Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Krugman on Bush's Health Care Views

In spite of the fact that almost every other advanced capitalist state has some form of universal health care the US considers it some sort of socialist plot and even most Democrats will not even say straight out they are in favor of some single payer system. The result is a health care system that is the most expensive in the world but far from the best particularly for the working poor. It is so inefficient that even without universal care the public expenditure in the US is greater than that in the UK that has a universal system--as percentage of GDP. But the US also has a huge private expenditure as well.


The New York Times
July 30, 2007

An Immoral Philosophy

By PAUL KRUGMAN

When a child is enrolled in the State Childrens Health Insurance
Program (Schip), the positive results can be dramatic. For example,
after asthmatic children are enrolled in Schip, the frequency of
their
attacks declines on average by 60 percent, and their likelihood of
being hospitalized for the condition declines more than 70 percent.

Regular care, in other words, makes a big difference. Thats why
Congressional Democrats, with support from many Republicans, are
trying
to expand Schip, which already provides essential medical care to
millions of children, to cover millions of additional children who
would otherwise lack health insurance.

But President Bush says that access to care is no problem After
all,
you just go to an emergency room and, with the support of the
Republican Congressional leadership, hes declared that hell veto
any
Schip expansion on philosophical grounds.

It must be about philosophy, because it surely isnt about cost. One
of
the plans Mr. Bush opposes, the one approved by an overwhelming
bipartisan majority in the Senate Finance Committee, would cost
less
over the next five years than well spend in Iraq in the next four
months. And it would be fully paid for by an increase in tobacco
taxes.

The House plan, which would cover more children, is more expensive,
but
it offsets Schip costs by reducing subsidies to Medicare Advantage
a
privatization scheme that pays insurance companies to provide
coverage,
and costs taxpayers 12 percent more per beneficiary than
traditional
Medicare.

Strange to say, however, the administration, although determined to
prevent any expansion of childrens health care, is also dead set
against any cut in Medicare Advantage payments.

So what kind of philosophy says that its O.K. to subsidize
insurance
companies, but not to provide health care to children?

Well, heres what Mr. Bush said after explaining that emergency
rooms
provide all the health care you need: Theyre going to increase the
number of folks eligible through Schip; some want to lower the age
for
Medicare. And then all of a sudden, you begin to see a I wouldnt
call
it a plot, just a strategy to get more people to be a part of a
federalization of health care.

Now, why should Mr. Bush fear that insuring uninsured children
would
lead to a further federalization of health care, even though
nothing
like that is actually in either the Senate plan or the House plan?
Its
not because he thinks the plans wouldnt work. Its because hes
afraid
that they would. That is, he fears that voters, having seen how the
government can help children, would ask why it cant do the same for
adults.

And there you have the core of Mr. Bushs philosophy. He wants the
public to believe that government is always the problem, never the
solution. But its hard to convince people that government is always
bad
when they see it doing good things. So his philosophy says that the
government must be prevented from solving problems, even if it can.
In
fact, the more good a proposed government program would do, the
more
fiercely it must be opposed.

This sounds like a caricature, but it isnt. The truth is that this
good-is-bad philosophy has always been at the core of Republican
opposition to health care reform. Thus back in 1994, William
Kristol
warned against passage of the Clinton health care plan in any form,
because its success would signal the rebirth of centralized
welfare-state policy at the very moment that such policy is being
perceived as a failure in other areas.

But it has taken the fight over childrens health insurance to bring
the
perversity of this philosophy fully into view.

There are arguments you can make against programs, like Social
Security, that provide a safety net for adults. I can respect those
arguments, even though I disagree. But denying basic health care to
children whose parents lack the means to pay for it, simply because
youre afraid that success in insuring children might put big
government
in a good light, is just morally wrong.

And the public understands that. According to a recent Georgetown
University poll, 9 in 10 Americans including 83 percent of
self-identified Republicans support an expansion of the childrens
health insurance program.

There is, it seems, more basic decency in the hearts of Americans
than
is dreamt of in Mr. Bushs philosophy.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Israel to receive 30 billion US in defence aid

The US military manufacturers must be making a mint these days with the excessive use of munitions and loss of copters, vehicles etc. in Iraq and Afghanistan and now they will get huge orders from Israel and Saudi Arabia.



AFX News Limited
Israeli PM announces 30 billion US dollar US defence aid
07.29.07, 6:47 AM ET





JERUSALEM (Thomson Financial) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that the US has agreed a 25 percent increase in its military and defence aid to Israel, to 30 billion US dollars in the next 10 years.

'In my last meeting with the president of the United States, we agreed that the aid would stand at 30 billion dollars over the next 10 years, meaning over three billion dollars a year, starting next year,' he said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting.

'This is an increase of over 25 percent in the military and defence aid of the United States to Israel,' he added.

Olmert described the new package as a considerable improvement and a very important element for the security of Israel. Current US defence aid to Israel stands at 2.4 billion dollars a year.

US President George W. Bush, whom Olmert last met in Washington on June 19, gave him assurances 'to keep the qualitative edge between us (Israel) and the other states (in the region),' the Israeli premier said.

'Other than the increase in aid, we received an explicit and detailed commitment to guarantee Israel's qualitative advantage over other Arab states.

'We understand the United States' desire to help moderate states which stand at a united front with the United States and Israel in the struggle against Iran,' he added.

A senior US defence official said on Saturday that Washington is readying a major arms package for Saudi Arabia with an eye to countering the changing threat from Tehran, Israel's arch foe.

The Pentagon provided no details on the arms package, which will reportedly total 20 billion dollars over the next decade.

But it will include new weapons for the United Arab Emirates, and military and economic support to Egypt, officials said.

The deal is intended to strengthen US allies in the Middle East and counter the perceived threat from Iran, whose nuclear activities have provoked major concern in Israel and the US.

Israel has reacted cautiously to the reported Saudi package.

'We have no doubt that the United States would not do anything that could endanger the security of Israel,' Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin told Agence France-Presse Sunday.


afp/jg

US funding Blair as envoy?

Probably Blair will toe the US line whether or not the US pays his salary. It has already been made abundantly clear by the US that his mission is to build up Palestinian authority institutions..i.e. further isolate Hamas. No doubt the US just wants to get their running dog up and running and the details of funding can be worked out later. Anyone who thinks the peace process is objective between Palestine and Israel has rocks in their head. In fact it is so biased it will be a wonder if even Abbas will able to bend enough to attain a deal.


US state department 'funding Blair'
By Mark Seddon, diplomatic correspondent





Blair's appointment provoked outright
hostility from Russia [AFP]




There are questions emerging over Tony Blair's appointment as the Quartet's [the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia] Middle East envoy.

The uncertainties start with funding, who is paying the bills for the former British prime minister's new job as special representative for the diplomatic grouping?




This is a hugely sensitive position. It is also a position that Blair had his eyes on for some time.

In this, he had the whole-hearted backing of George Bush, the US president, and the US state department.

However, it appears that it was not just political support that was on offer.






Trust fund

Tony Blair's seemless transition from prime minister to special representative for the Quartet last month was accompanied by raised eyebrows at the UN and within the British foreign office.

It also provoked outright hostility from the Russians.

Now, senior UN and British officials have told Al Jazeera that the US state department has been paying Mr Blair's bills, either directly or indirectly, via a trust fund. The amount remains undisclosed.

Marie Okabe, a UN spokeswoman, said: "I don't think I can get into the legal position of the Quartet but as you know the UN is one of the four members of the Quartet, Tony Blair is representative of the Quartet, I think the question of resources for him, his staffing, that kind of thing, is an issue that is under discussion."

Meanwhile, Blair's office said: "These issues are still being discussed. Our focus has been on Tony Blair's trips and getting the office up and running in September.

US puppet

Discussions may well be taking place within the Quartet, with a view to sharing the expense of Tony Blair and his offices, likely to be situated in London and Jerusalem.

But for some, the involvement of the state department puts Mr Blair too close to the US administration and confuses the role of the Quartet.

And that's hardly the image Tony Blair wants to project

Although there are some who argue that Tony Blair's close relationship with Bush could be beneficial to the Palestinians, there are others who believe that Tony Blair has seriously compromised himself.

They say: 'he who pays the piper, plays the tune'.

US denial

Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said: "Tony Blair is close to Washington, he has always argued that being close to Washington is the way to get some thing from Washington.

"The onus will be on him to deliver, to be able to move the Bush administration, move the Israelis, so that they can come together and make the deal with the Palestinians that he is trying to make."

In a statement on Friday, Karl Duckworth, a US state department spokesman, said: "Neither the US government nor the Quartet pay a salary to Quartet representative Tony Blair.

"We are working out the details of funding and support with our Quartet partners for Blair's staff as well as the costs associated with their mission."

As the controversy continues, and as if bridging the divide between the various actors on the Middle East stage was not hard enough, Tony Blair may now have to go out of his way just to prove that he does represent all the Quartet members, not just the US.

A long hot summer of negotiations beckons.









Source: Al Jazeera

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Crisis in Maliki Government

The Iraqi government always seems to be in crisis. Not too long ago it was the Sadr group that had pulled out, now its a Sunni grouping. It is interesting that this article talks as if the surge has made the security conditions better. From the continuing carnage every day it is hard to see that it can be that much better. The parliament did just pass a bill to privatise refineries. The US should be happy. I wouldn't expect refineries to start sprouting up like mushrooms though!

Iraqi government in deepest crisis By Sam Dagher
Fri Jul 27, 4:00 AM ET



Baghdad - Iraq is in the throes of its worst political crisis since the fall of Saddam Hussein with the new democratic system, based on national consensus among its ethnic and sectarian groups, appearing dangerously close to collapsing, say several politicians and analysts.



This has brought paralysis to governmental institutions and has left parliament unable to make headway on 18 benchmarks Washington is using to measure progress in Iraq, including legislation on oil revenue sharing and reforming security forces.

And the disconnect between Baghdad and Washington over the urgency for solutions is growing. The Iraqi parliament is set for an August vacation as the Bush administration faces pressure to show progress in time for a September report to Congress.

At the moment, Iraqi politicians are simply trying to keep the government from disintegrating. On Friday, top Iraqi officials were set to convene in the Kurdish north for a crisis summit, in the hopes that talks held outside of Baghdad's politically poisonous atmosphere may bring some resolution to the current political standstill. President Jalal Talabani and his two deputies, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the president of the semiautonomous Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, were set to meet at the Salaheddin summer resort at the end of a difficult week.

