Tuesday, October 31, 2006

No Sex Please - we're Republicans!

Every so often the Republicans reveal just how far out of step they are with the rest of the human race.

They originally targeted teenagers with their "no sex without marriage" campaign which, although reeking of religious fervour, had the undeniable advantage that it might just help to reduce teenage pregnancy.

But now they have expanded the group of people that they are targeting - and it's no longer confined to teens:

Now the government is targeting unmarried adults up to age 29 as part of its abstinence-only programs, which include millions of dollars in federal money that will be available to the states under revised federal grant guidelines for 2007.
What planet are these loons occupying?
"They've stepped over the line of common sense," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that supports sex education. "To be preaching abstinence when 90% of people are having sex is in essence to lose touch with reality. It's an ideological campaign. It has nothing to do with public health."
This is another example of the Republicans playing rather cynically to their religious base. They surely know the figures and also know that the campaign has no chance of success, but it makes it look as if they are "doing something" to appease their Fundamentalist base.

However, they surely know the rest of the country are watching this nonsense?

Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, says abstinence programs are among many messages that have helped reduce teen pregnancy rates. But "the notion that the federal government is supporting millions of dollars worth of messages to people who are grown adults about how to conduct their sex life is a very divisive policy," she says.

"We would oppose any program that stigmatizes unmarried people," adds Nicky Grist, executive director of the Alternatives to Marriage Project, a non-profit organization based in Brooklyn, N.Y., that advocates for the rights of unmarried people.

I thought the Republicans were supposed to be the party that didn't like "Big Government" interfering in people's personal lives? Apparently that only applies outside of the sexual arena.

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Bush Says 'America Loses' Under Democrats

It's highly unusual for a President in war time to seek to portray his opponents as in some way aligned to the enemy, but desperate times appear to be calling for desperate measures.

At a time when former Presidents would have sought unity, Bush is seeking to divide:

"However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses," Bush told a raucous crowd of about 5,000 GOP partisans packed in an arena at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, one of his stops Monday. "That's what's at stake in this election. The Democrat goal is to get out of Iraq. The Republican goal is to win in Iraq."

Cheney took the message even further by claiming that terrorists are attempting to influence the US election.

Cheney, meanwhile, said in an interview with Fox News that he thinks insurgents in Iraq are timing their attacks to influence the U.S. elections.

"It's my belief that they're very sensitive of the fact that we've got an election scheduled," he said. Cheney said the insurgents believe "they can break the will of the American people," and "that's what they're trying to do."

Cheney's message couldn't be any clearer, a vote for the Democrats is a vote for the terrorists.

This is highly unusual behaviour for an American President and Vice President and, in many ways, only highlights just how extreme these two men actually are.
Bush now routinely labels Democrats "the party of cut-and-run." At a recent Republican fundraiser, Bush went much further. "The Democrat Party … has evolved from one that was confident in its capacity to help deal with the problems of the world to one that … has an approach of doubt and defeat," he declared.

Bush has absorbed his share of body blows from Democrats criticizing his management of the war. But tagging his rivals as the party of "defeat" is nonetheless extraordinary language for a commander in chief to use in a political campaign.

Other wartime presidents have been much more reluctant to argue that only their party was committed to success. Consider the way President Johnson approached the 1966 elections as the Vietnam War was escalating. To begin with, Johnson spent most of that October away from the campaign, on a 17-day tour of Asia that included Vietnam.

Then, at a news conference just before election day, Johnson dismissed the idea that congressional losses for the Democratic Party would affect either the thinking of the North Vietnamese or America's support for the troops in the field. If Republicans gained seats, he continued, "They may talk, and argue, and fight, and criticize, and play politics from time to time, but when they call the vote on supporting the men … in the Senate it will be 83 to 2 and in the House it will be 410-5."

In 1942, the first election after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was even more emphatic about separating war and politics. Roosevelt spent much of that fall visiting defense facilities on a tour during which he barred press coverage and insisted on being accompanied by Republican as well as Democratic local officials. When the chairman of the Democratic National Committee suggested that a GOP takeover of the House would be bad for the country, Roosevelt publicly rebuked him.

Even President Nixon displayed more restraint during the 1970 midterm election. Nixon barnstormed the country asking voters to elect members of Congress who would support his war policy. But he took pains to avoid claiming that only his party wanted to win. "This is not a partisan issue," Nixon declared that October at a rally for a Texas Republican Senate candidate named George H.W. Bush.
Bush junior has cast all this precedence aside and decided to portray his party as the only one that can guarantee victory in Iraq, without I notice ever defining what that victory will look like.

We always knew that Bush and Cheney lacked the gravitas of the men the who filled that noble office before them, but with this scurrilous attack, it was never made quite as sickeningly obvious.

The man who claimed to be "a uniter not a divider" has now abandoned that pretence completely. He really is campaigning from the bottom of the barrel now.

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U.S. fears Syria, Iran purposely violating Lebanon arms embargo to destabilize the country

John Bolton never disappoints. Whenever an enemy of Israel needs to be made an enemy of the US, up pops Bolton to fire the initial shot across the bow.

He is one of the many members of the Bush administration who see no essential difference between Israeli interests and those of the US and his work at castigating Israel's perceived enemies on the world stage has been so unrelenting that he has been celebrated by the Zionist Organization of America with its annual Defender of Israel Award.

Indeed, Israeli organisations fall over themselves to praise his work:

JINSA executive director Tom Neumann said: "John Bolton is a strong advocate of America and a strong supporter of Israel. With the consistent effort to undermine American and Israeli security in the UN, I feel confident that a proven diplomat like John Bolton will be representing our interests in the UN."
When the Zionist Organization of America awarded him they went even further in their praise:
"The ZOA praises and strongly supports the heroic efforts of Ambassador Bolton to bring about fair treatment of Israel and decent conduct within the United Nations." Referring to his recent work as UN ambassador on behalf of Israel, Klein noted that Bolton's "efforts to have Hezbollah condemned at last for its vicious terrorist assaults on Israel, without the usual 'balancing' criticism of Israel for legitimately striking back at Hezbollah, is a major achievement and speaks volumes for his commitment to justice, the war on Islamic terrorism, and fair dealing for Israel and the world."
And well they might fall over themselves, as there appears to be no limit on what he will do on their behalf:
U.S. News reported that in his position as the government's top arms control official Bolton shelved a memo suggesting that Israel had violated U.S. laws against using U.S. arms for "nondefensive" purposes when it used U.S.-supplied weapons to assassinate Salah Shehada, a top Hamas activist in Gaza City, on July 23, 2000. Israel's air force used a U.S.-made F-16 bomber to drop a one-ton bomb on a house in the densely populated part of Gaza where the Hamas leader was staying. Fourteen civilians died along with Shehada, and more than 100 Palestinians were injured. Senate staffers investigating Bolton found that Bolton prevented a State Department memo accusing Israel of violating U.S. arms-export laws from reaching the desk of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Well now he's popped up again, bang on cue, to accuse Syria of violating the UN weapons embargo in Lebanon:
Bolton stressed on Monday that Syria's obligations to respect a UN arms embargo authorized by the August Security Council resolution that ended the 34-day conflict between Israel and Hezbollah "are particularly important as it is the one country other than Israel that borders Lebanon."

