"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

US And Congress Knew Saddam Was Smuggling Oil

Two letters sent by the State Department to Congress in 1998 and 2002 clearly show that successive US administrations knew of sanctions-busting and turned a blind eye to it. Some US lawmakers are now demanding that the US also hold itself to account for those decisions and not shift all the blame to the UN.

The Clinton and Bush administrations not only knew but told the US Congress that Iraq was smuggling oil to Turkey and Jordan, and in both cases recommended continuing military and financial aid to countries seen as important allies.

Recent revelations that Saddam Hussein was able to raise billions of dollars in illicit revenue in defiance of international sanctions have prompted savage criticism of the United Nations by members of Congress and rightwing commentators.

Yet two letters sent by the State Department to Congress in 1998 and 2002 clearly show that successive US administrations knew of sanctions-busting and turned a blind eye to it. Some US lawmakers are now demanding that the US also hold itself to account for those decisions and not shift all the blame to the UN.

Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives' international relations committee, said recently he was “stunned at the failure of our own State Department to put a halt to Saddam's larceny”.

In both cases, as most policymakers knew at the time, the administration judged that maintaining constructive relations with the two countries was in the “national interest”.

It issued a waiver on legal restrictions on aid for countries known to violate sanctions and Congress duly authorised and appropriated the funds.

Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, said last year that Iraq's smuggling to and from neighbouring countries was by far the largest source of revenue for Mr Hussein's regime, accounting for $8bn (£4.2bn) out of $11bn. Its single biggest source of illicit income was trade with Jordan, at least until 2000, after which trade with Syria and Turkey grew in importance.

In December 1998, the State Department under Bill Clinton's presidency told Congress: “Despite United Nations Security Council resolutions banning Iraqi oil imports (except under the terms of the oil for food resolutions) Jordan has continued to import oil from Iraq.”

But it said continued US assistance would provide the Jordanian government with “some flexibility to pursue policies which are of crucial importance to US objectives in the Middle East”, including the Middle East peace process.

That sent a message that the smuggling would be tolerated. The wording of a letter in 2002, despite being issued under President George W. Bush, was almost identical. It noted the waiver had been given to Jordan every year since 1991, when UN sanctions were imposed on Iraq.

“Providing the planned assistance will bolster the Jordanian government in its commitment to participate in . . . co-operation with the US in supporting regional security and stability, co-operation with Israel . . . and promoting democratic reforms,” it said.

Similarly, in 1998 the State Department said: “Turkey permits the importation of a limited amount of diesel oil from Iraq and Turkish trucks carry goods into northern Iraq.”

But it added that with the exception of “this local trade”, the fellow Nato-member had been an important ally in enforcing the embargo, which had cost it $22bn in lost trade.

US assistance should continue since Turkey promoted “security, prosperity and other vital US interests”.

In 2002, as the illegal trade with Turkey grew, the State Department wrote: “The government of Turkey permits the importation of oil from Iraq and private Turkish entities provide non-lethal goods and cash to Iraq.”

But again, providing aid was in the national interest because Turkey was an ally in the war on terror as well as a secular democracy in a region of “weak economies, political instability, shaky democratic traditions and ethnic strife”.

Mark Turner in New York
© Copyright The Financial Times http://news.ft.com/cms/s/2a70fe00-6990-11d9-81e7-00000e2511c8.html

High Court Asked to Overturn Roe V. Wade

WASHINGTON - The woman once known as "Jane Roe" has asked the Supreme Court to overturn its landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion 32 years ago.

Norma McCorvey, whose protest of Texas' abortion ban led to the 1973 ruling, contends in a petition received at the court Tuesday that the case should be heard again in light of evidence that the procedure may harm women.

"Now we know so much more, and I plead with the court to listen for witnesses and re-evaluate Roe v. Wade (news - web sites)," said McCorvey, who says she now regrets her role in the case.

The politically charged issue comes before the court as both sides gird for a possible bitter nomination fight over Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist's replacement should the ailing justice retire this term. At least three justices, including Rehnquist, have said Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be overturned.