On Wednesday, the Iraqi Accordance Front said it pulled out of Mr. Maliki's coalition government, but would return its six cabinet members if the prime minister met a list of demands. The Sunni bloc says it wants, among other things, pardons for detainees not facing specific criminal charges and for all militias to be disbanded.

"We are frankly in the midst of the worst crisis," says Fakhri Karim, a close adviser to Messrs. Barzani and Talabani who also publishes the independent Al Mada newspaper. He says he doubts the Friday meeting will find any resolution because of the new political tussle with the Iraqi Accordance Front.

"Most of the political blocs have failed to operate within the framework of national consensus. They can't even properly formulate their positions and proposals, let alone realize the very serious dangers that surround everyone."

The gravity of the situation was underscored by several officials. "We have a governmental crisis. Our people expect better performance," said Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.

And since Saturday, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker has been shuttling between Iraq's top leaders, but an embassy spokesperson said this was not necessarily indicative of a crisis.

"The surge has done well in making a difference in security conditions. But it isn't a light switch for reconciliation; there are no quick fixes to years of bitterness and violence," he said.

Some US military officers have expressed concern privately that Iraq's leadership has failed to take advantage of some of the breathing room offered by the US-led surge against insurgents and militants.

The crisis is also fueling discontent and alienation among Iraqis.

"They are making us regret we ever voted for them ... they should learn something about unity from our soccer team," said an anonymous caller on a state television program on Wednesday after Iraq's victory over South Korea in the Asian Cup semifinals.

Iraq's two rounds of elections in 2005 were historic in many ways. They empowered once-marginalized Shiites and Kurds, but the experience also enshrined and even codified in the new Constitution a consensus-based system that is built on a delicate division of authority along sectarian and ethnic lines.

This was meant mainly to accommodate the embittered Sunni Arabs who were slow to embrace the political process and continue to fuel a violent insurgency that has spiraled into a bloody sectarian war.

But 14 months after Maliki, a Shiite, formed his so-called government of national unity, Iraq's quest for democracy has hit a wall. Political leaders, mainly Shiites and Sunnis, are now trading a barrage of very serious recriminations.

"The partnership experience has been dealt major blows ... we tried to maintain our good intentions and patience ... but we have been faced with arrogance, a monopoly over power, and efforts to eliminate [us] in every way," said Khalaf al-Olayan from the Iraqi Accordance Front at a press conference announcing the suspension of six cabinet members from the government.

If they pull out, it would bring to 12 the number of vacancies in Maliki's 39-member cabinet.

"We are firmly convinced after this bitter experience that this government represented by its prime minister is incapable of joining a truly patriotic project," added Mr. Olayan, surrounded by Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi and the front's other leaders.

He said the pullout would become finalized in a week unless Maliki showed willingness to fulfill a list of 12 conditions that boil down to releasing thousands of detainees held in US and Iraqi prisons without charges, ending what the front considers the indiscriminate targeting of Sunnis.

Sami al-Askari, a parliamentarian and close adviser to Maliki, said all the accusations and demands by the Sunni bloc are merely a smoke screen for one thing: "Hashemi's desire for more powers than what has been accorded to him under the Constitution."

Mr. Askari accused the Sunni bloc of operating from the get-go more like opposition than a partner. Maliki and his Shiite allies have repeatedly charged that the Sunnis want to bring down the government and reverse the current political equation with the help of regional Sunni Arab powers Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Before the withdrawal of the Sunnis from the government, there had been efforts last week to contain the crisis, namely by resuscitating a proposal to create a coalition of so-called moderates to back the government and "isolate the extremists on both sides, Sunnis and Shiites," according to Foreign Minister Zebari.

Robert Springborg, director of the Middle East Institute at the University of London, says the heart of the problem was that no one is truly committed to a strong and unified government.

"The actors involved have their own agendas, the central government and its resources are a tool for their own aspirations ... none are committed to a government for all Iraqis," he says.

Pointing to the growing disconnect between Washington and Baghdad, Askari, Maliki's adviser, says, "Washington believes that passing the oil law will impact on reconciliation and the security situation. We beg to differ. This matters little to the armed groups that kill Iraqis every day. Their sole agenda is to reverse what we have achieved so far."

Friday, July 27, 2007

US Bill bans permanent bases, control of oil in Iraq

Well nothing is forever. I guess that is the moral of this bill. Or maybe the moral is that disguising policy by denial has bipartisan support. If there is no desire to control oil why is the new oil bill giving oil companies a much freer hand and privatising much oil except in name so important as a benchmark. How is it that the bases in Iraq are being expanded and that the US embassy is going to be the largest in the world. The US may not be in Iraq permanently but it will certainly be there as in Korea for the indefinite future.

WASHINGTON, July 25 (UPI) -- The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday forbidding permanent U.S. bases and any U.S. control over Iraq's oil.

The bill, approved 399-24, bans any funds appropriated by Congress from being used "to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq" or "to exercise United States economic control of the oil resources of Iraq."

It comes as the Democratic Party tepidly challenges President Bush's war policies. The party is moving toward demanding that troops be pulled from Iraq by a certain time, which Bush has criticized as hampering any chance of success in the more than four-year-old war.

Both Iraqis and campaigners around the world have raised the issue of U.S. insistence on a less nationalized oil sector in Iraq and pressure for the government to approve a controversial oil law.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who introduced the bill, said in a House floor statement the law "makes a clear statement of policy that the U.S. does not intend to maintain an open-ended military presence in Iraq and that we won't exercise control over Iraqi oil, and it backs that policy up with the power of the purse."

The law capitalized on Bush officials' historic insistence that there is no plan to create permanent bases in Iraq, mixed with a more recent message from White House spokesman Tony Snow that the "Korea model" is being looked at. U.S. troops are still in South Korea.

"Putting Congress on record with this clear statement helps take the targets off our troops' backs and it support our goals of handing over responsibility for security and public safety to Iraqi forces," Lee said.

US Angry at Saudi Role in Iraq

Some neo-cons have long favored changing policy towards the Saudis and even promoting regime change. Articles in the New York times and elsewhere now show a drift of US policy toward more criticism of the Saudis. The Saudis promoted the ill-fated unity government of Hamas and Fatah much to the dismay of the US. The US and Israel have already lured Egypt and Jordan into supporting Abbas against Hamas.
The Saudis are very concerned with Shia and Iranian power in Iraq. Support for insurgents comes from the Saudis as well as foreign fighters. Certainly the Saudis will not abandon the Sunni cause in Iraq although they might be persuaded to join in the Quartet Egypt and Jordan in isolating Hamas. On the other hand the Saudis may hope to gain more respect for holding out for Palestinian unity or at least try to promote it.


POLITICS
U.S. Increasingly Frustrated With Saudi Role in Iraq: Report
2007-07-27 04:23am


The Bush administration has become increasingly frustrated with the government of Saudi Arabia after discovering evidence over several months indicating the kingdom is aiding Sunni insurgents in Iraq, a report Friday said.

The New York Times reported Friday that as early as January of this year, Saudi government officials showed an American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, documents purporting to show that Iraq's prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Malik, is an agent of Iran and cannot be trusted.

One of those documents, the Times reported, claimed to indicate al-Maliki tipped off insurgent leader and radical Sh'ite cleric Moktada al-Sadr to "lie low" during the U.S. troop surge ordered by President Bush earlier this year because it was aimed, in part, at destroying al-Sadr's militia.

American reaction initially to the claims was skeptical, the paper said, but over the course of this year, Washington has come to view Saudi Arabia as not doing enough to insure stability in Iraq.

For one, said the report, an increasing number of insurgents from Saudi Arabia are being discovered in Iraq. Of the 60 to 80 fighters entering Iraq each month, U.S. military intelligence officials estimate half of those are coming from the oil-rich kingdom.

For another, American officials claimed to the Times they had seen evidence of Saudi Arabia's financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq.

Senior Bush administration officials said concerns would be raised with the Saudis next month with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates make a rare joint visit to Jidda, Saudi Arabia.

The paper said officials who spoke about the concerns, all on the condition of anonymity, had become equally frustrated that private conversations with Saudi officials about their government's counterproductive activities in Iraq had gone unchanged.

The Sunni-influenced Saudi government has not hidden its desire to help fellow Sunnis in Iraq. Last fall, in a meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney, Saudi King Abdullah Saudi Arabia might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq's Shiites if the United States pulled its troops out of Iraq, American and Arab diplomats told the Times.

(c) 2007 Newsroom.

Iraqi Oil Minister: There are no legal unions in Iraq

So where are all the US unions screaming about the new democracy in Iraq where there are no legal unions. The US troops are fighting to secure a union-free Iraq! The main stream press will maintain a deafening silence on this you can be sure. But where are the big union organisations worldwide?

Shahrastani: No Legal Oil Unions in Iraq
Unions Object to Draft Hydrocarbons Law, Call for Shahrastani's Resignation
By BEN LANDO Posted 23 hr. 49 min. ago
.
WASHINGTON, DC (UPI) -- Iraq's oil minister said Iraq's oil unions are not legitimate and have no more standing in the debate over the oil law than an ordinary citizen.

"There are no legal unions in Iraq," Hussein al-Shahristani said Wednesday in response to a question about various factions' positions on the controversial oil law. "Those people who call themselves representatives of the oil workers have not been elected to the position."

Shahristani spoke to UPI by phone from Baghdad.

The lone remaining law from the Saddam Hussein regime kept by U.S. occupying powers and the successive Iraqi government is the one that bans worker organizing in the public sector.

Despite that, workers have come together and leveraged their power. Since 2003 they've blocked numerous attempts to privatize management of both oil and other facilities and stopped work over disputes -- most recently early last month over the oil law and other unmet demands.

Earlier this month workers in the southern, oil-rich town of Basra marched in protest against the oil law and demanded Shahristani's resignation.

The law would govern exploration and development of Iraq's 115 billion barrels of proven reserves and unknown reserves to be found in under-explored areas. But the law is stuck over central government vs. regional/local control over certain oil fields. And the unions, along with other political elements, have led the charge that the law allows for contracts they see as too friendly to foreign oil companies

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Iraq bill passed to privatise oil refinieries.

