Saturday, March 03, 2007


This appeal is from the UFW.

Tell Colorado's Governor That Slavery is Illegal.
Say "NO" to Prison Labor in the Fields.

Slavery is illegal in the United States...or that’s what we believe. However, it looks like modern day slavery has just been OK’d in the great state of Colorado.

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times features an article called "Colorado to use inmates to fill migrant shortage". It seems that Colorado's farmers have been having a labor shortage ever since passing what its Legislature promoted as the nation's toughest laws against illegal immigration last summer.

Their solution: Use convicts as farm workers.

According to the Los Angeles Times article, "Prisoners who are a low security risk may choose to work in the fields, earning 60 cents a day. They also are eligible for small bonuses."

This is just wrong. 60 cents a day for toiling all day in the fields...this is not the American way.

As today's Los Angeles Times editorial said, "Turning prisoners into farmers is no solution. People aren't sentenced to hard labor anymore, so only volunteers are available for prison work programs."

The Colorado situation shows the negative economic effect of a strictly punitive approach to our immigration crisis. It demonstrates the need for thoughtful, humane, bipartisan solutions like AgJOBS--a bipartisan bill negotiated by the UFW and the nation’s agricultural industry--which would let undocumented farm workers earn the right to permanently stay in this country by continuing to work in agriculture.

E-mail Colorado's Governor today and tell him that allowing growers to hire prisoners to work in the agriculture is nothing more than legalized slavery. Tell him the solution to the nation's immigration crisis is not prison labor.

Go to to send an email.

Friday, March 02, 2007


A court challenge to India’s patent laws by Novartis could cut the supply of affordable medicines to treat AIDS and other epidemics in the developing world, aid agencies say.

The French charity Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) relies on drugs produced in India and is urging Novartis to 'back off'. 'So much of the developing world depends on generics,' Sheila Shettle from MSF told Chemistry World. 'The Indian government is trying to maintain its populations' access to affordable treatments by preventing companies like Novartis from repeatedly patenting new versions of existing drugs. If companies are able to do this in India, generics would be threatened.'

An application by Novartis for a patent on its leukemia drug Glivec was rejected by India’s patent office in 2006.

Novartis is now fighting that decision, and also challenging India’s patent laws, claiming that they do not comply with the international agreement.

India’s patent act currently requires that drugs be "new and involve an inventive step" in order to win patent protection.

NGOs including Medecins Sans Frontieres and Oxfam say that if Novartis succeeds, pharmaceutical firms will be able to put newer AIDS treatments based on existing drugs under patent protection in India, preventing cheap generic versions from being exported to Africa and elsewhere.

The following comes from MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES.


Pharmaceutical company Novartis is taking the Indian government to court. If the company wins, millions of people across the globe could have their sources of affordable medicines dry up.

Novartis was one of the 39 companies that took the South African government to court five years ago, in an effort to overturn the country's medicines act that was designed to bring drug prices down. Now Novartis is up to it again and is targeting India.

India produces affordable medicines that are vital to many people living in developing countries. Over half the medicines currently used for AIDS treatment in developing countries come from India and such medicines are used to treat over 80% of the 80,000 AIDS patients in Médecins Sans Frontières projects.

If Novartis is successful in its challenge against the Indian government and its patent law, more medicines are likely to be patented in India, making it very difficult for generic producers to make affordable versions of them. This could affect millions of people around the world who depend on medicines produced in India.


The following announcement is from "Love Music, Hate Racism."


The first national LMHR university tour, sponsored by trade union Amicus, and supported by UAF, starts this weekend at Essex University in Colchester with a mega 3-room “indoor festival” featuring hot new drumnbass star Crissy Cris, Rampage, Lupen Crook, The Priscillas, and Nu-MCs. The tour is aimed at boosting anti-racist organisation on campus in the run-up to May’s local elections, with growing evidence that the fascist BNP is making a concerted effort to recruit students and try to gain repsectability by running for positions in the NUS. Each date on the tour will have a great music event as well as hosting a debate on fighting racism and fascism at Uni, with speakers from LMHR & UAF, the NUS, and Amicus. See individual Gigs and Events listings for full details of acts and speakers.

03/03/07 Essex Uni SU, Colchester: Crissy Cris, Rampage, Priscillas, Lupen Crook.
09/03/07 University of East London Stratford: Specialists, Mecca2Medina, Natty, Snakeyman
14/03/07 Leeds University SU: L Double, Broke’n'English, Virus Syndicate, FWD dubstep DJs
16/03/07 University of East London Docklands SU: Ace & Vis (Radio 1), Hypa Fen & Marcie Phonix, Mecca 2 Medina
20/03/07 Swansea SU: Jan Watkins Band, The Blims, Natty
22/03/07 Nottingham Marcus Garvey Ballroom (Nottm Uni & Trent Uni)
18/04/07 Glasgow Uni SU
19/04/07 Bristol Anson Rooms (UWE & Bristol Uni’s): Heartless Crew full band, Professor Green
24/04/07 Luton Uni: DJ Cameo, Heartless Crew
25/04/07 Belfast Queens Uni: Ultra Montanes, DJ Stuart Bailie + local support
30/04/07 Lancaster Uni SU
2/5/07 Plymouth Uni SU
8/5/07 Keele Uni SU, Stoke-on-Trent
9/5/07 Birmingham University Guild of Students
tbc May Sussex Uni


Villagers and supporters today gathered on the land of Um Salamuna to appeal for international solidarity in their struggle against the apartheid like Wall being built there.

After a series of speeches the protesters marched to a nearby settler-only road and blocked it. The Israeli army arrived and pushed people off the road but no injuries were reported. The demonstration then returned back to the village.

The International Solidarity movement states,
"Today’s demo comes at a critical time for the South Bethlehem villagers as work on the Wall has just restarted and is continuing every day. Last Tuesday farmers were beaten and arrested for resisting the razing of their land and on Wednesday international and Israeli activists managed to stop the bulldozers for two hours."

The following is a report from the Palestine Solidarity Project.

Hundreds March in Um Salamuna
March 2nd, 2007

Today over 300 people from the village of Um Salamuna gathered after friday’s prayer and marched down the settler road between Efrat and Tekoa settlements to their land. As they marched Palestinians, Internationals, and Israeli demonstrators blocked settlers’ cars and Israeli military jeeps in protest of the confiscation of their land for the construction of the Annexation Wall. People in the march celebrated when Rashid Mahmoud Takatka who was arrested while blocking the bulldozers last tuesday, drove up to the demonstrators, having just been released from prison. The people of Um Salamuna and the neighboring village of Wadi an-Nis, along with International and Israeli activists, have been confronting the bulldozers on their land for the last 4 days.

