"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

Friday, July 08, 2005

Hey, We Don't Do Body Counts...Remember!

A Look in the Mirror for America

In his initial reaction yesterday to the London transit bombings, President Bush decried ''people killing innocent people." He said: ''The contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty and those who kill -- those who have got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks."

This came a week and a half after Bush invoked the innocent in his Fort Bragg, N.C., speech in an attempt to shore up sagging American support for his invasion and occupation of Iraq. Doggedly tying 9/11 to Saddam Hussein even though no tie existed, Bush said of global terrorists: ''There is no limit to the innocent lives they are willing to take. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who exploded car bombs along a busy shopping street in Baghdad, including one outside a mosque. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who sent a suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who behead civilian hostages and broadcast their atrocities for the world to see."

Bush also said the enemy will fail. ''The terrorists can kill the innocent, but they cannot stop the advance of freedom," he said. Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair said the ''slaughter of innocent people" will fail to cower the British people, and Canada's Prime Minister Paul Martin called the attack an ''unspeakable attack on the innocent."

It was all appropriate in the moment. In a greater context, there is a tragic hollowness. The world, of course, shares the sympathies of Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, who said the London bombings were a ''despicable, cowardly act." Yet every invoking of the innocents also reminds us of our despicable, cowardly killing of innocent Iraqi civilians.

Or perhaps you forgot about them. That was by design. We have rightfully mourned the loss of nearly 3,000 people on 9/11. We have begun mourning the loss of about 40 people in London. We have mourned the loss of 1,751 US soldiers, who, bless them, were following orders of their commander in chief. But to this day, there has been no major acknowledgement, let alone apology, by Bush or Blair for the massive amounts of carnage we created in a war waged over what turned out to be a lie, the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

These innocents never existed, either in Iraq or Afghanistan. ''We don't do body counts," said both General Tommy Franks, former Iraqi commander, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. When Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt was asked about the images of American soldiers killing innocent civilians on Arab television, Kimmitt said: ''My solution is quite simple: Change the channel. Change the channel to a legitimate, authoritative, honest news station. The stations that are showing Americans intentionally killing women and children are not legitimate news sources. That is propaganda. And that is lies."

The United States waged its own war of propaganda by refusing to conduct a legitimate, authoritative, honest accounting of the deaths of innocent civilians. As it urged people to change the channel, the Bush administration cut off all channels to finding out what we did to women, men, and children who were shopping, working, or leaving their mosques. In an invasion based on falsehoods, the truth of the civilian carnage might have been too hard for Americans to take, and support for the war might have ended in the first few weeks.

The propaganda of an invasion with invisible innocents surely allowed Bush to seamlessly switch his stated reason from the unique horrors of WMD to liberating an oppressed people. It is a lot easier to tell the world you are their great liberator if you do not have to own up to the thousands of dead people who will never get the chance to vote in that free election. It sounds a little bit like people who say African-Americans should be thankful for slavery because they are no longer in Africa.

Worse, this denial of death, in a war that did not have to happen, is sure to fuel the very terrorism we say we will defeat. The innocents in the so-called war on terror are always ''our" citizens or the citizens of our allies. The only innocent Iraqis are those killed by ''insurgents." Our soldiers clearly did not intend to kill innocents. But this posturing of America as the great innocent, when everyone knows we kill innocents ourselves, is likely only to make us look more like the devil in the eyes of a suicide bomber.

Derrick Z. Jackson
© 2005 Boston Globe

The Reality of this 'Barbaric Bombing'

If we are fighting insurgency in Iraq, what makes us think insurgency won't come to us?

"If you bomb our cities," Osama bin Laden said in one of his recent video tapes, "we will bomb yours." There you go, as they say. It was crystal clear Britain would be a target ever since Tony Blair decided to join George Bush's "war on terror" and his invasion of Iraq. We had, as they say, been warned. The G8 summit was obviously chosen, well in advance, as Attack Day.

And it's no use Mr Blair telling us yesterday that "they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear". "They" are not trying to destroy "what we hold dear". They are trying to get public opinion to force Blair to withdraw from Iraq, from his alliance with the United States, and from his adherence to Bush's policies in the Middle East. The Spanish paid the price for their support for Bush - and Spain's subsequent retreat from Iraq proved that the Madrid bombings achieved their objectives - while the Australians were made to suffer in Bali.

It is easy for Tony Blair to call yesterdays bombings "barbaric" - of course they were - but what were the civilian deaths of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the children torn apart by cluster bombs, the countless innocent Iraqis gunned down at American military checkpoints? When they die, it is "collateral damage"; when "we" die, it is "barbaric terrorism".

If we are fighting insurgency in Iraq, what makes us believe insurgency won't come to us? One thing is certain: if Tony Blair really believes that by "fighting terrorism" in Iraq we could more efficiently protect Britain - fight them there rather than let them come here, as Bush constantly says - this argument is no longer valid.

To time these bombs with the G8 summit, when the world was concentrating on Britain, was not a stroke of genius. You don't need a PhD to choose another Bush-Blair handshake to close down a capital city with explosives and massacre more than 30 of its citizens. The G8 summit was announced so far in advance as to give the bombers all the time they needed to prepare.

A co-ordinated system of attacks of the kind we saw yesterday would have taken months to plan - to choose safe houses, prepare explosives, identify targets, ensure security, choose the bombers, the hour, the minute, to plan the communications (mobile phones are giveaways). Co-ordination and sophisticated planning - and the usual utter ruthlessness with regard to the lives of the innocent - are characteristic of al-Qa'ida. And let us not use - as our television colleagues did yesterday - "hallmarks", a word identified with quality silver rather than base metal.

And now let us reflect on the fact that yesterday, the opening of the G8, so critical a day, so bloody a day, represented a total failure of our security services - the same intelligence "experts" who claim there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when there were none, but who utterly failed to uncover a months-long plot to kill Londoners.

