Monday, July 04, 2005

Torture, Levine, Analysis, Newsbreakers

1) Revealed: grim world of new Iraqi torture camps

Secret torture chambers, the brutal interrogation of
prisoners, murders by paramilitaries with links to
powerful ministries... Foreign affairs editor Peter
Beaumont in Baghdad uncovers a grim trail of abuse
carried out by forces loyal to the new Iraqi

Sunday July 3, 2005
The Observer

The video camera pans across Hassan an-Ni'ami's body
as it is washed in the mosque for burial. In life he
was a slender, good-looking man, usually dressed in a
dark robe and white turban, Imam at a mosque in
Baghdad's Adhimiya district and a senior official of
the Muslim Clerics Association.

When I first interviewed him a year ago he was
suspected of contacts with the insurgency. Certainly
he supported resistance to US forces.

More recently, an-Ni'ami had dropped out of sight.
Then, a little over a month ago, relatives say,
paramilitary police commandos from 'Rapid Intrusion'
found him at a family home in the Sha'ab neighbourhood
of northern Baghdad. His capture was reported on
television as that of a senior 'terrorist commander'.
Twelve hours later his body turned up in the morgue.

What happened to him in his 24 hours in captivity was
written across his body in chapters of pain, recorded
by the camera. There are police-issue handcuffs
still attached to one wrist, from which he was hanged
long enough to cause his hands and wrists to swell.
There are burn marks on his chest, as if someone has
placed something very hot near his right nipple and
moved it around.

A little lower are a series of horizontal welts,
wrapping around his body and breaking the skin as they
turn around his chest, as if he had been beaten
with something flexible, perhaps a cable. There are
other injuries: a broken nose and smaller wounds that
look like cigarette burns.

An arm appears to have been broken and one of the
higher vertebrae is pushed inwards. There is a cluster
of small, neat circular wounds on both sides of
his left knee. At some stage an-Ni'ami seems to have
been efficiently knee-capped. It was not done with a
gun - the exit wounds are identical in size to the
entry wounds, which would not happen with a bullet.
Instead it appears to have been done with something
like a drill.

What actually killed him however were the bullets
fired into his chest at close range, probably by
someone standing over him as he lay on the ground. The
last two hit him in the head.

The gruesome detail is important. Hanging by the arms
in cuffs, scorching of the body with something like an
iron and knee-capping are claimed to be increasingly
prevalent in the new Iraq. Now evidence is emerging
that appears to substantiate those claims. Not only
Iraqis make the allegations. International officials
describe the methods in disgusted but hushed tones,
laying them at the doorof the increasingly
unaccountable forces attached to Iraq's Ministry of

The only question that remains is the level of the
co-ordination of the abuse: whether Iraq is stumbling
towards a policy of institutionalised torture or
whether these are incidents carried out by rogue

Six months ago, Human Rights Watch (HRW) laid out a
catalogue of alleged abuses being applied to those
suspected of terrorism in Iraq and called for an
independent complaints body in Iraq.

But as the insurgency has grown hotter, so too, it
appears, have been the methods employed in the dirty
counter-insurgency war.

To add to HRW's allegations of beatings, electric
shocks, arbitrary arrest, forced confessions and
detention without trial, The Observer can add its
own charges These include the most brutal kinds of
torture, with methods resurrected from the time of
Saddam; of increasingly widespread extra-judicial
executions; and of the existence of a 'ghost' network
of detention facilities - in parallel with those
officially acknowledged - that exist beyond all
accountability to international human rights monitors,
NGOs and even human rights officials of the new Iraqi

What is most shocking is that it is done under the
noses of US and UK officials, some of whom admit that
they are aware of the abuses being perpetrated by
units who are diverting international funding to their
dirty war.

Hassan an-Ni'ami may well have been a terrorist. Or he
may have had knowledge of that terrorism. Or he may
have been someone who objected too loudly to
foreign troops being in Iraq. We will never know. He
had no opportunity to defend himself, no lawyer, no
trial. His interrogation and killing were a breach
of international law.

And it is not only the case of an-Ni'ami but others
too, all arrested by units of the Ministry of the
Interior, many of whom were tortured and subsequently
killed. Post-mortem images show a dozen or so farmers
from the insurgent hotbed of Medayeen who were
apparently seized by police as they slept in one of
Baghdad's markets and whose bodies were discovered on
a rubbish dump in shallow graves to the north of the
city. Like an-Ni'ami, their bodies also bore the
marks of extensive torture before execution, most with
a bullet to the head.

