Map of the "Separation Wall" in the West Bank

At a cost of $1 million per mile. That little whitish-looking squiggly line in the middle will be the future "state" of "Palestine". A real recipe for success and justice.

(UPDATE: Image taken from Gush Shalom website.)

Powell, Straw had doubts about WMD "intelligence", played along anyway
According to a Guardian report, both Powell and Straw had doubts over "intelligence" regarding Iraq's supposed WMD. But they went along with the script anyway, giving stellar performances at the UN and the British parliament. Fine method acting from those two.

As soon as the Iraqis decide to play their parts in this drama, all will be well.

Penn attacks president in NY Times ad
It takes an actor buying a full-page ad to get dissent aired these days. Sean Penn attacks Bush in the NY Times over the motives for the war and his military "experience":
"Our flag has been waving, it seems, in servicing a regime change significantly benefitting US corporations."

"He seemed quite pleased with this, his military service," writes Penn. "He likes it better now than when he was a member of the Texas national guard, when in 1972 he simply failed to show up for duty for over a year in wartime.

"I certainly wouldn't want to remind him that, were he Awol in a time of war, that would amount to treasonous desertion."
Hahaha...stick it to him. And good luck getting your guns back, Sean.


US considering "regime change" in Iran
An ABC report, disingenuously headlined "The Iran Debate", cites Pentagon and State Department officials who are indicating that the Bush administration is now planning a covert attack on Iran to destabilize the government. The MEK, a group that the State Department has listed as a "terrorist organization", is reportedly being considered to serve as the Pentagon's shock troops in this scheme.
The office of Doug Feith, undersecretary for policy at the Department of Defense, argued that the MEK has not targeted Americans since the 1970s, which is true, and was only put on the terrorist list by the Clinton administration as a gesture to improve relations with Iran.
By this logic, the US should be recruiting Hizbollah to help it out. After all, Hizbollah hasn't targeted Americans since the 1980s. And this statement that the MEK was only put on the "terrorist" list by Clinton to appease Iran is complete garbage. Hello? It's been nearly 2 years since the Bush regime's "war on terror" started. Wouldn't that have been plenty of time to take an "ex-terrorist" group off the list?
The Pentagon argues that the MEK is disciplined, well-trained, and an effective lever against the ayatollahs, and could be renamed and placed under American clandestine guidance.
What's in a name? How about renaming the MEK the "George W. Bush Freedom Fighter Brigade"?

The main advocate for this preposterous, and dangerous, "plan" is none other than Donald "Hey-I'll-shake-hands-with-any-brutal-dictator-with-the-same-shit-eating-grin-my-face" Rumsfeld.

Blair regime ministers "distorted" UN report
New trouble for Blair: members of his cabinet are accused of distorting Blix's report on Iraq's WMD programs.
Amid growing anger among senior intelligence officials about Downing Street's use of their work for political ends, Hans Blix's office rejected claims by ministers that he had provided unequivocal evidence of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programme.

As the prime minister became the first western leader to visit Iraq since the end of the war, Dr Blix's spokesman said the chief weapons inspector had "never asserted" that Iraq definitely had weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the conflict.
Blix's spokesperson did say that many questions remain.

Iraq roundup: US soldiers kill 5 civilians; angry Iraqis chase US soldiers out of town; IAEA barred from investigating radioactive looting; archaeological looting continues
  • US soldiers killed 2 Iraqi civilians when their car failed to stop at a checkpoint near Samarra.

  • In Samarra, US soldiers killed 3 teenagers following celebratory gunfire at a wedding.
    A US Army official, who asked that he not be identified by name, said the incident was under investigation. He said he could provide no comment, other than to say: "Celebratory gunfire is dangerous."
    No fucking shit.

    This highlights the need for cultural training. Gunfire is extremely common at weddings, high school graduations, and many other events. It will not be possible to "restore order", much less "win hearts and minds", when soldiers indiscriminately fire at civilians.

  • Residents of the town of Hit, angry at door-to-door searches, chased US soldiers out of the town, attacked a police station, and set police cars on fire.

  • The US military has barred IAEA inspectors from conducting an inquiry into the looting at a site holding radioactive materials. The Pentagon reportedly has taken the measure to prevent the agency from becoming involved in the search for WMDs.

  • A few days hold, put here for reference: Looting at major archaeological sites continues, despite pleas for help. Iraq has thousands of archaeological sites that must have protection. This should have been factored into whatever passes for planning in the Bush administration. It hasn't been. Cultural heritage - like the supposed WMDs - isn't the highest priority.

  • Guardian interview with Salam Pax
    An industrious reporter with the Guardian has tracked down Salam Pax, author of the Dear_Raed blog, in Baghdad and scored an interview. Some excerpts:
    Like all Iraqis, Salam was familiar with the dangers. At least four of his relatives had gone missing. In the past year, for no apparent reason, one of his friends was summarily executed, shot in the head as he sat in his car, and two others were arrested; one was later freed and another, a close friend, has never returned.

    He regarded the doubters as culturally arrogant, unable to accept that an Iraqi in Baghdad could share their interests and write on them eloquently and with humour. "I am this little no one who actually is a kind of a foreigner in his own culture. I don't listen to Arabic music a lot, I don't read that much, I think every single Arabic newspaper is a tool to whatever government. It was making me angry, it was annoying me, I didn't see why I had to take all this shit."

    Much of the criticism came from Americans who favoured the war and were riled by Salam's dismissive criticism of US ambitions in Iraq.

    [Salam writing about Rory McCarthy, the Guardian reporter]: A day before that I talked to Rory from the Guardian. He paid for a great lunch in a place which had air-conditioning and lots of people from foreign. You know how much you would pay for a pizza before [attack of the media types II] started? Two thousand five hundred dinar, a bit more than $1. Do you know how much it costs now? Six thousand dinars, a little less than $6. Plus the exchange rate is totally fucked up and the real estate market is getting bizarre. You can follow the trail of the foreigners by how much things cost in a certain district. Of course, Rory didn't buy me the 6,000-dinar pizza - that would have been too cheap. He paid an extra $3.
    Much more to come.


    Report: US to offer $500,000 to Lebanon for disarming Hizbollah
    Ha'aretz, citing the Lebanese daily Al Safir, reports that the US will offer Lebanon a cool $500,000 in investments for disarming Hizbollah. The proposal will also include a demand that Syria withdraw its soldiers from Lebanon.

    Report: UK dossier on Iraqi arms "rewritten"
    The British government is reported to have cooked intelligence data on Iraq's weapons.

    US soldier killed in Iraq
    Another US soldier killed in a guerilla attack in Iraq.


    Wolfowitz: Alleged Iraqi weapons a "bureaucratic" point
    Reuters reports excerpts from an interview Wolfie recently gave to Vanity Fair. In it, Wolfowitz stated that Iraq's supposed WMDs were stressed for "bureaucratic" reasons and that they were only one reason the Bush administration decided to attack Iraq.
    "For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on," Wolfowitz was quoted as saying...

    Wolfowitz said another reason for the invasion had been "almost unnoticed but huge" -- namely that the ousting of Saddam would allow the United States to remove its troops from Saudi Arabia, where their presence had long been a major al Qaeda grievance.
    There was no indication as to where these US soldiers would be relocated - completely out of the Middle East? into Iraq? Was the war just a big real estate scam? But Wolfowitz's crystal ball was broken on one point - like it was for his prediction that the Iraqis would rise up and greet American soldiers as liberators:
    "Just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door" to a more peaceful Middle East, Wolfowitz was quoted as saying.

    The magazine said he made the remarks days before suicide bombings, attributed to al Qaeda, against Western targets in Riyadh and Casablanca two weeks ago that killed 75 people.
    Where do they find these people? The Bush administration isn't doing damage control - it's easing into the big lie.

    Pentagon now plans longer stay in Iraq for US soldiers
    The NY Times reports that US troops are to stay in Iraq longer than originally planned. The article does not specify whether a date has been set for their departure. It does note, however, that the Bush administration expects countries like France to pitch in troops for peacekeeping.

