June 2005 Archives

June 30, 2005

U.S. Military Wants U.S. Congress To Extol Military Service

Reuters reported June 30, 2005 that, "Several [U.S.] Senate Republicans denounced other lawmakers and the news media on Thursday [June 30, 2005] for unfavorable depictions of the Iraq war and the Pentagon urged members of Congress to talk up military service to help ease a recruiting shortfall."

According to news reports, many parents are keeping their children from joining the military and critics of the war are blamed for it. Could it be that some parents just don't won't their children dying in a war launched under false pretenses and with no end in sight? Just asking.

See "Army recruits shortfall blamed on Iraq war critics" for more.

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Brzezinski Comments On President Bush's June 28 Fiction

Zbigniew Brzezinski, the U.S. national security adviser during the Carter Administration, compared President George W. Bush's July 28, 2005 address to the nation to "a novelist who wishes to inject verisimilitude into his fiction." Writing in the June 30, 2005 issue of The Financial Times of London, he said:

George W. Bush, US president, began his speech on Iraq with a reference to a historical fact all too tragically well known to his audience. The evocation of the monstrous crime of September 11 2001 served as his introduction to the spin that followed: that Iraq was complicit in 9/11 and thus, in effect, attacked the US; that the US had no choice but to defend itself against Iraq's aggression; and, finally, that if America does not fight terrorists in Iraq, they will swarm across the ocean to attack America.

Since fiction is not ruled by the same standards as history, Mr Bush was under no obligation to refer to his own earlier certitude about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (or, rather, to their embarrassing absence), or to the inept sequel of the initially successful US military campaign; or to the fact that the occupation of Iraq is turning it into a huge recruitment centre for terrorists.

"Similarly," Mr.Brzezinski added, "there was no need to deal with the perplexing fact that the Iraqi insurgency does not appear to be in its last throes, or with the complex choices that the US now confronts."

Financial Times subscribers can read "Bush's hollow fiction of Iraq war" for more of Mr. Brzezinski's analysis.

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Keep The Downing Street Memo Debate Going

"If you are against war, then forget about the Downing Street memos," advisers Brendan O'Neill, deputy editor of the online magazine Spiked, in an article in the June 29, 2005 edition of The Christian Science Monitor. "The debate about war should be political and moral, not legalistic; we should interrogate the consequences of war for those on the receiving end, and for peace more broadly - not get hung up over what some British official wrote on a piece of paper."

"In short," Mr. O'Neill said, "we need a political opposition to war - because, more than two years since Iraq was invaded, we still don't have one."

I disagree with Mr. O'Neill. The moral and political approach didn't work. Those who tried to start a debate on the war were accused of being unpatriotic and aiding "the enemy." Because of the gang-attack that could come from some conservative attack dogs in the blogosphere, many prominent citizens were too afraid to discuss the war and the deception used to get the American people behind it.

On that note, I say the legalistic approach is best because it is slow, methodical and places emphasis on documentary evidence to bolster circumstantial and testimonial evidence. As those of us in the legal profession knows, the discovery of a document that destroys a witnesses testimony, the other sides case or confirms a theory of a case is like a baseball playing hitting a bases loaded home run that wins a game. Of course, the war is no game. It has caused death for thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of American service people, with thousands crippled for life.

See "It's no secret: Hung up on memos, antiwar lobby has been ineffective" for more of Mr. O'Neill's argument.

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U.S., Britain May Have Started Iraq War Before March 2003

An article in the June 30, 2005 issue of The Christian Science Monitor says the "Downing Street memo" and "other documents may show" that Britain and the United States' war on Iraq "really started earlier than March 2003." See "Secret air campaign against Iraq?" for more.

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The Downing Street Memo Is Definitely Playing In Peoria

Cynthia Bogard at CommonDreams.org recalled in a June 29, 2005 analysis of coverage of the Downing Street Memo by hometown newspapers across the United States that, "Jefferson Morley, a staff writer at washingtonpost.com, suggested recently that the Downing Street Memo (DSM) story continues to spread because it represents two stories, "an emerging alternative history of how the United States came to attack Iraq and a story of how the New Media has usurped some of the Old Media's power to set the agenda." Ms. Bogard also wrote:

The "New Media" --the blogosphere and alternative news and views websites such as rawstory.com, buzzflash.com, commondreams.org and, especially pertinent to this story, afterdowningstreet.org--certainly deserve a lot of credit. On-line complaints about Old Media's neglect of the story have had a major impact. So has the "letters to the editors" campaign started by the original downingstreetmemo.com site that has deluged newspapers around the nation with reader demands for DSM coverage. Old Media--television and the major daily newspapers, The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today and perhaps the L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune--finally have begun to get the message that the DSM story is not going to go away because New Media is not going to let it. But even if the DSM story helps to reshape the fourth estate as seems increasingly likely, it's the "alternative history" the DSM represents and its potential to end a needless war and rein in a rogue administration that must be focused on right now.
She said, "If the DSM story is to be effective as a political story, the citizenry needs to be informed. And while New Media and Old Media fight their battle, it just might be our nation's first media--the hometown paper--that ensures that the DSM as a story about the world being misled into a illegal war continues to make its way into the nation's consciousness." Ms. Bogard noted, asking" "Is the DSM story playing in Peoria, that classic mid-country metaphor for small-town America?You betcha it is." she concluded.

I agree. In fact, these papers, not the big east coast papers, are driving the coverage with articles and editorials. If not for them, the story probably wouldn't have gotten traction in middle America. See "But Is It Playing in Peoria? The Downing Street Memo and Our Hometown Papers" for more.

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Is Blair Really Astonished By Coverage of Downing Street Memos?

The Diplomatic Times Review is not surprised that British Prime Minister Tony Blair is denying the accuracy of the Downing Street Memos, which suggest that U.S. President George W. Bush was determined to invade Iraq despite a lack of evidence that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was involved in Al-Qaeda's September 11, 2001 attack on the United States. The Associated Press, which interviewed Mr. Blair June 29, 2005, put it this way:

Despite his strong linkage of the Iraq campaign to the Sept. 11 attacks, Blair denied that the decision to go to war had been fixed long before it was carried out. He said the so-called "Downing Street memos," which suggest the Bush administration had made up it mind to invade by 2002, painted a distorted picture.

"People say the decision was already taken. The decision was not already taken," he said.

The AP said, "according to the minutes of the meeting where the leaked memos were taken, Sir Richard Dearlove, then chief of Britain's intelligence service, said the White House viewed military action against Saddam Hussein as inevitable following the Sept. 11 attacks.
President Bush "wanted to remove Saddam, through military action." See "Blair 'Astonished' by Coverage of Memos" for more.

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Chicago Tribune Publishes Downing Street Memo Article

The June 30, 2005 issue of the Chicago Tribune has an article on The Downing Street Memo. Written by Washington Post correspondent Glenn Frankel , the article noted that:

In the spring of 2002, two weeks before British Prime Minister Tony Blair journeyed to Crawford, Texas, to meet with President Bush at his ranch about the confrontation with Iraq, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw sounded a warning."The rewards from your visit to Crawford will be few," Straw wrote in a March 25 memo to Blair. "The risks are high, both for you and for the Government."In public, British officials were declaring their solidarity with the Bush administration's calls for elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But Straw's memo and seven other secret documents disclosed in recent months by British journalist Michael Smith reveal a much different picture. Behind the scenes, key British officials believed the U.S. administration already was committed to a war that they feared was ill-conceived and illegal.
"Yet," Mr. Frankel added, " they could not dissuade their counterparts in the Bush administration nor Blair from going forward."

See "Memos show Britons' doubts over Iraq war. Ministers repeatedly warned premier that U.S. was on thin ice" for more.

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Lynn Sweet Comments On Downing Street Memo Campaign

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet describes her experience of being on the receiving end of the campaign to get mainstream journalists to pay attention to the Downing Street Memo. Interestingly, some journalists have dismissed the contents of the memo as "old news. But Ms. Sweet didn't. She wrote in her June 30, 2005 column:

Late Tuesday morning, my Blackberry starting buzzing non-stop. So many e-mails were coming in, all on the same theme, that I knew I was being targeted somewhere in the blogosphere.

This specific stream of e-mails written with passion but pleasantly without the usual vitriol ginned up by ultra-partisan sites, essentially all had the same message: The Chicago Sun-Times needed to pay more attention to British government documents dubbed the "Downing Street Memo.''

Ms. Sweet paid attention to the memo, "even without the prodding of the bloggers. I had been interested in the Downing Street documents, if there was an angle I could pursue," she wrote.

See "Sidestepping on Downing Street" for her attempt to get World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, who as deputy secretary of defense was a strong advocate of invading and occupying Iraq, to talk about the memo.

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June 29, 2005

WSJ: 'Downing Street Memo' Has Lingering Effect

Staff writer Christopher Cooper reported in the June 28, 2005 issue of The Wall Street Journal that:

A series of three-year-old British documents seized upon by those who think the Bush administration manipulated intelligence before the war with Iraq has demonstrated unusual staying power. That is due in part to declining public support for the conflict but it also has much to do with an Internet campaign by war critics prodding journalists to talk about them.

Documents detailing the run-up to the Iraq war have been splashed across London newspapers since they surfaced in the fall and hit a crescendo on May 1 with the publication of the so-called Downing Street memo.

Mr. Cooper told Journal readers that. "After a slow start in the U.S., a half-dozen liberal activists are having some success in making the documents fodder for Capitol Hill rhetoric and White House news briefings."

"Their campaign comes at a dicey point for President Bush, who has seen support for his Iraq policy erode amid the insurgent violence that has followed January elections in that country," he wrote. "A spate of recent bombings in Iraq has taken a heavy toll on Iraqi security forces and has produced fresh anxiety in the U.S. about how long American troops will have to remain in Iraq. "See 'Downing Street Memo 'Has Lingering Effect" for the full report.

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More Than Two Years Of War In Iraq With More To Come

David Paul Kuhn at Salon.Com observed that "There was little reference to the war's length, now at two years and three months," during President George W. Bush's June 28, 2005 address to the nation.

"Bush spoke respectfully of the more than 2,000 Iraqi security forces lost in the line of duty, though he did not mention by number the more than 1,700 American lives lost since the war's onset, nor the far greater tally of U.S. injuries and Iraqi civilian fatalities," Mr. Kuhn wrote in an article headlined "Mission continued."

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Is Bush Trying To Rebrand Iraq War?

In his analysis of U.S. President George W. Bush's June 28, 2005 address to Americans on the war in Iraq, Boston Globe staff writer Peter S. Canellos made this significant observation:

Iraq, the president insisted, has become the seminal fight of the post-September 11 world.

The president made it clear in his speech at Fort Bragg, N.C., that the United States is in Iraq to do more than help the Iraqi people set up a stable government -- it is there to confront foreign fighters who came to Iraq from ''Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and other nations."

"There was no discussion, however, of how those fighters slipped through borders that US forces failed to secure, or any other flaws in postwar planning," Mr. Canellos wrote. "Bush's intention was to get ahead of public opinion, to leave his critics worrying over failures that are now little more than water under a bridge at the Tigris River."

That's the way I read it. Besides, I don't know what made Mr. Bush and his adviser think that Muslim fighters would not flock to Iraq after a Christian president of a predominantly white, Christian nation invaded and occupied a predominantly Muslim nation. Muslim fighters from outside Iraq will keep coming as long as the U.S. remains there.

See "Conflict recast as line in sand to terrorists" for more of Mr. Canellos' analysis.

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Gallup: Bush Speech Drew Large Republican Audience

"Those who watched President Bush's speech Tuesday night [June 28, 2005] now hold a slightly more positive outlook on the war than they did before the address, even though the speech itself was not rated as positively as others Bush has given," according to a June 29, 2005 Gallup News Service article by Jeffrey M. Jones, who noted that:

Compared with their responses before the speech, people who tuned in are now more likely to say the United States and its allies are winning the Iraq war, that Bush has a clear plan for handling the war, and that the United States should keep troops in Iraq until the situation there gets better.
He said, "The audience was apparently rather small and composed largely of Bush supporters -- 50% of those who tuned in were Republicans, a much higher proportion than exists in the general population but similar to what Gallup has found in polling following other Bush speeches."

Does this mean that most Americans have tuned the President out on Iraq? Was he preaching to established supporters who simply needed to be reassured that he was justified in invading and occupying Iraq despite falsifying the reason for doing so? Just asking.

See "Flash Poll: Instant Reaction to Bush's Iraq Speech" for more.

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CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll On Bush's Fort Bragg Speech

CNN says a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of Americans who watched President George W. Bush's Iraq speech delivered the night of June 28, 2005 at Forth Bragg, North Carolina " showed that 46 percent had a "very positive" reaction to what they heard." See "Poll appears to reflect partisan viewing" for more.

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June 28, 2005

Echoes of LBJ

Political pundit Walter Shapiro, in an analysis of President Bush's June 28, 2005 address at Fort Bragg, North Carolina ,for The Huffington Post, recalled that:

With Americans in turmoil over the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson framed his 1968 State of the Union Address around this rhetorical question, "Why, then, this restlessness?" Three months later, that same restlessness forced LBJ to abandon his dreams of another term in the White House.

There is no better gauge to the political realities behind a war-time >address than the rhetorical questions the president feels compelled to pose. When the Commander in Chief has to ask, "Is the sacrifice worth it?" you can intuit that the war has not been a glorious success. There was also the moment when George W. Bush admitted that some (excessively gung-ho) Americans inquire, "Why don't you send more troops?"

Mr. Shapiro said, "Just hearing the president advance that question was another clue that the war was not going exactly as planned."

There's that reference to Vietnam. See "Rhetorical Verdict: A C-Minus Speech" for more of Mr. Shapiro's analysis.

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A Two Front War?

Professor Juan Cole at Informed Comment reported June 28, 2005 that:

Tony Blair and the British military are caught between Iraq and a hard place. The Bush administration is putting enormous pressure on the British to send more troops to Afghanistan, where the Taliban are regrouping and launching an Iraq-style guerrilla war. So the British began making noises about reducing the number of their troops in southern Iraq (around 10,000) and shifting them to Afghanistan.
"But no," Mr. Cole added. "Bush recently told Blair that Iraq is on the brink of disaster, and that the British need to send more troops to that country, in addition to sending new units to fight the Taliban." See "A Two-Front War" for more.

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Poll: Doubt In U.S. On Justification For Iraq War Grows

Susan Page at USA TODAY says U.S. President George W. Bush "delivers a prime-time address Tuesday [June 28, 2005] to a public that is increasingly doubtful of his justifications for going to war in Iraq and wants a timetable set for U.S. troops to come home--a step Bush has ruled out."

"Just one in three Americans now say the United States and its allies are winning the war, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday [June 24 through June 26, 2005]," she wrote in a June 27, 2005 article that was updated June 28, 2005. "That is a new low, down 9 percentage points since February," she added: "Half say neither side is winning."

See "Poll points to increasing doubts on war's progress, Bush's reasons" for more of Ms. Page's analysis.

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The 'Last Throes' In Iraq May Last 12-Years

"Iraq's insurgency is in its "last throes"; but it is getting deadlier and could last a decade or more," writes Reuters correspondent Alastair Macdonald from Baghdad, in what appears to be a jab at U.S. officials' optimistic-pessimistic views on the Iraq quagmire.

"There will be no timetable for U.S. troops to leave; but they will not defeat the rebels," he wrote echoing recent statements by President George W. Bush and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Mr. Macdonald said, "Recent U.S. policy statements on Iraq ahead of Tuesday's [June 28, 2005] keynote speech" by President Bush "can seem confusing."

"In fact," he added, "the administration is simultaneously trying to reassure an impatient domestic electorate while acknowledging that the campaign in Iraq itself is an uphill struggle that may require long American engagement to prevent a debacle which would do lasting damage to its influence in the region." Here's more of Mr. Macdonald's analysis.

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Populations of Iraq Prison Camps Growing Rapidly

"Nearly 10,000 people are detained in Iraq - including 400 deemed foreign fighters," reports the Gulf Daily News in an article on the U.S. occupation force's plans to build more prisons in the country.

The paper said, "the prison populations at three military complexes throughout the country -- Abu Ghraib, Camp Bucca and Camp Cropper - have nearly doubled from 5,435 in June 2004 to 10,002 now. The numbers were attributed to Lieutenant Colonel Guy Rudisill, "a spokesman for detainee operations in Iraq."

See "Abu Ghraib expanded" for more on the camps.

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Who Lost Iraq?

Andrew J. Bacevich, who teaches international relations at Boston University, asks in a June 28, 2005 article in The Washington Post: "Who "lost" Iraq?"

"With blame for the unhappy course of events since U.S. forces occupied Baghdad in April 2003 routinely heaped on civilian officials, the military itself has gotten a pass," he wrote. "In fact, senior U.S. commanders have botched the war. Acknowledging that fact is an essential first step toward improving the quality of U.S. generalship."

Mr. Bacevich said, "For this reason, reported plans to promote Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez deserve particular attention. According to media reports, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld intends to nominate Sanchez for a fourth star. But the general does not merit promotion; he can best serve his country by retiring forthwith," the scholar said.

See "Command Responsibility" for more of Mr. Bacevich's analysis. It's worth reading.

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Will Americans Tolerate 12-Years of War In Iraq?

"The prediction by U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that it could take up to 12 years to defeat the Iraqi insurgency will come as no surprise to his own troops," John Leyne, a BBC correspondent in Baghdad said a June 27, 2005 dispatch.

"That is the sort of time-scale written into US military doctrine," he wrote. "So it is part of every officer's basic training."

He said, "It will not come as much of a surprise to the Iraqis either. Even the optimists here in Iraq - and there are surprisingly many - do not expect life to improve for many years. The problem is with the American public," he opined. "They have simply not been prepared for this sort of long-term commitment."

The question is: Will Americans tolerate 12-years of war in Iraq?Here's more.

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June 26, 2005

The Downing Street Memo And The 2002 Covert Air War On Iraq

What does Michael Smith, The Sunday Timesof London reporter who broke the Downing Street Memo story, think "may ultimately be the most important part of the memo?"

He wrote in a June 26, 2005 article that it may be "the point where" Geoff Hoon, the British defence secretary, "said that the US had already begun spikes of activity to put pressure on the [Iraqi] regime" in 2002. He noted that:

Ministry of Defence figures for the number of bombs dropped on southern Iraq in 2002 show that virtually none were used in March and April; but between May and August an average of 10 tons were dropped each month, with the RAF taking just as big a role in the spikes of activity as their US colleagues. Then in September the figure shot up again, with allied aircraft dropping 54.6 tons.

If this was a covert air war, both Bush and Blair may face searching questions. In America only Congress can declare war, and it did not give the US president permission to take military action against Iraq until October 11, 2002. Blair's legal justification is said to come from UN Resolution 1441, which was not passed until November 8, 2002.

Last week one US blogger, Larisa Alexandrovna of RawStory.com, unearthed more unsettling evidence. It was an overlooked interview with Lieutenant-General T Michael Moseley, the allied air commander in Iraq, in which he appears to admit that the spikes of activity were part of a covert air war.

Mr. Smith said, "From June 2002 until March 20,[2003] when the ground war began, the allies flew 21,736 sorties over southern Iraq, attacking 349 carefully selected targets. The attacks, Moseley said, laid the foundations for the invasion, allowing allied commanders to begin the ground war.

"The bloggers may have found their own smoking gun," Mr. Smith said.

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Why Gina and Robert Fesmire Launched Downing Street Memo.Com

Becky Bartindale of Knight Ridder Newspapers has written an interesting profile on Gina and Robert Fesmire, the Sunnyvale, California couple who "launched www.downingstreetmemo.com on a whim."

"The site, which has become a bona fide phenomenon, features secret British documents on the lead-up to the Iraq war, first leaked to the press in England," the article says, noting that, "The site has drawn 700,000 visits since going up May 11 with the goal of prodding U.S. media coverage of the documents. It has sparked political discussion around the country and quickly attracted attention from The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal."

Ms. Bartindale said "It also turned the lives of the Sunnyvale, Calif., couple upside down." See "Couple's Web site spearheaded campaign on Downing Street memo" for more.

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Peter Brookes On The Downing Street Memo

On June 24, 2005, Peter Brookes, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, stated in a June 24, 2005 article in The Washington Examiner that, "You've got to ask yourself: How many times are the Bush-bashers going to throw the same infamous Downing Street memo at the wall of public opinion hoping it'll stick?"

It has already stuck, Mr. Brookes. Just look at the coverage, whether negative or positive, that it is getting around the world. And it will continue for a while despite the fact that some prominent mainstream publications and journalists refuse to give it prominence.

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Did CIA's Dirty Work Crews Conduct Kidnappings All Over Europe?

"Milan [Italy] prosecutors and police spent the last two years documenting Americans' role in the February 17, 2003 disappearance of Hussan Mustafa Omar Nasr, 42, an Egyptian cleric," notes The Washington Post in a June 26, 2005 article headlined "Italians Detail Lavish CIA Operation." The Post recalled that, " On Thursday [June 23, 2005], a Milan judge ruled that there was enough evidence to warrant the arrest of 13 suspected CIA operatives on kidnapping charges."

"The Americans' whereabouts are unknown, and Italian authorities acknowledged that the odds were slim that they would ever be taken into custody," the paper said. "The CIA has declined to comment."

Surely The Post did not expect the Bush Administration and the CIA to provide an opportunity for more speculation about the controversial "special rendition" program conducted by the CIA's " Special Removal Unit." The unit takes so-called terror suspects to countries like Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Syria and Uzbekistan, where they are reportedly tortured to obtain information beneficial to the U.S. See Jane Mayer's article in the February 14, 2005 issue of The New Yorker headlined "Outsourcing Torture: The secret history of Americas extraordinary rendition program" for more on this subject.

The New York Times also weighed in on the Milan judge's call for the arrest of the U.S. CIA agents cited in The Post story. Stephen Grey and Don Van Natta, Jr., in an article also published in the June 27, 2005 edition of the New York Times Company-owned International Herald Tribune, characterized it this way:

The extraordinary decision by an Italian judge to order the arrest of 13 people linked to the CIA on charges of kidnapping a terrorism suspect here [in Milan] dramatizes a growing rift between American counterterrorism officials and their counterparts in Europe.

European counterterrorism officials have pursued a policy of building criminal cases against terrorism suspects through surveillance, wiretaps, detective work and the criminal justice system. The United States, however, has frequently used other means since Sept. 11, 2001, including renditions - abducting terror suspects from foreign countries and transporting them for questioning to third countries, some of which are known to use torture.

They said, "The two approaches seem to have collided for an Egyptian cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, or Abu Omar, accused of leading a militant mosque in Milan."

"By early 2003," The Times reported, "the Italian secret police were aggressively pursuing a criminal terrorism case against Nasr, with the help of American intelligence officials. Italian investigators said they had told the Americans they had strong evidence that he was trying to build a terror recruitment network, possibly aimed for Iraq if the United States went forward with plans to topple Saddam Hussein. On Feb. 17, 2003, Nasr disappeared," the paper noted.

Chicago Tribune reporters John Crewdson, Tom Hundley and Liz Sly, in a June 25, 2005 article, also used the term extraordinary. They wrote:

The move was no less extraordinary for coming from a country whose prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is one of the few European leaders who support the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq and which has contributed 3,000 troops to that effort.Current and retired CIA officers, none of whom agreed to be quoted by name, said they could not remember one of their own having been charged abroad with a crime other than espionage, and certainly not in a country friendly to the U.S.

"Although the CIA refuses to talk about the Milan abduction or even acknowledge that it occurred, documents obtained by the Tribune clearly link the intelligence agency with the identities, addresses and cell phones used by several of the American operatives. The existence of the CIA's supersecret abduction squads has come to light since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, although the agency's practice of snatching suspected criminals abroad goes back at least to the Reagan administration.

On March 20, 2005, Crewdson and Hundley reported that, "Before he resigned last June, former CIA Director George Tenet testified that the CIA had orchestrated more than 70 renditions during his seven-year tenure. There reportedly have been another 30 or so since then."

This revelation is contained in their article about how a Gulfstream Jet, "which bore the tail number N85VM" and is "owned by one of the Boston Red Sox's partners," departed from Aviano Italy, "which is home to the U.S. Air Force's 31st Fighter Wing," around "the time of Omar's disappearance. " from Italy.

"... Federal Aviation Administration records obtained by the Chicago Tribune show that Gulfstream N85VM has been many places around the world that the Red Sox have almost certainly never gone," Crewdson and Hundley wrote. "Between June 2002 and January of this year, the Gulfstream made 51 visits to Guantanamo, Cuba, site of the U.S. naval base where more than 500 terrorism suspects are behind bars."

They said, "during the same period, the plane recorded 82 visits to Washington's Dulles International Airport as well as landings at Andrews Air Force Base outside the capital and the U.S. air bases at Ramstein and Rhein-Main in Germany."

"The plane's flight log also shows visits to Afghanistan, Morocco, Dubai, Jordan, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic." See "Jet's Travels Cloaked in Mystery" for more.

Meanwhile, Tracy Wilkinson of the Los Angeles Times, in an article headlined "CIA Said to Leave Trail in Abduction, "said "If Italian authorities are right, they have exposed a CIA operation here that on some levels was brazen and perhaps reckless, even as it successfully spirited away a notorious Egyptian imam."

Could it be that the warrants were issued because the CIA agents were so brazen?

Finally, Italy is not the only European nation upset with the U.S. for staging kidnappings on its soil. London Observer correspondent Barbara McMahon, writing from Rome, noted in an article in the June 26, 2005 issue of The Sunday Observer that, "Other nations have also begun to oppose [and expose] Washington's forcible removal of terror suspects.

"Canada is holding hearings into the deportation of a Canadian to Syria for questioning about alleged ties to al-Qaeda," the publication noted. "German prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into the suspected kidnapping of a German man who was flown to Afghanistan."

"In Stockholm," Ms. McMahon added, "a parliamentary investigator has already concluded that CIA agents violated Swedish law by subjecting two Egyptian nationals to 'degrading and inhuman treatment' during a rendition in 2001. See "Italians hunt covert CIA snatch squad"

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Bush And The U.S. Military: An Analysis

Abid Mustafa, a United Kingdom-based writer who "specializes in Muslim affairs," has published a worth-reading analysis of U.S. President George W. Bush's Iraq policy and the tensions that have developed as U.S. military tries to implement the military aspect of that policy in the face of increasingly strong armed opposition. Writing in an article that appeared in the June 25, 2005 edition of Jihad Unspun and elsewhere, he said:

Amid growing domestic and international criticism against his Iraq policy, President Bush issued a statement to dispel the impression that Iraq was faltering. On 20/6/05 he said, We're making progress toward the goal, which is, on the one hand, a political process moving forward in Iraq and, on the other hand, the Iraqis capable of defending themselves. He also gave no indication about a timetable for withdrawing US troops from Iraq, except that Iraq was preoccupying his mind. He said, I think about Iraq every day, every single day.A close study of Bush's statements regarding the political process and security situation in Iraq appears to contradict the reality in Iraq.
"Till now," Mr. Mustafa said, "the Bush administration has been unable to accomplish any of the goals it set out before the invasion of Iraq or in the aftermath of the collapse of the Iraqi government."

See "Bush And The US Military" for more of Mr. Mustafa's analysis. The article is also at Al-Jazeera.Info under the headline "Iraqi Resistance Fractures Bush's Relationship with the US Military."

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U.S. Building More Prisons In Iraq

Los Angeles Times correspondents Ashraf Khalil and Patrick J. McDonnell, writing from Baghdad, reported June 26, 2005 that, "Faced with a ballooning prison population, U.S. commanders in Iraq are building new detention facilities at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and Camp Bucca near the Kuwaiti border and are developing a third major prison, in northern Iraq."

"The burgeoning number of detainees has also resulted in a lengthy delay in plans for the U.S. to transfer full control of Abu Ghraib to the Iraqi government," they wrote.