Trains, planes, buses, cars, metros. Transportation appears to be the science of al-Qa'ida's dark arts. No one can search three million London commuters every day. No one can stop every tourist. Some thought the Eurostar might have been an al-Qa'ida target - be sure they have studied it - but why go for prestige when your common or garden bus and Tube train are there for the taking.

And then come the Muslims of Britain, who have long been awaiting this nightmare. Now every one of our Muslims becomes the "usual suspect", the man or woman with brown eyes, the man with the beard, the woman in the scarf, the boy with the worry beads, the girl who says she's been racially abused.

I remember, crossing the Atlantic on 11 September 2001 - my plane turned round off Ireland when the US closed its airspace - how the aircraft purser and I toured the cabins to see if we could identify any suspicious passengers. I found about a dozen, of course, totally innocent men who had brown eyes or long beards or who looked at me with "hostility". And sure enough, in just a few seconds, Osama bin Laden turned nice, liberal, friendly Robert into an anti-Arab racist.

And this is part of the point of yesterday's bombings: to divide British Muslims from British non-Muslims (let us not mention the name Christians), to encourage the very kind of racism that Tony Blair claims to resent.

But here's the problem. To go on pretending that Britain's enemies want to destroy "what we hold dear" encourages racism; what we are confronting here is a specific, direct, centralised attack on London as a result of a "war on terror" which Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara has locked us into. Just before the US presidential elections, Bin Laden asked: "Why do we not attack Sweden?"

Lucky Sweden. No Osama bin Laden there. And no Tony Blair.

Robert Fisk
© 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.

Human Life in East & West: A hell of a Difference

Close to 150,000 died in the illegal and unjust war imposed on Afghanistan and Iraq and no one is even willing to diligently count the dead. Deadly bombs went off in Iraq Wednesday and not a word was published. Hours later, in London, more bombs exploded and the western media was all over the story.

Ottawa Citizen alone published 43 stories with more than 20,000 words together. It seems as if they were ready and only waiting for the bombing to take place in London. Not to speak of the fact that most of these stories were to frame Muslims and Islam. The stories are focused on three main aspects: fixing the blame on Muslims, showing resolve to continue war and spreading more fear.

The titles of Ottawa Citizen analysis and editorial are good enough to show these trends: “United against terror,” “Resolve bred in the bone,” “t could happen here, too,” “This was 'inevitable',” Canada is the only target left on Osama's list,” “Young, fanatical British Muslims among prime suspects,” “Trying to stay one step ahead of jihadists,” “Forces of fear, reality collide,” “'We shall prevail. They shall not,” “Recruited to wage war” and so on.

Stories like “'They've hijacked our faith',” are used to emphasis comments by one Muslim leader who is blaming Muslims for the attack but marginalising comments by another Muslim leaders who calls for not jumping to the conclusions and blame everything on Muslims.

October 7, 2001 is a clear example of when bombs explode in a city on the other side of the world, it is just a matter of collateral damage if innocent people get killed. When a whole country is occupied it is for not occupation but liberation. But when a fraction of all that killing takes place in the West, it becomes an attack on freedom. Story of the bombs that ripped innocents to pieces in Iraq and caused grievous injury didn’t get reported in a single Canadian newspaper.

On the other hand when bombs exploded in a city in the West, the tragedy dominated the every other newspaper, newscast and news channel in the western world. Interestingly, leading papers, such as the New York Time’s runs an opinion piece to implicate Muslims on the basis of the assumption that one of the bombs were set off by a suicide bomber. That assumption was good enough to write an anti-Islam article, Whereas the top story in the news section contradicts the suicide theory completely.

Friedman comes out with his war mentality as usual and writes: “one assault may have involved a suicide bomber, bringing this terrible jihadist weapon into the heart of a major Western capital… The attacks are also deeply disturbing because when jihadist bombers take their madness into the heart of our open societies, our societies are never again quite as open.”[1]

The News story in the international section however contradict Friedman thesis which he used simply to vent out his anger on “jihadists.” Title of the news report by Don Van Natta and Elaine Sciolino reads: “Timers Used in Blasts, Police Say; Parallels to Madrid Are Found.” The first para of the story gives the conclusion: “Investigators searching for clues in the attacks here said Thursday that the three bombs used in the subway apparently were detonated by timers, not suicide bombers, and that a fourth device may have been intended for a target other than the city bus that it destroyed.Skip to next paragraph”[2]

Response of the Western media, particularly the so-called mainstream media, to the deaths in the Muslim majority world and the Deaths in other places provides lessons in the exigencies of co-opted journalism and the nature of wars imposed on the Muslim world. Ignoring the root cause and real culprits and a focus on the symptoms also helps explain why the bombs keep exploding.

It is not the number of dead in the London and Mashruh bombing that made the difference in response of the Western media. Of course, in Mashruh, there were two bombs, both rigged to cars and detonated almost simultaneously. At least 13 people were killed and 30 injured. In London there were twice as many bombs, three in the subway and one on a bus. At press time, at least 37 were killed and about 700 injured.

A notable difference, but hardly great enough to explain why one story gets no coverage and the other is broadloomed wall-to-wall, ignoring that Mashruh was just another day in the more than 2 years long bloody occupation; not to speak of the 1.8 million starved to death due to genocidal sanctions.

We might note that last February, when the deadliest bombing since the occupation of Iraq killed 125 in the city of Hillah, it warranted no more than a single story on page A6 of the same Ottawa Citizen that carried 43 stories today. The story was similarly played in most other newspapers.
Of course, body count is not directly proportionate to column inches, but column inches are directly proportional to the perceptions of the Western mind and the misconceptions that the war lords try to consolidate with the kind of coverage they give to an event.

Well, what about motive? A fake unknown group claiming responsibility for the London attacks does not justify blaming Islam and Muslims and statements from Bush, Blair and Martin that this is a war on “our way of life” and “our freedom.” No one talks about the freedom and human rights of those who are under the US and its allies direct occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechny, Kashmir, Palestine; and under indirect occupation in Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and other places.