Two lower courts last year threw out McCorvey's request to have the ruling reconsidered.

But in a strongly worded concurrence, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (news - web sites) judge Edith H. Jones criticized the abortion ruling and said new medical evidence may well show undue harm to a mother and her fetus.

The last major abortion decision by the Supreme Court came in 2000, when the court ruled 5-4 to strike down Nebraska's ban on so-called "partial-birth" abortion because it failed to provide an exception to protect the mother's health.

Justices since then have shown little interest in wading back to the emotional issue.

Associated Press
Wed Jan 19,12:33 PM ET

Syria Back in the Crosshairs?

Echoes of Cambodia

Rumors of future air and/or ground attacks on supposed insurgent bases inside Syria; Rumsfeld's denials that US Special Forces death squads are already operating in Syria; and US attempts to get use of a Turkish air base to attack Iraq from. All of these news items over the week of January 11th, 2005 coincided with another rumor about discussions within Washington's ruling circles about how to disengage from the debacle in Iraq. There seems to be a contradiction, doesn't there? While talk of expanding the war on the ground, which is what all of these Turkish and Syrian-related moves are, peppers the media, the folks in Washington are supposedly speculating about getting out.

How can they declare victory and leave is how some of the pundits put it, borrowing a line from the late Vermont Senator George Aiken. The reality, however, is closer to this: How can they leave and keep control over the oil and the region that it is buried in? Unfortunately for the residents of that region, there is probably no way that Washington and London can do such a thing. Since these two capitals have made it their mission to expand their control of the world market and keep control of what they already have; and a good number of the residents of the Middle East have made it their mission to deny those capitals their desire, one can expect many more years of occupation and conflict. Unless, that is, the armies of London and DC are forced to leave.

The logic of empire demands that they remain and, furthermore, that they deny any other capital from involving itself in the region. For that matter, that logic also demands that the locals keep their desires to rule themselves quiet also. The world saw the logic of the former in the buildup towards the Iraqi invasion and can see it manifest itself currently not only in Iraq, but also in the recent demands to Russia made by Washington and Tel Aviv (which is, generally speaking, Washington's annex in the region) that Moscow stop considering the sale of missiles to Syria.

If one reads the media reports coming out of Washington these days concerning potential US strikes into Syria, they'll discover that Washington hopes to find and destroy elements of the former Iraqi military that are supposedly coordinating part of the Iraqi insurgency from Syria. While this may be happening to some extent, the more fundamental reason for any such attacks would be to end the Ba'athist government in Damascus. This desire can be seen in the attempts to link the Ba'athist elements of the Iraqi insurgency with the Ba'athist government in Damascus. If the US somehow succeeded in this endeavor, it would replace the Syrian government with a regime willing to accede to US and Israeli demands regarding Lebanon and other territories in the region. These are pieces of territory that the US and Israel would like to either claim for their own or, at the least, neutralize any threat from the people living there.

According to various news articles, especially one from UPI on January 12th, 2005 and another in The Jerusalem Post on December 24, 2004, the sentiment for making some kind of military move on the supposed insurgent command and control centers in Syria comes from many quarters of the Washington establishment, not just the neocons. The near universality of opinion on this matter proves that it is the logic of empire that is at work. Indeed, it is part and parcel of the imperial sentiment spoken by both major party candidates in the recent US presidential election that stated that the US must "stay the course" in Iraq. It is now quite obvious that the "course" over there has nothing to do with Iraqi WMD and little to do with the capture of Saddam Hussein. It may have been Bush's war to begin with, (although the consent of Congress was asked for and provided), but that is no longer the case. It is the empire's war and it can only end in one of two ways: victory or defeat. Whether or not widening the war into Syria would result in victory is certainly being weighed.

Another aspect of the US propaganda assault on Syria is the recent Security Council resolution calling on Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon. While this sounds like a legitimate call to support Lebanon's independence, it is important that one looks at the sponsors of this resolution. Not only is this demand the primary goal of a US-based organization composed almost completely of members of the US neoconservative cabal-the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon (USCFL)-it is supported by the governments of France and the United States. In addition, its Lebanese supporters include the Christian Phalangist movement, which is a pro-Israel right-wing movement that has often done Israel's dirty work on Lebanese territory.