This will no doubt please the US administration. Although none of the US benchmarks are near being met at least now there is some opening in the energy sector for foreign investment. A state that is privatising can hardly be a failed state in the jargon of global capitalism.

PETROL POLITICS
Parliament Passes Law to Privatize Refineries
Measures Designed to Boost Iraq's Capacity, End Fuel Shortages
By BEN LANDO Posted 17 hr. 37 min. ago
Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty
WASHINGTON, July 25 (UPI) -- Iraq's Parliament has approved a law privatizing the country's oil-refining sector in order to lure investment and stem a fuel shortage.

The law, approved Tuesday, is a step toward relinquishing government involvement in the refining sector and, when poverty is alleviated, moving Iraqi consumers from state-subsidized to market prices for fuel.

Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani told United Press International Wednesday from his mobile phone in Baghdad that the government will provide incentives to both domestic and foreign private oil companies whose refinery plans the ministry approves.

"This is a law that will privatize the refining sector in Iraq and allow the private sector, whether it's local or international investments, to be able to invest in refining activities in Iraq, including building refineries," Shahristani said.

The refinery law is not the same as the highly contested oil law, stuck in Parliament, which would govern access to and development of Iraq's vast oil reserves.

Despite its oil wealth, Iraq produces less than 2 million barrels per day -- compared with 2.6 million bpd before the war -- and exports more than three-quarters of it. That income covered more than 90 percent of the 2006 federal budget.

Demand for products such as gasoline, cooking and heating fuel is being met by the maxed-out domestic refineries -- which also suffer from sabotage, fuel smuggling and electrical shortages -- and regular fuel imports.

Earlier this month Iraq put out tenders for 1.3 million gallons of gasoline per day for the second half of this year, as well as tenders for kerosene, gas oil and other cooking and heating fuels. The security situation has caused import problems in the past.

In order to produce more fuel from Iraq's own oil supply, Shahristani said the law allows the ministry to offer private refineries "long-term supply of required crude oil at discount price from the market price on the day of supply." The price will be 1 percent below the price at which the State Oil Marketing Organization is selling the oil.

Shahristani said the deal gets sweeter because importers of Iraqi oil won't have to ship it to refineries outside the country, but make fuels in an established market.

"When you produce your fuel product in country you will not need to import it from outside," Shahristani said, though he also said the companies will be "totally free" to export the fuel if they can make more money doing it.

He said the law requires a certain percentage of Iraqi workers to be hired for a given project, leading to more jobs, more refining capacity and more fuel.

A company must submit a proposal to the Oil Ministry, "either on their own or in partnership with one of the Ministry of Oil companies," Shahristani said.

If approved, the ministry will also offer infrastructure support, sweet land deals and discounted utilities costs, he said, explaining such projects have "reasonable profit margins but not very large and investors have to be encouraged to come to areas like Iraq to start their work."

Shahristani said it is not only the stark security situation that's preventing investment, but Iraq is "an evolving economy from totally centralized to free market, and the economic system has not really developed to a point" that investors are confident in the safety of their investments.

The "new" Iraq as a free-market state isn't the goal of the entire country. It was a priority of the Bush administration, though. As head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the first occupation administration of Iraq in 2003, Paul Bremer made it a guiding rule, shutting down 192 state-owned businesses where the World Bank estimated 500,000 people were working. The Washington Post reported in May that Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Paul Brinkley recently skirted the U.S. State Department's free-market-or-nothing mandate on Iraq's economy and began the process of reopening the factories.

The oil sector, however, at least upstream, was a harder sell. The debate over the oil law pits those who want strong central government control over oil planning and development against proponents of regional/local control, which would likely lead to more reliance on private companies. There is no overall agreement as to the type of contracts those companies would sign, sparking worries it will be too friendly to foreign companies.

Shahristani said Iraq's gradual move out of refining will let it put more into the upstream sector.

The refining law doesn't include any government sell-off of its state operations "because the country needs fuel products."

"Currently our policy is to keep our government-owned and operated refineries until we are sure the market can be supplied from the private sector," Shahristani said. "As the private sector takes over this activity, the government will be stepping down."

Last week Iraq again increased its prices for gasoline as part of its obligations to the International Monetary Fund and Paris Club agreements on debt relief and new loans, which are nudging Iraq toward capitalism.

Iraq has long subsidized fuel to its citizens. That, in part, is spurring smugglers to take advantage of the high demand, long fuel-station lines and cheap station prices. The government estimated late last year such a black market was routing $700 million a month. The Brookings Institution's Iraq Index estimates available fuel supplies are at about half the "stated goal."

The Planning Ministry estimated earlier this month unemployment averaged between 60 percent and 70 percent, but the government says it will continue decreasing subsidies.

Shahristani said the end decision to erase all fuel subsidies is part of the annual budget process but will likely not happen "until the standard of living of Iraqis is raised until they can afford the international prices."

Ben Lando is UPI energy correspondent. (energy@upi.com) This article was re-printed by permission.

© Copyright 2007 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Iraqi Government | Oil Email This Post

Governments Buying Equity Stakes Worldwide

Of course it is only certain governments that are doing this. The US and European capitalist states adopt the ideological stance that governments are not in the profit making business just private investors! China is still socialist enough that it is quite happy to have government owned industries and now it is capitalist enough to invest for profit globally!

Governments Get
Bolder in Buying
Equity Stakes
By JASON SINGER in London, HENNY SENDER in New York, JASON DEAN in
Beijing
and MARCUS WALKER in Berlin
Wall Street Journal
July 24, 2007; Page A1

Foreign governments, flush with cash and no longer content with the
meager
returns to be had on safe but low-yielding investments like Treasurys,
are
becoming increasingly aggressive players on the equity front.

The new boldness of these government-controlled investors was on
display
Sunday night when entities controlled by the governments of China and
Singapore agreed to invest as much as $18.5 billion in return for
stakes in
the big British bank Barclays PLC.

In doing so, Chinese lender China Development Bank and Temasek Holdings
Pte.
Ltd., the Singapore government's investment agency, could play a role
in the
outcome of the biggest bank-takeover battle ever. That increasingly
bitter
contest pits Barclays against a consortium of European banks led by
Royal
Bank of Scotland Group PLC in seeking to acquire Dutch banking giant
ABN ABN
Amro Holding NV.

The Barclays deal is the latest in a string of investments in U.S. and
European companies by governments in Asia and the Middle East. Temasek
last
year became the largest shareholder in London-based Standard Chartered
PLC,
a bank that has most of its assets in Asia. In May, the Chinese
government
invested $3 billion in Blackstone Group on the eve of the U.S.
private-equity giant's initial public stock offering.

And last week, an investment fund controlled by the government of Qatar
made
a $21.8 billion takeover approach for British supermarket chain J
Sainsbury
PLC, one of the largest potential acquisitions ever by a state-owned
fund.

While potentially boosting their investment returns, such deals expose
the
government-controlled funds and other entities involved to risks that
range
from simple investment losses to political backlash. If it continues,
the
trend could also reshape global financial markets, bidding up prices
for
more speculative assets like stocks, corporate bonds and real estate,
while
crimping demand for safer investments like Treasury bonds.

"There has been a fairly spectacular increase in financial assets under
management by governments," said Dominic Wilson, director of global
macro
and markets research at Goldman Sachs Group. "The scale of the issues
around
such investment is different than anything the world has ever seen.
Neither
[governments] nor the markets know exactly what they should do with the
assets."

China Development Bank plans to invest as much as $13.5 billion in
Barclays,
in what could become the largest overseas investment by a Chinese
company to
date. The planned investment is part of a broader deal that also
includes as
much as $4.97 billion in funding from Temasek, and would enable
Barclays to
buttress its bid for ABN Amro.

Should Barclays succeed in acquiring the Dutch bank, the deal
ultimately
could leave China Development Bank with a stake of about 8% in the
newly
enlarged Barclays, making it by far the biggest shareholder.

If completed, the Barclays deal would provide further evidence of an
important global shift in wealth. "This is basically a flow of capital
from
emerging markets to established markets," says John Studzinski, former
chief
of investment banking at HSBC Holdings PLC and now head of Blackstone
Group's mergers-and-acquisitions advisory group, which advised China
Development on the deal. The private-equity firm's role shows how
private
and public investors are joining together to create powerful forces.

"Going forward, you have to look at where wealth is being created...I
think
it's a very logical trend," adds Mr. Studzinski.

To be sure, investors controlled by foreign governments have bought
stakes
in Western companies before. One example, the Kuwait Investment Office,
which grew into an investment heavyweight as oil prices boomed in the
1970s,
amassed sizable holdings in several major companies, including the
then-British Petroleum and Germany's Daimler-Benz AG. But what
distinguishes
the latest wave of investment is the sheer size of the sums involved,
which
could give those investors the potential to affect strategy and bolster
or
block corporate transactions like takeovers.

China Development Bank's agenda in the Barclays deal is somewhat
unique, say
people close to it. It hopes that substantially expanding its existing,
but
narrower, relationship with the 300-year-old British bank will help
accelerate its own transformation from a policy institution to more of
a
commercial bank, and give it a much higher profile overseas.

But many other recent deals reflect the quest by China and other
countries
for higher returns on their mounting foreign-exchange reserves. Those
holdings traditionally were invested in safe, liquid investments that
could
be quickly converted to cash to buy up local currency if it came under
speculative attack. But in many countries, especially China and the
oil-producing nations of the Middle East, global trade has swelled
those
holdings to far more than might be needed to stabilize their
currencies.

Since 2002, such holdings have increased 20% a year, according to U.S.
Treasury calculations, well ahead of the average 6% rate of 1997-2001.
Global foreign-exchange reserves now stand at about $5.6 trillion. An
additional $1.5 trillion to $2.5 trillion held by "sovereign wealth
funds"
brings total assets controlled by governments to "roughly $7.6
trillion," or
15% of global gross domestic product, the Treasury says.

As a result, governments are treating these reserves less like
rainy-day
funds and more like pools of investment capital.

Sameer Al Ansari, executive chairman and chief executive officer of
state-back investment firm Dubai International Capital, says he is
scouring
the world's 500 largest publicly traded companies looking for a place
to
invest as much as $10 billion. His next target: a U.S. company that he
has
already identified but will only describe as "a household name."

Mr. Ansari says Dubai International, which has $6 billion under
management,
is hoping to announce the U.S deal in September. His company bought a
major
stake in London-based HSBC Holdings PLC earlier this year, and this
month
bought 3% of Airbus maker European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. and
3% of
India's ICICI Bank Ltd.