In Mashruh, there is no terrorism and not the same “jihadists.” In Mushruh there is legitimate resistance to the occupation by the aggressors who launched a war on defenseless country on the basis of nothing by white lies.

Blindness of the Western analysts is at its peak, or they might bee faking total blindness as if they don’t know anything. London's plight warrants special attention for the most basic journalistic reason, suggests Chris Dornan, director of Carleton University's school of journalism. It's a man-bites-dog story.

Newsworthiness is measured, in part, by novelty, says Mr. Dornan. "A lot of news is the violation of expectation," he says. "We expect London, with the worst of Irish sectarian violence behind it, to be bomb-free. We have no such expectation for Iraq." But this is not on the minds of those who are rushing 43 stories in a single day in a single issue of a daily newspaper. “We shall prevail,” as their headlines shows, is uppermost in the minds of the war lords on the media front. This is a perfect opportunity for the war lords to promote their ideas and continuing crusade.

“Another act of terrorism in Iraq? Regrettable, but not news.” This is how the mindset has has been prepared. Even if 130,000 people die, it is of no significance, because they were either all terrorists of part of the collateral damage.

In London, says Mr. Dornan, the news quotient was pushed up by the fact that the bombings occurred at the same time the leaders of the industrial nations were meeting in Britain. Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was hardly in danger at the G8 summit site in Scotland, but he and the rest of the best-known western leaders were in the vicinity of trauma.

This is a lame duck excuse for the fascist mindset that considers starving 1.8 million Iraqi as the “price worth it.” With or without the G* heads of state in the vicinity, the response was bound to be disproportionate.
Those who are responsible for preparing such a mindset also keep in mind that there is no coverage when they unleash terror in the Muslim world. They would ban Al-Jazeera and other alternative news sources. They would kill journalists and bomb their office. But the same people when stage attacks in the West to mobilize support for their wars abroad they choose places like London and occasions like the G8 summit.

Mr. Dornan confirms it. The amount of coverage a story gets has a lot to do with who is available to cover it. Independent media is banned in Iraq. But "London is the media capital of the United Kingdom; you've got networks galore and correspondents based there so the coverage is much more accessible, instantaneously, than it would be for the western media if it had happened in some place like Jalalabad or Kandahar." This also shows, who really are behind these bombings and what they really want to achieve.

It is wrong to assume that the London bombings get more coverage because western news editors know, instinctively, they resonate more with their readers. Of course it's not a matter of news but of psychology, as Cecilia Taiana, a psychologist from Carleton University's school of social work, argues. But she is simply a psychologist, not an analyst to understand that these news editors are allied, embedded and co-opted with the neo-cons and covert war lords who justified and paved the way for invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. They have to prove to their public that they were right in the fear mongering and promotion of war.

These editors have to take advantage of the multiple visual and emotional associations to the spaces under attack. Some like Friedman would not hesitate to bring in “suicide bombers” to justify his position as promoter of war and violence at a time when no one has even hinted at the possibility of suicide bombing.

The “mainstream” news media is so visibly taking their cues from the war lords in Washington. As the war goes on and misery multiplies they, get caught up in their tangled web of lies and deception and they need such occasions to justify their promotion and justification of the crimes against humanity. With every addition death and destruction in the occupied lands increase their personal stakes and they need to convince the public that the enemy is Islam and its way of life, as opposed to the Western way of life. Too sad, but true.

Abid Ullah Jan < abidjan@sympatico.ca > is author of "The End of Democracy" and "A war on Islam."

[1] Thomas L. Friedman, “If It's a Muslim Problem, It Needs a Muslim Solution,” The New York Times, July 08, 2005.
[2] Don Van Natta and Elaine Sciolino, “Timers Used in Blasts, Police Say; Parallels to Madrid Are Found,” The New York Times, July 08, 2005

Copyright: Abid Ullah Jan

More Hawkish Than Bush

Democrats in Full Battle Cry

"As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." George W. Bush, Fort Bragg, NC, June 28, 2005.

"We can begin drawing down American forces to coincide with the number of trained Iraqi forces." Former Senator George McGovern and Congressman James McGovern (no relation), Boston Globe Op-ed, June 6, 2005.

" We cannot afford to lose"(1). "There's not enough force on the ground now to mount a real counterinsurgency"(2). Senator Joseph Biden, Senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, commenting on Bush's speech at Fort Bragg.

"We don't have enough troops" there (2). Failed Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry on Bush's speech.

Last week George W. Bush delivered himself of a speech gorged with stale and rotten lies, calling for the U.S. to fight on against an increasingly effective Iraqi Resistance to a criminal war and occupation. The speech, designed to rally Americans behind a path of ever more death and destruction, was delivered at the urging of Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. And after the speech, Democratic Senator Chris Dodd was bursting with praise for Bush, saying: "The president needs to do more of what he did last evening. This is a beginning"(2). If there were any doubt where leading Democrats stand on the war in Iraq, it was totally dispelled by their reaction to Bush's speech. The war may or may not have been a mistake in the first place; that the Dems can debate ­ at least now that their support for the war lies safely in the past where no amount of debate can reverse it. But for the present and future, the Democratic elites are resolved as one to continue the killing and even to escalate it. The Democratic Party has emerged beyond any doubt as "the other war party."

