Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Friday, September 30, 2005

Renditions: Italian Forensic Police Get the Goods

The kidnapping of Abu Omar off a Milan street by US intelligence agents in February 2003, followed by his extra-legal rendition to Egypt via Aviano AF Base near Pordenone, has led to arrest warrants being issued for 22 Americans by a Milan court.

Computer forensics police have analyzed the hard drive of one of the accused and discovered the name of a American diplomat implicated in the act: Betnie M. Medero-Navedo, former Second Secretary at the US Embassy in Rome.

It seems that the CIA hasn't informed its agents that "deleting" a computer file only removes the pointers to it and that the rest is recoverable if it hasn't been overwritten.

It will be interesting to see if the Italian judicial system is able to resist the interference of the right-wing Justice Minister, Roberto Castelli, who will certainly try to deep-six the probe. He's already attempted to discredit the judges involved.

The Wench Who Wrecked a Thousand Ships

Karen Hughes has exhibited her diplomatic creditials as a tittering nitwit with a tin ear on an ideological mission. One wonders if she is the new Anne Burford in charge of the diplomatic super clean-up fund. Just as was the case for Reagan's EPA, Bush has named a floozie to head an initiative which he is determined to sink.

Blogger Spinx has a post up on Egyptian intellectual reaction to Hughes--inconsequential.

Corine Lesnes, LeMonde's Washington correspondent, relays the Arab perception of her--a clueless, bigoted and blinkered lightweight.

Washington struggles to improve its image in the Muslim and Arab World.

According to accounts in the press, she was not shy in displaying her amazement. What? Everyone doesn’t want to live like an American? During her first trip abroad ad the United States Image Ambassador, Karen Hughes had to face up to a new dimension in her mission.

Not only is attraction for America on the wane because of the war in Iraq, as Turkish students reminded her. The American dream and the civilization of the automobile doesn’t not attract all Saudi women either, despite the fact that they do not have the right to drive.

In Ankara, the last stop of her three-nation visit, the Deputy Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy was very directly challenged. As long as the war in Iraq continues, America cannot improve its image, said one association official during one encounter--and this was cited by the Associated Press. I am not anti-American but I am anti-war and anti-violence, said another. A third questioned the current philosophy behind US diplomacy: It is impossible to export freedom and democracy from one country to another.

At each encounter, Mrs. Hughes, who is close to President George Bush, answered by explaining that “no one likes war” but that her country believes that it is “sometimes necessary.” At each stop, she was hit with questions about Guantánamo, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Palestine…. A reported published on Wednesday 28 September in Washington by a committee of public diplomacy advisors headed by Colin Powell’s former departmental secretary, examines the phenomenon: America is less of a ray of hope than a dangerous force which must be resisted. This perception, repeated in the media and on the Internet, diminishes our capacity to promote freedom, democracy and personal dignity.

In Jeddah, the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mrs. Hughes was greeted at Dar al-Hekma University by five hundred female students dressed in black from head to toe. Members of the audience asked Americans to rethink their prejudices. The global perception of the Arab woman is that she is unhappy, said one student, cited by the New York Times. Well, we happen to be ecstatically happy. Another member of the audience, a professor, explained that it is not because women don’t have the right to vote or to drive doesn’t mean that they are in prison. We have never been forbidden to talk to the opposite sex. A women physician said she had no desire to drive.

Mrs. Hughes, 48, who likes to present herself as a typical mother with traditional American values, did not fail to stun her audience with her replies. Personally, she said, driving a car represents an important part of my freedom. The diplomat did not add, however, that Americans were recently chipping away at their freedom by driving less to reduce their consumption of gasoline as requested by the authorities. At the conclusion of the meeting, an Architecture student, veiled from head to toe, ventured to say: We can change, we will change but we don’t need someone to impose it on us from the outside.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The American Dream for Iraq

A Reuters analysis in Le Monde today:

Rival communities rallied around a democratic Constitution, the insurrection put down by Iraqi security forces, gradually replacing US and British soldiers: this is the dream scenario of the Americans. Is it a realistic strategy or a fantasy? Some would say it depends on the time frame. But some skeptics argue that the longer foreign troops stay, the more the situation is degrades.

In Washington and in London, the government blares that the troops will stay in Iraq as long as it takes to stabilize the situation, despite growing dissatisfaction in polls of public opinion at home, shocked by the level of daily violence. An anonymous British source at the Foreign Office observes that the handover of responsibilities to Iraqi security forces by British-American forces is a long-term process. The underpinnings of the British-American political and security policies in Iraq seem fragile faced with an ongoing defiant, bloody insurrection, which has claimed thousands of Iraqi civilian lives. More than 2,000 US and British soldiers have also died since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

More alarming is this month’s confrontation in Basrah between British troops and the British-trained Iraqi police which displayed cracks in loyalty and in ability. It is a very serious problem, admits the Foreign Office. Even the Iraqi National Security Advisor has acknowledged that insurgents have infiltrated the police force. Hundreds of militias linked to political parties represented in government have extended their influence through the ranks of the police, army and government administration, complains former Shi’ite Premier Iyad Allawi. We clearly see that the militias have the upper hand now. The assignment of government posts is made based on faction.
This tendency does not square with making Iraq into a country of laws. And just who is going to enforce the fancy principles of the Constitution?, asks Christian Tripp, historian at the London School of African and Eastern Studies. Cronyism, favoritism and force have taken the upper hand at the local level. The Sunnis, tossed out of power with the fall of Saddam Hussein, are consumed with resentment which goes beyond the disputes over the Constitution. They viscerally fear that the distribution of power resulting from the Constitution.

Iraqis will be called to the polls on October 15 to participate in a national referendum on the Constitution to be followed by legislative elections in December. This process is thought by some to lend itself to the stabilization of Iraq, plunged into crisis over democracy.

If the International Crisis Group, a think tank specializing in areas of conflict, is to be believed, the adoption of a Constitution categorically rejected by the Sunnis and an election of a government dominated by their rivals, the Shi’ites and the Kurds, could accelerate the disintegration of the country. In a report published Monday, the ICG predicts that the dreaded descent of Iraq into civil war and disintegration, accompanied by ethnic expulsions in Baghdad, Basrah, Mosul and Kirkuk could become a reality. But this pessimism is not shared in Washington and London.

For Tony Dodge, an analyst at Queen Mary College of London University, the draft Constitution was offered as a sop to US public opinion. The Americans are behind a series of theatrical gestures such as the Interim Governing Council, the January elections and now, the Constitution. None of these gestures has improved the situation in Iraq and most have aggravated it. Not without irony, Dodge believes the mobilization on the part of Iraq’s Sunnis against the Constitution is a positive thing. The adoption of the Constitution may fail if 2/3 of the voters in three provinces vote it down. This is the first time that communities prevented from participation in any sort of democratic process have shown their willingness to take part. It is proof of participation in the process by the Sunnis--left outside official politics and opposed to the Constitution from the beginning.

Israel Terrorizes the Children of Gaza

Nice people, huh? Ariel Sharon a man of peace, huh?

Israelis have been flying non-stop, fake low-level air raids over Gaza City by its fighter aircraft. The inncessant, day and night sonic booms are terrorizing Palestinian children and having a devastating impact on the populace, which has been sleep-deprived for 4 days.

Using the rationale put forward by Alan Dershowitz (a little torture and mutilation doesn't kill, so it's acceptable), breaking the sound barrier doesn't kill, so it's ok.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Cindy Sheehan Arrested

America's Peace Mom arrested by the Men in the Black Latex Gloves--Can't let that peace goo get on 'em! Sheehan was charged was disobeying a police officer when told she was not permitted to sit on the sidewalk But hey, mobster John Gotti Junior is a free man!

Al Qaeda News on the Hour

The on-line editions of Il Corriere della Sera (Milan) and La Repubblica (Rome) carry a story on the premiere of al-Qaeda News, The Voice of the Khalif, brought to the public by Total Jihad. This morning's lead story? Gaza is liberated.

You can watch it here

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Playing by Israeli Rules: Calvinball

Update: Israeli helicopters fired three rockets at a Palestinian Authority building in Khan Yunis. No favors for Abbas, huh?

It is impossible for the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel, which continually and immorally changes the rules at every play.

Following the Israeli silence on Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas' strategy to include Hamas in the political process to win over Islamist militants to a national unity government with Fatah and to eventually disarm them, the Jewish state has suddenly embarked on a diplomatic offensive to completely destroy the initiative and to throw Palestine into deeper chaos. Ariel Sharon is setting up Mahmood Abbas to fail. And President Bush, of course, is glaringly silent.

Le Monde's capable Jerusalem correspondent, Gilles Paris, reports:

Israeli opposes the participation of Hamas in the elections and humiliates Abbas.

Over the last few days, the Israeli government has issued multiple statements concerning the participation of the Islamic Resistance Movement, better known as Hamas, in the Palestinian legislative elections scheduled for January 25, 2006. According to Foreign Affairs Minister Sylvan Shalom, who spoke for the first time on the subject on September 18 in New York during the General Assembly of the United Nations, it is inconceivable that a movement like Hamas, which has good chances of doing well and even scoring an election victory at the polls, might win the elections while calling for the destruction of Israel. Prime Minster Ariel Sharon called the decision by the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmood Abbas, to convince Hamas to participate in the elections a major error. These two men have promised that their country will do nothing to facilitate the elections, should the Islamists participate.

