Saturday, October 01, 2005

Pix, DC March, DNA, etc

Now let's try to restore a bit of stability to the postings, as New Orleans gradually begins the long road of reconstruction. I'll probably alternate Katrina postings with world postings for a while.
From what I can see the Bush Administration is rapidly imploding, considering Bennett's comments today, Abramoff's (sp?) ongoing saga, Libby's outing, DeLay's indictment, and various news about Iraq. Well, let's hope so:

1) Read this article, and then judge for yourself how significant the posting of body parts on a porn sites is vis-a-vis the US image in the world:
http://americablog.blogspot.com/2005/09/us-soldiers-allegedly-trading-pictures.html

2) Apropos torture in Iraq:
http://balkin.blogspot.com/2005/09/shirking-responsibility.html

3) A song about old Baghdad:
www.sawari.com/taleb/fairuz/bagdad.wma

4) Required reading, about the America that Bush hath wrought, and may be imploding -- or may just be taking a breath before worse actions:
Dear Colleagues:
I would like to bring to attention an article I recently published, although about three years in the making, entitled: “The Road to Internment: Special Registration and other Human Rights Violations of Arabs and Muslims in the United States.” It is published in the Vermont Law Review at Vol. 29, No. 2, pp. 407-553 (2005) (The article can be ordered at http://www.vermontlawreview.com/ by contacting the staff) and is also available on West Law and in most law libraries in the most recent issue. Below is the Table of Contents and thesis:
I. THESIS
This article is an essay and critical review of immigration law. It is based on my experience as an immigration attorney and research that concurs with the well-documented, widespread, and systematic violations of the rights of Arabs and Muslims in the United States post 9/11. These violations are part of a continued trend in recent decades, and there now exists a real risk of another internment that could approach the levels of internment experienced during World War II.
Internment of Arabs and Muslims has arguably already occurred since 9/11, although we may not know at this point if they are kept in special designated locations. In 1986, the U.S. government developed a contingency plan for interning Arabs. Although the proposed camps in this plan were never built, the new, large detention facility in Oakdale, Louisiana, was constructed perhaps to take their place; this Oakdale camp is known in the immigration field as being used for immigration detention in general. Although Professor David Cole believes that a World War II-level of internment is not likely to occur because it is not practical and Arabs are more disbursed geographically than were the Japanese, he has recently asserted that the number of detainees has exceeded 5,000, which is approximately the number of Germans and Italians interned in World War II. It does not appear at this moment that Arabs and Muslims have been interned in "camps" within the mainland United States, such as that envisioned with the 1986 plan to intern Arabs from eight countries. It is also not known the exact percentage of the 5,000 detainees that are Arab or Muslim. We do not know if any of those detained could meet the threshold definition of "internment." If there was any level of internment occurring, such as a few unknown individuals in "camps" somewhere, this internment certainly would be on a dramatically lower scale than the Japanese internment in World War II. However, thousands continue to be held in detention facilities off the mainland, and the government has constructed "camps" that are housing hundreds at Guantanamo. This detention in principle is broader in many respects in scale than the Japanese internment because it is based on religion, ethnicity, and a broad spectrum of nationalities of countries with which the United States is either not at war or considers strong allies. Moreover, as Professor Susan Akram, who also believes that internment of Arabs and Muslims is a realistic possibility, points out, what is occurring to Arabs and Muslims is extralegal, whereas the Japanese internment was arguably legal because it was based on an Executive Order.
This article particularly focuses on Special Registration and how it creates a logistical framework and discriminatory culture that could lead to the internment of Arab and Muslims. Census data on Arab-Americans has been provided to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) upon its request. This increases the risk of a higher level of internment that may include U.S. citizens. Both Special Registration and census data can assist the government with overcoming the issue of Arabs and Muslims being dispersed throughout the United States. This internment, detainment, deportation, and massive rights abuses have already occurred on a scale that rivals past major government actions, including the Japanese internment and Palmer raids.
This author does not assert that Special Registration is a systematic plan or conspiracy known to all or many sectors of the government, merely that internment has been planned by the government for Arabs recently. Special Registration falls right in line with this plan in both theory and practice. The mechanisms are in place to track Arabs and Muslims through continued Special Registration, and now with the DHS requesting census data on locations of Arab-Americans, they may be located in numbers of at least 1,000 down to the zip code. The climate of discrimination and persecution continues to be present with little discussion in the general public discourse. The rights abuses of Arabs and Muslims are sensational in U.S.history. The United States is continuing to make the same mistakes, and the Special Registration system is analogous to those past mistakes. There is continued, increased, or at the very least unabated support for internment in public discourse. Another terrorist attack or increased war in the Middle East could make internment a known reality, and it may be large scale.
In Part II, this article provides a brief overview of the discrimination and persecution of Arab and Muslim aliens in the United States. In Part III, this article introduces Special Registration, which is the massive, ongoing, and unprecedented registration of Arab and Muslim males ages sixteen and over in the United States, including women and children of all ages for some countries. In Part IV, I discuss my experience in my immigration cases involving Arabs, Muslims, and others, including aliens and citizens that range from early 2002 to late 2004, almost a year after the press reported that Special Registration had "ended" in December 2003. In Part V, the defenses by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the DHS in support of Special Registration are discussed. Part VI discusses the fallacies of racial and ethnic profiling, such as Special Registration, as well as de jure and de facto discrimination in all law enforcement issues and more discussion of the Japanese internment, history of the treatment of the Germans, and the recent racial profiling of Mexicans in border enforcement. Part VII includes details of the 1986 plan to intern Arabs and how the DHS has recently requested data from the Census bureau on Arab-Americans as it did with the Japanese in World War II. The conclusion is a poem, The Day of Evacuation. It serves as a warning or foreshadowing of how today, as in World War II when a U.S. citizen was allegedly implicated in the attack on Pearl Harbor, that if a U.S. citizen was ever implicated in a terrorist attack in the United States in the near future who was Arab or Muslim, not only could Arab and Muslim aliens be interned, but U.S. citizens as well. Registration paves that road.
Introduction: The Road to Internment........................... 411
I. Thesis................................. 419
II. The Discrimination and Persecution of Arabs and Muslims in the United States......... 422
III. Special Registration: The Road to Internment................. 442
A. The Legal Authority and Logistics of Special Registration ............ 443
B. Research and Reports of the Implementation of Special Registration ... 446
IV. Experiences in the Field............................. 454
A. Immediate Post-September 11th Aftermath...................... 455
B. Universities as Sword and Shield of Arab and Muslim Students ......... 460
1. The Shield: Protecting Students from INS "Cowboys Who Come to Scare the Crap out of the Students......... 461
2. The Sword: Discriminating Against Arab and Muslim Students andAssisting in their Deportation ............... 462
C. FBI Interviews: "Voluntary" Questioning as Means to Deport Arabs & Muslims Rather than a Valid Law Enforcement Purpose.......... 464
D. Abuse of Arab and Muslim Detainees................ 472
E. U.S. Attorney General Utilizing Criminal Prosecutorial Discrimination
to Target Arabs and Muslims ............................................ 475
F. Discriminatory Arrest, Harassment, and Deportation .................. 477
G. U.S. Citizens with Muslim or Arab Spouses Falsely Accused of
Fraudulent Marriages or Forced to Withdraw Immigrant Petitions .......... 480
H. Discriminating Against Arabs and Muslims at Local CIS Information
Window..... 482
I. Discriminating and Investigating Arabs and Muslims Applying for
Permanent Residence ..................................................... 483
J. General Climate of Discrimination .................................... 484
K. Special Registration Field Experience ................................ 485
1. Improper Registration of Arab and Muslim U.S. Citizens and Other
Issues for Muslim U.S. Citizens ......................................... 487
2. Arabs and Muslims are Treated Differently Because of the
Logistics of Special Registration ....................................... 489
3. Continud ICE Targeting of Arabs and Muslims After Two Special
Registration Requirements are Suspended .............. 491
V. U.S. Government Defense of Special Registration ...................... 501
A. Analysis of Attorney General Response to Comments on Special
Registration in the Federal Regist................ 502
B. The Attorney General's Defense of Special Registratio.............. 507
VI. The Fallacy of Discriminating on the Basis of Race, Ethnicity, or
Religion... 527
A. Historical Failure of Discrimination in Protecting National Security ….. 527
B. Alienation of Arab and Muslim Communities ............... 532 C. Deportation Can Be a War Crime, and the Irony is that Discrimination
Based on Nationality, Social Group, and Religion Can Be a Basis for Seeking Asylum ........ 533
VII. Special Registration Paves the Road to Internment for Arabs and
Muslims ..... 536
A. Special Registration and Census Data Utilized as Tracking System of
Arabs and Muslim......... 536
B. INS Contingency Plan for Interning Arabs and Muslims Prior to September 11th.................................... 538
C. The Dark Precedent of Racism and Continued Discrimination of Ethnic Minorities.............................................. 540
1. The Japanese Experience............................ 541
2. The German Experience ................................ 542
3. The Continuing Mexican Experience.................... 545
D. Unprecedented Targeting Based on Religion and Ethnicity: The Meaning of the Terms "Arab" and "Muslim" ...................... 546
E. The Current U.S. Supreme Court May be Weak Protection Against Internment. 550
Conclusion: The Day of Evacuation................................. 553

5) And what about those Iraq pix?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5308836,00.html

Army: No Felony in Release of Corpse Pics
Wednesday September 28, 2005 10:01 PM
By ROBERT BURNS
AP Military Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - After an initial look at complaintsabout U.S. soldiers posting photos of Iraq war dead onan Internet site, Army investigators concluded theyhad too little evidence to pursue criminal charges.
An Islamic civil rights group called on the DefenseDepartment to take action, while the Florida man whoruns the Web site said Wednesday he has no intentionof taking the photos down or stopping future postings.
The controversy centers on grisly photographs of whatappear to be war dead. The Web site says they wereposted by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who,in exchange, received free access to onlinepornography.
Army officials expressed concern that the matter couldtrigger an anti-American backlash in the Middle East.One official said the Army was considering thepossibility of banning the use of personal cameras andpersonal computers by soldiers while they are in warzones.
Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, called the corpsepostings despicable and unacceptable.
Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, said the Army'sCriminal Investigation Division in recent daysconcluded from a preliminary inquiry that there wasinsufficient evidence to pursue felony charges againstanyone.
However, he said, ``While this may not rise to thelevel of a felony crime, it's still serious.''
An Islamic civil rights group expressed disappointmentin the Army's decision not to pursue criminal charges.
``Their conclusion would be entirely premature,'' saidIbrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council onAmerican-Islamic Relations. ``For this to be treatedin a manner that suggests the Army does not take thisseriously is only going to further harm our nation'simage and interests around the world, particularly theMuslim world.''
Boyce and other officials said that while no criminalinvestigation would be pursued based on currentlyavailable evidence, disciplinary action may be takenagainst individual soldiers if it can be verified thatthey used government computers to transmit digitalphotos of Iraqi war dead. Such an act could be deemeda violation of Article 134 of the Uniformed Code ofMilitary Justice, which proscribes behavior thatundermines good order and discipline or bringsdiscredit to the military.
Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, sent amessage Wednesday to soldiers in the field remindingthem of guidelines issued by the Defense Departmentand the Army regarding ``Internet safety.'' Hereferred mainly to prohibitions on posting informationor photos that jeopardize troop security. He did notmention the corpse photos, and spokesmen said hismessage was not in reaction to news stories this weekdescribing the Web site that offers access to onlinepornography in exchange for corpse photos.
Some of the photos show dismembered corpses, describedin accompanying Web postings as Iraqis killed in U.S.attacks. Some show what appear to be internal humanorgans; others show what look like charred humanremains.
The Web site is owned by 27-year-old Chris Wilson, whooversees it from his apartment in Lakeland, Fla. Hestarted it about 18 months ago as a place where mencould post nude photos of their wives and girlfriends.
For the last seven or eight months, the site also hasbecome a venue for soldiers serving in the war zonesto post photos depicting their daily lives, includingthe grisly images of dead people identified as Iraqiand Afghani insurgents.
``To me this is a real look at what's going on overthere,'' Wilson said in an interview Wednesday. Hesaid he has no intention of taking the photos down orstopping future posts. ``It's right from their camerasto the site.''
Wilson said the Pentagon has not contacted him aboutthe photos.
Boyce said Army investigators could not verify thatU.S. soldiers were involved because the Web sitepostings were anonymous and investigators were unsureof the authenticity and origin of the photos. He saidthe matter had been referred to U.S. commanders inIraq.