The new wave of investment carries numerous risks. Most obvious is the
potential for political backlash. Political pressure to block or
restrict
these investments appears to be mounting.

In the U.S., a Dubai company's deal last year to buy a British ports
operator that operated several American ports ran into political
obstacles,
as did a 2005 attempt by Chinese oil company Cnooc Ltd. to buy U.S. oil
producer Unocal Corp. Dubai Ports World ultimately agreed to sell off
the
U.S. holdings, and Cnooc pulled out of the Unocal bidding.

In Europe, there is a rising clamor to restrict foreign investment.
German
Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week that state-controlled investors
might use stakes in European companies to pursue political, rather than
only
financial, goals. The European Union should think about ways to protect
its
firms from politically motivated buyers, she said, mentioning the
U.S.'s
interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. as a possible
model.
CFIUS reviews the national-security aspects of overseas deals.

Others have been more outspoken. Ms. Merkel's powerful conservative
colleague Roland Koch, governor of the German state of Hesse, has
warned in
stark terms about encroachment by industrial groups such as Russia's
OAO
Gazprom, as well as financial investors controlled by China and other
emerging economies. "We haven't only recently gone through the trouble
of
privatizing companies like [Deutsche] Telekom and Deutsche Post so that
the
Russians can nationalize them again," he told German media.

Even the idea of such sales could inflame nationalist passions, as
occurred
last year when there were riots in Thailand following Temasek's attempt
to
buy Thai telecommunications provider Shin Corp.

Critics say backlashes could go beyond issues of foreign investment and
hurt
global trade. "Once you start to define what sensitive sectors are, you
realize that clever lobbyists can identify nearly every sector as
sensitive,
because everything is connected with everything," says Norbert Walter,
chief
economist at Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt. "This will open a wide door
for
protectionism," he says.

Another risk is that the investments go bad. The financial landscape is
littered with examples of foreign buyers being duped by savvy locals
into
overpaying for assets. The Singaporeans, for example, lost money on
dot-com
flameouts.

"The government's management of its hoard of cross-border assets either
in
the form of reserves or in some type of sovereign wealth fund is likely
to
be a source of political controversy and frictions as the inevitable
losses
are recorded," Edwin Truman, a former U.S. Treasury official and now a
senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics,
warned
in a recent speech.

The trend toward more aggressive government investments also has the
potential to reorder global financial markets. "We have entered a whole
new
world," says Jim O'Neill, head of Global Economic Research for Goldman
Sachs
International in London. "We are at the early stage of a secular
process
where the relations between the prices of stocks and bonds will change.
The
whole world is discovering the equity culture."

While Singapore's Temasek, which manages about $85 billion in assets,
has
long invested in private companies mostly in Asia, the Barclays deal
launches onto the international stage a large but so-far little noticed
Chinese institution. In contrast to Temasek, whose main role is to
invest
government money, China Development's main business is lending to
companies
and local governments for government-backed infrastructure projects in
China.

Under 62-year-old chief Chen Yuan, China Development Bank has been run
increasingly like a commercial entity, and one with a growing
international
agenda. China Development boasts an international advisory council
including
major figures in global finance like Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, the
former
head of insurer American International Group, and Sir Edward George,
former
Bank of England governor.

Mr. Chen is the son of one of the Chinese Communist Party's most senior
early leaders, the late Chen Yun, who along with Mao Zedong and Zhou
Enlai
is enshrined in modern Chinese political lore as one of the party's
"Eight
Immortals." The younger Mr. Chen graduated from Beijing's prestigious
Tsinghua University, and served for many years as a Chinese central
bank
official before taking the helm at China Development in 1998.

Under terms of the Barclays deal, China Development will buy up to
€2.2
billion ($3 billion) of new Barclays shares initially, amounting to a
3.1%
stake. China Development will then buy as much as €7.6 billion worth
of
additional Barclays's shares, if the British bank's bid for ABN
succeeds,
and if regulators agree. China Development had just $6.6 billion in
cash and
cash equivalents at the end of last year. To finance the deal, it will
raise
funds by issuing debt on China's domestic market.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Transiting a US airport

This account rings a sympathetic bell with me. I found that the cheapest way to fly to the Philippines from Winnipeg was via Chicago. On the trip out there was no problem since I went through US immigration at Winnipeg and my bags went straight through to Manila. I had no problem changing planes to catch JAL to Narita and then on to Manila.
Coming back was a different story. JAL in Manila told me my bags were booked right through to Winnipeg. I didn't believe them and I was correct. Transiting Japan from the Manila flight is no problem. You just walk from one part of the terminal to another to catch the plane to Chicago. You don't go through immigration or reclaim your bags.
When we arrived in Chicago we had to go through immigration even though we were just changing planes. There were cameras and fingerprint apparati but I wasn't required to use them or rather I just ignored them and no one said anything! The processing computer broke down so we had to wait about half an hour or longer. When I did get through I was told my bags had been taken off. I had to search around for quite a while to find out where they were deposited. By the time I found them and got to the other terminal and rechecked my bags my connecting flight was long gone. I ended up having to stay overnight and I missed meeting my wife in Winnipeg until the next day.
The other part of the story is that my wife could not come with me because she is a filipina. She would have been required to get a visa just to change planes! We decided she would just fly direct to Vancouver from Manila and then on to Winnipeg!
Fortunately my son met her at Winnipeg. Anyway, I certainly will not be taking a flight that transits through the US to the Philippines. I think I know why it is cheaper! These hassles will convince a lot of people not to take transit flights.
Of course the most famous transit flight is that of Maher Arar. When he was changing planes at New York he was whisked off to jail and sent to Syria where he was tortured.

Nonny Mouse Goes Down Under
By: Logan Murphy on Wednesday, July 25th, 2007 at 6:33 AM - PDT (Guest blogged by Nonny Mouse)

The travel and tourist industry is one of the United States’ biggest money-makers, generating $103 billion in tax revenue every year. Without this tax revenue, every American household would pay nearly $1,000 more in taxes every a year. But while the travel business is flourishing internationally, tourism to America has been on a steep decline, dropping 36 percent between 1992 and 2005, with a loss of $43 billion in 2005 alone. The nation’s international tourism balance of trade declined more than 70 percent over the past 10 years - from $26.3 billion in 1996 to $7.4 billion in 2005.

People are simply choosing to go elsewhere. But as a follow-on to Logan Murphy’s excellent post on the increasing invasion of privacy by the soon-to-be approved Passenger Name Record for passengers entering international airports, allow me to present a personal view into why tourists are deciding not to spend their money visiting the States.

I moved from Great Britain to New Zealand last week, requiring a flight of 26 hours crammed into a big metal tube with about four hundred other brave souls, the vast majority of us packed into the Economy Class part of a 747, with the usual narrow seats, no leg rests, and poor overheated air ventilation that inevitably leads to sharing every virus on board with everyone else. I dropped at least half my on-board meals down my cleavage trying to eat with elbows pressed together, my ankles swelled to the size (and shape) of a small elephant’s, my calves were a mass of cramps, my eyes throbbed from trying to watch too many movies on a tiny screen eight inches from my nose, my back ached from trying to sleep at twisted, unnatural angles, and my throat tickled with what I knew would end up being a full blown head cold. No, long-haul flights are not fun. People take them because it’s about the only way to get where they really, really want to go. And I really, really wanted to go to New Zealand.

At least there was a chance for a small break once we’d landed in Los Angeles to change flight crews, restock the food galleys and drinks trolleys and refuel the plane, a chance to stretch our legs in the transit lounge and take a breath of fresh air. So you would think…

And you would be so wrong.



We were told to disembark with all our carry-on luggage, leaving nothing on board. Those who were flying from London to Auckland were told to line up against a wall in a corridor while those whose flights terminated at Los Angeles filed past and disappeared. And there, in a hot, cramped corridor we stood and waited. And waited. And waited. I finally couldn’t stand it, and asked where to find the ladies’ loo – to be ordered not to leave the line. (Sod that, thought I, or rather, my bladder) and I wandered up the queue to discover that we were being processed, slowly, one by one, by a single officer in a tiny booth. After a quick dash to a toilet, I made my way back down the line to where I’d left my new comrades-in-arms – Judy, a petite, smartly dressed 61-year-old Kiwi schoolteacher in London on compassionate leave going home to Auckland to see her terminally ill father, and Derek, a wiry Scots engineer with an acerbic sense of humour. ‘You bloody Yanks seem to think terrorism is something new and only ever happens to Americans,’ he groused to me. Being possibly the only bloody Yank going from London to New Zealand, I became by default the sole available representative for my fellow countrymen. ‘We’ve had the IRA and the French have the Algerians and the Spanish have ETA. Now you know what the rest of Europe’s been living with for the last few hundred years. Why don’t you lot just grow up?’ Heads around us nodded in irritated agreement.

To our relief, we were finally moved out of the corridor, all following another LAX official to what we were expecting to be the transit lounge… but to our collective dismay, we were herded into a bigger Immigration area, where all those who were not US passport holders filled out long green cards asking detailed personal information, to be handed over to US Immigration officials busy taking everyone’s fingerprints and photographs. There was some confusion about just what to do with me, as I was a US citizen, but was flying on to New Zealand. Eventually, I was given a shorter blue form to fill out. A couple of students with worried expressions – Germans, I think, judging from the language – were being led away by uniformed police who were having interpretation problems. It was a very repressive and rather frightening atmosphere.

Bear in mind here… we were all ‘non-stop’ transit passengers, due to get straight back on the same plane we’d just gotten off and fly on to Auckland, never setting foot outside the airport and onto American soil.

Judy, in her strong Kiwi accent, demanded from one of the officials standing guard around us why they needed to take our fingerprints or our photographs. ‘It’s the law,’ he mumbled, a bit shamefaced, and spouted a few disconnected bits of pre-memorized clich├ęs about terrorism and security before stuttering to a halt and looking away. Not even the officials at the airport understood why.


The Immigration official at the booth was not so polite to her. ‘Take your glasses off,’ he demanded. I could see her stiffen, an elderly respectable schoolteacher unused to being so brusquely ordered around. ‘I beg your pardon? Why do I need to take my glasses off? What right do you have to take my fingerprints or my photograph?’

Again, came the refrain. ‘It’s the law’.

