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Democracy has been taken for granted at a time when it is most endangered. Neo-Conservatives are organized to replace it with oligarchy, to replace consent for the rule of law with fascistic allegiance to the executive branch disguised as "patriotism." As a team made up of a political philosopher and a writer, we consider otherwise repressed information from a critical perspective in the hope of elevating the quality of our political dialogue so that it is worthy of a truly democratic society.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

An interesting email I received from MoveOn.org today:

"Today, MoveOn.org Voter Fund is launching Bush in 30 Seconds, a political TV ad contest to help us find the most creative, clear and memorable ideas for ads that tell the truth about George Bush's policies. You don't have to be trained in the art of filmaking to participate, you just need to be ready, willing, and able to turn your clever ideas into a real 30 second ad. We want to run ads that are of the people, for the people, and by the people.

"Joining us in this effort is a great panel of celebrity judges, including Jack Black, Michael Moore, Donna Brazile, Gus Van Sant, Michael Stipe, Margaret Cho, and Moby (there's a full list on the site below). MoveOn members will pick 15 finalists; the panelists will pick the winning ad and help generate some good press coverage for it.

"The prize? Just in case getting your work seen by our judges and thousands on our web site isn't enough, we'll put the winning ad on TV during the week of Bush's State of the Union Address. All 15 finalists will also be featured in an email to the MoveOn membership. The ad doesn't need to have TV production values -- it's the idea that counts. We'll reshoot the winning ad if we need to in order to air it.

"Last week, we launched a fundraising campaign to to take the truth about George Bush's policies to voters in battleground states. The response has been phenomenal -- over $2.3 million of our $10 million goal came in in under three days. Your contributions will help us get our first ads on the air in swing states in a matter of days. Now we need your help to ensure that the campaign is truly creative.

"Interested in making a 30-second spot for Bush in 30 Seconds? Check out the website below for more details. Know someone who might be willing and able to make a great ad? Please pass this message on.

"You can learn more about the contest and get the complete guidelines at:
http://www.bushin30seconds.org/

"If you have an idea for an ad, but not the time or the equipment to shoot it, you can post your ideas on our discussion board at:
http://www.bushin30seconds.org/ideaswap.html

"Willing to help spread the word? Download the poster at the link below, print up a bunch of copies, and post it where likely participants might see it.
http://www.bushin30seconds.org/poster.pdf

[...]"

Monday, October 27, 2003

The following editorial essay, most of which is a transcript of a recent episode of Now with Bill Moyers on PBS, appeared in today's Bozeman Chronicle:

To find influence, follow the money


By Todd Wilkinson

"As we all know, Sen. John McCain of Arizona is a political maverick: a Vietnam war hero; a Republican Party stalwart; a pugnacious reformer; a guy who doesn't believe it's good for American Democracy that political candidates can be bought by shadowy political action committees which then wield more influence over public policy than the citizens whose interests are undermined by back-room deals.

"Is there a local parallel? How much are local candidates receiving from whom? What are the agendas of the groups backing candidates? What will their expectations be if their candidate is elected? Will they act in the best interests of the community or merely serve the wishes of large campaign contributors?

"In case you missed it, here's an excerpt from an interview McCain gave on the PBS television program Now with Bill Moyers. The topic was campaign finance reform, and efforts being made by lobbyists to gut anti-corruption legislation drafted by McCain and Sen. Russell Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin.


"McCain: This is a very addictive system [if you're an elected official receiving contributions from special interests]. There was a recent comment by Senator Zell Miller [a Democrat] of Georgia where he said after a period of fund raising he felt like a prostitute after a busy day.

"Moyers: Can a government run by prostitutes and addicts claim to be legitimate?

"McCain: I don't think so, and I think what happens is that the public interest is not served; the special interests are. We passed a homeland security bill, which was important. The House of Representatives passed it and put some special interest provisions on it. One was, guess who for, a major drug company, who had been a huge contributor in the last campaign. And let me remind you, recent data shows that the pharmaceutical companies who are the largest single contributors, spent about $30 million dollars in the last campaign insulating incumbents [who voted against] prescription drug bills for seniors.

"Moyers: Every version of national energy legislation provides billions of dollars in subsidies for the fossil fuel industry that has poured millions of dollars into electing a compliant Congress and a White House. Do you smell a rat there?

"McCain: I don't see it as a whole lot different from a lot of other legislation that goes through the Congress in which special interests have enormous influence.

"Moyers: Do you think Vice President Cheney should release the names of those energy industry officials with whom he met secretly when he was drafting the national energy policy?

"McCain: Sure. I've always believed in open government, and that should be part of it, absolutely.

"Moyers: The Non-Partisan Center for Responsive Politics says less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the country gave almost 85 percent of all itemized contributions in our recent elections. What does that tell you, senator?

"McCain: Well, it tells me that it's huge amounts of money contributed by a handful of Americans that are dictating the legislative agenda here in Congress.

"Moyers: If you were an ordinary citizen do you think you'd have a chance up against that system?

"McCain: No. I do not.

"Moyers: You said ... that while President Bush signed the McCain-Feingold bill, his people are doing everything behind the scenes they can to weaken it as much as possible. Why don't you call the president and ask him to lay off?

"McCain: Perhaps I should.

"Moyers: Who [are the entities] suing to declare unconstitutional the McCain-Feingold bill, and why do they consider it unconstitutional?

"McCain: Well, I think you just look at those who are involved in the suit. The ACLU, the NRA, National Right to Life, The Republican Party, the Democratic Party of California.

"Moyers: It's so clear that both parties have become so corrupted by money that you can't change the system from inside the bordello. Would you consider running for president in the year 2004 as an independent?

"McCain: If I thought it was do-able, maybe I would consider it. But I still believe in the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt ... Roosevelt was the great reformer. He took on the robber barons. He was a great conservationist. We've got to return to his kinds of principles."


Todd Wilkinson's column appears [in the Bozeman Chronicle] every Monday.



Friday, October 24, 2003

Today has been a day for different sorts of sighs and rage.

I teach at a nice, little private school in the mountains of Montana. It's not always super duper, but I get along. The lunch lady hit my car in the parking lot today. She's sorry about it, and I appreciate that as well as her bothering to tell me she hit my car (a lot of people up here wouldn't bother). We'll work it out. This is the second time my car's been hit in that lot. Guess I'll park on the street from now on. All that is survivable, of course. So I come home and find in my mailbox a letter from my Democrat senator, Max Baucus. I had written him and [the evil] Conrad Burns (yes, that's his real name, all you Simpsons afficionados) regarding my wish that they not support the "Defense of Marriage Act." I heard back from Burns right away, and to no great surprise he adamantly opposes it. His reply was as jerky, arrogant, and crass as I expected it would be. I did not, however, expect such a reply from Mr. Baucus. This is the guy who sponsored the whole Do-Not-Call List thing. Not that that has a fig to do with same-sex unions, but I was hoping he'd be less of a jerk about it. My letter from him today boasts that the "Defense of Marriage Act" would mean that "Montana would not have to honor a marriage that would be considered legal in Hawaii." He goes on to say that he believes such bigotry and denial of equal rights "is entirely appropriate." Sigh. What an ass. All made worse by what I've just read today about one of our "Supreme Court" justices:

From The Advocate online:

Conservative Supreme Court justice ridicules sodomy ruling

"Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia ridiculed the high court's recent ruling legalizing gay sex, telling an audience of conservative activists that the ruling by the highest U.S. judicial body ignores the Constitution in favor of a modern, liberal sensibility. The ruling, Scalia said Thursday, 'held to be a constitutional right what had been a criminal offense at the time of the founding and for nearly 200 years thereafter.' Scalia adopted a mocking tone to read from the court's June ruling that struck down state sodomy laws in Texas and elsewhere. Scalia had written a bitter dissent in the case, known as Lawrence v. Texas, that was longer than the ruling itself.

"In his address Thursday, Scalia said that judges, including his colleagues on the Supreme Court, throw over the original meaning of the Constitution when it suits them. 'Most of today's experts on the Constitution think the document, written in Philadelphia in 1787, was simply an early attempt at the construction of what is called a liberal political order,' Scalia told a gathering of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. 'All that the person interpreting or applying that document has to do is to read up on the latest academic understanding of liberal political theory and interpolate these constitutional understandings into the constitutional text.'

"Scalia is a hero to conservatives who favor a strict adherence to the actual text of the Constitution. The 50-year-old Intercollegiate Studies Institute is a private conservative education organization that sponsors lectures, conferences, and scholarships. The group says its mission is to 'enhance the rising generation's knowledge of our nation's founding principles--limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, free enterprise, and Judeo-Christian moral standards.'"

You take my tax dollars while screeching about my illegitimacy. Thanks a lot, asshole.

But in happier news . . .