    The Bush administration's idea that it can "punish" France while simultaneously expecting it to help the US is interesting. It smacks entirely of the schoolyard bully mentality. It remains to be seen if the French care to go along with this script.

    Pictures of Israeli destruction in Gaza
    Gush Shalom has published some pictures of recent bulldozings by the Israeli army in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun.

    Photo and small write-up of another house demolished near Nablus on 28 May 2003.

    AI report: "War on terror" making people more insecure
    Guardian article on Amnesty's report for 2003, which finds that people around the world are more insecure now than they were before the "war on terror" began.

    Original AI report here.

    New MP revolt against Blair in the works
    Blair is facing serious questions and possible parliamentary revolt over the ongoing failure to turn up WMDs in Iraq. The rebels are being led by Robin Cook, who resigned from Blair's cabinet prior to the war over concerns that Iraq's supposedly fearsome arsenal did not actually pose a threat.

    Go get him, lads!

    Incidentally, the article mentions that Blair is repeating his mantra that WMDs will eventually turn up and that they are still a priority - after Iraq's humanitarian and political reconstruction. This is all well and good, but the rationale for attacking was that these weapons were a clear danger and that they might fall into the hands of terrorists. The point was not to find these weapons after the fact to justify the invasion. If they ever existed, they are still there and are unguarded and hence are less secure and more likely to fall into bad hands than before. The fact that Bush and Blair have adopted such a carefree attitude to when, and even if, they are ever found should set off alarm bells concerning this offered rationale.

    Report: Rice advises ignoring Schroeder
    The love for democracy runs deep in the Bush administration: Rice has reportedly stated that the US will continue to marginalize German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder for his anti-war stance. According to the Guardian article, Rice's idea of foreign relations at this point is "Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia."

    It's all for the best, I suppose: not having to deal with those irritating European liberal democracies will free up more time to develop those budding ties with Islam Karimov and other upstanding leaders.

    Iraq roundup: More on forewarnings of Iraq chaos; 2 US soldiers killed; 'Iraq may have destroyed weapons'
  • The Guardian reports that the Pentagon ignored advice that a large police force would be needed in Iraq to prevent looting.
  • AFP report on 2 US soldiers killed in guerilla attack.
  • The effort to explain the puzzling - absolutely inscrutable - lack of WMDs in Iraq continues. Reuters reports that Rumsfeld is now saying that Iraq might have destroyed all of its weapons before the war. As an added bonus, Rumsfeld treats readers to a delightful "history" lesson:
    "My personal view is that I'm still amazed at how fast it went from the Shah of Iran to the clerics, to the ayatollah," Rumsfeld said.
    It is an amazing thing about revolutions, the way they change things quickly and all.
    "Maybe we'll be favorably surprised some day that it will go back to something ... where the people of that country will have a broader voice and an opportunity to affect their lives, which clearly they're restricted from doing."
    Perhaps Rumsfeld would like to see Iran "go back" to those democratic and liberty-filled days when a US-supported autocrat sat on the throne and commanded a group like SAVAK, whose main purpose was to give Iranians a "voice" and an "opportunity" by torturing them with broken glass and electrical shocks. I'm sure many Iranians would be "favorably surprised" by that turn of events.

  • Map of the Apartheid Wall
    Map compiled by Gush Shalom and PENGON (Palestinian Environmental NGO Network) showing the route of the Apartheid Wall inside the West Bank.

    Israeli army kills 3 children in W. Bank
    The Israeli army shot dead 3 children in the W. Bank on Monday and Tuesday.

    Report: Miller's main source for WMD articles was Chalabi
    Hahahaha...hahaha. It turns out that Judith Miller's main source for her journalistic tours de force on Iraq's WMDs was none other than accused swindler and crook Ahmed Chalabi. Pretty high sourcing standards at The NY Times - when their reporters bother to use sources at all.


    You never know where those WMDs will turn up
    Reassuring news in the hunt for WMDs - a stock of germs was located near Washington DC. It turns out, though, that the Pentagon had put them there in the 1960s and then had kind of forgot about them:
    ...there was no documentation about the various biological agents disposed of at the US bio-defence centre at Fort Detrick in Maryland. The Iraqi government's failure to come up with paperwork proving the destruction of its biological arsenal was portrayed by the US as evidence of deception in the run-up to the war.

    The sanitation crews were shocked to find vials containing live bacteria. As well as the vaccine form of anthrax, the discarded biological agents included Brucella melitensis, which causes the virulent flu-like disease brucellosis, and klebsiella, a cause of pneumonia.
    What else does the Pentagon expect to find there?
    "You never know what's there until you start digging," Colonel John Ball, the Fort Detrick garrison commander told the Post. "We've generally ruled out finding a nuclear weapon."
    Kind of like being on an archaeological excavation or digging for pirate gold.


    It boggles the mind
    "It is at this stage unclear whether we are at a fulcrum of a fairly significant economic recovery," Greenspan said. Translation: "Where am I? Why am I here?"

    Rising Rising Rising. Keep them prices rising. Rawhide!


    Another for the "terrorism" file: Texas bill on "ecological terrorist organization"
    A 10-gallon hat tip to The Agonist.

    US-UK put off plans for Iraqi self-government
    The NY Times reports that the US and Britain put on indefinite hold a plan to "allow Iraqi opposition forces to form a national assembly and an interim government by the end of the month".

    US official: Iraq may break with OPEC; Germany backs US on sanctions; Bush and the missing WMDs
    The WaPo reports that Philip Carroll, who formerly headed Royal Dutch Shell in the United States and now chairs a commission advising Iraq's oil ministry, has stated that Iraq may disregard OPEC quotas and export as much oil as possible. He also indicated that Iraq may quit the cartel altogether. The issue of privatization is also on the table. As an encore, Carroll said the oil ministry may review Saddam-era contracts - notably with China, Russia, and France.

    But, of course, Carroll is not influencing any of these policies - not in the least:

    Carroll repeatedly rejected suggestions that he is an instrument of any such policy, saying that he is merely an adviser. "In the final analysis, Iraq's role in OPEC or in any other international organization is something that has to be left to an Iraqi government," he said.
    Nor does he stand to benefit financially from anything the new Iraqi government chooses to do:
    [Carroll] confirmed a report in the Los Angeles Times that he continues to own substantial stock in Fluor, which has already announced intentions to bid on contracts to reconstruct Iraq's oil industry. He said he also has large holdings in Shell.

    Carroll said he had already disclosed these holdings to the Defense Department and announced his intention to recuse himself from the consideration of any decisions from which they could benefit.
    In other Iraq-related news, Germany has finally come to its senses and is backing the US's position on the sanctions. But Powell said there still won't be time for Bush to meet with Schroeder.

    WaPo analysis on Bush not receiving any questions or scrutiny over the bogus Iraqi WMD claims. Incidentally, the article also shows why the US and the world will probably be stuck with this cretin for another 4 years: the Democrats are a lot of spineless yes-people:
    Before the war, for example, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused the administration of exaggerating Iraq's nuclear capabilities, while other Democrats questioned whether Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell were overstating Hussein's chemical and biological stockpiles.

    This week, Pelosi said it is "difficult to understand" why the weapons can't be found. Yet she did not seem concerned about whether any are found. "I am sort of agnostic on it; that is to say, maybe they are there," Pelosi said. "I salute the president for the goal of removing weapons of mass destruction."
    Good for you, Pelosi - pat Bush on the head for trying and keep on saluting. I hear it's a very effective way of running a country.
    Similarly, Senate Democratic Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), who on the eve of war accused Bush of failing "miserably" to win international backing, now talks of giving the president "great credit" for winning the war.
    Managing not to lose to a ragged, clapped-out, Third World army - "great credit" does a disservice to such leadership. The War Party must find these scenes an absolute riot. No wonder Bush keeps wearing that silly grin.

    Palestinian negotiator Erekat quits
    The Independent reports that Erekat quit after being left out of a team that is to meet with Sharon this week. AFP article on Erekat's resignation; adds details on other events from Friday (16 May 03).