Today, When the people reached the land that was bulldozed last tuesday, members of the Um Salamuna city council spoke about the need for resistance to the Annexation Wall and to all of the Israeli Occupation. Mahmoud Takatka, a member of the city council who was arrested on this land last tuesday, spoke about the hundreds of dunums of land the surrounding villages will be losing and the home nearby which will be completely surrounded by the Wall. He also spoke of the need for unity between people and political parties to fight for freedom from Occupation.

A member of the Israeli movement Ta’ayush spoke about the need for Israel to end its “policy of war” and work towards a free and just Palestine. An international representative from PSP spoke briefly about the work of internationals and what a privilege it is to stand next to Palestinians as they resist the Israeli Occupation and struggle to maintain possession of their land.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi from the political movement Mubadara, or the Palestinian National Initiative, was also present and spoke about the need for Palestinians to come together to resist the Israeli Occupation in all of its forms.

Woman and children collected uprooted olive trees that had been destroyed by the Israeli Occupation Forces last tuesday and carried them back with them as the people marched back to their village. Though the Israeli army became more aggressive as they tried to drive the people off the road, and at one point opened the car door of a passing Palestinian driver, there were no arrests or injuries.


A Budapest court said the 1944 conviction of Sandor Kepiro for atrocities committed in Novi Sad cannot be enforced.

Sandor Kepiro, 93, was convicted but never punished for his role in killings committed by Hungarian forces in Novi Sad, during the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia in World War II, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Specifically, Kepiro was charged and found guilty along with 14 other Hungarian Army and gendarme officers of taking part in the Novi Sad massacre in January 1942, during which over a thousand people, the majority of them Jews, were killed

The Budapest Municipal Court issued a statement saying the 1944 ruling by a Hungarian military court cannot be enforced because a retrial shortly afterward annulled the sentence.

Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wienenthal Center said, "Kepiro was convicted in independent Hungary and he was only pardoned because Hungary was occupied by the Nazis,"."

The following appeared on the Javno Web Site (Croatia)

Court Will Not Reopen Nazi War Crime Case

A Hungarian court has decided not to reopen the case of a Sandor Kepiro 93-year-old accused by Nazi hunters of war crimes.Reuters

Sandor Kepiro was accused for killing of 1,000 Jews, Serbs and Gypsies in Serbia in 1942.

The Budapest Court said in a ruling published on Thursday the case against former gendarme Sandor Kepiro, who has always denied his guilt, could not be reopened because a previous verdict convicting him of the murders had been overturned.

Kepiro was in a Hungarian gendarme unit raiding partisan forces in occupied Serbia in the town of Novi Sad, and was accused of taking part in the killing of over 1,000 civilians in January 1942. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 1944.

Both that verdict and acquittal later the same year were made when Hungary was under fascist rule, an ally of Nazi Germany and seeking to regain land it lost after World War One.

Kepiro said he was pleased with the decision, which was originally made on Feb. 19, but made public on Thursday.

"This was a fair ruling because I committed no crime. In the area under my supervision we did not once resort to the use of weapons. I have a clean conscience and I live my life accordingly," he told a press conference.

The ruling, which is open to appeal for eight days, came after a call for Kepiro's prosecution by the Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem.

The centre, which pursues Nazi war criminals, said the ruling was morally unjust and legally flawed. It urged the prosecution to appeal and initiate a full investigation into Kepiro's activities between 1942 and 1944.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Wassan Talib, Zainab Fadhil and Liqa Omar Muhammad were reportedly all convicted under Article 156 of the Iraqi Penal Code, which reads: "Any person who willfully commits an act with intent to violate the independence of the country or its unity or the security of its territory and that act, by its nature, leads to such violation is punishable by death."

They are to be put to death Friday.

All three are held in Baghdad’s Al-Kadhimiya Prison. Two have small children beside them. The 1-year-old daughter of Liqa was born in prison. All three women deny the charges brought against them.

Walid Hayali, lawyer and member of The Iraqi Lawyers Union, said the Court issued a ruling against the three women under item 156, without allowing them to engage counsel from a lawyer.

Even if they were guilty they should be held as prisoners of war not executed.

International law affirms: "the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle” (UN General Assembly Resolution 37/43, adopted 3 December 1982).

Since Iraq’s restoration of the death penalty, in August 2004, nearly 100 people have been hanged. The hangings take place in an extremely fortified facility built by a US contractor in Baghdad. The names of the majority of those executed have never been published.

The most recent report by the United Nations concerning human rights in Iraq reveals that there are presently 31,000 prisoners in the jails of the current Iraqi authorities, and that at least 2,000 women are imprisoned for “security reasons,” where they are being held in the jails of both the Iraqi government and those of the occupation forces.

The following article appears in today's edition of the Turkish Daily News.

Group demands justice for Iraqi women

A group of women in Istanbul demanded that three Iraqi women, who are reportedly facing “imminent execution” in Iraq, be freed during a demonstration in front of the Galatasaray Post Office in Taksim late on Tuesday.

The group of about 150 women, who call themselves “Women Against Occupation,” organized a sit-in in front of the post office and informed the press on the situation of three Iraqi women: Wassan Talib, 31, Zainab Fadhil, 25 and Liqa Omar Muhammad, 26.

The three, whose rights to a lawyer have been denied, are to be executed on March 3, according to a press release distributed at the demonstration. The group called on the Foreign Ministry to act against the executions and then lit candles and staged a 15-minute silent sit-in.

Talib, Fadhil and Muhammad were charged with offenses against public welfare, according to the press release, and were convicted of aiding the insurgency.


More evidence of the immediate impact of global climate change comes today from Australia where the Canberra Times reports an Australian National University scientist says that recent freakish weather there can be partially blamed on the increasing global temperatures.

Canberra has been struck by seven severe storms in two months the last of which hit on Tuesday night and covered Civic in hailstones. This is not normal weather, according to ANU paleoclimatologist Dr Bradley Opdyke. "We can say with some confidence that global warming would have influenced the storms we've seen right here," he said.

Fellow ANU scientist Dr Janette Lindesay said more severe storms were a part of global warming.

She said the sequence of severe storms to hit Canberra in the last two years was "entirely consistent with what we would expect with global warming". "There are a lot of people that remain semi-sceptical about all of this [global warming]," Dr Lindesay, associate professor of climatology with the ANU's Fenner School of environment and society, said.

"All of my scientific knowledge and experience convinces me that it's real ... and the vast majority of the world's scientists see it too."

Dr Lindesay said global warming led to an increase in rainfall intensity, which meant more storms.