We finally were allowed, once we’d all been ‘processed’, to sit down and have a cup of tea or coffee in the transit lounge… for about fifteen minutes before they reloaded the plane. Judy looked angry and close to tears. ‘I’ve never been treated like this before,’ she said. ‘It’s all one thing when you read about it, but having to actually submit to being fingerprinted? I feel… violated. Like I’m some sort of criminal.’

Would she ever consider returning to the States, as a tourist?

Absolutely not. And the next time she flew from London to Auckland, she’d make damned sure the flight did not stop to refuel in America.

This was pretty much the general feeling of every passenger on that flight – none of them had ever intended to enter the United States; it was just a place they had to wait in transit to somewhere else. But their experience had soured them on even considering the States as a potential holiday spot to visit. It didn’t matter how cheap the US dollar got.

And they have friends and families, too. Some people don’t like it when their 61-year-old mothers are treated like potential al Qaeda terrorists.

While the rest of the world is enjoying a boom in tourism, and our own tourist industry is begging the government for a let-up on such draconian policies, the abysmal way we are treating air passengers – even those who have nothing to do with visiting America as tourists – is costing the country millions of dollars a day, our reputation as debased as our currency.

We are not becoming a police state.

We are one.

Vietnamese women active in business

I wonder if there are more women than men in Vietnam? Perhaps there were a lot of men killed during the Vietnam war. No doubt women held positions of responsibility during the communist period as well and this carried on during the transition back to capitalism. Communism has always theoretically stood for the equality of women but as with other ideals is not always evident in actually existing communist states.


Wall Street Journal hails Vietnamese businesswomen



The Wall Street Journal run a front-page article on the outstanding role of Vietnamese women in doing business in the Southeast Asian country.

Author Laura Santini related the life of Nguyen Thi Mai Thanh from Ho Chi Minh City, who had worked as a volunteer medic in the south, contracted malaria and dodged US attacks before going to the north and then studying abroad.

Returning to Vietnam, Ms. Mai Thanh took a job at the Refrigeration & Electrical Engineering Corp (REE) based in Ho Chi Minh City, and quickly moved up the ranks to become the leader.

"Today, life has improved markedly for the 54-year-old Ms. Mai Thanh," the July 19 edition said. As chairwoman and chief executive of REE Corp., a home-appliance, construction and real-estate company, she is one of Vietnam's most successful and wealthiest businesswomen. She is said to be the ninth richest person in Vietnam with a net worth of around 55 million USD.

According to the author, such success stories for women are not uncommon at the pinnacle of Vietnam's business world.

In all, companies that represent more than 30% of the country's stock-market capitalisation have a woman at the helm. In the US, fewer than 2% of fortune 500 companies are run by women. Meanwhile in the Republic of Korea and Japan, women are often discouraged from pursuing careers and seldom break into upper-echelon corporate positions, the paper said.


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

Majority in both Poland and Czech Republic oppose participation in US missile Shield.

Of course the fact that a majority oppose the shield is no guarantee that the installations will not go ahead. No doubt the Polish and Czech government expect some reward from the US and unless there is real political trouble they will go ahead.


More Czechs Reject U.S. Missile Shield
July 24, 2007
(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - People in the Czech Republic are increasingly opposed to participating in a United States defence plan in Central Europe, according to a poll by CVVM. 65 per cent of respondents reject the construction of a missile defence shield base in their territory, up four points since May.

An additional 74 per cent of respondents want the government to call for a nationwide referendum on this matter.

In December 2002, U.S. president George W. Bush announced plans for the development of initial defence capabilities, which include ground-based and sea-based missile interceptors, as well as sensors located in space. Washington has explained the project as a means to defend the U.S. and its European allies from a potential attack by Iran or North Korea.

In January, the U.S. issued a formal request to place a radar base in the Czech Republic—in a military area southwest of Prague—as well as 10 interceptor missiles in Poland.

The Czech Republic—a member of both the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—is expected to start negotiations with the U.S. on the construction of the radar base soon. Some EU officials have asked the Czech Republic to include the continental group in these discussions, but the government of Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek has so far declined to do so.

On Jul. 19, Henry Obering, the head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, said there are other options for the project in case Poland and the Czech Republic cannot participate, adding, "We have other countries that are not exactly as optimal but they would be sufficient. Public opinion (in Poland and the Czech Republic) is an interesting thing but you cannot let it to become the guiding factor in decision making."

Here is the Polish poll:

Angus Reid Global Monitor : Polls & Research
Poles Still Reject U.S. Missile Shield
July 20, 2007
(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Although more people in Poland favour their country’s participation in a defence program with the United States, a majority is still against it, according to a poll by CBOS. 55 per cent of respondents oppose the deployment of an anti-missile shield in Polish soil, down five points since June.

In December 2002, U.S. president George W. Bush announced plans for the development of initial defence capabilities, which include ground-based and sea-based missile interceptors, as well as sensors located in space. Washington has explained the project as a means to defend the U.S. and its European allies from a potential attack by Iran or North Korea.

In January, the U.S. issued a formal request to place a missile defence radar base in the Czech Republic—in a military area southwest of Prague—as well as 10 interceptor missiles in Poland.

On Jul. 16, Bush met with Polish president Lech Kaczynski in Washington. Kaczynski reiterated the country’s decision to participate in the defence plan despite Russia’s fierce opposition to it, declaring, "The shield will exist because for Poland this will be a very good thing. (...) It is aimed at defence of our democracies against the countries who might have, or already do have nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. (...) And so I do hope that all this project, the whole project will be completed successfully."

Polling Data

Do you support or oppose the deployment of an anti-missile shield in Poland?

Jul. 2007
Jun. 2007

Support
28%
26%

Oppose
55%
60%

Not sure
17%
14%



Source: CBOS
Methodology: Interviews with 1,064 Polish adults, conducted from Jun. 29 to Jul. 2, 2007. Margin of error is 3.2 per cent

President Bush on War on Terror and Al Qaeda in Iraq

Bush makes Al Qaeda in Iraq the main target now of the actions against the insurgents. However, the surge clearly targets Shiite militias and other Sunni insurgents in Baghdad. Note that nowhere in the speech does Iran figure into the equation. The foreign fighters mentioned often come from US allies such as Saudi Arabia. None are mentioned as coming from Iran. Bush conveniently overlooks the fact that Al Qaeda in Iraq is in Iraq because of the US invasion yet its presence in Iraq is now used as a justification for staying there. The moral is create a threat and then use that threat as a justification! Bush does not realise that US actions in Iraq actually serve to recruit more Al Qaeda type terrorists. It is true that so far this has not resulted in any new significant terrorist actions in the US but they are killing US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and elsewhere.
Anyway Bush manages to ignore the other actors among insurgents and concentrate only upon Al Qaeda types. The aim is to create fear that if the US does not stay the course in Iraq, Iraq will become a training ground for Al Qaeda to export terrorists! This is extremely unlikely. The Iraqi's themselves are not about to accept a government run by Al Qaeda types. Already the US is funding and arming Sunni insurgents to fight Al Qaeda in certain provinces.


President Bush Discusses War on Terror in South Carolina
Charleston Air Force Base
Charleston, South Carolina


THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Thank you, Colonel. Thanks for the hospitality and kind introduction. I'm proud to be with the men and women of the Air Force, the Navy, the Marines, the Army and the Coast Guard. Thanks for serving. Thanks for wearing the uniform of the United States of America.

I'm proud to be back here in the great state of South Carolina. I'm proud to be with some of the Palmetto State's finest citizens. I'm glad to be eating lunch with you. The food is pretty good, Colonel. (Laughter.) I always like a good barbecue.

I also am proud to be with the military families. You know, our troops are obviously engaged in a tough struggle, tough fight, a fight that I think is noble and necessary for our peace. And so are our families. Our military families endure the separations. They worry about their loved ones. They pray for safe return. By carrying out these burdens, our military families are serving the United States of America, and this country is grateful to America's military families. (Applause.)

I appreciate Colonel Millander leading the 437th Airlift Wing here at the Charleston Airbase. Thank you for the tour. Nice big airplanes carrying a lot of cargo. And it's good to see the amazing operations that take place here to keep our troops supplied.

I'm honored here to be with Deb, as well. That's Red's wife. I call him Red; you call him Colonel. He did a smart thing; he married a woman from Texas. (Applause.) So did I. (Laughter.) And Laura sends her very best to you all.

I'm proud to be here with Mark Bauknight -- Colonel Bauknight -- Acting Commander of they're 315th Airlift Wing, and his wife Leslie.

I am traveling today with one of the true stalwarts of freedom, a man who understands the stakes of the war we're in, and a man who strongly supports the military in accomplishing the mission that we've sent you to do, and that's Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. (Applause.)

This base is represented by Congressman Henry Brown, of South Carolina. (Applause.) He understands what I understand; when we have somebody in harm's way, that person deserves the full support of the Congress and the President. And you'll have the full support of the President of the United States during this war against these radicals and extremists.

I appreciate the Lieutenant Governor of this state, Andre Bauer. Thanks for coming, Governor. I'm proud to be here with the Speaker of the House of Representatives for South Carolina, State Representative Bobby Harrell. Mr. Speaker, thanks for coming.

We've got some mayors with us, and I appreciate the mayors being here today: Mayor Riley, Mayor Hallman, Mayor Summey. I'm honored that you all would take time out of your busy schedule to come by and pay tribute to these men and women who serve our nation so ably.

I'm proud to be with Chairman Tim Scott of the Charleston County Council. I'm proud to be with other state and local officials. And I'm really glad to be with you all. Thank you for your courage.

Since the attacks of September the 11th, 2001, the Airmen of Team Charleston have deployed across the globe in support in the war on terror. During the liberation of Afghanistan, air crews from Team Charleston flew hundreds of sorties to transport troops and deliver supplies, and help the liberation of 25 million people.

Team Charleston is playing a crucial role in Iraq. Every day C-17s lift off from Charleston carrying tons of vital supplies for our troops on the front lines. Your efforts are saving lives and you're bringing security to this country. Every member of Team Charleston can take pride in a great record of accomplishment. And America is grateful for your courage in the cause of freedom. And your courage is needed.

Nearly six years after the 9/11 attacks, America remains a nation at war. The terrorist network that attacked us that day is determined to strike our country again, and we must do everything in our power to stop them. A key lesson of September the 11th is that the best way to protect America is to go on the offense, to fight the terrorists overseas so we don't have to face them here at home. And that is exactly what our men and women in uniform are doing across the world.