    Review/profile of Hunter S. Thompson
    The Guardian reviews Thompson's new book, Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century, and includes some of his thoughts on the past and the present:

    On the US in the run-up to the Iraq war:
    Last year, well before the Iraq war, Thompson wrote: "We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world - a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us. George W Bush does not speak for me or my son or my mother or my friends or the people I respect in this world."
    On the post-September 11 US:
    ...written on September 12 2001... he predicted "a religious war, a sort of Christian jihad, fuelled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerrilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines. We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once."
    On Nixon:
    As the funeral orations were being delivered and everyone was praising Nixon, Thompson wrote "He Was a Crook", one of the best, the funniest, the most sustained polemics I have ever read. Midway through it, in a burst of candour, Thompson reflects on his harsh words and says, "but I have written worse things about Nixon many times, and the record will show that I kicked him repeatedly long before he went down. I beat him like a mad dog with mange every time I got a chance, and I am proud of it."
    We should all be proud. But let us not rest on our laurels, Hunter: there's plenty to do these days.

    Car bombings in Morocco kill at least 20
    The Guardian reports that at least 20 people are dead following four car bombings in the city of Casablanca. The apparent targets were a luxury business hotel, a Jewish community centre, a Spanish cultural centre and the Belgian consulate.

    The BBC reports at least 24 killed in 5 explosions, three of which were car bombs.

    AP reports 40 dead, quoting an unnamed Moroccan official, who added that car bombs had not been used.

    Report: Iraqi antiquities hidden
    The BBC reports that according to the Pentagon, Iraqi National Museum employees hid a number of valuable archaeological objects before the war started. They are in safekeeping and will not be removed until a new government is in place. No word on exactly what is hidden.


    Conference on Orwell
    Conference being held to mark Orwell's 100th birthday looks at his thoughts on dystopian society with reference to Iraq war and other recent events.

    Renegade Texas Democrats return to Texas, claiming victory
    Democratic state legislators returned to Texas on Thursday and claimed victory in defeating a GOP redistricting scheme. The group of 51 lawmakers had walked out of the state assembly and crossed over to Oklahoma to protest the measure and prevent the legislature from passing it.

    Commentary on Sharon's changing positions on settlements
    Ha'aretz commentary examing the various statements Sharon has made recently concerning his position on the settlements in the Palestinian territories. According to the article,
    There was a total contradiction, almost an insult to the intelligence, between what he said to Haaretz last month about the need to say good-bye to "some of those places - Bethlehem, Shiloh, Beit El," and his remarks this week to interviewers from The Jerusalem Post ("I'm asking you: Do any of you see such a possibility?").
    The article's final analysis: don't expect much in the way of substance when Sharon meets Bush on 20 May.

    Anti-Nazi activists protest BNP
    Anti-Nazi League protestors demonstrated at the first meeting of the town council in Burnley, Britain, since the election of eight British National Party councilors earlier this month. Seven protestors were arrested.

    Survey: 53 per cent of Israelis opposed to full equal rights for Arab citizens
    Ha'aretz reports that a recent survey by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 53 per cent of Israelis oppose "full equal rights " for Arab citizens. The survey, which focused on institutions, human rights and stability, and social cohesiveness, concluded that Israel "has yet to internalize fully the concept of democracy".


    Lebanon claims to foil attack on "western" embassy
    Lebanon announced that it has foiled an attack on the embassy of a "major western state". Military sources indicated that it was the US embassy.

    US warns citizens not to go anywhere
    The State Department has advised US citizens not to go to, or at least to review travel plans to, Kenya, Malaysia and the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the entire Middle East and North Africa, and all of east Africa. People in these places, according to the State Department, may not like Americans very much right now. How did that happen?

    Why doesn't the State Department just save itself the trouble and warn Americans against going anywhere in the world? Oh - it has.

    Israeli soldiers kill 5 Palestinians in Gaza, 2 in W. Bank
    Reuters report: Israeli soldiers stormed into the Gaza Strip on Al Nakba day, killing 5 Palestinians, including a 12-year-old.
    UPDATE: Ha'aretz reports 6 killed and 7 wounded.

    AFP report: Israeli soldiers killed 2 Palestinians, including another 12-year-old, who was shot in the head, in Jenin and Nablus. According to the AFP correspondent and eye-witnesses, Israeli soldiers used small children and women as human shields during the operation and fired onto a hospital. Includes some detail on the 3 Palestinians killed earlier on 14 May in Gaza.

    "Road map"? It's more like a green light.

    Blame being spread around over Riyadh bombing
    The US is blaming Saudi Arabia for the bombing in Riyadh; according to the Bush administration, an envoy was sent last week to warn of an upcoming attack. The US says his warning was ignored.

    Meanwhile, Democratic presidential hopeful Bob Graham is criticizing Bush for diverting resources away from the "war on terror".

    Guardian excerpts of Sharon interview; article on Apartheid Wall
    Sharon rejects US "pressure" over settlements and states that they will not be an issue when he meets with Bush on 20 May. Sharon also repeated his bizarre "abortion" comment.

    Another article on the impact of the Apartheid Wall Israel is building in (not along) the West Bank:
    Ariel Sharon's government says the fence is temporary, but the political capital and money spent on it (£1m a mile) hint at permanence.
    Entirely true. How many millions have been sunk into the settlements? The roads serving them? All the other infrastructure? Does anyone in their right mind believe that all this was only temporary and that Israel always intended to hand over the West Bank?
    In April, Mr Sharon told his cabinet he wanted to extend the "obstacle" to cover the length of the Jordan Valley so that any Palestinian state is enclosed behind Israeli barbed wire and motion detectors. The town of Qalqiliyah is already enclosed by a high wall, with a single exit under the army's control. The larger city of Tulkarm is destined for a similar fate. So is Azzun Atma.
    Mr Ahmad
    [an Azzun Atma villager] said: "The Israelis made a fence around the settlement, then they put in a small gate so we could get to our olive trees. They gave us the key and let us come and go for the first year. Then they changed the lock and put a guard on. But he doesn't come on the Sabbath and holidays and when he is sick. Then one day he doesn't come at all and you can't get to your land. Then they declare you are not working your land and seize it."
    The West Bank is becoming the world's largest prison.

    Sharon criticizes Blair, Straw for "unnecessary intervention"
    Sharon lays into that cunning, smooth-talking Tony Blair and his sidekick, Jack Straw, for "unnecessary intervention" in Israel's war against the Palestinians. Several incidents have strained UK-Israel relations recently.


    Badger terrorizes Britons
    A day old: The Guardian reports that a badger named Boris terrorized a number of people before being captured and destroyed. The badger forced two police officers who were trying to catch him to retreat to their car, among other exploits.

    Avnery on Abu Mazen and Arafat
    Analysis by Uri Avnery on the struggle between Abu Mazen and Arafat. Avnery argues that the Palestinians still face a struggle for national liberation - making Arafat far from irrelevant.

    IAEA concerned over looted radioactive material
    The IAEA is concerned over the possibility that some of the looted radioactive material from Iraq might find its way to extremists planning "dirty-bomb" attacks.

    Let's see how the US's priorities in Iraq have stacked up so far:
    Looks good.

    HRW accuses US of not protecting mass grave site
    Human Rights Watch has accused the US military of not protecting a mass grave discovered near Hilla in Iraq. Uncontrolled excavation by distraught family members is destroying evidence of the Ba'ath regime's crimes:
    "Why was there all this talk about the crimes of the regime of Saddam Hussein if the effort is not being made to identify the remains and establish the evidence of these brutal crimes?" said Mr Bouckaert [a HRW researcher].

    Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 200,000 Iraqis have gone missing since the Ba'ath party came to power in 1968.
    The original HRW report is

    Straw retreating over Iraq WMD claims
    Jack Straw is now following the lead of his masters in Washington by backtracking over claims of WMDs in Iraq. According to Straw, it is "not crucially important" to find any WMDs - because Blix presented enough evidence of Iraqi wrong-doing before the war.


    Step-by-step climbdown by UK government over Iraq's WMDs; Independent article.

