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"We don't seek empires. We're not imperialistic. We never have been. I can't imagine why you'd even ask the question." Donald Rumsfeld, questioned by an al-Jazeera correspondent, April 29, 2003.

"No one can now doubt the word of America," George W. Bush, State of the Union, January 20, 2004.

A Blog by Rahul Mahajan

March 31, 8:30 pm EST.The Miami Herald published a pretty decent editorial (i.e., opinion of the editorial staff) about the closing of al-Hawza -- Anti-American news silenced in Iraq.

Send props to -- full instructions here.
March 31, 3:30 pm EST. In some circles, much is being made of revelations that Philip Zelikow, currently executive director of the 9/11 commission, made some remarks that the Iraq war was about defending Israel (back when he was still on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board):
”Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I'll tell you what I think the real threat (is) and actually has been since 1990 -- it's the threat against Israel,” Zelikow told a crowd at the University of Virginia on Sep. 10, 2002, speaking on a panel of foreign policy experts assessing the impact of 9/11 and the future of the war on the al-Qaeda terrorist organization.

”And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don't care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn't want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell,” said Zelikow.
Inter-Press Service has an article about it here. It quotes Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies, saying "Those of us speaking about it sort of routinely referred to the protection of Israel as a component." She then goes on to suggest that Zelikow, who is closely tied to the Bush administration, has just validated one of the staple points of the antiwar movement's analysis.

Personally, I disagree. I respect Phyllis Bennis's work tremendously (especially her magisterial "Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today's U.N."), but this doesn't make sense to me.

Psychologically speaking, it is true, I think, that protection of Israel may have loomed large in the minds of many of the war planners. But, logically speaking, this is no more meaningful than the idea that invading Iraq was protecting the United States.

Israel doesn't need protection from a military threat. Iraq was no more likely to brave Israel's at least 200 nuclear missiles than it was to brave the United States's 6000 ICBMs. In 1973, the United States did a major re-supply of Israel when it was heavily pressed by Egypt and Syria; this was to keep Israel from using its nuclear arsenal to defend itself. Now, of course, the Arab nations couldn't even imperil Israel conventionally; the only ones with modern technology are completely integrated into the U.S. military-imperial sphere.

If it was to protect Israel from Saddam's payments to Palestinians who died in the fight against Israel, then certainly Israel has always maintained that Syria and Iran are a much bigger problem with regard to state funding of terrorism.

I think it's seriously misleading to pretend that Israel has any "security problem" except that stemming from the occupation. At the latest, that problem ended when Israel made peace with Egypt.

The main problem is that this analysis that Israel is the primary consideration (not what Bennis said, but it is what Zelikow said) is seized on by people who want to believe that the occupation of Iraq is not in U.S. imperial strategic interests but only in the interest of Israel.

For example, a recent CNN segment on anti-Semitism had this statement:
SAAD JAWAD, POLITICAL ANALYST: Whatever is happening here in Iraq is not in the interest even of the United States, this chaos and instability and security. In fact, it's in the interest of Israel.
(Thanks to John Turri at Elenchus for this). Now, it's true that the fact that the occupation is going badly is not in the interest of the United States. But the occupation itself, had it been done properly, would have been very much in the long-term interest the United States has had of controlling Middle East oil, which dates back to the 1930's, certainly in a major way to the middle of World War 2. Why the chaos in Iraq is in Israel's interest is also unclear. In fact, whatever economic benefits Israel may get from the occupation also require stability.

Among those benefits for Israel are cheaper oil through the revival of the Mosul-Haifa pipeline and, presumably, the right of Israeli corporations to do business in Iraq. These are small potatoes compared to the cost of the war and also to the aid Israel already gets from the United States -- and minuscule compared to what ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco would make in the long run if Iraq's oil was privatized.

All of this feeds into some desire many people have for not wanting to see the United States as an imperial nation, at least not as a deliberately imperial one -- just one that is misled by Israel.

Disclaimer: None of this is meant to deny the increasingly close strategic alignment between the United States and Israel driven by the neoconservative vision of U.S. imperial policy. I'm just addressing a different point.
March 31, 1:15 pm EST. An article in the Guardian reports that Louis-Jodel Chamblain, formerly No.2 in the paramilitary Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti (FRAPH), which killed thousands in the early 90's when Haiti was under military rule, and more recently an agent of U.S. policy when he helped lead forces that overthrew Aristide, has threatened to kill Aristide if he returns to Haiti.

The same article also mentions that the U.S.-and-France-installed "interim government" (which the prime minister, Gerard Latortue, says could last two years) has reneged on earlier commitments and offered no place to the Lavalas Family Party. Only 80-90% of Haiti supports Lavalas, so if they were included the government wouldn't fit the Bush administration's definition of democracy.
March 31, 1:00 pm EST. Another very nasty incident in Fallujah. A mob shot four foreign contractors, dragged their corpses through the streets, then hanged them from a bridge, while chanting, "Fallujah is the graveyard of Americans."

This Saturday, I'll be leaving for Iraq. We'll be driving by Fallujah very fast on our way into Baghdad.

Fallujah has been one of the biggest hotbeds of resistance. This is usually attributed in the Western media to its being especially pro-Saddam. It is true that it was on the pro-Saddam side, but everyone I talked to on a previous trip in Iraq confirmed my original analysis of this: it dates from an incident on April 28, in which U.S. troops fired into a crowd of nonviolent protesters, killing 15 (another 3 were killed on April 30). They claimed there was firing from the crowd, but Human Rights Watch investigated the incident and discredited this claim.

This set off a cycle of escalating tit-for-tat violence to the point that we see now. Not only was that killing an atrocity and a severe violation of human rights, it wasn't exactly smart from the point of view of controlling the country.
March 31, 4:10 am EST.  Kaus responded promptly when I notified him of the mistake about Clarke and has removed it from his site.
March 30, 10:10 pm EST. Slate columnist Mickey Kaus once again demonstrates the legendary background work of the mainstream journalist:log
And if I read Newsweek's Isikoff and Hosenball correctly, Clarke also came forward with his scenario of how 9/11 could have been prevented only after his book went to press. It's not an implausible scenario--involving getting two hijackers' descriptions on "America's Most Wanted"--but the fact that Clarke didn't even lay it out in time for it to make his book weakens his claim that he would have come up with it back in the summer of 2001 if only the Bushies had viewed the Al Qaeda threat as more "urgent." ...
Actually, the "America's Most Wanted" idea is on page 24 of Clarke's book. Is it too much to ask that Kaus and people like him actually read Clarke's book before they comment on it?
March 30, 9:40 pm EST. Check out this headline from the Times -- Angola's Plan to Turn Away Altered Food Imperils Aid. Two million Angolans, mostly war refugees, need to be fed by the World Food Program. 3/4 of this comes from the United States, most in the form of GM corn and other grains.

Angola, like many other southern African nations in recent years, has concerns about donated GM foods. Zambia barred them outright; Angola is taking a milder position, just asking for the grains to be milled, so that there is no chance they will germinate and contaminate the local flora. Unfortunately, because of the emergency nature of this current situation and the small milling capacity in Angola, this will result in serious delays.

The Times says the United States has "accused governments of placing political and theoretical concerns above the survival of their own people." Nowhere in the article does it say that anyone accuses the United States of taking advantage of humanitarian emergencies to insert GM crops and take over the markets of other countries, despite the very legitimate concerns about those crops.

Whenever this issue is covered in the U.S. media (and the Times headline is no exception to this), it's always presented as the fault of the African nations. Extra!, FAIR's publication, had an excellent article about this about a year ago.

And what are those legitimate concerns? The primary problem with GM crops is not whether they're safe to eat, it's that it can be impossible to keep them from spreading and contaminating other crops. This can certainly lead to consumption problems -- for example, StarLink, a strain of corn that was engineered to produce a protein toxic to the corn borer, was approved for use in animal feed but not for human consumption. It spread, however, and contaminated corn produced for humans, ending up in Taco Bell's taco shells. But the main thing is that nobody can predict the multiple, proliferating, possibly synergistic effects of piling up genetic modification after modification in different crops that exist in the same ecosystem.

The other problem for non-corporate producers is that companies, like Monsanto, that produce GM crops have aggressively required farmers who use them to pay royalties, even if the farmers didn't want to use them but are forced to because of contamination they could not control. Courts have sometimes ruled that this is legitimate. A sensible legal system, presumably, would hold that the farmers are the ones with a right to compensation because of the contamination, but then corporate producers hire more expensive lawyers.

It's quite understandable that poor countries like Zambia and Angola don't want to be subject to perhaps perpetual payment of royalties because of a single famine crisis that could easily be alleviated by donation of non-GM food.
March 30, 2:40 pm EST. Seven more countries have joined NATO -- the three Baltic republics, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Coverage of this issue in the United States tends to leave one of two impressions. Either it's just meaningless expansion of a treaty or it's building the glorious European coalition of the civilized to fight terrorism.

Europeans understand well that NATO expansion is a way for the United States to gain the dominant role in politically influencing/controlling the new republics of eastern Europe, one-upping the powers in the area, like France and Germany (and to a lesser extent Russia). Combine this with EU expansion, and you have a substantial political voice of the United States in the EU, which is the only global formation that can even dream of rivalling the US in power. Vive la new Europe!
March 30, 2:30 pm EST. Apparently, there's still a presidential race going on. And a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows Bush now leading what's-his-name by 51 to 47 percent -- after all of Clarke's revelations and his near-constant media coverage.

The article linked above explains why. Apparently, a bunch of idiotic, badly done campaign commercials painting Kerry as a liberal have more effect on the public than a long-time insider's claims that had the Bush administration not lowered the level of vigilance 9/11 might have been prevented.
March 30, 1:50 pm EST. So Bush and Rice have decided to compromise the critical principle of separation of powers in order to let Rice testify under oath in a public hearing before the 9/11 commission. And it was just the other day (Sunday) that Rice was so earnest about the need to uphold the Constitution by making sure she was not put under oath.

So, after mounting public pressure, the administration caved. The result will be less than impressive. My prediction: Rice will reveal nothing new.
March 29, 6:25 pm EST. Friedman Watch. It has not escaped my attention that most of the blogosphere is at its best in snarky analysis/criticism of individual journalists or officials, dissecting their statements and showing what fools they are. I figured I would give it a try.

If you're going to snark, Thomas Friedman, the New York Times foreign affairs columnist, is sort of a cliche as targets go, but it's because he's such a damn good target. So I'm inaugurating a new feature of Empire Notes. Friedman comes out with columns on Sundays and Thursdays. Every Monday I'll see what inanity he's come up with in the past week. We'll see if it works out.

Friedman's latest is called "Awaking to a Dream" (although for him awaking from a dream would be more apposite). In it, he boasts about not having read anything about the 9/11 commission hearings. He actually says something half-sensible:
It's because I made up my mind about that event a long time ago: It was not a failure of intelligence, it was a failure of imagination. We could have had perfect intelligence on all the key pieces of 9/11, but the fact is we lacked — for the very best of reasons — people with evil enough imaginations to put those pieces together and realize that 19 young men were going to hijack four airplanes for suicide attacks against our national symbols and kill as many innocent civilians as they could, for no stated reason at all.
There was a failure of imagination, just not the one he mentions. Evil imaginations are hardly lacking in the great minds that thought up "limited" nuclear exchanges, "dirty war," the Phoenix program, the School of the Americas, and structural adjustment. The problem is that nobody could quite imagine that the violence could flow the other way and that the defense establishment would have to defend us.