Indeed, the website states quite clearly that "Ariel Sharon has an opportunity to finish what he started in 1982, before Lebanese President-elect (Phalangist) Bashir Gemayel's life was so rudely ended." Gemayel was killed by some of his political opponents in 1982. That same year, Ariel Sharon organized the massacre of women and children in the Shabra and Shatila refugee camps. The massacres were carried out by Phalangist militia and the South Lebanese Army, a mercenary force financed by Israel.

Why does France support this resolution? The most obvious answer is that Lebanon used to be a French protectorate. After World War I, when the victors were dividing the spoils of war and Britain was running the show, France ended up with what was called Lebanon after all was said and done. Prior to this division, Lebanon had been part of Greater Syria, which was in turn part of the Ottoman Empire. In addition, it was culturally part of an Arab nation that identified itself in this manner: The boundaries of this politically unfulfilled nation are found in the chorus of a song written by the Damascene nationalist and man of letters, Fakhri al-Barudi, which enjoyed wide circulation:

Although this Arab nation still is not a physical reality, it remains a hope among many Arabs, with the Ba'athists of Syria and Iraq being among its most fervent supporters. One could argue that, although the Arab peoples live in many different countries, most of them would identify themselves as Arab first. This is especially the case of the Arab on the street who has no vested interest in the benefits their national governments might gain from ignoring the phenomenon.

Lebanon has remained a nominally independent nation since its postwar creation, although it has remained under Syrian protection since the end of the Lebanese civil war of the 1980s. France would like to have more say in its former protectorate, especially in today's Middle East, where the US and Great Britain currently hold greatest sway. This desire seems to have increased since the most recent US-UK invasion and occupation of Iraq, actions strongly opposed by Paris. As for the Phalangists, it has been their desire since Lebanon's creation to rule the region. They have been supported in this desire by various elements in Washington, Paris and, more recently, Tel Aviv. Much of this support is based on their identification with these capitals' political and economic goals for the entire region.

For some reason, I keep thinking of the US invasion of Cambodia whenever I read these news items about the US attacking Syria. Most of the reasoning for that incursion (to use Richard Nixon's terminology) had to do with hitting North Vietnamese Army (NVA) command and control centers that were allegedly in the Cambodian jungles bordering Vietnam. The US Air Force had already been covertly bombing Cambodia for several months prior to the invasion and had sponsored a coup to overthrow the neutral Prince Sihanouk in Phnom Penh. Once Sihanouk was overthrown, the CIA asset Lon Nol was put into power and the way was paved for an overt move into Cambodian territory by US and southern Vietnamese troops. Reaction to the US move was swift and convulsive. Millions protested around the world and open rebellion existed in some US cities and towns, with ROTC buildings burnt to the ground and martial law declared. Six college students were killed by police and National Guard at campuses in Ohio and Mississippi.

While I have no desire to return to the turmoil of that time, it is essential the US antiwar movement revitalize itself quickly in order to prevent any further escalation of the current conflict in Iraq.

Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs' essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch's new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

Now U.S. Ponders Attack on Iran

"Everything you hear about the planning for Iraq suggests logic may not be the basis for the decision," he said.

Hardliners in Pentagon ready to neutralize 'nuclear threat' posed by Tehran.
President Bush's second inauguration on Thursday will provide the signal for an intense and urgent debate in Washington over whether or when to extend the "global war on terror" to Iran, according to officials and foreign policy analysts in Washington.

That debate is being driven by "neo-conservatives" at the Pentagon who emerged from the post-election Bush reshuffle unscathed, despite their involvement in collecting misleading intelligence on Iraq's weapons in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

Washington has stood aside from recent European negotiations with Iran and Pentagon hardliners are convinced that the current European-brokered deal suspending nuclear enrichment and intensifying weapons inspections is unenforceable and will collapse in months.