    BBC takes another look at Lynch's rescue
    The Guardian reports that the BBC will be airing a documentary this weekend on the rescue of Jessica Lynch in Iraq. The documentary will make the case that the operation was not as heroic as the Pentagon made it seem:
    [Dr. Harith Al Houssona, the doctor who provided care to Lynch, stated:] "I examined her, I saw she had a broken arm, a broken thigh and a dislocated ankle. Then I did another examination. There was no [sign of] shooting, no bullet inside her body, no stab wound - only RTA, road traffic accident," he recalled. "They want to distort the picture. I don't know why they think there is some benefit in saying she has a bullet injury."
    "We heard the noise of helicopters," says Dr Anmar Uday. He says that they must have known there would be no resistance. "We were surprised. Why do this? There was no military, there were no soldiers in the hospital.

    "It was like a Hollywood film. They cried, 'Go, go, go', with guns and blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show - an action movie like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan, with jumping and shouting, breaking down doors."

    ...Two days before the snatch squad arrived, Al-Houssona had arranged to deliver Jessica to the Americans in an ambulance. "I told her I will try and help you escape to the American Army but I will do this very secretly because I could lose my life." He put her in an ambulance and instructed the driver to go to the American checkpoint. When he was approaching it, the Americans opened fire. They fled just in time back to the hospital. The Americans had almost killed their prize catch.
    No doubt the anti-BBC media-bias specialists will be infuriated by the documentary.

    Israeli army kills 3, wounds 20 in Gaza
    Reuters report on violence in a Gaza refugee camp.

    US changes story on Iraq, concocts new lies; poll finds Americans confused
    Christ, talk about shameless. The US administration continues changing its story on the Iraq war. Now, there aren't tons and tons of horrible chemicals and deadly germs threatening western civilization; Iraq may have had information on paper on how to construct weapons. Rice now states that "U.S. officials never expected that 'we were going to open garages and find' weapons of mass destruction" [Rice's remarks inside single '' apostrophes].

    But, as the article points out, this is a bald lie. It includes numerous public statements from Bush himself indicating that Iraq did have WMDs all ready to go:

    In his March 17 speech giving Iraqi President Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave the country, Bush said: "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

    Earlier, in a speech last Oct. 7, Bush said: "The Iraqi regime ... possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.

    "We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas ... And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons."
    And what about Rice herself? Has she forgotten the claims she made in her 23 January 2003 NY Times article, "Why We Know Iraq is Lying" [also, note the phrase next to the word "IRAQ" at the top of the page; right on the money, though not in the way that the White House intended]:
    ...Iraq has a high-level political commitment to maintain and conceal its weapons...the declaration fails to account for or explain Iraq's efforts to get uranium from abroad, its manufacture of specific fuel for ballistic missiles it claims not to have, and the gaps previously identified by the United Nations in Iraq's accounting for more than two tons of the raw materials needed to produce thousands of gallons of anthrax and other biological weapons...[Iraq's UN]declaration is intended to cloud and confuse the true picture of Iraq's arsenal...
    In what is now a laughable moment, Rice accused Iraq of plagiarism:
    Iraq's declaration even resorted to unabashed plagiarism, with lengthy passages of United Nations reports copied word-for-word (or edited to remove any criticism of Iraq) and presented as original text.
    Yes, plagiarizing the UN is a terrible thing - much worse than plagiarizing a graduate student paper that was several years old to justify unprovoked aggression.

    But none of this matters to the American public, bog bless them. A recent poll indicates that while 64 per cent are "aware" that no WMDs have been found so far, 41 per cent believe either that the Bush administration was "accurate" in its estimation of Iraqi WMDs or that it underestimated these stocks.

    The poll also found that 56 per cent of Americans have adopted the Thomas Friedman, "it-doesn't-matter-that-the-government-lied-through-its-teeth" attitude and believe that the war will be "worth it", even if WMDs are never found.

    All I can say is that anyone who thinks that it's not a big deal that their government lies to them needs to have their head examined.

    Israeli police: no evidence that Islamic Movement funded militant attacks
    Ha'aretz article on investigation into Islamic Movement, several leaders of which were recently arrested.

    Two articles on anti-Semitic activity in Germany
    Neo-nazi racists place a wreath at Buchenwald to "honor" their SS death soldier "spiritual ancestors"; a person wearing a Star of David was beaten up on a bus in Berlin.

    Report: US authorizes soldiers to shoot looters on sight
    The NY Times reports that Paul Bremer, the new American bigwig in Iraq, has authorized US soldiers to shoot Iraqi looters on sight.

    This will show the Iraqis that the US is serious - about protecting private property.

    Commentary on Sharon and the "Bantustan"model
    Ha'aretz journalist Akiva Eldar continues looking at Sharon's "vision" of Israel/Palestine.

    More indications that Sharon favors an apartheid South African-style "solution" to the conflict:

    [Massimo D'Alema, the] former premier from the Italian left said that three or four years ago he had a long conversation with Sharon, who was in Rome for a brief visit. According to D'Alema, Sharon explained at length that the Bantustan model was the most appropriate solution to the conflict.
    Supplementary evidence backing D'Alema's story can be found in an expensively produced brochure prepared for Tourism Minister Benny Elon, who is promoting a two-state solution - Israel and Jordan. Under the title "The Road to War: a tiny protectorate, overpopulated, carved up and demilitarized," the Moledet Party leader presents "the map of the Palestinian state, according to Sharon's proposal." Sharon's map is surprisingly similar to the plan for protectorates in South Africa in the early 1960s. Even the number of cantons is the same - 10 in the West Bank (and one more in Gaza).
    Sharon also argued that the "road map" strays from Bush's ill-defined and hazy "vision" of an independent Palestine:
    Presumably, the CIA has got its hands on a copy of the instructions sent to Israel's foreign legations on how to explain Israeli policy regarding "The Middle East after Saddam Hussein." After all, the document received only low-level classification.
    "Israel accepts the central principles presented in President Bush's speech of June 24, 2002, and regards them as the basis for the continuation of the political process. Israel welcomes any `road map' that matches the above-mentioned presidential vision and which will lead to its implementation on the basis of a new and different Palestinian leadership and implementation of the reforms there"
    A strange argument broke out between the two
    [Powell and Sharon], however, over their interpretations of Bush's "vision." Sharon argued the road map is not a precise translation of the "vision," which is the only peace plan the prime minister has accepted.
    How did this happen? The Israeli government is arguing that Bush was fooled by the honey words of the scheming Tony Blair:
    As published here three weeks ago, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has already told the members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that British Prime Minister Tony Blair hypocritically seduced Bush into adopting the Quartet road map. Rivlin did not invent the idea of Bush falling into a plot laid by Blair. Rivlin picked it up at the highest levels of Israel's government, where he also picked up that his primary mission in New York was to kill the map, softly or not.
    The article includes details of a plan by a non-governmental group comprising Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, and Egyptian lawmakers, former generals, and intellectuals (the Copenhagen group).

    30 reported killed in new suicide bombing in Chechnya
    AFP reports 30 killed and 150 wounded in a suicide attack in Chechnya. AP report on the incident. An earlier BBC report claimed eight killed and dozens wounded in the attack, near the city of Gudermes.


    UPDATE: BBC reports at least 29 dead, over 200 injured in Riyadh car bombing
    BBC reports increased casualties. No clear breakdown of the nationalities of the victims; the report states that 9 bombers are among the dead.

    UPDATE: AFP quotes unnamed US officials as saying that the death toll is over 90.

    UPDATE: US officials are now lowering the estimate of the number of people killed in the car bombing down to 29.

    Texas police hunting renegade absent lawmakers
    Texas police were hunting for state Democratic legislators after they walked out of a session and went into hiding to scuttle a Reublican bid to gerrymander Congressional districts to the advantage of the GOP.
    House Speaker Tom Craddick responded by locking the present legislators into the House chamber, and ordered that police track down and arrest the errant Democrats.
    The 59 planned to leave Texas to avoid being arrested by the state police, among them the storied Texas Rangers, who have been sent out on the trail of the lawmakers.

    Police could forcibly return them to the House, but it is unclear whether Texas could ask another state's police to detain the legislators.
    Police have until Friday to force them to help out the Republicans.

    North Korea calls nuclear agreement a 'dead dcoument'
    North Korea states that a 1992 agreement to keep the Korean peninsula free from nuclear weapons was a "dead document".