He goes on to talk about how the good guys should show some imagination, concluding with the asinine idea that a Democratic presidential candidate, to be really forward-thinking, has to ask a conservative Republican warmonger (John McCain) to be his running mate.

But his column of the previous Thursday, No Vote for al-Qaeda, has much better stuff. We are treated to his usual profound insights (al-Qaeda doesn't do exit polls, an extra thousand Europeans in Iraq would "make al-Qaeda weep"), but as a special treat we also get this historical tidbit:
To answer that question I need to draw an analogy with a different era of Spanish history: the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939, where all the big powers of that day tested out the weapons they would employ in World War II.
Friedman should try cracking a history book. If Germany and Italy were the only "big powers of that day," he would be right. The Soviet Union, however, supplied only minimal amounts of light weapons. As far as Britain and France went, the weapon they tried out, which was then tried again to such good effect when Hitler took the Sudetenland, was appeasement. Although maybe"appeasement" is not quite the right word, since the ruling groups in both societies clearly favored Franco and Hitler because they would keep the Reds down. The weapon the United States tried out was having its major corporations supply Franco's fascists while trying to keep anything from getting to the Republic.
March 29, 2:15 pm EST. At long last, I've finished Richard Clarke's instant bestseller. Interesting stuff, and it's clear that Clarke is not who anybody would want him to be -- he's a military hardliner, strongly "tilted" toward Israel, and a big advocate of bombing the hell out of things. More on this later, but for now a fascinating and revealing quote from p. 74 of the book. The setting is the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Clarke has just been called by his boss, NSA Tony Lake, and is scrambling to find out what happened.
My next call was to the Situation Room. "Did something just get bombed?"

"Well, something just exploded, we don't know if it was a bomb, sir. The World Trade Center," a young Navy officer replied. "I know you handle terrorism, sir, and we're supposed to tell you when something happens that might be terrorism, but do you want to know when things happen in the United States too? Do you guys handle domestic crises too?"

The notion that terrorism might occur in the United States was completely new to us then. The National Security Council staff, which I had just joined in 1992, had only ever concerned itself with foreign policy, defense, and intelligence issues.
Doesn't that say it all? Clarke is in charge of counter-terrorism, working for the National Security Council, and this Navy officer doesn't know if an attack on the United States is within his purview. For almost 50 years, at that point, "national security" had meant destroying the security of other countries, not defending the security of the United States.

Even while writing this, Clarke has the same blinders on as the rest of the "national security" establishment, saying that the NSF had only concerned itself with "foreign policy, defense, and intelligence issues." Amazing how divorced their concept of "defense" can get from the vernacular -- ever since the creation of the Department of Defense in 1947, "defense" has meant "offense" and nothing more.

Reading this book, seeing the hidebound mentalities of people who were just used to committing aggression against other countries, never defending against it, and noting also the phenomenally unimaginative bureaucratic turf-defending mindset, it becomes much easier for me to understand that such a colossal failure of vigilance could happen on September 11.
March 29, 2:25 am EST. The CPA has shut down al-Hawza, a radical Shi'a weekly associated with Moqtada al-Sadr, the young firebrand who has staked out a far more anti-occupation position than the mainstream Sistani and colleagues. Al-Sadr has support throughout the country, but the heart of it is in Thawra, a sprawling mostly Shi'a slum area in Baghdad. He has built support partly by using the reputations of his father and uncle, both of them ayatollahs who were killed by Saddam Hussein.

According to the Times, the CPA accused the paper of "printing lies that incited violence." I expect the CPA to shut down the Times next for running Judith Miller's stories about Iraq's WMD.

At the same time, apparently, "the letter outlining the reasons for taking action against Al Hawza did not cite any material that directly advocated violence." So saying that the occupying forces are committing crimes is inciting violence and therefore is potential grounds for censorship.

The CPA says the paper can reopen in 60 days, but editors say that they're basically out of business -- evicted from their offices, with no jobs.

Some of the claims the paper printed were ridiculous, like the one that U.S. forces were responsible for a car-bombing that killed over 50 Iraqi police recruits. No more ridiculous, of course, than so many of the claims printed in American newspapers in the run-up to the Iraq war. And you don't shut down a paper because you claim it's saying things that are untrue. The claim that we are bringing democracy to Iraq has become a bad joke.

Also, in pragmatic terms, this is idiotic. Shutting down al-Hawza doesn't send a signal to other Iraqis that its claims are wrong, it sends a signal that you're afraid of its claims -- rather the opposite of the intended effect. All Iraqis are speculating about the source of the phenomenally bloody bombings that have been rocking Iraq. There's probably no one who hasn't heard someone claim that the Ashura bombings, for example, were CIA or Mossad (of course, many Iraqis will take such a claim with a grain of salt, whether or not it comes from a newspaper).

The Americans may be viewing Iraq as a hotter, drier version of the United States. Here, there's little direct public discussion and if you can keep an issue out of the media then it doesn't exist and no one talks about it. In Iraq, they are talking about these issues, they can't be stopped from talking about them, and the United States has just lent credence to their speculations.
March 28, 2:20 pm EST. Good lead article in the Times, about the global AIDS crisis. It actually gives you enough background to make sense of the question.

The U.N. Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria is funded at roughly 20% of what it needs -- Kofi Annan had called for $7-10 billion per year, but it's getting $1.6. Of 6 million people in the "world's poorest nations" who need treatment (this sounds like an underestimate to me), only 300,000 are getting it. (If you do the math here, it seems like, even if you limit yourself to treatment and don't spend on prevention, Annan underestimated the cost by a factor of four, but this doesn't take into account possible economies of scale, among other things. So I'm sure $10 billion is on the low side, but how low is unclear).

Somehow, this is all happening despite Bush's great rhetorical commitment to spend $15 billion on AIDS over the next five years. But, surprise surprise, he only asked for $200 million to be given to the UN fund last year and Congress had to up it to $550 million (still less than a third of what US should contribute if you assessed countries proportionally to their GDP).

And, bigger surprise, while everybody else is buying as cheap as possible, from companies like the Indian Cipla, the U.S. money is all going to the pharmaceutical giants, even if they have to pay twice as much or more for the same drugs.

Anyway, the article gives you enough background so that you can figure out that Bush's great AIDS initiative, to the extent that it wasn't just a bald-faced lie for rhetorical effect (like his job training, mission to Mars, you name it), was an attempt to do two things: undermine the UN Global AIDS Fund by setting up a parallel source with greater funding and give guaranteed largesse to Big Pharma while simultaneously preserving this market for them, so that perhaps some time in the future they could shut down the independents like Cipla again.

This politicking with what is currently the biggest global catastrophe, just in terms of human cost, is disgusting but expected -- where is the issue that the Bush administration won't exploit for cheap power politics while padding the bank accounts of the wealthy?

The only other thing worth noting is that it takes a great deal of global collusion to keep donations to the Fund so low. The European countries are still abiding by the unwritten rule that nobody can upstage the United States by giving a larger absolute amount (they generally give at a much higher per capita rate). I'm not one of those who thinks of the European nations as the founts of all morality (to say the least), but even on the grounds of enlightened self-interest why don't they just forget about how much the United States does or doesn't give and allocate more than a pittance to deal with this plague that has already killed 22 million people with no end in sight?
March 27, 3:20 pm EST. As many of you know (because you came to Empire Notes from there), Michael Albert of Znet has just set up a blogging area. The biggest feature is a "blog" by Noam Chomsky called Turning the Tide -- I use the scare quotes because it's actually a selection of Chomsky's responses to readers in the Znet forums. Doesn't quite have the feel of a blog, but it's good to see those responses getting out to a wider audience.

In Chomsky's latest post, he's responding to someone advancing the standard humanitarian/liberation argument for the war on Iraq. At one point, he says
The invasion of Iraq brought two murderous regimes to an end: the sanctions regime, and the rule of Saddam Hussein.
Based on my observations when I was in Baghdad in January, and on some press reports since then, I think it's misleading to say that the sanctions regime was ended.

It is true in a purely technical sense. There are no longer any legal restrictions on imports and huge amounts of consumer goods are flooding the markets of Iraq. In a more meaningful sense, however, the sanctions continue and have actually been substantially worsened.

Let's not think of "sanctions" as some specific legal regime controlling Iraq's trade. Let's look at the effects. In the last few years before the war, what the sanctions on Iraq amounted to were a situation in which there was minimal provision of basic government services (garbage collection, electrical power, potable water, health care in government hospitals, education) and the revenues of Iraq were externally controlled. Iraq's oil revenues went into a U.N.-controlled escrow account in New York, there were massive bureaucratic impediments to its disbursement, and the United States often denied or held up essential contracts, especially for industrial and infrastructure reconstruction. Because of this, you had high unemployment, high infant mortality, minimal access to medical care, etc.

After the war, Iraq's revenues are still externally controlled. Now, the escrow account is controlled by the United States. No matter how bad the bureaucratic impediments under the Oil for Food program, there was at least a government in Iraq that would make plans to use its oil revenues to buy various goods, to do reconstruction, and so on; now, there is virtually nothing. The "government of Iraq,' the adjunct of the CPA, has no authority or control over any substantial amount of funds. Allocations are made by the U.S. government, a foreign authority, and most of them go to companies like Halliburton and Bechtel, which use their cost-plus contracts to "study" problems instead of fixing them.

As a result, the level of services provided in Iraq is actually lower than before. Hospitals get less in the way of supplies and can deliver less care than before the war. When I was in Baghdad in January, there was no garbage collection. Unemployment is far higher than it was before the war (most estimates run at about 60%).

Thus, Iraq is under something very much like the sanctions, just worse. The "murderous regime" has not ended and will not until Iraqis have control over their oil revenue.
March 26, 6:55 pm EST. Pretty dramatic news. The 15-nation Caribbean Community does not intend to recognize the U.S.-created govdernment in Haiti. A few weeks earlier, the 53-nation African Union called the removal of Aristide "unconstitutional." So there's at least 68 countries that agree -- unfortunate that the great proponents of "democracy" have no time for global democracy.

The Caricom is calling for the U.N. General Assembly to investigate Aristide's removal -- they specifically don't want the Security Council to do it because of the threat of a veto by the United States or France.

Early reports that Aristide would have asylum in South Africa may be wrong.

The debate over whether Aristide was kidnapped or not remains as silly as ever. Personally, I know who to trust when it's the Bush administration versus anyone -- Richard Clarke, David Kay, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Hugo Chavez, ... The point is this, however: the fact that Aristide contests it means that if he ever did want to step down he doesn't now.

Since it was purely the threat of force and no legitimate process that removed him, whether or not his decision was "voluntary" (and, again, there's little doubt, especially since members of Aristide's American personal security forces have corroborated his story), the best you can say about his "resignation" was that it was under coercion. Unless he abandons his claim to be the head of state of Haiti, there's no legitimate way to contest it. That's just common sense.
March 26, 3:40 pm EST. This article, "The Occupation: U.S. Officials Fashion Legal Basis to Keep Force in Iraq," in today's Times should be mandatory reading for everyone. It lays out in some detail the way in which the United States will keep control of Iraq for the foreseeable future. In keeping with a common theme these days, it will surprise no one who has been reading the work of the left and the antiwar movement; it's just that the people putting forth this analysis here are Bremer and his aides.