The face of the first body is blackened by
strangulation or asphyxiation. Another has bruises to
his forehead where he was been hit repeatedly with
something heavy. Yet another, his hands still tied
with cord, has been punched in the eye and had his
ankle fractured. Yet another shows signs of burning
similar to an-Ni'ami's. The last two have identical
puncture wounds, fist-width apart, suggesting the use
of a spiked knuckle-duster.

Then there is Tahar Mohammed Suleiman al-Mashhadani,
seized from the Abu Ghraib neighbourhood from early
prayers outside a mosque with a number of other men,
again by paramilitary police from Rapid Intrusion.
When his body was found by family members in the
morgue - 20 days after his arrest - he had been
tortured almost beyond recognition.

These are not isolated cases. For what is
extraordinary is the sense of impunity with which the
torture, intimidation and murder is taking place. It
is not
just in Baghdad. In the majority Shia south, far from
the worst ravages of the insurgency, there are also
emerging reports consistent with the abuses in
the capital.

If there is a centre to this horror, it is Baghdad's
Ministry of the Interior, and the police commando
units that operate from there.

The ministry is a strange, top-heavy building, set
apart in an area of open ground off the highway. Its
entrance is guarded by concrete blast-walls and
endless checkpoints on the dusty road that leads to
its crowded reception.

I came here almost exactly a year ago, two days after
sovereignty had been handed back to Iraq's interim
government. The floors were occupied by civil
servants and blue-uniformed officers of the Iraqi
Police Service. It was easy to wander in.

These days the ministry is a very different place. The
dusty hinterland that leads to it is busy with the new
paramilitary forces that most often have been accused
of human rights abuses - the Rapid Intrusion brigades,
most notoriously the Wolf Brigade of 'Abu Walid'.
There has been no investigation or official findings
over the allegations.

It was here - 12 months ago - that there was the first
intimation that somethingwas going seriously wrong. On
the second day of Iraq's new government, US military
police were forced to raid the Guest House to 'rescue'
dozens of alleged criminals, scooped up in a sweep of
the city, who were being subjected to beatings and
forced confessions of their crimes.

Back then officials were happy to justify the violence
- and angry at the US intervention. Criminals and
terrorists expected a good beating, one official said,
proud of his 100 per cent confession rate.

Now it is impossible to reach those officials as they
shelter on heavily guarded floors. There are no
American MPs to come to the aid of those locked in the

A year ago, the worst violence was meted out in the
Guest House. Now officials say the abuse happens on
the seventh floor, where those suspected of terrorist
connections are brought.

One of those held at the ministry for 'terrorist
interrogation' is 'Zaid'. It is not his real name.
Since his release, the 25-year-old Sunni from the
western suburbs of Baghdad lives in fear of being
brought back.

A taxi driver, the college graduate stopped his car in
March to buy food in a market. When a bomb exploded
nearby, he went to look at the damage. Arrested at the
scene by soldiers from the Iraqi National Guard, he
says he was handed over to the Ministry of the

At first, said Zaid, he was put in a room, on the
seventh floor, measuring 10ft by 12ft, with 60 others.
He was crammed in so tightly he could not sit. In
some respects Zaid was lucky. Early in his detention,
a Ministry of Justice official appeared and, furious
at the conditions, demanded the men be moved. 'He
said, "You can't have this many people in a room this
size," so they moved us to somewhere with more air and
fed us. He asked too whether there had been any
beatings and some said yes.'

For his part, Zaid says he was hung by his arms, but
not for so long that it caused any permanent damage.
His ordeal was largely to be subjected to threats of
violence as up to eight guards circled him during his
interrogation. But Zaid claims he witnessed what
happened to men brought from another detention
facility, a barracks run by the Wolf Brigade, who were
kept in the same area as Zaid until his parents paid a
hefty bribe for his release.

'I saw men from Samarra [another insurgent stronghold]
and from Medayeen. Some appeared to have wounds to
their legs,' he recalled. 'There were others who could
not use their spoon properly. They had to hold it
between their palms and move their heads to the

His month in the ministry terrified Zaid. If the
police came again for him, he said, he would rather
throw himself off a balcony than go back. Zaid is not
the first detainee to accuse the police of taking
bribes for the release of prisoners. It is a common
charge, as are descriptions of prisoners being brought
from other, less accountable, interrogation facilities
where the worst of the violence is taking place.