On September 22 the Quartet, an informal group that includes the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations and concerns itself with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, seemed to go beyond Israeli expectations in issuing a communiqué in which it said that those who wish to participate in the political process must renounce their membership in armed groups implicated in militant activism.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a more measured statement by saying that Palestinian democracy is a democracy in transition and expressed the hope that the elections are going to allow things to move forward and that everyone is expected cooperate. Although the legislative elections in Gaza are going to be held without interference by Israel following its evacuation, the West Bank remains under strict Israeli control. This will be an obstacle to Hamas candidates. Hamas will be certainly forbidden to campaign in East Jerusalem, where Israelis have always interfered in the Palestinians electoral process.

This diplomatic offensive is occurring despite the fact that Israeli did not oppose the participation of Hamas in the partial municipal elections held in Gaza and on the West Bank in December 2004. The Israeli government expressed no opinion on the subject of the legislative elections that were first scheduled for July 17 and later postponed to January 2006. The Israeli position, harshly criticized by the Palestinian Islamist movement, has placed Abbas in a difficult situation. On September 22nd, leader of the Palestinian Authority distanced himself from the Quartet’s statements while assuring that he knew better than anyone else how to negotiate with our brothers.

The participation of Hamas in the legislative elections is an essential element in the strategy of Mr. Abbas, who hopes to eventually to convince the Islamist group, whose popularity has been continually on the rise since the Intifada, to disarm. While Israel insists that Hamas and other Islamist groups be brought under control and swiftly disarmed, Mr. Abbas promotes dialog which he believes will produce results such as the September 24 decision on the part of armed groups to end the series of military parades organized in evacuated Gaza since September 12. With the Palestinian security forces in total disarray, demonstrated by the escalating number of shootings and kidnappings in Gaza over the last few months, the Palestinian Authority is unable for the moment to force radical groups to disarm.

Hamas, hostile to the Oslo accords signed in 1993, boycotted the first legislative elections in January 1996 in Gaza and on the West Bank. Its decision to participate in the new round of legislative elections was announced after it polled good results in the partial municipal elections where in several districts it beat Fatah, the movement of Mr. Abbas and the backbone of the Palestinian Authority.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Flames of Sectarian War in Iraq Lap at Syria

The United States is permitting Shi'ite militiamen and Kurdish peshmergas to run amok in western Iraq, putting inexorable pressure on Syria to control its large Sunni population, obviously restless at seeing events on their eastern border. US war crafters have removed all restraint and are now pursuing a war more cruel than Vietnam on the civilian population in that area.

This blunt and dire assessment is from Joshua Landis of Syria Comment:
Iraq is exporting its sectarian war. In the crudest terms, America has lost its battle to create a constitutional Iraq, built on sectarian and ethnic deal-making and political agreement. What is going on now is that the US is empowering and arming ethnic militias - Kurds and Shiites - to overpower the Sunni population. That is what the battle at Tel Afar was all about. America is going to force Asad to hold down Sunnis in Syria, while America and its Iraqi allies rape Iraq's Sunnis across the border. This is going to upset Sunnis in Syria - and not just the extremist Sunnis. Others will get upset as well because they will see that Asad is supporting America and joining in its effort to hurt Sunni Arabs. They will be right.

Asad wants to keep out of this game, but he cannot. He will be forced to chose whose side he is on. He will choose to crack down on the tribes of eastern Syria who are smuggling and aiding the foreign fighters and Iraqi-Sunni resistance. He will have to restrict the free flow of Arabs into Syria and tighten the screws on anyone who helps them make their way to the border. He will be forced to hand over Iraqi Baathists, resident in Syria, who have friends here among Syrian Baathists. These are primarily Sunni Syrians. By cracking down, the regime will excite greater sectarian opposition and look more sectarian itself. This is just common sense. I am not trying to insult Sunnis and advocate sectarianism. But this is going to happen. The invasion of Iraq ignited a sectarian war there. It is being exported to the rest of the Middle East. That is why Sunni leaders are worrying about the "evil Shiite crescent." Bashar is being forced to enter into this war. His being an Alawite will make his actions seem sectarian when they are really about staying in power and giving in to Western superior power.

He does not want to do this. His domestic policy toward Sunnis has been to try to heal the wounds of Hama and mobilize Sunni help for his regime by pushing Sunni non-Baathists like Dardari up the ladder. All the same, he is going to be forced to take sides in what is turning out to be a very nasty sectarian battle in Iraq...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Raw Racism in Louisiana

Matthew Brown of the New Orleans daily Times-Picayune recounts shocking incidents of racism during the recent human distress in the hurricane-ravaged city. Law enforcement departments in the communities listed below should be punished for this unexcusable disregard for the victims' plight--because of their skin color.

Bridge emphasizes divide between communities

When the Superdome and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center deteriorated into anarchy and food and water ran short, many who tried to escape the flooded streets of New Orleans found their paths blocked.

Gretna police fired shots over the heads of evacuees streaming across the Crescent City Connection, as bullhorns blared for them to go back to New Orleans.

In Plaquemines Parish, dozens of sheriff's deputies raised shotguns and pistols to turn back a convoy of school buses attempting to take storm victims to safety at the Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse.

And in Westwego, arriving evacuees had two choices: Leave immediately, or go to an overcrowded shelter with few supplies where armed guards accompanied by a police dog prevented anyone from leaving.

The confrontations occurred largely along racial lines: African-American residents of poor sections of New Orleans facing off against majority white law enforcement agencies.

Elected law enforcement officials remain unapologetic over their response and say they would take the same steps if the city flooded again.

Afghanistan: Where We Are At

Le Monde's special correspondent in Afghanistan, Françoise Chipaux, analyses the current state of affairs in Afghanistan.

The most salient ills are due to the fact that the US military does not grant ordinary Afghanis the protections of the the Bill of Rights, the document for which it marches into battle. There are regular unreasonable searchs and seizures, no due process and no rights for the accused. Coupled with institutional corruption, cronyism, uncurbed warlords and drug traffickers, the situation is alarming. A half-way decent future for Afghanis requires billions of dollars and decades of commitment.

Can you guess who the people are who are considered the least corrupt and the most able and educated? The returning communists.

A 4-Year Assessment of Afghanistan (2001-2005)
LEMONDE.FR | 19.09.05 | 18h54

Despite elections, can it really be said that democracy has come to Afghanistan?
I don’t think we can really talk about democracy in a country which has no democratic past, a 75% illiteracy rate and no government institution that works. There is no justice system, no law enforcement and no army. In these conditions, we can only say that that allowing Afghanis to express their opinion at the ballot box is a first step. The word “democracy” really can’t be applied.

Afganistan was once a narco-state. How can drug trafficking be stopped?
First, Afghanistan continues to be a narco-state since drugs account for 60% of its GNP. Second, to stop drug cultivation, the first step is to punish the big traffickers, who encourage farmers to grow drugs which earn them $2.8 billion dollars a year. But don’t kid yourself—eliminating drugs in Afghanistan will take between 15 and 20 years.

How has life changed in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban?
On the one hand there are more jobs because there is a lot of construction going on in the cities. But on the other hand, prices have spiraled upwards since the fall of the Taliban, making rent and food more expensive. To give you an example, a kilogram of meat (2.2 lbs), which cost 50 afganis before the war now costs 150. A tiny fringe of the population is growing considerably rich but most of the people are getting poorer.

What is the status of women?
The status of women has improved in the sense that they are no longer forbidden to leave the house and their daughters can go to school. They can even work if they wish. But cultural obstacles haven’t disappeared. On the positive side of the equation is the fact that women turned out to vote and many of the polling stations were run by women. But on the negative side, nothing has changed for most women because in Afgani culture, the woman stays at home, takes a husband selected by her father and may work only if her spouse agrees. Obstructive legislation has disappeared but cultural barriers remain.

What is the top priority for the populace? Security? Purchasing power? Education?
The top priority is security, peace, jobs, schools, highways, hospitals, electricity. Their priorities are pretty basic—to live a normal life in safety in a country where everyone is equal before the law.

Were you in Afghanistan for the 2004 presidential election? If so, what comparisons can you make? Are Afghanis less interested in local elections?
Yes, I was in Afghanistan during the presidential elections. The problem isn’t that Afghanis are disinterested in local politics but that there has been tremendous violence following the presidential elections. And in fact, nothing has changed. On the one hand, there’s disenchantment. On the other, the local elections were extremely complicated by the huge number of candidates, whom the public didn’t know. To give you an example, in Kabul there were 390 candidates for the National Assembly. The ballot was 7 pages long, printed as a tabloid, to select one candidate. That was the big problem.

What is the influence of religion. Is it a stumbling block to public education and women’s emancipation?
Religion in Afghanistan is everywhere because Afghanis are a religious people. That doesn’t mean that they are fundamentalists. But they are extremely religious. Most Afghanis pray five times a day and the vast majority observe Ramadan. But Islam is not an obstacle to the education of women or a change in values.

How can the influence of the Taliban on the population be reduced?
For that, the government would have to appoint honest, competent people who can make their influence felt in the border areas where the presence of the state is absent and in areas where the Taliban is active. People have not realized a peace dividend. Today the Taliban alone are not the only opponents to the regime. There is a second front, like in Iraq, composed of people opposed to the presence of the US military. The presence of Coalition forces, who are mostly American, causes insecurity in the sense that they engaging in combat with Taliban. US troops search homes, arrest people and drop bombs. This makes recruitment of the locals by the Taliban easy.

How do you explain the relatively low voter turnout last Sunday?
I think there are two factors: disenchantment, because the people turned out in huge numbers to vote in the Presidential election but saw no improvement, and a complicated ballot with many candidates with most voters having no idea of the purpose and role of a Parliament.

Is the international force, ISAF, having a real impact on security for most people?
Yes they are. In the north of Afghanistan, for example, the ISAF has negotiated with warlords, trained the police and are present to intervene in case of violence. The fact that ISAF runs frequent patrols reassures people.