Apparently, some of Bremer's aides just did some heavy reading and re-discovered UNSCR 1511, passed in October. This resolution, they now realize, gives a legal basis for continuing the occupation even after the so-called "transfer of sovereignty." In fact, when Spain's Prime-Minister-elect Rodriguez Zapatero said he would withdraw Spanish troops unless a legitimate U.N. authorization was given, my first thought was that he was unaware of 1511. As far as I can tell from re-reading the text, Bremer's interpretation of 1511 is correct.

A lovely quote from the article:
Showing his confidence that the approach was grounded in international law, L. Paul Bremer III, the chief of the occupation authority, issued an executive order this week specifying that the newly formed Iraqi armed forces be placed under the operational control of the American commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who has been named to lead American and allied forces after the transfer of political authority to the Iraqis.
And another one:
The Americans hope they will not be forced to rely on a legalistic argument. They plan to negotiate with the interim Iraqi government in place after June 30 for the kind of "status of forces" agreement the United States has in dozens of nations where its forces are deployed.

But if negotiations snag - many Iraqi political leaders are often hostile to the foreign military presence - the Americans believe that they will be able to fall back on the United Nations resolution.
Translation: The U.S. is in Iraq and will continue its occupation (which includes little perks like extraterritoriality -- American soldiers are not subject to Iraqi courts) in the current manner whether the new "sovereign" Iraqi government likes it or not.

But that's not all. There's more. The article quotes from Bremer's Executive Order 67, which sets up the new Iraqi Armed Forces. Section 4, clause 2, says,
All trained elements of the IAF, to include the ICDC when transferred to the IAF, shall at all times be under the operational control of the commander of coalition forces for the purpose of conducting combined operations and providing other support ...
Here, the ICDC is the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, created by Order 28. Another lovely quote from the article:
Top aides to Mr. Bremer have said in recent days that the American troops will act as the most important guarantor of American influence. In addition, they said, the $18.4 billion voted for Iraqi reconstruction last fall by the United States Congress - including more than $2 billion for the new Iraqi forces - will give the Americans a decisive voice.
You can't be much clearer than that, can you? The presence of U.S. troops plus the complete control over Iraqi funds (don't forget that it's not just the U.S. congressional appropriation -- UNSCR 1483 also gives the United States control over Iraqi oil revenues) will mean that the new "sovereign" government has no freedom of action. Perhaps they'll be able to decide what color to paint the garbage trucks -- if municipal garbage collection ever resumes.

And, last but not least, the article shows the delicate sensitivity Bremer's officials have to matters of sovereignty:
Another official said Iraqis could hardly claim that Iraq's sovereignty was compromised by having its troops under American command when nations like Britain and Poland had placed military contingents here under an American general. "There's no sovereignty issue for them," the official said.
Of course, there's no difference between having British and Polish troops on a specific mission in a foreign land subject to temporary control by a U.S. commander and having your own land occupied and your armed forces and police (that's what the ICDC is -- it is responsible, among other things, for "patrolling urban and rural areas") in your own land subject indefinitely to a foreign power.

There can't possibly be any debate about the goals of this occupation any longer.
March 25, 6:50 pm EST.  A Chicago Tribune article of a couple days ago says that the United States is constructing 14 "enduring bases" in Iraq and that force levels are expected to remain at 105-110,000 at least through 2006 (which, of course, has been mentioned in many earlier news articles).

At the same time, the United States is cementing its rule over Iraq through a little-noticed provision in the interim constitution (thanks to blogger Nathan Newman for mentioning this first). Clause A of Article 26 says
Except as otherwise provided in this Law, the laws in force in Iraq on 30 June 2004 shall remain in effect unless and until rescinded or amended by the Iraqi Transitional Government in accordance with this Law.
The Iraqi Transitional Government will not come into being before December 2004 and could be as late as the end of January 2005 (it requires elections for the National Legislative Assembly). These laws include the blatantly illegal Order 39, which allows for privatization of a host of Iraqi companies (it excludes natural resources). Naomi Klein's got a new column about it.

You can't really debate any longer whether a continuing military occupation coupled with a closely held puppet government were the primary goals of the war on Iraq. Personally, I've always maintained that privatization of Iraq's oil is secondary to the political control over the oil that comes from integrating Iraq very tightly into the U.S. military-imperial network. But anyway, it's all in the papers. No need to refer to the historical record, make inferences, draw conclusions -- just open the newspaper.
March 24, 11:30 am EST. Watched the first day of 9/11 commission testimony on CNN yesterday. An interesting spectacle. We got to see, for example, noted child-killer Bob Kerrey going ballistic on Madeleine Albright, William Cohen, and Donald Rumsfeld (he handled Rumsfeld more gently than the other two, unsurprisingly) about why they hadn't gone to war with al-Qaeda or with Afghanistan earlier.

For me, however, the most interesting testimony came from Paul Wolfowitz, in a completely offhand comment that came in the middle of explaining why they didn't go to war with Afghanistan:
But to Senator Gorton, I fail to understand how anything done in 2001 in Afghanistan would have prevented 9/11.
An absolutely obvious point, right? At the beginning of 2001, the hijackers were not in Afghanistan. Bomb Afghanistan all you want, you couldn't have affected implementation of the 9/11 plan.

But what follows quite straightforwardly from this reasoning? Anything done to Afghanistan right after the 9/11 attack couldn't have prevented any potential further attack immediately afterward. If, as Wolfowitz admits, even action eight months earlier in Afghanistan couldn't prevent 9/11, then clearly action in Afghanistan had nothing to do with any attack on the United States in the two or three months after 9/11.

What this means is that the war on Afghanistan could in no way be justified as self-defense against an imminent attack. Even if you thought the war was justified as self-defense in the long run, you couldn't claim that the need was immediate. The UN Charter is very clear that, whenever you have the time, you must submit questions of war and peace to the deliberations of the Security Council. The only exception is under ongoing attack or possibly under immediate threat of attack, which doesn't give you time to go to the Security Council.

If the United States had gone to the Security Council, likelythe war would have been approved; it did not, however.

Wolfowitz just admitted that even the legal case for the war on Afghanistan is bogus.

This argument, as I said above, does not obviate the case for a war, if the Security Council approved of it. For that, you have to add in the other arguments -- primarily, the fact that the United States refused to provide evidence to get an extradition agreement on bin Laden, and the fact that the U.S. war plan was going to kill lots of civilians.
March 23, 1:30 pm EST. Tony Saca of El Salvador's right-wing ARENA party beat Shafik Handal of the FMLN in a blowout on Sunday, with 57% of the vote to Handal's 36%. Most observers had expected that the result would be closer and would require a runoff election.

ARENA has won every presidential election since the 1992 ceasefire, with results that, for once, are actually fairly well detailed in this LA Times article -- almost half the population cannot afford basic nutrition and the richest 20% have 58.3% of the country's wealth, compated to 2.4% for the bottom 20%.

In his concession speech, Handal said,
We don't congratulate Mr Saca, because his vote has been achieved with fear, lies and blackmail, and a vote with fear is a vote without liberty. These methods aren't democratic and they aren't legitimate.
He's referring to some fairly heavy-handed intervention by Otto Reich and Roger Noriega, fomenters of a coup in Haiti and a multi-staged coup attempt in Venezuela. From the website of CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador):
U.S. intervention in the electoral campaign began as early as June of last year, when former Ambassador Rose Likins questioned the leftist FMLN party’s commitment to democratic principles and accused its leaders of celebrating the September 11 terrorist attacks. In February 2004, Assistant Secretary of Western Hemispheric Affairs for the U.S. State Department, Roger Noriega, was in El Salvador where he canceled a meeting with FMLN presidential candidate Schafik Hándal and then called on Salvadorans to vote for someone who “shares our [U.S.] vision and values.”
A week before the election, Otto Reich gave a phone-in press conference (at ARENA headquarters), where he questioned the impact of an FMLN win on "economic, commercial, and migratory relations with the United States." More than a quarter of Salvadorean citizens live in the United States and remittances from them make up about 16% of El Salvador's economy. ARENA campaign commercials exploited this, showing, among other things, a grandmother reading a letter from her grandson in the United States, saying he could no longer send remittances now that an FMLN government was in place.

In a quick search, of the four pillars of the aptly-misnamed National Endowment for Democracy, only two claim any connection with El Salvador -- the American Center for International Labor Solidarity and the Center for International Private Enterprise. The programs seem minor, though that can be hard to judge. If anyone has more information on the NED in El Salvador, please email me. In any case, El Salvador lost 75,000 people to the bloody Reagan-administration-backed counterinsurgency in the 1980's and probably only requires a slight hint of the consequences of displeasing Washington.

Tomorrow, it will be 24 years since the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. His murder was ordered by Roberto d'Aubuisson, a graduate of our own School of the Americas, who later founded the ARENA party -- this has been verified by a UN Truth Commission established in 1992.

Twenty-four years later, the party of his killers is still in power.
March 23, 12:40 pm EST. Sorry for the long delay. I was finishing up some non-EN-related writing over the past three days. More to come in a moment, but a tidbit first from atrios. The Coalition Provisional Authority has let its URL expire.

To anyone who hasn't been to Iraq, this would seem absurd beyond belief. After all, the CPA is running an entire country. It is, however, completely consonant with the negligence and lack of government that I saw there. I went into a building that was set up to be the State Company for Internet Services. This was in mid-January, nine months into the occupation. This is no exaggeration: I couldn't find a single computer in the whole building.
March 19, 2:10 pm EST. The General Accounting Office has just finished up a major survey of misappropriation of funds taken in by Iraq through oil exports under the Oil for Food program. From 1997 through 2002, the GAO claims, the Iraqi government took in $10.1 billion in addition to listed OFF revenues that went into the U.N.-administered escrow account -- $5.7 billion from oil sold outside the program and $4.4 billion from surcharges placed on the oil and from a kickback scheme whereby the Iraqi government would encourage foreign oil companies to buy from Iraq at something like a 10 to 15% discount and then funnel about half of that money back under the table.

There are many problems with the characterizations involved here. In particular, concessional sales of oil to Jordan, which were technically outside the OFF program but were winked at and allowed because of Jordan's close relationship to the United States, are lumped in with other "smuggling" revenues. Also, the claim that this money was just appropriated by Saddam and his cronies is silly. Undoubtedly, there was a lot of corruption and personal use of the wealth; it's also clear, however, that much of the money went to what would be the normal functioning of a normal government that had retained its own sovereignty. This includes weapons (conventional, like the aluminum tubes for use in artillery), on a pathetically low scale by the standards of the region; it also includes government salaries, incentive pay to doctors so that they would stay in Iraq, and such uses. Although people like Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who are in a position to know since they were both U.N. Humanitarian Coordinators in Iraq have talked about these uses of the money obtained in violation of the sanctions regime, I don't know of any comprehensive accounting of those expenses.

And it will be a while before it can be determined how accurate the GAO's analysis is -- although generally, at least pre-Bush, GAO reports have been of a pretty high quality.

