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Lets's talk about democracy
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Saturday, 11 December 2004
Fallujah and the new Strategic Hamlet Program.
There has been very little news lately of what is going on with the refugees of the fighting in Fallujah.

I'm assuming at least 200,000 people are without homes as the fighting seems to have destroyed pretty much every building standing.

Where are they?

Here's some dated info from late November:

Abel Hamid Salim, spokesman for the Iraqi Red Crescent (IRC) in Baghdad told IPS that "while the MOH (ministry of health) gave their approval to transport aid to the refugees of Fallujah, they had provided the IRC no support of materials." He said they had no word yet when refugee families will be allowed to return to Fallujah.

Musir Khasem Ali who heads the public relations department of the health ministry says there are more than 400,000 refugees from Fallujah. He was unable to provide any details about how his ministry was assisting the refugees who are now spread all over central Iraq.

Fellow Iraqis rather than the government or even non-governmental organisations are providing most of the aid the refugees need.

The ministry claims to have done the necessary. "We provided everything the refugees needed," says Shehab Ahmed Jassim who is in charge of managing the refugee crisis for the ministry of health. "We sent 20 ambulances to the general hospital in Fallujah."

But none of these ambulances actually entered the city area. The Fallujah general hospital remained a no-go zone for people in the city trapped in their homes until very recently.

The refugees meanwhile continue to suffer. "We are aware that in the camps now there are severe problems of diarrhea, colds, flu and lack of electricity and clean water," Jassim said.

Welcome Home!

When the refugees do get to go home, they will have a big surprise in store!

The WaPo:

FALLUJAH, Iraq, Dec. 9 -- When the residents of Fallujah begin trickling back to their devastated city, they will be routed through sandbagged checkpoints where U.S. and Iraqi troops will take their fingerprints, issue ID cards and in some cases scan their irises, part of an elaborate plan to keep insurgents out of the former radical militant stronghold.

Five checkpoints have been set up leading into Fallujah, with roads south of the city blocked by sand berms, said Sattler, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

All men of military age will be processed using a central database; they will be photographed, fingerprinted and have iris scans taken before being issued ID cards. The entire process should take about 10 minutes per man, Sattler said.

No civilian vehicles will be permitted within city limits as a precaution against car bombs, which, along with roadside bombs, are the deadliest weapons in the insurgent arsenal, Sattler said. All cars will be left on the outskirts of Fallujah, and residents will be bused to their homes, district by district.

Dhar Jamail adds:

Another example of the winning of hearts and minds of Iraqis is being formulated for the residents of Fallujah. The military has announced the plans it is considering to use for allowing Fallujans back into their city.

They will set up "processing centers" on the outskirts of the city and compile a database of peoples' identities by using DNA testing and retina scans. Residents will then receive a badge which identifies them with their home address, which they must wear at all times.

Another idea being kicked around is to require the men to work for pay in military-style battalions where these "work brigades" will reconstruct buildings and the water system, depending on the men's skills.

There will also be "rubble-clearing" platoons.
The intent of the US commanders and Iraqi leaders is to make Fallujah a "model city."

Stratigic Hamlet Program '04

From the 'where have I heard this before' department...

In Vietnam they got the bright idea of locking up entire villages to keep the population away from the Viet Cong.

From All Reference:

"The cornerstone of the counterinsurgency [U.S.] effort was the strategic hamlet program, which called for the consolidation of 14,000 villages of South Vietnam into 11,000 secure hamlets, each with its own houses, schools, wells, and watchtowers.

The hamlets were intended to isolate guerrillas from the villages, their source of supplies and information, or, in Maoist terminology, to separate the fish from the sea in which they swim.

The program had its problems, however, aside from the frequent attacks on the hamlets by guerrilla units. The self-defense units for the hamlets were often poorly trained, and support from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam was inadequate.

Corruption, favoritism, and the resentment of a growing number of peasants who were forcibly being forced to resettled plagued the program. It was estimated that of the 8,000 hamlets established, only 1,500 were viable."

Sounds like the whole of Iraq.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:53 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 11 December 2004 3:58 PM EST
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The Great game is back with petro dollar hegemony included. (Some assembly required.)

With every passing day this government looks more and more like a banana republic. We have the trade deficit, the buget deficit and the crushing national debt and now W and Co. want to borrow another 2 trillion dollars to privitize Social Security.

What is the world to think?

