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Impeach Bush

1000 Iraqi Killed by US
ABC News Online (AU)
Last Update: Thursday, March 27, 2003. 4:30am (AEDT)

An American officer says US troops have killed 1,000 Iraqis in the past 72 hours in the Najaf region in southern Iraq.

Major General Buford Blount, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, has told AFP in addition to the 650 deaths reported earlier in the region, a further 250 were killed in two separate incidents on the east bank of the Euphrates and another 100 on a bridge across the river.

US troops have fought a fierce battle with Iraqi forces for control of the bridge over the Euphrates River close to Najaf.

A US military officer monitoring the clash says an unspecified number of US tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles have been destroyed by Iraqis armed with rocket propelled grenades and automatic rifles during the clash at Abu Sukhayr, 20 kilometres south-east of Najaf.

He says he believes that the US crews, under the command of the 3rd Infantry division, had escaped from their vehicles but their fate is still unclear.

Correspondents reporting from near Najaf say they heard jets flying overhead.

The US says air support had been called in to support the US forces.

General Blount says the sheer courage of the Iraqi reinforcements impressed the US troops, who did not expect them to put up such a fight.

"They are fighting very tenaciously and constantly attacking US forces," he added.

But he says the encirclement of Najaf and heavy sandstorms in the region had between them put back the advance north by around 48 hours.

"It has cost us a couple of days on our timeline," he said.

Major John Altman, intelligence officer of the Third Infantry Division's First Brigade, says about 200 of the Iraqi deaths were reported around a suspected chemical weapons factory.

He says about 300 Iraqis were taken prisoner and another 100 fled, some to take up positions as snipers.

Commentary:
This is my first major comment since the war started seven days ago. We were told Saddam would fire chemical warheads into Kuwait as soon as the war began. Didn't happen. We were told Iraqi's would be coming out to cheer us. Didn't happen. We were told the regular military would give up as soon as the war began. Didn't happen. We were told the Army mobile units would find chemical warheads within the first 24-hours after the war began. Didn't happen. The list of things we were told that didn't happen is almost endless.

I suppose it never occurred to these brain-dead war pundits that the people of Iraq hate being invaded more than they hate Saddam. We saw much of the same after 9/11 here in the US after 9/11. Even those Americans who thought Bush was a moron stood behind him because he was our president. How some could forget something so simple so fast boggles the mind.


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Chile Tests U.S.
Washington Post
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday March 20, 2003; 10:56 PM

Only days before the diplomatic breakdown at the United Nations on Iraq, Security Council member Chile made one last attempt at a compromise. Yet as soon as Chilean President Ricardo Lagos presented his idea last Friday, the White House rebuffed it. A final vote never materialized, of course, but Lagos' proposal symbolized an important moment for Latin America.

With U.S. congressional approval of a long-sought trade agreement hanging in the balance and Washington desperately seeking U.N. sanction to invade Iraq, Chile had dared to risk Washington's ire. In the end, Chile did not have to vote for or against the war, although its actions made clear that it preferred more time than immediate war. But its decision placed Chile's government squarely at odds with the Bush administration.

Chile's offer was an expression of its independence, a well-earned right by a nation that became a regional model for economic stability precisely because it insisted on a little freethinking along the way. Now the question is whether Chile violated the "with us or against us" mandate of current U.S. foreign policy.

It is still too early to know the answer. But unfortunately for Chile, what comes next in Washington may come uncomfortably too soon. As early as May the U.S. Congress may be asked to ratify the U.S.-Chile free-trade agreement finally struck last December.

With its actions Chile may have jeopardized the good will of some members of Congress who would otherwise have had no objections to the pact. In a letter to Lagos last week, the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Henry J. Hyde, implied that with the trade agreement pending, "strong and unequivocal support on this upcoming vote" at the U.N. was in order.

Chilean officials say they are not worried. They acted on their conviction, as any serious world player would have done, and they are confident that trade and the Security Council vote will remain separate issues. What's more, they say, the fact that only 17.5 percent of Chile's international trade is with the United States, a rather low proportion by Latin American standards, gives them some room for maneuvering.

An important conclusion that may be drawn from this latest chapter of diplomacy to disarm Saddam Hussein is that countries acting freely and democratically--such as Chile--are becoming less dependent of Washington. It is a trend that Washington should welcome.

Chile's current economic prosperity is second to none in Latin America, including Mexico's. During the 1990s, when others in the region were by-the-book followers of Washington's dictates for market reforms, Chile occasionally strayed from the course.