6) Here are pictures taken by a New Orleans area peace activist last weekend at the DC rally urging a US pullout from Iraq:
One World: New Orleans Represented at D.C. Peace March/ Anti-War Protest: The Whole Wild Creation.
http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2005/09/5620.php
http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2005/09/5640.php

7) Some ask: is it time to negotiate?:
http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=14645
US academics urge Americans to listen to al-Qaeda Leading academics say governments will have to seek truce with Al-Qaeda sooner or later. By Michel Moutot - PARIS
Writing in a US newspaper earlier this month, a leading expert on Al-Qaeda at Harvard University courted controversy by suggesting that people in the United States should spend more time listening to the demands of Islamic extremists.
Derided by critics as an apologist for Al-Qaeda, Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou questioned the US reaction to the September 11 attacks in an article that observers say demonstrates a more open public debate about responses to Osama bin Laden and his conspirators.
"Since the attacks on New York and Washington, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have delivered, respectively, 18 and 15 messages via audio or videotape making a three-part case: The United States must end its military presence in the Middle East, its uncritical political support and military aid of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, and its support of corrupt and coercive regimes in the Arab and Muslim world," wrote Mohamedou in the Boston Globe under the headline "Time to talk to Al Qaeda?"
He said that "developing a strategy for the next phase of the global response to Al Qaeda requires understanding the enemy".
Mohamedou cited the analysis of the former head of the "bin Laden unit" at the CIA, Michael Scheuer, who is now a fierce critic of the Bush administration and its "War on Terror" policy.
During a recent speech at the US Army War College, Scheuer said that both militant and non-militant Muslims hated the United States "for what we do in the Islamic world, not for our democratic beliefs and civil liberties".
The speech was called "no strategy can defeat an nemy you refuse to understand".
The willingness of academics and opinion leaders in the US to address the issue in public reveals a change in the political climate inside the United States, according to some observers.
Francois Burgat, a leading expert on the Arab world at France's national research institute, the CNRS, said the change in tone was "the start of a critical reassessment of the logic of the whole security policy".
He continued: "The evolution is doubtless the result of a worsening of the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lessons of the attacks in London have also been learnt: the threat of terrorism can resist the formidable security deployment."
Another academic, an expert in responses to disasters at New York University, Allen Zerkin, said that governments would have to seek a truce with Al-Qaeda sooner or later.
"To be sure, the terrorists can't win this war, but neither can we," he said, citing examples in Britain with the IRA and in France with the FLN from Algeria.
Research by Robert Pape at Chicago University has also challenged the commonly held belief that the motivations for terrorism are religious fanaticism.
Pape said he was "surprised" to discover from the study of 463 suicide bombings that "what over 95 percent of all suicide attacks around the world since 1980 until today have in common is not religion, but a clear, strategic objective: to compel a modern democracy to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland."


8) On the ever so quiescent "American street":
http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2005/09/29/protests/
The "American street" speaks: Will the DemocraticParty listen?
As more and more Americans turn against Bush's Iraqwar, Democratic politicians remain silent. Theirplay-it-safe strategy isn't just cowardly, it alsowon't work.
- - - - - - - - - - - -By Juan Cole
Sept. 29, 2005 The antiwar mother of a U.S.soldier killed in Iraq, Cindy Sheehan, protested withhundreds of others outside the White House on Monday.She and the others approached the gate of 1600Pennsylvania Avenue three times, and each time policewarned them that they were trespassing. On the thirdapproach, Ms. Sheehan was arrested and carried fromthe scene, as were the others. She left behind, in thefence, a picture of her dead son Casey, who diedfighting the Mahdi Army in Sadr City in spring of2004. Ever since, Ms. Sheehan has been asking the U.S.government to explain what exactly he died for.


9) The quagmire deepens:
http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=30428
POLITICS-IRAQ:Can the US Military Presence Avert Civil War?Analysis by Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON, Sep 26 (IPS) - The growing spectre of afull-scale civil war in Iraq -- and the likelihoodthat such a conflict will draw in neighbouring states-- has intensified a summer-long debate here overwhether and how to withdraw U.S. troops.
Some analysts believe that an immediate U.S.withdrawal would make an all-out conflict less likely,while others insist that the U.S. military presence atthis point is virtually all there is to prevent thecurrent violence from blowing sky-high, destabilisingthe region, and sending oil prices into thestratosphere.
The Bush administration continues to insist it will"stay the course" until Iraqi security forces can bythemselves contain, if not crush, the ongoinginsurgency. But an increasing number of analysts,including some who favoured the 2003 invasion, believeWashington will begin drawing down its 140,000 troopsbeginning in the first half of next year, if for noother reason than the Republican Party needs to showvoters a "light at the end of the tunnel" before theNovember 2006 elections.
Indeed, reports in the British press over the weekendstrongly suggested that London is already planning amajor drawdown next May, although Prime Minister TonyBlair insisted Sunday that "no arbitrary date has beenset".
Even these plans, however, could be renderedirrelevant if the current slide towards civil war inIraq accelerates, as a growing number of expertsbelieve it will.
In fact, some of these analysts believe that a civilwar -- pitting Sunnis against the Kurdish and Shiapopulations -- has already begun. "A year ago, it waspossible to write about the potential for civil war inIraq," wrote Iraq-war booster Niall Ferguson in theLos Angeles Times. "Today that civil war is wellunderway," he asserted.
While that remains a minority view, the likelihood andimminence of civil war in Iraq is no longer questionedby analysts outside the administration.
Ferguson blames the situation on Washington's failureto deploy a sufficient number of troops in Iraq tocrush any insurgency. But a report released Monday bythe International Crisis Group (ICG) pointed thefinger at the U.S.-sponsored constitutional process,which will culminate in a national plebiscite Oct. 15,as having further alienated Sunnis from the two othermajor sectarian groups.
Barring a major U.S. intervention to ensure that Sunniinterests are addressed, according to the report,"Unmaking Iraq: A Constitutional Process Gone Awry","Iraq is likely to slide toward full-scale civil warand the break-up of the country."
Similarly, no one outside the administration doubtsthe under-reported judgment made here just last weekby visiting Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.
"Iraq is a very dangerous situation and a verythreatening situation," he said. "The impression is(that it is) gradually going toward disintegration.There seems to be no dynamic now that is pulling thecountry together."
"All the dynamics there are pushing the (Iraqi) peopleaway from each other," he said, adding that, ifcurrent trends persist, "It will draw the countries ofthe region into the conflict..."
This view was shared by members of a high-poweredpanel of Iraq and Iran specialists at thequasi-governmental U.S. Institute for Peace earlierthis month.
Amid these gloomy, not to say apocalyptic, warnings, apublic debate over U.S. withdrawal -- and specificallywhether the U.S. military presence is making all-outwar more or less likely -- has intensified outside theadministration.
The mainstream position still sees the U.S. forces asa bulwark that is preventing, or at least braking, thetrend toward war. According to Ferguson, who was awar-booster, the current situation, as bad as it is,is just "a little local difficulty" compared to thealternative of all-out civil war and itsregionalisation.
"The kind of violence that we could see in Iraq if wequit now, leaving full-scale civil war to rage, woulddwarf all that has happened since 2003," he predicted.
But others argue that, in the words of sociologistMichael Schwartz, "the U.S. presence doesn't deter,but contributes to, a thickening civil-war-likeatmosphere in Iraq", and that if the U.S. were leaveIraq quickly, "it is far more reasonable to assume...that the level of violence would be reduced,possibly drastically, not heightened."
In a widely-read essay posted on www.tomdispatch.com,Schwartz argued that the U.S. military is alreadykilling more civilians than would likely die in athreatened civil war (he estimates more than 25,000civilian deaths a year).
He said that the U.S. presence is actually aggravatingterrorist violence, rather than suppressing it, andthat much of the current terrorist violence,particularly that associated with the radical Islamistgroup of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, would be likely tosubside if the U.S. left.
"The longer we wait to withdraw, the worse thesituation is likely to get -- for the U.S. and for theIraqis," he wrote.
Schwartz, who is situated on the left side of thepolitical spectrum, did not explicitly embrace some ofthe more cold-hearted arguments made recently byconservative critics of Iraq policy, in particularAndrew Bacevich, a decorated Vietnam veteran whoteaches international relations at Boston University,and retired Lt. Gen. William Odom of the HudsonInstitute, who have called for the earliest possiblewithdrawal..
"We created the civil war when we invaded (Iraq); wecan't prevent a civil war by staying," Odom wrote lastmonth in an essay entitled "What's Wrong with Cuttingand Running?"
He and Bacevich both argued that, instead of creatinga vacuum in Iraq that would draw in neighbouringpowers, Washington's withdrawal would force neighboursand other great powers -- who have been relegated tothe sidelines by the Bush administration'shigh-handedness -- to form a coalition to ensure aconflict would not get out of hand.
Some of the administration's critics, however, arguethat an immediate withdrawal will indeed make thingsfar worse, particularly for Iraqis.
"I just cannot understand this sort of argument,"wrote University of Michigan Middle East expert JuanCole on his much-read blog (www.juancole.com).
"The U.S. military is killing a lot of Iraqis, butwhether it is killing more than would die in a civilwar would depend on how many died in a civil war," hewrote. "A million or two could die in a civil war, andthat's if the war stays limited to Iraq, which isunlikely."
"A U.S. withdrawal would not cause the Sunnis suddenlyto want to give up their major demands; indeed, theymight well be emboldened to hit the Shiites harder,"wrote Cole, who favours both the withdrawal of mostU.S. ground troops and, in the absence of NATO or U.N.peacekeepers, the maintenance of Special Forces andU.S. airpower in the region precisely to preventsectarian forces from escalating the conflict into aconventional civil war, as in Afghanistan. (END/2005)

10) Don't worry, Tom Friedman has a solution:
We are a menace. Atrios on Friedman:
All we are sayingIs give civil war a chance.
"That will become clear in the next few months as wesee just what kind of minority the Sunnis in Iraqintend to be. If they come around, a decent outcome inIraq is still possible, and we should stay to helpbuild it. If they won't, then we are wasting our time.We should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave theSunnis of Iraq to reap the wind."
This is a stupefying statement. You sell this Debacle,stand by it as Bush is Bush and NOW you talk aboutwasting our time? So if the Sunni do not do what youTom Friedman wants you suggest washing your hands ofthe whole affair? Do me a favor folks, never tell mehow intelligent Friedman is again. This is simplydespicable.