Another impact of global warming was more very hot days, also borne out in Canberra this summer, she said.

FYI - Last night we had a rather strange storm ourselves for the last day of February. Flooding rains, tons of hail, high winds and tornados. These severe storms seem to be occuring more and more often. CNN's main coverage all day today has been of the huge severe storm system traversing the U.S. of A.

In Hungry some are taking public action in the fight to force governments worldwide to deal with an issue that threatens our planet.

The following article comes from MTI (Hungry).

Greenpeace campaign on Danube Bridge against climate change

Budapest, March 1 (MTI) - Environmental protection organisation Greenpeace held a campaign on Budapest's Chain Bridge on Thursday to call attention to the threat of climate change.

Eight Greenpeace activists dressed in yellow descended on ropes hanging from the bridge, holding a 120-square-metre poster that showed the words Climate Alarm! Green Energy! in the direction of the parliament. At the same time, a Greenpeace boat was cruising in circles on the Danube and a siren was started regularly on a Greenpeace van along the river bank.

The police closed the bridge after 1100 local time and the fire services arrived with cranes.

Greenpeace spokesperson Szabina Mozes told MTI that the campaign was designed to encourage Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany to support the strictest measures in the fight against climate change at a European Union Energy Summit in Brussels next week.

Minister of Environment Protection and Water Management Miklos Persanyi told the press on Thursday that Gyurcsany would support the European Commission proposal on climate protection at the EU summit on March 7-8.

Police will initiate proceedings against 21 activists for the Greenpeace campaign, the Budapest Police Headquarters said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

Disorderly conduct is the charge against 14 people who tied themselves to the railing of the bridge and the remaining 7 are accused of endangering water traffic because they were hanging from the bridge above the water, the police said. The activists include Hungarian, Slovakian, Romanian, German and Austrian citizens.


The General Federation of Iraqi Workers reports an attack on its offices took place a few days ago. This comes at a time of growing labor discontent in the battle scared and occupied country.

Just today the U.S.-backed Iraqi cabinet approved a new oil law Monday that is set to give foreign companies the long-term contracts and safe legal framework they have been waiting for. The new law is not favored by unions and workers in Iraq who according to IPS, "...criticised the process of drafting the law and warned that that the bill is so skewed in favour of foreign firms that it could end up heightening political tensions in the Arab nation and spreading instability." The new law basically takes the oil industry out of the public sector and turns it over to mostly international private corporations. IPS further reports, "Union leaders have complained that they, along with other civil society groups, were left out of the drafting process despite U.S. claims it has created a functioning democracy in Iraq." Many think protection of the foreign companies will become just another pretext for continued occupation.

On Feb. 8, the labour unions sent a letter in Arabic to Iraqi President Jalal Talbani urging him to reconsider this kind of agreement.

"Production-sharing agreements are a relic of the 1960s," said the letter, seen by IPS. "They will re-imprison the Iraqi economy and impinge on Iraq's sovereignty since they only preserve the interests of foreign companies. We warn against falling into this trap."

"The hydrocarbon law reflects the process of readying Iraq's oil for privatisation," said Ewa Jasiewicz, a researcher at PLATFORM, a British human rights and environmental group that monitors the oil industry, "Drafted in secret, shaped by foreign powers, untransparent, undemocratic and forced through under military occupation."

Jasiewicz said the law can be regarded as the economic goal of the war and occupation and that "it will be viewed by most Iraqis as not just illegitimate, but a war crime."

So maybe we should be anything but surprised by the news of the attack on the GFIW.

The following CALL comes from LaborStart. The statement which follows comes from the General Fedration of Iraqi Workers.

Iraq: Raid on trade union offices

On 23 February 2007, US and Iraqi forces raided the head offices of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW), the country's national trade union center. They arrested one of the union's security staff (later released unharmed), destroyed furniture, and confiscated a computer and fax machine. And then they did it again two days later, causing further damage to the union headquarters.

The union is condemning the attacks as unprovoked. It is calling on the occupation forces to issue a written apology, to return all the seized property, and to pay compensation for damages caused. Please show your support by sending off the message below.(click here)

Official Statement on American raids on the GFIW headquarters in Baghdad

On 23 February, American and Iraqi forces raided the head office of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW) and arrested one of the Union security staff.

This unprovoked attack resulted in the destruction of furniture, the confiscation of a computer and fax machine and the arrest of employee who was released unharmed later same day.

The same force repeated this unprovoked attack on 25 February and caused further damage.

The GFIW while condemning this unprovoked attack and calls on the occupation forces to issue a written apology, to return all the GFIW property and compensate for the damages they caused to our office.

We call on trade unions around the world to show solidarity by condemning these attacks and sending messages of support to the GFIW.

The GFIW Executive
Baghdad 26 February 2007

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


"The peoples of the Gulf Coast need a strong and unifying Black led Reconstruction Movement and program to build and mobilize effective mass based power to bring about massive improvements and changes to ensure a just Reconstruction for the region and people impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita."

The following is from the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition.

Call for the Second Survivors Assembly:

“We Must Build a Strong, Independent Gulf Coast Self-Determination and Reconstruction Movement so the People Can Decide!”

In accord with the principle that “the People Must Decide”, the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition (PHRF/OC) calls for the convening of the Second Survivors Assembly on Saturday, August 25th – Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The First Survivors Assembly was held in Jackson, Mississippi on December 8 – 9th, 2005, less than 4 months following the horrific disaster and during the most repressive and emotionally devastating period for Survivors since the trauma caused by Hurricane Katrina. The First Assembly provided a critical organizing vehicle for the Survivors and helped outline a program for the initiation of a Gulf Coast Self-Determination and Reconstruction Movement.

The First Assembly was attended by more than 250 Survivors and more than 300 allies from cities in over 10 states throughout the US. The First Assembly was followed by the “People Must Decide” march and rally on December 10th, 2005 in New Orleans where more than 5,000 people demanded justice, accountability and the right of return.

The program developed out of the First Assembly informed the basic direction of the work of the many social, political, religious and civic organizations, students and progressive legal and technical forces that have become involved in the broad social justice activities around Katrina and Rita recovery and reconstruction over the past 17 months.

However, a major weakness following the First Assembly has been the failure to solidify a coordinating body to bring about greater cooperation and coordination of the common areas of work of the various groups and campaigns. The Second Assembly must ensure that such a coordinating body and its role are discussed and put in place as major components of the Reconstruction Movement. The Second Assembly is thus a continuation and further development of a process of self-determination and empowerment of a Black-led grassroots movement for Reconstruction beneficial to all oppressed, working and poor people in the impacted Gulf Coast Region.