Chilean officials resisted, for instance, the advice to completely open their financial markets to foreign investors, choosing instead to impose some capital controls. So when an international financial crisis swept through the region in the second half of that decade, Chile found itself less vulnerable to capital flight than many of its neighbors.

The lesson to be learned from Chile is that independence pays off, and independence can be an acceptable risk. Without it, Chile wouldn't have become the global player that it is today. There is no better proof of that than Washington's persistence, after more than a decade of flirting with the idea, to make Chile only the sixth country in the world to reach a free-trade agreement with the United States.

To be sure, Chile owes much to the United States as a model of market economy and democracy. And unlike France, Chile's actions at the United Nations were in the spirit of compromise, not obstruction.

What happens next is up to Washington. It can approve the trade pact and in so doing, bless the example Chile has set. Or it can reject the accord, and punish Chile for demonstrating the same freedoms and independence that Washington goes to such great lengths to defend.

Marcela Sanchez's e-mail address is desdewash@washpost.com.

© 2003 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive

Commentary:
It's interesting to see the new powers flexing their muscles. In Western Europe, France and Germany, in Eastern Europe, Russia, in Asia, China, in S. America, Chile. Each are openly opposing the US.

The US is no longer the 'leader of the free world.' To lead, someone has to be willing to follow. No one follows us anymore. Instead, almost every country on earth is against us.

Those who support this war need to understand that they must vote against Bush in the next election. You have your tax cuts, you have Saddam and now you need to let the rest of us fix what Bush has done to our reputation and budget.


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South Korea: may or may not send engineers and medics
Washington Post
By Doug Struck Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 25, 2003; 12:22 PM

SEOUL, March 25 -- The National Assembly dealt new President Roh Moo Hyun an unexpected setback today by stalling his request to send 700 South Korean engineers and medics to help in the war against Iraq.

The request still is likely to pass, according to political observers. But the assembly's unexpected opposition was a sign of the depth of public disfavor toward the U.S. action in the Middle East.

"It's a surprise. Even though there are antiwar demonstrations in the street, people thought the assembly would pass it today," said Lee Chung Lee, a political analyst at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

Public polls have shown high opposition in South Korea to supporting the U.S. attack in Iraq. A crowd estimated at a few thousand people demonstrated outside the assembly building today, continuing a series of small, regular protests.

But political chieftains of Roh's party and the opposition party had agreed with the president's decision to support the United States as a loyal ally. A revolt by legislators concerned by the public mood delayed the vote until after April 2, when Roh is scheduled to lay out his arguments in a speech to the National Assembly.

South Korea is a key Asian ally to the United States, but relations have been troubled by public resentment toward U.S. troops and the U.S. administration. Roh took office one month ago after a campaign critical of South Korea's unswerving support of Washington.

But after what was reported to be a difficult debate, Roh decided last week to support the Iraqi invasion with a small force of non-combatants. The vote scheduled for today had been considered a formality.

There was no immediate comment from the government's presidential Blue House.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
South Korea needs the US more than country, except maybe Israel. Yet, it openly opposes Bush. the people of S. Korea are against the war (hell, who isn't?) and their new leader ran on an anti-US platform. One of our diplomats said Bush was ushering in the anti-American century. He's right. From global leader to villain. We can still fix this, but eight years of Bush will destroy any chance of making things right.


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War is great for gays
Washington Post/AP
By DAVID HO
The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 25, 2003; 12:00 PM

The number of people forced to leave the military last year because of their homosexuality fell to the lowest level since 1996, an advocacy group for gays and lesbians in the military said Tuesday.

Discharges of gay service members typically decline during times of war or conflict, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which released its annual report on the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

"When they need lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans most, military leaders keep us close at hand," said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of the advocacy group. The group said thousands of gay troops are now serving in the Middle East.

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy, in effect since 1994, allows gay men and lesbians to serve as long as they keep their sexual orientation private and do not engage in homosexual acts.

The military dismissed 906 people last year for homosexual conduct or for stating their homosexuality, compared with 1,273 in 2001, the report said, citing figures provided by the service branches. In 1996, 870 people were dismissed from the military for homosexuality.

Criticism of the policy has increased in recent months.

Some people want to reinstate the previous policy, which made clear that homosexuals were not welcome in the ranks. But gay-rights groups argue that the military's war readiness is undercut by a policy that alienates gay soldiers or forces them from the ranks.

The advocacy group's report points out that the Army dismissed seven linguists trained in Arabic for being gay.