11) This may be just a rant, but it's a well-written rant, and I agree with this fellow whole-heartedly. They're going down, finally (let's hope):
http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0927-22.htm
George Bush in Hell by David Michael Green You would not want to be George W. Bush right now.
Not that you ever would anyhow, but especially not now. Indeed, there are indications that not even George W. Bush wants to be George W. Bush right now.
That second term in office, the one that just a year or two ago seemed so precious that he was willing to launch a war just to obtain it, now feels like a life sentence. Plans for four years spending political capital now look a lot more like endless months of capital punishment.
The Bush Administration has nowhere to go but down, and that is precisely where it is headed. Poll data show that even members of his solid-to-the-point-of-twelve-step-eligibility base are now deserting him as his job approval ratings plunge like so much Enron stock, lately crashing southward through the forty percent threshold. With almost his entire second term still in front of him, Bush is poised to set new records for presidential unpopularity. That scraping noise you hear? It's the sound of sheepish voters creeping out to the garage late at night, furtively removing "Bush-Cheney 2004" bumperstickers from the back of their SUVs when no one is looking.
Meanwhile, as the scales fall from the eyes of the hoi polloi, even the one constituency which could plausibly make the claim that Bush has been good for America (read: their wallets), is speaking the unspeakable as well. Robert Novak, of all people, wrote a column last week chronicling his experience watching rich Republicans at an Aspen retreat bash the idiocy of Bush administration policies on Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, stem-cell research and more. Perhaps these folks realized when they saw Trent Lott's house go under that Mother Nature doesn't care whether you're rich and well-connected any more than does al Qaeda. You may be on Karl Rove's Rolodex, but now Bush is taking you down and your yacht too, not just forgotten kids from the ghetto who enlisted in the Army as the only alternative to a life of poverty.
Even conservative columnists like David Brooks (though not Novak) are writing articles nowadays accurately describing the changed mood of the American public. Where those powerful currents are heading is unclear, but given the radical right experiment of the present as their point of departure, there would seem to be only two choices. We can either go completely off the deep-end and finally constitute the Fascist Republic of Cheney, or we can turn to the left, toward some semblance of rational policymaking. The latter seems far more likely, especially as America increasingly regains its senses after a long bout of temporary insanity. These are bad bits of news for poor George, but worse yet is that they are only the first signs of the coming apocalypse. The real fun stuff is just around the corner. I'll confess to more than a little schadenfreude as I contemplate the ugly situation staring Republicans officeholders in the face right now. They are tethered to a sinking ship, and have only two lousy options to choose from as November 2006 approaches. One is to stay the course and drown. The other is to start renouncing Bush and his policies, appear to voters as the complete hypocrites and political whores many will prove to be, and then still drown anyhow. Nobody could be more deserving of such a fate, with the possible exception of Democrats like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry who have been even more hypocritical yet in facilitating many of the president's disastrous policies.
Watching these GOP opportunists jump ship will certainly be fun, but the greatest fun awaits the president himself. Bush has now lost everything that once sustained him. That includes 9/11, now safely in the rearview mirror for most Americans. That includes his wartime rally-around-the-flag free pass, as he has failed to capture America's real enemy, while lying about bogus ones to justify an invasion pinning our defense forces down in an endless quagmire. That includes, post-Katrina, the ridiculous frame of Bush as competent leader, and the former reality of the press as frightened presidential waterboys.
And that's the good news for W. The bad news is all the chickens coming home to roost. The economy is anemic and fragile, and yet Bush has played the one card in his deck ostensibly (but never really) intended to remedy the country's economic woes. (Remember during the 2000 campaign when times were flush and tax cuts were the prescription? Remember in 2001 when the economy was in a recession and tax cuts were still the prescription?). In any case, Bush's one-note economic symphony has succeeded in producing precisely the cacophony of disaster that progressive commentators have predicted all along: massive deficits, little or no economic boost, a hemorrhaging of jobs overseas, and a vastly more polarized America of rich, poor and a disappearing middle class.
Another angry chicken, of course, is coming home in the form of devastating storms and a grossly incompetent administration to deal with them. Bush is not entirely responsible for Hurricanes Katrina or Rita, of course, but he is partially responsible for them by his willful ignorance of the global warming issue. And he is more than a little responsible for the carnage and damage done, because of his budget-slashing on preventative structural projects, because of his deployment of needed-at-home Guard forces to Iraq, because of his staffing of the government with completely incompetent crony hacks, and because of his and their astonishingly lame performance in responding to a known crisis. Where I come from, a president who remains on vacation during possibly the worst natural disaster to hit this country, praises his FEMA chief for doing a "heckuva job" when the guy doesn't know what any American with a TV set has known for 24 hours about New Orleans, and then later fires him for poor performance, is a president who should be impeached for those reasons alone.
The other demons awaiting George W. Bush just around the bend are multiple and grim. One of these days (right?), Patrick Fitzgerald is actually going to move on the Treasongate story, and signs suggest that multiple heads will roll within the White House. The political damage will be even worse than the legal, though, as Bush's clean and patriotic image will be smashed beyond repair, as no one will believe that he himself didn't know all along who committed treason by outing an American spy, and as he will likely lose the key magicians who have kept him afloat for five years and more. Oh well. W's loss will be Leavenworth's gain.
And there is more. The Jack Abramoff investigation has now been tied to the White House. There are also presumably an infinite number of other scandals waiting to explode (can you say 'Halliburton'?) should the Democrats capture either branch of Congress next year, not least of which being those concerning the Downing Street Memo revelations. Gas prices are off the charts and home heating bills are supposed to soar this winter. Jobs are disappearing, along with pensions and healthcare coverage, inflation is likely to rise, and voters are surly already.
But, of course, the biggest cross for Bush to bear is the one he built for himself, and thus the most richly deserved. In Iraq, simply put, there are no good options. None for America, that is, but even fewer for George W. Bush.
What can he do?
He can't win. America (or, more accurately, America's oligarchy) is clearly losing the war as it is. It is a fantasy to imagine that, at this late date, more troops could pacify the resistance. But even if that were so the political consequences to Bush, especially given his promise of no draft on his watch, would be devastating and rapid. American public opinion has already turned decisively against the war. Imagine if there were a draft and all the bumper-sticker patriots across the land had to actually make a sacrifice for their president's transparent lies. All hell would break loose, and the Republican Party would be dead for a generation.
He can't lose. The major downside to wrapping yourself in the flag, landing on aircraft carriers, labeling yourself a "war president", and being marketed in an election campaign as the reliable national security choice is that you had better deliver. Egged on by the likes of Cheney, Wolfowitz and Perle, Bush no doubt thought Iraq would be a fine little walk in the park from which he would benefit politically for the rest of his presidency. (Nor, assuming this president possesses anything resembling a conscience, need he have concerned himself with resulting deaths, since he told Pat Robertson "we're not going to have any casualties", and he may have even believed it.) Unfortunately for all concerned - most especially the Iraqis and American soldiers - Bush's presidency would be one very real casualty indeed should he decide to pick up his marbles and leave the arena, and so he will not, no matter the carnage or the futility. Doing so would be effectively admitting that there was no legitimate reason for the war in the first place. Everyone now knows that, of course, but were Bush ever to even hint at it, he would be committing instant political suicide. He can't draw. One option is to find some - any - kind of stability, declare victory and go home, saying we got Saddam, we brought democracy, yada, yada, yada. But how many Americans are now going to be fooled by calling an Iraq ruled by militants of one stripe or another a victory, after all the hooey about fighting for democracy in the Middle East? How many think replacing Saddam with a brutal dictator of another name is worth the price of 2,000 American troops and two or three hundred billion dollars? How many will be convinced that Iraqi women having fewer rights than they did under Saddam Hussein, of all regimes, represents a win for the home team? How many will still be unschooled enough to look at a Iranian-dominated theocracy in Iraq and call that a triumph? Moreover, even these total disasters presume a stability of some sort which may be little short of fantasy at this point. When the Saudi foreign minister goes public with his concerns that Iraq is careening toward civil war, you know you're in deep, and no amount inanities sanctimoniously uttered by Scotty McClellan can keep the truth at bay.
He can't get help. Now there's a good one. Maybe the French have finally seen the light and realized what a mistake they made by not bringing something to the party in 2003, eh? No doubt there's a long queue of countries behind them wanting to commit forces to the farces that are decomposing in the Cradle of Civilization. Luckily for George Bush you can still thumb your nose at the rest of the world and have them come to your rescue afterwards. Just think of what a pickle he would be in if that weren't the case...
He can't divert attention. Time was, a government in trouble at home could throw a little war in some hell-hole abroad and divert public attention away from their domestic or other foreign failures. Kinda like Reagan in Grenada, or the Argentinians in the Malvinas, or Thatcher in the Falklands. Yet, while the American public has managed to massively and repeatedly disappoint still sane observers in recent years, it doesn't appear to be in any mood for more of Mr. Bush's Fun With Foreign Policy antics. Not that the country any longer has the available military force to pull it off anyhow, but it hardly seems that an invasion of Iran right now would have much effect diverting attention from Iraq, even if it could somehow successfully be done, another fantasy in its own right.
In short, George W. Bush is toast, as is the whole regressive conservative movement of which he is but the most egregious exemplar. Not even another 9/11 would be likely to help him, as the security president who fails to provide security is the nothing (but simply failed) president. The demise of the right is now likely be true even if Democrats continue hurtling down their current path toward breaking all world records for political cowardice by a major party. Indeed, the worst of the Democrats may now also be in trouble amongst the base - as well they should be - for their cozy associations with the right, enabling its destructive march to the sea these last years.
It is thus too bad, as we emerge from the nightmare of the last quarter-century, that so many of us lefties are atheists, agnostics or otherwise debauched secular humanists. Not only have we had to suffer the reign of Bad King George here on Earth, we can't even have the satisfaction of knowing that he'll be spending the rest of eternity rotting in Hell.
The good news, though, is that he's already there, and the flames are only beginning to warm him up. Perhaps that is why Time describes the dry heaves of a young staffer who had to breach the fantasy bubble and tell this "cold and snappish" president the unhappy truth about an issue, or the National Enquirer's report that Bush, who according to a family member is "falling apart", is back to drinking.
Thus does a new possible ending to the Bush administration suddenly emerge as a real possibility. Previously, I had assumed that our long national nightmare would be over in one of three ways, either with Bush somehow managing to finish his term, with him being impeached, convicted and run out of Washington, or with him being impeached, convicted and then refusing to leave, precipitating a constitutional crisis and even, possibly, a civil war. Now I see a fourth very real possibility.
It was all fun and games when everybody loved him. When the guy who had failed at everything in life except having the right last name all of a sudden was showing those elitist snobs who was tops after all. When the man with a Texas size inferiority complex got to be adored by millions as if he were some kind of religious icon.
But what if that all changes? What if Diminutive George, just like LBJ before him, can't leave the completely scripted bubble his staff manufactures, just as such set-pieces become increasingly difficult to sustain? What if the Peevish President can't escape - even by going to Crawford or Camp David - the mothers of dead children, the baby-killer taunts, the stinging-because-they're-so-accurate chickenhawk accusations, the calls for his own daughters to go to Iraq, the possibility that everyone was right about him all along when they dismissed him as the family clown? What if all of a sudden, it sucks being president? Why bother, then?
It is clear now that one way the Bush administration might end would be with the president's resignation, in order for him to duck into more tranquil quarters. Who knows, maybe he could spend his days getting tanked in Crawford, not writing another book, or going into exile, perhaps in the south of France.
Of course, a pardon deal would have to be prearranged with Cheney, if they haven't convicted him yet, or with Hastert if they have. And, equally certainly, the resignation would be put down to "the president wanting to spend more time with his family", or some such ludicrous McClellanism, no more or less plausible than the rest of his daily fare. But the truth would be plain for all to see. The frat-boy party-time president who condemns kids less than half his age to the hell of futile battle in support of his lies would himself be deserting as commander-in-chief when the fun part ended. Kinda like he did last time he wore a uniform.
History, it would seem, all too rarely delivers justice. The privileged few go out of this life richer than they came into it, while the poor often leave even poorer, not to mention sooner. Those who commit unspeakable crimes sometimes become presidents or prime ministers, while those who dare speak truthfully of those deeds are crushed owing to the threat posed by their honesty.
Even more rare yet are the cases in which history delivers justice with a deliciously deserved irony. But George Bush has provided us with just such a case. And the very delicious irony is that he is now being undone by a cynical choice he himself made to go to war in Iraq with other people's blood and other people's treasure, for the purpose of enhancing his tenuous self-esteem and the power of his presidency.
Goodbye, George. May you know precisely the rest and precisely the peace someone who would do such a thing deserves.
David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. Email: pscdmg@hofstra.edu.