The Second Assembly is being held in conjunction with the 2nd Commemoration of Hurricane Katrina and the convening of the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, where the US government will be tried for its various Katrina related human rights violations. This intersection of activities reflects the growing regional, national and international character and political scope of the Gulf Coast Self-Determination and Reconstruction Movement.

The peoples of the Gulf Coast need a strong and unifying Black led Reconstruction Movement and program to build and mobilize effective mass based power to bring about massive improvements and changes to ensure a just Reconstruction for the region and people impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

17 months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the conditions in New Orleans in particular make clear that the US government does not intend to act in good faith in addressing the needs of the Black majority.
More than 400,000 remain displaced;
More than 200,000 are under or unemployed;
Most devastated housing remains uninhabitable;
Government policies systematically deny restitution and rental assistance to renters in all Gulf Coast states;
Rents have tripled on average in all devastated areas;
Government officials still have not dispersed 98% of recovery funds to homeowners in either Mississippi or Louisiana;
While disaster profiteers have made a killing, wages remain stagnant throughout the region;
Corporate and government action has destroyed the Teachers, Hospital Workers and Bus Drivers unions;
Corporations and other employers have largely excluded Black workers from reconstruction jobs, preferring to ruthlessly exploit unprotected immigrant workers; and the tragedies go on and on.
Over the past 17 months, there have been many, many valiant efforts of resistance to this program of Black ethnic cleansing. However, the resistance has been extremely fragmented and isolated from the masses. While there have many important ongoing areas of work to resist the government and corporate strategy of Black ethnic cleansing, they have not taken on the character of a coherent mass movement for Reconstruction. There is no united front mechanism to work for cooperation and unity around common areas of work. Competition, tensions and divisions among various organizations involved in Katrina work have brought about fragmentation. There have not been adequate funds and resources to support a solid core of fulltime organizers. The solidarity movement has only developed to the level of a small network of progressive activists and lacks sufficient national and international scope and depth of organization and influence in key social movements like the Black. Latino, women’s, labor, youth, student, LGBT, etc., liberation movements. There has been no focus on building a political organization to challenge for areas of political power and control for the Reconstruction Movement.

The Black, oppressed, and working peoples of the Gulf Coast and the movement desperately need a new course of action based on a comprehensive strategy, and they need it now. The Second Survivors Assembly is being called to develop this strategy and build the operative unity needed to execute it.

The Survivors Assembly is a constituent body of the mass of the people most affected by the disaster convened to address a crisis of the state (i.e. the government) and its operations. The crisis being addressed by the Survivors Assembly is the failure of the United States government to protect and repair the lives of the people and most impacted communities and vital social institutions affected by Katrina and Rita. In addressing this crisis, the Assembly serves as the venue where the Survivors directly exercise their voice and power to decide the platform and program of the Gulf Coast Self-Determination and Reconstruction movement. In the spirit of equity and human rights, the Assembly seeks to give voice to those most affected by the Hurricanes, this includes the Black, Native, Asian and immigrant communities of the region in particular and the whole of the working class of the area in general.

The main purpose of the Survivors Assembly is to create a collective strategic vision, platform, and program to guide the Gulf Coast Self-Determination and Reconstruction Movement. One of the most fundamental questions we believe the Assembly must address and answer is who’s vision and program for reconstruction in the Gulf Coast will prevail? The developers, the governments, or those displaced and affected by the Hurricanes and the governments racist and exclusionary policies? To answer this question we believe that the Assembly must seek to comprehensively articulate the vision of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, turn that vision into a social and political platform, and develop a broad, coalition program to carry forth this vision. This political platform – which will synthesize and crystallize IDP needs and aspirations – will inspire and drive a movement capable of addressing people’s isolation, despair and distrust and thereby become strong enough to successfully challenge the governments and developers schemes.

Who can participate?
As an Assembly of the people and communities in the Gulf Coast most impacted by Katrina and Rita, the Survivors must be the main participants in the Survivors Assembly. As the Assembly is not mainly a place to give testimonies about personal suffering experienced by individual Survivors, participation is geared to involve Survivors and allies in organized discussions, planning and strategizing that develops a program of action. The main outreach will be to Survivor organizations especially in the Gulf Coast region and the South, to solidarity committees and organizations throughout the country working directly with Survivors and to allied organizations and individuals working in legal, technical and educational areas related to Survivor issues. Survivors will have voice and vote and others will have occasional voice and not vote.

We are also calling on all of the pre-Hurricane organizations of civil society from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Region (including the Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas coastal regions) to come, participate and make your voice heard. These include:

Trade Unions
Social Clubs
Neighborhood Associations
Women’s Groups
Youth Groups
LBGT Groups
Spiritual Organizations (Churches, Mosques, etc.)
Community Organizations
Political Organizations
Cultural Organizations
Finally, we are calling on all Katrina and Rita Solidarity Committees to participate.

We ask that all Survivors Councils, independent Survivor formations, Gulf Coast civil society organizations, and Solidarity Committee’s interested in participating in the Second Survivors Assembly please contact us by March 1st, 2007 via email at

To plan the Assembly we are seeking to convene an Assembly Organizing Committee. We ask that each above organizational categories above interested in joining this committee nominate a representative and an alternative backup, depending on your capacity, by March 1st. Send all representative information, including organizational name, individual name, phone number(s), email address(es), and mailing address to The majority of the meetings will be conducted via conference call, however we will try and convene at least one face-to-face meeting in New Orleans during the spring or early summer (PHRF is seeking funds to cover the expenses associated with advancing this organizing process, however, organizations may have to cover some or all of their own travel and accommodation expenses).

Preparation Questions

For general programmatic preparation for the Assembly, we ask that each interested organization submit in writing your answers to the following questions (Please note that we will be asking a series of such questions throughout this process to clearly formulate the agenda of the Assembly. Ideally we would like this process to be mass in character to elicit as much input as possible. Our hope is that the organizing process itself will enable us to come to the Assembly with clear strategic proposals in hand that we can collectively discuss, debate, and decide upon.):

What are the three most important objectives of your organization?
What do you think the three primary strategic focuses of the overall movement should be? How does your organizations goals and objectives relate to these objectives?
What organizational form do you believe is best suited to accomplish these goals? A coalition? A network? Etc.
What are the keys in your organizations estimation to building programmatic and operative unity within the movement?
What do you think are the major internal and external challenges confronting the Movement?
How do you think the movement should address these challenges?
Please try and send all feedback to these questions by Friday, February 23rd, 2007 so that we can share them with all of the parties interested and committed to participating in the Assembly planning process.