The Defense Department did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the report.

The Bush administration and the Pentagon have said there are no plans to abandon "don't ask, don't tell."

The Army led all branches in discharges for homosexuality last year with 429, compared with 638 the previous year. Marine Corps discharges fell from 115 to 109.

The Navy and Air Force last year reported the fewest number of dismissals since the policy went into effect, with 218 and 121 discharges, respectively.

The Coast Guard, which is not part of the Defense Department but also abides by the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, increased its dismissals from 14 in 2001 to 29 last year.

Reports of harassment of gays also declined from 1075 in 2001 to 802 last year, the report said. Despite this, the advocacy group said harassment of gays in the military remains a serious problem.

On the Net:

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network: http://www.sldn.org/templates/index.html

Defense Department: http://www.dod.gov/

© 2003 The Associated Press

Commentary:
In every major war the US has had gays in the military. Today, for the first time in our history, gays are forced to lie in order to serve. In fact, if a gay person tells the truth about his sex life he's fired from his job. In today's military, truth is not honorable. Lies, or at least not telling the truth seems to be the norm.

The military has an almost child-like attitude towards gays. They barely tolerate gay soldiers when we have peace, but when we have war, they depend on gays to fight along side them. We have to wonder why they can't control their felling better.


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Bush delays release of his father's papers *
An Impeachable Offense
Washington Post/AP
The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 25, 2003; 7:05 PM

President Bush issued an executive order Monday that will delay the release of millions of historical documents for more than three years and make it easier to reclassify information that could damage national security.

Bush signed the 25-page order three weeks before the government's April 17 deadline for declassifying millions of documents 25 years or older. Amending a less restrictive order signed by President Clinton, Bush's action gives agencies until 2006 to release the documents.

The documents in question encompass a wide gamut of national security decision-making, from military records to diplomatic documents.

In addition, the order makes it easier for the government to reclassify sensitive information if an agency determines it is in the interest of national security. The reclassification provision applies to documents between 10 and 25 years old, which would include periods in which Bush's father served as president and vice president, the White House said.

The order says that information provided in confidence by a foreign government is presumed classified. Under the Clinton order, this type of information was kept classified or declassified on a case-by-case basis.

© 2003 The Associated Press

Commentary:
Be honest. What did Bush Sr. ever do that could be considered important enough to classified? The man, like his son failed at everything he tried. Bill Clinton has already released most of his papers and he an eight-year presidency. Let's face it, when we compare Bush protecting his father, and Bush Sr. not releasing his paper and Clinton releasing his, we have to wonder what it is they're trying to hide.


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US Violates Geneva Convention at Guantanamo Bay *
An Impeachable Offense
World's Socialist Web Site (WSWS)
By Richard Phillips
11 March 2002

In an internationally coordinated campaign, Australian, British and the US lawyers have launched a wide-ranging legal challenge to the Bush administration's detention of prisoners captured in Afghanistan and currently being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Attorneys representing three of the 300 Camp X-Ray prisoners—David Hicks from Australia and Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal from Britain—filed a law suit in a US federal court in Washington on February 22 declaring that their clients were being held illegally and in violation of US and international legal conventions.

The litigation is being conducted as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, that is, a request by a person in custody for a court to examine the fairness of his or her imprisonment. It names US President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and two senior officials from the Guantanamo Bay naval base—Brigadier General Michael Lehnert and Colonel Terry Carrico—as respondents.

The lawyers want the US Federal Court to order the release of the three detainees from unlawful custody and to grant them the right to legal counsel in private and unmonitored discussions with their attorneys. The attorneys have also called on the US military to cease all interrogations, direct or indirect, while the litigation is pending. Most importantly, the Federal Court is being asked to declare Bush's November 13 Military Order, under which the detainees are being held, unlawful and in violation of the US Constitution and other domestic and international legal conventions.

Lawyers Joseph Margulies of Minneapolis, Michael Ratner from the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights and Stephen Kenny from South Australia, are representing 26-year-old David Hicks. They were appointed at the request of David's father, Terry Hicks. Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul are represented by New Orleans attorney Clive Stafford-Smith and London-based lawyer Gareth Pierce. Iqbal, who is only 20-years-old, and 24-year-old Shafiq Rasul are from Tipton, West Midlands, in England, the children of Pakistani immigrants.

A joint press statement by the detainees' lawyers declared: "The core contention of the litigation is that the United States cannot order indefinite detention without due process. The detainees have the right to challenge the legality of their detention in court.'