I've been inhabitting the new album by The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow, for the past two days, and just this afternoon it's hit me how remarkable it is. Their first album, Oh, Inverted World, was an utterly mesmerizing, damn near perfect collection of plaintive fretwork very much in the mold of Beach Boys-meets-Simon and Garfunkel with a hint of Siouxsie Sioux. It sounded like the soundtrack to Rushmore 2 or something. That may be faint praise; I don't want that. The new album bugged me at first because it sounds much louder than their first one. The first song sounds like Perry Ferrel yelping through a lost Jane's Addiction tune, not something I liked. But the whole affair has grown on me richly. The album is louder and more urgent than its predecessor. But the lyrics that so dazzled me in their first effort are even more striking this time around. It's so rare that I find an album of poetry and ambition, and that's exactly what Chutes Too Narrow is (here's where I plead with you to take my words for wisdom because I have an MA in English lit as well as an MFA in creative writing--The Shin's lyrics are fucking stunning). Arguably the most delicate yet exciting song on the album is "Saint Simon," the lyrics of which I want to share with you in the earnest hope you check out these guys who now work out of Portland. Sublime stuff.

"Saint Simon" (lyrics by James Mercer)

After all these implements
and texts designed by
intellects we're vexed to find
evidently there's still so
much that hides and though
the saints dub us divine in
ancient fading lines their
sentiment is just as hard to
pluck from the vine

I'll try hard not to pretend
allow myself no mock
defense as I step
into the night

Since I don't have the
time nor mind to figure
out the nursery rhymes
that helped us out in
making sense of our
lives in the cruel,
uneventful state of
apathy releases me I
value them but I won't
cry every time one's
wiped out

I'll try hard not to
give in batten down
to fare the wind rid
my head of this
pretense allow
myself no mock
defense as I step
into the night...

Mercy's eyes are
blue and when she
places them in front
of you nothing holds
a roman candle to
the solemn warmth
you feel
There's no measuring
of it as nothing else is
love

Sunday, October 19, 2003

MIXED MESSAGES
The Motives of Intimigate

[15 October 2003]


by David Sirota, PopMatters Columnist

"In all the pandemonium surrounding the White House's leak of classified information, very few are talking about motive. Everyone is fixated on the whodunit, but the 'whydidtheydoit' is just as important. Why would the Bush Administration choose to expose an undercover CIA officer? And why, if they are so intent on finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, would they out a person who was helping the hunt for those very weapons? The most prominent theory says the White House leaked the information to make it seem that the officer's husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, got a job purely through nepotism.

"Some background: After President Bush and Vice President Cheney repeatedly said the threat of Saddam Hussein's supposed nuclear arsenal was basis for war, Wilson was dispatched by the US government to verify the claims. The fear within the intelligence community was that the Bush Administration was employing a dangerous 'claim-first, ask-questions-later' strategy in hyping the 'Iraqi threat' and misleading the American public. And Wilson's report confirmed the suspicion: he found Bush's claim that Iraq was trying to 'purchase uranium from Africa' was 100% false. The theory goes that exposing Wilson's wife as a CIA officer who worked on weapons of mass destruction would tarnish his report because it would appear he was unqualified for the job, only having received the position because of nepotism.

"The problem with this theory is that Wilson was uniquely qualified for the job. He was one of the few diplomats who had firsthand experience with Saddam Hussein's government. As the Washington Times reported (2 October 2003), Wilson served as US ambassador in Bahgdad and 'acted heroically to protect American citizens and keep Saddam's thugs at bay.' Wilson also had Africa experience as ambassador to Gabon (he was appointed by President George H.W. Bush). This is essential because his investigation took place in Niger. Not surprisingly, his report was considered accurate and the White House was forced to acknowledge its deception."
[...]

"There is a term for this kind of thing in the dictionary, and it is not 'democracy'. An administration that 'forcibly suppresses opposition' and shows a 'tendency toward strong autocratic control' like the one in power is called facism. And, as former White House counsel and Watergate figure John Dean notes, we are only glimpsing the abyss. 'I thought I had seen political dirty tricks as foul as they could get, but I was wrong,' he recently wrote. 'Bush's people have out-Nixoned Nixon's people. And my former colleagues were not amateurs by any means.' (Salon.com 3 October 2003). The only thing surprising about Dean's comments is that they were not made far earlier by more people when America had the chance to change course."

Get the full essay here.



Friday, October 17, 2003

From MoveOn.org today (email announcement):

"As the true cost of the Iraq war is becoming clear, and as Congress debates the $87 billion, the Bush administration is on a PR offensive. President Bush and other officials did a series of exclusive interviews with regional media outlets in hopes of circumventing the national papers that might ask tough questions or scrutinize his statements closely. And newspapers across the country received letters ostensibly from soldiers in Iraq describing their successes there -- all of which were identically worded. Some soldiers didn't even know about the letter that was sent in their name to their hometown paper."

[...]

"We need to counter the Bush administration's PR offensive with letters to the editor of our own -- letters that tell the truth about the situation in Iraq. Please take a few minutes to write a letter today. If you are a veteran or a family member of someone in the armed forces, we especially need your help in countering the administration's propaganda."
[...]

"We've provided tips and talking points below. The news over the weekend will be filled with articles on Iraq and the $87 billion request before Congress. It's very important that we get our voices onto the national opinion pages now, while this issue is hot -- politicians will read the letters to the editor section to see where this debate is going.

Writing a letter to the editor could take 20 minutes or less. Here are our tips for sending an effective letter:

(1) Your own words, written from the heart, are always best.

(2) Brevity is the soul of wit.

(3) The key to publication is to pounce on something specific you've seen in the newspaper -- especially an editorial or op-ed article. This issue has been the headline news this week -- try to cite a specific article when you write.

(4) Be sure to include your name and address, and especially your phone number when submitting your letter. Editors need to call you to verify authorship before they can print your letter. They don't print your phone number."
[...]

"TALKING POINTS ON IRAQ AND THE $87 BILLION REQUEST:

"You don't need to include all of these points in your letter -- short, pithy letters that focus on one aspect of the issue are most likely to be published. The talking points below are provided to get you started.


"Our policy in Iraq is failing. President Bush is telling regional media that the situation in Iraq is 'a lot better than you probably think.' But troops are dying daily. Reservists who signed up to guard airports have now been in Iraq for six months with no hopes of coming home soon -- in part because even our close allies won't send troops to Iraq. The United Nations has pulled its staff out of Iraq, citing security risks. And unemployment in Iraq is over 70%. (Associated Press, 10/15/2003)

"The new U.N. resolution will do little. As Reuters reported: 'In a joint statement, France, Russia and Germany, said the resolution should have gone further in expanding the political role of the United Nations and accelerating the transfer of power to Iraq. 'In that context, the conditions are not created for us to envisage any military commitment and no further financial contributions beyond our present engagement.' they said. . . . Pakistan, considered a prime candidate for sending soldiers, declined to do so, saying the new multinational force created under the resolution was not distinct enough from occupation troops.' (Reuters, 10/17/2003)

"We need a change of course and a change of teams. President Bush is unwilling to make the drastic change necessary to salvage the operation in Iraq. His intransigence is putting our international reputation, our national security, and the safety of our troops at stake. President Bush must admit the failure of the go-it-alone approach and hire a new foreign policy team that's willing to work with the international community.

"There is no emergency need for the $87 billion. The Congressional Research Service issued a report yesterday showing that the funding bills already passed provide enough funding to continue the occupation of Iraq and protect the troops until spring of next year. Congress could have taken the time to properly debate and analyze the request, but Congressional Republicans wanted to rush the request through in order to limit the political damage. (Congressional Research Service, 10/15/2003)

"Iraq contracts are rife with waste and crony capitalism. Halliburton, the firm Vice President Dick Cheney led in the 1990s, is receiving billions of dollars in contracts. According to the two lawmakers, Halliburton has charged the government $1.62 to $1.70 a gallon for gasoline that could be bought wholesale in the Persian Gulf region for about 71 cents and transported to Iraq for no more than 25 cents. Meanwhile, local Iraqi businesses are shunned, and other contractors whose bids are lower are being ignored. And U.S. companies are charging taxpayers exorbitant rates for reconstruction -- $50,000 per bed, for example, for new Iraqi prisons, which is more than twice what we pay on average here. (Salon, 10/16/2003)

"Troops are demoralized. According to the Washington Post: 'A broad survey of U.S. troops in Iraq by a Pentagon-funded newspaper found that half of those questioned described their unit's morale as low and their training as insufficient, and said they do not plan to reenlist. The survey, conducted by the Stars and Stripes newspaper, also recorded about a third of the respondents complaining that their mission lacks clear definition and characterizing the war in Iraq as of little or no value. Fully 40 percent said the jobs they were doing had little or nothing to do with their training.' (Washington Post, 10/15/2003)

"The war on Iraq has increased the danger of terrorism. Reuters reports: 'War in Iraq has swollen the ranks of al Qaeda and galvanized the Islamic militant group's will, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Wednesday in its annual report.' (Reuters, 10/15/2003)

"Please take a few minutes to write a letter of your own today. President Bush can run from the truth in Iraq, but he can't hide."

Sincerely,
--Carrie, Eli, Joan, Noah, Peter, Wes, and Zack
The MoveOn Team
October 17th, 2003


Many soldiers, same letter
Newspapers around U.S. get identical missives from Iraq


From The Olympian:
LEDYARD KING GANNETT NEWS SERVICE

"WASHINGTON -- Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours.
And all the letters are the same.

