Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Middle East & the World

Today I'll return to Middle East and global issues again -- even though Michael Brown's testimony defending his role as FEMA head during Katrina and attacking LA local officials is almost too good to pass up. To quote dailykos, que cojones!:

1) Here's a link to the International Crisis Group's new report on the failings of the Iraqi Constitution, and why it should be re-negotiated in the next week or two:

http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=3703


2) Riverbend here analyzes the Iraqi Constitution and all that's wrong with it:

http://www.riverbendblog.blogspot.com/


3) Here's a link to a website which is now offeringpictures of dead Iraqis and Afghanis in addition toits normal menu of amateur porn. I suppose it's atleast one example where perhaps "they" MIGHT "hate our values":
http://www.nowthatsfuckedup.com/bbs/forum23.html



4) Supporters of Bush's Iraq Experiment put their money where their mouths are:

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1577750,00.html

Bush plea for cash to rebuild Iraq raises $600
Mark Townsend in Houston
Sunday September 25, 2005
The Observer

An extraordinary appeal to Americans from the Bushadministration for money to help pay for thereconstruction of Iraq has raised only $600 (£337),The Observer has learnt. Yet since the appeal waslaunched earlier this month, donations to rebuild NewOrleans have attracted hundreds of millions ofdollars.

The public's reluctance to contribute much more thanthe cost of two iPods to the administration's attemptto offer citizens 'a further stake in building a freeand prosperous Iraq' has been seized on by critics asevidence of growing ambivalence over that country.

This coincides with concern over the increasing costof the war. More than $30 billion has beenappropriated for the reconstruction. Initially,America's overseas aid agency, USaid, expected it tocost taxpayers no more than $1.7bn, but it is nowasking the public if they want to contribute evenmore.

It is understood to be the first time that a USgovernment has made an appeal to taxpayers for foreignaid money. Contributors have no way of knowing whowill receive their donations or even where they maygo, after officials said details had be kept secretfor security reasons.

USaid's Heather Layman denied it was disappointed withthe meagre sum raised after a fortnight. 'Every littlehelps,' she said.

In the past 12 months, Americans raised some $250bnfor charity, including other foreign causes such asthe Asian tsunami victims. Layman said: 'There is nofinancial goal. People are looking for a way to helprebuild Iraq and this is a way to facilitate that.'

The fundraising comes amid concern that some USprojects in Iraq will be scrapped or only partlycompleted because of rising costs. Some officials fearthat money may run out before key projects arecompleted.

Last week, the number of US troops killed in Iraq roseabove 1,900.



5) Pat Tillman opposed the Iraq war:

http://cunningrealist.blogspot.com/

Sunday, September 25, 2005
Anatomy Of A Disgrace

Some readers may recall that I've written about PatTillman before. The San Francisco Chronicle is outwith this must-read article that updates the storywith new details. Some excerpts:

A Chronicle review of more than 2,000 pages oftestimony, as well as interviews with Pat Tillman’sfamily members and soldiers who served with him, foundcontradictions, inaccuracies and what appears to bethe military’s attempt at self-protection.

For example, the documents contain testimony of thefirst investigating officer alleging that Armyofficials allowed witnesses to change key details intheir sworn statements so his finding that certainsoldiers committed “gross negligence” could besoftened.

Interviews also show a side of Pat Tillman not widelyknown — a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted,fought and died in service to his country yet wascritical of President Bush and opposed the war inIraq, where he served a tour of duty. He was an avidreader whose interests ranged from history books onWorld War II and Winston Churchill to works of leftistNoam Chomsky, a favorite author.

The horrific description of his death at the hands ofhis fellow soldiers:

The soldier next to him testified: “I could hear thepain in his voice as he called out, ‘Cease fire,friendlies, I am Pat f—ing Tillman, dammit.” He saidthis over and over until he stopped,” having been hitby three bullets in the forehead, killing him.

The soldier continued, “I then looked over at my sideto see a river of blood coming down from where hewas...I saw his head was gone.”

The political context of a deception:

Tillman’s death came at a sensitive time for the Bushadministration — just a week before the Army’s abuseof prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq became public andsparked a huge scandal. The Pentagon immediatelyannounced that Tillman had died heroically in combatwith the enemy, and President Bush hailed him as “aninspiration on and off the football field, as with allwho made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror.”

His killing was widely reported by the media,including conservative commentators such as AnnCoulter, who called him “an American original —virtuous, pure and masculine like only an Americanmale can be.” His May 3, 2004, memorial in San Josedrew 3,500 people and was nationally televised.

Not until five weeks later, as Tillman’s battalion wasreturning home, did officials inform the public andthe
Tillman family that he had been killed by hisfellow soldiers.

The fate of his superiors on the ground that day:According to the documents and interviews, Capt.William
Saunders, to whom platoon leader Uthlaut hadprotested splitting his troops, was allowed to changehis testimony over a crucial detail — whether he hadreported Uthlaut’s dissent to a higher rankingcommander.
In initial questioning, Saunders said hehad done so, but when that apparently was contradictedby that commander’s testimony, Saunders was threatenedwith perjury charges. He was given immunity andallowed to change his prior testimony.

The regiment’s commander, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bailey, waspromoted to colonel two months after the incident, andSaunders, who a source said received a reprimand,later was given authority to determine the punishmentof those below him.

The handling of the physical evidence:

A soldier who on April 23 burned Tillman’s bulletriddled body armor — which would have been evidence ina friendly-fire investigation — testified that he didso because there was no doubt it was friendly firethat killed Tillman. Two days later, Tillman’s uniformand vest also were burned because they were soaked inblood and considered a biohazard. Tillman’s uniformalso was burned.

And some interesting new background:

Yet other Tillman family members are less reluctant toshow Tillman’s unique character, which was morecomplex than the public image of a gung-ho patrioticwarrior. He started keeping a journal at 16 andcontinued the practice on the battlefield, writing init regularly. (His journal was lost immediately afterhis death.) Mary Tillman said a friend of Pat’s evenarranged a private meeting with Chomsky, the antiwarauthor, to take place after his return fromAfghanistan — a meeting prevented by his death. Shesaid that although he supported the Afghan war,believing it justified by the Sept. 11 attacks, “Patwas very critical of the whole Iraq war.”

Baer, who served with Tillman for more than a year inIraq and Afghanistan, told one anecdote that tookplace during the March 2003 invasion as the Rangersmoved up through southern Iraq.

“I can see it like a movie screen,” Baer said. “Wewere outside of (a city in southern Iraq) watching asbombs were dropping on the town. We were at an old airbase, me, Kevin and Pat, we weren’t in the fight rightthen. We were talking. And Pat said, ‘You know, thiswar is so f— illegal.’ And we all said, ‘Yeah.’ That’swho he was. He totally was against Bush.”

Another soldier in the platoon, who asked not to beidentified, said Pat urged him to vote for Bush’sDemocratic opponent in the 2004 election, Sen. JohnKerry.

The extent of the disgrace defies belief: the initialcoverup of the way Tillman died, the harvesting ofthat death for political expedience as the Abu Ghraibstory broke, the predictable promotions of thosearguably responsible for what happened on the groundthat day, the changing of crucial testimony, thedestruction of physical evidence, and the willful,flat-out lies our political and military leadershiptold to Tillman's family and the American public.
In the context of Tillman's strong and openly-statedopinions about Bush and the war in Iraq, it's all morethan a bit interesting.

6) Here's an analysis of that bizarre event last week where British forces stormed a Basra prison:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article10383.htm

Agents Provocateurs?
By William Bowles
09/21/05 "William Bowles" -- --

Fascinating. No really, the ‘evolution’ of state disinformation has probably never been better displayed than in the case of the two (more than likely) SAS soldiers who were‘liberated’ after being arrested by the Iraqi police on 19 September by a phalanx of tanks and helicopter gunships that stormed the police station where the two undercover soldiers were being held after theyallegedly failed to stop at an Iraqi police roadblock and subsequently opened fire on the Iraqi police, killing one and wounding another.