Joseph Margulies told reporters: "There are few principles more firmly established in our law than the prohibition against arbitrary, indefinite detention. The President of the United States and the executive branch simply cannot hold a person for the rest of his life, without legal process, without judicial review, without being charged and without counsel, particularly when the possible outcome [is] the imposition of the death penalty.'

South Australian lawyer, Stephen Kenny, said the legal action was in response to "a clear violation of an individual's human rights.' "If David Hicks has broken any laws,' Kenny told the World Socialist Web Site, "he should be charged and given the opportunity to defend those charges. But after three months' imprisonment he hasn't been charged with anything. Much as Rumsfeld might want, we don't have rules that allow you to be imprisoned simply because the government or one of its allies doesn't like you.'

Clive Stafford-Smith, one of the two lawyers representing Iqbal and Rasul, is a member of the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Centre, which provides legal representation to death-row prisoners. He said the detainees should be given the same legislative rights as John Walker Lindh, who is being tried in a US civil court. "The argument that people held in Guantanamo Bay have no rights means [the government] could just take out a gun and shoot them. We are asking that citizens of the United States' closest ally receive the same treatment as Americans,' he said.

The legal case

The legal documents explain that Hicks was captured in Afghanistan on December 9 by Northern Alliance troops fighting the Taliban and handed over to the US military on December 14. After being interrogated by the US military and Australian Federal Police he was transferred on January 12 to Guantanamo Bay. The US military has provided no information whatsoever about when or where Iqbal and Rasul were captured. Mohammed Iqbal, Asif Iqbal's father, and Skina Basil, Shafiq Rasul's mother, were not contacted by the British Foreign Office until January 21, when they were informed that their sons were being detained at Camp X-Ray.

The petition's Statement of Facts declares that the detainees had no involvement—"direct or indirect'—in the September 11 terrorist attacks against the US or "any act of terrorism attributed by the US to Al Qaeda or any other terrorist group'. Nor did they, prior to their capture in December, attempt to cause any harm to American personnel. Their detention, the litigation states, is therefore illegal under the September 18, 2001 Joint Resolution of Congress authorising Bush to "use force against nations, organisations or persons' that planned or abetted the September 11 terrorist attacks. The Joint Resolution, the petition says, "did not authorise the indefinite detention of persons seized on the field of battle'.

The legal action, the first direct challenge to US President Bush's November 13 Military Order, declares that the order is illegal on several grounds: it was not authorised or directed by Congress; is beyond the scope of the Joint Resolution on September 18; and by disallowing any legal challenge violates Article I of the US Constitution and international human rights laws.

"The Military Order,' the litigation explains, "vests the President with complete discretion to identify the individuals that fall within its scope. It establishes no standards governing the use of his discretion. Once a person has been detained, the Order contains no provisions for him to be notified of the charges he may face. On the contrary, the Order authorises detainees to be held without charges. It contains no provision for detainees to be notified of their rights under domestic and international law, and provides neither the right to counsel, nor the right to consular access. It provides no right to appear before a neutral tribunal to review the legality of detainees' continued detention, and no provision for appeal to an Article III court. In fact, the Order expressly bars review by any court. Though the Order directs respondent Rumsfeld to create military tribunals, it sets no deadline for his task. And for those detainees who will not be tried before a tribunal, the Order authorises indefinite and unreviewable detention, based on nothing more than the President's written determination that an individual is subject to its terms.'

The petition says that since gaining control of the detainees, "the United States military has held them virtually incommunicado. They have been, or will be, interrogated repeatedly by agents of the United States Departments of Defense and Justice, though they have not been charged with an offense, nor have they been notified of any pending or contemplated charges. They have made no appearance before either a military or civilian tribunal of any sort, nor have they been provided counsel or the means to contact counsel. They have not been informed of their rights under the United States Constitution, the regulations of the United States Military, the Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man. Indeed, the respondents have taken the position that the detainees should not be told of these rights. As a result, the detained petitioners are completely unable either to protect, or to vindicate, their rights under domestic or international law.'

As evidence, the lawsuit establishes that the only communications allowed between the prisoners and their families since they were captured were a brief letter from David Hicks to his father asking for legal assistance; a US government summary of a letter written by Rasul to his parents in Britain requesting a lawyer; and a message from Iqbal to his family through the Red Cross, when he was detained in Afghanistan. The Hicks, Iqbal and Rasul families have no idea as to the current condition of their sons or whether they are even aware of the legal action now being taken on their behalf.