What role are NGOs performing in the country? Is it true that they are running out of money?
I think that as of today, they haven’t trimmed their budgets but over the years this will happen. NGOs are performing essential tasks. The Afghani government does not have the necessary human resources.

Are the EU and the United States doing their part in assisting Afghanistan?
The needs of Afghanistan are so enormous that it’s difficult to gauge if the UE and the USA are adequately doingf their job. The USA has already contributed $5 billion in addition to what it spends on its troop presence. But Afghanistan will need between $20 and $25 billion over the next 15 years.

With there be an international trial of warlords for war crimes or human rights violations?
For the moment nothing is in the works. President Karzai hasn’t marginalized the warlords. Many fear that these leaders, most of whom ran for Parliament, will legislate an amnesty law without delay if they are elected.

Have tensions between Pashtoons, Tadjiks, Uzbeks and others been reduced?
Right now there’s no obvious tension but, once again, voting in Parliament will occur along ethnic lines as we saw in the presidential elections. In a country where there are no police to protect you, it is obvious that people seek security within their tribes or ethnic community.

Can a secular party emerge in Afghanistan?
Secular parties already exist. Today the dozen or so registered secular parties spring from of the Afghani Left, especially returning communists. It is difficult to gauge their influence for the time being. The results of the legislative elections will show us their influence. But these parties have powerful networks inside government and the security forces. Communists began returnig two years ago. Some even have the support of their tribes. By and large, communists are honest, untainted by corruption and well-educated.

What are short-term and long-term prospects for the country?
Everything depends on the outcome of the conference scheduled for January which will evaluate what has been done over the last four years. It is absolutely essential that the government clean house and implement true reforms favoring merit over cronyism. It is essential that the international community continue to train the police, the army, and the Justice Ministry and that they assist in the establishment of credible institutions.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

All the Way, Like LBJ

The New York Times has compared the 2005 rhetoric of George W. Bush versus that of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967:

LBJ: Be assured that the death of your son will have meaning, for I give you also my solemn pledge that our country will persist -- and will prevail -- in the cause for which your boy died.

GWB: These brave men and women gave their lives for a cause that is just and necessary for the security of our country, and now we will honor their sacrifice by completing their mission.

Gasoline Alley

Oil and Gas Journal

Industry experts claim that it's not more crude that is needed but more refining capacity to process the crude already available.

Katrina K-O'd four Gulf Coast refineries with a combined capacity of 900,000 b/d
Chevron Corp. in Pascagoula, Miss.
ConocoPhillips, Belle Chasse, La.
ExxonMobil Corp., Chalmette, La
Murphy Oil Corp., Meraux, La.

Rita is intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to come ashore on Saturyday in Houston, the another center of major concentration of refineries.

The Texas Gulf Coast has four concentrations of refineries with capacities totaling 4 million b/d, about 23% of total US refining capacity.:
Four refineries in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area with combined capacity of 1 million b/d
Six in and around Houston with 1.6 million b/d
Three in Texas City with 740,000 b/d.
Four in Corpus Christi with 690,000 b/d.

The Postman-Sleuth

Postman Patel has been engaged in determined and intrepid analyses of imagery released to the British media showing the 7 July London Tube bombers from which he has uncovered a number of informational and temporal discrepancies impugning the credibility of the authorities.

BTW, Gipsy Petulengro seems to have been a popular British astrologer-fortune teller of the 1920's and 30's.

Strange Events in Ad Duluiyah

On September 20th, DefenseLINK News carried only this item: An 18th Military Police Brigade soldier was killed 75 miles north of Baghdad when an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle at 2:25 p.m. today, military officials reported. Not reported was a spectacular rebel attack which took out a convoy of 5 supply trucks escorted by US troops.

According to a dispatch by AFP, a supply convoy destined for one of several US Army 42nd Infantry Division forward bases located in the area near Ad Duluiyah, a town of 50,000 located on the Tigris a few miles from Balad, was attacked by insurgents. The dispatch suggests that convoy may have been forced into a detour by rebels and fell into an ambush set inside the town. The Kuwaiti-registered trucks were set ablaze and destroyed, killing four contractors and the MP cited in the DefenseLINK dispatch. Two other US soldiers and a fifth contractor was wounded. Following the attack, US troops rounded up residents close the the scene and arrested an Iraqi police for pointing his gun at them.

The round-up wasn't enough to satify the desire for revenge by US forces. The Juboor Quarter of Ad Duluiyah was the target of US airstrikes this morning. We'd like to know just what was in those trucks.

20 September 2005 Events in Iraq and in the Region

New York. John A. "Junior” Gotti gets off. Cindy Sheehan arrested for organizing a rally without a permit.

Kabul. President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday challenged the need for continued U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan such as air strikes and house searches. Karzai said the need for major military operations by U.S.-led coalition forces has eased and that air strikes are no longer effective. He also demanded an immediate end to foreign troops searching people's homes without his government's authorization.

Rome. Paolo Salom writing for the Corriere della Sera reports that Britain is to send 6000 more troops to Iraq in an "unforeseen deployment". The 7th Armoured Brigade, better known as The Desert Rats, will deploy in November. Salom also says that Defence Ministry plans to redeploy other British troops in Iraq to Afghanistan have been scrapped.

New York. The Quartet calls upon Israel to abandon its plans for settlement expansion on the West Bank.

23:58 New York. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal declared that US policies are accentuating sectarian differences in Iraq and pushing the country under the influence of Iran.

23:58 Baghdad. Nine Americans have been killed in violence in Iraq in the last 48 hours. A bombing today in Mosul killed Stephen Eric Sullivan, a security officer for the US Dept. of State and three security guards. Two blasts in Ramadi killed 4 US soldiers on Monday and a roadside bomb killed a fifth soldier.

23:44 New York. Iran and Israel had a harsh exchange of words today at the UN. Earlier in the day, Foreign Defense Minister Shalom asked the IAEA to act to prevent the "regime of evil" from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iranian delegate Ahmad Sadeghi accused Israel of maintaining a nuclear arsenal for years, threatening the peace and security of the Middle East.

23:42 Bahrain. Bahraini authorities have cancelled their embargo on Israeli products within the framework of a free trade agreement signed with the United States. However, Sheikh Mohammed ben Mubarak al-Khalifa to Kuwait's al-Rai al-Amm newspaper that the normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel is not on the agenda.

17:09 Nassiriya. Aziz Kadum Aluan al-Aghely, Governor of Dhi Qar, says he expects a partial withdrawal of Italian contingent by the end of the year.

15:15 Teheran. Iran says that its stance on the Non-Proliferation Treaty may change.

15:12 Baghdad. The US military announces the arrest of two medical doctors working for al-Qaeda in a "terrorist clinic" near Baghdad. Anis Abd-al-Razaq, alias Dr. Anis or Dr. Saad, and Mazen Mahdi, alias Dr. Mazen or Dr. Layth were arrested in raids in Baquba and Baghdad.

15:20 Gaza. The Rafah crossing with Egypt will be opened for 48 hours to allow Palestinians to regularize their situations.

14:17 Ramadi. Four US marines were killed by roadside bombs.

09:32 Mosul. Carbomb targets diplomatic convoy, killing four Americans.

00:10 Baghdad. New York Times employee Fakher Haider, assigned to Basrah, was found shot in the head after being kidnapped two days ago.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Smoked Signals

What Diebold giveth Mother Nature taketh away.

5:01 P.M. - WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hurricane Katrina and the bungled government response have weakened President Bush, raising questions among Americans about his Iraq and Gulf Coast spending plans and spreading fears among fellow Republicans that his troubles could be contagious.

Monday, September 19, 2005

19 September 2005 Events in Iraq

London. Christian church leaders should apologize to Muslims for the war on Iraq in the of place of their governments, suggests an Anglican report: Countering terrorism: Power, violence and democracy after 9-11. A working group mandated by the Church of England and led by Bishop of Oxford Richard Harris has studied ways to reach reconciliation between the West and the Muslim world. British Christians are faced with a the dilemma, says the report: A withdrawal of troops may be irresponsible yet to keep them there may give the impression that Britian is supporting the United States in a long-term occupation of Iraq. The working group also critized the US Religious Right in their belief that the United States is a "chosen" nation to which a great destiny is promised.

Karbala. Security forces have been deployed to protect the thousands of pilgrims in the town for the celebration of the birth of Imam Mehdi, the Twelth Imam and successor to the Prophet Muhammad.

Mahmoudiyah. Suicide bomber rams police commando checkpoint, killing seven police and one civilian.

Latifiyah. One child and an Iraqi soldier were killed and ten people wounded in a suicide attack on a military checkpoint. The wounded were on a pilgrimage to Karbala.

Basrah. Two British soldiers disguised as Arabs and travelling in a white sedan opened fire on a police patrol and were arrested. The British the dispatched tanks to the jail holding the pair where a Shi'ite crowd met them with molotov cocktails. Two tanks were destroyed.

Baghdad. Fifty-four foreigners were sentenced from one to twenty years for supporting the rebellion.

Baghdad. An Iraqi court sentenced one of Saddam Hussein's nephews to life in prison for funding the country's violent insurgency and bomb-making after a previously unannounced trial. Iraq's Central Criminal Court sentenced Ayman Sabawi, the son of Saddam's half brother Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, to life in prison on charges he helped fund the insurgency. The court said he would face a second trial on Nov. 1 for undisclosed crimes to which he allegedly confessed during the first trial that just ended.

23:05 Basrah. In a major show of force, British soldiers used 10 tanks to break down the walls of the central jail in the southern city of Basra late Monday and freed two Britons, allegedly undercover commandos, who had been arrested on charges of shooting two Iraqi policemen. Basra Governor Mohammed al-Waili called the rescue a «barbaric» act of aggression. Aquil Jabbar, an Iraqi television cameraman who lives across the street from the jail, said about 150 Iraqi prisoners also fled as British commandos stormed inside and rescued their comrades. Demonstrators hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at British tanks and at least four people were killed in the major outbreak of violence.

