Date: Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Dateline: Amman, Jordan
Amman is not my favorite city but it is safer than Baghdad. I was here in the 1970s and it was like a Wild West town, shacks going up filled with Japanese and American products, washing machines, refrigerators, television sets, all sorts of appliances. It's less primitive now but native women still make spitting gestures at Western tourists. Other than gathering information and viewing antiquities there's not much to do, afternoons are passed smoking seesha in a hookah, sipping tea, and reading newspapers. Evenings include meals in the hotel, a visit to the bar, and television in the room which is comfortable for a three star with 1960s furniture. Oh well, CNN and Larry King was on the air and Larry was celebrating 50s years in the broadcasting business. Each evening for a week he had been interviewing guests who had previously been on his talk show. Nelson Mandela had been on yesterday, tonight was Richard Nixon and I was astonished. The interview was from 1990 and the old criminal sounded like he was still running for office. Yes, here he was patting himself on the back, blowing his horn, and taking credit for bring peace and prosperity to the world. Any questions about his shady past were brushed aside and you know what, even though he was long dead he was still lying.
Do you know why Baghdad looks like an Hieronymus Bosh painting? Look at one. That's why I won't be flying into Baghdad on this trip. They even blew up an Iraqi Parliament cafeteria in the Green Zone. Five security checks and the suicide bomber still got passed them. Must have been carrying a Bible.
The surge goes on but why not call it an escalation? Is surge a Hebrew word? Oh hell, it's not the first surge in Iraq, there was 'one of 20,000 troops in early 2004, a similar one in the fall of 2005, and one a bit smaller in the summer of 2006.' The quote is from columnist Nicholas D. Kristof. You would think the Bush administration might have learned something but no, they are simply gun ho dumb and blunder on blindly. The carnage continues, the number of Iraqis killed is conservatively put at 150,000, the number of wounded is 16 for each fatality according to a recent report on the economic cost of the Iraq war. More than 1.7 million Iraqis have fled the country. More than 3,000 U.S. troops have been killed. A United Nations report claims that 47,000 U.S. troops have been wounded. It goes on to report more than two million Iraqis are planning to leave the country and that in 2006 34,452 Iraqi citizens were killed. This year an Iraqi aid group, the Committee for the Support of Victims, claimed that three million women have been left without men because of the war. Many of those women are widows and many men have fled the country but that's a disturbing figure if it is true, like genocide. Then there is Dick Cheney comparing Muslims to Hitler and Stalin. Who does he think he is?
Another matter I wonder about, are body bags now called transport tubes or is that phrase a sadistic joke? Given the American government's obsession with secrecy, the phrase was probably dreamed up by Karl Rove.
Date: Thursday, May 17, 2007
Dateline: Brussels, Belgium
According to well known American economist Jeffrey Sachs, 6.5 billion people are pressing on Earth's environment putting 7 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. And 'When the United States [Government] slashes the aid budget for family planning that takes you more towards a world of 10 billion.' However, at the same time, Sachs wants to fight poverty and disease. That would also increase the population so where's the sense in that? Remember, Nature has a mind of its own.
More pressing to my mind is the direction the U.S. Government has taken towards expanding executive power. Last year Dick Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington, came up with an evil plan called the New Paradigm that would give the president limitless power. In other words, Bush could 'disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries if national security demanded it.' Think of all that power in the hands of an idiot.
Now Bush is promising to balance the budget, all those billions he has squandered, four years after he is scheduled to leave office. Does this sound like a man planning to relinquish the presidency? I doubt it.
Meanwhile, there are still some 400 detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay who have been there for five years. This is unconstitutional but the administration is stonewalling because it wouldn't win a court battle.
The administration also is trying to forget Hurricane Katrina that blew in 19 months ago, another reminder of its incompetence. When I was in Valencia in March I'd missed the carnival season but a similar festival called Fire was underway and that reminded me of Mardi Gras in the Big Easy. There were fireworks everyday that continued nonstop and in the narrow streets near the beach and in the city center they were building grotesque sculptures that cost thousands of euros and were due to be burned. These brightly painted sculptures were state of the art but some of them were almost pornographic and would be banned in America. For the Spanish they were just part of the show and work went on, piecing them together, day and night.