The action charges Bush, Rumsfeld, Lehnert and Carrico with violating "due process' and "rights of appeal' clauses in the US Constitution, the Declaration of Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The clauses establish that no one can be "deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,' including legal representation and appeal rights.

As Article XXV of the Declaration of Rights states: "Every individual who has been deprived of his liberty has the right to have the legality of his detention ascertained without delay by a court, and the right to be tried without undue delay or, otherwise, to be released. He also has the right to humane treatment during the time he is in custody.'

The combined Australian-British-US litigation not only demonstrates that these and other basic rights have been trampled on by the Bush administration but that the continued detention without charge of the Camp X-Ray prisoners violates US military regulations, the US War Powers Clause and the Geneva Convention.

A ruling on the application is not expected for two to three weeks. Legal experts say the case will be difficult for the Bush administration to dismiss because the petitioners are relatives of the detainees. Last month, a US District Judge in Los Angeles rejected a civil rights lawsuit by a 17-member coalition of lawyers, journalists, professors and religious leaders on the grounds that they had no direct relationship with the detainees. The judge also ruled that because the prisoners were being held on Cuban soil, US courts had no sovereignty over them.

The current litigation, which is expected to be the first of a number of cases brought by relatives of detainees, counters government claims that US constitutional rights do not apply at Guantanamo Bay by pointing to the fact that the US has occupied the area since 1903 and "repeatedly declared its intention to remain there indefinitely.' Offences committed by civilians and foreign nationals living in Guantanamo Bay, the petition states, "are brought before federal courts on the mainland, where respondents enjoy the full panoply of Constitutional rights.'

Growing criticism

Public criticism in Britain and Australia is beginning to mount over the unlawful and inhumane detention of the prisoners. Last week lawyers acting for Feroz Abbasi, one of the five British prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, announced they would take legal action in Britain's High Court against the Blair Labour government unless it ensured that the detainees were given legal counsel and other basic rights. The British Law Society and the Bar Council's human rights committee have written to Prime Minister Tony Blair demanding that he act to ensure that the detainees be given access to lawyers.

In Australia, sections of the media have begun to raise concerns about the treatment of David Hicks. A Sydney Morning Herald editorial on February 26 called for Hicks to be repatriated. "The longer Mr Hicks and others in his position are held without charge, without trial, the greater the damage to broader freedoms. ... Is it that Mr Hicks's real threat is to the US version of events in Afghanistan, a challenge to the validity of George Bush's orders permitting indefinite detention of foreigners captured in a third country and their trial by a closed US military tribunal? Mr Hicks should be dealt with firmly and fairly under Australian law. By failing to repatriate him so that that can happen, the Australian Government is complicit in the erosion of civil liberties which this case is coming to represent,' the newspaper said.

A "Fair Go For David' committee has been established in South Australia to raise financial and political support to secure Hicks' release. Trudy Dunn, a spokesperson for the group now reported to have 8,000 members, said that despite biased media coverage and the refusal of Australia's Howard government to demand Hicks' basic rights, "more and more people are questioning the inhumane detention and treatment of David.' She said that members of the group were concerned over the continued interrogation of Hicks by the US military and warned that "prisoners can be made to admit anything if the methods of interrogation are extreme enough and applied over a long period.'

Despite growing international condemnation, the US government still refuses the Camp X-Ray detainees legal access and is continuing interrogations in breach of the Geneva Convention. Two weeks ago Donald Rumsfeld told the US media that the Pentagon was preparing a "range of options' for the Camp X-Ray detainees. This included trial by military tribunals, indefinite detention or return to their native countries. Rumsfeld made clear, however, that repatriation of any prisoners was conditional on guarantees that they would be prosecuted at home.

The Solicitor General Theodore Olson will represent the Bush administration and the military in the US Federal Court action in Washington. Olson, whose wife was killed in the September 11 hijack bombings, is a member the Republican Party's extreme rightwing. He was a key figure in the political conspiracy to impeach former US President Bill Clinton and played a central role in the judicial action that handed Bush the presidency in December 2000, arguing before the US Supreme Court that the American people had no constitutional right to elect the president.

Commentary:
The US is in violation of the Geneva Convention. Who cares?

If you think the US will never have Pow's no one has to. But, if you assume someday a country not friendly to us takes some of our soldiers prisoner, we should be able to demand they follow the Geneva Convention. However, when the US violates that same Convention, we don't have the moral authority to demand others follow it. That's why you should care.


