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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Scorn, Anger and Resolve Sustain Nader

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader excoriated the Democratic Party and its nominee for president Tuesday, calling the party a bully and a coward, and saying that a vote for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry is "a vote for war - an endless, Vietnam-type quagmire."

Speaking to about 65 people at a fund-raiser at Portland's Center for Cultural Exchange, Nader also swung at Republican President George Bush and at the Green Party, which he represented in 2000 as a nominee for president.

Presidential candidate Ralph Nader, in Portland on Tuesday, called for universal health care, a living minimum wage for all, an end to the war on drugs and troops out of Iraq in six months. (John Ewing/Photo)

During the fund-raiser and at a press conference beforehand, though, he reserved most of his criticism for the Democratic Party and Kerry.

During Thursday's presidential debate, Kerry "made no ambiguity. . . . He was in it for victory, to smash the resistance and to continue the corporate and military occupation of Iraq," Nader said.

Nader said he and his running mate, Peter Camejo, would have American troops out of Iraq within six months. Nader's plan would put an international peacekeeping force of troops from Islamic and neutral nations into Iraq.

Nader said his is the only candidacy that has an exit strategy for Iraq.

He called for universal health care, for a living minimum wage for all, for an end to the war on drugs. And Nader, who gained a national reputation as a consumer advocate in the 1960s, called for "a major law-and-order effort" against "corporate fraud and abuse."

During his half-hour talk, Nader said liberals should make demands on Kerry before supporting him. "The liberal intelligentsia in this country is complacent," he said. "They rolled over for John Kerry, who is a war hawk in Iraq.

"To what level of cowardliness will this castrated Democratic Party descend to?" Nader asked.

He also criticized the party for trying to keep him off the ballot in Maine and other states. By doing so, he said, the party proves it wants freedom of speech only for people who agree with it.

He had ire for Republicans, too, saying the president "does not care about American people" except when it comes to protecting them from al-Qaida.

"All he cares about is to convert the terror threat into a political advantage," he said.

Nader expressed scorn for his old party as well.

Jonathan Carter, who was the Green Independent candidate for governor of Maine in 2002, introduced Nader, and Nader thanked him by saying that Carter "doesn't waver like some people in Maine who belong to the Green Party - lost their nerve."

Carter's predecessor as the Green candidate for governor, Pat Lamarche, is the party's vice presidential nominee this time around. But Lamarche and David Cobb, the Green presidential candidate, are focusing more on their issues and campaigning for local Green candidates than seriously attempting to win the White House.

Nader, who is campaigning in all states - and also visited New Hampshire and Vermont on Tuesday - mocked the strategy.

"That's not running a third party," he said. Rather, it is turning the Green Party into "a subsidiary of the Democratic Party, and that's what's weakening the Greens."

Blair Bobier, the Cobb-Lamarche spokesman, dismissed Nader's criticism.

"That's nonsense," he said. "The reality is that neither David Cobb nor Ralph Nader are going to win the presidency this election. So the question is how to best grow a party and build a movement, and we're confident that we're taking the right approach.

"We are not supporting the Democrats," Bobier said, "but we're also not telling people that there's no differences between the Republicans and the Democrats. David Cobb is incredibly clear when he says that John Kerry is a corporatist and a militarist. David also points out that, as bad as Kerry is, Bush is worse."

That strategy, Nader said, forces people to elect "a least worst" candidate.

Jesse Derris, Kerry's director of communications in Maine, said, "The voters of Maine know that a vote for John Kerry is a vote for the middle class . . . for quality jobs, affordable health care and prescription drugs for seniors. There's a clear choice this November: four more years of a president who is taking us in the wrong direction, or a new team with a vision to take us in a new direction."

Dwayne Bickford, executive director of the Republican Party of Maine, said the president has a strong plan for health care and for education, and is working to make the world a more secure place. "The voters are looking for substance, and that's what they get from President Bush," he said.

Joshua Weinstein
© 2004 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

States May Ban Abortion if Roe Overturned

WASHINGTON - Thirty states are poised to make abortion illegal within a year if the Supreme Court reversed its 1973 ruling establishing a woman's legal right to an abortion, an advocacy group said Tuesday.

The Center for Reproductive Rights said some states have old laws on the books that would be triggered by the overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade (news - web sites) decision. Others have language in their state constitutions or strongly anti-abortion legislatures that would act quickly if the federal protection for abortion was ended and the issue reverted to the states.

"The building blocks are already in place to recriminalize abortion," said Nancy Northup, the center's president.

The group's report comes less than a month before the presidential election, which those on both sides of the abortion issue say will be critical in determining the future of the Roe decision.

Currently, it is believed that five of the nine justices support abortion rights, but that balance could be tipped if President Bush (news - web sites), in a second term, nominates a new justice who reflects his anti-abortion views. Democratic contender John Kerry (news - web sites) is a strong supporter of abortion rights.

The center found that 18 states had pre-Roe laws totally or partially banning abortion. In some cases those laws have been blocked by a court, but could easily be revived if Roe were overturned. Alabama is one state where the abortion ban was never enjoined by the courts, and could be immediately enforced.

Other states such as Ohio don't have abortion bans, but both the legislature and the governor oppose abortion and without Roe there would likely be a rush to pass legislation banning abortion, the center said.

It concluded that 21 states are at high risk, and nine states at middle risk, of banning abortion within a year of Roe being overturned. More than 70 million women of childbearing age would be affected, the center said.

Another 20 states, including Massachusetts, which has a pre-Roe ban, would likely retain abortion rights because of other statutory protections or the makeup of their legislatures.

"We are really, I think, in some peril now," said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., one of 11 abortion rights lawmakers to attend the center's Capitol Hill news conference.

The only Republican was Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., who said that Roe v. Wade was "an extraordinarily important document" and "we need to elect more pro-choice Republicans to the Congress."

The 21 states considered at high risk of banning abortion were: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The nine at middle risk: Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

The 20 at lower risk: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer

Beheading The UN

In every standard Bollywood movie there comes a scene that never fails to work up the audience into a frenzy of excitement and applause. The hero, after being whipped black and blue by the villain and his henchmen, finally wipes the blood off his chin and starts kicking ass like he invented the concept.

Kofi Annan, bless his timid soul, is no Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan. And yet there he was on the BBC showing spunk and daring worthy of a Hindi movie hero by calling the US War on Iraq ‘illegal’. And as if that belated show of bravery was not enough, also pulling up the Superpower at the UN General Assembly for its ‘disgraceful abuse’ of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Gharib. (whistle, whistle !)

Of course, the villain George Bush Jr. and his villainous men were hopping mad at this most ‘UNservile’ behaviour. ‘Cut his funds, nip his pension, shoot him’ – I could hear the leaders of the White and Western world bark over their hot lines- Washington to London to Canberra.

For all the slavish behavior displayed all this while by the body he presides over Kofi Annan had shown them that, once in a while, he could also be ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’ if he wants to.

Is this then a sign that the much-maligned United Nations is finally standing up and yearning to be heard amidst the din and disaster of America’s colonial war on Iraq and Afghanistan ? Do we dare hope that an organization born over the graves of millions dead from the Second World War and meant to uphold global norms is at last beginning to do its job? Can this be the turning point when the UN stands up to US Imperialism and tells it where to get off?

From the evidence we have on hand the answers don’t give much ground for optimism. For all we know, maybe Kofi is a Bollywood actor after all and having said some fighting lines will pack up and move on to the next show. After all he has let the world down before- from Rwanda to Kosovo to Baghdad- by behaving more like a slave of dominant western powers than the international civil servant he is supposed to be.