    Car bombing kills at least 3, wounds dozens in Riyadh
    BBC report on bombing carried out just hours before Powell's scheduled arrival in Saudi Arabia.

    UPDATE: Reuters reports that at least 10 are now thought to be dead in the attack. The attackers had shot their into compounds housing foreign nationals and set off car bombs.

    More on settlers' reaction to the "road map"
    Ha'aretz article on preparations that Israeli settlers are making to thwart the "road map", which calls for a freeze on settlement activity. Some excerpts:
    For settlers, the current road map peace outline, as co-sponsored and endorsed by the Bush administration, bears uncomfortable echoes of the Oslo agreement, particularly in a clause that specifies that as part of an initial phase, the government of Israel will "immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001" and "freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements)" - this last a reference to settler demands that they be able to continue to build housing to provide for the future needs of their children...As visiting U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell ended a brief visit for separate talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders, the banner headline in Monday's mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth daily read "Sharon to Powell: Do you want settler women to have abortions?" A companion headline quoted Sharon as telling Powell, "I won't prevent the cream of our youth from making a home."
    You can't beat that logic.

    Further down, we read:
    Remarked far-right National Union cabinet minister Benny Elon, returning from a U.S. swing during which he lobbied Congressmen and fundamentalist U.S. Christians to scuttle President George Bush's road map: "What can you do - Secretary Powell needs to study the Bible and to understand the significance of the Jewish people returning to their land."
    Also includes some remarks by a Republican spin-doctor who works on Israel's PR campaign in the US.

    Ha'aretz interview with Galloway
    Excerpts of interview with the Scottish Labour member under fire because of several issues relating to Iraq. Some passages:
    Is Galloway's career finished? Sources in the local Jewish community hope so. Although they might not come out and say so directly, Galloway is considered one of the most hostile MPs to Israel, a feeling that has been driven home in dozens of speeches to Parliament since his election in 1987. An internal report of the Jewish community ["Jewish community"? The entire community came together to create this report? What does this mean? - ed.], which surveyed his actions over the years, stated: "Galloway has not publicly made anti-Semitic statements. It is clear, however, that Galloway is a staunch anti-Zionist and will continue to 'flaunt' his hate for Israel in public, without regard for the rest of the Labour Party. His current dislike of the relationship between Tony Blair and George W. Bush, and in turn, their relationship with Israel, will only go to fuel his hatred for Israel and the pro-Israel lobby in the West."

    Galloway, however, denies the allegations against him in an interview with Haaretz. "I'm not against Jews," he says. "Not only do I have many Jewish friends, I have many Israeli friends. I supported the Oslo agreement. I hope that a two-state solution will emerge from the current road map, but I have no confidence it will."
    Details of his background in Middle Eastern affairs.

    Israel raids HQ of Islamic Movement, arrests 13
    Israeli security forces raided the Um AL Fahm HQ of the Islamic Movement, arresting 13. The organization is accused of assisting militant Palestinian groups and Hizbollah.

    Commentary on US "departure" from Saudi and Bin Laden
    Article argues that Bin Laden scored points on the Saudi regime by the US's departure. Written by Saad Al Fagih, described as "a leading exiled Saudi dissident and director of the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia", and apparently finished before news of the car bomb attacks in Riyadh broke.

    ADDENDUM: Some background on Al Fagih, who has been accused of purchasing a satellite phone later supplied to Bin Laden associates in Afghanistan.

    US, Iran talking to each other
    What is going on?

    Commentary on life in Gaza
    David Aaronovitch visits Gaza and suggests that "friends of Israel" see what life there is like first-hand. No word if he had to sign one of these new waivers to enter. Good to see that he didn't get shot in the head or run over by a bulldozer.

    He also reports on his adventures in a Cairo museum.

    Short quits Blair's cabinet, attacks PM
    About a month-and-a-half too late, Clare Short has resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet. She claimed she had been suckered by Blair into believing that the UN would have a large role in the post-war Iraq:
    Ms Short said she was ashamed Britain had backed a draft UN resolution on the running of Iraq which, she said, had been drawn up in "secrecy" and without consulting Whitehall departments including her own.
    Blair responded by acting dumb:
    I am afraid I do not understand your point about the UN...I have always been clear that it is not a matter of the UN leading or the coalition leading. The two should work together. That is exactly what the resolution stipulates.
    Like a hand in a glove.

    Guardian interview with Short in which she calls for the PM to step down and accuses his advisors of having a "control freak style".

    Truck bomb kills 30 in Chechnya
    AFP report that a truck bomb killed at least 30 people near Grozny.

    Study on water consumption in Israel
    A study on water consumption in Israel revealed that Jewish citizens consume nearly twice as much as Arab citizens.

    Analysis on Abu Mazen's situation
    Ha'aretz analysis on the situation Abu Mazen faces with respect to militant groups and Israel's demands that they be completely disarmed/crushed. The idea presented in the article is that Abu Mazen most likely will try to reach agreements with militant groups to avoid any showdowns. Some interesting passages:
    After the struggle to name Mohammed Dahlan as minister in charge of security, much was said about how Dahlan can take action against Hamas, the way he did in 1996. Dahlan, then head of Preventive Security in Gaza, and Jibril Rajoub, his counterpart in the West Bank, proved themselves - as far as Israel was concerned. Starting in 1996, they chased down Hamas activists and drastically reduced the number of terror attacks. With their help, the Netanyahu and Barak terms (until September 2000) were the quietest, security-wise, since the start of the peace process.[emphasis added]
    If Abu Mazen and Dahlan want to suppress them, a limited campaign of arrests won't be enough - a war will be necessary.
    Although Hamas leaders often say they won't get involved in a civil war, some, like Mashal, have issued implied warnings that if Abu Mazen tries to disarm Hamas, he will also have to deal with the armed wing of Fatah, meaning the Al Aqsa Martyrs brigade.
    Meaning Abu Mazen is going to have to be very careful if he wants to leave office in one piece.

    Settlers vow to establish new settlement
    Ha'aretz article quoting settlers as vowing to establish a new "outpost" in the West Bank. The report includes information that no illegal "outposts" are to be dismantled anytime soon:
    Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has put on indefinite hold plans to dismantle 12 illegal outposts across the West Bank, pending unspecified further discussions.
    Detours commence.

    Israeli army kills 3 Palestinians; new closure on Gaza
    Reuters reports that 3 Palestinians - 2 militants laying an anti-tank mine and a farmer working on his field near an illegal settlement - were shot dead by Israeli soldiers in Gaza. The Gaza Strip was put under a full closure as well. Ha'aretz report on the killings, adding that a settler was shot dead on the West Bank; another report on the closure and more remarks on Powell's recent trip.


    UK government and arms sales to Indonesia
    Commentary on New Labour's ethical problems with arms sales to Indonesia.

    Powell dodges tough issues on "road map"
    Guardian article on Powell sidestepping tougher issues raised regarding the "road map" during his trip to the Mideast.

    Settler pledges not to leave outpost
    Guardian article on the "road map" and one settler's pledge not to leave his illegal outpost. A quote:
    "I have lived in settlements all my life and every couple of years there is a new plan," he said. "It always has a different name but it is essentially the same plan. We are still here and there is more of us than ever before. We have no intention of going away".
    That about sums it up.

    Activist's parents call for more UK government efforts over shooting
    Tom Hurndall's parents have urged the British government to challenge the Israeli government over the shooting of their son.

    Any real investigation, much less any kind of punishment, is not likely; according to the report, "Israel has not convicted a single soldier for misuse of weapons or killing a non-combatant in two and a half years of fighting."

    MEK surrenders to US
    The saga ends.

    Powell warns Syria against being on the 'wrong side of history'
    Reuters reports that Powell has again warned Syria against "destabilizing" Iraq and supporting Palestinian militant groups.

    Woolsey company set to profit from 'war on terror'
    The Observer reports: "James Woolsey, former CIA boss and influential adviser to President George Bush, is a director of a US firm aiming to make millions of dollars from the 'war on terror', The Observer can reveal."

    US arms inspection team to leave Iraq
    According to the WaPo article, "Task Force 75's experience, and its impending dissolution after seven weeks in action, square poorly with assertions in Washington that the search has barely begun."

