Friday, March 11, 2005

Iraq Mortality, Ramadi Madness, Democracy, US Army Draft, Chernobyl,...

1) Those who forget the past are condemned to ... ahh
forget it, no one cares:,2763,1435181,00.html

Iraq allies accused of failing to investigate civilian

Sarah Boseley, health editor
Friday March 11, 2005
The Guardian

Experts in public health from six countries, including
the UK, today castigate the British and American
governments for failing to investigate the deaths of
civilians caught up in the conflict in Iraq.
Twenty-four experts from the UK, the US, Australia,
Canada, Spain and Italy say the attitude of the
governments is "wholly irresponsible". They say the UK
government's reliance on "extremely limited data" from
the Iraqi ministry of health is "unacceptable" because
it is likely to seriously underestimate the

Their hard-hitting statement, published online by the
British Medical Journal, comes nearly five months
after the Lancet published a household survey of
civilian deaths in Iraq which estimated that about
100,000 civilians had died - most of them women and

The study caused controversy and was dismissed by the
British government as unreliable, partly because the
authors admitted that, under the difficult
circumstances, it could not be precise.

The experts lambast the government for criticising the
data without conducting inquiries of its own. "The
obvious answer to removing uncertainties that remain
is to commission a larger study with full official
support and assistance, but scientific independence,"
they say.

"Counting casualties can help to save lives both now
and in the future by helping us to understand the
burden of death, and residual burden of injury,
disease and trauma across the entire population," the
experts say. "We have waited too long for this

The Iraqi ministry of health data is not complete.
Among the reasons for this are that only
violence-related deaths reported through the health
system are counted and deaths in the first 12 months
of the conflict are not included.

Among the 10 experts from the UK who have signed the
statement are Klim McPherson, visiting professor of
public health epidemiology at Oxford University, David
Hunter, chair of the UK Public Health Association, and
Sian Griffiths, immediate past-president of the
faculty of public health at the Royal College of

There are seven eminent physicians from the US, three
from Australia, two from Spain and one each from
Canada and Italy.

"Monitoring casualties is a humanitarian imperative,"
they say. "Understanding the causes of death is a core
public health responsibility, nationally and
internationally. Yet neither the public, nor we as
public health professionals, are able to obtain
validated, reliable information about the extent of
mortality and morbidity since the invasion of Iraq."

In a commentary in the BMJ, Professor McPherson says
that public access to reliable figures is important.
"The policy being assessed - the allied invasion of
Iraq - was justified largely on grounds of democratic
supremacy. Voters in the countries that initiated the
war and others - not least in Iraq itself - are denied
a reliable evaluation of a key indicator of the
success of that policy. This is unacceptable."

Understanding the burden of death, disease, injury and
trauma aids the proper planning of war and health and
will help governments assess the humanitarian
implications of conflict, he says.

"The plain fact is that an estimate of 100,000 excess
deaths attributable to the invasion of Iraq is
alarming. That is already half the death toll of
Hiroshima. Apart from the practical arguments, the
principled ones stand and will always stand. Have we
not learnt any lessons from the history of sweeping
alarming numbers of deaths under the carpet? This is
not something about which there can be any political
discretion 60 years after Auschwitz."

The Foreign Office said yesterday it believed the
figures from the Iraqi ministry of health were the
most reliable because they were based on head counts
not extrapolation.

2) Ramadi Madness Videos:

3) Le Proche-Orient bouge : faut-il remercier Bush?:

Thus asked Le Monde on March 7th. The answer: not

Seen from France, the “Arab spring” is not only less
significant than the Bush administration claims, it is
also not directly linked to George Bush’s democratic

Mr Bush has been quick to congratulate himself on the
success of elections in Iraq and Palestine, partial
municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, constitutional
reform in Egypt and the popular uprising in Lebanon.
Look closely, however, and you could see that only
Iraq and Palestine represent solid progress towards
democracy. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are a classical case
of too little, too late.

Not even Mr Bush is naïve enough to take Hosni Mubarak
at his word. The Egyptian president declared he would
allow multi-candidate elections. Even if he sticks to
his word, that wouldn’t be such a big deal. For there
is nothing to guarantee that these elections would be
free and fair. Most observers, including American
ones, are sceptical. This looks like an attempt by a
despotic regime to update its political machinery. And
so far, Mr Mubarak shows no sign of relinquishing his
pharaohnic powers. As for Saudi Arabia, the
“elections” held there are welcome only as a (very
small) first step.