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FERC orders oil companies to pay $3.3 billion to Calif.
Forbes/Reuters
March 26, 2003

WASHINGTON(Reuters) - The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Wednesday ruled that energy suppliers owes the state of California $3.3 billion in refunds from overcharges during the state's power crisis, far less than the $8.9 billion the state demanded.

But the figure is higher than the $1.8 billion refund recommended by an agency administrative law judge in December.

The $3.3 billion sum reflects a recalculation of natural gas prices that FERC said was necessary because of faulty natural gas price indices previously used. However, the state still owes about $3 billion to suppliers, meaning that California stands to receive about $300 million.

"This commission is enacting to ensure that customers pay just and reasonable prices. Today's actions represent important progress toward a just resolution of these matters," FERC said in a statement.

In a high-profile case, California demanded that FERC order as many as 70 energy companies to repay unfair profits from short-term electricity sales from October 2000 through June 2001.

Copyright 2003, Reuters News Service

Commentary:
When Bush was manufacturing his socialist government run energy policy, conservatives attacked the governor of Calif. for the oil shortage. On a daily basis, conservative comments attacked Davis and democrats for their failures to lead. It was only later that we learned Bush's friends at Enron (and other oil companies) created the shortage in order to milk the people of Calif. of every penny they could get.

Then on top of that the energy crisis gave Bush a perfect chance to create an government run energy plan. We once thought government run health care was socialism under Ms. Clinton, but conservatives rallied around a government run energy plan. I suppose we're not supposed to see the rank hypocrisy.


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Coalition: Willing, But Not Able
Washington Post
By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, March 25, 2003; Page A07

There must have been shock in Baghdad and awe in Paris last week when the White House announced the news that Palau had joined the "coalition of the willing."

Palau, an island group of nearly 20,000 souls in the North Pacific, has much to contribute. It has some of the world's best scuba diving, delectable coconuts and tapioca. One thing Palau cannot contribute, however, is military support: It does not have a military.

"It's rather symbolic," said Hersey Kyota, Palau's ambassador to Washington, of his country's willingness to be listed in the 46-member coalition of the willing engaged in the Iraq war. Kyota said the president of Palau, which depends on the U.S. military for its security, on a visit to Washington, "thought it was a good idea to write a letter of support, so he did." Kyota said Palau gamely offered its harbors and airports to the effort, but the offer was graciously declined, as Palau is nowhere near Iraq.

Palau is one of six unarmed nations in the coalition, along with Costa Rica, Iceland, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and the Solomon Islands. Then there's Afghanistan.

Asked if Iceland would be supplying troops, ambassador Helgi Agustsson gave a hearty Scandinavian guffaw. "Of course not -- we have no military," he said. "That is a good one, yes." In fact, Agustsson added, "we laid down weapons sometime in the 14th century," when the Icelandic military consisted largely of Vikings in pointy helmets. The true nature of Iceland's role in the coalition of the willing is "reconstruction and humanitarian assistance," Agustsson said, adding that this has not been requested yet.

Therein lies the peculiarity of the coalition of the willing. Some on the White House list, such as Turkey, have been critical of the war and uncooperative. Many of those on the list, such as the unarmed nations above, will do far less than countries such as Germany, which adamantly opposed the war but is defending Turkey from Iraqi missiles. To join the coalition of the willing, a nation need do nothing more than offer "political support" -- essentially, allow its name to be put on the list.

Administration officials have furnished the list to demonstrate, as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld argued, that the current coalition "is larger than the coalition that existed during the Gulf War in 1991." But that 34-member group was an actual military coalition, with all members providing troops, aircraft, ships or medics.

By that standard, there are only about a half dozen members of the coalition in the current war. In addition to the 250,000 or so U.S. troops, there are 45,000 from Britain and about 2,000 from Australia. Denmark and Spain have sent a small number of troops, though not, apparently, for ground combat.

Still, it's not certain exactly who is participating. Poland, for example, had originally said it would help only in a non-combat role. But the country acknowledged some of its commandos had participated in the attack when the Reuters news agency produced photographs of masked Polish soldiers taking prisoners, scrawling graffiti on a portrait of Saddam Hussein and posing with U.S. Navy SEALs with an American flag.

Despite the contributions of Poland and the others, the firepower in the Iraq war is basically all American and British. The other countries involved spend a combined $25 billion a year on defense, less than Britain by itself and less than one-tenth of U.S. military spending.

That sounds less impressive than the way White House press secretary Ari Fleischer described it last week: "All told, the population of coalition of the willing is approximately 1.18 billion people around the world. The coalition countries have a combined GDP of approximately $21.7 trillion. Every major race, religion and ethnic group in the world is represented. The coalition includes nations from every continent on the globe."