From Defense Talk comes this startling story:

Oct 11, 2003, 14:50
President Vladimir Putin said Thursday Russia could switch its trade in oil from dollars to euros, a move that could have far-reaching repercussions for the global balance of power -- potentially hurting the U.S. dollar and economy and providing a massive boost to the euro zone.

"We do not rule out that it is possible. That would be interesting for our European partners," Putin said...

Putin's words come in the wake of a protracted drive by the EU to attract more countries' trade and currency reserves into euros, in a bid to chip away at U.S. hegemony over the global economy and money supply.

A move by Russia, as the world's second largest oil exporter, to trade oil in euros, could provoke a chain reaction among other oil producers currently mulling a switch and would further boost the euro's gradually growing share of global currency reserves.

The BBC reports:

"Russians are buying more euros than dollars for the first time since the new European currency became available, according to the central bank.

The swing may signal the weakening grip in Russia of the US currency which has dominated the economy here for most of the past decade.

It comes after a 15% fall of the dollar against the euro this year."

The Furguson Report notes this is a much deeper problem than it might appear. It's all about the new "Great Game."

"This past February, a French intelligence-connected newsletter, Intelligence Online, wrote a piece, 'The Strategy Behind Paris-Berlin-Moscow Tie'. Referring to the UN Security Council bloc of France-Germany-Russia to try to prevent the U.S.-British war moves in Iraq, the Paris report notes the recent efforts of European and other powers to create a counterpower to that of the United States.

Referring to the new ties of France with Germany and more recently with Putin, they note, 'a new logic, and even dynamic seems to have emerged. An alliance between Paris, Moscow and Berlin running from the Atlantic to Asia could foreshadow a limit to U.S. power. For the first time since the beginning of the 20th Century, the notion of a world heartland -- the nightmare of British strategists -- has crept back into international relations.'

Mackinder, father of British geopolitics, wrote in his remarkable paper, 'The Geographical Pivot of History' that the control of the Eurasian heartland, from Normandy France to Vladivostock, was the only possible threat to oppose the naval supremacy of Britain. British diplomacy until 1914 was based on preventing any such Eurasian threat, that time around the expansion policy of the German Kaiser eastwards with the Baghdad Railway and the Tirpitz German Navy buildup.

World War I was the result. Referring to the ongoing efforts of the British and later Americans to prevent a Eurasian combination as rival, the Paris intelligence report stressed, 'That strategic approach (i.e. to create Eurasian heartland unity) lies at the origin of all clashes between Continental powers and maritime powers (UK, U.S. and Japan) ...

It is Washington's supremacy over the seas that, even now, dictates London's unshakeable support for the U.S. and the alliance between Tony Blair and Bush.'

Iraq started it: (And paid for it.)

Until November 2000, no OPEC country dared violate the dollar price rule. So long as the dollar was the strongest currency, there was little reason to as well.

But November was when French and other Euroland members finally convinced Saddam Hussein to defy the United States by selling Iraq's oil-for-food not in dollars, 'the enemy currency' as Iraq named it, but only in euros.

The euros were on deposit in a special UN account of the leading French bank, BNP Paribas. Radio Liberty of the U.S. State Department ran a short wire on the news and the story was quickly hushed.

This little-noted Iraq move to defy the dollar in favor of the euro, in itself, was insignificant. Yet, if it were to spread, especially at a point the dollar was already weakening, it could create a panic selloff of dollars by foreign central banks and OPEC oil producers.

In the months before the latest Iraq war, hints in this direction were heard from Russia, Iran, Indonesia and even Venezuela.

An Iranian OPEC official, Javad Yarjani, delivered a detailed analysis of how OPEC at some future point might sell its oil to the EU for euros not dollars. He spoke in April, 2002 in Oviedo Spain at the invitation of the EU.

All indications are that the Iraq war was seized on as the easiest way to deliver a deadly pre-emptive warning to OPEC and others, not to flirt with abandoning the Petro-dollar system in favor of one based on the euro."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:15 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 13 December 2004 4:52 PM EST
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Friday, 10 December 2004
The pentagon is going KGB on soldiers who decent.

As already noted on this Blog on Nov. 1st. a U.S. soldier is going to be Court Martialed for being AWOL because he went to a civilian psychiatric hospital.

According to the WaPo:

An Army reservist who checked himself into a civilian psychiatric hospital after being turned away from a military clinic should be court-martialed for being absent without leave, according to an Army report.