The car they were travelling in was loaded with weapons including allegedly, assault rifles, a light machine gun, an anti-tank weapon, radio gear and a medical kit (’standard’ SAS issue according to theBBC). According to at least two reports, the car they were traveling in (A Toyota Cressida) was “booby-trapped”.
Subsequent accounts vary according to the source but according to the initial story broadcast on the BBC (19/9/05), the two men wore traditional Arab dress but then this changed to “civilian dress” (BBCTV News).

As more information trickled out, a BBC story reported that the men were freed after the police station had been attacked by British tanks, a report that the British government initially denied saying that “the release of the soldiers had been negotiated” (BBC Website 20/0/05).

Britain’s Ministry of Defence says the release of the two soldiers had been negotiated and it did not believe the prison had been stormed.

“We’ve heard nothing to suggest we stormed the prison,” a ministry spokesman said.

“We understand there were negotiations.”

Lisa Glover, spokeswoman for the British embassy in Baghdad, says three people have been wounded in the operation to free the soldiers.

She did not give further details of how the soldiers were freed.

Then the story changed yet again, only now the ‘official’ story, dutifully reported by the British State Broadcasting Company (BSBC), was that “negotiations broke down” and that the two men were in the hands of the Mehdi Army in another building, in which case, why was the police station stormed?

Then yet another version was issued by the British government only now the police station was indeed attacked but only after “negotiations broke down”. So were the two SAS men in the police station or not?
According to yet another BSBC report, after breaking into the police station, the Brits discovered that they had been moved to a Mehdi Army house for “interrogation”. Yet subsequent accounts revealed that they had in fact, been in the police station all along and, according to a CNN report, were being questioned by an Iraqi judge, not, as the British government alleged, by the ‘insurgents’.

By now, in a classic disinformation campaign, so many stories were being circulated that sorting out the truth from fiction was virtually impossible unless one is prepared to dig and dig deep.

What is clear is that the two SAS “undercover operatives” had been caught red-handed by the British government’s alleged allies, the Iraqi police, dressed as Arabs, replete with wigs and armed to the teeth and in a car which according to one report, was packed with explosives (the car by the way, has been taken away by the British occupation forces).

The question the BSBC was not and still is not asking, is what were they up to, creeping around dressed up as Iraqis in what is meant to be a relatively peaceful Basra?

Once more the BSBC answered the question, sort of, courtesy yet another ‘official’ story, one that was to emerge only after a very angry crowd attacked two British armoured vehicles, setting at least one on fire. The “mob”, as the BSBC described them, were, according to the report, angry over the arrest of two Mehdi Army members, also on 19 September, and that it had nothing to with the freeing of the two SAS. In reality of course, the ‘mob’ had already been informed about the two SAS undercover guys and were understandably upset.
So now, the two undercover SAS men were, it is imputed, searching for ‘insurgents’ as part of a counter-insurgency operation, which if true, what were they doing dressed as Iraqis?

Were they on some kind of provocative operation? According to one report, this is exactly what they were up to. Fattah al-Shaykh, a member of the Iraqi National Assembly told this account to al-Jazeera
If you really want to look for truth, then we should resort to the Iraqi justice away from the British provocations against the sons of Basra, particularly what happened today when the sons of Basra caughttwo non-Iraqis, who seem to be Britons and were in a car of the Cressida type. It was a booby-trapped car laden with ammunition and was meant to explode in the centre of the city of Basra in the popular market. However, the sons of the city of Basra arrested them. They [the two non-Iraqis] then fired at the people there and killed some of them. The two arrested persons are now at the Intelligence Department inBasra, and they were held by the National Guard force, but the British occupation forces are still surrounding this department in an attempt to absolve them of the crime.

And in yet another report from Syrian TV we read:

[Al-Munajjid] In fact, Nidal, this incident gave answers to questions and suspicions that were lacking evidence about the participation of the occupation in some armed operations in Iraq. Many analysts andobservers here had suspicions that the occupation was involved in some armed operations against civilians and places of worship and in the killing of scientists. But those were only suspicions that lackedproof. The proof came today through the arrest of the two British soldiers while they were planting explosives in one of the Basra streets. This proves, according to observers, that the occupation is not far from many operations that seek to sow sedition and maintain disorder, as this would give the occupation the justification to stay in Iraq for a longer period.

When viewed in the context of all the stories that have been circulating about the mythical ‘al-Zarqawi’ and the alleged role of al-Queda, the events in Basra are the first real evidence that we have of the role of occupation forces in destabilising Iraq through the use of agents provocateurs masquerading as ‘insurgents’.
And, as I have long alleged here, it is now almost certain that ‘al-Zarqawi’ is probably long dead. An AFP story tells us:

[The] Imam of Baghdad’s al-Kazimeya mosque, Jawad al-Kalesi said, that “al-Zarqawi is dead but Washington continues to use him as a bogeyman to justify a prolonged military occupation…He’s simply an invention by the occupiers to divide the people.” Al-Kalesi added that al-Zarqawi was killed in the beginning of the war in the Kurdish north and that“His family in Jordan even held a ceremony after his death.”

And indeed, last year, in a piece I wrote about ‘al-Zarqawi’, I referred to a report about ‘al-Zarqawi’ being killed when the US flattened the ‘base’ of his group Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq in early 2003, a report that actually originated with the US government.

Yet the BSBC, along with the rest of the Western media continues to put out endless reams of disinformation about ‘al-Zarqawi’ and his connection to the fictitious ‘al-Qaeda in Iraq’. Given the long-held assertion by the
West that goes back to 2003, that Iraq was on the verge of ‘civil war’, it’s instructive to note that as the military situation of the occupation forces has deteriorated, so too has thelevel of so-called al-Queda operations increased, in a transparent attempt to divide the Iraqi national resistance, thus the increasing stories about impending civil war and the wave of ‘suicide’ bombings.

The exposure of the undercover SAS operations will only add to the resolve of Iraqi resistance forces to step up their campaign to expel the occupiers regardless of what kind of blatant propaganda line the UK government puts out.

It furthermore exposes the untenable position of the Iraqi ‘government’ which is now being squeezed by both sides, thus we get contradictory positions from the Iraqi ‘government’, with one denying that the SASoperatives had been handed over to ‘Shiite militia’ and the other trying desperately to tread an almost invisible line between condemning the actions of the British government whilst blaming the actions of theIraqi police in Basra on ‘insurgents’ who have ‘infiltrated’ the police force. Yet it is a fact that at best, perhaps only 25% of the Iraqi military can be relied upon to serve their colonial masters.

Continuing to call them insurgents is itself an admission that the majority of Iraqis are opposed to the occupation and indeed, the bulk of the fighting is being carried out by the Kurdish Peshmerga as Iraqiforces simply cannot be relied on. It’s a classic situation that the US and UK military top brass know only too well having ‘been there and done that’ before.

Thus the occupiers become more desperate to destabilise the situation and no doubt we’ll see more SAS and US provocations revealed over the coming weeks as the situation continues to deteriorate.



7) Here's another analysis of that British raid:

IAS Alert: Basra Confrontation Lifts the Veil on Local Problems
22/09/2005 20:00
Basra Confrontation Lifts the Veil on Local Problems

The exact details of the September 20 UK military operation to release two undercover servicemen being held captive by Shia Islamist militamen in a Basra jail remain sketchy. But the event has shone a light on the state of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in the south and the degree to which they have become beholden to local political groups rather than national institutions. Both Baghdad and London have been relatively circumspect in their comments about the UK action, seeking to play down the incident. Both publicly and privately, Iraqi leaders have sought to deflect blame for the incarceration on insurgents and terrorists who have infiltrated the ISF, and have insisted that new recruitment and vetting procedures, combined with ongoing de-Baathification, will eventually solve the problem. UK government officials have restricted themselves to defending the operation, while insisting that there has been no lasting damage to UK-Iraqi relations.