12) Language matters, and don't trust MEMRI with your translations:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,1580217,00.html
Language matters
A new online translation service provides the westwith an English-language digest of the Arabic press,writes Brian Whitaker
Wednesday September 28, 2005
The idea of a "mysterious" east has been around forcenturies, and even today there is nothing moremysterious for the average westerner than an Arabicnewspaper with its squiggly back-to-front writing.
"As far as I can tell," William Rugh, former USambassador in the Middle East told a conference acouple of years ago, "there are no prominent Americanpoliticians, state governors, members of congress,members of the government, or members of the nationalpress corps among those reading Arabic newspapers. Inthe entire US government ... only a handful of peoplecan read Arabic and they are so busy these days thatthey generally do not have time to read Arabnewspapers."
This is not particularly surprising but if we look atthe situation the other way round there's a verydifferent picture. Large and increasing numbers ofArab politicians, government officials and journalistsare fluent in English. Many of them - thanks to theinternet - are now avid readers of the WashingtonPost, the New York Times, the Guardian and otherwestern newspapers.
It's much the same among ordinary Arabs, too. Even ifthey don't read the foreign newspapers, they stilltend to know more about what westerners are thinkingthan westerners know about what Arabs are thinking.
Considering the central role of the Middle East inwestern foreign policy and the latest US attempts towin hearts and minds in the region, this is a seriousgap in our knowledge.
"Americans are not entirely ignorant of what appearsin the Arabic press," Rugh said, "but the few items ofwhich they are aware have often been translatedselectively and with hostile intent."
The pioneer in this field was the Middle East MediaResearch Institute (Memri), which has been circulatingtranslated snippets from the Arabic press since 1998.It has become influential in the US among politiciansand journalists, and was once described by New YorkTimes columnist Thomas Friedman as "absolutelyinvaluable".
Though Memri claims to be "independent", its founderswere Yigal Carmon, a former colonel in Israelimilitary intelligence - who is currently its director- and Meyrav Wurmser, an ardent Zionist who helped todraft the now-famous 1996 Clean Break documentproposing the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as a steptowards reshaping Israel's strategic environment.
"This service does not present a balanced or completepicture of the Arab print media," Rugh said. "Itsowners are pro-Israeli and anti-Arab. Quotes areselected to portray Arabs as preaching hatred againstJews and westerners, praising violence and refusingany peaceful settlement of the Palestinian issue."
Having written about Memri at length before, I don'tpropose to do so again here. Readers unfamiliar withthe organisation and the controversy surrounding itcan refer to Wikipedia, where there's a page withbackground information, links to the relevant articlesand discussion of the pros and cons. Since I firstwrote about Memri, however, several other Englishlanguage sources have come along, and they are worth alook.
The two leading pan-Arab dailies, ash-Sharq al-Awsatand al-Hayat both publish some of their content inEnglish translation on their websites. There's alsothe Iraqi Press Monitor, produced by the Institute forWar and Peace Reporting, which provides a dailysummary of items from the Iraqi newspapers. Thesesources are all free of charge.
For a general view of what the Arabic newspapers aresaying - as well as some of the Farsi newspapers inIran - the most useful and affordable service is therecently-launched Mideast Wire, which monitors morethan 50 publications and provides extracts from 30-40news items and opinion articles every day. It's notfree, but at $87 (£50) a year, the basic-ratesubscription is quite modest considering the amount ofcopy supplied - around 10,000 words a day.
Mideast Wire was started by four journalistsassociated with the Daily Star in Beirut; twoAmericans, Nicholas Noe and Seth Walls, and twoLebanese, Majdoline Hatoum and Maha al-Azar.
After subscribing for several weeks, I think it's safeto say there's no obvious political agenda apart froma desire to inform people about what Arabic newspapersare saying.
"I realised there was a lot more diversity of opinionthan was being portrayed," Noe said during a visit toLondon last week. "Ultimately, that's our coremission."
"We're not seeing ourselves as a counterbalance toMemri," he said. "We're interested in the whole rangeof opinions. The Arab media isn't black and white ...often we try to put together a number of differentsources on the same issue."
One example of this was after the London bombings inJuly, when Mideast Wire translated six differenteditorials commenting on the attacks. "This is our bigdifference with Memri," he said.
Unlike Memri, which has always been secretive aboutits financial backers, Noe was happy to talk. MideastWire got $25,000 start-up money from Abdrew Rasiej, aNew York internet entrepreneur, he said - though infuture they hope to rely on subscription income astheir best guarantee of independence.They have a teamof 12 people but keep costs down by not having anoffice, and they work on the blogging principle, Noesaid, discussing what to translate and generallykeeping in touch with each other over the internet.
Making use of the time difference between the MiddleEast and the US, they get their translations ready intime for Americans to read them each morning. This isan important benefit, though there's a trade-offbetween speed and polish. Some of the translations area bit ragged, though they are adequate for mostpurposes.
As elsewhere in the world, Arab newspapers range fromthe serious to the sensational. Some are governmentand some privately owned - often by politicians orbusinessmen with an axe to grind - and there are veryfew that can truly be considered independent. Thequality of the journalism also varies a great deal.
Even a perfect translation is only as good as theoriginal article and particularly in the Middle East,it's essential to know the quality of the sourcebefore jumping to conclusions about a story.
Over the last few weeks, Mideast Wire has translated alot of articles - from a variety of sources andviewpoints - about Syria, Lebanon and the ongoinginvestigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri.
They included several stories from a Kuwaiti newspaperabout strange goings-on in Syria which, if true, wouldhave been astounding. It seemed a bit odd that aKuwaiti newspaper should have knowledge of theinnermost machinations of the Syrian regime, so Iasked a Kuwaiti journalist what he thought of thereports.
"Probably 50% accurate," he replied. So I'm stilltrying to work out which 50% was accurate and whichwas not.
At present Mideast Wire (along with Memri) gives verylittle information to help readers judge thereliability or importance of the sources ittranslates. When I put this to Noe, he said they hadalready recognised the problem and would shortly beproviding a background guide to the papers theymonitor, including circulation figures.
In the meantime, around 2,000 people have signed upfor the service, he said. They include journalists,researchers, NGOs, government bodies, sections of theUS military and writer and activist Noam Chomsky.Since this is probably the first time that Chomsky andthe US military have seen eye-to-eye on anything, itsurely counts as a recommendation.

13) Turkish women speak their mind:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/28/AR2005092801429_pf.html
washingtonpost.com
Turkish Women Blast Karen Hughes With Iraq War Criticism
By Glenn KesslerWashington Post Staff WriterWednesday, September 28, 2005; 1:45 PM
ISTANBUL, Sept. 28 -- A group of Turkish female activists confronted Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes Wednesday with heated complaints about the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, turning a session designed to highlight the empowering of women into a raw display of the anger at U.S. policy in the region.
"This war is really, really bringing your positive efforts to the level of zero," said Hidayet Sefkatli Tuksal, an activist with the Capital City Women's Forum. She said it was difficult to talk about cooperation between women in the United States and Turkey as long as Iraq was under occupation.
Hughes, a longtime confidant of President Bush tasked with burnishing the U.S. image overseas, has generally met with polite audiences -- many of whom received U.S. funding or consisted of former exchange students -- during a tour of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey this week.
In this case the U.S. Embassy asked Kader, an umbrella group that supports woman candidates, to assemble the guest list. None of the activists currently receive U.S. funds and the guests apparently had little desire to mince words. Six of the eight women who spoke at the session, held in Ankara, the capital, focused on the Iraq war.
"War makes the rights of women completely erased and poverty comes after war -- and women pay the price," said Fatma Nevin Vargun, a Kurdish women's rights activist. Vargun denounced the arrest of Cindy Sheehan, the activist mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, in front of the White House Monday at an antiwar protest.
Hughes, looking increasingly pained, defended the decision to invade Iraq as a difficult and wrenching moment for President Bush, but necessary to protect America.
"You're concerned about war, and no one likes war," she said. But, she said, "to preserve the peace sometimes my country believes war is necessary." She also asserted that women are faring much better in Iraq than under the rule of deposed president Saddam Hussein.
"War is not necessary for peace," shot back Feray Salman, a human rights advocate. She said countries should not try to impose democracy through war, adding that "we can never, ever export democracy and freedom from one country to another."
Tuksal said she was "feeling myself wounded, feeling myself insulted here" by Hughes' response. "In every photograph that comes from Iraq there is that look of fear in the eyes of women and children. . . . Thisneeds to be resolved as soon as possible."
Turkey, a member of NATO, has long been a close ally of the United States, but relations have soured during the Bush administration, especially after the Turkish parliament blocked a request to allow U.S.troops to stage an invasion of northern Iraq via Turkey. National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley visited Ankara last week as part of a new effort by the White House to mend ties.
The Turkish public has also become rattled by an increase in attacks by the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers' Party, a Kurdish militant group operating out of northern Iraq, amid accusations that the United States has not done enough to rein in the group.
Nurdan Bernard, a journalist participating in the panel, raised concerns about the PKK, prompting Hughes to respond that it was "somewhat an irony." She added: "Sometimes you have to engage in combat in order to confront terrorists who want to kill you."
Hughes later flew to Istanbul for meetings with religious leaders -- part of an effort to promote interfaith dialogue -- and with Turks who have participated in U.S. exchange programs. She returns to Washington Thursday.

