Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Democracy Now: Aparisim Ghosh, Kevin Phillips; Iraq

Father of Slain Contractor Among 50 Arrested at Anti-War Protest
Back in the United States, anti-war protests continued to mark the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion. In Washington, hundreds of people marched on the Pentagon, carrying a mock coffin they intended to give to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The demonstrators were met with a steel barrier erected by police to bar their entry. About 50 people were arrested when they managed to cross the fence. Among them was Michael Berg, whose son Nicolas Berg was beheaded by Iraqi kidnappers in 2004. Before his arrest, Michael Berg said: "My son was killed out of revenge for the atrocities that Americans committed at the Abu Ghraib prison; murdering, raping, and torturing prisoners there. So for me to say look how horrible what they did to my son certainly I'm entitled to revenge well there are people who can say the same thing because there are people over there in Iraq who lost their sons and daughters in that prison and there are a 100,000 people in Iraq dead and think of all the families there that think they're entitled to revenge. I don't think revenge is justified under any circumstances. revenge is an endless cycle and it has to stop somewhere and it stops with me."
27 Killed in Attack on Iraq Jail
In the latest violence from Iraq, 17 police officers were killed today when gunmen stormed a prison north of Baghdad. Almost three dozen prisoners were freed in the attack, which also left 10 of the gunmen dead. The prison was left in flames. The assaults came one day after at least 39 people were killed in violence around the country.
Bush Says He Didn’t Link Saddam Hussein to 9/11
As poll numbers continue to show decreasing public support for his presidency and the war in Iraq, President Bush appealed Monday for patience. Speaking in Ohio, Bush said he could "understand people being disheartened" but implored Americans to see signs of progress. During the question period, the President was asked about the pre-war claim Saddam Hussein was linked to the 9/11 attacks. Bush responded: "First-just if I might correct a misperception, I don't think we ever said, at least I know I didn't say that there was a direct connection between September 11th and Saddam Hussein."
Critics immediately lashed out at the President's remarks. In a letter to Congress delivered three years ago today, President Bush wrote: "The use of armed forces against Iraq is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."
Historic Black Church Faces Closure in New Orleans
And in New Orleans, ten people barricaded themselves inside one of the country's oldest black Roman Catholic Churches Monday to protest its planned closure. Freed slaves founded the St. Augustine Church in 1841. The New Orleans Archdiocese plans to close it down as a cost-saving measure. We reached Cynthia Dolliole, who is among the ten people inside the church. She said: "We are just trying to get answers as to why they would close the oldest black church in the US when everyone in New Orleans has lost everything else and now we are trying to make us lose our church; we're very disappointed and hoping someone will hear us and we'll get better answers than what we've gotten before."
The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Erika, Ben, Kayla and ToriDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for March 21, 2006

- FBI Agent Says Ignored Warnings Could Have Prevented 9/11
- 27 Killed in Attack on Iraq Jail
- Bush Says He Didn’t Link Saddam to 9/11
- Protesters Announce Pending Strike Against France Worker Law
- French Demonstrator Left in Coma After Police Beating
- Milosevic Honored, Protested in Belgrade
Videotape Forces Pentagon to Investigate Claims U.S. Marines Shot Dead 15 Iraqi Civilians in Apparent Revenge Killings

The U.S. military is conducting a criminal investigation into allegations that marines shot and killed 15 civilians, including seven women and three children, in the Iraqi town of Haditha last November in an apparent act of revenge for the death of a U.S. soldier by a roadside bomb. A videotape obtained by Time Magazine shows that many of the victims were still in their nightclothes when they died. We speak with the Time reporter who broke the story.
Fmr. GOP Strategist Kevin Phillips on American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century

Former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips joins us to discuss his new book, "American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century." Throughout the 1970s and 1980s Phillips was viewed as one of the GOP's top theoreticians and electoral analysts. [includes rush transcript - partial]
In highlights, we have a news that you might not have heard or read on the protests.  First up, Mike notes Boston Indymedia "Anti-Recruitment Demonstrations Mark Third Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq:"
On Monday morning, March 20, at around 11:00am, 10 protesters gathered outside the Northeastern University Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) office on Huntington Avenue to protest the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. "We wanted to make sure nobody forgets that both Iraqi civilians and American soldiers are dying everyday," said one protester. The protesters used colorful chalk to transform the sidewalk into a collage of messages such as "100,000 Dead for what?", "Military recruiters out of our schools," "Death zone," and "Recruiting the poor to die for the rich." Protesters also drew chalk body outlines to represent the dead, both Iraqi and American.
The protests and demonstrations didn't end on Sunday.  For instance . . .
In Los Angeles on Monday, eight people were arrested protesting the war at Dianne Feinstein's offices --  while in San Francisco, seventeen were arrested outside of Feinstein's offices there.  Seventeen arrested protesting at Ron Wyden's office in Eugene, Oregon. And at the Pentagon yesterday, twenty were arrested as they protested the war and "hoisted" a "symbolic coffin . . . over the fence" representing those who have died in Bully Boy's illegal war of choice. The New York Timid couldn't find a protest.  Which is perfectly in keeping with other news the paper of record misses.  However, protests did go on across the country marking the third anniversary of the invasion.
Staying with the topic of Iraq, Lewis notes Basav Sen and Hope Chu's "Operation Corporate Freedom: The IMF and World Bank in Iraq" (Left Turn):
While the three-year U.S. occupation of Iraq faces a quagmire in operations, the economic forces of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are moving full speed ahead implementing various economic reforms that will cause U.S.-based corporations - Bechtel, Halliburton, and others -- to proclaim, "Mission Accomplished!" As the Bush administration touts its rhetoric of freedom and liberation, the IMF and World Bank are busily "liberating" Iraq's resources -- oil and labor -- and "freeing" Iraq's markets. The recent rise in fuel prices in Iraq and the subsequent riots are just a glimpse of what the future holds for Iraq under IMF and World Bank plans.
Stage One: Debt cancellation for Iraq, increased control for the IMF
Shortly after the start of the US occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration sent former Secretary of State James Baker on a pilgrimage to the capitals of other wealthy countries to seek cancellation of Saddam Hussein's odious debts. In a move that seemed inexplicable at first, the Bush administration was using the principle of odious debt to ask for cancellation of Iraq's Saddam Hussein-era debt.
Now, the political motivations behind this unexpected move are clear. The cancellation of Iraq's debt is a Trojan horse for the IMF, World Bank, and WTO to enter Iraq and start restructuring the economy further, continuing where Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) left off. In a move reminiscent of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program, not only debt but debt relief is being used as a tool to restructure Iraq’s economy.
The Paris Club of Creditors, a cartel of most of the world's major creditors (including all the G8 governments and the governments of other wealthy countries), agreed on November 21, 2004, to cancel 80% of Iraq’s debt of about $39 billion to Paris Club members, in three steps. The terms of the cancellation are that:
  • 30% of the debt would be cancelled outright;