The main point of the study, however, is certain to be misconstrued. The conservatives, and others, have jumped on this (the story is old; it's just the survey that's new) in order to say that the sanctions were justified, that the problem was lifting them at all, that the suffering in Iraq really was Saddam's fault, etc.

In fact, what this shows is that the sanctions were even worse than one would have supposed otherwise. We know about Saddam's spending before the sanctions. While he did spend huge amounts on the military to prosecute an absurd and bloody war with Iran, at the same time he ran up Iraq's external debt in order to keep a high level of access to basic services, education and health in particular, for Iraq's people. Under the sanctions, however, the accountability mechanisms (even the worst dictatorship has them) in Iraq were sidelined.

This is why Saddam moved to take in government revenue on the side, behind closed doors. To the average Iraqi, it could easily be justified. Why sell only through channels, when you knew that only 67% of the money would get to Iraqis at all (for most of the duration of OFF, 30% of oil revenues were taken to compensate victims of the 1990 Kuwait invasion; the biggest beneficiaries being oil companies; an extra 3% went to U.N.-related expenses)? And when even that money could not, for most of the duration of the sanctions, be used even for basic infrastructure repair or for industrial reconstruction?

Combine that with the fact that the money was obtained under the table and Saddam was far less constrained in the use of those revenues than he was before the sanctions. And the fact is that much less of that off-the-books money was spent on the needs of the Iraqi people.

One might further make the point that, bad as its use of Iraqi funds was, Saddam's government can't compare with the CPA in that regard. Billions and billions going to cost-plus contracts for Halliburton and Bechtel to "study" the problem of reconstruction, but virtually no reconstruction actually done.

This is all just common sense. And yet it will be completely lost in the ideological offensive going on. Saying this means you support Saddam Hussein, just like saying that this "war on terrorism" could not be done in any way more likely to increase the threat of terrorism means you support Osama bin Laden.
March 19, 8:25 am EST. One year ago today, the United States started its illegal war against Iraq. Tomorrow, people in 245 cities in the United States and 124 others around the world will march against the continuing occupation of Iraq. To find out whether there's a protest near you, click here.
March 18, 10:50 am EST. Busy morning. More to come later on Hans Blix and on the Iraqi constitution.

For now, some early presidential endorsements. Apparently, foreign leaders really do want Kerry to win. The newly-elected Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has called for the American people to follow the Spanish lead and reject Bush as the Spanish rejected Aznar.

Naively, that would seem like a real kiss of death. Kerry is being endorsed by a foreigner who calls himself a socialist (they're kind of odd socialists -- they're the party that took Spain into NATO, for example). However, Bush has just gotten about the only endorsement that could look worse -- al-Qaeda's.

Or, technically, the Abu Hafs al-Masri brigade (named after high-level bin Laden aide Mohammed Atef, also known as Abu Hafs, who was killed in the Afghanistan war), which claimed responsibility for the Madrid bombing, has supposedly put out a new statement in which it endorses Bush.

This really looks like a spoof by someone, but it's too funny not to quote from:
The statement said it supported President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."

In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:

"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."

"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."
Can't give in to the terrorists, can we?
March 17, 1:50 pm EST. A remarkable new resource is now available. Rep. Henry Waxman commissioned a study of Bush administration deception over Iraq, WMD, and al-Qaeda. It is on the Web, along with a searchable database. Just pop in the official's name, select the subject, and you get a passel of quotes. Everybody should know about this.
March 17, 1:40 pm EST. For any Canadians out there, I will be on CBC's Counterspin from 8:00-9:00 pm Eastern time tonight, debating Tom Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute and Faisal Istrabadi, an Iraqi-American lawyer who is advising Adnan al-Pachachi of the Governing Council and was involved in the drafting of the new Iraqi constitution. The debate will be about the occupation, as we come up on the one-year anniversary.

The latest argument against the occupation: a gigantic car-bomb blast near Firdaus Square in central Baghdad that, according to preliminary reports, has completely destroyed the Mount Lebanon Hotel. No body count yet, but it will be high.
March 17, 9:50 am EST. Part of the story about the Aznar coverup is in this Times story. The story is all right, but the headline is idiotic: Election Outcome: Spain Grapples With Notion That Terrorism Trumped Democracy. Aznar was personally calling up news directors, telling them that he knew it was ETA. There was more speculation about al-Qaeda everywhere else than in Spain the first day after the attack. Wonder if Aznar came up with this methodology himself or learned it from his idol across the Atlantic?
March 17, 9:40 am EST. The Security Council is allowing itself to be railroaded recently in an even more extreme fashion than is normal. I reported earlier on UNSCR 1529 regarding Haiti, which was passed unanimously on the day that Aristide left, which called the violent ouster of Aristide by a combination of force and fraud a "constitutional succession and political process."

Check out UNSCR 1530, passed the same day as the Madrid bombings. It says that the attacks were done by ETA. Finally, a huge coverup campaign launched by Aznar is coming to light. As yet, there's very little about it in the English-language press. More to come.

This is not supposed to be SOP for the Security Council. Even when it ends up more or less doing the bidding of the United States and favored allies, it doesn't just rubber-stamp pre-written resolutions without any attempt at investigation. 1441, which the Bush administration rammed through in the fall of 2002 in order to continue disarming Iraq preparatory to war, was rewritten several times, with successively weaker language, and fine points of phrasing were debated over and over again. It ended up, of course, being very problematic -- declaring Iraq in material breach of its obligations while not mentioning at all the severe breaches of the whole international regime by the United States.

What was the need for the Security Council to validate Aznar's claims while the dead were still being gathered up?
March 16, 5:00 pm EST. An article in Time Magazine (which I saw mentioned on Talking Points Memo) tells us that the much-ballyhooed independent commission on "intelligence failures" has not yet met, five weeks after its inception. The justification Bush gave on Meet the Press for having the commission report after the election is over was that the commission will need time to do a good job; apparently, however, these past five weeks were unnecessary.
March 16, 9:40 am EST. Today is a day for reflection, a day of many anniversaries.

A year ago today, International Solidarity Movement activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer operator in what eyewitnesses said was clearly a deliberate act. To date, the U.S. government has taken no action on the question. Two other ISM members have been killed since then.

The Israelis had good timing. A year ago today, George W. Bush issued his ultimatum to Iraq, actually his twin ultimata. Iraq was given 24 hours to "disarm." And the United Nations was given 24 hours to pass a resolution calling for war.

I remember it well. It was a Sunday in New York. I was with several friends, mostly Iraq and Palestine activists, who were all speaking at a major conference. When we heard it, it was the other shoe dropping. The moment we'd been dreading for well over a year had come. We were at lunch; it took us about half an hour before we could start talking again.

That date struck me as the biggest turning point since the days after 9/11. I wrote a piece, Ave Caesar, that was published on the Web the next day. I think it's stood up pretty well. It concludes,
Yesterday, Bush drew the battle lines through the entire globe and through the middle of each country. In order even to begin to understand how to oppose this new imperialism, we must understand this: weapons of mass destruction have nothing to do with this war, and even Iraq itself has to do with this war only in the sense that it is a strategic prize. This war is a small part of an ongoing attempt to reshape the world.

The target of this war is not Iraq. The target is the entire world order, and Iraq is simply collateral damage.
Perhaps most important, 16 years ago today was the gassing of the northern Iraqi town of Halabja, which killed 5-8,000 people. It was part of the Anfal campaign, which is estimated to have killed 100-180,000 Kurds.

At the time it happened, only the left in the United States, and in Turkey, took heed and criticized the U.S. government for its support of Saddam Hussein. They might as well have been speaking in outer space. The Reagan administration squelched efforts in Congress to react to the atrocity, kept the Security Council from passing a resolution on the issue, and kept up the stream of agricultural credits and export licenses to firms to provide chemicals, biological materials, and weapon components to Iraq. Most damning of all, it organized a disinformation campaign to help suggest that Iran was the real culprit (it didn't address who was behind the numerous other chemical attacks on civilian populations that characterized Anfal).

Ten years after Halabja, the United States finally took cognizance of it, in order to start a new propaganda offensive in favor of the deadly sanctions on Iraq. Fifteen years after Halabja, George W. Bush, whose father was the biggest supporter of Saddam when he was gassing the Kurds, made a shamefully cynical use of Halabja to justify his frontal assault on the world order.
March 16, 8:30 am EST. Aristide is in Jamaica. He is not supposed to "foment unrest" in Haiti while he is there. For some reason, this reminds me of Paul Wolfowitz's famous injunction of last July: "I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq."

A new development in the Aristide kidnapping story. According to the Washington Post,
Aristide's version of the events differed markedly from that of U.S. officials.

The ousted president said that he had been conferring with U.S. Ambassador James Foley about ways of avoiding violence and bloodshed in Port-au-Prince on Feb. 28. An armed insurgency -- led by former members of Haiti's feared military, which Aristide had disbanded, and onetime death squad leaders -- was threatening to attack the capital the following day.

Aristide said Foley agreed that he should go with an American escort to a location where he could appear on television to appeal for calm.

"I wanted to talk to the press, as I did the night before for more than one hour and a half talking to the people through the national TV," Aristide said. "This was my responsibility. And I could do it again and again each time as was necessary."

But he said that by the time Moreno arrived at his residence on the morning on Feb. 29, U.S. troops were surrounding it. Aristide said he felt threatened by the Americans, who told him that "thousands of people including me would be killed."

"I know there were American military and maybe other militaries from other countries. I cannot say only Americans," Aristide said. "But there were a considerable number."

Aristide said he left in a car with the Americans, who said they could provide security. "But instead of moving from where we were at my house" to meet with news media, Aristide said, "we went straight to the plane," which he described as an unmarked white aircraft with an American flag.

Aristide said he was obliged to board the plane, and was followed by a number of U.S. troops in full combat gear, who changed into civilian clothes and baseball caps once they were aboard the plane. Also on board with him and his wife were 19 members of a private security company contracted by the United States to protect Aristide.

Aristide's account was supported by two witnesses present on the evening of Feb. 28 and the morning of Feb. 29. One was Franz Gabriel, a pilot and aide to Aristide; the other was an American security guard.

"I was at the house at 5 a.m. when Moreno came in to tell the president they were going to organize a press conference and be ready to accompany them," said Gabriel, who accompanied Aristide and his wife to Africa and to Jamaica. "We boarded to go to the embassy and we ended up at the airport. That's what Mr. Moreno wanted him to do."

The American security guard, speaking on condition he not be identified, described the U.S. security warning as a subterfuge to lure Aristide away. "That was just bogus. It's a story they fabricated," he said.
As far as I'm concerned, the whole dispute over whether Aristide was kidnapped or not is absurd. He says he is still Haiti's president, he was elected, and that should be that.

It reminds me of the old justification for the stealing of Palestinians' homes and land in 1948, that advancing Arab armies called for them to leave their homes and return after the Arabs were victorious. It was always illogical (the Arab armies would prefer to have the cover and aid provided by the inhabitants of those lands), it was factually debunked by Walid Khalidi and Erskine Childers as early as the early 1960's, but beyond all of that, it was just idiotic: leaving your house, for whatever reason, doesn't mean you give up the right to return to it.

The claim that Aristide has given up the right to the presidency is absurdly legalistic at best. His right to return to Haiti is unquestionable.

As a Slate columnist points out, this major development, which sheds a lot of light on why Aristide left, is buried under the headline, "Aristide Back in Caribbean Heat."

