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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Right to Remain Silent

What if you threw a party—and 100 million people refused to come? You could blame them for lacking festive spirit, but odds are it wasn’t much of a party if they preferred to stay home.

On Nov. 2, millions of Americans will troop to the polls to re-enact the quadrennial pageant. But nearly as many will opt out. They will be accused of sloth, though indifference is more apt—and remains the appropriate response to irrelevance.

If George W. Bush and John Kerry agree on anything —in fact, they agree on far too many things—it’s that we must vote. Elections maintain the illusion of opposing parties exchanging ideas rather than political animals competing for power. Selling voting as the ultimate expression of citizenship serves two purposes: it legitimizes the process that keeps them in control and makes the public docile by enforcing the notion that we rule ourselves.

But what value is participation if those who cast ballots go unrepresented? Is there virtue in the act if it allows no choice? Smash offending countries alone or invite friends along for the invasion? Tax-and-spend or tax-cut-and-spend? Open borders or open borders? Before herding to the polls because it’s What We Do—like fireworks on the Fourth or eggnog at Christmas—consider the possibility that voting has little to do with democracy and democracy is not the first cause of liberty.

Fault him for a thousand things, but Saddam Hussein knew how to get out the vote: his elections had far better turnout than ours. Yet we reckoned his government so undemocratic that it had to be razed, and next round, according to Donald Rumsfeld, elections in “three-quarters or four-fifths of the country” should be good enough. It’s not the chad-punching that makes a country free. It’s the democracy, stupid. Or is it?

After Sept. 11, the White House identified our enemy as forces that “hate democracy and freedom.” The coupling may have been as careless as the notion that men die for such abstractions, but in the public mind the concepts are twined as they are devalued. We export democracy to spread freedom to make our country more secure—or so the slogan goes. Real life is more complicated.

Venture into that crosswalk reserved for sacred cows. Democracy may be the West’s political grail, but it is not inherently just or moral. As Edmund Burke famously asked, “[Is there some difference] between the despotism of the monarch and the despotism of the multitude?” The rule of law—fixed by forces less capricious than the whim of the mob—is a far better guardian of individual freedom than electoral popularity. The majority may elect a tyrant. Neither is democracy the most stable social order—something we might have considered before we went planting political systems in security’s name.

Come January, our new colony is likely to school us in democracy’s shortcomings. A May survey by the Coalition Provisional Authority found that just 6 percent of Iraqis want the U.S. to stay as long as is “necessary for stability.” Thus any victorious candidate will have radicalized his constituents by running on an anti-American platform. Because we have enshrined democracy, we must accept the Iraqis’ choice and may quietly be grateful to be shown the door by these infant democrats. But so much for visions of Madison reincarnated in Mesopotamia and promises that Iraqi democracy will enhance U.S. security.

But they will be free, we comfort ourselves. After all, we wrote that book. Its latest version ensures that we don’t answer cell phones while driving in D.C. or smoke after dinner in New York. No complaints because we apparently brought this freedom from ourselves upon ourselves by democratic means. The old monarchs confiscated a far smaller portion of their subjects’ gain and would never have countenanced a trillion-dollar deficit. They weren’t leaving town in four years. But we feel more free because we elect our captors, having long since forgotten that the purpose of government is not to confer freedom but to restrict it. With regrets to Tocqueville, here the people do not rule—though marching to the polls creates a tidy front.

So if the act of voting is not sacrosanct and democracy, despite its “better than all the rest” pedestal, is not the sole—or perhaps even the best—guarantor of liberty, Nov. 2 may be just another day. This election the major candidates agree on the prerogative of politicians to bribe voters with their own money and that the fine print of the presidential job description obligates him to “make the world safe.” These issues are not open to debate. There is no conservative candidate.

Some will argue that voting third party is more responsible than staying home. But there is a more effective way to register a protest than lining up behind an asterisk. Four million evangelical voters refused to be corralled in 2000. This round, Karl Rove went looking for them.

“What about judges?” Republicans ask conservatives turned conscientious objectors. That argument no longer persuades. Six Republican-appointed justices sat on the Court that decided Roe v. Wade; Nixon appointee Harry Blackmun wrote the decision. And after 12 years of Reagan and Bush, the Court affirmed Roe in 1992. The GOP has no reason to register some votes as pertaining solely to judicial nominees. They collect them all and call it a mandate—affirmation of a foreign policy that plunged us into endless war and a domestic agenda that is driving us into massive debt. Full speed ahead.