First Lt. Jullian P. Goodrum, of Knoxville, Tenn., is a veteran of both U.S. wars in Iraq and is being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Goodrum was also suffering from the disorder last fall, the time of his alleged infraction.

He and his lawyers deny that he was ordered to return to Fort Knox, citing testimony from his senior officer, Capt. Debra G. Savage.

"I did not order First Lt. Goodrum to come back. I gave him two alternatives," the Amaral report quotes Savage as saying.

Tennessee Republican Sens. Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander asked the Army to investigate and report back on his case.

Locked up in Psycho ward?

The senators specifically asked about allegations that Goodrum had been inappropriately locked down in the Walter Reed psychiatric ward.

Goodrum's medical records suggest that he was locked down for administration or legal reasons rather than medical reasons, as is the norm.

Yes, locked up in a psycho ward for decent.

Salon.com reports another solder was also locked away:

On June 15, 2003, Sgt. Frank "Greg" Ford, a counterintelligence agent in the California National Guard's 223rd Military Intelligence (M.I.) Battalion stationed in Samarra, Iraq, told his commanding officer, Capt. Victor Artiga, that he had witnessed five incidents of torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees at his base, and requested a formal investigation.

Thirty-six hours later, Ford, a 49-year-old with over 30 years of military service in the Coast Guard, Army and Navy, was ordered by U.S. Army medical personnel to lie down on a gurney, was then strapped down, loaded onto a military plane and medevac'd to a military medical center outside the country.

Although no "medevac" order appears to have been written, in violation of Army policy, Ford was clearly shipped out because of a diagnosis that he was suffering from combat stress. After Ford raised the torture allegations, Artiga immediately said Ford was "delusional" and ordered a psychiatric examination.

The writer of the article, David DeBatto, author and former U.S. Army counterintelligence agent who served in Iraq said in an interview on democracynow.org

After Ford was given thirty seconds to recant his herasy...

..."the army psychiatrist that saw Sergeant Ford apparently (and I've reviewed her report) deemed him to be completely normal, and sent that report back to Captain Artiga. When Captain Artiga saw the report from the psychiatrist he was, according to a witness, Sergeant Marciello, "livid."

He didn't accept the report. He stormed back over to the army psychiatrist, and according to the witness I have, literally forced her, browbeat her and intimidated the psychiatrist to change her evaluation to read 'mentally unstable,' and ordered her to ship Sergeant Ford medically out of the country to receive a psychological evaluation in Germany.

Rumsfeld weighs in on armor controversy:

According to the news wires Rumsfeld in New Dehli said of the soldier who brought up his concerns about the lack of armor on vehicles in Iraq "it was good that ordinary soldiers are given a chance to express their concerns to the secretary of defense and senior military commanders." Just so long as they want a trip to the mental ward!

``I don't know what the facts are [Obviosly], but somebody is certainly going to sit down with him [Poor bastard!] and find out what he knows that they may not know,'' Rumsfeld said.

``It's necessary for the Army to hear that, do something about it and see that everyone is treated properly.''[Oh, I'm sure he will be.]

Homeless vets appearing:

In another related story to the crappy way our vets are being treated it was reported by UPI that:

U.S. veterans from the war in Iraq are beginning to show up at homeless shelters around the country, and advocates fear they are the leading edge of a new generation of homeless vets not seen since the Vietnam era.

"I drove off in my truck. I packed my stuff. I lived out of my truck for a while," Seabees Petty Officer Luis Arellano, 34, said in a telephone interview from a homeless shelter near March Air Force Base in California run by U.S.VETS, the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless veterans.

Arellano said he lived out of his truck on and off for three months after returning from Iraq in September 2003. "One day you have a home and the next day you are on the the streets.

Arellano said he felt pushed out of the military too quickly after getting back from Iraq without medical attention he needed for his hand -- and as he would later learn, his mind.

"It was more of a rush. They put us in a warehouse for a while. They treated us like cattle," Arellano said about how the military treated him on his return to the United States.

"It is all about numbers. Instead of getting quality care, they were trying to get everybody demobilized during a certain time frame. If you had a problem, they said, 'Let the (Department of Veterans Affairs) take care of it.'"

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:32 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 10 December 2004 4:39 PM EST
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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Rummy "uparmors" his excuses.