And besides what’s the point in Kofi’s fulminations when the organization he heads has over the years gone from being hallowed to hollowed, only shape and no substance, not even sound leave alone fury. All of which has made it all that easier for US Imperialism to abduct and decapitate the UN – in what was the very first act of their colonial invasion of Iraq. So what we have of the UN now is just the head floating around, occasionally wagging its tongue, while the rest of the corpse is nowhere to be found.

How did this institution, with its historic mandate to end all wars and promote peace and development around the world, come to such a sorry pass?

There are many reasons for the demise of the United Nations as a credible institution. The primary blame of course lies with the Allies who emerged victorious in the Second World War and fashioned the UN to suit their own long-term interests. The concept of a veto, reserved for the exclusive use of a few select countries, was sadly a continuation of the colonial logic of ‘might is right’ that had led to both the World Wars of the last century. Imposed on the global community for the past six decades the veto has destroyed the credibility of the UN as a genuinely democratic platform where every country, big or small, has an equal voice.

With the demise of the Soviet Union, whatever little space smaller and weaker nations had to maneuver between the two Superpowers, was also lost thus damaging the UN system further. Threatened, bribed or brushed aside the ‘lesser’ nations of the world have all, one by one, surrendered their rights to Uncle Sam- the sole surviving Bully on the Global Block.

Papa Bush’s Gulf War One was the first ruthless demonstration of the ambition of US elites to establish a unipolar world- where they and only THEY would decide the fate of everything on Earth. It is the hubris created by the father that has led Little Bush. to attempt the brazen colonial conquest of Iraq and probably in the near future of other countries in the oil-rich middle-east.

There were other factors too hastening the decline of the UN. Chief among them has been the rise of the World Bank, the IMF and WTO as global institutional power centers deciding the economic life and death of numerous developing nations. Aggressively promoted by successive US regimes this evil troika has undermined the UN system completely- for a political body without control over the money purse is like music without instruments, a tiger with no claws- why it is like Uncle Kofi himself !

Here mention must also be made of the emergence of large multinational corporations that today wield more power globally than even entire blocs of developing nations. With several times the turnover of entire countries these corporations have become a law unto themselves on the world stage and are completely outside the control of both nation-states and the UN that is supposed to represent their collective will.

But if it were just about the villainy of US Imperialism the story of the rise and fall of the UN would be far too staid and simplistic. Tragically, complicit in the hostage-taking and beheading of the world body are also the governments of nations whose citizens would stand to benefit most from the establishment of a genuinely transparent and democratic UN system.

The sad fact is that most of the UN’s member governments, usually run by small political elites and rarely representing the true interests of their people, have never had the conviction or courage to collectively oppose the emasculation of the only institution that gives them a voice in global affairs. While each individual Prime Minister or President from Asia, Africa or Latin America behaves like a prize bull back home – when it comes to raising their voices at the General Assembly they turn into domesticated cattle before the cowboys of the Western world.

Worse still there are those nations that, instead of helping change the UN to the entire globe’s benefit, want to break ranks and beg or bribe their way into the ranks of the Security Council’s permanent members.

I am referring of course to the very vulture-like attempts by a host of countries- Japan, Germany, India, Brazil, angling for a perch from where to peck at the decaying corpse of the UN’s credibility. They all got together at the recent UN General Assembly to jointly promote their ambitions of getting a permanent seat on the Security Council.

A permanent seat for what? To get a ringside view of a Colin ‘Cheeseburger’ Powell lying through his teeth about WMDs in Iraq? So that a freshly constituted ‘Perm Nine’ can pretend to be more important on the world stage than Exxon-Mobil, Texaco-Chevron or even Haliburton and Bechtel ? Or is this all a routine to jack up the bribes these ‘very important’ countries get for turning a blind eye to the predations of US and British Imperialism around the globe?

Besides, what really is the criteria to become a ‘permanent’ member of the UN Security Council? Population size? Per capita income? Expenditure on importing armaments? The number of gold medals they won at the Olympic games? Number of holy cows owned—or what?

The truth simply is that in our day and age there should be absolutely no room for privileging a few rich and powerful countries greater powers in the UN than their poorer and weaker counterparts. But look inside each member nation of the UN and that is what you find- the strong dictating to the weak, the rich to the poor- so how can one change an organization that is but a sum of all its faulty parts?

Before I get all too cynical or sound like I am let me say that with all its problems the UN system is certainly the only existing structure we have right now to arrive at peaceful solutions to global problems-not just of war and conflict but also poverty, disease and underdevelopment. The world cannot afford to give up on the UN just because US Imperialism holds it captive or whimsically uses and abuses it according to its needs. Doing so would be giving in to the worst form of international terrorism- for whatever it is worth the UN needs a serious rescue operation.

Here are a few things that I think need to be done to restore the credibility of the UN system and enhance its ability to perform the historical tasks it was created for:

a) There needs to be an immediate follow-up on Kofi Annan’s statement that the US and British invasion of Iraq was illegal as per international law. The implications are grave and the US and its allies must be held accountable for every single death occurring from the illegal invasion. Given the number of deaths that have already occurred in Iraq there is no doubt that what we are witnessing in Iraq is nothing short of a crime against humanity. Even if it is only a few members of the UN that are willing to join together and challenge US Imperialism their efforts would be crucial to save the global from slipping into total chaos where only might is right and no laws of any kind apply.

b) While abolishing the concept of the veto would be the best thing to do another way of making the UN system more democratic is to give permanent security council membership to regional blocs like EU, ASEAN, OAU, SAARC and the African Union. Let the members of each regional bloc sort out among themselves how to best to represent their collective interests. The UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, despite their geographical separation, can be clubbed into one regional bloc, since they anyway represent one nation masquerading as five.

c) The World Bank, IMF and WTO need to be brought under the control of the UN General Assembly with the national representation on their boards in proportion to the population of individual member countries. .

d) The membership of the UN should be expanded to include global civil society organizations that will serve as a counterbalance to the domination of the system by governments as well as the multinational corporations they usually serve.

e) The UN headquarters needs to be urgently moved out of the US, which has been rightly dubbed the worst host any international institution can ever have. I would not go to the extent of saying relocate it in Pyongyang- one place where the US would have no influence at all- but there are plenty of alternatives available. Alternatives that can prove that the US is not indispensable to the existence or functioning of the UN system and which in fact will allow it to prosper and thrive in a way it never really has from its velvet prison in New York.

Satya Sagar is a writer, journalist, videomaker based in Thailand. He can be contacted at sagarnama@yahoo.com

American Politician’s Moral Blind Spot Toward Israel: Kerry, Edwards, Bush & Cheney

John Edwards, in his “debate” with Richard Cheney, made many good points, Unfortunately, he like Kerry last week, have a moral blind spot when it comes to Israel and the killing and maiming of hundreds of Palestinians every week. This killing has been going on for months, but none of our vaunted politicians or media have screamed with outrage about this ongoing massacre of Palestinians in their own land.

Let’s get some points straight for the sake of history.

The series of suicide bombers from Palestine did not begin until Israel invaded Palestinian lands, killing and maiming people and destroying water, electrical and hospital works. All of this is illegal under international law.