The U.S. is simply following a practice employed for centuries by foreign occupiers, who imprison citizens who object to being occupied or are viewed as a threat. This often results in the radicalization of prisoners, whether they are criminals, political prisoners or prisoners of war. It can also radicalizes relatives and causes some to join the armed opposition. Here's more.

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Rumsfeld: Meetings With Guerillas Go On All The Time

During a June 26, 2005 appearance on Fox News Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was asked by host Chris Wallace about a June 26, 2005 Sunday Times of London report that U.S. officials met June 3 and June 13, 2005 with Iraqi guerilla leaders near Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq.

RUMSFELD: Well, the first thing I would say about the meetings is they go on all the time.

Second, the Iraqis have a sovereign government. They will decide what their relationships with various elements of insurgents will be. We facilitate those from time to time.

Here's the transcript of Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks.

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U.S. Reportedly Negotiating With Some Iraqi Insurgents

Hala Jaber, writing in the June 26, 2005 edition of the The Sunday Times of London, said "Iraqi sources, who have proved reliable in the past, said an "American team that included senior military and intelligence officers, a civilian staffer from Congress and a representative of the US embassy in Baghdad," met with Iraqi insurgents on June 10, 2005 and June 13, 2005.

The Times correspondent said the Iraqis "and their American visitors recently sat down to tea" at a "summer villa near Balad in the hills 40 miles north of Baghdad." Camp Anaconda, a large U.S. military base, is located near Balad and is "spread over 15 square miles," according to Global Security.Org.

The Sunday Times, in its report on the negotiations, added:

It looked like a pleasant social encounter far removed from the stresses of war, but the heavy US military presence around the isolated property signalled that an unusual meeting was taking place. After weeks of delicate negotiation involving a former Iraqi minister and senior tribal leaders, a small group of insurgent commanders apparently came face to face with four American officials seeking to establish a dialogue with the men they regard as their enemies.
The Times said, "The talks on June 3 were followed by a second encounter 10 days later, according to an Iraqi who said that he had attended both meetings. Details provided to The Sunday Times by two Iraqi sources whose groups were involved indicate that further talks are planned in the hope of negotiating an eventual breakthrough that might reduce the violence in Iraq," the paper said.

If the report is true, the U.S. strategy seems designed to isolate the Iraqi insurgent groups from Muslims fighters from other nations. In addition, such attempts at negotiations should not come as a surprise. The Bush Administration's hardline positions are for public consumption and to save face. The Administration knows it would be politically disastrous for the public to see the U.S. occupation foce in Iraq defeated by a bunch of Muslim guerillas, especially when we are likely to see U.S. and Muslim fighters engaged in other countries, if the U.S. continues with its plans to militarily control the Middle East. Rather than have that, try to negotiate the Iraqi guerillas off the battlefield and, if successful, fight those from abroad, if they can be found.

Here's more of The Sunday Times article.

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June 25, 2005

U.S. Says By Electing Ahmadinejad President, Iran Out Of Step

"The US, which called the Iranian presidential election "flawed from the inception", has described the result as being out of step with a trend toward freedom and liberty in its region," Al-Jazeera.Net reported June 25, 2005. For more, see "Iran poll verdict out of step, says US." Also see "Foreign Ministry Spokesman: US should respect Iranians' votes."

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Ahmadinejad Receives Congratulations From Some World Leaders

Several world leaders have sent congratulations to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's new president, according to the Tehran Times. See "World leaders congratulate Iran's president-elect" for more.

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Tehran Times: Iranians Voted Along Class Lines

The Tehran Times noted in a June 26, 2005 article that,

Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad catapulted to power in a landslide victory in Iran's runoff presidential election on Friday [June 24, 2005]. "Class played a decisive factor in the election, with poor and working class voters overwhelmingly supporting Ahmadinejad, whereas his rival, Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was more popular with the middle and upper classes.
By the way, I was quite surprised that Mr. Rafsanjani didn't win. Based on what I read about the elections, it seemed that no one else had much of a change. On that note, I wonder how long before an assassinate attempt is made against Mr. Ahmadinejad.

See "Hello Mr. President" for more of the Tehran Times article.

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Events Challenge Cheney And Rice

In a June 23, 2005 commentary on Vice President Dick Cheney's claim that the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last throes" and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's reason for her refusal to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood during her June 20, 2005 visit to Egypt, the "doctoral fellow" who edits The Fields Report said, "there's pragmatism; there's realipolitik; then there's just insulting our intelligence. Day is night. Up is down."

See "Two gems from the non-reality based world" for the entire Fields Report commentary.

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Dr. Demarche: 'Us And Them, As Seen From Abroad

Dr. Demarche, one of the proprietors at The Daily Demarche, has a very enlightening article headlined "Us and them, as seen from abroad." It's about the "the differences between Americans and our neighbors across the pond, as seen from the point of view of an American living abroad." I recommend it.

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Attacking Women Often A Deliberate Tool Of War

Professor Juan Cole,, the proprietor of Informed Comment, thinks the Iraqi guerrillas who bombed a Marine convoy June 24, 2005 in Fallujah and sprayed it with gunfire killing 6 Marines, including 4 women, and wounding 13, 11 of whom were women, "clearly had the women under surveillance and deliberately targeted them. He also wrote:

Attacking each other's women is a major feature of imperial warfare in history. The Sepoys in India in 1857 who rebelled against their British officers often invaded the British cantonments and attacked their women. Indeed, when the British troops were sent out from Britain to reconquer North India in 1857-58, they underlined avenging the massacres of white women as among their primary goals. In Bosnia, Serb irregulars used rape as a deliberate tool of war.
Professor Cole said, "In most cultures, ideals of masculinity are wrought up with the protection of women (feminism hasn't penetrated most militaries), so attacking the enemy's women is a way of humiliating and rattling him."

Does this mean that U.S. troops will escalate the imprisonment, rape and humiliation of Iraqi women? Here's more.

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Bush: 'Our Military Strategy' In Iraq Is Clear

"Our military strategy is clear: We will train Iraqi security forces so they can defend their freedom and protect their people, and then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned," U.S. President George W. Bush said during his June 25, 2005 radio broadcast, adding:

The political track of our strategy is to continue helping Iraqis build the institutions of a stable democracy. The Iraqi people have taken landmark steps by voting in free elections and forming a representative government. Prime Minister Jaafari has assured me that his government is committed to meeting its deadline to draft a new constitution for a free Iraq. Then the constitution will be submitted to the Iraqi people for approval, and new elections will be held to choose a fully constitutional government.
He said, "these are monumental tasks for the new democracy of Iraq -- and the free world will continue to stand behind the Iraqi people. This past week, more than 80 countries and international organizations came together in Brussels to discuss how to help Iraqis provide for their security and rebuild their country. And next month, donor countries will meet in Jordan to discuss Iraqi reconstruction."

Regarding the training of Iraqi security forces: It seems that insurgents are killing many troops before and after they finish their training or during training. Some trainees are even suspected of being insurgents.

Finally, Mr. Bush's strategy will work in the short-term but not in the long-run without years of U.S. presence and the loss of many lives, both Iraqi and American.

Here is a White House transcript of Mr Bush's June 25, 2005 radio address.

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Riverbend Describes Life In The Green Republic of Iraq

Riverbend, the Iraqi blogger who runs the popular Baghdad Burning blog, offered an interesting observation about the so-called Green Zone in Iraq where top U.S. occupation officials and their ranking Iraqi surrogates live. She wrote in a June 21, 2005 post headlined "General Update":

What people find particularly frustrating is the fact that while Baghdad seems to be falling apart in so many ways with roads broken and pitted, buildings blasted and burnt out and residential areas often swimming in sewage, the Green Zone is flourishing. The walls surrounding restricted areas housing Americans and Puppets have gotten higher- as if vying with the tallest of date palms for height. The concrete reinforcements and road blocks designed to slow and impede traffic are now a part of everyday scenery- the road, the trees, the shops, the earth, the sky... and the ugly concrete slabs sometimes wound insidiously with barbed wire.

The price of building materials has gone up unbelievably, in spite of the fact that major reconstruction has not yet begun. I assumed it was because so much of the concrete and other building materials was going to reinforce the restricted areas. A friend who recently got involved working with an Iraqi subcontractor who takes projects inside of the Green Zone explained that it was more than that. The Green Zone, he told us, is a city in itself. He came back awed, and more than a little bit upset. He talked of designs and plans being made for everything from the future US Embassy and the housing complex that will surround it, to restaurants, shops, fitness centers, gasoline stations, constant electricity and water- a virtual country inside of a country with its own rules, regulations and government. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Republic of the Green Zone, also known as the Green Republic.

The Americans wont be out in less than ten years. Is how the argument often begins with the friend who has entered the Green Republic. How can you say that? Is usually my answer- and I begin to throw around numbers- 2007, 2008 maximum... Could they possibly want to be here longer? Can they afford to be here longer? At this, T. shakes his head- if you could see the bases they are planning to build- if you could see what already has been built- you'd know that they are going to be here for quite a while.

Riverbend concluded that: "The Green Zone is a source of consternation and aggravation for the typical Iraqi. It makes us anxious because it symbolises the heart of the occupation and if fortifications and barricades are any indicator- the occupation is going to be here for a long time. It is a provocation because no matter how anyone tries to explain or justify it, it is like a slap in the face. It tells us that while we are citizens in our own country, our comings and goings are restricted because portions of the country no longer belong to its people. They belong to the people living in the Green Republic."

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Can Bush Overcome Public Doubts About Iraq War?

Despite U.S. President George W. Bush's optimistic projections of victory in Iraq against an increasingly resilient insurgency, "recent polls show public support for the war slumping," according to Bob Deans of Cox News Service in an article in the June 24, 2005 issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer headlined "Bush kicks off U.S. public relations blitz with Iraqi leader."

"Just 39 percent of Americans now back the effort, with 59 percent opposed to it, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken June 16-19, [2005]," Mr. Cox said in his report, which was published in various U.S. newspapers on June 24, 2005.

"The survey queried 1,006 adults nationwide and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points," according to Mr. Cox.

He noted that "a June 10-15 poll by CBS News and the New York Times" found similarly that just 37 percent of Americans approve of Bush's handling of the war, while 59 percent disapprove. That survey queried 1,111 adults nationwide and had a margin of error of three percentage points. While the CBS/New York Times poll showed a sharp partisan split, it found 23 percent of respondents in Bush's own party opposed to the war."

Also see Polling Report. Com's Bush: Job Ratings" for poll data on Mr. Bush's overall job rating. Here are several polls on U.S. attitudes on Iraq.

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President Bush's Deadly Respect For Iraq

In his welcome address during Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's June 24, 2005 visit to the White House, U.S. president George W. Bush said he "told the Prime Minister that the American people share his democratic vision for Iraq. I told him of our nation's deep and abiding respect for Islam, for the people of Iraq, and for the potential of the nation that now belongs to them," he said.

Questions: If he has an abiding respect for the people of Iraq, why did he invade their country? Why is he occupying their nation? Why is he waging war against them?

I think a better show of respect would be to leave Iraq immediately and pay reparations for the damage that has been done. But as Mr. Bush said June 24, 2005, leaving is not likely to happen anytime soon. This is so despite the daily increasing U.S. casualty rate in a war that the U.S. will not win although it can win every battle.

See "President Welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Jaafari to the White House" for Mr. Bush's entire welcome address and Mr.Jaafari's acceptance.

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June 24, 2005

Salon.Com Reports On Iraq's Teenage Prostitutes

In his Salon.Com article headlined "Unveiling Iraq's teenage prostitutes: Fleeing their war-torn homes, Iraqi girls are selling their bodies in Syria to support their families," Joshua E. S. Phillips writes: "That Iraqi girls and women are selling sex may not seem shocking, but prostitution is especially taboo for Arab women." He quotes Joshua Landis, "an American professor from the University of Oklahoma, presently living in Syria, as saying:

In this culture, to allow your daughter to become a prostitute means you've hit dirt bottom. None of your sisters can get married if it's known that one of them is a prostitute. If there's any public knowledge of this, it's a shame on the whole family.
Mr. Phillips said, "The shame can even lead to "honor killings," in which women are slain by their husbands or relatives for tainting the family name." Here's the entire article, which was reprinted at Syria Comment.Com.

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The Belgravia Dispatch's 'Conscience Caucus'

Gregory Djerejian at The always interesting Belgravia Dispatch "is thinking of compiling a list of center-right folks who are seriously and honestly grappling with the full panoply of issues presented by the torture/abuse scandals of the past several years. These would not just be bloggers, but any commentators that, you know, don't breezily describe how rosy it all is in the "tropics. "I can think of Andrew Sullivan, Jon Henke, John Cole, and Tacitus right off the top of my head," he said.

"Who else?" he asks. "Both in the blogosphere and outside in academia, business, law, journalism? Thanks for your help."

While I rarely agree with Mr. Dejerejian's analysis on Iraq and the Middle East, I commend his efforts to engage in serious discussion about the U.S'. torture of Prisoners of War. By the way, I doubt Mr. Djerejian would agree with me that captured Al Qaeda fighters, Taliban fighters and Iraqi insurgents are POWs.

See "B.D.'s Conscience Caucus" for more details.

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Drezner: 'Does China Contradict The Liberal Paradigm?'

Daniel W. Drezner, a University of Chicago assistant professor of political science, raises a question about China that's worth pondering. He asked in a June 23, 2005 post: "Does China contradict the liberal paradigm?"

Here's his answer. He raises many good points.I recommend it.

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Human Rights Watch, Liberty Send A Letter To Mr. Blair

On June 23, 2005, Human Rights Watch and Liberty sent a joint letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair on his intent to seek diplomatic assurances against torture." The organization said they were

deeply concerned about the British governments stated intention to seek diplomatic assurances against torture in order to deport terrorism suspects to their home countries or to third countries where they would be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
"Human Rights Watch and Liberty consider returns on the basis of such assurances as incompatible with the international prohibition on the return of persons to countries where they face a risk of torture (nonrefoulement)," they wrote. "We urge you to reconsider this fatally flawed initiative and immediately to halt any negotiations with countries of return regarding securing such assurances."

Here is the letter to Mr. Blair.

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'Extraordinary Renditions' And The Egyptian Black Hole

Writing in the June 22, 2005 edition of IslamOnline.Net, Egyptian Freelance journalist Taqiyuddin Malik analyzed "Human Rights Watch's (HRW) explosive new report, appropriately titled "Black Hole: The Fate of Islamists Rendered to Egypt. "

"This report is about the rendition of scores of wanted persons to Egypt , renditions that are illegal because Egypt is known to be a country which practices torture routinely and systematically," he wrote, adding: "The 53-page document highlights the illegal practice of transporting detainees to countries where they will face torture; specifically in this case, Egypt."

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are reportedly some of Egypt's torture clients.

"The report is bound to further spotlight the current regime's human rights record, increasing pressure on a government already beleaguered by its citizen's increasingly strident calls for political change," he predicted.

Mr. Malik's analysis is timely in view of an Italian judge's issuance of arrest warrants on June 24, 2005 for 13 CIA agents who allegedly kidnapped an Egyptian Imam living in Italy and took him to Egypt where he was reportedly tortured. See "In the Spotlight: The Egyptian Black Hole." for more.

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How Italy Tracked CIA Kidnappers

"Fundamental in the investigation" that led to the indictment in Italy of 13 U.S. Central Intelligence Agents (CIA )"for the abduction" of Imam Hassan Mustafa Osama "in the northern city of Milan and his transfer to Cairo "was the use by the CIA operatives of Italian cellphones," according to the Italian publication adn kronos international (AKI).

Arrests warrants have been issued for the agents.

AKI noted in a June 24, 2005 report that, "a total of 17 mobile phones were identified operating in the street where Imam Osama, also known as Abu Omar "was seized between 12.28 and 12.33 of 17 February 2003." According to the publication:

Some of these were found to have placed calls to the US consulate in Milan and to a number in Virginia (where the CIA headquarters are based, at Langley).One mobile phone was traced as being located in Cairo the next day, the others led investigators to the luxury hotel where the group stayed and, consequently, to the identities - or false identities - of the agents.
AKI said "serving the arrest warrants on the CIA agents "may prove near impossible and the prospect of extraditing CIA agents to Italy seems even more remote." Read more here.

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CIA's 'Extraordinary Rendition' Policy Back In The News

As the Italian publication adn kronos international (AKI) noted in its June 24, 2005 report on the indictment in Italy of 13 U.S. Central Intelligence Agents (CIA )"for the abduction" of Imam Hassan Mustafa Osama "in the northern city of Milan and his transfer to Cairo, the episode puts the spotlight again on the controversial 'extraordinary rendition' practice" the Bush Administration uses in its so-called "War on Terror.

The practice allows the U.S. to torture individuals by proxy in countries such as Egypt and Jordan. This allows the U.S. to deny that it engages in torture. According to AKI, "Human rights groups have strongly criticized the sending of terror suspects to third countries where they are tortured."

See "Italy: CIA Agents Indicted For Imam Abduction."

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Daily Telegraph: Europe Needs Hard Decisions, Not Hot Air

The Daily Telegraph of London takes a swipe at the hoopla surrounding Prime Minister Tony Blair's call for modernization in the European Union in a June 24, 2005 editorial.

"In every crisis there is an opportunity," Tony Blair informed the European Parliament yesterday [June 23, 2005," the paper noted, adding:.

He might have added: "for flights of rhetoric". We said on Tuesday [June 22, 2005] that Europe provides the Prime Minister with a great opportunity for blending divergent views in a warm soup of words. Yesterday's [June 23, 2005] speech was a classic of the genre. "The purpose of social Europe," he said - by which he means a high-spending, interventionist superstate - "and economic Europe" - by which he means a high-growth economy - "is to sustain each other.
The publication said, "Mr Blair does not - as the Conservatives do - regard "ever closer union" and "a more flexible Europe" to be basically incompatible. As in Britain, he declines to see a choice between "Left or Right", but between something far more nebulous: "modernisation" or "stagnation."

See "Europe needs hard decisions, not hot air" for more.

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People's DailyAnalyzes CNOOC's Bid For Unocal

"China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) released its offer for a merger with Unocal amid concern and speculation. However, as its arch rival Chevron has not shown its ace, it is much difficult to estimate the chance CNOOC's success," China's People's Daily Online opines in a June 24, 2005 editorial.

The publication said, "If CNOOC makes it, the deal will be the largest overseas acquisition by a Chinese enterprise and is expected to give CNOOC more say on the international energy market."

However," People's Daily added, " the unfinished deal has already aroused the attention of the US Congress and Department of Energy. To ensure the deal, CNOOC especially stressed that the it would not affect the US oil and natural gas markets in any way as Unocal's oil and natural gas produced in the U.S territory will continue to be available on the US market and Unocal's oil and gas outputs account for less than one percent of the total consumption in the US."

See "What's the chance of CNOOC's successful bidding for Unocal?" for the entire editorial. Also see "China vs. Chevron in bidding war for Unocal's energy."

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June 23, 2005

China's Bid For Unocal Has Broad Economic Implications

"A bold offer by a state-owned company here [in Beijing, China] to outbid Chevron and take over a major California oil group [Union Oil Company of California] suggests that China's rising economic clout has hit harder and faster than even many optimists predicted," writes Robert Marquand, staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, in the paper's June 24, 2005 edition. He noted:

The $18 to $20 billion offer by China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) to secure Unocal, which has oil and gas reserves in Asia, underscores the magnitude of the energy needs of China as it continues its manufacturing juggernaut on the world stage. The bid is part of China's so-called energy diplomacy, which in recent years has witnessed a host of Chinese leaders, including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, making deals worth tens of billions in Australia, Sudan, Iran, Khazakhstan, Venezuela, and Canada.
The question is: Will the Bush Administration let Unocal be sold to China? See "China's bold bid for global energy" for more of Mr. Marquand's analysis.

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EU Elites And The Meaning Of Words

Ken at the EU Realist contends that, "the EU (European Union) Elites change the meaning of words or invent new words instead of using readily recognized words to explain what they mean then because they are using these new words they get away with making the most extreme statements." Some politicians on this side of the Atlantic often do the same thing. See "EU speak" for more on the subject.

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Blair Makes Appeal To Germans On Rebate Issue

Guardian Unlimited of London reported June 23, 2005 that British Prime Minister Tony Blair "has taken his battle over the EU (European Union) budget to the [German people] people by penning an emotional appeal in the biggest selling German newspaper, Bild, about the need for reform." Here's more.

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The Rebate Debate Raises Hackles in Europe

Carsten Volkery, writing from Berlin for Spiegel Online, told Spiegel readers "Whatever you think of [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair, "you have to admit that he is pretty good at getting himself out there. Currently it is his stance on reforming the EU budget which is raising hackles -- especially in Germany, where a government paper has revealed that Gerhard Schroeder's government is anything but happy with Blair's newfound reformist stance." Volkery added:

The German government has defended current European Union agricultural policies against criticisms from British Prime Minister Tony Blair. "Britain is currently flogging the myth that an allegedly money-wasting common agricultural policy is the central hurdle to a reduction of the British rebate," an internal government working paper obtained by Spiegel Online on Thursday [June 23, 2005] states. "Those are arguments from the 1980s.
"There have been a great deal of fundamental changes since 1984, the government argues, when then-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher fought for the rebate," Volkery noted. "Britain, for example, is no longer a poor nation, but rather the EU's fourth wealthiest. In addition, since 1992 Europe's agricultural policy has undergone a "shift in direction." Here's more.

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'Sniping In The Name Of European Unity'

Helen Szamuely at EU Referendum comments in a June 23, 2004 post on the sniping currently taking place in Europe over the recent no votes on the European Union constitution and last weeks failed budget summit.

"On an on it goes," she wrote, " the sniping in the name of European unity. Such a joy to see all those politicians snarl at each other in order to preserve their own countries goodies. Not that I have any problems with politicians wanting to do the best for their countries, as they see it (i.e. getting themselves re-elected) but I do object to us paying for their little games."

It sounds like a reasonable objection to me. For more, see "Quotes from the Budget Wars."

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British Diplomats Work To Allay New EU Members' Fears

Ivan Camilleri of The Times of Malta reported June 23, 2005 from Brussels that, "In the wake of last week's failure to agree on the next EU Budget, the UK has initiated a diplomatic "damage control" campaign focused particularly on the 10 new member states considered to be the most badly hit by the talks collapse."

Mr. Camilleri said,"The new member states, including Malta, have already expressed concern over the situation as a late agreement on the financial perspective will mean less time to prepare the necessary and time-consuming groundwork connected to the use of millions of euros in structural and cohesion funds," he wrote.

British Prime Minster Tony Blair is wasting no time as he prepares to assume the presidency of the EU.

See "UK moves to allay new member states' fears" for more.

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British Diplomats Work To Allay New EU Members' Fears

Ivan Camilleri of The Times of Malta reported June 23, 2005 from Brussels that, "In the wake of last week's failure to agree on the next EU Budget, the UK has initiated a diplomatic "damage control" campaign focused particularly on the 10 new member states considered to be the most badly hit by the talks collapse."

Mr. Camilleri said,"The new member states, including Malta, have already expressed concern over the situation as a late agreement on the financial perspective will mean less time to prepare the necessary and time-consuming groundwork connected to the use of millions of euros in structural and cohesion funds," he wrote.

British Prime Minster Tony Blair is wasting no time as he prepares to assume the presidency of the EU.

See "UK moves to allay new member states' fears" for more.

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June 22, 2005

Russia To Write Off $16 Billion in African Debt

MosNews.Com, citing an Interfax dispatch, reported that Russia "has decided to write off over $16 billion in African countries debts, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko told Interfax on June 21, 2005.

"I must say right away that Russia is making a great contribution to programs to facilitate the development of African countries, including by easing their tax burden," Mr. Yakovenko said, according to Interfax. "Many must have forgotten about this. I'll cite just one figure. Over the past several years, Russia has written off or promised to write off African countries debts worth over $16 billion, which is far more than individual G8 members contribution to the solution of this problem."

See "Foreign Ministry Says Russia Will Write off $16 Billion ln in African Debts" for more.

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Russia To Write Off $16 Billion in African Debt

MosNews.Com, citing an Interfax dispatch, reported that Russia "has decided to write off over $16 billion in African countries debts, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko told Interfax on June 21, 2005.

"I must say right away that Russia is making a great contribution to programs to facilitate the development of African countries, including by easing their tax burden," Mr. Yakovenko said, according to Interfax. "Many must have forgotten about this. I'll cite just one figure. Over the past several years, Russia has written off or promised to write off African countries debts worth over $16 billion, which is far more than individual G8 members contribution to the solution of this problem."

See "Foreign Ministry Says Russia Will Write off $16 Billion ln in African Debts" for more.

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Russia Favors G8 Dialogue With China

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko told Interfax on June 21, 2005 that Russia favors the expansion of a dialogue between the G8 and China. He said:

The enlargement of the G8 composition is not on the agenda now. At the same time, we stand for the further consistent expansion of the dialogue between the G8 and the countries whose growing economic might is making them more and more significant players on the world arena. China is definitely among these countries
Interfax also quotes Mr. Yakovenko as saying: "As for the level and pace of interaction between the G8 and other countries, it will depend, particularly, on the preparedness of these countries themselves to expand cooperation." Here's more.

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Most G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting In London

G8 foreign ministers from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the United States are meeting in London June 23-24, 2005. Canada, a G8 member, did not send Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew to the summit "because of domestic political concerns," according to the Toronto Globe and Mail..

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AI, Oxfam, IANSA: G8 Arms Exports Fuelling Poverty, Rights Abuse

Amnesty International (AI), Oxfam and the International Action Network on Small Arms said June 22, 2005 that, "G8 member states are undermining their commitments to poverty reduction, stability and human rights with irresponsible arms exports to some of the world's poorest and most conflict-ridden countries."

G8 weapons have been exported to countries including Sudan, Myanmar (Burma), the Republic of Congo, Colombia and the Philippines," the organizations said.

See "G8 arms exports fuelling poverty and human rights abuses" for more.

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Irene Khan: Gitmo Is A Stain On America's Reputation

Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International (AI), has an editorial in the June 22, 2005 issue News Amnesty in which she addresses the Bush Administration's reaction to Amnesty's recent report on the Guantanamo Bay Prisoner of War Camp, where about 500 Muslims prisoners are held. AI created world-wide debate on the camp when it called it the "Gulag of our times." The Bush Administration condemned the characterization. Ms. Khan wrote:

Offensive. Irresponsible. Reprehensible. Unfortunate and sad. Absurd.

Were President Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld reacting to our concerns over torture, ill-treatment and murders in US detention centres? Were Condoleezza Rice and General Richard Myers assuring the American people that abuses being perpetrated in their name, including the use of dogs and sexual humiliation, would be stamped out and investigated?

Not quite. Instead these words were used by the Administration to attack AI's Report 2005 and divert attention from some hard truths.

Over the past three and a half years, Amnesty International has produced several detailed reports on US policies and practices on human rights in the context of the War on Terror. The most recent, containing 164 pages of evidence and analysis, was published just weeks before the launch of the 2005 AI Report. Another published in October 2004, ran to over 200 pages. The Bush Administration failed to respond to either of these reports. The detention camp in Guantánamo is a stain on Americas reputation.

"But Guantánamo is just the visible tip of an iceberg of abuse," she added, "the most notorious link in a chain of detention camps ranging from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to prisons in Iraq and elsewhere. Evidence of terrible abuse continues to seep out of this shadowy network."

See "USA: Close Guantánamo and disclose the rest" for the entire editorial.

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Is Bush Struggling To Assert His Authority In Washington?

Alex Massie, The Scotsman's, Washington correspondent, told the paper's readers in a June 23, 2005 report that it's "six months into George Bush's second term and the talk in Washington is of what went wrong, not in Iraq but in the capital itself, where the U.S. President is struggling to assert his authority and make progress towards implementing his agenda."

"The most recent New York Times/CBS opinion poll reported that his approval rating had slumped to just 42 per cent," he wrote. " Although most second terms prove problematic, Bill Clinton's approval ratings never dipped that low and it took the Iran-Contra scandal to bring Ronald Reagan's approval to rating below 50 per cent."