By declining to be coerced we may yet salvage a scrap of liberty. We won’t be letting democracy down, for it has already disappointed us. Pace President Bush and his “forward strategy of freedom,” liberty was never government’s to give; the essential right to be left alone belongs to each citizen. This November, we can borrow a bit back by refusing to be counted by parties that don’t represent us. Silence is a profound expression, and enough unraised voices eventually turn even the most partisan heads.
Kara Hopkins
November 8, 2004 issue

Condolences to the Winner

Congratulations to today's winner, whoever he may be. You get to be president for the next four years. Bigger congratulations to the loser: At least you don't have to be president for the next four years. Seen as part of a strategy for your party's victory in 2008, your decision to lose today's election may have been a brilliant stroke.

For all the talk about the fundamental disagreements between this year's candidates, there are important issues on which both talked nonsense or neither talked much at all. But in the next four years they will be unavoidable. Mr. President, or Mr. President-elect: You can run but you can't hide.

Iraq: You say you didn't hear a real plan from either candidate to calm Iraq and get U.S. troops out? That's partly because every step depends on the success of a previous step. An attempt to take the city of Fallouja from insurgents has been delayed until after the election, but its success remains a prerequisite to Iraq's own elections. If the insurgents are pushed back enough for the elections to be credible, it's possible that more nations will be willing to step in. But if the United Nations holds back, Muslim nations won't send troops, a necessity for successful peacekeeping. The ifs, compounded, make for odds no president could like.

The deficit: Both President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry declared, on tenuous evidence, that they could halve federal deficits by 2008. What they glossed over was that current deficits are nothing compared with financing the future of Medicare and Medicaid, and to a lesser extent Social Security. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the prescription drug benefit measure passed last year, lacking controls on drug prices, may bloat from an originally projected $400-billion cost over 10 years to $1 trillion. And if costs aren't brought under control, total federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid could mushroom from 3.9% of gross domestic product in 2003 to 21% in 2050. By comparison, the annual deficit causing such worry today is 3.6% of GDP. The longer the next president waits to tell the truth, the worse the eventual pain will be.

Immigration: The president will find specifics harder to come by than stump-speech generalizations about the value of immigrants. If the next reform is mostly a guest-worker program, what about the 8 million to 10 million people already here illegally? If there's going to be an "earned legalization" path, what of the government's vow, in the 1996 immigration bill, to never have another mass legalization program? And who's going to keep an eye on more than 100,000 temporary workers to make sure they go home when their contracts are up?

Energy: High demand for oil and supply disruptions in key producing countries may keep oil in the range of $50 to $60 per barrel, curbing global economic growth. A GOP-controlled Congress couldn't write, much less pass, responsible energy legislation. The administration's secret consultations with the energy industry actually increased dependence on foreign oil. Even if Kerry could come through on conservation, then what?

There are other big issues — healthcare, for example, and the environment, and jobs — that the new or renewed president will face. But these at least lend themselves to some incremental solutions. The ones above require bigger thinking and bold, painful solutions. Whoever you are, we're confident you have it in you.

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives.

Please Help Stop The $3 Billion Dollar Experiment To Conduct Research On Unborn Children and Clone Humans

In a move that surprised many in the Pro-Family movement, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has endorsed a ballot initiative (Proposition 71) that will bankroll embryonic stem cell research and human cloning to the tune of $3 BILLION dollars in California.

Not since Dr. Josef Mengele -- the infamous "Angel of Death" at the World War II Auschwitz death camp -- has a government attempted to finance such ghoulish human experimentation. It must be stopped.

Why is this so important?

Embryonic stem cell research is performed on human embryos -- UNBORN CHILDREN!
Many are concerned that this could lead to "harvesting" of body parts from babies conceived for that purpose.
Proposition 71 will specifically fund somatic cell nuclear transfer research (SCNT)—a technical term for the cloning technique that produced Dolly, the sheep. Except this time it will be used on HUMANS.
The initiative is heavily supported by special interest groups that will line their pockets if it passes, and they are currently out spending those of us who oppose it by $100 to $1.

Your Action is Needed NOW!