In a speech to the UN Security Council, Bolton welcomed the Lebanese government's extension of its authority throughout the south of the country for the first time in almost 40 years, as well as its army's deployment along the eastern part of the UN-drawn boundary with Israel and the border with Syria.

"Despite this advance, we continue to be concerned that Syria and Iran are actively trying to destabilize the democratically elected government of Lebanon ...," he said. "We call on Syria and Iran to abide by their obligations to respect Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence."
Terje Roed-Larsen, the top UN envoy for Syria-Lebanon issues, has reacted with alarm at Bolton's remarks:
Representatives of the Lebanese government "have stated publicly and also in conversations with us that there has been arms coming across the border into Lebanon."

"The consistent position of the government of Syria has been that, "yes, there might be arms smuggling over the border, but this is arms smuggling and that the border is porous and very difficult to control," he said.

Roed-Larsen called the situation in Lebanon "worrisome."

"The political rhetoric shows that there are very high tensions, and I think we have to look at the situation in Lebanon with all caution. And there are reasons for being worried about where this is heading," he said.
There are, indeed, reasons to be worried where all this is headed. Bolton is one of the people who - along with President Bush - hoped that the war against Hizbullah could be widened to include Iran and Syria.

And one of the things I have learned from watching the neo-cons is that defeat on an issue is never the end of the matter for these people. They simply regroup and prepare for a second charge.

As Bolton peppers the air with accusations against Syria and Iran, we should never forget what his ultimate aim is; this is a man who wants a wider Middle Eastern war.

His shocking disregard for the plight of Lebanese victims of the Israeli attacks on that country were highlighted when he said
"that Israelis killed by terrorists were more important than the Lebanese civilians killed by Israel."
Bolton said that there is no "moral equivalence" between Lebanese civilians killed by Israel and Israeli civilians killed by Muslim terrorists: "It's simply not the same thing to say that it's the same act to deliberately target innocent civilians, to desire their deaths, to fire rockets and use explosive devices or kidnapping versus the sad and highly unfortunate consequences of self-defense."
So, there is no real secret about where Bolton is going with all of this. There is also no need, when someone has been so consistently one-sided, for anyone to let him get away with it.

He's looking for ways to facilitate invasion, and it is through that prism that one should weigh all his utterances.

Click title for full article.

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Blair risks humiliating defeat as opponents demand Iraq inquiry

Even Thatcher agreed to an enquiry after the war in the Falklands. However, Blair has refused to allow any kind of enquiry into the lead up to the Iraq war claiming that the Hutton Inquiry into the death of government adviser David Kelly, and the Butler Inquiry into the pre-war intelligence were enough.

It is simply extraordinary that Britain has joined the US in invading another sovereign nation - without a UN mandate - in order to find weapons that did not exist and that no enquiry has ever been held into the events that led us to that point.

SNP and Plaid Cymru are putting forward a motion today which reads:

"That this House believes that there should be a select committee of seven honourable Members, being members of Her Majesty's Privy Council, to review the way in which the responsibilities of government were discharged in relation to Iraq and all matters relevant thereto, in the period leading up to military action in that country in March 2003 and in its aftermath."
Blair is mobilising his forces to oppose this motion claiming:
"We have troops who are operating in the field of combat. We have an enemy who is looking for any sign of weakness at all, any sign of a loss of resolution or determination. The important thing is that we do not give any signal that we are anything less than fully determined to see the job through."
This is plainly a load of old baloney.

Both of the previous enquiries studiously avoided looking into how the pre-war intelligence was handled politically. And Hutton's enquiry especially revealed a dreadful amount of government interference in the intelligence community in order to "sex up" the findings and make war inevitable, even if Hutton backed off from making the conclusion that the evidence he had heard implied. A decision which led to wide calls of whitewash.

And the Butler Inquiry's remit did not extend to an examination of the political decision making process.

However, Blair is determined that he should not have to answer questions about the many things that have come to light since the Butler Enquiry and the enquiry into the death of David Kelly. He does not want to have to answer questions relating to the Downing Street Memo and many other things which will cast serious doubts on his reasoning for employing British troops in the way that he has done.

So now, he pretends that it is his concern for the troops themselves that stops him from allowing an enquiry into the fact that he placed British troops in harm's way on evidence that was false at best and manufactured to suit a previously established American motive at worst.

However, there is a slim chance that he might lose the vote as the Conservatives - who had been expected to abstain - are now threatening to vote against the government.

Their change of heart raises the prospect of Labour's working majority of 67 being wiped out if between 30 and 40 rebel MPs oppose the Government.

One Labour left-winger predicted that as many as 45 Labour MPs could join the opposition lobbies. He said: "We think this is going to be a very close vote. There has to be a full public inquiry into what went wrong and the lies that were told, both to the British public and to MPs."

Defeat for Mr Blair on the centrepiece of his foreign policy would be hugely embarrassing and could reignite dissent in Labour ranks over his leadership.

It is simply scandalous that Blair has been allowed to avoid any kind of enquiry into Britain's worst foreign policy intervention ever. I used to say "since Suez" but the fact of the matter is that the Iraq war is even worse than the Suez intervention.

It is unheard of for a government not to hold an enquiry in order that valuable lessons be learned, however Blair wishes to avoid this as any enquiry into the build up to the Iraq war will reveal just how set on war he was at all costs and just how much the evidence was manipulated in order to bring about that result.

Alex Salmond, the leader of the SNP who are proposing the motion said:

"If the motion were to be carried, the Prime Minister's tenure in office would be measured in hours and days ... but even if the Government wins it by a narrow margin - which I think is the reality - then he would be in a Neville Chamberlain situation where you win the battle but lose the war.

"This is an opportunity for the House of Commons to bring to account a government which has led us into this bloody quagmire."

It is an opportunity that I believe the house should take, although I am doubtful that they will.