The Democrats' response to Bush's lies was so strikingly at odds with the role of an opposition party that it drew attention even in some quarters of the mass media. Joan Vennochi, for one, ordinarily a mild-mannered columnist for the Boston Globe, took note in a column, "Democrats Buy into Bush's War"(1). Vennochi was right on target when she concluded that: "If you listen carefully, you realize Democrats like Kerry and Biden are saying that this war is being fought the wrong way, not that this is the wrong war. They have bought into the Karl Rove argument that might makes right." Vennochi focuses a lot of attention on John Kerry who continues to press for more troops as he has since before the election. But Kerry goes even further now, responding to a TV interviewer as Vennochi reports: '''Is Bush getting an unfair shake?' (asked the interviewer). Kerry answered: 'To some degree, I think that's true. And I've said that publicly. We've made progress (in Iraq).' Kerry also rejected Senator Edward M. Kennedy's labeling of Iraq as 'an intractable quaqmire.' Said Kerry: 'No, I don't believe it is that today. But it could become that if we don't make the right choices.'" So there Kerry is, calling for more troops and dissociating himself from Ted Kennedy who has been the only Democratic Senator calling for disengagement now and properly labeling the whole sordid adventure as a "quaqmire" (1).

Nor has Hillary Clinton been a silent member of this pro-war chorus, saying: ''We have many disagreements about how to engage in [Iraq] and how to win it, but I never want to live through that (the struggle to end the war in Vietnam) again"(4). Here Hillary defines the limits of the debate, i.e. "how to engage," not whether to engage, and "how to win," not how to withdraw. But Clinton stoops even further and repudiates the entire Vietnam era of struggle, which produced not only a strong anti-war consciousness, the so-called "Vietnam syndrome," but also great advances for civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, voting rights and strides against racism. So too, out of the struggle forced upon us now to end the war in Iraq, great good may come. But Hillary Clinton would prefer that the blood continue to flow in Iraq rather than a political struggle over the war take place in the U.S.

One could go on and cite the ravings of Howard Dean and Joseph Lieberman which are the same or worse than those of Kerry, Dodd, Clinton and Biden. But the bottom line can be discerned from the quotes at the beginning of this piece. "Iraqization" is the policy of George Bush and some prominent and powerless "left-wing" Democrats like George McGovern. But the Democratic Party bosses are calling for sending even more troops. It is no exaggeration to say that these Democrats are more hawkish than Bush. Why is this, one might ask. After all, the war is highly unpopular, with 60% of Americans favoring withdrawal of some or all troops, and 56% saying they would be "upset" if more troops were sent. Why then do the Democrats not take up this issue? The reason is that they do not respond to their progressive and activist base, for which they have a barely concealed contempt. They answer to the same masters as Bush: the oil barons, AIPAC and the tycoons of the military-industrial complex.

I have asked several times in this space why the anti-war movement is not making more headway given the popular hostility to the Iraq disaster. One reason, but not the only one, is that too many progressives and "liberals" blindly follow the Democrats who wish us to see the issue of the war as a partisan one. It is "lesser evil politics" in part which guarantees that the war will grind on. So what is to be done? These Democrats respect only power and cringe only at the prospect of losing elections. There is no reason for any of us to give them one dime or one minute of time in 2006. And we have a moral obligation to deny them both. If some Democrats take an unequivocal and strong position to get out of Iraq at once and completely, then they can claim our support. But not otherwise.

John V. Walsh can be reached at bioscimd@yahoo.com.



Blowback Hits Britain

Londoners Pay Heavy Price for Blair's Deception

Do you feel safer now that George Bush's and Tony Blair's barbaric attacks on Iraq have brought barbaric attacks to London?

Coordinated attacks on London's transport system have apparently killed 38 and injured 700. It is a terrible thing but hardly surprising. Did Londoners really think that the British people would not be held accountable for electing and reelecting Tony Blair--a war criminal under the Nuremberg standard--who aided and abetted George Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq on false pretenses?

Did Londoners really believe that Muslims would have no response to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the slaughter, torture, and detention of Muslims?

Blair and Bush are on their high horses claiming the morality of "civilized nations" and denouncing the retaliation they have provoked as "barbarism."

Their hypocrisy plays poorly in the world. Far more innocent Iraqi civilians, especially women and children, have been slaughtered than British and Americans. Why do Bush and Blair believe they should be praised for slaughtering civilians and only Muslims denounced?

Why do Americans think it is heroic and honorable for our troops to massacre Iraqis with bombs, missiles, gunships, tanks, and heavy machine guns, but cowardly and barbaric when our victims fight back in the only way they can?
The US and Britain started this fight, not Iraq. We should be ashamed that Bush and Blair deceived us, tricked us into a pointless and unjust war, and that innocent people on both sides are paying with their lives and limbs for Bush's and Blair's lies. Our real anger should be directed at Bush and Blair who are responsible for the deaths and destruction.

The American and British people had better wake up, depose their immoral leaders, and put a halt to this war.

There are 1.3 billion Muslims. The Iraqi insurgency has proved that Muslims are not intimidated by a "superpower." Unless the American and British people want a 30-year or a 100-year war with domestic police states for "security" reasons and a draft that will bleed their populations dry, this war needs to be wound up quickly with due apologies and reparations.

No more bluster and heroic talk from the two war criminals. The war is breeding terrorism and cannot be won. Only an even-handed diplomacy that breeds trust and ceases to rule Muslims with puppet governments can isolate and reduce terrorist acts. Muslims are not a few scattered Indian tribes with no place to hide who can be exterminated. America has no chance of imposing its will on the Muslim world. Muslims have their own will.

As long as Bush continues to operate with Mao's belief that power comes out of the barrel of a gun, terrorism will prosper and people will die for no reason except their refusal to hold corrupt leaders accountable.

Paul Craig Roberts has held a number of academic appointments and has contributed to numerous scholarly publications. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. His graduate economics education was at the University of Virginia, the University of California at Berkeley, and Oxford University. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at: paulcraigroberts@yahoo.com

Terrorism Comes with Empire

Question: Why didn’t the terrorists strike Switzerland instead of England? After all, the two countries share the same “freedom and values,” don’t they?

Answer: The Swiss government didn’t attack Iraq. It doesn’t meddle in the Middle East. It didn’t participate in the brutal sanctions against the Iraqi people. It doesn’t maintain an empire of overseas bases. It doesn’t go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. The Swiss government minds its own business.