Only the credible threat, and if necessary the use, of air and special operations attacks against Iran's suspected nuclear facilities will stop the ruling clerics in Tehran acquiring warheads, many in the administration argue.

Moderates, who are far fewer in the second Bush administration than the first, insist that if Iran does have a secret weapons programme, it is likely to be dispersed and buried in places almost certainly unknown to US intelligence. The potential for Iranian retaliation inside Iraq and elsewhere is so great, the argument runs, that there is in effect no military option.

A senior administration official involved in developing Iran policy rejected that argument. "It is not as simple as that," he told the Guardian at a recent foreign policy forum in Washington. "It is not a straightforward problem but at some point the costs of doing nothing may just become too high. In Iran you have the intersection of nuclear weapons and proven ties to terrorism. That is what we are looking at now."

The New Yorker reported this week that the Pentagon has already sent special operations teams into Iran to locate possible nuclear weapons sites. The report by Seymour Hersh, a veteran investigative journalist, was played down by the White House and the Pentagon, with comments that stopped short of an outright denial.

"The Iranian regime's apparent nuclear ambitions and its demonstrated support for terrorist organisations is a global challenge that deserves much more serious treatment than Seymour Hersh provides," Lawrence DiRita, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said yesterday: "Mr Hersh's article is so riddled with errors of fundamental fact that the credibility of his entire piece is destroyed."

However, the Guardian has learned the Pentagon was recently contemplating the infiltration of members of the Iranian rebel group, Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) over the Iraq-Iran border, to collect intelligence. The group, based at Camp Ashraf, near Baghdad, was under the protection of Saddam Hussein, and is under US guard while Washington decides on its strategy.

The MEK has been declared a terrorist group by the state department, but a former Farsi-speaking CIA officer said he had been asked by neo-conservatives in the Pentagon to travel to Iraq to oversee "MEK cross-border operations". He refused, and does not know if those operations have begun.

"They are bringing a lot of the old war-horses from the Reagan and Iran-contra days into a sort of kitchen cabinet outside the government to write up policy papers on Iran," the former officer said.

He said the policy discussion was being overseen by Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defence for policy who was one of the principal advocates of the Iraq war. The Pentagon did not return calls for comment on the issue yesterday. In the run-up to the Iraq invasion, Mr Feith's Office of Special Plans also used like-minded experts on contract from outside the government, to serve as consultants helping the Pentagon counter the more cautious positions of the state department and the CIA.


"They think in Iran you can just go in and hit the facilities and destabilise the government. They believe they can get rid of a few crazy mullahs and bring in the young guys who like Gap jeans, all the world's problems are solved. I think it's delusional," the former CIA officer said.

However, others believe that at a minimum military strikes could set back Iran's nuclear programme several years. Reuel Marc Gerecht, another former CIA officer who is now a leading neo-conservative voice on Iran at the American Enterprise Institute, said: "It would certainly delay [the programme] and it can be done again. It's not a one-time affair. I would be shocked if a military strike could not delay the programme." Mr Gerecht said the internal debate in the administration was only just beginning.

"This administration does not really have an Iran policy," he said. "Iraq has been a fairly consuming endeavour, but it's getting now towards the point where people are going to focus on [Iran] hard and have a great debate."

That debate could be brought to a head in the next few months. Diplomats and officials in Vienna following the Iranian nuclear saga at the International Atomic Energy Agency expect the Iran dispute to re-erupt by the middle of this year, predicting a breakdown of the diplomatic track the EU troika of Britain, Germany and France are pursuing with Tehran. The Iran-EU agreement, reached in November, was aimed at getting Iran to abandon the manufacture of nuclear fuel which can be further refined to bomb-grade.

Now the Iranians are feeding suspicion by continuing to process uranium concentrate into gaseous form, a breach "not of the letter but of the spirit of the agreement," said one European diplomat.

Opinions differ widely over how long it would take Iran to produce a deliverable nuclear warhead, and some analysts believe that Iranian scientists have encountered serious technical difficulties.