Both sides have been disingenuous in their reaction to the incident. While there is little doubt that the ISF has been infiltrated by insurgents and members of the ousted Saddam Hussein regime, the Basra events are an illustration of a different problem, namely the penetration of Shia Islamist militias -- some closely linked to the United Iraqi Coalition that dominates the government in Baghdad -- into the local police and security services. SCIRI 's Badr Organization, Muqtada al-Sadr's Jaish al-Mahdi as well as the armed factions of Fadhila and Thar Allah all control elements of the local police force; indeed, its seems that in some cases different units of the police are run by rival organizations. These militamen take their orders not from the Interior Ministry in Baghdad or independent local police chiefs, but rather from their political masters. The result has been a factionalization of the police and the narrow politicization of their mission; party members act with impunity, and corruption and human rights abuses abound. More generally, this situation has helped to perpetuate an upsurge in political thuggery, as rival groups target each other as well as suspected elements of the former regime.

All of this is an embarrassment to the UK Government, which has been responsible for security sector reform in the three southern provinces. Moreover, it makes a mockery of claims that Basra and its neighboring provinces are fully secure. Clearly, the region has not suffered from violence on a scale comparable to Baghdad and the north-west of Iraq, where the insurgency has raged. But this week' events, coming on the heels of a series of deadly attacks on UK forces over the past couple of months, belies the notion that Basra is a haven of calm or that a tipping point for foreign investment has been reached (as the UK Consul General there was recently quoted as saying). Nor is the situation likely to change soon, even though both UK forces and the Interior Ministry in Baghdad are likely to try to impose more order and discipline on the police. The political parties and their militias are well-entrenched in Basra: SCIRI and a coalition of rival Shia Islamist parties led by Fadhila between them hold the vast majority of the seats on the Provincial Council; and Basra' Governor Muhammed al-Waeli, a Fadhila member himself, has resisted past efforts to rid the local security services of militia influence. The fact that yesterday's emonstrations in Basra protesting the UK operation were reportedly organized by local policemen in coordination with Sadr's party illustrates how politicized the security forces have become and the degree to which they are using their positions to pursue narrow political agendas.

Under these circumstances, even with its present troop numbers in the area, UK military forces and their political counterparts are unlikely to be able to undermine the militia influence significantly. Their best short-term option may be simply tacitly to support one militia (probably the Badr Organization, which is regarded as being the most disciplined and benefiting from political oversight from its national leaders in Baghdad) over others that are regarded as more radical. If this is the course that is chosen, it will inevitably lead to a rise in tension between UK forces and the local militias, and divisions between the militias themselves (especially between the Badr Organization and Sadrist/Fadhila forces), which will manifest itself violently.
What this incident and its possible fallout means for UK withdrawal plans from southern Iraq remains to be seen, but it is unlikely to disrupt them. Under pressure from commitments elsewhere, London has for some time planned to draw down its troop numbers significantly over the course of next year. Moreover, the UK government has hinted in the past that the overall security situation in the region is sufficiently benign to justify such a pull-out, pointing to the absence of insurgency attacks and the capacity of the ISF and the police to bear the security burden. Privately, it probably hoped that the militias problem would remain sufficiently hidden not to disrupt this timetable. Now that this hope has been dashed, it may adopt the tack that the capture of the UK soldiers was an isolated incident, and that it is up to the Iraq government to clean up security forces in the southern region.

In the longer term, none of this bodes well for security in the southern region. The withdrawal of UK forces while the local and national governments remain weak is likely to embolden local militias further. Given their competing agendas and political rivalries, the resulting vacuum will encourage violent competition between them as they seek to establish a greater presence on the ground. Moreover, there will be less to restrain them from engaging in political extortion and intimidation. This does not necessarily mean that Basra and neighboring provinces will necessarily become a battle zone, but rather that the general security situation will deteriorate, and that commercial enterprises, including foreign ones, could prove very tempting targets.



8) WaPo comes out against the Iraqi Constitution in their editorial:

washingtonpost.com
Wrong Way in Iraq
Sunday, September 25, 2005; B06

AS IRAQ MOVES toward a referendum on its new constitution just three weeks from now, many of its senior politicians readily concede that the charter is seriously flawed, and that its approval may worsen rather than alleviate the relentless violence. Leaders of neighboring Arab states and some Bush administration officials seem to share this view. Yet none of these officials or leaders has been willing or able to stop the political process from going forward. Some, like Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, speak hopefully of fixing the constitution by adding an annex between now and Oct. 15. Others, including senior Bush administration officials, more realistically look past the referendum to parliamentary elections at the end of the year. These, they hope, will produce a different and more representative group of Iraqis able to settle the many conflicts that the constitution leaves unresolved.

Faced with sinking domestic support, the Bush administration seems driven by an unwise zeal to produce visible results in Iraq -- such as a ratified constitution -- however problematic they may be. At best, administration policymakers are calculating that moving forward with the referendum offers better odds of eventual success than trying to stop and start over. Yet, judging from what even supportive Iraqis are saying, the risk is very great that the constitutional process will either tip Iraq decisively toward civil war or produce a state far from the goal of a tolerant democracy for which nearly 2,000 Americans have given their lives.
The fundamental source of trouble is not the Islamic extremists President Bush usually speaks about; nor is it the presence of American soldiers. If the protesters visiting Washington this weekend succeeded in forcing a quick U.S. troop withdrawal, the bloodshed in Iraq, and the damage to the United States, would grow far worse. That is because the real problem is the absence of an agreement about Iraq's future between the majority Shiite and Kurd communities and the minority Sunnis, who ruled the country from the time of its establishment until the fall of Saddam Hussein. That disconnect is expressed in the overwhelming rejection by Sunni leaders of the constitutional draft.

In one hopeful sign, the Sunnis are working hard to register their voters and produce a massive turnout in the
referendum, a striking contrast to their boycott of January's elections. But the most probable outcome of that democratic participation is that Sunnis will vote overwhelmingly against the constitution -- and it nevertheless will be ratified by the votes of Shiites and Kurds. Even officials of the current, Shiite-led government fear that such a result would cause moderate Sunnis to reject the nascent political system and more fully embrace the armed insurgency, which is led not by foreign Islamists such as Abu Musab Zarqawi but by Iraqi Sunni nationalists.

Defenders of the constitution argue that many Sunni leaders are pro-Hussein diehards who wouldn't accept any democratic system in Iraq and who don't represent most Sunnis. That's probably true, but it's equally true that some Sunni complaints about the constitution are legitimate. Though the details of implementation were postponed, the current draft would allow the Shiites, who already control the national government, to create their own ministate in southern Iraq, which very likely would be ruled by clerics and Islamic law and would closely ally itself with neighboring Iran. It would have its own armed forces and control Iraq's biggest oil fields. The Kurds would have their own ministate in northern Iraq and would probably take over the city of Kirkuk and its oil production. This radical form of "federalism" not only would be ruinous to the Sunni community, as well as the mixed population of Baghdad: It would be threatening and even destabilizing for all of Iraq's neighbors except Iran. It would produce an Iraq that the United States would have no interest in defending.

The only way for Iraq to avoid catastrophe is a political accord among Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis, one that can be based only on the preservation of Iraq as a federal but unified state in which resources and political power are fairly shared and human rights protected. The Bush administration, and Iraqi leaders themselves, ought to be focused on striking that national compromise rather than on prematurely enshrining pieces of paper or adhering to deadlines that were set arbitrarily 18 months ago. The longer the delay in achieving real compromise, the greater the risk that Iraqis will be locked into a march toward ruinous civil war, whether the political calendar is followed or not. Many important Iraqi leaders, among them Shiites and Kurds, understand what is needed. The Bush administration must catalyze them into action. If it can do so in the next three weeks, the odds that it can rescue the American mission in Iraq will be much better.



9) Here's a petition concerning the Israeli Apartheid Wall:

http://www.PetitionOnline.com/Bilin/petition.html

some background info about popular non-violent resistance against the separation wall in bil'in:

http://direland.typepad.com/direland/2005/07/the_palestinian.html
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3898.shtml
http://fromoccupiedpalestine.org/node.php?id=1574&PHPSESSID=d78cbd40e4db04329b543a6da822f9bc



10) A report from last weekend's DC protest:

Like tens of thousands of others, I spent the afternoon doing a two-step between the tents of the unobtrusive annual Library of Congress book sale, filling the expanse of dying grass between the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian Castle, and the giant anti-war protest on the far side of the Monument. Call me middle-aged, but I admit to having my doubts that the unshaven legions of pierced college kids in black--brilliant green highlights in Rasta locks appear to be in vogue--and the remnants of organized Marxism present took the nation a step closer to fiscal sanity.