Possibly. But the coalition remainsa work in progress. After initially including Angola in the coalition of the willing last week, the White House removed the country without explanation, as first noted by Agence France-Presse. Angolan embassy officials didn't respond yesterday to phone calls. With luck, Angola can be replaced by Morocco, if a report yesterday by UPI is to be believed. According to the wire service, Morocco's weekly al Usbu' al-Siyassi claimed that Morocco has offered 2,000 monkeys to help detonate land mines.

An official at the Moroccan Embassy could not confirm the presence of monkeys in the coalition of the willing.

Staff researcher Brian Faler contributed to this report.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
We should ban anyone from calling this a coalition. The media is once again letting Bush and Powell lie about how big our so-called coalition is. Every time they say we have 30 plus countries on our side, someone in the media should call them lairs. If they're called liars enough times, maybe they'll be shamed into telling the truth.


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Consumer confidence falls to ten year low
Money.CNN
March 25, 2003: 1:01 PM EST
By Mark Gongloff, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - The confidence of U.S. consumers, whose spending fuels more than two-thirds of the nation's economy, dipped slightly in the days before a U.S.-led war with Iraq, a research group said Tuesday.

Though confidence remains at the lowest levels in nearly a decade, the future course of consumer spending will depend in part on the progress of the war and the condition of the labor market in the months ahead.

The Conference Board, a business research group based in New York, said its closely watched index of consumer confidence sank to 62.5 from a revised 64.8 in February.

It was the lowest reading for consumer confidence since a 60.5 reading in October 1993. Economists, on average, had expected a reading of 62.4, according to a Reuters poll.

The survey's "expectations" index fell to 62.5 from 65.7 in February. The "present situation" index fell to 62.4 from 63.5.

The report had little impact on U.S. stock prices, which rose in midday trading. Treasury bond prices rose.

War news will affect sentiment
The survey of 5,000 households ended on March 18, before the beginning of the war. Other consumer surveys, including the ABC/Money poll, due Tuesday night, and an updated March survey by the University of Michigan, due on Friday, will reveal more about how consumer sentiment has fared in the first days of the war.

After that, the course of consumer confidence could closely follow the course of the war's progress.

"If the war's prospects improve from here, consumer optimism is likely to improve, while if we see further setbacks of the type we experienced this past weekend, then we must be prepared to see a dip in consumer sentiment threatening to slow the pace of consumer spending further," said Anthony Chan, chief economist of Banc One Investment Advisors.

And even after the war is over, it will take time to sort out how much damage has been done to the underlying economy by war fears and other problems.

Clearly, retail sales were hurt in the first week of the war by the so-called "CNN effect," a term coined during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when consumers were too busy watching news unfold on CNN to go shopping.

ShopperTrak, a retail research group, said U.S. sales in the first four days of the war in Iraq, March 20 to March 23, were 9.9 percent lower than the same period a year ago.

Economists believe the CNN effect will be short-lived, particularly if the war progresses quickly and successfully for the United States. On the other hand, if the recent struggles of U.S. and British forces to contain resistance in parts of Iraq continue, then consumers might be glued to their TV sets a little longer.

"As long as suspense lingers, you will have a longer CNN effect," said Conference Board economist Delos Smith. "That's not what you want -- mood is very important for the retail world."

Labor market, money supply tight

Consumer mood is critical for the broader economy, too, since consumer spending makes up more than two-thirds of U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic growth.

Consumers have kept spending despite a recession that began in March 2001 and might have ended near the beginning of 2002, which brought nearly 2 million job cuts. Consumers have also continued to spend despite terror attacks, a three-year bear market in stocks, a long buildup to war, and a spate of corporate fraud.

But some economists are worried frazzled consumers can't carry the burden of the world's biggest economy on their shoulders indefinitely, particularly amid a dismal labor market. Among the Conference Board survey respondents, 32.3 percent said jobs were "hard to get," the highest percentage since 32.4 percent in May 1994.

"While a quick and successful outcome in the Middle East conflict would certainly ease some of the uncertainties facing consumers and therefore boost confidence, it is the economic fundamentals that will determine whether a rebound is sustainable," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center.

Franco pointed out that the end of the first Gulf War in 1991 gave consumer confidence a quick boost, but lingering labor-market woes brought confidence right back down.