Polls show that the vote will be very close and Gov. Schwarzenegger's endorsement may swing the issue in favor of those who want to experiment on unborn children and conduct human cloning -- AT THE TAX PAYER'S EXPENSE!!!

Time is short. In less than a week Proposition 71 will get an up or down vote by the people of California. If it passes, your state may be next!

Your help is needed TODAY! The election is less than a week away. We must flood the governor's office with faxes so he will change his mind. Please act NOW before it is too late!

Join Our Fax Campaign to Change the Governor's Mind

Not Much Choice in Plans for Iraq

No single campaign issue has defined the presidential candidates' differences more clearly than the war in Iraq (news - web sites). Yet it seems that whoever wins Tuesday's election will steer a remarkably similar course in the troubled country.

Despite their passionate debate on the issue, President Bush (news - web sites) and his Democratic challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry (news, bio, voting record), offer plans for Iraq that substantially overlap. Both are committed to stepping up the pace of training a new Iraqi security force, holding national elections quickly and broadening international military support for the effort.

The reason for the like-minded strategies isn't hard to find: The bleak realities that define conditions in Iraq, and the political climate surrounding the conflict leave little room for either candidate to move in a bold new direction.

"Both will follow the same strategy," predicted Gary Samore, director of studies at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London and a National Security Council aide in the Clinton administration. "They will try to cobble together a new Iraqi government, build up Iraqi security forces and then begin to draw down U.S. forces."

With little dividing the candidates' proposed strategies or goals, the debate has been dominated by differences in style and character.

Kerry has cast Bush as a hard-edged unilateralist whose actions have made it impossible for him to achieve key elements of his plan for Iraq. Bush sketches Kerry as a man who lacks the strength and leadership skills to make the tough decisions at hand.

The debate has also focused heavily on the past — on Bush's decision to invade Iraq and his handling of the violent aftermath.

"One of the ultimate paradoxes of this campaign is that the subject that so greatly divides the nation and is the source of such differences between the two candidates doesn't point to a different path in the future," said Thomas Carothers, a senior associate and director of the Democracy and Rule of Law project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "This is a huge debate, but it is about the past, not the future."

As such, the choice on Iraq facing voters Tuesday is far more nuanced than the stark options presented to the country 32 years ago — the last time America's military involvement in a far-off nation so dominated a presidential campaign. In that election, an America deeply divided over the war in Vietnam opted overwhelmingly for Richard Nixon's call for a negotiated "peace with honor" in Vietnam over George McGovern's pledge to pull troops out immediately.

For Iraq, such alternatives are not part of the debate. Neither Bush nor Kerry advocates a sharp buildup or an immediate drawdown of U.S. military forces as the key to a solution in Iraq, because neither course is deemed viable. With nine of the U.S. Army's 10 combat divisions either having been deployed to Iraq or preparing to go, military analysts said, American force levels are stretched too thin to contemplate significantly higher numbers.

Conversely, a sudden withdrawal of forces could undermine the struggling U.S.-backed interim Iraqi government, plunge the country into a civil war and destabilize the Middle East.

Although Bush accuses his opponent of wanting to "cut and run" in Iraq, Kerry has talked of an orderly drawdown of forces only after more troops from other nations could be brought in to share a burden that — as he is quick to assert — has left the United States with 90% of the forces and 90% of the casualties.

But political analysts in potential troop donor countries question Kerry's ability to achieve even this modest goal.

"I don't think there's a hope of the Germans or French putting soldiers into combat positions in Iraq," said Frederick Bonnart, a Brussels-based expert on NATO (news - web sites). "No German government … is capable of overcoming parliamentary opposition to this idea, so it wouldn't even try. In France, the reasons are different — anti-Americanism — but the result is the same."

Many analysts, however, believe Kerry could be more effective in winning some support.

"Troops, no, but money, equipment, help with training and reconstruction? It's conceivable," Samore said. "This won't solve the problem, but it will help."

Geoffrey Kemp, a Middle East specialist at the Nixon Center, an independent Washington-based think tank, also believes foreign governments could be more receptive to a Kerry request for help because he wasn't the leader who took the United States into the war.

"That's his edge, but whether he can exploit it is another question," Kemp said.

Bush administration officials noted a recent agreement by NATO to assist in training Iraqi military forces and the deployment of almost 3,000 South Korean troops to northern Iraq. They argue that there is little more Kerry could do to share the burden.