Still, the number of protestors who brought small children and "Ex Republican, Ask Me Why" signs impressed me, as did the many well-behaved policemen and women dispatched to shield the small pro-Bush contingent.
It was fun to hear the usual suspects -- Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson, Cynthia McKinney -- rant alongside random entertainers like Jessica Lange. Watching Cindy Sheehan being treated like royalty by retirees at the Veterans-for-Peace lemonade stand flanking a mock cemetery made me wonder if there isn't truth to
predictions by talking heads of the tide turning...

Unsurprisingly, many of the signs, and speeches, shouted parallels between bumbling on the Gulf Coast and in Iraq, e.g. "Make Levees, Not War."

My brother is off to smashed up small town Mississippi on a mobile government medical van - good for him. Dad is heading to Florida to keep the kids company; I'm staying put to tend to my half-written dissertation prospectus. Ho hum. Take care.

Ellen Psychas



11) Bush's reply to the marchers, even before they marched:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1576040,00.html

Bush: Troops will not withdraw on my watch
Staff and agencies
Thursday September 22, 2005

President George Bush today insisted American forceswould not withdraw from Iraq "on my watch" and giveterrorists the chance "to claim an historic victoryover the United States".

Mr Bush said the resolve of terrorists had beenstrengthened by the hesitant US response to thehostage crisis with Iran in 1979, the bombing of USmarines barracks in Lebanon four years later, and the1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre.

"The terrorists concluded we lacked the courage andcharacter to defend ourselves," Mr Bush said. "Theonly way the terrorists can win is if we lose ournerve and abandon the mission. For the safety andsecurity of the American people, that's not going tohappen on my watch."

Mr Bush spoke at the defence department afterreceiving a briefing on the global "war on terror",focusing
mainly on Iraq and Afghanistan.

With a large anti-war march expected this weekend, MrBush acknowledged that there were differences ofopinion about Iraq and that some wanted the US towithdraw to escape more violence.

"I recognise their good intentions but their positionis wrong," the president said. "Withdrawing our troopswould make the world more dangerous."

He said a pullout would embolden US adversaries andallow Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawiand al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden "to dominate theMiddle East and launch more attacks on America andother free nations".

Mr Bush acknowledged the deaths of more than 1,900Americans in Iraq and said "we'll honour theirsacrifice by completing the mission and winning thewar on terrorism".

"The battle lines are drawn and there is no middleground," he said. "If we fail that test, theconsequences for the safety and security of theAmerican people would be enormous. Our withdrawal fromIraq would allow the terrorists to claim an historicvictory over the United States."

Mr Bush also said 18,000 US troops serving inAfghanistan had not yet finished their mission.

"The international community is helping Afghanistanbecome a lasting democracy," he said. "There are stillterrorists who seek to overthrow the young government.You see, they want to return Afghanistan to what itwas under the Taliban.

Meanwhile, the governor of Basra, Mohammed al-Waili,today threatened to halt cooperation with
Britishforces until Tony Blair apologised for the storming ofa prison in the southern Iraqi city.

Mr al-Waili also demanded compensation for the damagecaused when British forces destroyed part of theprison compound on Monday following the detention oftwo undercover SAS soldiers.

The incident happened as a mission to rescue thesoldiers from a nearby house was mounted amid
Britishclaims that the men were to be summarily executed bylocal militia.

The Iraqi national security adviser, Mowaffakal-Rubaie, called the attack by British forces "aflagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty".

It raised concerns that radical Shia militias withclose ties to Iran had developed substantial power inthe region around Basra.

Elsewhere in Iraq today, a roadside bomb hit a USconvoy in southern Baghdad, killing one soldier andwounding six, while insurgents gunned down at leasteight Iraqis in four separate attacks, officials said.



12) US Domestic Terrorism Case:

ADC Press Release:JDL Leader Earl Krugel Sentenced to 20 Years for 2001Terrorist Plot
Washington, DC, September 22, 2005 -- A member of theJewish Defense League was sentenced today to 20 yearsfor his role in a plot to blow up a Los Angeles-areamosque, the office of an Arab-American congressman,and the office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council(MPAC).

Earl Krugel and the militant group's leader, IrvRubin, were charged in December 2001 with conspiringin the bomb plot. Rubin died a year later frominjuries suffered in what authorities said was ajailhouse suicide attempt.

Under his 2003 plea bargain, Krugel admittedconspiracy to violate the civil rights of worshippersat the King Fahd Mosque and also a weapons count tiedto explosives that prosecutors said were meant for thefield office of Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA).

Krugel admitted in his plea agreement that he met witha teenage JDL recruit and showed him a list of mosquesthat were potential targets. He alleged that Rubin,who was present at the meetings, told the recruit tocarry out the bombings. Krugel admitted he and Rubintargeted Issa because he is an Arab American. He alsoacknowledged calling mosques "filthy” and saying Arabsneeded a "wake-up call."

The JDL has been responsible for at least 40 terroristacts in the United States since its inception in 1968,according to the FBI. Law enforcement officials alsosaid the original target of the foiled plot was MPAC’SLos Angeles office, but it was changed in the daysbefore the planned attack.

The JDL is also suspected in the 1985 murder of AlexOdeh, the Southern Regional Director of theAmerican-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).Odeh was killed when a bomb exploded as he enteredADC’s Santa Ana office The FBI investigation remainsopen, and there is currently a $1 million reward forinformation leading to conviction. . However, noarrests have been made. For more information see:http://www.fbi.gov/mostwant/seekinfo/odeh.htm

At today’s sentencing Krugel also revealed one namelinked to the Odeh investigation that had not beenpreviously known. The judge seriously admonishedKrugel for withholding this information and forrepeatedly failing polygraph tests.

An interfaith delegation was present at the hearing.The delegation included: Anthony Saidi, InterimPresident of the ADC Los Angeles Chapter; SalamAl-Marayati, MPAC Executive Director; Rabbi AllanFreehling, Former Rabbi Of University Synagogue; RobinToma, Executive Director of the L.A. County HumanRelations Commission; Rev. Ed Bacon, Pastor of AllSaints Church; and Rev. George Regis, Director of theInterfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace.Al-Marayati spoke at the hearing. The following is thefull text of
Al-Marayati’s comments at the sentencinghearing:

"I want to thank the court for giving me theopportunity on behalf of the Muslim American communityto address you. I would like to appeal to you, yourhonor, for Earl Krugel to receive the maximum sentencefor his crime to harm me, my institution, a mosque anda congressman's office. Mr. Krugel should be treatedlike any terrorist, even though there is no mention ofthis term in the charges against him. My family and mycommunity, the Muslim American community and the ArabAmerican community, have had to live with the fear ofbeing targets of terrorism since the day the FBIinformed us of this plot by Earl Krugel and Irv Rubin.We appreciate the FBI’s diligence in foiling this plotand will continue to work closely with them to preventterrorism and to ensure that conflicts rooted in theMiddle East do not spill over to our neighborhoods inAmerica. To this day, we are living under the shadowof terror as a result of Mr. Krugel’s actions. Forjustice to be served, we strongly urge you to considerthat the same punishment be levied against him asanyone who plans to target synagogues or churches orany other American houses of worship and theirleaders.

"The fear we suffer from today is similar to that feltby the family of Alex Odeh, whose murder from 20 yearsago remains an open investigation for the FBI. InOctober 1985, Alex Odeh was killed by a bomb at theoffices of the American-Arab Anti-DiscriminationCommittee in Orange County. I do not know the terms ofthe plea agreement with Mr. Krugel. I only hope thathe has cooperated in providing information that willhelp apprehend the culprits of Alex’s assassination.Because Alex’s killers remain at large, we continue tolive under the threat of terrorism, and we ask you,your honor, to ensure that criminal elements who planto do harm to any American are put away for good tokeep our streets and our homes and our houses ofworship safe. I also want to tell you that regardlessof what Earl Krugel attempted to do to us, hisnefarious plan did not ruin our relations with theJewish or Christian community. It has actuallystrengthened it, as is evident by the solidarity ofJewish and Christian leaders with me today. A crime ofthis magnitude planned by Earl Krugel should receivethe maximum punishment allotted by the statute todeter Krugel and those like him from doing more harmto our country."