For more information please visit our website at or email us at You can also reach us via phone at (504) 301-0215 or fax at (504) 301-0306.


This just in from the Japanese Government's whaling spokespersons in Tokyo:

The Institute of Cetacean Research, in conjunction with Kyodo Senpaku and the Government of Japan, said today the Antarctic whale research program for the 2006/2007 austral summer season will be cut short as a result of a fire aboard the research mother vessel, the Nisshin Maru.

Glenn Inwood, who represents the Institute of Cetacean Research, says the ships will be back in the Antarctic at the end of the year.

Greenpeace says it will continue to put pressure on Japan to permanently stop its whaling program after the country abandoned the remainder of this year's hunt.

A spokesperson for the organization said,
"That the whalers are finally on the move is a relief - after nine long days of risk to the pristine Antarctic environment. We're ready to escort the fleet out of Antarctic waters."

Greenpeace Australia Pacific chief executive officer Steve Shallhorn says, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the decision will save around 500 whales.

"As much as we applaud the decision, we don't believe there was much choice in the matter," he said.

"What remains to be seen is whether Japan will do the right thing and that is retire this decrepit old vessel and not replace it.

"Clearly that would be the favoured view of most countries and most peoples across the world."

Shallhorn says he will still be pressuring the Japanese Government not to replace the ship.

"Japan has made the right decision, which is to recall its fleet and to stop whaling for this season," he said.

"It means that about 500 whales will be swimming free."

Australia is vowing to continue the fight to have Japan abandon its annual Antarctic whale hunt.

Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed the news the hunt was over, saying it meant a large number of minke whales the Japanese had been expected to kill would now be saved.

He vowed Australia would continue its efforts to put a stop to the killing of whales in the name of science.

"The Australian Government will continue to fight with many nations around the world to ensure that scientific whaling ceases," Turnbull said.

The minister said killing the whales was unnecessary for the management of the mammals in the Southern Ocean.

"Management information can be collected using non-lethal research techniques," he said.

The following article is taken from the Telegraph (UK)

Anti-whaling activists declare victory
By Colin Joyce in Tokyo

Anti-whaling activists have declared victory in a battle of the high seas as Japanese hunting vessels returned home early from an expedition in the Antarctic Ocean.

A fire broke out aboard the whaling mother ship, the Nisshin Maru, two weeks ago, killing one crew member and leaving it without power for 10 days.

Japan then announced that the damage made it impossible to continue, although the expedition had only caught half its quota of whales.

The fleet of six vessels was pursued throughout by the radical Sea Shepherd group and the Nisshin Maru was attacked with nail guns, smoke bombs and chemical irritants by the environmental activists.

Japan said yesterday the fleet caught a total of 505 minke whales and three fin whales, well short of its intended 850 minke and 10 fin.

advertisementGreenpeace, whose ships had also chased the Japanese fleet, sent a message to the departing ships telling them never to return.

“This must be the last time your government sends you to the Southern Ocean to hunt whales and threaten the Antarctic environment.

For the sake of the environment, the whales and your crew, never again,” the message read.

Japan exploits a loophole that allows whales to be caught for scientific research despite an International Whaling Commission’s moratorium.

Critics dismiss Japan’s “research” as merely a cover for a policy designed to keep its whaling industry alive while it pushes for a return to commercial whaling.

Whale meat from the catch is processed and sold as a delicacy at restaurants and markets.

The Japanese fisheries ministry said that it was the first time in 20 years a whaling expedition had to be cut short and said an investigation would be carried out to establish the cause of the fire when the ship returned to Japan.

Tokyo has not blamed the fire on the activists, who deny responsibility, but has not ruled out a connection.

Monday, February 26, 2007


A former top German special forces general has hailed Nazi elite units in a recently published book. Reinhard Gunzel and co-author Ulrich Wegener authors of the book "Secret Warriours" have once again called the ideological shoring of the German armed forces into question.

This is not a one time fluke for the general.

A potent example of the predominant mind-set of the German armed forces were comments made by Reinhard Günzel, a general responsible for an elite group of special forces of the German army back in 2003. At that time, Günzel issued a show of solidarity to the Christian Democratic Union politician Martin Hohmann, who characterized Jews as a Tätervolk (a people who have perpetrated crimes against humanity) because of what he views as a disproportionate number of left-wing Jews who helped to bring about the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Hohmann invoked Leon Trotsky as the crowning example of his so-called Tätervolk thesis. Herr Hohmann called the Jews not a nation of victims but a "nation of perpetrators," responsible for million fold murder in the name of socialism and Bolshevism.

According to the Austrian Standard at that time, Günzel's epistle explicitly thanked Hofmann for his speech, which he described as "an outstanding speech - if I can permit myself such praise - with a courage for truth and clarity that one very rarely hears in our country". He further called on Hofmann "not to allow yourself to be diverted by accusations from the dominant camp of the Left and to hold your course bravely".

Gunzel was subsequently retired by the German minister of defense.

The following is taken from SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Nazi War Criminals as Role Models?
A new book co-written by two former German commando leaders hails a Nazi-era elite unit as a role model for the modern German special forces.

Two former commanders of German special forces have been criticized for praising a World War II commando unit as an inspiration for Germany's modern-day elite soldiers.

Former general Reinhard Günzel, head of Germany's KSK elite forces until 2003, wrote in a recently published book "Secret Warriors": "The commando soldiers know exactly where their roots lie." The missions of the Wehrmacht's Brandenburg division had been "legendary" among his troops, writes Günzel, who was fired in 2003 for praising a speech by a conservative member of parliament who had referred to Jews as a "race of perpetrators."

The book's co-author Ulrich Wegener, who founded Germany's GSG9 anti-terrorism unit in the 1970s, writes that comradeship and esprit de corps "could be learned especially from the Brandenburgers."

The comments were criticised by Hans-Peter Bartels, a member of the German parliament's defence committee. "If the picture of the KSK being painted in the book is true, then some changes need to be made in the army's special forces," he told DER SPIEGEL.

The KSK forces, comparable to the US Delta Force or Britain's SAS, appear to be "full of contempt for the effeminate world of civilians and for the rest of the army," said Bartels.

The Brandenburg commando unit was formed in 1939 as an arm of the intelligence service within the regular Wehrmacht army. It was tasked with covert operations behind enemy lines, such as seizing strategic bridges and tunnels.

Its units operated in almost all fronts and took part in the invasions of Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Russia and Greece. The Brandenburg division operated outside the Hague Convention on land war -- as did special forces from other countries -- because its soldiers were often disguised as civilians or enemy troops.