    '"Road map" fading from radar'
    Ha'aretz analysis of the "road map" and Powell's current visit to the region. The article argues that the road map will be pushed to the background as Sharon presents his "reservations" to the US administration:
    And what will happen with the road map? It will remain in the background as a signal to the sides - "a political horizon" that will instill hope in the Palestinians, and a possible whip to apply pressure in the event of mutual breaches or foot-dragging.

    Abu Mazen will ask Powell to pressure Israel into adopting the road map as is; but Sharon is standing firm on his demand to make changes to it, or at least come to an understanding with the Americans on issues of principle on which Israel has a different view to that expressed in the plan.

    Sharon will make it clear to the secretary of state that if Israel's positions are accepted, it will be easier for him to receive the cabinet's approval for the road map. To demonstrate his political difficulties, Sharon will introduce his American guest to senior ministers and the heads of the coalition factions. Hearing from Effi Eitam and Avigdor Lieberman will convince Powell that Sharon is the moderate member of the gang.
    Yes, Eitam and Lieberman - two fine gentlemen who demonstrate that Israeli democracy is surely a paradigm for the rest of the Middle East, even if they are not quite as "moderate" as Sharon.

    Eitam heads the National Religious Party, which represents many of the settlers in the West Bank. Here is a little from the past of Eitam:

    Eitam was the army's highest-ranking combat officer of religious background. A controversial and charismatic figure, Eitam faced military charges when he gave the soldiers in his command the illegal order to "break the arms and legs of the Palestinians" during the first Intifada (1987-92).

    More recently, he was quoted by Ari Shavit in an interview in Ha'aretz (March 22) as saying: "First, get rid of this leadership [Yasser Arafat]. Second, enter Area A [under full Palestinian control] and uproot the military terrorist capability. Third, make it clear that there will be no foreign sovereignty west of the Jordan River. I am not sure this is the time to organize what will happen east of the Jordan. But as for the area west of the Jordan, we have to state that no sovereignty will be established there other than that of Israel."

    Writing in The Jerusalem Post (April 8), Laurie Copans reported, "Eitam speaks unabashedly of his controversial dream: 'One day, the more than 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will move to Jordan.' "
    How about Lieberman? Lieberman once stated that "There is nothing undemocratic about transfer" - i.e., expelling people from their homes and lands.

    "Moderate" indeed.


    Excerpts of WaPo interview with Assad
    Excerpts of an interview with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Those used to the American press's softball-pitching interview style may be surprised by the generally aggressive tone of the interviewer. I suppose that anything approaching real journalism - not taking brush-offs and dodges as actual answers - is only called for when dealing with approved tyrants.

    Analysis of Israeli militarism in government
    Ha'aretz article on the appointment of Amos Gilad, a general, as head of the new political security department in the Israeli defense ministry. According to the article,
    Gilad's position on the Palestinian question is blunt and unflinching. He was always against the Oslo Accords, he gave frequent expression to his negative view of Yasser Arafat in language replete with true hatred, and he insists vehemently that Israel must not conduct negotiations under fire.

    ...The attitude toward the media of the individual who was appointed "national commentator" during the just-concluded Iraq war is apparent from several of his statements. "There is a pathological pattering here that is endangering the security of the state," he scolded reporters who attended his briefing ahead of the war. And in a lecture he delivered in November 2001, he said, "The media are serving terrorism, uncovering military and operational secrets, distorting reality in favor of the other side, and have no red lines."
    The Israeli media serving terrorism, too? Looks like they could form a powerful "axis" with those other purveyors of journalistic "terrorism", Al Jazeera and Seymour Hersh.

    US continues to block UN arms inspectors
    Amidst reports that US and UK governmental and intelligence agencies are freaking out over the failure to find any WMDs in Iraq so far, the US continues to block UN arms inspectors from returning to the country. Certification by inspectors that Iraq is free of WMDs is one of the main conditions for the lifting of the sanctions - sanctions which the US and UK insisted on keeping in place before the war but are now insisting be removed, regardless of WMD-free status.

    Exxon probed over $500m scandal in Africa
    The Independent reports that an investigation is to be opened on a payment into the bank account of the president of Equitorial Guinea.

    Nasrallah: US offers to recognize Hizbollah with conditions
    Ha'aretz report quoting Hizbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah as stating that the US has offered to recognize Hizbollah in return for a cessation of any operations against Israel and intelligence-sharing with the US.

    The US, contrary to assertions otherwise, has already recognized the armed wing of the organization as a legitimate fighting outfit - as witnessed by the 1996 cease-fire it helped broker between Hizbollah and Israel.

    Israeli eyewitness accounts to shootings of Palestinians
    Ha'aretz report on eyewitness accounts of two Israeli army shootings of Palestinians.

    Iraqi nuclear sites looted
    You have to admire the sheer absurdity: the US is now saying that seven nuclear sites in Iraq have been looted, with either files or material taken. Let's see if that material "turns up" in Syria.

    Moroccon editor on hunger strike
    Editor Ali Lmrabet has gone on a hunger strike to protest his trial on charges of lese majeste and other non-offences. The US is looking to conclude a trade pact with Morocco by the end of the year.

    SCIRI leader returns to Iraq, demands "independent" government
    Mohammad Baqr Al Hakim demands an "independent" government, denies plans for a second Islamic revolution.

    How much is that kiddie in the window?
    A father in Britain recently withdrew a joke advertisement offering his child for sale after a worried appeal to Scotland Yard. The ad read:
    Hyperactive kid for sale, good at vacuuming, not great at washing dishes ... guaranteed to annoy. £5 or nearest offer
    Scotland Yard investigated after a Canadian contacted them and asked if it was legal to sell children in Scotland.

    US-UK lies on Iraq - a convenient list
    Courtesy of The Independent.

    Israel and "dismantling" settlements
    Zeev Schiff on how Israel is not dismantling settlements, despite assurances to the US that it is doing so, and in fact is expanding them.

    Pipes nomination to "peace" institute under scrutiny
    Bush's incredible nomination of well-known anti-Muslim and anti-Arab ideologue Daniel Pipes to the US Institute of Peace is receiving a little scrutiny. A spokesman from WINEP, a rabidly pro-Israel "think"tank, had this telling remark:
    What's the point of becoming a 'do tank' [referring to the Peace Institute's new "mission"] if you don't have people on the board who reflect the opinions of U.S. policymakers?
    Indeed - why not have "yes-men" at every corner?

    Taibbi on the "sovietization" of the US
    Recent Taibbi column on Bush and May Day and what it all means:
    Think about it. Huge weapons on display, in foreground and background. The leader who has never fought dressed in full military regalia. Crowds of adoring soldiers and "shock worker" types dressed in colorful costumes, carefully arranged for the cameras. A terrible, excruciatingly dull speech, 20 minutes of incoherent, redundant patriotism (Bush used the words "free" or "freedom" 19 times in an 1800-word speech) and chimpanzoid chest-pounding.

    ...In Soviet times, a man who was afraid to speak frankly on any topic in front of his own children and whose neighbor had disappeared two days before was capable of shedding real tears over the plight of the American Negro, a popular Soviet cause for decades. You see the same thing here in the States: no job, no health insurance, fucked for life by the credit bureaus, but swelling with pride over the sight of an Iraqi child with a candy bar.
    Yeah. Now where's Ames?

    Jewish cemetery desecrated in London
    A sad display of ignorance in London.

    UK, Amnesty criticize Israel's "Gaza waiver" plan
    Both the UK and Amnesty International criticized the plan, under which anyone going to the Gaza Strip would declare, beforehand, that the Israeli army was not to be held responsible for anything that happened to them. The Ha'aretz article also reports on Israeli raid against ISM offices in the West Bank.


    Iraqi landlords evicting Palestinian refugees
    The UNHCR reports that up to 90,000 Palestinian refugees - many from 1948 - face eviction by Iraqis forced to provide housing for them during the Saddam era. It seems that nowhere is home for the Palestinian refugees. Iranian refugees are also facing eviction.