Labour MP's will scurry around their leader whilst pretending that their main concern is the welfare of British troops who they voted to send into battle when it was not necessary for them to do so.

Today's debate will be the first time the government has allowed any debate on the subject of the Iraq war for the past two years. That fact alone is scandalous.

Michael Moore, foreign affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, called on the Government to follow the lead of the White House, which has established the Baker review into the situation in Iraq. "This is an important debate which ought to be the starting point for government accountability on Iraq," he said. "It is unacceptable that the Government has not allotted time to debate this important issue for over two years and that we have had to rely on an opposition day debate before MPs can discuss this in Parliament."

Blair may sneak off the hook yet again today, although I sincerely hope that he does not. He deserves to be held accountable for what he has done and to be driven from office on a wave of shame.

Eden, at least, had the dignity to resign after Suez. Blair apparently lacks even the wherewithal to realise the size of the calamity he has perpetrated, and certainly the honesty to appreciate his own role that disaster.

The House has an opportunity today to bring Blair face to face with what he has done. I hope the House takes it.

I doubt they will though.

Click title for full article.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Fox comes out punching...

Michael J. Fox hits back:

It's not secret I am a vocal advocate for medical research - but I am not alone - the majority of the House of Representatives, the United States Senate and over 70 percent of Americans support stem cell research - but Senator DeWine stood with the President and voted against stem cell research...

As you may know, I had a run-in with a less than compassionate conservative. I guess I'm not supposed to speak with you until my symptoms go away, or maybe I'm supposed to go away, but I'm not going to go away and neither are the millions of Americans and their families who live with these diseases...

The stem cell policy of President Bush that was supported by Senator DeWine is a rejection of the future of medical research. Well, forgive me for this, but it's time we get back to our future...a vote for Sherrod Brown for Senate is a vote for hope and for a better quality of life for millions of Americans...

I'm asking you as an advocate, and a husband and a father to all get active and to stand up for what is right -- what is right for the future of hundreds of millions of Americans who have or are touched by debilitating diseases.

The interesting thing here is that 70% of Americans support stem cell research, so how come Bush and these religious loons get to behave as if their position is the middle ground? The GOP continually behave as if "the heartland" agrees with them when every opinion poll says that they do not.

The people in charge of the White House are holding an extremist position, when are the press going to honestly address this fact?

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More Press Freedom in Mozambique Than in USA

The US press have been simply a disgrace when it comes to holding the Bush administration to account for their actions, but new findings from the Worldwide Press Freedom Index are simply staggering.

They have found that there is more press freedom in Mozambique than there is in the United States. The report has been published by the Paris-based press freedom body, Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF - Reporters without Borders).

The RSF index gives each country a score, based on the degree of freedom for journalists and media organisations. The best possible score would be zero, and a few European countries approach this. Tied at the top of the index, with a score of 0.5 are Finland, Iceland, Ireland and Holland.

In 2004, Mozambique was ranked 64th out of 167 countries. In the 2005 index, Mozambique was ranked 49th, and this year it has risen to 45 out of 168, a position shared with Cape Verde, Macedonia and Serbia.

But the United States has been falling steadily. In the first year the index was published it was in 17th position. Last year the US was in 44th position, and this year it is ranked as number 53 alongside Botswana, Croatia and Tonga.

This is happened as a direct consequence of Bush's actions:

RSF explains that this decline arises from the deterioration in relations between the Bush administration and the media "after the President used the pretext of "national security" to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his "war on terrorism".

RSF also points out that US federal courts refuse to recognise journalists' cherished right not to reveal their sources. This "even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism".

RSF notes, in particular, the cases of freelance journalist Josh Wolf, imprisoned by the US authorities when he refused to hand over his video archive; of Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj held without trial at the US military base of Guantanamo since June 2002; and of an Associated Press photographer, Bilal Hussein, held by the US in Iraq since April this year.

This is simply a shameful position for the US to find itself it, especially as it is invading other country's to spread "freedom and democracy". Perhaps such noble ideals would be best expressed at home before you start exporting them.

When you find your press freedom alongside Botswana's, it's time to take a long hard look at yourself.

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Happy birthday Fox News!

Okay, while I'm on a roll with this stuff, the guys who produced Outfoxed produced a video to celebrate Fox News' 10th anniversary. Worth a look:

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OutFOXed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (Interviews) [fox news, FNC, media]

O'Reilly's rant at Jeremy Glick reminded me of the movie Outfoxed. I would highly recommend you rent it or buy it. These are the interviews that make up the backbone of the movie.

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O'Reilly: You're a nut!

Bill O'Reilly's behaviour simply gets worse and worse. Here he invites Jim Fetzer in to talk about his theories relating to 9-11. He then simply berates the man by calling him every name a five year old child would utter. "You're a nut. You're like the guys who think aliens kidnapped Elvis!"

Fetzer doesn't get a chance to present any evidence, he is invited along simply as a punch bag.

Of course, O'Reilly as always slips up. He asks why Fetzer's theories aren't being discussed on the front page of the New York Times and other parts of "the liberal media" whilst totally ignoring the fact that he is interviewing the guy live on Fox.

O'Reilly is simply a bizarre little man. This is the worst he has behaved since he yelled out Jeremy Glick, the young man who's father died on 9-11.

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Letterman-O'Reilly: Round 2

I've found a longer clip of O'Reilly on the Letterman show:

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Secret Cabinet memo admits Iraq is fuelling UK terror

In a speech last month Tony Blair said that the suggestion that Britain's military action in Iraq and Afghanistan has served as a recruiting sergeant for Islamist terrorist groups was "enemy propaganda".

Now it transpires that a secret memo from his own Cabinet makes the very link that Blair is denying publicly.

It admits that, in an ideal world, "the Muslim would not perceive the UK and its foreign policies as hostile" – effectively accepting the argument that Britain's military action in Iraq and Afghanistan has served as a recruiting sergeant for Islamist terrorist groups.
The memo goes on to list an extraordinary "wish list" of how the government would like the world to look in ten years time:

After a decade, Iraq must have "stable central and local government, accepted by all sectarian groups". Afghanistan must be "stable, democratic, with all territory under central government control".

Israel must have "secure borders" and live in "peaceful co-existence" with its Arab neighbours, while Iran must have a "representative, tolerant government … no nuclear weapons" and "no sponsorship of terrorism".

The document concludes: "If all or most of the above were in place, threats from other sources of Islamic terrorism (eg Indonesia, Philippines, Nigeria) would be manageable or on the way to resolution. Any remaining deployments of the British armed forces should be seen as contributing to international stability and security."

No Downing Street spokesperson was willing to comment on the memo.