Four migrant workers were beheaded in Saudia Arabia last week. The four Sri Lankans, all immigrant workers in that country, Victor Corea, Ranjith Silva, Sanath Pushpakumara and Sangeeth Kumara were alleged by Saudi authorities to have committed an armed robbery in March 2004, but no legal assistance was provided to them and no case had been proved against them beyond reasonable doubt, critics have alleged.

“The execution of these four migrants, who had been badly beaten and locked up for years without access to lawyers, is a travesty of justice,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “International law only allows states to use the death penalty for the most serious crimes and in the most stringent of circumstances – and neither condition was met in this case.”

A Saudi court ordered the bodies of four Sri Lankans to be strung up and displayed in a public square after being beheaded. Some say this was done in an attempt to scare other immigrant workers in Saudi Arabia.

There are an estimated amount of 350,000 Sri Lankans working in Saudi Arabia today.

With one of the worst human rights records in the world, in the past, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had executed people serving jail sentences. For instance, in 2006, after serving their jail sentences, the autocratic government of the Saudi king executed six Somali men. The human rights organization, Amnesty International, said until the prisoners were killed, neither they nor their families were aware of the execution and the executed had been denied consular or legal assistance.

The following article was taken from the World Socialist Web Site.

Four Sri Lankan workers beheaded in Saudi Arabia
By Parwini Zora
26 February 2007

Last Monday the Saudi Arabian government beheaded four Sri Lankan migrant workers—Sanath Pushpakumara, E.J.Victor Corea, Ranjith De Silva and Sangeeth Kumara—despite years of protest from international human rights organisations and the victims’ pleas for clemency. The beheading brought the number of people executed in Saudi Arabia this year to at least 17, compared to 38 for all of 2006. Two-thirds of those killed were foreign nationals.

An estimated 350,000 Sri Lankans are working in Saudi Arabia and make up a significant portion of the 8.8 million foreigners living and working in the country. According to the report, Bad Dreams—Exploitation and abuse of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, published by Human Rights Watch in July 2004, foreign nationals account for 67 percent of the workforce and hold 90 to 95 percent of private-sector jobs. Most come from South Asia and Africa to escape rising unemployment and poverty.

The overwhelming majority are poorly paid and heavily indebted, due to the exorbitant fees charged by recruiting agencies. They often work as cleaners in hospitals and schools, as plumbers, carpenters, labourers and garbage collectors. Women are often engaged as domestic servants, assistants in beauty salons and as seamstresses. The report stated that migrant workers were often paid far lower salaries than promised and subjected to long working hours—up to 12 hours or more daily without overtime. Many instances were cited of salaries being unpaid for months and medical care being denied, although complaints are rarely made for fear of summary dismissal.

In these circumstances, the use of the medieval Islamic law, including the death penalty and other brutal forms of punishment, serves a very definite political purpose. Whatever its religious justification, this legal system is being exploited by the autocratic Saudi regime to intimidate and terrorise the flood of cheap immigrant labour, on whom the country’s small wealthy elite is increasingly dependent.

The four Sri Lankan workers were publicly executed for allegedly “forming a criminal gang which robbed a number of companies and threatened accountants and workers with weapons, shooting one of them and stealing his car”. They were arrested in March 2004 and convicted by an Islamic religious court in October of the same year.

After these sentences were upheld in March 2005, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) issued a statement, urging the Sri Lankan government to intervene to save the lives of Pushpakumara, Corea and De Silva. The fourth prisoner, Sangeeth Kumara, was not mentioned because he was not sentenced to death by the court, but was serving a 15-year prison sentence. The AHRC said the prisoners had received penalties far more severe than international legal standards, and those of their home country.

From inside Al Nayad Prison in Riyadh the victims continually objected to the convictions because they were denied any legal representation. No substantial witnesses were presented in court to support the charges against them. They repeatedly appealed to the Sri Lankan authorities to secure their return to serve an appropriate sentence after facing a fair trial in Sri Lanka.

In an attempt to deflect adverse international attention, the Sri Lankan Embassy in Saudi Arabia promised in March 2005 to appeal on behalf of the prisoners. The embassy confirmed that a discussion had been held with the Sri Lankan Foreign Employment Bureau (FEB), which organises the recruitment of overseas workers, to finance legal proceedings to seek reduced sentences.

When family members in Sri Lanka subsequently gave interviews to the media about the plight of their relatives in prison, President Chandrika Kumaratunga issued a press release, claiming to have written to Saudi authorities requesting clemency. The Sri Lankan Embassy in Saudi Arabia, however, could give the AHRC no details of this communication.

Family members made numerous private visits to the current Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, even before his election in November 2005, requesting urgent help. A demonstration of several hundred people was held in Colombo following which Rajapakse, then the prime minister, met a delegation and personally guaranteed to intervene. A photograph of Rajapakse meeting the families appeared in the local press.

De Silva’s mother has subsequently made a personal appeal to Rajapakse to help save her only son, while Pushpakumara made requests to see his child who was born after he left for Saudi Arabia.

Faced with continued disinterest and lying pretences from the Sri Lankan government, De Silva announced—just two weeks before his execution—that he had started to write a book about his plight. He said he would seek help to publish the book in order to issue a wider call for justice.

Following the executions, the AHRC issued a statement on its website, saying, “the [Sri Lankan] government must explain the execution of three whose death sentences were said to have been reconsidered and the execution of another who was sentenced only to imprisonment in Saudi Arabia”.

According to the AHRC, the Sri Lankan government had earlier confirmed, “that the matter was being actively considered by the Saudi Arabian authorities and that the sentences would be commuted to life imprisonment”. Hence, the execution had come as a shock, with some family members only informed by a local news agency.

Government spokesmen Keheliya Rambukwella told the BBC Sinhala Service that the government was in the process of recovering the bodies and “advises Sri Lankans going abroad to comply with the laws of the land”. He made no mention the government’s previous comments that the trial might have fallen short of international standards, with no legal representation allowed.

This duplicity again reveals that the Sri Lankan government is not the least interested in the plight of Sri Lankan workers overseas, even when their maltreatment involves breaches of fundamental human rights and international law. As the AHRC stated, it is a basic obligation of any government to provide legal assistance for its citizens if convicted abroad, especially when facing death sentences.

The AHRC called on the Sri Lankan government for an explanation. “Beyond the concerns of the four individuals, this execution raises questions regarding the relationship Sri Lanka has with other nations, particularly ones in which local citizens engage in large-scale employment. Do such relationships imply some form of supply of slave labour where the rights of the citizens are abandoned in pursuit of trade relations and foreign exchange earnings? Is Sri Lanka not in a position to take up the issues of the rights of citizens in a strong manner for fear of losing trade agreements or other contracts?”