But a first step it certainly is. As optimists point
out, such elections would allow an organised
opposition to emerge—something that the leaders of the
desert kingdom have never tolerated. In time, goes the
argument, such opposition may grow strong enough to
push for real reforms, or indeed some colour-coded

Yes, say the French, but these reforms are in response
less to Mr Bush’s democratic crusade than to domestic
pressure. Illiteracy, unemployment and poverty are at
catastrophic levels in most Arab countries. Their
leaders’ efforts are a belated attempt to let the
steam out before the cauldron explodes. Saudi Arabia
stonewalled against American pressure for almost a
year after September 11th, refusing even to admit that
Al-Qaeda was operating on its territory. Only after
the attacks of May 2002 did the leaders of the country
act: cracking down on terrorism and opening up a
little. If anyone deserves credit for reforms in Saudi
Arabia, it is Osama bin Laden and his goons.

Nor did the reforms begin with September 11th. If Mr
Bush did not see flowers of democracy in the Middle
East before it is because he hasn’t been looking.
Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain undertook serious
constitutional and democratic reforms in the 1990s,
followed by Morocco after the death of Hassan II.
Qatar introduced the Arab World to the idea of free
media through Al-Jazeera, a TV station which the Bush
administration is doing its best to shut up. Even in
Saudi Arabia, the process of constitutional reform was
underway long before the war on terrorism. These
reforms, piecewise and incomplete as they are, owe
nothing to the “Bush doctrine”.

Palestine represents more hopeful picture. But here
the Europeans have at least some claim the laurels.
The Bush administration’s engagement in Palestine was
half-hearted and erratic. Only under pressure from his
European allies did Mr Bush reluctantly begin to act
forcefully with Israel.

Same with Lebanon. As French officials point out, it
was France that persuaded the US to take up the
Lebanese cause. And now, with a Syrian promise to
withdraw, it is not clear to what extent the Americans
are committed on this front. Many French officials
worry that Mr Bush is more interested in harassing
Syria and Hizbollah than in a free and democratic

Even on Iraq the French are unrepentant. Compare the
situation of that still-bloody country with what
happened in Georgia, the Ukraine and to a lesser
extent Palestine and Lebanon and you’d see that
military unilateralism doesn’t work. Democratic
transformations succeed best when Europeans and
Americans work together peacefully. This is exactly
what France has been saying all along.

4) Peace Now NEWSFLASH: Israeli government report
"confirms accusations made for years by Peace Now,"
says NY Times:

Israeli Report Condemns Support for Settlement
NY Times March 9, 2005

JERUSALEM, March 8 - A long-awaited report on the
Israeli government's support for illegal settlement
outposts in the West Bank describes widespread state
complicity, fraud and cynicism, illegal diversion of
government funds and illegal seizure of private
Palestinian land. The report was formally delivered to
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday.

Withheld until now, the report was written under
American pressure and finished in early January. It
accuses the government of Mr. Sharon and previous
Israeli governments of "blatant violations of the law"
and complicity in helping settlers construct illegal
outposts in violation of stated Israeli government

The report describes almost a state within a state
devoted to promoting illegal settlement activity in
the occupied West Bank.

"No one seriously intends to enforce the law," says
the report, written by Talia Sasson, a former chief
state prosecutor. "It seems as if the violation of the
law has become institutional and institutionalized."

"There is blatant violation of the law by certain
state authorities, public authorities, regional
councils" in the West Bank "and the settlers," Ms.
Sasson wrote, according to excerpts published Tuesday
by the Israeli daily Maariv. "Everything is done for
appearance' sake, as if a regulated institutional
establishment were acting within the confines of the

The conclusions of the report, which will be released
in full on Wednesday, are no surprise, confirming
accusations made for years by Peace Now, the dovish
Israeli citizen's lobby, and less publicly by the
United States Embassy.

Mr. Sharon commissioned the report last June after
accusations that his government was not keeping its
promises to Washington to freeze settlement activity
and dismantle illegal settler outposts in the West
Bank set up after March 2001.

At the time, the report was considered a delaying
tactic, but its conclusions, however harsh, will give
Mr. Sharon a solid pretext within Israel for
dismantling at least some of the illegal outposts. He
has argued to the Bush administration that his plan to
dismantle all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip is
so painful that he cannot get into a fight with
settlers on the West Bank at the same time.