Blair's argument that there is no link between our foreign policy and potential attacks on UK soil is simply fantastical. He argues that we had not attacked Iraq or Afghanistan before 9-11.

This is true, but 9-11 was an attack on the US against their foreign policy, specifically their troops presence in Saudi Arabia and their support for Israel's behaviour in the Occupied Territories.

Blair is being disingenuous when he argues against a link. His own intelligence services have already made the link.
Michael Jay, head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, gave warning a year earlier that Britain’s foreign policy was a key factor in recruitment by extremist organisations.

He cited disillusion among Muslims over Britain’s position on Iraq and the Middle East peace process as a “recurring theme” in the Muslim community.

Sir Michael’s warning was set out in a letter in May last year to Sir Andrew Turnbull, the outgoing Cabinet Secretary, in which he said Britain was now being seen among Muslims as a “crusader state” alongside America.

Quite how Blair and the likes of John Reid expect the public not to make such an obvious connection is beyond me. Perhaps he feels that blame for 7-7 would be laid at his doorstep. I personally do not think that attaching such blame would be fair or wise; nevertheless it is ludicrous to deny links that are plainly obvious.

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UN investigates Israel's 'uranium weapons'

The UN is sending twenty experts to look into claims that Israel used a new kind of uranium based weapon during the war in Lebanon.

As I reported here and here many questions have been raised regarding uranium samples taken from the site.

Butros al-Harb, Unep's Middle East director, told a Lebanese radio interviewer at the weekend: "If uranium was used, we will find out and we will announce it. We cannot confirm anything now, but we will wait for results."

Israel have since issued their most explicit denial yet:
Major Avital Leibovitz, a spokeswoman for the Israel Defence Forces, said: "We deny using any weapons containing uranium." One official suggested that if the environmentalists had indeed found traces of uranium, they would have to look for a different explanation.
It has been reported that "two soil samples thrown up by Israeli bombs in the south Lebanese villages of Khiam and At Tiri, centres of fierce fighting between Israel and Hizbollah, showed "elevated radiation signatures"."

What is unclear is what kind of bomb could have been used to produce the levels of radiation found.

Mark Regev, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, went as far as to hint that anti-Semitism was afoot:
"The sort of munitions we used in the Lebanon campaign," he said, "were almost identical to the sort of weaponry used in conflicts over the past decade by Nato countries, by Western countries. Sometimes there's a feeling that the Jewish state is being singled out for special treatment. One really has to ask why it is that the finger is being pointed at Israel."
The great thing about science is that it will provide an answer that transcends any bias anyone may have. It will simply tell us what kind of weapon was used.

Avital Leibovitz may already be preparing us to look for "a different explanation" and Mark Regev might already be implying that the UN is anti-Semitic, but the truth is that science will provide us with an inarguable result.

But what puzzles me is, what does Regev mean when he says that the weapons used were "almost" identical?

Time will tell.

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Olmert appoints "dangerous politician, clever, fascist and racist" as Deputy PM.

Olmert has gone even further than I thought. He is not only proposing to make Avigdor Lieberman a member of his government, but he is now proposing making him his minister dealing with strategic threats and a deputy prime minister.

This is a shocking turn of events.

Knesset members on the left in general and from the Arab parties in particular are expected to challenge the appointment. MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) called Lieberman a "dangerous politician, clever, fascist and racist. In other places people like him would be shunned, and in Israel [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert is promoting him to deputy prime minister."

In an interview to Haaretz, Tibi said that Lieberman is the Israeli equivalent of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Joerg Haider.
Why is Olmert promoting such a man?

I discussed here the kind of man we are dealing with. Nor has he modified any of his views before being promoted by Olmert, a promotion that makes no sense to anyone except as a cynical way for Olmert to preserve his power - a power that is not seriously under threat, and yet he reaches out to such dangerous people to ensure his survival.
He (Lieberman) has not apologized to Israeli Arabs, nor disavowed his statements of incitement against Arab MKs. Even after having reached agreement with Ehud Olmert about his inclusion in the government, Lieberman has stuck to his obscene views.
This racist is about to made deputy Prime Minister of Israel. This seriously undermines Israel's previous arguments against the inclusion of Joerg Haider into the Austrian government.
Shimon Peres, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, warned Austria at the time that the inclusion of Haider in the coalition will "ostracize it from the family of nations." Matan Vilnai, then minister of science, culture and sport, threatened to boycott the Austrian national soccer team. In response to the Freedom Party's inclusion of him in the coalition, then-prime minister Ehud Barak declared that Haider was persona non grata in Israel. Jewish organizations the world over competed over the intensity of their criticism of the Austrian government.

The growth of extremist parties on the right in Europe is worrying to Israel, and justifiably so. The rising popularity of nationalists such as Jean-Marie Le Pen in France, Vadim Tudor in Romania, Anto Djapic in Croatia and Christophe Blocher in Switzerland is disconcerting to world Jewry, and so it should be. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has barred Marine Le Pen, a member of the European Parliament and deputy in her father's National Front party, from entering the country. What will we say if European Union countries announce that the deputy prime minister is an unwanted personality in Europe?

The silence of the leadership of mainstream Jewry in the world, in view of the legitimization of a person such as Lieberman, undermines the moral high ground they hold in the struggle against Israel-haters throughout the world. If a Jewish politician who aspires to transfer an Arab minority across the border can sit in an Israeli cabinet, why should an anti-Semite not sit in an Austrian government?
The Knesset is due to vote on his appointment today and it looks likely that he will be approved. I don't know how the politicians who approve of him reconcile such an appointment with their consciences.

When the Palestinians elected Hamas, the US and EU refused to recognise the democratically elected government. Will there be any similar outcry to Israel making a man with such views deputy Prime Minister? Don't hold your breath.

Make no mistake, Israel has now promoted a man who openly calls for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to the post of Deputy Prime Minister. What hope is there now of a negotiated settlement? Where does this leave Bush's road map?

Olmert was elected on a platform that promised to evacuate the West Bank and Gaza. And now he has promoted a man who opposes all the issues that he was elected upon.

Olmert's government now has no function, it has no reason for existing other than ensuring it's own survival. Critics of the Likud Party, like myself, found ourselves applauding the old war criminal Ariel Sharon when he finally realised the errors of his ways and founded the Kadima party. It was a party that set out to do what Israel had been avoiding doing for some sixty years, to obey international law and return the land taken in 1967 to the Palestinians.

Olmert has now abandoned the very reasons that his party was formed to promote. And worse, he is now promoting to Deputy Prime Minister a man who's presence in his government guarantees that his party's original principled intentions can never be realised.