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait [msnbc] - After delivering a pep talk designed to energize troops preparing to head for Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld got a little "talking to" himself from disgruntled soldiers. But a Pentagon spokesman characterized the exchange, about a shortage of armed vehicles, as "upbeat."

Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, for example, of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly three years after the war in Iraq.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.
Rumsfeld hesitated and asked Wilson to repeat his question.

"We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson said after asking again. Wilson's unit is about to drive into Iraq for a one-year tour of duty.

Rumsfeld replied that, "You go to war with the Army you have," not the one you might want, and that any rate the Army was pushing manufacturers of vehicle armor to produce it as fast as humanly possible.

Later, Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita said Pentagon policy is that no soldier goes into the battlefield in a vehicle without armor.

DiRita said Rumsfeld's remarks shouldn't be interpreted as dismissive. The tone of the meeting was "upbeat," he said, and Wilson will "certainly not" face reprisals.

During the question-and-answer session, another soldier complained that active-duty Army units sometimes get priority over the National Guard and Reserve units for the best equipment in Iraq.

"There's no way I can prove it, but I am told the Army is breaking its neck to see that there is not" discrimination against the National Guard and Reserve in terms of providing equipment, Rumsfeld said.

Yeah, right:

Though soldiers of all types have complained about equipment in Iraq, part-timers in the National Guard and Reserve say that they have a particular disadvantage because they start off with outdated or insufficient gear.

They have been deployed with faulty radios, unreliable trucks and, most alarmingly for many, a shortage of soundly armored vehicles in a land regularly convulsed by roadside attacks, according to soldiers, relatives and outside military experts.

After many complaints when the violence in Iraq accelerated late last year, the military acknowledged there had been shortages, in part because of the rapid deployments. But the Army contends that it has moved quickly to get better equipment to Iraq over the last year.

"War is a come-as-you-are party," said Lt. Gen. C. V. Christianson, the Army's deputy chief of staff for logistics, in an interview yesterday. "The way a unit was resourced when someone rang the bell is the way it showed up.

Before the 103rd Armor Regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard left in late February, some relatives bought those soldiers new body armor to supplant the Vietnam-era flak jackets that had been issued.

The mother of Sgt. Sherwood Baker, a member of the regiment who was killed in April, bought a global positioning device after being told that the Army said his truck should have one but would not supply it.

And before Karma Kumlin's husband left with his Minnesota National Guard unit in February, the soldiers spent about $200 each on radios that they say have turned out to be more reliable - although less secure - than the Army's. Only recently, Ms. Kumlin said, has her husband gotten a metal shield for the gunner's turret he regularly mans, after months of asking.

Stop loss (They're lovin' it!)

[msnbc]Yet another soldier asked, without putting it to Rumsfeld as a direct criticism, how much longer the Army will continue using its "stop loss" power to prevent soldiers from leaving the service who are otherwise eligible to retire or quit.

Rumsfeld said that this condition was simply a fact of life for soldiers at time of war.

"It's basically a sound principle, it's nothing new, it's been well understood" by soldiers, he said. "My guess is it will continue to be used as little as possible, but that it will continue to be used." [A sound principle? Like sending a 55 year old woman who is 4' tall who hasn't served since the sixties.]

Unless, that is, you're gay, in which case, we don't want you...

Democracy Now reports:

Thousands of those soldiers have been prevented from returning home by the Army's stop-loss policy even though they fulfilled their agreed-upon commitment.

Now, eight soldiers stationed in Iraq and Kuwait are filing a lawsuit against the stop-loss policy.

And while the military is preventing thousands of soldiers from leaving, at the same time, soldiers who want to remain active are being forced out.

In another lawsuit, 12 former soldiers are suing against the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The plaintiffs were all forced out of the military because of their homosexuality.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:45 PM EST
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Saturday, 27 November 2004
The truth about fallujah coming out.
Note that there are probably a certain amount of bodies buried under rubble that may or may not raise the numbers of civilian casualties in the coming weeks.

The battle of Fallujah has been described by even the U.S. military as the most intense since Vietnam.

The BBC reports:

Aid is finally flowing into Falluja, following the heavy US-led offensive that began nearly three weeks ago to wrest the city from rebel control.
The Iraqi Red Crescent told the BBC it was delivering aid on a daily basis.

But a spokesman says it is feared more than 6,000 people could have died in the assault and thousands of families are in critical need of assistance.
Convoys carrying food, water, medicine and blankets are moving around Falluja but there is still no running water or electricity.