"A Gannett News Service search found identical letters from different soldiers with the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also known as 'The Rock,' in 11 newspapers, including Snohomish, Wash.

"The Olympian received two identical letters signed by different hometown soldiers: Spc. Joshua Ackler and Spc. Alex Marois, who is now a sergeant. The paper declined to run either because of a policy not to publish form letters.

"The five-paragraph letter talks about the soldiers' efforts to re-establish police and fire departments, and build water and sewer plants in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where the unit is based.

"'The quality of life and security for the citizens has been largely restored, and we are a large part of why that has happened,' the letter reads.

"It describes people waving at passing troops and children running up to shake their hands and say thank you.

"It's not clear who wrote the letter or organized sending it to soldiers' hometown papers.

"Six soldiers reached by GNS directly or through their families said they agreed with the letter's thrust. But none of the soldiers said he wrote it, and one said he didn't even sign it."
[...]

"Sgt. Shawn Grueser of Poca, W.Va., said he spoke to a military public affairs officer whose name he couldn't remember about his accomplishments in Iraq for what he thought was a news release to be sent to his hometown paper in Charleston, W.Va. But the 2nd Battalion soldier said he did not sign any letter.

"Although Grueser said he agrees with the letter's sentiments, he was uncomfortable that a letter with his signature did not contain his own words or spell out his own accomplishments.

"'It makes it look like you cheated on a test, and everybody got the same grade,' Grueser said by phone from a base in Italy where he had just arrived from Iraq."

Full text available here.



Monday, October 13, 2003

HAVE YOU EVER WRITTEN A FAN LETTER?

I never have, and now i find myself gearing up to write to the man who has constructed the soundtrack of my life for over a decade now (Nick Cave of course..). If i were adequate to the challenge, i would also write Woody Allen, but the courage for that task still manages to elude me. Having never written a fan letter, i find myself struggling for the right voice. I want to share with him the insight i have had into his work, and to ask the questions he has left to me with his last few albums. The impetus is to stand out as not so much a fan, but an interlocuter - a co-participant in an aesthetic narrative. So already the task smacks of hubris, but shouldn't we demand our cultural heroes open themselves to us, so that they may more effectively render our own lives transparent? I must get back to work.

Here's something troubling me:

Dean's 'Urban Legend'

By WILLIAM SAFIRE, The New York Times

Published: October 13, 2003 (Excerpts):

"The persistence of a quotation he insists is an 'urban legend' is evidently infuriating Howard Dean.

"At lunch last week in the Washington bureau of The Times, the reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg identified herself and started to ask a question. Dr. Dean immediately interrupted: 'I want to quickly jump on you for a sec here,' he said sharply, and referred to an article she had written based on an interview with Senator John McCain in which yesteryear's maverick took issue with a reported remark of Dr. Dean's.

"'I never said that. I never said that,' the man from Vermont insisted. 'McCain claimed I said that on television. We called the station and said we never said that. This is the problem with LexisNexis. It's great, but it circulates urban legends and creates them and I had never said that. . . .'

"What was the 'that'? Dean angrily denied being 'soft on the death of Uday and Qusay. That was something McCain said, and it got quoted in my story and I've been a victim of it ever since. McCain said I said it. We talked and called the station and said we never said any such thing.'

"What horrendous McCain smear was quoted in my colleague's story? Here's the passage in The Times, coming after McCain said that Dean's national security positions 'are way out of the mainstream':

"'For instance, Mr. McCain cited Dr. Dean's remark that `the ends do not justify the means,' in reference to the death of Saddam Hussein's sons. `I was astounded,' the senator said. `The ends were to get rid of two murdering rapist thugs and the means was the use of American military intelligence.' "

[...] (turns out Dean did say it after all)

"But it is not Dean's way to explain 'what I meant was . . .' His eagerness to expunge from the record his snap judgment about the killing of Saddam's sons — to claim falsely 'I never said any such thing,' to suggest it is a McCain concoction, an 'urban legend' — tells us that he is a man who treats a toothache by biting down on it hard.

"By repeatedly denying the words ever came out of his mouth — thereby imputing inaccuracy to the A.P. reporter and blatant dishonesty to McCain — he compounds the original blunder that all too tellingly revealed his mindset."

Full text available here. (Requires free, one-time registration).
---------------------------

Now, here's what bugs me about this: it's not the article or the article's author (I may not always agree with Saffire, but I can't deny he's a learned and eloquent man earnest and often shrewd in his views). No, what bugs me here is that I'm beginning to notice a distressing trend with my candidate, Dr. Dean. I admire a great many things about this man and his apparent aims for a Dean White House. But I keep reading or hearing about this undignified habit of his involving simply not heeding the record he's established for himself. I don't begrudge a man or woman the right to change his or her mind (in fact, I think that's often a sign of character--one who, viewing the evidence, elects to change a way of thinking), but it's a different kettle of gumbo to insist you never said something the record indicates you damn well did say. Sigh. If Dr. Dean wants to remain the viable candidate I think he could be, he has GOT to get a handle on this problem or else risk losing the momentum his campaign has gained, in addition to proving fuckwits like Gephardt right. Howard! Get it together!

Outgoing governor signs groundbreaking DP benefits bill

Full text available from The Advocate Online

"California has become the first state to require businesses with large state contracts to offer their employees' domestic partners the same benefits that employees' spouses enjoy, although the law will not take effect until 2007. Outgoing governor Gray Davis signed the bill enacting the measure, which had been a key goal of gay rights groups. Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, called the move 'incredibly significant.... There are a lot of businesses that want state contracts, and in order to be eligible, companies will now have to give equal benefits.'"

JUSTICE DEPT. GRANTED WHITE HOUSE DELAY ON ORDER TO PRESERVE RECORDS IN CIA EXPOSURE SCANDAL

Nina Totenberg's Oct 2nd report aired on 6 am on Morning Edition; NPR dropped segment from transcript of her report
(full text)

On October, 2, 2003, Nina Totenberg gave the following report (thanks to Robert E. Reynolds for the following transcription, which I verified by listening to the audio of the Totenberg report.) Buzzflash.com carried the transcript of the original account, and Reynolds suggested that people go to the NPR site and download the transcript. By doing so, I discovered that NPR had stricken the following paragraph that dealt with the Justice Department granting a White House request for a delay in a directive to preserve records of communications.

The missing segment of Totenberg's report:

Bob Edwards: Attorney General Ashcroft is resisting the idea of some sort of independent counsel. Do you think he'll be able to maintain that position?

NPR legal correspondent, Nina Totenberg: Well no administration ever wants an independent overseer, and there are very good career people who are in charge of this investigation, but it could get hairy. Yesterday I talked to a former justice department official who wondered to me why the White House had asked the Justice Department if they could wait a day, earlier this week, before directing the White House staff to preserve all phone and email records, and why, similarly, the Justice Department had agreed to let the White House wait that day. In the last analysis career people can't make some of the decisions that will have to be made, like whether to call a reporter before a grand jury. The Attorney General under Justice (Department) regulations is required to make that decision. A career person can't make it. And if a leaker is identified and not prosecuted it could raise problems with the CIA. Will the agency believe that a decision not to prosecute was made fairly, or will it, as one former Justice Department official put it to me, open a chasm of distrust between the two agencies. As I said no administration likes to open itself up to outside investigators. And the temperature isn't that hot yet, despite that poll you cited at the beginning, but it could get that hot, and we just can't know right now whether the temperature will get that hot for a long time and make it impossible to continue the course that the administration now has chosen to take.

Here is the story that was sent out by NPR, without the above final paragraph:


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

National Public Radio

Morning Edition, National Public Radio

October 2, 2003

Analysis: Latest on investigation into White House leak of CIA agent's identity

Edition: 11:00 AM-12:00 Noon
Estimated printed pages: 4

Article Text
BOB EDWARDS, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Bob Edwards.

The controversy continues over whether Bush administration officials exposed an undercover CIA operative to the press. There's much debate over how that leak should be investigated. A new poll by The Washington Post and ABC News finds nearly seven in 10 Americans believe a special council should perform the investigation. Currently, the Justice Department is handling it. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg joins me now.

Good morning.

NINA TOTENBERG reporting

Morning, Bob.

EDWARDS: Leak investigations are notoriously unsuccessful in Washington. Will this one be any different?

TOTENBERG: Well, a lot of prosecutors and former Justice Department officials and FBI officials I talked to yesterday thought this one might, in fact, be different. First, this appears to be more than one solitary leak but something more akin to a campaign. The Washington Post has reported that six reporters were called with this information. Another thing that will make this investigation easier is that there's a specific federal law making it a felony to disclose the names of covert intelligence officers. Still another thing that will or could make it easier is technology. Investigators can now look at e-mail that has been preserved and e-mail that has been deleted. You can't delete anything permanently.

As for phone records, not only will the Justice Department get the phone logs from the White House and other departments like Defense and State, but once they develop a list of who they're interested in, they can get subpoenas for their home and cell phone records, too, and those records these days often include--they always include local as well as long-distance phone calls and they can include both outgoing and incoming phone calls so that you know who called whom and when.