"When you talk about an international coalition and you cross out the Germans and French, there's not a whole lot left," said a senior Bush administration official who declined to be identified.

Despite the recent escalation of violence in Iraq, both candidates remain committed to holding a national election for a 250-seat national parliament as planned on Jan. 31. But any decision to delay that vote apparently would lie more with the country's powerful Shiite religious leader, the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, than the American president or the interim government in Baghdad.

With such limited alternatives, the political debate often turns on the interpretation of events in Iraq, rather than the events themselves. Bush calls the conflict in Iraq an essential battle in the administration's war on terrorism that is hard work but is gradually being won.

"I think security conditions are improving," a senior administration official said Friday.

Kerry contends that the president is in denial about the disaster unfolding there.

A recent string of atrocities and assassinations, and simmering questions about possible mishandling of caches of explosives in the invasion's aftermath have left Bush fighting to counter the bad news from the region.

The insurgents' reach is widening, and brutality against Iraqis as well as Westerners is mounting. The main population centers of Al Anbar province — Fallouja and Ramadi — are virtually under insurgent control. The roads leading west to Jordan and south to Kuwait are often too dangerous to travel. More than 150 foreigners have been kidnapped since the spring. Of those, about a third have been killed.

There has been a sharp increase in the last six weeks in assassinations of low-level Iraqi government officials, apparently part of an effort to scare off anyone working with the interim government.

Attacks on Iraqi police and national guard members have begun to take the form of mass executions. A week ago, about 50 Iraqis in the national guard were shot execution-style. A video released Friday showed the executions of 11 national guardsmen. And the deaths of U.S. troops continue, with nine Marines killed Saturday in a car-bomb ambush near Fallouja.

The violence usually overshadows gains such as ending Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s tyranny and establishing a multiethnic interim government.

There is evidence — at least among undecided voters — that the chaos has begun to work against the president.

Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center in Washington, said that a recent survey of 500 swing voters who were undecided in early September found that those who since have committed to Kerry were thinking more about Iraq than those who moved to Bush.

Still, experts say that whoever wins will have little room to maneuver in the short term.

"There are no attractive alternatives to what's going on now," Samore said. "There are just not very many good options."

Tyler Marshall and Alissa J. Rubin Times Staff Writers
Marshall reported from Washington and Rubin from Baghdad. Times staff writer Paul Richter in Washington contributed to this report.

To Bush, Courts Don't Matter

Last term, the U.S. Supreme Court drew some lines in the sand. The court said that the president, despite his claims to the contrary, could not hold Americans as enemy combatants without giving them a range of due process rights. And, it said that noncitizen prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay have a right to go to court to challenge the legality of their confinement.

While the rulings were technically narrow, many of the justices expressed alarm over the breadth of the Bush administration's posture, almost pleading with it to start playing fair.

"(A) state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens," snapped Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in the case involving Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American enemy combatant who had been held without charge and incommunicado for years. The administration had claimed it could hold him this way indefinitely.

But it appears that President Bush and his Justice Department minions care little about the court's admonitions. In filing after filing in the enemy combatant cases currently wending their way through the lower federal courts, the Bush administration has taken positions almost identical to its prior stance.

"The government has been completely unrepentant since Rasul, almost as if it was never decided," said Erwin Chemerinsky, professor of law at Duke Law School, referring to the Guantanamo case decided last term. He is currently representing a Libyan national held at Guantanamo.

In cases such as Chemerinsky's, where Guantanamo prisoners are challenging their indeterminate status and other aspects of their confinement, the administration asserts that the prisoners have "no cognizable constitutional rights."

Essentially the government's stance is that no court can intervene in the situation at Guantanamo for any reason, even to bar torture (a condition that is, sadly, plausible). This was the precise claim that was defeated in the Supreme Court last term.

The hubris is so breathtaking that it would be comic if so much wasn't at stake. Just as the administration has refused to adhere to the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan and now in Iraq, calling them "quaint," it now says that the Supreme Court's ruling granting Guantanamo detainees habeas corpus rights should have no substantive meaning.

This is not going over well in the legal trenches. Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington, D.C., rejected the Justice Department's extreme position and granted a group of Kuwaiti detainees access to counsel and the right to confer with their attorneys without being monitored by the government. There are at least a dozen more cases like this, and in each one the administration is fighting to deny the prisoners any and all due process.