The key theater in this global war is Iraq. Our troops are serving bravely in that country. They're opposing ruthless enemies, and no enemy is more ruthless in Iraq than al Qaeda. They send suicide bombers into crowded markets; they behead innocent captives and they murder American troops. They want to bring down Iraq's democracy so they can use that nation as a terrorist safe haven for attacks against our country. So our troops are standing strong with nearly 12 million Iraqis who voted for a future of peace, and they so for the security of Iraq and the safety of American citizens.

There's a debate in Washington about Iraq, and nothing wrong with a healthy debate. There's also a debate about al Qaeda's role in Iraq. Some say that Iraq is not part of the broader war on terror. They complain when I say that the al Qaeda terrorists we face in Iraq are part of the same enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001. They claim that the organization called al Qaeda in Iraq is an Iraqi phenomenon, that it's independent of Osama bin Laden and that it's not interested in attacking America.

That would be news to Osama bin Laden. He's proclaimed that the "third world war is raging in Iraq." Osama bin Laden says, "The war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever." I say that there will be a big defeat in Iraq and it will be the defeat of al Qaeda. (Applause.)

Today I will consider the arguments of those who say that al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq are separate entities. I will explain why they are both part of the same terrorist network -- and why they are dangerous to our country.

A good place to start is with some basic facts: Al Qaeda in Iraq was founded by a Jordanian terrorist, not an Iraqi. His name was Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Before 9/11, he ran a terrorist camp in Afghanistan. He was not yet a member of al Qaida, but our intelligence community reports that he had longstanding relations with senior al Qaida leaders, that he had met with Osama bin Laden and his chief deputy, Zawahiri.

In 2001, coalition forces destroyed Zarqawi's Afghan training camp, and he fled the country and he went to Iraq, where he set up operations with terrorist associates long before the arrival of coalition forces. In the violence and instability following Saddam's fall, Zarqawi was able to expand dramatically the size, scope, and lethality of his operation. In 2004, Zarqawi and his terrorist group formally joined al Qaida, pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, and he promised to "follow his orders in jihad."

Soon after, bin Laden publicly declared that Zarqawi was the "Prince of Al Qaida in Iraq" -- and instructed terrorists in Iraq to "listen to him and obey him." It's hard to argue that al Qaida in Iraq is separate from bin Laden's al Qaida, when the leader of al Qaida in Iraq took an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

According to our intelligence community, the Zarqawi-bin Laden merger gave al Qaida in Iraq -- quote -- "prestige among potential recruits and financiers." The merger also gave al Qaida's senior leadership -- quote -- "a foothold in Iraq to extend its geographic presence ... to plot external operations ... and to tout the centrality of the jihad in Iraq to solicit direct monetary support elsewhere." The merger between al Qaida and its Iraqi affiliate is an alliance of killers -- and that is why the finest military in the world is on their trail.

Zarqawi was killed by U.S. forces in June 2006. He was replaced by another foreigner -- an Egyptian named Abu Ayyub al-Masri. His ties to the al Qaida senior leadership are deep and longstanding. He has collaborated with Zawahiri for more than two decades. And before 9/11, he spent time with al Qaida in Afghanistan where he taught classes indoctrinating others in al Qaida's radical ideology.

After Abu Ayyub took over al Qaida's Iraqi operations last year, Osama bin Laden sent a terrorist leader named Abd al-Hadi al Iraqi to help him. According to our intelligence community, this man was a senior advisor to bin Laden, who served as his top commander in Afghanistan. Abd al-Hadi never made it to Iraq. He was captured, and was recently transferred to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. The fact that bin Laden risked sending one of his most valued commanders to Iraq shows the importance he places on success of al Qaida's Iraqi operations.

According to our intelligence community, many of al Qaida in Iraq's other senior leaders are also foreign terrorists. They include a Syrian who is al Qaida in Iraq's emir in Baghdad, a Saudi who is al Qaida in Iraq's top spiritual and legal advisor, an Egyptian who fought in Afghanistan in the 1990s and who has met with Osama bin Laden, a Tunisian who we believe plays a key role in managing foreign fighters. Last month in Iraq, we killed a senior al Qaida facilitator named Mehmet Yilmaz, a Turkish national who fought with al Qaida in Afghanistan, and met with September the 11th mastermind Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, and other senior al Qaida leaders.

A few weeks ago, we captured a senior al Qaida in Iraq leader named Mashadani. Now, this terrorist is an Iraqi. In fact, he was the highest ranking Iraqi in the organization. Here's what he said, here's what he told us: The foreign leaders of Al Qaida in Iraq went to extraordinary lengths to promote the fiction that al Qaida in Iraq is an Iraqi-led operation. He says al Qaida even created a figurehead whom they named Omar al-Baghdadi. The purpose was to make Iraqi fighters believe they were following the orders of an Iraqi instead of a foreigner. Yet once in custody, Mashadani revealed that al-Baghdadi is only an actor. He confirmed our intelligence that foreigners are at the top echelons of al Qaida in Iraq -- they are the leaders -- and that foreign leaders make most of the operational decisions, not Iraqis.

Foreign terrorists also account for most of the suicide bombings in Iraq. Our military estimates that between 80 and 90 percent of suicide attacks in Iraq are carried out by foreign-born al Qaida terrorists. It's true that today most of al Qaida in Iraq's rank and file fighters and some of its leadership are Iraqi. But to focus exclusively on this single fact is to ignore the larger truth: Al Qaida in Iraq is a group founded by foreign terrorists, led largely by foreign terrorists, and loyal to a foreign terrorist leader -- Osama bin Laden. They know they're al Qaida. The Iraqi people know they are al Qaida. People across the Muslim world know they are al Qaida. And there's a good reason they are called al Qaida in Iraq: They are al Qaida ... in ... Iraq.

Some also assert that al Qaida in Iraq is a separate organization because al Qaida's central command lacks full operational control over it. This argument reveals a lack of understanding. Here is how al Qaida's global terrorist network actually operates. Al Qaida and its affiliate organizations are a loose network of terrorist groups that are united by a common ideology and shared objectives, and have differing levels of collaboration with the al Qaida senior leadership. In some cases, these groups have formally merged into al Qaida and take what is called a "bayaat" -- a pledge of loyalty to Osama bin Laden. In other cases, organizations are not formally merged with al Qaida, but collaborate closely with al Qaida leaders to plot attacks and advance their shared ideology. In still other cases, there are small cells of terrorists that are not part of al Qaida or any other broader terrorist group, but maintain contact with al Qaida leaders and are inspired by its ideology to conduct attacks.

Our intelligence community assesses that al Qaida in Iraq falls into the first of these categories. They are a full member of the al Qaida terrorist network. The al Qaida leadership provides strategic guidance to their Iraqi operatives. Even so, there have been disagreements -- important disagreements -- between the leaders, Osama bin Laden and their Iraqi counterparts, including Zawahiri's criticism of Zarqawi's relentless attacks on the Shia. But our intelligence community reports that al Qaida's senior leaders generally defer to their Iraqi-based commanders when it comes to internal operations, because distance and security concerns preclude day-to-day command authority.

Our intelligence community concludes that -- quote -- "Al Qaida and its regional node in Iraq are united in their overarching strategy." And they say that al Qaida senior leaders and their operatives in Iraq -- quote -- "see al Qaida in Iraq as part of al Qaida's decentralized chain of command, not as a separate group."

Here's the bottom line: Al Qaida in Iraq is run by foreign leaders loyal to Osama bin Laden. Like bin Laden, they are cold-blooded killers who murder the innocent to achieve al Qaida's political objectives. Yet despite all the evidence, some will tell you that al Qaida in Iraq is not really al Qaida -- and not really a threat to America. Well, that's like watching a man walk into a bank with a mask and a gun, and saying he's probably just there to cash a check.

You might wonder why some in Washington insist on making this distinction about the enemy in Iraq. It's because they know that if they can convince America we're not fighting bin Laden's al Qaida there, they can paint the battle in Iraq as a distraction from the real war on terror. If we're not fighting bin Laden's al Qaida, they can argue that our nation can pull out of Iraq and not undermine our efforts in the war on terror. The problem they have is with the facts. We are fighting bin Laden's al Qaida in Iraq; Iraq is central to the war on terror; and against this enemy, America can accept nothing less than complete victory. (Applause.)

There are others who accept that al Qaida is operating in Iraq, but say its role is overstated. Al Qaida is one of the several Sunni jihadist groups in Iraq. But our intelligence community believes that al Qaida is the most dangerous of these Sunni jihadist groups for several reasons: First, more than any other group, al Qaida is behind most of the spectacular, high-casualty attacks that you see on your TV screens.

Second, these al Qaida attacks are designed to accelerate sectarian violence, by attacking Shia in hopes of sparking reprisal attacks that inspire Sunnis to join al Qaida's cause.

Third, al Qaida is the only jihadist group in Iraq with stated ambitions to make the country a base for attacks outside Iraq. For example, al Qaida in Iraq dispatched terrorists who bombed a wedding reception in Jordan. In another case, they sent operatives to Jordan where they attempted to launch a rocket attack on U.S. Navy ships in the Red Sea.

And most important for the people who wonder if the fight in Iraq is worth it, al Qaida in Iraq shares Osama bin Laden's goal of making Iraq a base for its radical Islamic empire, and using it as a safe haven for attacks on America. That is why our intelligence community reports -- and I quote -- "compared with [other leading Sunni jihadist groups], al Qaida in Iraq stands out for its extremism, unmatched operational strength, foreign leadership, and determination to take the jihad beyond Iraq's borders."

Our top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has said that al Qaida is "public enemy number one" in Iraq. Fellow citizens, these people have sworn allegiance to the man who ordered the death of nearly 3,000 people on our soil. Al Qaida is public enemy number one for the Iraqi people; al Qaida is public enemy number one for the American people. And that is why, for the security of our country, we will stay on the hunt, we'll deny them safe haven, and we will defeat them where they have made their stand. (Applause.)

Some note that al Qaida in Iraq did not exist until the U.S. invasion -- and argue that it is a problem of our own making. The argument follows the flawed logic that terrorism is caused by American actions. Iraq is not the reason that the terrorists are at war with us. We were not in Iraq when the terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. We were not in Iraq when they attacked our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. We were not in Iraq when they attacked the USS Cole in 2000. And we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001.