"The Israelis believe that by 2007, the Iranians could enrich enough uranium for a bomb. Some of us believe it could be the end of this decade," said David Albright, a nuclear weapons expert at the Institute for Science and International Security. A recent war-game carried out by retired military officers, intelligence officials and diplomats for the Atlantic Monthly, came to the conclusion that there were no feasible military options and if negotiations and the threat of sanctions fail, the US might have to accept Iran as a nuclear power.

However, Sam Gardiner, a retired air force colonel who led the war-game, acknowledged that the Bush administration might not come to the same conclusion.

"Everything you hear about the planning for Iraq suggests logic may not be the basis for the decision," he said.

Mr Gerecht, who took part in the war-game but dissented from the conclusion, believes the Bush White House, still mired in Iraq, has yet to make up its mind.

"The bureaucracy will come down on the side of doing nothing. The real issue is: will the president and the vice president disagree with them? If I were a betting man, I'd bet the US will not use pre-emptive force. However, I would not want to bet a lot."

Julian Borger and Ian Traynor
The Guardian

Odd Happenings in Fallujah

“The soldiers are doing strange things in Fallujah,” said one of my contacts in Fallujah who just returned. He was in his city checking on his home and just returned to Baghdad this evening.

Speaking on condition of anonymity he continued, “In the center of the Julan Quarter they are removing entire homes which have been bombed, meanwhile most of the homes that were bombed are left as they were. Why are they doing this?”

According to him, this was also done in the Nazal, Mualmeen, Jubail and Shuhada’a districts, and the military began to do this after Eid, which was after November 20th.

He told me he has watched the military use bulldozers to push the soil into piles and load it onto trucks to carry away. This was done in the Julan and Jimouriya quarters of the city, which is of course where the heaviest fighting occurred during the siege, as this was where resistance was the fiercest.

“At least two kilometers of soil were removed,” he explained, “Exactly as they did at Baghdad Airport after the heavy battles there during the invasion and the Americans used their special weapons.”

He explained that in certain areas where the military used “special munitions” 200 square meters of soil was being removed from each blast site.

In addition, many of his friends have told him that the military brought in water tanker trucks to power blast the streets, although he hadn’t seen this himself.

“They went around to every house and have shot the water tanks,” he continued, “As if they are trying to hide the evidence of chemical weapons in the water, but they only did this in some areas, such as Julan and in the souk (market) there as well.”

He first saw this having been done after December 20th.

Again, this is reflective of stories I’ve been told by several refugees from Fallujah.

Just last December, a 35 year-old merchant from Fallujah, Abu Hammad, told me what he’d experienced when he was still in the city during the siege.

“The American warplanes came continuously through the night and bombed everywhere in Fallujah! It did not stop even for a moment! If the American forces did not find a target to bomb, they used sound bombs just to terrorize the people and children. The city stayed in fear; I cannot give a picture of how panicked everyone was.”

“In the mornings I found Fallujah empty, as if nobody lives in it,” he’d said, “Even poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah-they used everything-tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground. Nothing is left.”

In Amiriyat al-Fallujah, a small city just outside Fallujah where many doctors from Fallujah have been practicing since they were unable to do so at Fallujah General Hospital, similar stories are being told.

Last month one refugee who had just arrived at the hospital in the small city explained that he’d watched the military bring in water tanker trucks to power blast some of the streets in Fallujah.

“Why are they doing this,” explained Ahmed (name changed for his protection), “To beautify Fallujah? No! They are covering their tracks from the horrible weapons they used in my city.”

Also last November, another Fallujah refugee from the Julan area, Abu Sabah told me, “They (US military) used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud. Then small pieces feel from the air with long tails of smoke behind them.”

He explained that pieces of these bombs exploded into large fires that burnt peoples skin even when water was dumped on their bodies, which is the effect of phosphorous weapons, as well as napalm. “People suffered so much from these, both civilians and fighters alike,” he said.

My friend Suthir (name changed to protect identity) was a member of one of the Iraqi Red Crescent relief convoys that was allowed into Fallujah at the end of November.