22:18 London. British Defence Ministry acknowledges the existence of the Gulf War Syndrome.

22:54 Tegucigalpa. An American company specialized in security escorts and explosives handling has built a training camp in Honduras to prepare its employees for assignments in Iraq, reported the Honduran daily La Tribuna. At least 97 Chileans are in training at the camp in a remote mountainous location near Lepaterique, 60 km northwest of Tegucigalpa, said Benjamin Canales, manager for Yours Solution. The US company has already sent 35 Hondurans to Iraq and is preparing to send another 50, in addition to the Chileans. Honduran Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Vasquez said the country's military would investigate the camp, saying that no permission had been requested to train foreigners. Honduran Labor Minister German Leitzelar said he did not know that the camp was recruiting foreigners. The Honduran Constitution does not permit foreign troops on its soil. Last month Yours Solutions said it had a list of 700 Hondurans who had volunteered to work in Iraq.

19:35 Washington. Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita says the US will increase its troop presence in Iraq to 160,000 by extending troop rotations.

17:49 New York. UN Secretary Kofi Annan called upon Syria to end interference in Lebanon.

17:26 Baghdad. Judicial authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Hazim Shalaan, former Iraqi Defense Minister, for the theft of $1 billion. British newspaper The Independent says Shalaan and several other former ministers (Electricity, Transportation, Interior) siphoned off up to $2 billion.

16:57 Paris. Authorities break up a ring recruiting French Muslims as Jihadis for Iraq. Six arrested.

16:38 New York. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presides over a ministers meeting on Lebanon. President were Lebanese PM Fuad Siniora, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Italian Foreign Mininister Gianfranco Fini, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, Russian Foreign Minister Serguei Lavrov and the EU High Representative for Diplomacy Javier Solana.

12:14 New York. President George W. Bush's faltering performance after Hurricane Katrina, like his decision to invade Iraq, show his priorities are at odds with actions needed to keep Americans safe, anti-war protesters said on Monday.
One of the bogus reasons that George Bush gives for this invasion (and) occupation of Iraq is to make America safer -- and Katrina exposed that clearly he has made America more vulnerable through his policies in Iraq, anti-war activist and bereaved mother Cindy Sheehan told a news conference. We were alarmed to hear the first company to get a contract in the rebuilding of New Orleans was Halliburton, another non-bid contract, said Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice, which bills itself as the largest anti-war coalition in the United States.

10:53 Istanbul. A bomb hidden in a trashcan exploded in a park along the Taksim Promenade, seriously injuring a sanitation worker.

10:15 Beirut. Kuwaiti Information Office bombed, wounding two.

09:36 Kabul. Voter turnout slightly below 50% for Afghani legislative elections.

Monty Python Cloak-and-Dagger

Oh bloody hell. Well we'd better give ourselves up then.

It's all very simple, you see. The very best way for a British spy team to run a checkpoint manned by rebels disguised police is to disguise the team as Marsh Arabs and put them in a white Toyota. The police impersonators are foiled by the Arab impersonators, especially when the Arab impersonators open fire on the police impersonators as they fling an otter. It would only go wrong if the police, uh, turn out real police but even then it certainly woundn't cost us two parrots, two £1 million tanks and a city-wide riot.

The Story:

Update: Disguised Brits slay two *real* Iraq police. British tanks demolish jail, freeing one hundred *real* criminals. Head-hunter hockey, anyone?

Two British soldiers on an espionnage mission dressed as Arabs wearing wigs, sunglasses and dishdashas were arrested by Iraqi police in Basrah after they opened fire on a police patrol when their car was stopped at a checkpoint. Unhappy about the arrest of the spies, the British military sent eight tanks to surround the police station in the center of Basrah where the two were being held. Hearing about the standoff, a Shi'ite mob assembled and in turn surrounded the tanks, setting fire to two after driving off the crews.

At a recent military briefing in Basra, an AFP correspondent was told British soldiers had been ordered not to stop at Iraqi police checkpoints because of fear that rebels could be posing as Iraqi police.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

United Nations Summit a Failure

Just in case you did not know what John Bolton is up to at the UN, this is to confirm his role as an obstructionist on the President's orders.

Online chat with Pascal Boniface, Director of IRIS (English: Institute for International and Strategic Relations) He is editor of "L'année stratégique 2006" (English: 2006 Strategic Yearbook)(Publisher: Dalloz, September 2005).

Le Monde, Thursday 15 September.
Is the UN useless?

No reforms were adopted during the recent summit. Who is responsible for the failure?
When failure occurs inside a global organization, the responsibility is inescapably collective. In this case, we know that the fault is shared by a number of countries and that several countries had one or many objections to the recommended reforms and moved to block them. There was opposition concerning the enlargement of the Security Council, mainly from the USA and China. As to the reform of the Human Rights Commission, the principal obstructionists were Russia, China and countries from the southern hemisphere. One cannot help but be struck by the gap between the number of heads of state present and the results attained.

What responsibility does the United State bear for the failure to reform the UN?
The world’s most powerful nation necessarily bears more responsibility than other countries. Specifically, it was known in advance that the United States was hostile to the enlargement of the Security Council because they are unwilling to confer more powers and legitimacy on it. Moreover, the fact that the new US Ambassador, John Bolton, whose hostility to the UN is well-known, put forward 750 amendments to Kofi Annan’s proposed reforms just a few days before the summit demonstrated that there was little willingness to make it a success.

Is the UN still able prevent wars, given the bad example set by the United States?
The UN is unable to prevent all wars. We witnessed that in Iraq and in other parts of the world. Indeed, the fact that the world’s Number One power is setting a bad example is a problem. But it must be recalled that during the war in Kosovo in 1999, the countries which went to war did so without the green light from the United Nations. One could say that the UN does not have the political, legal or military means to prevent all wars. Neverthless, the UN is able to stop some wars by starting negotiations or by moving to prevent them.

Is the UN on the way to becoming a tool of the United States? Does it risk going out of existence?
Neither one nor the other. The UN will not disappear because it is indispensable and that in spite of its shortcomings or imperfections, it plays essential role and many countries count on it. It will not become an American tool because as we saw that in 2003, the United States was unable to impose its agenda on the world body. Although the world is not multipolar--because the United States is more powerful than any other nation--but neither is it unipolar--because Washington cannot impose its will on the rest of the international community.

Should we continue to have permanent seats on the Security Council?
Yes, because some countries objectively have greater ability to contribute to collective security than others. Permanent membership should imply a guarantee of effectiveness. What needs to be done is to reform the Security Council and increase the number of permanent members so that the Council is more representative of today’s world and not that of 1945. This was the idea behind Kofi Annan’s reform program, which unfortunately was not implemented.

Wasn’t the UN destined for failure at the outside since countries like Brazil were not permanents members of the Security Council?
No, the UN was never destined for failure. The countries which founded the UN--those which assisted at its birth—went separate ways due to the Cold War. As to Brazil, as much as it is justified to make it a permanent member of the Security Council today, this was not the case in 1945. It did not have the weight it has now.

Isn’t it high time that Germany became a permanent member of the Security Council?
Yes, of course, because we’re not in 1945 any more. German is a democratic country which has learned all its lessons from the past—better than Japan. Today Germany is a “normal” country, whose weight justifies a permanent seat on the Security Council.

Do budget cuts threaten the actions and efficiency of the United Nations?
The United Nations runs on a relatively small budget. On Monday, Le Monde cited the figure of $1.3 billion for its current budget and $4.5 billion for its peacekeeping operations. Despite talk from the Americans about waste within the organization, we see from its limited budget that the accusation of waste is inaccurate. When one compares its budget to what is accomplishes, one realizes that the UN is, at the end of the day, a bargain. Compare that to the $87 billion per year required to keep US troops in Iraq. As to the UN’s peacekeeping operations, they would be more effective if the political decisions behind them were more clear-cut and if a true permanent international force would be created.

Would an increase in the number of permanent members on the Security Council lead to obstructionism, temporary alliances and instability? As in a republic where the legislature is strong but the executive weak?
There is some risk of dilution but it is not significant. First, new permanent members wouldn’t have the right of veto and that would limit obstructionism. With an increase in members, majorities would be formed and those majorities would have more legitimacy that the current ones.

What powers does the investigation team in Lebanon have?
Significant powers, because it is assisted by the Lebanese government and it works in cooperation with that government. The team is not working in a hostile milieu. There is the feeling that the investigation is making progress.

How do you account for the Oil-for-Food scandal? Are UN officials naieve?
They are not naieve but they are not equipped to handle a program of that size. There were serious failings which must be exposed and punished but the legitimacy of the UN shouldn’t be questioned. They should learn from the scandal and institute reforms to prevent a reoccurrence.

The UN Charter originally provided for an army at the disposal of the Security Council but too many nations opposed it. I’ve had numerous occasions to evaluate the work of the UN but I noted that in Yugoslavia it was impotent. Reform won’t help if the UN’s members can’t decide if they want an efficient force. What do you think?
I perfectly agree with you. There is egotism and fear among member states over losing their prerogatives which has prevented the creation of a permanent force, which could have intervened more rapidly and more efficiently and been composed of better-trained troops with superior equipment. As to Yugoslavia, it wasn’t so much the troops as the mandate which was weak. An army is never more efficient than its orders.