That’s why the terrorists did not strike Switzerland.

Of course, the same cannot be said of England, whose foreign policy in the Middle East can be summed up as follows: Whatever the U.S. government does, the British government supports and joins. Thus, the British government participated in President Bush’s recent war on Iraq — a war against a sovereign and independent country that never attacked the United States or England or even threatened to do so. It is a war that has produced the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people — not just American and British soldiers, but also Iraqi soldiers and civilians — none of whom had anything to do with the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the United States.

That’s why the terrorists struck in London instead of Bern.

That’s also why the terrorists struck in New York, both in 1993 and 2001, and at the Pentagon.

The terrorist retaliations are rooted in anger and hatred not for American and English “freedom and values,” as President Bush and Prime Minister Blair maintain, but instead in anger and hatred for U.S. and British foreign policy.

Why would it be otherwise? Why should foreigners — especially radical, violent ones — react any differently to the killings and maiming of their family, friends, and countrymen than Westerners do when their family, friends, and countrymen are killed or maimed by foreigners?

Consider the torture, rape, sex abuse, and murder scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Why wouldn’t Middle Easterners react in much the same way that Americans would react if American men were treated in a similar manner in some foreign prison?

What will be the response of government officials to the terrorist strikes in London? You guessed it: more severe government crackdowns on civil liberties to protect us from the terrorists, which not surprisingly was the same position that they were taking before the terrorist strikes in London.

Americans must make a choice — a choice between freedom and peace, on the one hand, and the continuation of the U.S. military empire, on the other hand. They cannot have freedom and peace and the empire. They must choose which is more important to them.

If people choose to continue the empire — and the diplomatic and military glory that comes with being the world’s sole remaining empire — then they must resign themselves to the fact that their lives and freedom will be under perpetual assault by both terrorists and government officials.

For those who want lives of freedom, normality, peace, prosperity, and harmony, there is but one solution: Dismantle the empire; bring the troops home and discharge them into the private sector; stop meddling in the affairs of other nations; stop trying to dominate and control the world; stop going abroad in search of monsters to destroy; stop trying to be the world’s policeman.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

The Supreme Court Repeals the Constitution

The political philosopher Murray Rothbard used to say that every principle devised to limit the power of government sooner or later becomes a way to expand it. In the recent Supreme Court decision stretching the power of eminent domain to include redistribution of private property to assist private economic activity, we have another example: the “takings clause” of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The clause holds, “[Nor] shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Since, as the Supreme Court wrote in 1926, “It cannot be presumed that any clause in the Constitution is intended to be without effect,” we have to read each word closely. In his dissent in the recent case, Kelo v. City of New London, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas does just that. Parsing the clause with great care, he shows there is no reasonable reading but this: if the government wants to take a person’s property, it may do so only for public use (such as a road) and only if the owner is fairly paid. Thus the Takings Clause was intended to be, Thomas writes, “an express limit on the government’s power of eminent domain.”

Before proceeding I must say that eminent domain assaults the individual freedom that Americans will go through the motions of celebrating on July 4. The very term should make us suspicious in that it tells us that government asserts, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law, “the superior dominion of its sovereignty over all lands within its jurisdiction.” In other words, we live on the land at the pleasure of the sovereign. As a matter of law, this principle is a vestige of absolute monarchy and is contrary to the libertarian spirit of the American founding. As a matter of logic, no “just compensation” is possible in a forced sale of property, because the only just price is the one freely negotiated by seller and buyer. What makes a transaction morally legitimate is not compensation but consent. Eminent-domain cases are distinguished precisely by their lack of seller’s consent.

It’s an unfortunate historical fact that the American Framers did not condemn the power of eminent domain. But it is also a fact that they sought to limit it through the public-use and just-compensation provisions in the Bill of Rights. This is why the Kelo decision is such a blow. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor writes in her dissent, the Court has “effectively [deleted] the words ‘for public use’ from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.”

We are all less secure in our homes than we were on June 22. But some are more secure than others: the homes of low-income people are far more likely to be taken than those of the affluent. The winners are big, well-connected businesses — and revenue-hungry local politicians, such as those in New London, Connecticut. They condemned a number of homes and stores in a decent working-class neighborhood to make way for a Pfizer research facility, upscale restaurants, and other businesses. Several homeowners objected, including an elderly woman who has lived in her home all her life, and they sued all the way to the Supreme Court. The city argued that since the new businesses will produce increased tax revenue and jobs, the takings will benefit the public, even if the city doesn’t directly use the land.

In ruling for the city, the 5-4 majority held that “public use” needn’t mean public use. It may mean any intended public benefit. Quoting a 1984 case, Justice John Paul Stevens declared, the “Court long ago rejected any literal requirement that condemned property be put into use for the general public.”

If the Court can liberate itself from any “literal requirement” when reading the Takings Clause, it follows that it can liberate itself from that requirement when reading any other part of the Constitution. But that means we can never know how the Court will claim to understand the Framers’ limits on government power. Which means: there are no limits on government power.

We’ve been in postconstitutional America for some time now. Kelo adds an ominous P.S.: There’s no turning back.

Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation, author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine.

Zarqawi: Everywhere and Nowhere

He may be the Bush administration's terrorist of terrorists (now that bin Laden has been dropped into the void), the Iraqi insurgency's unwelcome guest, the fantasy figure in some jihadi dreamscape, or all of the above. Whatever the case, Zarqawi the man has disappeared into an epic tale that may or may not be of his own partial creation. Even dead, he is unlikely to die; even alive, he is unlikely to be able to live up to anybody's Zarqawi myth.

A remarkable proportion of the violence taking place in Iraq is regularly credited to the Jordanian Ahmad al-Khalayleh, better known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and his al-Qaeda-linked organization in Iraq. Sometimes it seems no car bomb goes off, no ambush occurs that isn't claimed in his name or attributed to him by the Bush administration. Bush and his top officials have, in fact, made good use of him, lifting his reputed feats of terrorism to epic, even mythic, proportions (much aided by various mainstream media outlets). Given that the invasion and occupation of Iraq have now been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be based on administration lies and manipulations, I begun to wonder if the vaunted Zarqawi even existed.