Yes, some Palestinians did commit moral crimes by attacking civilians. This was bad, but they used the only major weapon they had, their bodies as human bombs. Remember, Israel has, as gifts from America, F15s, F16s, Abrams Tanks, Apache and Blackhawk Helicopters which they use, on a daily basis, to kill and maim Palestinians.

How is it that an Israeli death is worse than the death of 30 or more Palestinians? That’s what’s going on. How can this be called “defending Israel” when Israel is the one doing the major killings and maimings?

Obviously, Kerry, Edwards, Bush and Cheney prefer not to see the illegal, immoral and brutal acts of Sharon’s Israel—they keep glossing over these actions with, “Israel has a right to defend itself.” Kerry’s crocodile tears about the Israeli kids was too one-sided; how about the hundreds of Palestinian kids and mothers who have been butchered by Sharon and his storm troopers?We all agree, Israel may have a right to defend itself, but it does not have a right to invade and brutalize the Palestinians. It has gotten so bad, that even Kofi Annan has called for a halt to the Israeli brutality and invasion of Palestine—but America keeps getting in the way and supports all the illegal and immoral acts of Israel—the US gives Sharon carte blanche.

Interestingly, America has adopted the Israeli method of brutality in Iraq. How come we changed, or did we? I remember the carpet bombing of Viet Nam. I remember Agent Orange and the deaths it caused. I know that the depleted uranium shells we are using in Iraq have a half life of 4.5 billion years—yes, billion, not million. So, many Iraqis will die from cancer because of the DU; many American troops will die of the same DU; many children will be born deformed, to Iraqis and to Americans from the DU—yet, thought there are no Iraqi tanks or planes, we keep using DU shells and bullets—ignoring all the science that says there are hundreds of times more DU in the ground of Iraq and that we should stop poisoning the country and the people in this way.

Finally, it is apparent to all except the most ignorant that Bush, Cheney, and if they get into office, Kerry and Edwards, if they follow their plans for more troops in Iraq and continued support for Israel, will all be guilty of war crimes. But, of course, being the biggest bully in the world right now, allows America to get away with these evil acts. Some day, and it won’t be too long, China will be the biggest kid on the block, then we’ll see what the neo-cons and their children will do when we get our face slapped and we are threatened with annihilation or the destruction of most of our country and its infrastructure and population.

Europe and Asia are now having more joint continental talks, moving toward closer alliances, with America being left out. Even South Korea has become wary of American interference in its attempt to re-unite with North Korea, not to mention the Muslim nations that are now putting distance between themselves and the United States. These nations know that America has gone berserk and is already the biggest terrorist in the world. Their unification of plans, and possible military and economic might will isolate America in time, and perhaps its cousin in crime, England. This is something that most Americans are not aware of at this time, but these meetings have been taking place at an increasing rate since America went into Iraq and has increased its brutality and violation of international laws in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Why the American people and the American media and politicians can’t see the human suffering being inflicted on Iraqis is a puzzle to me. Our people seem to have gone into a constant state of denial when it comes to Iraq and Palestine; not just the media and politicians, but also ordinary people who treat the Arabs and Muslims in these two countries as less than human and less human then Israelis. It is ironic that Israelis and Palestinians are cousins, both being children of Abraham (a proven DNA and genetic fact).

I lay part of the blame for this denial on the U.S. media; it has consistently portrayed Israel as the good guy, moral, democratic and just, and the Palestinians are “terrorists,” “suicide bombers,” and “uncivilized.” These stereotypes are wrong, but they are repeated so often, that after a while, as Goebbels said, the lie is repeated so often that after a while it gains the credibility of truth. Certainly, our media has to be cleaned up, but as long as it’s owned by the major corporations that own our media outlets, the lies will continue and anyone who opposes our big business brothers, part of the military/industrial complex, will be seen as the enemy and demonized on our media.

What may be a good sign is that more and more people are turning off their television sets and looking for alternative news sources on the internet, or turning on foreign stations on short-wave or getting those stations on the internet as well. This may help, but there is also growing fear that the government will try to control the internet through work with Microsoft and others. Let us hope that won’t happen. But don’t bet on it.

It is time that America recovered from this blind spot toward the brutality and immoral and illegal behavior of Israel. If not, this will ultimately destroy us, for it unfortunately leaves us with “leaders” who are ignorant, immoral and looking for money and votes, not working for justice, peace or for the long term good of our country. Eventually, our bad deeds in the world, and our support for such evil men as Sharon of Israel will backfire. As Chalmers Johnson points out in his book, BLOWBACK, the blowback is certain to come and it won’t be good for America or its people. I hope our media and our “leaders” wake up in time to help save our country and the good people who inhabit it.

Sam Hamod is an expert on the Middle East and Islam; he is a former advisor to the U.S. State Department; editor of 3rd World News; professor at Princeton & Michigan; and edits, www.todaysalternativenews.com Look for his new book of essays, ESSAYS IN TIMES OF WAR in 2005 (Ishmael Reed Publishing Co.). He may be reached at shamod@cox.net

Top Sharon Aide : Gaza Plan Aims to Freeze the Peace Process

Weisglass, who was one of the initiators of the disengagement plan, added, "And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress."

"The disengagement is actually formaldehyde," he said. "It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."

Asked why the disengagement plan had been hatched, Weisglass replied: "Because in the fall of 2003 we understood that everything was stuck. And although by the way the Americans read the situation, the blame fell on the Palestinians, not on us, Arik [Sharon] grasped that this state of affairs could not last, that they wouldn't leave us alone, wouldn't get off our case. Time was not on our side. There was international erosion, internal erosion. Domestically, in the meantime, everything was collapsing. The economy was stagnant, and the Geneva Initiative had gained broad support. And then we were hit with the letters of officers and letters of pilots and letters of commandos [refusing to serve in the territories]. These were not weird kids with green ponytails and a ring in their nose with a strong odor of grass. These were people like Spector's group [Yiftah Spector, a renowned Air Force pilot who signed the pilot's letter]. Really our finest young people."

Weisglass does not deny that the main achievement of the Gaza plan is the freezing of the peace process in a "legitimate manner."

"That is exactly what happened," he said. "You know, the term `peace process' is a bundle of concepts and commitments. The peace process is the establishment of a Palestinian state with all the security risks that entails. The peace process is the evacuation of settlements, it's the return of refugees, it's the partition of Jerusalem. And all that has now been frozen.... what I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did."

Sharon, he said, could also argue "honestly" that the disengagement plan was "a serious move because of which, out of 240,000 settlers, 190,000 will not be moved from their place."

The full interview will appear on Friday.
Ari Shavit
Haaretz Correspondent

© Copyright 2004 Haaretz. All rights reserved

Dear Mike, Iraq Sucks

Civilian contractors are fleecing taxpayers; US troops don't have proper equipment; and supposedly liberated Iraqis hate them. After the release of Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore received a flood of letters and emails from disillusioned and angry American soldiers serving in Iraq. Here, in an exclusive extract from his new book, we print a selection.

From: RH
To: mike@michaelmoore.com
Sent: Monday, July 12, 2003 4:57 PM
Subject: Iraqi freedom veteran supports you

Dear Mr Moore,
I went to Iraq with thoughts of killing people who I thought were horrible. I was like, "Fuck Iraq, fuck these people, I hope we kill thousands." I believed my president. He was taking care of business and wasn't going to let al Qaeda push us around. I was with the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 3rd Infantry division out of Fort Stewart, Georgia. My unit was one of the first to Baghdad. I was so scared. Didn't know what to think. Seeing dead bodies for the first time. People blown in half. Little kids with no legs. It was overwhelming, the sights, sounds, fear. I was over there from Jan'03 to Aug'03. I hated every minute. It was a daily battle to keep my spirits up. I hate the army and my job. I am supposed to get out next February but will now be unable to because the asshole in the White House decided that now would be a great time to put a stop-loss in effect for the army. So I get to do a second tour in Iraq and be away from those I love again because some guy has the audacity to put others' lives on the line for his personal war. I thought we were the good guys.