What is most important about Zaid's testimony is that
it makes clear a link exists between the Ministry of
Interior and the torture being conducted out of sight
at other centres. Iraqi and international officials
named several of these centres, including al-Hadoud
prison in the Kharkh district of Baghdad.

A second torture centre is said to be located in the
basement of a clinic in the Shoula district, while the
Wolf Brigade is accused of running its own
interrogation centre - said to be one of the worst -
at its Nissor Square headquarters. Other places where
abusive interrogations have been alleged include
al-Muthana airbase and the old National Security

'Abu Ali', a 30-year-old Sunni scooped up in a mosque
raid in central Baghdad, was taken to the latter for a
week in mid-May where he says he was beaten on his
feet, subjected to hanging by his arms and, when he
angered his guards by refusing to confess, threatened
with being sat on 'the bottle' - being anally

It is not just in Baghdad. Credible reports exist of
Arab prisoners in Kirkuk being moved to secret
detention facilities in Kurdistan, while other centres
are alleged in Samarra, in the Holy Cities and in
Basra in the south.

'There are places we can get to and know about,' said
one Iraqi official. 'But there are dozens of other
places we know about where there is no access at all.'

'It is impossible to keep track of detentions, and
what is happening to people when they are taken away,'
complained one foreign official involved in trying to
building Iraq's respect for human rights.

'On top of that we have a whole culture that is
permitting torture. The impression is the judiciary
are simply not interested in responding to the issue
of human rights. It is depressing.'

But it is not simply the issue of keeping track of
where detainees are being taken that is a problem.
Accountability has also become more opaque since
the formation of the Shia-dominated government of
Ibrahim Jaffari with ministers and senior officials at
the Ministry of the Interior refusing to meet
international organisations including Human Rights

'We have been trying to break through to someone
responsible to express our concerns,' said another
international official.

'But it is impossible to meet the people we really
need to see. What is so worrying is that allegations
concerning the use of drills and irons during torture
just keep coming back. And we have seen precisely the
same evidence of torture on bodies that have turned up
after they have been arrested. There is a dirty
counter-insurgency war, led on the anti-insurgency
side by groups responsible to different leaders.
People are not appearing in court. Instead, what is
happening to them is totally arbitrary.'

There is a significance to all this that goes beyond
the everyday horror of today's Iraq. In the absence of
weapons of mass destruction, the human rights abuses
of Saddam Hussein's regime became more important as a
subsidiary case for war.

It has been a theme that has been constantly
reiterated: it was horrific then, and it is better
now. The second may still just be true. In many
there may be some improvement, but the trajectory of
Iraq now on human rights is in danger of undermining
that last plank of justification.

True, there is a question of scale of the abuses. What
is also different from Saddam's era is that Iraq is
now host to multinational troops, to huge UK and US
missions, and is a substantial recipient of foreign
aid, including British and EU funds.

British and US police and military officials act as
advisers to Iraq's security forces. Foreign troops
support Iraqi policing missions. What is extraordinary
is that despite the increasingly widespread evidence
of torture, governments have remained silent. It is
all the more extraordinary on the British side, as
embassy officials have been briefed by senior Iraqi
officials over the allegations on a number of
occasions and individual cases of abuse have been
raised with British diplomats.

In Iraq's Ministry of Human Rights, close to the
Communications Tower and the location of one of the
secret interrogation centres, they were marking the
international day for the victims of torture. As
officials gathered for chocolate cake and cola under
posters that read 'Non to torture', some senior
officials are in no doubt that torture in their
country is again getting worse.

The deputy minister, Aida Ussayran, is a life-long
human rights activist who returned from exile in
Britain to take up this post. She concedes that
abuses by Iraq's security forces have been getting
worse even as her ministry has been trying to
re-educate the Iraqi police and army to respect
detainee rights.

'As you know, for a long time Iraq was a mass grave
for human rights,' she says.'The challenge is that
many people who committed these abuses are still there
and there is a culture of abuse in the security forces
and police - even the army - that needs to be
addressed. I do not have a magic solution, but what I
can do is to remind people that this kind of behaviour
is what creates terrorists.'

There is a sense of frustration too in the Ministry of
Human Rights, for even as the security forces rapidly
increase in size, the ministry tasked with checking
abuses has only 24 monitors to pursue cases, at a time
when officials believe it needs hundreds to keep
Iraq's police and army effectively in check.