13) Saudi Foreign Minister address to the Baker Institute in Houston. Doesn't it seem like they're facing some pressure due to "peak oil" speculation?:

Prince Saud Baker Institute Speech
Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal address to the Baker Institute Address by HRH Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal to the Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University in Houston, Texas, September 21, 2005.
Topic: Saudi Arabia and the International Oil Market.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Allow me to convey my heartfelt condolences to the people of the United States for the suffering, death and destruction brought about by Hurricane Katrina. At the same time allow me to praise this great city of Houston for the noble generosity of its people in offering a very needed assistance in sheltering those who suffered most. Houston has always been a great city and I am very pleased to be here.
Many years ago, when I started my government career in the Ministry of Petroleum, one of your fellow Houstonians gave me advice about traveling in the oil-producing countries of the world. He was what is known in the oil industry as an "old redneck."

We were sitting in my office in Riyadh on a very hot summer day when he volunteered this unsolicited advice: "When you get to one of them countries," he said, "the first thing you do is to go to the nearest shop, buy some durable candy, stock up on candles, go to your hotel room, fill the bathtub with water, and wait for the revolution." I am sure I don't need to do that in this oil city, I hope. [OUCH!]

Before I proceed further, I must apologize to my friend and colleague His Excellency Mr. Al-Naimi, the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia, for delving into his turf. He has my wholehearted blessing to discuss matters relating to our foreign policy any time he wishes.

My topic today is of vital importance to both my country and yours, namely the structural flow in the oil industry. The severe increase in oil prices which we have experienced over the past several years is only a phase of a cumulative process that has been going on for some time.

The developments in the oil industry are important and warrant our full attention. High energy costs can create long term repercussions to the economies of the world that will affect all of us consumers as well as producers, both in the industrialized and the emerging economies of the world.

It is important, therefore, that our two countries, the largest consumer and the largest producer, make the time available to assess the situation. We must define the issues and review our options to resolve them before they become too severe to manage. This becomes a matter of urgency and priority for all of us, especially when Saudi-bashing has become fashionable, and allocating blame has become an end in itself.
Crude oil has doubled in price to over $65 per barrel since 2002. Escalating energy prices have already had some indication of a depressing effect on the global economy.

The risks are too great to leave the solution to market forces alone. Because of global interdependence, depressions create social and political instability which cannot be confined to one region of the world. If not dealt with promptly and reasonably, such instability will spread regardless of the political and economic soundness of any individual nation.

What then is going on in the oil industry?

There are three sets of variables that need to be examined: Production, consumption, and political-psychological variables.

On the crude supply side, there is currently no shortage of oil. However, and for the first time in decades,
there is no sizable excess production capacity. This has understandably caused some heated debates about the long-term supply of oil.

Some pessimists, mostly geologists, contrary to their customary nature, are predicting dire shortages in the future, while some optimists, mainly economists, also contrary to their nature, are predicting higher prices would eventually reduce the growth rate of consumption while increasing the growth rate of production.
However, all these predictions are at best educated guesses based on uncertain assumptions.

What is indisputable is the finite depletable nature of oil. However global proven oil reserves have increased from 550 billion barrels in 1970 to 1.2 trillion today, and there is no reason why this trend should not continue.

In addressing these uncertainties, I must emphasize Saudi Arabia's proven record of meeting its production commitments irrespective of international crises and political turmoil or even wars. Yes, we have kept our commitment even when wars were being fought in our region, when oil tankers were being set ablaze in the Gulf and when our cities and oil facilities were being attacked by Scud missiles.

Saudi Arabia has made up for shortfalls in oil production levels by maintaining between 1.5 and 2 million barrels per day of excess capacity at great cost to our industry and economy for the last 20 years.

Saudi Arabia's year-to-date production in 2005 has increased by 700,000 barrels per day from last year.
This accounted for more than half of the increase in global demand for that period.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has declared its plan to increase its production capacity by 2.4 million barrels per day by 2009. This represents a net capacity increment of 1.5 million barrels per day while the rest will augment existing capacity. Barring any outside impediments that are beyond our control, we see no problem in achieving this ambitious target.

We have signed drilling contracts, selected project management teams, allocated funds and put the initial engineering plans on the drawing boards. And unless the international companies use up the equipment we have on order and divert contractors from our oil fields to other projects, we see no problem in achieving our objectives.

It is estimated that the total investment needed to increase OPEC production to meet demand by 2025 ranges between U.S. $258 and 382 billion. The difference of U.S. $124 billion is due to different estimates in demand projections based on different economic growth assumptions. This gives you an idea of the difficulty of planning investments by producing countries.

Yet, with an attitude of "damned if you do and damned if you don't," we are now -- in spite of what we have done and are doing -- accused, of all things, of a lack of transparency.

This truly puzzles me. How can we lack transparency when we have published our production capacity, our oil and gas reserves, and our current and future production plans? And we have done so in a manner totally consistent with international norms and standards. In fact, our known practice is to err on the side of underestimating our reserves and potential production.

Let us face it, providing additional data will not stop endless questions and challenges raised by those who get publicity and consulting fees for questioning everything we do. No amount of data and analysis can convince a truly dedicated conspiracy theorist.

The focus on tarnishing proven Saudi performance is largely a distraction from the fact that the key price and supply issues affecting you are not about volumes of production, but rather about gasoline formulations, limited refinery capacities, lack of storage capacity, and the various other restrictions that have paralyzed the energy industry in the Western hemisphere.

Without minimizing the importance of the environmental issues, a balance must be reached between the need for further oil exploration and development and the preservation of the environment. In that respect, Saudi Arabia calls for increased research in this field.

We are ready to join others in developing uniform regulations that are environmentally responsive and sustainable while offering the most effective energy utilization.

In fact, the real energy issues that we need to address today have little to do with Saudi Arabia. Consider the situation with regards to some of the major oil companies.

In recent years, we have witnessed unprecedented mergers and acquisitions on both sides of the Atlantic.

Tremendous resources and capabilities have been concentrated within the hands of a few corporations. All of them have the resources and experience to invest in and manage the entire value chain of the oil industry.

The collective expectations were that the oil and gas industry would experience a tremendous revival as a result of such restructuring and integration. But this did not materialize.

It seems that over-regulation made it easy to avoid investing in the needed downstream operations, which are of marginal returns, by tempting investors to seek higher returns and safe investments. The result was a break in the value chain of investments in the industry.

At the risk of angering some of my good friends in the audience, oil companies may have forgotten that calculated risk-taking is the means to higher profit making. They may have opted for the ease of the cautious advice of corporate accountants instead of the spirit of adventure that has characterized the oil industry from its inception.

A critical shortfall in the industry's refining sector has been created, which is totally beyond the control of oil exporters. This in turn has lead to a gap between the oil production of crude oil and consumption of refined products.

The consumers are clamoring for more fuels which cannot be supplied due to the lack of refining capacity. This gap traditionally has been bridged by the integrated operations of the oil companies.

To be fair to the oil companies, the main reason for the refinery shortages is the environmental and land use restrictions that limit the construction of domestic refineries. Refinery projects which already require years to construct have to wait for additional years for site approvals, if such approvals are forthcoming at all. In fact, not withstanding certain modifications and expansions in existing facilities, not a single refinery was built in the United States during the last three decades.

According to the Energy Information Administration, global refining capacity has only increased by 1.3 million barrels per day over the past five years. Meanwhile, oil demand has increased by over 7 million barrels per day. Today, global refinery capacities stand at 82.7 million barrels per day, over one million barrels short of global demand.