If ever a government deserved to fall, it is this one.

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Related articles:

So why are Israel's politicians, of the left and right, so comfortable sitting with Lieberman, the leader of Israel's only unquestionably fascist party?

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Hubris: the new Iraq war syndrome

This essay from David Owen received much discussion in yesterday's Sunday morning programmes. Thought it might be of interest:

The hubristic posture has been described by philosopher David E Cooper as 'excessive self-confidence, an "up yours!" attitude to authority, pre-emptive dismissal of warnings and advice, taking oneself as a model'.

The centralising natures of George W Bush and Tony Blair were such that they were both in search of more power and were, therefore, particularly susceptible to being swept up with the intoxication of power, following the tragic events of September 2001.

This was modern hubris, described by sociologist Daniel Bell as 'the refusal to accept limits, the insistence on continually reaching out. The modern world proposes a destiny that is always beyond: beyond morality, beyond tragedy, beyond culture'.

Bush and Blair began 'trying to create a new legal regime' for avoiding the constraints of international and national law on interrogation and detention after their military intervention in Afghanistan and, later, Iraq. They planned to build a new paradigm to replace the Geneva conventions that were not allowed to apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban prisoners, and they tried to do all this by themselves, with little or no consultation with friends or allies.

There have been incompetent heads of government in the past who have shown no signs of hubris and have often lacked self-confidence. But there is an acknowledged association between hubris and incompetence in Iraq mentioned by a number of serious commentators. The restless energy of hubris that constantly intervenes often does so without all the factual information; the excessive self-confidence that does not seek advice or fails to listen to the wisdom of others makes serious mistakes; and the inattention to detail and focus on the broad brush all combine to associate hubris with incompetence and poor judgment.

In addition to having this tendency towards incompetence, Bush and Blair share strong religious beliefs and an inner certainty that they are men of destiny. Unusually, perhaps because he knew he was committed to stepping down as Prime Minister before another general election, on TV on 4 March this year, Blair abandoned his reservations on talking about his religion in public and, in relation to Iraq, said: 'If you have faith about these things, then you realise that judgment is made by other people. If you believe in God, it's made by God as well.'

What we have the right to demand of our leaders, particularly when contemplating going to war, is rational, factual weighing of the risks, and the benefits, before resorting to military force. Holy wars breed arrogance, ignite hubris and are followed all too often by nemesis.

There is a public scepticism about bringing religion into questions of peace or war, just as there is a dislike of narcissism and egotism from civilian leaders when it is members of the armed forces who are risking their lives.

Following 9/11, the language and rhetoric of both Blair and Bush began to have the ring of zealotry; nuance and qualification became rarer, certainty and simplicity ever more dominant.

It is important for those who believe in the decisive leadership of representative democracies to analyse the nature of Blair and Bush's incompetent leadership and its links to hubris. They did not lack courage in deciding to invade Iraq. What they lacked were the skills and attention to detail to plan for all the possible scenarios that would face the military they ordered into battle.

I am not attracted to conspiracy theories. I supported the invasion of Iraq and I do believe, in contrast to many of their critics, that Bush and Blair did think gas and chemical weapons could be found inside Iraq in 2003, as did the intelligence services of France, Russia and Israel. They did genuinely fear that these weapons might be used, as gas had been previously used against Iran. They also dreaded the eventual development of Iraqi nuclear weapons.

Yet they did not seal the Iraqi borders with Syria and Iran after the invasion, even though the opportunism of al-Qaeda meant their involvement in Iraq was totally predictable. They did not plan for exactly what would replace the authority of Saddam Hussein. Nor did they think through the consequences of disbanding the Iraqi army. Why? Excessive self-confidence convinced them that the troops would be welcomed with open arms and they were dismissive of the genuine concerns of advisers.

For Bush on 1 May 2003 to fly on to the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln off the coast of California with the control tower emblazoned with 'Mission Accomplished' to celebrate victory in Iraq was hubris of a very high order.

Blair never went so far, but his early rhetoric was also far too triumphant. Even when the insurgency developed, neither man was ready to admit error and authorise the extra troops needed. As a key US official in Baghdad said: 'Hubris and ideology ruled.' Competently handled, the US/UK invasion of Iraq could have laid the foundation for a unified democratic Iraq. Incompetently handled, it has led to a civil war and possibly partition.

Tony Blair's judgments covering Afghanistan and Iraq showed signs of being not only erroneous, but unstable and unstructured. On 14 July 2006 ,the Financial Times ran an article entitled 'Hubris is the thread running through Blair's many travails'. After his handling of the Lebanon crisis, nemesis struck. Blair was told by Labour MPs that they were no longer ready to let him stay as Prime Minister beyond June 2007 and many wanted him gone before then.

The most common criticism of Blair has been that he was Bush's poodle and simply went along with the Bush administration at all times. Common it may be, but it is not the right criticism. Blair actually agreed with Bush on most of the decisions which are now seen to be wrong. What we have witnessed should be a solemn warning. The intoxication of power in heads of government can be as great a menace to the quality of their leadership as are conventional illnesses.

· This is an edited version of an essay, 'Hubris and Nemesis in Heads of Government', published in November's Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. For full version, see www.jrsm.org.
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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Snow attempts to doggy paddle away from Cheney's "dunk in the water" remark... and drowns!

This is getting fucking surreal now.

Tony Snow is trying to say that Cheney talking about, "a dunk in the water" is not a reference to waterboarding. It perhaps simply means, "a dunk in the water" as if - as the questioner points out - they perhaps have "a pool at Guantanamo Bay" now.

It's the worst and least plausible defence I've ever heard in my life. They could have argued that he was arguing hypothetically, but Snow's words have removed that defence.

Watch how, when asked what else "a dunk in the water" could possible refer to, Snow simply replies, "No."

It's now official. The US is torturing people and Cheney HAS admitted it. Snow's "defence" has only confirmed the very point he is attempting to deny.

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Senator Allen refuses to release arrest records

"Allen's adamant refusal to release documents about his arrest record suggests that there's more to this story and that he's hiding something. Allen's got a character problem and this stonewalling isn't helping him any," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Phil Singer said.

F0X reports about 10% of this story which is more than expected. Even, the G0P's propaganda network has given up on the Virginia Senate race.

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Olbermann - Limbaugh and Michael J. Fox

Limbaugh now claims we are misprepresenting his comments about Michael J Fox. Olbermann shows us the visuals...

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Bush & Blair: two leaders searching for a way out of Iraq, and finding none

Their credibility undermined, their moral authority shot, their populatrity in tatters, yet still they fight on. Rupert Cornwell on the bleakest week of the bloodiest month for the war leaders.