EDWARDS: They could check out the reporters' phone records, as they tried to do to you once.

TOTENBERG: Yes, they can do that. I've learned this from experience. The Justice Department can subpoena the phone company and the reporter isn't even told. So columnist Robert Novak's phone records or reporter Andrea Mitchell's phone records can be obtained without their permission or knowledge. And according to former Justice Department officials and FBI people that I talked to yesterday, if they really want to find out who the leak is, they'll probably do that. They'll probably subpoena the reporters' phone records.

EDWARDS: OK. Other than phone records and e-mails, how else could investigators figure out who to target for inquiry?

TOTENBERG: Well, they're already, I'm told, starting to interview people at the CIA to find out who knew about Ambassador Wilson's wife, who could have told that information advertently or inadvertently to people at the White House or other agencies and who at the White House and those other agencies knew that information.

EDWARDS: And once investigators winnow down the list of suspects, there's only so much that even phone records will tell you, right?

TOTENBERG: That's probably when there will be serious interviews and perhaps polygraphs. One former high-ranking FBI official who I talked to yesterday said he wouldn't even think of doing an interview without telling the person that he's talking to that they might eventually be polygraphed. That way, he said, you've made sure you don't get jerked around.

EDWARDS: But they aren't always reliable.

TOTENBERG: No, they're not always reliable and that's why they're not allowed as evidence at trials. But the CIA and the FBI routinely use them in national security investigations and you can bet that there will be demands to use them here, too.

EDWARDS: What laws apply to this case?

TOTENBERG: The law that's most applicable I would think is called the Intelligence Identification Act. It was passed in 1982. It makes it a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison to disclose the identity of covert intelligence officers. So the first question is: Is Ambassador Wilson's wife undercover? And a number of former FBI and Justice Department officials told me yesterday that she clearly is covered by the law or the Justice Department wouldn't have opened a formal criminal investigation but that threshold must already have been met. Some people have suggested that because she's an analyst now, she isn't, you know, a sort of secret agent. But covert officers don't have to be running around in wigs. They can be analysts. They can be undercover as working for private companies or other government agencies and they sometimes come out from undercover but remain protected so that their sources are protected.

EDWARDS: Would the leaker have to know that Ambassador Wilson's wife was an undercover intelligence officer to be convicted of violating the law?

TOTENBERG: The leaker, I'm told, could be convicted even if he didn't know that he was breaking the law. But to win a conviction, a prosecutor would have to show that the leaker knew the ambassador's wife was a covert intelligence officer and that he willfully disclosed that fact, not by accident. It's a little bit like proving perjury with President Clinton. They had to prove he told a literal lie and that he knew it. That turned out to be a very hard thing to do and this may be, too.

[NOTE: NPR deleted the above quoted segment on the delay in ordering the White House to preserve records. Traprock comment.]

EDWARDS: NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

CARTER ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LEGAL AND JUST WARS, AND ILLEGAL WARS
(Note: The Iraq War Does NOT Meet the Criteria for JUST WAR)


Here is a very famous philosophical and juridical distinction I wish more Americans would realize actually exists. You can't just wage war on another country simply because they piss you off, or because you're worried about their capacities in the future. In other words, might does NOT make right. Any war that fails to meet the juridical standards is illegal. Those who wage it are war criminals.

Just War -- Or A Just War?
By Jimmy Carter, published in the New York Times, March 9, 2003

Profound changes have been taking place in American foreign policy, reversing consistent bipartisan commitments that for more than two centuries have earned our nation greatness. These commitments have been predicated on basic religious principles, respect for international law, and alliances that resulted in wise decisions and mutual restraint. Our apparent determination to launch a war against Iraq, without international support, is a violation of these premises.

As a Christian and as a president who was severely provoked by international crises, I became thoroughly familiar with the principles of a just war, and it is clear that a substantially unilateral attack on Iraq does not meet these standards. This is an almost universal conviction of religious leaders, with the most notable exception of a few spokesmen of the Southern Baptist Convention who are greatly influenced by their commitment to Israel based on eschatological, or final days, theology.

For a war to be just, it must meet several clearly defined criteria.

The war can be waged only as a last resort, with all nonviolent options exhausted. In the case of Iraq, it is obvious that clear alternatives to war exist. These options -- previously proposed by our own leaders and approved by the United Nations -- were outlined again by the Security Council on Friday. But now, with our own national security not directly threatened and despite the overwhelming opposition of most people and governments in the world, the United States seems determined to carry out military and diplomatic action that is almost unprecedented in the history of civilized nations. The first stage of our widely publicized war plan is to launch 3,000 bombs and missiles on a relatively defenseless Iraqi population within the first few hours of an invasion, with the purpose of so damaging and demoralizing the people that they will change their obnoxious leader, who will most likely be hidden and safe during the bombardment.

The war's weapons must discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. Extensive aerial bombardment, even with precise accuracy, inevitably results in "collateral damage." Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of American forces in the Persian Gulf, has expressed concern about many of the military targets being near hospitals, schools, mosques and private homes.

Its violence must be proportional to the injury we have suffered. Despite Saddam Hussein's other serious crimes, American efforts to tie Iraq to the 9/11 terrorist attacks have been unconvincing.

The attackers must have legitimate authority sanctioned by the society they profess to represent. The unanimous vote of approval in the Security Council to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction can still be honored, but our announced goals are now to achieve regime change and to establish a Pax Americana in the region, perhaps occupying the ethnically divided country for as long as a decade. For these objectives, we do not have international authority. Other members of the Security Council have so far resisted the enormous economic and political influence that is being exerted from Washington, and we are faced with the possibility of either a failure to get the necessary votes or else a veto from Russia, France and China. Although Turkey may still be enticed into helping us by enormous financial rewards and partial future control of the Kurds and oil in northern Iraq, its democratic Parliament has at least added its voice to the worldwide expressions of concern.

The peace it establishes must be a clear improvement over what exists. Although there are visions of peace and democracy in Iraq, it is quite possible that the aftermath of a military invasion will destabilize the region and prompt terrorists to further jeopardize our security at home. Also, by defying overwhelming world opposition, the United States will undermine the United Nations as a viable institution for world peace.

What about America's world standing if we don't go to war after such a great deployment of military forces in the region? The heartfelt sympathy and friendship offered to America after the 9/11 attacks, even from formerly antagonistic regimes, has been largely dissipated; increasingly unilateral and domineering policies have brought international trust in our country to its lowest level in memory. American stature will surely decline further if we launch a war in clear defiance of the United Nations. But to use the presence and threat of our military power to force Iraq's compliance with all United Nations resolutions -- with war as a final option -- will enhance our status as a champion of peace and justice.
--Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, is chairman of the Carter Center in Atlanta and winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.

IRAQ TO ALLOW FULL FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF ALL ECONOMIC SECTORS, EXCLUDING OIL

DUBAI (Reuters) - U.S.-controlled Iraq Sunday unveiled sweeping reforms allowing foreign investors into all sectors except oil, ending 30 years of state economic control.
[...]
Washington's invasion of Iraq in the face of worldwide opposition raised hackles in Europe and concern in Iraq and the Arab world that it sought control of Iraq's oil and resources.

However, the reforms include 100 percent foreign ownership in all sectors except natural resources, excluding current outside participation in Iraq's coveted oil reserves, the second-largest behind those of Saudi Arabia. (full text)

BUSH TRIES TO TAKE FUNDS FROM MILITARY SCHOOL KIDS TO PAY FOR IRAQ-AFGHAN
POLICIES


President Bush attempted to slash money from the program that pays to
educate the children of military money and women even while saying, "Our
men and women in uniform give America their best and we owe them our
support." (full text)

THE TOP 25 CENSORED STORIES OF 2002-2003

Censored 2004: The Top 25 Censored Media Stories of 2002-2003

#1: The Neoconservative Plan for Global Dominance (read)
#2: Homeland Security Threatens Civil Liberty (read)
#3: US Illegally Removes Pages from Iraq U.N. Report (read)
#4: Rumsfeld's Plan to Provoke Terrorists (read)
#5: The Effort to Make Unions Disappear (read)
#6: Closing Access to Information Technology (read)
#7: Treaty Busting by the United States (read)
#8: US/British Forces Continue Use of Depleted Uranium Weapons Despite Massive Evidence of Negative Health Effects (read)
#9: In Afghanistan: Poverty, Women's Rights, and Civil Disruption Worse than Ever (read)
#10: Africa Faces Threat of New Colonialism (read)
#11: U.S. Implicated in Taliban Massacre (read)
#12: Bush Administration Behind Failed Military Coup in Venezuela (read)
#13: Corporate Personhood Challenged (read)
#14: Unwanted Refugees a Global Problem (read)
#15: U.S. Military's War on the Earth (read)
#16: Plan Puebla-Panama and the FTAA (read)
#17: Clear Channel Monopoly Draws Criticism (read)
#18: Charter Forest Proposal Threatens Access to Public Lands (read)
#19: U.S. Dollar vs. the Euro: Another Reason for the Invasion of Iraq (read)
#20: Pentagon Increases Private Military Contracts (read)
#21: Third World Austerity Policies: Coming Soon to a City Near You (read)
#22: Welfare Reform Up For Reauthorization, but Still No Safety Net (read)
#23: Argentina Crisis Sparks Cooperative Growth (read)
#24: Aid to Israel Fuels Repressive Occupation in Palestine (read)
#25: Convicted Corporations Receive Perks Instead of Punishment (read)

VETERAN JOURNALIST WALTER CRONKITE CONDEMNS "THE NEW INQUISITION"

The New Inquisition
By Walter Cronkite
The Denver Post

Sunday 21 September 2003

President Bush's televised answer to the growing concerns of many - including some Republicans - about the powers granted to him in the USA Patriot Act was to ask for even stronger measures, particularly the expanded use of "nonjudicial subpoenas." That means a federal agency such as the FBI can write its own subpoenas to conduct a search - no judges needed.