Of course, the author of the article, showing the extreme originality that characterizes our journalists, refers to Aristide as a "former slum priest."
March 15, 2:20 am EST. Interesting article by Jonathan Weisman in the Washington Post -- "Link Between Taxation, Unemployment Is Absent." Surveys some historical data from the United States and a bit from other countries and concludes that there is no evidence for the standard economic dogma that higher marginal tax rates lead to higher unemployment. Actually, the data the article picks show a distinct anti-correlation, but that could be an artifact of the selection.

Very subversive idea, looking at the data. If this catches on, neoclassical economics could be in trouble.
March 15, 8:50 am EST. I finally found a quote I was looking for two weeks ago. And it's in a transcript I had posted to the site way back in January. George W. Bush, being interviewed by Mouafac Harb on the new American Middle East TV Network, al-Hurra (the free one):
Q And you know the type of governments that now exist in the Middle East, and for how long the U.S. has been accused of playing ball with governments that people hate. When you say you want this strategy, forward strategy of freedom, are you saying you're going to be abandoning the monarchies and, you know, those guys?

THE PRESIDENT: No, of course not. I know them well. First of all, many of the countries in the Middle East are modernizing. And that's what I look for. I fully understand it takes time for free societies, truly free societies to evolve. I don't expect instant success. After all, in my own country it took a while for our current system to evolve.

Take Saudi Arabia, for example -- first of all, I respect Crown Prince Abdallah, and like Crown Prince Abdallah. He's a man of great faith, and great integrity, who gave a speech the other day about the need to modernize and to reform Saudi society. I take him for his word. To me that was a positive development.

King Abdullah of Jordan, the King of Morocco, I mean, there's a series of places -- Qatar, Oman -- I mean, places that are developing -- Bahrain -- they're all developing the habits of free societies. They evolve differently. But nevertheless, progress is being made. And for that, I'm very grateful.
So Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, etc., are "developing the habits of free societies." Now we have two entries for the New World Order Lexicon:

(n): A democratically-elected head of state who doesn't always obey U.S. orders. Usually, one who allows the media in his or her own country complete freedom to criticize him or her and who holds no political prisoners.

Evolving free society (n): A dictatorship, usually feudal in nature, that generally obeys U.S. dictates.
March 15, 8:30 am EST. It's pretty clear that, although the Spanish vote was influenced by the fact that Aznar's dragging them into the Iraq occupation made them a target for al-Qaeda, the primary beef the swing voters had with him was that he lied, played politics, insisted it was ETA, instead of trying to confront the real situation the country is now in. I think that's a pretty sophisticated response for a population three days after a 9/11-scale massacre (actually, two days until there were huge protests against Aznar for hiding the truth).

The Washington Post now reports that investigators have basically come together behind the idea that it was al-Qaeda, although they're still investigating the possibility of some ETA connection. One of the Moroccans detained, Jamal Zougam, was named as a member of al-Qaeda in a Spanish judge's indictment of bin Laden last fall.

Juan Cole has more about the Abu Hafs al-Masri brigade, which claimed responsibility for the attacks.
March 15, 7:40 am EST. Making great progress. Two weeks ago, I didn't have a clue what RSS was and now I have my own RSS feed, thanks to Karl at Caltech. Look for the orange XML button in the left-hand column.
March 15, 7:40 am EST. I got a lot of comments on my Spain piece. There was a lot of confusion, because I probably wasn't as clear as I should have been. When I said, "terrorism cannot be fought by military means," I meant, of course, that purely military means would be counterproductive. Obviously, there's some scope for force, although frankly very little for military-style force. For that matter, any law enforcement operation involves the credible threat of force. The point is to give not just governments but people in the countries where these organizations are growing an incentive to work on the same side as us -- without trying to control the process, which is likely to backfire.

Also, the "twin occupations in the Middle East" were Palestine and Iraq. The occupation of Afghanistan is also, of course, a source of tension and long-term danger, although I think not as great. There are many other sources too, like U.S. support for Egypt's dictatorship. I just wanted to indicate the two primary problems, not give a whole list.

I've rewritten the piece and posted it here, with updated information, and a more detailed argument about how a meaningful anti-terrorism effort would proceed.
March 14, 6:10 pm EST. I was waiting until the returns were in from Spain. Well, with 79% of the vote counted, the Socialist Party declared a surprise victory and Mariano Rajoy, Aznar's handpicked successor as head of the Popular Party, conceded defeat. Projections were that the Socialists would have 164 out of 350 seats in the Parliament and that the Popular Party would fall from 183 to 147.

What an amazing political dynamic emerged in Spain. First, in what is pretty close to an unprecedented event, an estimated 11 million people came out to protest terrorism. There were also 5,000 people who protested Aznar, calling for him to come clean and blaming him for his support of the Iraq war. They were dispersed by the police with nightsticks and tear gas on that day of solidarity for all Spaniards.

This just prompted further protests yesterday. Both Aznar and Rajoy were jeered by protesters as they went to vote. And 62% of the electorate voted, as opposed to 55% last time in 2000.

The big question politically was who was responsible for the attacks. Here's a summary of the evidence for the claim that it was al-Qaeda (am I missing anything? Let me know):
  • There were 10 simultaneous attacks on commuter trains, timed to go off at rush hour to maximize the loss of life, killing at least 200. This is precisely the MO of al-Qaeda. ETA, on the other hand, generally phones in a warning and in recent years has almost exclusively concentrated on killing government officials. Also, the largest number ETA had ever killed in one attack was 21 in a supermarket parking lot in 1987 -- an attack it later characterized as an "error."
  • An email was sent to the London newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi. In part, it said, "The death squad (of the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades) succeeded in penetrating the crusader European depths to strike one of the pillars of the crusader alliance - Spain - with a painful blow. These bomb attacks were part of settling old scores with the crusader Spain for its war against Islam." (full text here).
  • The Norwegian Defense Research Establishment claimed that documents it found last year on an Arabic website suggested Spain as a target and said, in part, "We must make maximum use of the proximity to the elections in Spain in March next year. Spain can stand a maximum of two or three attacks before they will withdraw from Iraq."
  • The Basque newspaper Gara claimed on Friday that a caller from the ETA had denied responsibility.
  • Arnaldo Otegi, the spokesman for Batasuna, the illegal Basque separatist party most closely associated with ETA, condemned the attacks.
  • Julien de Madariga, estranged founder of ETA, claimed that this attack did not bear the hallmarks of ETA.
  • And, of course, a van was found with a tape in Arabic. This is a weird piece of evidence, since why would an Arab Islamist need such a tape (described in some reports as a beginning instructional tape on the Koran)? Of course, even if evidence was planted to implicate al-Qaeda, this doesn't mean it wasn't al-Qaeda.
On the other side is the claim that the explosive used (titadine, a concentrated form of dynamite) is commonly used by ETA, and the arrest in December of an ETA volunteer who was planning to bomb a train.

Despite this, to my mind, fairly overwhelming evidence that it was al-Qaeda, Aznar continued to insist that it was ETA. The most interesting thing about it is this. If it was ETA, this would likely help the Popular Party in the polls, since it has taken a tough anti-ETA stand. On the other hand, if it was al-Qaeda, then many Spaniards would blame Aznar, saying it was because of Spain's illegitimate involvement in the illegitimate occupation of Iraq and its support for the war.

Obviously, there was a sharp swing in the turnout and the results because many people decided to punish Aznar for making them more of an al-Qaeda target. This is fascinating. As the blogger Atrios pointed out a few days ago, conventional wisdom is that a terrorist attack in the United States a few days before the election would have the opposite effect, of giving Bush a boost.

Watch for the right wing to start  bloviating about Spanish "appeasement."  Instead of casting it as a question of whether or not you want to get tough on terrorists, we need to start recasting this very serious question as whether we want to take steps that will actually weaken al-Qaeda and affiliated organizations or do we want to continue in this mode of strengthening them that we've had since 9/11? The Spanish people are showing the way -- and doing it just days after their horrific tragedy. Perhaps, two and a half years after ours, we can start to learn too.
March 13, 7:45 pm EST. More on Spain shortly, but first Haiti. Gerard Latortue has been sworn in as Haiti's Prime Minister (but only for two years, he says, until there are elections). He spent most of his life as an exile, except for a brief stint as Leslie Manigat's foreign minister in 1988. Manigat came to office in an "election" entirely boycotted by the people, because the emerging Haitian civil society organizations that became the core of Lavalas saw it as an attempt to preserve "Duvalierism without Duvalier." Manigat was shortly thereafter removed by the military when he showed too much independence.

Latortue has complained that Aristide's proposed trip to Jamaica would jeopardize efforts to stabilize Haiti. The head of Jamaica's main opposition party has said his visit should be limited to three weeks, not eight.

Why are people so afraid of this short, bespectacled "slum priest" who has no power and who, even as head of state, did not command enough force to keep a small band of rebels with light arms from taking over his country? Could it be because Haiti's masses support him and that as long as he is alive and anywhere near Haiti they won't let themselves be beaten down and deprived of all hope? Could it be that Latortue thinks it will take two years of paramilitary and U.S.-French rule, without Aristide, before the people of Haiti will give up their aspirations for economic justice?

If Aristide returns to Haiti and is not assassinated, the coup plotters, American, French, and Haitian, will not be able to control the situation without serious bloodshed. If he returns and is assassinated, anything could happen.

Aristide has been charged with no crime and, even if you accepted the ridiculous claim that he resigned, uncoerced, from office, he has the inalienable right to go back to his country.
March 13, 5:45 pm EST. Under the title CIA 'wildly inconsistent' about policing Iraq claims, the Christian Science Monitor has a good compilation, with links, of numerous new articles and developments regarding the WMD imbroglio. The words in quotes are those of George Tenet, who said that the CIA didn't do very well at babysitting the administration over WMD claims. In the article, you get to see Ted Kennedy cross-examining Tenet:
"You can't have it both ways, can you, Mr. Tenet?" Kennedy said. "If you're saying that there was no immediate threat and you hear either the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense using that super-heated rhetoric, we have to ask, what is your responsibility?" Tenet replied, "I have a responsibility. I lived up to my responsibility." Tenet said that when he was aware that a senior administration official exaggerated the Iraqi threat, he took action internally.
Amusing idea. Bush, the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Adviser, and, yes, Mr. Kennedy, the Secretary of State, are lying through their teeth about Iraq's WMD and it's George Tenet who is shirking his responsibility.

At least, according to the article, it's Republican senators who are now asking for Tenet's head. There were few things sadder than seeing the Democrats focus on Tenet and "intelligence failures," as they were doing earlier.
March 12, 5:40 pm EST. An article in the Washington Post suggests that the Bush administration will move forward on implementation of the Syria Accountability Act within a week. Two key reservations: the administration doesn't want to harm U.S. corporations, like Motorola, that actually do business with Syria and it doesn't want to impede security cooperation. But the sanctions will keep U.S. corporations from doing significant new investment in Syria, especially in the energy sector, and may involve banning financial transactions by Syria as well as bans on many imports.

As Seymour Hersh showed in a July article in the New Yorker, Syria was providing a great deal of intelligence to the United States, but that intelligence dried up in March 2003 -- when the war on Iraq started. Yet another piece of evidence showing the flagrant disregard this administration has for actually addressing the problem of terrorism, as opposed to using it as rhetorical justification for imperial adventures.