The answers to these questions are obvious. The Sri Lankan government will do nothing to threaten the virtual slave labour arrangements by which one million Sri Lankan workers—one eighth of the country’s labour force—work overseas to support their families. The government benefited directly from the $US2.3 billion in remittances sent home by Sri Lankan workers abroad last year, with well over 50 percent coming from workers in the Gulf.

Rajapakse’s complacent and callous response to the execution of four overseas workers is simply the latest example, following its refusal to urgently rescue the 90,000 Sri Lankans stranded in heavily bombed Lebanon last year.


Farm workers who pick tomatoes for McDonald's sandwiches earn 40 to 50 cents for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick. As a major buyer of Florida tomatoes, McDonald's high-volume, low-cost purchasing practices place downward pressure on farm worker wages, putting corporate profits before human dignity.

McDonald's can easily use its influence to not only dramatically improve the lives of workers, but also how the entire agricultural industry does business.

A coalition of migrant farm workers is taking its fight against wages that leave U.S. tomato pickers in deep poverty to the home of McDonald's Corp., the world's largest restaurant company

Coalition of Immokalee Workers, comprised mostly of Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants and based in this Immokalee in the middle of South Florida's farm country, came to prominence in the 1990s by exposing a series of farm worker abuse and human trafficking cases.

If you live in Lawrence, Kansas, come out and support the farm workers!

Lawrence, KS - March 3, 2007
Take Action to Support Farmworkers 5 pm McDonald’s, 1309 W. 6th St. 'dirty laundry back.' Behind Ronald McDonald and the Golden Arches, are farmworkers who are paid sub-poverty wages for their work and whose sweat and blood goes into McDonald's profit. Farmworkers must pick 2 tons of tomatoes to make $50 a day. Come, take action on Friday, March 2nd- Let's give McDonald's their dirty laundry back! We demand that McDonalds stop clowning around with farmworkers rights! Justice for Farmworkers! for more information:


The following piece was taken from Media Transparency is is written by my old chum Bill Berkowitz. It speaks for itself.

American Enterprise Institute takes lead in agitating against Iran

Despite wrongheaded predictions about the war on Iraq, neocons are on the frontlines advocating military conflict with Iran

Bill Berkowitz
February 26, 2007

American Enterprise Institute takes lead in agitating against Iran
Despite wrongheaded predictions about the war on Iraq, neocons are on the frontlines advocating military conflict with Iran
After doing such a bang up job with their advice and predictions about the outcome of the war on Iraq, would it surprise you to learn that America's neoconservatives are still in business? While at this time we are not yet seeing the same intense neocon invasion of our living rooms -- via cable television's news networks -- that we saw during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, nevertheless, a host of policy analysts at conservative think tanks -- most notably the American Enterprise Institute -- are being heeded on Iran by those who count - folks inside the Bush Administration.

Long before the Bush Administration began escalating its rhetoric and upping the ante about the supposed "threat" posed to the US by Iran, well-paid inside-the-beltway think tankers were agitating for some kind of action against that country. Some have argued for ratcheting up sanctions and freezing bank accounts, others have advocated increasing financial aid to opposition groups, and still others have argued that a military strike at Iran's nuclear facilities is absolutely essential. For all, the desired end result is regime change in Iran.

If President Bush plunges the U.S. into some kind of military conflict with Iran, you can thank the Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a key player in the current debate over Iran.

President Bush acknowledged as much when he recently appeared at the AEI for a much-publicized speech on his War on Terror, which focused on the front in Afghanistan.

Established in 1943, the AEI is no Johnny-come-lately to think tank politicking. Ronald Reagan gave the Institute its props by declaring that "[no think tank] has been more influential than the American Enterprise Institute." And during his recent speech at AEI, Bush said that he "admire[d] AEI a lot.After all, I have been consistently borrowing some of your best people. More than 20 AEI scholars have worked in my administration."

Bush also relayed greetings from vice president Dick Cheney who served as an AEI Senior Fellow from 1993-1995. Cheney's wife Lynne currently serves as a Senior Fellow studying education and children.

All eyes on Iran
A section of AEI's website entitled "The Iranian Threat" lists a treasure trove of several hundred published articles on Iran, including more than 50 last year alone. Since the beginning of this year, Michael Ledeen the Freedom Scholar at AEI -- who is credited with nearly 20 pieces on Iran last year -- published a story in the National Review Online headlined "The War of the Persian Succession: Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad Are Posturing to Succeed an Ailing Khamenei"; Anne Applebaum, an adjunct scholar at AEI, wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post titled "Wisdom in Exile"; and the prolific Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at AEI, wrote a story published by the New York Daily News titled "How to Make '07 Ahmadinejad's Last Year in Power."

Ledeen, writing about the power struggle taking place in the country, maintained that "The mullahs are living through difficult times. Their murderous activities in Iraq are now clear, save to those who are grimly determined to believe that the Bush administration cannot possibly tell the truth about terrorism. They have wrecked their national economy (like the Soviet Union, they do not need Western sanctions to ruin the country; they are quite capable of doing it all by themselves). The nuclear breakthrough is constantly promised but never delivered -- Ahmadinejad had promised a glorious announcement ... but then ... [decided to] postpone ... [it] for a couple of months, pending the action of the United Nations. They are scrambling to buy more time and fighting amongst themselves over how to deal with the West and the successor to the dying leader."

"To buy time, they are proposing everything and its opposite. They whisper to American diplomats -- who then promptly inform the Washington Post, afflicted with grave credibility problems of its own--that they are prepared to deliver al Qaeda terrorists into our hands, if only we will be kinder. I have lost count of the number of times this empty promise has been trotted out (this regime could no more abandon al Qaeda than it could abandon Shiism; terrorism is too deeply embedded in its DNA). For many days, Tehran approved, then canceled, then promised, then canceled, then finally approved the visit of the country's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, to a security conference in Munich, where, according to the wire services, he assured his audience that Israel had nothing to fear from Iran. But when the printed text was released, there were no such words in it, in either the Farsi or the English version. The manifest incoherence reflects the leadership vacuum, and the on again-off again behavior of Larijani shows the ebb and flow of the Succession War."
Ledeen concluded, as he has done numerous times over the years, that this "moment ... provides an opportunity for the West to encourage the best solution to the Iranian threat: support for democratic change. If we were to echo [85-year-old Ayatollah Hosseynali] Montazeri, denounce the mounting repression, support a peaceful transition to democracy, and demand an end to Iran's decisive support for the terror war, all the while clearly stating our desire for regime change in Tehran, the tens of millions of Iranians who hate this regime might seize the opportunity."