He has also insisted that the Palestinians complete
their obligations to dismantle terrorist organizations
under the international peace plan called the road map
before Israel could even begin to complete its
parallel obligations to freeze settlement activity and
dismantle the illegal outposts, of which there are
around 100, with at least 2,000 inhabitants.

At least 50 of those outposts date from after March
2001, when Mr. Sharon came to power, and should be
dismantled under the peace plan, according to Peace
Now. The government has said there are only 28 such
outposts. The United Nations considers all Israeli
settlements built beyond the 1949 armistice lines

Aides to Mr. Sharon said he would not comment on the
report until he had read it. Raanan Gissin, a Sharon
aide, said, "It will be studied carefully with the
intention of implementing it, and it will be
translated and given to the U.S. Embassy." The report
was done "in coordination with the U.S. government to
see how we could get to the bottom of this issue," Mr.
Gissin said. "Corrections and adjustments have to be

Asked if there would be indictments, Mr. Gissin said:
"If laws were broken, subject to the decision of the
attorney general, indictments may be made. Israel is a
country of the rule of law, and laws will be upheld."

According to Ms. Sasson's report, the laws have not
been upheld for some time, including the entire period
of Mr. Sharon's government.

The report outlines how the Housing and Construction
Ministry, the settlement division of the
semi-governmental World Zionist Organization, the
Education Ministry and the Defense Ministry worked
together to "systematically establish illegal
settlement points," handing over millions of dollars
to create the infrastructure for scores of
settlements, according to the report.

Ms. Sasson is to hold a news conference on Wednesday
to discuss the report. Requests to interview her over
the last three months have been refused by Mr.
Sharon's office.

Yariv Oppenheimer, the secretary general of Peace Now,
said the Sasson report was misleading only because
most of the roughly 100 outposts established without
authorization were now "real settlements."

"What is even more ridiculous," he said, "is that
during the period in which the report was being
written, the outposts continued to strengthen,
continued to grow and develop and become real
settlements. The situation is very bleak."

Uri Ariel, a right-wing legislator, called on the
attorney general "to investigate the extent to which
the prime minister knew of, encouraged and
participated." The right is angry with Mr. Sharon for
his Gaza plan, Mr. Ariel said, adding, "There is no
doubt that the office work relating to the outposts
was carried out with the prime minister's knowledge
and, in most cases, with his blessing."

Palestinian officials repeated their contention that
Mr. Sharon's focus on Gaza is a pretext for continuing
settlement activity in the West Bank. On Tuesday the
Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, called for an
end to Israeli expansion in the West Bank and accused
Israel of dragging its feet in fulfilling promises to
hand over control of Palestinian cities.

Mr. Abbas met Tuesday evening with the Israeli defense
minister, Shaul Mofaz, to discuss the transfer to
Palestinians of responsibility for security in two
West Bank cities, Jericho and Tulkarm, but no date was
specified. The Israelis have complained that Mr. Abbas
is not moving fast enough to crack down on terrorism
and groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The latter
group carried out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on
Feb. 25 that killed five Israelis.

Mr. Abbas and Mr. Sharon have agreed on the transfer
of security in five West Bank towns - Ramallah,
Bethlehem, Qalqilya, Tulkarm and Jericho - but Israel
delayed the transfer after the bombing, holding out
for more Palestinian action to stop attacks against

5) US Arab-American Census:

The US Census Bureau has released a detailed report
regarding the Arab-American community in the United
Stated. In the past, demographic information about the
community had been scarce and usually vague.

Entitled “We the People of Arab Ancestry in the United
States,” the report is the first of its kind to
provide such a detailed profile of Arab Americans. It
presents several demographic, social and economic
characteristics collected from Census 2000, including
facts about ancestry, age distribution, gender
breakdown, educational background, and occupation,
among others.

To view the report in its entirety visit:

6) Army: Recruiting Young Blacks Tougher Now [Fancy

Tuesday March 8, 2005 3:31 PM

AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Young blacks have grown markedly
less willing to join the Army, citing fear of being
sent to fight a war in Iraq they don't believe in,
according to unpublicized studies for the military
that suggest the Army is entering a prolonged
recruiting slump.

Fear of combat also is a leading reason fewer young
women are choosing the Army, the studies say. Although
female soldiers are barred by law from assignments in
direct land combat, they nonetheless have found
themselves under attack by insurgents in Iraq, and 33
have died.