In the case of Jose Padilla, the sole remaining American enemy combatant, the administration is again impenitent, purposely disregarding the spirit of the Supreme Court's rulings.

Padilla, the so-called "dirty bomber," was arrested at Chicago's O'Hare Airport in May 2002 and has been imprisoned as an enemy combatant in a military brig in South Carolina since June of that year. His case was dismissed by the high court last term on the grounds that he should have filed his complaint in South Carolina, not New York, which he has since done.

At the time, four justices dissented, saying they should have ruled on the merits. "At stake in this case is nothing less than the essence of a free society," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote.

But the Hamdi case, which was decided, also involved an American enemy combatant, and in that case O'Connor wrote: "We reaffirm today the fundamental nature of a citizen's right to be free from involuntary confinement by his own government without due process of law."

Still, the administration claims that Padilla can be held without charge until "the conflict against al-Qaida has ended." And, it says, the president's designation of Padilla or any American as an enemy combatant cannot be set aside by a court except in "exceptionally narrow situations."

Additionally, the administration says, Padilla has no right to end interrogations, no right to have a lawyer present while being questioned and no right to claim that any harsh interrogations or detention conditions are cruel and unusual punishment. (Although the government claims it won't be questioning him again.)

Bush is fighting hard to keep his extralegal theories of executive power intact. It is no surprise that an administration willing to toss aside the laws of war and the Bill of Rights when they are impediments would disregard lines drawn by the nation's high court too.

ROBYN E. BLUMNER, Times Perspective Columnist
Published October 31, 2004

It Goes Deeper Than Bush

What better time than the eve of the American presidential election to wonder whether those of us who have been critical of George W. Bush have not missed a larger issue: The problem may not be him alone but America itself.

I put the proposition to two of Canada's sharpest political minds: Janice Stein, professor of political science at the University of Toronto, and Lloyd Axworthy, former foreign affairs minister and now president of the University of Winnipeg.

Before we get to them, here is the hypothesis and the arguments for it.

America is becoming a dysfunctioning democracy.

It is captive to corporate and other vested interests.

It is crippled by political partisanship that has all but eroded the common good.

It is in the grip of a dangerous patriotism, fuelled by faith, militarism and a moral superiority that assigns little or no value to the rest of humanity.

This has had disastrous consequences, at home and abroad.

Bush and John Kerry have had to raise $1.2 billion (all figures U.S.) for their campaigns.

Lobbyists paid for the Republican and Democratic conventions, at $100 million each. Most of the $3.9 billion cost of the various federal elections this year, including the congressional races, is borne by private interests.

With so much indebtedness to so many, no party and no elected official can ever be independent.

Polarized politics has diluted the democratic principle that, once elected, you govern for all citizens. Members of Congress, as well as administrations at both the federal and state levels, cater mostly to the constituencies that elect them. This has created the politics of division.

Incumbents gerrymander ridings into bizarre contortions, rather than leave redistricting to independent commissions. Lately, they've even abandoned the pretense of fairness.

Elections, too, are in the hands of the partisan. Hence the shenanigans over who can or cannot vote, and the arguments over hanging chads. Hence also the varied standards from state to state, even county to county.

And hence the army of Bush and Kerry lawyers marching into closely contested states.

Only half the electorate votes, though there are hopeful signs of a greater turnout this time. Many don't seem to know how to cast their ballots.

Can't vote, can't count. That's what the U.S. electoral process looks like to a bemused world.

Democracy is said to have a civilizing effect on contestants. But most American electoral contests resemble war. Bush and Kerry TV commercials push the limits of human forbearance with stark images of terrorists and grieving families.

Post-9/11 developments have exposed even bigger weaknesses.

As much as one empathizes with our neighbour's trauma, it is difficult to see how America can credibly claim to be the world's greatest democracy when it can get so unhinged by 19 madmen as to allow itself to be persuaded, contrary to all evidence, that Saddam Hussein had a hand in that terror.

Or be scared into bestowing blind support and infallibility on its president through a compliant Congress.

Or be manipulated with Orwellian assertions into abandoning its democratic ideals.

It is a measure of the shrinking space for discussion and debate that Kerry has dared not challenge any of the above.

Iraq, too, tells a lot about America — far more than it tells us about Bush's bad judgment and deceptions.