    Free-trade zone now part of Bush's Mideast "vision"
    Bush has proposed a free-trade zone in the Middle East for countries that "pursued broad political and economic reforms" - meaning establishing and protecting "free markets". Bush - one of the best friends that corrupt big business has ever had in the US - also said that "the plan would ensure that small and medium-sized businesses had access to capital and that corruption and self-dealing would be replaced by free markets and fair laws".

    Ha'aretz report adds that Arab countries will be expected to drop all boycotts against Israel.

    Secret Service interrogates Oakland teenagers
    Secret Service interrogates two Oakland High students for attacking Bush. Not only were the students questioned without counsel, but they were reportedly informed by the agents that "we own you, you don't have any legal rights".

    Another article on the incident from sf.indymedia.org.

    UPDATE on US-UK resolution to "occupy" Iraq
    From the Times:
    Britain and the United States won key support at the United Nations yesterday for their plan to take control of Iraq's oil wealth and to set up an interim authority in the country.

    A draft resolution endorsing the role of Britain and the United States as "occupying powers" for at least a year attracted early support from crucial swing voters on the 15-nation Security Council, leaving Russia and France isolated.

    [The UN French ambassador stated,]"One of the main questions that I have asked is some clarification on the political process that is mentioned in the text. We also think the role of the UN co-ordinator should be enhanced. There is also a question of how the Council will monitor the process."

    Sergei Lavrov, Russia's UN envoy, raised the need under existing resolutions for UN weapons inspectors to certify Iraq as being free of weapons of mass destruction before sanctions are lifted altogether, according to diplomats present. The draft makes no mention of weapon inspectors.
    The Guardian has a good article on this as well. A Danish diplomat stated that
    the US was "on its way to becoming a member of Opec", the Middle Eastern oil cartel.

    "They will appropriate the oil," he told the Danish public service DR radio station. "It is very difficult to see how this would make sense in any other way.

    "The unwillingness to give the UN a genuine, legal well-defined role, also in the broader context of rebuilding Iraq after Saddam ... speaks a language that is quite clear."
    The Independent also has a good article.

    Full text of the draft (via the BBC; BBC article on the draft resolution) here.

    US seeks surrender of Mujahideen Khalq
    The US is now reversing the earlier reversal of its terrorism policy with regards to the Mujahideen Khalq in Iraq. The geniuses at the State Department figured out that dealing with the group would be, hmmm, a little hypocritical:
    ...the State Department, which in 1997 labeled the group a foreign terrorist organization, successfully argued that the United States could not condone its existence in the midst of fighting a war against terrorism.
    But it gets more interesting:
    Moreover, State Department officials believe, last month's cease-fire agreement was a betrayal of an arrangement the administration set with Iran before the Iraq war to disarm the group.
    So, then, before the war, the US made an "arrangement" with Iran - one of the members of the "axis of evil" - to disarm the MEK, then reneged on the deal to reach an "understanding" with a group it considers "terrorist"? Now that's diplomacy.

    2 US soldiers killed in Baghdad
    Two separate shooting incidents.

    US-UK proposal to lift sanctions likely to pass: Times
    Report indicates that the proposal to lift the sanctions - which sidelines the UN and allows the US and UK to spend Iraq's oil money under "international supervision - will pass without much of a fight from France and Russia.

    Finkelstein on the bible and the archaeology of 10th c. Palestine
    Interesting interview in Ha'aretz on Finkelstein's book (with Silberman, 2001), being published in Hebrew.

    Sharon: Israel ready to talk to Syria
    Sharon says Israel is ready to talk to Syria. But adds that
    We must wait a number of weeks to not interfere with American pressure on Syria for necessary steps for the security of Israel
    Don't expect anything anytime soon.

    Rumsfeld's two-face act on N. Korea
  • 2000: director of a company which wins $200m contract to sell nuclear reactors to North Korea
  • 2002: declares North Korea a terrorist state, part of the axis of evil and a target for regime change
  • See recent entry below.

    Halliburton paid millions in bribes to Nigerian official
    These are the people who will be rebuilding Iraq and, of course, who are running the US.

    Gaza visitors must sign waiver in case Israeli army shoots them
    What's the point? Israel's army always finds its soldiers innocent of all charges, no matter what the circumstances or facts.


    US: Some Iraqi artifacts recovered
    US officials claim to have recovered hundreds of artifacts and manuscripts recently in Iraq. No word on exactly what was recovered.

    Bush under fire for carrier photo-op
    A Reuters report says that Democrats have begun criticizing Bush for his recent little aircraft carrier landing stunt:
    Democrats on the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee said costs could top $1 million. They included delaying the USS Lincoln that was steaming from the Gulf to San Diego, California, an extra day of air patrols, keeping the crew at sea, presidential security and flying Bush to the ship.
    Isn't there a law against elected officials (using the term here loosely to describe Bush) misusing federal property?

    Report: US pressuring IAEA members to declare Iran in violation of treaty
    Reuters report via the NY Times.
    The atomic energy agency is scheduled to meet next month, and a finding against Iran could spark punitive action by the United Nations, the Times reported.

    Even as public attention focuses more on the wrangling with North Korea over its nuclear ambitions, U.S. officials told the Times the Iran problem was equally urgent.
    Possible "punitive action" by the UN? That must mean that it's time for the US to cozy up to it again.

    Turkish police raid human rights HQ
    BBC report on a raid by Turkish police on the country's oldest and largest human rights organization. Information relating to Turkey's campaign against the Kurds seems to have been the focus of the raid. The group
    had been prosecuted 300 times in the first 14 years of its existence, it said, but in the last three years it had faced 437 cases, none of which had resulted in a successful prosecution.

    Fourteen officials of the organisation have been killed.
    Files relating to the deaths of over 800 people while in the custody of security forces were also taken.


    Rice threatens Syria over "Iraqi WMDs"
    An AP report in The Guardian states:
    The United States would be forced to act if it discovered that Damascus allowed Iraq to hide weapons of mass destruction in Syria during the war, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said in an interview published Wednesday.
    Most likely, such a "discovery" would be similar to the US's "knowledge" of Iraq's huge arsenal before the war.

    Israeli army fire kills baby
    Palestinian baby killed by Israeli army fire; the soldiers were reported to have been firing from two nearby settelements.

    HRW: "Road map" fails to address human rights concerns
    The BBC reports that HRW has expressed concerns over the "road maps" failure to address human rights issues.

    "US soldiers encouraged Iraqi looters"
    The BBC reports that some Iraqi looters may have been encouraged by American soldiers.

    Autopsy shows British cameraman killed by Israeli army
    Ha'aretz reports that Israel's Forensic Institute has determined that "British journalist James Miller, who was shot dead last week in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah, was hit by IDF fire, not by Palestinian fire...". Here's an earlier Guardian article on the murder.

    Of course, the Israeli army had immediately blamed the Palestinians. The Israeli army suggested that Palestinian militants may have shot Miller, while asserting their innocence:

    A British journalist shot dead while filming Israeli army operations in a strife-ridden area of the Gaza Strip was hit from behind, raising the possibility that he was killed by Palestinian fire and not by Israeli troops, the IDF said yesterday...Witnesses said that an Israeli tank opened fire at the journalists, but the army denied there were tanks in the area.
    Meaning, they lied. Let the cover-up begin.

    Sharon to press Powell to pressure Palestinians
    Sharon reported ready to ask Colin Powell to put pressure on the Palestinians, as he is doing with the Syrians.

    Syria calls for full Israeli withdrawal
    Ha'aretz report on call by Syrian ambassador to Spain.

    Bush paper doll kit
    With two sets of clothes: one for the commander-in-chief, and one for National Guard duty.

    Straw under fire hushing up Israeli attacks against Britons
    Yes, funny how that works. Several Israelis killed in a suicide bombing, and the British government is beside itself with offers to help; meanwhile, it stands to the side watching Israel cover up the murders of British citizens, like Iain Hook. Ditto for the US and Rachel Corrie.

    Several for the Iraq cronyism file
    ABC News report on Richard Perle briefing a seminar on how to profit from Iraq and Korea conflicts - just 2 weeks after he received a top-secret government briefing on the crises in the two countries, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday (7 May 03).