See "Bush's plans stall as bold agenda is shunned by Congress" for more.

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Some Republicans Want Bush To Turn Over Bolton Documents

James Kuhnhenn of Knight Ridder Newspapers reported June 22, 2005 that, "A growing number of Senate Republicans say John Bolton won't be confirmed as United Nations ambassador unless the White House turns over documents that Democrats say they need to assess Bolton's fitness for the post".

Knight Ridder said, "Though the White House continued Wednesday [June 22, 2005] to demand an up-or-down vote on Bolton, these Republican senators say the Senate is in a standoff that only President Bush can resolve.

"I hope the president will take a very hard look at the documents," Senator Lamar Alexander, (R-Tenn), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview with Knight Ridder. "Unless we resolve this dilemma quickly, Mr. Bolton is not going to be the U.N. ambassador. ... The president should understand that we're at an impasse. It may be more important to preserve the doctrine of separation of powers than to have John Bolton in the U.N." I wonder how many other republications hold this view.

See "Republicans press Bush to turn over Bolton documents."

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U.S. Senator Durbin Forced To Say He's Sorry Over Gitmo Statement

"Teary Durbin: I'm sorry" is an thought-provoking article by Chicago Sun-Times Washington correspondent Lynn Sweet. She recounts how Senator Richard "Dick" Durbin (D-IL) has been forced to apologize "for comparing the U.S. treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo to Nazis, Soviets and Pol Pot."

What's thought-provoking about the Sweet article is that it shows that even the number two ranking Democrat can be forced by powerful media and political forces in the U.S. to follow a conservative, Republican party line on some issue.

See "Statement of Senator Dick Durbin" for what he acutally said.

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South Koreans Reminded Of An Unpleasant Anniversary

Ryu Jin, Staff Reporter for The Korean Times, wrote in a June 22, 2005 article that, "June 22 is a day that South Koreans could hardly forget. Kim Sun-il, a 33-year-old civilian worker who had been kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents, was found dead in the war-torn country exactly one year ago." Here's more.

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Is U.S.-Style Liberty A Priority For Most Of The World?

Chicago Sun-Times Columnist Neil Steinberg offered an interesting view on "liberty" in his June 22, 2005 column. He wrote:

Is liberty really "the universal longing of every soul," as Condoleezza Rice told an audience in Egypt this week? Or is that belief merely our gosh-darn American presumption leading us astray again?

Because, frankly, when I look over the wide swoop of human history, I don't see much pining after liberty. I see a whole lot of "let's go kill those guys and take their stuff." I see quite a bit of "let's roll at the feet of that king." But not much "let's promote liberty so that each of us can breathe free.

Mr. Steinberg, perhaps the Sun-Times' most inflammatory columnist, also said: "Surveying our world today, people seem to leap to put on the chains of some religion or drug or cause. Even in America, the supposed land of liberty, a big chunk of the population is eager to yank the leash the moment somebody tries to use that liberty to do something they don't like." For more, see "Liberty seems pretty far down on world's to-do list."

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EU To Approve Negotiations Framework For Turkey

EU Observer.Com reported June 22, 2005 that, "The European Commission is set to let Turkey move a step closer to the EU by approving the negotiations framework, on which it will base membership negotiations with the country, next Wednesday (June 29, 2005). The framework for negotiations constitutes the main guiding principles on which EU negotiations with a country are started," the publication said. Here's more..

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The U.S. Anti-War Movement Can't Impeach Bush

On June 21, 2005, Virginia Rodino at Democracy Rising. US asked: "Will the U.S. Anti-War Movement Impeach Bush?" I doubt it. The left does not have the constitutional authority to do so. I think Ms. Rodino's perspective is worth analyzing.

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Downing Street Memo: The Pentagon Papers Of Our Time?

BellaCiao reported June 19, 2005 that, "The so-called Downing Street memos, now seven in number, have been dismissed by some in the press as "old news," but the same could be said of the Pentagon Papers when they were published."

"As in the previous case," the publication said, "the shock value comes from their official nature, and they bring key questions about deceit and poor judgment in the run-up to the Iraq war back to the forefront for public debate."

See "British Documents: The Pentagon Papers of Our Time?" for more.

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The Michael Smith Transcipt Discussing The Downing Street Memo

Michael Smith, The Sunday Times of London reporter who broke the Downing Street Memo story, went online with The Washington Post on June 16, 2005, Here is a transcript of the session. It's quite revealing.

The memo suggests that the Bush administration "fixed" intelligence about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction to justify removing former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power.

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Rightwing Critics And The Downing Street Memo

Blogcritics.Org has a June 21, 2005 post headlined "Right wingers try to claim Downing Street Memo a forgery." Written by Voice 1, the post said "Some right wingers are so scared of the truth, they use one lie to cover up another lie, and so on, unfortunately, for them at least, they lie so much that their lies cannot be backed up by the facts." I recommend the article.

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African-American Democrats And The Downing Street Memo

U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) told BlackAmericaWeb.com on June 21, 2005 that, "With the Downing Street memo and the constantly increasing death toll, I think the American people realize that we have no policy for success" in Iraq.

"We in Congress must demand direction, an action plan from the president and Secretary of Defense [Rumsfeld]. And we must demand that they respond to our oversight," she told BlackAmericaWeb.com's Monica Lewis,

Ms. Lewis said Ms. "Jackson-Lee and roughly 60 other Democratic members of House have joined together to form the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus." She noted that the caucus, "formed by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA),... includes the likes of Representatives John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, Jr., John Conyers, Cynthia McKinney, and Carolyn Kilpatrick."

According to Ms. Lewis, the caucus met June 20, 2005 "to discuss what moves they will make to apply pressure and hold Bush, Rumsfeld and others within the administration accountable."

See "Conyers, Other Black Democrats Fired Up Over Downing Street Memo" for more.

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Who's The Next Target In Lebanon?

Al-Jazeera.Net's June 22, 2005 article headlined "Arrests follow Beirut assassination" has interesting speculation about who could be behind the June 21, 2005 assassination of Lebanese Democratic Movement leader George Hawi. The question now is: Who's next?

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What If Syria Is Not Behind Assassinations In Lebanon?

Ya Libnan reported June 21, 2005 that," The United Sates and United Nations served a joint ultimatum to [Syrian] President [Bashar] Assad just last week, that Syria would be taken to 'harsh international reckoning' if a single other political assassination occurs in Lebanon."

U.N. envoy Terje Roed-Larsen delivered the message personally to President Assad when they meet in Damascus on June 12," the publication said. "It's an ultimatum the deadline of which is any new political assassination in Lebanon."

Ya Libnan noted that, "Washington accused Syria last week of "targeting key Lebanese public figures, various political and religious persuasions for assassination." Syria responded, claiming to be "above the use of threats, assassinations and bombing," according to the Syrian Information Ministry."

The June 21, 2005 assassination of Lebanese Democratic Movement leader George Hawi will tell whether the U.S. and the U.N. will carry out their threats, which leads to two question:

What if Syria is not behind this and other assassinations in Lebanon? Would the U.S. and the U.N. admit it?

I don't have answers, just questions. See "Anti-Syrian political leader assassinated in Lebanon" for more.

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June 21, 2005

It's Decision Time For Bush On Bolton Nomination

"President Bush faces a politically thorny situation _ and stark choices _ now that Senate Democrats twice have blocked John Bolton's confirmation as U.N. ambassador," according to The Washington Post. What are his choices? See "Bush Faces Decision on Bolton Nomination" for The Post's answer.

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Robert Guest: 'Africa's Future Is In Africans' Hands'

"When Tony Blair and his pop-star friends say that we in the West can "Make Poverty History", they are setting us an impossible task," contends Robert Guest, who ended his tenure as The Economist's Africa editor in May 2005.

"I don't mean that Africa will never prosper - it will," added the author of The Shackled Continent: Africa's Past, Present and Future, in a June 20, 2005 article at Scotmans.Com. "But when it does, it will be through the efforts of Africans. Outsiders can help, but only at the margins. No region ever grew rich from handouts."

Correct. But the U.S. and some nations in Europe and have gotten rich from exploiting the African continent's human and natural resources. Now it's time for Africa to exploit the continent for its own benefit. Here's more of Mr. Guest's analysis.

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Miami Herald: 'Seize The Moment To Turn Africa Around'

The Miami [Florida] Herald stated in a June 21, 2005 editorial that, "President Bush has championed the fight against AIDS in Africa and recently agreed to support a plan to cancel more than $40 billion in debt owed by desperately poor African countries."

"Those are good and laudable efforts, yet they are only a pittance compared to what is needed to break the cycle of extreme poverty and disease in Africa," the paper said. "The United States should do more, and it's in our own interest to do so."

For more, see "Seize the moment to turn Africa around."

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Is It Worth Investing In Africa?

Baltimore Sun.Com opined in a June 21, 2005 editorial that, "In many ways, Africa is still struggling to overcome the lingering effects of colonialism -- plundered resources, artificial boundaries, ethnic conflicts and corrupt dictatorships -- which feed the cycle of famine, poverty, disease and strife." I totally agree. See "Investing in Africa" for more of the editorial.

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Zuma Claims He's The Victim Of A 'Political Conspiracy'

"Axed as South Africa's second-in-command last week, Jacob Zuma was effectively stripped of his remaining hold on power on Monday [June 20, 2005]," according to Independent Online of South Africa reporters Angela Quintal, Jeremy Michaels and Moshoeshoe Monare. "He remains deputy president of the ruling party in name only, pending the outcome of his trial on two counts of corruption," they reported on June 21, 2005.

They also reported that, "In yet another day of high drama, Zuma and his supporters were berated by the African National congress' top leadership for alleging that the former deputy president was the victim of a "political conspiracy". The ANC angrily denounced their "reckless statements," according to Independent Online report. Here's more.

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Two Syrian Imams On Democracy In Syria

Joshua Landis at Syria Comment.Com has a worth reading post headlined "Imams Hussainy and Habash on Democracy in Syria." I recommend it.

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Condoleeza Rice And The Muslim Brotherhood

The Guardian Unlimited's Simon Tisdall said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's "silence on the Muslim Brotherhood's lack of free choices [in Egypt] reflected the strong official Egyptian resistance to legalizing the organization. "

"But it also illustrated Washington's larger dilemma in calling for greater Arab democracy while opposing Islamic groups such as Hamas in Palestine and Hizbullah in Lebanon with proven electoral appeal," he wrote in a June 21, 2005 article. Ms. Rice was in Cairo on June 20, 2005.

Question: If Egypt and other U.S. allies in the Middle East embrace democracy, where will the U.S. outsource its torture of Muslim prisoners of war? Now that I think of it, that shouldn't be a problem. Reports out of Abu Ghraib, Iraq; Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, indicate that we do a good job of torture ourselves.

For more of Mr. Tisdall's article, see "Democracy's advance in Egypt brings dilemma for US." Also see this State Department Transcript of Ms. Rice's June 20, 2005 remarks at the American University in Cairo.

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Haaretz's Rubinstein: Abbas Needs Sharon's Help

Haaretz's Danny Rubinstein contends in a June 21, 2005 analysis that "The Palestinians are concerned that today's meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will be a tense affair." See "Analysis / Abbas needs Sharon's help" for more.

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Iran's Presidential Run-off Set For June 24, 2005

IranMania reported June 21, 2005 that, "Iran's Guardians Council announced that it had found no evidence of fraud in last week's presidential election, saying a partial recount had confirmed the result and a run-off would go ahead Friday [June 24, 2005]."

"After complaints... the Guardians Council authorized the interior ministry to recount the ballots from a certain number of boxes. It was clear there was no fraud," the head of the Guardians Council, Ahmad Jannati, said in a statement read on state television, according to IranMania. "The vote was sound and the second round will be held on Friday."

IranMania said, "The Council, a hardline-controlled political watchdog, agreed to an extremely partial and random recount of ballots cast in a first round of presidential elections after several candidates complained of vote rigging." Here's more.

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What Will Become Of Emile Lahoud?

The June 21, 2005 issue of the Los Angeles Times calls Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, who is unabashedly pro-Syrian, "The Last Man Standing."

Staff writer Megan K. Stack, writing from Baabda, Lebanon, wrote:

He weathered demands for his resignation, shrugged off the insults and outlasted the Syrian protectors who were regarded as his sole source of clout. Through it all, Lebanon's seemingly unsinkable president, Emile Lahoud, has managed to hold on to his job. He has ridden out waves of tumult, bombings and street demonstrations. He stayed put while the political fortunes of virtually everybody in Lebanon's ruling class shifted.
She said, "While billionaire businessman Saad Hariri celebrated his anti-Syria bloc's sweep in the final phase of parliamentary elections Monday [June 20, 2005], Mr. Lahoud stayed out of sight. And the question grew: What will become of Lebanon's deeply unpopular president, a staunch ally of Damascus who is widely seen as a symbol of the Syrian government?"

He'll probably end up in Damascus, if he is not assassinated. See "Lebanon's Lahoud: Last Man Standing" for more.

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Chrenkoff's Interview With Editor's Of Ya Libnan

On June 17, 2005, Arthur Chrenkoff, proprietor of the blog Chrenkoff, published an interview with the editors of Ya Libnan, who asked to remain anonymous. The interview is quite good. Here is the Chrenkoff version. Also see Ya Libnan's version.

The Lebanese publication "was originally created to capture the historic events that erupted as a result of the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri."

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Will Changing Political Personalities Help Lebanon?

Sam F. Ghattas, a Beirut-based correspondent for the Associated Press who has covered Lebanese and Arab affairs since 1982, quotes Lebanon's An Nahar newspaper as saying:

The same people and same mentality which administered Lebanon during the Syrian presence with all its negative aspects will remain (despite the oppositions majority in Parliament) unless there is a change, if not with the personalities ... at least with the mentality.
See "Newsview: Syria shadow hangs over Lebanon" for more of Mr. Ghattas' commentary.

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Chibli Mallat: Real Renewal In Lebanon Means No Lahoud or Berri

In a June 21, 2005 commentary for The Daily Star of Lebanon, Chibli Mallat, a lawyer and European Union Jean Monnet law professor at Saint Joseph's University in Beirut, said the Lebanese "should now speak of an "indigenous-led" opposition, which includes those who opposed the Syrian presence "in the field," of which the two tragic icons are [former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik] Hariri and the recently assassinated journalist Samir Kassir (not to forget Marwan Hamadeh's dead driver, Ghazi Boukaroum, and those many other innocents killed in the Hariri assassination); and we should distinguish this opposition from the "exile-led" opposition, epitomized by Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun.

"One can lament the split within the opposition (although thanks to Aoun's stand - some would say stubbornness - suspense was injected into the electoral process), but the remarkably non-violent revolution we have lived through can now be brought to fruition," he added.

Mr. Mallat said,"That is why there must today be two paramount objectives: the departure of President Emile Lahoud, so we can at last reconcile ourselves with our mistreated Constitution; and the election of a new speaker of Parliament in lieu of Nabih Berri, so that a fresh spirit can infuse legislative matters." See "Real Renewal Means No Lahoud Or Berri" for more of his commentary.

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June 20, 2005

Bush Suiffers Another Setback On Bolton Confirmation

The Washington Note's Steve Clemons, who has been relentless in his coverage of the John R. Bolton confirmation process, wrote June 20, 2005 that President George W. Bush's choice for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations "is not getting the approval of the United States Senate unless the White House fully concedes on the document requests that Senators have requested since April that might help better inform them as to controversial and important parts of John Bolton's record."

Democrats have hung tight on this one. So has the Bush Administration. The result: A deadlock. Here's more on the Bolton affair.

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Blair Attacks EU's Culture Of 'Cobbled-together Compromise'

Simon Freeman of Times Online of London reported June 20, 2005 that British Prime Minister Tony Blair "won rare plaudits from Michael Howard today as the leader of the Opposition congratulated him for his defence of Britain's European Union budget rebate at an EU summit last month."

"Mr Howard's words of praise came after the Prime Minister, in a statement to the Commons, attacked the EU's culture of "cobbled-together compromise" and tore into the institution whose presidency he takes over in ten days time," Mr. Freeman wrote. See "Blair berates 'cobbled together' Europe" for more.

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Der Spiegel: The EU's Fight Over Money Isn't So Bad

Der Spiegel Online correspondents Hans-Jürgen Schlamp and Frank Dohmen say it would "be easy to exaggerate" the situation in the European Union although it "is in a rut and it's not clear how it will get out."

"The fight over money isn't so bad that it will be impossible to resolve," they wrote on in a June 20, 2005 article headlined "EU Summit Collapse is 'Historic Failure.' They were referring to last week's EU meeting in Brussels that collapsed on June 17, 2005 because of France and Britain's "complete unwillingness to compromise on the European Union's next budget."

"There's still plenty of time to draw up a financial plan for the EU'S 2007-2013 budget period," they opined, adding: "Indeed, in the almost 50-year history of the European community, important decisions have almost always been made at the last minute."

They said, "What is terrible, however, is the effect the fruitless summit is having in the media, which has deeply damaged Brussels's already disastrous image among the European populace. Planners intended for the summer summit in Brussels to mark a turn for the better - unfortunately, they instead got an historical failure," they acknowledged.

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'Outrage? Yes, But Not Over Durbin

The Quad-City Times of Davenport, Iowa has a to-the-point editorial headlined "Outrage? Yes, but not over Durbin" in the June 18, 2005 edition on the unjustified criticism of Senator Richard "Dick" Durbin of Illinois for his comments on the Senate Floor about U.S. treatment of Muslim prisoners of War at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Some even say Mr. Durbin should be charged with treason and should apologize for this statement.

What did Mr. Durbin say that has some people upset? Here's what he said, according to the Quad City Times:

"When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here I almost hesitate to put them in the record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned up so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.'

This is the part that rankled some observers:
If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime Pol Pot or others that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.
Unless I'm missing something, that doesn't sound like criticism to me. I think the Quad City Times really puts the issue into perspective. Of course, it won't matter to those who thinks its OK for us to torture but complain when other nations do it.

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Rice Wants Up-Or-Down Vote On Bolton

"What we need to do is we need to get an up-or-down vote on John Bolton,'' U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice told ABC's "This Week'' on June 19, 2005. "Let's find out whether, in fact, the Senate, in its whole, in its entirety, intends and wants to confirm him. That's all that we're asking.''

Mr. Bolton is President George W. Bush's controversial nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. I'd be surprised if there is an up-or-down vote. The Democrats are not finished with him yet. Here's more.

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Save Your Time And Money, Mr. Biden

During his June 19, 2005 appearance on CBS' Face The Nation, Senator Joseph Biden Democrat of Delaware, said "My intention, as I sit here now, is, as I've proceeded since last November as if I were going to run" for the presidency in 2008. "I'm quite frankly going out, seeing whether I can gather the kind of support," for a run.

Save your money and energy, Mr. Biden. The Democrat's best bet will be a southerner, probably a governor, who has not yet emerged as a potential candidate, not a northeasterner who has been in Washington since 1972. Here's more.

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June 19, 2005

The Week Ahead For Tony Blair

Richard North at EU Referendum said in a June 20, 2005 post that, "Although the broadcast media seem to have dropped "Europe" like a hot cake yesterday, having overdosed over the last week, today should see a brief squib as [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair reports back to the Commons on the abortive European Council."

"There should also be some fun on Thursday when he addresses the EU parliament in Brussels, setting out in detail his objectives of the UK presidency which starts on 1 July," Mr. North wrote. See "Sitting Bull on the warpath" for more of his interesting commentary.

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Schüssel Says Blair Put National Interest Above EU

Deutsche Welle reported on June 19, 2005 that, "Following the collapse of the European Union summit over a bitter budget dispute, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel took British Prime Minister" Anthony Charles Lynton "Tony" Blair "to task for putting national interests above those of the 25-member bloc.

Britain, which insisted on retaining its five-billion euro rebate despite opposition from the other 24 member states, has been widely criticized for torpedoing the 2007-2013 budget compromise," Deutsche Welle noted. See "Quo Vadis, Europe?" fore more.

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Peter Mandelson: 'The EU Faces A Stark Choice

European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson stated in a June 20, 2005 Guardian Unlimited article that,"The Brussels summit has highlighted the stark choice before Europe: "carry on as before" or, in the light of the French and Dutch no votes, "rethink fundamentally our priorities and policies."

"Anti-Europeans, of course, want to use the present crisis to pull down Europe and turn it into some weak and ineffective free-trade area," he wrote. "I believe profoundly that Europe, having solved the problem of the European civil wars of the 20th century, provides the answer to many challenges of the 21st - and unless we succeed in making the idea of Europe more attractive, progressive politics will be greatly weakened." See "More than a squabble: this goes to the heart of Europe" for more.

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Iran Wants Bush To Apologize For Election Criticism

The Daily Star of Lebanon reported June 20, 2005 that Iran "demanded U.S. President George W. Bush "wake up and apologize" for his criticism of the weekend's presidential poll, saying Iran had been vindicated by a high turnout.

"Bush's statement helped those people who did not want to vote to come forward and vote. With their presence they have dealt a big blow to the United States," Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told reporters," according to The Star. "We hope that the Americans wake up from their sleep and correct their position toward Iran and apologize."

The Star said Mr. Bush "had savaged the election process ahead of the vote, saying the polls ignored "basic democratic standards" and were the latest example of the clerical regime's "oppressive record."

"Iran's spy chief, meanwhile, used just two words to respond to White House ridicule of the poll: "Thank you." The sarcasm was easy to detect. So was the apparent backfire by Washington," according to The Star. Here's more.

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Will Saad Hariri Become Lebanon's Next Prime Minister?

Ya Libnan reported June 20, 2005 that, "The anti-Syrian Lebanese opposition alliance swept the fourth and final stage of Lebanon's elections, resulting in the first anti-Syrian majority since the 1975-1990 civil war. The tightly contested race between Saad Hariri's and Michel Aoun's candidates was critical in determining the dynamics of the new parliament."

The publication said Mr. Hariri's "victory gives the 35 year old an absolute majority of 72 seats out of the 128 total."

Ya Libnan noted that Sunday [June 19, 2005] "marked the final round of elections, as the selection of 128 members to form Lebanon's first post-Syria parliament has concluded. The week leading up to the showdown in the North was dominated by campaign rhetoric, and exposed the dark side of some candidates who engaged in a no-holds-barred slugfest," Ya Libnan said. See "Anti-Syrian Opposition claims victory in Lebanon election" for more.

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Will Saad Hariri Become Lebanon's Next Prime Minister?

Ya Libnan reported June 20, 2005 that, "The anti-Syrian Lebanese opposition alliance swept the fourth and final stage of Lebanon's elections, resulting in the first anti-Syrian majority since the 1975-1990 civil war. The tightly contested race between Saad Hariri's and Michel Aoun's candidates was critical in determining the dynamics of the new parliament."

The publication said Mr. Hariri's "victory gives the 35 year old an absolute majority of 72 seats out of the 128 total."

Ya Libnan noted that Sunday [June 19, 2005] "marked the final round of elections, as the selection of 128 members to form Lebanon's first post-Syria parliament has concluded. The week leading up to the showdown in the North was dominated by campaign rhetoric, and exposed the dark side of some candidates who engaged in a no-holds-barred slugfest," Ya Libnan said. See "Anti-Syrian Opposition claims victory in Lebanon election" for more.

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Times of London Publishes Another British Foreign Office Leak

Rupert Murdoch's Times of London continues its important exposes of U.S. and British plans for provoking a war with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. When that didn't work, The Times' reporting indicates, the Bush Administration did not hesitate to manufacture reasons to invade and occupy Iraq.

The Times latest expose, published June 19, 2005, says "a sharp increase in British and American bombing raids on Iraq in the run-up to war to put pressure on the regime was illegal under international law, according to leaked Foreign Office legal advice."

The publication said "the advice was first provided to senior ministers in March 2002. Two months later RAF and USAF jets began spikes of activity designed to goad Saddam Hussein into retaliating and giving the allies a pretext for war. The Foreign Office advice shows military action to pressurize the regime was not consistent with UN law, despite American claims that it was," the publication said. See "British bombing raids were illegal, says Foreign Office." Also see "Foreign and Commonwealth Office legal advice."

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Is ETA Undergoing An IRA-Like Split?

Franco Aleman at BarcePundit (English) has interesting questions about the Basque group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, or ETA's "two communiqués in 48 hours, and an attack clearly contradicting the second one..."

"Are we seeing an IRA-like split between more and less violent factions, for and against laying down arms?" Mr. Aleman asks. "Or is it all just what ETA has shown several times in the past to be masters of, a carefully administered position to put a driving a wedge between the different groups in front of them? Divide and conquer?"

Time will tell. Here's more. Also see "ETA Making An Offer You Can't Refuse."

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Is The Iraq War Worth The Price?

Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, noted in his June 19, 2005 column for The Washington Post that:

Wars remain subjects of debate not just because their "necessity" is in doubt but also because their results are mixed. No war has produced unmitigated successes. The Civil War did not completely "free" African Americans, who remained oppressed for another century. World War I destroyed Europe, and helped pave the way for the rise of Hitler and the Soviet Union. World War II defeated Hitler but enslaved half of Europe behind the Iron Curtain and introduced the world to nuclear warfare. The Persian Gulf War drove Hussein out of Kuwait but helped produce the Osama bin Laden we know today. Add to that the millions of innocent lives lost, and the toll of these wars, generally regarded as "successful," is high. Does that mean those wars were not "worth it"?
He said, "Demanding unmixed results and guarantees against the unintended consequences of war is as unrealistic as demanding absolute confidence in the "necessity" of going to war in the first place. See "Whether This War Was Worth It: In Analyzing Iraq, Consider the Effects of Having Done Nothing" for more of Mr. Kagan's analysis..

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Mr. Bush, Muslim Fighters Are in Iraq Because The U.S. Is There

During his June 18, 2005 radio address, U.S. President George W. Bush said, in part:

As we work to deliver opportunity at home, we're also keeping you safe from threats from abroad. We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens. Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror. These foreign terrorists violently oppose the rise of a free and democratic Iraq, because they know that when we replace despair and hatred with liberty and hope, they lose their recruiting grounds for terror.
Mr. President, Muslim fighters from various parts of the Islamic world are in Iraq because you are occupying it. And they will keep coming as long as U.S. occupation forces remain. Here's a White House Transcript of Mr. Bush's June 17, 2005 radio address.