From: Michael W
Sent: Tuesday July 13 2004 12.28pm
Subject: Dude, Iraq sucks

My name is Michael W and I am a 30-year-old National Guard infantryman serving in southeast Baghdad. I have been in Iraq since March of 04 and will continue to serve here until March of 05.

In the few short months my unit has been in Iraq, we have already lost one man and have had many injured (including me) in combat operations. And for what? At the very least, the government could have made sure that each of our vehicles had the proper armament to protect us soldiers.

In the early morning hours of May 10, one month to the day from my 30th birthday, I and 12 other men were attacked in a well-executed roadside ambush in south-east Baghdad. We were attacked with small-arms fire, a rocket-propelled grenade, and two well-placed roadside bombs. These roadside bombs nearly destroyed one of our Hummers and riddled my friends with shrapnel, almost killing them. They would not have had a scratch if they had the "Up Armour" kits on them. So where was [George] W [Bush] on that one?

It's just so ridiculous, which leads me to my next point. A Blackwater contractor makes $15,000 [£8,400] a month for doing the same job as my pals and me. I make about $4,000 [£2,240] a month over here. What's up with that?

Beyond that, the government is calling up more and more troops from the reserves. For what? Man, there is a huge fucking scam going on here! There are civilian contractors crawling all over this country. Blackwater, Kellogg Brown & Root, Halliburton, on and on. These contractors are doing everything you can think of from security to catering lunch!

We are spending money out the ass for this shit, and very few of the projects are going to the Iraqi people. Someone's back is getting scratched here, and it ain't the Iraqis'!

My life is left to chance at this point. I just hope I come home alive.

From: Specialist Willy
Sent: Tuesday March 9 2004 1.23pm
Subject: Thank you

Mike, I'd like to thank you for all of the support you're showing for the soldiers here in Iraq. I am in Baghdad right now, and it's such a relief to know that people still care about the lemmings who are forced to fight in this conflict.

It's hard listening to my platoon sergeant saying, "If you decide you want to kill a civilian that looks threatening, shoot him. I'd rather fill out paperwork than get one of my soldiers killed by some raghead." We are taught that if someone even looks threatening we should do something before they do something to us. I wasn't brought up in fear like that, and it's going to take some getting used to.

It's also very hard talking to people here about this war. They don't like to hear that the reason they are being torn away from their families is bullshit, or that their "president" doesn't care about them. A few people here have become quite upset with me, and at one point I was going to be discharged for constantly inciting arguments and disrespect to my commander-in-chief (Dubya). It's very hard to be silenced about this when I see the same 150 people every day just going through the motions, not sure why they are doing it.

[ Willy sent an update in early August ]

People's perceptions of this war have done a complete 180 since we got here. We had someone die in a mortar attack the first week, and ever since then, things have changed completely. Soldiers are calling their families urging them to support John Kerry. If this is happening elsewhere, it looks as if the overseas military vote that Bush is used to won't be there this time around.

From: Kyle Waldman
Sent: Friday February 27 2004 2.35am
Subject: None

As we can all obviously see, Iraq was not and is not an imminent threat to the United States or the rest of the world. My time in Iraq has taught me a little about the Iraqi people and the state of this war-torn, poverty-stricken country.

The illiteracy rate in this country is phenomenal. There were some farmers who didn't even know there was an Operation Iraqi Freedom. This was when I realised that this war was initiated by the few who would profit from it and not for its people. We, as the coalition forces, did not liberate these people; we drove them even deeper into poverty. I don't foresee any economic relief coming soon to these people by the way Bush has already diverted its oil revenues to make sure there will be enough oil for our SUVs.

We are here trying to keep peace when all we have been trained for is to destroy. How are 200,000 soldiers supposed to take control of this country? Why didn't we have an effective plan to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure? Why aren't the American people more aware of these atrocities?

My fiancee and I have seriously looked into moving to Canada as political refugees.

From: Anonymous
Sent: Thursday April 15 2004 12.41am
Subject: From KBR truck driver now in Iraq

Mike, I am a truck driver right now in Iraq. Let me give you this one small fact because I am right here at the heart of it: since I started this job several months ago, 100% (that's right, not 99%) of the workers I am aware of are inflating the hours they claim on their time sheets. There is so much more I could tell you. But the fact is that MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of dollars are being raped from both the American taxpayers and the Iraqi people because of the unbelievable amount of greed and abuse over here. And yes, my conscience does bother me because I am participating in this rip-off.

From: Andrew Balthazor
Sent: Friday August 27 2004 1.53pm
Subject: Iraqi war vet - makes me sound so old

Mr Moore, I am an ex-military intelligence officer who served 10 months in Baghdad; I was the senior intelligence officer for the area of Baghdad that included the UN HQ and Sadr City.

Since Bush exposed my person and my friends, peers, and subordinates to unnecessary danger in a war apparently designed to generate income for a select few in the upper echelon of America, I have become wholeheartedly anti-Bush, to the chagrin of much of my pro-Republican family.

As a "foot soldier" in the "war on terror" I can personally testify that Bush's administration has failed to effectively fight terrorists or the root causes of terror. The White House and the DoD failed to plan for reconstruction of Iraq. Contracts weren't tendered until Feb-Mar of 2003, and the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (the original CPA) didn't even come into existence until January 2003. This failure to plan for the "peace" is a direct cause for the insecurity of Iraq today.

Immediately after the "war" portion of the fighting (which really ended around April 9 2003), we should have been prepared to send in a massive reconstruction effort. Right away we needed engineers to diagnose problems, we needed contractors repairing problems, we needed immediate food, water, shelter, and fuel for the Iraqi people, and we needed more security for all of this to work - which we did not have because we did not have enough troops on the ground, and CPA decided to disband the Iraqi army. The former Iraqi police were engaged far too late; a plan should have existed to bring them into the fold right away.

I've left the military. If there is anything I can do to help get Bush out of office, let me know.

From: Anthony Pietsch
Sent: Thursday August 5 2004 6.13pm
Subject: Soldier for sale

Dear Mr Moore, my name is Tony Pietsch, and I am a National Guardsman who has been stationed in Kuwait and Iraq for the past 15 months. Along with so many other guard and reserve units, my unit was put on convoy escorts. We were on gun trucks running from the bottom of Iraq to about two hours above Baghdad.

The Iraqi resistance was insanity. I spent many nights lying awake after mortar rounds had just struck areas nearby, some coming close enough to throw rocks against my tent. I've seen roadside bombs go off all over, Iraqis trying to ram the side of our vehicle. Small children giving us the finger and throwing rocks at the soldiers in the turrets. We were once lost in Baghdad and received nothing but dirty looks and angry gestures for hours.

I have personally been afraid for my life more days than I can count. We lost our first man only a few weeks before our tour was over, but it seems that all is for nothing because all we see is hostility and anger over our being there. They are angry over the abuse scandal and the collateral damages that are always occurring.

I don't know how the rest of my life will turn out, but I truly regret being a 16-year-old kid looking for some extra pocket money and a way to college.