Yet in spite of these refinery bottlenecks, Saudi Arabia is called upon to increase its oil production on a daily basis. Clearly, additional oil production will do little to meet the fuel requirements of the world refined products. We, however, began adding to our refinery capacity in Yanbu and Jubail, our two industrial cities which are the major hubs for our petrochemical and refinery industries, and there is room for more expansion. We therefore invite all investors to join with us to build additional refineries and to expand existing ones, to alleviate the refined products bottlenecks.

This invitation does not require any delays in implementation that would create added cost to the consumers.
All it needs is the will to contribute to relieve the pressure that is building. At the same time, we are ready to join any efforts in building facilities in the U.S.

Over-regulation does much to limit supply and raise prices. Gasoline specifications often vary on a state by state basis. Applying standardization would increase the efficiency in managing refineries and allow better utilization of fuel products storage capacities.

The imposition of boutique fuel specifications on a state by state and country by country basis only confounds efforts to formulate global solutions for overall fuel shortages.

The reality is that as oil supplies from the North Sea, Alaska and continental U.S. lag behind demand, heavier crudes with higher sulfur contents will be increasingly needed to meet increased demand. Therefore fuel specifications must be standardized in order to modify refinery processes on a timely basis. This is something which we must resolve urgently if we are to ensure fuel specifications and optimum refinery efficiencies over the next decade.

The question of stability in the Middle East is a major concern in this regard. Conflicts in the region that contains over 65% of the world's oil reserves and 45 % of its gas reserves have been allowed to spiral out of control.

Regional turmoil and military confrontations have created a volatile atmosphere that undermines investment in the region's oil industry.

This volatility has in turn become a fertile ground for oil price speculation. Every tragic incident in the Middle East has become a green light for oil traders to set higher premiums on oil supplies.

The need to putting a just and equitable end to the Arab-Israeli conflict is a matter of extreme urgency. This would not only end decades of human suffering, but in the process rid us from the unhealthy speculations that have been so damaging to the oil markets.

I have taken a lot of time to cover these matters because they are of vital importance and yet have no simple resolution. Identifying the problems is always easier than seeking their effective solutions.
What is certain, however, is that we need to move away from the blame game, and to recognize the simple truth that the desired solutions can only be arrived at through collective cooperation.

Facing these challenges require a joint effort by oil producers, oil consumers and the oil companies. To institutionalize a fruitful dialogue among all concerned, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques, took the initiative in setting up a Secretariat for the International Energy Forum in Riyadh.

One of its primary functions has been to facilitate data exchange and transparency through the administration of the Joint Data Initiative, which involves monthly submissions from producing and consuming countries. A few months ago, while in Dallas, he called for the convening of a conference under the auspices of this International Forum.

We look forward to increased cooperative effort and stand ready to work with the United States to do our part in addressing these challenges.

Let me conclude by quoting an old Chinese proverb: "It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness."

Thank you.



14) "Voice of the Caliphate" TV News:

http://jamestown.org/terrorism/news/article.php?articleid=2369784

Volume 2, Issue 17 (September 19, 2005)

Coming Soon: The ‘Voice of the Caliphate' RadioBy Stephen Ulph

A September 11 posting on the jihadi forums further demonstrates the mujahideen's vulnerability and sensitivity to negative media coverage. Issued by the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), the posting detailed the imminent appearance of its latest project, the "first of its kind in the media world"—the Sawt al-Khilafa (Voice of the Caliphate) radio broadcast. The initiative is billed as "a transparent vision with an Islamic view" and a "voice of Truth in a time of Evil." The GIMF announcement was accompanied by a fanfare of media flashes for forum readers to download and distribute among their colleagues. The stated aim of the new initiative is to confront the "media obfuscation carried out by the collaborationist [i.e. Iraqi government] media channels and the frantic media war directed against our mujahid brothers all over the world, which spares no effort to blacken the image of the mujahideen and conceal their victories." [http://soutgimf.s5.com]
The announcement of the new broadcast service comes at a time of increasing frustration for the mujahideen at their weakening profile in the international media. Symptomatic of this was a report by AFP of a new warning issued on September 8 to the Arabic satellite TV channel al-Arabiya—and intended for all Arabic language channels—from an unknown group calling itself Jama'at Jund al-Islam al-Jihadiyya (Group of the Jihadi Soldiers of Islam) to cease their "slander" and contribution "to the distortion of jihad and the mujahideen all over the world… and their description of it as terrorism." As an example of the media distortion, it cited the labeling by these channels of martyrdom operations as ‘suicide attacks.' It reminded the al-Arabiya channel of the earlier car bombing of its offices in Baghdad by the Jihadist Martyrs Brigades in Iraq in October of last year that resulted in seven fatalities. It added that "our arms are long and able to reach all the traitors and collaborators in this nation."

The present posting dedicates its efforts to Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Emir Mulla Omar and Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, "and to the Islamic armies in Chechnya, Kashmir and the Land of the Two Shrines [Saudi Arabia], and in every place." It repeats earlier announcements as to the GIMF's purpose—"The Front does not belong to anyone. It is the property of all zealous Muslims and knows no geographical boundaries." On August 22 it signaled an acceleration of activity with an audio "call to zealous Muslims" to add their efforts to the jihad by joining in with the work of the group. The GIMF's recent productions include a so-called "Top Ten" video production of attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, carried out by the Islamic Army in Iraq and al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda Organization in the Land of Two Rivers, and a film entitled "Bloody Comedy" stitching together more footage of U.S. casualties to a soundtrack of laughter. [www.al-farouq.com]
These developments testify to the new emphasis placed by the mujahideen on the media war. Pointedly, the warning against al-Arabiyah noted that "our war with the American tyrant and his collaborators is now not confined to the military war, but extends to the information war which our mujahideen brothers are waging in Iraq with success."


15) This from a population that actually thought Iraq posed it a threat:

In Evolution Debate, Creationists Are Breaking New Ground
Museum Dedicated to Biblical Interpretation Of the World Is Being Built Near Cincinnati

By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 25, 2005; A03

PETERSBURG, Ky. -- The guide, a soft-spoken fellow with a scholarly aspect, walks through the halls of this handsome, half-finished museum and points to the sculpture of a young velociraptor.

"We're placing this one in the hall that explains the post-Flood world," explains the guide. "When dinosaurs lived with man."

A reporter has a question or two about this dinosaur-man business, but Mark Looy -- the guide and a vice president at the museum -- already has walked over to the lifelike head of a T. rex, with its three-inch teeth and carnivore's grin.

"We call him our 'missionary lizard,' " Looy says. "When people realize the T. rex lived in Eden, it will lead us to a discussion of the gospel. The T. rex once was a vegetarian, too."

The nation's largest museum devoted to the alternative reality that is biblical creation science is rising just outside Cincinnati. Set amid a park and three-acre artificial lake, the 50,000-square-foot museum features animatronic dinosaurs, state-of-the-art models and graphics, and a half-dozen staff scientists. It holds that the world and the universe are but 6,000 years old and that baby dinosaurs rode in Noah's ark.

The $25 million Creation Museum stands much of modern science on its head and might cause a paleontologist or three to rend their garments. But officials expect to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors when the museum opens in early 2007.

"Evolutionary Darwinists need to understand we are taking the dinosaurs back," says Kenneth Ham, president of Answers in Genesis-USA, which is building the museum. "This is a battle cry to recognize the science in the revealed truth of God."

"Intelligent design," the theory that the machinery of life is so complex as to require the hand -- subtle or not -- of an intelligent creator, has stolen the media thunder of late. This week a trial will begin in federal court in Pennsylvania, in which 11 parents accuse the Dover school board of violating the separation of church and state by requiring high school biology teachers to read a statement in class that intelligent design is an alternative explanation of life's origins.

Most scientists dismiss intelligent design as flawed science, and they fear cultural conservatives intend it as a religious wedge. The small band of scientists who promote intelligent design retort that theirs is a scientific inquiry, albeit with theistic implications.

But by any measure, Young Earth Creationism -- which holds that the Bible is the literal word of God and that He created the universe in seven days-- has a more powerful hold on the beliefs of Americans than evolutionary theory or intelligent design. That grip grows stronger by the year.

Polls taken last year showed that 45 percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago (or less) and that man shares no common ancestor with the ape. Only 26 percent believe in the central tenet of evolution, that all life descended from a single ancestor.