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Kareem Kamel Looks At 'The Politics and Discourse of Humiliation'

Egyptian Scholar Kareem M. Kamel's article in the June 16, 2005 issue of Islam Online. Net headlined "The Politics and Discourse of Humiliation, which was republished in The Journal of Turkish Weekly" offers a thought-provoking analysis of what many Muslims, including many non-Arab American born ones, regard as a cultural war against Islam in conjunction with the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr. Kamel, a PhD candidate at the American University in London, and a teaching assistant to the Political Science Department at the American University in Cairo, says "more disturbing" than insults to Muslims by the likes of Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and other evangelists and writers "is the prevalence of justifications for the US occupation of Muslim lands based on condescending, arrogant, and racist foundations; reformulations of the white mans burden thesis that seek to magnify the essential otherness and incurable deficiencies of the Orient vis-à-vis an enlightened, progressive West. Central to neo-conservative thinking in this regard is Raphael Patai's book entitled The Arab Mind (1973)." He notes that:

The Arab Mind was catapulted into the limelight when Seymour Hersh, investigating torture at Abu Ghraib, claimed that it was the bible of neocons on Arab behavior, (Hersh). Patai, a Hungarian-born Jew and an ardent Zionist, describes the Middle East as a monolithic cultural area, with no plurality of differences, and portrays Arabs as evasive, shifty, indifferent, deceptive, and careless individuals, who are exceptionally and intrinsically susceptible to humiliation and indignation. The same mind-set is apparent in a work by Douglas A. Kupersmith, published by the School of Advanced Airpower Studies, wherein it is argued that the Arab culture commonly exhibits a strong disdain for manual labor and to leave things undone until the last possible minute. Kupersmith enthusiastically cites Patai, arguing that the situation in the Arab world is one of a handful of nations paying cash for the best military hardware, while relying heavily on outside expertise to keep their modern forces operational (ONeil Ortiz). Thus, the US occupation of Muslim land is seen as essentially picking up where intrinsic Arab weakness left off. In other words, because Arabs are lazy and passive, it follows that all colonization of industry (or of nations themselves in the Middle East) are in fact provoked by those who cannot help themselves, (ONeil-Ortiz). Norvell B. De Atkine, Director of Middle East Studies at the JFK Special Warfare Center and Military School at Fort Bragg, and Patai's greatest champion, admits that "At the institution where I teach military affairs, the Arab Mind forms the basis of my cultural instruction. Over the past 12 years, I have also briefed hundreds of military teams being deployed to the Middle East. (ONeil-Ortiz).
Mr. Kamel pointed to Mr. De Atkine article in the Middle East Quarterly entitled Why Arabs Lose Wars, in which he attributes
Arab military defeats in the modern era not to contemporary political or military specificities, but to a culture that engenders subtlety, indirection and dissimulation in personal relationships... and the often-paranoid environment of Arab political culture, hinting at the possible role of Islam's inherent fatalism in encouraging a defeatist mentality among Arabs, (De Atkine).
"More seriously," Mr. Kamel wrote, "the Area Studies Branch of the World Religions and Cultures Department of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center distributes an Area Manual to soldiers and private personnel in various war theatres that is replete with ethnocentric and utterly flawed notions of presumed typical Arab behavior, (Working and Training Guidelines).
Again, the manual depicts Arabs as passive, fatalistic, indecisive, incompetent, tribal, primitive, and opportunistic. Even positive characteristics, such as Arab generosity, are portrayed, not as a humanitarian attribute, but rather the result of an innate desire to induce loyalty through indebtedness, and thus strengthening ones family and/or kin, (Working and Training Guidelines).
He said, "Given the dissemination of such essentialist and outright racist notions in the military, it is obvious why US military personnel in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, or Bagram Air Base would torture their Muslim captives by using specific methods designed to shame and humiliate, since the writings of Patai teach them that honor envelops the Arab ego like a coat of armor... the smallest chink can threaten to loosen all the loops and rings, (Wyatt-Brown)."

(Editor's Note: Links were added to this excerpt for quick reference for those who may not be familiar with the various institutions and individuals mentioned in Mr. Kamel's article.)

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Hassan Jabareen: Ignoring The 'Other'

Hassan Jabareen, an attorney and the general director of Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and an adjunct lecturer in the faculties of law at the Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University, wrote in the June 17, 2005 issue of Haaretz that:

Israeli lawyers took part in an international conference this year on human rights violations in the occupied territories. At the conference, the Israeli embassy distributed a paper with selected quotes from the decisions of the president of the Supreme Court, Aharon Barak. The lawyers were taken aback. They had planned to use these very decisions to accentuate the great discrepancy between the rhetoric and the results. This is not an isolated case. Israel's defense before the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva rests not on government resolutions, ministerial statements or Knesset legislation, but almost exclusively on the rhetoric of Aharon Barak. In effect, the political establishment has turned Justice Barak into Israel's public defender abroad.
He said, "the irony is that this rhetoric creates tension at home between Barak and the political establishment, which also consists of senior jurists from the academic world. Barak's book explores this tension and the issues at the core of the dispute between Barak and those who are at odds with his judicial approach." See "Ignoring The 'Other'" for more.

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Sidel And Thier Take A Look at 'Fallout From The War on Terror'

Yale Global Online, the prestigious publication of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, published an important excerpt from More Secure, Less Free? Antiterrorism Policy and Civil Liberties After September 11 (University of Michigan Press, 2004), a book by Mark Sidel, professor of law at the University of Iowa 2004). It is part of the Yale Global Online's two-part series headlined "Fallout from the War on Terror," which suggests that the Bush Administration "Antiterrorism policy has taken its toll on foreign enrollment in U.S. universities." According to Mr. Sidel:

Washington's war on terror may be quietly taking a toll on unsuspecting quarters its universities. To understand the effects of anti-terror policies on the U.S. academic sector, it helps to spend time on university campuses in Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, or other countries. From Melbourne to Edinburgh, those institutions are now filled with foreign students, many of whom would have come to the US, had they not been deterred by restrictive visa policies.
Part II of the "Fallout from the War on Terror" is an article by J. Alexander Thier, a Fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. He is also a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He served as legal adviser to the Afghan Constitutional and Judicial Reform Commissions from 2002-2004, according to Yale Global Online.

Mr. Thier maintains that "a pattern of human rights violations and prisoner abuse risks hurting US credibility in the Muslim world." He argues:

The spasm of protest and violence that swept through the Islamic world from Afghanistan to Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, and Indonesia in reaction to the Newsweek Quran abuse piece reveals something critical: the Muslim world is a powder-keg of anti-American sentiment. But rather than improve relations, the Bush administration continues to play with fire." Mr. Thier thinks, "the real "war on terror" is about culture, ideas, and perceptions as much as bombs and spies. While it is critical to fight the committed terrorists, abhorrent incidents of abuse by members of the US military play directly into the hands of the Islamic extremists who are competing for the hearts and minds of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
Mr. Thier contends that, "the US only has so many chances to deliver its message, and in the information-poor and conspiracy-rich environments of the Middle East, actions speak much louder than rhetoric."

I highly recommend the scholars' articles. They add sober discourse in what is often a cacophony of rhetoric in the Blogosphere in the ongoing discussion on the so-called "War on Terror."

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Iraq Reportedly Using Security Tactics From The Hussein Era

The Los Angeles Times reported in a June 19, 2005 dispatch that, "The public war on the Iraqi insurgency has led to an atmosphere of hidden brutalities, including abuse and torture, carried out against detainees by the nation's special security forces, according to defense lawyers, international organizations and Iraq's Ministry of Human Rights." They added:

Up to 60% of the estimated 12,000 detainees in the country's prisons and military compounds face intimidation, beatings or torture that leads to broken bones and sometimes death, said Saad Sultan, head of a board overseeing the treatment of prisoners at the Human Rights Ministry. He added that police and security forces attached to the Interior Ministry are responsible for most abuses.
The Times report, written by Jeffrey Fleishman and Asmaa Waguih in Baghdad, with a contribution from Times staff writer Carol J. Williams, said, "The units have used tactics reminiscent of Saddam Hussein's secret intelligence squads, according to the ministry and independent human rights groups and lawyers, who have cataloged abuses. See "Detainees in Iraq suffer abuse, says government" for more.

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Blogcritics. Org Takes A Shot At Representative John Conyers

Patfish at Blogcritics.Org takes a shot at Representative John Conyers (D-Michigan) in a post headlined "John Conyers, Turkeys and the Downing Street Memo." It's a conservative rant but its worth reading.

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Another Analysis Of The Downing Street Memo

Marcel Votlucka of SB Independent, a publication of the Stony Brook University chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, offers a good analysis of the Downing Street Memo for students and faculty at the university. The writer noted in a June 18, 2005 post:

The document now known as the Downing Street memo is a summary of a meeting between Richard Dearlove, the head of British intelligence, and senior Bush Administration officials. It dates from July 23, 2002, just as the Bush Administration was starting to make a case for invading Iraq but before it had officially declared its intention to do so. The memo was leaked to the Times of London, which published it on May 1, 2005 in the midst of Prime Minster Tony Blair's reelection campaign. The British media has reported on this memo and its implications, but the mainstream media this side of the Atlantic has neglected this story with impunity.
Votlucka said, "Only now are media outlets beginning to look into this document. Congressman John Conyers held a public hearing in Washington DC on June 16 [2005] regarding the memo and its implications." See "Analysis and Text of the Downing Street Memo" for more. I highly recommend it.

Editor's Note: Sir Richard Dearlove is no longer head of MI6 , Britain's Secret Intelligence Service. He was succeeded by John McLeod Scarlett on May 6, 2004.

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What Does The Downing Street Memo Say?

Marcel Votlucka of SB Independent, a publication of the Stony Brook University chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, offers a good analysis of the Downing Street Memo for students and faculty at the university. The writer noted in a June 18, 2005 post:

The document now known as the Downing Street memo is a summary of a meeting between Richard Dearlove, the head of British intelligence, and senior Bush Administration officials. It dates from July 23, 2002, just as the Bush Administration was starting to make a case for invading Iraq but before it had officially declared its intention to do so. The memo was leaked to the Times of London, which published it on May 1, 2005 in the midst of Prime Minster Tony Blair's reelection campaign. The British media has reported on this memo and its implications, but the mainstream media this side of the Atlantic has neglected this story with impunity.
Votlucka said, "Only now are media outlets beginning to look into this document. Congressman John Conyers held a public hearing in Washington DC on June 16 [2005] regarding the memo and its implications." See "Analysis and Text of the Downing Street Memo" for more. I highly recommend it.

Editor's Note: Sir Richard Dearlove is no longer head of MI6 , Britain's Secret Intelligence Service. He was succeeded by John McLeod Scarlett on May 6, 2004.

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A Nation Analysis: Conyers vs. The Post

John Nichols at The Nation's "Online Beat" blog contends "There is painful irony in the fact that, during the same month that the confirmation of "Deep Throat's" identity has allowed the Washington Post to relive its Watergate-era glory days, that newspaper is blowing the dramatically more significant story of the "fixed" intelligence the Bush administration used to scam Congress and U.S. allies into supporting the disasterous invasion and occupation of Iraq."

Most of the mainstream media outlets ignored the Downing Street Memo, which Mr. Nichols is referring to, until they were shamed by bloggers into covering it, or covering it with more depth. See "Conyers vs. The Post" for more.

Also see The Diplomatic Times Review for more Downing Street Memo coverage. There is also a Downing Street Memo blog.

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June 18, 2005

Failed Budget Talks Leads To War Of Words Among EU States

The BBC reports that "A bitter war of words has erupted among EU states after the failure to reach an agreement on the union's future budget." Here's more.

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The Observer Looks At The Battle of Brussels

An article in the June 19, 2005 edition of the Observer of London says "On the 190th anniversary of Waterloo, Britain and France are fighting again. But now the bitterness following the collapsed EU summit runs deeper even than in [former British Prime Minister Margaret] Thatcher's era," the publication said in an article headlined "Inside the battle of Brussels." Reporters Alex Duval Smith and Nick Watt in Brussels and Ned Temko in London provided useful insight into why the summit collapsed.

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Bush, Israel, Palestine And A Final-Status Agreement

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, and William B. Quandt, a senior NSA staffer responsibility for the Middle East, penned an important commentary on the Middle East that appeared in the June 17, 2005 edition of The Washington Post. They wrote:

The statement President Bush delivered at the conclusion of his recent meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas deserves serious attention. It has been much discussed by the Israeli press but drew scant commentary in the U.S. media. The president, in his formal presentation, declared that any final-status agreement between Palestinians and Israelis "must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 armistice lines must be mutually agreed to."

Lest there be any misunderstanding, the president said that "Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes road map obligations or prejudices final-status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem. . . . A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity of the West Bank. And a state of scattered territories will not work.

"There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bank and Gaza," the scholars wrote, adding: "This is the position of the United States today. It will be the position of the United States at the time of final-status negotiations." They said Mr. "Bush's declaration was a significant and helpful restatement of some long-held American positions. If these principles are actively embedded in Washington's policies over the months ahead, they could help further the president's stated goals of resolving the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, promoting democracy in the Middle East and undercutting support for Islamist terrorism."

See "From Bush, Mideast Words to Act On" for more.

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Hamidi On Why Syrians Are Turning To Islam

Joshua Landis at Syria Comment.Com notes in a June 18, 2005 post that, " Ibrahim Hamidi has a fantastic article in al-Hayat explaining the many reasons that Syrians are turning to Islam." He added:

They are accepting the principle that "Islam is the Solution." Having been ruled by secular regimes for 50 years, Syrians have only seen Muslims growing weaker. They don't have jobs, American and Israel are occupying more Arab land than ever, and the future is dark. Secular nationalism has failed. No alternatives are allowed in Syria. America and the West are seen as the enemies. What is left for the average Syrian but to turn toward Islam?Hamidi describes how most of the Damascus book stores that once sold Russian books about communism and materialism have been converted into Islamic bookstores, especially the store across the street from the Russian Cultural Center!
Mr. Landis said Mr. Mr. Hamidi "also gives the numbers on the growth of Islamic Institutes (600 new institutes for memorizing the Qur'an) and training centers. 72,751 families get assistance from Muslim charitable associations." Here's more.

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Pakistan: Khalilzad's Statement on Mullah Omar 'Irresponsible'

The Gulf Daily News, which bills itself as the "Voice of Bahrain," said "the outgoing US ambassador to Afghanistan," Zalmay Khalilzad, "has said there is a good chance Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is hiding in Pakistan and accused Islamabad of failing to act against fugitive Taliban leaders."

Pakistan described the comments by Mr. Khalilzad, who has been confirmed as the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, as "irresponsible."

The publication said, Mr. Khalilzad "had asked an interviewer why a Pakistani television channel could conduct an interview with a senior Taliban commander, Mullah Akhtar Usmani, broadcast on Wednesday [June 15, 2005], at a time when Pakistani officials claimed they did not know the whereabouts of Taliban leaders."

"If a TV station can get in touch with them, how can the intelligence service of a country which has nuclear bombs and a lot of security and military forces not find them?" Mr. Khalilzad is quoted as saying in an interview with Afghanistan's Aina television. Here's more. Also see "Mullah Omar in Pakistan: Khalilzad."

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The Iranian Election

"Iran will hold the first runoff presidential election in its history between political veteran Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Tehran's hard-line mayor," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 49, according to a report in Arab News, Saudi Arabia's English language daily.

This looks like democracy to me. Even down to losers saying the voting was rigged. Sounds familiar? Here's more. Also see "Polls rigged say reformists."

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What's The Big Deal About The Downing Street Memo?

Harold Thomas "Bud" Beck at Political Gateway asks: Would someone please tell me what I am missing?"

"I've drawn the ire of some very fine people who seem to believe I have changed sides and now support the president and his policies," he wrote in a June 18, 2005 post headlined Beyond Downing Street into the media itself. "I don't! But at the same time, I also don't understand the big thing they seem to believe they have with the Downing Street Memo. His commentary is worth reading.

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Bloggers And The Downing Street Memo

Kevin Anderson, in a June 17, 2005 post at the BBC News Website, reports that, "Since early May, left-leaning blogs have been trying to get mainstream media to pay attention to one - and now two - leaked secret memos from meetings that Prime Minister Tony Blair had with key cabinet members and intelligence figures in the summer before the war in Iraq." he added:

The bloggers believe the memos, leaked to the Sunday Times, show that the Bush administration had made up its mind to attack Iraq and then went about trying to justify it. With the release of the second memo, blogs can take some credit in raising the profile of the story in the US media.
"And," he opined, "Mr Bush's Democratic opponents sense a political opening to attack a now seemingly vulnerable president."

There has definitely been a shift in perception. See "Bloggers' 'victory' over Iraq war memos" for more of Mr. Anderson's analysis.

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Kurtz: MSM Taking Second Look At Downing Street Memo

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz says for "For many liberals frustrated with the media's coverage of President Bush, it has become a rallying cry: What about the Downing Street Memo?"

"Their anger, amplified by left-wing advocacy groups, columnists, bloggers and some Democrats in Congress, gradually has forced the mainstream media to take a second look at the July 2002 document," he wrote in a recent column. " In recounting a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair and his aides, the memo said intelligence on Iraq "was being fixed" by the Bush administration and that war was inevitable."

Mr. Kurtz said, "Since the existence of the memo, written by a British foreign-policy adviser, was reported May 1 by London's Sunday Times, U.S. journalists have offered various explanations for why they were slow to respond." Read the excuses of those interviewed by Mr. Kurtz.

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Heard in Washington: Calls To Impeach Bush Over Iraq

"The emotive and charged word "impeachment" was voiced yesterday [June 16, 2005] on Capitol Hill as a clutch of Democratic congressmen, backed by distraught mothers of soldiers slain in Iraq, put together a piece of theatre that could become the summer's political drama," reports Paul Koring at Globe and Mail.Com. See "Launch Drive To Impeach Bush, Activist Urge" for more .

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Conyers, Others Demand Inquiry Into The 'Downing Street memo'

David Paul Kuhn, Salon's Washington correspondent, in an article published in the June 17, 2005 issue of the Guardian Unlimited of Britain through a special arrangement, explains "how the Democratic representative John Conyers defied Republicans' to call for an inquiry into the 'Downing Street Memo." See "Just hearsay, or the new Watergate tapes?" for his analysis. It's definitely worth reading.

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The 'Downing Street Memo': A Smoking Gun?

Tom Regan at The Christian Science Monitor noted June 17, 2005 that, "President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and some media outlets, dismiss its importance, but the so-called 'Downing Street Memo' seems to be gathering increasing public attention." See "Is 'Downing Street Memo' a smoking gun?" for more.

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The Mounting Protests Against The Iraq War

Conservative Columnist William F. Buckley, Jr., founder and Editor-at-Large of National Review, acknowledges that, "It's correct that there is political commotion mounting in opposition to the war [in Iraq]. It is important to distinguish between two kinds," he opined in a June 18, 2005 Op/Ed column at Yahoo!News.

"One, which is gaining attention, centers on misrepresentations," he added. "The so-called Downing Street Memo is cited. This records an exchange at 10 Downing St. on July 23, 2002, at which, it is said, the representatives of Mr. Bush made it clear that the president had resolved to proceed against Iraq irrespective of what the United Nations might do." Mr. Buckley also wrote:

Rejecting that account, the Bush people have said that the invasion was not finally planned until after the appeal to the United Nations by Secretary of State Colin Powell on Feb. 5, 2003.
He said, "The revisionist line is saying that the war should not have taken place and that many who gave it support were deceived by apodictic claims from the White House that the enemy had weapons of mass destruction." See "The Mounting Protests" for more of Mr. Buckley's interesting analysis

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Raimondo Sees Treason Behind Downing Street Memo

Justin Raimondo at AntiWar.Com opined on June 17, 2005 that, "Behind the Downing Street Memos Lurks the specter of treason."

Thanks to the Deep Blade Journal for pointing to post.

Deep Blade linked to the post "not only because Justin Raimondo has included in his piece a link back into Deep Blade Journal's March 29, 2005 post on Republican squelching of the Senate Select Committee's so-called ``Phase II'' Iraq intelligence investigation, but also because it's a damn fine resource for anyone wishing to learn the full context of the leaked Downing Street documents."

As a long-time reader of Antiwar.Com, I concur with this assessment.

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The Pentagon's 'Early Bird' and Iraq

Inter Press Services News Agency's Jim Lobe's June 13, 2005 article on "the Pentagon's 'Early Bird' news file, a daily compilation of around 50 stories circulated throughout the U.S. national-security bureaucracy," offers a fascinating glimpse at what the compilers of the Early Bird thinks was important on June 10 and June 13, 2005. The articles chosen painted a pessimistic picture of the war in Iraq and the American people's support for it. ZNet published Mr. Lobe's analysis on June 17, 2005. Here's more.

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Pentagon Trying To Reverse Negative Poll on Iraq War

The Los Angeles Times reported June 17, 2005 that, "The setbacks" in Iraq "have triggered growing concern at the Pentagon, where a senior general said he was worried about declining public support." The paper quoted Marine Lieutenant General James T. Conway, director of operations for the Pentagon's Joint Staff, as saying:

It is concerning that our public isn't as supportive as perhaps they once were. We'd like, I believe, to try to reverse those figures and start the trend back the other direction. Because it's extremely important to the soldier and the Marine, the airman and the sailor over there, to know that their country's behind them.
The Times said, Mr. Conway "alluded to the precedent of Vietnam, in which plummeting public support for the war was blamed for undercutting the U.S. effort. A Gallup poll this week found that about 6 in 10 Americans advocated a partial or full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq," the paper noted, adding. "This month, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that 41% of Americans approved of how Bush was handling Iraq, the president's worst grade to date." See "War Criticism and Concerns Both Growing" for more.

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Village Voice: 'What's The Deal With The Downing Street Memo'?

Patrick Mulvaney at The Village Voice asks: What's the Deal With the Downing Street Memo? The subhead on the story is "Getting a grip on that Bush/Blair war scandal." I recommend it. I found it thought-provoking.

See The Downing Street Memo blog for extensive coverage on the memo, which was first revealed by Rupert Murdoch's conservative Times of London on May 1, 2005. The highlight of the July 23, 2002 memo, which was written by Matthew Rycroft to David Manning, British Ambassador to the U.S., for "UK (United Kingdom eyes only," seems to be this:

Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) is spearheading an effort to generate debate on the memo. He also sent a "Letter to President Bush Concerning the "Downing Street Minutes."

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Rumsfeld Admits Coalition Can't Defeat Iraqi Insurgency

Professor Paul Rogers asserts in his June 16, 2005 article at Open Democracy that U.S. Secretary of Defense "Donald Rumsfeld has broken a taboo: the United States military cannot win in Iraq." He was referring to a comment Mr. Rumsfeld made in a June 14, 2005 interview with Sir David Frost on the BBC's Newsnight Program.

Mr. Frost: Tell me, on the subject of Iraq, Mr. Secretary, do you believe the security situation in Iraq is better today than it was on the day after the war ended?

Rumsfeld: Well, statistically no, but clearly it has been getting better as we've gone along. In other words, at the end of the war the Army fled, was captured in large, many thousands, tens of thousands were captured, and the country was defeated. The insurgency then built over a period of time, and it's had its ups and downs. Clearly they made an effort during the election period, January 30th, to try to derail the election and prevent it from happening, but the Iraqi security forces now number 169,000; the efforts on the part of the coalition countries have shifted from counterinsurgency to helping the Iraqi security forces and they've had some important political milestones. They've had an election, they've got a government, they are now working on their constitution, and a lot of the bad things that could have happened have not happened.

Frost: Why has the bad thing though happened that the insurgents multiplied, people have been from 5,000 to 17,500.

Rumsfeld: I think people who come up with those numbers are pulling them out of the air. I don't know how you know those. I don't know those. I hear different numbers from different people at different times and then I hear the same people changing their numbers.

There's clearly people coming in from other countries, from Iran and from Syria and through other borders. The borders are relatively porous. The important thing it seems to me is for them to recognize that this insurgency is going to be defeated not by the coalition, it's going to be defeated by the Iraqi people and by the Iraqi security forces. It's going to happen as the Iraqi people begin go believe they've got a future in that country. All elements have a future in that country. The constitutional process will be important and then the elections to take place at the end of the year. Statistically, no. It has been getting better as we've gone along. A lot of bad things that could have happened have not happened.

See "An unwinnable war" for more.

Editor's Note: The excerpt above is from the Defense Department's website. I only found excerpts of the BBC transcript, which means I was unable to make a comparison. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the Defense Department transcript.

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Simon Jeffery: 'The War That Will Not End'

Simon Jeffery at Guardian Unlimited Newsblog thinks "The three-week invasion that ended with US troops toppling Saddam's statue in Baghdad is in danger of turning into a three-year crisis: more than 900 people killed since May 3 and thousands more before. The peace studies professor Paul Rogers, writing on the excellent Open Democracy, calls it an "unwinnable war", he wrote in a June 17, 2005 post, adding: "The Abu Ghraib prison abuses and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's murderous campaigns will sear the conflict into the history books for a while to come."

"Another factor has been the refusal of the war's original opponents, and those who came on board later, to let go of the arguments," Mr. Jeffery opined. He said "The war has remained roughly as important as they wanted it to as the relentless questioning of the motives and methods of the political leaders who started it has, in Britain at least, been a dominant thread of recent politics." And they will continue to be questioned as the futility of the war becomes more evident. See "The war that will not end" for more of Mr. Jeffery's post.

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June 17, 2005

Are EU Leaders Listenting to Constituents, Or Themselves?

Thanks to Richard North at EU Referendum for pointing to EuActiv.Com's article "EU wants renewed dialogue, but no changes." Mr. North said, "one really does wonder whether they (European Union leaders) are listening to themselves, or are even capable of so doing." After reading the EUActiv.Com article, I wondered the same.

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Why U.S. Criticizes Iran's Election

U.S. Syndicated Columnist Adrian Hamiliton made this observation about the Iranian election:

It's an indication of the way we look at the Middle East that any election the West feels it has helped along -- in Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt for example -- is greeted as a historic breakthrough, while the Iranian presidential election today, with which we have no part, is being largely treated as artificial, soured by voter apathy and unlikely to change very much.

But the Iranian elections are for real. Of course they are not full and fair in the sense that the control of the candidates' list by the clerics excludes many of the potential reformist figures.

Indeed, the Bush Administration has criticized the election. See "Iranians vote for president, U.S. barbs fly." Here's more of Hamilton's commentary.

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Three Scenarios For Outcome of Iran's Election

A Cihan News Agency (CNA) report published in Zaman Online offers three different scenarios for the outcome of Iran's presidential election:

According to the first scenario, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and one of the conservative candidates will run in the second round. If this is the case, conservative candidates might unite against Rafsanjani it is noted. The withdrawal of conservative Muhsin Rezai is also seen as a development in this direction.

According to the second scenario, if conservative electors, who are expected to boycott the elections, cast their votes, Muin will win the first round. An expected turnout for Muin's victory in the first round is envisioned as around 65 percent. Turnout was 67 percent in 2001 elections. Iranian Ministry of Internal Affairs announced on June 15 that it expected around 55 percent this time.

According to the third scenario, reformists will predominate and prevent conservatives to win the presidency in a second round, which will turn into a "bipolar" election between reformist and conservative wings. Mohammed Reza Khatami, leader of the reformist opposition in Iran says that winning such an election would be easier for them.

CNA said "Rafsanjani raised speculation that he was targeting young voters with his more moderate rhetoric during campaigning and women voters, who won several rights during Khatami's period, will support Rafsanjani due to concerns that they could "lose their freedom". Here's more.

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Rafsanjani Expected To Win Iranian Presidential Election

IslamOnLine.Net reported June 17, 2005 that, "Iranian voters flocked Friday, June 17, to polling stations to elect a new president for the Islamic Republic, with relative moderate and frontrunner Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani tipped to win the unusually tight polls."

Citing an Agence France Presse report, IslamOnLine.Net said "Polling stations set up in schools and mosques across the Islamic republic opened doors at 09:00 hours local time (0430 GMT) for some 46.7 million voters eligible to cast their ballots." Here's more.

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Iranian Bloggers Discuss Iran's Presidential Election

"During the past weeks, the Iranian urban middle-class has published a huge amount of articles on weblogs about its preoccupation with the presidential election," according to Mehdi Jami at BBCPersian.Com. "They have left no stream of thought unrepresented."

Mr. Jami added: "These discussions are invariably about one of two topics: Boycotting the election or voting for three of the candidates - former police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, former science minister Mostafa Moin or former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The other candidates are not talked about as such on the weblogs," Mr. Jami noted. Here's more. Also see "Iran's presidential hopefuls."

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'The Criminal Chickens Of Iraq War Will Come Home To Roost'

Syndicated Columnist and Priest Andrew Greeley wrote in his June 17, 2005 Chicago Sun-Times column:

In May there were 90 suicide bombings in Iraq. That means that 90 young Arabs, mostly from Saudi Arabia, smuggled themselves into Iraq through Syria, fastened a jacket of explosives around their bodies and blew themselves up in search for Islamic martyrdom, killing scores of other Muslims in the process. The war in Iraq, billed as an essential component of the war on terror, is creating more terrorists.
Mr. Greeley said, "It is not unreasonable to expect that other young men will soon be destroying themselves in this country as they blow up Americans in shopping malls and restaurants and hospitals and churches. The chickens of the criminal war in Iraq will come home to roost. No matter that the majority of Americans disapprove of the war. It is too late for that now."

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If Leaving Iraq Means Failure, So What?

"Just pull out the troops," is how Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg opened his June 17, 2005 column headlined "Deadline on leaving Iraq a timetable for defeat."