According to the Red Crescent, 60 people came out to get assistance in one street alone.

In comments reported by the UN information network Irin, spokesman Muhammad al-Nuri said the Red Crescent believed more than 6,000 people may have died in the fight for Falluja.

He said it was difficult to move around the city due to the number of dead bodies.

"Bodies can be seen everywhere and people were crying when receiving the food parcels. It is very sad, it is a human disaster," Mr Nuri reportedly said.

al-Jazeera reports:

While the U.S. military claims that the offensive in Fallujah was about to end, a humanitarian crisis, among the remaining residents in the city trapped in their houses, is looming.

On Saturday, a humanitarian convoy of the Iraqi Red Crescent carrying supplies and medicine arrived in Fallujah hospital after the U.S. troops allowed them to enter the city. However, they were then turned away and kept from reaching the city civilians in bad need of food, water, and medical treatment.

Camps of ran away civilians have been set up 4 miles north of Fallujah, and U.S. forces appear to have no logistical plans or transportation to get civilians from the battle-torn neighborhoods to the camp.

The most conservative of estimates suggest that 25,000 civilians inside the city are facing what U.S. commanders described as the military's most intense urban fighting since Vietnam.

Just now that the human toll is becoming clear, as the fighting intensifies and those who fled the city over the past week gather in refugee camps and narrate their stories."

It's all lies!

Of courrse the reason al-Jazeera isn't allowed into Iraq is for reporting like that.

On the 14th the Iraqi Health Minister reassured everyone it's all lies. Everyone is okay!

BAGHDAD- "Fears of a humanitarian crisis in Fallujah are groundless, Iraq's health minister said on Sunday, adding that only a small number of civilians appeared to have been wounded in the week-long battle.

The minister, Alaeddin Abdul Sahib Adwan, admitted however that he was unable to obtain information about residents in the thick of the fighting for the rebel-held city that was launched by US and Iraqi forces last Monday.

"The ministry of health is co-ordinating with the Iraqi military and the multinational forces in evacuating the civilian casualties, but so far the number has been very small," Adwan told AFP.

"We have about 20 civilian casualties," he said.
A further 400 civilians who were not in need of treatment have also been transported out of the city over the past 48 hours," he added"

See? Don't we all feel better now?

Of course, the press restrictions on the media keep anyone from reporting what the government doesn't like, so who knows?

Occupation Watch reported on the 15th

Citing the 60-day state of emergency declared by Allawi on the eve of the U.S. offensive against insurgents in Fallujah, the Higher Media Commission (HMC) directive said news media must differentiate between "innocent citizens" of the city and the insurgents.

t warned that journalists should not attach "patriotic descriptions to groups of killers and criminals," and urged the media to "set aside space in your news coverage to make the position of the Iraqi government, which expresses the aspirations of most Iraqis, clear."

"You must be precise and objective in handling news and information," according to the statement, which was reported by Associated Press and Reuters. "We hope you comply ...otherwise we regret we will be forced take all the legal measures to guarantee higher national interests," it said, without elaboration.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPA) said it was "deeply disturbed" by the statement.

"We are very troubled by this directive, which is an attempt to control news coverage through government coercion," said CPJ's executive
director, Ann Cooper.

"It damages the government's credibility in establishing a free and democratic society."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 9:42 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 28 November 2004 1:18 AM EST
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Debt limit goes up to 8.18 trillion dollars.
See Nov. 4 posts for more on this mess.

From the WaPo Nov. 19:

Last night, with the federal government warning that it was on the verge of defaulting on its debts, the House rejected efforts to reimpose restrictions on tax cuts and spending, then joined the Senate to raise the federal debt limit by $800 billion, to $8.18 trillion.

With last night's passage of the debt ceiling increase, the government's borrowing limit has climbed by $2.23 trillion since President Bush took office: by $450 billion in 2002, by a record $984 billion in 2003 and by $800 billion this year.

Just the increase in the debt ceiling over the past three years is nearly 2 1/2 times the entire federal debt accumulated between 1776 and 1980.

Economists and budget hawks fear that rising deficits are contributing to the steadily declining value of the dollar, which will increase consumer costs, and that those deficits eventually will drive up interest rates and slow the economy.

Last month, the government crashed into the debt ceiling, and the Treasury began borrowing from a civil service retirement fund. On Monday, the Treasury announced it had postponed an auction of short-term Treasury bonds because it was prohibited from borrowing the money.