  • 30% would be cancelled "as soon as a standard IMF programme is approved," according to the Paris Club press release announcing the move, essentially conditioning debt cancellation on the subjugation of Iraq’s economic policy to the IMF;

  • Another 20% would be cancelled after three years, subject to the IMF Board's review of Iraq's implementation of the terms of the agreement, further binding Iraq to IMF conditions.

Two things about the Paris Club "deal" are noteworthy. First, Iraq's debt to the IMF is only about 1% of its total Paris Club debt, and yet the IMF gets to determine the conditions for most of the debt cancellation being offered to Iraq. This shows that the political clout of the IMF is way out of proportion to its financial clout.
Secondly, the Paris Club made it clear that the offer of debt cancellation was because of "the exceptional situation of the Republic of Iraq and ... its limited repayment capacity over the coming years." While the initial rhetoric of the Bush administration had focused on the principle of odious debt, the Paris Club was careful not to set a precedent for acknowledging this principle, lest they face pressure in the future to cancel the debts of other repressive regimes such as the apartheid regime in South Africa, the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia, the notorious Duvaliers of Haiti, or the Mobutu regime in Congo. Denying the odious nature of the debt also provides the Paris Club political cover to keep 20% of Iraq’s debt off the table. Even the Iraqi National Assembly, a body that rarely contradicts the United States, has publicly condemned the Paris Club deal for failing to recognize the odious nature of Iraq’s debt and consequently requiring Iraq to repay a fifth of it.
In this manner, a move that appears on the surface to be beneficial for Iraq -- debt cancellation -- is being used as a tool of control by the World Bank, the IMF and the wealthy creditor countries. What is more, it is a tool of control that will last long after the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces.
While we enter year four of an illegal war, the DC chattering classes jawbone in attempts to support a warn on Iran.  Which brings us to the last highlight, Markus notes Katharine Gun's "Iran: Time to Leak" (TomPain.com via Common Dreams):
Where are the whistleblowers about Iran?
It is exactly three years since the United States and Great Britain invaded Iraq, and a little over three years since Martin Bright and his colleagues at the London Observer quietly tested the veracity of an e-mail passed to them anonymously, whilst I nervously waited to see if the e-mail I leaked would appear in a newspaper. All this for the purpose of slowing down, if not derailing, a war that many felt was being rushed into by gung-ho politicians Bush and Blair.
Looking back, we have an ever-clearer picture of what was going on behind the scenes. Since my leak, there have been more; all because civil servants are disgusted by the manipulation of truth, even outright lies. Yet, here we are, three years on, with all the knowledge we have about the lack of WMD in Iraq, about the intent on regime change all along, about the lives destroyed, the untold misery of thousands, the renditions, torture, secret prisons and beatings—and still we remain silent about U.S. intentions toward Iran. Do we believe that the Bush administration is too bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan to dare go anywhere near Iran?  Or do we just not care about the mini-nukes, so called low-yield, ground-penetrating nuclear bombs that Bush and his advisers are ready to unleash on its next Middle East target?  Even if Bush does not declare all-out war on Iran, the bombing of key installations, with or without a nuclear payload, is an act of aggression and threatens to plunge an already angered and turbulent Middle East into further chaos.
Iran may be saber-rattling, it may even have an extremist government, but so does North Korea, yet we choose the diplomatic route with them always. Of course, North Korea doesn’t have that precious commodity, oil. Iran is surrounded by nuclear powers, no wonder she twitches nervously. Little mention is made of India, Pakistan, China or Israel; these countries can arm themselves to the hilt, but it is absolutely out of the question for Iran to possess sources of nuclear energy, let alone means to defend herself.
We must face facts; nuclear nonproliferation as a practical solution is defunct and useless. A blind eye is turned to those we call friends, whilst our foes face the threat of war. A true solution would be gradual decommissioning of all nuclear weapons globally, so why is that never advocated by the leaders of our ‘peace-loving’ nations?  How ironic is it that the solution to Iran’s nuclear ambition is the threat of nuclear weapons? Since when did two wrongs make a right?
For those keeping track, there's the war still waging in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Iran on the horizon.
Seth returned to blogging yesterday with a lengthy entry so be sure to check out Seth in the City.
The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

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