``More African Americans identify having to fight for
a cause they don't support as a barrier to military
service,'' concluded an August 2004 study for the
Army. It also said attitudes toward the Army among all
groups of American youth have grown more negative in
recent years.

7) Anti-Draft Posting:

Date: Wed, 9 Mar 2005 10:19:35 -0800 (PST)
From: Carl Webb
Subject: If A Draft Is Called, Service Will Be
Required of All (NO exceptions)

If A Draft Is Called, Service Will Be Required of All
(NO exceptions)

Donna C wrote:
Perhaps by now you've heard that at least one local
draft board is training draft board volunteers about
how to deal with requests for deferments for a
"medical specialty" draft. If not, then please know
that I've got it from a reliable source that draft
board volunteers are now being trained on how to
handle requests by medical personnel who wish to avoid
being drafted.

Many believe that a draft is coming soon, so one must
become prepared NOW.

Many men and women in the age range of 18 through 45
(yes, up to age 45 if one is involved in one of 60
"specialty" careers) are not concerned about the
possibility of being forced to serve out of a belief
that they can always claim Conscientious Objector

According to the info on the Selective Service
website, however, *even if* one is awarded the
distinction of being classified a Conscientious
Objector with an objection to serving in the military,
one will *still* be placed in the "Alternative Service
Program." In other words, if a draft begins (which
many believe will occur within the year), you may not
have to don a military outfit, but you *will still be
required to serve the government* in some other

How many Americans realize this? I, for one, did not!
And while I, like many Americans, genuinely enjoy and
derive great pleasure and satisfaction from helping
out in volunteer service in my community, I am of the
firm belief that *service*, by the very nature of the
word, implies voluntary action (as in, service that
stems from the heart, from one's own *free will*). In
other words, even the C.O. classification of doing
"Alternative Service" is still forced servitude (i.e,
slavery) any way you look at it.

Please feel free to pass this around widely to those
who you think might want/need to know. And if you do
not believe that a person should not be *forced* into
"alternative service" (ie, involuntary servitude), nor
any other type of service (military or otherwise),
please take action to fight an upcoming draft. There
are some anti-draft website links below.

Here is the Selective Service explanation of
Conscientious Objector classification status and
forced "Alternative Service." and also see

Some anti-draft groups:

8) It is not democracy that's on the march in the
Middle East:,13031,1434298,00.html

Managed elections are the latest device to prop up
pro-western regimes
Seumas Milne
Thursday March 10 2005
The Guardian

For weeks a western chorus has been celebrating a new
dawn of Middle Eastern freedom, allegedly triggered by
the Iraq war. Tony Blair hailed a "ripple of change",
encouraged by the US and Britain, that was bringing
democracy to benighted Muslim lands.

First the Palestinians, then the Iraqis have finally
had a chance to choose their leaders, it is said,
courtesy of western intervention, while dictatorships
such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are democratising under
American pressure. And then in Lebanon, as if on cue,
last month's assassination of the former prime
minister triggered a wave of street protests against
Syria's military presence that brought down the
pro-Damascus government in short order.

At last there was a democratic "cedar revolution" to
match the US-backed Ukrainian "orange revolution" and
a photogenic display of people power to bolster George
Bush's insistence that the region is with him.
"Freedom will prevail in Lebanon", Bush declared this
week, promising anti-Syrian protesters that the US is
"on your side". The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, is
expected to join the cheerleaders for Arab democracy
in a speech today and warn the left not to defend the
status quo because of anti-Americanism.

The first decisive rebuff to this fairy tale of spin
was delivered in Beirut on Tuesday, when at least
500,000 - some reports said it was more like a million
- demonstrators took to the streets to show solidarity
with embattled Syria and reject US and European
interference in Lebanon. Mobilised by Hizbullah, the
Shia Islamist movement, their numbers dwarfed the
nearby anti-Syrian protesters by perhaps 10 to one;
and while the well-heeled Beiruti jeunesse dorée have
dominated the "people power" jamboree, most of
Tuesday's demonstrators came from the Shia slums and
the impoverished south. Bush's response was to ignore
them completely. Whatever their numbers, they were, it
seems, the wrong kind of people.