Their faces alone said everything. At his press conference on Wednesday, in the sumptuous setting of the White House East Room, George Bush was grim, bemused and aged. In the House of Commons 3,000 miles away, Tony Blair stood rooted to the same political spot he has occupied for more than three years. Two leaders, mesmerised and transfixed by the enormity of the crisis they face, searching for an exit and finding none.

In the bleak recent history of Iraq, this last week may have been the most despairing for them, when the converging disasters set in motion by their misconceived invasion of March 2003 became impossible to deny and the gap between their aspirations for Iraq and the reality on the ground there became a chasm.

Events have now acquired a terrible momentum of their own. This month alone the insurgency has claimed more than 1,000 lives, to add to the tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of lives already lost. Another 1.3 million Iraqis are now refugees. The American and British armies are stretched to breaking point. The cost of the war, for America alone, now tops $300bn (£158bn). The moral authority of both countries has been grievously damaged.

Never in modern history has the solution to one problem resulted in the creation of so many larger problems, especially since the initial "problem", Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, turned out to be non-existent.

It was a fitting irony that the week's most lapidary judgement on the disaster of Iraq came from Hans Blix, the former UN chief weapons inspector, scornfully thrust aside by London and Washington in the rush to war. "Iraq is a pure failure," Dr Blix told the Danish newspaper Politiken. "If the Americans pull out, there is a risk that they will leave a country in civil war. At the same time it doesn't seem that the United States can help to stabilise the situation by staying there."

The news from the battlefield yesterday only proved his point. Two more US soldiers were killed, 11 Iraqi police were captured at a fake checkpoint; at least two roadside bombs went off in Baghdad, killing and wounding dozens. At least six bodies bearing signs of torture were found on roads south of the capital. And that is only a sampling.

The pressures on Mr Bush and Mr Blair are now immense. The sheer scale of the bloodshed and chaos their invasion unleashed - coupled with the dissembling that preceded it - has undermined their credibility and destroyed their popularity. The latest US polls show only one in five Americans believes Washington is winning in Iraq, a figure halved since December, while two out of three oppose the war.

The level of scepticism in Britain is even greater, as Mr Blair next week faces the first parliamentary debate on Iraq in two years. Mr Bush's domestic problems however run much deeper than an uncomfortable afternoon in the Commons. It is his troops that are enduring their heaviest death toll in a year. As of yesterday, 98 American soldiers have already died since 1 October, the most in a single month since January 2005. It is his Republican Party that faces defeat in the mid-term elections in nine days' time, and the probable loss of the absolute control of Congress he has enjoyed for the past four years.

Hence the frenzy of activity last week. Mr Bush conferred with his top military commanders, while Mr Blair reassured Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister that Britain would not "lose its nerve". Generals and ambassadors held forth; military operations were intensified.

There are now 20,000 more US troops in Iraq than in early summer. In Baghdad, American forces have moved into the Shia stronghold of Sadr City in their hunt for a kidnapped soldier. But each patrol, each air strike, carries risks of yet another US soldier being killed, or of terrible mistakes that only further alienate the civilian populace.

On Tuesday, for instance, American soldiers shot dead four innocent Iraqi firemen; yesterday in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, three women and two children were killed by an errant American bomb.

Both leaders know (though they cannot admit) that, short of their committing every available soldier and turning Iraq into an occupied state like post-war Germany, events are largely beyond their control. Both want nothing more than to extricate themselves from the crisis. Their goal must be, somehow, to declare "victory" and bring the troops home - a retreat camouflaged by some fig-leaf of achievement.

But it will be desperately difficult. Britain and America are damned for staying in Iraq, but they will be damned if they leave. An overhasty departure would not only be irresponsible, but also an acknowledgement that the invasion was a blunder. There are only two possible exit scenarios: either when some sort of peace settlement (however short-lived) is achieved, or if the Iraq government asks the coalition to leave. Neither looks likely.

"For some time to come we will need the support of the international community," Barham Salih, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, said after his visit to Downing Street.In the holy month of Ramadan alone, 300 Iraqi security forces were killed, while civilian casualties have been four times that.

Last week both Mr Bush and Mr Blair were at pains to point out that "cut and run" is not on the agenda. "One thing we will not do," the President said. "We will not pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete." Mr Blair's language was almost identical. To do otherwise, he said, would be a "complete betrayal of the Iraqi people". And, once again, Mr Bush endorsed his much-criticised Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

But on both sides of the Atlantic, political reality is forcing change. Desperation is prodding diplomacy in hitherto untested directions. US officials are said to be holding talks in the Jordanian capital, Amman, with leaders of the insurgency, including representatives of Saddam's banned Baathist party - none other than Mr Rumsfeld's famous "regime remnants". An amnesty, a prisoner release, and even possible disarmament, are apparently on offer.
"There's been a change in the position of the Americans," says Jabr Hadeeb Jabr, Shia politician and member of the Baghdad government's Council for Reconciliation. No change is greater than the readiness to contemplate the involvement of Syria and Iran in the search for a solution.

The Foreign Office and Condoleezza Rice are interested in the idea, but Mr Bush, Mr Rumsfeld, and Vice-President Cheney thus far will have none of it.

There is also ongoing debate about some level of devolution to Sunni, Shia and Kurdish regions. The idea has been publicly aired by the Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, but dismissed by Gordon Brown (for once, the Chancellor is presumed to be speaking for Mr Blair).

Just how far Washington is prepared to go in thinking the previously unthinkable may be clearer when the bipartisan commission chaired by James Baker, former secretary of state to Bush the elder, reports after the mid-term elections. Mr Baker is known to support an approach to Iran and Syria.

But there are huge, possibly insuperable obstacles to any solution in Iraq. The most immediate is the strength of the insurgency and of the militias. True, Kurdistan and the southern state of Muthanna are broadly peaceful, while Iraqi security forces have enjoyed success in Tikrit and Najaf. But the massacres of Sunnis earlier this month in Balad, north of Baghdad, and the brief militia takeover of Amara in the south, tell another story.

On Monday, Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, announced a crackdown to tackle the armed violence.Events gave him the lie, even as he spoke. In Amara, militiamen loyal to an anti-US cleric re-emerged, hunting down and killing four policemen from a rival militia. Almost simultaneously, the rival Badr Brigades fighters beheaded the kidnapped nephew of the slain Mahdi army commander.

