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    05 March 2005

    Giuliana Sgrena

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    Two stories here?

    1 - She was injured, and here escort was killed at the hands of american forces.

    2 - Rumors of this being a targeted killing are surfacing

    Via I'Unità [in Italian] Piero Scolari, had this to say:
    It's like an hallucination, all of this is like an hallucination. Giuliana risked her life, they could have killed her. And I don't mean Iraqi criminal gangs but American soldiers. We are in the hands of madmen. We can't stay another minute longer down there. They fired more than 300-400 rounds on the car that was taking Giuliana to the airport... they were like madmen, our agents down there said, immediately after the shooting stopped. Complete insanity. They killed Nicola Calipari, an extraordinary man, a special person. Nicola died in order to save Giuliana, he shielded her with his body.

    The Americans shut down the cell phones of our agents who were with Giuliana. They shut them off while they [the agents] were speaking with Silvio Berlusconi, they prevented the emergency medical technicians from approaching the wounded," Scolari recounts, basing himself on the eyewitness testimony of the Italian secret service agents at the scene. But how is it possible that all this was allowed to happen?"
    In that moment I shouted at the premier [Berlusconi] that your war is to blame for this. This war is madness and these are the results that it produces.

    He continues to dismiss the 'official' story line that the car was speeding towards a checkpoint...
    Giuliana and the other people who were there told me that the American attack was completely unjustified. They had altered the whole chain of command, the Italian troops were awaiting them at the airport. Any yet, they fired 300, 400 rounds. Why?

    Scolari made one final accusation,
    Giuliana is in possession of information that is inconvenient for the Americans, it was an ambush directed against her.

    Prominent Italian politician adds,
    It's incredible that a man [Calipari] who was engaged in the difficult work of saving a life was killed by those who claim to be in Iraq in order to protect the lives of its citizens.
    Was their or wasn't their coordination between our intelligence services in Iraq and the other intelligence services of the forces of the coalition? Were their information-sharing procedures that were agreed upon in advance between our intelligence services and the American military forces? And,if so, why did the check point start firing?.

    We'll see if this is truth or emotion in coming days (or hours)...

    [Thx to gilgamesh for the translation]


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    I love Canada. This is the worst news that they have had since 1885:
    "I'm told you have to go back to about 1885 in the RCMP history, during the north-west rebellion, to have a loss of this magnitude."

    [4] Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were shot dead while searching for cannabis on a small farm near the city of Edmonton.

    This, however, may impede the progress in Canada W R T Bud...

    03 March 2005

    I heart Canada!!

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    Former Foreign Minister of Canada, Lloyd Axworthy, knocks the chain and whip out of the oily hands (or is that blood?) of Condoleezza Rice.

    I thought the fact that he addressed her as 'Condi' was funny, and the final sentence is beautiful; "And that there are times when truth must speak to power" but read on for your self...
    Dear Condi,

    I'm glad you've decided to get over your fit of pique and venture north to visit your closest neighbor. It's a chance to learn a thing or two. Maybe more.

    I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.

    But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.

    As our erstwhile Prairie-born and bred (and therefore prudent) finance minister pointed out in presenting his recent budget, we've had eight years of balanced or surplus financial accounts. If we're going to spend money, Mr. Goodale added, it will be on day-care and health programs, and even on more foreign aid and improved defence.

    Sure, that doesn't match the gargantuan, multi-billion-dollar deficits that your government blithely runs up fighting a "liberation war" in Iraq, laying out more than half of all weapons expenditures in the world, and giving massive tax breaks to the top one per cent of your population while cutting food programs for poor children.

    Just chalk that up to a different sense of priorities about what a national government's role should be when there isn't a prevailing mood of manifest destiny.


    No free speech

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    With respect to this:
    Bradley Smith says that the freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over. In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines. Smith should know. He's one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.

    The wrath of the feds... FUCK YOU!

    As Socrates said, "I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world." I too after the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq renounced my allegiance to the american Federal Government. It (Washington) is illegitimate to me, my faith for order and safety as well as justice falls in to the hands of the United Nations. Our government is greedy and ignorant, made up of upper-class riff-raff, and cares in no way for the basic population. They are out of touch, I offer them no respect or sympathy.

    Good luck stopping me and my fellow bloggers on the right or left...

    01 March 2005

    A Saddam's Judge is Dead

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    A member of the Tribunal for war crimes was assassinated in Baghdad...

    [UPDATE] Seems it was due to an outing by Robert Fisk, foreign correspondent of The Independent. <link>

    I remember when the trial began that they showed a judge at the trial. Was that judge the same one?

    here via MSNBC.


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    Here is a good piece at Juan Cole's blog re. Syria (here is a lil snip):

    When the French conquered Syria in 1920, they decided to make it easier to rule by dividing it. They carved off what is now Lebanon and gerrymandered it so that it had a Christian majority. In 1920, Maronite Catholics were probably 40 percent of the population, and with Greek Orthodox and others the Christian population came to 51 percent. The Shiites were probably only about 18 percent of the population then. Both under the French Mandate (1920-1946) and in the early years of the Lebanese Republic, the Maronites were the dominant political force. When Lebanon became independent in 1943, the system was set up so that Christians always had a 6 to 5 majority in parliament.