You'd think that following the Cold War the United Nations could have played an even greater role in a multipolar world. What happened?
This is the hope and even the conviction of the great majority of world leaders and observers. Not only after the Cold War—but after the first Gulf War in 1991. For once, the UN functioned as its creators had planned. It should be recalled that before the 1991 Gulf War, George Bush Sr. announced that we were about to enter into an age where the UN would have responsibility for world peace. This hope evaporated in large part –but not solely— because of the actions of his son.

This isn’t the first crisis for the United Nations. What are the specifics on the current crisis?
The United Nations has been in crisis since its founding but this testifies to both its weakness and its strength. The current crisis is due mainly to the shock created by the general acknowledgement that the body was in need of a major reform—which everyone agrees on—and by realization that even implementing the most minor of reforms is impossible due to opposition from some nations.

Today Bill Clinton launched his Clinton Global Initiative designed to combat poverty and prevent conflicts. Are private initiatives more efficient than a global organization like the United Nations?
No, such initiatives cannot be more efficient because at the end of the day, it is up to member nations to make decisions-- especially on questions of security. But we’ve seen on several occasions that private initiatives can give impetus to movements which are later adopted by nations. Two examples come immediately to mind: The first is the convention on anti-personnel mines adopted a few years ago thanks to an initiative on the part of NGOs. The second is the principle of introducing a tax on air travel which has been accepted by several nations, including France, thanks to a Social Forum initiative calling for the implementation of Tobin taxes. [Proposed from James Tobin, Ph.D., a Nobel laureate economist at Yale--Nur]. Private, individual or collective initiatives are not enough on their own, but they are necessary.

You seem to be a strong believer in the United Nations. What can we do to remove the doubts that the rest of us have?
I’m not a believer but I am pragmatic person. I’ve observed that the UN is necessary. I don’t deny its failings, many of which are its own fault. To sweep away doubt, the organization has to be made more efficient. It’s the only way. And to make it more efficient, all nations must accept the idea of reform and citizens have to put pressure on their governments so that the reforms are implemented.

What are the most urgent reforms?
Overall reforms are necessary in managerial efficiency, credibility in human rights, economic development and collective security. It is hard to make any advances in one area without progress in the others. That’s the problem. Everything is at a standstill. That said, if there is a single issue that is more urgent than the others, it’s war and peace. It sets the climate for everything else. There can be no economic development in times of war and countries involved in wars are the first to violate human rights.

Do you think the UN is primarily a place for lobbying and a bully pulpit for which the media serves as an echo chamber instead of a real decision-making body?
Decisions are also made due to the influence of public opinion. Communication is an instrument of power. Making use of the bully pulpit is a way of intervening, as we saw during the 1960's anti-colonial movement or the 1980's anti-apartheid movement.

18 September 2005 Events in Iraq and in the Region

Balad. The bodies of 20 Iraqi security force members have been found in the Tigris River near Balad.

Baghdad. Twelve Iraqis including members of the security forces were killed in attacks in Baghdad.

Al-Asad. A US soldier is killed by a roadside bomb.

Baghdad. The military bureau of Jaïsh Al-Taïfa al-Mansura (Army of the Victorious People) has threatened revenge for US-led operation in Tall Afar.

Baghdad. A car bomb explosion at a busy market in near Baghdad killed at least 30 people and wounded 38.

Karbala. 100 Indian tourists were denied hotel accomodations in Karbala because they were not in possessin of proper visas.

Jerusalem. Israel has increased pressure on Hamas by declaring its opposition to the participation of Hamas in the upcoming Palestinian legislative elections. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has threated to obstruct the organization of elections on the West Bank if Hamas participates.

Gaza. Thousands of members of the armed wing of Hamas assembled in a Gaza stadum waving Kalashinikovs and RPG launchers in a sign of defiance of the Palestinian authority.

Ramallah. Palestinians oppose any effort to disarm militants. In a survey published by an-Najah University in Nablus, only 43.5% of those surveyed approve of Mahmoud Abbas's statement that militants must be disarmed.

Amman. The Islamist opposition in Jordan has warned of a civil war in Iraq and condemned the fatwas issued by Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi ordering revenge on Iraq's Shi'a community.

Gaza. Israel is building a high-tech barrier around the evacutated Gaza strip. The barrier includes five lines of defense: a barbed wire strip, a no-man's land, the old security wall, a patrol road and, last, the high-tech wall with sensors and remote controlled defenses.

Ankara. Ten Israeli warplanes join Turkish forces in the Anatolian Eagle military exercise.

Gaza. Palestinian police under-equipped to handle security in the Gaza Strip.

22:22 Baghdad. Iraqi parliament gives green light to Constitution.

22:11 Guantanamo. 200 prisoners conduct hunger strike.

16:17 Kerbala. Exceptional security has been implemented as the city prepares to welcome thousands of pilgrims to celebrate the birthday of the 12th Imam. All vehicular traffic has been halted.

08:31 Baghdad. Iraqi Kurdish MP Fares Nasser Hussein, his driver and bodyguard were killed in an ambush on his convoy. MP Haider Qassem was wounded. Both MPs were en route to Baghdad to review the Iraqi Constitution. Mr Hussein is the third MP to be killed since elections in January this year.

Friday, September 16, 2005

16 September 2005 Events in Iraq and in the Region

Baghdad. In slightly more than a month, Saddam Hussein and several other figures of the former regime will be put on trial for the 1982 massacre of 150 villagers in Dujail. Meanwhile a number of difficulties lie in the way, most notably a challenge to the legitimacy of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, an argument for a change in venu to The Hague and the refusal on the part of President Talabani to sign any decree implementing the death penalty.

Baghdad. Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi declares "total war" on Iraq's Shi'a community.

Touz Khourmatou. Eleven people were killed and 24 wounded in a suicide carbombing of the al-Rasul al-Adam Mosque.

Ramadi. US Marine killed in action.

Karabila. Nine rebels killed in US airstrikes.

Baghdad. Two civilians were killed and 13 wounded when five carloads of gunmen opened fire on a crowd of unemployed men seeking day work in the Jadida Quarter.

Baghdad. President Jalal al-Talabani makes a "desperate plea" for help from the international community to prevent an inter-confessional war.

Baghdad. A Ministry of Transport vehicle was attacked in Baghdad's Canal street, killing two occupants and wounding two other.

Baghdad. Sheikh Fadl Alami, imam of the Imam Ali Mosque in Sadr City, was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Baghdad. A US military convoy was struck by a roadside bomb in the al-Adel quarter. Two US soldiers were wounded.

Hasswa. A suicide carbomb struck a police convoy, killing three police and wounding six others.

Iskandariya. Local government official Amar al-Khafaji was assassinated in his home along with four bodyguards by men in stolen military uniforms.

Baghdad. Last-minute amendments made to draft Constitutition. However, the document will not be submitted to a vote by Iraqi Parliament.

Ramallah. Palestinians accused Ariel Sharon of exploiting the Israeli evacution of the Gaza Strip at the United Nations summit without advancing the cause of peace. Meanwhile, the Road Map remains a "dead letter."

Neve Dekalim. Thousands of Hamas militants demonstrated brandishing automatic rifles and RPGs in Neve Dekalim, the former "capital" of the Gaza Strip. Several members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood were in attendance.

Rafah. The border crossing into Egypt continued to be a scene of chaos as hundreds breached the frontier barriers.

Jerusalem. Israeli Defense Minister Shaoul Mofaz ordered reinforced controls at the border crosings of Erez and Karni, the main transit point for goods entering the Gaza Strip. Meantime Shimon Peres told Bill Clinton in New York that border issues must be settled or the existence of the Gaza Strip is threatened. [Duh].

Bilin (West Bank). Four Israeli soldiers were injured by stone-throwing crowds [Aw, poor widdle stormtroopers]. Five Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets and six others were arrested.

Berlin. Israeli Finance Minister Ehud Olmert (talking out of his ass) suggested to the German weekly Der Spiegel that Israel may abandon a part of its West Bank colonies.

Beirut. The UN peacekeeping force FINUL is attempting to negotiate the release of two Lebanese shepherds, Riad Moustapha and Hussein Kassem Zahra, kidnapped yesterday by an Israeli patrol in the Shebaa Farms sector between Lebanon and Israel. Israel accused the shepherds of spying on Israeli military installations for Hezbollah.

Washington. The USA has not yet reached a decision on whether to reduce its military presence in Afghanstan.

London. Former Israeli Chief of Staff Gen. Moshe Yaalon has abandoned plans to visit London where he risks being charged with war crimes. Yaalon was to attend a fundraiser for Israeli veterans.

Jerusalem. Two Israeli grand rabbis have demanded that Pope Benedict XVI condemn the destruction of abandoned synagogues in the Gaza Strip. Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar were received by the Pope in Castelgandolfo.

Baghdad. A suicide carbomb struck a police patrol in the Dura quarter, killing 16 people, including ten police. 21 were wounded, including 13 police and 8 civilians.

Baghdad. Two simultaneous suicide carbombs struck struck a second police patrol in the Dura quarter, killing seven police and wounding 13 others.

Tall Afar. General Rick Lynch says the US assault on the city will continue.

Baghdad. A police officer was killed in a firefight with rebels in southwest Baghdad.

Baghdad. Three Shi'ite pilgrims travelling on foot to Karbala were shot dead in south Baghdad.

Baghdad. An employee of the Commerce Ministry was killed and 16 others wounded by a roadside bomb which struck their bus.

Mosul. The imam of the Rawda al-Wadi Mosque was killed by a bomb placed at the mosque's entrance.

Baquba. An Iraqi police officer was killed by rebels in an attack on a police station.

Iskandariyah. The bullet-ridden bodies of four kidnapped men were found 50 km south of the capital.

Baghdad. The bullet-ridden bodies of three men were found in north Baghdad.