Unfortunately, security and liberty form a zero-sum equation. The inevitable trade-off: To increase security is to decrease liberty and vice versa. In the past, such trade-offs have been temporary - for the duration of the crisis of the moment. But today, we cannot see an end to the War on Terrorism, and that forces us to decide how secure we have to be and how free we want to be.

By delivering the speech last week himself, Bush added presidential heft to the issue and took some of the heat off of his attorney general, who is seen by many as the heedless champion of security at any price.

In his 2 1/2 years in office, Attorney General John Ashcroft has earned himself a remarkable distinction as the Torquemada of American law. Tomas de Torquemada was the 15th century Dominican friar who became the grand inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. He was largely responsible for its methods, including torture and the burning of heretics - Muslims in particular.

Now, of course, I am not accusing the attorney general of pulling out anyone's fingernails or burning people at the stake (at least I don't know of any such cases). But one does get the sense these days that the old Spaniard's spirit is comfortably at home in Ashcroft's Department of Justice.

The Patriot Act is much in the news, as Ashcroft and his minions seek both to justify its excesses and strengthen them, thus intensifying its dangerous infringements on the Bill of Rights.

There was something almost medieval in the treatment of Muslim suspects in the aftermath of Sept. 11. Many were held incommunicado, without effective counsel and without ever being charged, not for days or weeks, but for months or longer, some under harsh conditions designed for the most dangerous criminals.

It was in the spirit of the Inquisition that the Justice Department announced recently that it would begin gathering data on judges who give sentences lighter than called for by legislative guidelines.

Nothing so clearly evokes Torquemada's spirit as Ashcroft's penchant for overruling U.S. attorneys who have sought lesser penalties in capital cases. The attorney general has done this at least 30 times since he took office, according to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel. In several cases, Ashcroft actually has overturned plea bargains negotiated by those government prosecutors.

The New York Times editorialized that the attorney general seems to want the death penalty used more often.

Ashcroft is not alone in this. His boss, while governor of Texas, seemed never to have met a death sentence he didn't like. The two of them represent a subdivision of the Republican Party known as the "social conservatives," who often have favored the use of government power to police moral issues they view as modern heresies, such as abortion, homosexuality and obscenity. They contrast with those Republicans who tend to resist such uses of federal power and can generally be counted on to defend individual rights.

What makes this administration's legal bloodthirstiness particularly alarming is the almost religious zeal that seems to drive it. So, what we are seeing now is a confluence of two streams of American thought. One of those streams represents those who believe security must have priority over civil rights. The other stream represents those who believe that civil rights must be preserved even as we prosecute to the hilt the war on terrorism.

Our liberty could drown in the resultant turbulence of these colliding currents.

NY TIMES: BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS NOT REVEALING FULL EXTENT OF DEFICIENT
Threats to social services even greater than supposed.
(full text)

It's Even Worse Than You Think
By HOWELL E. JACKSON

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.
Last week the federal government ended the fiscal year with a reported deficit of approximately $400 billion, pushing the federal debt held by the public to nearly $4 trillion. Sobering though these numbers are, they actually understate the problem. Through an accounting sleight of hand with far greater consequences than the corporate scandals of recent years, the federal government distorts public debate, threatens social programs and impoverishes future generations.

What's missing from the $400 billion figure is an accurate recognition of the mounting obligations of the Social Security system. Under current practices, Social Security reports its financial performance on a cash-flow basis: it compares annual revenues to annual costs and reports a surplus or a deficit. Last year, Social Security enjoyed a surplus of roughly $160 billion. The government used this money to mask what would otherwise have been a $560 billion federal deficit. But even if the Social Security surplus were not used to disguise the deficit, the budget would still ignore the substantial growth in commitments to current workers and retirees. Under current law, Social Security participants and beneficiaries earned hundreds of billions of dollars of additional benefits last year. Even though future generations will almost certainly have to pay for these additional obligations, the federal budget pretends that they don't exist.

Were the federal government to account for its Social Security obligations under the rules of accrual accounting, which govern public companies, its financial outlook would be far worse. By the end of last year, the Social Security system owed retirees and current workers benefits valued at $14 trillion. The system's assets, in contrast, were only $3.5 trillion. These assets include not only the trust funds' current reserves ($1.4 trillion), but also the present value of the taxes that current workers will pay over the remainder of their working lives ($2.1 trillion). In other words, the system's current shortfall — its assets minus its liabilities — is $10.5 trillion. Unless Congress chooses to rescind Social Security benefits that have already been earned, this shortfall must be shouldered by future generations. This implicit debt of the Social Security system is more than two and a half times larger than the government's public debt.

What's more, the magnitude of the Social Security shortfall grew immensely last year. At the beginning of 2002, the trust fund's deficit was $10.1 trillion. Under a system of accrual accounting, Social Security would have had to report a loss of approximately $370 billion. If this figure — and not the trust fund's annual cash-flow surplus — were added to other federal accounts, the federal government would have reported a $930 billion deficit last week. Add in similar adjustments for Medicare and other retiree benefits, and the flow of red ink last year surges even higher.

The federal budget's treatment of Social Security and other entitlements for the elderly is deeply misleading. Just as investors should be able to rely on the accounting statements of public companies, the public is entitled to statements of federal accounts that clearly report the growth of the government's financial obligations each year. The current federal budget does no such thing.

The current accounting system for Social Security is also unfortunate for the program itself. For more than a decade, experts have been warning that the Social Security system needs major reform. Commissions have convened and conferred, but nothing has happened. Part of the problem is that the Social Security "crisis" is always described as decades away, when the baby boomers are retired, far beyond the concerns of current politicians. Indeed, for at least the next 10 years, under current accounting practices, Social Security will continue to run a surplus. But this surplus is a cash-flow surplus, which politicians are happy to use to cover the costs of other federal programs. Everything about the current accounting system conspires to prevent action today, when relatively painless solutions are still possible.

If Social Security were to present its finances on the basis of accrual accounting, the public would have to face the hard truth that the system is insolvent — and its deficit is increasing by hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Politicians would have more incentive to act. Indeed, voters might even insist that Congress and the president reduce the Social Security shortfall to a reasonable size. Accrual accounting is the gold standard for the private sector because it forces long-term liabilities to be recognized when they are incurred and can be controlled. The federal government is increasingly in the business of making long-term promises to its citizens. Until the federal government adopts principles of accounting that recognize these promises, the federal budget will remain the most misleading document in Washington. And that's saying a lot.

Howell E. Jackson is professor at Harvard Law School.

US SOLDIERS BULLDOZE ANCIENT CROPS IN AN ATTEMPT TO INTIMIDATE IRAQI FARMERS (full text)

Americans accused of brutal 'punishment' tactics against villagers, while British are condemned as too soft
By Patrick Cockburn in Dhuluaya
12 October 2003

US soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops.

The stumps of palm trees, some 70 years old, protrude from the brown earth scoured by the bulldozers beside the road at Dhuluaya, a small town 50 miles north of Baghdad. Local women were yesterday busily bundling together the branches of the uprooted orange and lemon trees and carrying then back to their homes for firewood. Nusayef Jassim, one of 32 farmers who saw their fruit trees destroyed, said: "They told us that the resistance fighters hide in our farms, but this is not true. They didn't capture anything. They didn't find any weapons."

Other farmers said that US troops had told them, over a loudspeaker in Arabic, that the fruit groves were being bulldozed to punish the farmers for not informing on the resistance which is very active in this Sunni Muslim district. "They made a sort of joke against us by playing jazz music while they were cutting down the trees," said one man. Ambushes of US troops have taken place around Dhuluaya. But Sheikh Hussein Ali Saleh al-Jabouri, a member of a delegation that went to the nearby US base to ask for compensation for the loss of the fruit trees, said American officers described what had happened as "a punishment of local people because 'you know who is in the resistance and do not tell us'." What the Israelis had done by way of collective punishment of Palestinians was now happening in Iraq, Sheikh Hussein added. The destruction of the fruit trees took place in the second half of last month but, like much which happens in rural Iraq, word of what occurred has only slowly filtered out. The destruction of crops took place along a kilometre-long stretch of road just after it passes over a bridge.