The best way to escape the noise was to head for the beach where you could see the sails of boats testing the wind for the America's Cup which was scheduled to start in April. At night marching bands would parade through the streets at odd times like two in the morning. The purpose of all this was to make as much noise as possible while letting off 100,000 euros worth of firecrackers. Why that reminded me of Mardi Gras I don't know but when I got back to Brussels I came across an article about New Orleans in the 1990s. Back then it was called the Big Sleazy. Maybe it still is but in the early part of the 90s it was the homicide capital of the United States. In 1993 there were 421 murders and the police department was probably responsible for many of them. Because of that and the city's continuing reputation for corruption there were White House leaks that administration officials thought Katrina was a blessing from God. Today there are reportedly 13,000 residents of New Orleans living in poorly made trailers provided by Federal Emergency Management Agency and up to 200,000 evacuees, mostly poor, black, working class families, are scattered across the country. They want to go home but that's probably not going to happen. Meanwhile there are delays in grants and insurance payouts.
Date: Monday, June 4, 2007
Dateline: Brussels, Belgium
According the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) (the tax man) 90 percent of Americans made less money in 2005 than they did in 2004. However there was a 9 percent increase in income in those two years and it went to the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans. What's more, 9,677 Americans earned more than $10 million in 2004, $26.5 million each according to IRS arithmetic.
Military spending with Iraq alone costing around $1 billion a month, is bankrupting lower and middle class Americans. The other 10 percent couldn't care less. Total appropriations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are approaching $600 billion and President Bush is asking for $120 billion more to spend on his folly. Then there is Dick Cheney's pet company, Halliburton, which picked up $27 billion from contracts in Iraq paid for with U.S. taxpayers money. With too much heat in Baghdad, they are moving their headquarters to Dubai. As eighteen coalition countries have withdrawn their troops, more departures are scheduled. But not U.S. troops. According to Texas presidential candidate Ron Paul the U.S. is 'building an embassy in Iraq that is bigger than the Vatican [and] we're building 14 permanent bases.' Call it a serge in construction.
New news is another weapon on the Pentagon's drawing board. It's called Airborne Laser (ABL) and will cost $3.6 billion. Yes, this is the Star Wars beam, perhaps they lifted the idea from Evgeny Podkletnov, but I don't know, the project is Top Secret. Anyway the beam is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in flight. Technical challenges are said to be formidable. It could well be another waste of money, something the Republicans are famous for.
Back in Afghanistan, another war that can't be won, two of our finest journalists in the field are Christina Lamb and Nicholas D. Kristof. They report that last year 4000 lives were lost. About a quarter of those were civilians. More disturbing is that 18,000 women die annually in childbirth according to the Kristof report.
Last year in April I reported that troops from five countries were being sent to Helmand province in Afghanistan to battle against 300 Taliban. This year in April the Taliban control 'ninety percent of the area' according to an Afghan member of parliament. I personally hate the Taliban and have never forgiven them for blowing up those ancient Buddha statutes in the country but they are regretfully winning the war of minds.
Around the world, 27 countries participated in a pole to judge which countries haves the 'most negative influence.' The top three in order of votes were Israel, Iran, and American. That changes the axis of evil a bit and with the departure of Donald Rumsfeld in America the axis also changed. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales now joins Bush and Cheney as the evil axis. Holy frijoles, a Tex-Mex Fascist. This little prick was nicknamed Fredo by Bush and anyone who knows his record wonders when he's gonna get wacked. A long time cog in the George Bush wheel he served as general counsel when Bush was governor of Texas. On his watch no condemned prisoners received clemency, 57 were executed. When Bush was elected president Gonzales assumed the same position in Washington. On his appointment to attorney general in 2005 he has ruled that Bush could ignore the Geneva Conventions, the U.S. Constitution, and he justified illegal wire taps. His recent meddling saw the firing of eight U.S. attorneys because they disagreed with some of Bush's policies. Not only should he be kicked out of the government, he should face criminal charges on treason, perjury, obstruction of justice and whatever else. Send him back to Texas, execute him.
Meanwhile I have received a fax from my colleagues in Morocco and they are still tinkering with the beam. There might be a camel on Mars but everything is 'hush-hush' as British bigwigs like to say. Spare me, that's almost as infantile as the American 'bye-bye.'
NOTE: To preserve the intergrity of the story, blog entries are in chronological order. First post first, last post last.