Yesterday, amid continuing uncertainty about Congress's intentions, the agency delayed revealing how many government securities it plans to sell next week.

Treasury again warned that the government could default on its debt as soon as today if Congress did not act

By passing such a huge increase in the debt limit, with no strings attached, Congress has effectively given the Bush administration a blank check to continue running large deficits, said Stephen S. Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley.

"An open-ended license for this kind of fiscal irresponsibility is a recipe for disaster," he said.

[Note: the crashing value of the dollar makes paying our debt easier because it isn't worth as much. Of course, our lenders probably have some inkling of this and will ask for sky high interest rates to make their loans profitable.. Better refinance whatever you owe money on before that happens!]

Posted by bushmeister0 at 8:57 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 27 November 2004 8:58 PM EST
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Friday, 26 November 2004
Divesting from Israel can be dangerous.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Presbyterian Church (USA) has stepped up security at its headquarters and advised its churches to be on alert after receiving a letter threatening arson attacks on its churches because of its policies in the Middle East.

The handwritten letter was received Wednesday at the church's Louisville headquarters, Jerry L. Van Marter, director of the Presbyterian news service, said Saturday. It had no return address, but it was postmarked from Queens, NY, Van Marter said. [I'll give you one guess about who's behind this...]

The letter threatened to set churches on fire while people were inside in retaliation for "anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attitudes," Van Marter said.

Van Marter said the church has received thousands of letters, e-mails and phone calls since the church's General Assembly decided in June to begin the process of selective divestment from corporations supporting the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

Although many letters have been angry, Van Marter said this was the first to threaten violence. Twice, the letter gave a Nov. 15 deadline for the church to reverse its Middle East policies, Van Marter said.

Bad idea?

RICHMOND, July 2 - The 216th General Assembly approved several measures opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine Friday, including a call for the corporate witness office of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to begin gathering data to support a selective divestment of holdings in multinational corporations doing business in Israel/Palestine. Divestment is one of the strategies that U.S. churches used in the 1970s and '80s in a successful campaign to end apartheid in South Africa.

When a handful of commissioners expressed reservations about the action, the Rev. Mitri Raheb, a Lutheran pastor from Bethlehem, an ecumenical guest at the Assembly, said divestment is important because it is a way for the churches to take direct action. For too long, he said, the churches have simply issued statements - and that is not enough.

"We have to send strong messages to such companies," Raheb said, referring specifically to Caterpillar Inc, the American builder of the armored tractors and bulldozers the Israeli army uses to demolish Palestinian homes.

With friends like these...

From the American Jewish Congress...

July 2, 2004
The American Jewish Congress today announced its support for Caterpillar, Inc. for its strong stand against the attempt by the Arab Office for the Boycott of Israel to intimidate the American company to stop selling bulldozers to the Israeli military.

"We applaud the management and shareholders of Caterpillar for their rejection of a proposal to stop doing business with Israel and commend the company on its resolute stance," said AJCongress President Paul Miller. "The threats leveled against Caterpillar raise the specter of an illegal boycott. Moreover, they are based on unfounded conclusions about international law."


According to the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC), the shareholder resolution in Caterpillar on its sale of bulldozers to the Israeli military is the first of its kind.

This is the first time in US history that shareholders in a US company have filed a resolution to examine their company's relationship with violating human rights in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

- The shareholder resolution on Israel-Palestine in the Caterpillar Corporation calls on Caterpillar, Inc. to investigate whether the sale of bulldozers to the Israeli Defense Forces meets the terms of the Caterpillar Code of Worldwide Business Conduct.

The resolution does not call on Caterpillar to stop its sale of bulldozers to the Israeli military but to investigate their use by the Israeli military.

Rachel Corey
was run over and killed by a Caterpiller armored bulldozer on March 16, 2003.

According to Haaretz:

"The killing of an American woman peace protester Sunday by an IDF bulldozer, which ran her over during the demolition of a house at the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, was a "regrettable accident," a spokesman for the the IDF said.

Rachel Corey, 23, from Olympia, Washington, was killed when she ran in front of the bulldozer to try to prevent it from destroying a house, doctors in Gaza said. Another activist was wounded in the incident.

Corey was killed in the al-Salam neighbourhood when an Israeli bulldozer covered her with sand as she stood in front of a bulldozer," said Dr Ali Musa, a doctor from the al-Najar hospital in the southern Gaza Strip. He said she died from skull and chest fractures."