Salaheddeen. Five Iraqis, including two police, were killled in separate incidents. Meanwhile, the abandoned, bullet-ridden body of an Iraqi solider was recovered.

Baghdad. The Iraqi Special Tribunal announced that Saddam Hussein will be tried for his responsibility in Operation Anfal, a 1988 operation in which thousands of Kurds were killed.

Dammam (Saudi Arabia). Al-Qaede condemns lies on the part of the Saudi Interior Ministry concerning recent clashes in Dammam.

Kabul. Elections to take place next Sunday in Afghanistan will not be perfect but will represent a step in the right direction, said UN Special Representative Filipo Grandi.

Kabul. A legislative candidate was shot while campaigning in Nuristan Province. Mrs. Hawa Nuristani suffered wounds to the arm and head and is in stable condition.

Kabul. Three Taliban were killed and two wounded in clashes with police in Oruzgan Province north of Kandahar.

Karachi. Pakistan security forces arrest seven activists said to be linked in al-Qaeda.

Baghdad. Iraqi authorities are negotiating with the Multinational Force led by the United States for the handover of security in several southern cities and towns.

New York. 57% of Americans surveyed by the Pew Institute believe that Iraq is becoming a second Vietnam.

London. Actress Julie Christie personally delivered a letter signed by a hundred celebrities, legislators and activists to PM Tony Blair demanding a pullout from Iraq.

Cairo. The Egyptian general prosecutor asked Parliament to lift immunity from prosecution from Ayman Nour, chairman of the al-Ghad Party. [Payback! How dare he run for President?]

Cairo. Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni resigned under criticism resulting from a theater fire on 5 September which killed 46 peopple.

Jerusalem. The Israeli Supreme Court ordered a change in the route of the Security Wall being constructed on the West Bank. The route would have cut the West Bank village of Kalkylia in half.

Ramallah. 16 Palestinian legislators have introduced a motion of censure against Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei, whom they hold responsible for chaos and anarchy in the evacuated Gaza Strip.

Terrorism Q&A

What is terrorism?
Terrorism is generally considered to be a weapon for use by the weak against the strong.

Hitler reserved the word, Terroristen, to refer to Communists and partisans of the Resistance. In his essay Who Are the Global Terrorists, Noam Chomsky mentions the "straightforward" proposal for definition of terrorism from the US Army: the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature...through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear. {US Army Operational Concept for Terrorism Counteraction_ (TRADOC Pamphlet No. 525-37), 1984.}

What is state-sponsored terrorism?
The term state-sponsored terrorism seems to have been coined by Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State, George Schultz, to refer to the Soviet Union and its support in the eyes of Washington for every revolutionary group or Marxist leader from the African National Congress to Libya to the Nicaraguan Sandinistas. It was all part of the Evil Empire rhetoric.

Terrorism is often misused to describe age-old war and aggression as well as repression by the state.

How effective is terrorism?
Terrorism in a uniquely powerful weapon, more insidious and deadly than victory on the battlefield. It is likely to become more and more significant as the possibility of revolutionary transformation of many societies becomes more and more remote.

When did the terrorist tradition start?
Modern terrorism can be traced back to 19th-century Russia and the nihilist group known as "The People's Will". This group organized the assassination of Czar Alexander II. The People's Will eventually failed because of police penetration of their security.

Today's Mujahedeen Mujahedin-e-Khalq, a revolutionary organization of Iranian exiles and a darling of Paul Wolfowitz, is suggestive of something comparable to The People's Will.

How do revolutionaries use terrorism?
Revolutionaries use violence against specific individuals and symbolically over a long period to expose the ineffectiveness of the authorities to suppress it. Their expectation is that public fury at the incompetence of the authorities will to turn to their advantage. This discription seems to be the tactic of choice of the Iraqi insurgency: to destablize the post-war government and to discredit the United States.

Have there been cases of government agents who carry out terrorism in order to blame revolutionary groups?
Yes. The most famous example is that of Russian police operative Sergei Degaev, who murdered his boss, the head of St. Petersburg police, in 1883. Many double agents have been responsible for the planning of spectacular acts of terrorism.

Does terrorism work to raise public awareness for certain causes?
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was known for chosing carefully limited targets for spectacular and sensational acts of terrorism in order to raise the issue of a Palestinian homeland. Whatever the bloodshed, the issue was always brought to the forefront of world public opinion.

Is more care and preparation required for symbolic terrorism than for, say, an assassination?
Symbolic terrorism requires very careful management because it must driven to a big and compelling spectacle, as we saw on 9-11.

Is terrorism mindless violence?
Certainly not. Terrorism is a subtle and complex weapon.

Is the same type of terrorism used everywhere?
The type of terrorism depends on the society targeted. US movie audiences are known to be thrilled and awed by disaster flicks, like The Towering Inferno or Independence Day. This may have inspired 9-11. During the Algerian War, nationalist terrorists used throat-cutting because it symbolized animal slaughter; this is a final act of humiliation in a Muslim society. China used the self-abasing confession. The IRA used hunger strikes accompanied by feces smeared walls. When the strikes were countered by forced-feeding, this produced double horror in the eyes of the British public.

Could 9-11 have been prevented?
No. US security was focused on profiles and people with a prior criminal record. And they banked on a recognizable pattern of behavior. In any case, there were no profiles for wealthy businessmen or Saudi dilettante pilots as terrorists.

Could there be another spectacular act of terrorism in the United States?
A single symbolic act by a suicide squad with no record of deviance is nearly impossible to prevent. Such acts of terrorism will continue to occur if only to remind the authorities that there is no way to guard every area at risk in a modern Western society. The best that can be done is to make such symbolic acts more difficult to carry out.

What about the Patriot Act?
A comprehensive, detailed database with a record for every American citizen and foreign tourist (while omitting an unrecorded substratum of illegal immigrants)is years away but it seems that US authorites are determined to build one. But such a database only records profiles and patterns. The lone assassin or suicide squad would still be able to breach security to commit a symbolic act of terrorism. In the meantime, its provisions will likely be used by the current Administration against their political adversaries--another form of terrorism adapted for a specific social context, if you will.

To reduce the threat of terrorism to near nil would require the sacrifice of civil liberties to the point of being intolerable for our society. At the end of the day, terrorism is something we have to live with. But a moral foreign policy would help.

Are there taboos when talking about terrorism?
Apparently discussing Israeli terrorism is a taboo. It began in 1937 as retaliation against 15 years of violent antagonism against them by Arabs. It became focused on Britain as well in 1939, after publication of The White Paper, which represented the definitive British thinking on the Palestine question: not only to limit Jewish immigration but to ask the permission of the Arabs.

Irgun Zvai Leumi was the most militant of the Jewish self-defense groups. It targeted the British with terrorist outrage in order to provoke a reaction. Few know that Irgun terrorist squads were dispatched to Europe after WWII. They bombed the British Embassy in Rome in 1946. In Palestine, Irgun blew up the King David Hotel, assassinated the UN Secretary-General's special representative, Count Folke von Bernadotte, and conducted murders and violence on a daily basis. In the end, Britain conceded a Jewish state to "responsible" Jewish leaders. But Irgun was not abolished. It joined the Knesset as the Herut Party. Irgun terrorist Menachem Begin became Prime Minister in the 1980's.

It is possible to read accounts of Irgun atrocities in the 1940's and simply by changing the names and places to describe Palestinian tactics.

So what is the primary aim behind George W. Bush's War on Terror?
Given the history of the 70's and 80's, evidence points to preventing pressure on the State of Israel by its historic enemies, especially Syria and Iraq. President Bush seems to have accepted the notion of Eretz Israel--the historic kingdom given by God to the Jews--as outlined by Zionist militant and revisionist Vladimir Jabotinsky in the 1930's. There is no question that Ariel Sharon intends to annex the West Bank.

I would also add that the Israeli policy of colonization (better known in the media as settlements) is anything but peaceful. Each armed and fortified settlement is part of an ever-widening defensive encirclement of Arab land. Palestinians will see their land continue to disappear under concrete and tarmac.

As long as the Palestinians are without credible strategy and leaders able to make their case to the world, and especially the Americans, they will continue to play the terrorism game. Bush's refusal to condemn Sharon's declared intention to expand the settlements this week and his handshake with Sharon agreeing to suspend the Road Map are calamities with a price to be paid in the future.

Why is Michel Ledeen a widely-regarded expert on terrorism but not Nur al-Cubicle?
Because he is a Republican operative with connections to Israel and to CNN who is deployed by the right wing to make us think that he knows something. Nur just reads books and blogs.

Can terrorism be outlawed?
Only when the meek inherit the earth.

Update: A bizarre take on terrorism.

What is the opinion of Russian President Vladimir Putin on terrorism?
As 19th century Russia is the birthplace of modern terrorism, you have to wonder where Mr. Putin's is reading his history with this statement at the recent UN General Assembly: Terrorism is the ideological successor to Nazism.

[A personal interpretation with borrowing of the thoughts of Andrew Wheatcroft, author of The World Atlas of Revolutions, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1983. Also see Wheatcroft's Infidels : A History of the Conflict Between Christendom and Islam]

Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi is Dead

Al-Zarqawi is dead, says Imam al-Khalessi, but he is nevertheless used by the United States to continue its military occupation of Iraq, which is a one-way street to a general uprising.

I don't know if the imam is right but it's plausible.

Inteview by Le Monde's reporter Michel Bôle-Richard with Sheikh Jawad al-Khalessi, the Shi’ite imam of the al-Kazemiya Mosque in Baghdad and dean of its religious school. He is in Paris en route to the St. Edigio Ecumenical Council in Lyons.

Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi has declared “total war” on Shi’ites and on Wednesday, September 14th, perpetrated Baghdad’s bloodiest massacre. What do you think of this statement?