    Reuters reports that Cheney's old company Halliburton is getting some extra work in Iraq that was handed out with no bidding and no public oversight. Halliburton - back-door beauty. Also a CNN report.


    Italian pilot to Tel Aviv passengers: Welcome to Palestine
    Hahahahaha... the smallest thing to remind people that Palestinians do exist can't go unpunished. According to a company spokesperson, "One thing is certain, this captain will not fly to Israel again".

    Report: Israel to demolish 120 homes near Bethlehem
    Part of plans to expand an illegal new colony attached to Jerusalem.

    Chalabi threatens blackmail
    Item moved to the "Big Blog" on 7 May 03. Have a nice day.

    Hersh on Pentagon "intelligence"
    Seymour Hersh, America's favorite terrorist reporter, has an article on the Pentagon's "Office of Special Plans", largely responsible for cooking the "intelligence" presented in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

    Here's just one interesting quote from the article which shows just how ass-backwards the rationale for this war was:
    According to the Pentagon adviser, Special Plans was created in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believed to be true - that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States...

    [A former intelligence officer stated:] "One of the reasons I left was my sense that they were using the intelligence from the C.I.A. and other agencies only when it fit their agenda. They didn?t like the intelligence they were getting, and so they brought in people to write the stuff. They were so crazed and so far out and so difficult to reason with?to the point of being bizarre. Dogmatic, as if they were on a mission from God."
    No evidence to support those unfounded, irrational beliefs? Invent an office to take care of it. Perhaps there's a lesson here for the Vatican.

    Sharon reiterates demand that Palestinians give up right of return
    Israeli PM Sharon reiterated his demand that the Palestinians renounce their right of return to their homes and lands in return for Israel adopting the "road map". According to the article,
    ...Sharon told Israel Radio the renunciation by Palestinians "is something Israel insists on and sees it as a condition for continuing the process."
    Exactly which "process" Sharon was referring to remains unclear. A Ha'aretz article here also reports this and states that Israel will shortly discuss its reservations on the "road map" with the US.

    In fact, though, this demand, and in conjunction with the "road map", is nothing new: Sharon made similar statements in February and April.


    US considering lifting sanctions unilaterally
    Another run-in with the UN, Russia and France in the offing?

    Israel rejects Syrian offer for peace talks
    Israel turns down Assad's call for peace talks.

    Assad is just striking out left and right these days. First, the US rejection of Syria's call for a WMD-free Middle East and now this.

    But why would Israel summarily reject this offer?
    "It was decided that treatment of the matter would be delayed until Syria's true domestic and international situation becomes clear in the fallout of the Iraqi war," an Israeli official said.
    Possibly waiting for the US to depose Assad and install a puppet who wouldn't keep demanding the Golan?

    Garner reported on his way out
    The Independent reports that Jay Garner, the head of the US's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs, in charge of rebuilding Iraq, will be leaving his post soon. The Independent adds:
    Although the change replaces a Pentagon appointee with a State Department person, Mr Bremer is thought to be close to neo-conservatives around the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

    This is significant because it suggests continuing support by US administrators here for the Iraqi National Congress headed by Dr Ahmad Chalabi.
    Chalabi still in the lead to take over.

    Dalyell digs in
    Renegade MP continues his outburst.

    Israeli soldiers fire at parents of injured activist
    Israeli soldiers opened fire - a "warning shot" - at a convoy carrying the parents of injured ISM activist Tom Hurndall. Hurndall's parents were visiting the area where their son was shot.

    Garner expects Iraq "leadership" in place by mid-May
    AFP and BBC reports. The administration is set to include Kurdish, Shi'a, and Sunni elements and, of course, Ahmad Chalabi.

    Powell: Military action against Syria not on table...or maybe it is
    Moved over to the "Big Blog" on 5 May 03. Find it here. Have a nice day.

    Soviets spied on Orwell in Spain
    More on Orwell: the Soviets spied on the writer while he was fighting against the fascists in the Spanish civil war.

    Odd coincidence: the British handler of the spy assigned to Orwell was codenamed O'Brien in what is apparently an incredible coincidence:

    [The spy] passed his reports to Hugh O'Donnell, another communist from London, whose codename was O'Brien. Bowker [author of a new Orwell biography] writes that, although Orwell was oblivious to this, "the fact that the character in Nineteen Eighty-Four who first wins the confidence of Winston Smith and then betrays him is given the name O'Brien must be one of the strangest coincidences in literature.
    The article also reports that Orwell's wife may have been cheating on him.


    British MP makes anti-semitic comments
    No two ways about it - Tam Dalyell is over the line. The Guardian and The Telegraph both have articles on the issue.

    Why Nietzche went mad
    It wasn't syphillis, apparently, but a brain tumor instead.

    I was talking about this the other day with a very close associate. She said the thing that triggered Nietzche's madness was him seeing a horse being beaten in the streets and feeling pity for it. The fact that Nietzche, who had counted himself among his postulated group of "uebermenschen", felt pity - an emotion not supposed to be characteristic of a "superman" - made him realize that his entire philospohical Weltanschauung was rubbish and led to his breakdown. An interesting, if urban legend-esque, take on philosphers going insane.

    Sahhaf's trip to reality
    Article on ex-Iraqi Information Minister Mohammad Sahhaf's return to reality. Sahhaf wants to go into exile in Egypt, according to the article, because he "loves those Egyptian women very, very much."

    (Nod to The Agonist.)

    Mitzna quits as Labor Party leader
    Amram Mitzna quits due to what he says is disunity in the Labor party's ranks.


    UPDATE: Israeli tourism minister to advocate "Jordan-is-Palestine" plan
    Israeli Tourism Minister Benny Elon will dust off the old "Jordan-is-Palestine" plan when he meets with Congress, Ha'aretz now reports in an update to the item posted below. Israeli settler-movement mouthpiece Arutz-7 reports something similar.

    Vindication for the analysis I posted awhile back on my other blog, A Castoff Cigarette Butt? Let's hope Congress finally learns how to say "no".

    (Nod to The Agonist.)

    Study: Birds act like human shoppers
    Did the scientists who carried out this study and the BBC ever consider that the conclusion can be reversed? That is, since birds existed before shoppers did, it would be more accurate to say that "shoppers can be trained to act like birds"?

    Report on media contributions to political candidates
    Published early in April by the Guardian. With link to an analysis article.

    Israel seeks pipeline for Iraqi oil
    Essentially rebuilding the old Kirkuk-Haifa pipeline.

    Israeli advocate of expelling Palestinians to visit Congress
    Israel's tourism minister, Benny Elon, an advocate of expelling the Palestinians from the West Bank, was scheduled as of Friday (2 May 03) to visit Congress. He was to urge Congress against supporting the so-called "road map". Interestingly, Elon was also to meet with some "well-known evangelist preachers who are known for their support for Israel" - you know, those anti-Semitic types who see Israel as an important part of their biblical understanding of jesus, the "Second Coming", and stuff like that.

    Pynchon review of 1984
    Yes...a review 55 years after it was published. Pynchon apparently wrote the introduction to a new edition being published shortly. Best line from the review: "Orwellian, dude!"

    More on the "Apartheid Wall"
    Ha'aretz article on the "Apartheid Wall". This would be an interesting case for property-rights lawyers: a country seizing land that is not within its borders from people which are not its citizens.

    Comments on Jenin and new book
    Ilan Pappe on the Jenin book by Ramzi Baroud.

    Powell dismisses Syrian anti-WMD proposal
    Also Saturday, Powell rejected a Syrian proposal that the U.S. immediately support an Arab-backed United Nations resolution on ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction - a proposal obviously aimed at Israel, which is supected of having nuclear weapons, a suspicion which Jerusalem has never confirmed.

    Ahead of his meeting with Assad, the secretary of state said that clearing such weapons from the region is a long-standing U.S. goal, but now is not the time to address that matter.

    "Now is not the time to address the matter"? What was the point of Iraq?

    RSF: Sharon press freedom "predator"
    A rogues' gallery of 42 "predators" of press freedom, including Vladimir Putin and Ariel Sharon, has been drawn up by international press watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres...

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