The Syria Accountability Act rapidly went from being a gleam in the eye of AIPAC (the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee) to being administration policy. It, as much as the embargo on aid to Haiti over the past few years, is part of the policy of "regime change."

In fact, as early as April 28 of last year, Daniel Ayalon, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, was saying that regime change in Syria and Iran could be achieved without war, through a combination of diplomatic isolation, economic sanctions, and "psychological pressure."

It's starting in Syria. It may end with Bashar Assad being brought to heel, but if he is not expect to see a slow buildup to regime change.
March 12, 11:25 am EST. In the Times: Haiti's New Leader Sees a Long Transition. Gerard Latortue, whose democratic qualifications for leading Haiti are that the United States picked him, has suggested that Haiti will need to wait two years for an election. The article says
Mr. Latortue said that he expects to serve as prime minister for two years, leading a caretaker government that will hand over power immediately after the next election, and that he has no plans to pursue political office after he leaves this one.
Very good of him. Two years is almost exactly what Aristide got in office his first time around, when his only qualification was that he got 67.5% of the vote against a massive U.S.-orchestrated campaign spearheaded by the National Endowment for Democracy with a little help from the CIA (see Promoting Polyarchy by William Robinson). On his second election, with 91.69% of the vote, a beneficent providence was smiling on him and he got almost two and a half years.

By the way, the Times article, like literally 80% of the articles on Haiti I've read in recent weeks, refers to Aristide as a "slum priest." Now, it's true that he preached in slums, which doesn't seem like a bad thing; but why the constant epithet? Had he played the kind of role the Pope no doubt expected of him (the Pope's antipathy for liberation theology being made evident when, in 1984, two of the founders were summoned before the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the official descendant of the Papal Inquisition), would all the papers refer to him as a suburban priest?
March 12, 7:25 am EST. Aristide is apparently going to Jamaica next week, not for asylum but just for an eight to ten week trip. If so, that's a very good sign. The Jamaica Observer has been very clear on the fact that this was a coup d'etat. If going to Jamaica is a step toward getting him back in Haiti, it's a move in the right direction. My guess is that the only reason he's not pushing for an immediate return to Haiti is a fear that the rebels will assassinate him while the U.S. stands by and does nothing, and that any hope of organized resistance will die along with him.

The U.S.-installed new prime minister, who was in exile in the United States until recently, has opined that Aristide's disbanding of the military in 1995 may have been unconstitutional. That's up there with the Bush administration lecturing others on democracy.

The United States has changed the rules of engagement to allow it to intervene more easily and frequently. A step in the inevitable evolution of operation. Expect to see things segue from disarming the rebels to suppressing dissent among and possibly disarming the people.

March 11, 10:20 pm EST. I'm just a little pissed off. I didn't notice this the first time I saw Bush's new campaign ad, 100 Days, but then I saw it mentioned by Atrios, looked at the ad again and saw it was true.

The ad slams John Kerry for his putative first 100 day plans on taxes and spending and on terrorism. In the terrorism section, there are three images shown as insets; the bottom one is of a menacing-looking swarthy man turning slowly to look at the viewer. He is obviously a terrorist.

The ad has already been criticized by numerous people, most of whom have said the man is supposed to be Arab or look Arab. The Bush campaign has already said that the actor is not an Arab and the image was just "very generic."

Well, it's half right. The man does not look like an Arab; he very clearly looks north Indian or Pakistani. But then again people always ask me if I'm an Arab. Clearly, to call it "generic" is an insult even to the intelligence of the average dittohead.

What's there to say? This is absolutely disgusting. Ever since 9/11, official discourse has been very neutral, taken great care to avoid racism except of the paternalistic kind, and sent only coded messages. The real load of racism was supposed to be carried by "comedy" shows, talk radio, Republican congressmen from Louisiana, nutty generals (William Boykin) and such lowlifes -- enough to keep it alive, to keep a subliminal base of support for Bush's crusade, but not enough to make it appear at a national or official level. This ad changes that.

The only positive thing is it's surely a miscalculation. There's nothing to be gained from dredging that kind of ugliness up and making people confront it.
March 11, 5:00 pm EST. The terrorist attack in Spain prompts me to post an excerpt from my second book. This passage was written around December 2002. Here's a short quote (the end of the excerpt):
Thus, the war on terrorism reaches its reductio ad absurdum—more military prowess leads to more terrorist attacks, more defense of hard targets leads to more attacks on soft targets, and it is simply impossible to defend all soft targets."
March 11, 4:55 pm EST. Major terrorist attack in Spain. 13 backpacks were placed on Madrid trains, timed to explode during rush hour. 10 backpacks actually exploded, killing at least 190 people and wounding 1247. Expect the death toll to increase. Since Spain has about one-seventh the population of the United States, this is proportionately as if over 1200 people had been killed here.

Spanish government officials are blaming the Basque separatist ETA (Euskadi Ta Azkatasuna), which has killed over 800 people since 1968 (its biggest attack ever was at a supermarket in 1987, killing 21). Arnaldo Otegi, spokeman for Herri Batasuna, a Basque separatist political party, said he didn't think ETA was responsible and suggested that "Arab resistance" elements did the deed. In March of last year, Herri Batasuna and its successor Batasuna were permanently banned by the Spanish Supreme Court.

It was reported that Spanish authorities found a van near Madrid with seven detonators and a tape of Koranic verses in Arabic. At first glance, this reminded me of the famous find, a couple of days after 9/11, at Boston's Logan Airport, of a car with a flight manual in Arabic. As if the hijackers were cramming (and why in Arabic?) right up to the last minute and then couldn't find the wherewithal to dispose of the flight manual. Personally, I think there is little doubt that al-Qaeda did the 9/11 attacks, and my first reaction when I saw the headlines on Spain was that they were also done by al-Qaeda. Even so, this really smelled of planted evidence -- either by the attackers, to make sure that people knew it was Islamists, or by inept government security and intelligence services.

The mystery here may be cleared up by reports that the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi received an email claiming that the Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri did it because Spain was part of the "crusader alliance." Al-Qaeda in the past has used made-up names to claim responsibility for attacks. Of course, this is not authenticated as yet.

Julien de Madariga, estranged founder of the ETA, has said these attacks don't bear the ETA's hallmarks, since they obviously targeted the working class. In fact, the ETA has mostly targeted judges and other government officials (they later called the 1987 supermarket attack a mistake). And, of course, this pattern of simply going for the maximum body count, without any concern for who is killed, is exactly what we saw in the Ashura attacks and the Bali nightclub bombing, to take two examples.

These attacks come only three days before general elections in Spain. Jose Maria Aznar's Popular Party had, depending on the poll, a five to nine point lead over the Socialist Party. This despite the fact that about 90% of the Spanish disapproved of his decision to support the war on Iraq and that something like 7.5% of the population (an unheard-of number) actually protested in the streets on February 15, 2003. The Popular Party was, however, expected to fall a few seats short of a Parliamentary majority.

As the rightist party, the Popular Party has campaigned as the party that will be tough on separatist terrorism and the claim that this was done by the ETA could be seen as primarily election-directed (they called off political campaigning, followed shortly thereafter by the other parties). In any case, whoever did this, it may well give the Popular Party the boost they need to get their majority.
March 10, 9:30 pm EST. A federal study of 12,000 teenagers found that of those who pledged chastity until marriage 88% of them broke that promise. They did wait an average of 18 months longer before having sex, but once they got started raced to catch up.

For some reasons, the Times article (linked above) didn't report this, but the study also found only slight differences in STD rates among pledgers and non-pledgers (and, interestingly, Asian pledgers had STDs at almost twice the rate of non-pledgers).

The reason is that non-pledgers were one and a half times as likely to wear a condom and twice as likely to get tested for STDs as pledgers.

Stunning revelation. Teens will have sex even if they promise not to and promoting abstinence as the only solution leads to less care when they do have sex.
March 10, 9:15 am EST. This just in. George Tenet admitted yesterday that he sometimes corrects Cheney and even Bush when he thinks they are "misconstruing intelligence."

On at least three occasions, July 14, 2003, January 27, 2004, and February 26, 2004, Mr. Bush has said that we went to war on Iraq because Saddam Hussein wouldn't let inspectors in (for those of you who never click on links, two of them are to and the third to Bush's campaign website,

The first time this happened, it was reported in the Washington Post. Dana Milbank and Dana Priest, phrasing it very circumspectly, wrote that, "The president's assertion that the war began because Iraq did not admit inspectors appeared to contradict the events leading up to war this spring." Of course, it's also possible that the several-month-long drama over inspections was just a mass hallucination and that the world dredged up Hans Blix out of its collective unconscious.

If he'd said it once, you could claim it was a slip, but he's said it at least three times (he's also given us fascinating insights like "free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction).

Is this the kind of subtle misconstrual of intelligence that perhaps Tenet should be correcting Bush on?
March 10, 8:10 am EST. The next stage in the U.S.-French coup in Haiti has arrived. Gerard Latortue, formerly foreign minister in the 1988 Leslie Manigat government, has been selected as the new prime minister.

All of this despite the fact that Aristide continues to maintain, strenuously, that he was taken against his will and that he is still the president of Haiti. Against this, all the administration has is a piece of paper Aristide signed in which he clearly said that he was leaving under the threat of bloodshed. Since there's an international peacekeeping force there that is supposedly disarming the "rebels," there should be no problem with his resuming his position.

Certainly, there can be no problem with Aristide's returning to Haiti, which he has said he wishes to -- it is every person's inalienable right to return to their country of residence.

A good thing the media isn't trying to make the Bush administration justify its current stance, since there's no imaginable way it could.
March 9, 3:45 pm EST. Bush is not polling well. His only consolation as far as polling goes is that, contrary to Nader's announced expectations, Nader is drawing his support from people who would otherwise favor Kerry (the latest Washington Post_ABC News poll, for example has Kerry 48, Bush 44, Nader 3, but shows Kerry with a 9-point lead in a two-way matchup).

The reasons for that are not hard to see. Nader's two claims in this regard are that he will inspire a lot of non-voters to vote and that he will pull a lot of conservatives and moderates who would otherwise vote for Bush. He's forgetting the, shall we say, polarizing effect of Bush's last few years in office. Bush's assault on civilization as we know it means that voter turnout will be significantly higher than last time (and so, in terms of stimulating turnout, the low-hanging fruit is already picked) and also means that the honest, relatively non-ideological conservatives or moderates who might vote for Nader have mostly already decided not to vote for Bush, no matter what.
March 9, 3:30 pm EST. MSNBC and UPI both agree that the first series of Bush ads were a big mistake. They've annoyed a lot of people; they've involved major gaffes like using actors instead of real firefighters because, in the words of one nameless media adviser, actors are "cheaper and quicker;" but, more than all that, they've cost $10.5 million of an estimated $150 million warchest (although Bush is expanding that every day).

All this for ads that are 99 44/100% content-free.
March 9, 3:20 pm EST. Sorry for the lengthy hiatus, the ultimate crime in the blogosphere. Had a lot of writing to do, some of the results of which will be posted on the site later. Also did a little work on the site, trying to go beyond my very primitive knowledge of html -- results soon to come as well. Anyway, I'm back to regular blogging now.