In think that Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi is no longer alive. It’s merely an invention of the occupiers of our country to divide the people. Al-Zarqawi was killed in northern Iraq at the start of the war when he was with Ansar al-Islam in Kurdistan. His family in Jordan held a memorial ceremony for him. Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi is a ploy used by the Americans as an excuse to continue the occupation. It’s a pretext to stay in Iraq.

But why a declaration of total war on Shi’ites?

To create sympathy for the occupation forces. In that way the Shi’ites will feel compelled to rally around the Americans instead of joining the resistance in the South. There are some Shi’ites who do participate in the insurgency in the south, as we’ve seen from the recent bombings in Basrah.

But there was an announcement that the security of Najaf has been entrusted to Iraqi forces and that this was going to occur in other cities in the South.

It is not true. The announcement was made for the consumption of the media. In fact, Iraqi forces do not control the situation and the occupation forces remain on periphery ready to intervene in case of problems.

The newly-adoped Constution will be submitted to national referendum on October 15th. What is your opinion?

It’s a hastily written and adopted text to suit the agenda of the United States. It does not reflect the hopes of the Iraqi people, who are more concerned with day-to-day survival rather than security. The draft was concocted inside the Green Zone in Baghdad under the tutlage of the American ambassador. As a British expert said, The Constitution can be compared to arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as the ship is going down.

Will the Constitutional referendum be a success, like the January 30th elections?

Personally, I’m calling for a boycott but if our fellow citizens want to vote “no” we will not condemn that. In any case, George Bush has already prepared a statement declaring that the process has been a success and that progress along the road to democracy has been made. But what is it going to change in Iraq?

What is the position of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on the Constitutional referendum?

He hasn’t yet taken a position. Those who are promoting the process will try to use that to induce the population to vote. He could say “yes” or he could say nothing at all. He supported the January 30th elections, but the Iraqi people haven’t reaped any benefit and promises were not kept. Corruption is everywhere. Even the reconstruction budget hasn’t been drawn up.

And Ibrahim al-Jaafari is a bad prime minister, just like he is a bad doctor. He’s not like France’s General Pétain, who at least was a good soldier before he became a bad politician.

So in your opinion, what needs to be done to save Iraq?

First: a schedule for the pullout of foreign troops. Second: Put national agencies under the supervision of the United Nations in the service of our country instead of the politicians. Third: Hold a national dialog followed by an election under international supervision. If the occupation continues, the situation will just get worse and more and more Iraqis will join the resistance.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Katrina A Bigger Environmental Disaster than Exxon-Valdez

Randy Lee Loftis in the Dallas Morning News analyzes the environmental aspect of the Katrina disaster.

New Orleans' flooded neighborhoods are awash with dangerous levels of bacteria and lead, and with lower but still potentially harmful amounts of mercury, pesticides and other chemicals. Much will wind up in the soil as the water drains, or in Lake Pontchartrain, hammering its already battered ecosystem.

...Workers were cruising the flooded streets and the drained areas for hazardous material, retrieving more than 5,000 containers so far, including gas cylinders and a medical waste container that they found floating.

The air, too, is a source of danger in New Orleans. An EPA airplane equipped with electronic sensors to spot air pollution detected a plume of chloroacetic acid, an industrial agent and defoliant that poses extreme toxic risks when inhaled.

...Several water samples had mercury, a powerful nerve poison, above the amount allowed in saltwater environments in order to protect the long-term health of people eating fish or shellfish.

The results also show gaps in the current knowledge. Tests so far did not look at TCCD, the most widely studied form of dioxin....

This alarming report does not mention the oil leaks. In addition to the leak of tens of thousands of barrels of oil from Murphy Oil Company, Oil and Gas Journal reports:

Shell Pipeline Co. LP, a unit of Shell Oil Co., Houston, confirmed crude leaks from an aboveground storage unit into a containment dike at a company tank farm in Pilottown, La., and from a 20 in. pipeline in Nairn, La.

...Nairn also is the site of three branches of Shell's Delta pipeline system, which transports crude from the Gulf of Mexico to refineries and Chevron Corp.'s Empire, La., terminal, a major storage facility for Heavy Louisiana Sweet crude. Chevron confirmed 23,000 bbl leaked from an oil tank at that terminal.

And yet, the US Senate today refused to investigate non-response and mismanagement of the disaster.

Palestine: Caught in the Trap

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is not clever, neither does he speak English. He's an affable, portly figure of the moth-eaten Fatah and the worst possible leader for the Palestinians. He has swallowed the bait and he has been trapped like a rabbit.

Sharon offered the Gaza pullout without negotiation. It was a poisoned gift which should have been examined with circumspection. Whether Abbas calms Gaza or not, it's checkmate. If he is successful, the restoration of order is no bargaining chip for the West Bank; if Abbas fails, all international pressure on Israel to negotiate over the West Bank will be removed.

Gilles Paris, Le Monde's expert Jerusalem correspondent, analyzes the situation.

LE MONDE | 15.09.05 | 13h37

In the margins of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon received congratulations from George Bush for the Israeli pullout from Gaza. I know that it was hard, but I admire your courage, assured President Bush. While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hoped to restart negotiations as quickly as possible towards a peace deal between Israel and Palestine, Mr. Sharon and, to a lesser extent, Mr. Bush have decided that the Palestinian Authority must put to the test in Gaza.

Mr. Sharon said that it is impossible to go forward in the peace process if the Palestinians do not rein in terrorism and that, for Israelis, this means dismantling and disarming armed groups. Mr. Bush believes that it will be easier to make progress on the Road Map—the international peace plan which provides for the creation of a Palestinian state—if the Palestinian Authority respects the principle of good governance and combats terrorism Mr. Sharon, who went to New York to reap the dividends of his disengagement plan, celebrated by the international community, is going to reiterate his position in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly today and to reaffirm Jersusalem as the eternal and unified capital of Israel. The Palestinians had hoped to one day make their capital in East Jerusalem, conquered by Israel in 1967.

According to accounts in the Israeli press, Mr. Bush expressed the hope that Mr. Sharon would win the elections scheduled for 2006, but Benjamin Netanyahu is banking on Sharon’s defeat and aims to take control of the Likud Party, deeply divided as a consequence of the Gaza evacuation. After having ostensibly treated Mr. Sharon with kid gloves over the months prior to the evacuation of Israeli settlers and military, the US Administration may display even more leniency with Mr. Sharon in his battle for control of Likud. Aboard the plane flying him to New York, Mr. Sharon restated his intention to expand colonization in the West Bank without receiving public criticism by the United States.

For now, the close relationship between Mr. Bush and Mr. Sharon allows him his own interpretation of the Road Map. The disarming of armed Palestinians groups is stipulated in this peace plan but is accompanied by a total freeze on Israeli colonization activity, including that which could be attributed to “natural growth” of the settlements, and by the dismantling of illegal settlements constructed since Sharon’s accession to power in March 1991. Nahum Barnea [Israel’s leading political commentator], a journalist for the Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonoth, writes today that the trap laid for the Palestinians by Sharon in the Gaza evacuation is beginning to show its effectiveness. According to Barnea, either the Palestinian Authority restores calm in Gaza (but the experiment, carefully billed as a “test", has nothing to do with the West Bank); or the Palestinian Authority fails and Israel will be under no further pressure to evacuate the West Bank while benefiting from a restored image on the world stage.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Hamas blows Gaza's Security Wall Sky-High

Story at the BBC website:

Monday, September 12, 2005

They've Got a Word for It: "Chutzpa"

Update: Ultra-chutzpa. Israel to request seat on the UN Security Council

Israel is run by a bunch of demented SOBs. After applauding themselves for the Gaza "disengagement", they lost no time in pouring several tons of kerosene on the fire.
  • On September 11, Ariel Sharon announced plans for massive new settlement construction on the West Bank, daring Condi Rice and her boyfriend Dubya to contest the program while poking them in the eye.
  • On September 7, Israel closed the border crossing at Rafah, telling Palestinians they'd have to transit through Israel to go to Egypt. If and when they finish construction on a new "border terminal" at Kerem, that is.
  • Israel announced the construction of a 150-km long electrified fence the length of the Gaza Strip with a 150-meter wide no man's land monitored by drones and cameras.
  • Israel will control the Gaza Strip border crossings, coastline and airspace. Machatz 1 patrol drones will overfly the Strip.
So while virtually occupying the Gaza Strip, Ariel Sharon will ask the United Nations Security Council this week to certify that he is not occupying the Gaza Strip. The Oslo Accords state that Gaza will be considered Israeli-occupied until a peace treaty is signed between Palestine and Israel, which is just not in the cards.

Egypt fills the shoes of the IDF

Day one after the definitive Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Egyptian border guards shot dead a Palestinian for "approaching a security barrier" (a cement wall topped with razor wire) at the Rafah border crossing.

In violation of the Camp David accords, Israel cajoled [and likely bribed] Egyptian President Mubarek into deploying Egyptian forces at the crossing from the Gaza Strip into Egypt. To add insult to injury, the Israelis closed down the Gaza side of the crossing on September 7, without consulting the Palestinian authority. Sharon's disengagement plan hands Israel control of the crossing.

Reports are confused and this may not be the final version of events. An AFP dispatch suggests this scenario.

This morning, hours after the departure of the last Israeli soldier, the situation at the frontier exploded as thousands of Palestinians swarmed the closed crossing, overwhelming Egyptian police and entered Egypt, where they fraterized and celebrated with a crowd of Egyptians before going shopping. The flow was said to be two-way, with Egyptians hopping the border into Rafah. The masses also knocked down a portion of the security barrier. Meanwhile, Hamas organized a joy ride with brandished guns and banners waving along the Philidelphia corridor, even crossing into Egyptian territory.