From: Sean Huze
Sent: Sunday March 28 2004 7.56pm
Subject: "Dude, Where's My Country?"

I am an LCPL in the US Marine Corps and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Mr Moore, please keep pounding away at Bush. I'm not some pussy when it comes to war. However, the position we were put in - fighting an enemy that used women, children, and other civilians as shields; forcing us to choose between firing at "area targets" (nice way of saying firing into crowds) or being killed by the bastards using the crowds for cover - is indescribably horrible.

I saw more than a few dead children littering the streets in Nasiriyah, along with countless other civilians. And through all this, I held on to the belief that it had to be for some greater good.

Months have passed since I've been back home and the unfortunate conclusion I've come to is that Bush is a lying, manipulative motherfucker who cares nothing for the lives of those of us who serve in uniform. Hell, other than playing dress-up on aircraft carriers, what would he know about serving this nation in uniform?

His silence and refusal to speak under oath to the 9/11 Commission further mocks our country. The Patriot Act violates every principle we fight and die for. And all of this has been during his first term. Can you imagine his policies when he doesn't have to worry about re-election? We can't allow that to happen, and there are so many like me in the military who feel this way. We were lied to and used. And there aren't words to describe the sense of betrayal I feel as a result.

From: Joseph Cherwinski
Sent: Saturday July 3 2004 8.33pm
Subject: "Fahrenheit 9/11"

I am a soldier in the United States army. I was in Iraq with the Fourth Infantry Division.

I was guarding some Iraqi workers one day. Their task was to fill sandbags for our base. The temperature was at least 120. I had to sit there with full gear on and monitor them. I was sitting and drinking water, and I could barely tolerate the heat, so I directed the workers to go to the shade and sit and drink water. I let them rest for about 20 minutes. Then a staff sergeant told me that they didn't need a break, and that they were to fill sandbags until the cows come home. He told the Iraqis to go back to work.

After 30 minutes, I let them have a break again, thus disobeying orders. If these were soldiers working, in this heat, those soldiers would be bound to a 10-minute work, 50-minute rest cycle, to prevent heat casualties. Again the staff sergeant came and sent the Iraqis back to work and told me I could sit in the shade. I told him no, I had to be out there with them so that when I started to need water, then they would definitely need water. He told me that wasn't necessary, and that they live here, and that they are used to it.

After he left, I put the Iraqis back into the shade. I could tell that some were very dehydrated; most of them were thin enough to be on an international food aid commercial. I would not treat my fellow soldiers in this manner, so I did not treat the Iraqi workers this way either.

This went on for eight months while I was in Iraq, and going through it told me that we were not there for their freedom, we were not there for WMD. We had no idea what we were fighting for anymore.

Michael Moore
The Guardian U.K.

The No-Win Solution

American withdrawal without victory seems inevitable. It's just a matter of when.

George W. Bush and John F. Kerry have more in common on Iraq than is generally believed, or than either acknowledges.

Both candidates would continue the war, and they agree that withdrawing without victory is not an option. Both would increase the training of Iraqi soldiers and police so that the Iraqis themselves, ultimately, can fight their own battles. Both would draw the United Nations and other countries in, although Kerry promises to do so with more energy and credibility. Both believe an elected Iraqi government will yield a legitimate Iraqi government and enable the war to wind down.

There's only one problem with this reasoning: It's wrong.

No doubt an American defeat in Iraq — defined as withdrawal stemming from failure to quell the insurgency — would increase strife in that country and probably precipitate a civil war. But continuing the war may well produce the same result. And it would also result in still more casualties among U.S. troops, more Iraqi civilians inadvertently killed during military operations in the Sunni Triangle and in Muqtada Sadr's Baghdad strongholds, more terrorist attacks and a continued influx of Muslim militants from beyond Iraq.

Under these conditions, the elections planned for Iraq in January will either not be held or they will go forward but lack legitimacy because voting will not be able to take place in many Sunni areas in central Iraq, where it's just too dangerous. Either way, there will not be a government that commands sufficient loyalty from Iraqis for its leaders and troops to be accepted and the insurgents to be marginalized. And that means that the United States will continue bearing the brunt of the fighting for years.

With the insurgency on the increase and with daily life so hazardous in so much of Iraq, schemes to internationalize the war by enlisting more countries and the U.N. (like those being proposed by Kerry and Bush) are a chimera. Some states may be persuaded to write checks, but they won't send in substantial numbers of troops.

Iraq is a quagmire; everyone knows it, and no one is crazy enough to wade into it. Even the Poles, whom President Bush has praised for their steadfastness in Iraq, have announced they will scale back their presence. Kerry hopes to gain enough partners and train enough Iraqi soldiers to start reducing the number of American troops within six months. But an American disengagement isn't the same as a victory in any meaningful sense of the term because no one will be able to fill the military void that will be left by an American departure, or even a major American troop cutback.

There are only two reasonable choices, now that we have taken responsibility for an insurgent-infested country of 25 million people, the majority of whom have turned against the U.S. because it has brought neither peace nor economic improvements. And neither choice is a good one.

The first is to acknowledge, as Kerry has, that the invasion of Iraq was unnecessary and to withdraw regardless of whether Iraqi elections are held or a robust Iraqi military is ready. True, announcing a date of departure for our troops would boost the insurgents' morale and could lead to a civil war culminating in Iraq's fragmentation. But it could also force Iraqis to come up with creative, indigenous solutions. It might also pressure Arab countries, which have more to lose than the U.S. from chaos in Iraq, to do something more than watch nervously and condemn the American war. For Bush, this approach would amount to eating crow. But is that worse than endless war in Iraq?

The second choice is to continue fighting in Iraq and hope that eventually there will be enough stability to hold an election that produces an Iraqi government that enjoys legitimacy among Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and other groups. By then, there will also have to be a trained Iraqi army with enough manpower and weaponry to defeat the insurgents, who, regardless of the election's outcome, will not lay down their arms or defuse their bombs. Unlike the first option, this one requires our staying in Iraq for more than six months, with all that that implies. But it does contain the proverbial exit strategy and it doesn't rely on the pipe dream of international support. What's more, a clear timeline could be stipulated.

We are in a situation where the question is not what the best choice is, but which choice is the least bad.

The risks of a U.S. departure are real: Things could get worse in Iraq. But it's hardly clear that we are making things better by staying.

Meanwhile, we are promised an Iraq that sows democracy in the Middle East by force of example, told that a new occupant in the White House will assemble a truly international coalition that will ease our burdens, and treated to the mantra that the war must be won. This is a denial of reality.

Sooner or later, the American public will catch on. Most Iraqis already have.

Rajan Menon, Rajan Menon, a New America Foundation fellow, teaches international relations at Lehigh University.

Policy Analyst, Larry Franklin, Is Said to Have Rejected Plea Deal

Larry Franklin, who is accused of passing secrets on Iran, also has replaced his attorney.

WASHINGTON — A Pentagon analyst being investigated for allegedly helping pass secrets to Israel has stopped cooperating with authorities and retained a new lawyer to fight possible espionage charges, sources familiar with the case said Tuesday.

The analyst, Larry Franklin, has been a key witness in a continuing FBI investigation looking into whether classified intelligence was passed to Israel by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential Washington lobbying firm.

Franklin has been accused of passing the contents of a classified document about U.S. policy on Iran to two AIPAC officials, who in turn may have given the information to Israeli officials in Washington, sources have said.