The Iraqi army set up a few roadblocks but did not interfere in the movement of Muqtada al-Sadr's fighters, after police had fled the streets. Nonetheless, Mr al-Maliki's deputy, Barham Salih, was still saying Iraqi forces could be in control of eight of the 18 provinces by the end of the year.

General George Casey, the top US commander in Iraq, does not share this optimism. "We are about 75 per cent of the way through a three-step process in building those [Iraqi] forces," Gen Casey said on Tuesday. It would take "another 12 to 18 months or so" until Iraqi security forces were "completely capable" of taking over, albeit "still coupled with some level of support from us".

Then there is the disconnect between the US government and the Shia-dominated administration in Baghdad. On Tuesday, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador, said that Iraqi leaders had agreed to a timetable of security measures, including a new law on oil revenue sharing, "in a way that unites the country"; a timeline for dealing with the militias; and a constitutional amendment guaranteeing democratic rights and equality for all Iraqis.

But within 24 hours, Mr al-Maliki - absent from the previous day's press conference - distanced himself from the plan, especially the "timeline" for eliminating death squads. "If anyone is responsible for the poor security situation in Iraq, it is the coalition," he noted tartly. By Friday, ambassador and Prime Minister had finally met. Mr al-Maliki seemed to move towards the US position, not least on "timelines". But yesterday, the premier was hedging again: "I am America's friend, but not America's man in Iraq."

Most intractable is the sectarianism that has grown in three years from a politically repressive, but secular, society. In the post-invasion chaos, long-suppressed poisons have bubbled to the surface. More visibly than at any time in a half century, Iraq stands as the artificial construct that emerged from three Ottoman provinces after the First World War. That now comprises the oil-rich Shia south, with 60 per cent of the population, a predominantly Sunni centre with next to no oil, and the Kurdish north, also oil rich.

The two national elections of 2005 solidified sectarian and ethnic divisions and helped set the stage for the drive the country towards all-out civil war.

Mr al-Maliki's Shia alliance controls 130 of the 275 parliament seats, but it is divided among several factions, two of which - the largest of them headed by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the biggest faction, and that of Muqtada al-Sadr - severely constrain his room for manoeuvre. Both men control armed militias; between them they command more seats than Mr al-Maliki's faction, so any move against the militias without their would threaten the al-Maliki power base.

Meanwhile, US-backed plans to create autonomous regions with varying access to Iraq's oil wealth threaten only to make the problem worse, inflaming the dynastic struggles among Shia Muslim clerics who dominate the politics of Iraq as they do in neighbouring Iran.

The scheduled provincial elections next year - ahead of the possible formation of new federal regions in 2008 - will bring those struggles to a head, several officials said.

So what now?Once the 7 November elections are out of the way, Donald Rumsfeld may or may not lose his job. But not only is this President loyal to a fault; to fire the architect of his war would be seen as an admission that his entire Iraq policy has failed. That fact, however, has kept Mr Rumsfeld in office, against all the odds, for the past year.

Last week, in short, was the week when everything changed - and nothing changed at all.
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Afghanistan war is 'cuckoo', says Blair's favourite general

The army revolt against Blair's military campaigns shows no sign of abating. The latest attack on his policy comes from General the Lord Guthrie in his first interview since quitting as Chief of the Defence Staff five years ago. He has described Britain's campaign in Afghanistan as "cuckoo". This comes hot on the heels of the recent comments by Sir Richard Dannatt that the Brits should pull out of Iraq.

However, his comments seem even more harsh that those of Sir Richard.

'Anyone who thought this was going to be a picnic in Afghanistan - anyone who had read any history, anyone who knew the Afghans, or had seen the terrain, anyone who had thought about the Taliban resurgence, anyone who understood what was going on across the border in Baluchistan and Waziristan [should have known] - to launch the British army in with the numbers there are, while we're still going on in Iraq is cuckoo,' Guthrie said.

In a unprecedented show of scepticism towards Blair, he said the Prime Minister's promise to give the army 'anything it wants' was unrealistic. 'I'm sure he meant what he said. He is not dishonest. But there is no way you can magic up trained Royal Air Force crews, or trained soldiers, quickly. You can't magic up helicopters, because there aren't any helicopters,' said Guthrie, promoted from chief of army staff to become overall head of the military for Blair's first term of office.

Guthrie said Britain was 'reaping the whirlwind' for assuming too great a 'peace dividend' after the Cold War and risks being ill-equipped for a whole new set of dangers.

Nor did he limit his comments to Afghanistan, he also spoke of British policy regarding Iraq, in which he seemed to undermine Sir Richard's desire for an early pullout, seeing the situation as even more dire than Sir Richard had:

He also cast doubt on suggestions of an early pullout from Iraq, saying that Britain could not afford to leave a 'bloodbath' behind.

In Iraq, he said, there were three possible scenarios for British forces. The first would be an immediate pullout and the prospect of civil war. The second was to partition the country, but that would risk the slaughter of minority communities in each of the new states. 'We would have to live with it for ever if we left and they were put to the sword,' he said.

That left the hope of somehow creating a more loosely 'federated' Iraq - a 'last chance saloon' option, but one which Guthrie felt might still be workable. 'We have to stick with Iraq not least because in international terms the price of failure is far greater than in Afghanistan'. Iraq could cause problems in the region for years, he said, with implications for Jordan and Turkey, as well as for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

I can't think of any comparable time when the British forces had such senior officers all going public against the government's official line. The British army, by all accounts, is seriously undermanned in Afghanistan and - with winter approaching - it is known that the Taliban are planning a winter offensive.

This will be why Sir Richard and many others have been pleading for troops to be moved from Iraq to Afghanistan.

The British army's history in Afghanistan is not a great one, though to be fair to the Brits, no-one I can think of has a good record of trying to invade and occupy that country. I think Genghis Khan at his peak managed to hold Afghanistan for precisely a year.

However, with winter approaching there is a definite note of anxiety creeping into all these statements from army officials.

It also appears like a no win situation. Sir Richard has said we need to pull out of Iraq in order to have any chance of coping with the Taliban winter offensive. However, Lord Guthrie is warning that a pullout there will result in a bloodbath that will haunt us for years.

This is the consequence of overstretch that we were warned of. Blair and John Reid will continue to spout positives about our forces, but the leaders of our forces themselves seem determined to let us know that the policy they are being forced to adopt is not their own.

No army, especially one as depleted as the British, should be asked to fight two wars on two fronts. But that is precisely what Blair and Reid have done.

The consequence of that is about to be played out in Afghanistan this winter. God knows what's going to happen, but army chiefs seem anxious to remind us in advance that this is not their war plan.

That's a worry.