It is about the American war machine killing innocent Iraqis — not 15,000 or 20,000, as we had thought, but 100,000, as estimated by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Lancet, the London-based medical journal.

It is about torture and other human rights violations committed at home and abroad.

It is about the criminal incompetence of the American political and military machinery, which snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

All these shortcomings cannot possibly be all Bush's fault.

Axworthy broadly agreed with this formulation, and added three more concerns.

The separation of church and state is "getting obliterated" by the new axis of faith between Bush and the religious right.

The population shift to the south and southwest is moving "the political centre of gravity" to the right. "Americans acquire the spots of their habitat."

Dwight Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex is truer than ever.

"If you are spending $500 billion a year on the military, you do develop the mentality of a garrison state," Axworthy said. "You see everything through the eyes of patriotism and militarism. Every war becomes a noble exercise."

Axworthy noted that the "right wing in Canada" also wants to spend more money on the military. "But most Canadians would rather spend it on peacekeeping. What's happening is a separation of values" between Canada and America.

Stein spoke of yet another "fundamental cleavage of values," this one in America itself:

"Those of faith are going with the whole values package offered by Bush, and those who are secular are going with the Kerry package."

This divide is getting bigger. It overrides partisan politics and even bread-and-butter issues that used to dictate the fate of incumbent presidents.

Overlay that with post-9/11 fears and the intense patriotism sweeping across a broad spectrum of America, "and you can see why Kerry has been campaigning the way he has been. He has nowhere to go."

In a way, America has returned to the insecurity of the 1950s, when it felt threatened by Moscow, Stein said.

Now, the enemy doesn't even have an address.

Hence the fear, the vulnerability to political fear-mongering, the closing of ranks — all at the expense of democratic accountability at home — and the resort to American exceptionalism and projection of military strength abroad.

It is not that democratic institutions are failing, Stein said. The media are slowly coming around to questioning Bush and the courts are speaking up.

Rather, the issue is: Has American political culture adapted to the idea that America is not immune to the dangers of the world in the 21st century, which is interconnected and interdependent?

Has it?

"The answer has to be, no."

Haroon Siddiqui is the Star's editorial page editor emeritus. E-mail: hsiddiq@thestar.ca

China Lays Into 'Bush Doctrine' Ahead of U.S. Poll

On the eve of the U.S. election, China laid into what it called the "Bush doctrine," said the Iraq war has destroyed the global anti-terror coalition and blamed arrogance for the problems dogging the United States worldwide.

The searing article was as close to a position on the U.S. presidential election as China has come, but it made no mention of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, the Democratic Party's challenger to President Bush in Tuesday's presidential contest.

The United States was dreaming if it thought the 21st century was the American century, wrote Qian Qichen, one of the main architects of China's foreign policy, in a commentary in the English-language China Daily newspaper.

"The current U.S. predicament in Iraq serves as another example that when a country's superiority psychology inflates beyond its real capability, a lot of trouble can be caused," Qian wrote.

"But the troubles and disasters the United States has met do not stem from the threats by others, but from its own cocksureness and arrogance."

Qian is a former foreign minister credited with breaking China out of diplomatic isolation after the crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

The invasion of Iraq "has made the United States even more unpopular in the international community than its war in Vietnam," he said.

"The Iraq war has also destroyed the hard-won global anti-terror coalition," Qian added, saying it had caused a rise in terrorist activity around the globe and widened a rift between the United States and Europe.


The U.S. strategy of pre-emptive strikes would bring insecurity and ultimately the demise of the "American empire," Qian said.

Analysts have said China has a slight preference for the incumbent in the U.S. election, realising that U.S. policy toward China has changed little from administration to administration.

But China, growing in economic and political influence on the world stage, has expressed its aversion to Bush's unilateralist tendencies and sided with France and Germany in opposition to the Iraq war.

"It is now time to give up the illusion that Europeans and Americans are living in the same world, as some Europeans would like to believe," Qian said.

The United States had not changed its Cold War mentality, Qian said.

"The 21st century is not the 'American century'. That does not mean that the United States does not want the dream. Rather it is incapable of realizing the goal," he said.

After the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, the "Bush doctrine" created "axes of evil" and pre-emptive strategies.

"It linked counter-terrorism and the prevention of proliferation of so-called rogue states and failed states ... It all testifies that Washington's anti-terror campaign has already gone beyond the scope of self-defense."