"An appealing thought," he added. "With 1,700 American soldiers dead in Iraq and no end in sight, the effort of a bipartisan group of congressmen to demand an exit strategy -- to set a date to quit Iraq -- has to entice anyone who cares about the sacrifices being made in a distant land.

"So why not just leave?"

"Well," Mr. Steinberg opined, "first, because it guarantees failure. The insurgency -- a coalition of Baathist diehards and foreign terrorists -- has proved surprisingly resilient. Setting a date would basically announce: Hey guys, hold out until October 2006, and you're home free.

"That's not a way to fight a war," Mr. Steinberg opined "If the representatives were thinking, they'd pass a resolution that we're never leaving until Iraq is stable. We'd get out quicker that way."

If the U.S. waits until Iraq is stable, then U.S. troops will occupy the country for years. There will be no stability as long as U.S. troops are on Iraqi soil. Not only that, there probably won't be immediate stability after U.S. troops leave.

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June 16, 2005

Egypt Frees Some Ikwan

"Egyptian prosecutors have ordered the release of 109 members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood who were arrested last month in a crackdown on pro-reform protesters," according toAl-Jazeera.Net.

"The release announced on Wednesday [June 15, 2005, "brings to more than 500 the number of Brotherhood members and supporters freed since last month," the Qatar-based news service said, noting that, "More than 800 Brotherhood loyalists, including leading figures of the banned but tolerated organization, were arrested in the crackdown." Here's more.

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Controversy Continues Over Syria's Influence In Lebanon

Ya Libnan observed in a June 16, 2005 article that, "The elections in Lebanon, as in many other countries, is a time when partisanship trumps everything else. Lebanon was once united, earlier this year in fact, when the country demanded to know "the truth" behind the assassination of leader Rafik Hariri," the publication noted, adding:

Four months later priorities have changed. While many Lebanese are still determined to seek the truth behind Hariri's murder, the elections have stalled the widespread support, particularly from rival political parties. Several weeks back, tragedy struck Beirut once again, as anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir was brutally murdered by yet another bomb.
Ya Libnan said "Many Lebanese feel Syria is responsible for both of these brutal assassinations. Unfortunately, many pro-Syrian politicians who were likely on their way out were revived through an alliance with Michel Aoun." Here's more.

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Hizbullah Supports Lahoud's Term Completion Plan

Leila Hatoum of The Daily Star of Lebanon reported June 16, 2005 that, "Hizbullah's Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem said his party supports President Emile Lahoud serving out the remainder of his term, despite opposition calls to cut short his mandate. Speaking during a news conference late last night, Qassem said Hizbullah "will not support calls to cut short Lahoud's presidential term," Ms. Hatoum wrote.

The Daily Star said Mr. Lahoud, "seen by the opposition as a pro-Syrian figure, had his six-year term extended for a further three years in 2004." Here's more.

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'Lebanon's Political Formula Must Change'

"The good news is that Lebanon has partially recovered from the Syrian occupation and is on its way to establishing a democracy, albeit, a fragile one" contends Ghassan Rubeiz, a Washington, D.C.-based Lebanese-American social scientist, in a June 16, 2005 csmonitor.com commentary. "But if that democracy is to survive and grow, Lebanon will need to find a way to overcome a perversely complicated political framework, where specific Christian and Muslim communities share power of governance and representation."

"This strange formula of power sharing (half the parliamentary seats for Christians and half for Muslims) is not likely to work forever, given the country's changing population profiles," he added. "For instance, Muslims tend to have larger families, and Christians tend to emigrate during hard times. As a result, some Lebanese have grown up as Western-oriented citizens without authentic Arab roots; in contrast, some over-identify with fanatic Arab causes." See "Shaping Lebanon's future" for more.

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The EU Has Faced Crisis Before

The Economist reminds its readers that "The European Union has faced crisis before." The distinguished journal noted that:

The 1970s are widely considered a lost decade for European integration. In the 1990s, Danish voters rejected the Maastricht treaty. And Irish voters did the same with the Nice treaty in 2001. So while French and Dutch voters have recently delivered a stinging slap in the face for ever closer union between the EUs 25 members, by voting to reject the Unions proposed constitution, the show will go on. This week in Brussels, the leaders of the EUs member states will be meeting to try to determine exactly how.
See "Europe's Painful Summit" for more.

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France Raises Doubts About Turkey Entering EU

The Times of London reported June 16, 2005 that, "France opened a third front with Britain on the eve of todays European Union summit by publicly voicing grave reservations about Turkeys impending membership," Here's more.

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Britain Will Use Veto, If Necessary, To Protect Rebate

The Daily Telegraph of London reported June 16, 2005 that, "On the eve of the two-day [European Union summit in Brussels}, Jack Straw, the [British] Foreign Secretary, told [British] MPs the only way to resolve the [European Union budget] crisis was through a "fundamental review" of EU expenditure, not through removing the UK's rebate."

"Until and unless such a rebalancing of spending takes place, the UK's rebate remains fully justified and we will, if necessary, use our veto to protect it, " Mr Straw said. See "Summit faces deadlock if Blair refuses to give ground."

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June 15, 2005

Erdogan: Turkey Will Only Accept Full Membership in EU

"It is impossible for Turkey to accept any other formulas, regardless of what it is referred to, other than a full membership to the EU," according to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was quoted in the June 15, 2005 issue of Zaman Online. See "Turkey's Accession is not Part of a Win-Lose Game" for more.

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Is Turkey's EU Dream Fading?

The Foreign News Desk of Zaman Online reported June 15, 2005 that, "messages coming from members of the European Union (EU), which has undergone a critical process following the European Constitution rejection in France and The Netherlands, paved the way for interpretations suggesting that Turkey's dreams [of becoming a member of the EU] are fading and doubts about them in the West are increasing." See "Turkey's EU Dream Fades; Doubts Mounting" for more.

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The Future of the European Constitution.

On June 13, 2005, the British House of Commons Research Library issued a research paper on "The Future of the European Constitution." Vaughne Miller of the Internal Affairs and Defense Section of the library makes this observation in the introduction.

The rejection of the Treaty Establishing a constitution for Europe (European Constitution) in referendums in France and the Netherlands has brought about a crisis in the EU. There is no consensus on how to proceed with the constitutional process launched by the Laeken Declaration in December 2001, or on whether Member States should continue with ratification of the Constitution. One certainty is that the Constitution cannot come into force until all 25 Member States have ratified it.
Miller noted that the paper "looks at the outcome of the two referendums, reaction to and commentary on them, and possible scenarios for future EU reform."

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EU Referendum: 'Time For A Gesture'

Richard North at EU Referendum comments today on "a down-page leader in The Daily Telegraph, which does not even seem to be on-line, giving advice on "What Blair must tell Chirac." It says, Chirac's "bluster over the British rebate is an attempt to divert attention from the ruins of his ambition to subject all Europe to the French 'social model.'"

"Wrong," Mr. North wrote. "In part, it is a diversion, but the French are playing a much more subtle game. As things have got clearer over the days since the French and Dutch rejections of the constitution, what is now emerging is the classic French negotiating strategy." Here's more.

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Will Money Move Freely In The EU?

The Road to EU Serfdom makes this observation in a June 15, 2005 post: "The freedom of movement of people and goods is, we are told, an underlying principle of the EU. Well how about money? That must be free to move as well right?" See "Freedom of Movement?" for EU Serf's answer.

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Tony Blair And The Reality of Europe

James Kirkup at Scotsman.Com describes how a "bright-eyed" British Prime Minister Tony Blair "got real over Europe." He wrote in a June 15, 2005 article:

On Friday [June 17, 2005], already scarred and weary from bruising visits to Germany, Luxembourg and France, Mr Blair will enter the chamber of the European Council building on the Rue de la Loi in Brussels knowing he is outnumbered 24 to one, preparing to cast his defiance in the faces of leaders he once cultivated as friends and now works to divide and undermine.

This particular battle is being fought over old ground, the British "rebate" (actually just a reduction in our membership fee) from the EU budget. It isn't just the rebate, though. The whole row over money has, of course, been triggered by the slow, shambolic demise of the EU constitution. And whatever Mr Blair's feelings about that document at its birth, he was undeniably jubilant at its death, even if diplomatic prudence prevents him from saying so.

Mr. Kirkup said, "Even before the last rites were read over the treaty, Mr Blair was sounding distinctly cool on the European project in its current form. In a speech many Conservatives could - and did - admire last month, he admonished Brussels for over-regulating. For good measure, he even threw in an entirely fictional case of an English playground closed by European red tape." Here's more of Mr. Kirkup's analysis.

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Deutsche Welle's Quick Guide to the EU Summit

Deutsche Welle offers a summary of issues confronting European leaders when they meet June 16 and 17, 2005 in Brussels, Belgium. Among the issues to be tackled is a budgetary framework. According to Deutsche Welle :

The summit will aim to agree on the EU's budgetary framework for 2007-2012. The so-called net contributors -- including Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden -- which put more into the EU coffers than they get back, want to cut their payments and limit spending to no more than one percent of the bloc's gross national income.

In the run-up to the summit, Britain has come under fire from EU leaders headed by French President Jacques Chirac for refusing to freeze the rebate it negotiated in 1984, when it was the bloc's poorest member. Currently, the rebate totals an average of 4.6 billion euros ($5.55 billion) annually, and almost 10 percent of it is now paid by the poorer EU members from eastern Europe who joined last year. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been adamant that his country will not give way on the rebate unless agriculture subsidies, from which Britain hardly profits, are subjected to drastic cuts.

Deutsche Welle noted that President Chirac "has categorically ruled out any reduction in the subsidies, which his country's farmers rely on." See "A Quick Guide to the EU Summit" for other issues.

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June 14, 2005

Is Larry Franklin A Heroe To Arnaud de Borchgrave?

Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International, sounds like a public relations agent for indicted Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Israel in a June 12, 2005 article headlined "Leaving well enough alone." He said, in part:

The FBI unfortunately threw caution to the wind when it ignored this column's friendly advice last September and decided to try touching the third rail [of U.S. geopolitics, which is Israel, according to Mr. de Borchgrave]. What a mess that made. A Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, who had worked at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and fell in love with Israel, was seen sharing national security documents with his pals at AIPAC over lunch at the Tivoli restaurant in Arlington. FBI surveillance tapes show Mr. Franklin relaying top-secret information to Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman. But this was the kind of routine exchange that had gone on for a half-century. It was hardly another Jonathan Pollard case, the Israeli spy who carted off secret documents by the wheelbarrow-full, and is now serving a life sentence.
As David Johnston notes in the June 15, 2005 issue of The New York Times, "A federal grand jury has indicted" Mr. Franklin, "charging him with disclosing classified information to an Israeli official, including intelligence about a weapons test related to Iran's nuclear program, according to an indictment unsealed" in Washington, D.C., the U.S. capital. The Times noted that Mr. Franklin "had already been charged in a complaint accusing him of passing classified information to two employees of a pro-Israel lobbying group (AIPAC). Along with the new charge about turning over information to Israel, the six-count indictment offered a fuller account and new details of the investigation," according to The Times.

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Cheney Argues For Keeping Gitmo POW Camp Open

In June 13, 2005, dispatch from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, John D. Banusiewicz of American Forces Press Service quotes U.S. Vice-President Richard Bruce "Dick" Cheney as saying, in part:

We absolutely have to have a facility like this [at Guantanamo Bay Cuba] as long as we're engaged in the global war on terror. And the important thing is that we not release these people back on to the street so they can go out and kill more Americans. I think there has been a certain lack of perspective ... on the part of some public officials as well as a number of folks in the press, frankly, who spend all their time thinking somehow that's representative, or that what we're doing at Abu Ghraib or, in this case, Guantanamo, is somehow unlawful or illicit, or not consistent with American practices and principles.
Let me get this straight, Mr. Cheney: Are you saying torture and desecration of religious books is consistent with American practices and principles? See "Good Things U.S. Troops Do Far Outweigh Detainees' Allegations" for more on Mr. Cheney's speech at MacDill.

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June 13, 2005

Some U.S. Officers Say Military Can't End Insurgency In Iraq

Tom Lasseter of the Philadelphia Inquirer's Foreign Staff reported June 13, 2005 that, "A growing number of senior American military officers in Iraq have concluded there is no long-term military solution to an insurgency that has killed thousands of Iraqis and more than 1,300 U.S. troops in the last two years."

"Instead," he wrote, "officers say, the only way to end the guerrilla war is through Iraqi politics - an arena that has been crippled by divisions between Shiite Muslims, whose coalition dominated January elections, and Sunni Muslims, who are a minority in Iraq and form the base of support for the insurgency."

Mr. Lasseter quoted Brigadier General Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, as saying last week: "I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that... this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations. It's going to be settled in the political process."

This echoes other senior officers, Mr. Lasseter wrote. See "Officers: Military can't end insurgency" for what others think of the insurgency. Maybe the Bush Administration will listen if enough officers speak out.

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The Anglo-French Spat Over Britain's Yearly Rebate.

Honor Mahony of EU Observer.Com takes a look at "Anglo-French spat as London and Paris traded insults" at the EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels "over their respective red lines" on "the British yearly rebate" of "around 4.6 billion euros." Here's more.

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EU, Russia Deepen Cooperation on Judicial Matters

The European Union and Russia "have agreed to deepen their cooperation over judicial matters, examining potential joint projects to ensure the independence and effectiveness of both sides' court systems," according to The Lawyer.Com. Read more here.

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Deutsche Welle: 'Fighting Poverty Needs More Than Debt Relief

Deutsche Welle's Ute Schaeffer's analysis of the G8's decision to write off some African and Latin American nations' debt is worth considering. I agree with Schaeffer's contention that "

Finance ministers of the world's leading industrialized nations and Russia (G8) were reaching for superlatives after Saturday's [June 11, 2005] decision to write off debts of 38 countries in Africa and Latin America, amounting to a whopping $55 billion.
Superlatives such as: "A historic decision," the "biggest debt relief program that the world has ever seen" and "a success for the world."

Schaeffer noted that, " Eighteen countries will immediately have their debt burdens cancelled, while 20 more are expected to profit from it later," adding "The decision is a show of strength for the G8 and yet it can at best be only a small step to achieve the millennium development goals. At the same time, Tony Blair and the British presidency of the G8 have managed to defy the doomsayers and get the first part of their ambitious "Marshall Plan for Africa" on the road: canceling out debts for the world's most impoverished countries."

See "Fighting Poverty Needs More than Debt Relief" for more of Schaeffer's views.

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Some Observers Say Debt Write-Off Is Not Enough

Ben Perry, writing in the June 13, 2005 edition of the Cape Times of South Africa, noted that "British newspapers and debt experts" have said, to Mr. quote Mr. Perry, "a Group of Eight deal to scrap billions of dollars in debt owed by the poorest countries must be matched by huge increases in aid and an end to European and American agricultural subsidies to eradicate poverty." Here's more.

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Bretton Woods Project's Views On G-8 Debt Cancellation

The Bretton Woods Project (BWP), which describes itself "as a networker, information-provider, media informant and watchdog to scrutinise and influence the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), commented June 13, 2005 on the G7 finance ministers (the G8 minus Russia) decision to "write off $40 to $55 billion of debts owed to the World Bank, IMF and African Development Bank (AfDB) in a meeting in London," which ended June 11, 2005.

BWP said "statements on aid effectiveness and trade in the final 'communiqué may signal an important change in donor attitudes."

See "G8 cancellation of World Bank, IMF debt: 'step forward'" for more. Also see "G8 Finance Ministers Conclusions on Development, London, 10-11 June 2005."

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Kurds In Provinces Unite Behind Barzani, For Now

Agence France Press quoted a Kurd named Kamel Salar as saying the naming of Masoud Barzani as President of Iraq's three autonomous Kurdish provinces of Sulaimaniyah, Arbil and Dohuk was historic. "This is an historic occasion, not only for Iraqi Kurds, but for all Kurds" in Turkey, Syria and Iran," he reportedly said.

According to Turks.US Daily News.,

The local parliament unanimously approved the Iraqi Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) leader Barzani as the president of the Kurdish Federation. He gained 42 votes from the KDP, 42 from the Iraqi Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and 27 from the Kurdish parties in a voting session held in the 111-seat local parliament convening in the city of Erbil on Sunday, June 12. According to the Kurdish Constitution that has been approved simultaneously, a direct popular vote will determine the next president for the following term. Parliamentary groups reached consensus over the KDP leader being the "region's president" last Thursday. Barzani will have a four year term of duty according to the Kurdish constitution and he will be eligible for nomination for a second term.
I wonder how long the peace will last after the Americans are forced out. When the Americans do leave, I expect war between the various Iraqi factions, especially between Kurds and Arabs and even among the Kurds themselves. Here's more.

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Barzani Named President of Kurdish Region of Iraq

The Journal of Turkish Weekly noted June 13, 2005 that, "the Kurdish parliament in northern Iraq said on Sunday [June 12, 2005] it elected veteran Masoud Barzani as president of the region, giving the group greater autonomy after decades of oppression under Saddam Hussein.

"Some experts argue that the step is a vital initiative for a separate Kurdish state," The Journal said, adding: "Adnan al-Mufti, speaker of the Kurdish parliament, told a news conference that parliament unanimously elected Barzani, whose long-time rival Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) became Iraq's president earlier this year." Here's more.

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Are Iraqi Forces Pushing Kurds To Revolt?

Kurdistan Observer.Com reported June 13, 2005 that, "In the welter of the political tug-of-war regarding the drafting of the constitution and the nature of the new Iraqi state, the Kurds feel that Iraqi forces are trying to obstruct the political process and push the Kurds to "revolt and carry arms once again", even though the Kurds have no desire to do so." The publication also said:

Kamal Muhyi-al-Din, National Assembly member and member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK], which is led by President Jalal Talabani, has emphasized that we will not carry arms once again and will refute their pretext.

Speaking to the Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat on Friday, [June 10, 2005] Muhyi-al-Din noted that some Iraqi forces wished to control Kurdistan by armed force and restore the dictatorship under the excuse of confronting revolt and the carrying of arms. He pointed out that these forces, which he referred to as enemies of the Iraqi people without naming them, were trying to push us in this direction. He explained that the Kurdish forces, which are well aware of the ongoing political ploys, would never give them such opportunity and would rely on the sincere national forces to expose the various pitfalls on the road of the political process and uncover those who did not wish to assist in the continuation of the new democratic march.

The Observer said, "Muhyi-al-Din held the executive authority responsible for failing to implement the laws regarding the normalization of the situation in the Kurdish region, which has been the scene of displacement and seizure of property."See "Kurdish Official Says Iraqi Forces Pushing Kurds To Revolt, Carry Arms" for more.

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Will Aoun's Victory Complicate Lebanon's Political Landscape?

Reuters correspondent Nadim Ladki reports that Michel Aoun's victory in the June 12, 2005 Lebanese Parliamentary elections "could complicate the new political landscape in already highly factionalized Lebanon as it boosts the chances of pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud staying in power."

The correspondent said Mr. Aoun "has questioned opposition demands for Lahoud to go."

Significantly, "Unofficial final results showed Aoun-backed candidates won 15 of 16 seats in Sunday's third round of the polls in the Maronite Christian heartland northeast of Beirut," Reuters said, noting that, "there was no Aoun-allied candidate for the last seat."

"General Michel Aoun has established an influence on the Christian arena unmatched" by any other political leader or party since the civil war," said the As-Safir newspaper, according to Reuters. See "Aoun's poll win gives him major voice in Lebanon" for more.

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Michel Aoun's Successful Political Comeback

"Lebanon's Michel Aoun, who only returned home last month after 15 years in exile, was poised for a remarkable political comeback last night according to preliminary results in the third round of elections," reports Nayla Assaf in a "Special" published in the June 13, 2005 edition of The Daily Star of Lebanon.

She said Mr. Aoun's "arch rival, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, conceded defeat last night in the most closely contested battle of this year's election. Lebanon's divided anti-Syrian opposition fought it out for almost half of the country's parliamentary seats. But Jumblatt again attacked Aoun, calling him a "small Syrian tool," she noted. Here's more.

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June 12, 2005

'Mapping Sub-Sahara Africa's Future'

In the context of the current debate on Africa debt relief, The National Intelligence Council's March 2005 report, Mapping Sub-Sahara Africa's Future, is relevant reading. The situation is rather bleak over the next 15 years, if the report is to be believed. I believe it.

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Why Not Use Africa's Oil And Mineral Wealth To Save Africa?

Naomi Klein raised a pertinent question in a June 10, 2005 article in The Guardian headlined A noose, not a bracelet. The article focused on Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown's call to the "richer oil-producing states" of the Middle East to fill the funding gap" in writing off Africa's debt.

"Here is a better idea," she wrote: "instead of Saudi Arabia's oil wealth being used to "save Africa", how about if Africa's oil wealth was used to save Africa - along with its gas, diamond, gold, platinum, chromium, ferroalloy and coal wealth?"

That's a great question, Ms. Klein. Of course, we know the majority of Africa's people will not benefit from the continent's vast wealth. We in the west will. See "No joy in Africa's 'black gold.'"

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G-8 Erases One-Sixth Of Africa's $295 Billion Debt

Abraham McLaughlin, staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, makes an astute observation that puts all the self-congratulatory accolades surrounding the G-8's write-off of $40 billion in debt for 18 nations, 14 of them in Africa, into perspective. He wrote:

For all the impressive figures, though, the deal strikes a middle ground. For some it's too small: At most, it cancels less than one-sixth of Africa's $295 billion debt - and leaves out crucial countries like Nigeria. For others, it's too risky: By erasing bad debts - and allowing struggling nations to apply for new loans - it could spark a new cycle of dependency.
Either way," he observed, "it does provide a respite from poverty's pressures. And it may help countries lift themselves up through better education, stronger agriculture, and expanded trade. "In theory, it primes the pump," he quotes Stephen Hayes of the Corporate Council on Africa in Washington as saying.

"But who pays?" asks Mr. McLaughlin. See "What debt relief means for Africa" for his answer. Also see "G8 Finance Ministers Conclusions on Development, London, 10-11 June 2005."

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Which African Nations Benefit From Debt Agreement?

Reed Kramer explains in an allAfrica.com post from Washington, D.C. that, "the agreement on 100% debt relief for developing countries announced by finance ministers from the eight largest industrial nations on Saturday [July 11, 2005] initially benefits 14 nations in Africa.

Another nine African countries could qualify for full debt cancellation in the next 12 to 18 months, and the ministers pledged "to provide a fair and sustainable solution to Nigeria's debt problems in 2005" through the informal grouping of creditor nations known as the Paris Club," he wrote.

See "G8 Debt Agreement to Benefit 23 African Countries; Separate Deal for Nigeria Muted" for more analysis.

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CFR's Backgrounder On "Africa Debt-Relief Proposals

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African NGO's Position On Debt Relief

As the Jubilee Debt Campaign notes, "on March 31, 2005, African organizations "under the umbrella of AFRODAD (African Forum and Network on Debt and Development) issued a statement in response to recent propoals for multilateral debt cancellation from the UK and US governments, and outlining their own vision for the continent." The organizations said:

Almost nine years after it was launched in 1996, the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative has failed to provide low income countries a permanent and robust exit from indebtedness. Although the HIPC has delivered more than $48 billion in debt cancellation, no participating country has achieved debt sustainability. Low income countries still owe a total of US $523 million [Editor's note: AFRODAD most likely meant billions] in debt to all creditors. Of this, Africa alone has a debt stock of US$330 billion and still spends US$15 billion every year in debt service to rich countries and the international financial institutions.

Estimates show that at the current rate, most low income countries will fail to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. In 10 out of 14 African HIPC countries, debt service payments still take a larger share of the budget than health services while HIPC graduates such as Mozambique, depend for more than 50 percent of their budgets on donors. As the United Kingdom (UK) Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown has said: based on the current rates of progress, the MDGs on child poverty, primary school education and maternal mortality will not be met for 150 years.

AFRODAD also said: "We recognize the fact that multilateral debt cancellation is an issue of justice for poor countries. We are also aware that creditor nations and the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) need to acknowledge publicly the roles they played in exacerbating indebtedness in poor countries, especially in Africa. Recently several proposals have been put forward to deal with the multilateral debt of the least developed countries." See "African NGOs on 2005 debt proposals" for an explanation of the various proposals. Also see "What is the HIPC Initiative?" Here's the International Monetary Fund's description of the HIPC Initiative.

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The Limits Of The African Debt Deal

Steve Schifferes, BBC News' "economics reporter at the G8 finance ministers meeting," said "the deal to relieve 100% of poor country debts is historic - but it only sets the scene for a much bigger battle at Gleneagles [in Edinburg, Scotland at the G-8 meeting in July 2005] over trade and aid." See "The limits of the debt deal."

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African Debt Relief Campaign Didn't Start With Tony Blair

Mark Engler, an analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus, has an excellent article in the May 2005 issue headlined "Debt Cancellation: Historic Victories, New Challenges." The article is highly significant in the wake of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's belated but important call for debt relief for African nations. I highly recommend Mr. Engler's article.

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BayouBuzz. Com: 'African Debt Forgiveness Makes Little Cents'

Steve Sabludowsky at BayouBuzz. Com says "African Debt Forgiveness Makes Little Cents."

"Gee, what can I do to get the banks and creditors to forgive my debts?" he asks. "Answer: Declare myself as an African nation or Bolivia and watch the red ink fade."

Certainly," he continues, " that is how most taxpaying citizens of the world must feel right now as G 8 led by Tony Blair is maneuvering to just blow away the creditors."

Mr. Sabludowsky said, "the scourge of poverty, death and AIDS has hit the African subcontinent hard. But," he contends, "the recession and jobless markets have not been kind to the average working middle-class Joe in countries that are considered to be prosperous, but whose citizens are in constant everyday struggle." Here's more.

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The Downing Street Memo And The U.S. Postwar Plan In Iraq

Veteran Washington Post journalist Walter Pincus reported in the papers June 12, 2005 edition that,

A briefing paper prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq concluded the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a "protracted and costly" postwar occupation of that country.

The eight-page memo, written in advance of a July 23, 2002, Downing Street meeting on Iraq, provides new insights into how senior British officials saw a Bush administration decision to go to war as inevitable. The memo also showed how the British officials realized more clearly than their U.S. counterparts the potential for the post-invasion instability that continues to plague Iraq.

Mr. Pincus said, "In its introduction, the memo, "Iraq: Conditions for Military Action," notes that U.S. "military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace" but adds that "little thought" has been given to, among other things, "the aftermath and how to shape it." See "British prewar memo hit U.S. postwar plan" for more. Here's a list of some of Mr. Pincus' other articles.

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Editor & Publisher: 'More Life on 'Downing Street...'

Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher says "Just as the U.S. media-albeit a month late-scramble to get on top of the so-called Downing Street Memo, the Sunday Times in London unveiled another leaked document which confirms and goes behind the message of the memo." See "More Life on 'Downing Street' with Leak of New Documents on Iraq."

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Outside The Beltway: 'Downing Street Memo Hits The Press'

James Joyner at the always interesting, at least to me, Outside The Beltway, opined in a June 12, 2005 post that, "the mainstream press is suddenly all over the so-called Downing Street Memo, which purports to show that the Bush Administration was hell bent on war with Iraq and willing to invent any excuse to achieve that end. I shan't do the usual blogospheric "We've been talking about this on the blogs for days!" bit," he said, "since I have reacted to the story with a yawn as well."

I wonder how many will yawn if, and when, the alternative Pentagon version of events leading up to the invasion is leaked. Just as there are sometimes two sets of books in a financial instituion, there is often two versions of policy issues.

See "Downing Street Memo Hits the Press" for more of Mr. Joyner's analysis.