“I’m sure the Americans committed bad things there, but who can discover and say this,” she said when speaking of what she saw of the devastated city, “They didn’t allow us to go to the Julan area or any of the others where there was heavy fighting, and I’m sure that is where the horrible things took place.”

“The Americans didn’t let us in the places where everyone said there was napalm used,” she added, “Julan and those places where the heaviest fighting was, nobody is allowed to go there.”

On 30 November the US military prevented an aid convoy from reaching Fallujah. This aid convoy was sent by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, but was told by soldiers at a checkpoint to return in “8 or 9 days,” reported AP.

Dr. Ibrahim al-Kubaisi who was with the relief team told reporters at that time, “There is a terrible crime going in Fallujah and they do not want anybody to know.”

With the military maintaining strict control over who enters Fallujah, the truth of what weapons were used remains difficult to find.

Meanwhile, people who lived in different districts of Fallujah continue to tell the same stories.

Posted by Dahr_Jamail at January 18, 2005 06:16 PM

Gay Marriage 'Rights'

In all the states where gay marriage was on the ballot this year, the voters voted against it -- as they should have.

Of all the phony arguments for gay marriage, the phoniest is the argument that it is a matter of equal rights. Marriage is not a right extended to individuals by the government. It is a restriction on the rights they already have.

People who are simply living together can make whatever arrangements they want, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. They can divide up their worldly belongings 50-50 or 90-10 or whatever other way they want. They can make their union temporary or permanent or subject to cancellation at any time.

Marriage is a restriction. If my wife buys an automobile with her own money, under California marriage laws I automatically own half of it, whether or not my name is on the title. Whether that law is good, bad, or indifferent, it is a limitation of our freedom to arrange such things as we ourselves might choose. This is just one of many decisions that marriage laws take out of our hands.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said that the life of the law is not logic but experience. Marriage laws have evolved through centuries of experience with couples of opposite sexes -- and the children that result from such unions. Society asserts its stake in the decisions made by restricting the couples' options.

Society has no such stake in the outcome of a union between two people of the same sex. Transferring all those laws to same-sex couples would make no more sense than transferring the rules of baseball to football.

Why then do gay activists want their options restricted by marriage laws, when they can make their own contracts with their own provisions and hold whatever kinds of ceremony they want to celebrate it?

The issue is not individual rights. What the activists are seeking is official social approval of their lifestyle. But this is the antithesis of equal rights.

If you have a right to someone else's approval, then they do not have a right to their own opinions and values. You cannot say that what "consenting adults" do in private is nobody else's business and then turn around and say that others are bound to put their seal of approval on it.

The rhetoric of "equal rights" has become the road to special privilege for all sorts of groups, so perhaps it was inevitable that gay activists would take that road as well. It has worked. They have already succeeded in getting far more government money for AIDS than for other diseases that kill far more people.

The time is long overdue to stop word games about equal rights from leading to special privileges -- for anybody -- and gay marriage is as good an issue on which to do so as anything else.

Incidentally, it is not even clear how many homosexuals actually want marriage, even though gay activists are pushing it.

What the activists really want is the stamp of acceptance on homosexuality, as a means of spreading that lifestyle, which has become a death style in the era of AIDS.

They have already succeeded to a remarkable degree in our public schools, where so-called "AIDS education" or other pious titles are put on programs that promote homosexuality. In some cases, gay activists actually come to the schools, not only to promote homosexuality as an idea but even to pass out the addresses of local gay hangouts to the kids.

There is no limit to what people will do if you let them get away with it. That our schools, which are painfully failing to educate our children to the standards in other countries, have time for promoting homosexuality is truly staggering.

Every special interest group has an incentive to take something away from society as a whole. Some will be content just to siphon off a share of the taxpayers' money for themselves. Others, however, want to dismantle a part of the structure of values that make a society viable.

They may not want to bring down the whole structure, just get rid of the part that cramps their style. But when innumerable groups start dismantling pieces of the structure that they don't like, we can be headed for the kinds of social collapses seen both in history and in other parts of the world in our own times.

Thomas Sowell
©2004 Creators Syndicate, Inc