14) ...And Saudi women speak their minds:
September 28, 2005The New York Times
SAUDI WOMEN HAVE MESSAGE FOR U.S. ENVOYMany in this region say they resent the American assumption that, given the chance, everyone would live like Americans.
By Steven R. Weisman
JIDDA, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 27 - The audience - 500 women covered in black at a Saudi university - seemed an ideal place for Karen P. Hughes, a senior Bush administration official charged with spreading the American message in the Muslim world, to make her pitch.
But the response on Tuesday was not what she and her aides expected. When Ms. Hughes expressed the hope here that Saudi women would be able to drive and "fully participate in society" much as they do in her country, many challenged her.
"The general image of the Arab woman is that she isn't happy," one audience member said. "Well, we're all pretty happy." The room, full of students, faculty members and some professionals, resounded with applause.
The administration's efforts to publicize American ideals in the Muslim world have often run into such resistance. For that reason, Ms. Hughes, who is considered one of the administration's most scripted and careful members, was hired specifically for the task.
Many in this region say they resent the American assumption that, given the chance, everyone would live like Americans.
The group of women, picked by the university, represented the privileged elite of this Red Sea coastal city, known as one of the more liberal areas in the country. And while they were certainly friendly toward Ms. Hughes, half a dozen who spoke up took issue with what she said.
Ms. Hughes, the under secretary of state for public diplomacy, is on her first trip to the Middle East. She seemed clearly taken aback as the women told her that just because they were not allowed to vote or drive that did not mean they were treated unfairly or imprisoned in their own homes.
"We're not in any way barred from talking to the other sex," said Dr. Nada Jambi, a public health professor. "It's not an absolute wall."
The session at Dar Al-Hekma College provided an unusual departure from the carefully staged events in a tour that began Sunday in Egypt.
As it was ending Ms. Hughes, a longtime communications aide to President Bush, assured the women that she was impressed with what they had said and that she would take their message home. "I would be glad to go back to the United States and talk about the Arab women I've met," she said.
Ms. Hughes is the third appointee to head a program with a troubled past. The first, Charlotte Beers, a Madison Avenue executive, produced a promotional video about Muslims in America that was rejected by some Arab nations and scoffed at by a number of State Department colleagues. Her successor, Margaret D. Tutwiler, a former State Department spokeswoman, lasted barely five months. A report issued in 2003 by a bipartisan panel chosen by the Bush administration portrayed a dire picture of American public diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim world.
Ms. Hughes, on this first foray, has churned through meetings in which she has tirelessly introduced herself as "a mom," explained that Americans are people of faith and called for more cultural and educational exchanges. Her efforts to explain policies in Iraq and the Middle East have been polite and cautious.
As a visiting dignitary, she had audiences in the summer palaces of Jidda with King Abdullah, Crown Prince Sultan and the foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal. But mostly it was a day that underscored the uneasy Saudi-American relationship, fed by unsavory images the countries have of each another.
In December, there was an armed attack on the American Consulate in Jidda, leaving five people dead, and that meant that the Americans traveling with Ms. Hughes were cautioned against traveling alone in the city.
At the meeting with the Saudi women, television crews were barred and reporters were segregated according to sex. American officials said it was highly unusual for men to be allowed in the hall at all.
A meeting with leading editors, all men, featured more familiar complaints about what several said were American biases against the Palestinians, the incarceration of Muslims at Guant·namo Bay and the supposed American stereotype of Saudis as religious fanatics and extremists after Sept. 11.
Ms. Hughes responded by reminding listeners that President Bush had supported the establishment of a Palestinian state and asserting that Guant·namo prisoners had been visited by the International Red Cross and retained the right to worship with their own Korans.
Americans, she said at one point, were beginning to understand Islam better but had been disappointed that some Muslim leaders had been "reticent" at first in criticizing the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Now, several years later, we're beginning to hear other voices," she said.
But it was the meeting with the women that was the most unpredictable, as Ms. Hughes found herself on the defensive simply by saying that she hoped women would be able to vote in future elections.
In June, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked of democracy and freedom in the Middle East but declined to address the question of driving. By contrast, Ms. Hughes spoke personally, saying that driving a car was "an important part of my freedom."
A woman in the audience then charged that under President Bush the United States had become "a right-wing country" and that criticism by the press was "not allowed."
"I have to say I sometimes wish that were the case, but it's not," Ms. Hughes said with a laugh.
Several women said later that Americans failed to understand that their traditional society was embraced by men and women alike.
"There is more male chauvinism in my profession in Europe and America than in my country," said Dr. Siddiqa Kamal, an obstetrician and gynecologist who runs her own hospital.
"I don't want to drive a car," she said. "I worked hard for my medical degree. Why do I need a driver's license?"
"Women have more than equal rights," added her daughter, Dr. Fouzia Pasha, also an obstetrician and gynecologist, asserting that men have obligations accompanying their rights, and that women can go to court to hold them accountable.
Ms. Hughes appeared to have left a favorable impression. "She's open to people's opinions," said Nour al-Sabbagh, a 21-year-old student in special education. "She's trying to understand."
Like some of her friends, Ms. Sabbagh said Westerners failed to appreciate the advantages of wearing the traditional black head-to-foot covering known as an abaya.
"I love my abaya," she explained. "It's convenient and it can be very fashionable."
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/28/international/middleeast/28hughes.html

15) DNA issues, and ethnicities:
ADC Action Alert:Block Congressional Efforts to Expand Collection ofDNA
http://capwiz.com/adc/issues/alert/?alertid=8065891&type=CU
On Wednesday, September 28, Congressman Jeff Flake(R-AZ) will offer an amendment to expand lawenforcement’s ability to collect DNA data. CongressmanFlake’s amendment will be offered during the House ofRepresentatives consideration of H.R.3402, theDepartment of Justice Appropriations AuthorizationAct. Similar language to expand DNA data collectionwas added last week by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) to theViolence of Women Act during committee considerationof that bill. This is a dramatic expansion of thegovernment’s ability to collect DNA and theAmerican-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) asksthat you contact Congress immediately to oppose theseefforts.
Flake’s proposed DNA amendment, just like Kyl’s in theSenate, would authorize any federal government agencyto collect the DNA of anyone arrested or detainedthroughout the country. This would include people whoare arrested and never charged, wrongfully detained,or held as a material witness. DNA information wouldbe collected, currently through the use of a swabswiped against the inside of a cheek, and dumped intoCODIS, the federal DNA database. There is no provisionfor law enforcement to automatically remove DNAinformation of those released without charge orwrongfully held. Further, DNA dumped into CODIS wouldmix information of those convicted of violent crimeswith the information of people mistakenly picked up bylaw enforcement. Though the FBI currently oversees thefederal DNA database, an increasing number of stateand local jurisdictions are also collecting DNA. Thereis no oversight or plan to secure this information ata state and local level.
This amendment has serious implications for people whoare detained on possible immigration violations, whowill be forced to submit their DNA to federalofficials. Further, civil rights advocates, like theAmerican-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) areconcerned about the possible racial and ethnicimplications large DNA dragnets would ensure. TheseDNA dragnets could exacerbate already troubling racialdisparities in arrest rates as law enforcement detainand collect DNA from large groups of people based onlyon racial or ethnic characteristics. And unlike afingerprint, an individual’s DNA includes genetic anddisease information raising concerns of how thisinformation could be manipulated in the future.
ACTION REQUESTED:
1) Immediately call your member of congress in theHouse and ask them to vote AGAINST the FLAKEAMENDMENT.
2) Follow a call the House to those of your twosenators demanding the Senate strip language, known asthe Kyl Amendment, in the Violence Against Women Actexpanding the collection of DNA.
Find contact information for your officials at:http://capwiz.com/adc/dbq/officials/


16) Gaza after the withdrawal:
From: "heba" <heba@gcmhp.net>Subject: Stunning Gaza! 28 September 2005
Stunning Gaza!
In the last days, Gaza was awakened from its dreams of liberation with horrible explosions which have shattered our skies, shaken our buildings, broken our windows, and threw the place into panic
We are being bombed since Friday 23 of September day and night. Usually between 2:00-4:00am, between 6:30 – 8:00 in the morning school going time, and in the afternoon or early evening.
The explosions are heard and felt all over the Gaza Strip with the same intensity. These explosions were used alongside the usual routine of killing and destruction which the Israelis forces are familiar with.
This new cycle of terror started with Israel assassinating four people in the West Bank town of Tolkarem. In the same day Islamic Jihad retaliated from Gaza by sending rockets to Israeli village of Sdirot. In the same day 19 people were killed during a military parade of Hamas. Apparently the cause was mishandling of explosive, but Hamas blamed Israel and joined Islamic Jihad in sending rockets to Sdirot where five people were injured.
Hamas quickly retracted and announced that it will stop all military operation from Gaza. Islamic Jihad followed with assertion that it will abide by the truce. Israeli campaign of bombing continues. Last night I, with all Gazans, were awakened by the horrible noise twice, 3:30am and at 7:15am. I hardly was able to sleep in between. Five more explosions were directed at us in the last four hours, one has shaken my desk while I am writing.
Gaza is in a state of panic, children are restless, crying, frightened and many are wetting their beds. Some children are afraid leaving home and they refuse to go to school. Many are dazed, pale, insomniac and have poor appetite.
Some pregnant women reported colics and some were admitted to hospital with precipitated labour. Many people complain of ear pressure. All are stunned
The new method of exploding sonic bombs in our skies was obviously never used before the disengagement so as not to alarm or hurt the Israeli settlers and their children.
Israel is inducing learned helplessness to the Palestinians in Gaza with the aim of making the whole population captive to fear and paralysis. This is a war crime and this is a racist crime. Israel must be stopped.
Dr. Eyad El Sarraj--------------------------------Please visit our site:Gaza Community Mental Health Programmehttp://www.gcmhp.net

17) Hollywood news:
Studio sees no humor in 'Muslim'
Albert Brooks seeks other distribution for new film
Thursday, September 29, 2005 Posted: 1705 GMT (0105 HKT) LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Comedian Albert Brooks says a very unfunny thing happened on his way to making a new film called "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" -- the studio panicked over the title.
Brooks says the studio -- Sony -- got so worried the comedy's title, with its use of the word Muslim, might bring reprisals that it decided not to release the picture. That forced the comedian to find a new distributor for a movie that pokes fun at American ignorance of the Muslim world.
"Fear is playing a major part in Hollywood production," Brooks said in an interview, adding he started getting bad vibes when the studio "jokingly" asked him if the movie could be called "Looking for Comedy."
He said the suggestion came after Newsweek triggered a storm in May by publishing a short item that a Koran was flushed down a toilet by guards at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The magazine later retracted the article, saying it could not substantiate the report.
Sony said doubts about the title were only part of much larger problems. Sources close to the company said executives did not find the movie funny and passed on it.
Sony, which is owned by Sony Corp., said in a statement, "To those looking for truth in this manufactured controversy, here it is: We made our decision to pass on Brooks' movie the same way we did to accept 'Fahrenheit 9/11' -- on the merits, with neither fear nor favor."
Brooks is an old hand at making sweetly satiric comedies like "The Muse," "Modern Romance" and "Lost in America" that poke fun at himself, his anxieties and the narcissistic show-business world he inhabits.
In "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World," he plays a comedian sent by the State Department to India and Pakistan with a couple of minders to find out what makes Muslims laugh, so everyone can get along better in the post-9/11 world.
He says he got the idea before U.S. President George W. Bush appointed close adviser Karen Hughes to be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy charged with countering the negative U.S. image among Muslims.
Brooks says most of the jokes in the movie are aimed at Americans and there are no religious references at all, even though he was allowed to film in a mosque in India.
"I steered clear of religion in this movie. There's no mention of the Koran -- the whole point of the movie is looking for comedy, not looking for God. I was allowed to film in the biggest mosque in India and when I told the imam the plot of the movie he started to laugh."
Brooks added studio executives at Sony were not as supportive as the imam. "One told me that if a mullah in Iran saw a poster for the movie and took it the wrong way, I could be in deep trouble. I told him that I have trouble getting posters put up for my movies in Sherman Oaks," a Los Angeles suburb.
The film will now be distributed by Warner Independent, the art-house unit of Warner Brothers, with a January release date. It says it likes the title because it tells the story of the film and is funny. Warner Bros. is a division of Time Warner, which is the parent company of CNN.
Copyright 2005 Reuters.