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A Timid Media And The Downing Street memo

ANG Newspapers reporter Brenda Payton, in a June 12, 2005 column published in The Argus of Freemont, California, noted that Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) recently said of the U.S. news media:

It's shocking when you see how easily they fold in the media today. They don't stand their ground. If they're criticized by the White House, they just fall apart. I mean c'mon, toughen up, guys, it's only our Constitution and country at stake.
"Her remarks illicited sustained applause" from supporters Ms. Payton wrote in her column headlined "Timid media overlook Downing Street Memo," adding:
I have to agree with Clinton. From the coverage of the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo to the American and Iraqi casualties in the war in Iraq, the media has been for the most part timid, seemingly afraid to ask tough questions and hold the White House accountable. The timidity dates back before Iraq was invaded. The media too easily accepted the Bush administration's assertions that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Reporters embedded with military units during the invasion had just one perspective of the events. Further, they were compromised by their relationships with soldiers.
Ms. Payton said, "from them, we got a good idea of what it was like to march into Iraq; they couldn't provide a view of what it was like to be an Iraqi civilian enduring the bombing and fighting." Here's more.

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The Times Publishes Another Document on Blair's Iraq War Plans

On June 12, 2005 The Sunday Times of London published a transcript of a document "produced by the Cabinet Office [of British Prime Minister Tony Blair] on July 21, 2002" that lends context to the so-called "Downing Street Memo" and the British Government's decision to help the Bush Administration invade and occupy Iraq.

The Times published "a transcript rather than the original document in order to protect the source." I wonder how long before a Pentagon leaker steps forth and provides documents that will shed more light on the Bush Administration's decision to invade and occupy Iraq.

See "Cabinet Office paper: Conditions for military action" for more. Also see the Downing Street Memo Blog.

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Is Coalition Forming In Iraq to End U.S. Occupation?

Asia Times Online's "Roving Eye" commentator Pepe Escobar asserts in a June 10, 2005 article that,"as Shi'ites and Kurds fought for three months to come up with an Iraqi cabinet, it is emerging from Baghdad that soon a broad front will emerge on the political scene composed of politicians, religious leaders, clan and tribal sheikhs - basically Sunni but with Shi'ite participation - with a single-minded agenda: the end of the US-led occupation." He added:

This front will include, among others, what we have termed the Sinn Fein component of the resistance, the powerful Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) and the Sadrists. It will refuse any kind of dialogue with new Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari and his government unless there's a definite timetable for the complete withdrawal of the occupation forces. Even the top Marine in Iraq, Major General Stephen Johnson, has admitted, "There will be no progress as long as the insurgents are not implicated in a political process." But the proliferation of what many moderate Sunnis and Shi'ites suspect as being Pentagon-organized black ops is putting the emergence of this front in jeopardy.
Mr. Escobar said, "this is obvious when we see Harith al-Dhari - the AMS leader - blaming the Badr Brigades (the armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution - SCIRI - in Iraq, a major partner in the government) for the killing of Sunni Arab clerics." See "Exit strategy: Civil war" for more of his thought-provoking analysis.

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The U.S. 'Road Map' Out of Iraq

Raed Jarrar at Raed in the Middle thinks the "The ongoing post-war-Iraq plan is not working. When the US administration stops lying to their people, they'll start searching seriously for an Exit Plan," he said in a June 8, 2005 post, adding:

The US administration and other governments that took or still taking a part of the collapsing coalition should adopt a three-point Iraq Roadmap to stop the on going crisis from their side and guarantee the safety of their troops, and give the space for Iraqis to work on healing Iraq from their side too.
Here are Raed's three points.

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The U.S.' 'Mission Improbable' in Iraq

Washington Post Foreign Service reporters Anthony Shadid and Steve Fainaru's June 10, 2005. article headlined Building Iraq's Army: Mission Improbable: Project in North Reveals Deep Divide Between U.S. and Iraqi Forces" offers insights into the daunting task before the U.S. military as it tries to create a surrogate military force in Iraq. The conclusion: The Iraqis and the Americans don't trust each other and the Iraqis feel disrespected by their U.S. counterparts.

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Blogger Landis Quoted in 'The Middle East's Real Problem...'

Blogger and Middle East Scholar Joshua Landis is quoted in Ferry Biedermann's article for Salon.Com headlined "The Middle East's real problem: The mafia." Mr. Biedermann, a journalist based in Israel, according to Salon.Com, described Mr. Landis as "an American expert on Syria who lives in Damascus, where he publishes the respected blog Syria Comment.com."

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Reuters: Frustrated Lebanese Voters Put Clan First

Reuters correspondent Alaa Shahine, writing June 10, 2005, from Aley, Lebanon, made this observation: "Sectarian and tribal loyalties, and issues like the relationship with Syria, have long held the key to the 128-seat parliament, dwarfing calls to reform a stagnant job market and improve voters' living standards" in Lebanon."

"We have long been following our leaders like sheep," Anis Shmeit, a 73-year-old Druze told Reuters," he wrote. "No one questions them. They show us their faces in election time but never fulfil their promises, but people elect them because they are from the same sect."

"Such frustration is common among many Lebanese who complain of a double-digit unemployment rate and the government's inability to rein in a ballooning $34 billion public debt," Alaa Shahine noted.

This quote by Bilal Tarabay, a 28-year-old air-condition technician, probably sums up the sentiment of ordinary Lebanese: "I do not care if aliens or monkeys come to rule me. Lebanon has been dominated by the same lying politicians. Let whoever win, all I want is to afford living with dignity." I've heard similar sentiment in the United States over the years. Here's more.

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Ya Libnan: 'Did Aoun strike a deal with Syria?'

Ya Libnan reported June 11, 2005, that, "Ever since his return from exile, General [Michel] Aoun launched attack after attack against the opposition. Within one month he managed to divide the anti Syrian opposition, something the Syrians couldn't dream of achieving in years," the publication said. "Does Aoun have a deal with Syria to be Lebanon's next president ?" See "Did Aoun strike a deal with Syria?" for Ya Libnan's conclusion.

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Lebanon And Remnants of Syrian Control

Nora Boustany of the Washington Post Foreign Service says what's "at stake domestically [in Lebanon] is the new [128-seat] legislature's ability to dislodge remnants of Syrian control, after a 29-year military presence, from key institutions including the presidency. Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon this spring, but the country continues to wield considerable influence," she wrote
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Rafik Khoury, a columnist with the Al Anwar daily newspaper, told The Post: "Syria is out of our geography, but not out of our politics or the region's geopolitics, The difference is that a year ago, we were on death row. Now our sentence has been reduced to a one or two-year prison term."

Ms. Boustany said, "also at stake will be the legislature's ability to maintain a fragile national unity movement and push through political and economic reform." See "A Window of Opportunity for Lebanon's Anti-Syria Coalition" for more of her analysis.

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Lebanon's Elections Spawn Interesting Alliances

New York Times reporter John Kifner, in a June 12, 2005 dispatch on Lebanon's parliamentary elections, contends that, "Lebanese politics, dominated here for decades by neighboring Syria, are always religious and tribal."

"But this election is developing into a tale of intrigue tangled even by Levantine standards, a quintessentially Lebanese mélange of bloodshed, betrayal and a raven-haired beauty," he opined. The third phase of the month-long election were held June 12, 2005 in central and eastern Lebanon.

"Indeed," he added, "the campaign is now so convoluted that General Michel Aoun, the anti-Syrian nationalist who returned from 15 years in exile, has allied himself with politicians widely regarded as Syrian vassals. And in a breathtakingly odd moment the other night, Sheik Hassan Nasrullah, the Hezbollah leader whose Shiite guerrillas drove Israel out of southern Lebanon, exhorted his followers to vote for candidates of the outlawed Christian militia, the Lebanese Forces, invoking the name of its assassinated leader, Bashir Gemayel, who cooperated with the Israelis' invasion in 1982 and was elected president behind their tanks."

See "Lebanese Rivals Face Off in a Crucial Stage in Elections" for more about the various alliances.

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Tehran Times: Political Outlook In Lebanon Is 'Still Ambiguous'

Hassan Hanizadeh of Tehran Times.Com notes that "the third phase of parliamentary elections in Lebanon was held on Sunday [June 12, 2005] , although the political outlook for the country is still ambiguous."

"The constant interference of both regional and extra-regional powers in Lebanon's domestic affairs, with the goal of influencing the parliamentary election, as well as the current disputes between the country's Christian groups over how to hold the elections have made political analysts quite worried about the future of Lebanon," he wrote. See "Foreign meddling in Lebanese election" for more.

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Lebanon Enters Third Phase of Voting

"Voters are heading into polling stations in central and eastern Lebanon to decide nearly half the legislative seats, in the third stage of staggered parliamentary elections," according to Al-Jazeera.Net. The publication said, "a total of 1.25 million people are eligible to vote in the Mount Lebanon and eastern Bekaa Valley regions on Sunday [June 12, 2005] in the penultimate stage of Lebanon's first national election without the presence of Syrian troops for three decades." Here's more.

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June 11, 2005

Raimondo Takes A Look At The Franklin Spy Scandal

Justin Raimondo of Anti-War.Com has a thought-provoking analysis of the Larry Franklin spy scandal in the June 20, 2005 issue of The American Conservative. It's headlined "State of the State Secrets Larry Franklin wanted to sway policy, not just spill intel."

Also see his June 6, 2005 article Anti-War.Com article headlined "The War Party on Trial: The upcoming trial of the AIPAC defendants will flush plenty of rats out of the woodwork."

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The Debate Over Closing Gitmo P.O.W. Camp

Gregory Djerejian at The Belgravia Dispatch takes a look at the confusion in the Bush Administration over whether to close down the Guantanamo Bay Prisoner of War camp. President George W. Bush is saying one thing about the camp and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is saying another. See "Gitmo Rollback?" for more. By the way, the discussion was initiated when former President Jimmy Carter called on the Administration to close the P.O.W. camp.

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Syria Denies Charge That It Has Agents in Lebanon

Leila Hatoum has a June 11, 2005 article in The Daily Star of Lebanon that captures the reaction of Fayssal Moqdad, Syria's ambassador to the UN, to the Bush Administration's claim that Syrian intelligence agents are reportedly still in Lebanon. Some observers in the Administration say Syria has drawn up a list of Lebanese politicians to be assassinated by the Syrian agents.

"I am sure there are no Syrians there," Mr. Moqdad said. "Let them investigate themselves. If there were any intelligence personnel in Lebanon then they would be from France, the U.S. or Israel."

See "U.S. steps up attack on Syria over 'hit list.' " for more of Ms. Hatoum's analysis.

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June 10, 2005

Aoun Taking Precautions Against Assassination

Is former Lebanese prime minister Michel Aoun worried about his safety in the wake of the June 2, 2005 assassination in Beirut of opposition journalist Samir Kassir? "

"I am worried and I am taking some security measures to protect myself, and I am limiting my movements to the minimum necessary," the former general, who returned from exile in France on May 15, 2005, is quoted by the Associated Press (AP) as saying.

Mr. Aoun also said, according to the AP, that he was not aware of any intelligence agents still operating in Lebanon. The Bush Administration claims the Syrians have an opposition hit list. The Syrians deny the charge.

"I did not receive information on this subject and I believe that if they are here, then the body that is supposed to deter them is the Interior Ministry," he said. The ministry is headed by Minister Hassan Sabei . Here's more.

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Jumblatt: Some Syrian Agents Remain in Lebanon

The Associated Press reported June 10, 2005 that Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon's Druze community, charged June 9, 2005 that, "Officially, the Syrians have left" [Lebanon]. But on the intelligence level they stayed."

The AP said Mr. Jumblatt told local [Beirut] television that Syrian generals were seen in the "eastern Bekaa Valley and central Lebanon." The wire service also said Mr. Jumblatt "expressed fears of further assassinations after last week's bombing that killed the anti-Syrian journalist, Samir Kassir.

"Probably there is a decision - with the knowledge or without the knowledge of President Assad - to continue the assassinations," he said. Here's more.

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The 'Fog Of Iinstability Hovering Over Lebanon'

The Daily Star of Lebanon raises important issues about the current political situation in Lebanon in a June 11, 2005 editorial. The paper said "

The political atmosphere in Lebanon is clouded by reports that top officials in Washington believe Syria has developed a hit list targeting senior political figures in Lebanon. Washington's talk of a hit list could prove to be nothing more than another intelligence debacle, like the report that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction prior to the U.S.-led invasion. Are these reports of a hit list another intelligence mistake? Or is there some validity to this latest in a list of accusations aimed at Syria?
"Unfortunately," the paper added, "in the present circumstances, the Lebanese are equally damned whether or not the reports are true. If Washington is right, the outlook for stability in Lebanon is bleak at best. And if this is the case, one must pose questions immediately to Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Baath Party, who have recently made promising noises in the direction of reform and political liberalization: Are you really in control of the Syrian state? Are there intelligence operatives who, as rumor has it, have run amok and are now beyond the control of the your government? And what are you doing to correct this situation?"

These are important questions. I wonder how long we'll have to wait for answers. See "Time to clear the fog of instability hovering over Lebanon" for more of the editorial.

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LA Times: Terror Allegations Vanish In Affidavit

Why was the Justice Department version of the affidavit used to charge Umer Hayat, 47, and his son, 22-year-old Hamid Hayat, "significantly different" from the version used to arrest the Lodi, California men for lying about Hamid's al-Qaeda's connection?

Rone Tempest, Greg Krikorian and Lee Romney, staff writers for the Los Angeles Times, tried to provide answers in a June 10, 2005 report. The Times reported:

Attorneys for a father and son arrested in Lodi in connection with a broad FBI terrorism probe plan to challenge the government case in court today over significantly differing versions of the affidavit used to charge the two men.

The first version of the affidavit released to media organizations by the Justice Department in Washington said potential terrorist targets included hospitals and groceries, and contained names of key individuals and statements about the international origins of "hundreds" of participants in alleged al-Qaida terrorist training camps in Pakistan.

These details among the most alarming in the case were widely reported in the news media, but then deleted in the final version filed with the federal court in Sacramento on Wednesday [June 8, 2005]. Federal prosecutors blamed the problem on confusion inside the bureaucracy as different versions circulated between federal offices.

Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra called this "An unfortunate oversight due to miscommunication," according to The Times. The publication said "Sacramento FBI spokesman John Cauthen said the deletions in the document were made because the original details were "not relevant or not accurate in context" for the purpose of proving a probable cause to arrest Hamid Hayat and his father." See "Terror allegations vanish in affidavit" for more.

Question can the damage be undone? I doubt it since FBI Special Agent Pedro Tenoch Aguilar's widely reported affidavit reportedly says that Hamid claimed that "potential targets for attack would include hospitals and large food stores". People don't generally remember corrections of news stories.

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June 9, 2005

'How Does It Feel To Be A Big, Rich Contractor Now'?

Imad Khaduri at Free Iraq has an interesting post on the May 2005 arrest of 16 contract U.S. Security guards and three Iraqis in Fallujah, Iraq by U.S. Marines. It's headlined "How does it feel to be a big, rich contractor now?" The contractors, who reportedly shot at Marines and Iraqi citizens, say they were held for three days and treated like "insurgents." There are reportedly 20,000 private security guards and mercenaries in Iraq.

By the way, if this story is true, what the hell were the security guards thinking? You are not going to shoot at a marine and get away with it.

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Bush, Blair And The World Tribunal on Iraq

"On May 17 [2005] a legal summons was delivered to U.S. and UK embassies in capitals around the world-including Istanbul, Tokyo, Lisbon, and Brussels-on behalf of the World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI)," Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith noted in an article in the June 9, 2005 edition of Belleciao. "The summons requested the attendance of President [George W. Bush and [British] Prime Minister [Tony] Blair to defend charges that they are in violation of common values of humanity, international treaties, and international law for waging war in Iraq."

According to WTI,

On June 23rd to the 27th 2005, at the start of the third year of the occupation of Iraq, the culminating session will take place in Istanbul. This session will reach a decision following an examination of the results of the previous sessions as well as new reports and testimonies, while evaluating the implications of the aggression against Iraq for the world at large.
I doubt Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair will take the summons seriously. Why should they? They have nothing to fear from a body without coercive power. Here's more.

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Kurtz: Latest Poll Says 'A Pox on Both Houses'

Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz said in a June 9, 2005 analysis of the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll on the Bush Administration:

On the surface, at least, there's good news for Democrats in the latest Washington Post-ABC poll. When you've got 52 percent disapproving of Bush's performance and 56 percent turning thumbs down on the Republicans in Congress, that's got to provide a morale boost to the out-of-power party.
"But it turns out that 56 percent also disapprove of the Democrats in Congress," Mr. Kurtz concluded. "In short, no one in D.C. is terribly popular right now." See "A Pox on Both Houses" for more of his analysis.

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What Do Americans Think About The Iraq War Now?

Andrew Gumbel of The Independent of London told his paper's readers in a June 8, 2005 post that,

Most Americans no longer believe the war in Iraq has made their country safer, and more than 60 per cent of the country believes the military is bogged down in a conflict that was not worth fighting in the first place, according to a new opinion poll offering only bad news to the Bush administration.

The poll for The Washington Post and ABC News poll, published yesterday [June 7, 2005], was the first survey in which a majority of Americans rejected the White House's argument that invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein was good for domestic security.

Mr. Gumbel said, "The poll also suggested that opinions were almost exactly evenly divided between those with a positive impression of President Bush's "war on terror" and those it viewed it negatively." Here's more.

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Online Opinion Compares 'Watergate and the Iraq War'

Jason Leopold, writing in a June 10, 2005 post at Online Opinion, "Australia's e-Journal of Social and Political Debate," thinks "The parallels between the Bush and Nixon administrations are eerily familiar. Both," he asserts, "bullied the press, were and are highly secretive, obsessed over leaks, engaged and are in engaging in massive cover-ups and have quickly branded aides as disloyal if they dared to raise questions about the presidents policies.

Mr. Leopold said "The Washington Post, the very paper that is credited with forcing Nixon resignation, summed it up perfectly in a November 25, 2003 story on the similarities between the two administrations:

Bush ... structures his White House much as Nixon did. Nixon governed largely with four other men: Henry A. Kissinger, H.R. Haldeman, John D. Ehrlichman and Charles Colson. This is not unlike the "iron triangle" of aides who led Bush's campaign and the handful of underlings now - Cheney, chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr, national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice and communications director Dan Bartlett - who are in on most top decisions. Nixon essentially ended the tradition of powerful Cabinets in favor of a few powerful White House aides - a model Bush has followed.

The most striking similarity is in the area of secrecy and what Nixon staffers called "managing the news". Nixon created the White House Office of Communications, the office that has become the center of Bush's vaunted message discipline.

Mr. Leopold said, "Unfortunately, neither the Washington Post nor any other mainstream newspaper or magazine in this country will ever be credited with exposing another Watergate. Mainstream reporters just don't have the guts to put their careers on the line to sniff around, ask tough questions, and perhaps find sources like W. Mark Felt." he declared. "Not even Woodward has the muckraking qualities he used to have. Worse, editors for large papers don't encourage reporters to practice that kind of reporting anymore, because they don't want to rock the boat, or risk losing their jobs, or be seen as liberal and therefore beckon the ire of the blogosphere." See "Watergate and the Iraq War - A higher standard of truthfulness?" for more of Mr. Leopold's interesting analysis.

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USA Today And The Downing Street Memo'

Editor & Publisher noted June 8, 2005 that, "In a report on President Bush's joint press conference late yesterday afternoon with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, USA Today for the first time mentioned the so-called Downing Street Memo, first reported in London's Sunday Times on May 1, and explained why the Gannett flagship had not previously covered the memo story."

"The Downing Street Memo is reported to be minutes of a July 2002 meeting among Blair and some of his top intelligence and national-security aides," Editor & Publisher added. "One of the aides reportedly told Blair at the meeting that the Bush administration has already decided to go to war with Iraq and was looking for justification. "Intelligence and facts were being fixed" to make war appear inevitable, the memo reportedly stated. Its veracity has not been contested by No. 10 Downing Street."

See 'USA Today' Defends Lack of Coverage for Downing Street Memo" for more.

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Downing Street Memo And The U.S. News Media

"A simmering controversy over whether American media have ignored a secret British memo about how President Bush built his case for war with Iraq bubbled over into the White House on Tuesday [June 7, 2005], USA TODAY reported on that date in its first mention of the Downing Street Memo. The Times of London first reported the memo on May 1, 2005. The USA TODAY article was updated on June 8, 2005.

USA TODAY reporter Mark Memmott said "It was the most attention paid by the media in the USA so far to the "Downing Street memo," which "is said by some of the president's sharpest critics, such as Democratic Representative John Conyers of Michigan, to be strong evidence that Bush decided to go to war [in Iraq] and then looked for evidence to support his decision."

Mr. Memmott said, "the subject came up, "at a late afternoon news conference," when "Reuters correspondent Steve Holland asked Mr. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair about a memo that's been widely written about and discussed in Europe but less so in the USA."

The Diplomatic Times Review has a link to the Downing Street Memo blog in the navigation bar under the nameplate. See 'Downing Street memo' gets fresh attention" for more of the USA TODAY article. Also see Representative Conyers' "Letter to President Bush Concerning the "Downing Street Minutes."

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June 8, 2005

Was U.S. Indifferent Towards Latin America At OAS Forum?

"Put it down as another missed opportunity," wrote David Adams, the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times' Latin American correspondent in a June 8, 2005 article headlined "U.S. indifference toward Latin America evident at forum."

In his analysis, Mr. Adams said "the United States hosted the annual meeting of the top political forum in the Americas this week, yet came away pretty much empty-handed." He added: "Meeting on U.S. soil for the first time in more than two decades, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States could have been an occasion for the Bush administration to re-engage with a hemisphere it has overlooked in recent years. Instead, the meeting painfully demonstrated how out of touch the United States is with its southern neighbors." The article is definitely worth reading.

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CARICOM And The International Community

The Barbados Advocate opined in a June 6, 2005 editorial that, "efforts to reform the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) present an opportunity for CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market) to sensitise the international community on the issue of security from the perspective of the vulnerabilities of small states."

"In fact," the paper said, "CARICOM could inform a new definition of security focusing on the realities and threats that the region experiences on a daily basis and which cause insecurity. Barbados Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dame Billie Miller, alluded to these changes while addressing the eighth meeting of CARICOM's Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR), last week in the Bahamas." See "CARICOM trying to get world to see our view" for more.

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Ex-Trinidad Prime Ministers Elects to Stay in Jail: Why?

On June 7, 2005, a court in Port-of Spain, Trinidad "reduced the bail for Trinidad's jailed opposition leader and former prime minister," Basdeo Panday, "who once again insisted on staying in jail as a form of protest," according to The Associated Press. Here's more.

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Rickey Singh Analyzes Trinidad's 'Two Big Unwelcome Firsts'

Prominent Caribbean Journalist Rickey Singh opined in a June 5, 2005 column that:

In our Caribbean community we have grown accustomed to news reports of ex-heads of government/state, former or serving cabinet ministers, top business executives and even judges and religious leaders being hauled before the courts on a range of charges, including corruption. "But last Tuesday's [May 31, 2005] arrest of former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Basdeo Panday on charges of financial corruption, and his protest decision to refuse bail and to stay in prison and represent himself whenever he has to appear in court must certainly mark a first in the judicial and political history of the Commonwealth Caribbean.
"Indeed," he wrote, "Trinidad and Tobago, a Caricom plural society seething with socio-political divisions and nerve-wracking rates of murder and kidnappings, has now chalked up their two biggest, and certainly unwelcome 'firsts' with their mix of politics and the law." See T&T's two big unwelcome firsts" for more.

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Howard Dean Continues to Upset Some Democratic Leaders

San Francisco Chronicle political writer Carla Marinucci has a good compilation of statements by Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, in which he assails the Republican Party. These statements have endeared him to many grassroots Democrats. On the other hand, some Democratic Party leaders say he is too harsh on the Republicans.

The latest pronouncement that has some leaders worried is June 6, 2005 claim that Republicans are "a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same. It's pretty much a white Christian party," he reportedly said in San Francisco round table woth reporters. Here's more.

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Nine Months After The Last Hurricane

Political commentator Lloyd Noel, a former Attorney General of Grenada, noted June 7, 2005 in a Caribbean Net News column that, "The new hurricane season officially started on the first of June, with some serious and very frightening predictions from the experts -- yet nine months after the last Ivan the terrible, we are still waiting on the clean up to take place" in Grenada.

"I am not here talking about removing all the damaged roofs and rafters from the buildings, mind you -- I am referring to the eyesore that still surrounds the devastated National Stadium in St. Georges," he added. Read more here.

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Latin America, The U.S. And Venezuela

Jonah Gindin at Venezuelanalysis.com has good coverage on the 35th General Assembly of the Organization of American States held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "Venezuela Dominates Preliminary Discussion at 35th General Assembly of the Organization of American States" is very insightful. Also see "Latin America Defies US Over Venezuela at OAS."

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The Lebanese Paradox

Hazem Saghieh, in a June 6, 2005 article in Dar Al Hayat headlined "The Predators of Samir Kassir", said The brave and enlightened pen did not fall by the hands of the "Syrian-Lebanese Security Apparatus" alone, or the latter did not execute its crime but in an environment that provokes murder or promote it." He added:

Between March 14 and the day of the crime, a considerable recession in the political and national occurred, leaving confessions, notables, peers of the realm, religious figures, and men with an ever-growing ego of every type, to occupy the vacuum. Since the political and the national have receded, dubious omens of every form began to appear. We saw General Michel Aoun, returning as a little Napoleon, reshuffling the cards and changing its form, obsessed with launching history from square zero, from the void. We saw electoral alliances, and no one is to be excluded, grow away from the political alignment of March 14, not to speak of the adopted principles, which were growing closer to the smaller parish calculations. We saw voter turnout, being the mother of all political and citizenship practices, drop to a level that suggests public despair and desolation after a notable broad energy. As for the youth that have refused to become part of the confessional equation, they seemed like orphans at the table of the wicked, pleading for representation.
"Finally," he asserted, "the fatal Lebanese paradox became clear. The election is not an intense political moment anymore; it has become a moment that is equivalent to politics, carrying inherent chances of collapse." Mr. Saghieh's analysis of current politic events in Lebanon is worth reading.

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Is Lebanon Reverting To Old Political Ways?

Gwynne Dyer, a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries," according to the Salt Lake Tribune, said in a June 7, 2005 commentary that,

For the past few months, we have been told by excitable Western journalists that the "cedar revolution" in Lebanon that drove Syrian troops from the country and the pro-Syrian government from office was the dawn of a new era in the Arab world. The old political class with its religious divisions and its corrupt deals was discredited, and a new, democratic Lebanon would emerge from the elections that began on May 29 and will end on June 19.
"That would be nice, but it's not true." she contends. See "Dyer: Lebanon is reverting to old political ways, not growing a democracy" for more.

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Syria Comment Looks at Coverage on Syria's Baath Party Conference

Joshua Landis at Syria Comment. Com has an nformative "Roundup of press coverage on Syria's Baath Conference, which is currently underway in Damascus. Here is a link to it. The coverage is quite impressive.

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Jaafar: Iraq Needs 3 Million Housing Units

Chicago Tribune reporters Michael Martinez and Aamer Madhani reported June 8, 2005 that, Iraqi Housing and Reconstruction Minister Jassim Mohammed Jaafar "made an international appeal to foreign investors yesterday [June 7, 2005] to help Iraq out of its housing crisis, in which 3 million residential units are needed to accommodate Iraqis displaced by more than two years of conflict." The item is mentioned in their report headlined "Car bombings kill 18, wound scores in Iraq."

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Will Bringing U.S. Troops Home Stop Suicide Bombings in Iraq?

Chicago Tribune Columnist Steve Chapman contends in a June 6, 2005 column that, "the dilemma the United States faces in fighting the insurgents [in Iraq] "is that military methods are not enough to solve the problem, and may make it worse." He added:

If the movement is a reaction to the U.S. military presence, keeping American troops in Iraq amounts to fighting a fire with kerosene. That explains why the longer we stay, the more suicide attacks we face. And it suggests that the only feasible strategy is to withdraw from Iraq and turn the fight over to the Iraqi government.
"The alternative," he suggested, "is to stay and keep doing what we've been doing for the last two years. But that approach has shown no signs of fostering success. It only promises to raise the cost of failure."

I agree with this conclusion. Here's a link to Mr. Chapman's column.