But the Hizbullah rally did more than demolish the
claims of national unity behind the demand for
immediate Syrian withdrawal. It also exposed the
rottenness at the core of what calls itself a
"pro-democracy" movement in Lebanon. The anti-Syrian
protests, dominated by the Christian and Druze
minorities, are not in fact calling for a genuine
democracy at all, but for elections under the
long-established corrupt confessional carve-up, which
gives the traditionally privileged Christians half the
seats in parliament and means no Muslim can ever be
president. As if to emphasise the point, one
politician championing the anti-Syrian protests,
Pierre Gemayel of the rightwing Christian Phalange
party (whose militiamen famously massacred 2,000
Palestinian refugees under Israeli floodlights in
Sabra and Shatila in 1982), recently complained that
voting wasn't just a matter of majorities, but of the
"quality" of the voters. If there were a real
democratic election, Gemayel and his friends could
expect to be swept aside by a Hizbullah-led

The neutralisation of Hizbullah, whose success in
driving Israel out of Lebanon in 2000 won it enormous
prestige in the Arab world, is certainly one aim of
the US campaign to push Syria out of Lebanon.The US
brands Hizbullah, the largest party in the Lebanese
parliament and leading force among the Shia, Lebanon's
largest religious group, as a terrorist organisation
without serious justification. But the pressure on
Syria has plenty of other motivations: its withdrawal
stands to weaken one of the last independent Arab
regimes, however sclerotic, open the way for a return
of western and Israeli influence in Lebanon, and
reduce Iran's leverage.

Ironically, Syria's original intervention in Lebanon
was encouraged by the US during the civil war in 1976
partly to prevent the democratisation of the country
at the expense of the Christian minority's power.
Syria's presence and highhandedness has long caused
resentment, even if it is not regarded as a foreign
occupation by many Lebanese. But withdrawal will
create a vacuum with huge potential dangers for the
country's fragile peace.

What the US campaign is clearly not about is the
promotion of democracy in either Lebanon or Syria,
where the most plausible alternative to the Assad
regime are radical Islamists. In a pronouncement which
defies satire, Bush insisted on Tuesday that Syria
must withdraw from Lebanon before elections due in May
"for those elections to be free and fair". Why the
same point does not apply to elections held in
occupied Iraq - where the US has 140,000 troops
patrolling the streets, compared with 14,000 Syrian
soldiers in the Lebanon mountains - or in occupied
Palestine, for that matter, is unexplained. And why a
UN resolution calling for Syrian withdrawal from
Lebanon has to be complied with immediately, while
those demanding an Israeli pullout from Palestinian
and Syrian territory can be safely ignored for 38
years, is apparently unworthy of comment.

The claim that democracy is on the march in the Middle
East is a fraud. It is not democracy, but the US
military, that is on the march. The Palestinian
elections in January took place because of the death
of Yasser Arafat - they would have taken place earlier
if the US and Israel hadn't known that Arafat was
certain to win them - and followed a 1996 precedent.
The Iraqi elections may have looked good on TV and
allowed Kurdish and Shia parties to improve their
bargaining power, but millions of Iraqis were unable
or unwilling to vote, key political forces were
excluded, candidates' names were secret, alleged fraud
widespread, the entire system designed to maintain US
control and Iraqis unable to vote to end the
occupation. They have no more brought democracy to
Iraq than US-orchestrated elections did to south
Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s. As for the cosmetic
adjustments by regimes such as Egypt's and Saudi
Arabia's, there is not the slightest sign that they
will lead to free elections, which would be expected
to bring anti-western governments to power.

What has actually taken place since 9/11 and the Iraq
war is a relentless expansion of US control of the
Middle East, of which the threats to Syria are a part.
The Americans now have a military presence in Saudi
Arabia, Iraq, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar
- and in not one of those countries did an elected
government invite them in. Of course Arabs want an end
to tyrannical regimes, most of which have been
supported over the years by the US, Britain and
France: that is the source of much anti-western Muslim
anger. The dictators remain in place by US licence,
which can be revoked at any time - and managed
elections are being used as another mechanism for
maintaining pro-western regimes rather than spreading

Jack Straw is right about one thing: there's no happy
future in the regional status quo. His government
could play a crucial role in helping to promote a real
programme for liberty and democracy in the Middle
East: it would need to include a commitment to allow
independent media such as al-Jazeera to flourish; an
end to military and financial support for despots; and
a withdrawal of all foreign forces from the region.
Now that would herald a real dawn of freedom.

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

9) Ukrainian Chernobyl Website, again:

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