And Northern Trust economist Paul Kasriel pointed out recently that the growth of a key measure of money supply, adjusted for inflation, fell in February to its slowest pace since February 2001 -- just before the latest recession began.

"M2" money growth is the name economists give to a basket of liquidity measures, including the amount of currency in circulation, money in savings accounts and more. M2 money growth, Kasriel pointed out, has closely tracked growth in consumer spending -- with a few exceptions here and there -- for the past 40 years or so.

And money supply's latest slowdown as consumers have started to save more -- the percentage of disposable income socked away has been above 3.9 percent for the past five months, the longest such stretch since early 1999.

In order to keep the economy moving, the Federal Reserve, which last week decided to leave its target for short-term interest rates alone, might have to cut rates again.

The Fed said it thought its key short-term rate, already at a 40-year low, was low enough to accommodate future growth by keeping borrowing costs low, but several economists think the Fed might have to cut rates again in May or June, no matter how the war goes.

"When the fog of war is finally lifted, we may find that economic growth remains weak because monetary policy turns out to be less accommodative than the Fed thought," Kasriel wrote in a research note last week.

© 2003 Cable News Network LP, LLLP. An AOL Time Warner Company ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Commentary:
When the economy is doing fine, republicans want a tax cut. When the economy is in the dumps they want a tax cut. The only problem is there is no such thing as a tax cut. All these moron's can do is postpone when we pay for the deficits they create because they didn't pay for what they spent. No wonder Americans are losing confidence.


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Geneva Convention: American, Iraqi, Afghanistani PoW's
BBC News (UK)
Last Updated: Monday, 24 March, 2003, 14:14 GMT

Footage of captured US soldiers broadcast on Iraqi television violates the Geneva Convention, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which says neither side in the conflict should show pictures of prisoners of war.

In the videotape, broadcast on Sunday, four men and a woman - some confused and two apparently wounded - were shown being interviewed for several minutes.

The ICRC says the same rules apply to the pictures of Iraqis surrendering to American and British forces shown all over the world over the last few days.

They were not seen being questioned and not generally in close-up, but some were on the ground being searched.

UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon was fierce in his criticism of how the Iraqis had treated US prisoners shown live on Iraqi television.

"There is an enormous difference... between the factual photographs very often of the backs of prisoners surrendering [as US forces show] as against the appalling, barbaric behaviour of Iraqi forces dealing with... American prisoners," Mr Hoon said.

The Iraqi information minister has said Iraq may well show pictures of US pilots captured on Monday.

Humiliation 'key'

The Geneva Convention on prisoners of war (PoWs) in general prohibits humiliating and degrading treatment.

Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention says "prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity".

3rd GENEVA CONVENTION
Basic food rations should keep prisoners in good health
Suitable clothing should be supplied, preferably prisoners' original uniforms
Prisoners should be released and repatriated without delay after ceasefire

What happens to surrendering troops?  

What is perceived as humiliating by the families and communities is key to interpreting this article of the convention, says the ICRC, which acts as the guardian of the convention.

"If we look at the reactions today in the US and the Arab world, they have been very similar. People have perceived [the pictures] as being an offence, a humiliation," ICRC spokesperson Antonella Notari told BBC News Online.

PoWs should not be used as part of the propaganda war between the two sides, and all warring factions should respect that, says Ms Notari, a former PoW in Somalia herself.

Those rules should have also been applied to images of PoWs at the US base of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

"At that time, we approached the US authorities to ask them not to use these pictures," she says.

For more than a year now, the American Government has been criticised for the way it has treated hundreds of prisoners from the fighting in Afghanistan, says the BBC's diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason.

It has denied that those held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have the rights of PoWs - instead Donald Rumsfeld came up with the description "unlawful combatants".

Pictures of some of them hooded and kneeling have been shown on television.

© BBC News 2003

Commentary:
Anyone with limited search abilities can find pictures and video's of dead US soldiers. I don't know what to say.

During the Gulf War the US showed dead Iraqi soldiers by the hundreds if not thousands. What interests me though is that the US press was silent about US abuses of the Geneva Convention at Guantanamo Bay and previously in Iraq in 1991 but today it's headline news when Iraq does the same.

Since the US is engaged in an unlawful war and has violated the Geneva Convention on may occasions it has neither the moral nor legal standing to demand Iraq follow those rules of conduct it has disregarded. This is why the rule of law had value.

Those who support(ed) Bush have no one to blame but themselves as we watch Iraq humiliate and perhaps torture US soldiers. Where were you when Bush was doing it to the other side?


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