In Amman, random interviews with Jordanians only generated more questions and no answers about Zarqawi. As it happens, though, the Jordanian capital is just a short cab ride from Zarqa, the city Zarqawi is said to be from. So I decided to slake my curiosity about him by traveling there and nosing around his old neighborhood.

"Zarqawi, I don't even know if he exists," said a scruffy taxi driver in Amman, and his was a typical comment. "He's like [Osama] bin Laden, we don't even know if he exists; but if he does, I support that he fights the US occupation of Iraq."

Chatting with a man sipping tea in a small stall in downtown Amman, I asked what he thought of Zarqawi. He was convinced that Zarqawi was perfectly real, but the idea that he was responsible for such a wide range of attacks in Iraq had to be "nonsense".

"The Americans are using him for their propaganda," he insisted. "Think about it - with all of their power and intelligence capabilities - they cannot find one man?"

Like so many others in neighboring Jordan, he, too, offered verbal support for the armed resistance in Iraq, adding, "Besides, it is any person's right to defend himself if his country is invaded. The American occupation of Iraq has destabilized the entire region."

The Bush administration has regularly claimed that Zarqawi was in - and then had just barely escaped from - whatever city or area they were next intent on attacking or cordoning off or launching a campaign against. Last year, he and his organization were reputed to be headquartered in Fallujah, prior to the American assault that flattened the city. At one point, American officials even alleged that he was commanding the defense of Fallujah from elsewhere by telephone. Yet he also allegedly slipped out of Fallujah, either just before or just after the beginning of the assault, depending on which media outlet or military press release you read.

He has since turned up, according to American intelligence reports and the US press, in Ramadi, Baghdad, Samarra and Mosul among other places, along with side trips to Jordan, Iran, Pakistan and/or Syria. His closest "lieutenants" have been captured by the busload, according to American military reports, and yet he always seems to have a bottomless supply of them. In May, a news report on the BBC even called Zarqawi "the leader of the insurgency in Iraq", though more sober analysts of the chaotic Iraqi situation say his group, Jama'at al-Tawhid wal Jihad, while probably modest in size and reach, is linked to a global network of jihadis. However, finding any figures as to the exact size of the group remains an elusive task.

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell offered photos before the United Nations in February, 2003 of Zarqawi's "headquarters" in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, also claiming that Zarqawi had links to al-Qaeda. The collection of small huts was bombed to the ground by US forces in March of that year, prompting one news source to claim that Zarqawi had been killed. Yet seemingly contradicting Powell's claims for Zarqawi's importance was a statement made in October, 2004 by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who conceded that Zarqawi's ties to al-Qaeda may have been far more ambiguous, that he may have been more of a rival than a lieutenant to bin Laden. "Someone could legitimately say he's not al-Qaeda," added Rumsfeld.

The eternal netherworld of Zarqawi
For anyone trying to assess the Zarqawi phenomenon from neighboring Jordan, complicating matters are the contradictory statements Jordanians regularly offer up about almost any aspect of Zarqawi's life, history, present activities, or even his very existence.

"I've met him here in Jordan," claimed Abdulla Hamiz, a 29 year-old merchant in Amman, "Two years ago." However, Hajam Yousef, shining shoes under a date palm in central Amman, insists, "He doesn't exist except in the minds of American policy-makers."

In fact, what little is actually known about Zarqawi sounds like the biography of a troubled but normal man from the industrial section of Zarqa. Thirty-eight years old now, according to the BBC, Zarqawi reportedly grew up a rebellious child who ran with the wrong crowd. He liked to play soccer in the streets as a young boy and dropped out of school when he was 17. According to some reports, his friends claimed that in his teens he started drinking heavily, getting tattoos, and picking fights he could not win. According to Jordanian intelligence reports provided to the Associated Press in Amman, Zarqawi was jailed in the 1980s for sexual assault, though no additional details are available. By the time he was 20 he evidently began looking for direction, and ended up making his way to Afghanistan in the last years of the jihadi war against the Soviets in that country. While some media outlets, such as the New York Times, claim that he did not actually fight in Afghanistan, there are people in Jordan who believe he did.

He is reported to have returned to Jordan in 1992, where he was arrested after Jordanian authorities found weapons in his home. On his release in 1999, he left once again for Pakistan. When his Pakistani visa expired, expecting to be arrested as a suspect in a terror plot if he returned to Jordan, he entered Afghanistan instead.

After supposedly running a weapons camp there, he was next sighted by Jordanian authorities crossing back into Jordan from Syria in September of 2002. Some time between then and May 11, 2004, when he was reported to have beheaded the kidnapped American, Nick Berg, in Baghdad, Zarqawi entered Iraq. Many news outlets have reported that his goal in Iraq is to generate a sectarian civil war between the Sunni and Shi'ites.

In September, 2004, the BBC, among others, reported, "US officials suspect that Zarqawi ... is holed up with followers in the rebellious Iraqi city of Fallujah," though their sources, as is true of more or less all sources in every report on Zarqawi, were nebulous. During the second siege of Fallujah, last November, Newsweek reported that "some US officials say that Zarqawi may actually be directing or instigating events in the town by telephone from elsewhere in Iraq".

Though they, too, cited no specific sources and provided no evidence for this, Newsweek then summed Zarqawi's importance up in this way: "His crucial role in the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, however, cannot be underestimated." Meanwhile, the BBC was reporting that his "network is considered the main source of kidnappings, bomb attacks and assassination attempts in Iraq" - another statement made without much, if any, solid evidence.

