos Islands.

Greenwood spelled out the terms for granting independence to Mauritius. Despite United Nations Resolution 1514, which held that all colonial peoples had an inalienable right to independence without conditions, Greenwood offered it with strings. Mauritius could be free as long as Britain could keep the Chagos archipelago. The bribe was a mere £3m, together with a promise to support Mauritian sugar preferences.

Thus Charlesia's homeland was "sold".

On November 8 1965, in the twilight of its colonial era, Britain created a new colony, the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), whose principal territory was the Chagos Islands. It was a ruse of which perhaps only Britain's ancien régime was capable; for the new colony was a fake, an entity created for the sole purpose of handing it over for the use of the American military. This was made possible by using the archaic powers of the royal prerogative, a throwback to the divine right of kings.

Although barely reported in the press, word of this manoeuvre reached the United Nations in New York, spurring the General Assembly to pass Resolution 2066, which called on the British government "to take no action which would dismember the territory of Mauritius and violate its territorial integrity".

This was ignored.

In December 1966, Lord Chalfont, a Foreign Office minister, signed a contract in Washington giving the Pentagon a 50-year "lease" on Diego Garcia with an automatic extension of 20 years.

Declassified state department documents obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act in 2005 reveal that Washington wanted the entire population expelled; as one official put it, the islands were to be "swept" and "sanitised". This was described in a secret file as "a neat, sensible package".

In 1974,a joint UK-US question-and-answer "official truth" primer for embassies around the world asked: "Is there a native population on the Chagos Islands?" The reply was "No."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman denied this was a lie, in the process uttering perhaps the most amazing lie of all. "There is nothing in our files," he said, "about inhabitants or about an evacuation."

It was not until 1975 that the US Senate revealed that the British government had been secretly "compensated" for the Chagos with a discount of $14m off the price of a Polaris nuclear submarine.

This itself was illegal, as it was never submitted to Congress for approval; and the document Chalfont signed stated falsely that the US would pay no rent for acquiring "base rights". There was no mention of a population.

Lizette Talate is also in the Colonial Office film. She was 14 years old at the time and remembers the producer saying to her and her friends, "Keep smiling, girls!" Sitting in her kitchen in Port Louis, she says, "We didn't need to be told. I was a happy child, because my roots were deep in Diego. My great-grandmother was born on Diego, and my grandmother was born there, and my mother was born there, and I was born there. I made six children there.

Maybe only the English can make a film that showed we were an established community, then deny their own evidence and invent the lie that we were transient workers. That's why they couldn't legally throw us out of our own homes; they had to terrify us into leaving or force us out."

"How did they terrify you?" I asked.

"They tried to starve us. The food ships stopped arriving, and everything was scarce. There was no milk, no dairy products, no oil, no sugar, no salt. When they couldn't starve us out of our homes, they spread rumours that we would be bombed, then they turned on our dogs."
The Chagossians love their dogs; they are inseparable.

The plan to kill all the dogs on the island - with its unsubtle implication that humans might be next - came from Sir Bruce Greatbatch, then Her Majesty's Governor of the Seychelles. "At first they tried poisoned fish balls," said Lizette. "That killed a few and left many in terrible agony. Then they paid a man to walk round with a big stick beating them to death, or trying to. Finally, American soldiers, who had already begun to arrive, gassed them, and the bodies - many still alive - were thrown on to a shelf that usually held the flesh of coconuts as it was cooked ... children listened to the howls of their pets being burned to death."

Along with 180 others, Lizette and her family were forced on to the vessel Nordvaer, which had plied between the Chagos and Mauritius and the Seychelles, transporting copra and taking supplies back to the islands.

The men were herded on to the bridge and had to stand or crouch in very rough weather; the women and children were made to sleep in the hold on a cargo of fertiliser - bird shit.

People vomited and suffered diarrhoea; two women miscarried.

"Even water was scarce," says Lizette. "What I can't forget is the fear and uncertainty for myself and my family.

When we got to the Seychelles, the police were waiting for us. They marched us up the hill to a prison, where we were kept in cells until the boat was ready to take us on to Mauritius.
"I suppose we took some hope in the promise that in Mauritius we would be granted a house, a piece of land, animals and a sum of money. We got nothing."

The former president of Mauritius, Cassam Uteem, who has championed the Chagossians' rights, told me: "You can't imagine how bewildered and terrified they were ... These were a people who would sing their way through life; and here they were, weeping their way through life, and they are still weeping.

I know of one lady who lost two children within two or three months, and she wasn't able even to perform their funerals because she didn't have any money. The children were taken from the hospital straight to the cemetery. That lady is still weeping."