Another poll showed that 65 percent of Americans want creationism taught alongside evolution.

In the early 20th century, many creationist thinkers viewed Genesis as metaphorical, accepting that Earth formed over hundreds of thousands, even millions of years. But as society became more secular, and science offered an implicit challenge to fundamentalist beliefs, creationist leaders took a more literal line.

"The creationists have been very successful in persuading conservative Christians to abandon any nonliteral interpretation of the Bible," said Ronald L. Numbers, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and author of "The Creationists." "There is a very large constituency of Americans who are quite comfortable with Young Earth Creationism."

To drive past the stegosaurus silhouettes at the gate to the parking lot at the Creation Museum here is to enter a creationist world in great ferment. Answers in Genesis is one of about a half-dozen creationist organizations and museums, each with its own headquarters, radio studios and Web sites, and scholarly and popular magazines. (A family-oriented column even ferrets out covert evolutionary messages in "Finding Nemo" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding.")

Another creationist museum launches expeditions to the Papua New Guinea highlands in search of living pterodactyls.

All of this -- creationist zoology, paleontology, archaeology -- is framed in a distinctive academic language.

So one reads of post-Babel studies, and floodology and post-diluvium studies, these being the study of the world after Noah and the Great Flood, which is regarded as purest fact. The sanctified imagination, which is to say inspired by God, helps the scientists and artists at Creation Museum re-create the world of Adam and Eve, from sauropods playing with children to the "humongous" mature trees that God created in a single day.

"Our artists anticipated some challenging . . . work," the Answers of Genesis Web site notes.

Young Earth Creationists emphasize the rigor of their science. Looy rattles off the names of experts with doctorates, many of whom obtained degrees from mainstream universities. A creationist scientist, Kurt Wise, worked as a graduate student at Harvard with prominent biologist Stephen Jay Gould. John Baumgardner of the Los Alamos National Laboratory became a well-regarded designer of computer models for planetary catastrophes.

They herald successes. Recent discoveries by geologists tend to support creationists' beliefs that great floods -- albeit not necessarily ordered up by God -- played a role in gouging out some canyon lands.
But often, scientists say, the creationist bottom line is a through-the-looking-glass version of science. The scientific method of theory, experiment and assumptions upended does not apply. Ask Ham if he could accept evidence that conflicts with his reading of Genesis -- proof, say, that a fossil is more than 6,000 years old -- and he shakes his head.

Creationists believe man became mortal when God cast Adam and Eve out of Eden 6,000 years ago. Death did not exist before that.

"We admit we have an axiom: We have a book and it's the Bible and it's revealed history," says Ham. "Where the Bible teaches on science, we can trust it as the word of God."

Scientists place the age of Earth at 4.5 billion years. Many tend to act resigned at the mention of creationists,
seeing a worldview so different as to defy debate.

"There are people who are prepared to accept that the universe is a pretty untidy place," said Ian Tattersall, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History. "And there are people, like the creationists, whose minds rebel at this notion."

Ham, whose voice carries broad hints of his native Australia, is a charismatic speaker and skilled debater, and he has built Answers in Genesis into the world's leading creationist organization in less than a decade. He raised nearly $20 million to build the museum, and the average donation was about $70, officials say.
Answers in Genesis hews to no particular evangelical line. Ham's politics lean strongly to the right, seeing America as under siege by homosexuality and abortion. In a recent column for the Rev. Jerry Falwell's newspaper, Ham described his mission as "fighting the 'Philistines' of our day."

"By and large, much of the church has compromised God's Word in Genesis by allowing millions of years and evolutionary ideas to be embraced by God's people," Ham wrote. "We need to take back the maligned Grand Canyon, the majestic mountain ranges, the massive coal beds . . . and the dinosaur fossils."

Ham is ambivalent on the question of intelligent design. He admires the movement's founders and applauds their battles. But he is skeptical of creationists who see intelligent design as a battering ram that might smash down the constitutional doors and allow the Bible back into schools.

"They are not a Christian movement, they are not about the Bible," he says in his spacious corner office at the museum. "It's not even against evolution, not really, because they don't tell you what that intelligence is. It could open a door for Muslim belief, for Hindus, for New Age.

"We are telling you unashamedly that the word of the Bible is the way."



16) Another Evolution Article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/26/education/26evolution.html

New York TimesSeptember 26, 2005
A Web of Faith, Law and Science in Evolution Suit
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN

DOVER, Pa., Sept. 23 - Sheree Hied, a mother of five who believes that God created the earth and its creatures, was grateful when her school board here voted last year to require high school biology classes to hear about "alternatives" to evolution, including the theory known as intelligent design.

But 11 other parents in Dover were outraged enough to sue the school board and the district, contending that intelligent design - the idea that living organisms are so inexplicably complex, the best explanation is that a higher being designed them - is a Trojan horse for religion in the public schools.

With the new political empowerment of religious conservatives, challenges to evolution are popping up with greater frequency in schools, courts and legislatures. But the Dover case, which begins Monday in Federal District Court in Harrisburg, is the first direct challenge to a school district that has tried to mandate the teaching of intelligent design.

What happens here could influence communities across the country that are considering whether to teach intelligent design in the public schools, and the case, regardless of the verdict, could end up before the Supreme Court.

Dover, a rural, mostly blue-collar community of 22,000 that is 20 miles south of Harrisburg, had school board members willing to go to the mat over issue. But people here are well aware that they are only the excuse for a much larger showdown in the culture wars.

"It was just our school board making one small decision," Mrs. Hied said, "but it was just received with such an uproar."

For Mrs. Hied, a meter reader, and her husband, Michael, an office manager for a local bus and transport company, the Dover school board's argument - that teaching intelligent design is a free-speech issue - has a strong appeal.

"I think we as Americans, regardless of our beliefs, should be able to freely access information, because people fought and died for our freedoms," Mrs. Hied said over a family dinner last week at their home, where the front door is decorated with a small bell and a plaque proclaiming, "Let Freedom Ring."

But in a split-level house on the other side of Main Street, at a desk flanked by his university diplomas, Steven Stough was on the Internet late the other night, keeping track of every legal maneuver in the case. Mr. Stough, who teaches life science to seventh graders in a nearby district, is one of the 11 parents suing the Dover district. For him the notion of teaching "alternatives" to evolution is a hoax.

"You can dress up intelligent design and make it look like science, but it just doesn't pass muster," said Mr. Stough, a Republican whose idea of a fun family vacation is visiting fossil beds and natural history museums.
"In science class, you don't say to the students, 'Is there gravity, or do you think we have rubber bands on our feet?' "

Evolution finds that life evolved over billions of years through the processes of mutation and natural selection, without the need for supernatural interventions. It is the foundation of biological science, with no credible challenges within the scientific community. Without it, the plaintiffs say, students could never make sense of topics as varied as AIDS and extinction.

Advocates on both sides of the issue have lined up behind the case, often calling it Scopes II, in reference to the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial that was the last century's great face-off over evolution.
On the evolutionists' side is a legal team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. These groups want to put intelligent design itself on trial and discredit it so thoroughly that no other school board would dare authorize teaching it.

Witold J. Walczak, legal director of the A.C.L.U. of Pennsylvania, said the plaintiffs would call six experts in history, theology, philosophy of science and science to show that no matter the perspective, "intelligent design is not science because it does not meet the ground rules of science, is not based on natural explanations, is not testable."

On the intelligent design side is the Thomas More Law Center, a nonprofit Christian law firm that says its mission is "to be the sword and shield for people of faith" in cases on abortion, school prayer and the Ten Commandments. The center was founded by Thomas Monaghan, the Domino's Pizza founder, a conservative Roman Catholic who also founded Ave Maria University and the Ave Maria School of Law; and by Richard Thompson, a former Michigan prosecutor who tried Dr. Jack Kevorkian for performing assisted suicides.

"This is an attempt by the A.C.L.U. to really intimidate this small-town school board," said Mr. Thompson,
who will defend the Dover board at the trial, "because the theory of intelligent design is starting to gain some resonance among school boards across the country."