Federal prosecutors had proposed an agreement under which Franklin would plead guilty to some of the charges. Such agreements usually are done in exchange for leniency and are accompanied by a pledge of cooperation.

But sources said Franklin had rejected a proposed deal because he believed the terms were too onerous. He recently replaced his court-appointed lawyer. "It looks like there is going to be a battle," a source familiar with the case said.

FBI officials have not yet sought charges against Franklin or anyone else in the case, although the breakdown of plea negotiations would appear to raise the odds that he could be charged soon.

The scope of the investigation is believed to encompass a top diplomat at the Israeli Embassy in Washington; two high-ranking analysts at AIPAC; and the Pentagon office in which Franklin works as an Iran analyst, which is headed by Defense Undersecretary Douglas J. Feith.

The case has attracted widespread attention because it spotlights U.S. relations with a longtime ally and raises questions about whether those relations have become too close in recent years. Israel has become acutely sensitive to the growing nuclear capabilities of Iran, which it considers to be its most worrisome and deadly foe.

Both the Israeli government and AIPAC have denied that they engaged in any wrongdoing or were given unauthorized access to secrets.

A spokesman for Paul McNulty, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, whose office has been assigned the case, declined to comment.

A prominent Washington defense lawyer, Plato Cacheris, confirmed this week that he recently had been retained by Franklin.

"We consider him a loyal American who did not engage in any espionage activities," said Cacheris, the first person representing Franklin to speak on his behalf since the investigation surfaced a month ago. "Any charge of espionage will be met with fierce resistance."

Cacheris has represented a number of accused turncoats, including CIA operative Aldrich H. Ames, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1994 after confessing to years of spying for the Soviet Union. Cacheris also represented former FBI counterintelligence agent Robert P. Hanssen, also convicted of passing secrets to the Soviets, who received a life sentence in 2002.

Cacheris' other clients have included former Clinton White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky and Nixon administration Atty. Gen. John Mitchell.

Some U.S. officials familiar with the investigation have said there was little hard evidence that Franklin intended to commit espionage and no hint that he was paid for any role he might have played.

U.S. officials believe there is more evidence that Franklin — described by colleagues and friends as diligent and thoughtful yet periodically unreliable and disorganized — might have handed over information without understanding the gravity of his actions.

During two decades at the Pentagon spent tracking threats, he was considered a journeyman analyst and an absent-minded professor who often could be found in his office buried behind huge stacks of documents.

The classified information he is suspected of sharing includes the contents of a draft version of a national security presidential directive, or NSPD, on Iran. The draft advocated measures the United States could take to help destabilize the regime in Tehran, a subject of intense interest to the Israelis.

But officials also have said that the draft, which originated at the Pentagon's Near East and South Asian Affairs office, where Franklin worked, contained little in the way of sensitive secrets that had not been reported by the media already.

Richard B. Schmitt, Times Staff Writer
L.A. Times

Jewish Peace News

[JPN Commentary: The article below provides a preview of a more extensive interview given to Ha'aretz which will appear in its Friday magazine this week. In it, Dov Weisglass, a long-time senior aide to Ariel Sharon lays bare the Israeli strategy in the Gaza withdrawal. But it is also the blueprint for Sharon's overall strategy.

In essence, the unilateral Gaza withdrawal plan accomplishes two things. One, thanks to the remarkable naiveté and short-sightedness of the Bush administration, the plan won for Sharon an American promise that Israel would keep some part of the West Bank at the least (and also would not have to negotiate with the Palestinians over the claims of refugees wishing to return to their former homeland). Second, and more important, it caused the complete cessation of any kind of peace process.

Whatever one's estimation of the political processes that had been going on between Israel and the Palestinians for the past 13 years, the terms of any peace, even the most one-sided kind for Israel, would certainly have had to mean some concession on the main issues of refugees, Jerusalem and the illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Now, with US backing, with Israel taking unilateral actions, with an impotent Palestinian Authority and groups like Hamas supplying the impetus for Israeli military incursions, there need be no political process.

What Sharon has always feared is a political settlement, because any political settlement would have to mean major settlement losses on the West Bank and some kind of Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem. Such is what would have occurred even under the ridiculously lopsided offers made by Barak to Arafat and under the somewhat less one-sided Geneva Initiative. But even this is anathema to Sharon. Yet his Gaza withdrawal plan has drawn intense criticism from the hard right wing in Israel. Weisglass' interview is likely aimed at dispelling at least some, if not most, of that right-wing wrath.

If Weisglass' words reached more people, especially Jews, it would surely prove that Ariel Sharon's efforts are not geared toward protecting the lives of Israeli Jews, much less toward peace, even on very favorable terms to Israel. As long as he can see a way to avoid any compromise at all, he will pursue it. If the Israeli lives he is sacrificing to his myopic ideology do not sway him, we can rest assured that the far greater number of Palestinian lives that his brutal and greedy policies will cost will not faze him one iota. – MP]

Top PM aide: Gaza plan aims to freeze the peace process

By Ari Shavit, Haaretz Correspondent


"The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's senior adviser Dov Weisglass told Haaretz, in an interview for the Friday Magazine.

Weisglass, who was one of the initiators of the disengagement plan, added, "And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress."

"The disengagement is actually formaldehyde," he said. "It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."

Asked why the disengagement plan had been hatched, Weisglass replied: "Because in the fall of 2003 we understood that everything was stuck. And although by the way the Americans read the situation, the blame fell on the Palestinians, not on us, Arik [Sharon] grasped that this state of affairs could not last, that they wouldn't leave us alone, wouldn't get off our case. Time was not on our side. There was international erosion, internal erosion. Domestically, in the meantime, everything was collapsing. The economy was stagnant, and the Geneva Initiative had gained broad support. And then we were hit with the letters of officers and letters of pilots and letters of commandos [refusing to serve in the territories]. These were not weird kids with green ponytails and a ring in their nose with a strong odor of grass. These were people like Spector's group [Yiftah Spector, a renowned Air Force pilot who signed the pilot's letter]. Really our finest young people."

Weisglass does not deny that the main achievement of the Gaza plan is the freezing of the peace process in a "legitimate manner."

"That is exactly what happened," he said. "You know, the term `peace process' is a bundle of concepts and commitments. The peace process is the establishment of a Palestinian state with all the security risks that entails. The peace process is the evacuation of settlements, it's the return of refugees, it's the partition of Jerusalem. And all that has now been frozen.... what I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. That is the significance of what we did."

Sharon, he said, could also argue "honestly" that the disengagement plan was "a serious move because of which, out of 240,000 settlers, 190,000 will not be moved from their place."

The full interview will appear on Friday.

[JPN Commentary: It seems almost redundant, or at least perfunctory, to report that the United States has once again used its veto power to block a UN Security Council resolution. This one would have called on Israel to end its current invasion of Gaza.

The US and Israel insist that a resolution on this matter must be "balanced" yet they also rejected a version that Russia tried to put together, which would have equally condemned Hamas for launching the horrid missile attack against the town of Sderot inside Israel proper which took the lives of two Israeli children, aged 4 and 2. Apparently Israel and the US have a unique definition of "balance" which means that the UN can only act against one side, the Palestinians. With the death toll in Israel's Gaza invasion climbing over 80 and the injured in the hundreds, including many civilians and children, the Israeli characterization of the UN resolution as blaming the victim (i.e. Israel) is simply appalling. – MP]

U.S. vetoes UN resolution demanding end to Gaza offensive

By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Agencies


NEW YORK - The United States on Tuesday vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution demanding that Israel stop a major offensive in the Gaza Strip that has cost at least 80 Palestinian lives.