Lizette is that lady. She lost Jollice, aged eight, and Regis, aged 10 months. Her husband died soon afterwards.

"They died of sadness," she tells me. "It is true, because the doctor said he could not treat sadness.

Lizette is a wiry, formidably intelligent woman who wears a mask of grief and determination.

"I am going home," she says. "I am not to be pitied; I am fighting."

By 1975, the Chagossians in exile began to die from their imposed poverty. Most were unemployed and penniless and either sharing a slum or sleeping rough. In a letter to an MP, a Foreign Office official wrote: "Although we have no information about deaths, some deaths are bound to have occurred in the normal course of events."

That was a lie.

The Foreign Office had sent a senior official, ARG Prosser, to investigate; he had sent back a graphically detailed report on the islanders' living conditions and advised that "something needs to be done".

The government's response was to offer a minuscule £650,000 in compensation to the entire population. Even this did not arrive until 1978, five years after the last islander had been deported.

In 1981, several hundred Chagossian women converged on the British High Commission in Port Louis, sat down and sang, and demanded proper compensation.

Thanks to their protest, it appeared that progress was being made on compensation.

On March 27 1982, a group of the most impoverished islanders accepted a "full and final" settlement of £4m - less than half the estimated minimum that they could survive on.

But on what the islanders wanted most - the right to return - there was a deafening silence.

In the 1990s, the islanders' struggle took a dramatic turn when a treasure trove of declassified official documents was discovered in the National Archives at Kew, in London. This provided the narrative of a conspiracy between two governments to carry out, in the words of Article 7 of the statute of the international criminal court, the "deportation or forcible transfer of a population ... a crime against humanity".

On July 28 1965, a senior Foreign Office official, TCD Jerrom, wrote to the British representative at the United Nations, FDW Brown, instructing him to lie to the general assembly that the Chagos Islands were "uninhabited when the United Kingdom government first acquired them". This Brown did on November 16 1965.

He also misrepresented the population as "labourers from Mauritius and the Seychelles" for whom Britain's obligations under the United Nations Charter "did not apply", and he lied that the "new administrative arrangements" had been "freely worked out with the ... elected representatives of the people concerned".

In a secret memorandum, a Colonial Office official, KWS MacKenzie, spelt out the truth. "One of the things we would like to do in the new Territory," he wrote, "is to convert all the existing residents into short-term, temporary residents by giving them temporary immigration permits, describing them as inhabitants of Mauritius or the Seychelles."

Reading the files, it is clear that the British government did as it was told by Washington. Mass deportation, wrote a Foreign Office official, "was made virtually a condition of the agreement [with the Americans] when we negotiated it in 1965".

What these files also reveal is an imperious attitude of brutality and contempt.

On August 24 1966, Sir Paul Gore-Booth, permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office, wrote: "We must surely be very tough about this. The object of the exercise is to get some rocks which will remain ours. There will be no indigenous population except seagulls."

At the bottom of the page is a postscript handwritten by DA Greenhill, another senior official, who became Baron Greenhill of Harrow.
"Unfortunately," he wrote, "along with the Birds go some few Tarzans or Men Fridays whose origins are obscure, and who are being hopefully wished on to Mauritius etc. When this has been done, I agree we must be very tough."

The cover-up went to the very top.

On November 5 and 8 1965, the Colonial Secretary, Anthony Greenwood, wrote two secret minutes to Prime Minister Harold Wilson, in which he described the problem of a "population of 1,000 inhabitants" living in the Chagos. He urged that the Queen quickly approve the "order-in-council detaching the islands" so that the new colony could be declared and "we should be able to present the UN with a fait accompli".

So when Wilson gave the green light to the order-in-council, he was aware he was overriding the legal and human rights of British citizens. He was stealing their country and ignoring the risks of "dumping unemployables in heavily over-populated Mauritius", as one honest Foreign Office official warned, not to mention the incalculable suffering this ensured.

Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart, a quiet, grey-haired, grandfatherly-looking man, took charge of the deceit. Writing secretly to Wilson on July 25 1968, he proposed that the government lie to the world that there was "no indigenous population", even though he had signed a memorandum circulating in the cabinet which admitted that "there was an indigenous population and the Foreign Office knew it".

On April 26 1969, Wilson's private secretary wrote to Stewart that the prime minister approved the "plan". Seven successive British governments have - to recall the memorable expression of a Foreign Office legal adviser in 1969 - maintained the fiction.

In his two autobiographies, Denis Healey, who was defence secretary in the Wilson government and responsible for turning Diego Garcia over to the Pentagon, makes not a single mention of the expulsion of the population. In 2004, I asked Healey for an interview.

He replied, "I fear I have no memories of the Chagos archipelago. Sorry."