In discussing the role of the AEI, The Guardian pointed out that "Its influence on the White House appeared to be on the decline last year amid endless bad news from Iraq, for which it had been a cheerleader. But in the face of opposition from Congress, the Pentagon and state department, Bush opted last month for an AEI plan to send more troops to Iraq. Will he support calls from within the AEI for a strike on Iran?"

CNN reporter Suzanne Malveaux pointed out that the AEI is "One conservative policy group that has the president's ear and is influencing his thinking" on Iraq. (For more on the role of AEI-affiliated spokespersons during the run-up to the Iraq War, see here.)

Josh Muravchik, a Middle East specialist at the AEI, is a major supporter of some kind of action against Iran. He told The Guardian: "I do not think anyone in the US is talking about invasion. We have been chastened by the experience of Iraq, even a hawk like myself."

An air strike against Iran's burgeoning nuclear facilities is another matter all together, because not only might Iran "use [nuclear weapons program] out of the blue but [it could also be used] as a shield to do all sorts of mischief. I do not believe there will be any way to stop this happening other than physical force."

Muravchik pointed out rather colorfully that "The Bush administration ha[s] said they would not allow Iran nuclear weapons. That is either bullshit or they mean it as a clear code: we will do it if we have to. I would rather believe it is not hot air."

Not all neocons agree with the Muravchik prescription for Iran. According to The Guardian, some neocons who are "opposed to an air strike ... advocate a different form of military action, supporting Iranian armed groups, in particular the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), even though the state department has branded it a terrorist organization."

Raymond Tanter, founder of the Iran Policy Committee, which includes former officials from the White House, state department and intelligence services, "is a leading advocate of support for the MEK. If it comes to an air strike, he favors bunker-busting bombs. 'I believe the only way to get at the deeply buried sites at Natanz and Arak is probably to use bunker-buster bombs, some of which are nuclear tipped. I do not believe the US would do that but it has sold them to Israel.'"

Meyrav Wurmser, the director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute, "also favors supporting Iranian opposition groups," The Guardian pointed out. Wurmser "is disappointed with the response of the Bush administration so far to Iran and said that if the aim of US policy after 9/11 was to make the Middle East safer for the US, it was not working because the administration had stopped at Iraq. 'There is not enough political will for a strike. There seems to be various notions of what the policy should be.'"

AEI doesn't pay its so-called scholars with proceeds garnered from rummage or bake sales: A good chunk of its money comes directly from a coterie of right wing foundations. From 1985 through 2005, AEI received more than 330 grants totaling over $43 million. Generous donors include the John M. Olin Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Earhart Foundation, the Carthage Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

In 2004, the Bradley Foundation, under the leadership of Michael Grebe, gave more than $700,000 to AEI's Foreign and Defense Policy Studies program, and the New Atlantic Initiative.

Manufacturing the Iran threat?
In recent weeks, as things have continued to deteriorate in Iraq, the Bush Administration has been laying the foundation for a possible military face-off with Iran. In addition to expressing its dismay over Iran's burgeoning nuclear program, and intensifying its military presence in the Persian Gulf, administration officials have taken to charging Iran with training insurgents and supplying weapons to forces responsible for killing American soldiers in Iraq.

At his February 14 news conference, President Bush "officially anointed a new enemy of the United States ...: the 'Quds Force,'" Newsweek recently reported. "After a week in which his administration contradicted itself repeatedly over the threat from Iran, Bush settled on what he said were the known facts. The sophisticated weapons being used against U.S. troops in Iraq 'were provided by the Quds [means 'Jerusalem' in Arabic] Force,' a paramilitary arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)," the president said."

Appearing to be using former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's "knowns and unknowns" linguistic formulation, the president added: "We know that. And we also know that the Quds Force is a part of the Iranian government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds Force to do what they did."

"The truth about the Iranian threat is that the Bush Administration is not telling the real truth," wrote Larry Johnson in a mid-February column at the TPMCafe. "Like any effective propagandist President Bush is using a kernel of truth and, with the help of many in the media, laying the foundation for another war."

"The kernel of truth is that Iranian intelligence agents are active in Iraq and are working with a variety of Shia militia and groups," Johnson who worked with the Central Intelligence Agency from 1985 to 1989, and was the the Department of State's Office of the Coordinator for Counter Terrorsim from 1989 to 1993, and is currently a Managing Partner and founder of BERG Associates, LLC, an international business-consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., which specializes in counter terrorism and money laundering investigations, pointed out.

"What Bush cleverly omits in his litany is the fact that Iran has been present in Iraq since the early days of the U.S. invasion in March of 2003. Bush and his generals also are ignoring the fact that Sunni insurgents, not Iranian backed Shia militia, have been those responsible for the vast majority of U.S. casualties in Iraq." (See here for more on this.)

Robert Gates, the new Secretary of Defense, recently insisted that he, the president and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have all said that they have "no intention of attacking Iran." However, Vincent Cannistraro, a Washington-based intelligence analyst who worked for the CIA and the National Security Council, told The Guardian that "Planning is going on, in spite of public disavowals by Gates."

Cannistraro added that the planning is "quite advanced" and "targets have been selected [f]or a bombing campaign against nuclear sites. ...The military assets to carry this out are being put in place."

The Guardian also reported that "Colonel Sam Gardiner, a former air force officer who has carried out war games with Iran as the target, supported the view that planning for an air strike was under way: 'Gates said there is no planning for war. We know this is not true. He possibly meant there is no plan for an immediate strike. It was sloppy wording.'"

Gardiner told The Guardian that "All the moves being made over the last few weeks are consistent with what you would do if you were going to do an air strike. We have to throw away the notion the US could not do it because it is too tied up in Iraq. It is an air operation."

In August of last year, Think Progress reported that Reuel Marc Gerecht, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who was "a member of a small group of analysts" that met with President Bush to "discuss their views on the Middle East" told ABC's "This Week" that "the mid- to long-term fallout from Israel-Hezbollah conflict could be a good thing because it may prompt Bush to take military action against Iran."

Gerecht said that the role the Iranians and Syrians played in the conflict had angered Bush. The program's host George Stephanopoulos asked: "How much harder line could he take? Are you talking about military action?"

Gerecht reponded: "Well yeah it is conceivable you go down the road 12 or 18 months that the president will say nuclear weapons in the hands of the mullahs is simply unacceptable -- as he said many times. And if in fact Lebanon contributes to the hardening of the American postion, then I would say that Hezbollah actions in Lebanon were a great mistake."