If Ussayran is robust about her country's problems
with human rights abuses, others are convinced that,
far from being the acts of rogue units, the abuse is
being committed at the behest of the ministry itself -
or at least senior officials within it.

'There are people in the ministry who want to use
these means,' said one. 'It is in their ideology. It
is their strategy. They do not understand anything
else. They believe that human rights and the
Convention against Torture are stupid.'

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

2) Mark LeVine, write on again:

Mark A. LeVine
The Fallacy of the Impossibility of Withdrawal

Mr. LeVine is professor of modern Middle Eastern history, culture, and Islamic studies at the University of California, Irvine, and author of the forthcoming books: Why They Don't Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil; and Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine, 1880-1948. He is also a contributor, with Viggo Mortensen and Pilar Perez, to Twilight of Empire: Responses to Occupation. Click here to access his homepage.

As calls to set a timetable for withdrawing American troops grow with each new casualty, President Bush and other critics of such a move argue vigorously that announcing such a deadline would grant the insurgents a major political and strategic victory: the former by vindicating the violent, even terroristic methodology of the insurgency itself, the latter by allowing rebels to bide their time and overwhelm government troops once American forces have departed.

However convincing at face value, these arguments beg the question: Are the only options in Iraq maintaining an unpopular and costly occupation or handing the country over to "former members of Saddam Hussein's regime, criminal elements and foreign terrorists" (as President Bush describes them)?

The answer is manifestly no, and the fact so few people within the corridors of power can imagine an alternative policy reveals a powerful yet fallacious line of reasoning at the heart of arguments to "stay the course" in Iraq: that a US troop withdrawal would automatically leave a security vacuum in its place.

But such an outcome is by no means a foregone conclusion; the problem is that few Americans, especially politicians, are willing to consider the alternative: apologize to the Iraqi people for an invasion and occupation that (whatever our intentions) has gone terribly wrong; ask the UN to take over the management of the country's security, lead negotiations to end the insurgency, and oversee redevelopment aid; and leave as soon as a sufficient number of replacement forces are in place.

There are four reasons why such a development, however distasteful to the Bush Administration and many Americans, is the best hope for achieving the peace and democracy most everyone wants to bring to Iraq.

First, it is increasingly clear that the insurgency is unwinnable as long as the US remains in Iraq. Even Defense Secretary Rumsfeld now admits that it could take a dozen years to defeat it. Given such a forecast, he explains that "Coalition forces, foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency. We're going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency."

Is this our gift to the Iraqi people, what 1,700 American soldiers have died for--a cancerous insurgency that will devour the energy, revenue and personnel of the Iraqi government for the foreseeable future? In most any other country, such an admission by one of the war's chief architects would lead to his resignation, or even indictment for what former senior CPA official Larry Diamond describes (in his new book Squandered Victory) as the "criminal negligence" of the US-led occupation.

The fact that US diplomats have had secret talks with insurgents confirms that the Bush Administration is worried that it cannot defeat the insurgency and is exploring the option of a "peace with honor" to extricate America from what even the President (jokingly, no doubt) calls the Iraqi "quagmire." Must we repeat rather than learn from the disastrous history of our withdrawal from Vietnam a generation ago?

Indeed, if the US is talking to insurgents others can too--particularly others who haven't been involved in the occupation of Iraq and all the disastrous consequences it has led to in so many areas of life in the country. While some elements of the insurgency (particularly the criminals, Baathists and foreign jihadis cited by the President) want to transform Iraq into some sort of neo-Taliban state, the clear majority of insurgent are ordinary Iraqis who see themselves as patriots defending their country and will lay down their arms once Coalition forces have left the country, as long as their leaders are involved in negotiating the temporary presence of peacekeeping forces necessary to maintain order.

Second, while Republicans have rightly criticized systematic corruption at the United Nations, the Oil for Food scandal pales in comparison with the level of corruption in post-invasion Iraq. Whether it's $9 billion in cash literally gone missing from CPA offices, repeated no-bid contracts to Halliburton and even the managers of the Abu Ghraib prison, or the smaller scale but ubiquitous corruption infecting every sector of the Iraqi economy under our tutelage, the US has proven itself incapable of managing the reconstruction and development of the country or supporting an environment in which Iraqis can do it themselves.