On May 6 1969, Healey's private secretary wrote to Downing Street, confirming that the Defence Secretary had read Stewart's plan and "agrees with its recommendations". Healey even queried the cost of expelling the population and sought an assurance that any "excess" above £10m would not be borne by his department.

The "policy of concealment" (as a Foreign Office file called it) ran almost to the end of the century - until the files at Kew were cracked open.

Armed with this extraordinary evidence, Richard Gifford, the tireless lawyer representing the islanders, headed for the courts.

In October 2000, Lizette Talate, Charlesia Alexis and others, led by a courageous islander, Olivier Bancoult, flew to London to give evidence in a high court action that challenged the legality of their dispossession.
The government had feared this, and, prior to the hearing, the Foreign Office mounted a disinformation campaign, led by Peter Hain.

"The outer islands," Hain told the House of Commons, "have been uninhabited for 30 years, so any resettlement would present serious problems, both because of the practical feasibility and in relation to our treaty obligations."

A "treaty" implied an agreement scrutinised by parliament. There was no treaty: only a secret, criminal deal.

On November 3 2000, in the high court, Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Gibbs stunned the government.
Citing the Magna Carta, which proscribed "Exile from the Realm" without due process, they unanimously squashed the 1965 ordinance used to deport the islanders as unlawful.

Lizette and Charlesia at last could go home, it seemed. But the Blair government had other ideas.

That afternoon, the Foreign Office published a new immigration ordinance that banned the islanders from returning to Diego Garcia. Once again, "treaty obligations" with Washington were cited.

In 2003, the islanders were back in the high court, now seeking compensation. But this time they faced a judge who described the case as "unmeritorious" and "hopeless", and awarded the islanders not a penny - a decision "welcomed" by Bill Rammell, the Foreign Office minister responsible for the Chagos.

The following year, Rammell employed the same sleight of hand that the Wilson government had used to expel the islanders in the 1960s, when he sent an order-in-council to the Queen for her rubber-stamped approval. This overturned the Chagossians' high court victory of 2000 in its entirety and and banned the islanders from ever returning home. The order-in-council appeared on a list of innocuous royal decrees, between an amendment to the royal charter of the College of Optometrists and the appointment of Her Majesty's education inspectors for Scotland. No reason was given; a privy councillor simply read out the fate of thousands of Her Majesty's most vulnerable, abused and wronged subjects.

Richard Gifford and the islanders refused to accept this and were back in the high court last year. On May 11, two judges found unreservedly in their favour, describing the government's behaviour as illegal, repugnant and irrational. The government is considering an appeal, knowing that the Americans, having attacked Iraq and Afghanistan from Diego Garcia, are furious.

The bombing of Iran is planned to take place from this British territory. Both governments apparently still believe they can "wear down" the islanders' resolve.

They are mistaken, I can assure them.

This is an edited extract from Freedom Next Time, by John Pilger, published by Bantam Press on June 5. © John Pilger 2006.
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Sunday, May 28, 2006

One Man's Constitutional Crisis ...

I have to say that I am in total agreement with the New York Times when it comes to US Senators reactions to the FBI's decision to raid the offices of William Jefferson.

Suddenly Senators seem remarkably united at this "attack on the constitution."

Our first question is where all these concerned constitutionalists have been for the last five years.

Time and time again, Congress has played dead when the executive branch refused to provide it with information, answer questions or follow laws that the legislative branch has passed.

Currently, the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has not been the worst offender, is tinkering dangerously with the laws covering domestic wiretapping by the National Security Agency. It could end up endorsing a program that the White House won't even fully describe to a vast majority of lawmakers.

It is remarkable that these same men who have sat on their hands whilst the Bush administration tore the constitution to pieces now have the temerity to object when his actions impend upon themselves.

The constitutional claims made by the Congressional leadership on the Jefferson case seem overblown. House and Senate members are protected from arrest while going about their official business to shield them from intimidation and meddling by the executive branch in the affairs of state, not to deter law enforcement officials from doing their lawful duty to investigate possible felonies.

But members of Congress who have been politically comatose or complicit as the Bush administration built itself an imperial presidency, immune from the historical powers of the legislative branch, are up in arms. The House Judiciary Committee, which has been in the forefront of the long-running cave-in, has scheduled a hearing that the chairman has titled "Reckless Justice: Did the Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution?"

It seems like a phony approach to a real problem.

Perhaps, at long last, those same Senators will understand the very real outrage that Bush unleashed when he said the constitution was "just a bit of paper."

Either way, it is hypocritical in the extreme that these same men - who allowed Bush the unrivalled political leeway that he now enjoys - should object when he acts like a King.