© Copyright Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved. The information contained In this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Reuters Ltd.

The War On Iraq Has Made Moral Cowards of Us All

More than 100,000 Iraqis have been killed - and where is our shame and rage?

The full scale of the human cost already paid for the war o­n Iraq is o­nly now becoming clear. Last week's estimate by investigators, using credible methodology, that more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians - most of them women and children - have died since the US-led invasion is a profound moral indictment of our countries. The US and British governments quickly moved to cast doubt o­n the Lancet medical journal findings, citing other studies. These mainly media-based reports put the number of Iraqi civilian deaths at about 15,000 - although the basis for such an endorsement is unclear, since neither the US nor the UK admits to collecting data o­n Iraqi civilian casualties.

Civilian deaths have always been a tragic reality of modern war. But the conflict in Iraq was supposed to be different - US and British forces were dispatched to liberate the Iraqi people, not impose their own tyranny of violence.

Reading accounts of the US-led invasion, o­ne is struck by the constant, almost casual, reference to civilian deaths. Soldiers and marines speak of destroying hundreds, if not thousands, of vehicles that turned out to be crammed with civilians. US marines acknowledged in the aftermath of the early, bloody battle for Nassiriya that their artillery and air power had pounded civilian areas in a blind effort to suppress insurgents thought to be holed up in the city. The infamous "shock and awe" bombing of Baghdad produced hundreds of deaths, as did the 3rd Infantry Division's "Thunder Run", an armoured thrust in Baghdad that slaughtered everyone in its path.

It is true that, with o­nly a few exceptions, civilians who died as a result of ground combat were not deliberately targeted, but were caught up in the machinery of modern warfare. But when the same claim is made about civilians killed in aerial attacks (the Lancet study estimates that most of civilian deaths were the result of air attacks), the comparison quickly falls apart. Helicopter engagements apart, most aerial bombardment is deliberate and pre-planned. US and British military officials like to brag about the accuracy of the "precision" munitions used in these strikes, claiming this makes the kind of modern warfare practised by the coalition in Iraq the most humanitarian in history.

But there is nothing humanitarian about explosives o­nce they detonate near civilians, or about a bomb guided to the wrong target. Dozens of civilians were killed during the vain effort to eliminate Saddam Hussein with "pinpoint" air strikes, and hundreds have perished in the campaign to eliminate alleged terrorist targets in Falluja. A "smart bomb" is o­nly as good as the data used to direct it. And the abysmal quality of the intelligence used has made the smartest of bombs just as dumb and indiscriminate as those, for example, dropped during the second world war.

The fact that most bombing missions in Iraq today are pre-planned, with targets allegedly carefully vetted, further indicts those who wage this war in the name of freedom. If these targets are so precise, then those selecting them cannot escape the fact that they are deliberately targeting innocent civilians at the same time as they seek to destroy their intended foe. Some would dismiss these civilians as "collateral damage". But we must keep in mind that the British and US governments made a deliberate decision to enter into a conflict of their choosing, not o­ne that was thrust upon them. We invaded Iraq to free Iraqis from a dictator who, by some accounts, oversaw the killing of about 300,000 of his subjects - although no o­ne has been able to verify more than a small fraction of the figure. If it is correct, it took Saddam decades to reach such a horrific statistic. The US and UK have, it seems, reached a third of that total in just 18 months.

Meanwhile, the latest scandal over missing nuclear-related high explosives in Iraq (traced and controlled under the UN inspections regime) o­nly underscores the utter deceitfulness of the Bush-Blair argument for the war. Having claimed the uncertainty surrounding Iraq's WMD capability constituted a threat that could not go unchallenged in a post-9/11 world, o­ne would have expected the two leaders to insist o­n a military course of action that brought under immediate coalition control any aspect of potential WMD capability, especially relating to any possible nuclear threat. That the US military did not have a dedicated force to locate and neutralise these explosives underscores the fact that both Bush and Blair knew that there was no threat from Iraq, nuclear or otherwise.

Of course, the US and Britain have a history of turning a blind eye to Iraqi suffering when it suits their political purposes. During the 1990s, hundreds of thousands are estimated by the UN to have died as a result of sanctions. Throughout that time, the US and the UK maintained the fiction that this was the fault of Saddam Hussein, who refused to give up his WMD. We now know that Saddam had disarmed and those deaths were the responsibility of the US and Britain, which refused to lift sanctions.