The contention by Haaretz that she "ran in front" of a IDF bulldozer is hotly disputed by numerous eyewitnesses however.

According to Tom Dale "We'd been monitoring and occasionally obstructing the 2 bulldozers for about 2 hours when 1 of them turned toward a house we knew to be theatened with demolition.

Rachel knelt down in its way. She was 10-20 metres in front of the bulldozer, clearly visible, the only object for many metres, directly in it's view. They were in Radio contact with a tank that had a profile view of the situation. There is no way she could not have been seen by them in their elevated cabin. They knew where she was, there is no doubt.

Greg Schnabel, 28, from Chicago, said the protesters were in the house of Dr. Samir Masri.

Rachel was alone in front of the house as we were trying to get them to stop," he said. "She waved for bulldozer to stop and waved.

She fell down and the bulldozer kept going. We yelled 'stop, stop,' and the bulldozer didn't stop at all. It had completely run over her and then it reversed and ran back over her."

Since the start of the Intifada, groups of international protesters have gathered in several locations in territories, setting themselves up as "human shields" to try to stop IDF operations.
Corey was the first member of the groups, called "International Solidarity Movement," to be killed in the conflict. Schnabel said Corey was a student at Evergreen College and was to graduate this year.

Divest now!

The "divest from Israel campaign" says:

Concerned citizens and governments all over the world must organize a comprehensive campaign of economic disinvestment and divestment from Israel along the same lines of what they did to the former criminal apartheid regime in South Africa.

This original worldwide...campaign played a critical role in dismantling the criminal apartheid regime in South Africa. For much the same reasons, a worldwide disinvestment/divestment campaign against Israel will play a critical role in dismantling its criminal apartheid regime against the Palestinian people living in occupied Palestine as well as in Israelitself."

Francis Boyle, Professor International Law, University of Illinois describing Israel's treatment of Palestinians as like white apartheid in South Africa, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu who won the Nobel Prize by inspiring a non-violent uprising that led to the dismantling of the racist white regime in South Africa urged a similar movement in the US. "We are free today in South Africa because people like yourselves," he told a group of demonstrators in Boston.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 6:10 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 27 November 2004 9:01 PM EST
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More black eyes for the IDF.
[See Oct. 30 for original post on the killing of Iman al-Hams 13 years old.]

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

An Israeli army commander has been put on trial in a military court after his fellow soldiers testified that he repeatedly shot a 13-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl last month to make sure she was dead.

In a rare move, the military has charged the army commander with illegally using his weapon and obstruction of justice. In an army videotape leaked to the media, the officer can be heard over the radio saying anyone - even a three-year-old child - should be killed if they moved in his area.

Middle East Correspondent Mark Willacy reports that the tape has shocked many Israelis, with some Israeli media outlets describing the shooting as an atrocity.

When Palestinian doctors finally retrieved Iman al-Hams' body they found it riddled with at least 15 Israeli bullets.

Major Sharon Feingold is a spokeswoman for the Israeli army.

SHARON FEINGOLD: Now, let us not forget that the area that she was moving around is a battlezone, it's not an amusement park, the girl was not supposed to be where she was.

MARK WILLACY: Why did the soldiers keep firing at the girl, even after she was identified as someone, quote, "only about 10 years old," unquote? Now, that's in the indictment.

SHARON FEINGOLD: What is obvious and what the commander is saying that he, as far as he's concerned, and his soldiers, they neutralised the threat.

MARK WILLACY: You say neutralise a threat, but the indictment says the soldier charged at the girl after she'd been shot, he then fired two rounds at her from a close range, he walked away, he then turned around and shot her again. That's a bit more than neutralising a threat, especially after this girl was identified as only about 13-years-old.

SHARON FEINGOLD: When she was identified an order was given to charge, and this is why the commander of the outpost left the outpost. At this time she was still a threat, and the fact that she was identified by someone at the post as a young girl does not lessen the threat. As I said, children have been used in this area as baits for soldiers.

MARK WILLACY: But Israeli military prosecutor, Ran Cohen, believes Captain R. did violate his orders. Prosecutor Cohen says the unit commander has been charged with the illegal use of his weapon, the improper use of authority, and obstruction of justice.

After repeatedly shooting Iman al-Hams, Captain R issues one final radio order.