Farmers say that 50 families lost their livelihoods, but a petition addressed to the coalition forces in Dhuluaya pleading in erratic English for compensation, lists only 32 people. The petition says: "Tens of poor families depend completely on earning their life on these orchards and now they became very poor and have nothing and waiting for hunger and death."

The children of one woman who owned some fruit trees lay down in front of a bulldozer but were dragged away, according to eyewitnesses who did not want to give their names. They said that one American soldier broke down and cried during the operation. When a reporter from the newspaper Iraq Today attempted to take a photograph of the bulldozers at work a soldier grabbed his camera and tried to smash it. The same paper quotes Lt Col Springman, a US commander in the region, as saying: "We asked the farmers several times to stop the attacks, or to tell us who was responsible, but the farmers didn't tell us."

Informing US troops about the identity of their attackers would be extremely dangerous in Iraqi villages, where most people are related and everyone knows each other. The farmers who lost their fruit trees all belong to the Khazraji tribe and are unlikely to give information about fellow tribesmen if they are, in fact, attacking US troops. Asked how much his lost orchard was worth, Nusayef Jassim said in a distraught voice: "It is as if someone cut off my hands and you asked me how much my hands were worth."

CROP BULLDOZING VIOLATES GENEVA CONVENTION - WAR CRIMES

The acts reported in this article against Iraqi citizens constitutes prohibited war crimes under the Geneva Convention to which the USA is a signatory. The military claims it abides by the letter of the law of the Geneva Convention. The military is learning its new techniques from the Israeli Defence Front.

Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention

"No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she
has not personally committed.Collective penalties and likewise
all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited."


PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN: IDENTICAL "LETTERS FROM THE FRONT" APPEAR IN NEWSPAPERS NATIONWIDE ... Hmmmm.... (full text)

WASHINGTON -- Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours.
And all the letters are the same.

A Gannett News Service search found identical letters from different soldiers with the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also known as "The Rock," in 11 newspapers, including Snohomish, Wash. The Olympian received two identical letters signed by different hometown soldiers: Spc. Joshua Ackler and Spc. Alex Marois, who is now a sergeant. The paper declined to run either because of a policy not to publish form letters.

The five-paragraph letter talks about the soldiers' efforts to re-establish police and fire departments, and build water and sewer plants in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where the unit is based. "The quality of life and security for the citizens has been largely restored, and we are a large part of why that has happened," the letter reads. It describes people waving at passing troops and children running up to shake their hands and say thank you.

It's not clear who wrote the letter or organized sending it to soldiers' hometown papers. Six soldiers reached by GNS directly or through their families said they agreed with the letter's thrust. But none of the soldiers said he wrote it, and one said he didn't even sign it. Marois, 23, told his family he signed the letter, said Moya Marois, his stepmother. But she said he was puzzled why it was sent to the newspaper in Olympia. He attended high school in Olympia but no longer considers the city home, she said. Moya Marois and Alex's father, Les, now live near Kooskia, Idaho. A seventh soldier didn't know about the letter until his father congratulated him for getting it published in the local newspaper in Beckley, W.Va. "When I told him he wrote such a good letter, he said: 'What letter?' " Timothy Deaconson said Friday, recalling the phone conversation he had with his son, Nick. "This is just not his (writing) style." He spoke to his son, Pfc. Nick Deaconson, at a hospital where he was recovering from a grenade explosion that left shrapnel in both his legs.

Sgt. Christopher Shelton, who signed a letter that ran in the Snohomish Herald, said Friday that his platoon sergeant had distributed the letter and asked soldiers for the names of their hometown newspapers. Soldiers were asked to sign the letter if they agreed with it, said Shelton, whose shoulder was wounded during an ambush earlier this year. "Everything it said is dead accurate. We've done a really good job," he said by phone from Italy, where he was preparing to return to Iraq.

Sgt. Todd Oliver, a spokesman for the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which counts the 503rd as one of its units, said he was told a soldier wrote the letter, but he didn't know who. He said the brigade's public affairs unit was not involved. "When he asked other soldiers in his unit to sign it, they did," Oliver explained in an e-mail response to a GNS inquiry. "Someone, somewhere along the way, took it upon themselves to mail it to the various editors of newspapers across the country." Lt. Col. Bill MacDonald, a spokesman for the 4th infantry Division that is heading operations in north-central Iraq, said he had not heard about the letter-writing campaign. Neither had Lt. Cmdr. Nick Balice, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla.

A recent poll suggests that Americans are increasingly skeptical of America's prolonged involvement in Iraq. A USA Today-CNN-Gallup Poll released Sept. 23 found 50 percent believe that the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over, down from 73 percent in April.

The letter talks about the soldiers' mission, saying, "one thousand of my fellow soldiers and I parachuted from ten jumbo jets." It describes Kirkuk as "a hot and dusty city of just over a million people." It tells about the progress they have made. "The fruits of all our soldiers' efforts are clearly visible in the streets of Kirkuk today. There is very little trash in the streets, many more people in the markets and shops, and children have returned to school," the letter reads. "I am proud of the work we are doing here in Iraq and I hope all of your readers are as well."

Sgt. Shawn Grueser of Poca, W.Va., said he spoke to a military public affairs officer whose name he couldn't remember about his accomplishments in Iraq for what he thought was a news release to be sent to his hometown paper in Charleston, W.Va. But the 2nd Battalion soldier said he did not sign any letter. Although Grueser said he agrees with the letter's sentiments, he was uncomfortable that a letter with his signature did not contain his own words or spell out his own accomplishments. "It makes it look like you cheated on a test, and everybody got the same grade," Grueser said by phone from a base in Italy where he had just arrived from Iraq.

Moya Marois said she is proud of her stepson Alex, the former Olympia resident. But she worries that the letter tries to give legitimacy to a war she doesn't think was justified. "We're going to support our son," she said. But "there are a lot of Americans that are not in support of this war that would like to see them returned home, and think it's going to get worse."

PAUL BREMER'S PLAN TO LOOT IRAQ: DESTROY GOVERNMENT AID PROGRAMS, AND GIVE IRAQIS A MARKET ECONOMY DOMINATED BY US BUSINESS

The following is an excerpt from electroniciraq.net: (full text)

The (current) U.S. viceroy of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, has stated his intentions very clearly: Iraq is "open for business" (May 26, 2003). A major goal of the country's reconstruction, he says, would be to shift Iraq away from state-dominated economies (May 27, 2003, Chicago Tribune). Bremer and his bosses in the Pentagon envision a "free market" system in Iraq. The Chicago Tribune accurately referred to this plan as a "transformation of the country's economy." The Tribune also correctly assessed that "the establishment of a thriving, market-oriented economy in Iraq has been a key goal of a conservative camp in the Bush administration that hopes the changes will ripple through the Arab world and challenge the established order."

Such plans fit in line with Bush's U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Area proposal, which calls for a market open for Israeli and U.S. hegemony, thus demanding not only military occupation of Palestinian and Syrian lands (and the Cheba'a Farms of Lebanon), but also economic occupation of the region.

Privatize away

On the ground, the occupation forces are quickly working towards selling the Iraqi governmental services to private companies. They are quite open about their plan.

In mid-April, U.S. officials stated that they want the World Bank to eventually act as the "neutral international body" that will be the accountant for oil revenues, replacing the United Nations, which had overseen the oil-for-food program (April 18, 2003, New York Times). The World Bank is definitely not a "neutral" body; quite the contrary, it has caused immense impoverishment in its agenda of privatization.2 For example, as reported by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), "despite World Bank contentions that it does not force privatization on the poor, research by ICIJ and the bank itself showed that privatization is playing an ever-increasing role in bank lending policies." [3]

In mid-May, Bremer announced that, within weeks, the Central Bank of Iraq and a group of private banks would begin providing "substantial" trade credits to finance the sale of goods to Iraqi ministries, government-owned factories and private companies. Bremer did not say which "private banks" would provide these credits, or at what terms the credits would be made. He did reveal that U.S. and British companies were expected to be among the first to benefit.

Bremer further revealed that contracts are pending to sell everything from oilfield technology to transportation services and telecommunications to Iraqi ministries. The sell-off of Iraqi companies and ministries is to take place soon. Tim Carney, [4] the senior coalition adviser to the Iraqi ministry of industry and minerals-i.e. the U.S.-appointed ruler of the Iraqi ministry-said that dozens of Iraq's state-owned companies could be earmarked for privatization within a year (June 9, 2003, BBC). Previously, the U.S. occupying force had said it would wait until an elected Iraqi government had been appointed before it would start privatization. [5]

Carney's Iraqi industry ministry controls 48 state-owned enterprises that employ approximately 96,000 people in eight sectors including food, textiles, engineering and chemicals. Glass and ceramics firms are to be privatized within the year. Iraqi textile companies, viewed by the U.S. as "money-losing firms," would be "dissolved"-meaning workers will lose their jobs. Numerous other Iraqi firms would be sold to foreign companies; already, the occupying forces have received a "string of inquiries from overseas companies" (June 12, 2003, Agence France-Presse).