Just saw the Bush campaign ads that created such a furor. Columnist Jimmy Breslin characterized them as "molesting the dead." Rita Lasar  of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, was quoted in the Washington Post as saying,
"The idea that President Bush would rally support around his campaign by using our loved ones in a way that is so shameful is hard for me to believe," said Rita Lasar, a New York resident whose brother, Abe Zelmanowitz, died in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. "It's so hard for us to believe that it's not obvious to everyone that Ground Zero shouldn't be used as a backdrop for a political campaign. We are incensed and hurt by what he is doing."
Of course, it is extremely disgusting to see Bush invoking the victims of 9/11 when he was still, until yesterday, stonewalling the 9/11 commission, most recently over how long he would allow them to question him (he finally caved on the issue, when John Kerry pointed out that if Bush has time to go to a rodeo he can probably spare more than an hour for questioning over 9/11). This, of course, was only the latest in a series of obstacles Bush has put in the way of this commission's functioning.

It's even more disgusting to see the use being made of firefighters by Bush, when his EPA covered up the true health effects of the World Trade Center collapse while firefighters and others continued to work in an environment hazardous to their health, and when his proposed Homeland Security budget cut the federal allocation for first responders (like firefighters) by 30 percent.

And, of course, for individuals who lost someone in the attacks to feel personally disgusted at any use of their loved ones' deaths is understandable.

But I can't agree with all of this talk about not "politicizing" the tragedy of 9/11. It wasn't a hurricane or an earthquake; it was a political act, tied to the history of U.S. policy, and one that demanded a well-thought-out policy response (which, of course, it never got). Members of Peaceful Tomorrows who got a wider stage to fight against the war on Afghanistan or on Iraq were making political use of the event just as did those on the other side. To me, it's a far more morally defensible use of the event, but to claim it's not political is disingenuous.

When Eugene McCarthy ran as an antiwar candidate in 1968, was he trampling on the dead by saying they were a reason the war on Vietnam should be ended? Plenty of right-wingers said he was.

I recently discovered It's an absurd right-wing humor site, but it's slightly less stupid than most. They recently posted an amusing fake news story -- "Kerry Slams War Images in Kerry TV Ads."
March 5, 6:11 pm EST. I think pretty much everyone to the left of, say, Dennis Hastert, has been speculating about whether the Bush administration has held back on trying to get Osama bin Laden. There are two reasons they might do that: one is, of course, timing, but the other is that catching bin Laden might give many people a sense of closure (which would be silly, because the question is of al-Qaeda and related organizations, not of the figurehead at the top) and thus blunt enthusiasm for U.S. aggression.

Well, we no longer have to speculate. Check this out: CNN tells us that the United States is about to implement 24-7 "high-tech snooping." They will soon be phasing in high-altitude U2 surveillance flights. Remember how they told us they were doing everything possible to catch bin Laden? Apparently, they weren't.

On top of this, NBC News recently reported that the United States turned down several opportunities to attack Zarqawi before the war on Iraq, because it didn't want to undercut its excuses for the war.
March 5, 3:50 pm EST. According to Reuters, 10,000 Aristide supporters demonstrated in the streets of Port-au-Prince, calling for an end to the U.S.-French occupation and for the restoration of Aristide. They did this even though they are justly terrified of reprisals by the paramilitaries that ousted Aristide.

Over the past year, there has been ample media coverage of anti-Aristide protests (although you rarely see estimates of the numbers involved). At the same time, there have been very few reports of pro-Aristide or pro-Lavalas demonstrations. Was this because Lavalas had no support? Check out an interesting article by Kevin Pina from last year for a different explanation.
March 4, 12:55 pm EST. The Bush administration has just increased the amount of a requested exemption from the 1987 Montreal Protocol on preservation of the ozone layer. The protocol calls for a phaseout of methyl bromide production by 2005. Last year, the administration requested an exemption of 21.9 million pounds of methyl bromide in 2005 and 20.8 in 2006. It's just increased its 2005 request by another 1.1 million pounds, because of the important needs of the cut flower industry.

Unlike with carbon emissions, where the Kyoto Protocol was a pitiful bandaid solution and where compliance even with that has been unimpressive, the Montreal Protocol was shaping up to be a real success story. The effects of a reduction in production of ozone-depleting gases don't kick in for a few decades (the length of time it generally  takes for those gases to get up near the ozone layer), and so the ozone hole has been growing worse since 1987, but production of those gases is sharply down (for example, since 1999, when the methyl bromide phaseout was to start, industrialized countries have cut methyl bromide production by 70%).

Naturally, a global environmental treaty that actually works would be a prime target for the Bush administration. Presumably it hasn't pulled out because its requests for exemption are being granted.
March 4, 12:45 pm EST. More evidence of the Bush administration's dedication to dealing with the problem of terrorism. After two and a half years, only one person has actually been convicted in connection with the 9/11 attacks -- Mounir el Motassadeq, a Moroccan citizen convicted in Germany and sentenced to the legal maximum of 15 years. He was apparently part of a Hamburg cell of al-Qaeda, quite obviously a greater threat to Western targets than an al-Qaeda member in Afghanistan.

Well, his conviction has been set aside and he will be given a new trial. Why? Because his lawyer wanted testimony from Ramzi Binalshibh, who is in U.S. custody, and the United States, citing "national security" concerns, never produced Binalshibh. Here's a quote from the Washington Post article:
The appeals court concluded that it "will not make any decision whether the United States has the right to withhold the witness or not," said Motassadeq lawyer Josef Graessle-Muenscher after the ruling. In his view, "if the United States does not deliver the witness, they have to bear the consequences."
Hmm. Perhaps to make inroads against a worldwide organization, which Bush administration officials have repeatedly said may reside in up to 60 countries, international cooperation is essential? And perhaps in order to get that, one must remember that some countries, unlike ours, still respect the notion of due process?
March 3, 1:15 pm EST. My letter to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution regarding their editorial. Hard to cover the territory in 150 words.
March 3, 12:40 pm EST. Another gem of media coverage, this time from an editorial by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
It is also important to note that Aristide was not a democratically elected leader whom the United States was in some way obligated to keep in power. Over time, he had lost whatever credibility he once enjoyed by choosing to rule his country through violence, not the rule of law. In 2000, he and his supporters fixed elections to the Haiti Parliament, and when Aristide was himself "re-elected" later that year, he got 92 percent of the vote in an election in which only 5 percent of the eligible voters participated.
He ruled the country through violence by disbanding the Haitian military in 1995, so that for the first time in history Haitians could speak their minds without fear of heavy state repression. The 2000 parliamentary elections, as I've previously mentioned, involved minor irregularities in giving eight candidates election when they had a plurality but not a majority; more important, everyone has always conceded that Fanmi Lavalas, Aristide's party, had far more electoral support than all other parties put together. On the presidential elections, turnout numbers are contested; the government claimed far higher numbers. The main point, though, is that the opposition boycott happened because no other candidate could get a fraction of the support Aristide had. None of these points are even contested in Haiti.

Not only that, the candidates whose elections were contested stepped down and there were runoff elections within two months. It's always worth repeating, these elections beat the hell out of certain other elections held in 2000.

To send letters to the AJC, click here.
March 3, 12:30 pm EST. Some fair and balanced coverage of Aristide, from Fox’s “The Big Story with John Gibson,” on March 2:
JOHN GIBSON: Folks in Haiti getting used to life without Jean-Bertrand Aristide. As for Aristide, he is in exile pushing the idea that he is the victim of a coup. Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano has more on the hazards of being a dictator. Well, one of the hazards is you get run out of the country.

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And you get run to a country which may turn on you. I mean, this Central African Republic has a horrific history of housing dictators. Emperor Bokassa I, who was reputed to be a cannibal.

GIBSON: He was actually acquitted of that charge.

NAPOLITANO: Acquitted of the cannibalism but convicted of murder. When the Central Africa Republic got tired of supporting his lavish lifestyle sent him back to the country out of which he had been kicked. They tried him for murder, sentenced him to 20 years. He was let out after a couple years and eventually died. So we don't know what life will be like for Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
So Aristide has already become a dictator, and will soon be a cannibal.
March 3, 12:15 pm EST. On Super Tuesday (yesterday), California held district elections. Orange Country and San Diego Country, both of which use electronic voting machines (San Diego County's are provided by the infamous Diebold), had major problems. In Orange Country, voters were routinely given ballots for the wrong district; one district, the 35th Senate district, did not appear on the ballots at all. In San Diego County, the Diebold machines didn't allow election workers access initially; an hour after polls opened, 10% of machines were still not operating. No one knows how many people left without voting. The claims are that Orange County's problems are because of the errors of election workers, but, of course, systems should be designed around human error, which is inevitable.

On the plus side, at least the machines are privately-owned, mostly by Republican-dominated corporations, leave no paper trail, and are wildly inaccurate. Best of all, Diebold refuses to divulge its vote-tabulating algorithm because it claims that is proprietary.
March 3, 11:22 am EST. The next step in the Bush administration's cynical game on Haiti has now arrived. Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, summoning his best air of hypocrisy, has rejected Guy Philippe's claim that he is now the head of Haiti's military and insisted, in the words of the AP, that the rebels "permit an orderly transfer of power from ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide."

Not only do they seek to distance themselves from their own catspaw (just because he's a murderer, previously attempted a coup in Haiti, and most likely a drugrunner as well?), they simultaneously want to say that the guys who took over are a bunch of thugs but that their ouster of Aristide is legitimate.

Why not call on the rebels to permit the return of the democratically elected Aristide, the only legitimate head of state for Haiti right now, instead of calling for an "orderly transfer of power?"
March 2, 7:35 pm EST. Definition for the New World Order Lexicon.

autocrat (n): A democratically-elected head of state who doesn't always obey U.S. orders. Usually, one who allows the media in his or her own country complete freedom to criticize him or her and who holds no political prisoners.
March 2, 3:10 pm EST. Aristide was broadcast on CNN last night, in a phone interview. From the transcript:

JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE, FMR. PRESIDENT, HAITI: As I said, I called this coup d'etat in a modern way, to have modern kidnapping. And the way I described what happened...

COOPER: Who are you saying has kidnapped you?

ARISTIDE: Forces in Haiti. They were not Haitian forces. They were (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Americans and Haitians together, acting to surround the airport, my house, the palace. And then, despite of diplomatic conversations we had, despite of all we did in a diplomatic way to prevent them to organize that massacre which would lead to a bloodshed, we had to leave and spent 20 hours in an American plane. And not knowing where we were going with force, until they told us that 20 minutes before they landed in Central African Republic.

COOPER: Mr. Aristide, Mr. Aristide, the night you left, you signed a document in which you said, "For that reason, tonight I am resigning in order to avoid a blood bath. I accept to leave with the hope there will be life and not death."

This is a document you have signed. I have a copy of it here. Are you saying -- did you, in fact, sign this? And what does it mean?

ARISTIDE: Well, I should see what they give to you, because these people lie. And when they lie, I need to see the paper before saying this is exactly what I wrote. And in what I wrote, I explained that if I am forced to leave to avoid bloodshed, of course I will leave to avoid bloodshed. But as I said, I should see the kind of paper they give to you, because they lied to me, and they may lie to you, too.