A total of 11 nations voted in favor. Britain, Germany and Romania abstained on the measure drafted by Arab nations.

Arab nations demanded in a draft UN Security Council resolution Monday that Israel immediately halt its incursion into northern Gaza.

The draft resolution, submitted to the council in an emergency meeting convened at the request of Arab nations on Monday, calls for an immediate halt to the offensive and calls on Israel and the Palestinians to immediately implement the internationally-backed road map peace plan.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman expressed his happiness after the vote and said that the resolution only condemned the victim and not the attacker.

Gillerman added that the nations which abstained showed courage while those that voted in favor were cowards.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Danforth cast the U.S. veto after British and German efforts to find compromise language failed.

"Once again, the resolution is lopsided and unbalanced," Danforth told the council just before voting "no."

"It is dangerously disingenuous because of its many material omissions. Because of this lack of balance, because of these omissions the resolution lacks credibility and deserves a 'no' vote," he said.

After the vote, Algeria's UN Ambassador Abdallah Baali, the only Arab member of the council, thanked the resolution's supporters and noted that the measure got more than the minimum nine "yes" votes needed for adoption absent a veto by one of the five permanent council members.

"It is a sad day for the Palestinians and it is a sad day for justice," Baali said.

The U.S. had earlier on Tuesday rejected a Russian-sponsored compromise to balance a UN Security Council condemnation of Israel for its operation in the Gaza Strip with a condemnation of Hamas for firing Qassam rockets at the western Negev town of Sderot.

Danforth had said Monday that if the resolution was passed "it would be a very terrible statement for the Security Council to make" because he said it acquiesces in terror against Israelis.

Shalom holding talks with European counterparts

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on Tuesday held a series of talks with his European counterparts in an effort to prevent a unilateral condemnation of Israel.

Shalom met with foreign ministers from the Netherlands, Russia and Great Britain. He asked them to oppose any resolution that does not also condemn Qassam rocket attacks on Israel.

The European ministers said they condemn the attacks on Israel, but expect Israel to respond to them in a manner proportional to the Qassam threat.

Baali, the only Arab member of the council, requested the open meeting following the nearly weeklong Israeli offensive - the largest of its kind launched by Israel in four years in Gaza.

"Taking into account the gravity, the urgency of the situation, the seriousness of the situation, we need to have the Security Council take a decision quickly - and quickly means Tuesday at the latest," Baali said.

Gillerman, referring to the Security Council debate, said Monday that, "In the past, as well, the Americans have not allowed one-sided resolutions to pass. They understand that our activity is a response to Qassams, they understand that Israel has the right to self-defense."

The United States hopes Israel will quickly end its massive offensive in Gaza without expanding the operation, Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Monday.

"I hope it does not expand and I hope whatever he does is proportionate to the threat that Israel is facing and I hope that this operation can come to a conclusion quickly," Powell told reporters aboard his plane as he flew to Brazil.

Powell said he could not judge if Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had overreacted and predicted the Israeli leader would end the offensive only when he perceived he had dealt with the threat from Palestinian rockets

Sharon's offensive "is not in contrast to the disengagement plan. He remains as committed to the disengagement plan and hopefully that will get on track," Powell said.


[JPN Commentary: This report gives an overview of the state of affairs under Israel's invasion. Little comment necessary, but it is worthwhile to make a special note of one case: that of a 13-year old Palestinian girl who was killed for going to school and, horror of horrors, carrying her schollbooks with her, which, naturally since she is Palestinian, the Israeli soldiers said they thought were a bomb.

For JVP's official statement on the Gaza invasion, click here. – MP]

Body count grows in besieged Gaza camp

by Mitch Potter, Toronto Star Mideast Bureau


JABALIYA, Gaza Strip—The harvest of death in this most dispossessed of refugee camps continued yesterday as the Israeli army finished its first week in a grim, open-ended manhunt for Palestinian militants, killing 10 people and wounding at least nine.

With a body count of more than 80 Palestinians and three Israelis since operation "Days of Penitence" arrived in the northern Gaza Strip involving an estimated 200 tanks and 2,000 troops, the toll shows everywhere.

Street by narrow street, the 106,000 Palestinian refugees of Jabaliya are in an almost continuous state of mourning, as family and friends circulate among makeshift funeral tents throughout the squalid cinderblock camp, paying condolences under banners bearing the colours of Hamas, Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade and Islamic Jihad, among others.

Today's festival of sorrow will include the funeral of Bashir al-Dabash, 38, overall military commander of Islamic Jihad and by far the highest-profile Gaza militant to fall under Israeli crosshairs since the assassination of Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi last April.

Dabash and his bodyguard died at sunset yesterday when an Israeli helicopter fired a missile into the white Subaru they were driving near Gaza City's main hospital.

The missile made a piercing whistle just before exploding with a resounding boom that echoed through Gaza.

The Israeli army later released a statement acknowledging the attack, saying Dabash was responsible for dozens of attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers.

A second Israeli missile landed later last night in the heart of Jabaliya with a muffled thump, killing two militants wearing the colours of Al Aqsa and wounded eight others, a blend of fighters and civilians, according to Palestinian medical sources.

News wire services reported Israeli tank fire killed three Palestinians and wounded 10 children in the northern Gaza Strip early today. Medics told Reuters that tank shells killed a 15-year-old Palestinian in one house and two men in another before dawn in the besieged town of Beit Lahiya. Another shell hit a house where a family was sleeping, wounding 10 children, the youngest just six months old.

Among others killed in Gaza yesterday was a 13-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl, Iman Al Hams, her body riddled with as many as 20 bullets when she dropped her bag and ran after hearing a warning shot fired from an Israeli military post near Rafah.

Soldiers suspected the bag of containing explosives, though it was later found to hold only schoolbooks. The Israel Defence Forces announced it would investigate the death.

In one of the latest deaths, a 15-year-old youth shot near Jabaliya yesterday died of his wounds.

Palestinian and Israeli sources spoke yesterday of preliminary talks to bring an end to the current spike in violence, which was triggered by the deaths last Wednesday of two Israeli preschoolers aged 2 and 4 as they were struck by a homemade Qassam rocket in the Israeli border town of Sderot.

The Israeli military response, the biggest incursion into Gaza in years, has focused on the militant hotbed of Jabaliya, the largest of all Palestinian refugee camps.

A tour of the camp yesterday revealed streets so black they appeared freshly paved; but what seemed new asphalt was in fact the fallout of soot from tires set alight almost continuously in a bid by militants to throw off the sensors of Israeli reconnaissance drones watching in real-time video from high overhead.

Amid the funerals, life continues. The town's open-air market has spontaneously sprung up further west of its usual location in order to avoid the sightlines of Israeli positions on the eastern edges of Jabaliya.

At Sheikh Adwan Hospital, Jabaliya's 43-bed facility, Dr. Husam Ibrahim, 34, described an onslaught with personal dimensions. Yesterday marked a week of almost continuous duty at the intensive care unit for the Russian-trained surgeon, and in that time he has lost three cousins.

"Sabri was 13, he died of a bullet to the heart. Wafi was 27, he was standing near a wall when he was hit by shrapnel from a tank shell," said Ibrahim, who maintained both were innocent bystanders.

The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of another man, carrying a disembodied human leg in a white plastic bag. The whereabouts and identity of the limb's owner was not known. The man who discovered it didn't know what else to do but deliver it here.