    Lebanon had a relatively free parliamentary democracy 1943-1956. In 1957, I have been told by a former US government official, the US CIA intervened covertly in the Lebanese elections to ensure that the Lebanese constitution would be amended to allow far-right Maronite President Camille Chamoun (1952-1958) to have a second term.


    The Christian-dominated system of Lebanon fell apart for a number of reasons. The Israelis expelled 100,000 or so Palestinians north to Lebanon in 1948. The Christians of Lebanon refused to give the Palestinians Lebanese citizenship, since the Palestinians were 80 to 85 percent Muslim and their becoming Lebanese would have endangered Christian dominance. Over time the stateless Palestinians living in wretched camps grew to 300,000. (In contrast, the Maronite elite gave the Armenians who immigrated citizenship so fast it would make your head spin.)

    In the second half of the 20th century, the Lebanese Shiites grew much faster, being poor tobacco farmers with large families, than did the increasingly urban and middle class Maronites. Maronites emigrated on a large scale (it is said that there are 6 million Lebanese outside Lebanon and only 3 million inside), to North America (think Danny Thomas and Salma Hayek) and to South America (think Carlos Saul Menem of Argentina and Shakira of Columbia).

    By 1975 the Maronites were no longer the dominant force in Lebanon. Of a 3 million population, the Shiites had grown to be 35 percent (and may now be 40 percent), and the Maronites had shrunk to a quarter, and are probably now 20 percent. The Shiites were mobilizing both politically and militarily. So, too, were the Palestinians.


    In 1982 the Israelis mounted an unprovoked invasion of Lebanon as Ariel Sharon sought to destroy the remnants of the weakened PLO in Beirut. He failed, but the war killed nearly 20,000 persons, about half of them innocent civilians. Ziad Jarrah had a long-term grudge about that. The Israelis militarily occupied southern Lebanon, refusing to relinquish sovereign Lebanese territory.

    The Shiites of the south were radicalized by the Israeli occupation and threw up the Hizbullah party-militia, which pioneered suicide bombs and roadside bombs, and forced the Israeli occupiers out in 2000.

    One foreign occupation had been ended, but the Syrians retained about 14,000 troops in the Biqa Valley. The Israeli withdrawal weakened the Syrians in Lebanon, since many Lebanese had seen the Syrians as a bulwark against Israeli expansionism, but now Damascus appeared less needed.


    The Syrians made a big mistake in growing attached to Gen. Emile Lahoud, their favorite Lebanese president. When his 6-year term was about to expire last fall, the Syrians intervened to have the Lebanese constitution amended to allow him to remain for another 3 years. Across the board, the Lebanese public was angered and appalled at this foreign tinkering with their constitution.

    Rafiq al-Hariri resigned over the constitutional change. He was replaced as prime minister by another Sunni, Omar Karami of Tripoli in northern Lebanon.

    The assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the popular multi-billionnaire Sunni prime minister (1992-1998 and 2000-2004), angered a broad swathe of the Sunni community, convincing them it was time for the Syrians to go. Despite the lack of any real evidence for the identity of the assassin, the Lebanese public fixed on the Syrians as the most likely culprit. The Sunnis, the Druze and the Maronites have seldom agreed in history. The last time they all did, it was about the need to end the French Mandate, which they made happen in 1943. This cross-confessional unity helps explain how the crowds managed to precipitate the downfall of the government of PM Omar Karami.

    If Lebanese people power can force a Syrian withdrawal, the public relations implications may be ambiguous for Tel Aviv. After the US withdrawal from Iraq, Israeli dominance of the West Bank and Gaza will be the last military occupation of major territory in the Middle East. People in the region, in Europe, and in the US itself may begin asking why, if Syria had to leave Lebanon, Israel should not have to leave the West Bank and Gaza.

    I don't think Bush had anything much to do with the current Lebanese national movement except at the margins. Walid Jumblatt, the embittered son of Kamal whom the Syrians defeated in 1976 at the American behest, said he was inspired by the fall of Saddam. But this sort of statement from a Druze warlord strikes me as just as manipulative as the news conferences of Ahmad Chalabi, who is also inspired by Saddam's fall. Jumblatt has a long history of anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment that makes his sudden conversion to neoconism likely a mirage. He has wanted the Syrians back out since 1976, so it is not plausible that anything changed for him in 2003.


    Much of the authoritarianism in the Middle East since 1945 had actually been supported (sometimes imposed) by Washington for Cold War purposes. The good thing about the democratization rhetoric coming out of Washington (which apparently does not apply to Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Uzbekistan, and other allies against al-Qaeda) is that it encourages the people to believe they have an ally if they take to the streets to end the legacy of authoritarianism.

    But Washington will be sorely tested if Islamist crowds gather in Tunis to demand the ouster of Bin Ali. We'll see then how serious the rhetoric about people power really is.


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