18) DC Hunger Strike report, from that same NO activist who posted the pix above:
Dear Friends,
It may surprise you that I am writing not about the destruction and consequent exploitation of my beloved home of New Orleans or that the photos I am attaching are not from the D.C. Peace March/ Anti-War protest from last weekend. I look forward to sharing these with you as well when my heart and mind have time to clear.
I am writing, however, about the circumstances of Burma and the incarceration of Nobel Laureate and imprisoned democratically elected leader of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi. In a time when the din of military war planes and faces of poverty and hopeless dominate the media between commercials for cars and insurance companies, the elegant non-violent leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi (despite 16 years of house arrest) and the noble struggles of the world's 4rth poorest peoples in Burma against a brutal military dictatorship get almost no notice. For this reason, I am writing to you about the Hunger Strike on behalf of Burma and Aung San Suu KYi that is taking place in front of the United Nations, even as I write. There has been NO press coverage of this event, and as many of you work on behalf of equality, peace and human rights and also may have taken personal refuge at times in the practice of silent meditation or non-violent awareness as a means of personal and political transformation, I thought you might help raise awareness of this Hunger Strike.
The Hunger Strike began as a march for solidarity with Burma in front of the Mahatma Ghandi statue at the Indian Consulate in Washington D.C. The marchers walked all the way to New York City where some of them began a hunger strike 12 days ago. The man of fast is Han Lin, a former school teacher who was witness to the 1988 massacre of students and non-violent protestors in Rangoon, Burma in 1988. He lived in the jungles of Burma, escaping and supporting students and ethnic minorities who were hiding in the mountains. Accompanying him is Nu Nu Lih, who also lived in the mountains of Burma on the border of Thailand for years in an area that some ethnic minorities managed to free from Burmese military authority. She spent much time in and out of Thailand prisons for her activism on behalf of her people in Burma. In solidarity with them sits a Japanese Buddhist nun. Other people from the American-Burmese community come and go to support the Hunger Strikers. The Hunger Strikers seek to raise awareness of the ethnic cleansing, starvation and deprivation, and brutalities inflicted on the Burmese people by the dictatorship. They are seeking to present a letter demanding the immediate and unconditional release from arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize and is actively supported for her non-violent activism on behalf of democracy by Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and Vaclav Havel.
In a time when violence and money seem to be the only methods of political change that seem to get media time, the opportunity to support a woman as an International leader who uses compassion and forgiveness as the methodology of political change is something I think many of you may welcome and embrace.
Thank you for your time. Attached is a link to the Hunger Strike organizers and photos of the beautiful people I have had the opportunity to visit with since being dislocated from my home in New Orleans.
Peace and love. One World,mary beth
International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi & Burma, March from Washington D.C. to New York City and 17 Day Hunger Strike at United Nations: www.progressiveburma.org/icfabcontact organizer & U.S. spokesperson: Maura Stephens: 607.274.3829
http://www.irrawaddy.org/aviewer.asp?a=5036&z=153
UN Rights Envoy Calls for Reform in BurmaBy Aung Lwin Oo September 29, 2005
A UN human rights envoy has called on Burma’s military government for immediate reform by creating a freer political environment in the country and establishing democratic dialogue with opposition parties.
“The transition to a full, participatory and democratic system in Myanmar [Burma] can no longer be postponed,” the UN Commission on Human Rights special rapporteur on Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, said in a report submitted to the General Assembly Wednesday. “Political and constitutional dialogue must begin without delay,” he added.
Pinheiro said that the exclusion of opposition parties from any reconciliation process and continued detention of opposition figures, including Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic minority leaders, raise concerns for reform in the country. He also said that the release of 249 political prisoners from Burma’s prisons in July has been overshadowed by fresh arrests, detention and harsh sentences for democracy activists and civilians.
The special envoy also highlighted widespread reports of forced labor, rape and other sexual violence, extortion and expropriation committed by government forces.
“By instituting values of democracy and human rights,” Pinheiro said, “the government will send a clear signal to the people of Myanmar and the international community that it is actively committed to facilitating the creation of a stable and democratic future for the country.”
Last week, Burma’s Foreign Minister Nyan Win claimed the country is “poised at the threshold of a new era,” in a speech during the UN General Assembly in New York.
Pinheiro has been denied access to the country since November 2003, while UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail’s last visit took place in March 2004. Effectively barred from carrying out his responsibilities in Burma, Pinheiro said that he prepared the report based on information collected from a variety of independent and reliable sources.
A group of activists has been staging a 17-day hunger-protest outside the UN headquarters since September 18, calling on the world body to pursue the immediate release of opposition leader Suu Kyi and ensure political reform.

19) A Nicaragua flat ad:
Hello! I hope that you are doing well. Michael and I have been dealing with pretty crazy lives since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans almost five weeks ago. We are still not permitted back into the city until next week, but we are lucky to have our families to house hop to and from. After realizing that we won't realisticly be allowed to live in the city again until at least the first of the year 2006, we have decided that we would return to the beautiful country of Nicaragua to finish looking for the perfect piece of land we starting searching for only a few days before this hurricane. We will be arriving in Nicaragua around the 11th-15th of October and we wanted to put our feelers out to those that may know of a place that we could rent for a reasonable amount per month. We have a very sweet black lab that we will have with us. He is an outside dog and would not have to come indoors as long as there was a yard for him to live in. He is very well behaved and very sweet with kids and other animals. If you have any ideas on where we might find a place to rent, can you please email either of us some information. We would love to secure a place before coming down. We have a 4x4 vehicle and we will be leaving Louisiana around October 6th. Any help would be greatly appreciated! My email address is flybetty@hotmail.comand Michael's is mdevin@cox.net Thanks again!Sincerely,Bethany and Michael

20) An ATFP Report:
Below is the summary of the U.N. report submitted to the General Assembly by John Dugard, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967.
To read the full report:
http://www.americantaskforce.org/unreport.pdf
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SUMMARY
During the past year, Israel’s decision to withdraw Jewish settlers and troops from Gaza has attracted the attention of the international community. This focus of attention on Gaza has allowed Israel to continue with the construction of the wall inPalestinian territory, the expansion of settlements and the de-Palestinization of Jerusalem with virtually no criticism. This report focuses principally on these matters.
Although uncertainty surrounds the full extent and consequences of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, it seems clear that Gaza will remain occupied territory subject to the provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, of 12 August 1949 (Fourth Geneva Convention) as a result of Israel’s continued control of the borders of Gaza. The withdrawal of Jewish settlers from Gaza will result in the decolonization of Palestinian territory but not result in the end of occupation.
In its advisory opinion of 9 July 2004, the International Court of Justice held that the wall currently being built by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is contrary to international law. It accordingly held that construction of the wall should cease and that those sections of the wall that had been completed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory should be dismantled. The Government of Israel has paid no heed to the advisory opinion and continues with the construction of the wall.
The wall has serious consequences for Palestinians living in the neighbourhood of the wall. Many thousands are separated from their agricultural lands by the wall and are denied permits to access their lands. Even those who are granted permits frequently find that gates within the wall do not open as scheduled. As a result, Palestinians are gradually leaving land and homes that they have occupied for generations.
Most Jewish settlers in the West Bank are now situated between the Green Line (the accepted border between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory) and the wall. Moreover, existing settlements in this zone — known as the “closed zone” — are expanding and new settlements are being built. Emboldened by the support they receive from the Government and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), settlers have become more aggressive towards Palestinians and settler violence is on the increase.
The construction of the wall, the de-Palestinization of the “closed zone” and the expansion of settlements make it abundantly clear that the wall is designed to be the border of the State of Israel and that the land of the “closed zone” is to be annexed. Israel has embarked upon major changes in Jerusalem in order to make the city more Jewish. Jewish settlements within East Jerusalem are being expanded and plans are afoot to link Jerusalem with the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim with a population of 35,000, which will effectively cut the West Bank in two. Palestinian contiguity in East Jerusalem is being destroyed by the presence of Jewish settlements and by 3 A/60/271 house demolitions. Some 55,000 Palestinians presently resident in the municipal area of East Jerusalem have been transferred to the West Bank by the construction of the wall. The clear purpose of these changes is to remove any suggestion that East Jerusalem is a Palestinian entity capable of becoming the capital of a Palestinian State.
The international community has proclaimed the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the need to create a Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel. This vision is unattainable without a viable Palestinian territory. The construction of the wall, the expansion of settlements and the de-Palestinization of Jerusalem threaten the viability of a Palestinian State.
The occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory continues to result in major violations of human rights. There are some 8,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, whose treatment is alleged to fall well below internationally accepted standards. Freedom of movement is radically undermined by over 600 military checkpoints. Social and economic rights are violated. A quarter of the Palestinian population is unemployed and half the population lives below the official poverty line. Health and education services suffer and Palestinians have severe difficulties in accessing safe water. Housing remains a serious problem as a result of house demolitions conducted by the IDF in previous years. Women suffer disproportionately from these violations of human rights.
In 2004 the International Court of Justice handed down an advisory opinion in which it condemned as illegal not only the construction of the wall but many features of the Israeli administration of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The advisory opinion was endorsed by the General Assembly on 20 July 2004 in resolution ES-10/15. Since then little effort has been made by the international community to compel Israel to comply with its legal obligations as expounded by the International Court. The Quartet, comprising the United Nations, the European Union, the United States of America and the Russian Federation, appears to prefer to conduct its negotiations with Israel in terms of the so-called road map with no regard to the advisory opinion. The road map seems to contemplate the acceptance of certain sections of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the inclusion of major Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in Israeli territory. This process places the United Nations in an awkward situation as it clearly cannot be a party to negotiations that ignore the advisory opinion of its own judicial organ.
21) Yo, Wattup? As-salaamu alekum, mudda fukka:
Homegrown hip-hop catching on among young Palestinians - Yahoo! News
http://news.yahoo.com/s/krwashbureau/20050928/ts_krwashbureau/_mus_mideast_hiphop_1