In the end, the vast mass of reportage on Zarqawi amounts to countless statements based on anonymous sources hardly less shadowy - to ordinary readers - than him. He exists, then, in a kind of eternal netherworld of reportage, rumor and attribution. It could almost be said that never has a figure been more regularly written about based on less hard information. While we have a rough outline of who he is, where he is from, and where he went until he entered Iraq, evidence that might stand up in a court of law is consistently absent. The question that remains to be answered in this glaring void of hard information is: who benefits from the ongoing tales of the mysterious Zarqawi?

The search for Zarqawi's past
My own little journey only seemed to repeat this larger phenomenon on a more modest scale. It was the sort of story where, from beginning to end, no one I met ever seemed willing to offer his or her real name (or certainly let a real name be used in an article). From second one, Zarqawi and an urge for anonymity were tightly - and perhaps appropriately - bound together. Abdulla (not his real name, of course), the man who agreed to drive my translator Aisha and me to al-Zarqa for this excursion, was a Jordanian, by the look of things about 30 years old, who chain-smoked nervously throughout the trip. We decided to go with him after running into him while I was conducting my own informal Zarqawi reality poll in Amman.

"I know him personally because we fought together in Afghanistan in the early '90's," insisted Abdulla. "If you like, I can show you where he is from."

When he picked us up on the late afternoon of the next day in his beat-up, rusting taxi, he agreed to a modest fee that was to be paid at the end of our excursion. As we puttered up a hillside on our venture to Zarqawi's hometown of al-Zarqa, he promptly pulled out a small stack of photos. I flipped through them as we drove towards Zarqawi's neighborhood and noted Abdulla standing in front of the huge Faisal mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan, a giant beard (no longer present) dominating his flowing dishdasha (robe).
Another picture had him in Peshawar, Pakistan, a city near the Afghan border known as a recruiting and staging area for the Taliban. Others seemed to have him in the Philippines standing amid dense forest with a gun slung over his shoulder. In none of them - why should I have been surprised - did he have a companion with the now so globally recognizable Zarqawi sneer.

A little while into our journey, out of nowhere Abdulla suddenly said, "Anyone collaborating with the Americans in Iraq should be killed!"

I took this as a sign that he felt like talking, and asked him what he knew of Zarqawi. According to him, he met the mythic terrorist in Peshawar before being sent with him to a training camp on the border of Afghanistan in 1990. "There are several well-known training camps in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan," he explained, "And we were in one of those, along with freedom fighters from Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon."

Only fighters for "jihad" were allowed into the camps, he continued proudly. Only fighters who were identified by other well-known mujahideen were granted permission to enter, in an effort to safeguard those camps against spies. After three months of training with machine guns and rocket launchers, Abdulla claims that he and Zarqawi headed for Afghanistan to fight the Russians who remained there.

When I looked at him quizzically - since the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan in February of 1989 - he replied, "Many of them stayed after their government announced they had withdrawn - so we were pushing the rest of them out."

This was already a questionable tale, but he went right on. They were given the choice, he claimed, of where to go in Afghanistan, and Abdulla proudly stated that most of the mujahideen went to the "hot" areas where they expected to find fighting. Our discussion was then interrupted because we had completed the hop to Zarqa and arrived in the neighborhood, so rumor has it, where Zarqawi's brother-in-law lives. We were dropped off near a small mosque where Zarqawi supposedly used to pray.

Abdulla says it isn't safe for him to linger here - though he doesn't bother to explain why - and we agree instead that he will call us on my cell phone in an hour to see if we need more time or not.

So Aisha and I begin to walk around the quiet, middle-class neighborhood asking people if they know where the brother-in-law lived. Small children play in the streets. Behind them young men and parents sit eyeing us suspiciously. The wind whips plastic bags along the roads between the usual stone houses of Jordan. Finally, we find an old man with a white, flowing beard and tired eyes sitting in a worn chair at the front of a small grocery stall. He admits to being the imam of the mosque, but when asked if he remembers Zarqawi he dodges the question artfully.

"It is probably true that he used to pray in my mosque," he responds tiredly, "but I can't say for sure, as my back is to the people whom I lead in prayers."

After this he looks away, down the road. I assume he's wishing we were gone - undoubtedly like so many Zarqawi seekers before us. So we thank him and walk on.

Next we find a woman - no names given - who assures us that Zarqawi is from the Beni Hassan tribe, the largest tribe in Jordan, before pointing to a two-storey white house with a black satellite dish on top.

"That is Ahmed Zarqawi's home," she says softly, referring to one of his brothers before warning, "But don't go there because they will throw rocks on your head. They are sick of the media."

After being sidetracked by being shown his brother's home, we keep doggedly asking for his brother-in-law, but everyone insists that they simply don't know where he lives, which seems odd. Just up the hill from his brother's home, we stumble on a middle-aged man who is willing to be interviewed. He's a rare find in this village that has certainly been inundated with media, not to speak of far more threatening visits from the intelligence and police personnel of various countries.

Like our taxi driver, this man agrees to be interviewed on condition of anonymity. These are, it seems, a reasonably media-savvy group of villagers. He tells us that Zarqawi's brother doesn't know much about the mythic legend of the Jordanian jihadi outlaw, due to the fact that he keeps his distance from all the hoopla. He then laughs and adds, "But all the media went to his brother's house anyway to film it, because they thought it was Zarqawi's home!"

He then points across a shallow valley where lines of homes sit bathed in the setting sun. "He [Zarqawi] is from that village, lives near a cemetery, and his father is mayor of that district, which is called al-Ma'assoum quarter."

He claims to have known Abu Musab since he was seven years old, as they went to Prince Talal primary school together. "He was a trouble-maker ever since he was a kid," he explains, "What the media is saying about him is not true, though. Abu Musab is a normal guy. What the Americans are saying is not true. Most of us who know him here and in his neighborhood don't believe any of this media."

He tells us that Zarqawi left the neighborhood in the early 1990s to go to Afghanistan, but that he doesn't believe he is in Iraq. Along with others in the neighborhood, he is convinced that Zarqawi was killed in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan during the US bombings that resulted from the attacks of September 11.