Following hours of celebration, Egyptian police then ordered the Palestinians back across the border and threatened them with arrest if they disobeyed. But Egyptian authorities did not assure communications and some border guards stood in the way of the returning Palestinians.

In the confusion, border guards apparently shot dead Nafez Attiyeh, 34. However, and as by now we expect, Egypt blamed the shooting on celebratory gunfire.

Ambassador Khalilzad Threatens War on Syria

Sabre-rattling hogwash of the day...and who does this character think he is, anyway?

The patience of the United States with Syria is at its end, said US Ambassador to Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad in a press conference today, underscoring that all the options are on the table.

The Ambassador believes that Iraq's Sunni's will not accept the draft Constitution because they are threatened by radical Islamists infiltrating into Iraq from Syria, where they maintain training camps.

Well, now we know why there's an ass in Ambassador.

Mykeru Joins the "America Supports You" Freedom Walk

Be vewy-vewy qwy-et. We arw hunting chickenhawks.

Video of Freedom Walk and Operation Yellow Elephant recruitment as conducted through, 9/11/05


Ulster: Another Bush Peace Effort in Flames

Orange Order riots in Belfast.

November 27, 2004: President Bush interrupted his Thanksgiving holiday to speak by telephone to the Rev Ian Paisley, the Democratic Unionist Party the request of Tony Blair. Mr. Bush expressed hope yesterday that his surprise intervention in the Northern Ireland peace process could help....

September 11, 2005: Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain challenged loyalists this morning to decide if they wanted to become known as police killers. "This is really not loyalism but 'gangsterism'...".

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Bush falls into disgrace with the American people

French expert Denis Lacorne, Director of Research at the Center for Study and International Research, looks at the consequences of Hurricane Katrina on US society and the Bush Presidency during a Q&A chat session at Le Monde on September 7. Below is a translation of a part of his remarks.

Fractures in US Society Laid Bare

The finger is pointed at George Bush for poor crisis management. What is your opinion?

The is no easy answer. For certain, Bush has prime responsibility along with the Federal Government but blame can be assigned to the State of Louisiana, the local communities, and the Mayor of New Orleans, all of whom had some responsibility for aid, emergency assistance and crisis management. When Congress begins its investigation, it will note that the President did not have sole responsibility—it was shared. At the local level, the Mayor of New Orleans wept and insulted his colleagues and the people he needs in Washington. Half the New Orleans police force was not on the scene to help. There was an enormous amount of dysfunction locally and at the Federal level. Relations are always difficult and tense when everything at the Federal level is controlled by a single party, the Republicans, and everything at the local level is controlled by politicians in the opposition, such as the Governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans.

Nevertheless, prime responsibility lies with the Federal Government and President Bush. Why President Bush? Because he is the one who can marshal the actors most capable of intervening in a major disaster, that is, the military and its heavy equipment, beginning with ships, hospital ships, helicopters and so forth, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for the security of levees and reservoirs, and FEMA (the government’s crisis management agency). And no one did the job they were expected to do.

America daily vaunts itself as a model. But after the unbelievable consequences of this natural disaster in the South, we have shocking proof that this model in incapable of providing the slightest security and assistance to its own citizens. Can we put an end to this “superpower” myth?

Events have shown that the superpower is domestically vulnerable and that it is weak because of its lack of preparation for a disaster that has been predicted and described by experts for at least ten years. The government catastrophically failed in its responsibilities despite promises by Bush after 9-11 that America would never again be caught unprepared in responding to any crisis or catastrophe. The Americans have a distracted President who is not only not up to the task but who could not even find the right words and phrases to say. But over the long term, is the superpower vulnerable? I don’t think so because despite the scale of the disaster, the price tag on reconstruction (more than $100 billion) is overwhelming for a country like the United States. Experts say that growth will decline by 0.5% but that in three or four years' time the losses will be recouped by reconstruction activities. The economic cost of the disaster is relatively minor over the long term. America is a continent-sized country—a disaster that looks huge to us is moderate on the American scale.

Viewing those scenes of chaos, we saw the Black population suffer. Is the multiracial and multicultural society trumpeted by the American leadership a failure?

Yes and no. We’ve been reminded that the United States is a divided society and that racial segregation is not dead. Today geographical and economic segregation is practiced. We saw the White population calmly leave town by car. As to the poor Blacks, who did not own a car or any other means of transportation for that matter, there wasn’t a single bus to evacuate them when it was announced the hurricane would strike. We saw a 2-tiered America in which the Whites get the news and assistance first and the poorest Blacks are left on their own. The shock was reinforced by the fact that the media usually focuses on the middle class, the rich, and those who do well in life. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that we are talking about the South along the Mississippi River—a region where the poor are far more numerous than elsewhere in the United States. Perhaps this created the illusion that Blacks are in dire straits everywhere. But in New York or in California or in Texas, there is a real Black middle class, which accounts for 40% of the Black population. It would be an unfair generalization to claim that misery is found only in the Black community.

Were the social disparities revealed by Katrina ignored by most Americans? Do they imagine that they could wind up some day like the people in New Orleans? Do they now realize that a minimum amount of social assistance is necessary? Will the catastrophe cause them to reflect about themselves?

Poor management on the part of federal agencies, the lack of preparation, the reduction in the budget for disaster prevention, levee maintenance and the failure to implement standby measures such a pre-positioning of water tanks, mobile hospitals, etc., are the consequence of Bush’s deregulation policies which aim to dry up the resources available to federal agencies, to privatize government activities and to attribute vastly exaggerated importance to religious charities knowing full well that only the government is big enough to handle a disaster of this scale. At the same time, despite the scenes of suffering, of adults and infants dying in the streets, some social assistance does exist for the poorest Americans. They may not get everything they need but there is cost-free medical care, low-interest loans, and vouchers for food staples. Enough to survive, maybe not in the best of conditions, but to survive just the same.

Why did George Bush at first reject international aid and then accept it?

Because at the beginning, he underestimated to an incredible degree the seriousness of the damage. Because Bush found himself the target of harsh criticism directed from both the Democrats and members of his own party, as well as from the media, which prior to the hurricane had supported him, he could no longer pretend to be deaf and to claim that foreign assistance was unnecessary. Bush has been destabilized by the disaster and he’s going to have a tough time for the rest of his presidency. People will continue to criticize his incompetence.

Is this tragedy going to lead to an impeachment process against Bush?

In different circumstances it would be perfectly reasonable to see impeachment proceedings started against Bush because he failed at his task of leading the United States by making fictitious claims and insisting on imaginary dangers. He promoted the missile shield, he claimed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (which did not exist), and he has stoked the fear of a terrorist attack using a dirty bomb--all imaginary fears--instead of preparing for realistic threats. But impeachment can succeed only if the House draws up articles of impeachment against the President.... This couldn’t happen today—Congress is controlled by the Republicans. But there will be Congressional investigations which will underscore the President’s failings. Bush has been put on the defensive. His strategy is to blame the others, starting with the Louisiana authorities.

How is the catastrophe going to impact the morale of US troops deployed to Iraq? How can the Americans continue to spend such fantastic sums on the war, when only 46% of the population believes that Bush responded adequately to the disaster? And he has just had to release another $10.5 billion!

The survey which you have cited is still relatively favorable to Bush, although his popularity continues to plunge. The more people come to realize his incompetence as President, the more people talk about the evacuees, then the more he and his Presidential team will be damaged. The cost of the disaster is enormous, between $100 and $150 billion. This seems gigantic to us but the United States can absorb the cost. As to Iraq and the War on Terror, and to the necessity of the war on Iraq, that all seems derisory when compared to domestic priorities.

Will the catastrophe cause Bush to reconsider his position on the Kyoto Protocol?

The logical response it that it should, because of the doubling of the number of hurricanes, the erosion of the Louisiana coastline and its coastal islands, which are a barrier to storms. The degradation is due to excessive urbanization along the coast as well as to global warming. Reason dictates that we should see a revision of US policies. Unfortunately, the Americans don’t realize the significance of global warming. The latest results of the survey conducted by the German Marshall Fund show that for Europeans doing something about global warming is a priority. But for most Americans, even today, that’s not the case. Bush will not be swayed by public opinion to change his mind on the Kyoto Accords. I don’t think that the Americans have drawn the link between what happened in Louisiana and global warming. For them, it is a question of insufficient resources dedicated to reinforce the levees, as the Dutch once did for their big cities, which are below sea level, like Rotterdam. Same for Venice. For the Americans, the solution is more grand public works projects, which Bush does not want. The Bush philosophy—the less government there is, the better off people are—makes no sense today. Americans will see themseles returning to the era of Big Government and will rediscover the interventionist style of government which Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced during the New Deal.

It has been predicted that globalization is not going to enrich the poorest countries but will create Third World Zones inside the richest countries. Does Katrina correspond to this prediction?

Poverty in the United States is not the consequence of globalization. Actually, it is the product of globalization which we have long forgotten—that between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th with the slave trade. Slaves were used on the big plantations of the South. The cash crops to be exported to the rest of the world were cotton, tobacco, indigo, etc.... The poverty of former slaves in the South is the consequence of old globalization, which has no connection to that of today. But you have to understand that in the United States, swaths of poverty are not limited to Harlem. They extend throughout the South and especially along the Mississippi. The economy there does not favor temporary jobs and the budding of middle class communities.

The real change in the United States is that finally Americans and many Republicans have broken the shackles of patriotism which have held them since September 11 and have rediscovered--a little late—their ability to criticize the President thanks to an act of fate. They must now confront a crisis which was not only predictable but which has revealed the failures of the people in charge.