A new international regime, which separates the management of the country's security from its reconstruction and the immense profits (and potential for malfeasance) tied to both is the sine qua non for establishing a democratic future for the country. The UN system can't do it alone, but with a sufficient level of supervision and expertise by donor countries and Iraqi professionals, it can help Iraqis rebuild the country with their own skill, labor and resources. In such a scenario it will be much easier to persuade countries such as France, Germany, and others who largely stayed clear of involvement in the invasion and occupation, to contribute the necessary funds and personnel to enable Iraq's stability and reconstruction. More important, it will give Iraqis a working stake in the peaceful development of their country.

Third, most Iraqis and other critics of the occupation believe the US has no intention of withdrawing its troops from Iraq or relinquishing its de facto control of the country's all-important petroleum resources. President Bush declared in his speech tonight that "as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down," but such blithe delcarations are belied by the massive construction going on at US bases across the country and remarks by senior US officials, who have admitted that we intend (with Iraq's "permission," of course) to station tens of thousands of troops in more or less permanent bases across the country for the foreseeable future.

All that's needed is a Status of Forces Agreement signed by an Iraqi government that could not survive without a continued US presence--or in lieu of that, a security situation which makes asking us to leave practically impossible in the foreseeable future--to realize the grandest aspirations of neocons and security hawks alike: a large and long-term US presence in the heart of world's major oil producing region as we enter the Age of Peak Oil.

Such a situation might seem ideal in the context of a new cold war with an energy-hungry China, but it would likely fuel a much hotter war against a mushrooming pan-Islamic insurgency across the Muslim world. The United States would be much more secure if it took the hundreds of billions of dollars being spent in Iraq and devoted them to developing sustainable alternative energy technologies and transforming the global economic system so that our standard of living no longer depends on billions of people living on $2 a day or less, and entire world regions such as Africa and the Middle East structurally marginalized from the formal flows of money and goods in the globalized economy.

Finally, an insurmountable collection of evidence is emerging that American forces have systematically committed war crimes in Iraq and continue to violate international law in their actions across the country. The longer the United States remains, the greater the chances that senior officials will face criminal charges, or at least international censure, for the conduct of the invasion and occupation of the country.

While it is perhaps unlikely that senior officials will ever stand trial for their actions in an international venue, the loss of American prestige and respect across the world that our actions have brought on is incalculable. Moreover, when tied--quite naturally--by people across the global south to our support for the policies associated with the dominant neoliberal model of globalization, the Iraqi occupation and the increasingly open imperial endeavor it represents has contributed to the victories of populist anti-American candidates across Latin America, and now Iran.

Even those who support a timetable for withdrawing American troops might respond negatively to the suggestion that America apologize for its invasion and occupation of Iraq. Certainly the President's speech before the troops offered no hint of remorse for the pain and suffering the invasion brought to Iraq.

Such knee-jerk patriotism disappears, however, when you actually visit Iraq as I did (that is, without a massive security detail and living with Iraqis) and see the disaster that the occupation has produced first hand. Observed close up, without the filter of an obsequious news media, the overwhelmingly negative consequences of the occupation become impossible to ignore: the 100,000 dead (the majority of them civilians); wide scale violations of human, political and civil rights; the destruction of the country's health, education and other crucial social systems; the massive unemployment; a violent and destabilizing insurgency that is likely to last a generation or more; the rending of a delicate social fabric that managed to survive a bloody British occupation, several wars, and the even bloodier rule of Saddam Hussein (which we should never forget was made possible in good measure by decades of support from administrations as far back as President Kennedy).

In Alcoholics Anonymous apologizing and making amends for the hurt one has done to others are among the most important steps in the long path towards sobriety. Clearly President Bush, who believes Iraqis should "put the past behind them," isn't about to engage in soul searching about the mission and consequences of our Iraq adventure. But if Americans can admit to--and in doing so, comprehend--the damage our government has wrought in Iraq in our name and with our consent, we will take an important first step in ending our addiction to an unsustainable corporate-led, consumer-driven culture, and the wars and systematic violence, oppression and exploitation it requires world-wide. In doing so we will begin the long but necessary task of building a sustainable and peaceful future, for Iraq, for ourselves, and for the world at large.

3) Military History Analysis of Iraq:

So We Can't Find Middle Echelon Officers to Staff the Iraqi Army? That's Bad

By William Marina

Mr. Marina is Professor Emeritus in History at Florida Atlantic University and a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, CA.