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Related articles:

MoD: war on two fronts leaves Army 'critically weakened'

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

O'Reilly gets a slap

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Cheney under attack for backing 'drowning' torture

It is, indeed, a "no brainer".

If you think "a dunk in the water" does not constitute torture then you can safely be assumed to be the Vice President for Torture.

Cheney's remarks to the latest plump rabid right winger that he has agreed to be interviewed by - is this Vice President ever interviewed by anyone who might actually put him on the spot? - has set the cat amongst the pigeons.

Speaking with a talk show host at Tuesday's "open day" on the White House lawn, Mr Cheney - long an advocate of unfettered interrogation techniques by the CIA - agreed that "a dunk in water" for terrorist suspects was a "no-brainer" if it could save lives.

The proposition was put to him by Scott Hennen, who hosts a show in Fargo, North Dakota. "Well, it's a no-brainer for me," Mr Cheney replied. "But for a while, there I was being criticized as being the Vice-President for torture. We don't torture, that's not what we're involved in."

This is the nearest any member of the administration has ever come to admitting that the US is torturing suspects it is holding. Of course, in the same interview, the Vice President made clear that the US doesn't torture people. However, anyone who has read Gonzales' definition of what constitutes torture in the eyes of this administration realises that the US currently view as legal many acts that the rest of the civilised world clearly define as torture. Waterboarding being one of the prime examples.

And now we have the Vice President almost playfully referring to this disgraceful technique as "a dunk in the water".

The President joined the debate yesterday to state, again, that the US does not torture suspects; but we also know that the President refuses to say what interrogation techniques are used or to even state whether or not he considers waterboarding to be torture.

With his comments, Mr Cheney "has issued the Bush administration's first clear endorsement of a form of torture", said Human Rights Watch. They "contradict the views of the US Congress and the US Defence Department, as well as fundamental principles of international law".

In September the Pentagon issued a new field manual on intelligence interrogation that explicitly forbids the use of water boarding. On that occasion General Jeff Kimmons, the US Army's top intelligence officer, said that "no good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that".

The manual states that "torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment is never a morally permissible option, even in situations where lives depend on gaining information". Those who do use them, "lose moral legitimacy".

Cheney went on to describe the torture debate as "a little silly".
He cited the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the senior al-Qa'ida figure captured in Pakistan in 2003, who provided "enormously valuable information". Mr Cheney said: "you can have a fairly robust interrogation programme without torture. We've got that now".
There are too many innocent people who have been released who say they have been subjected to torture for us to take the Vice President's words - and those of the President - as anything other than the most cynical employment of semantics.

Neither can expect to be taken remotely seriously on this subject as long as they refuse to define what they mean by "torture".

As long as they refuse to define this we are perfectly justified in thinking that there must be a reason for this dreadful coyness. After all, this is a President who smirked when he told us that he was engaging in extrajudicial killings, and Cheney has fought to have torture techniques legalised.

Indeed, as I reported on 23 June, Bush asked, "Does torture work?" shortly before Abu Zubaydah was tortured. Of course, what happened to him was waterboarding, threats of death, the withholding of medication and many other techniques that, as far as I know, Bush might not consider torture at all.

Have two crueller men ever occupied the Oval office?

Certainly their protestations that they don't do torture whilst playfully discussing various illegal acts leads one to doubt it.

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Chris Bellamy: An enigma that only the Israelis can fully explain

Sorry to be cutting and pasting so much, but this stuff is so technical it's best to leave it to the experts to put it in their own words:

By Chris Bellamy:

The initial tests on samples taken from the site of the Israeli strike on Khiam present an enigma which will only be solved when the people who produced and deployed the weapon explain themselves. Speculation that the device was some form of "dirty bomb" or micro-yield nuclear weapon can probably be dismissed. The radiation levels and the amount of Uranium-235 in the sample clearly indicate that it was not a nuclear fission weapon.

Uranium has been widely used in conventional weapons - and on the battlefield - for the past 30 years, for three reasons. Firstly, uranium is very dense - 70 per cent denser than lead. Therefore, a smaller projectile delivers more kinetic energy, making it ideal for armour-piercing shot. Secondly, it is pyrophoric, which means that when slammed into a target at high speed it liquefies and ignites spontaneously. Thirdly, the type of uranium most widely used in weapons, depleted uranium (DU), is plentiful. It is a by-product of uranium enrichment, which produces the fuel for nuclear power stations and nuclear weapons. Because there is so much of it about, it makes sense for those who have it to turn DU into armour-piercing munitions.

The only logical military reason for the presence of traces of uranium, of any kind, would be the use of that element to make a hard, dense penetrator for an armour-piercing or "bunker-busting" device. Natural uranium consists of three isotopes - Uranium-238 (99.27 per cent), U-235 - the crucial component of fissionable material (0.72 per cent) and U-234 (0.0054 per cent). To make the fuel for a nuclear reactor this needs to be enriched to three or four per cent U-235, and the resulting waste product, with only 0.25 per cent U-235 and 99.8 per cent U-238, is DU. To make a bomb you would need up to 90 per cent U-235 - hence the concern about Iran's uranium enrichment programme.

The Khiam sample, with 108 parts U-238 to one of U-235 - just under one per cent - is clearly enriched - but not much. So, in the absence of any palpable military advantage, in terms of its mass and its ability to generate heat and fire compared with DU or natural uranium, why was this enigmatic material used? There are several possibilities. The first is that there was a simple mistake - that uranium with an elevated U-235 content was used instead of DU or natural uranium. The Khiam sample was very small - 25 grams. Contamination with soil could easily obscure a higher degree of enrichment. Spent nuclear fuel - after the power has been generated - typically contains 2.5 per cent U-235, but it can be as low as 1.5 per cent - close to the Khiam sample level. So the uranium in the Khiam projectile could just have been spent nuclear fuel.

One way to dispose of enriched uranium safely is to blend it with natural uranium, in such a way that the U-235 is extremely difficult to re-extract. That might well produce a substance with just under one per cent U-235, which was a component of the Israeli Khiam bomb.

It is also uncertain whether the munition was made in the US or by the Israelis themselves. If the Israelis or the Americans want to avoid accusations, at the very least, of a cavalier attitude to the use of nuclear waste products, they need to explain what was in that bomb and why it was there.

Chris Bellamy is professor of military science and doctrine at Cranfield University.

Judging from their past record, we'll be waiting a long time if we are waiting for the Israelis to explain. Standard procedure for dealing with this kind of enquiry is to claim that all actions were "in line with the Geneva Conventions" and then to shut up. It's an almost meaningless defence as it answers nothing.

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