There are many culpable individuals and organisations history will hold to account for the war - from deceitful politicians and journalists to acquiescent military professionals and silent citizens of the world's democracies. As the evidence has piled up confirming what I and others had reported - that Iraq was already disarmed by the late 1990s - my personal vote for o­ne of the most culpable individuals would go to Hans Blix, who headed the UN weapons inspection team in the run-up to war. He had the power if not to prevent, at least to forestall a war with Iraq. Blix knew that Iraq was disarmed, but in his mealy-mouthed testimony to the UN security council helped provide fodder for war. His failure to stand up to the lies used by Bush and Blair to sell the Iraq war must brand him a moral and intellectual coward.

But we all are moral cowards when it comes to Iraq. Our collective inability to summon the requisite shame and rage when confronted by an estimate of 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians in the prosecution of an illegal and unjust war not o­nly condemns us, but adds credibility to those who oppose us. The fact that a criminal such as Osama bin Laden can broadcast a videotape o­n the eve of the US presidential election in which his message is viewed by many around the world as a sober argument in support of his cause is the harshest indictment of the failure of the US and Britain to implement sound policy in the aftermath of 9/11. The death of 3,000 civilians o­n that horrible day represented a tragedy of huge proportions. Our continued indifference to a war that has slaughtered so many Iraqi civilians, and will continue to kill more, is in many ways an even greater tragedy: not o­nly in terms of scale, but also because these deaths were inflicted by our own hand in the course of an action that has no defence.

Scott Ritter was a senior UN weapons inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998 and is the author of Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America email - WSRitter@aol.com

Copyright: The Guardian

Cuba's Comeback

Europe should take the lead in breaking the blockade
At the United Nations today, a motion condemning the US blockade of Cuba will be carried with overwhelming support. The United Kingdom and all other EU countries will oppose the policy. It is an annual ritual which Washington will duly ignore. This will be the 13th occasion on which such a resolution has been brought forward, with the majority in support of it increasing year by year - 154 to three at the last count.
It is not necessary to support Cuba's system of government in order to oppose the blockade, which has crippled the country's economy for 40 years and continues to impose huge privations upon the ordinary Cuban people. Extraterritorial action as pursued by the US against Cuba is flagrantly illegal and therefore extremely dangerous as a precedent. To the rest of the world that matters. To the US administration, particularly in election year, such niceties are of minimal interest.

The fact that the UK and EU are opposed to this miserable vendetta should not be undervalued. One day US policy towards Cuba will change - and the question will then be whether we were leaders or mere followers.

Quite recently, relations between Cuba and the EU deteriorated sharply. This drive came from the Aznar government in Spain, which had a particular animus towards its former colony as well as a deep attachment to Washington opinion. The expression of this diplomatic freeze was a childish ploy commended by the American Interests Section in Havana.

Some EU ambassadors started inviting to embassy functions leading dissidents whom the Cubans regard as fifth columnists in a bitter war of attrition. The outcome was predictable and intended: the Cuban government boycotted these events and other contacts declined. Unfortunately, the UK was seen as a ringleader in this activity, though I am certain no such policy was instigated here.

The change of government in Spain has opened up an avenue which can lead to the restoration of normal relationships between EU countries and Cuba. Earlier this month, the new Spanish ambassador in Havana said that agreement on a new policy towards Cuba "is only a matter of time - and not much time". I hope he is right.
The biggest factors in driving a new, post-election policy towards Cuba will come from within the US itself. The current position is riddled with hypocrisies. Prior to a recent tightening of restrictions, the US was Cuba's second biggest supplier of tourists and its largest supplier of imported food. Republican governors from the farm states beat a regular trail to Havana to nurture a market which their constituents want to serve.

Even in Florida, rapid change is taking place. The vast majority of Cuban-Americans are not political refugees but economic migrants. They no more want to be barred from going home or sending back money to help their families than any other immigrant community.

In the latter stages of the Clinton presidency, the policy had moved towards engagement rather than persecution. Soon the same trend will be resumed, but the EU should get there first. Last month, a survey by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign produced responses from 402 MPs who said they would oppose any military aggression against Cuba. That's a start, but maybe we could go a little further.

· Brian Wilson is Labour MP for Cunninghame North

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