(Sound of Captain R issuing radio order)

"Anyone who moves in the area, even if it's a 3-year-old, we should kill him," he says.

The Israeli army prides itself on the notion of "purity of arms", which forbids soldiers to use their weapons against non-combatants. But Palestinians say that code has clearly been violated in the killing of Iman al-Hams.

IDF playing with dead bodies.


JERUSALEM - Young Israeli soldiers systematically desecrate the bodies of dead Palestinian militants, playing with body parts and posing for souvenir photographs with bullet-riddled cadavers, an Israeli newspaper's Internet site reported Wednesday.

The report gave several examples of what it described as systematic desecration and photography of the bodies of Palestinian terrorists, charging that it had become a phenomenon in the army.

Some of the photographs showed soldiers playing with remains of a suicide bomber as if he were a human jigsaw puzzle, then parading his severed head with a cigarette in its mouth.

It quoted a junior officer, identified only as "Y," saying pictures of the incident later went on sale for two shekels (about 60 cents Cdn) apiece.

"It really cracked up the whole platoon, everyone was delighted," he told the newspaper. "I remember I tried to tell them, 'Are you crazy, you're disgusting.' They just couldn't understand what I was talking about."

Another soldier, "G," tells of returning to base after an operation. The bodies of dead militants were dumped next to the camp latrines.

"Somebody covered them with blankets but soldiers kept coming to lift the blankets and have a look, have a bit of fun," he said. "I remember that some pulled the hair of one of the bodies and played with it."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:47 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 26 November 2004 3:48 PM EST
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Poking a stick at the Russian bear.

I've been away for a while but I have been doing some work over at Non Sum Dignus expiring minds might be interested in.

Here's some inside info on what's really behind the crisis in Ukraine from the Guardian. It seems we're playing a dangerous game with the Russian bear. Judging by the chilly body language between Putin and Bush in Chile last week I would say things are headed towards a bad patch in U.S./Russia relations.

Now that Condi Rice is the new Secretary Of State she can get back to her favorite subject, sovoietology.

According to Ian Traynor:

"In the centre of Belgrade, there is a dingy office staffed by computer-literate youngsters who call themselves the Centre for Non-violent Resistance.

If you want to know how to beat a regime that controls the mass media, the judges, the courts, the security apparatus and the voting stations, the young Belgrade activists are for hire.

They emerged from the anti-Milosevic student movement, Otpor, meaning resistance. The catchy, single-word branding is important. In Georgia last year, the parallel student movement was Khmara. In Belarus, it was Zubr.

In Ukraine, it is Pora, meaning high time. Otpor also had a potent, simple slogan that appeared everywhere in Serbia in 2000 - the two words "gotov je", meaning "he's finished", a reference to Milosevic. A logo of a black-and-white clenched fist completed the masterful marketing.

In Ukraine, the equivalent is a ticking clock, also signalling that the Kuchma regime's days are numbered.

The Democratic party's National Democratic Institute, the Republican party's International Republican Institute, the US state department and USAid are the main agencies involved in these grassroots campaigns as well as the Freedom House NGO and billionaire George Soros's open society institute

Officially, the US government spent $41m (#21.7m) organising and funding the year-long operation to get rid of Milosevic from October 1999. In Ukraine, the figure is said to be around $14m."

Looks like Putin's contention that the U.S. is trying to peal off former Soviet client states into the western spere of influence isn't just paranoia.

Look for trouble in Abkhazia in Georgia, where there was yet another desputed election last month. The Russians will pick their fights and this looks like a likely cannidate.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:04 PM EST
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Saturday, 13 November 2004
If it walks like a duck...

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 - Human rights experts said Friday that American soldiers might have committed a war crime on Thursday when they sent fleeing Iraqi civilians back into Falluja.

Citing several articles of the Geneva Conventions, the experts said recognized laws of war require military forces to protect civilians as refugees and forbid returning them to a combat zone.

A stream of refugees, about 300 men, women and children, were detained by American soldiers as they left southern Falluja by car and on foot. The women and children were allowed to proceed. The men were tested for any residues left by the handling of explosives. All tested negative, but they were sent back.

Because the United States has refused to take part in the International Criminal Court, it is unclear whether American troops could be held accountable.

[As if seizing and bombing hospitals wasn't enough. I think the real issue, though, is holding W and Rumsfeld liable for war crimes.]

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:39 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 26 November 2004 2:28 PM EST
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