No sooner had President George W. Bush finished his prime time speech last week, than the television talking heads and the press, that Big Media , which the government relies upon to help define their Imperial Reality for us, were hard at it, interpreting every possible nuance or inflection of his address.

Did he say anything new? Hardly. But what he omitted spoke volumes!

The real test of the effectiveness, of his speech, however, will come, not from the Media, or those millions of passive Americans and most of the Congress that have supported his war, but among the youth ranging from some of the "red" states of the South and the Mid-west, to the inner cities ghettoes and barrios. Will these young people, inspired by the President's rhetoric, buy into the notion that Iraq has been worth the cost? Bottom line: will they enlist in Mr. Bush's War?

I rather think not!

They are more likely to heed the warnings of some of our more cautious and realistic military men that the insurgency will last years, a position even Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has acknowledged with the statement that it might take a dozen years.

Bush is hoping that the Iraqi army will begin to shoulder the overwhelming burden of the war, and mentioned the figure of 160,000, as if it was the sheer number that mattered, rather than morale.

The most perceptive observation made on the "Charlie Rose" show discussing the speech, was that the U.S. was having trouble finding middle echelon officers to staff the Iraqi army, and that we intended to put in a number of American officers into those positions.

Now, it is certainly true about the importance of the middle echelon officers in any war, especially an insurgency, where the nature of the warfare demands instant decisions, without the time for debate or consult with those of a higher rank, up the chain of command.

It has been clear for months now, that this crucial sector of Saddam's old army did not, nor has not yet, come over to the side of the new government sponsored by the Americans.

I would not want to be in the shoes of, say, an American captain, thrust into the midst of an Iraqi unit. We know the insurgents have infiltrated men into these units. How difficult would it be for one of these men to frag the American officer, or simply shoot him in the back?

Fragging was, of course, a problem in Vietnam, and there has already been at least one case in Iraq. A newspaperman friend of mine from the Vietnam era told me there were rumors that Max Cleland, the triple amputee war hero, and later Senator from Georgia, attacked by Republicans for his lack of enthusiasm for Iraq, had actually been fragged. If this is true, it makes the cover-up of Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire look almost tame in comparison.

Certainly, the morale and training of the middle echelon officers is critical. Some military historians have suggested that in WWII, the creative, and gung-ho 11,000 or so young recruits in that position were a great weapon in achieving victory.

There are already indications that some of our best young officers, often West Point graduates, in which the country has a considerable investment, are opting out of the Army for commensurate managerial jobs. Perhaps the task of integrating with the Iraqi army will fall to the mercenaries hired by companies such as Halliburton

In Vietnam, quite apart from the fragging, the increasing disillusionment of the middle echelon officers was an early sign the war was not going well. Anyone who has read many of the letters of these middle echelon British officers in the American Revolution, often young Scots, who wrote back to their families about going out into the wilderness, perhaps never to return, will recognize this pattern. The British referred to the area around Charlotte, North Carolina, as the "hornet's nest," and it was the defeats around that area which led to the retreat toward Yorktown.

Clearly, a segment of the American military shares the administration's hope that it will be possible build a U.S. supported regime, perhaps on the model of what was done in the Philippines over a century ago; not that that nation has been a great example economic development of late.

Americans seem amazed by the degree of solidarity among the insurgents, that some are willing to not only die for the cause, but to do so as a suicide bomber. Part of the Media approach has been to glorify the whole idea of "Empire." A new television show of that title aired June 29th, in which we are suppose to identify with Julius Caesar's heir, Octavian, soon to be Caesar Augustus.

The Founding Fathers of the American Republic, despising Empire as they did, would not have admired that whole theme. Their heroes were Brutus, Cassius, Cicero and Cato. It is well to remember that a wounded Cato ripped off his bandages so that he might die, so much did he hate the notions of Despotism and Empire. Suicide was preferable to life in the Empire.

As in the Philippines, we have found no shortage of bureaucrat Compradors, willing to be our "willing executioners" of their own people, in running "our" Iraqi government. Whether we can find American recruits as well as Iraqi officers to continue the war in the face of a growing public disenchantment, is the major question facing the Bush administration in the months ahead.

4) Here's a great subversive idea -- "newsbreakers," who crash local broadcasts in order to demonstrate the utter inanity of local news in the US. It's subversive, if a bit abstract for most folks:

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