COOPER: Well, I have it in French, the document. I could read it to you if you'd like, but it basically, says that "I took an oath to respect and have the constitution respected. This evening, February 28, I'm still determined to respect and have the constitution respected."

It goes on. Are you saying that you wish you were still -- that if it was up to you, you would still be on the ground in Haiti, that you did not leave of your own free will?

ARISTIDE: Exactly that.

COOPER: I have a statement from Secretary of State Colin Powell, who earlier today said, in regards to you, he says, "He was not kidnapped. We did not force him on the airplane. He went on the airplane willingly. And that is the truth."

Are you saying that Colin Powell is lying?

ARISTIDE: He said what he wanted to say. And I told you the truth. If you pay attention to all what I described, you'd see the truth. You will see the huge difference between the two versions.

COOPER: Are you going to seek refuge in the Central African Republic?

ARISTIDE: Well, I am here. So far, I don't have contact with the highest authority in the country. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ministers to meet with me, and I'm very delighted the way they welcomed me here. But I need to have contact with him to know exactly what I should be doing.

COOPER: Why did you go with the Marines? If you are saying you did not go of your own free will, you had your own security detail, quite an extensive security detail. I've seen it up close myself. Why did you leave?

ARISTIDE: I made that point for you. I had 19 Americans providing security to the government, and that (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They were all told and forced to leave based on what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on February 28.

They were supposed to have the day after 18 of 25 American agents to reinforce (ph) them, based on an agreement which was signed with the Haitian government. They told me that night the U.S. prevented them to go to Haiti.

So on the American side, as on the Haitian side, we all have the same picture. People, foreign people with arms in the streets in Port-au-Prince, surrounding the airport, the palace, my residence, and ready to attack, which would lead to the bloodshed. And we would have thousands of people killed.

We couldn't let that happen. We had the responsibility to protect lives and not to let people kill thousands of people. When now you compare Haiti to what they told me before, they still continue to burn houses, my house, killing people, and waged what they intended to do.

COOPER: Mr. Aristide, was your departure in the best interest of Haiti?

ARISTIDE: Of course not, because no one should force an elected president to move in order to avoid bloodshed. Why they are still killing people, burning houses? And the contradiction in talking is very eloquent.

COOPER: Mr. Aristide, I am having trouble reconciling the two statements, the statements that you have made and the statement the U.S. government has made through Secretary Colin Powell, who, again, has said that you were not kidnapped, that we, the United States, did not force you on to the airplane, that you went on to the airplane willingly. And they say that is the truth. You say -- your story is categorically the opposite of that.

ARISTIDE: Of course, because I am telling you the truth.

COOPER: Why do you believe the American government -- or why are you saying the American government is lying about this?

ARISTIDE: You could ask them the same question, and you can find the answer of your question through the answers I cautiously shared with you.
Aristide is still being held, under the authority of the French and Americans. In his incredibly difficult position, he can't quite come out and say that Colin Powell is lying, but it's pretty clear. If Aristide had actually left of his own free will, he'd hardly cancel any benefits of leaving by speaking out in this way.
March 2, 1:45 pm EST. There's been a series of coordinated attacks on Shi'a, with at least 41 dead in Quetta, Pakistan, at least 58 dead in the bombing of Musa al-Kadhim mosque (the chief Shi'a shrine in Baghdad, which houses the remains of Musa al-Kadhim, the 7th Shi'a Imam), and at least 85 dead in Kerbala, the town where the Shi'a Imam Hussein was killed and which is one of the holiest cities in the world for them.

These killings were done on Ashoura, which is the day when Shi'a around the world commemorate, in a very public way, the death of Hussein. In Quetta and Kerbala, processions of people on the street were attacked, and in Baghdad, four different suicide bombers tried to enter the mosque.

I'm very much afraid that this is just the beginning. In Iraq, it continues the policy seen earlier in the bombing of the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf (done to assassinate Ayatollah Bakir al-Hakim, but it killed over 100 others) and the bombing of KDP and PUK headquarters in Erbil. The policy is clearly to exacerbate Kurd vs. Arab and Sunni vs. Shi'a tensions and plunge the country into chaos. The attack in Pakistan may be independent, but it seems more likely that it's part of the same strategy.

Pakistan-Afghanistan and Iraq also happen to be the two primary loci of U.S. intervention post-9/11. Every day it becomes clearer that U.S. intervention increases the threat of al-Qaeda and similar organizations; that threat is actually greatest in the Islamic world itself, but is obviously not negligible in Europe and the United States as well.
March 1, 7:15 pm EST. This just in. Aristide has just spoken with the Associated Press, courtesy of Jesse Jackson. An excerpt from the article:
When asked if he left Haiti on his own, Aristide quickly answered: "No. I was forced to leave.

"Agents were telling me that if I don't leave they would start shooting and killing in a matter of time," Aristide said during the brief interview via speaker phone. He spoke with a thick Haitian accent and was interrupted at times by static.

When asked who the agents were, he responded: "White American, white military.

"They came at night. ... There were too many, I couldn't count them," he added.

Aristide told reporters that he signed documents relinquishing power out of fear that violence would erupt in Haiti if he didn't comply with the demands of "American security agents."
The White House has denounced this claim as a "conspiracy theory." The White House has also recently discovered in Iraq sarin-filled uranium centrifuges being transported in mobile biological weapons labs to unmanned aerial vehicles that will be used in missions targeting the United States.
March 1, 4:00 pm EST. Reuters is now reporting the claims that Aristide was abducted. Without, of course, any reference to Democracy Now, which broke the story.

Randall Robinson of Transafrica, Rep. Charles Rangel, and Rep. Maxine Waters all say Aristide told them he was abducted. Reuters reports Robinson saying, "The president said to me that he had been abducted from his home by about 20 American soldiers in full battle gear with automatic weapons and put on a plane."

I think we can trust that in fact Aristide told them he was abducted. So it's his word against Scott McClellan's. And we know how honest the Bush administration is.

Of course, it makes little difference. He left at gunpoint. That's the key.
March 1, 2:40 pm EST. Scott McClellan on Haiti: This long-simmering crisis is largely of Mr. Aristide's making.

Ari Fleischer on Venezuela (April 12, 2002): We know that the action encouraged by the Chavez government provoked this crisis.

Oddly, in both cases, the United States was involved through the National Endowment for Democracy (which is still meddling in the question of the recall election in Venezuela) in provoking a crisis. And in both cases the United States has presented a forcible ouster of a democratically-elected head of state as a victory for democracy. And, of course, both Chavez and Aristide, who are routinely excoriated in the elite-dominated media of their own countries and who don't hold political prisoners, are described as "autocratic."

George W. Bush, who was elected through the denial to 58,000 people of their Fifteenth Amendment rights and who regularly strongarms mild critics of his administration into recanting (and who, unlike Chavez and Aristide, is not faced with imminent overthrow), is never described as autocratic.
March 1, 1:50 pm EST. Last night, the Security Council, acting in truly unseemly haste (the Council met for three minutes), unanimously passed Resolution 1529, dealing with Haiti. Even though the language of the resolution authorizes a multinational peacekeeping force, the resolution was passed under Chapter VII, authorizing the use of force, not Chapter VI, which deals with peacekeeping. Of course, the United States does not believe in participating in Chapter VI forces, which are constrained in what they're allowed to do -- for example, they can't initiate violence.

The resolution, amazingly, describes what is happening in Haiti as part of a "constitutional process" (Bush, presumably on advice of State Department lawyers, also used this catchphrase). I haven't read Haiti's constitution lately, but it's hard to imagine that the constitution recognizes the legitimacy of armed takeover by a foreign-funded and supplied paramilitary organization as a way to transfer power.

All of this is meant to completely bury the fact that Aristide was elected in 2000 in elections whose validity no one has contested, and that the Haitian constitution calls for him to hold office through 2006.

Somehow, the same forces that could see the illegality of U.S.-backed regime change in Iraq can't see the illegality of U.S.-backed regime change in Haiti. Can it be they think Aristide is worse than Saddam Hussein?
March 1, 12:32 pm EST. Check out Bush's remarks on Haiti. Without quite saying it, he makes it sound as if Aristide's forcible ouster is a positive development and creates new hope for the country. The State Department hailed the U.S.-backed coup attempt in Venezuela in the same way, but got a black eye when everyone else realized that a coup is an infringement of the democratic process. Haiti has no oil, no other country needs Haiti, so it's looking as if the administration will get away with it this time.
March 1, 11:25 pm EST. Links to my past posts on Haiti: March 1, February 29, February 27, February 26 1, February 26 2, February 25 1, February 25 2, February 16, February 14, February 12.
March 1, 11:00 am EST. Democracy Now reports that Aristide did not resign; he was kidnapped. Randall Robinson of the Transafrica Forum and Rep. Maxine Waters both claim to have spoken with Aristide. They report that he is surrounded by military right now, as if he was in jail. They also say that he was threatened that if he didn't leave, Guy Philippe's forces would storm the palace and kill Aristide.

With Aristide out of the country, their thugs in power, and the Marines in Haiti, expect the United States to call for new elections. Aristide's term runs through 2006, but apparently he is never to be allowed to complete one of his terms. Aristide himself earlier offered new elections, but was never taken up on that for the obvious reason that he and Lavalas had overwhelming support.

In the original disputed elections in May of 2000, Lavalas won an overwhelming victory, including 18 of 19 Senate seats. The dispute was over the vote-counting method.  Instead of requiring that the winning candidate get a majority of all votes cast, the electoral council counted only the votes cast for the top four candidates and required that the winner get a majority of those (in many countries, you don't need a majority of votes cast, you just need to get more votes than any other candidate). This affected the election of 7 Lavalas Senate candidates and one not from Lavalas.

After initial resistance, the Haitian government conceded the issue, the 7 Senators resigned, and runoff elections were held.

In the fall of 2000, Aristide was elected president with 91.69% of the vote. The main potential opposition boycotted the election, but no one has ever suggested that Aristide wouldn't have won overwhelmingly no matter what. This was the same year that George W. Bush stole the elections in the United States, which has somehow never generated international pressure on this country.

That's it. Very minor irregularities by a party which had and has the support of the overwhelming mass of the country.

Elections now would be a different matter -- Aristide forced out, well-armed U.S.-backed thugs projecting terror throughout the country, and heavy U.S. intervention in building and holding together the "opposition" parties. There is no way that elections could be fair; even if they could, Aristide has the right to finish his term.
February 29, 11:00 pm EST. Aristide has left Haiti. Initial media reports suggest that he left by his own decision. Of course, the same media reported that Chavez had resigned after the April 11, 2002, coup attempt in Venezuela.

I find it odd that he left in an American transport. Also that his prime minister (who has the actual power, according to the Haitian constitution) didn't leave with him.

It makes little difference. He clearly left under the combination of the threat from the probably U.S.-armed militia and from the Bush administration, which has been saying for a few days now that Aristide should step down. The reason he should step down, the international community agrees, is that so much violence is being done by anti-Aristide forces.

It's been infuriating, and surreal, to see Aristide repeatedly blamed for the actions of the "rebels."

The next call will presumably be for "elections." Of course, elections with the former elements of the military and FRAPH in charge will be a joke; the only legitimate call is for the goons to leave and Aristide to come back -- and especially for the U.S. Marines, who are now in Haiti, to leave.
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