To create an optimum market place for U.S. corporations, U.S. officials plan to change Iraqi laws. The U.S. administration is working on changing economic laws and tax rates in Iraq (June 9, 2003, Star Telegram), and, as the power in charge of imports to and investments in Iraq, the U.S. has proposed a temporary "holiday" on customs and duties on imported goods (May 27, 2003, Chicago Tribune).

Bremer spells out the plan

On June 22, Bremer spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. [6] "Our strategic goal in the months ahead," Bremer said, "is to set in motion policies which will have the effect of reallocating people and resources from state enterprises to the more productive private firms. A fundamental component of this process will be to force state enterprises to face hard budget constraints by reducing subsidies and special deals." Bremer calls for lowering subsidies and opening Iraq's borders, which he recognizes will "increase competitive pressure on [Iraq's] domestic firms." He states that this "competition" will "raise productivity," although experience worldwide has revealed that such unprotected competition will result in an increase in unemployment and the rate of exploitation.

Bremer summarizes his priorities for this "economic transformation." Each of these acts makes the Iraqi economy more "welcoming" to foreign companies that will rush into the country to privatize and exploit. [7] (Author's comments on Bremer's priorities are in brackets.)

Start a thoroughgoing reform of Iraq's financial sector in order to provide liquidity and credit for the Iraqi economy. [Liquidity for whom? What will be liquefied? Who will supply this credit and for whom?]

Simplify the regulatory regime so as to lower barriers to entry for new firms, domestic and foreign. [Lower the barriers without providing any protection for the local industries, thus ensuring that the local industries will be unable to compete with foreign, highly-subsidized industries.]

Review Iraq's body of commercial law to determine which changes are needed to encourage private investment. [For "private investment" read "foreign investment."]

Lift unreasonable restrictions on property rights. [What is an "unreasonable restriction?" Are property laws that place more restriction on foreign ownership of Iraqi land and Iraqi resources regarded as "unreasonable?"]

Develop anti-trust and competition laws. [This is quite an interesting recommendation considering that in the U.S., anti-trust laws are being removed or go unenforced.]

Develop an open market trade policy providing for a level playing field with regional trade partners. [Regional trade partners? Does Bremer mean that Israel will be welcome in Iraq?]

Encourage the adoption of laws and regulations to assure that Iraq has high standards of corporate governance. [Once again, how can the U.S. encourage laws for "corporate governance" when, more and more, it is the corporations that are influencing, if not running, the U.S. government, rather than the administration governing the corporations.]

Develop accelerated training programs for business managers in best practices and business ethics. [And what better corporations to invite into Iraq as role models of business ethics than U.S. corporations who have committed fraud and have blatant anti-union practices?]

In other words, the aim is to transform Iraq's economy into one that is more hospitable to foreign corporations and strip the ground beneath the local industries and local businesses and public sectors.

Who is in charge of the Iraqi public sector?

The U.S. forces are appointing "advisers" for each major Iraqi industry. [8] The advisers chosen for the large, substantial industries need particular examination.

Oil: The U.S. government wants to run the Iraqi oil industry just like a corporation, complete with a U.S. CEO and a board of directors. The U.S.-appointed chair of the U.S.-established "advisory" committee for the Iraqi oil industry is Philip J. Carroll, former head of Shell Oil and Fluor (a firm invited to bid on Iraqi construction projects) and with substantial stock in both. He is also a major corporate player in Texas. Carroll has indicated that Iraq might "choose" not to remain within OPEC, which would serve the U.S. aim of breaking the oil cartel. The one near-certainty, said Carroll, is that the future expansion of Iraq's oil industry will be driven in part by foreign capital.

UN resolution 1472 (March 28, 2003) transfers "legal" control over Iraq's oil industry from the United Nations and Iraq to the United States and its allies. The oil proceeds would be used to finance the country's "construction," the costs of an Iraqi civilian administration, the completion of Iraq's disarmament (for those weapons that can't be found) and "other purposes benefiting the people of Iraq."

Carroll and his oil buddies will make sure that the Iraqi people receive their oil wealth. Just like they did in Nigeria. Keep in mind Shell's experience in Nigeria: They were in bed with the previous Nigerian dictatorship; they commit human rights violations against Nigerians; they pollute the region and withhold Nigerian oil profits from Nigerians.

Agriculture: Iraq's agricultural industry will be run primarily by Dan Amstutz, former senior executive of the Cargill Corporation, the biggest grain exporter in the world, and president of the North American Grain Export Association. As reported by Socialist Worker, "during the Reagan administration, Amstutz drafted the original text of the main international agreements governing the trade of agricultural goods. Amstutz's rules allow wealthy countries to dump their subsidy-backed agricultural surpluses on world markets, pushing down prices to levels that growers in developing nations can't compete with." [9] Bush Jr. is continuing this policy. As reported by the Guardian, Bush Jr. has stated that he wants U.S. farmers to feed the world.

"Putting Dan Amstutz in charge of agricultural reconstruction in Iraq is like putting Saddam Hussein in the chair of a human rights commission," said Oxfam, the British aid agency in June. "This guy is uniquely well placed to advance the commercial interests of American grain companies and bust open the Iraqi market, but singularly ill-equipped to lead a reconstruction effort in a developing country."

Media: The former director of Voice of America, Robert Reilly, has been "entrusted" by the occupiers to "overhaul" Iraq's radios, newspapers and television and manage Iraq's media, in order to sell U.S. policies in Iraq. This pro-war, conservative ideologue believes that "delivering the news is not enough.. We also have the duty to reveal the character of the American people in such a way that the underlying principles of American life are revealed." In other words, the plan is to continue to run the media in Iraq to favor the state; the only change is that the "state" is no longer Saddam Hussein's regime, but is now the Bush's administration and its free market dogma.

Bremer has imposed rules for press censorship. Newspapers that publish "wild stories," material deemed provocative or capable of inciting ethnic violence-or violence against the occupying forces-will be threatened or shut down.

Bremer's nine-point list of "Prohibited Activities" includes incitement to racial, ethnic or religious hatred, advocating support for the banned Baath Party and publishing material that "is patently false and is calculated to provoke opposition" to the occupying authority or "undermine legitimate processes towards self-government." All Iraqi media must now be registered. Licenses will be revoked and equipment confiscated from media sources that break the rules. Individual offenders "may be detained, arrested, prosecuted and, if convicted, sentenced by relevant authorities to up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine." Appeal is to Bremer only, and his decision is final.

The newly named Iraqi Media Network (IMN)-created in April 2003, replacing the old Iraqi Ministry of Information, will be ruled by the occupying powers and "administered" by Reilly. Bremer will "reserve the power to advise" the IMN on any aspect of its performance, "including any matter of content," and have the power to hire and fire IMN staff. [10]

As Iraqi editor Ni'ma Abdulrazzaq explained, the press edict decreed by Bremer lays out restrictions similar to those under Saddam Hussein. Not long ago, a rebellious writer could easily be accused of being an agent for the U.S. or Israel. "Now they put plastic bags on our heads, throw us to the ground and accuse us of being agents of Saddam Hussein," his editorial reads. "In other words, if you're not with America, you're with Saddam."

Of course, none of these actions should be surprising, if we remember that the U.S. occupying forces deliberately targeted journalists in Iraq during their move into Baghdad. According to the "first detailed analysis of the coalition air campaign by the commander of U.S. air forces," the Pentagon used precision-guided weapons when it authorized 10 strikes against "media facilities," including the Baghdad office of al-Jazeera, in which a reporter was killed. [11]

Consequences of the economic plan

To understand the consequences of the plan for transforming Iraq's economy, we need to understand how Iraq is doing today. How equipped are the Iraqis to handle the changes planned for them by the U.S. occupiers?

In this Phase III of the war against Iraq, more than 240,000 cluster bombs were dropped on Iraq. [12] Cluster bombs are munitions, each containing approximately 200 bomblets; thus, 240,000 cluster bombs translate into potentially 48,000,000 unexploded bomblets-land mines. In addition, one-third of the bombs dropped on Iraq were old-style "dumb weapons"-despite suggestions from the Pentagon that 90 percent of munitions used would be precision guided.

If we regard the killing of almost 3,000 people on September 11 to be a massacre, then we need to admit that there were massacres in Iraq. Almost 7,000 Iraqi civilians-possibly 10,000-were killed in the bombing war of Iraq (according to www.iraqbodycount.net). [13] At least another 8,000 were injured-in Baghdad alone (May 18, 2003, Los Angeles Times). These figures do not include the thousands of Iraqi soldiers who died fighting to defend their country from invading forces.

Meanwhile, as the humanitarian organization CARE reports, "experts say conditions for a cholera epidemic are perfect. Meat is sold from stalls on the side of stagnant puddles and children play in groups around the dirty water. Baghdad, with a population of 5 million and temperatures now regularly 113 degrees and higher, an epidemic of cholera could sweep through the city." [14]

The UN World Food Program (WFP) reports that, in southern and central Iraq, "one in five Iraqis or 4.6 million people suffer from chronic poverty." [15] "If one in five Iraqis in the south and center was unable to secure basic needs before the recent war, it is most likely that this number could increase now with the economic uncertainty in the private and public sectors," warned WFP representative to Iraq, Torben Due.