Our action to remove Saddam Hussein did not start the terrorist violence -- and America withdrawal from Iraq would not end it. The al Qaida terrorists now blowing themselves up in Iraq are dedicated extremists who have made killing the innocent the calling of their lives. They are part of a network that has murdered men, women, and children in London and Madrid; slaughtered fellow Muslims in Istanbul and Casablanca, Riyadh, Jakarta, and elsewhere around the world. If we were not fighting these al Qaida extremists and terrorists in Iraq, they would not be leading productive lives of service and charity. Most would be trying to kill Americans and other civilians elsewhere -- in Afghanistan, or other foreign capitals, or on the streets of our own cities.

Al Qaida is in Iraq -- and they're there for a reason. And surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaida would be a disaster for our country. We know their intentions. Hear the words of al Qaida's top commander in Iraq when he issued an audio statement in which he said he will not rest until he has attacked our nation's capital. If we were to cede Iraq to men like this, we would leave them free to operate from a safe haven which they could use to launch new attacks on our country. And al Qaida would gain prestige amongst the extremists across the Muslim world as the terrorist network that faced down America and forced us into retreat.

If we were to allow this to happen, sectarian violence in Iraq could increase dramatically, raising the prospect of mass casualties. Fighting could engulf the entire region in chaos, and we would soon face a Middle East dominated by Islamic extremists who would pursue nuclear weapons, and use their control of oil for economic blackmail or to fund new attacks on our nation.

We've already seen how al Qaida used a failed state thousands of miles from our shores to bring death and destruction to the streets of our cities -- and we must not allow them to do so again. So, however difficult the fight is in Iraq, we must win it. And we can win it.

Less than a year ago, Anbar Province was al Qaida's base in Iraq and was written off by many as lost. Since then, U.S. and Iraqi forces have teamed with Sunni sheiks who have turned against al Qaida. Hundreds have been killed or captured. Terrorists have been driven from most of the population centers. Our troops are now working to replicate the success in Anbar in other parts of the country. Our brave men and women are taking risks, and they're showing courage, and we're making progress.

For the security of our citizens, and the peace of the world, we must give General Petraeus and his troops the time and resources they need, so they can defeat al Qaida in Iraq. (Applause.)

Thanks for letting me come by today. I've explained the connection between al Qaida and its Iraqi affiliate. I presented intelligence that clearly establishes this connection. The facts are that al Qaida terrorists killed Americans on 9/11, they're fighting us in Iraq and across the world, and they are plotting to kill Americans here at home again. Those who justify withdrawing our troops from Iraq by denying the threat of al Qaida in Iraq and its ties to Osama bin Laden ignore the clear consequences of such a retreat. If we were to follow their advice, it would be dangerous for the world -- and disastrous for America. We will defeat al Qaida in Iraq.

In this effort, we're counting on the brave men and women represented in this room. Every man and woman who serves at this base and around the world is playing a vital role in this war on terror. With your selfless spirit and devotion to duty, we will confront this mortal threat to our country -- and we're going to prevail.

I have confidence in our country, and I have faith in our cause, because I know the character of the men and women gathered before me. I thank you for your patriotism; I thank you for your courage. You're living up to your motto: "one family, one mission, one fight." Thank you for all you do. God bless your families. God bless America. (Applause.)

Iran and US agree to co-operate against Sunni insurgents?

This is from Juan Cole's website. Most commentators just ignore the role of Saudi Arabia but not Cole thank goodness!

Informed Comment
Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion

Juan Cole is President of the Global Americana Institute


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

US-Iran Alliance Against Sunni Guerrillas?


The headlines will probably concentrate on the shouting match between US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Iranian diplomat Hassan Kazemi Qomi at their meeting in Baghdad. Crocker accused the Iranians of giving training and weapons to Shiite militias, some of which ended up being used against US troops in Iraq. The Iranian diplomat denied the charges. But in my view the money graf in this Telegraph report is this one:


' the two countries did agree to form a security committee, with Iraq, to focus on containing Sunni insurgents. The committee would concentrate on the threat from groups such as al-Qa'eda in Iraq, officials said, but not those[Shiite] militia groups the US accuses Iran of funding and training. '


If the US is allying with Iran against the Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda, this is a very major development and much more important than some carping over Shiite militias. (My guess is that 98% of American troops killed in Iraq have been killed by Sunni Arab guerrillas). If the report is true and has legs, it will send Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal ballistic. The Sunni Arab states do not like "al-Qaeda" in Iraq, but they are much more afraid of Iran than of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs who are fighting against US military occupation.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Australia gives Philippines low marks in governance, peace, reforms

This is from the Tribune Although much of this analysis is likely correct I think that in some cases economic growth may very well exacerbate income inequality and even produce poverty for some. I get the gut feeling that the Australian commentators want reforms that will open the Philippines to more foreign investment. The main reforms should have to do with corruption but the filipinos also need to curb the power of the leading rich families who manage to control the system. That the Philippines still has controls on foreign ownership of land and investment is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just that it is used to protect the elite rather than to advance the interest of all filipinos.

Australia gives RP low marks in governance, peace, reforms



07/25/2007

Australia has cited lack of good governance, restoring peace and security and slow economic reforms as the greatest challenges currently facing the Philippines.

In its May 2007 bilateral overview, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the Philippines is gripped by a number of difficult economic and social challenges.

“The Philippines, despite generally favorable human development indicators, has not matched its economic potential. Lack of sustained growth over the past 30 years has seen it lag behind the achievements of many of its East and Southeast Asian neighbors in reducing poverty. Another major challenge has been the ongoing instability in southern Philippines, which has impacted on long-term and broad-based development,” the report added.

Unlike many of its neighbors, Australia said the Philippines has not experienced a recent or sustained period of rapid economic growth.

“As a consequence, there has not been the sharp decline in poverty that has occurred in faster-growing economies,” it added.

It noted that the country has been gradually overtaken by most of its neighbors, first by South Korea and Taiwan, then Thailand, and more recently Indonesia for a period, and China.

“The Philippines continues to juggle extremely limited budgetary resources





while attempting to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding population,” the report said.

It added the situation of the Philippines is “volatile and there are signs of poor performance in a range of areas.”

“The new (Arroyo) administration, elected in May 2004 for a six-year term, faces the challenge of implementing essential policy reforms, particularly in areas affecting globalization and trade liberalization,” the report said.

It added a tenuous peace process in Mindanao, the reemergence of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) as a serious threat to stability in various parts of the country, including Mindanao, and other internal security issues, also threaten to exacerbate this fragility.

Poverty, according to the report, remains a significant problem.

Combined with inequality, Australia said poverty poses a serious threat to stability in the Philippines.

“The number of people living on less than US$1 a day increased from 27 million in 1997 to 31 million, of a total population of 76 million, in 2000. In addition, the Philippines has one of the highest levels of income inequality in Asia, with the poorest 20 per cent of the population accounting for only five per cent of total income or consumption,” the report also noted.

Australia observed that poverty in the Philippines is predominantly rural and, although variable by region, is pervasive in southern Philippines, particularly Mindanao.

“Poor productivity growth in agriculture, under-investment in rural infrastructure, unequal land and income distribution, high population growth and the low quality of social services lie at the root of rural poverty,” it said.

The report said natural disasters, the risks associated with variable markets and the persistence of armed conflict in Mindanao also threaten to deepen existing disparities by disrupting growth and exacerbating poverty. Michaela P. del Callar

Supreme Court of Philippines Orders AFL, Arroyo, and police to produce missing activist.

It remains to be seen whether anything will happen as a result of this order. No doubt everyone will deny involvement. It is a little surprising that the Court ordered this since the court is often thought of as beholden to Arroyo. Not this time around or in some other cases as well.


Philippine Supreme Court orders Arroyo, military, police to produce missing activist

The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
MANILA, Philippines: The Philippine Supreme Court has ordered President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the military and police to produce a missing left-wing activist in court later this week, officials said.

The July 16 order, made public by court officials Tuesday, stemmed from a habeas corpus petition filed by the mother of Jonas Burgos, who was kidnapped by gunmen on April 28.

Witnesses said they saw Burgos being dragged by six armed men and a woman who identified themselves as policemen from a restaurant in a suburban mall to a waiting car. The license plate was later traced to another vehicle impounded at the army's 56th Infantry Battalion camp in northern Bulacan province.

The military and police have denied any hand in the disappearance of Burgos, a young activist and son of a late prominent newspaper publisher, who was a crusader for press freedom during dictator Ferdinand Marcos' rule.

His mother, Editha Burgos, petitioned the court to ask Arroyo, as commander in chief, to order his release or investigate who was responsible for his abduction.

The high tribunal ordered Burgos to be produced on Friday when the lower Court of Appeals in Manila starts a hearing on his disappearance.

The military has repeatedly denied accusations by human rights groups and a U.N. envoy that it is behind a wave of extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances of activists.

The local human rights group Karapatan has reported more than 800 people — about half of them left-wing activists — have been killed in politically motivated attacks by suspected security forces since 2001. In addition, about 200 have been abducted and remain missing, it says.

International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com

Two articles on Illegality of Afghan war

Usually criticism of the Afghan war is based upon anything but the illegality of the war. When illegality is brought up a UN resolution that legitimises the occupation after the fact is cited. But this does not make the original invasion legal. There is a similar UN resolution legitimising the US led Iraq occupation.

CounterPunch
September 17, 2002

Is Bush's War Illegal?
Let Us Count the Ways
by Francis Boyle

The "Blowhard Zone"

On September 13, 2001 I got a call from FOX News asking me to go on the O'Reilly Factor program that night, two days after the tragic events of September 11, to debate O'Reilly on War v. Peace. It is pretty clear where I stood and where he stood. I had been on this program before. I knew what I was getting in to. But I felt it would be important for one lawyer to get up there in front of a national audience and argue against a war and for the application of domestic and international law enforcement, international procedures, and constitutional protections, which I did.

Unfortunately, O'Reilly has the highest ranked TV news program in the country. I thought someone should be on there on September 13. I think most people agree that I beat O'Reilly. By the end of the show he was agreeing with me. But the next night he was saying that we should bomb five different Arab countries and kill all their people. But let me review for you briefly some of the international law arguments that I have been making almost full time since September 13. They are set forth in the introduction in my new book, The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence.