"His wife and their three children still live over there," he adds. "But don't go talk to them. They won't allow it." He believes Zarqawi was killed, "100%," and then says emphatically, "If he is still alive, why not show a recent photo of him? All of these they show in the media are quite old."

Like so many Jordanians, he supports the Iraqi resistance, "All Muslims should fight this occupation because every day the Americans are slaughtering innocent Iraqis." Zarqawi, he tells us, wasn't a fighter until he went to Afghanistan. "Then his wife covered herself in black and has worn it ever since." According to this man, Zarqawi has two brothers named Ahmed and Sail. He says with a smile, "Most of the media coming here are Westerners because I think most of the Arab media know this is all a myth."

He holds up his hands when one of his sons brings us coffee and asks, "When they show hostages in Iraq, why doesn't he put himself in the film? There is simply no proof he is alive offered by the Americans or the media."

We engage in some small talk while drinking our strong Arabic coffee as we sit under grape vines lacing the terrace over our heads. As the sun begins to set, we thank him for the talk and the coffee, and head off as our taxi driver phones.

I am walking quickly through the streets to meet him when Aisha, whom I've worked with often in Baghdad, reassures me: "You can slow down, Dahr, we are not in danger here. This isn't like Baghdad where we'll be killed after dark."

Shortly thereafter we meet our driver. "They didn't tell you where his brother-in-law is because his home has been raided so many times," he states as a matter of fact. "By both Jordanian and US intelligence."

Our driver insists that Zarqawi is alive and well in Iraq. "I'm certain of it, because if he was dead they would show his picture and make the announcement. He has always been so strong. When we were in Afghanistan, any time we got a new machine to learn or French missiles, he was the first to learn them."

He drives us by another mosque Zarqawi is also supposed to have attended. We are in the al-Ma'assoum quarter now and our driver tells us that a sister of Abu Musab is the head of the Islamic Center of the district. He then adds, somewhat randomly, that he himself has been in different prisons for a total of seven years - one of those statements you can't decide whether you wished you had never heard or are simply relieved you didn't hear hours earlier just as you were beginning.

"In Afghanistan when we beheaded people it was to show the enemy what their fate was to be. It was to frighten them."

I think to myself grimly: well, it works.

He adds, "The jihad in Iraq is not just Zarqawi. It is up to Allah if we prevail, not dependent on the hand of Zarqawi. If he is killed, the jihad will continue there."

I ask him about civilian casualties. Does he think Zarqawi cares about the killing of innocent people?

"I have had so many discussions with Iraqis to tell them that Zarqawi doesn't instruct his followers in the killing of innocent people. If he did this, I would be the first to turn against him. He only targets the Americans and collaborators."

He's still chain smoking as we drive through the darkness back to Amman. I pay him as we thank him for taking us to Zarqa, and then his beat up taxi rolls off down the busy street.

The eerie blankness of Zarqawi
After discussions with our driver and other Jordanians, the only thing I feel I can say for sure is that Zarqawi is a real person. Whether or not he is alive and fighting in Iraq or not, or what acts he is actually responsible for there, is open to debate. On one point, I'm quite certain, however: reported American claims that Zarqawi has affiliations with the secular government of Syria make no sense. Just as Saddam Hussein opposed the religious fundamentalism of Bin Laden, the Syrian government would not be likely to team up with a fundamentalist like Zarqawi.

As Bush administration officials have falsely claimed Saddam had links to bin Laden and to Zarqawi, they have also conveniently linked Zarqawi to a Syrian government they would certainly like to take out. Similarly, Bush officials continue to link Zarqawi to the Iraqi resistance - undoubtedly another bogus claim in that the resistance in Iraq is primarily composed of Iraqi nationalists and Ba'athist elements who are fighting to expel the occupiers from their country, not to create a global Islamic jihad.

Thus, even if Zarqawi is involved in carrying out attacks inside Iraq and is killed at some future moment, the effect this would have on the Iraqi resistance would surely be negligible. It would be but another American "turning point" where nothing much turned.

Right now, when you try to track down Zarqawi, a man with a $25 million American bounty on his head, or simply try to track him back to the beginnings of his life's journey, whether you look for him in the tunnels of Tora Bora, the ruined city of Fallujah, the Syrian borderlands, or Ramadi, you're likely to run up against a kind of eerie blankness. Whatever the real Zarqawi may or may not be capable of doing today in Iraq or elsewhere, he is dwarfed by the Zarqawi of legend.

He may be the Bush administration's terrorist of terrorists (now that bin Laden has been dropped into the void), the Iraqi insurgency's unwelcome guest, the fantasy figure in some jihadi dreamscape, or all of the above. Whatever the case, Zarqawi the man has disappeared into an epic tale that may or may not be of his own partial creation. Even dead, he is unlikely to die; even alive, he is unlikely to be able to live up to anybody's Zarqawi myth.

Whoever he actually may be, the "he" of jihadi websites and American pronouncements is now linked inextricably with the devolving occupation of Iraq and a Bush administration that, even as it has built him up as a satanic bogeyman, is itself beginning to lose its own mythic qualities, to grow smaller.

I'm sure we'll continue to hear of "him" in Iraq, in Jordan, or elsewhere as his myth, perhaps now beyond anyone's control, continues to transform itself as an inextricable part of the brutal, bloody occupation of Iraq where the Bush administration finds itself fighting not primarily Zarqawi (or his imitators) but the Iraqis they allegedly came to liberate.

Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist from Anchorage, Alaska. He has spent eight months reporting from occupied Iraq, and recently has reported from Jordan and Turkey. He regularly reports for Inter Press Service, as well as contributing to The Nation, The Sunday Herald and Asia Times Online among others. He maintains a website at: www.dahrjamailiraq.com

(Copyright 2005 Dahr Jamail )