All of this suffering is added to the 12-plus years of suffocating sanctions that the Iraqi people were forced to endure, sanctions-or economic warfare-that directly led to the deaths of at least 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five (according to UNICEF). Frederick Barton, former deputy high commissioner for refugees at the UN, said the challenges of enduring the sanctions may have been good preparation for the flexibility that free markets demand (May 27, 2003, Chicago Tribune).

Flexibility of the free market?

Already, 400,000 Iraqis became unemployed when Bremer dissolved the Iraqi army on May 23. On June 23, U.S.-led civil administrators announced the creation of a new Iraqi army, "hoping to contain Iraqi anger over desperate unemployment and to curb a rash of attacks against U.S. forces." [16] This army would employ 12,000 men within a year, and will grow to 40,000 within three years, leaving at least 360,000 men unemployed. Allegedly, "up to 250,000 ex-soldiers will be eligible for support payments of $50 to $150 per month" from the occupying powers. Allegedly. The U.S. occupying powers have previously made similar promises to Iraqi government employees and failed to live up to their word.

Bremer has also dissolved the Ministry of Information, and issued a decree preventing up to 30,000 upper level Baathists from retaining any job in a future Iraqi government.

How many more will lose their jobs with the further dissolving of companies, and when public services are privatized and employees are fired? Remember, contracts are pending to sell everything from oilfield technology, transportation services, telecommunications and even the Iraqi ministries.

As Humeira Iqtidar noted on Znet, "The horrendous assault on the lives of Iraqis by cluster bombs will pale in significance to the wholesale deprivation that is in the store for them through the privatization of not just their oil resources but health care, water, electricity, transport, education, drugs and phones." [17]

The corporate invasion of Iraq

The issue of the relationship between U.S. companies and the Pentagon has been much discussed and published. [18] More important than the glaring conflict of interest between the Pentagon and the companies invited to bid on the contracts, is what these companies will be doing in Iraq. What unites all these companies is their agenda of privatization.

Halliburton: Privatizing Iraq's oil resources

Halliburton was awarded by the Pentagon a secret, no-bid contract worth as much as $7 billion. Months before the U.S. military dropped bombs and missiles on Iraq, the War Department was secretly working with Vice President Dick Cheney's old company (Halliburton) on a deal that would give the world's second largest oil services company total control over Iraq's oilfields. The company has been given control of the Iraqi oil operations, including oil distribution.

Bechtel: Privatizing Iraq's water

Bechtel received a no-bid contract from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on April 17, 2003. The contract provides for: emergency repair or rehabilitation of power generation facilities, electrical grids, municipal water systems, sewage systems, airport facilities, the dredging, repair and upgrading of the Umm Qasr seaport (before the seaport was even occupied by the U.S. military) and reconstruction of hospitals, schools, ministry buildings, irrigation structures and transportation links. Its declared goal is to repair or rehabilitate up to 100 hospitals, 6,000 schools (out of approximately 25,000), up to six airports and one southern seaport. The contract is for $34.6 million initially, up to $680 million over 18 months, and could eventually be worth up to $100 billion, thus making it potentially the largest Iraq reconstruction contract.

Quite odd-if one is to hire companies based on their track record-for Bechtel to have received this contract. Bechtel has botched past projects in the U.S. and elsewhere. In Boston, what promised to be a $2.5 billion job for the infamous tunnel project became $14.6 billion, costing taxpayers $1.8 million a mile. In California, Bechtel installed one of the nuclear power plant reactors backwards.

In Bolivia, Bechtel was part of a consortium which took control of the water supply and increased prices by an average of 35 percent. Many in the city of Cochabamba could not afford to pay and street protests led to several deaths. Bechtel pulled out, but is suing the Bolivian government for $25 million for canceling the contract. "Bechtel is not a company that has a sound social or environmental track record," said Juliette Beck of the public interest watchdog group Public Citizen. "It should not be involved in the humanitarian reconstruction effort in Iraq.. Bechtel and privatization go hand in hand."

"Their record depicts that trend-they privatize the service, they raise the price and only those who can afford it get it," said Antonia Juhasz, a project director at the International Forum on Globalization think tank in San Francisco. "If one were to define a core democratic decision a people could make, the treatment of things like water and power and media would be it," said Benjamin Barber, author of the newly released book Fear's Empire: War, Terrorism and Democracy. "It's a pretty basic part of government." [19]

Research Triangle Institute: Not so harmless [20]

The Research Triangle Institute (RTI) of North Carolina was awarded a contract by USAID on April 11, 2003. The contract is for $7.9 million initially, and up to $167.9 million over 12 months. RTI's contract provides for the "strengthening of management skills and capacity of local administrations and civic institutions to improve delivery of essential municipal services such as water, health, public sanitation and economic governance; includes training programs in communications, conflict resolution, leadership skills and political analysis." No uproar on this contract, though. RTI had given no money to the Republican partners. No RTI board members are tied to the Pentagon. Cheney is not on the RTI payroll. Seems rather innocent, right?

Not at all.

RTI's president and CEO, Victoria Franchetti Haynes, openly sees RTI as a vehicle for advancing corporate interests. Under her leadership, RTI has aggressively pursued relationships with pharmaceutical, health care and biotechnology industries, in addition to many, more benign, government and non-profit contracts.

Let's look again at the RTI contract. One of the major overarching issues is RTI's work in building allegedly "strong, indigenous, democratic governments." Is this merely PR to smooth relations between the Iraqi people and the occupying power? Each step of RTI's project-"identifying indigenous leaders," "training administrators in political analysis"-opens a door for smuggling in pro-U.S. propaganda and generally making Iraq's political climate more hospitable to U.S. interests.

The second, related issue is whether, in the process of "designing and implementing programs to enhance or improve basic human services," RTI will advance the interests of the people or the interests of the business elite (foreign and domestic). RTI will likely push heavily for corporate control as opposed to public control of municipal services, just as they did in Eastern Europe. Furthermore, RTI has historically received lots of U.S. government contracts to work in "rebuilding" countries undergoing a major "transition." Internationally, some of RTI's biggest contracts over the last decade have been to assist former Soviet Bloc countries with "pro-market reforms" in their "transition to capitalism." The fact that those countries are now in economic shambles, with governments plagued by scandal and corruption, might be cause for concern.

Their basic policy is to push for privatization-turning over government programs and services to corporations. In South Africa, this privatization agenda has been a total disaster. For example, a huge French multinational took over the water services during the late 1990s, and quickly hiked up rates and turned off water supplies to entire poor townships, sparking riots and strikes. A recent report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists claims those efforts to privatize water systems in South Africa led to a cholera outbreak, as people unable to pay higher rates started drinking from polluted streams, ponds and lakes. The outbreak killed nearly 300 people. [21]

If RTI pushes for the same thing in Iraq-and there is no reason to believe that RTI will act differently there-then RTI will be ensuring U.S. (and to a lesser extent, European) control over Iraqi society long after the armies are gone. It is neoliberal occupation, but still occupation. Already, RTI is "identifying public water works specialists to provide short-term and long-term technical assistance in Iraqi water supply/distribution systems, and to provide Iraqi counterparts with the knowledge, skills and abilities to repair and sustain Iraqi water systems."

"The reason apartheid fell is because the whites didn't need it any more to maintain control," said one South African activist to Chris Kromm, executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies. "They just privatized everything, and who do you think runs the corporations? They didn't need apartheid anymore, they had capitalism." Iraq could be the next chapter in that story.

The context for all of this is the history of USAID, which contracted RTI. As an arm of the government, it largely engages in development projects that are in line with U.S. political and military interests. It has also long been criticized for having overly-close ties to corporate America, and its projects end up as tools to help businesses penetrate new markets. [22]

RTI also received a subcontract from USAID, via Creative Associates International in Washington, D.C., for "education system reform." This contract ignited much controversy when it was revealed that there were plans to rewrite Iraqi school textbooks-i.e., make them more pro-U.S. Reports conflict as to whether that aspect of the contract has now been cut or de-emphasized.

How RTI's activities play out on the ground should be closely monitored, and we need to not only focus on Bechtel and Halliburton and other large contracts, but vigilantly monitor RTI as well.

Other culprits to monitor:

DynCorp Aerospace Operations (UK), a subsidiary of Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), awarded, by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, a $22 million contract-that could grow to $500 million-to "re-establish police, justice and prison functions in post-conflict Iraq." As noted by the Observer, "by hiring military contractors such as DynCorp, the U.S. government has found an effective way to conduct foreign policy by proxy and in secret. These proxies cannot be monitored, are effectively immune from all criminal sanctions, and are dangerously hard to control since they answer to corporate bosses, not military officials," (April 13, 2003). In Bosnia, DynCorp personnel were involved in sex slave trading of young girls as well as a number of other fraudulent acts. In Ecuador, farmers filed a class action lawsuit and charged that DynCorp recklessly sprayed their homes and farms, causing illnesses and deaths, and destroying crops.



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