The defense plans to introduce leading design theorists like Michael J. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, and education experts who will testify that "allowing students to be aware of the controversy is good pedagogy because it develops critical thinking," Mr. Thompson said.

The case, Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School District, will be decided by Judge John E. Jones III of the United States District Court, who was nominated by President Bush in 2002 and confirmed by a Senate vote of 96 to 0. The trial is expected to last six weeks and to draw news coverage from around the world.

The legal battle came to a head on Oct. 18 last year when the Dover school board voted 6 to 3 to require ninth-grade biology students to listen to a brief statement saying that there was a controversy over evolution, that intelligent design is a competing theory and that if they wanted to learn more the school library had the textbook "Of Pandas and People: the Central Question of Biological Origins." The book is published by an intelligent design advocacy group, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, based in Texas.
Angry parents like Mr. Stough, Tammy Kitzmiller, and Bryan and Christy Rehm contacted the A.C.L.U. and Americans United. The 11 plaintiffs are a diverse group, unacquainted before the case, who say that parents, and not the school, should be in charge of their children's religious education.

Mr. Rehm, a father of five and a science teacher who formerly taught in Dover, said the school board had long been pressing science teachers to alter their evolution curriculum, even requiring teachers to watch a videotape about "gaps in evolution theory" during an in-service training day in the spring of 2004.

School board members were told by their lawyer, Mr. Thompson, not to talk to the news media. "We've told them, anything they say can be used against them," Mr. Thompson said.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that teaching creation science in public schools was unconstitutional because it was based on religion. So the plaintiffs will try to prove that intelligent design is creationism in a new package. Richard Katskee, assistant legal director of Americans United, said the "Pandas" textbook only substituted references to "creationism" with "intelligent design" in more recent editions.

Mr. Thompson said his side would prove that intelligent design was not creationism because it did not mention God or the Bible and never posited the creator's identity.

"It's clear they are two different theories," Mr. Thompson said. "Creationism normally starts with the Holy Scripture, the Book of Genesis, then you develop a scientific theory that supports it, while intelligent design looks at the same kind of empirical data that any scientist looks at," and concludes that complex mechanisms in nature "appear designed because it is designed."

A twist in the case is that a leading proponent of intelligent design, the Discovery Institute, based in Seattle, removed one of its staff members from the Dover school board's witness list and opposed the board's action from the start.

"We thought it was a bad idea because we oppose any effort to require students to learn about intelligent design because we feel that it politicizes what should be a scientific debate," said John G. West, a senior fellow at the institute. However, Professor Behe, a fellow at the institute, is expected to be the board's star witness.
Parents in Dover appear to be evenly split on the issue. School board runoffs are in November, with seven candidates opposing the current policy facing seven incumbents. Among the candidates is Mr. Rehm, the former Dover science teacher and a plaintiff. He said opponents had slammed doors in his face when he campaigned and performed a "monkey dance" when he passed out literature at the recent firemen's fair.
But he agrees with parents on the other side that the fuss over evolution has obscured more pressing educational issues like school financing, low parent involvement and classes that still train students for factory jobs as local plants are closing.

"There's no way to have a winner here," Mr. Rehm said. "The community has already lost, period, by becoming so divided."



17) Here Daniel Pipes blames Muslims in Canada for upsetting what at first sight seems to have been a Canadian attempt to institute an Ottoman-style millet system approach for its judicial system. Seems like it was a brave attempt, and could have succeeded, but failed due to the slogan of "enforcing Islamic Law" in Canada:

Enforce Islamic Law in Canada?
by Daniel PipesNew York Sun
September 27, 2005

http://www.danielpipes.org/article/2989

[this version differs slightly from the NY Sun's]

In 1991, the Canadian province of Ontario passed what seemed at the time to be an enlightened, multicultural piece of legislation. Called the Arbitration Act, it stipulates that if two parties agree to engage a commercial, religious, or other arbitrator to settle a civil dispute, the provincial authorities will then enforce the verdict, so long as it is in accord with Canadian law.

"People can use any arbitrator they want and can use a religious framework if it is mutually acceptable," notes Brendan Crawley, spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. "If the award is not compatible with Canadian law, then the court will not enforce it. You can't agree to violate Canadian law."

Over the years, Jews, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mennonites, and aboriginals, among others, made use of arbitration to settle family law questions without using Ontario's court system. The system quietly worked.
"If there have been any problems flowing from any rabbinical court decisions, I'm not aware of them," observed the Ontario region chairman of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Joel Richler.

Then, in October 2003, an organization called the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice proposed the creation of Muslim Arbitration Boards (internally, it used Islamic terminology for these, Darul-Qada). As explained by the institute's founder, Syed Mumtaz Ali, the boards, arbitrating on the basis of Islamic law, the Sharia, would permit a Muslim to live according to Islam's "complete code of life."

A first news article on this initiative came out in November 2003; within days, prompted by WorldNetDaily.com ("Canada prepares to enforce Islamic law"), a huge dispute got going. A hitherto obscure Ontario provision prompted a sharp national debate and even street rallies in twelve Canadian and European cities.
Interestingly, the main opposition came from Muslim women's groups, who feared that ignorant, isolated females would submit to the inescapably misogynistic Sharia, a law code that permits parents to marry off pre-pubescent girls, men to marry multiple women, husbands alone to divorce, fathers automatically to win custody of children over certain ages, and sons to inherit more than daughters.

The anti-Sharia campaign succeeded. On Sep. 11 – after almost two years of public debate – the premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, held that religious-based arbitrations "threaten our common ground." He announced that "There will be no Sharia law in Ontario. There will be no religious arbitration in Ontario. There will be one law for all Ontarians."

His decision means that faith-based arbitration can continue to operate, as it did long before 1991, but the government will no longer enforce its verdicts.

Anti-Sharia forces were of course jubilant. "That was the best news I have ever heard for the past five years," said Homa Arjomand. "We're still in disbelief. But it's such good news. It's remarkable," commented Nuzhat Jafri. "I'm just thrilled!" reacted Tarek Fatah (before he began receiving death threats).

McGuinty's decision has a catch, however. Acting on the correct premise that Islam must be treated the same as other religions, he determined that if Muslims cannot enjoy state enforcement of faith-based arbitration, neither can anyone else. Therefore, McGuinty said, his government would "as soon as possible" introduce legislation to repeal the Arbitration Act of 1991.

This side-effect prompted a pained reaction from those who would lose state enforcement of their arbitration decisions. Richler denounced it as a "knee-jerk reaction against the Sharia issue." Rabbi Reuben Poupko of Montreal added, sadly, "the Ontario government felt compelled to throw the baby with the bath water."
That Orthodox Jews and others might lose out points to an emerging pattern, whereby efforts to integrate Muslims into the West upset a benign [BENIGN?] status quo. Other recent examples:

French nuns for the first time must take off their cowls for identity card or passport pictures because of anti-hijab legislation. Likewise, French schoolchildren may not wear crosses or Stars of David to class. [WHAT'S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE...]

Large populations – British underground riders, American airport passengers, Russian theater-goers – must undergo extensive security checks, thanks to Muslim terrorists. [...IN TURN CAUSED BY INVADING OTHER COUNTRIES WITHOUT CAUSE]

Danes marrying foreigners face extensive restrictions to bring them into Denmark because of immigration abuses (the "human visa" problem) involving Muslims. [UH, EXCUSE ME, MR. PIPES. I'VE DEALT WITH INS IN THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS, AND SUCH EXTENSIVE RESTRICTIONS ARE DUE TO ANTI-FOREIGNER SENTIMENT PEDDLED BY THE LIKES OF YOU, WITH THE PATRIOT ACT]

Santas, Nativity plays, Christmas carols, and Bibles are banned in Western countries so as not to offend Muslim sensitivities [ACTUALLY, THIS IS USUALLY DONE SO AS NOT TO OFFEND JEWISH SENSITVITIES -- ALTHOUGH ON THIS POINT OBSERVANT JEWS AND MUSLIMS WOULD ACTUALLY AGREE]
Unremarked upon by most Westerners, Islam's presence has started to change their way of life.

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