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CorpWatch: 'Marines Jail Contractors in Iraq'

David Phinney, in a June 7th, 2005 Special to CorpWatch, reports that "sixteen American and three Iraqi security contractors" working for Zapata Engineering were arrested by U.S. Marines in Fallujah, Iraq, on May 28, 2005 and held for three days. The Marines say the contractors shot at them. The contractors say the Marines have falsely accused them. See "Marines Jail Contractors in Iraq" for more on this interesting event.

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Khalilzad Says He Won't Be 'A Prisoner' In Iraq's Green Zone

"Zalmay Khalilzad, President Bush's choice to be the next ambassador to Iraq, vowed yesterday [June 7, 2005] not become "a prisoner in the green zone" and said Iraq's Arab neighbors must do more to help Baghdad," according to The Washington Times. Why? They didn't destroy Iraq. Here's more.

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Policing Iraq's Anbar Province

Chicago Tribune correspondent James Janega, writing from Iraq in a June 5, 2005 dispatch, says "The original Iraqi National Guard units formed in" Iraq's Anbar Province "after the fall of Baghdad in 2003 were reviled by locals and not trusted by the American troops they were supposed to help and eventually replace. Recently they were quietly disbanded, said Major James Whitlatch, the Marine officer assigned to help develop Iraqi security forces in western Anbar," Mr. Janega recently wrote.
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He quotes Paul Hughes, "a retired Army colonel who served as director of strategic policy for the former Coalition Provisional Authority and drafted plans to rebuild Iraq's military," as saying: "There was an urgency (at first) ... to produce a large quantity of soldiers. If you try to stand something up right away, the people most likely to volunteer are likely to be the scoundrels. You have a mixed bag of quality," Hughes said. "It failed miserably because we didn't know who they were." Here's more of Mr. Janega's insightful article.

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'Insurgents Focus Attacks Outside Baghdad'

Ashraf Khalil, staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, reported June 7, 2005, that, "although major attacks" in Baghdad "have diminished, daily violence outside Baghdad has continued, raising concerns that insurgents have dispersed and are targeting other areas." That's what guerilla fighters do. When it gets too hot in one area they move to another. Here's more.

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Michael Schwartz Analyzes Car Bombings In Iraq

Michael Schwartz, "professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, says "Don't be fooled by the press coverage" of car bombings in Iraq. "The car bombs are not detonated at random, nor are they primarily directed at Shi'ite mosques," he says in an indepth analysis in the June 8, 2005 edition of Asia Times Online.

"In fact," he noted, "only a handful have been targeted primarily at civilians - the vast majority are aimed at recruits or active duty members of the Iraqi police and army; the civilian injuries are - to use the ghoulish American military jargon - "collateral damage" See "Car bombings: Iraq's time bomb" for Mr. Schwartz's analysis.

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U.S. Under Pressure to Close 'Camp Stronghold Freedom'

"The United States has come under fresh international pressure to close its military base in Uzbekistan and drop the country's President [Islam Karimov] as a strategic ally after Human Rights Watch released a damning report into the recent Andijan massacre," according to Adam Osborn, The Independent of London's Moscow corespondent. Here's more. Also see "'Bullets Were Falling Like Rain." The Andijan Massacre, May 13, 2005."

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The Hindu: 'Advani Read Up On Jinnah Before His Trip to Pakistan'

"When L.K. Advani endorsed Mohammad Ali Jinnah's secular credentials during his recent trip to Pakistan, was the Leader of the Opposition making an unrehearsed, off-the-cuff remark?" asks Anjali Dhal Samanta in the June 8, 2005 edition of The Hindu. "Or was he echoing the views of an Australian academic whose book on the founding father of Pakistan had been purchased by his office a few days before his visit?" See "Advani read up on Jinnah before his trip" for more.

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L.K. Advani Resigns as BJP Leader: Why?

The Pakistani newspaper Dawn has an informative analysis of Indian opposition leader L.K. Advani's resignation as the head of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on June 7, 2005. Mr. Advani resigned "after he was criticized by his former Hindu extremist supporters" for describing the late Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a "secular leader" of Pakistan. See "Advani resigns as BJP chief" for writer Jawed Naqvi's analysis.

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June 7, 2005

Is Britain Engaging In 'Imperial Nostalgia'?

Guardian Unlimited Columnist Seumas Milne, in an article in the May 2005 issue of LeMonde Diplomatique, wrote:

Barely a generation after the ignominious end of the British empire, there is now a quiet but concerted drive to rehabilitate it, by influential newspapers, conservative academics, and at the highest level of government. Just how successful this campaign has already been was demonstrated in January when Gordon Brown, chancellor of the exchequer and Tony Blair's heir apparent, declared in east Africa that the days of Britain having to apologize for its colonial history are over.
Mr. Milne said Mr. Brown's "remark, pointedly made to the Daily Mail - which is leading the rehabilitation chorus - in the run-up to May's general election, was clearly no heat-induced gaffe. Here's more. Thanks to The Periscope for bringing attention to "Britain: Imperial Nostalgia."

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Doug Muir Blogging From Albania

Doug Muir at A Fistful of Euros is blogging from Albania this week. His June 7, 2005 post on the Balkan nation, which he says is "in a dead heat with Moldova for the not-coveted title of Europes Poorest Country," paints an interesting picture of Tirana, Albania's capital. Here's more.

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The EU Heads Of Government Summit

EUROSOC said June 7, 2005 that, "The people of Holland and France may have scornfully rejected their leaders' outrageous claims that Europe faced a war if they did not vote for the EU constitution, but senior pundits see a war of sorts brewing in time for this month's heads of governments summit." Read why.

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Former African Heads of State Meet in Mali

The Ghanaian Chronicle in Ghana, West Africa, said in a June 7, 2005 editorial, "the meeting of past African Heads of State, currently going on in Bamako, the capital of Mali, is very significant, since past heads of state are an endangered specie to many African countries." The publication also said:

Many of the past heads decided to hang on to power till death separated them from the throne, or decided to hang on till they either had to be chased out, or go down with their countries.

No matter how we regard these leaders, all of them certainly have some positive contributions that they can make to their countries present and future development.
By virtue of the long tenure of these leaders, they certainly had a large section of their people still professing allegiance to them. It is therefore important that they are made to have a sense of belonging to the status quo, so their supporters and sympathizers would also identify with their countries, to foster national cohesion.

"However," the Chronicle added, " these past leaders must recognize that whatever conditions they presently find their countries in, they contributed in no small measure to it. They must therefore not strut about as if their reigns represented piety." Here's more.

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ICC's Announcement on Darfur Investigation

Here is the International Criminal Court's statement announcing that ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, "has decided to open an investigation into the situation in Darfur, Sudan."

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Moreno-Ocampo Targets Alleged Darfur War Criminals

The Times of London reported June 7, 2005 that, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, "the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court formally launched an investigation yesterday [June 6, 2005] into alleged war crimes committed in Sudan's Darfur region, the first step towards bringing those responsible for atrocities to justice."

The Times said Mr. Moreno-Ocampo's "investigation is likely to focus on a list of 51 names handed to the ICC in March this year by the United Nations. Although the names were not made public, a Western diplomat said that they included 10 senior members of the Government in Khartoum, 17 military officers, as well as 14 local officials and several tribal chiefs," the paper said. Here's more.

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Bush Pledges $674 Million For Famine Relief In Africa

Beth Gardiner of The Associated Press reported June 7, 2005 that, "a U.S. commitment to providing $674 million for famine relief in Africa may take some of the sting out of President Bush's opposition to a proposal by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to spend even more money." Here's more.

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Should Mr. Bush Do More For Africa?

The Washington Post said in a June 7, 2005 editorial that U.S. President George W. Bush should do more for Africa. The paper said, in part:

The Bush administration already has done a lot for developing countries. Its global AIDS initiative has transformed the money available to fight the pandemic; its new Millennium Challenge Corp. is starting to support poor countries that have good policies. Now pressure is building on the administration to add to that progress: British Prime Minister Tony Blair hosts the Group of Eight summit of industrialized countries next month and wants to announce new help for Africa. A coalition of faith groups and entertainers that includes the rock star Bono is pressing for a U.S. contribution. Mr. Blair will meet President Bush in Washington today, and a new round of debt relief is being cooked up behind the scenes.
"But the administration should go further," the paper added, noting that "the Bush and Blair governments have been discussing debt relief since last year." See "Mr. Bush and Africa" for more.

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Washington State's Dino Rossi Ends Campaign

Washington State's Republican candidate for governor, Dino Rossi, "stood Monday [June 6, 2005] to announce the end to his 2004 campaign for governor," reports the Olympian and other publications and media outlets.

As the Olympian's Brad Shannon noted in a June 7, 2005 report, this was "seven months after the Nov.2 election. "Rossi said it was no longer worth fighting in court to overturn Gov. Christine Gregoire's thinnest of victories," he wrote.

Mr. Shannon said, "the clincher came Monday, when a Wenatchee judge [Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges]resoundingly rejected the Republican real-estate salesman's arguments for a new election for governor based on the premise that election errors made it impossible to know who really won."

Mr. Rossi's response to this was:

From the beginning of this election contest, we had two goals in mind: No. 1, clean up the election system, especially in King County; No. 2, to get to a new vote so we could have a legitimately elected governor. Today, it doesn't look like we're going to be achieving those goals -- as of today. But there is still hope for the future.
Mr. Shannon also reported that Mr. Rossi "also said the "political makeup" of the Supreme Court made it impossible to now overturn the election."

I think Mr. Rossi did the right thing by ending his campaign. Here's more.

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June 6, 2005

Second Guessing France's No Vote On EU Constitution

British Blogger Peter Cuthbertson at the popular Conservative Commentary asks:

Why are europhiles starting to claim that many Frenchmen voted against the EU Constitution not out of euroscepticism but because of their feelings about Chirac and national politics, as if it's some knock-out blow? Apart from the fact that people are entitled to vote for something for any reason they like in a democracy, they surely can't believe it doesn't work both ways.
See "No meant No" for Mr. Cuthbertson's analysis. It's worth reading.

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Iceland and the European Union

Hjörtur J. Gumundsson, editor of EU Related News From Iceland, posted "a speech by Björn Bjarnason, Minister of Justice and chairman of the special Committee on Europe, at a meeting held by the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels May 31, 2005. Mr, Bjarnason, whose subject was Iceland and European integration, said, among other things:

Iceland is one of the few European countries where there has never been a referendum on any European issue and when invited to address you here today, ladies and gentlemen, I considered it might be of value to you if I tried to answer two questions often put to us Icelanders here in Brussels: Why is Iceland not a member of the European Union? and What prevents Iceland from applying for membership in the European Union?
He said, "When The Financial Times speculated about our meeting with the Commissioner for enlargement it kindly said: "The affluent island wouldn't be a problem for the EU to absorb, particularly when compared with aspirants such as Albania and Bosnia. But would Reykjavik be ready to take the plunge? Maybe, if the island spells the end to the EU's constitutional headache, Brussels would make it an offer it couldn't refuse. Those Icelandic fish could be safe for a while yet." Here's the entire speech, thanks to Mr. Gumundsson.

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Poland: Britain's EU Position Doesn't Change Anything

"In what is clearly a move to counter the fall-out from the British announcement to postpone the ratification of the EU constitution, Polish foreign minister Adam Rotfeld has come out strongly declaring that the constitution is still alive," reports Richard North in a June 7, 2005 report in EU Referendum.

He said, "according to a report from AFX (via Forbes), Rotfeld told a press conference in Warsaw yesterday that: "The position taken by the British does not change anything." See EU Referendum's 'Stroke... and counter-stroke." The article is very informative.

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It's Official: Britain Postpones EU Constitution Vote

"Well, now it's official," wrote Edward at A Fistful of Euros on June 6, 2005. "Britain, which takes over the presidency of the European Union next month, has postponed indefinitely a troubled referendum on the bloc's constitution following its rejection in France and the Netherlands, Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said Monday," [June 6, 2005]. Here's more.

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Recommended: When Friends, Readers Hate Your Blog

Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice has an insightful post today headlined "When Friends And Some Readers Say They Hate Your Blog." I highly recommend it. As one who has, on occasion, been the target of insults for what I've written, I can identify with Mr. Gandelman's concerns. I also like his suggestions for surviving criticism and rejection.

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Has Amnesty International 'Lost It'?

GeoPolitical Review, which offers insightful analysis on global affairs, analyzes Amnesty International's claims that the U.S. mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo is similar to a Gulag. A June 5, 2005 post centers on the fact that William Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, said on June 5, 2005 that, "Clearly this [Amnesty international in London comparing the U.S.' Guantanamo Bay prisoner of war camp to a Soviet Gulag] is not an exact or a literal analogy."

Specifically, Amnesty said:

The detention facility at Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law. Trials by military commissions have made a mockery of justice and due process.
Mr.Schulz said, according to a Reuters account of his appearance on Fox News Sunday:
... But there are some similarities. The United States is maintaining an archipelago of prisons around the world, many of them secret prisons into which people are being literally disappeared ... And in some cases, at least, we know that they are being mistreated, abused, tortured and even killed."
"And whether the Americans like it or not, it does reflect how the more than 2 million Amnesty members in a hundred countries around the world and indeed the vast majority of those countries feel about the United States' detention policy.
GeoPoliticalReview concludes its analysis with this: " Whatever Amnesty once was, she lost it a long time ago."

Maybe, but U.S. officials still listen and react when Amnesty makes charges, whether correct or incorrect, against it. So do many other nations, organizations and individuals around the world. Some reports say Amnesty is refusing to back down from its "Gulag" comment. See "Amnesty International: 'It would be fascinating to find out. I have no idea'" for more." It's an interesting analysis.

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A Perspective On The Elections in Lebanon

The Lebanese Political Journal, in a June 5, 2005 analysis of that day's election in Lebanon, said the "Amal/Hezbollah's list won. Many more people came to vote than in Beirut," The Journal said. "No surprises there.The election law pre-determined that."

"Perhaps there was a Syrian hand involved or maybe it was just politically pragmatic for Amal and Hezbollah to ally rather than compete head to head," the publication added. "However, we do see that Hezbollah supporters do not have Lebanon in mind when they are voting. This from the Daily Star:

"All the South came out today to send a clear message to the Americans that they embrace the [Hizbullah's] resistance weapons and that they are independent in their decision and not subservient to international resolutions," Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, Hizbullah's commander in southern Lebanon, told reporters shortly after voting began in the second phase of the current four-stage parliamentary elections."
The Journal said, "that's the equivalent of [U.S. Vice-President Dick] Cheney saying this summer that a vote against him is a vote in favor of attacks on America." See "Everything went as expected in the South, and Hezbollah's failures" for more analysis.

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Will The FEC Exempt Bloggers From Web Politicking?

As Brian Feller noted in a "Special" published in the June 5, 2005 edition of The Washington Post, "a raft of lawmakers, campaign finance watchdog groups, election lawyers and bloggers urged the Federal Election Commission on Friday [June 3, 2005]to exempt the vast majority of -- if not all -- individual political activists on the Internet from new regulations." He added:

The comments, submitted hours before an agency deadline, came as the FEC considers whether and how to regulate online political activities, including blogging, advertising and e-mail. The commission had proposed shielding virtually all online political activities from government restrictions. But two sponsors of the campaign finance reform legislation approved in 2002 successfully sued to overturn that and some other policies. The court's decision left it to the FEC to decide which activities to regulate.
Of special note is the fact that, "the authors of the campaign finance reform law, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.), filed a joint statement urging the agency to ignore individuals' politicking on the Internet and focus instead on tightening rules governing online activities of unions, corporations and state political parties." Here's more on this important political issue.

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Why Lebanese Opposition Postponed Anti-Lahoud Sit-in

Ya Libnan reported June 6, 2005, that, "The planned sit-in" in front of Lebanon's presidential Palace "by the Anti Syrian opposition" has been postponed until after the elections. It was to be held on Monday, June 6, 2005, to pressure president [Emile] Lahoud to resign," Ya Libnan reported. See "Anti Lahoud sit-in postponed till after elections" for more.

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Josh Landis Looks At 'The Syrian Opposition'

As usual, Joshua Landis at Syria Comment.Com has a good roundup of news and commentary on Syria. I highly recommend the article headlined "The Syrian Opposition."

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June 5, 2005

Rosen Looks At 'Deep Throat, J-School and Newsroom Religion'

Jay Rosen over at PressThink says:

Watergate is the great redemptive story believers learn to tell about the press and what it can do for the American people. Whether the story can continue to claim enough believers--and connect the humble to the heroic in journalism--is a big question. Whether it should is another question.
See "Deep Throat, J-School and Newsroom Religion." Mr. Rosen is one of the premier scholars in the U.S. on the evolution of the media. His observations are always worth reading and pondering.

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The Double Standard on Amnesty International

Washington Post Columnist Dana Milbank says, "The folks at Amnesty International are practically begging for a one-way ticket to Gitmo. After the human rights group issued a report late last month calling the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "the gulag of our times," top officials raced to condemn Amnesty," he writes in a June 5, 2005 colum.

It wasn't always so. See "An Administration's Amnesty Amnesia."

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Clarence Page: 'Deep Throat: Dirty Tricks, Dirty Hands'

Chicago Tribune Columnist Clarence Page stated in his June 5, 2005 column that, "Conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan and liberal Rev. Jesse Jackson don't often agree on much politically, but each finds a lot to dislike about Deep Throat. So do I." See "Deep Throat: Dirty tricks, dirty hands."

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Why Shouldn't Felts Benefit From 'Deep Throat' Revelation?

Carol Benfell, staff writer for The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, California reports in a June 5, 2005 article that, "as both praise and criticism of Joan Felt and her family swirled last week in the national media," upon revelations that her father, W. Mark Felt, was "Deep Throat," she "disclosed the family's motivations for coming forward now, why money was a family consideration and how her father remains a "sensible and wise" participant."

"Deep Throat" was the most prominent of the anonymous sources that provide inside information that helped Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward's and Carl Bernstein expand the a story about the June 17, 1972 burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex into a story about political corruption at the highest level of the Nixon Administration. Today, it's known as the Watergate Scandal.

The money angle has caused raised eyebrows in some quarters. But so what if money was one of the motivating factors that compelled Mr. Felt and his daughter to reveal that he was "Deep Throat. Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein benefited financially from from Mr. Felt's role in their reporting. They wrote two Watergate-related books that were best sellers and earned money from the movie "All the President's Men, which was based on their book of the same name.

Given that others have benefitted, again, why shouldn't Mr. Felt and his family benefit? See "A Family Secret" to read The Press Democrat article.

By the way, Rogers Cadenhead at Work Bench has an article headlined "Looking Deeper into Joan Felt." I read the article. Again, my response was: So what?

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Recommended: David Broder's 'Antidote To Secrecy'

Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice says "Washington Post columnist David Broder perfectly captures the meaning of Deep Throat, Watergate and the recent effort by former Nixon administration members to discredit newly revealed source Mark Felt, the FBI's second in command when Nixon was in power in a blunt column that should be read, re-read, and then read again."

I read it, Joe, and agree with you. Thanks for reporting on it. See "Broder On The Significance Of Deep Throat And Watergate" for more of Mr. Gandleman's opinion on "Antidote To Secrecy."

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All the President's Men Selling Briskly

"Since it was learned W. Mark Felt was Deep Throat, U.S. sales of the both the 1970s book and DVD of All the President's Men have skyrocketed," according to a Web India News report. Here's more.

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Alabama Official Says CAFTA May Hurt His State

Ron Sparks, Alabama's state Agriculture & Industries Commissioner, is of the opinion that the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) is not good for Alabama agriculture and industry.

Birmingham News staff writer Roy L. Williams quoted him in a June 5, 2005 article as saying on June 3, 2005:

I am 100 percent for trade and growing Alabama businesses and creating jobs, but I am not willing to give up another Alabama job just to say we have a trade deal.
According to the publication, Mr. Sparks "said he is encouraging members of Alabama's congressional delegation to further research possible effects of the Central American Free Trade Agreement on industry in Alabama. Congress is expected to vote soon on CAFTA, which would eliminate trade barriers between the United States and Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic," according to the Williams article. Here's more. For news about the organized campaign against CAFTA, see the Stop CAFTA Website.

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Blue Oregon Looks At DeFazio's Fight Against CAFTA

Russell Sadler at Blue Oregon thinks "Representative Peter DeFazio is fighting a lonely battle." He wrote:

Oregon's 4th District Congressman is opposing CAFTA, the Central America Free Trade Agreement. DeFazio's opposition is viewed as quixotic, even obsolete, by the free trade cognoscenti. DeFazio is a rare congressman. He actually believes in representing his constituents at a time when most congressmen slavishly dance to the tune of the interest group lobbyists who finance their perpetual campaigns.
Mr. Sadler said,"most incumbents fear lobbyists will finance primary opponents against them if they don't toe the line." See "DeFazio's Fight Against CAFTA." I found it thought-provoking. Also see Mr. DeFazio's Website for his stance on other issues.

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Bush's Optimism on Iraq: Is It Reality?

Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker, Washington Post staff writers, reported June 5, 2005, that "President Bush's portrayal of a wilting insurgency in Iraq at a time of escalating violence and insecurity throughout the country is reviving the debate over the administration's Iraq strategy and the accuracy of its upbeat claims." It's about time the debate resumes. Perhaps this time people won't be labelled traitors for discussing an issue that has tarnished the U.S.' image, especially in the Islamic world. Here's more.

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Why JWN Put 'Democracy Denied In Iraq' Counter Back Up

Helena Cobban at Just World News (JWN) has "put the "Democracy Denied in Iraq" counter back up onto the JWN sidebar." Read why.

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We Refuse To Kill Our Country Because a Great man Died

Leila Hatoum of The Daily Star of Lebanon made this telling observation about the Lebanese opposition's calls for a general strike on June 3, 2005, "in response to the assassination of Samir Kassir, on June 2, 2005. She wrote:

However, for the most part the public reaction to calls to shut the country down was cold and unexpected after near uniform obedience to previous calls during the past few months. Some schools were reported to have closed for the day and others held half-day schedules, however.
But it was business as usual in Beirut's central district Friday, as merchants and visitors expressed their disapproval of the boycott approach.
Mohammad, a young waiter working at one central districts cafe, expressed his dismay to the horrible crime, but disapproved of the call to strike," she added. He said:
The mighty opposition figures think they can control us and play with our destiny, but they don't feel with us. They have the money and power to last a boycott, but if we the poor stop working for a day, we would not find anything to eat at night.
Mohammed continued: "Yesterday, a great journalist died, just like many great Lebanese men before him, but we refuse to kill our country by closing it down to please the politicians' whims." See "Opposition's calls for strike fall on deaf ears."

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India, Pakistan And The All Parties Hurriyat Conference

The Daily Times of Pakistan reported in a June 5, 2005 editorial that, "The leaders of the moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) currently visiting Pakistan have rejected claims by India and Pakistan that the ongoing normalization process is irreversible."

"They have contended that the process will become meaningful only if it takes into consideration the aspirations of the Kashmiris and only when a solution is not imposed on the Kashmiris, the major party to the dispute," the publication said. "In terms of the mechanism of such a dialogue, the APHC leaders insist, at the minimum, on triangular talks, if not a trilateral framework. (Incidentally, they refuse to consider the current process as a dialogue.) What should we make of this? See "APHC visit and the normalization process" for the Daily Times' answer.

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Pakistan Wants ‘Trilateral’ Talks On Kashmir

Seema Mustafa of The Asian Age notes that on June 4, 2005, Pakistan "made a strong pitch to involve the Kashmiris in a "trilateral" dialogue with India." She added:

Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri told this newspaper from Islamabad that the visit of the Kashmiri leaders was an extremely important step, and that it was imperative for them to be involved in the talks for a just and acceptable solution to the Kashmir issue.

He said, "We want both governments to agree to a trilateral dialogue, but as India is hesitant and still not prepared for that, as an interim measure let the Kashmiris talk to both Islamabad and New Delhi in turn

The correspondent reported that, "Mr Kasuri said that the last was not the ideal option as his government's first preference was for a trilateral dialogue, but it was necessary to ensure that the Kashmiris were now included in the peace process so that "they can start discussing their future and help find a solution acceptable to all". Here's more.

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Swiss Want Closer Ties With EU on Security, Asylum Issues

"Fifty-four per cent of Swiss have backed closer cooperation with the European Union on security and asylum issues in a vote on Sunday," June 5, 2005, according to Swiss Info. See "Swiss vote to join Schengen area" for more on the vote. Also see "Backing for Schengen/Dublin begins to slide."

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Zapatero's ETA Policy Disavowed By Some Spaniards

Franco Aleman at BarcePundti, English-edition, has what he calls "an impressive image of yesterday's protest" in Madrid, Spain against Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's "move towards negotiating with ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna)."

The photos are impressive. I wonder whether the size of the demonstrations will make Mr. Zapatero change his mind about the negotiations.

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Baroud: France Vetoes Neo Liberalism, U.S. Agenda

Ramzy Baroud, described by The Baltimore Chronicle as "a veteran Arab-American journalist and the author of the upcoming book entitled A Force to Be Reckoned With: Writings on the Second Palestinian Uprising, has a interesting perspective on France's May 29, 2005 referendum on the European Union Constitution, which was rejected by French voters. It's called "France Vetoes Neo Liberalism, US Agenda."

The U.S. editor-in-chief of the Palestine Chronicle said, "France's unyielding repudiation of the proposed European Union constitution is a resounding reminder that the populace still possesses the power to defy political elitism with all of its economic dogmas--neo-liberalism being one of them." I recommend the article.

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Can EU Keep Crisis From Widening?

Deutsche Welle of Germany has an article today, June 5, 2005, that says, "The EU risks further turmoil as it fights to avoid a escalation of one of its worst crises even as French and German leaders underlined Saturday[June 4, 2005] that the ratification process of the new constitution should go on."

"The 25-nation bloc is desperately grappling for a way ahead after French and Dutch voters dealt an apparently fatal double-blow to its long-cherished constitution last week," Deutsche Welle reported. "But there is no obvious solution, and the crisis is threatening to drive a wedge between key EU governments not only about the fate of the constitution, but about the whole future of the European project," the article said. See "EU Battles to Keep Crisis From Widening" to read more.

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Will Tony Blair 'Stay In Power To Sort Out EU Crisis'

"Tony Blair could carry on as British Prime Minister for another two to three years, now that plans for a European referendum have been dropped, his old ally Peter Mandelson claimed today," reports Ireland On-Line. The publication said, "Mr Mandelson, now Britain's EU commissioner, said that the crisis facing the EU following the rejection of the new constitution by French and Dutch voters, would provide Mr Blair with a fresh challenge." See "Blair 'could stay in power to sort out EU crisis'" for more.

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Malta Columnist Sees 'Confusion And Turmoil in Europe'

Commentary on French and Dutch voters' rejection of the European Constitution on May 29 and June 1, 2005 respectively continues to be offered in publications around the world as commentators try to understand the meaning behind the 'No" votes. Anthony Manduca of The Sunday Times of Malta provides an interesting perspective in the June 5, 2005 issue of the publication. Among other things, he said, Jacque Chirac's unpopularity is certainly not the only reason why the French rejected this treaty." He noted that:

There was a large left-wing movement against its ratification. The Socialist Party was split over its support for the Constitution and the Communist Party was opposed.
The Left considered the treaty to be far too economically liberal or "Anglo-Saxon", as the French like to call it. There was a genuine fear about the effects on France of increased competition - such as the European Commission's proposal to open up the services sector in Europe - and this was wrongly confused with the European Constitution and EU enlargement.
Mr. Manduca also said:"The No vote in the Netherlands, which was even larger than the French rejection, was more to do with Dutch fears over the treaty and the future of Europe than an expression of anti-government feeling, even though Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is not particularly popular at this point in time.

"It is also clear that the Yes camp was caught off guard by the strength and strategy of the No bloc and that it ran a weak campaign," he added. "Here again, the Netherlands did not have to hold a referendum and the government's decision to hold one - it obviously expected to win - once again shows the huge gulf between politicians and citizens." See "Confusion and turmoil in Europe" for more Mr. Manduca's informed opinion.