22) Somalia article:
Signpost in Somaliland's Quest for Sovereignty
Nathalie Peutz
September 28, 2005
(Nathalie Peutz is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Princeton University.)
A year after its inception, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia remains in disarray. The interim president, Abdullahi Yusuf, lingers northof Mogadishu, amassing weapons and recruiting troops for his return to the capital. His 91-member cabinet and 42 ministries, forged in exile, are scattered across the globe. Meanwhile, on September 29, 2005, the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland in the northwest of the country will hold its third multi-party elections since 2000. Often disparaged as a"rogue enclave" or a "breakaway region," Somaliland has asserted a largely unrecognized right to self-determination since 1991.
Before the October 2004 "National Reconciliation Conference" in Mbagathi, Kenya, which ended in the formation of the Transitional Federal Government,the Somaliland government was adamant on two issues: the Republic of Somaliland would remain independent, whatever the outcome of the conference, and the government of Somaliland would negotiate with a government of Somalia only as one sovereign state talking to another. In a July 2004 press release, President Dahir Riyale Kahin confirmed: "Somaliland will only have dialogue with Somalia when they put in place a president and a government elected by the people of Somalia."
The upcoming elections, originally slated for March 29 but delayed by the government, are another signpost in Somaliland's thus far frustrated questfor international recognition. They should also complete the transition from a clan-based government selected by elders to a system of multi-partyrepresentation elected by and accountable to the public. Additionally, they will present the first major challenge to the otherwise growing entrenchmentof government party rule in Somaliland.
SECOND "INDEPENDENCE"
In the colonial era, the north of Somalia -- what is now Somaliland and neighboring Puntland -- was known as the British Somaliland Protectorate. This northern "State of Somaliland" was granted independence on June 26, 1960 and recognized by 35 governments, including the United States, even though plans for unification with the south were imminent and the dream of a "Greater Somalia" -- comprising Italian Somalia, British Somaliland, Djibouti (French Somaliland), and the Somali regions of Ethiopia andKenya -- was widespread. Five days later, Italian Somalia received its independence and the two legislatures met in Mogadishu to announce theirunification as the Somali Republic.
The unification was imbalanced from the outset, with the seat of government having moved to Mogadishu. Additionally, the merger was encumbered by incongruent colonial administrations, legal systems and languages. By June 1961, the "northerners" demonstrated their discontent by boycotting thereferendum on the constitution and in December 1961, northern lieutenants staged an unsuccessful coup. But it was not just the south-north divide that troubled these early years. Somalia was also marked by the proliferation of nepotism, corruption and "clanism" --the division of political and economic spoils to favored clans.
In October 1969, the military staged a successful coup d'état, established the Supreme Revolutionary Council with Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre as its president, and renamed the state the "Somali Democratic Republic." Under Barre, the country embarked on a course of "scientific socialism" aiming to modernize the nation and eradicate "tribalism." Nevertheless, Barre began to depend on clan affiliations for his support, as did his mounting opposition. After a disastrous defeat by the Ethiopians in the 1977-1978 Ogaden War, officers from the northeast (now Puntland) led a failed coup against Barre and formed the first clan-based opposition group, the Somali Salvation Democratic Front, with Abdullahi Yusuf as one of its leaders.
In 1981, exiles from the northwest (now Somaliland), belonging to the Isaaq clan, formed the Somali National Movement (SNM), another Ethiopia-basedguerrilla movement aimed at overthrowing the regime. The government responded with heavy reprisals against the northern population and fighting between the SNM and the national army developed into full-scale civil war in the northwest. In May 1988, the government ordered aerial bombardment of two northern cities, Hargeisa and Burco, and by early 1989 an estimated 50,000 had died and a half million people were displaced. The SNM continued fighting in the north while supplying southern opposition groups withweapons. In January 1991, Gen. Mohamed Farah Aidid advanced on Mogadishu, forcing Barre and his troops to flee.
With the collapse of the Somali Democratic Republic in 1991 and the spectacular debacle of the UN peacekeeping mission that followed, Somaliabecame the textbook example of a "failed state." The war-torn country has lacked an operating central government ever since. On May 18 of the same year that Somalia "failed" as a state, "the Republic of Somaliland" declared its independence, and a two-year transitional government was formed with the SNM chairman as interim president.
WEATHERING VOLATILITY
As not all northern clans had supported the SNM insurgency, its Isaaq leadership sought reconciliation with other clan elders. By January 1992, however, tensions among the Isaaq had surfaced and the SNM "army" was at war with SNM opposition factions. In October 1992, Somaliland elders called for peace talks and reached a ceasefire agreement.
In 1993, the "Grand National Reconciliation Conference" succeeded in replacing SNM rule with a civilian administration headed by President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, the major Isaaq politician to emerge from the Protectorate era. With little to no foreign assistance, a National Charter was drafted and a beel (clan) system of government -- institutionalizedmulti-clan representation in a bicameral parliament -- was established. Inter-Isaaq fighting broke out again between 1994 and 1996 and a Second National Conference convened in Hargeisa in 1996-1997. President Egal was reelected for another five years and a constitution was drafted to lock in the power sharing agreement outlined in the National Charter. Finally, on May 31, 2001, a referendum was held on the constitution that was simultaneously a plebiscite on Somaliland's independence. Nearly 66 percent of the eligible voters voted yes, though low turnout in the Sool and eastern Sanaag regions suggested a local boycott.
With the constitution ratified, elections were held in December 2002, when nearly half a million citizens elected 332 district councillors from six political parties. To avoid clan-based party affiliation, the electoral law required each party to obtain 20 percent of the vote in each of Somaliland's six regions while restricting the number of parties in future elections to the three with the largest base. With allowances for the lack of census data and limited resources for voter registration in a largely nomadic and illiterate society, the elections were judged free and fair by local and international observers, although irregularities were noted. The three parties to win the permanent right to run were Egal's Democratic United Peoples' Movement (UDUB), the Somaliland Unity and Development Party (Kulmiye) headed by former SNM chairman Ahmed Mohamed Mahmoud Silanyo, and the Party for Justice and Democracy, chaired by Faysal Ali Warabe.
Seven months before the 2002 elections, Egal had died during surgery in South Africa and Dahir Riyale Kahin was appointed interim president. Although Riyale was a silent figurehead under Egal, his first moves aspresident were bold, if somewhat unpopular. His first official visit was to Djibouti -- still a firm supporter of a "greater Somalia" -- where he mendedbilateral relations even though the Somaliland population was weary of what many consider Djibouti's anti-Somaliland rhetoric. Riyale also attempted avisit to Las Canod in the region of Sool, which, along with adjacent eastern Sanaag, is inhabited by Harti clans who remain ambivalent about Somaliland'sclaim of sovereignty and the "Hargeisa" government. Although the Harti clans were party to the 1993 reconciliation conference, they have felt progressively marginalized in the emergent Somaliland, and many Harti in Sool and eastern Sanaag shifted their allegiance to the Puntland "administration" established under the presidency of Abdullahi Yusuf in 1998. Whereas Somaliland demarcates itself by its colonial borders, Puntland defines its area as that inhabited by the Harti clans. Puntland's Bossaso port is closer to Sool and eastern Sanaag than Somaliland's Berbera port, and Somali shillings, not Somaliland shillings, remain the operative currency in the regions. Reflecting the struggle for the regions' loyalties,Riyale was chased out of Las Canod by Puntland militias.
Half a million voters turned out in April 2003 when Riyale ran in a presidential election. A number of irregularities marred a contest that was otherwise more or less "free and fair." The ruling UDUB was castigated for using public funds for its campaign and for monopolizing time on state-owned radio; Kulmiye was charged with encouraging double voting; and, as in the 2002 election, a number of polling stations were closed in Sool and eastern Sanaag because of "security" concerns. The true challenge to the election's integrity came from the surprisingly close result. On April 19, the National Electoral Commission announced an 80-vote margin of victory for the UDUB, a tabulation contested by both the UDUB and Kulmiye. The decision went to the Supreme Court, which adjusted the margin of victory upward to 217 votes. On May 16, 2003, Riyale was sworn in as the first democratically elected president of the Republic of Somaliland.
In a period of only two years, Somalilanders had weathered two potentially volatile changes of leadership and voted on three different occasions. The fact that this war-ravaged society was able to navigate these challenges without real foreign assistance and without succumbing to the cycles ofviolence that continued in the south speaks volumes for Somalilanders' commitment to peace -- however fragile its foundations.
"INSIDE THE SOMALI STOMACH"
Somalilanders are frustrated by the lack of international recognition of the "peace and stability" in their country -- not to mention their claim of sovereignty. In 2000, I heard expressions of hope that Western governments or the UN would recognize Somaliland's right to self-determination based on its functioning government, the consent of the governed, defined borders and relations with neighbors. While the African Union refuses to acknowledge Somaliland's "secession" from the former Somali Republic, Somalilanders have long argued that their current territory is nothing if not consistent with the colonial borders recognized for those five fateful days of post-colonial independence.
Later, in 2002, I witnessed the increasing disappointment of those hopes, with one common feeling being that Somaliland's bid for recognition had been sidelined by the US preoccupation with the "war on terror." At a public forum attended by the former US ambassador to Ethiopia, the speaker of the parliament quipped: "Can we have someone in the audience volunteer to be a member of al-Qaeda? We will turn him in and this will change our fate!"Indeed, since 2001, the Somaliland government has counted less on the West and turned increasingly to African states for support, notably South Africa and Senegal. In January 2005, however, I found that many Somalilanders presumed that recognition will not come soon in any case. That is because it depends less on the West or the African Union than on Somalia -- still a non-functioning state.
According to Somaliland's minister of information, Somalilanders have moved beyond the need for recognition: "We are not going to say recognize us or else. It's the business of a nation to recognize or not recognize. But as far as we are concerned, we recognize ourselves. We haven't been doing all these good things -- democratization, nation building, decency, civility -- just to appease others! We've got a vested interest in that matter and, if in my generation, this country is not recognized, then the following generation will carry the flag." Similarly, during a qat chew with Somaliland elders one prominent sultan asserted, "We don't need to berecognized. We have to recognize ourselves first and make peace. Then the whole world will come to us and recognize us!" In a private setting, he sounded less convinced, lamenting that no country would recognizeSomaliland's independence until the new Somalia does. "Since we united with Somalia," he said, "we were swallowed by the Somali people. We cry insidethe Somali stomach, 'Oh, we are Somalilanders!' But we are still inside their stomach."
The government accuses outside elements of trying to derail the September 29 parliamentary contests. On September 23 and 24, seven alleged al-Qaeda militants were arrested in Hargeisa on charges of plotting to disrupt the upcoming elections. "The terrorists who planned to wage attacks in Somaliland are trained and facilitated from Mogadishu," Riyale declared.
AT STAKE
The September 29 elections may bring little change in the attitudes of outsiders, but they should have momentous domestic consequences. It is clear that what is at stake is not just parliamentary democracy, but the very glue that could keep the country together.
Somaliland faces immense social and economic challenges. In the past years, over 500,000 Somaliland refugees have been repatriated from Ethiopia, Kenya and Yemen, and the towns already swell with nomads moving in from the countryside. Money transfer services, called hawalat, funnel roughly $400 million into Somaliland each year from Somalilanders living abroad, many in the West. These remittances are sorely needed. The livestock trade,Somaliland's major economic resource, has suffered from a seven-year Saudi ban, supposedly the result of an outbreak of Rift Valley fever, but interpreted by Somalilanders as a political boycott targeting their claim of independence. Unemployment is estimated at 70 percent. Unemployed men and youth spend their remittances on qat imported from Ethiopia. People chew, they say, either to forget or to remember; the war has left many scars.
A deep-seated distrust of the government and its intentions vis-à-vis a future "Somalia" is perhaps symptomatic of the people's political, economicand social frustration. Rumors abound that there is a secret deal between Riyale and the president of Djibouti and that Somaliland will come apart atthe seams.
Distrust also persists because each step toward parliamentary democracy is accompanied by a step backward in the name of security. Between October 2003 and March 2004, four foreign aid workers were killed by southern Somali militants aiming to destabilize Somaliland. Immediately, the governmentordered the removal of up to 77,000 "illegal foreigners" (mainly from Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia), though this measure was never enforced. The tragic deaths held some promise at least of rallying the nation behind peace, security and good governance. However, on May 18, 2004, the celebration of Somaliland's independence day, 150 students demonstrating against corruption were sentenced to one-year imprisonment. One month later, the interior minister released an edict prohibiting Somalilanders from speaking in groups about political issues, "because of the delicate circumstances the nation is going through and because there are conspiracies being hatched to destroy the peace." Poignantly, his decree fell on the same date as the infamous Jezira Beach massacre 15 years earlier, when Barre's forces rounded up 46 Isaaq students and executed them on a beach south of Mogadishu. The significance of this coincidence was not lost on the public.