Barely fazed by the interruption, the doctor spoke of his third dead cousin, Ibrahim Asaliya, 39. Unlike the others, this one was a militant, he said.

"He was hit by the tank shell at the school, but there was still life in his body when he was brought here," Ibrahim said, dragging deeply on an L&M cigarette.

"I looked at his face and saw my cousin. And he died in my arms."

At the United Nations in New York, the United States vetoed an Arab-backed resolution demanding an immediate end to Israeli military operations in Gaza. The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 11 in favour and one against, with Britain, Germany and Romania abstaining, Associated Press reported

Jewish Peace News Editors:
Judith Norman
Alistair Welchman
Mitchell Plitnick
Lincoln Shlensky
Ami Kronfeld
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
John Wilner
Joel Beinin

Who's Guarding the Homeland

Endangering the National Guard

The real scandal about Bush and the National Guard is the damage he is wreaking on the military reserves required to keep America safe at home.

The real scandal about Bush and the National Guard is not what he did—or avoided doing—during Vietnam; it is the damage Bush is doing to the National Guard today through his utter mismanagement of the war in Iraq, thereby risking the security of Americans at home. So declared former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura at a recent event focused on transforming the reserve component of the U.S. military. Last week's presidential debate made it clear that John Kerry agrees. Kerry told our ill-equipped, overstretched, and over-deployed military reserves that "Help is on the way." Ventura’s ire—and Kerry's pledge to the troops and their families—bring into focus an important policy question, which underpinned the conference where Ventura spoke: Is the purpose of the Guard and Reserve to defend the American homeland or to augment the active-duty military wherever in the world it is engaged?

Speaker after speaker at the conference sponsored by the Association of the United States Army, the Center for American Progress and the Center for Peace and Security Studies described the current situation in the Guard and Reserve. The news was not good. In what John Kerry has called a "back-door draft," thousands of Guard and Reserve soldiers are being barred from leaving the supposedly "all volunteer" force when their voluntary service periods are over. Men and women who joined understanding they would be part-time warriors are deploying to combat as much as or more than their active-duty counterparts. A host of elected leaders, senior military officers, government officials and defense policy experts mostly painted a dismal picture of military reserves pushed to the breaking point because of the war in Iraq, and because of the Bush administration’s stubborn refusal to increase the size of the active-duty force.

Relieved to be able to “speak out” now that he is no longer the commander-in-chief of the Minnesota National Guard, Ventura said reservists weren't correcly outfitted for war. “We don’t equip them as frontline combat units,” he said, yet they are being sent into frontline combat with only the equipment supplied by the people of Minnesota. He also lamented the fact that, since Guard and Reserve soldiers tend to be older, they're more likely to have families, and those families often are left behind without the comprehensive support services available on bases to the families of active-duty soldiers.

When Guard or Reserve soldiers are called up and sent overseas to fight, they have no choice but to drop everything—school, career, family—and go to war. With civilian jobs on hold, many families are forced to get by on severely reduced incomes, since family breadwinners often earn better pay and benefits in civilian life than they earn in the military. In many cases, families even have to suffer the indignity of losing their employer-based health insurance. If they are lucky, their civilian jobs will be waiting for them when they return from overseas, which is what the law requires. However, those laws were written when Guard and Reserve troops deployed for a few months here and there over the course of a couple of decades. Because of the war in Iraq, these men and women may be gone for a year or two, come home for a few months, and be called up for war again for who knows how long. Thanks to these excessive deployments and a strained economy, many employers are simply incapable of holding positions open. Add to the family separation and loss of income and benefits the constant fear that your loved one will be killed, and it is easy to understand why many families of Guard and Reserve troops find the pressure unbearable.

Thanks to this new reality, the Army National Guard missed its fiscal year recruiting goal by 5,000 people. Guard and Reserve units are being retrained in crash programs to fill active-duty shortfalls, sometimes by inexperienced trainers, since regular training units have been sent overseas. Morale and cohesion, which are the lifeblood of military units on the battlefield, are starting to erode, and we are on the cusp of a serious problem with the voluntary retention of experienced soldiers. The Army Research Institute projects that only 27 percent of Guard and Reserve soldiers intend to re-enlist—an all-time low.

“This really is about Iraq,” said Dr. Hans Binnendijk, director of the Center for Technology and National Security Policy at National Defense University, lest anyone think otherwise. Binnendijk noted that the National Guard is still struggling to put into each state a 22-person Civil Support Team trained to respond to nuclear, biological or chemical terrorism. He also said that these teams really need to be battalion-sized units (a couple of thousand people) to be capable of responding effectively.

Voicing a point former Secretary of State Madeline Albright also made recently, Ventura argued that the Bush administration is “jeopardizing homeland security” by leaving state governors “woefully short-handed.” With southern Minnesota recently hit by 10 to 12 inches of rain from Hurricane Ivan, he openly wondered if current Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty didn’t use the National Guard to respond to flooding because too many of the units are in combat overseas. Ventura also noted that the men and women who join the Guard have a higher tendency toward professions like law enforcement, fire fighting and emergency medical services. Thanks to the war in Iraq, Guard and Reserve deployments overseas have left communities across the nation short of the first responders needed to cope with everything from terrorist attacks to more mundane crimes and emergencies. “Whose security are we defending the most, Iraq’s, or ours?” Ventura asked.

With a former professional wrestler’s flair for the dramatic, Ventura called the fact that we’re sending Guard and Reserve forces overseas “a flagrant misuse,” because, he said, “The first rule in the military is you protect your homeland first before you venture into enemy territory.”

Bush has clearly mismanaged the Guard and Reserve at the expense of American security. However, the military has been operating under a doctrine put in place after Vietnam that was designed to make it structurally impossible to wage a major war without sending the Guard and Reserve overseas. According to Dr. Bernard Rostker, a senior fellow at the RAND Corporation, this rule—called the Abrams Doctrine—was a reaction to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s refusal to send the National Guard to Vietnam. The Abrams Doctrine was supposed to help keep the United States out of another costly and unpopular war because Guard and Reserve units naturally tend to have closer political relationships with the communities where they are based. More than one presenter at the conference dryly noted the failure of the doctrine on that count when it comes to Iraq.

While uncomfortably unaware of the Abrams Doctrine, Ventura’s common-sense attitude toward the National Guard (“It’s called the ‘National’ ‘Guard’ so its job should be to ‘guard’ the ‘nation’ here at home.”) effectively endorses the most interesting idea to come out the conference: Binnendijk’s proposal for a major restructuring of the Guard and Reserve. Binnendijk would use only the Reserve, which is a federal force in the first place, to supplement the active-duty force in its overseas war-fighting role. He proposes training the state-based National Guard as a homeland security force, only sending it overseas for stabilization and rebuilding operations—versus combat operations—which are very similar to what the National Guard does at home in response to natural disasters.

Jesse Ventura and John Kerry seem to agree that, for the sake of the brave men and women of the military reserves and their families, and for the sake of America's national security, something needs to be done to fix the Guard and Reserve. The problems with the reserve component of the U.S. military boil down to three things: mismanagement by an arrogant, incompetent commander-in-chief; a doctrine not suited to the dual domestic and international challenges of the war on terrorism; and a long-term security environment that demands more troops at home and abroad. The security environment won't change any time soon, but we put our nation at risk if we don't change the other two.

David L. Englin is an Air Force veteran from Alexandria, Va. His other writings can be found at his blog.