After all, it was they who placed the crown on his head. And is was they who bought his theory that nothing is illegal if it is the President who is doing the action.

Their hypocrisy on this is staggering.

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Report: Senior PA security official says civil war 'inevitable'

News of an impending civil war in the Occupied Territories is being greeted with ill disguised glee in today's Ha'aretz newspaper:

Palestinian security forces loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas are planning an offensive against Hamas' military wing, heightening the specter of a factional civil war in the territories, the British Sunday Times reported.

"Time is running out for Hamas," a Fatah security official told the London daily. "We'll choose the right time and place for the military showdown. But after that there will be no more of Hamas's militias."

"Civil war is inevitable," the official said.
I have no doubt that if the Israeli's and the US have any feelings about this, then they will be feelings of accomplishment. After all, the closing of the Karni crossing and the withholding of Palestinian funding were all done with the express wish to undermine the democratically elected government of Palestine.

If open warfare breaks out, they will no doubt see this as the price that Palestine must pay for having the temerity to elect leaders that were not to their liking.

It's a strange form of democracy that Bush seeks to export, where the US, EU and Israel can decide to make moves likely to result in civil war in any democracy who chooses leaders that meet with their disapproval.

The citizens of the US should consider themselves very lucky that rest of the world does not have a similar capability. With world-wide opinion of Bush so low for so many years, the streets of the US would have run red many years ago.

If open warfare does break out, then the blood that runs through Palestine's streets will be on the hands of the men who talk loudly of democracy, but who refuse to accept it's results.

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The children of Guantanamo Bay

The US base at Guantanamo Bay is under renewed scrutiny after lawyers in London claimed that dozens of minors were being held there. The lawyers say that at least sixty of the inmates were under the age of eighteen at the time of their capture.

They include at least 10 detainees still held at the US base in Cuba who were 14 or 15 when they were seized - including child soldiers who were held in solitary confinement, repeatedly interrogated and allegedly tortured.

The disclosures threaten to plunge the Bush administration into a fresh row with Britain, its closest ally in the war on terror, only days after the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, repeated his demands for the closure of the detention facility. It was, he said, a "symbol of injustice".

Whitehall sources said the new allegations, from the London-based legal rights group Reprieve, directly contradicted the Bush administration's assurances to the UK that no juveniles had been held there. "We would take a very, very dim view if it transpires that there were actually minors there," said an official.

One child prisoner, Mohamed el Gharani, is accused of involvement in a 1998 al-Qa'ida plot in London led by the alleged al-Qa'ida leader in Europe, Abu Qatada. But he was 12 years old at the time and living with his parents in Saudi Arabia.

After being arrested in Karachi in October 2001, aged 14, he has spent several years in solitary confinement as an alleged al-Qa'ida-trained fighter.

One Canadian-born boy, Omar Khadr, was 15 when arrested in 2002 and has also been kept in solitary confinement. The son of a known al-Qa'ida commander, he is accused of killing a US soldier with a grenade in July 2002 and was placed top of the Bush administration's list of detainees facing prosecution.

"It would surely be really quite stupid to allow the world to think you have teenagers in orange jumpsuits and shackles, spending 23 hours a day locked up in a cage," a source added. "If it's true that young people have been held there, their cases should be dealt with as a priority."

The British government have always said that they have been assured that any children held in Guantanamo would be held in a separate part of the camp, known as Camp Iguana, but the US admits that only three children have ever been held there.

Clive Stafford Smith, a legal director of Reprieve and lawyer for a number of detainees, said it broke every widely accepted legal convention on human rights to put children in the same prison as adults - including US law.

"There is nothing wrong with trying minors for crimes, if they have committed crimes. The problem is when you either hold minors without trial in shocking conditions, or try them before a military commission that, in the words of a prosecutor who refused to take part, is rigged," he said. "Even if these kids were involved in fighting - and Omar is the only one who the military pretends was - then there is a UN convention against the use of child soldiers. There is a general recognition in the civilised world that children should be treated differently from adults."

A senior Pentagon spokesman, Lt Commander Jeffrey Gordon, insisted that no-one under the age of eighteen was currently being held at Guantanamo Bay. This is a slightly disingenuous answer as any fourteen year old held in 2001 would have passed the eighteen year old threshold by now. Nor was Jeffrey Gordon remotely apologetic, insisting that:

"There is no international standard concerning the age of an individual who engages in combat operations... Age is not a determining factor in detention [of those] engaged in armed conflict against our forces or in support to those fighting against us."
Every time you think the reputation of the US can't sink any lower under this administration, they manage to sink further and to engage in behaviour that is jaw dropping in it's stupidity.

They should start printing al Qaeda's recruiting posters for them, as they're already supplying the material that such posters will highlight.