Despite Riyale's public commitment to holding elections in March come what may, he postponed the contests at the eleventh hour, citing a lack ofpreparedness dictated by a lack of sufficient funds. The government was seeking financial assistance from EU donors, but it was slow in coming -- whether because the donors were reluctant to antagonize the Transitional Federal Government or because the government was slow in asking. Riyale accused the parliament of wishing to retain their seats. Others accused the president and the UDUB of delaying the elections out of fear that the governing party would lose seats to the opposition. Throughout 2005, there were spirited debates in the parliament about gender quotas and media access for opposition parties. Since August 30, 246 candidates -- only seven of whom are women -- have been campaigning for the 82 parliamentary seats.
Another specter hanging over the elections is continued tension in Sool and eastern Sanaag. Having gravitated toward Puntland in recent years, the Harti clans of these regions found themselves without the expected representation among the Puntland leadership. Today, they may be more willing to placetheir stake in Somaliland -- if they can vote. The people of Sool and eastern Sanaag were partially disenfranchised during the elections of 2002 and 2003 for reasons of "security." In December 2003, Puntland militias entered the vicinity of Las Canod in Sool, where they have been in a standoff with Somaliland troops ever since. Sool and eastern Sanaag are areas effectively administered by no one.
YESTERDAY, TOMORROW
Somaliland is a nation of displaced people, now returnees, and each person has experienced loss. In 1981, a group of prominent professionals in Hargeisa started a self-help scheme to improve the hospital and schools. Eventually, the group -- named ufo or "wind" -- started an underground newspaper and the Barre government arrested them and sentenced many todeath. The severity of the verdict provoked student riots in Hargeisa, which the government quashed with tanks. When the prisoners were suddenly released from solitary confinement in 1989, they had no idea of what had befallen their country. It was Barre himself who "briefed" the freed prisoners on the bombing of Hargeisa, the deaths of 50,000 civilians and the refugee camps -- and then blamed them for all of it. One doctor related how he could not even comprehend what he heard until he met family who informed him of his father and brother's deaths. Hearing this, he said, "was shocking, but perhaps the best therapy one could get...[realizing that] what happened to you is minor compared to what your people went through."
Today, one of the planes that bombed Hargeisa is mounted on a pedestal next to the public "square" that is currently off limits to demonstrations. A War Crimes Investigation Committee operating out of a back office and with minimal funding continues to collect evidence of mass graves around Hargeisa. They aim to have the known perpetrators brought before an international war crimes tribunal, but they require UN assistance. At this time, however, explained the chairman, "the world is involved in the peace process" -- meaning that its attention is focused southward where many of those involved in this process have blood on their hands.
The Republic of Somaliland has indeed accomplished a remarkable feat and without international assistance. The success or failure of the September 29 elections will determine which road Somalilanders adhere to: a continuing compromise or a frustrated abandonment of their ideals. The African Union and the West may wish to believe that a pan-Somalian "peace" has finally been drafted in Mbagathi, irrespective of the transitional government's failure to function and irrespective of events inside Somaliland, but this is unwise. The ufo -- the wind before the storm -- is quite likely to return, yet now there is no telling which way it will blow.
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For background on Somalia, see Dan Connell, "War Clouds Over Somalia," Middle East Report Online, March 22, 2002.http://www.merip.org/mero/mero032202.html
For background on the importance of hawalat to the Somali economy, see Khalid Medani, "Financing Terrorism or Survival? Informal Finance and State Collapse in Somalia, and the US War on Terrorism," in Middle East Report 223 (Summer 2002).
The summer 1994 issue of Middle East Report offers in-depth coverage of the 1993-1993 "humanitarian intervention" in Somalia.
Order back issues of Middle East Report, and take advantage of a special subscription offer, through a secure server at MERIP's home page:http://www.merip.org/index2.html
23) On Gaza, again:
The Palestinian Security Sector:Post-Disengagement and BeyondSummary of Palestine Center Briefing by Amjad AtallahFor the Record No. 231 / 28 September 2005 (amended)
The Palestinian Authority (PA) and legitimate Palestinian security services have respect from the Palestinian people in the extent to which the government can show a "game plan that will lead to the freedom and independence the Palestinians are seeking." Inquiries into why the Palestinian security services have not done more to prevent violence miss this point and ignore entirely the question of capacity, argued Amjad Atallah, president of the international organization Strategic Assessment Initiatives (SAI).
Speaking at the DC-based Palestine Center on 21 September 2005, Atallah argued that ineffectiveness in the Palestinian security sector must be considered within the political context created by four main factors: 1) the contradictory mandate the security sector was given to provide security for Israel at the cost of Palestinian national aspirations; 2) the destruction and physical dismantling of the security sector caused by Israel's retaliation against it for Hamas bombings; 3) the lack of political and organizational structure afforded it by Fatah, the PA's ruling party; and 4) the competition that Hamas poses in terms of popularity and legitimacy "on the street." Atallah's comments drew from the July 2005 independent, international third-party assessment that SAI conducted of the Palestinian security sector.
Atallah said that "Palestinian security forces were reintroduced into the Occupied Territory by an agreement between Israel and the PLO so that the Palestinian security services would end the first intifada (popular uprising) and provide security services for Israel." However, the Palestinian public did not see the return of the security forces to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as protection for Israel, but instead coming "in order to prepare the way for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state."
He said this quid pro quo, or trading of valued items, was to allow the Palestinians to begin a negotiated process with Israel that would lead to Palestinian independence and freedom by 1999 under the interim agreement signed between Israel and the PLO. When a Palestinian state did not materialize in 1999 as promised, the Palestinian security sector was helpless to prevent the second intifada from erupting. "It could not do what the Israelis wanted it to do without Palestinian public support, but at the same time it could not do what the Palestinians wanted it to do, which was to join the intifada and fight Israel," Atallah said.
"The contradiction between Israel's security concerns and Palestinian aspirations to be free were effectively subsumed during the Oslo years," explained Atallah. Israel received unmatched security from the Palestinian security services and the Palestinian public received steps towards statehood on the land for peace model. However, once this arrangement collapsed in September 2000, the PA security services were trapped between the PLO's agreements with Israel and the Palestinian people's desire to end the occupation. "The result was paralysis," he said. Israel saw the Palestinian security services' failure to prevent the intifada as a betrayal of the mandate the PLO had signed, believing that it had effectively subcontracted the PLO to provide security for its occupation while it decided what type of state and level of sovereignty it would allow Palestinians to have, said Atallah. Israel responded by attacking the Palestinian security services both because they were easier targets than the cell-based system of Hamas and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and because their employees, police stations and jail houses were "a very well known commodity" to the Israeli military.
Atallah said that this was a "win-win" situation for Hamas; at the beginning all it needed to do was "attack Israel and get credit on the street." Pointing out that Hamas' primary rival is the PA, not the Israeli government, Atallah said Hamas' popularity and the coherence of its political agenda and organizational structure create an environment in which the Palestinian security sector has only a limited capacity to maintain public order despite the generally secular orientation of Palestinian society. "Hamas has responded very rapidly to Israeli attacks on Palestinians," he emphasized, noting in particular the immediate physical assistance and cash it provides to victims of Israel's attacks before the PA or the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) can respond.
In this context, Atallah argued that several things must happen before any reconstruction of the Palestinian security services will be effective. First, Fatah's organizational structure must be rebuilt. He argued that at the same time Israel was attacking the security services during the second intifada, the Palestinian leadership under the late President Yasser Arafat was itself dismantling Fatah's structure through its inaction and other missteps. The result was that "the largest secular grassroots movement among Palestinians collapsed from an organizational structure into a general movement."
One crucial way of reforming Fatah would be to hold primaries before general elections, as the "young guard and the middle guard" have been demanding, said Atallah. This would enable Fatah to select the candidate most popular and capable of speaking on its behalf and "to provide a legitimate Palestinian alternative to the most dominant force right now, which is Hamas." However, Atallah said that many in the "old guard" resist primaries because they see changes in the process as a threat to their own positions of power.
Secondly, the Palestinian security sector must be streamlined and fully integrated under the PA Ministry of the Interior. Moreover, a functioning national security council is necessary for the Palestinian security services' effectiveness. While it has not fully addressed the need to rebuild Fatah, the PA has begun to address the question of reconstructing the security forces by mandating that the extra-legal units and former police who joined the militants return to the legitimate Palestinian security services, said Atallah. President Abbas has also instructed independent Palestinian security forces to no longer communicate directly with the intelligence services of other governments, reinforcing the authority of the Ministry of Interior. The goal is to unify the security forces into three command and control structures that work together and report directly to the Ministry through the creation of sectoral and joint operation centers in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Atallah was positive about the steps the Palestinian security sector has taken already, noting new initiatives such as the process of retiring Palestinian security officials who are above the age of sixty, the first-ever preparation of a joint "concept of operations" plan for the recreation of the security sector, and the development of a communications plan that will better enable the security services to work with people in the community, such as the Rafah and Khan Yunis refugee camps. However, implementation of the consolidation plan is only about 70 percent complete, he said, because of the resistance of some former police units to integration within a legitimate structure. He noted that Force 17, the military intelligence, special forces, special security, air force and maritime forces remain separate and/or report directly to the president.
Thirdly, Atallah said that the Palestinian security services' effectiveness is weakened by the lack of an independent judiciary. Atallah said that Palestinians must have an independent judiciary before reform in the security sector will be sustainable. The first step in the process to achieve an independent judiciary would be the appointment of an independent attorney general who has subpoena and investigative powers as well as the protection of the security services, Atallah said. This is a necessary step "to clear the names of the people wrongly accused and to bring to justice those who are found guilty," like the former Gaza security chief Moussa Arafat who was assassinated on 7 September 2005 instead of facing an independent jury and public trial.
Lastly, Atallah argued that the Palestinian security sector needs greater support from the international community. He commended the European Union for its civil policing capacity training through the Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUCOPS), and the UK for its military liaison mission that augments the communications and operations room capabilities of the Palestinians. He also noted the desire of Egypt and Jordan to play a stronger role in Palestinian security in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, respectively. However, Atallah said the international community's current strategy of involvement is aimed at containing the conflict and developing "a strong and powerful security force that can ensure that...a third intifada does not restart."
Atallah said this strategy by the international community is destined to fail because it only addresses one angle of the problem: the security forces' capacity to command and control. Atallah said the international community sees Gaza as a test case for statehood in the West Bank, or "those cities that Israel chooses to withdraw from," while ignoring the political process, national goals, and organizational structure in which this capacity exists. "It is clear that the international community is not in a conflict resolution mode," said Atallah. "What there is, is an attempt to manage the conflict." Without these considerations dealt with, the security sector will not be able to withstand Hamas or to guarantee law and order for Palestinians, said Atallah.
The above text is based on remarks delivered on 21 September 2005 by Mr. Amjad Atallah. The speakers' views do not necessarily reflect those of the Jerusalem Fund for Education and Community Development or its educational program, The Palestine Center. This "For the Record" summary may be used without permission but with proper attribution to The Palestine Center.

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