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June 4, 2005

Will Britain's Debt Plan Give 'Too Little To Too Few'?

Guardian Unlimited reported June 3, 2005 that, "Debt campaigners welcomed" Gordon Brown's June 3, 2005 announcement of a "modern Marshall Plan" for Africa, "but expressed concerns that the initiative was deficient and fraught with problems for poor countries."

"We welcome Brown's debt initiative as a step forward, but it is an inadequate one," the Guardian quoted Martin Powell, "debt campaigns officer at the World Development Movement (WDM)" as saying.
"Brown's initiative is currently for about 23 countries that are eligible for debt relief, but research shows at least 52 poor countries need 100% debt cancellation," he told Guardian Unlimited," the publication said. Here's more.

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Africa Needs Trade, Not Aid, To Make Progress

Simon Jenkins of The Times of London notes in a cynical but thought-provoking article in the June 5, 2005 issue of the Sunday Times that the Group of Eight (G-8) "gatherings are 30 years old this year. They were founded by the French president, Valéry Giscard dEstaing, in 1975 as library chats between the heads of rich first-world governments," he added. He also said:

"There would be no aides present and agendas would be ad hoc. By keeping meetings small and informal the exalted could commune above the level of petty bureaucratic concerns. Like Giscard's doomed exercise in European constitution-building, things soon got out of hand. The group of five became eight. Canada was included but China, India and anyone black or brown were out.
Mr. Jenkins said, "The best thing Gleneagles could do is announce not another fancy aid package but a revival of Britain's old imperial preference. This means more than debating the EUs partnership agreements, promising to buy specific goods from specific poor countries and not dump on them in return. It means actually implementing such agreements. Yet I see from the spin that Britain is downplaying trade in favour of yet more aid and debt relief. The reason, I fear. is simple. Pledging taxpayers money costs politicians nothing."

Mr. Jenkin's commentary is definitely worth reading and reflecting on. See "Aid sounds mighty nice, but its trade that feeds Africa" for more.

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Gordon Brown Wants OPEC To Donate Cash For Africa

Gordon Brown, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, "has written to the leaders of the big oil producing countries asking them to donate some of their oil wealth to boost aid to Africa," according to David Smith in the June 5, 2005 issue of the Sunday Times of London.

"The chancellor, who hopes to have a substantial African aid initiative in place by the time of the G8 summit in Gleneagles next month, has written to leading members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) asking them to contribute," Mr. Smith added. Here's more.

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The Political Heat Intensifies on Lebanon's Lahoud

"Pressure is intensifying on President [Emile] Lahoud of Lebanon to step down after the country's Opposition blamed him for the [June 2, 2005] murder of a leading anti-Syrian journalist," and an-Nahar columnist, Samir Kassir, Nicholas Blanford of The Times of London reported June 4, 2005.

According to The Times, "Tens of thousands of protesters plan to converge on Monday [June 6, 2005] on the presidential palace in the hills overlooking Beirut to call on Mr Lahoud to resign." Mr. Lahoud has vowed not to step down. See "Murder backlash aimed at Lahoud" for more. .

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Ya Libnan: 'So who murdered Samir Kassir?'

Giselle Khoury, widow of Samir Kassir, the prominent Lebanese journalist assassinated on June 2, 2005, has "demanded a legitimate international investigation" of her husband's death, Ya Libnan reported June 4, 2005. The publication said "specialists from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation were present" in Beirut on Friday, June 3, 2005, "and experts from France are expected on the site on Saturday," June 4, 2005. See "So who murdered Samir Kassir?" for more.

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FBI Reportedly Investigating Samir Kassir's Assassination

Arab News.Com reported June 4, 2005, that news reports out of Beirut say agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau for Investigation (FBI) visited the site where prominent Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir was blown up and killed in al-Asharefya in east Beirut on June 2, 2005. Here's more.

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Why Iraqi Unit Refused to Collaborate With U.S.

Reuters Correspondent Fadil al-Badrani reported June 4, 2005 from Rutba, Iraq that, "an Iraqi army unit has been disbanded after it refused to attend a U.S. training course in Baghdad, former members of the unit said on Saturday, [June 4, 2005]. "

The correspondent said, "The soldiers, part of a 90-strong force called the Defence Force of Rutba, said they had refused to attend training because they feared reprisals from locals if they were seen to have cooperated with the Americans." Who blame them? At the rate collaborators are being killed, this seems like a wise decision to me. Here's more.

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Judge In Washington State To Rule June 6 On Vote Count Case

The Seattle Post Intelligencer and other publications says Judge John Bridges, who presided over "the two-week trial without a jury in Chelan County Superior Court" in Washington State over who will be the state's governor, said he will issue an oral decision in the case on June 6, 2005. As the Post-Intelligencer reports, the case is a "GOP challenge to the 129-vote victory of Democrat Christine Gregoire over Republican Dino Rossi" during last year's contentious governor's race.

I expect Carl Ballard at the always interesting Washington State Political Report to provide interesting coverage on the opinion. The Pacific NW Portal is also a good source of political news. Sound Politics, which offers "commentary on current events in Seattle, Puget Sound and Washington State," is another source of interesting political news and opinion.

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Army's Qur'an Abuse Report Cited Around The World

The American Forces Press Service's June 4, 2005 report that Army Brigadier General Jay Hood's "inquiry into allegations of mishandling of the Koran" by U.S. personnel at Camp X-Ray and Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, reveals "a consistent, documented policy of respectful handling" dating back almost two and a half years," is overshadowed by world-wide reports that some U.S. personnel at Guantanamo did desecrate the Qur'an.

A Google search reveals how the story is playing around the world.

The military's report claims that some Muslim detainees also desecrated the Qur'an, which could or could not be true. However, that won't carry much weight abroad as it will in the U.S., where many are looking for a reason not to believe the reports. Some Muslims and others will see it as part of the Administration's propaganda and public relations campaign to convince Muslims that the U.S. is not waging a cultural and physical war against them and Islam. Expect more revelations of torture and other abuses.

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Watergate Revisited

On June 17, 1972, the date that five Nixon Administration-linked "burglars" were caught inside the Watergate office complex headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, in Washington, D.C., I was a 21-year old reporter in West Memphis, Arkansas working for a newspaper called Many Voices, which folded that same year.

Like many Americans, I closely followed the story of political espionage that turned into a crime and a constitutional crisis known simply as "The Watergate Scandal." I became enamored by the exploits of two Washington Post reporters named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Before then Harold Muhammad, a now deceased Atlanta-based correspondent for Muhammad Speaks; syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, Wayne Smith, a reporter at The Arkansas Gazette; and I.F. Stone, publisher of I.F. Stone's Weekly, were my journalist heroes.

I followed the story until President Richard M. Nixon, whose administration was linked to the Watergate Burglary, resigned on August 9, 1974. I also bought and read "All the President's Men" and "Final Days" by Woodward and Bernstein. And I watched "All the President's Men," the movie, starring Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein. I'll probably watch it again soon and re-read the book.

Over the years, I followed the speculation about the identity of "Deep Throat," Woodward's primary source, but was not obsessed with the source's identity. Yet, I was curious when John D. O'Connor's Vanity Fair article, "I'm the Guy They Called Deep Throat," confirmed that it was W. Mark Felt, the number three man in the FBI at the time of the Watergate Scandal. In a June 2, 2005 article, Mr. Woodward confirmed that Mr. Felt was indeed Deep Throat.

The question I had about the Vanity Fair article was: How did Mr. O'Connor confirm that Mr. Felt was deep throat? To me, that was the most important story. I enjoyed the article for that alone. After reading it, I found I had no feelings about Mr. Felt one way or the other.

By the way, I wonder how many people my age remember Frank Willis, the African-American security guard working for the Watergate Hotel, who discovered the break in that brought down a president?

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Colbert King Takes A Look At 'Deep Throat's Other Legacy'

Washington Post Editorial Board member Colbert I. King takes a look at "Deep Throat's other legacy" in a June 4, 2005 column. He wrote:

I share the pride of my Post colleagues in our newspaper's pursuit of Watergate, "the biggest political story in modern American history," as reporter Michael Dobbs described it in an article on Thursday [June 2, 2005]. And as a member of The Post's editorial board, I also echo our Wednesday commentary, which said that former FBI deputy director W. Mark Felt, aka "Deep Throat," deserves to be honored for his role in bringing to light Richard Nixon's serious abuses of power.
"That honor, however, is not the full extent of Felt's legacy," Mr. King added. "Felt's devotion to J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI caused him, I believe, to place the bureau ahead of the Constitution and his own faithfulness to the Bill of Rights."

I think the column is worth reading. It tries to provide a balanced view of Mr. Felt's legacy.

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June 3, 2005

Who's Taking Potshots At Former Congressman Bob McEwen?

Rory Ryan, Publisher and editor and of the Hillsboro, Ohio The Times-Gazette in Ohio's Second Congressional District, where a campaign is underway to choose a replacement for former Congressman Robert Portman, who was sworn in as U.S. Trade Representative on May 17, 2005, stated in a June 3, 2005 post that,

"As a longtime resident of Ohio's Second Congressional District, I get more than a little annoyed when certain political operatives spout off about which they do not know. A few of the Internet blogs this week took some unnecessary, and inaccurate, potshots at former congressman Bob McEwen of Hillsboro. For example, it's been wrongly reported that the only endorsements McEwen can garner are from inside the beltway around our nation's capital. Really?
"Granted," Mr. Ryan said, "he may have some well-known names making endorsements from Washington; people like Jack Kemp, Ed Meese and others. But let's get one thing straight: There are a lot of us in southern Ohio who remember that Bob McEwen served this region very well during his six terms in Congress." Here's more.

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Attorney Sues Washingtonienne

Rachel Kramer Bussel's article in the June 3, 2005 online edition of the Village Voice headlined "Capitol Hill attorney sues Washingtonienne for exposing his kinks" is hilarious. The attorney is angry at Capitol Hill party-girl Jessica Cutler, the proprietor of Washingtonienne, for revealing that he likes to pull hair and spank and be spanked. I'd be too embarrassed to file suit over something like this. Now even more of his sexual proclivities will be exposed. Here's more, if you are interested.

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Online Coalition's Position on Proposed Online Political Activity Rules

Wizbang has a link to The Online Coalition's Official Response to the Federal Election Commission's Notice of Proposed Rule Making regarding political activity on the Internet. The Coalition is "a collection of bloggers and online activists of all political stripes," according to Wizbang.

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Bloggers And The Campaign In Ohio's 2nd Congressional District

If you are interested in the campaign in the 2nd Congressional District in southern Ohio to replace Republican Rob Portman, who was appointed U.S. trade representative on April 29, 2005 and took the oath of office on May 17, 2005, take a look at some of the blogs covering the campaign. The primary is June 14, 2005. See The Dean of Cincinnati. Also See Swing State Project. Here's more

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The Washington Times' Advice to the FEC on Blogging

Here's The Washington Times' "advice to the Federal Election Commission regarding Internet regulations":

Tread lightly. If the federal government must apply campaign-finance laws, specifically McCain-Feingold, to the Internet as a federal judge ruled last fall, it should do so with as light a touch as possible.
The Times said, "Unfortunately, no matter what the FEC decides, there's a chance that the days of unbridled political discourse on the Internet are nearing their end." I honestly don't think so. See "Free speech for bloggers."

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RNC Says Internet Should Be An Open Public Square

June 3, 2005, the Republican National committee told Brad C. Deutsch, Assistant General Counsel of the Federal Election Commission, that,

The RNC strongly supports a view of the Internet as an open public square where political ideas may be exchanged freely, without burdensome federal oversight or regulation that potentially discourages the use of the Internet in the political arena.
Here's the RNC's entire statement.

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Why Are Bloggers Worried About McCain-Feingold?

Roy Mark at Internet News.Com reported June 3, 2005 that, "online political activists want the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to stay cool when considering proposed rules that some fear will chill online political debate, particularly in the blogosphere.

"The FEC agrees, but the courts do not," Mr. Mark wrote. Read why By the way, why are bloggers so worried about the FEC and McCain-Feingold? Some Bloggers have proven that they can scathingly ridicule proposals they don't like and beat anyone into submission. Just ask former CBS Evening News Anchor Dan Rather and former CNN executive Eason Jordan.

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Josh Marshall's TPM Cafe Makes Its Debut

Joshua Micah Marshall's TPM Cafe blog is enticing. I like the look and feel of it. The diversity of voices makes for a lively gathering. Here's the press release announcing its debut.

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'India to Host Caspian Oil Sellers and Asian Oil Buyers'

India's Petroleum Minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, was quoted in Indian Express as saying, "In the week beginning October 17, we propose to host the oil ministers from Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan to a meeting with the four prime Asian buyers." They are: China, Korea, Japan and India.

I wonder what impact this will have on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the price of oil on the world market. Here's more.

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The U.S., India and Nepal

"For the world's sole surviving superpower increasingly criticized for its brash unilateralism, the United States has exhibited a peculiar trait in delegating its Nepal policy to India," asserts Madan P. Khana in an article in the June 2, 2005 edition of Scoop, a New Zealand publication . Mr. Khana said "allowing Indian perceptions to guide American policy on the kingdom would be counterproductive to the overriding imperative of strengthening security and stability in South Asia." See "A Dangerous Delegation of American Diplomacy" for more.

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Blogs' Influence on Illinois Politics Growing

The influence of blogs’ in Illinois politics is growing, according to an article by Chris Kaergard of the Rockford (Illinois) Register Star's Springfield, Illinois Bureau. He quotes Dan Shomon, political director for U.S. Senator Barack Obama’s campaign against Republican Alan Keyes, as saying:

I think (blogs are) going to be in every statewide race and hot congressional races from now on. If you’re not blogging, you’re losing the youth of today, the under-30 set. They may not be the biggest voters, but they energize campaigns.
The Obama campaign had a blog. Here's more.

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The MOVE Commemoration: A Look Bact At a Philadelphia Catastrope

Craig Dimitri, in an article headlined "Still Preoccupied With 1985: Mayor W. Wilson Goode and the Politics of the MOVE Disaster, 20 Years Later," takes a look back at one of the most devastating uses of state power against citizens who dared to be different." Here's his review of that tragedy. Here's more.

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Mennonites Urged to Back Out Of Partisan Politics

"John D. Roth, a history professor at Goshen College [in Indiana], is prodding Mennonites to take a five-year break from partisan politics," according to the June 2, 2005 edition of the South Bend [Indiana] Tribune.

"The sky is not going to fall if Mennonites for five years back out of partisan politics," he was quoted as saying. Here's more.

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FEC Releases California's Frozen Elections Funds: Why?

"Federal elections officials have agreed to release nearly $170 million to California that had been frozen after questions arose about how former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley was spending federal funds meant to improve voting systems," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Joshua Landis' 'Baath Party Conference Watch'

"Will the [Syria] Baath Party Congress be the "great turning point" that President [Bashar] Asad said it would be in his March speech to the Parliament?" asks Syria Comment.Com's Joshua Landis in a June 2, 2005 post.

"That is the question all journalists must answer," he wrote. "The migration has begun, and the three Damascus hotels - the Sham Palace, the Meridien, and the Sheraton - have turned into aviaries for our blessed birds of information.The first round of stories will have to be all guesswork, local color and conjecture." Here's more of Mr. Landis' interesting look at what to expect.

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Marwan Hamadeh Announces 'Unto Death' Effort to Depose Lahoud

Lebanese Lobby reports in a June 3, 2005 article that, "A national schism has developed in the aftermath of writer Samir Kassir's [June 1, 2005] assassination as the pan-Lebanon opposition front sacked General [Michel] Aoun from its ranks and vowed 'unto death' campaign to overthrow President [Emile] Lahoud, while the General rushed to Lahoud's defense, holding the opposition indirectly responsible for Kassir's death.

"Yes, definitely we have expelled General Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement," Former Economy minster and Druze member of parliament Marwan Hamadeh said over slain ex-Premier [Rafik] Hariri's Future TV network, according to Lebanese Lobby The publication said this comes "hard on the heels of an opposition declaration that formally proclaimed the General a renegade, citing his electoral coalition pacts with "the lingering symbols of Syria's tutelage over Lebanon." .

The publication also quotes Mr. Hamadeh as saying:"The situation must henceforth be crystal clear. Ambiguities are no longer permissible." It noted that Mr."Hamadeh, who miraculously survived a car-bomb assassination attempt near his Beirut house October 1, 2004," also said, "The General has to either quit his election pacts with the lingering symbols of Syria's trusteeship or face a head-on confrontation with the united opposition front."

Mr. Aoun, a Maronite Christian, returned to Lebanon on May 7, 2005 after 15 years of exile in France. Here's more.

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June 2, 2005

Some Lebanese Blame Syria For Kassir's Assassination

Jessy Chahine reports in a June 3, 2005 article in The Daily Star of Lebanon that, "Emotions ran high at the scene of the Samir Kassir's assassination as angry crowds accused Lebanon's pro-Syrian regime of murdering opposition journalist Samir Kassir.

"Assassins! Agents of Syrian corruption! Who will be the next victim?" they yelled, venting frustration at the attack against the renowned anti-Syrian journalist and founding member of the Democratic Left movement," The Star reported, adding: "Kassir, 45, was a main force behind the popular uprising triggered by Rafik Hariri's killing" on February 14, 2005. See "Lebanese enraged by Kassir murder point fingers at Syria."

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Who Killed Samir Kassir?

As Nicholas Blanford, a Times of London correspondent in Beirut, noted in a June 3, 2005 dispatch that, "Opposition figures" in Lebanon "were swift to blame Syria and its allies in Lebanon" for the June 2, 2005 assassination of prominent Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir.

"Bashar al-Assad and Emile Lahoud are behind it," The Times quotes Marwan Hamade, "an opposition leader who survived an attempt on his life in October, [2004]" as saying. He was "referring to the Syrian and Lebanese Presidents," Mr. Blanford noted.

Mr. Hamade said "Samir Kassir was a defender of democracy in the Arab world and a courageous journalist who confronted dictatorships, especially the joint dictatorship established by Lebanon and Syria." See "Bomb kills crusading journalist."

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Martin Kettle: 'Don't Jump to Conclusions' About EU Voters

The Guardian Unlimited's Martin Kettle is of the opinion that, "The people of France and the Netherlands have killed the EU constitution. It is an ex-treaty," he states in a June 3, 2005 column. "But if we must respect what the voters have done, we must also respect the reasons they have given for doing it. Commentators who impose their own romantic or apocalyptic scenarios on facts that do not support them are just as culpable as EU leaders in denial," he asserted. I agree. Here's more.

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USA TODAY: Europe is Being Democratic.

USA TODAY stated in a June 2, 2005 editorial that,"Old-fashioned democracy" is thwarting "EU's grand plan." The paper noted that:

Before the Netherlands rejected a new European constitution Wednesday, something out of the ordinary happened: Voters held hundreds of debates about it in town halls and coffeehouses.
A similar raging discussion preceded France's resounding "no" vote three days earlier with a more in-your-face French flavor. In a typical scene, finger-jabbing sheep farmer Jose Bove told gathered crowds that "200 years after the (French revolution's storming of the) Bastille, the people of the left today are going to wreck this constitution!"
"With their votes," USA TODAY added, "the French and Dutch people did indeed shatter the proposed constitution. They sent another message as well: Europe is not dead; it is being democratic. And that's important, too." Here's the entire editorial.

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The Economic Reasons Behind the Dutch No Vote

Hamish McRae of The Independent of London opines in a June 2, 2005 article:

"June is blazing, the sun is shining and the Dutch are unhappy. In another vote against the EU elite, the Netherlands yesterday [June 1, 2005] added its voice to France against the way Europe wants to reorganize itself. The vote is an exercise in politics rather than economics but, to an even greater extent than the French, the Dutch have powerful economic reasons behind their concern.
See " Sun shines on Dutch but the economic shadows lengthen" for more of Mr. McRae's views on the subject..

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Did French, Dutch Deliver 'Killer Blow' to EU Constitution?

Expatica's Aaron Gray-Block noted in a June 2, 2005 analysis of the June 1, 2005 rejection of the European Union Constitution by the Dutch that:

Denmark will proceed with its plebiscite planned for 27 September. Six other referendums are due to follow. However, despite the fact 10 nations have already approved of the constitution-- Latvia's Parliament backed it on June 2, 2005-- the treaty had to be ratified by all 25 member states. It means the French and Dutch no votes have effectively delivered a killer blow.
"Nevertheless," Mr. Gray-Block said, "European Parliament President Josep Borrell said earlier this week if only five countries reject the constitution, a period of negotiation must be entered into." See "Dutch 'no' vote sparks EU crisis" for more.

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European Voters Send 'Salutary Warning' to Leaders

Gamal Nkrumah of the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram contends that "Europe has hit a soft patch. It is a salutary warning," he said in the June 2-8, 2005 issue, adding:

Europeans are no longer enamoured of their own continent. The continent's electorates are forcing its politicians to have the EU returned to its founding principles. The Lisbon agenda of economic reform has been rejected by the French and Dutch electorate. Europe's politicians cannot press ahead with anti-people economic reforms. In France, it was the left that was held primarily responsible for the 'non' vote. "A masterpiece of masochism," trumpeted the French daily Liberation. The French and Dutch rejection of the European constitution prompted a continental debate on the future of Europe. Eurosceptics had a field day. However, the French 'non' doesn't necessarily mean that they were vindicated. Nor does it mean that other European nations avoid further referendums and ratify the EU constitution by parliamentary vote. Several other European countries, in any case, are going ahead with the ratification of the constitution.
Mr. Nkrumah said, "The Spanish opted for a decisive 'si', so much to their consternation, the French vote came as a shock. The Dutch 'no', not surprisingly, was a foregone conclusion." See "Bruises of the EU bandwagon" for the rest of Mr. Nkruma's analysis.

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The Washington Post Has a Deep Throat Blog

The Washington Post has started a blog on Deep Throat, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's major source for its Watergate investigation that forced former President Richard M. Nixon to resign on August 9, 1974. Vanity Fair revealed this week that Former FBI agent Mark Felt was Deep Throat. The post had vowed not to reveal his name until he was dead or released Woodward and Bernstein from their oath to ensure his confidentiality as a source.

The blog seems pretty good. You can even leave comments. Here's the link.

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Defending John Bolton

Nico at Think Progress, in a post headlined "Another Rousing Defense of John Bolton," excerpts an observation "From the June 6 The Week section of The National Review, slamming Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH)." The National Review is quoted as saying:

In refusing to vote for Bolton at the committees meeting May 12, [Voinovich] endorsed the absurd idea that Bolton was a kiss up, kick down kind of guy at the State Department, when Bolton repeatedly clashed with his superior Colin Powell
"Lets get this straight," Think Progress said. "The National Review is refuting the charge that Bolton is a kiss up, kick down guy not by challenging the claims of Bolton's detractors, but by claiming that, in the case of Colin Powell, Bolton tried to obstruct and undermine him instead of kissing up to him. And this is a good thing?" Good question.

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The 'Bolton Blunder'

The Toledo (Ohio) Blade opined in a June 2, 2005 editorial: "Thank goodness the Senate has put President Bush's controversial nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on hold at least until next week." See "Bolton blunder" for the entire editorial.

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June 1, 2005

Iraq's 'Foreign Minister' to Meet With Rice June 1

"Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari meets U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Wednesday [June 1, 2005] in Washington for talks on the situation in war-torn Iraq," according to the Voice of America.

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Joshua Landis Analyzes Lebanon's Elections

Joshua Landis at Syria Comment.Com, who "just returned from several days in Beirut, where" he "gave a few lectures at AUB (American University in Beirut) on Syria, and "had time for a delicious dinner at Majana's with" his "favorite journalists: Michael Young of the Daily Star and Reason, Nicholas Blandford of the Christian Science Monitor, and Anthony Shadid or the Washington Post, has what appears to be a very informed commentary on the Lebanese elections. See "Lebanon's Elections - What's at Stake"?

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Haim Yavin: 'Since 1967, We've Been Brutal Conquerors...'

The Guardian's Chris McGreal reports from Jerusalem that, "The revered anchor of Israel's Channel One news program for more than three decades has caused controversy by making a personalized documentary in which he concludes that Jewish settlements are endangering the country and that the occupation of Palestinian land is a crime."

"Since 1967, we have been brutal conquerors, occupiers, suppressing another people," Haim Yavin, "who was a founder of Channel One and once its chief editor, says in the program," according to Mr. McGreal.

On May 31, 2005, "the Yesha Council of Settlements" demanded that Mr. Yavin be fired, according to Haaretz. Here's more of the Guardian article.

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Haim Yavin: 'Since 1967, We've Been Brutal Conquerors...'

The Guardian's Chris McGreal reports from Jerusalem that, "The revered anchor of Israel's Channel One news program for more than three decades has caused controversy by making a personalized documentary in which he concludes that Jewish settlements are endangering the country and that the occupation of Palestinian land is a crime."

"Since 1967, we have been brutal conquerors, occupiers, suppressing another people," Haim Yavin, "who was a founder of Channel One and once its chief editor, says in the program," according to Mr. McGreal.

On May 31, 2005, "the Yesha Council of Settlements" demanded that Mr. Yavin be fired, according to Haaretz. Here's more of the Guardian article.

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Al-Jaafari Wants Security Council to Let U.S. Stay in Iraq

Detroit Free Press Foreign Correspondent Nancy A. Youssef reported June 1, 2005 that, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibramim al-Jafaari "said he'd like the UN Security Council to extend Resolution 1546, which authorizes the U.S. presence" in Iraq "until June 8, [2005]. He made his comments while addressing the Iraqi National Assembly," Ms. Youssef wrote.

"It is true that" the multinational forces "are not Iraqi forces, but their task is to secure the country under the Iraqi will and Iraqi timetable," al-Jaafari was quoted as saying. Ms. Youssef said al-Jaafari "said his government would decide the roles of U.S. and other foreign troops, a particularly sensitive issue as the new government tries to establish its legitimacy among the Iraqi people and secure the country against an entrenched insurgency while depending heavily on the U.S. military."

She quoted a Lt. Steve Boylan, "a U.S. military spokesman," as saying this about the "more than 140,000 U.S. service members" in Iraq: "We are here in partnership to help them win the war against terrorism."

While al-Jaafari, perhaps with the urging of the Bush Administration, can ask the Security Council to extend Resolution 1546, he is deluding himself if he thinks he can tell U.S. occupation forces what to do. The U.S., not al-Jaafari or any other Iraqi, is calling the shots in that occupied nation. Al-Jafaari knows it but he obviously has a political need to pretend otherwise. Here's more.

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Al-Jaafari Wants Security Council to Let U.S. Stay in Iraq

Detroit Free Press Foreign Correspondent Nancy A. Youssef reported June 1, 2005 that, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibramim al-Jafaari "said he'd like the UN Security Council to extend Resolution 1546, which authorizes the U.S. presence" in Iraq "until June 8, [2005]. He made his comments while addressing the Iraqi National Assembly," Ms. Youssef wrote.

"It is true that" the multinational forces "are not Iraqi forces, but their task is to secure the country under the Iraqi will and Iraqi timetable," al-Jaafari was quoted as saying. Ms. Youssef said al-Jaafari "said his government would decide the roles of U.S. and other foreign troops, a particularly sensitive issue as the new government tries to establish its legitimacy among the Iraqi people and secure the country against an entrenched insurgency while depending heavily on the U.S. military."

She quoted a Lt. Steve Boylan, "a U.S. military spokesman," as saying this about the "more than 140,000 U.S. service members" in Iraq: "We are here in partnership to help them win the war against terrorism."

While al-Jaafari, perhaps with the urging of the Bush Administration, can ask the Security Council to extend Resolution 1546, he is deluding himself if he thinks he can tell U.S. occupation forces what to do. The U.S., not al-Jaafari or any other Iraqi, is calling the shots in that occupied nation. Al-Jafaari knows it but he obviously has a political need to pretend otherwise. Here's more.

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