Terrorism v. War

First, right after September 11 President Bush called these attacks an act of terrorism, which they were under the United States domestic law definition at that time. However, there is no generally accepted definition of an act of terrorism under international law, for reasons I explain in my book. Soon thereafter however and apparently after consultations with Secretary of State Powell, he proceeded to call these an act of war, ratcheting up the rhetoric and the legal and constitutional issues at stake here. They were not an act of war as traditionally defined. An act of war is a military attack by one state against another state. There is so far no evidence produced that the state of Afghanistan, at the time, either attacked the United States or authorized or approved such an attack. Indeed, just recently FBI Director Mueller and the deputy director of the CIA publically admitted that they have found no evidence in Afghanistan linked to the September 11 attacks. If you believe the government's account of what happened, which I think is highly questionable, 15 of these 19 people alleged to have committed these attacks were from Saudi Arabia and yet we went to war against Afghanistan. It does not really add up in my opinion.

But in any event this was not an act of war. Clearly these were acts of terrorism as defined by United States domestic law at the time, but not an act of war. Normally terrorism is dealt with as a matter of international and domestic law enforcement. Indeed there was a treaty directly on point at that time, the Montreal Sabotage Convention to which both the United States and Afghanistan were parties. It has an entire regime to deal with all issues in dispute here, including access to the International Court of Justice to resolve international disputes arising under the Treaty such as the extradition of Bin Laden. The Bush administration completely ignored this treaty, jettisoned it, set it aside, never even mentioned it. They paid no attention to this treaty or any of the other 12 international treaties dealing with acts of terrorism that could have been applied to handle this manner in a peaceful, lawful way.

War of Aggression Against Afghanistan

Bush, Jr. instead went to the United National Security Council to get a resolution authorizing the use of military force against Afghanistan and Al Qaeda. He failed. You have to remember that. This war has never been authorized by the United Nations Security Council. If you read the two resolutions that he got, it is very clear that what Bush, Jr. tried to do was to get the exact same type of language that Bush, Sr. got from the U.N. Security Council in the late fall of 1990 to authorize a war against Iraq to produce its expulsion from Kuwait. It is very clear if you read these resolutions, Bush, Jr. tried to get the exact same language twice and they failed. Indeed the first Security Council resolution refused to call what happened on September 11 an "armed attack"--that is by one state against another state. Rather they called it "terrorist attacks." But the critical point here is that this war has never been approved by the U.N. Security Council so technically it is illegal under international law. It constitutes an act and a war of aggression by the United States against Afghanistan.

No Declaration of War

Now in addition Bush, Jr. then went to Congress to get authorization to go to war. It appears that Bush, Jr. tried to get a formal declaration of war along the lines of December 8, 1941 after the Day of Infamy like FDR got on Pearl Harbor. Bush then began to use the rhetoric of Pearl Harbor. If he had gotten this declaration of war Bush and his lawyers knew full well he would have been a Constitutional Dictator. And I refer you here to the book by my late friend Professor Miller of George Washington University Law School, Presidential Power that with a formal declaration of war the president becomes a Constitutional Dictator. He failed to get a declaration of war. Despite all the rhetoric we have heard by the Bush, Jr. administration Congress never declared war against Afghanistan or against anyone. There is technically no state of war today against anyone as a matter of constitutional law as formally declared.

Bush, Sr. v. Bush, Jr.

Now what Bush, Jr. did get was a War Powers Resolution authorization. Very similar to what Bush, Sr. got. Again the game plan was the same here. Follow the path already pioneered by Bush, Sr. in his war against Iraq. So he did get from Congress a War Powers Resolution authorization. This is what law professors call an imperfect declaration of war. It does not have the constitutional significance of a formal declaration of war. It authorizes the use of military force in specified, limited circumstances.

That is what Bush, Sr. got in 1991. It was to carry out the Security Council resolution that he had gotten a month and one-half before to expel Iraq from Kuwait. But that is all the authority he had--either from the Security Council or from Congress. And that is what he did. I am not here to approve of what Bush, Sr. did. I do not and I did not at the time. But just to compare Bush, Jr. with Bush, Sr. So Bush, Jr. got a War Powers Resolution, which is not a declaration of war.

Indeed, Senator Byrd, the Dean of the Senate, clearly said this is only a War Powers authorization and we will give authority to the president to use military force subject to the requirements of the War Powers Resolution, which means they must inform us, there is Congressional oversight, in theory, (I do not think they are doing much of it), controlled funding, and ultimately we decide, not the Executive branch of the government--we are the ones who gave the authorization to use force.

Again very similar to what Bush, Sr. got except the Bush, Jr. War Powers Resolution is far more dangerous because it basically gives him a blank check to use military force against any state that he says was somehow involved in the attack on September 11. And as you know that list has now gone up to 60 states. So it is quite dangerous, which led me to say in interviews I gave at the time this is worse that the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. Better from our perspective than a formal Declaration of War, but worse constitutionally and politically than the Tonkin Gulf resolution. But still subject to the control of Congress and the terms of the War Powers Resolution. Indeed you might be able to use that War Powers Resolution and the authorization in litigation that might come up. Keep that in mind.

No War Against Iraq!

For example, on Iraq. Right now they cannot use that War Powers Resolution to justify a war against Iraq. There is no evidence that Iraq was involved in the events on September 11. So they are fishing around for some other justification to go to war with Iraq. They have come up now with this doctrine of preemptive attack. Quite interesting that argument, doctrine was rejected by the Nuremberg Tribunal when the lawyers for the Nazi defendants made it at Nuremberg. They rejected any doctrine of preemptive attack.

Nazi Self-Defense

Then what happened after failing to get any formal authorization from the Security Council, the U.S. Ambassador Negroponte-- who has the blood of about 35, 000 people in Nicaragua on his hands when he was U.S. Ambassador down in Honduras--sent a letter to the Security Council asserting Article 51 of the U.N. Charter to justify the war against Afghanistan. And basically saying that we reserve the right to use force in self-defense against any state we say is somehow involved in the events of September 11. Well, the San Francisco Chronicle interviewed me on that and asked what is the precedent for this? I said that the precedent again goes back to the Nuremberg Judgment of 1946 when the lawyers for the Nazi defendants argued that we, the Nazi government had a right to go to war in self-defense as we saw it, and no one could tell us any differently. Of course that preposterous argument was rejected by Nuremberg. It is very distressing to see some of the highest level of officials of our country making legal arguments that were rejected by the Nuremberg Tribunal



October 9, 2001

This War is Illegal

By Michael Mandel

A well-kept secret about the U.S.-U.K. attack on Afghanistan is that it is clearly illegal. It violates international law and the express words of the United Nations Charter.

Despite repeated reference to the right of self-defence under Article 51, the Charter simply does not apply here. Article 51 gives a state the right to repel an attack that is ongoing or imminent as a temporary measure until the UN Security Council can take steps necessary for international peace and security.

The Security Council has already passed two resolutions condemning the Sept. 11 attacks and announcing a host of measures aimed at combating terrorism. These include measures for the legal suppression of terrorism and its financing, and for co-operation between states in security, intelligence, criminal investigations and proceedings relating to terrorism. The Security Council has set up a committee to monitor progress on the measures in the resolution and has given all states 90 days to report back to it.

Neither resolution can remotely be said to authorize the use of military force. True, both, in their preambles, abstractly "affirm" the inherent right of self-defence, but they do so "in accordance with the Charter." They do not say military action against Afghanistan would be within the right of self-defence. Nor could they. That's because the right of unilateral self-defence does not include the right to retaliate once an attack has stopped.

The right of self-defence in international law is like the right of self-defence in our own law: It allows you to defend yourself when the law is not around, but it does not allow you to take the law into your own hands.

Since the United States and Britain have undertaken this attack without the explicit authorization of the Security Council, those who die from it will be victims of a crime against humanity, just like the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Even the Security Council is only permitted to authorize the use of force where "necessary to maintain and restore international peace and security." Now it must be clear to everyone that the military attack on Afghanistan has nothing to do with preventing terrorism. This attack will be far more likely to provoke terrorism. Even the Bush administration concedes that the real war against terrorism is long term, a combination of improved security, intelligence and a rethinking of U.S. foreign alliances.

Critics of the Bush approach have argued that any effective fight against terrorism would have to involve a re-evaluation of the way Washington conducts its affairs in the world. For example, the way it has promoted violence for short-term gain, as in Afghanistan when it supported the Taliban a decade ago, in Iraq when it supported Saddam Hussein against Iran, and Iran before that when it supported the Shah.

The attack on Afghanistan is about vengeance and about showing how tough the Americans are. It is being done on the backs of people who have far less control over their government than even the poor souls who died on Sept. 11. It will inevitably result in many deaths of civilians, both from the bombing and from the disruption of aid in a country where millions are already at risk. The 37,000 rations dropped on Sunday were pure PR, and so are the claims of "surgical" strikes and the denials of civilian casualties. We've seen them before, in Kosovo for example, followed by lame excuses for the "accidents" that killed innocents.

For all that has been said about how things have changed since Sept. 11, one thing that has not changed is U.S. disregard for international law. Its decade-long bombing campaign against Iraq and its 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia were both illegal. The U.S. does not even recognize the jurisdiction of the World Court. It withdrew from it in 1986 when the court condemned Washington for attacking Nicaragua, mining its harbours and funding the contras. In that case, the court rejected U.S. claims that it was acting under Article 51 in defence of Nicaragua's neighbours.

For its part, Canada cannot duck complicity in this lawlessness by relying on the "solidarity" clause of the NATO treaty, because that clause is made expressly subordinate to the UN Charter.

But, you might ask, does legality matter in a case like this? You bet it does. Without the law, there is no limit to international violence but the power, ruthlessness and cunning of the perpetrators. Without the international legality of the UN system, the people of the world are sidelined in matters of our most vital interests.

We are all at risk from what happens next. We must insist that Washington make the case for the necessity, rationality and proportionality of this attack in the light of day before the real international community.

The bombing of Afghanistan is the legal and moral equivalent of what was done to the Americans on Sept. 11. We may come to remember that day, not for its human tragedy, but for the beginning of a headlong plunge into a violent, lawless world.

Michael Mandel, professor of law at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, specializes in international criminal law.

This article by Michael Mandel is from Counterpunch. Not all the article is included.